My Orphanage

Chapter Nine

By Scarlet Fever

Edea watched with sad eyes as Cid talked on the phone to Headmaster Martine from Galbadia Garden. Cid wanted to get some more Garden cadets in Timber to help with the riots and the overall horrible scene. Looking at her husband like this just seemed to hammer home the empty feeling in Edea's heart. And, it was empty because of so many reasons. Firstly because of their son. Edea hated the hurt in his eyes when Seifer looked at her, and it shamed her so deeply. She hated that look of betrayal and sadness and anger, all pointed straight at her. She understood Seifer's mistrust, and yet didn't. She didn't understand why Seifer would think that Cid and herself would rather have Squall as a child.


He held up a hand to silence his wife, listening to what Martine was saying through the rather bad connection. This weather wasn't helping Timber's communication lines any. He gave Edea an apologetic smile, reaching a hand out to her. She took it, and he squeezed her hand with affection before going back to his phone call.

She sighed. Perhaps Seifer felt this way because of things that happened at Garden in the past, things she wasn't there for. But, the other things that made Seifer so angry were entirely her fault. Like Ultimecia. Edea knew that Odine was a genius when it came to this sort of thing, but she also knew that he may not make it an easy cross to bear. She hated the idea of Odine treating her like a test subject, but hated the idea of Odine treating Seifer like one more. The idea of a 'stain' sounded familiar to her from past Sorcery studies. That if a Sorceress was strong, and she touched someone magically, she could forever have a 'hold' on that person. But, that was if the Sorceress was alive, and Ultimecia was not. Her heart just ached for Seifer, and she wished that when she'd received Ultimecia's powers, that she'd also retained the dark Witch's Time Mage abilities. That way, Edea could go back in time and be there for her child, not hide behind lies like a coward. But, then on the downside of that.... changing anything in the past, even Seifer's heartache and Edea's own in turn, would have changed things now.

She looked up when Laguna came in, silently slipping between the ajar double doors of the study. Here was another part of Edea's heavy heart, coming towards her with a concerned smile on his handsome face, his pale eyes full of fathomless compassion. She wanted to run into his arms and be comforted, even though she also wanted to share the joys of having their son back in their life with her husband. She was so torn that Edea didn't know how her heart was still in one piece.

"How's it going?" Laguna asked quietly as to not disturb Cid's crackly phone call. He sat on the loveseat beside Edea, taking her hands in a friendly manner that wasn't really so friendly.

"Badly," she answered. "I'm nervous about Odine's research, especially where it comes to Seifer. I can handle him, but Seifer isn't magically inclined, so I fear what Odine will try to do during his trials...."

"Don't worry," Laguna whispered fiercely. "I won't let Odine hurt Seifer. I swear it on Hyne's name."

Edea patted Laguna's hand, and she looked at him so sadly and longingly. He looked at her the same way, but they didn't do anything about it. At least not right now. The idea of being alone together crossed both their minds, making them feel guilty, for Cid was right in the room with them.

"How are you feeling?" Laguna asked seriously.

"It doesn't matter how I feel," Edea muttered, shaking her head. A tendril of black hair fell out of her loose bun, sliding down the side of her neck. Even though Cid was still talking to Martine, having to talk loudly so the other Headmaster would hear him, Laguna reached out and brushed that silken lock of hair away from Edea's pale neck, her milky flesh so soft....

Edea's lips twitched up in a serene smile, but then she looked over at Cid and pulled away, withdrawing her hands from Laguna's. "I am glad of one thing, though."

"That Seifer is alive after Diablos tried to kill him again?" Laguna asked. "I don't get why Diablos wants him and Zell dead."

"Well, yes... I am glad of that. But, I'm more glad that Seifer has his friends there for him. He must feel like everyone's ganging up on him. First, me and Cid drop this bombshell on him, and the tension between him and Squall isn't helping matters. There is also the fact that he's feeling Ultimecia again, and Diablos and his minions have an apparent bounty on his head. I'm glad that Zell, Selphie and Irvine are there for him."

Laguna nodded, tucking some of his salt-and-pepper hair behind his ears. "Yeah, that's good. But.... kinda weird, don't you think?"


"That Zell used to despise Seifer, right?"

"It's been a long time," Edea said quietly. "Things change. People grow."

Laguna patted Edea's hands, which were shaking ever so slightly. "The same can be said for what's happening now. Give Seifer time to come around."

"I don't think he actually will, though." Edea blinked back tears. "He really hates me." The thought of her only child hating her just ached so badly.

"He doesn't hate you," Laguna whispered, sliding a little closer on the couch. Cid had one finger stuck in his ear, trying to better hear Martine, so he was currently oblivious to Edea and Laguna. "He's just angry. If he didn't love you, he wouldn't care."

Edea shook her head. "I'd like to believe you're right."

"When am I never right?" Laguna asked.

The Sorceress gave him a withering look.

"Hey lady, don't give me that face." Laguna stared at her seriously. "Sure, sometimes I'm not always the sharpest knife in the shed, but I do know about feelings."

"Isn't it the sharpest knife in the drawer?" Edea asked sullenly.

"You sound like Kiros."

"Well, that's a good thing," Edea said with a wink. She found herself smiling at Laguna, but her golden brown eyes trailed across the room to her husband, and that smile wilted. She couldn't help but wish that Cid wasn't in the room, that he was back at Garden or at Galbadia Garden with Martine or something. But, how could she think this?! Cid was a wonderful husband, and had never been anything but kind and loving to her, even when the rest of the world hated her, when Ultimecia controlled her. He didn't hate her when she'd let Ultimecia get her evil claws into their son. He'd stood by her and left Garden to be by her side. And, she was thinking about him like he was some bastard, a throwaway who wasn't as good as Laguna. Her lips quivered with sadness, but for the first time in these past couple of days, this sadness wasn't about Seifer at all. It was about how her feelings for Laguna were destroying her marriage, without Cid even knowing it. How would he feel when he found out that she'd been unfaithful? Would he hate her, or would he stand by her yet again, like he always had? Edea almost hoped that Cid would despise her for the rest of her life, because she couldn't imagine the pain of seeing the disappointment in his eyes, and yet feeling the love that he would still feel for her. He truly was a better person than she was.

"Edea....?" Laguna asked quietly, seeing the torture in her eyes. "What are you thinking?"

"How we've both wronged Cid so grievously," Edea whispered, her eyes filling with tears. "And, he's done nothing to deserve it. Except love me."

Laguna pursed his lips, and he actually moved a little away from Edea, physically showing his guilt with the motion. "I know. He's been a good friend. Especially where Squall is concerned. I think that he had a hand in Squall slowly opening up to me."

"I know he did."

Laguna stood up abruptly. "I think I should check on how Odine's making out. I'll uh.... see you around." He left, his strides a little jerky. Edea's words rang true to him, and made him feel like a fucking asshole. Who was he to come in and destroy Cid and Edea's marriage, just because he thought she was sexy. More than sexy... the most beautiful, caring and wonderful woman in the world. Especially when Cid had been nothing but nice to him, and because Cid had helped breach the gap between himself and his son. And, then there was Seifer. Laguna was sure that he wouldn't think better of Edea after he found out she was sleeping around with Squall's father of all people. Laguna then thought of how Cid had helped that relationship between him and Squall, and thought of how he could return the favour. He'd already tried to talk to Seifer and the man hadn't wanted to listen. But, maybe he could do something where Squall was concerned. One of the things that was making Seifer so abrasive to this whole thing was Squall, and their tense relationship. Maybe if Seifer realized that Cid and Edea weren't wishing he was Squall, it could help. Laguna wasn't really sure, but it was a start. Besides, he didn't like how frosty Squall was still being with Edea's child. After all, it had been a decade. Hell, Zell of all people had forgiven Seifer. Or, maybe Laguna was just a damn fool. That was probably it.....

"Listen to this one," Zell said as he flipped through a very old book that had been on one of the shelves in Daeva's bedroom. He was slowly walking around the large room as he read the interesting books. Seifer was reclining on the bed, listening to him. Zell liked that feeling. Having someone actually listen to him. It was one of the things he liked about being a Garden Instructor. Because he was always just one of the grunts on missions, taking orders from the likes of Quistis, Squall or Xu, nobody ever really listened to him. He knew that his friends cared about him and loved him, but sometimes they just didn't respect him as much as their leaders, and he knew this. He'd never said anything about it, but he'd known it all the same. He liked having the students listen to him, care about what he was saying (most of the time). And, he liked that while Seifer was in a rather relaxed position on Daeva's former bed, he was still watching with his pale green eyes behind glasses. It made him feel special somehow.

"In Year 2544 in the House of Vargha, the guild of the Necrophage was begun by the faerie of the Sk'vorharla Mound. It was begun by Xarlar'la, a powerful Witch of fey blood. She gathered all those to her with like powers, the love and affinity for the dead, as well as the magical trait to control the dying and dead. Only those blessed with the gift of the Dead Arts were allowed. It is a trait that is not common in human blood, so the Necrophage contained mostly fey blood. Because faeries were outnumbered by humans 200 to 1, the courts of men wished the Necrophage be chronicles. These powers over the dead scared men, as if the fey could pluck these men from Claridine and make them do awful things in the face of their gods and goddesses." Zell sighed, having stumbled rather terribly over the difficult words of dialect.

"What's Claridine?" Seifer asked, interrupting. He found what Zell was reading interesting, but a part of his mind was troubled. Troubled because he had a feeling that this meant Diablos had more powers than he'd shown, which meant that Seifer and Zell's situation was only going to get worse before it gets better.

Zell scanned the old text. "Doesn't really say it again, but I'm guessing it's what the afterlife was called during that time." Zell sat on the bed beside Seifer. Beside his boyfriend. Even in all this tension and danger, the thought still got the blonde a little giddy. "I bet you're wondering why I'm reading this to you?"

"Because it's over a million years old?" Seifer asked, running his hands down the slippery fabric of the bright green shirt he'd taken out of Daeva's armoire. "I would think that would make it interesting enough."

Zell stretched out beside the other man, opening the book to show Seifer the list of the Necrophage. Apparently the Dead Arts, as they called it, was passed on through bloodlines, not the same as pure Sorcery. So, it was done up as a family tree of sorts. One of the branches went straight to the name Daeva Aka-Manah. The text was in a very old form of Estharian, one that Zell could read with rudimentary skill.

Seifer just nodded. "I figured he had a few tricks up his sleeves. I guess this is just something else we might get to look forward to."

"But, here's something interesting. Apparently Daeva was exiled from the Necrophage."

"For what? Being an asshole?"

"Doesn't say," Zell murmured, flipping through the pages. "Or, it does and I can't read it." He huffed angrily, slamming the book shut. Some dust was released, and made Zell sneeze.

"I'm impressed you were able to read that much."

"Really?" Zell asked, rolling over so he was laying half on top of Seifer. His voice lowered a little, and he pressed his hands to Seifer's strong chest. "You're really impressed...?"

"I wouldn't say so if I wasn't. I'm not going to stroke your ego just because you let me fuck you."

"You don't have to be so vulgar about it," Zell muttered, beginning to roll off Seifer.

"Aw, come on...." Seifer mused, stopping Zell and sandwiching their bodies together. "Don't be like that." He hugged Zell tightly, sighing heavily.

"Are you okay?" Zell asked quietly, burying his face in the softness of Seifer's brown hair. Part of his mind still thought Seifer's hair was blonde when he closed his eyes, memory imprinting itself on the now.

"I.... I want my old life back," Seifer murmured.

Zell didn't say anything, because there wasn't anything he could say, and anything he would try to say would just sound hollow and be words for pure comfort, which he knew that Seifer didn't really want to hear.

"I want my own clothes, too."

Zell ran his hands down the satiny shirt. "What, you don't think Daeva's clothes are hot?" Zell fiddled with the bottom button of the shirt. "I think you look sexy."

Seifer just raised an eyebrow over his glasses, but smiled weakly as Zell kissed him. Zell's mouth was soft and felt comforting and already familiar. They'd been enemies far longer than they'd ever been friends or lovers, but Seifer already felt very much at home kissing Zell like this, tasting his surprising soft lips and warm tongue, and already felt at home holding him close, feeling the lines of his powerful yet lean muscles under his clothes. When their tongues twined as one, Seifer couldn't imagine not having Zell around now, even though they'd never even been out on an official date or anything like that. Even though only Selphie, Fujin and Irvine knew about them.

"What are you thinking?" Zell asked, feeling the thought behind Seifer's kiss. Thoughts other than how nice it was to really be with another man. He kept kissing Seifer's mouth, wishing he'd known Seifer tasted this good back when they were in Garden together. But, at the same time... Seifer had been completely different back then. He'd been an asshole and a bully. Now.... now....

"You're thinking something yourself there," Seifer pointed out. He watched Zell's face as the other man slowly unbuttoned the chartreuse shirt.

"How different you are," Zell murmured. He got the shirt unbuttoned and ran his hands over Seifer's chest, fingers slowly massaging his nipples in compact circles. "I mean, compared to how you were at Garden."

Seifer frowned a little. "If you want to get me in the mood, don't talk about how I was back then."

"I really hate bullies," Zell muttered.

"I know. It's one of the reasons I can't understand why you're here."

"You're not like that anymore," Zell said. "I know you're not. I can see it in your eyes that you're not, and it's plain as day. What were you thinking about?"

"Do you feel like we're... sneaking around?" Seifer asked. "When you think about it like that, it sounds kinda sexy."

"Not to me it doesn't. I want to tell everybody."

"We've never even been on a real date."

"Is that an invitation?" Zell asked seriously. "I'd love to go on a date with you. A million dates."

"What about Squall?"

"What about him?" Zell asked, a little exasperated. He started to undo Seifer's pants.

"Okay, well what about SeeD?"

Zell paused at that one.

"And, what about the fact that I very well may be going insane?"

Zell furrowed his brow, then realized what Seifer meant. He was talking about what happened today, about him hearing a dead woman's voice. "There's an explanation for it all. You're not going crazy."

"Aren't you even afraid of me, just a little? I know everyone else is."

"No," Zell whispered, kissing Seifer's chest. Just above his heartbeat. "I'm impressed. I've never seen fighting like that before. When I heard you were an alchemist, I wondered how you'd survived fighting all those monsters all by yourself, but watching you.... the monsters never had a chance. Maybe that's why Diablos wants you dead."

"I think it's more than that."

"Maybe not," Zell said. "Creatures that old.... often they are very petty."

"How would you know?" Seifer asked as Zell started to manipulate his limbs to get Daeva's shirt off his body. "How many creatures do you know that are over a million years old?"

Zell pursed his lips. "Just from reading about them. But.... it's not like ancient creatures are that common. Only in children's books."

"Going on children's books?" Seifer asked. "I wish that could help us, Chicken-Wuss. But...." He shrugged.

"Don't call me that," Zell said sternly, straddling Seifer's hips. "I might get mad." Zell gripped Seifer's wrists, leaning forward as he raised Seifer's arms over his head, smiling mischievously.

"Mad, huh?" Seifer asked, looking up into Zell's pale eyes, like the sky on a Trabian winter.

"I did say I locked the door...."

Seifer's face clouded. "In Daeva's bedroom....?"

Zell made a show of looking around the room. "I don't see him. Do you?"

"I'm serious."

"So am I," the blonde said. "Seifer.... this isn't just about getting my rocks off, and you know it. You know because you feel the same. It's about in here..." Zell released Seifer's wrists and touched his chest. "You could have died today..... I.... I don't know how I would have felt if that happened."


The martial artist smiled. "I love how my name sounds when you say it." His voice deepened with masculine lust.

"Oh, really?" Seifer asked as Zell slowly slid his glasses off his face.

"Say my name again," Zell whispered, leaning closer so his lips were hovering over Seifer's.

Seifer just stared at Zell, and closed his lips with a dramatic gesture.

"C'mon.... say it."

"Make me."

Zell cocked a pale eyebrow, and pinned Seifer's arms fully to the bed. While Zell was strong, so was Seifer, and the taller man being pinned down didn't last very long. One thing Zell was used to was being a lot stronger than everyone else, but that wasn't the case with Seifer. Zell was sure, as Seifer rolled him onto his back where he was delightfully pinned under the other man, that a lot of people didn't give Seifer credit for his physical strength. After all, to hold a heavy gunblade the way he did took incredible muscle control, let alone wielding it with grace and ease like Seifer also did. Zell would have liked nothing more than to be pinned down by Seifer's warm and inviting body forever, but now it had become a game, and that challenging look in Seifer's green eyes stirred Zell's own sense of competition. They rolled over and over on the obscenely large bed, using each other's limbs to try and pin the other down to gain the advantage. It wasn't very serious, since they both had smiles on their faces and they were kissing each other as they struggled each other for dominance. It was more horseplay than any real sort of match of strength. It had also become a match of wrestling each other out of clothing until they were both naked, nude flesh sliding deliciously against nude flesh. Feeling the hardness of another man's muscles under silken skin sliding against his own flesh made Zell giddy with lust, and the fact that it was this made it so much better. While he'd enjoyed his past sexual encounters, there had always been an air of shame around them. Zell had never really been ashamed of loving men, but that feeling of secrecy did lend itself towards motions of guilt and therefore shame.

"Don't go all serious on me now," Seifer whispered into Zell's ear, licking down the side of the other man's neck. They were struggling each other enough that they were starting to build up a light sheen of sweat, and Seifer could taste the masculine saltiness of it when he licked Zell's skin. Zell laughed against the side of Seifer's face, and rolled them over, firmly pinning Seifer down. Seifer looked up at the other man, his heart skipping a beat. He didn't try to fight back as one of Zell's thighs slipped between his legs. Zell smiled victoriously, showing his pointed canines as he pushed Seifer's long legs apart, hips between them. As they'd both rubbed and struggled against each other, their penises had grown into erections, and Seifer could feel the hardness of Zell poking against his inner thigh. Seifer gave in to Zell, letting him control the pace, letting his hands and mouth go where they wanted. On the surface, it would have looked like Zell had won their little sparring match, but really it was Seifer that had won. He was the one that had deemed he would be the loser. He had let Zell win, and he was sure Zell knew it.

Indeed Zell did know it. He knew that Seifer had chosen to give his body of free will, not because Zell had won the right. And yet, Zell did feel like he had won the right. No matter what had changed about Seifer Almasy, he was a very proud man, and didn't just open himself up to anyone, let anyone touch him the way he was letting Zell touch him. Seifer's teeth lightly worried his lower lip as Zell's mouth found sensitive spots on his neck and shoulders that he didn't even know existed. They sent electrical currents through his nerves, the skin warm and moist from Zell's saliva. When Seifer had let Zell lay between his legs, and had let Zell's fingers press against the opening of his rectum and touch him from the inside, Seifer had been rather in control of things. But, with the way that Zell's fingers slowly discovered his prostate, and the way Zell's mouth worked over his skin like they'd been lovers for years instead of just now discovering each other, he lost control over things, and that control went into Zell's hands. And, Zell took that control and used it to full advantage.

His fingers stroked over Seifer's body, tracing the curves of his flesh and muscles, hovering and working over spots that elicited wonderful little moans and grunts from Seifer's parted lips that were lightly kiss-bruised, just as Zell's own lips were. Zell couldn't watch those lips without kissing them, so as his fingers massaged Seifer from within, he kissed him soulfully. It was the sort of kiss that was a prelude to not sex, but lovemaking. It was the kind of kiss that was so deeply sexual, and yet not at all. Zell's heart felt full in his chest, and he wondered if he wanted to be on top after all. It would have been beautiful and wonderful to feel Seifer inside him, to feel Seifer's strong arms wrapped around him. When had Zell ever thought of sex as beautiful? Never before Seifer had entered his life again. Zell sat up between Seifer's long legs, one hand resting on Seifer's thigh, the others fingers still within Seifer's body. Zell pursed his lips and let out a heavy sigh that sagged his shoulders. He actually felt like he was going to cry. And, he felt pretty stupid for it.

"Zell....?" Seifer asked, voice a little hitched because of how Zell was still touching him, fingers still slowly running over his prostate. "Is something wrong?"

"No...." Zell smiled, panting a little because of sheer emotion. "Never mind. You'd think it was dumb."

"Try me...." Seifer trailed off, sucking in his breath as shots of pleasure moved up his spine.

"Just thinking.... about how I've wanted this for so long. I don't even know how to feel now that I have it."

"What, being on top?" Seifer asked, a little confused. But, he also wasn't really thinking straight. How could he when this felt so good?

"No. Just being with you. Being with someone, knowing that I'm with them." Zell's voice trembled a little. "It's pretty stupid, huh? Especially because I'm getting so upset over it."

Seifer reached up and stroked the fronts of his fingernails across Zell's tattooed cheek. "How can it be stupid? It's what everyone wants. To have someone who cares, who...." Seifer trailed off. He'd almost said 'someone who loves them', but he wasn't sure he wanted to say that. He knew he wasn't in love with Zell yet, but he was on that road, and saying it before he wanted to, or before it was time just seemed wrong. It was something that could wait until another time. And, Seifer knew that they both would know when that time was.

Zell smiled a little, his lips brushing against Seifer's in small kisses, in gestures that weren't kisses at all, but yet were at the same time. Zell ran his fingers all over Seifer's bare skin, the fingers on his other hand still slowly massaging Seifer's prostate, starting to do it a little faster. Seifer's eyes closed as he let himself enjoy Zell's ministrations. He let himself enjoy the sexual company of a partner who wasn't going to run away in fear. He let himself think of Zell's hands on and in his body, rather than thinking of the blood that he'd run through Timber's streets, or about Ultimecia's magic still under his skin. He wanted to think only of Zell, think only how good things felt right now. And, not just sexually. How good it felt to actually be alive. Seifer hadn't felt that in a long time. Not since before he'd moved to Timber and become Raef Emaissyl.

One would think that when the subject of condoms came up, they would be out of luck since they were in a strange house in a strange bedroom, but that wasn't the case. Ever since there had been the possibility of he and Seifer having sex, Zell had gone out and bought some. After all, he'd gone quite a long time without, and to have a chance at sex.... well, that was something that Zell had wanted very much, which also meant being prepared. He gave Seifer a smirk, pulling away. Seifer looked at him quizzically, narrowing his eyes a little because things were hazy without his glasses. "Where are you going?" Seifer asked when Zell crawled off the large bed, which was a task in itself. At the moment, it felt like swimming across the Centra Ocean. Zell went over to the small bag he carried with him a lot, that carried things like a first-aid kit (which was helpful for someone whose weapon is their body), his wallet, and various other things he wanted, including condoms.

Seifer saw what Zell brought back, and laughed lowly as he cocked a pale eyebrow that contrasted with his falsely dark hair. "Rather presumptuous of you, Dincht. What made you think I'd put out?"

Zell just gave Seifer a look, moving back between his legs.

"Okay, maybe I would have, but I'm insulted at the assumption."

"Don't worry," Zell murmured. "I'll tell everyone you played hard-to-get." His hand closed around Seifer's erection. Seifer let out a quiet gasp, his hips arching up towards Zell's hand. Zell's other hand started to massage his testicles. He whispered Zell's name a few times, his head slowly lolling between his arms, which were still raised over his head, even though Zell wasn't pinning his wrists anymore.

"I love it when you say my name," Zell murmured, his face buried in Seifer's throat. "Say it again."

Seifer whispered Zell's name over and over as he was pleasantly molested by Zell's strong, strong hands. His eyes were closed and his hands sought out Zell's flesh, his palms running up and down the other man's back, feeling the muscles there. His other hand started to move down his own chest, fingers playing with his own nipples as Zell's hands expertly played with his genitals. With his eyes closed, Seifer could picture that they were anywhere besides Daeva's former bedroom. But, his mind didn't even try to picture any other man. He only thought of Zell, of his pale blue eyes like a frozen sea, of his mouth that was just made for mischievous smiles, of the tattoo the crept up the side of his face like ivy. He thought of the sloping, muscular curve of Zell's shoulders, the narrowness of his waist, and what his penis looked like erect, how perfect his muscles were.

With Seifer's eyes closed, it came as a surprise when Zell's fingers slipped into him again, cold with lubricant. Seifer didn't bother to question where Zell got it, but only panted and moaned quietly as he enjoyed the feeling. He then felt the more substantial presence of Zell's penis pressing against his rectum, then slowly slipping inside him. Just the head first, teasing and taunting him. Seifer tried to push forward to get Zell deeper inside him, but Zell was determined to be a bastard and fucking torture him. Zell slowly slid his erection into Seifer's body, both of them letting the air out of their lungs in audible hisses. Seifer grunted as his rectum expanded to allow Zell deeper within him. Zell was being gentle, so it didn't hurt. It was just a .... different feeling. A beautifully different feeling.

Zell groaned as his hips pressed flush to Seifer's, one of his hands curling into Seifer's dark hair, looking at the golden roots that were starting to show. Zell's hips started to move against Seifer's, desiring that feeling of friction. He quietly grunted, his hips starting to move with more pronounced thrusts, feeling Seifer's rectal muscles tightly gripping his erection. Seifer's long legs were wrapped around Zell's waist and entangling with his own legs. Seifer also got into a slight sitting position, his eyes opened lazily to look at Zell's face. They stared at each other for a few moments, in the most intimate of circumstances that two people could be under together. Their lips then smashed together, matching as their hips slammed together. They deeply kissed, tongues heavily working as their flesh made slapping sounds whenever their hips collided. Zell's hands strongly gripped Seifer's hips, giving it to him good.

Seifer couldn't help it when he flopped back against the mattress, hands clawing for something to hold onto. His legs started to feel disjointed from his body, his nerves tingling as Zell's hand started to jerk him off again. Seifer's fingers raked down his own cheeks as he groaned. He bit his lip, and wound up also biting his fingers. He felt Zell's lips on his throat and chest, tongue lightly flicking over Seifer's hard nipples. One hand raked nails down Zell's back, and the other gripped a fistful of sheets. He planted his feet on the bed and raised his hips off the bed. Zell pulled out of him, and they both made low moaning noises. Zell got on his knees, impaling himself on Seifer once more. They both started moaning, not really worrying about anyone hearing them. After all, they were behind a locked door and up a staircase in a room that was far away from where everyone else was in the mansion.

Zell gripped Seifer's hips as he fucked him. No, that wasn't the right word. It would have been more appropriate to say that Zell was making love to Seifer, but that was also incorrect for a couple of reasons. The first reason was that it wasn't really love yet, but the other reason was that Zell was making love with Seifer. The other man wasn't a passive partner, that was to be sure. He looked down at his partner, admiring Seifer's physical beauty. How long and lean his body was, but lean the way a grown man was, not a teenager, the way that Zell had always pictured Seifer in his head before meeting him again as Raef Emaissyl. Zell had known that Seifer had grown to a man, but his memory hadn't seemed to accept that. Seifer's eyebrows and his pubic hair were dark golden blonde in comparison to dark hair. He pulled out of Seifer, and before he could enter his body again, Seifer rolled over so he was on his hands and knees. He panted incoherently, looking over his shoulder. Though he wasn't forming words, his eyes said everything he wanted to, but without words.

Zell pushed his erection into Seifer in one thrust, which caused Seifer to let out a long moan, deep from his throat and animalistic sounding. Zell also moaned, hands resting on the curve of Seifer's ass as he thrust into him, Seifer matching him thrust for thrust. Zell bowed over the taller man's back, kissing and nibbling at the back of his neck as his hips seemed to move of their own accord. He whispered Seifer's name a few times, saying nonsensical things. "I'd like to see you blonde again," he grunted, his hands sliding on Seifer's back and ass because of the sweat that was building up on them. Seifer bowed his back further to allow for deeper penetration, letting out a loud moan when Zell hit something deep inside him that made him really feel it, all the way up his back. He kept bowing forward until his forehead was pressed to the mattress, his ass up in the air. Zell's hands were all over his back, and Zell was filling him so completely. He moaned and panted, letting Zell's hands hold him up, because his muscles weren't able to do it anymore.

One of Zell's hands searched for Seifer's, and their fingers twined together. Seifer craned his neck, lips finding Zell's so they were kissing messily. It was the best kind of kiss. The kind where you didn't care if you were basically slobbering all over the place, just as long as you were kissing that other person. Zell and Seifer's joined hands moved towards Seifer's genitals, and started masturbating him in time with the thrusting of their hips. Zell groaned against Seifer's mouth, and it was that sound, that vibration against his back that made Seifer fall over the edge into the blissful blackness of orgasm. It wasn't that Zell was thrusting in and out of him, it wasn't that both his and Zell's hand were jerking him off, but it was that feeling of Zell moaning against him that had really done it. He came into his own and into Zell's hand, panting loudly as Zell still fucked him. He let out loud groans and moans with the friction of Zell's hands on his now sensitive skin, and the feeling of Zell still hard and thrusting within him. By the time Zell felt his own orgasm starting, both of them were being rather vocal Good thing they were on the third floor of a big mansion. Zell threw his head back, hands tightly gripping Seifer's hips, and let out his breath in a long gasp as he came. His hips still rolled slowly against Seifer as he came down from the high of orgasm, panting loudly.

Zell slowly pulled out of the other man's body, going to the bathroom that was a contrast to the room it was joined to. The bedroom was the height of sumptuous luxury, whereas the bathroom itself was all chrome and minimalist. He cleaned himself up, throwing the condom away. He came back slowly into the bedroom, silently admiring Seifer for a while, the way he looked laying on his back among the red sheets and canopy, his skin damp with sweat and almost shining with afterglow. Zell leaned against one of the bedposts, looking down at Seifer's perfect specimen of a body.

Seifer noticed that Zell was looking at him, and lolled his head so he could look at the other man. "What are you looking at?" He asked lazily, yawning.

Zell just smiled in response, crawling back on the bed. He pressed himself against Seifer's side, smiling broader as Seifer's arm loosely wrapped around him. "So.....?" Zell asked. "When d'you wanna go on that date?"

Seifer kissed the top of Zell's head. "Well, not this instant. I'm not really dressed for it."

Zell smirked and pressed himself tighter to Seifer. "I wouldn't mind if you went as you were." He rested his hand on Seifer's lower belly, feeling the smoothness of his skin, and the coarseness of his pubic hair.

"Do you think Daeva ever actually slept in this bed?" Seifer asked distantly.

Zell shrugged. "I don't know. Don't really want to think about it...."

"Mmm...." Seifer murmured in the back of his throat, knowing that thinking of anything besides Diablos and the whole ugly situation wouldn't last forever, even if it was with Zell.

Twilight was upon a city that no longer existed, except in the mind of the only person that had ever lived there that still existed. It was a city of looming gothic architecture and old cathedrals. It was a crisp night, and yet a comfortable one. A priest was sitting in the grand library of a church, home to worship for a god that had not existed in ages and ages. A god of the sun, a god long dead. Even in this time, a time that was just a memory, the texts were dusty and ancient. The priest poured over the text, existing somewhere that wasn't on land, and wasn't in either past or future. It was rooted in magic only. The ancient and mysterious magic of Summons.

"I'm surprised to see you here."

Alexander looked up with a start, hearing a voice echoing through the library he'd thought he was alone in. That hateful demon, Daeva, was sitting across the table from him. "What are you doing here?!" Alexander asked, shocked that he hadn't felt Diablos's pollution of his realm. It just went to show how strong a magician Diablos really was.

"What are you doing here?" Daeva posed, propping his feet up on the massive oak table, examining his black lacquered fingernails.

Alexander glared hatefully at the Dark Messenger, his fingers curling around the spine of the book before him. Alexander may have hated Daeva, but he did know him well, and he noticed that Daeva had his thick hair tucked behind his ears. The dead giveaway along with his black and ice blue eyes that he wasn't quite human. Alexander also knew that Daeva normally wore his hair down to cover those pointy ears, but was purposely showing them off tonight. To rile Alexander's anger. In this time that existed now, faeries had lived, and they were creatures that Alexander felt were vile and evil with their black magic.

"Unless your barbed tongue has brought word from our King, I suggest you get out of my sight," Alexander hissed.

"Tut tut. Where is your religious civility. Ahhhh, yes." Daeva held up a playful finger, winking one of his hypnotic eyes. "You have no religious civility, for you have no religion anymore."

"I don't have to listen to this!" Alexander leapt up from his seat, slamming his fists onto the large book he'd been pouring over.

"Because it's the truth?" Daeva asked. "Can't I just come to see how my favourite fallen one is doing? You seem quite peachy."

"I despise you."

"Right back at ya, baby." Daeva removed his feet from the table, and leaned in. "I do come for a reason. Our King wishes a court council."

"To discuss the evils you are raining down on the human city, Timber?"

"To discuss other things," Diablos said smoothly, his voice a little halted. "Bahamut would not share the specifics with me."

Alexander couldn't help but laugh. "Kicked you out of his bed, did he? Disgusting pervert. Just like all fey."

"Your fangs are showing, Priest." Daeva's shadow was stretching on the large cobblestone walls, in the form of a great demon. "If that's even the correct term." Daeva looked around. "Quite the charming little chapel you have here."

"You have no right to be in such a holy place!" Alexander collected the book to his chest and started to walk away from the table.

"I may not have a right, that's true. After all, Sanviar's teachings would have you burn all fey and faerie at the stake. In fact, I can still smell the flesh burning in the air. But, you have no right, either."

"Shut up!" Alexander exclaimed, his own shadow growing. To the shape of a giant machine of war.

"Weren't you kicked out of this church?" Diablos asked as Alexander started to walk away from him. But, Daeva fell in step, gliding along next to the Holy Judgement. "What was the reason....?"

"Do not say another word, Daeva!" The priest shouted. "You are not to judge me. Not when your hands are so stained with the blood of those poor souls you polluted with that drug of yours."

"You are right. Their blood is on my hands, Alexander. However, that is something that I'm not terribly concerned with. It doesn't eat at my soul. It doesn't plague me while I try to sleep."

"You ramble, demon." Alexander started moving along the long and cavernous halls of the church. Each step he took caused a metallic echo to vibrate across the stone surroundings.

"You think Hazel Domunia sees you with blood on your hands? You think her parents do?"

Alexander stopped all motion at the mention of that name. The name that did indeed plague him. His whole body started to shake. Daeva slunk up beside Alexander, hands sliding over his broad shoulders. Daeva's breath washed cold over his cheek.

"I have no qualms about what I've done, but I do not try to hide it behind that bible-black cloak of purity, Priest. Did her young flesh taste good? Did she quiver for your strong fingers? Did she beg for your adult cock?"

"Stop it."

Daeva laughed lowly, suddenly in front of Alexander, moving too fast for even the other Summon to see. "Did she beg for you to stop when you suspected she was part faerie? You think she still burns now, cursing you for stealing more than just her life?"

Alexander's hand came out and slapped Daeva's smirking, pretty face. No truly human face could look that inviting, yet that malicious at the same time. "You vile half-breed."

"I'd be careful where you sling that word 'pervert', Alexander." Daeva wiped his full lower lip in a seductive way. "The council is in a moon's length, even by your calendar."

"Get out of my realm!" Alexander yelled, his voice shaking.

"With pleasure." Daeva blew Alexander a kiss, and evaporated in a shimmering dust of glittering black matter.

Alexander dropped the book he'd been carrying in his fit, storming down the halls of the castle, those walls of the beloved catacombs he'd been banished from as a mortal man becoming halls of metal, shining like mirrors. The city of industry that he'd found himself in after being banished from Sanviar's heaven. Ippi City, so very different from Sanviar, the beautiful city named for the glorious god of the sun. Ippi City, where Alexander had wasted away as a man, but not as a Sorcerer. He'd died here, and become the Holy Judgement. He entered his sanctuary. It was a chapel he'd made for himself. It was the place he'd died on his knees, praying to his god that would not listen. He fell to his knees here again, looking up at the stylized ankh that signified worship of Sanviar. "Oh, my great Lord... please help me smite that awful demon. Help me regain the purity that my human hands disgraced and dirtied. Please, show me the right path."

Alexander spread his arms out, closing his eyes in deep worship. He sought for any sort of sign from his god. Any at all in all these millions of years. He saw a brief flash in the darkness behind his eyelids. A face. The face of a woman with kind, almond shaped brown eyes. She had long black hair, and wings on her back. Alexander felt an affinity for her, like he'd met her before, touched her and spoke with her. He felt his power through her blood, and heard her call for him. She was junctioning him, a modern woman with magical prowess. A Sorceress, and the wings were false, a pattern on her clothes. A woman who would help him destroy that demon, the last surviving faerie. The Ancient Court would be better without his evil blood. And, this woman would help him kill Diablos once and for all.

"Squall's not stupid," Irvine pointed out. "He'll figure it out eventually." He and Selphie were wandering through the halls of the manor, searching for Seifer and Zell.

"I don't know that he will," Selphie said, poking her head into an empty room that had been used for Hyne-knows-what. "I don't think Squall's mind would go there. It's too strange a concept. Hell, if we didn't know that Seifer and Zell were boyfriends, don't you think the idea would sound kinda funny?"

"I think it sounds funny anyway," Irvine said. "How can it possibly work?"

"Well, you see... one man starts by inserting a finger into the other man's rect--"

Irvine slapped her shoulder. "You know what I mean."

"All you have to do is see the way they look at each other," Selphie said quietly. "And then, there's no more questions that need to be asked." She smiled to herself. They came to a door, and Selphie tried to open it, but it was locked.

"Locked, eh?" Irvine asked, tipping his hat. "You think this is the last stop, milady?"

"It's the only place we haven't looked." She jiggled the knob again, then knocked. "Zell?" She asked. "Seifer?"

"I wonder what's in here?" Irvine asked, knocking on the door a couple of times.

"You think they're going at it?" Selphie asked, a mischievous glint in her jade eyes.

"I don't know. I don't care."

Selphie grinned and pulled something out of the front pocket of her jeans. "Let's find out, shall we?" What she'd pulled out was a mini lock-picking kit, and she started to go at the lock.

Irvine pursed his lips. "Uh, Sefie.... they actually could.... you.... you know..... in there."


Irvine rolled his eyes as the lock clicked open. "You're a pervert."

"I learned from the best," Selphie said with a wink. She slowly pushed the door open, and saw a staircase.

"Oooh, stairs?" Irvine whispered. "How ominous." He made 'spooky' gestures with his hands, which Selphie promptly ignored. She climbed the stairs, and found herself in a rather lavish room. The focal point of the room was a massive canopy bed, decked out in blood red sheets and a matching gauze curtain for the canopy. Seifer and Zell were both in the room, putting the last touches on getting dressed again from their little romp. Selphie stomped her foot and cursed.

"We heard you knocking," Zell murmured, pulling on his second sock.

"Well, at least I can still tell that you two had sex. You're glowing." She clasped her hands in front of her chest, and gave a loud and dramatic 'dreamy' sigh. " quite the yummy shirt there, Seifer."

Seifer looked down at the shirt he'd pulled from Daeva's full closet. It wasn't the satin chartreuse, but rather a blood red lace shirt with equally red velvet cuffs and collar. "Diablos sure has a flare for fashion, I'll give him that."

"Um...." Selphie noticed that they were both putting on shoes. "Where are you going?"

"I'm going to work," Seifer said. "I don't know where Zell is going."

"I'm going with you," the shorter man said matter-of-factly.

"Neither of you should be going anywhere," Irvine pointed out. "Remember what happened when you went out last time?"

"Irvine's right. Just at least wait until Odine has figured out what to do."

"I have to check on the store," Seifer said, beyond listening to them. "Rioters could have fucking destroyed it for all I know."


"I can't stay here," Seifer snapped. His voice then softened. "I can't...."

"It's safer here," Selphie murmured, putting a friendly hand on Seifer's forearm.

"It's not safe anywhere," he whispered. "And, at least if I'm at the store, I'm not here. I don't have to see Squall, and I don't have to see Cid and Edea."

"You can't avoid them forever," Irvine said as Seifer started to go down the stairs. "You'll have to face them eventually!" He called. But, he was sure that the other man wasn't listening. Zell just smiled at both of them, squeezing Irvine's shoulder before he trod down the stairs after his lover. He smiled internally at the thought of that word.

"Hey, wait!" Zell called, jogging to catch up. Seifer's long legs had already carried him down most of the hallway towards the grand front stairs.

"I told you, Dincht. I'm going to the shop."

"Yeah, so? I'm comin' with you."

Seifer stopped, turning his hard peridot eyes to the other man. "Hell no, you aren't. Just stay here."

"What, you trying to protect me?"

Seifer said nothing, starting to go down the stairs.

"I know you're trying to protect me, but I'm in just as much shit as you are with Diablos. Maybe I want to protect you too, so stop acting like a fucking princess and just accept it."

Seifer opened his mouth to spit out something nasty, but he saw that Zell was standing his ground, and glaring back at Seifer. The taller man closed his mouth. "Fine."

Zell's expression of anger softened into one of affection. "Good then."

"Won't all the rest of them be wondering where you vanished to, yet again?" Seifer asked as he opened the great doors of Daeva's former house.

"Let them wonder," Zell said. "Selphie and Irvine know where I'll be going, anyway."

"You really shouldn't be going anywhere."

Both men jumped, but then Seifer became annoyed when he saw Tiamat's human guise leaning against the gates that led out to the possibly dangerous streets of Timber. Tiamat was dressed in and old-fashioned deep blue frock-coat that looked masculine and old-fashioned, yet was still plausible in this era. Her hair was loose and wavy around her shoulders and down her back.

"I won't let Diablos hold me prisoner," Seifer hissed.

"Even at the cost of your lives?" Thuban asked, her black eyes glittering like onyx as she stared at both of them with fathomless age and power. For a moment, it really put things in perspective for Seifer. He was staring into these immensely powerful eyes, eyes that held more power than any human could ever know, and yet... she was a weakling among the Guardian Forces. And, he had one of the more powerful of them gunning after him. It suddenly made Seifer feel very frail and small. But, then he considered to himself that he could have been considered small and frail compared to Odin, and yet Seifer had come out victorious there.

"Diablos will find a way to kill me, no matter where I'm hiding," Seifer muttered, starting to walk down the sidewalk towards the nearest trolley station. Tiamat stopped at the trolley with them, looking up the street for their ride the same as the few other people milling around the stop. Because Seifer had her junctioned, and she was also here, he could feel that she wasn't going anywhere. She was staying, acting just as much his bodyguard as Zell was. Seifer then looked over at Zell, sighing a little in aggravation. How could he live with himself if Zell died trying to protect him?

Zell noticed Seifer watching him and looked over, smiling brightly. He wasn't thinking about Diablos, or about what had happened today with the Blackballers. He was thinking of how it had felt to be inside Seifer, to have his hands on Seifer's flesh, to have Seifer's mouth on his. His eyes became hooded with the thought, and his hand sought out Seifer's. Seifer looked down at their joined fingers, then squeezed Zell's hand, smiling back. Zell leaned into Seifer, resting his chin on Seifer's broad shoulder. Neither man cared if there were other people at the trolley stop. They leaned towards each other, lips pressing together in a soft, slow kiss. Zell's hand squeezed Seifer's a little tighter, just to feel that he was really there, just to keep himself grounded as all the blood rushed out of his head. It didn't go down towards his cock, but it just left him, seemed to all go into his heart. Zell didn't care if there were a bunch of people watching them, or staring with disgust or whatever. He just cared about the taste of Seifer's lips on his own.

They broke apart and pressed their foreheads together, nuzzling. Zell's eyes briefly went over to the rest of the people at the trolley stop, but none of them were looking over. Either out of politeness, or just because they didn't give a shit. Zell knew that he felt the latter. He didn't give a shit anymore what people thought of him. He still had his mother's love and support. He still had Selphie and Irvine, two of the best friends that anyone could ask for, and now he had Seifer. A man that made all of it worth it. Zell wondered if Seifer felt the same way. Their hands broke apart as they got on the trolley, Thuban shadowing them. The other people getting on must have sensed the power rolling off the dragoness under this womanly disguise, because they all sat as far away from her as they could.

They all got off in Alraune, near Archimedes, without incident. Seifer came to the store, and saw that it was still open, and didn't look like it had been touched at all. When Seifer, Zell and Thuban Alwaid came in, Xera rushed out from behind the counter, a happy look on her face.

"Mr. Emaissyl.... I mean, Mr. Almasy! I'm so glad to see you." She took his hands and shook them. "Me and Gietz were worried that something had happened to you, what with the town going crazy....!"

"I'm fine," Seifer said, holding up a hand to stop her gushing. "I'm just glad to see the store's okay."

"The rioting stayed out of Alraune. I...." She trailed off, pulling her hands away. "It was on the news.... what happened downtown with the burning cops, and what... you did....."

Seifer couldn't help but close his eyes, feeling shame.

"You were amazing. We've had a lot of people coming in, just because they want to have a weapon like yours."

Seifer shook his head, going to the office door and pulling out his keys. "I'm far from amazing, Xera." He flicked on the light switch, turning on his computer. "I'm a murderer," he muttered under his breath. Xera didn't catch it, but Zell did. The Archimedes clerk knew Zell's face, but not the woman. Xera was oddly fascinated, oddly because she was also a little afraid. She looked back to Zell, remembering that he was a SeeD. "How did those gloves work out for you?" She asked.

"So far, so good," Zell answered, holding up a fist to show he was wearing the Red Dragon scaled weapons.

"Is there anything I can help you with today?" She asked pleasantly.

"He's not a customer," Seifer muttered from in the office, looking at some papers and cursing under his breath. "I forgot it was inventory..." He said under his breath.

"What do you mean, boss?"

"Just ignore him. He's my boyfriend."

Zell's eyebrows kind of raised, and Xera's furrowed deeply. She then just shrugged and said "... okay," and looked over to Thuban. "Is there... anything I can help you with, ma'am?"

Tiamat smiled at this earnest human. "No thank you. I'm...." she sought for the modern word. "A bodyguard." She reached out her hand to shake Xera's hand, as she'd seen other humans of this era do many times. Xera gingerly took it, and felt a jolt of power go through her arm. She took her hand away, staring at this beautiful, yet odd woman. Tiamat wondered if she'd done something that was a social faux-pas. Some Guardian Forces had a hard time immersing among humans in their former forms. They all didn't do it as well as Daeva, Manannan or her father.

As Xera was staring at Tiamat, Zell slowly went over to the doorway of Seifer's office. Seifer was printing off some sort of blank spreadsheet, and looked up when he saw Zell just standing there. "What?" Seifer asked impatiently. He looked into the store. Counting items for inventory was always a boring, daunting task.

"You told her we were boyfriends," Zell said quietly, leaning against the door frame.

"Did I?" Seifer asked blankly. "I guess I shouldn't have."

"No!" Zell exclaimed quietly, stepping into the room. "I'm glad you did. I wanna tell everyone."

Seifer felt the heat of blush start to stain his cheeks, and he smiled serenely.

"You look so cute when you smile like that," Zell murmured, leaning over the desk to give Seifer a quick yet delightful kiss on the mouth.

"Well, that's very sweet, but if you want to keep an eye on me, you'll have to let me actually do work." Seifer got up. "Xera?" He called, going out to the floor. Zell leaned against the desk, sighing stupidly. He felt so light and happy, despite all the shit that was going on. He hadn't felt this way in a very long time. Had he actually ever felt like this? He watched as Seifer talked with his employee, how she reacted to him. Xera really respected Seifer, and he also treated her with respect. Anyone who thought that Seifer was the same person he'd been back when he was Ultimecia's Knight was sorely mistaken. He had a new life now, and was very comfortable in it. Zell watched as Seifer patted Xera's shoulder, and as she collected her stuff.

"Where's she going?" Zell asked as Xera nodded hesitantly at Tiamat, and then went into the Timber night.

"Store's closing, dummy." Seifer held out his wrist, putting his watch out. "It's eleven o' clock." Seifer then handed Zell a clipboard with what he'd printed out. "Here."

"What's this?" Zell asked, looking at it.

"Well, as long as you're here following me around, you can make yourself useful. We're going to count inventory."

"Whaaaa?" Zell frowned deeply. "Fuck that. Why can't she do it?" Zell gestured with the clipboard to Tiamat, who was watching the street like a guard dog.

Seifer just gave the other man a look, and Zell's shoulders slumped. "Fine."

Seifer smiled victoriously. "Maybe I'll reward you after a job well done." He winked and started to go over to the magazine rack.

Zell's eyebrow cocked in interest as his imagination started to play out all sorts of interesting scenarios that could be a 'reward'. He plunked himself down on the ground between two of the item aisles, and wrote screws in the first column, then started counting. After that was done, he wrote down the total and went to the next item. Diamond screws. Zell filled his pages counting items, which actually was kind of fun in its own way. He and Seifer talked about a lot of minor, trivial things as they went around the store gathering totals. Zell also enjoyed looking at quite a few items that even he'd never seen before. If there was a number that Seifer felt was particularly low, he would write it down in a small book he was carrying with him.

"Why are you writing all that down?" Zell asked. "I've got it written here."

"So I know what to hunt when I go looking for monsters," Seifer muttered. "I have to go soon again."

"Really.....?" Zell cocked his head, taking a break. He leaned against the counter, flipping through a Combat King. "Can I come with you sometime?"

Seifer looked up from notes he was taking. "Huh?"

"I want to go monster hunting with you sometime."

"Why?" Seifer asked, a little confused.

"Because it sounds fun. Do you know how fucking long it's been since I got to go fight monsters, other than the ones in the Training Center. It gets real old real fast fighting Grats all the time."

"I guess you can, if you want." Seifer couldn't help but smile at Zell taking an interest in his job, in wanting to do things with him. Seifer stared at the other man for a while as he read his magazine (or rather partially read it and partially ogled the pictures of the guys in it), but looked up when Tiamat let out a growl that could only come from her true dragoness form.

Zell quickly looked up, the magazine dropping to the floor. Was it Diablos again? Seifer didn't have Hyperion on him, but that didn't mean he wasn't armed. He pulled out one of his deadly survival knives, looking over to Tiamat. She was just staring, and there was a gentle rapping at the door. Seifer slowly walked over, thinking that Diablos wouldn't just politely knock. But.... maybe he would.

"It is your friend," Tiamat pointed out, stepping back from the door. "The silver-haired female."

"Fujin....?" Seifer asked, unlocking and opening the door. Indeed, Fujin was standing there, but she wasn't alone. She had a particularly perturbed expression on her face, and she glared over at Squall with her one good eye. "Squall," Seifer greeted stiffly.

"Squall?" Zell echoed, confused.

"FORCED," Fujin muttered, glaring at Squall evilly enough that any other man would have fled in terror. But, Squall just looked at Seifer, not caring in the least if Fujin was ready to throttle him.

"Well, you might as well come in." Seifer pushed the shop's door open, and allowed them to come in. Zell slowly picked up the magazine, looking at Squall with curiosity. Squall was looking back at him with the same sort of expression on his pretty face. "What are you doing here?"

"SAFE?" Fujin asked, gripping Seifer's arms.

"Yeah," he patted her hands. "I'm safe. I just needed to come in and do some work. I do have responsibilities."

"What are you doing here?" Squall asked as Seifer and Fujin talked. He was decked out all in his usual black, wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket, done up all the way to its high, Velcro-fastened collar. He was also wearing black pants and black leather gloves. Anyone would have thought that he was either on some stealth mission, or part of some biker gang, but it was just Squall.

"I could ask you the same thing."

Squall chose not to answer, but instead waited for a reply from Zell.

"I didn't want Seifer to come through the city alone," Zell admitted. He'd mentioned only a little while ago that he wanted to tell everyone about his relationship with Seifer, but now that Squall was standing here before him, and there was a perfect opportunity, he couldn't find the words or the courage. "I'm helping him do inventory. So, why are you here?"


"Go ahead, Squall." Seifer went over to the counter, and opened the register with a key. He pulled the till out and started counting the gil inside. "You can admit it. You were curious about what I actually do for a living. Right?"

Fujin frowned. "Selphie said that you guys came here, so I wanted to make sure that you were alright. And, I didn't want to stay in that house anymore. But, Squall INSISTED that I show him where Archimedes was."

Squall said nothing, but Seifer shrugged, nonplussed. "Well, you've seen the place. You really don't have any more reason to stay, hmmm?"

"What are you doing?" Squall asked, refusing to leave. He'd had Rinoa chide him enough that he'd come to try to find common ground with Seifer. After all, Seifer didn't seem to be giving Rinoa a second look anymore in terms of sexual desire. Squall was also wondering how much of Seifer's killing spree had been Ultimecia, and how much had been Seifer himself. This way, he could appease both Rinoa and his own curiosity, being both open and a spy at the same time.

"Inventory, if you must know." Seifer brushed past Squall, going over to the display with muscle balms and tensor bandages. "So, make yourself scarce."

Squall frowned deeply. "Can't one of your subordinates do this?"

"Well, next time you own your own business Squall, you can ask me that question again."

"Are you really doing it to avoid Matron and Headmaster Cid?"

Seifer whirled around to face Squall. "So, is that why you're really here, Leonhart? Don't bring that subject up to me again unless you want my fist through your fucking head."

"They didn't ask me to come," Squall answered stiffly, slowly pivoting on the spot as he watched Seifer go into his office. "My wife wants me to try and see past our differences."

"Rinoa," Seifer muttered. "Ever the diplomat."

"Squall...." Zell trailed off, putting his hand on the other man's shoulder from behind. "Can I talk to you for a second....?"

Seifer didn't look up from the papers that had spewed from his printer, but his ears did perk up. He knew that Zell was going to tell Squall about them. He carefully listened in, but physically stayed away. This was something that Zell should, and had to, do on his own.

Squall cocked his head, seeing that something was bothering his friend. But, before Zell could even get started, a chill went through the air. Squall, Seifer, Zell and Fujin all looked over to Tiamat, because she was where that feeling was coming from.

"Someone's out there," she said in a multi-layered voice that should not have come from human lips. Suddenly, something smashed through the front window of the store. Fujin had to jump back to avoid being hit by it. The object was a brick.

"Rioters?" Zell asked, balling his hands into fists.

"Xar-voth kullerah!" A voice shouted from outside.

"That's Diablos's language," Tiamat hissed.

"VOICE...." Fujin trailed off, a stricken look coming over her face.

Seifer stalked over to the door and unlocked it, wrenching his hands away from Tiamat when she tried to stop him. He flung the door open and saw Raijin standing in the middle of the road. He was holding a weapon that he couldn't have gotten his hands on without help. A pair of hand sickles. He could have picked some up from a farm supply store, but these looked archaic, more like a weapon than a farming tool.

"RAIJIN...." Fujin gasped, a hand going to her mouth.

Zell and Squall had gone to the broken window, looking out at Raijin, just standing there and staring at Seifer. One of his hands went up, the curved blade of his sickle catching the moonlight. He looked so frail and skinny, nothing like the Raijin that Squall remembered.

"Ultimecia's Dog, I challenge thee." The voice coming from Raijin's mouth was his own, and yet it wasn't at the same time. It was Raijin's voice, but it was obviously Diablos that was speaking. "For the return of my beloved Voice, you will lay down your life."

"Seifer, no!" Zell exclaimed as the other man stepped out of Archimedes. He pulled out the survival knives that he always carried with them. For the last decade, Seifer had carried them around all the time because of their usefulness in terms of being an Alchemist, and he'd never thought he'd had to use them as a weapon against humans, especially against one of the best friends he'd ever known. Though Raijin had fallen on very hard times, Seifer still loved him, and he could taste his heartbeat on his tongue.

"Raijin," Seifer said quietly. Staring into that familiar, yet haunting face, he found it hard to maintain his composure. "I know this isn't you talking."

"I'm not listening to you," Raijin hissed. "I'm not listening to the bastard that stole Blackball from me. It's the only thing I have in my life. You saw to that!"

"You were the one that started taking it!" Seifer exclaimed angrily. Raijin advanced on him, and Seifer had to jump back to avoid having his throat slit. He slashed out with his knife to get Raijin back, and he also stepped back with quickness and grace that flew in the face of his sickly condition. This close to him, Seifer could pick up how badly Raijin smelled. It made his eyes water and his heart break. Raijin was getting help from Diablos with his fighting skills, Seifer was sure of that. "You were the one who threw everything away!"

"Just like you threw me away!!" Raijin screamed, slicing down with the sickles. Seifer hissed as the blade of one nicked his shoulder. He jumped back, aiming for Raijin's arm with his knife. He meant to cut Raijin's hand to make him drop one of the sickles, but he moved away too quickly. Raijin cut at Seifer's arm again, and it was deep enough that Seifer stumbled backwards, groaning in pain.

"Seifer!" Both Zell and Fujin called, wanting to go outside and help him. But, Tiamat's arm blocked their way.

"The danger is too great," she murmured.

"Then, help him!" Zell shouted angrily at her.

"I am currently junctioned to him. I cannot help unless he calls me."

"Fuck!" Zell cursed, watching as Seifer and Raijin had their blade fight. Seifer did eventually cut one of Raijin's hands deep enough that they could see blood spray out in the darkness. It made Raijin drop one of the sickles, and Seifer snatched it, so he was now more evenly matched. Squall also watched with rapt fascination as Seifer and Raijin had their fight. Squall could see the torture on Seifer's face, but could also see the sheer skill behind Seifer's motions. Raijin's were also full of fluid grace, but Squall knew that these were really Diablos's motions, and therefore not human.

Both men ducked and lunged towards each other, their hands, arms and cheeks covered in nicks and cuts. Raijin sliced with one of the sickles at Seifer's neck, and Seifer had to reel backwards to avoid being decapitated, and he stumbled. As he was falling, Raijin lunged on him. Seifer could see the glittering of his falsely black eyes. "How does it feel, Raef?" Raijin hissed, his free hand winding around Seifer's neck. "How does it feel to be on the losing end for once? No..... you've always been on the losing end!" Raijin was snarling, and spittle was falling on Seifer's cut cheeks.

"I know this isn't you, Raijin....!" Seifer trailed off, gasping because his throat was being crushed by Raijin's surprising strength.

"You were always a fucking loser, and you brought me down with you! You were a failure at Garden, you were a failure as a Witch's Knight. You failed at life, so you had to change your name. You even failed at your new life, and when I found something wonderful in my life, you had to fucking steal it from me!"

Seifer's vision was blacking out because of a lack of oxygen. He reached up and stabbed his knife into what meat was left on Raijin's bony shoulder. It caused his oldest friend to howl in pain, scuttling away like an insect. Seifer rolled over on the pavement, coughing and gagging. Raijin screamed like an animal as he pulled the knife out of his shoulder. Seifer had stabbed it deeply enough that it was embedded within bone. Raijin moved over with inhuman speed, the blade of the knife flashing in the moonlight. Seifer saw his own knife coming down, and tried to roll out of the way, but was too slow because he was still trying to get air into his body. He knew the feeling of being deeply stabbed from the times that monsters had gored him, so he knew this was bad when he felt it go in. Seifer tried to struggled and kick his long legs to get Raijin off him.

Raijin pushed the blade up through Seifer's side, cutting through muscle, which caused the pinned man to scream in pain. Raijin's Blackball eyes found Zell, blocked behind the strength of Tiamat's arm. "Xhar lo'chrav Io veyixarha, doth kvacqua mei-xhul Ioe puvarmolar?" He laughed, and it was all Diablos's voice, all Diablos's laugh. Though Zell couldn't understand Daeva's complex and ancient language, somehow he knew what was falling from Raijin's lips. It whispered in his head, and made him push at Tiamat's strong arm.

How about I bisect him, just like you did me?

"Seifer!" Zell screamed as he heard the other man scream again. It was like Raijin was stabbing him, too. Squall could only silently watch with wide eyes as Diablos smiled and laughed through Raijin's lips. "You chose the wrong side, Thuban." He shook his head. "Siding with humans....." Those black eyes stopped on Squall as Seifer's hands clawed up the road in pain. His fingers were bleeding because of the unforgiving surface, a couple of his nails having broken completely off his fingers. Daeva, in Raijin's skin, winked at Squall, and the scarred man was reminded of what Diablos had said to him before. I grieve for your future, little kitty.

Seifer spit up blood, and Raijin leaned down, getting face to face with him. Seifer could smell the unwashed clothes and skin, and see that some of Raijin's teeth had fallen out, and a couple others were rotting in his mouth. It made his breath smell very bad. "Once you're dead, I can have my Blackball again."

One of Seifer's hands, clawing at nothing in his agony, found the hilt of one of the weapons Raijin had brought with him. He sliced the curved blade up, getting it right into Raijin's chest. Raijin howled, digging the hunting knife deeper into the meat of Seifer's side as Seifer pushed the blade in through the other man's breastbone. Raijin spit up blood all over Seifer's face and chest, and he screamed with two voices. The voice of a defeated demon, and his own lost voice.

"I won't let a human best me!" Diablos shrieked, his hand coming off the knife. Seifer grabbed at it, and pulled it out of his side. When Raijin's hands came around his throat, strong enough to snap Seifer's neck, Seifer stabbed the knife into Raijin's throat. He made an awful noise, eyes rolling back in his head. A distant scream of anger could be heard, but it wasn't coming from Raijin's body. Diablos relinquished control, and his powers left the scene in a fit of fury. Hot tears worked down Seifer's cheeks as Raijin's body collapsed on top of him. A long, last breath escaped from Raijin's lips, washing over Seifer's cheek. Seifer didn't care about his injury, only about how much it hurt that he'd just killed his best friend. He didn't care if he and Raijin hadn't seen each other in years. He would have always loved Raijin, and to have done this to him....

Seifer's arms came around Raijin, and he started weeping. The sobs shot through his whole body, the pain intense from the stab wound at his side. But, he didn't care. Your nature has kome out again, my darling. When Seifer heard her voice in his head, especially at a moment like this, he started screaming, holding Raijin's body for dear life. He could hear people distantly calling his name, but he didn't care. How could he have done this?!

"Seifer!" Zell cried. He shoved past Tiamat, running out onto the street. "Squall, call an ambulance!"

Squall was briefly nailed to the spot, but heard Zell's request, and went over to the phone, doing as he was asked. He called for an ambulance, still a little shell-shocked. His thoughts about Seifer being a cold-blooded murderer now felt so wrong. Even when Raijin had been causing physical damage, Seifer had still hesitated hurting him back, though his death was probably a blessing, at least in Squall's estimation.

Zell had skidded on his knees to Seifer's position, not caring that the pavement had tore his jeans, or that his knees were now bleeding. He only cared about Seifer, and if he was okay. Zell pushed Seifer's shirt back to look at the wound, and pursed his lips. He wasn't a doctor or a Curist, but he knew that it was bad. Tiamat crouched beside them, her hands full of bandages and other things. "These are medical supplies. Here." She looked down at her Master sadly. "If only he had called me...."

"Seifer, can you hear me?" Zell asked, helping Seifer to a sitting position. Seifer was still gripping Raijin, and wasn't going to let go anytime soon. "Seifer....?" Zell whispered. "Can you hear me?"

Everything was distant to Seifer's ears. He could only really hear the blood leaving him from the wound in his side, and he could only hear the echo of Ultimecia's voice. He wasn't even really seeing colour. Only black and white, and the red of Raijin's blood on his hands. His eyes also saw Fujin. She was standing in the doorway, even as Squall gently pushed past her to come outside. The ambulance sirens were only white noise in his ears. Seifer stared at Fujin as Zell started to put pressure to his wound and Squall told the paramedics what had happened. He saw her claret eye, as red as Raijin's blood. He saw the horror there, and the... anger. He saw her mouth the single word "RAIJIN", and saw the accusation in her eye, all geared towards him. And, he felt that accusation in his heart, pointed at himself. Zell was whispering something in his ear, and then he heard nothing....

Cid was pacing in the study, waiting for any sort of news. Squall had phoned a while ago (it seemed like days), and said that Diablos had sent Raijin as an assassin to kill Seifer, and that Seifer was badly wounded, and that he'd killed Raijin. Cid had wanted to run right to the scene, but Squall said that they would be coming back to the manor, and not to leave because Diablos could be waiting to reveal more ugly plans. So, Cid was stuck here, waiting for news, completely useless to his son. He knew that Edea felt the same way. Useless, and like her heart was shattering. Every creak of the house, or every noise of people in other rooms made Cid whirl around to look at the door. Laguna was also in the room with them, sitting beside Edea on the loveseat, a thoughtful look on his face. Cid was glad that Laguna was there for them. What would he and Edea do if Seifer really died this time....? He didn't want to think about it, but it was a distinct possibility.

Cid heard footsteps in the hall, and eyed the doors intently. They opened, and Cid had never been so glad in his life when he saw Seifer walk through the doors. He was limping and his face was pale, but he was alive. Zell was walking beside him, looking up at Seifer's profile with a concerned look on his face. Squall also walked in, his hands clasped at his back, looking a little more emotional than he usually did.

"Thank Hyne!" Edea exclaimed, rising to her feet. She went across the room with speed, wrapping her arms around Seifer. "I'd feared the worst!

Seifer didn't say anything, or react to the embrace. He just stared straight ahead, only hearing Ultimecia's taunts, and only feeling Raijin's dried blood on his hands. Seifer heard her voice again and again. It's your nature, my Knight. You're nothing without my power. You're nothing without me. Killing him is what you're bred to do. What I've made you. A perfekt monster. They'd just come from the back of the ambulance, Seifer having been cleared by the paramedics. But, none of that mattered. He stepped back from Edea, closing his arms around himself. His eyes sought out the faces in the room. The pity on Squall's face was probably the worst one, especially because Seifer knew Squall was trying not to show any emotion either way, but it was coming out anyway. Zell's eyes were kind and loving, but that didn't warm the chill in Seifer's body.

"President Loire?" Seifer asked dully, none of his usual bravado or confidence in his voice. Only a dead drone of syllables. "Will you take me to Esthar, and get Her out of my body?"

"I promise I'll do anything I possibly can," Laguna said solemnly.

Seifer turned around, slowly walking back out of the room again. He shrugged Zell's hand off. "You may be able to get Ultimecia out of me, but you won't be able to cure me of what she's already made me."

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