The New Flesh

Chapter Eight

By Scarlet Fever

Nida stood on the back deck of the house, looking down at the rolling green hills that dipped down to the ocean, falling along with the steep cliffs into the white sand. He was leaning his arms against the wooden railing, waiting for Squall. Squall was in the bathroom, and they were waiting for their taxi to arrive so they could go back to the Dollet Hotel, and meet Rinoa.


The Asian man turned, hearing his father's voice behind him. "Oh, Dad..."

"When is your car arriving?"

Nida shrugged. "Soon. Just waiting for Squall."

Daisuke sighed, standing beside his son. "I'm.... I am glad you're happy, Nida."

Nida gave his father a sidelong glance. "You are?"

"Don't sound so sceptical. Squall's a very nice man."

Nida couldn't help but laugh. It was the first time he'd really laughed in a couple days. "That's something that Squall's never been called before."

Daisuke sighed, crossing his arms over his firm chest. "Look... This isn't a subject that I've discussed with you before, but I feel that I should mention it."

Nida raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Well, I'm not naive, Koneko. You must be very serious with Squall to bring him here, and that must mean that you're in a sexual relationship with him."

"Dad!" Nida exclaimed, flushing with embarrassment.

"I'm not stupid, Nida. I know that you aren't a child, that you're an adult now. And, adults have sex."

"Do we have to talk about this?"

"Just... Indulge me for a moment, Nida. You are my only child. I want to make sure you're... safe."

"I'm fine..." Nida trailed off. "Remember, I'm a Captain of SeeD. I can take care of myself."

"That's not what I meant..." Daisuke trailed off, his voice deadpan.

"Oh...." Nida trailed off. "For the... most part..." Nida trailed off, feeling really uncomfortable.

Daisuke cocked an eyebrow. "I don't like the sound of that."

"This is really embarrassing, you know?"

"This isn't the easiest subject for me to breach either, Nida. I don't know how to relate to you with this. But, I feel like it's something that I should ask."

Nida rubbed his forehead. "I understand, I guess...." He sighed. "It's not like either of us go out screwing anything that moves. We're monogamous."

"That's nice."

Nida looked at his father. "You don't sound to thrilled."

"Because I've heard this before. Nida, half my clients are made up of people who thought they were 'monogamous' I don't want some disaster to happen to you."

"I trust Squall."

"Do you love him?" Daisuke asked quietly.

"I...." Nida trailed off.

"Okay, I can see that this is making you uncomfortable. We don't have to talk about it anymore." Daisuke's hand came to rest on Nida's shoulder. "I just wanted to make sure you knew what you were doing."

Nida slumped under his father's hand. "I appreciate it." He looked at Daisuke. "Well, I guess since it took a lot for you to even ask me, I should give you a straight answer. Yes, Squall and I were safe, but only recently stopped using condoms. We get blood tests every six months within Garden anyway, so we know we're okay. And, if anything happens, like getting a bucket of blood dropped on us or something, then we'll just go back to them."

"I appreciate your honesty, Koneko," Daisuke whispered.

"How long is Mother going to be at Longbourne for?"

"It all depends on how her recovery progresses."

Nida turned to face his father. "Do you miss her?"

Daisuke paused, considering his son's question. "Honestly, not really."

"I'm sorry..." Nida whispered.

"Why are you apologizing?" Daisuke asked. "Koneko... It is not your fault that your mother can't deal with reality."

"I'm not apologizing for that... Well.... Not really," Nida looked at his feet.

"Stand up straight. Don't slump like you're ashamed."

Nida raised his eyes. "Well, I am ashamed. I'm ashamed because of how childish I was acting about coming here."


"Yeah..." Nida clasped his hands at the small of his back. "I was so worried about how you would react to Squall, how you would react to the fact that I've got power in me that once belonged to Sorceress Adel, ashamed because I thought that you didn't want me."

"You always cared too much what everyone else thought, what they felt, Nida." Daisuke adjusted his glasses. "You always cared too much about what I thought of you."

"You're my father!" Nida exclaimed. "I was so nervous because your opinion has always meant everything to me..."

"Koneko...." Daisuke touched the side of Nida's face.

"Sorry it took so long..." Squall trailed off. "I got distracted by the upstairs study..." Squall stopped in the doorway. "I'm sorry... I shouldn't have snooped, but the door was open, and the artwork was really nice."

"It's okay," Daisuke waved his hand. "Nida chose all the artwork in that room."

"Really?" Squall cocked his head, feeling silly for interrupting what seemed like an important discussion between father and son.

"I was six..." Nida whispered. "I can't believe you still have that artwork. Mom hated that painting of the sailboats."

"It's my favourite," Daisuke whispered.

"Sir...." The man in the suit said, coming out onto the deck. "The car for Nida and General Leonhart is here."

"Oh..." Nida whispered. "Thanks."

The servant nodded, and left again.

"Hopefully Rinoa didn't get lost in Dollet..." Squall rolled his eyes, crossing his arms over his chest.

"Well, we should go."

"How long are you staying?" Daisuke asked, walking Nida and Squall out to the car that was waiting at the end of the driveway.

"I don't know," Nida answered. "Maybe I'll go see Mother."

"If you go, I would like to accompany you."

"I'll call your office tomorrow," Nida said quietly.

Squall stuck his hand out. "Mr. Nomura, it was nice to meet you."

Daisuke shook Squall's hand. "Likewise. I hope to talk with you again while you're in Dollet."

"I'd like that." Squall got in the car, watching as Nida stood silently in front of Daisuke.

"Bye...." Nida whispered.

Daisuke touched the side of Nida's face. "I hope to see you tomorrow, Nida. I hate how strained our relationship has become."

Nida nodded as Daisuke dropped his hand from the side of Nida's face. "Yeah. I'll call you. I promise." He got in the car, giving his father one last look as the car pulled away, Daisuke already heading into the house.

"I really like him," Squall murmured, looking at Nida. "You're lucky to have him as your father."

Nida just nodded. "He said you were very nice." Nida cocked his head. "I'm surprised at how talkative you were."

"I guess I just wanted to fill the silence, since you seemed so uncomfortable..." Squall whispered, watching the elegant houses pass them by. "Why didn't you tell me about what your mother said?"

Nida shrugged. "Because it hurt. I just... didn't want to think about it."

"It's obvious that your dad adores you. He's just not as stupid about his emotions as my father." Squall rolled his eyes. "You're lucky." Squall reached across the seat, and intertwined his fingers with Nida's. "I kind of hope that Rinoa did get lost... Then we can be alone." He gave Nida a meaningful look, and turned back to the window.

Nida looked down at his hand, which was joined with Squall's, thinking of his father's words. Do you love him? It made Nida wonder how serious he and Squall really were. Sure, they were fucking without condoms, but they couldn't even say 'I love you' to each other? Nida looked back as the neighbourhood disappeared into the darkening evening, feeling closer to his father than he had in a long, long time.

"Your Eminence... Your 5:00 appointment is here."

Magdalene looked to the intercom, which was buried under papers that she had no intention of reading. "Send her in..."

"Your calendar is free for the 20th, right?"

Magdalene looked up, seeing Fermata sitting in the chair across from her.

"Yes, yes. What are you doing here?"

"Confession?" Fermata offered, folding her hands neatly in her lap.

Magdalene fingered the cross hanging between her breasts. "Have you committed any sins that I would like to hear about, my child?"

"None that you haven't done yourself."

Magdalene laughed, along with Fermata. The Archbishop stretched her arms above her head, her laughter subsiding to giggles. "I can't wait until this election is over. Do you know how many questions I've had to answer about your concert?"

Fermata smoothed her mahogany hair with a ringed hand. She was holding it back off her face with a diamond encrusted headband. "Well, it wasn't me who made you sit with Tevedes and the girls, now was it?"

"So..." Magdalene trailed off, lacing her hands on her stomach, looking erotic in a blasphemous way, her robes open down past her navel, the Cross hanging between her breasts, which were visible beneath the sheer cups of her black bra. "To what do I owe this honour? Did Tevedes send you?" Magdalene narrowed her dark eyes. "Did something happen?"

Fermata shook her head. "No, no.... It's a personal call."


Fermata laughed, the sound coming out of her full mouth sweeter than the Church bells. "Yes. I mean, you're here, all by your lonesome, while everyone else gets to rock and roll all night and party every day."

Magdalene laughed. "I can't really see Tevedes rocking and rolling, or partying every day, thank you very much."

"Neither can I."

"Well..." Magdalene sighed. "It won't last long. Once the election is over, things will be as they should." She yawned. "God, being the Archbishop is boring. You can't do anything fun, and everything is a sin!"

"Well, everything you enjoy." Fermata gave a small, knowing smile. "Are you free this evening for a little... dinner?" The brunette singer fiddled with the buttons on her fur coat. "A nice, grilled... breast?" She opened the coat a little, just showing the line of her cleavage.

"I wish I could..." Magdalene whispered, watching as Fermata slid the coat to one side, exposing the pale curve of one breast, her nipple hardening in the cool air of the room. "But...." Magdalene trailed off as one of Fermata's fingers traced the line of her exposed nipple in an enticing manner. Magdalene shook her head. "I have meetings. I mean... I have to at least pretend to believe in this religious crap."

"Too bad..." Fermata gave Magdalene one last peak at her breast, then covered herself up again. Fermata just sighed, and began humming a tune, playing with a paperweight in the shape of a cross. The acting Archbishop cocked her head, and rested her chin on the backs of her hands. Fermata didn't form her song into words, and just kept it as a lovely sounding hum. Her voice filled the air, filled the room. Magdalene smiled distantly, smiling at the tune of the song.

After a few minutes, Fermata stopped, and petted the fur of her coat.

"It always amazes me how you can make up a song on the spot."

Fermata just smiled, and got to her feet. "Well, when your schedule lightens, you should come see me at my penthouse."

"I might just have to do that..." Magdalene whispered. "I'll have to indulge the sin of lust."

Fermata quickly flashed her bare breasts at Magdalene for a moment, then closed her coat around herself once more, leaving the office on silent feet. After Fermata had left, Magdalene tented her fingers in front of her face, thinking about her situation as Archbishop. Her silence was interrupted by one of the Priests, who came into the office, his wrinkled face awash with fear and worry.

"What is it?" Magdalene asked, raising an eyebrow. She moved one hand to cover her partial nudity up with her cloak.

"Oh, it's horrible, your Eminence!" He wrung his hands in front of his black robes. "Sister Marion was up in the top floor library, and threw herself out the rose window!" He crossed himself. "For no reason! She was by herself.... She left a note blasphemizing God!" He sighed, petrified. "Oh, it's horrible!!"

"A note?" Magdalene asked. "Do you have it?"

He nodded, his head bobbing like a nervous bird. Magdalene read the note, hiding a small, triumphant smirk behind the paper. It was written hastily. God is a lying twat.

"It's so horrible!" The Priest exclaimed. Magdalene looked at him, trying for the life of her to remember what his name was. "Oh, what are we going to do? We have to go to the Police, but we can't tell them about her note!" He paced, fretting. "Oh, what are we going to do?"

Magdalene slowly stood, quickly fastening her robe before the Priest could notice it was open. "Well, take me to the library, where she 'fell' out of." She folded the note and put it in her pocket. The Priest rushed ahead of her, and Magdalene could only smile, humming Fermata's tune under her breath, her voice slightly off-key.

"What's with you?" Nida asked, noticing that Rinoa was very quiet. "You only said, like.. five words all night."

Rinoa shrugged, looking at Nida and Squall. "How was things with your dad?"

"We talked about it earlier..." Squall trailed off, giving Rinoa a confused look. "That was the first question that you asked."

"Oh..." Rinoa whispered. "Well, I guess I'll turn in for the night. What are we doing tomorrow?" She stopped in front of her room. Her room was down the hall from Squall and Nida's. She checked the door, feeling like she was ill. "615..." She whispered. "This is my room, right? You guys are in 624, right?"

"What is going on?!" Nida demanded. He gripped Rinoa's upper arm, which was encased in black lace. She was wearing a lace dress that was cut like a T-shirt over a blue satin dress, sleeveless and the same length as the lace one. "Come on..." He led her to the room he was sharing with Squall. He gave Squall a confused look over the top of her head.

Squall narrowed his eyes. Rinoa had been listless all through dinner, and had asked questions repeatedly, and stared off into space, looking around like she was expecting the walls to peel, and monsters to pop out of the woodwork.

"Remember? We're having dinner with my father tomorrow, and seeing my mother..." Nida just shook his head, fiddling with the keycard for their door. "Jesus Christ, I hate these things..." He finally got the door unlocked, and ushered Rinoa in.

She sat on the edge of the bed, staring blankly at the black TV screen. Squall perched himself on the dresser that the TV was sitting on, and Nida sat beside Rinoa on the bed, his weight dipping the mattress. "Talk," Nida demanded.

"About what...?" She asked. All she could see was the darkened hallway of that strange gallery, and the fountain with the bloody pool.

"About what you're so fucking distant over," Squall muttered, his voice cutting through the air. "What did you do?"

"Why is it my fault?!" Rinoa demanded, her dark eyes flashing, her anger bringing her out of her stupor. "Why do you think everything is my fault?!"

Nida waved his hands. "Okay, okay... Just calm down, please."

Rinoa breathed out. "It's nothing.... It's stupid... You'll think I'm crazy."

"I already think that..." Squall muttered under his breath. Rinoa didn't hear him, but Nida gave his lover a stern gaze.

"Please.... just tell us, Rinoa," Nida urged, reaching for her hand. She gripped it quickly, her fingers shaking around Nida's. "Ow..." He whispered when she squeezed his hand too tightly.

"Oh.... Sorry..." She pulled her hand away, tugging at the hem of her double layer dress. "It's stupid..." She sighed. "OH!" She leapt to her feet, looking around.

Squall and Nida just looked at each other, utterly perplexed. Rinoa gasped as she picked up her bag. "Here! I totally forgot to tell you about this..." She pulled out a pamphlet, and handed it to Squall as she opened it. "Look at the painting that was at the Circe Gallery!" She jabbed her finger into the face of Queen Zohra. "See!"

"Queen Zohra... Almasy...." Squall whispered, peering at the picture. Her face was almost identical to Seifer's.

"Almasy?" Nida repeated, rising to his feet. He looked over Squall's shoulder at the pamphlet. "Holy shit... She looks just like Seifer."

"I was looking at this painting..." She trailed off. "Oh, it's from 999 AH. Anyway, I was looking at the painting, and the next thing I knew, I was in this strange place, and everyone else was gone."

"Uh... huh...?" Squall muttered, raising his eyebrow.

"I told you it sounded stupid!" Rinoa folded her arms over her breasts.

"Just go on..." Nida whispered.

"Well, I went back to the Information Desk... But, it was gone. Instead, there was a huge picture of Ultimecia and a fountain with blood instead of water, and it had eels and swordfish swimming in it..." She sighed. "And.... Oh, God... I went into another room, and Seifer and Zell were there..."

Nida flinched slightly, looking at Rinoa. "Seifer and Zell...?"

"Have you been drinking?" Squall asked.

"Nooooo!" She moaned, flopping down on the large bed, running her hand down her hip to make sure her dress hadn't ridden up over her ass. "I have not been drinking."

Nida shared a look with Squall. He then looked at Rinoa. "Just tell us, please."

"Well... I can't really remember much of it... But, what I do remember is Seifer and Zell saying I was in the... Gallery of Xystus, and a painting of a girl that looked like Adel, but not exactly like her... More feminine."

"Did you pass out or something?" Nida asked, sitting on the bed beside the flopped Asian girl. He slowly breathed in and out, remembering bits and pieces of his dream from that morning, the dream about Seifer and Zell. He couldn't remember much of it, but did remember the word Xystus.

"I don't think so...." She sighed. "I'm going crazy."

Squall was about to make a caustic remark, but saw that Nida was holding himself very stiffly. "Nida....?"

"Oh!" Rinoa exclaimed, sitting up. "I do remember something else. Zell told me 'remember the trauma' or something like that. I don't know what he meant.... Maybe they're trying to tell me something."

Squall sighed sadly. "Rinoa... Seifer and Zell are dead.... I... I killed them myself."

"I... I know that..." Rinoa whispered, but she didn't sound too sure of her answer. She looked at Squall, who was giving her a hard look, his disbelief of her story plainly written all over his pretty, pretty face. She then looked over at Nida, and stiffened. He looked pretty distant himself.

"Nida, what's wrong?" Squall asked, noticing that his lover was as out of it as Rinoa had been.

"What Rinoa said.... Xystus... I had a dream this morning..." He sighed. "I've been having a lot of dreams about Seifer and Zell lately..."

Squall thought of the dream that he'd had about Seifer and Zell having sex, remembering the power that had permeated his bones, his muscles, like he'd been a voyeur of Nida's dreams.

"And, I thought that it was just my connection with Iudicium, because she was in Zell's body when he was possessed by Adel, but now that Rinoa said that she had a dream too... I'm wondering if it was something more."

"But, mine wasn't a dream!" Rinoa exclaimed. "I wasn't sleeping. I mean, nobody in the Gallery looked at me funny, so I couldn't have been running around and screaming, could I?" She sighed. "And, it's not like this is the first time that this has happened..."

"What do you mean?" Squall demanded. He crossed his arms over his chest, briefly looking at Nida. All during their very quiet dinner, Squall had been looking at Nida, wanting to go upstairs and be fucked until he couldn't walk, fucked into submission, but it didn't look like that was going to happen at that moment.

"I mean that I think that I've seen Seifer and Zell before.... Or, at least in my mind, I have. Remember that time in the kitchen you saw me talking to myself?"

Squall nodded slowly, his stormy blue eyes dark. "Yeah...?"

"Seifer was sitting across from me."

"I didn't see anyone..." Squall noted.

"I know!" Rinoa exclaimed angrily. "I think it's just dreams... Daydreams."

Nida sighed. "Xystus... Isn't that the name of the dead castle? Wasn't that the name of Ultimecia's castle?"

"Yeah," Squall answered. "Lillith's palace was also named that. I guess it makes sense that you would both dream about Seifer and Zell living in a place called Xystus... I mean, they're dead!"

Nida nodded, but he was unsure. "I just have a really... bad feeling about all this. It would be one thing if only I was having dreams, but Rinoa, too?"

"Why would I be, though?" Rinoa asked, running her fingers through her hair. "I don't have any powers like you..."

Nida shrugged. "I don't know. But, Edea seems to think that you touched something... Maybe when you were in your coma?"

Rinoa sighed. "Maybe...." She grumbled to herself. "I don't know... I guess it just bothered me because I think I'm losing my mind. But, I do feel better after talking to you about it..."

"Maybe we're just making something of nothing, right?" Nida asked. "We're all on edge because of the Tevedes situation....And, I've been pretty stressed because of coming here to see my father. And, you've been stressed because of coming out of the coma. And, Squall... You're always under stress."

Squall rolled his eyes. "Gee, thanks."

Rinoa nodded. "You're right." After a pause, she snickered. "You know... Your Dad's hot, Nida."

Nida raised his eyebrows. "Please... Don't say things like that!"

Rinoa laughed teasingly. "But, it's true!" She fanned her face. "How would he feel about an affair with a young, beautiful, eager woman?"

"Why, do you know one?" Squall asked.

Nida laughed. "Oh, man! Squall, you burned her!"

She huffed, and threw a pillow at him. "You're such a..."

"Meanie?" Nida offered, catching the pillow before it could go towards Squall.

"Assholes...." Rinoa muttered, her voice being muffled as Nida pressed the pillow into her face. "Ack!!" She sputtered, flailing her arms.

Squall laughed as Nida pretended to smother her. When he removed the pillow from her face, Rinoa coughed for air. She glared at Squall.

"Sure, laugh it up! He tried to kill me! Do you think your anorexic body could help Nida carry my dead body down a fire escape?"

"I'd hire someone..." Squall muttered, sitting on the bed beside Nida.

"What kind of monster are you?" Rinoa asked, gasping melodramatically.

Squall just shook his head as Nida flopped down on the bed beside him.

"You guys are terrible. I could have suffocated. I must be the only one here who has a sense for human suffering..." She sniffed.

"Well, are you sensing anything now...?" Squall asked caustically.

Rinoa blinked a few times as Nida laughed. "I don't get it...."

Squall snorted. "Surprise, surprise."

After a few seconds, she gasped. "Ohhhh ho! You're such an asshole, Squall."

"That one finally sunk in, did it?" Squall asked. He looked at Nida, who was staring up at the ceiling. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah..." Nida whispered, smiling. "I mean.... I feel better about my relationship with my Dad, and you guys are good for a laugh. It makes me feel better about everything."

"Look what you've done, Squall... We're the butt of Nida's jokes." Rinoa found the remote to the television, and turned it on. "I wonder what this Hotel considers television to be..." She narrowed her eyes. "Yay, advertisement channels." She looked at them. "So, what's up for tomorrow?"

Squall sighed impatiently. "God... We said earlier that Nida was going to maybe visit his mother at the... hospital..."

"Drunk prison..." Nida muttered.

"Fine, the ... 'drunk prison', and then we would all have dinner with his father. So, I guess you can hit on him like the common slut you are."

Rinoa kicked Squall in the shins, which caused him to curse. "Oh!" She exclaimed. "I bought something for you, Nida!" She picked up her bag again, and pulled out the small box that the black angel wing necklace was in. She handed it to him. "I saw it and thought of you."

Nida sort of sat up, resting his weight on an elbow, and opened the box. He looked at the necklace, touching the shiny wings. "Oh, Rinoa.... It's great.... Where did you find it?"

"At this thrift shop near the Art Gallery. Do you like it?"

"I do," Nida answered sincerely, looking at it some more. "Thank you."

She beamed, pleased with herself. "I'm glad." Rinoa's eyes travelled to Squall, who was glaring at her. "Oh, shit Squall... Don't look so jealous!!"

"Yeah..." Nida echoed, putting the chain around his neck. "She wants my dad, remember?" He stuck his tongue out, making a disgusted face.

After a few moments, Rinoa sighed. She looked over at Squall, who was glaring at her. "Why are you looking at me like that?" She asked. A smirk slowly spread across her lips. "Ahhh... You want me to leave...." She bounced on the mattress a few times, then got up. "Don't worry... I'm gone." She went to the door, then stopped, turning around. "It was just a dream, right?" Her eyes flashed worry. "I mean... Just tell me that it was a dream..."

"It was a dream..." Squall muttered, tapping his foot quietly with impatience.

Nida sighed. "Look, Rinoa... I don't know exactly what's going on, or why either of us are seeing Seifer and Zell. But... maybe it's just wishful thinking?"

"Yeah..." Rinoa whispered quietly, opening the door. "Wishful thinking....." She tried to give them a strong smile. "I'll see you tomorrow..."

"Yeah," Nida stood. He touched Rinoa's shoulder. "Thanks for the necklace."

She smiled, blushing slightly, and closed the door behind her as she left. As soon as the door was closed behind her, and the sound of her footsteps had silenced, Squall sidled up behind Nida, working his hands up his lover's shirt.

"You couldn't wait for her to leave, could you?" Nida whispered as Squall pushed his shirt up his chest. Nida raised his arms over his head, and Squall pulled the shirt right off.

"I've been thinking about getting fucked by you all evening..."

Nida turned to face Squall. "My father asked about our sex life."

"Oh?" Squall raised an eyebrow, taking off his own shirt.

"He asked if we used condoms..."

Squall paused as he began undoing his belts. "You know... This is really killing the mood, Nida." He dropped his belts to the ground. "So, what else did Daddy Dearest say?"

Nida remembered his father's question Do you love him? He looked at Squall, who was giving Nida a hungry look as he continued to disrobe them both. It would have been an excellent time to breach the 'love' subject with Squall, but Nida just couldn't bring himself to do it. Looking in Squall's eyes, Nida knew that he was happy, even though it would have been nice to know how Squall really felt about him. But, Nida didn't want to ruin what they had, didn't want to rock the boat, so he kept quiet. "Not much..."

Squall purred, cocking an eyebrow. "Well, good..." He pushed Nida down on the bed, and raised the Asian man's legs so he could pull Nida's pants off. "You know..." Squall trailed off, looking at Nida's face instead of his naked body. "I'm glad things went well with your father."

"Me, too..." Nida echoed distantly. He sighed when he felt Squall's mouth envelop his cock. He moved his hair into Squall's soft auburn hair, running the strands between his fingers as Squall's tongue moved around the head of his penis. Nida felt the flutter of lust, desire, love in his chest, but his mind began to wander, to think about what Rinoa said about Seifer and Zell, about Xystus. He repeated the phrase 'remember the trauma' in his head a few times, wondering what it meant. Was it some sort of riddle, or just a message from Seifer and Zell?

Nida's eyes slid shut when Squall's tongue moved to his testicles, taking one of them into his mouth. Nida settled back against the pillows, trying to think about Squall, trying to enjoy the fellatio. He was successful in doing so when Squall's finger began to touch around Nida's rectum, not pushing into him just yet. Just touching. Nida bit his lip when Squall's tongue started doing all the right things, everything he liked, and he felt that familiar tightness growing in his chest. His father's question repeated a few times in his head 'Do you love him?', and as Nida felt nearer and nearer to orgasm, he knew that he did. He loved Squall desperately, more than anything in the world. When he felt like he was going to come, Squall pulled his mouth off, which caused Nida to give him a disappointed whimper.

Squall slowly moved up Nida's body, crawling like a cat. He straddled Nida's hips, pressing his mouth against Nida's without kissing him. "I want you to fuck me..." Squall whispered, his lips moving against Nida's.

Nida rolled his hips under Squall, his cock, wet with Squall's saliva, pressing into Squall's crotch. "How badly?" Nida's breath moved over Squall's quivering mouth, his lips curling into a teasing smirk.

Squall just moaned, grinding his crotch against Nida's, his breath coming out in pants against Nida's mouth. Squall took Nida's hand, and began licking across Nida's fingers, sucking gently on them. He did it with an urgency that Nida found adorable. Squall was usually very detached and not very emotional, and his sexual side was very different. It made Nida feel kind of special. Squall was showing this side to only him. True, Squall had probably shown this side to Rinoa, but Nida still felt special. Squall then took Nida's now wet fingers out of his mouth. His stormy blue eyes narrowed, and Squall gripped his lover's wrist tightly. "I want you to fuck me!" Squall demanded, his voice stern and totally demanding. "I want you to shove your fingers in my ass. I want you to fuck me until I break!" He moved Nida's hand down the front of his body. "Now," he demanded.

"Well, how can I refuse that...?" Nida whispered, biting down on Squall's lips as he pushed a finger into Squall's anus. As he slowly pumped his index finger in and out of Squall's body, the scarred SeeD reached to the nightstand beside the bed for the lubricant he'd put there while unpacking. He opened the bottle of lubricant, and squeezed some out as Nida's middle finger joined the index finger inside him.

"Harder!" Squall demanded, rubbing the lubricant onto Nida's cock as he contracted his muscles around Nida's fingers. Nida pulled his fingers out of Squall's body, intending to then insert three fingers, but instead, Squall moved his hips so that he was positioned over Nida's cock. He quickly lowered his hips onto Nida's impalement, moaning at the discomfort as he was stretched further, but mostly out of delirious joy. Nida filling him made Squall's head swim, his heart flutter in his chest like a million butterflies, and his skin tingle with the feeling of being with the only person you would ever really love. Zell arched his back, his fingers kneading into Seifer's muscular shoulders as Seifer's erection pushed deeper into his body, owning him fully. Zell panted, his lips and chin moist with Seifer's saliva.

Seifer wrapped his arms around Zell's waist, pulling Zell closer to his chest as they made love, the dim orange light of the torches around them playing on their skin, which was totally covered in lustful sweat. Their lips pressed together, melting like wax under the hot flames, together. Their tongues whipped around in each other's mouths, pushing against the inner walls of their cheeks. They were reclining against a stone fountain, Seifer's bare back pressed against it, the water gurgling behind them, mingling with the noises of their pants and moans. Seifer's fingers pressed into the flesh of Zell's hips, pushing himself as far as possible into Zell's body. Zell threw his head back, moaning, his sharp canines looking like fangs in the flickering lighting. Zell's hands moved off Seifer's shoulders, and gripped the lip of the fountain. His muscles worked, defined by his sweat, as he fucked Seifer in earnest, the fluid from the fountain splattering onto his fingers and the backs of his hands.

As Zell leaned forward, Seifer raised his hips off the floor, the sound of flesh slapping flesh mixing with the calming sound of the fountain. When Seifer moved his body, Zell, who was straddling him, fell forward slightly, his chest moulding to Seifer's, his hands slipping into the fountain, up to the middle of his forearms. He pulled his hands out, and ran them down Seifer's already sweat soaked chest. Seifer's pale flesh became streaked with the red fluid from the fountain. As Seifer continued to thrust into his lover, her looked down at his chest, seeing the streaks of blood, and Zell's grinning face as he wiggled his bloody fingers. Seifer wrapped one arm around Zell's trim waist, and moved the other over his head, dipping it into the fountain. He used his hand like a scoop, and flung the blood at Zell, whose smirking face changed into an expression of shock.

Zell laughed, slamming his hips down on Seifer's, smearing his palms all over Seifer's face. Seifer caught a couple of Zell's bloody fingers in between his lips, sucking on them, tasting the thick, metallic blood. Seifer ran his reddened hand through Zell's hair, staining the blonde red. A dark look came over Seifer's face, and his mouth turned down sadly, thinking of when Zell had stained his corn-coloured hair with Rinoa's blood.

Zell noticed, and kissed Seifer's lips, licking at small droplets of blood. "It's okay..." he whispered, his voice barely audible against Seifer's mouth, which began devouring Zell's own. They began working towards orgasm, Seifer raising his hips off the floor again. It caused his weight to bump the fountain heavily, and for blood to slosh over the edge of the pool of the water, coating Seifer's back with the sticky crimson fluid. It also caused the spout, which was a jug in the hands of a nude woman, to be jostled as well. Zell and Seifer were sprayed with blood, their bodies being coated in it. Seifer frowned, and Zell coughed a little bit, both of them rolling their eyes at the fact that the fountain wasn't as sturdy as they had originally thought.

Zell moaned, not caring about the blood that was dripping all over them. He rotated his hips so that he was getting a different angle of stimulation to his prostate. He whimpered, feeling blood pooling between their bodies as he reached orgasm, his ejaculate splattering against Seifer's already stained chest, leaving pink streaks on his pectoral muscles and abdomen. His body shivered, his rectum contracting around Seifer's cock as the other blonde rammed into him, milking himself into orgasm. Seifer continued to slowly thrust into Zell as he came, bloody water still sloshing out of the fountain onto them, the sound of the falling blood mixing with Zell's panting, and Seifer's own quiet moaning, as well as the sound of the fish swimming in the blood.

Zell's icy eyes slowly opened, staring glassily at the high ceiling, his heart beating rapidly in his chest. He gripped Seifer's blood slicked shoulders, and slowly reared his head forward. His eyes rested on Seifer, and he kissed his lover, trying to wipe some blood off Seifer's sexy mouth, but only succeeded in smearing it more.

"I guess this fountain is as shoddy as everything else here..." Seifer muttered, , looking at his red, dripping hand.

"No... Probably made so they could move it around..." Zell whispered, his icy blue eyes looking so pale, so bright compared to his blood streaked face. His eyes averted to behind Seifer, looking at the larger than life portrait of Ultimecia, and her headdress of feathers, her one hand holding an hourglass, the sands running down. "Think we gave her a good show?"

Seifer didn't even bother looking over his shoulder at the painting. Instead, he ran his hands up and down Zell's muscular thighs. He then moved his hands to Zell's genitals, working the martial artist's penis into hardness again. "How about an encore?"

Zell laughed, dipping his hands into the pool once more, dropping a handful of blood onto Seifer's head. Since Seifer hadn't pulled himself out of Zell's body, the tattooed blonde could feel his lover getting hard within him. "If you say so..." They kissed, their lips working against each other, tasting the blood, and each other. The foyer filled with their pants once more, as well as the sound of running liquid, and the drip of blood off Seifer and Zell's fused bodies, dripping over the edge of the fountain, running in rivets around Seifer and Zell's bodies, dipping into the crevices of the ceiling. Rinoa sighed, her arm draped over her forehead. She blinked a few times, wondering where that dream had come from. She had to secretly admit that it had left her aroused. Her hardened nipples pressed against the thin fabric of the ratty T-shirt that she used to sleep in. It was black, with rainbow cap sleeves, and was torn at the collar, under her armpits, and at the hem that was just under the line of her breasts. She knew she should throw the shirt away, but it was very comforting. She thought of Squall in that shirt that was way too tight for him, and sighed. She had never worn this shirt in front of him, because it wasn't very sexy. And, Squall looked so good in that damn shirt.

The thought of Squall, and how he had looked, naked and arouses, as well as the thought of Nida's eyes, looking down at her with concern as she'd woken from her coma, made her even more aroused, mingling with the images of Seifer and Zell, coated in blood and sweat, deriving pleasure from each other's bodies. When she thought of Nida again, the way he'd looked at the Fermata concert, Rinoa felt guilty. Was Squall right? Was she hoping to get Nida for herself?

"Nah..." She whispered. She was just looking. She knew that Nida and Squall loved each other very much. She thought of Seifer and Zell again, the blood staining their hair red, their bodies moving together under the painting of Ultimecia. "Shit..." She whispered, thinking of Ultimecia's burning amber eyes. It was the same place that she'd daydreamed about at the Circe Gallery. Nida and Squall had assured her that it was just a dream, but Rinoa hadn't been convinced, especially since Nida's response had been hollow at best.

Rinoa thought again of Seifer and Zell, but even that faded until it was just the vision of Ultimecia's burning eyes, the sound of gurgling, falling blood filling her ears.

Xiphias looked at a small bottle of green glass in her artisan hands. To be a successful surgeon, one had to have delicate, nimble hands. She noticed that there was some dirt under the nail of the index finger of her left hand. She picked it out, and found that it was flakes of dried blood. She put the small bottle on the shelf she was standing in front of, and pulled another one down, checking how much ether was in it.

"Why isn't Schuld back yet?" Pallas asked, looking up from cleaning her 12 gauge. "It shouldn't take this long to go to Esthar..."

Xiphias shrugged, putting the ether back on the shelf. "She'll come back eventually. Why, is my kompany not good enough for you?"

Pallas snorted. "It's not that. I just don't want anything to go wrong. I mean, Griever takes off to Deling, Schuld takes off to Esthar..."

"Well, what are you going to do?" Xiphias asked, her question rhetorical.

Pallas looked away from her gun as she heard murmuring. She put the shotgun on the table beside her, and leaned over their patient. "Hey, she's waking up again."

Xiphias put the bottle she was filling down on a table among dirtied surgical tools, their shiny metal surfaces splattered with dried blood. "Well, let's see here. Hello?" She looked into the girl's eyes, which were staring at the ceiling. She blinked, breathing out heavily.

"Where... where am I?"

Pallas sat in the seat on one side of the girl's bed. Xiphias pulled out a penlight, and made the girl's emerald eyes follow it. "Don't worry... You're safe."

"Where...?" The girl tried to sit up, but Xiphias placed a strong hand on her shoulder.

"Don't try to exert yourself. You're still very weak. You were washed up on the beach."

"Beach...?" The girl repeated, then hacked, her dry throat feeling sore and raw. "Water...?" She choked out.

Xiphias went to her table, and filled a cup with water. When the girl was looking at Pallas, Xiphias reached up to her shelves of potions, and poured some contents of one of the bottles into the glass of water. She smirked, and turned her face into a mask of concern as she bustled over to the girl's bedside. "Here you go..."

She drank it greedily. As she did, Xiphias looked over at Pallas, and they smirked at each other.

"Who are you?" She asked after finishing the water.

"My name is Doctor Xiphias. You can just call me Doc if you wish... Everyone else does. This is Pallas."

She shook her head slowly, then groaned. A small pain ripped through her head, behind her eyes. She pressed her hands to her temples, running over her flat, unwashed brown hair. "Oh...." She frowned. "I'm a mess..." She looked around. "I don't... I don't remember much...?"

Xiphias stroked the girl's hair. "Don't worry... Just give it a few days and you'll be all better. You're lucky that General Tsepeth found you." She gave a leering smile to Pallas as the girl closed her eyes. When she looked at Xiphias again, the doctor's face was again full of concern.

"Who's General... Tsepeth...?" The girl asked, rubbing her hands over the starchy sheets.

"She's our boss. She's going to be President of Galbadia."

"Huh...?" She furrowed her pale brow. "Oh... She saved me?"

"Yes..." Pallas answered, giving her a false smile. "She's a wonderful woman."

"I'll have to thank her...." The girl whispered. "Ohhh.... My head." She grimaced in pain, looking down at her arms. She gasped. "What happened?!" She touched the rings, and winced in pain.

"Oh...." Xiphias smiled. "You're one of us now." She held up her own arms, and Pallas did the same. "See?"


Xiphias sighed. "We saved you. Don't you remember anything?" Xiphias bit back a smile, running her palms over her blonde hair, knowing that the girl wouldn't remember anything.

"No...." She whispered. "Well, I remember some things...." She shook her head. Then, a memory came over her, and she gasped. "Noo.....No, no, no, no!!"

"What?" Pallas asked, feigning horror.

"I'm... I'm dead...."

Xiphias had to try desperately not to laugh. "No, you're not. See, we're real... You're real..."

"But..." The girl trailed off.

"You were almost killed, but we saved you," Xiphias lied. "You really don't remember anything?"

Pallas coughed, trying to hide a laugh. "Sorcerers and Sorceresses did this to you."

"Sorceresses....?" She cocked her head. "I.... I don't understand..."

"They tried to kill you!" Xiphias exclaimed. "You're lucky that we were the ones who saved you. We can help you get revenge on them for what they've done to you..."

She touched her body. "Revenge..." Her mind felt very fuzzy, and Xiphias words moved through her like a warm liquor. She could hear Xiphias forming the word 'revenge' over and over again in her mind. She sighed deeply, only hearing Xiphias, only feeling pain from her 'death'. "Revenge..." She whispered again.

Pallas and Xiphias looked at each other, grins spreading on their faces. "Well, we can help you, you know...?" Xiphias whispered, pressing her lips to the girl's ear. "They said they were your friends... They lied...." She looked at the girl's emerald eyes, which slid shut as she fell back into a deep slumber.

"This is boringly easy..." Pallas muttered.

Xiphias just raised her eyebrows. She stood and went back to her potions, filling the bottle of liquid again that she'd given the girl earlier. She took out a pen, and wrote on the label of the bottle before putting it back on the shelf: Selphie.

Laguna sighed, looking up from his paperwork. "Damn Kiros..." He muttered. Kiros had gone to Winhill for a diplomatic visit, and left Laguna with lots of paperwork to deal with. He tossed the papers away from him. He just glared at the papers, and began to spin in his chair. "This is sooooo boring!" He said to himself. Kiros was gone, Squall and Nida were gone, Quistis and Xu were gone. He felt very bored. "I should go bug Fujin and Raijin!" Laguna exclaimed to himself, spinning his chair a few more times before getting up. He held his hand to his head when a bout of dizziness almost made him fall over. "Owwww...." He stumbled to the door, shaking his head when his dizziness left. "That's better."

Laguna shoved his hands in his pockets, trying not to think of Tevedes and all the shit surrounding the Fermata concert. As he walked down the halls, he would avert his eyes, looking out the picture windows as he passed by. The city was going on as usual, but Laguna had this feeling that it could all end soon. He thought of Tevedes, and her accusations of Edea and Nida. Laguna stopped in front of one of the windows, standing in a ray of sunlight. It warmed his skin, and his heart, which was beginning to feel cold. He was worried about Squall. Laguna knew his son could take care of himself, but he was still worried. It was still a fairly new feeling to be worried about his child, it was still a new feeling to know that he even had a child to worry about besides Ellone.

As Laguna looked out the window, he got a sudden prickle on the back of his neck. It felt almost like a fly had landed on him. Laguna reached his hand up, brushing the back of his neck under his long, dark hair. But, nothing was there. He shook his head, and stared out the window again. But, that feeling of being watched just wouldn't go away. He looked around a couple more times, but there wasn't anybody there. The halls were completely deserted. He sighed, whispering to himself, "Laguna, you're flipping out." He looked out the window again, totally freezing when he saw a flash of movement, reflected in the smooth surface of the glass.

"Hello?" Laguna whipped his head around, looking for the source of the reflection, but there was nobody there. Laguna slowly breathed out, turning back to the window. He touched the spot on the glass where the reflection of the person had been. All he had really seen was dark clothing, pale skin, and bright red hair, the colour of blood. Laguna tapped the glass a few times, and still felt that prickle on the back of his neck.

Laguna shook his head again, really not wanting to be in the hallway alone. He began to walk quickly down the hall towards the teleporter that would take him to the part of the Palace where Fujin and Raijin's chambers were. He gave one last look over his shoulder, still feeling invisible eyes on him. He boarded the teleporter, shivering slightly as he left the hallway. The shiver intensified when he heard a whispery laughter, which was like wind around him.

"Poor Laguna's so paranoid..." Schuld whispered as Viator laughed. Schuld snapped her fingers and they materialized out of nowhere, standing just behind the spot where Laguna had been standing. Schuld just shook her head. "Just as stupid as his bitch son."

Viator raised an eyebrow, her sharp canines pressing into her lower lip. "This is too fucking easy. I mean, where's the challenge in fucking over simpletons?"

Schuld laughed darkly, flipping her red braids over one tattooed shoulder. "Griever seems to be having fun with Laguna's son, though."

Viator leaned against the window, watching some of the Esthar citizens below. "She's only interested in Squall because he's of her bloodline, and he looks like the kid she apparently lost before Ultimecia found her in Winhill."

Schuld's eyebrows cocked. "How'd you know that?"

"I paid attention when Griever actually talked, since she reveals stuff about herself so rarely."

"Tell me about it!" Schuld snorted. "It's been over 4,000 years. You think she'd tell us about her life."

"She isn't human, quote unquote. Her life before that doesn't matter to her."

"God, that cunt is dumb."

"Who?" Viator asked, playing with the ends of her orange and black hair. "Griever?"

"Nooooo!" Schuld exclaimed, rolling her eyes sarcastically. "Squall the cunt. He's so stupid because he thinks that his Griever pendant is some sort of symbolism of his bravery and all that shit. He's just emulating his great great great great great great great... A whole bunch of other 'great' Grannie." Schuld looked at her wrist, as if to look at a watch, but there was nothing there. "Well... Look at the time. I should probably get back to Xiphias and Pallas."

"What, and leave me all alone here?" Viator sighed angrily. "I hate living in this Palace. It's hard to respect a man who fell ass backwards into running a country like Esthar."

Schuld condescendingly patted Viator's shoulder. "Now, now... It'll all be over soon. Ta!" Schuld winked, and vanished into thin air.

Viator grumbled incoherently to herself, looking out the window. "I don't see why you liked this city, Adel. It would look better in ruins..." She tapped the glass, and a teleporter carrying several people exploded as it was travelling through a connector pipe. The screams could barely reach Viator through the thick glass of the Palace windows, but it seemed to reach her pointed ears as if they were screaming right next to her.

"You don't have to do this, you know?" Squall whispered as he, Nida and Rinoa walked up the hallway towards Rei Nomura's room. "Your Dad said it was fine."

"I have to..." Nida whispered. He stopped in front of the room that the nurse had said was Rei's.

Rinoa lowered her body into a hard plastic chair. "Is your father meeting us here?"

"Why? Want to impress him?" Squall asked, his voice taking on a mean tone. "Is that why you dressed like a whore?"

Rinoa gasped, looking down at her clothes. She was wearing a long sleeved black shirt with a halter style neck, the shoulders cut out so her pale flesh was showing. There was also a hole cut out at the chest, only showing a hint of her cleavage. She was wearing her new daisy choker over top of the black fabric around her neck. She was also wearing a velvet miniskirt that was black, but had the barest tint of royal blue to it, and boots that went up to her mid-thigh, made of black velvet, as well. "What's wrong with what I'm wearing?" She demanded, her voice huffy.

"Guys, please...." Nida whispered. "I'm going to go in...."

"We'll wait out here..." Squall whispered, giving his lover's shoulder a gentle squeeze.

"No... Come in with me, Squall..." Nida trailed off.

"Are you sure?"

Nida nodded, blowing up into his ebony bangs. "I wanted to come here to introduce you to my parents, and that's what I'm going to do."

Squall furrowed his brow. "Okay..." He followed Nida into the room that was designated for his mother's rehabilitation. They stood near the doorway, looking at Rei, who was sitting in a posh, red velvet chair, smoking a cigarette and watching a black and white movie. She looked up when she heard the door open, looking bored and haughty as she cocked a manicured eyebrow. "Nida...?" She looked to Squall. "Who is this?"

"This is General Squall Leonhart. My lover."

Rei snorted. "Your lover?" She laughed slightly, taking a drag off her cigarette. "I'm surprised you would bring someone to meet your drunk of a mother. Didn't your father poison your mind against me?"

"He said that you were getting worse."

"Worse?" She laughed. "How could he tell? He was always working." She narrowed her eyes. "Well, you look.... Good."

"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Nomura..." Squall muttered.

"Hmph. Can't say the same."

Squall gave her a look, raising his eyebrows.

"Mother, please..." Nida hissed. "Can't you just be happy for me?"

"Happy?" Rei asked, her voice deadpan. "I'm in a fucking rehab center! Are you still... You know.... A witch or whatever?"

Nida flushed, clenching his jaw. "You mean a Sorcerer?"

She waved her hand. "Yeah..." She yawned, pulling something out from the folds of her cashmere sweater. It was a thin metal flask.

"You're not supposed to be drinking!" Nida exclaimed. "This is a rehab facility! Dad's going to divorce you if you don't dry out."

"Good..." She spat. "I haven't been happy, anyway."

Squall curled his lip up at Rei as she took a swig. No wonder Nida didn't want to come back home.

"Are you drunk right now?" Nida asked, already knowing the answer.

"Well, why don't you use your 'mystical' powers and find out?" Rei asked, patting her perfectly styled hair.

"How dare you..." Squall hissed.

"How dare I?" Rei repeated, taking another swig of whatever alcohol was in her flask. "How dare you?! It's your sort of people that made Nida the laughingstock that he is now."

"Laughingstock?" Squall repeated. "You're lucky to have a son like Nida, to have a husband like Mr. Nomura."

"Don't tell me what I'm lucky to have..." She muttered, looking at the television. "A husband who works all the time? A son who tries sooo hard not to be normal, to be a freak. A life I didn't want? A husband I didn't want? A child I never should have had? Yeah, that's lucky..."

Squall quickly inhaled through his nose. He opened his mouth to say something to her, but stopped when he saw the look on Nida's face. It was so sad, so resigned.

"Dad warned me not to come here," Nida said, clenching his fists. He was trying desperately to keep his powers in check. "He told me that you were getting worse. But, I had to see you for myself. You think I'm a freak, an embarrassment? It's nothing compared to what you are."

Rei laughed. "Well, maybe I am, but I'm sure I'll forget this whole conversation by this evening."

"While I have to remember it?!" Nida demanded, his voice rising in anger. Squall could feel the beginnings of tremors of power humming in the air.

"Nida..." Squall warned lowly.

Rei gave her son a hard look. "I read the papers. Tevedes Tsepeth said that you caused the death at he Fermata concert."

"Do you believe that?" Nida asked tightly.

"I don't know.... I don't know what to believe when it comes to you. You definitely aren't the son that I planned on having."

"I think that's pretty obvious..." Nida trailed off, crossing his arms over his chest, slowly breathing in and out.

"You're more like a daughter."

Squall slowly breathed out. "Nida... I must say that I don't like your mother as much as I like your father."

"Oh, that's too bad..." Rei trailed off.

"I'm going to wait outside..." Squall muttered, his voice tense. He quickly left, afraid that he was going to walk across the room and deck Nida's mother.

"I think I scared him away..." Rei laughed lowly to herself. "He looks like a girl."

"Look what you've fucking done to yourself..." Nida muttered, his voice quiet, yet very, very audible. "You're just a drunk bitch."

"Don't talk to me like that."

"I'll talk to you however I want!" Nida grated out. "You haven't earned the respect to be talked to with respect. You know, Mother... I'm actually glad I came to see you. Just so I could see what you really are one last time. I know that you act like a vicious drunk because you're a drunk, but I can't really blame it on the alcohol because you and booze are one and the same. From now on, any dealings with you will be done through Dad."

"It's just like him to poison you against me."

"You did it yourself!" Nida exclaimed angrily.

Rei glared at Nida, then looked past him. "What are you doing here?"

Nida looked behind him, seeing his father in the doorway. "Dad?"

"I told you that you shouldn't have come here, Koneko."

Rei snorted. "Koneko," she mimicked. "No wonder he's a sodomite." She huffed. "Well, Daisuke, why have you lowered yourself to visiting me?"

"Because I knew Nida would be coming here. I can't believe you'd be so callous as to insult your own child this way...." He trailed off, noticing the alcohol in her hand. "Can't say I'm surprised." He pursed his lips. "I guess that you won't be sobering up this time."

"I guess not..." She lit a cigarette. "I didn't even want a child, you know? I was young and beautiful once...." She frowned. "Now, I'm all flabby," she looked down at her body, which was stick thin. "But, the funny thing is that you ruined our child, Daisuke."

He just frowned at her. "I guess you've just made up my mind for me. Tomorrow my attorney will be serving you with divorce papers. Since we signed that prenuptial agreement, you won't get any more of my money to waste on drinking yourself to death."

She blinked a few times, obviously caught off-guard. But, she regained what composure she had quickly. "Well, I guess I'll finally be free to have a life like the one that I've always wanted." She laughed, looking at Nida. "Well, I hope you're happy... Koneko. You made your father divorce me."

"Nida... Leave the room," Daisuke instructed, not looking at Nida.

"Fine." Nida took a few steps towards the door. "You know what, Mother? I hate you."

She laughed, sounding pretty drunk. "Well, the feeling's mutual."

He just growled, a low sound in his throat, and left. When he stepped out into the hallway, Squall and Rinoa both stood.

"Is everything okay?" Rinoa asked. "Your father didn't look too happy when he found out you were in there."

"No wonder..." Squall muttered. "Nida... I'm so sorry."

"Don't apologize," Nida answered tersely. "She's always been like this... Why did I think this time would be different." He slumped down in the chair beside Rinoa. She just looked at Squall, raising her eyebrows in confusion. "What's going on?"

Squall sucked his cheeks in, trying desperately not to say anything bad. "It's none of your business, Rinoa."

"It's okay," Nida assured. "My mom is a drunk. She insulted me, insulted Squall, told me that I ruined her life, that she hated me. I told her I hated her. I doubt I'll ever see her again. And, my dad is going to divorce her. She said that was my fault, too."

They sat in silence for a few minutes, but it was broken when they heard Nida's mother scream "fuck you!!". A few minutes later, Daisuke came out, a calm look on his face. He adjusted his glasses on his nose, and looked at Nida.

Nida stood. "What's going to happen now?"

"The bill has been paid up until the end of the month, so she'll stay here. Tonight, I will call her family to tell them what's happened, and they'll have to make arrangements. They're aware of our prenuptial agreement." He regarded Nida. "Don't listen to what she said. It's not your fault."

Nida sighed, his shoulders slumping. "I knew what I was walking into coming here. But... It still hurt, you know?" He looked at his father. He then turned to Squall. "I'm sorry I brought you here. Maybe... maybe I just wanted you to see every part of my family."

"Like your Dad said yesterday," Squall murmured. "Since we are serious, I have to get used to all facets of your family, even if one part if it is a drunk bitch..." He flushed, clamping his mouth shut. "Sorry."

"Why?" Nida asked. "She is a drunk bitch. A drunk bitch who never wanted to have me, who hates me." He sighed. "Can we just leave?"

"Of course, Koneko..." Daisuke whispered. "Come along. I've made reservations at Margulis."

"We aren't really dressed for that," Nida said quietly.

"I'll drive you three back to your Hotel so you can change."

"Oh, thank you Mr. Nomura!" Rinoa bowed at the waist.

Squall rolled his eyes. "Come on, Lolita. Let's go."

Rinoa playfully stuck her tongue out at him, and they walked ahead of Nida and Daisuke.

"They have quite the lively relationship," Daisuke observed as he walked beside Nida, the four of them heading out to the parking lot.

"I'm never going to see her again, you know?"

"I know," Daisuke whispered. "I'm surprised you didn't tell her off a long time ago."

"She's my mom... What was I supposed to say?"

"The truth?"

Nida sighed sadly. "I'm..."

"Don't say you're sorry, Nida. You've done nothing to apologize for."

"I still feel like I should, you know?" He closed his eyes, pressing his fingertips to his forehead, which felt hot. "I could have killed her... I started to lose control of myself..." Nida felt like he was going to start crying, but had this dull ache inside him at the same time. He didn't want to cry in front of his father, especially not over his mother. Nida flinched in surprise when he felt his father's arm come around his shoulders.

"Don't cry over your mother. She doesn't deserve it."

Nida sighed heavily, reaching his hand up and patting Daisuke's hand. "I know, Dad.... I... I know."

"Come on. We don't want to be late for our reservations, Koneko."

Val frowned. "Why do I have to do your nails?" She asked, glaring up at Tempest.

"You're almost done, kiddo!" Tempest teased. "Blue... like the turbulent skies..." Tempest mused.

Tevedes sighed, stretching her arms over her head. "This is turning out beautifully, girls. Fermata's song and Kronos's words are going to have everyone voting for me come next week. And, Nomura and that twat Leonhart played right into our hands when they went to Fermata's concert."

"But, what about Seifer Almasy and Zell Dincht?" Gietzen asked, sitting on the edge of the table, watching Valhalla paint Tempest's fingernails.

"What about them?" Tevedes asked, yawning.

"Please, Tevedes," Kronos said, a warning tone in her rich voice. "You shouldn't take them so lightly."

"I'm not taking them lightly..." Tevedes muttered, a hissing tone coming into her voice. "Let them come. They are fledgling, we are strong. I'm confident in our abilities. Ultimecia chose us for a reason, you know?"

"The Christmas party should be fun..." Gietzen whispered, toeing at the shadows. They moved like they were made of fabric. "Especially when we show them what we brought with us."

"Done!" Val exclaimed. She grabbed one of Tempest's fans, and began fanning the Chinese woman's fingers.

"Hey!!" Tempest exclaimed. "Careful!" She narrowed her almond eyes at Val as the windows were rattled by suddenly strong winds and heavy rain. "Now look what you've done."

Val just rolled her eyes. "You want dry nails or not?"

Gietzen suddenly looked around. "Where's Griever?"

Tevedes paused in the middle of letting her hair out of a bun. "I don't know. Kronos?"

The bespectacled woman shrugged. "I don't know...."

"Gone!" Val exclaimed, turning on the stereo. "Gone, gone, gone!"

"Stop blabbering and tell us where she went!" Tevedes exclaimed, fixing Val with a colourless glare.

"Something about Dollet."

"Dollet?" Kronos echoed.

"She's following Squall Leonhart," Gietzen whispered. "She has big plans for him. And, he just makes it easier..." Gietzen giggled quietly. "Wearing that pendant is like opening a door for Griever's powers."

"I guess he's relying on his looks instead of his brains to get by," Tempest observed dryly.

Val jumped on the table, and began dancing like she was at the center of a stripper's club. "Oh, did you hear? Some nun threw herself out a rose window." She continued to dance, making erotic gestures at Gietzen, which were somewhat ignored, but not totally. "Such odd happenings in this town..." Val rolled her eyes sarcastically.

Tevedes cocked one eyebrow. "Yes... How odd indeed." Her bloodless mouth curled up into a sneer as she looked out at the rain.

The sun was setting over the Dollet Sea, painting the blue water with a beautiful kaleidoscope of colour. Red, orange, pink, mauve, indigo, fading into midnight blue and black. It was lovely, but Griever wasn't watching. She was sitting in a cafe with an open eating area, the brightly striped parasol over her table hiding her in shadows. A wind picked up from the Harbour, and ruffled the fur of Griever's coat. She laughed, petting it. Freshly skinned Border Collie. She watched the party of four walk to the outside dining area of Margulis, wondering when Rinoa Heartilly would be getting the call from her servants that poor, poor Angelo had been 'hit by a car'. She petted the fur again, watching Rinoa sit down with Nida Nomura and his father, as well as Squall Leonhart, the only important person to Griever at that moment. One hand continued to pet the brown dog fur, while the other searched under her coat, touching the Griever pendant that she wore, the pendant that was named after herself, the pendant that Squall thought was his own emblem. How wrong he was.

Griever liked to look at Squall, because he looked like her last shred of humanity. Before she'd become one of Ultimecia's Inaudax, Griever had lived a fairly normal life in Winhill. But, her husband had left her, and taken their small child with them. He thought she was a 'monster' and was 'afraid of her'. She'd married and become a mother very young. If her child had grown, he would look just like Squall. It was almost like having her child back again, her cub. Except that this one wouldn't be escaping her. She rubbed the profile of her silver pendant again, and relished in glee when Squall's face contorted in a frown. Since Griever was more animal than human, at least in her mind, she could pick up faint strains of their conversation across the road. She sipped a strong tea, smiling into it as Nida asked Squall if he was okay.

When a waiter told Rinoa that there was a phone call for her, Griever had to restrain herself from jumping up and down with glee. Her feral eyes watched, rapt with attention as Rinoa got up. A few moments passed, and Rinoa came back, tears coming out of her eyes.

"What happened?" Nida asked.

"The servants said that Angelo is dead.... Hit by a car."

"Oh...." Squall trailed off, not knowing what to do.

"You're more animal than human, too..." Griever whispered, watching Squall's beautiful face.

"Was that a pet?" Daisuke asked.

Rinoa nodded, trying to hide her tears behind her gloved hands. Daisuke handed her a handkerchief, which she accepted gratefully.

"I'm sorry, Rinoa... Do you want to go back to Deling?"

She shook her head. "What for? I don't want to see Angelo... Dead." She sobbed quietly into the handkerchief. "I want to remember her like she was. Full of life."

"Are you sure?" Squall asked. He knew how much Rinoa loved the dog.

"We can cut this meal short," Daisuke offered.

Rinoa waved her hand, and muttered something that Griever couldn't hear into the handkerchief. Griever smiled, getting up. She threw some gil down on the table to pay for her tea, and walked past the outside dining area of Margulis. As she passed, she touched her Griever pendant once more, her namesake jewellery. She didn't have to look behind her to know that Squall was looking at the back of her head until she was swallowed up into the night.

Nida looked over his shoulder at Rinoa, who had seemed to regain her composure well. It had been four days since she had heard the terrible news about Angelo's death. He had just landed the Ragnarok in the Timber hangar for the Triple Triad tournament. "Rinoa, are you sure you don't want to go home?"

"For the five millionth time in four days, I just want to remember Angelo as she was. It'll be worse if I go home." She smiled sadly. "I'm fine. Well... Not really, but I'm fine considering." She smiled brightly. "Well, let's go watch Squall lose."

"I won't lose..." Squall muttered, surprisingly focused. He took Triple Triad very seriously. He'd been brushing up by playing Daisuke, who was very good, and very fast. His speed was more of a psyche-out tactic, but one that had worked well. Squall had actually lost once to him. Squall didn't lose often. He lost five times in the past year. Twice to Daisuke, once to Quistis, and twice to Nida.

"You always were so competitive at this..." Rinoa muttered. "When's your first match."

"This afternoon. We have time to go to the Hotel."

"Yay..." Rinoa cheered. "I want to go see Zone and Watts, too." She began collecting her bags, and went out of the ship. Squall and Nida shared a silent gaze, then started collecting their things.

"I'm glad that you and your father grew closer..." Squall whispered.

"Even if it was at the expense of my relationship with my mother?"

Squall leaned over, wrapping his arms around Nida's shoulders. "What relationship with your mother? She doesn't care about anything that doesn't have a proof percentage."

Nida sighed, closing his eyes. "But...what about my Dad? He'll be... alone now."

"He was alone anyway, Nida." Squall kissed his lover's mouth. "I'm going to win all the new cards if it kills me."

"That would suck. After all the shit we've been through together, I don't want to lose you to a card game."

Squall laughed quietly, kissing Nida's lips. "I..." He stopped himself, almost blurting out 'I love you'. He thought against it. "I think we should go meet Rinoa before she wanders off."

Nida smiled at Squall's eagerness to play cards. "So, what rules are you going to be using?"

Squall shrugged. "I don't know. They don't tell us until the match starts... It's all randomized. I'm playing some chick from Trabia Garden, though." Squall grabbed his bags, and walked out of the Ragnarok beside Nida. Rinoa was waiting for them, talking to a couple people she knew.

"Oh, can you guys take my stuff to the Hotel?" She asked. "I want to go see Zone and Watts!"

"Sure thing. Just come to our room to get your stuff later."

She nodded. "Okay, I'll see you at the matches!" She waved, wandering off with her friends.

Squall cursed incoherently under his breath, picking up some of Rinoa's bags, and putting them on a handcart.

"Cut her some slack..." Nida whispered, watching Rinoa get into a car with her friends. "She just wants to have fun... Forget about Angelo, right?"

Squall nodded. "You're right." He smiled softly at Nida. "Want to go back to the Hotel and mess around before the Tournament starts?"

A couple hours later, Nida was sitting in the stands of the Timber Convention Centre. There were six tournaments going on at one time, each one on a large screen that the crowd could look at. Squall's game was about to start, and Nida sighed when he saw that Squall got stuck with Lunar Base rules. He knew his lover would not be happy about that. He hoped Squall won, because if he didn't, the scarred man would be in a foul mood for days. Nida watched as Squall's opponent, a girl named Yuna, laid out her first card. It was a Turtapod, a crappy card she got stuck with because of the Random rule. Nida could see that Squall's hand was decent, but could have been better. He was already working out strategy in his head, wishing he could yell out help to his lover. Squall was using a hand that consisted of an Oilboyle, a Blue Dragon, a Gerogero, Doomtrain, and the Seifer card, which Nida knew would cause Squall to sigh sadly in that way he did, trying to pretend nothing was wrong. Nida watched as Squall used the Gerogero card, utilizing the poison element on that square for his advantage, causing the Turtapod card to flip for Squall.

Yuna then used a Propagator card to flip back her Turtapod card, and create an Eight/Eight border on the left side square. Squall used the Seifer card, and Nida found that he was actually biting his nails. Yuna then used one of the new cards, a Xu.

"Hey!" Rinoa exclaimed, sitting beside Nida. "What'd I miss?"

"This is Squall's first match. He was lucky enough to get the Lunar Base rules."

"Ack!" Rinoa frowned. She knew just as well as Nida how serious Squall was about Triple Triad, and how pissed he would be if he lost, especially over something as unlucky as being stuck with the crappy Lunar Base rules in his first match. "Who's he playing?"

"Some girl from Trabia Garden named Yuna." They watched on the large monitor as Squall used his last card to flip over her Bomb card, thus winning the match. They clapped politely, knowing that other matches were still going on. On another screen at the far end of the Convention Centre, there was a board that had all the players names on it. There were 96 players, and Squall moved onto the next round, the round of 48. There was a 10 minute break while the other matches filled up, and Squall used it to come over to them.

"Good game!" Rinoa cheered. "We need banners or something."

"No, you don't..." Squall muttered. He turned to Nida, unable to hide his grin. "I got a Xu card."

"I saw that..." Nida reached his hand out, squeezing Squall's. "Hopefully you won't get Lunar Base rules next time."

Squall rolled his eyes. "I hope not." He grinned. "The final prize is money, and a set of the new cards... So, if I win, I'll have more than one Xu, at least." He turned, and went back down to the tables.

"He sure is different when he talks about cards..." Rinoa mused. Her and Nida quieted down when the next matches started.

Squall breezed easily through to the semi-finals. For his semi-final match, he was playing someone from Deling City named Kefka. Squall had won his fair share of new cards, including a second Julia Heartilly card, which he would give to Rinoa, like he promised Nida. He also got a few Nida cards, planning to give one to Daisuke. For his semi-final, he would be playing with Balamb's rules, which relieved him.

"Wow... Squall's doing really well..." Rinoa mused. She watched as Kefka chose his cards. When he chose the Angelo card, Rinoa's heart lurched in her chest. She bit her lip to hold back a sob.

Nida noticed, and turned to Rinoa, whose shoulders were shaking in a desperate attempt to maintain her composure. He put an arm around her heaving shoulders, leaning in to whisper in her ear. "I'm sorry."

She turned her head to him, crying into the shoulder of his long sleeved black shirt. She was glad that she was silently crying, maintaining her dignity. People probably just thought Nida was her boyfriend, instead of her ex-boyfriend's boyfriend, comforting her while she sobbed like a baby. She felt Nida's other arm come around her shoulders, and felt his hand stroking her hair in a very paternal fashion. It made her feel very calm. She could also feel the smallest kiss of Nida's power running over her skin. Her silent sobs subsided, and she didn't even notice the applause around her, and could only notice the dull ache in her chest.

"Squall won..." Nida whispered into her hair. She nodded dully, pulling away slightly so she could mop at her cheeks with her hands. "Oh, God... I got your shirt all wet."

"That's okay..." Nida whispered. He handed her a tissue, which she accepted gratefully. She cocked her head, resting it on Nida's wet shoulder, still feeling tears stinging at her eyes.

"Hey, I made it to the final...." Squall said, trailing off when he saw how close Nida and Rinoa were sitting together. Jealousy and suspicion immediately filled his eyes. "What's going on?"

Nida noticed, and he couldn't help it, but his anger flared. "I was just comforting her...." Nida hissed. "God, don't get so fucking jealous." He slowly breathed out. "I'm sorry."

Squall looked at Rinoa, who was still leaning on Nida. "No, don't be sorry." He glared at Rinoa, shaking his head.

Rinoa blinked her wet eyes. "What, do you think I'm taking advantage of this or something?" She folded and unfolded the tissue in her hands. "Is that what you think?"

Squall crossed his arms, but didn't say anything.

Nida shook his head. "What's your problem, Squall? I thought you were getting better..."

Squall remained silent, looking away from his lover, from his ex-girlfriend who was still sitting so closely to Nida. He wanted to say that he was jealous because he felt like he had such a delicate hold on his relationship with Nida, and that he could lose it at any second because everything he ever loved left him. He wanted to say that since he was such a coward, and couldn't say 'I love you', he was deathly afraid that Nida would leave him for someone that could say it. Someone like Rinoa. "I'm sorry..." He whispered.

"Why do you have to be so jealous all the time?" Nida asked, his voice calm, questioning. He stood. "I'm going to get some air..." He clenched his fists, feeling Iudicium's power, feeling his power flaring up.

"I have to get back to the tables anyway..." Squall gave Nida a sad look.

"You'll miss the final match..." Rinoa pointed out, her voice shaky.

Nida shook his head at Squall, not giving him an angry look, but rather, a disappointed one. He left, Squall's eyes watching his every move.

"Proud of yourself?" Rinoa asked.

Squall just glared at her, and went back down to the card tables.

Rinoa stared up at the screen that was housing the final match between Squall and a player from Balamb named Rydia. Her eyes would slowly move to the door, to see if Nida was coming back. She kept checking as each card went out, Squall's moves quicker than usual. He was still ahead, but Rinoa could tell that he was upset. She was used to his card playing, and knew that these quick moves were unlike his usual, methodical process. She sighed sadly when Squall won. Nida had missed it.

Nida walked through the streets of Timber, angry and tired. He couldn't understand why Squall was so jealous, especially since Rinoa was going through a tough time. Didn't Squall trust him? He sighed, grumbling to himself as he tightened his trenchcoat around himself, the wind picking up a little as the day vanished, the lack of sun making things colder. Nida did regret missing Squall's final match, though. He knew how much Triple Triad meant to Squall, and had wanted to be there for it. But, his own stubbornness had won out. Nida stopped in place, thinking of the sad look in Squall's eyes when he'd left the Convention Centre, and guilt and affection for Squall, no matter how irrational he acted, tugged at Nida's heart. He looked around, seeing that he was in a residential area, a playground and basketball court off to one side, darkened houses on the other.

"Shit..." He mused, feeling like an asshole for getting so angry. "I'm sorry, Squall..." He muttered to himself, slowly beginning to trudge back towards the area of the Convention Centre. He stopped, sure that Squall and Rinoa were already gone from there already. He decided to go back to the Hotel, and began to walk. He only got a few steps when he felt something in the air. It wasn't magical, wasn't Sorcery. It was an old-fashioned bad feeling. He could hear footsteps behind him, but there had been nobody there before. He slowly turned, but nobody was there. Nida paused, looking into the shadows. He stiffened his body, and turned back to continue walking to the Hotel.

"It's kind of late to be wandering alone, isn't it?"

Nida spun on his heel, and saw a group of five or six men coming out of the shadows of the basketball court. The one that had initially spoken talked again. "Strangers... walking around at night... it can only mean trouble."

A few of the guys laughed in response. There was no sexual hint to their voices, but a lot of menace.

"Hey, guys...." The first guy spoke again. "Isn't this that Sorcerer Nomura guy who killed all those people at the Fermata concert? General Tsepeth had to save everyone."

Nida's heart lurched in his throat. He turned, but a couple more guys were in front of him. Nida had to take a few steps backwards because they were advancing on him. He held back a gasp when he backed into some of the guys. "You're followers of Tsepeth's?"

They laughed, and that's when Nida saw that a few of them were holding bats, and the others were clenching their hands into fists. They had been waiting for him, following him. He just looked at them, too apprehensive to do anything. He saw a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, and began to call his power to fend off his attackers, but Nida was too slow, and a fist made contact with the side of his face, hard enough to send him straight into unconsciousness....

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