The New Flesh

Chapter Twelve

By Scarlet Fever

Ellone pushed a pen across the desk, looking out her window. Esthar looked dull because of the rain, wind and thunder. Tempest was still pelting Esthar with horrible weather. Ellone would gasp when she'd hear hailstones hitting the glass of her window. She was trying to read some charts on energy put-out from the machines all around her, but her mind and heart just weren't in it. She was thinking about Irvine. She'd offered him breakfast, but he'd acted as if she weren't even in the room, like she hadn't even spoken a word. His vision was totally focused on Selphie, and only Selphie. She sighed when the pen rolled off the desk. She picked it up, and just stared at it.

"Was it all just in my head?" She asked aloud, addressing her question to the pen.

"Was what all just in your head?"

Ellone gasped, the sound of another person shocking her. It was dark in the lab because she hadn't bothered turning the lights on. Laguna flipped the light switch, and shrugged out of his soaking wet rain slicker. "It's raining like Hell out there." He smiled cheerfully. "What are you doing here all alone and in the dark?"

"Thinking...." Ellone whispered, her voice barely audible.

"Thinking?" Laguna echoed, squeezing some water out of his long hair. He sat beside Ellone. "About what?"

"Oh...." She looked over at him, giving him a quick look. "I don't really want to talk about it." She began rolling the pen back and forth again.

Laguna reached out, grabbing Ellone's wrist. "Stop it, Elle. Please... You should know that doesn't work on me."

"Uncle Laguna...." She took her wrist out of his hand, and tucked some of her hair behind her ears. "I can't come running to you whenever things don't go right in my life. I'm a woman now."

"I know, but... I still want to help."

She smiled sadly. "Here you are, wanting to help me with my silly stuff, and you're going through so much right now." She leaned over in her chair, and hugged him, tucking her head under his chin.

Laguna stroked her hair. "Just tell me what's bothering you, Elle. Maybe I can help. If one person has a ray of light right now, that's better than everyone being miserable."

"Well...." Ellone pulled away, looking at the pen again. "It's about Irvine."

Laguna's eyes narrowed momentarily, and the briefest of harsh frowns creased his still youthful face. "What about him?" Laguna asked, trying to keep his voice breezy.

"What do you think?" Ellone sulked. "He..... Well, it's stupid, never mind."

"Nothing you think is stupid."

She sighed. "Well, I know that Selphie only came back last night, and.... Oh, Laguna, I just feel so selfish because I feel jealous because he's paying attention to her. That's so awful of me. Of course he would pay attention to Selphie. But...."

"But?" Laguna echoed, taking one of her hands into his own.

"But..... Maybe it wouldn't sting as much if he didn't totally brush me off, you know?"

Laguna's face darkened with protective anger. "What do you mean?"

"Well.... He treats me like I'm not even there, and when I ask him stuff, like today.... I asked if he wanted to have breakfast with me, and he didn't even seem to hear me. It was like I wasn't even there."

Laguna squeezed her hand. "How dare he treat you like this...."

"But... Selphie.... She was dead...." Ellone whispered, struggling to find her words. "It's all very confusing."

Laguna frowned. "Well, I know it's a bit of a sticky situation, but.... But, Irvine has no right to just brush you aside!" He spat out with indignation. "Selphie could be honestly working for Tevedes, and not just being controlled, but Irvine....." He shook his head angrily. "He just won't see that. He thinks I'm being barbaric because I won't release her restraints."

Ellone patted Laguna's hand. "Here you are worrying about my worthless problems with Irvine..."

"Nothing in your life is worthless, Ellone!"

She smiled sadly. "Here you are worrying about my problems, and you have so many of your own.... I mean... Kiros... Squall. Oh, Gods! Squall.... Is there any change?"

Laguna slumped his shoulders in defeat. "I haven't seen him this morning.... I don't know that I want to. It hurts to see him like that. I mean... He's my son, Elle...." He sighed.

"I know," Ellone whispered. "Damn Griever..... What if we'll never be able to change him back to a human?" She cocked her head. "I wonder what Nida will do....?"

Laguna shrugged. "I don't know.... He's also got a bunch of stuff to worry about, what with all this new power. And, Seifer and Zell.... Oy...."


"Hello?" Ellone called when she heard her name from in the doorway. She could hear the wind and the rain, pelting and screaming.

"Hi, Ellone..." Zell greeted, coming in. He closed his umbrella, smiling. "Oh, Laguna.... Hi!"

Laguna stood up, and greeted Zell by squeezing his shoulders. "How's it going?"

Seifer also came in. "Laguna, Ellone.... Well, considering... Things are going well." He gestured behind him, where Nida was walking, arm looped with Squall.

"Squall!" Laguna cried, rushing towards his son, who was leaning against Nida, slightly shivering. "Oh, God! You're okay!!" Nida released Squall just as Laguna swept in, crushing his son in a big hug that caused Squall's frame to be lifted off the ground. "Oh, I was so worried! Are you okay?!"

"Put me down," Squall whispered, his voice scratchy.

"I'm so, so, so, sooooo glad you're okay!" Laguna ran his hands through Squall's hair as he inspected his son's face. "Oh, you look tired. Are you sure you're okay? I'm just so glad that you're back to normal. Oh, Squall, you look just like your mother!" Laguna crushed Squall to his chest again. "I love you."

"Stop...." Squall whispered. "Please." But, his eyes slid shut when Laguna's hands moved through his hair. It felt nice. Like how a cat must feel when they're being petted, like how he'd felt when Nida had petted him.

"Uncle Laguna, please.... Let Squall talk," Ellone chided. She put her hands together in front of her chest. "How are you?"

Laguna pulled away, tears shining in his eyes. "When did this happen?"

Squall shivered, wrapping the blanket around his shoulder that Nida had wrapped around his shoulders after his transformation back into his human form. "Earlier this morning," he answered, his voice still raspy and hoarse in his throat. He coughed, bringing his hand to his mouth. He avoided scratching his face with his nails, which he hadn't had time to cut yet. He shivered again, stepping closer to Nida, that animalistic feeling within him flaring as soon as Nida's arm came around his shoulder.

"Did a doctor look at you?" Laguna asked.

Nida nodded. "Yeah, Dr. Sunde had a look at him. He seems fine. But, his eyesight seems to be affected...."

"Really?" Ellone asked. "You want to sit down?"

Squall shook his head, moving closer to Nida. "No, I'm fine. And, the eyesight thing is because when I was in.... animal form, my eyesight was a lot better than human, which is standard for cats, so now... I can't get used to it..... Sunde suggested that I get glasses."

"What about your nails?" Laguna asked, looking at them. "They're pretty deadly looking... Like you could cut someone up with them."

"I just haven't had a chance to cut them yet...."

Laguna looked at Seifer, Zell and Nida. "So, you guys figured out how to change him back?"

Seifer shook his head, shrugging. "Not really. We were talking with Nida, and Nida cut his hand on one of his sickles, and Squall started licking up the blood....."

Squall coughed. "We were on our way to come see you, Elle, and then I just started changing." He sighed, feeling tired and cold.

"Why do you keep shivering?" Laguna asked.

"Because I'm cold," Squall answered, deadpan. "I think it's because of the fur thing... Now, I don't have any."

"Please, tell us what happened, from the beginning...." Ellone said, sitting in her chair. Squall decided to sit, but pulled a chair beside his own so Nida could sit next to him. He took Nida's hands in his own, careful not to scratch them. "Well, after I got separated from everyone in the Labyrinth, Griever came across me, and started talking about....." he trailed off, coughing. "About how I was her child. She then grabbed me, and wounded my neck," Squall reached up and touched the spot. "And, then she tore her wrist open, and poured all this blood into me. Then, I changed into a lion."

"Did it hurt?" Ellone asked.

"Yes." Squall looked at Nida, who was silent, thoughtful. "Well, Seifer came across me as I was changing, and then we found Nida...." He sighed. "Nida killed Griever, and took her power. So, whatever 'powers' Griever gave me started to react to Nida."

"Would it be like the power is trying to... make itself whole again?" Laguna asked, interrupting. He stood behind Squall, and patted his son's shoulders.

"That's a distinct possibility," Seifer said, leaning against the wall, Zell standing beside him. "And, because this anomaly that Squall has in him is more animal than man, it acts differently. Maybe part of it is because Nida has the power of the Master, and Squall as the Pet?" Seifer shrugged. "I don't know."

Laguna squeezed Squall's shoulders. "What do you think?"

"I don't know," Squall whispered. "All I know is that I hope I never change back."

"What do you feel?" Ellone asked of Nida.

"It's hard to explain. Griever's power feels different. Almost like it's trying to escape my body, and go into Squall's. I think that because I became Griever's power, when Squall drank my blood, it caused a reversal process of the transformation into animal."

Ellone cocked her head, looking around at some of the machines. "Well, I don't know exactly where to start, but one question: would it only take a tiny amount of your blood? Or, what about... tears and stuff like that....?"

Squall laughed lowly, which came out as a hacking cough. "You're tiptoeing around asking if other bodily fluids, like semen, will transmit Griever's powers."

Ellone flushed. "Well.... I don't know..... I'm just asking!"

"Well, in lion form, I did lick tears off Nida's face, and he also had blood on him in the Labyrinth... His own blood. And, it didn't do anything. Maybe it was because it was a substantial amount of blood?"

"What made you want to drink blood?" Laguna asked, brushing some of Squall's wet hair off his face.

"Animal instinct," Zell answered. "Right?"

Squall nodded, looking up at Laguna. Even though he was human again, he could still taste Nida's blood in his mouth, and he craved more. As he looked at his father, he could see the jugular vein in his neck. Squall swore he could smell the blood pumping through it. He could taste the meat, the muscle, as if he were biting into it. He curled his hands, which caused Nida to gasp. Squall had dug his sharp nails into the backs of Nida's hands, leaving small, red half-moons, which began to bleed.

Ellone quizzically watched Squall. Squall narrowed his aquatic eyes as Ellone, and brought Nida's hands up to his mouth. He licked at the blood. "See?" He asked, his voice raspy. "I'll drink this, and it will be fine."

"How much blood did he drink before?" Ellone asked, looking at Nida.

"Quite a bit. It was a deep cut. Enough that if I didn't have all this new power, I would have passed out."

"Well, can I draw some blood?" Ellone asked of Squall, who was looking down at his nails. "I can use some of this stuff to test out blood levels. I'll take some from you, too," she said to Nida.

"That's fine."

"So, where did you change back?" Laguna asked. "Did it hurt?"

"It was gross," Zell muttered.

"It was in the hallway. Squall collapsed on the floor, and we brought him into the locker room for the gym," Seifer said. "It wasn't pleasant, and there was this weird clear stuff..." Seifer pulled a vial out of his coat pocket. "We saved some. Sunde took some, and we figured you'd want it to check out the magical properties...." He handed it to Ellone.

"Yes, it hurt," Squall muttered. "Will this take long?"

"Well, the tests will, but you don't have to stay the entire time." She cocked her head as she brought out some equipment. "So.... when you were a lion, did you still have your mind?"

Squall nodded. "Yes. That's what made it so frustrating. I was the same, except some things... like the smell of blood, and that sort of thing, came up. But, I was me."

"And now?" Laguna asked.

"I don't know...." Squall whispered. "I feel tired and sore, but generally normal. Except for this 'power' thing. But...." He trailed off.

"But?" Laguna asked. He crouched beside Squall's chair, watching as Ellone inserted the needle in his vein.

"Nothing...." Squall whispered, looking down at the blood that was coming out of his arm. He had to purse his lips. He could see his muscles twitching under his skin, although it seemed blurry. He was going to an Optometrist the next morning to get his eyes tested. Maybe it was just temporary?

Laguna snorted. "Your sister already tried that on me today. It doesn't work."

Ellone pulled the needle out of Squall's arm. "He's not my brother, Laguna."

"Uh.... I adopted you, didn't I?" Laguna asked. "Which means, you're brother and sister." He rolled his eyes. "Anyway, that whole 'nothing' excuse doesn't work on me. Spill it."

"No...." Squall murmured, pressing the cotton swab to the needlepoint on his arm, watching as Ellone took some of Nida's blood. Nida's darkly powerful blood.

This didn't escape Laguna's notice. "You still have animalistic instincts, right?"

Squall shrugged.

Zell turned his head, looking at Seifer as the others conversed among themselves. "Griever was more animal than human," Zell whispered. "For Squall to come away without picking up some sort of base animal want for meat, for the kill, would be a miracle."

"I'm more wondering about this blood thing.... You think that if Squall ended up tearing into someone, IE: Nida, in some sort of heightened bloodlust, would he change back?"

Zell sighed, rubbing the sides of his face with his palms. "I guess that's what Elle will try and find out."

"You know what I think?" Seifer whispered. "That, because it happened so early, Squall could easily change back. But, the longer it goes on, the more Griever's power gets accustomed to their own blood, the less likely Squall will be able to change back."

"You call that an easy change?" Zell asked, blanching. "I hope I never have to see that again."

"You're usually not this squeamish."

"That was gross, though...." Zell shook his head. "Promise you won't get into Lycanthropy."

"I can hear you, you know...." Squall whispered. "I'm hoping that your theory is right, Seifer. I hope I never....." He shook his head.

"Well... I'll get working on these as soon as possible..." Ellone trailed off as the wind rattled the windows, and the noise of hail echoed in the lab. "It's hailing again."

"What do you think Tevedes's next move is?" Squall asked lowly.

Laguna patted Squall's arm. "Don't worry about that right now, Squall. We'll handle it...."

"She'll wait," Nida whispered.

"What makes you say that?" Zell asked.

"I don't know... I just feel... It's something she would do. Let us exhaust our resources by trying to get the Galbadian Army out of the other countries, and then when we're weak, she'll come after us."

"You sound sure...." Laguna trailed off.

"Maybe it's this fucking power....." Nida moved his elbow, touching the tender point on his inner arm where Ellone had drawn his blood from. "I'm becoming more like them."

"We should just go fucking kill them!" Val yelled, her eyes blaring with anger. "How dare they kill Schuld, Magdalene and Griever!? How dare they!!"

"Calm down!" Tevedes yelled angrily. "Adel and Lillith having lent their powers to Seifer and Zell is something that I hadn't anticipated. It was a bad call on my part...." They were sitting in one of the many parlours of Xystus, sipping evening coffee. Fermata was sitting at the piano, playing a mournful tune, humming along with it, a tribute to the fallen Oracles. A painting of Intervigilium, before she'd tattooed her face, before she'd moved to Trabia, was above the antique piano.

Tevedes's pale eyes moved to where Gietzen was sitting in the corner. "How could you let the barrier go down?"

Gietzen looked up, her eyes blazing in the shadows. Her voice sounded sweet, but there was anger behind it. "I already apologized, Tevedes. Besides, she summoned Leviathan on me...."

Tevedes blinked a few times. "You never mentioned that."

"Yeah, it's been 4,000 years since the last flood that killed us, but I panicked, alright?!"

"Like I said, we should just attack them!" Val ground out, stamping her foot, which was encased in a vinyl boot.

"No, we will wait," Tevedes said lowly. "Right now, that whore Quistis is moving Garden's SeeD forces into the countries that I had the Army invade. Their forces will be badly decimated. I'm sure SeeD will win, but it won't be a clear victory."

Viator laughed. "So, this was your plan all along? I wondered why you cared about countries that mean nothing."

"What about Dollet?" Kronos asked. "That is where Nida's father resides...."

Tevedes nodded. "I know."

"It would be unwise to go after the senior Nomura right now," Tempest muttered. She was sitting in the boxed window seat, staring out at the storm as she waved her fans. "With Schuld's, Griever's and Magdalene's power in him, Nida's very powerful.... And, that would be something that would rouse his anger further."

"He's not more powerful than all of us put together," Pallas stated.

Tevedes gave a thin smile. "Pallas, my dear, I have other plans... Going head to head with them all obviously failed. We will take another route. Right, Xiphias?"

Xiphias nodded slowly. "Yeah..." she murmured. She wrapped a pale blue velvet cloak around her, pulling the hood over her blonde hair. "I'll be back...." She disappeared into thin air.

Fermata stopped playing. "Where did Xiphias go?" She looked pointedly at Tevedes.

Tevedes smiled, sipping her coffee. "The next stage of my plan, my dear." She frowned. "I agree though.... Let Xiphias work on this, then we'll deal with Nida. Since Squall is in Esthar, he'll be too hard to get to, so Daisuke Nomura will be a fairly decent pawn to rouse Nida's anger, and hopefully cause him to call Iudicium."

"So... Let's just go after him now!" Valhalla cried again. "Let's go to Dollet, torture Nida senior a little bit, and get Nida out of Esthar."

"Getting Nida out of Esthar isn't the only thing we have to worry about," Tevedes point out. "He was already strong, with Iudicium inside him, but now, he has some of our power. He's very strong, and could conceivably defeat us if Iudicium helped him. We'll wait."

"But...." Val began again.

"We'll wait," Tevedes repeated. "We will weaken the walls around Nida before we go after him ourselves."

Val just grumbled, flopping down in a chair. "Where is Xiphias going, anyway?"

"To spread a little good cheer," Tevedes answered cryptically. "Doing what she does best."

Tempest raised an interested eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Esthar and Garden will be spreading themselves thin with trying to 'liberate' Balamb and Timber. Xiphias is already on her way to Winhill. It won't be initially devastating, but her effects will be long lasting..." She trailed off, laughing into her coffee. "Oh, if they think they can get away with what they've done to Schuld, Magdalene and Griever, they're sorely mistaken."

Nida watched as Squall looked out the window. After Ellone had taken their blood, and after Laguna had asked a million more questions, and given Squall a million more hugs, Squall had demanded to go back to their room. He was tired and wanted to rest.

"Want something to drink?" Nida asked.

"What if Ellone's right?" Squall whispered, tracing a raindrop that was falling in a trail on the other side of the window.

"About what?" Nida asked, sitting on the edge of the bed, looking at Squall's ghostly reflection in the mirror. He allowed himself to just look at Squall, just look at Squall's human form once more, at how beautiful he was. Before all this, Squall had moved with a feline grace, but now, it was so much more prevalent, so much bolder, obvious. Squall's eyes would also get distant, and he'd seem to stare at people, like looking right through them, without really realizing what he was doing.

Squall still traced the raindrop with his long nail, then tapped it on the glass. "About... if any of your body fluid will trigger me changing back into a lion? What if even your tears do it, and it was just time delay. Or, what if I kiss you, and your saliva does it?"

"Squall...." Nida trailed off. "You drank a lot of my blood. At least a pint. At least. I'm not terribly concerned about it." He cocked his head, brushing his bangs off his forehead. "You're still shivering..." He got up, and turned the heat up. "I'll light a fire."

Squall wrapped the blanket around his shoulders, and went over to the bed, curling up. His muscles still felt tender. He watched Nida with calm eyes. Everything was blurry still, but he knew Nida's face, his body, his motions, off by heart, so it didn't really matter. Squall felt great relief in him, but also great fear. He was glad to be human again, and for slightly selfish reasons. If he'd stayed a lion, he'd have never been able to kiss, touch, or fuck Nida ever again. Now, that really wasn't an issue. But, he was also afraid. This 'power' within him, Griever's last 'fuck you'. It scared him. It made him feel less human. He jumped, surprised, when the phone beside his head rang.

"I don't want to talk to anyone," Squall whispered, coughing.

Nida went to the phone, stroking the side of Squall's face as he answered. "You're cold..." He whispered before picking up. "Hello?"

Squall gently took Nida's hand into his own, not wanting to scratch Nida again. He kissed the inside of Nida's warm palm, and ran his cheek against it. Squall also noticed that he was more susceptible to touch. When Laguna had stroked his hair, there had been this part of him that had just wanted to close his eyes and purr. And, whenever Nida touched him.... That was a totally different story. He felt like he wanted to explode. It wasn't a bad feeling. It was very, very good. He wanted to curl up in Nida's lap, and just be petted forever, be touched and stroked. Griever within him also liked it. The closer Nida got to him, the more Squall wanted to be touched.

"Oh, hi Elle..." Nida greeted.

Squall sat up. He felt apprehension, and squeezed Nida's hand, which caused the Asian man to wince.

"Shit...." Squall whispered. He got off the bed, and went to the bathroom, cutting his nails. When he came back out, Nida was looking at him.

"Want to talk to her?" Nida asked.

Squall shook his head, shivering again. He went to the thermostat, turning it up higher.

"Well, so what did you find out?" Nida asked.

"Well.... there is no sorcery in Squall's blood... It's all chemical. And, his blood didn't react with small amounts of your blood. We put more in, and there was a small reaction, but did it again a couple hours later, with the same amount, and no reaction happened."

"Seifer was right," Nida whispered.

Squall was kneeling on the bed, watching Nida carefully, inspecting his expression, his reaction to whatever Ellone was saying. He started staring at Nida's face, at how beautiful it was. He looked so sensual, so erotic. It seemed that the new Inaudax power in him just added an air of dark, exotic beauty to his already stunning features.

"Well, I think that the biggest problem with be the mental aspect of this whole thing. Squall probably is feeling a bit more base, more animal, after this, and he's probably afraid of this new aspect of himself. But, just tell him that he shouldn't worry. We just poured the last of your blood into Squall's sample about fifteen minutes ago, and nothing's happened so far. How long was the change last time?"

"Less than that," Nida said.

"Well, so it seems that it was as Seifer said. Well, I have other things to look into, namely Selphie's situation..." Ellone's voice became sad. "So, if anything groundbreaking happens, I'll give you a call. Oh!" Ellone exclaimed suddenly. "I saw Rinoa and Quistis. They were asking about Squall. I told them that he wanted to be alone... Is that still the case?"

"Yeah," Nida said, looking at Squall, who was on his hands and knees on the mattress, looking at Nida in his distant manner. "Okay, talk to you later."

"What did she say?" Squall asked.

"Seifer was right.... There was eventually no reaction."

"So, I won't change back....?" Squall whispered, his voice hopeful.

"It doesn't look like it," Nida whispered, sitting on the bed beside his lover.

Squall slowly crawled towards Nida, wrapping his arms around Nida's shoulders. Squall felt like his body was trying to rip away from his skeleton, and sink into Nida's. "Are you glad?" Squall whispered.

Nida kissed Squall's lips gently. "Glad?"

"That I'm human again?" Squall asked. He tilted his head, and kissed the vein that ran up Nida's throat, wanting to sink his teeth in. He did, but only gently, tugging on the skin playfully.

"Yeah, I am," Nida whispered. "I am."

"I felt like myself when I was in that lion's body," Squall said, pulling back. He looked into Nida's eyes, and touched his arms and chest, just wanting to be closer to him. "I still felt lust and desire for you, and it was so frustrating, because... What if....?"

Nida smiled gently. "I know." Nida leaned in, and kissed Squall's lips, which were still petal-soft and sensual against his own. He opened his mouth to Squall's, and the scarred man's tongue engulfed his mouth, hot and wet. The temperature of the room seemed to match Squall's mouth. It was getting hot. Nida pulled away. "Did you turn the heat up?"

Squall chuckled. "That is the worst sex line you've ever used on me."

"I'm serious...."

"I was cold..." Squall whispered.

Nida cupped the sides of Squall's face, and brought his lips down on his lover's once more. The wind and rain rattled the windows, but they didn't notice. When their tongues moved together, running over the surfaces of each other, that connection, Griever's split power, hummed between them like a high voltage wire. Squall's mouth quivered against Nida's as he tried to devour his Asian lover's lips, mashing his own against them, tugging at Nida's lips with his teeth, his tongue dancing over Nida's, moving at a furious, wanton pace.

Nida pulled away, his lips moist with Squall's saliva, the tender flesh slightly swollen from the hardness of Squall's kisses. "Are you still in pain?" He asked, looking at Squall with calm eyes.

"A little," Squall answered. "Nothing I can't handle."

Nida touched the side of Squall's face, tracing the line of the auburn-haired man's face with the back of his index finger. Squall's eyes widened as he felt something warm, alien, fill him. He pulled away from the touch, skittering backwards on the bed.

Nida's face didn't register a change in emotion, but his eyes did. A sad look came into his deep brown eyes when Squall recoiled from him.

"What was that?" Squall whispered, touching the side of his face where Nida had touched him, the trail of flesh feeling warm and tingly.

Nida sighed, standing up. "I just healed you."

Squall blinked, keeping his hand pressed to his cheek, running his finger up and down where Nida had stroked him. He felt that warm tingle throughout his whole body, and felt the pain melt away with it, too. But, the physical pain was replaced with something else. Something... alien. Griever. That part of Squall that had turned him into a lion, the blood of Griever that now forever mingled with his own, was burning in him, wishing to escape and join the rest of the power, which was in Nida. Nida made a move to walk away from the bed, but Squall quickly lunged across the mattress, gripping Nida's wrist in a tight grip. "Don't."

"Don't what?"

Squall pulled Nida backwards, then rose up on his knees, pressing his chest to Nida's back, their bodies now melded together. Squall's hands came around to the front of Nida's torso, slowly undoing the buttons on Nida's shirt. Squall pressed his face into Nida's throat, and could almost smell that blood, that meat and muscle. With the rise of the awareness of the blood in Nida's jugular, Squall felt that animalistic urge in him curl. It sunk its claws into his intestines, into his stomach, his lungs, his heart. Being this close to Nida roused it, and calmed it at the same time. But, it wasn't close enough. Squall didn't think he could ever be close enough, unless he passed right through Nida's body. It all rose into his cheeks, making him feel hotter than he had since his transformation back into human. It filled him so full, so completely, that he had to bite into Nida's neck to keep from crying out, from moaning because of the sheer size of it. "Don't go," Squall finally whispered, licking over the teeth marks he'd left indented in Nida's flesh. The rise of animalistic urge was touching everything animal in him; his desire for blood, for meat, his primal lust. He knew that Nida could feel his arousal, which was now very hard.

Nida did, in fact, feel Squall's erection against his ass. That, and Squall's hands on his chest, playing with his nipples through the fabric of his shirt, and Squall's breath, Squall's mouth, moving over his neck, brushing over his cheek, ear and hair, caused him to close his eyes. "What about Ellone's tests, and the liberation of Balamb and Timber?" Nida pulled away from Squall's searching hands, and took a couple of steps back from the edge of the bed. "Aren't there more important things than sex right now?"

Squall got off the bed, and slunk towards Nida. "No. I don't give a flying fuck about Balamb, or Timber, or Ellone right now." He said this through clenched teeth. His whole body was on fire. He almost wanted to rip Nida open, just so he could pour this power into him, so he could put his hands into Nida's body, so he could be as close to him as humanly possible. This desire for connection wasn't overriding Squall's base desire for his lover, but rather fuelling it. Squall wanted Nida to touch him, kiss him, hold him, hold his human body, after the fear that Squall might never be so again. This animal feeling in him just made those feeling stronger, hotter, more base. "Weren't you worried that I might never be human again?"

"Yes, of course," Nida whispered.

"And, do I look like an animal?"

"No...." Nida began to say.

Squall's fingers began to attack the buttons on Nida's clothes. He pulled and tugged at the fabric, pulling the shirt off Nida's chest. "So, what's your problem?" Squall asked. He had to clench his jaw when a pure, primal wave of lust passed over him. "I want you to just throw me down and rape me, fuck me raw."

"Squall...." Nida whispered.

The protesting groan that Squall ground out sounded less than human. "Just fuck me!" Squall demanded, practically pouncing on Nida, wrapping all his limbs around him. It caused them to topple to the ground, already tearing at each other's clothes. Squall could feel Griever in him, trying to escape his body. He could also feel that power of Nida's that had belonged to her, pulsing all around him. "You feel it like I do," Squall hissed.

Nida couldn't deny this. Even just touching Squall would cause his power to flutter in him, but to be assaulted like this by Squall's body, to have Squall so close to him, was wreaking havoc on him. He was almost a little afraid to have sex with Squall, because being that close to him, being inside Squall, or having Squall inside him, would be the closest that they could get while still being two separate people. What would happen to Griever's power, split between them? What would it do to them? He wanted Squall desperately, and would have even if this separated power didn't lust it so. He was glad that Squall was back to his normal, beautiful, human body, and Nida wanted to make love to him, be made love to by him, to be as close to Squall as he could be. And, this power made it almost unbearable. It caused Nida's flesh to tingle, his mouth to quiver. Nida's mouth only quivered when he felt the deepest of emotions, be it sadness, anger, or pure lust, like he was experiencing now, his body pressing Squall's into the ground, their hands frantically trying to pull clothes off each other.

They quickly became nude, their bodies writhing against each other, hands exploring naked flesh, mouths fused together, tongues moving against each other, tasting that inhuman lust, tasting the almost painful want in Griever's power to be whole again. Squall could also feel Nida's other power rising, touching the areas of skin that Nida's hands weren't caressing.

Nida pulled his mouth away, and reared up. Squall was panting, willing, underneath of him as he reached for the table beside the bed. He pulled open the drawer with impatient speed, and it came entirely out, clattering to the floor. The contents spilled all around them; pens, paper, and what Nida had been searching for. Lubricant and a box of condoms. He pulled one out of the box before Squall could pull him back down.

"A condom...?" Squall breathed, disappointment in his voice. After the feeling of having nothing but Nida's nude erection inside him, the feeling of Nida coming inside him, he didn't want to feel latex against the inside of his body.

"Griever's blood could have been diseased. Just to be safe...." Nida trailed off, groaning as he dropped the lubricant from his shaking fingers. His power was indeed rising, just as Squall had felt. Because of the almost insane pitch of Griever's former powers in him, it was causing him to lose control of his other magical abilities, and the amount of new, uncharted power in him was spilling all around them. As Nida sat up, reaching for the tube of lubricant, Squall sat up as well. He couldn't bear to have Nida so far away, even for an instant. His natural lust for Nida was at that point of no return, and this animal inside him wanted the reconnection so badly that Squall felt like it was going to rip his skin off his skeleton. Squall quickly moved on all fours, lowering his head between Nida's legs. He swallowed Nida's cock like his gag reflex was non-existent.

Nida's mouth opened in a silent gasp as he dropped the lubricant again. His back arched as his painfully hard erection was engulfed by that hot, wet mouth of Squall's, Squall's pretty lips wrapped around it, Squall's tongue working over it. Squall's hands moved up his chest, digging at the skin with his now short nails, tugging at the hard nubs of Nida's nipples, his head bobbing up and down at a quick pace on Nida's erection. The Asian man couldn't help the rising of his body, the way his back arched, the way he involuntarily crawled up against the side of the bed, the way his lust, this pleasure, made his hips rise off the ground, trying to push even more of his dick into Squall's eager mouth. It was all just too much. His body, his cock, was inside Squall's body, inside Squall's mouth, but it still wasn't enough. The black dots of euphoria that passed over Nida's gaze, still there even when he closed his eyes, but in the form of white spots, weren't enough. This power, this lust, wanted to descend into total blackness, into depths of lust that were beyond what the human body could endure, into the depths of pure sin. Nida wondered, even as he rose to his knees, Squall still sucking his cock with a furious pace, if even sodomizing Squall, being inside his body completely, would be enough.

Nida felt like he was going to come, so he pulled Squall's mouth away from his cock, which was now wet with Squall's saliva. Squall began to move to fellate Nida again, but Nida's strong hands, stronger now with the power of Schuld, Magdalene and Griever, pulled Squall's body upwards, and Nida kissed Squall to the point of bruising. Their kisses were more of attempts to try and devour each other. Nida didn't particularly want to have sex on the floor, so he rose to his feet, bringing Squall to a standing position, as well. Squall's fingers moved into Nida's hair, and began pulling on it as he keened like an animal, like a bitch in heat. "Fuck me, Nida.... Fuck me, Nida.... God... fuck me...." Squall panted, repeating these words over and over again. They got spun around in their crazed, maniacal embrace, and Squall toppled onto the mattress, his legs over the edge, tangled with Nida's. When Nida pulled away to retrieve the condom and lubricant, Squall mewled on the bed, his hips arching off the bed, his body writhing like a snake.

Nida collected the stuff off the floor in his hands, which were still shaking badly. The almost painful lust he felt was making him want to bow over in defeat, to just moan and wail until it went away. But, in the back of his lust-addled mind, Nida wondered, and he knew Squall wondered it too, if it would ever really go away. Nida began to rise to his feet, but as he turned to the bed, he was face to face with Squall's very erect penis, and couldn't help when he dropped the lubricant and condom on the sheets around Squall's hips, and began to suck on Squall's penis with the same fervour that Squall had shown for him.

Squall made small, strangled little gasps as the muscles of Nida's throat worked against the head of his cock, which was now freely leaking pre-cum. His arms were raised over his head, his back arching stiffly, locked in an arc. His hands were relaxing and constricting among the sheets, curling and uncurling, his lungs filling and releasing, emitting a high pitched whimper whenever he let his breath out. Nida's mouth was so hot, so eager, so skilled, around him. And, as Nida's mouth surrounding him, coating Squall's cock in hot saliva, he felt power roll over him. He felt his own animalistic connection to Griever's power, within Nida, festering inside him like a living creature, but he could also feel Nida's power, and the staggering amount that it had risen to, purring across his flesh, touching him like invisible breath, like fingers that he couldn't see, fingers that were as warm as Nida's own, which were running up and down the lines of Squall's smooth thighs.

As Nida sucked Squall's dick, he couldn't really help it, but he began to slowly push Squall's body along the mattress, crawling up on the bed, the sheets bunching around them as Nida finally got on the mattress as well, kneeled between Squall's legs, his mouth working up and down on Squall's hard penis, gripping his lover's hips. Squall was bucking against his face, trying to push more of his cock into Nida's mouth. Nida moved his hands off Squall's hips, and began to touch his scrotum and past there, dipping into the crack of Squall's buttocks. Squall moaned, rotating his hips when the tip of Nida's finger moved around his rectum. The finger then poked into him, which caused Squall's body to become like a taut wire, and when Nida's finger pressed into him again, Squall's whole body shook, twanged by the touch. Squall groaned, making incoherent words in the back of his throat.

When Squall felt Nida's mouth pull of his genitals, he bucked his hips upwards, trying to impale himself in that velvet heat once more, but failed. Nida rose up on his knees, and Squall moved, catching Nida's dick in his mouth again. But, his weight was off-center, so he ended up falling on his side, craning his neck upwards so he could still perform fellatio on his lover. Nida moved his body so that he and Squall were laying beside each other on the bed, giving each other head. Nida bit into the soft, tender flesh of Squall's inner thigh when the scarred man rolled them over, pinning himself under Nida's weight. He greedily sucked at Nida's cock, moving his mouth from the erection, to his scrotum, taking one of Nida's testicles into his mouth, sucking on it, his hand moving over Nida's cock, which was wet from Squall's own mouth. Squall bit into the muscular curve of Nida's ass, and then ran his tongue over Nida's rectum, stabbing it against the puckered opening.

Nida began moving his hand in time with his mouth when Squall's tongue quickly jabbed into his body. His moan was muffled by Squall's substantial erection in his mouth. He could feel Squall's tongue moving inside his body, against the walls of his anus and his whole body spasmed. This divided power, what was left of Griever The Lionheart, pulsed in Nida's body, and it felt appeased as Squall ate him out, as Nida gave Squall head, as their bodies tangled together, as sweat rose on their flesh. But, it still wanted more. It wanted closer contact, it wanted to be with the power that was in Squall's body. The power wanted the blood. Nida had the magical essence of Griever, and Squall had her animalistic blood. And, Nida could tangibly feel the difference in his lover. Squall, although always being very purposeful and wanton in bed, felt far more removed from humanity, like he was running on the basest of instincts, running on what still made man an animal.

As Squall's tongue worked at a furious pace within Nida's body, he felt his lover's fingers move against his own asshole, pressing into him, finger-fucking him. As Nida's mouth and right hand moved over Squall's cock in timed ministration, the index and middle finger on Nida's left hand moved in and out of Squall's rectum at a maddeningly slow pace, Nida pushing them in to the knuckle, then pulling them out all the way. When Nida's fingers were in his body, rubbing against the inner walls of his lower intestines, touching his prostate, Squall felt complete, felt like this feeling in him wasn't going to totally consume him. Squall pulled his tongue out of Nida's body, and bit into the muscular globe of Nida's right ass cheek, muffling a cry, as Nida's fingers moved over Squall's prostate, scissoring at the same time. Nida's mouth, Nida's fingers, Nida's body pressing against his, Nida's scrotum brushing against his chin as Squall drove his tongue into his lover's body again, Nida's hard, wet cock leaking pre-cum into the hollow between Squall's collarbones... It was all too much. All this physical stimulation, plus that hot, hot feeling, deep within him, spreading through is body like a lustful cancer.

Squall pushed a finger into Nida's asshole, which was now lubricated with Squall's saliva, so that his tongue and a finger was inside Nida's body. As Nida's mouth did wonderfully blasphemous things, and as Nida's fingers touched Squall's prostate, touched that spot that turned Squall's legs to jelly, Squall returned the favour, his hand masturbating Nida's erection while, with the other hand, he fingered Nida's rectum, his tongue moving within it as well. Nida could feel Squall's muscles tightening, his body taut, on the brink of orgasm. Nida moved his fingers in and out of Squall faster and faster, until Squall couldn't take anymore, and came like a shotgun into Nida's mouth, his testicles spasming under the flesh of his scrotum. Nida continued to move his tongue and fingers, milking the orgasm.

Squall was panting, whimpering, moaning, against Nida's ass, his orgasm so furious that he couldn't think, couldn't see, couldn't move. He felt Nida come into his hand, hot semen splattering on his upper chest and neck. And, around Squall's finger and tongue, Nida's rectum quivered, contracting and relaxing, the strong muscles gripping Squall's tongue and finger as hard as a fist could. That animal urge in Squall seemed appeased, satisfied, and went into dormancy, so that his limbs weren't on fire, so that he didn't feel like he was being ripped apart from the inside out.

Nida swallowed the bitter semen, which tasted like salty heaven to him. He turned around, so that he was looking at Squall, who was panting heavily, staring up at the ceiling, his eyes glazed. Nida crawled over Squall's body, and licked his own semen off Squall's chest, feeling full and tired. However, as soon as his tongue moved over Squall's flesh, he felt Griever flare in him once again, stronger than ever, it seemed. Although that 'power' had been connected when he and Squall had sixty-nined, it hadn't been enough. Nida kissed Squall heavily, roughly parting Squall's legs as his hand searched for the lubricant and condom that he'd abandoned in favour of sucking Squall's dick. Nida had to pull his mouth away from Squall's. He had to find that condom.

Squall licked across Nida's face, not just once, but over and over, his tongue moving over Nida's cheeks, his neck, his nose, his forehead, licking him like the lion that he'd been only that morning. "Fuck me," Squall demanded, biting Nida's earlobe, pulling Nida's hair, raking his nails up Nida's back. "Fuck me," he repeated, his voice hard, begging.

Nida finally found the condom, and put it on as he popped the cap on the tube of lubricant. He was already very hard again, as was Squall. It was all very quick, and Nida ended up dropping some of the lube into the sheets, but didn't give a fuck. He gripped Squall's thighs, parting them with force. Squall raised his hips off the bed, begging to be fucked, again and again, through clenched teeth. He barely even sounded like himself anymore. Nida was practically choking on the power that was rising within him, setting his skin on fire. He didn't even bother to really prepare Squall's body for intercourse. In the back of his mind, a small sliver of thought, the only thought that was working in him, punching through the soup of his powers, he told himself that he was lubricated enough, and pushed into Squall, who had been slightly opened by Nida's earlier ministrations.

Squall severely arched his back off the bed, clawing at the sheets, at Nida's back, anything his hands could grip onto. Pain moved through him like a hot fire, beginning at his rectum, and shooting up his spine. But, the burn of Griever's power had been far more severe than this, and the feeling of appeasement, of connection, overrode any pain that moved through Squall's body. It wasn't a pain that he really disliked. He always liked it when Nida was rough with him. Nida's balls slapped against his raised ass, and Squall's groans were of a desperate, animal nature when Nida began to thrust into him. Squall dug his heels into the mattress, and met each of Nida's downward thrusts with desperate motion, slamming his hips against Nida's pelvis.

Nida bowed his body over Squall's, propping his weight up with his arms. He caught Squall's mouth with his own, mashing his lips against Squall's, feeling the other man's heavy panting against his mouth. Nida's mouth slipped off Squall's, and he muffled a moan into Squall's neck, which was now sweaty, both their bodies covered in sweat. Squall's tongue began lapping at the side of Nida's face as his hands tangled in Nida's hair, straining the Asian man's neck so that he could lick over the now pulled muscles, so that Squall could feel the thump of Nida's vein against his lips. He just wanted to tear into it, as Nida fucked him.

And, a fucking it was. After they'd finally told each other how they really felt in Timber, their sex had been more to the side of lovemaking. Even before that, their roughest sex had never been like this. Squall's legs felt numb, and he was in as much pain as he was in pleasure. Squall knew he probably wouldn't be able to sit down for a while afterwards, and he didn't care. He needed this more than he wanted it. And, he wanted it. He wanted Nida so badly, wanted to know that Nida wanted him. The past night, having to sleep in an alien body, having to have his own mind in that lion's head, was awful. He'd slept on the bed beside Nida, but it had killed Squall not to sleep with him, not to sleep beside him, like he had every night that they were together in the same city, the same location. Nida, pounding into him, touched Squall's heart, made him want to just start crying because it felt so good, but that was drowning in Griever's lust to have her power whole again.

It was odd to think of Griever as still alive, but maybe she was. Squall couldn't ignore this feeling in him, and he knew that Nida felt it just as strongly as he did. Nida pulled out of Squall's body, so that he could rest his arms for a moment, and it caused the scarred SeeD to moan loudly, feeling horribly empty, feeling that appeasement be severed. Nida felt it as well, and jammed his cock into Squall once more, which caused them both to cry out. Nida didn't care if the whole Palace could hear them as he moaned again and again, fucking Squall so vigorously that it was burning the muscles of his thighs, and straining the muscles of his shoulders and arms. Nida's lungs burned as he panted into Squall's now sweat-dampened hair, as Squall's tongue moved over his face once more. He could almost feel what Griever had given Squall reaching out with an invisible hand, and seizing his heart. All his power built within him, and Nida felt like he was disappearing. It wasn't him that was fucking Squall... It was them. His lust, his love for Squall was still the core of all this swirling power, but it just felt so big, too big for his body to handle.

Squall gasped, his already arched body becoming rigid. It felt like Nida came inside him, but that wasn't the case. It was Nida's power, releasing around him. It felt like a shotgun, and all Squall could do was wail in ecstasy. Nida's power was so strong, so large, so dark and different than it had been only a day ago. Squall felt like he was drowning, and the only tangible anchor was Nida's cock thrusting in and out of his ass. The sheets were damp in his clenched fists as Squall felt an orgasm rush over him, more powerful than any he'd had before. It started as a small shiver deep within his body somewhere, maybe his stomach, or intestines, and it just exploded within him. It worked up through his body, causing his stomach to shudder, causing his belly to flutter, causing his lungs to burn and his heart to race. As all his muscles began to seize, he could only let out high-pitched whimpers, his eyes rolling in the back of his head, those desperate whimpers forming Nida's name, over and over again. "Nida..... Nida..... Nida.... Nida...." The feeling moved down his legs, causing his legs, which had been holding his body up off the bed, to collapse. Nida's cock slipped out of his body, but the Asian man didn't miss a beat, and drove himself deep into Squall, who was now quivering all over. The orgasm, which was now causing the rectal muscles that surrounded Nida's erection to clamp and relax, finally caused the telltale release of semen to shoot out of Squall's cock, splattering on his belly, which was still heaving with the auburn-haired man's pants and moans, his raspy cries of Nida's name

Squall felt the sticky mess of his semen smear between himself and Nida as Nida's stomach moved against Squall's, still fucking him mercilessly. Despite having already released semen, Squall's orgasm was still rocking through his body, causing his vision to black out, causing him to whimper in the most wanton way. It was a noise that he'd never made before, one that he didn't think he was capable of making, but a noise that he couldn't stop from coming out his lips in a continuous noise. And, when Nida's mouth clamped on his own, and when Nida jammed himself so hard into Squall that the scarred SeeD could have sworn that something tore in him, Squall's whimper became louder. He knew that Nida was coming inside him, and Squall wished to God that he could feel the hot release against his skin, but that fucking condom was preventing it.

Squall and Nida panted into each other's mouths as their orgasms worked through their bodies. Squall couldn't believe he was still coming. He could feel Nida's power moving through the room, and felt like he was being blanketed in it. Nida's breath washed over Squall's sweaty cheek as their orgasms finally dissipated. Squall could feel something sticking to his sweaty chest and arms. He rolled his head over, which seemed like the hardest task in the world, and saw black feathers littering the bed, black feathers sticking to his wet flesh. They were practically everywhere. When Nida's lips moved over Squall's, this time gentle, very loving, Squall kissed him back with matched gentleness, finally feeling like that burning animal in him would finally disappear. Squall's whole body felt like lead, dead weight under Nida's frame. Both men were still panting heavily, and Squall brushed his bangs out of his eyes with a heavy hand, feathers all around him.

As soon as Nida pulled out of Squall's body, it caused them both to whimper, that appeasement dying. Squall felt Griever's want to be whole rising again. "Oh, God...." Squall heaved, his body already ready, yearning for Nida again.

Nida pulled the condom off, throwing it in the garbage. He felt Squall's quaking fingers reach out and touch him, and as soon as they did, Nida felt Iudicium's wings sprout out of his back, in that translucent way. He felt Squall crawling across the bed, then felt arms wrapping around him from behind, finding his now very hard penis.

"Fuck me again...." Squall begged, his voice quiet and broken up because of his panting.

Nida closed his eyes, wondering if this would ever go away, this power of Griever's eating him alive from the inside out. His body felt tired, and although the translucent wings had vanished from sight, Nida could still feel them, hanging heavily from his shoulder blades. But, when he turned around, seeing Squall's flushed, beautiful, sensual, fucking fantastic face, any reservation flew away from him, his lust boiling in him like a cauldron. He assaulted Squall's mouth with his own, pushing Squall down into the feather covered sheets, practically eating his face with harsh kisses, kisses that Squall matched in fierceness. Sweat began to build up on their bodies again, feathers sticking to their skin. Squall moved his hips against Nida's, pushing his lover against the footboard. He sat in Nida's lap, impaling himself on the other man's bare erection.

"Squall...!" Nida gasped, feeling Squall's body, hot all around him. He tried to push Squall out of his lap, but it was only causing delicious friction between them. Squall was rocking and rotating his hips in a way that caused Nida's head to fall backwards, his mouth opening in a slow release of breath. "Griever's blood might be..... Ohhhh...." He had to trail off, pleasure shorting out Nida's ability for rational thought.

"Who gives a shit?!" Squall hissed, grabbing Nida's wrists when the Asian man tried to push him away again. Squall knew that Nida was stronger than him, now that he had all this power bubbling under his skin, but didn't care. "Griever was under the protection of that barrier, so she wouldn't have been diseased, because it would have been a threat.... to... her... life..." Squall accentuated each word by slamming his hips down against Nida's, filling himself more deeply with Nida's impalement. Squall started biting at Nida's mouth, their teeth clashing together. "I just want you to fuck me..... To fucking come inside me.... I don't care about that fucking condom...."

Nida grabbed Squall's chin with one hand, which silenced the auburn-haired man's words. Nida's fingers dug into Squall's flesh, hard enough to bruise. He looked at Squall for a few moments, his fingers digging into Squall's jaw, and then he pulled Squall's face closer to him, and assaulted those beautiful, sensual lips, and swallowed the achingly slutty things that Squall had been saying. When Squall began riding him, Nida felt himself being swept away in a sea of lust, of power, wondering if it would forever consume him.

Zell groaned as one of Seifer's thrusts caused him to bump his head on the wood footboard of the bed in the room that Laguna had given them. But, a small bump on his head didn't matter. Being back to normal, having sex with Seifer, was all fantastic, like it was happening for the first time, all over again. Since coming back to their New Flesh, they'd had sex already, quite a few times, actually, but it still felt new, still felt amazing and fresh. Zell gripped the footboard, feeling Seifer's breath on the back of his neck. Seifer's erection kept moving over Zell's prostate, and he whimpered, Seifer's hand strong around Zell's cock as he masturbated him.

Zell came into Seifer's hand with a small grunt, his head hitting the footboard again as Seifer gave one last thrust into his body, coming inside him. After a few moments, Seifer's body bowed over Zell's back, holding the smaller blonde gently, kissing his earlobes. "What was that banging?" Seifer asked quietly.

"My head, you asshole," Zell grumbled, turning his head so he could kiss Seifer's cheek. When the taller man pulled out of Zell's body, Zell rubbed the sore spot on his head. "Ouch."

Seifer pulled Zell towards him, giving the smaller man a gentle kiss. "You weren't complaining."

Zell snorted. "I was afraid you'd beat me."

Seifer slapped Zell's ass as he began to get out of bed. "I can still do that if you want...."

Zell rubbed the spot on his butt, watching as Seifer stood up. He leaned over, and bit into the flesh of Seifer's ass.

Seifer yelped, turning around. "Did you just bite my ass?"

Zell blinked innocently, running a finger along the side of Seifer's cock. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Seifer just rolled his pale green eyes, and went into the bathroom. Zell rolled over, so that he was on his back, and stared at the ceiling, waiting for the feeling to come back into his legs. "Damn, that was good sex," he muttered to himself. He sat up when he heard a knock on the door. "Who's that?"

Seifer came out of the bathroom, and covered himself with a burgundy silk robe with a subtle pattern on it. "I'll answer it...." Seifer snorted. "Put some damn pants on...."

"I think that's the first time I've ever heard you say that!" Zell exclaimed, reaching for his discarded boxers.

Seifer opened the door a crack, his face a mask of confusion. "Oh.... Rinoa. Hello."

Rinoa shuffled her feet. "I didn't... interrupt anything, did I?" She cocked her head, looking into the small sliver of room that she could see.

"No, not really...." Seifer opened the door. "Come in."

"I'm sorry, but I didn't think it would be a bother... It's only evening...." She blushed, seeing Zell sitting on the bed in his underwear. "I did interrupt."

"No, we were done," Seifer stated.

"I wanted to talk to Nida, and see how Squall was doing, but...." Rinoa kept her eyes on the ground. "They were... you know."

Zell raised his eyebrows, smiling impishly. "How do you know, did you walk in on them?"

Rinoa shook her head, tucking some hair behind her ears. "No. But, I could hear them through the door."

Zell started chuckling.

Seifer made a snorting noise in the back of his throat. "Is something wrong?" Seifer asked, motioning for Rinoa to sit in one of the chairs, which she did.

"Well, I just wanted to... talk. I mean, I've been stuck in a hospital bed since we got back from Trabia, so I'm confused...." She cocked her head again as Zell put on a shirt and some flannel pyjama pants. "I'm really sorry for interrupting."

"It's fine," Seifer said, sitting in the chair across from Rinoa. "Well, what do you want to know?"

Rinoa shrugged her slight shoulders, fiddling with the satin bow that ran through the bodice of her purple crepe, gothic style dress. "Well, that's just it... I'm not really sure, and that makes me feel really bad for interrupting you..." She began to stand. "I'll come back later."

Seifer caught her wrist, and made her sit down again. "You never used to have a problem talking to me about your problems...." He trailed off.

"We seriously were done," Zell said, sitting on the floor by Seifer's feet, looking up at Rinoa with calm, icy blue eyes. "I think, though... That you would rather be talking to Nida right now."

"He feels like the only friend I really have," Rinoa admitted. "People have sort of been treating me like glass since I woke up from my coma, but Nida hasn't... He's been a real friend, especially considering Squall's behaviour."

"I think Squall is just jealous," Zell admitted. "He's had a lot of bad experiences with love.... Ellone leaving him, his mother, although that couldn't really have been helped, his father, you.... I don't think he could handle losing Nida, too."

"That's not an excuse to be an asshole!" Rinoa spat.

"I know," Zell whispered. "But, he's just afraid of losing Nida...."

"I guess I understand," Rinoa admitted after a period of silence. She toed at the carpet. "So..... Am I going to become a Sorceress?"

"No," Seifer said, shaking his head. "You were our door. Now that we're back, you're sort of... unneeded. That isn't how I wanted to say it, though."

"I know what you mean, though," Rinoa said quietly. "I'm just wondering if... I can help in any way, you know... against the Inaudax?"

Zell smiled. "I'm sure that Quistis would love a little help in getting the Galbadian Army out of Balamb and Timber, and Winhill."

"I'm not SeeD, though," Rinoa said.

"That doesn't matter," Zell said. "You know how to fight.... True, you wouldn't be able to go into SeeD meetings, but they could use your help, especially since you were always fairly good at healing, and know how to use Guardian Forces."

"Are you guys going to help Garden?" She asked.

"I'm not," Seifer shook his head. "I'm not SeeD. I'm going to help Laguna and Nida. Zell will probably go, though."

Rinoa played with the ends of her hair. "What do you think the Inaudax are going to do next?"

Zell and Seifer shared a look. "I have no idea," Seifer said lowly. "I think that they're biding their time. And, they've probably already taking a small measure of revenge on Squall."

"But, he's human now.... right?" Rinoa asked.

"Yes, but...." Seifer trailed off. "He'll still be affected by it. Especially because Griever's power is split between himself and Nida."

Rinoa sighed. "When did everything start to go so wrong?"

"It's probably our fault," Zell whispered. "Because we didn't know what we were doing when we got Lillith's power."

"It's Ultimecia's fault...." Rinoa hissed. "Even if she's dead, she's still hurting us."

They all became sullen sitting in silence. Zell sighed, smiling. "Well, it doesn't help anything to feel sorry for ourselves. Are you feeling okay?"

Rinoa nodded slowly. "Yeah, I feel pretty great, considering...." She sighed. "I walked past Selphie's room. Irvine was there.... He hasn't left her side, has he?"

"Probably not," Zell responded. "But, I would love to hang out with him.... I mean, when we were all roommates in Balamb, we had some good times."

"When I was travelling with Squall and Nida, they talked about how close Ellone and Irvine were getting. Now....? I wonder what this means for her."

"This was probably part of their plot all along," Seifer said lowly. "To use Selphie to just cause more problems..."

"And, it's working," Rinoa admitted. "It's working."

"Soooo...." Zell interrupted. "How are things with that landscape guy?"

"Oh.... I don't know," Rinoa answered, shrugging. "We went on a date, that's about it."

"He gave us those plans to Xystus... You should at least give him head for his trouble," Zell said.

Rinoa made a face. "Zell!"

"That's your advice to her?" Seifer asked, cocking an eyebrow. "No wonder nobody ever listens to you?"

"You don't seem to mind when I put that little gem of wisdom into action, Seifer."

Rinoa covered her heart-shaped mouth with her fingers, trying to hide a small giggle, that escaped anyway. "You guys have made me feel a lot better."

"Oh?" Seifer asked, adjusting his robe when it started to fall undone.

"Yeah.... I guess I was starting to feel isolated. Maybe it was self-instilled, but I still felt it anyway. I guess it just feels nice to have someone to talk to, like everything is still normal."

"I think everyone wants to try and pretend that...." Zell muttered.

"Is Nida going to try and take all the Inaudax power in on himself?"

Seifer and Zell both nodded silently.

"Why?!" She demanded. "That's just... suicide!"

"Maybe not," Seifer said lowly. "I think he's doing it for the right reasons.... He doesn't want anyone else to take on the powers... I actually think maybe he has another plan, but it's not one that I know about. Anyway, I think that Nida means well... It just might not work out how he wants it to. The power itself won't kill him, but it could..."

"Pollute him," Rinoa interrupted. "Edea once said that power didn't make Sorceresses evil, though. It was their designs."

"That's true," Zell said. "But, that much power? Each of them is very old, very evil.... That much black magic could twist anyone.... And, I'm sure Nida's no saint."

"He has Iudicium to protect him, right....?" Rinoa offered meekly. She laughed suddenly. "You know....? Maybe it's best that I didn't go see Squall and Nida. Earlier this morning, I saw them, and I admitted to Nida that I've got... feelings for him. Squall probably wants to kill me."

"You're in love with Nida?!" Zell screeched, his pale eyebrows shooting up.

"No, no...." Rinoa waved her hands. "I think I love him.... I told him how I felt... I think I just needed to hear from his mouth that it will never happen. And, he did tell me he'll never want me that way."

"Good," Seifer said lowly. "I'd hate for you to fall for yet another man that you can't have." He gave her a knowing look.

"I know, I know!" Rinoa said, sighing. "I seem to have a thing for gay men. First you, then Squall, now Nida."

"Uh... Squall isn't technically gay, though. He's bisexual. The fact that you're a woman isn't the problem... It's that you were too different from each other. True, you opened something up in Squall, but he couldn't change far enough to meet you halfway, and you couldn't change enough to meet him."

"I still pick men I can't have," Rinoa admitted sadly. "The funniest one is that when Squall, Nida and me went to Dollet, and I met Nida's father....."

"You fucked Nida's dad?!" Zell spat out, his eyes like saucers.

"Noooo!" Rinoa said. "I just meant that I thought he was very attractive. Nida looks a lot like him. Except that Mr. Nomura is bald and wears glasses. He's got that shaved head baldness, and it looks really sexy. He also wears nice suits...."

Seifer just raised an eyebrow. "Uh... huh...."

"See, I told you...." She shook her head. "I guess it's nice to know that Nida will still be hot when he's in his forties."

"I guess that means that Squall will be the one to get all ugly and fat," Zell joked.

"If they last that long," Rinoa said darkly.

Seifer raised his eyebrows. "What makes you say that? I thought that they loved each other very much...?"

"Oh, they do, but Squall will end up screwing it up. Fucking relationships up seems to be par for the course for him."

"I hope you're wrong," Seifer said quietly. "I hope you're wrong."

"Hi... Irvine...?" Ellone greeted. She tapped him on the shoulder. He was standing outside the door of Selphie's room as the doctor checked her out.

"Oh..... The doctor is checking Selphie out."

"Is she okay?" Ellone asked. She reached her hand out to put a comforting hand on Irvine's shoulder, but he'd moved away. He was looking into Selphie's room through the small crack of the open door.

"I don't know.... She's still in restraints..." He balled his hand into a fist. "It's Selphie!"

"But, she was being controlled by the Inaudax...." Ellone whispered, playing with the ends of her emerald green shawl, her voice sounding loud in the quiet hallway.

There was a long, long period of silence. Irvine was still looking into the room, standing on his tiptoes, and he didn't even say anything to acknowledge Ellone.

"You know," Ellone began, trying to make her voice sound calm. "I think you should really rest... Get some food, you know? You've been sitting next to Selphie's bed for so long...."

"She needs me," Irvine muttered. "Everyone else is treating her like a monster.... She needs me."

"But, you need to rest, too."

"She needs me," Irvine whispered, not even looking at her.

"I'm pregnant with Adel's baby," Ellone muttered lowly. "Laguna said he would marry me...."

"Selphie......" Irvine muttered.

"You aren't even listening to me," she said quietly.


"Irvine, please!" She shouted.

"Why are you shouting?" Irvine asked, turning around to look at her. "What's going on?"

"You've been ignoring me... You haven't heard a word I said."

"I'm sorry if I'm distracted," Irvine said, his voice very sarcastic. "But, Selphie's life is in the balance here! She's the most important thing right now."

"Yeah....." Ellone smiled sadly, biting the inside of her cheek. "Yeah, I guess she is." Ellone clenched her jaw, winning her internal war over tears. "Goodbye, Irvine...." She turned and ran down the hall, knowing that the tears were going to come after all.

He didn't turn around to watch her leave.

"Ellone....?" Laguna called. He saw her running down the hallway. She heard her name being called, and looked over her shoulder. But, she didn't stop to greet Laguna, and kept running. He could plainly see the tears in her eyes, the tears falling down her cheeks. Laguna's brow furrowed in curiosity. "What was that about....?" He muttered to himself. He'd been on his way to see Squall, but thought that he should probably go after Ellone. He looked down the hallway, and saw Irvine, staring into Selphie's room. "Elle!!" He called again, jogging after her. She stopped, but kept her back to Laguna. "What's going on?" He asked.

"I don't want to talk right now, Uncle Laguna, okay?" She asked, her voice shaking.

"What happened?" He asked, his voice concerned. He wound his hand around Ellone's upper arm. "Did Irvine say something to you?"

Ellone wrenched her arm out of Laguna's grip. "Let me go!" She demanded, anger rising in her.

"What did he say to you?" Laguna demanded, his eyes darkening.

"Nothing!" She spat. "And, that's the problem. Can I please go?! Please." She whispered. After a moment, she turned on her heel, rushing away.

Laguna brought his hand to his mouth, frowning. It hurt him deeply to see his children in pain. Although Ellone wasn't his real daughter, she was his daughter in his eyes, and that's all that mattered. He walked back the direction he'd been coming in, and saw Irvine there again, and his anger flared in him. Laguna kept his hand to his mouth, replaying Ellone's teary face and her angry voice in his head. "Irvine," Laguna greeted, void of emotion.

"Laguna...." Irvine turned around. "Are you going to let Selphie out of her restraints now?" He put his hands on his hips. "She's Selphie! She's one of us... You can't treat her like a monster....!" Irvine trailed off, gasping, when Laguna's fist came into heavy contact with his face. Irvine fell to the ground, his vision blacking out. "What did you do that for?!" Irvine demanded, blood dripping out of his nose. "I think you broke my nose!"

Laguna crouched beside Irvine. "You better get your shit together, little boy. I loved Selphie dearly, but, this isn't really Selphie. She was under the control of the Tevedes, and the rest of them. Now, you better get that through your thick skull, because there is no way in Hell that I'm going to let Selphie out of her restraints. And...." Laguna gripped the front of Irvine's shirt. "If you ever make Ellone cry again, I will kill you. Understand?"

"Ellone....?" Irvine asked. "What about her?"

Laguna's eyes darkened further, and Irvine could see where Squall got his expressions from. Squall may have had his mother's beauty, but when Laguna got angry, his face was identical to his son's. "What about her?" Laguna repeated.

"Why..... Is she upset or something?"

Laguna's lip curled up, and he punched Irvine again. "If I hear that you've hurt Elle again, you'll wish for the company of Tevedes." Laguna rose to his feet, and continued walking.

Squall panted, desperate for air as Nida came into him again. When his own orgasm came, his vision went totally black, and his body went numb. When Squall opened his eyes, he could hear the shower going. He must have blacked out. He sat up slowly, feeling tired and sore. There were black feathers all around him. They had built up on the sheets, until they were a thick, ticklish layer. Squall brushed some of them off his limbs, and slowly stood up. He had to support himself by holding onto the post of the bed. His legs felt very wobbly, and his ass was sore, which was more than expected since Squall had been fucked by Nida for the past twelve hours. Squall went over to the window, which was cold from the wind and rain outside. He pressed his scarred forehead to the glass, and sighed deeply. He traced one of the raindrops as it trailed down the outside of the glass, and blinked a few times. His nail, which had only been cut twelve hours earlier, was now half an inch long.

Squall slowly inspected his nails, holding his body up against the window with his shoulder. "What's happening to me....?" Squall whispered. He looked towards the bathroom as he heard the shower stop. Am I going to be this way forever? Am I going to feel like I'm being ripped apart every time I come close to Nida? Griever... What did you do to me....? As Squall mentally questioned everything, he curled his hand into a fist, cutting his palm with his nails. He winced, and looked at the blood that was welling up in the cuts. He licked across them, the metallic taste of blood exploding on his tongue. Now that Griever's dead...... Will I ever go back to normal? This wouldn't be happening if Griever were still alive.... If I'd never gone to Trabia, I wouldn't be turning into an animal....

"Squall....?" Nida called, seeing that his lover seemed very distant. Nida's own legs weren't supporting him that well, and he walked cautiously, slowly, over to the window that Squall was propped against, pulling on a red tank top, tucking it into the black satin pyjama pants he'd put on after his shower. "Are you okay....?"

"No....." Squall whispered, looking at his nails. "No," he repeated, his voice rising slightly.

Nida looked out at the storm, Griever's power within him already rising because of Squall's close proximity. "I wonder if things will go back to normal....."

"I doubt it," Squall muttered, tapping his nails on the glass, the reflected red of Nida's tank top glaring at him.

"What makes you say that....?" Nida asked.

Squall muttered something under his breath, anger rising in him.

"What did you say?" Nida asked, his voice coming out harsher than he had intended it. He had plainly heard what Squall had said, and asking had been more of a reflex.

"I said 'Because you fucking killed Griever.' You killed Griever, Nida," Squall spat, turning to face his lover. "That's why things are never going to go back to normal."

Nida's almond-shaped eyes narrowed to dangerous slits, and he bit the inside corner of his lip, slowly breathing out. "I didn't know that Griever had done this to you at the time, Squall...."

"Yeah, well, now you know," Squall muttered. He crossed his arms over his chest, still leaning against the window because of his wobbly legs.

"I didn't mean...." Nida began to say.

"Save it!" Squall glared at Nida. "This is your fault, you know. It's you they want..." Squall looked at his streaky reflection in the mirror. "I'm barely even human anymore."

Nida flinched, his lips starting to slowly quiver. But, not because he was going to start crying. Because he felt anger rising in him. That same anger he'd felt in Timber, when he'd killed those attackers that Tevedes had hired.

Squall felt the power rise in the air, and it was very unlike the power when he and Nida had been having sex. This was ugly. Squall felt very afraid, but it also made him upset, fuelling his irrational anger. He didn't know where to put his anger, to put his frustration, and Nida was there, so was becoming the scapegoat. "What are you going to do, kill me?" Squall asked, his voice hitched. "When you killed Griever, you killed a part of me, anyway.... It's all your fault." Squall turned away, not wanting to see that furious wrath beginning to seep into Nida's chocolate brown eyes, which were now close to black with his growing fury. He was already regretting what had come out of his mouth. He could feel the power all around him, making the air thick, dark, ugly.

Oh, God..... Squall whispered to himself, mulling over what he'd said to Nida. He put a hand to his mouth, wiping across his lips, as if to wipe away the words. "Nida, I'm so sorry," Squall said sincerely, turning around. "I didn't mean it. I'm just angry....." Squall trailed off, his voice dying in the air, which was now back to normal. Nida was gone. "Nida....?" Squall whispered. His lips parted, his regret falling from them in the form of small, heaving pants. "Oh, God.... Nida!!" Squall cried. He tried to take a few steps, but his legs gave out, and he slumped against the window, which was rattling from Tempest's storm. Squall's aquatic eyes were wide with fear, his lower lip trembling. "God....." Squall rubbed at his mouth again, scratching his own cheek with one of his nails. "I didn't mean it..... I didn't mean... Oh, God..." He whispered. "What have I done?"

"Hey, Nida!" Zell called, jogging up the path, the puddles of rain splashing up around his feet as he stepped towards the Asian man. His umbrella prevented him from becoming totally wet. The wind was making carrying the umbrella a bit of a chore, but Zell had wanted to get outside, even if it was storming. He was just outside the Esthar Shopping Centre, When he stepped closer to Nida, he halted, almost skidding to a stop. "Whoa....."

Nida was also going towards the Shopping Centre, but the fact that he was barefoot, only in pants and a tank top, his body soaking wet, and the power in the air was what made Zell stop.

"Nida!" Zell called again, catching up. "Jesus.... Are you trying to catch cold?" Zell reared back when he saw the look on Nida's face, felt the air around Nida. It felt evil. It felt like Ultimecia. "Nida.....?"

Nida blinked a few times. "Oh... Zell." The ugly feeling in the air drifted away. "Hi."

"What are you doing out here in your pyjamas, man?" Zell cocked his head. "Where's Squall?"

"I don't give a fuck...." Nida hissed through clenched teeth. He then composed himself. "Squall is in the Palace."

Zell's icy eyes widened. "What happened?!"

"I have to get out of here...." Nida said quickly, already walking to the Shopping Centre with quick steps. Zell had to jog to keep up with him. "I'm picking up a few supplies, then I'm leaving Esthar."

"Leaving Esthar?!" Zell screeched, glad to be inside the Mall, away from the rain. He was looking for some weapon upgrades. It had been a long time since he'd fought with the other SeeD, and wanted to prepare himself. "You can't!"

Nida's face became crestfallen, miserable. "It's my fault that everything is happening... It's my fault that Kiros is dead... It's my fault that Squall...." His face hardened again. "Squall was kind enough to point out to me all the errors of my ways. So, I'm leaving."

"Errors...?" Zell shook his head, closing his umbrella. "What are you talking about?" Zell reached his hand out, touching Nida's shoulder. The Asian man flinched away, and that dark power rose in the air again. "Nida, Jesus Christ...!"

He sighed. "I'm sorry, Zell. I'm just very...angry right now." He punched the screen for the shops, and bought some items. He also bought a cloth bag to keep them in. He turned to face Zell. "Please tell everyone goodbye for me."

"What about Squall?" Zell asked.

Nida's mouth quivered in anger. "He already told me how he... felt." Nida bit the inside of his cheek. "Let me go...."

Zell just shook his head, utterly confused, watching as Nida vanished, teleporting to God knows where.

"Can I help you...?" One of the Shopping Centre attendants asked after Zell had been standing still for a good couple of minutes, staring at the spot where Nida had been standing, had been barely able to control his rage.

"Huh....?" Zell shook his head. "Yeah.... Uh... Can I get some upgrades on my weapon....?" As he followed the clerk, he shook his head, looking back at the spot, seeing a black feather floating in a pool of rain water.

Squall dashed down the hallway as fast as he could, which wasn't very fast considering he had to lean against the wall the entire time, his legs like jelly after the prolonged anal sex he'd received. He was still barefoot, and his grey T-shirt was on inside out, but he didn't care. He had to find Nida. Squall had to tell him he was sorry. Squall stopped, panting at the soreness and stiffness plaguing his lower body. "How could I have been so fucking stupid?!" Squall demanded of himself. I didn't mean it..... Squall tried to move again, but just slumped to the carpet, breathing heavily. He'd said those stupid, fucking stupid things out of anger, and now Squall was wondering if it would cost him more than just some temporary anger. "It's all your fault?" Squall hissed. "Goddammit!!" He slammed his head against the wall.

"Squall, what's going on?" Laguna demanded, kneeling in front of Squall. "What are you doing on the floor? Are you okay?"

"No, I'm not okay!!" Squall yelled, trying to pull himself to his feet. "I have to find Nida."

"I thought he was with you.....?" Laguna questioned, helping his son to his feet. "What happened....? Why can't you stand?"

Squall's chest heaved, but it was more from fear, from emotional pain than from his physical discomfort. "I have to find Nida.... I have to tell him I'm sorry." Squall's eyes widened. "You haven't seen him, have you?"

Laguna shook his head, totally confused. "No.... What happened, Squall?"

Squall's lower lip quivered, and his face crumbled. "Oh, Dad... I'm so stupid. I got mad at Nida...."

"Why?" Laguna asked. "Come on... You have to sit down... you can't even stand up..." Laguna led Squall into the nearest room, a dark, empty guest bedroom. "Okay, why did you get mad at Nida?"

"I didn't get mad at him.... I...." Squall sighed, looking at his long nails. "I got mad at the whole situation, and Nida was just... there....."

"So... You used him as a scapegoat?" Laguna asked. "Luckily I'm not the only one doing that today...."

"Huh?" Squall asked.

"I punched Irvine.... I'm just angry about everything, and I guess I blew everything out of proportion with him ignoring Ellone...." Laguna sighed. "Never mind. What did you say to him?"

"I blamed him for killing Griever.... Because..." He showed his father his nails. "Because I might never be normal now.... Oh, God...." Squall covered his beautiful, crestfallen face with his hands. "I told him it was all his fault, all his fault that this was happening. And, although I didn't say it out loud, I alluded to that I might have thought it was his fault that Kiros was dead, that all of this is happening..."

"What?" Laguna demanded. "What were you thinking?!"

"I didn't mean it!" Squall cried, tears pooling under his lashes, falling out of his eyes, leaking from between his fingers. "I didn't mean it..... Nida.... Oh, God.... I have to find him... I have to tell him I'm sorry...."

"Where did he go?"

Squall shrugged. "I don't know..... He just vanished.... I turned around, and he wasn't there."

Laguna patted Squall's hand. "Look, I'll as some guards to look for him, but you should get back to bed.... You can't even walk. Did Nida.... hurt you?"

"No!!" Squall yelled. "He would never hurt me.... Even though I hurt him....." Squall let out a small sob. "What have I done?"

"Well, then, why can't you walk?"

Squall laughed bitterly into his hands. "Because I've been getting fucked up the ass for the past twelve hours."

Laguna blinked a few times. "Oh....." He stood. "Well, I'll look around for Nida.... Just... pull yourself together, okay?"

"I can't believe I said that to him...." Squall whispered, curling up on the bed that he and Laguna had been sitting on. "I'm so stupid...."

Laguna ran his hand through Squall's hair, sighing. "Squall....." He left the room, wondering if Nida had been mad enough to leave the city. "I hope not...." Laguna whispered as he walked up the hallway.

"SEIFER!" Fujin exclaimed, rushing over to him, giving him a big hug. "With all the commotion... I'm sorry that I didn't come to see you sooner!"

Seifer smiled at his old friend, and then was swept into a bone-crushing hug by Raijin. The larger man ended up lifting Seifer off his feet.

"So...." Fujin cocked her head. "Are you alive..... or, what?"

Raijin elbowed her. "Fujin, ya know?!"

Seifer held up his hands. "No, it's okay...."

"Where's Zell, ya know?!" Raijin asked.

"He went to get his gloves upgraded... He wants to fight in Balamb."

Fujin nodded. "Back together again, huh? POSSE."

Seifer laughed. "Yeah, feels like old times, except that you guys have a baby now."

"Maybe you'll adopt one someday?" Fujin asked.

"Zell's the only child I can handle," Seifer joked. "Can I see her....?" Seifer asked. "I'm not exactly... the fatherly type, but I would like to see the person that you named after me..."

"Of course, ya know?!" Raijin exclaimed, pride coming into his good eye. He picked Almasy up out of her crib, and gave her to Seifer.

Seifer wasn't exactly experienced with babies, and held her stiffly because he was afraid of dropping her.

"She won't bite," Fujin said quietly.

Seifer looked down at the sleeping baby's face. "It's hard to imagine ever being this small ourselves...." He sighed, relaxing his arms. "She's not so bad...." He became wistful. "I doubt my mother ever held me like this when I was a baby...."

"Maybe your father did, ya know?!"

Seifer cocked his head. "I don't know anything about him. Just that he was a General of some sort. I feel sorry for him, though.... Marrying Xerampelinae." Seifer bit his lower lip, wondering if he and Zell would ever adopt a child, if he'd ever have his own child, like Almasy. "She sure does sleep soundly..." Seifer murmured, putting the baby back in her crib.

"Lazy like her father," Fujin muttered.

"Shut up, ya know?!" Raijin exclaimed. "Hey, Zell!"

Fujin and Seifer turned when Zell came into the room, slightly wet from the rain, but wearing new gloves. They were made of a thick leather, and disappeared under the sleeves of his coat. There were shiny buckles securing them around his wrists, and long, curved claws coming out of the knuckles.

"Nice gloves," Fujin commented.

"Yeah...." Zell trailed off. He was staring out into space.

Seifer kissed Zell's temple. "Any special stuff with them?" He then kissed Zell's drawn mouth.

Zell blinked a few times. "Huh?"

Seifer gave his lover a confused look. "Where are you?"

"I'm confused....." He shook his head. "Oh... They're diamond tipped claws...." He unbuckled them, and put them in a weapons case that he had in a bag.

"That confuses you?" Seifer asked, tilting Zell's face upwards. "What's wrong?"

"Nida...." Zell sighed, sitting down. "Oh, I'm sorry...." He stood up again, hugging Fujin and Raijin. "How are you guys?"

Fujin cocked her head. "We're okay.... What about Nida has you so mixed up?"

"Hey, guys!!" Laguna exclaimed, coming into the room. He squeezed Seifer's shoulder as he came in. "I'm just here to see the baby."

"She's sleeping right now," Raijin said. He turned his attention back to Zell. "Is everything okay, ya know?! Is Nida sick or something?"

"You saw Nida?!" Laguna exclaimed. "Where?"

"Maybe we should discuss this outside so we don't wake Almasy," Seifer suggested. He took Zell's hand, and led them to the room across the hall, which happened to be an empty bedroom. "Okay... Zell, is everything okay?"

"Where did you see Nida?!" Laguna demanded, putting his hands on Zell's shoulders.

"I saw him when I went to get my weapons upgraded.... He was pissed about something... I think it had to do with Squall.... I tried to ask him about it, and then he just vanished. He left Esthar... He told me to say goodbye to everyone."

"Shit!" Laguna swore. "Why did he leave? This city could protect him from Tevedes!"

"Why would he leave....?" Seifer asked, confused.

"I just recently found Squall...." Laguna rubbed face with his hands. "He told me...."

"What happened to your hand?" Raijin exclaimed. "It's all swollen and bruised!"

"Oh," Laguna laughed sheepishly. "I sort of hit Irvine...."

"What?" Seifer asked. "Man.... What's happening to you people?"

"I hit him because he was being an asshole to Elle... I guess I let my anger get the better of me... Much like Squall." Laguna waved his hands. "Squall told me, making a long story short, that he told Nida it was 'all his fault', meaning all of this. Squall was angry about the whole him being a lion thing, and took it out on Nida, and Nida got angry, and left."

They remained silent for a few moments. Zell finally spoke. "Nida was really angry.... His power felt really dark... Like...."

"Ultimecia," Seifer finished.

"Maybe he'll cool down, and come back later. I mean, everyone is on edge because of Tevedes. I mean, Nida loves Squall, and can't stay angry with him forever, right?"

Seifer shrugged. "I don't know Nida that well.... Maybe he can."

"I just hope he comes back to Esthar, ya know...?" Raijin frowned. "It's dangerous out there.... especially for him."

"Squall told me, making a long story short, that he told Nida it was 'all his fault', meaning all of this. Squall was angry abut the whole him being a lion thing, and took it out on Nida....."

Rinoa heard Laguna's voice through the door, and she silently gasped. She was fairly hungry, and had gone searching for Seifer and Zell, hoping they would want to have brunch with her. She'd also wanted Nida and Squall to come. Well, not really Squall, but to get Nida to come, Squall would have to come, too.

"Nida left....?" Rinoa whispered, stepping back from the door. "Oh, no......" She brought her fingers to her mouth, which was open in surprise. "Oh, no.... This is bad." Her fear for Nida rose in her chest like a wave, but her anger followed it. "Squall... how could you?!" Rinoa demanded to herself. She thought of when Squall had said hurtful things to her near the end of their relationship, and when he'd slapped her. It seemed like a lifetime ago, but when she remembered it, it was all so vivid.

Rinoa stormed away from the room that Laguna and the others were talking in, and went to Squall and Nida's room. She flung the door open, but the room was empty. "Where is he...?" She muttered to herself. She stood in the doorway, tapping her foot, thinking. "Nida... why did you leave Esthar?"

She heard shuffling, and turned around, seeing Squall leaning against the wall, walking, or trying to walk, towards her. She spun on her heel, and walked in his direction.

Squall looked up when he heard footsteps. He saw Rinoa stalking towards him, a drawn, angry look on her face, her hands clenched into fists. "Oh, great...." Squall grumbled to himself. "I hope she didn't find Nida...." He looked up. "Well, well... Hello, Rinoa....!!" Squall's words died on his mouth when Rinoa's fist came into contact with it. One of her rings cut into his lower lip, breaking the skin. It caused Squall to stumble backwards, his eyes wide with shock.

"You fucking stupid bastard!" Rinoa screamed, slapping him. Hard. It stung her hand. But, she did it again, hitting Squall as hard as she could. He stumbled again, and fell to the floor. "You inconsiderate fucker!! God, I just thought you were a jerk, but I didn't think you could be this awful, this hurtful!" Her eyes blazed as she seethed. "I hate you, Squall Leonhart. I hate you!!" She kicked him with the pointed toe of her black vinyl boots, then with the stiletto heel, digging it into his stomach. "How dare you tell Nida it was all his fault!! How dare you?!"

"How do you know....?" Squall asked, panting as she bent down, slapping him again.

"And, he left Esthar because of you!!! He left the fucking city, Squall. Tevedes will be able to go after him now, and it's all your fucking fault! I hate you! How dare you blame any of this on Nida?!" She was screaming now, tears running down her cheeks. "You made Nida leave!!!"

"I'm sure that breaks your heart..." Squall muttered caustically, using the wall to pull himself to his feet. "Seeing as how you want to get him into bed so bad."

Rinoa slapped Squall again, his cheeks now red from her repeated attacks. "You asshole. You fucking asshole!! Don't you care that Nida could die because he left Esthar!? He's not going to come back! He.... He was the best friend I had here! I hate you for making him leave, Squall! I love him!" Rinoa yelled.

"I knew it!" Squall hissed, grabbing the front of Rinoa's white tank top, yanking her towards him. He bunched the fabric in his hand, the silkscreen of a Chibi-style cat becoming deformed. "I knew it." He slapped Rinoa back.

She laughed, wiping her mouth, and punched Squall as hard as she could. Pain was shooting through her knuckles, but it was nothing compared to what she felt in her heart. "I don't mean like that! I love him because he loves me. Loves me like a friend. He told me he isn't in love with me. And, I'm not in love with him." She spat in Squall's face. "He told Zell that he's leaving. Nida might never come back. Zell said he just vanished!"

"Never.....?" Squall whispered, sadness tearing at his heart.

Rinoa saw the sadness on Squall's face. "You deserve to be miserable. You treat Nida like garbage... You don't even trust him. How could you have been so mean, so cruel?! I thought you loved Nida, but you don't even know what love means! You don't deserve to have Nida love you! You don't deserve him at all!" She raised her hand to slap Squall again, but wrenched it away from his face. She sobbed. "I hate you, Squall!" She spun on her heel, and ran down the hall, as far away from Squall as she could. By the time she got to her room and flopped on her bed, she was already sobbing uncontrollably.

"Nida's never... coming back....?" Squall asked aloud, touching his sore checks, blood dripping from his lips onto the carpet. He shuffled to his room, the room he shared with Nida. "No.... Rinoa's lying... Nida's just angry. He'll come back." He has to come back.... I have to tell him I didn't mean it... I have to ask him to forgive me.....

Squall bit his lip when he saw the bed, sheets tangled, feathers covering it. Squall's legs began to feel weak again, and he gripped the closet door to prevent from falling. He swooned anyway, and crumpled to the floor. As he did, his gaze caught the inside of the closet. It was half empty. Half of Nida's clothes were gone, and so was his weapons case. Squall looked around the room, seeing that Nida's watch was no longer on the nightstand. He also saw that the counter where Nida's shaving kit and toothbrush had been were also empty. He must have used his power to teleport it away with him, wherever he went.

The blood from where Rinoa's ring had cut him dribbled out of his mouth, staining his shirt and pants as he heaved, feeling like he was going to throw up. "What have I done....?" Squall whispered to himself again, reaching up to the bed to try and pull himself up. He failed, falling to the ground again, feathers toppling off the sheets, raining down on him. Squall curled up on the floor as the feathers fell from in the sheets, tickling his cheeks as he cried.

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