Authors notes: This is a songfic loosely based on Moxy Fruvous’ “Nuclear Dawn”. The first time I heard the song, I immediately thought of Seifer and Zell and how well it suited them. I think that, with their personalities, they could build a successful relationship together, but it’s also equally feasible to me that they would have lots of problems that they might never fix. Or, as the song conveys, they might only fix their problems when it was already too late. I love these guys and I’m sorry this had to be a deathfic, but that’s the tragic tone of the song that inspired it all. Also, the setting is sort of AU: it’s the game world, but otherwise more realistic, without spells and cures and, unfortunately, without Phoenix Pinions. Please R&R: this is my first major FFVIII fic attempt and I want to know what you think of it! The characters and setting are not mine and “Nuclear Dawn” is written and performed by Moxy Fruvous. Also, I would like to say thank you to Fyre Byrd, whose absolutely wonderful “Something Worth Having” was part of the inspiration for this fic.

Nuclear Dawn

By T-Bandit

“And the band played on, as the helicopters whirred; drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn, my senses finally blurred.”

Zell Dincht mumbled darkly in his sleep as the piercing ring of his cellular phone drilled harshly into the night air, once, twice, a third time.  On the fourth ring he was awake and groaning at the interruption of the best sleep he’d had in the past week.  What with training the Garden’s brand new class of cadets and the recent crisis with Balamb’s Headmaster, the past seven days had turned into one big stressful nightmare that Zell was more than willing to forget.  Too bad it was his life and not just the result of some bad food before bed; it would be a little difficult to just punch an alarm clock, chug some coffee and say ‘see ya’ to reality. 

“…The hell did I put that piece of…Yeah, yeah, yeah, shut up!” 

Ignoring his command, the errant cell phone kept up it’s bleating whines, and true to form, just before he was able to pinpoint its location by sound, suddenly went quiet.  By this time the blonde SeeD was out of bed and shivering in his boxers as he shuffled through the wasteland of loose paperwork that covered his desk, to no avail.  When the ringing stopped he stilled, waiting for the person to call back if it was really important, or otherwise just leave him the hell alone.  Zell yawned until his jaw cracked and scratched the back of his neck, bitching to himself quietly.  Who in god’s name would be calling him at… 2:45 a.m. on a Wednesday?  OK, on any day, for that matter.  It wasn’t like he had a raging social life.

He gave up and sat back down on the bed just as the ringing started up again.

“Oh for the love of…”

This time he was alert enough to find the phone fairly quickly, tucked in the side pocket of his old backpack.  That’s right, he’d taken it with him when Squall sent him on that little mission from hell the day before…

“Hello?”  Zell tried to make his voice sound professional and mask his irritation, which was tough seeing as he was freezing his ass off and still barely coherent.  For a moment there was nothing on the line but silence, and Zell shivered, growing more annoyed with the caller by the second.  He was about to drop his thin veneer of politeness and snap something unpleasant when the voice on the other end spoke up softly, halting Zell’s impatient fidgeting at once.

“Hello, Zell.”

It was Seifer. 

For a moment Zell was speechless, then his head cleared a bit and he sat up straighter, clutching his phone so tightly his knuckles went white.  What the hell was Seifer doing, calling him like this?  Christ, it had been so long since he’d heard the other man’s voice…  He almost didn't know what to say.

“Seifer.  Uh…  What’s going on?  Is there a problem?”

Scratch that; he had no idea what to say, and that had sounded lame and forced, even to his own ears.  Zell’s mind was reeling as he tried to decide how he felt about speaking to Seifer again.  What had it been?  Almost two years?  Nearly two years since he’d left the older man, two years since the colossal fight that had left him pained and reeling and angry; the fight that had sent him running back to Balamb Garden with a bruised face and ego and, as much as he denied it, a broken heart.

“A problem?”  Seifer laughed, hoarsely, and it dawned on Zell that there was something off about his voice.  He sounded like he was sick, or something.

“Do I need to have a problem to have a reason to call you, Zell?” 

That was it; the smooth, confident undertone that ran through every aspect of Seifer’s mannerisms was completely absent from his voice.  Zell wondered if he’d ever heard Seifer sound so uncertain, and tried to quench a rising feeling of dread.

“No, no of course not, it’s just a little strange hearing from you after…” Zell hesitated.  “After all this time.  Uh, look, you sound a little off.  What’s up?”

Seifer laughed again, that hollow, disturbing chuckle, and Zell wondered if the older man would make fun of him for floundering so badly in a telephone conversation with his ex-lover.

“Ah, Chicken…”

There it was.  A small part of Zell’s concern and nervousness was buried under a rising tide of anger at Seifer’s goading.

“Look, did you call me at this time of night to make fun of me?  I mean, for god’s sake, Seifer, we haven’t spoken in almost two years.”

“Calm down, Zell.  I didn't call to piss you off, alright.  I just…have some news that I wanted you to hear.”

Zell took a deep breath and mentally tamped down the butterflies in his stomach.  This news wouldn’t be good, something told him.  After all, it was 2:30 a.m. Phone Call News, and that kind was never tidings of hearts and flowers.  Unless it was a phone call from one’s lover who wanted to get a little frisky in the wee hours of the morning… But he and Seifer were finished.  And the older man certainly wasn’t the type to apologize.  Neither was Zell, which would explain the silent stalemate their relationship had crumbled into since their last argument.

“Well, what?” Zell was disgusted that his voice came out soft and breathy, when he was trying to make it harsh.  He did not miss Seifer, miss the sound of his voice; was not happy that his former lover had called him first, breaking the silence between them, leaving an opening for talking, meeting, touching… He wasn’t. 

“Well, Chicken, I’m sick.”  When Seifer said ‘sick’ his voice faltered a bit, and Zell could hear him swallowing hard.  Oh, god, no.  That’s not what he means, Zell, calm down. 

“Heh, you mean sick like a cold or something?”  Zell forced a laugh, the knot in his belly becoming harder to ignore.  “Sweet Hyne, Seif, give a guy a break, huh?  What, you want me to come over there and make you some soup?”  The SeeD winced at both the cruel sound of his voice and at the unpleasant fact that he’d used his old affectionate nickname for the other man unwittingly.

“No, not like a cold, Zell.  They don’t know what it is.  I’ve been having some tests done lately, but so far nothing’s come up.  They told me I should just stay in more, rest up and all that, see if the symptoms get any worse.”

Zell realized he was shaking.  So was his voice, when he found it again.

“…The…symptoms?  What the hell does that mean, Seifer?”

“Well I don’t know what it means yet, Zell.  …Oh, you meant what’s wrong with me.  Heh.  Looks like we still get our wires crossed, huh, Chickenwuss.  Guess we never were very good at that little thing called communication.”

“Goddammit, Seifer, stop.  Stop trying to piss me off, I’m worried about you, for fucks sake.”

“…I’m sorry.”

Zell felt tears prick his eyes at the subdued tone in Seifer’s voice, at the realization of what he was asking him, silently, without words.

“When do you want me there?”  Everything he couldn't let himself say was there, in his voice, even the unshed tears in his eyes.

“Fuck, Zell…” Seifer’s voice was raw and strained now, and the pained regret that trembled through it both made Zell’s heart leap and his stomach sink.  He almost stopped breathing at the other man’s next words.

“Zell, I… They don’t know what’s wrong with me.  I’m fucking scared, Zell…”

“Seif, baby, I’m leaving on the first boat, ok?  Already packing my bag.”

Hold on, Seifer.  Oh, god, please let him be ok.

Zell left a note on Headmaster Leonhart’s door and was heading down through the violet pre-dawn mists to the Balamb docks by 3:10.

“He was a rock to the end, a solid reminder.  Couldn't deny a friend.  We lived in the noise and the sweet amber poison, peekin’ up the skirt of the end.”

After waiting in the chilly darkness for nearly an hour for the first boat to Winhill, Zell boarded the small ferry and settled down on one of the worn wooden benches on the deck.  Wrapping his jacket more tightly around him as the boat set sail and the cold wind picked up, the small SeeD closed his eyes and let himself remember what he’d tried so hard not to think about for so long; how happy he and Seifer had been, and how stupidly they had thrown that blissful existence away.  They had been lovers and best friends, and what a fool Zell was for thinking that he could have left all that they had and never looked back.  Hearing Seifer’s voice after so long awakened buried needs and longings that howled at him now in their pained, prolonged denial.  Zell realized then, huddled alone in the cloudy dawn grayness, what he’d really known for two years; he missed Seifer enough to feel the emptiness in his soul as a physical agony.

They had dated for over three years, for the most part happily in love, and most certainly making good on the physical benefits of their relationship.  While seeing each other at Balamb Garden, at first covertly and then openly, Seifer and Zell had shared most everything; missions, training sessions, meals, and, later, even the same dorm room.  But as business for the militaristic Gardens died down, the pair became increasingly bored with their strict, routine lifestyle, and when Seifer proposed that they move to Winhill for a change of pace, Zell more than willingly agreed.  Cashing in on their saved SeeD salaries, the two of them departed from Balamb G on extended leave and bought a small home outside of the quaint little town.  Technically, they were on call for the Garden, and when they needed extra cash or the opportunity arose, they would perform missions as SeeDs.  Otherwise, they led a peaceful, quiet life.

And that’s where the problems began.

Seifer and Zell had both been raised to fight; they innately craved the danger and rushing thrill of combat, and had feisty personalities to complement their love of battling.  Life in Winhill was a life without conflict, and Seifer and Zell suffered something akin to cabin fever, trapped in the lush solitude of miles of golden flower fields with not a monster in sight.  Eventually, they created their own problems, to combat the stealthy humming silence and honeyed clouds of pollen that surrounded their home in a fatal, gorgeous shroud.

As time passed, it became increasingly irritating to Zell how Seifer refused to share his experiences with Ultimecia and the sorceresses.  The older man could be affectionate and sweet when he wanted to be, and did not have an especially hard time sharing his emotions if asked.  But when Zell tried to get him to open up about what had happened to him under the control of the sorceresses, Seifer simply went blank; his face, his eyes, revealed nothing, and he would flatly request a change of subject.  Zell tried to leave the uncomfortable topic alone, but it bothered him that Seifer couldn't share all of himself with his lover, as Zell shared all of himself with the other man.  The more he dwelled on it, the more the silence made Zell feel shut out, distant, and insecure.

Seifer, for his part, was not only annoyed by what he came to perceive as Zell’s intrusiveness, but also by how tied Zell seemed to be to Balamb Garden.  As much as Seifer had finally managed to adapt there after finally passing the SeeD exam, he had never really made strong ties that connected him to the place.  With Fuujin and Raijin in Balamb town, Seifer still retained a degree of connection to the area, but only Zell maintained the many friendships he had at Balamb G itself.  Zell was of course especially close to the old orphanage gang, and would communicate most frequently with Irvine and Selphie, who were still going strong.  Although he wouldn't admit it, at times even to himself, Seifer was jealous of the attentions Zell gave his other friends, and felt that the trips Zell often took to visit his mother and friends in Balamb were efforts by the martial artist to distance himself from Seifer.  While he didn't consciously go so far as to suspect Zell was cheating on him when he made special trips to Balamb, Seifer resented their time apart and in stubborn retribution often declined to accompany Zell on his little vacations. 

With all the quiet insecurities brewing under the idyllic surface of life in Winhill, it wasn’t surprising when, just a little over a year after moving out to the small Galbadian town, Seifer and Zell had their first major fight; the first, unfortunately, of many.  The clash spent itself fairly quickly, and set the precedent that, no matter what might be said, the boundary between verbal and physical blows was definitely not to be crossed.  And that line was not crossed, even during the fights that grew larger and more ugly as time passed, even when they got to the point where Zell would pack up his things and leave to spend a week or so at his mother’s house or at Balamb G licking his wounds and leaving Seifer at home to do the same.  Not until the last, infamous argument did they ever come to blows; two cheap-shot punches that slammed home the nails in the coffin of their relationship and closed the two SeeDs off from each other for almost two years.

Seifer had been repairing a broken chair in the small living room when Zell came home, slamming the door enthusiastically as he bounced into the front room. 

“Hey, Seif!  You home?  We got mail, ya know?  You got something from Fuu and Raijin, ya know?”

Chuckling, Zell kicked off his sneakers and put the grocery bags he was carrying into the kitchen before poking his head into the living room, sticking his tongue out at Seifer where he was crouched over the chair, aligning a leg with the seat.  He had it perfect when Zell ambled over and plopped down on the couch next to him, shuffling through the rest of the mail.

“And here’s a letter from…Squall?  Damn, haven’t heard from him in a while…  And bill, bill, shit, why all the bills today?  Here’s a copy of your weapons mag…”

Without looking up from the stack of papers and envelopes in his hands, Zell tossed the magazine towards Seifer, hitting him in the hand just as he was driving the nail home.  The chair leg bent at a funny angle at the top, and when he tried to carefully jiggle it loose with a sigh of exasperation, a chunk of wood fell off as the nail dislodged itself.

“Shit!  Watch what the hell you’re doing, Dincht!  Goddamn it…”

Zell looked up from a kickboxing event flier, frowning at the rude tone of Seifer’s voice.

“Hyne, what crawled up your ass and died?” Zell muttered, returning his attention to the flier as Seifer continued to bitch under his breath while he contemplated the ruined chair leg.  When Zell spoke, Seifer scowled and dropped both the chair leg and the chair, which toppled over on its side with a loud crash.

“You did, dammit!  While you were out screwing around, I was spending the last hour and a half repainting and refitting that damn thing, and now I have to make a whole new leg for it!”

“For christ’s sake, it’s just a chair.  And what do you mean, when I was out ‘screwing around’?  Since when is buying groceries and picking up the post screwing around?”

Seifer stood up, kicking the fallen three-legged chair spitefully and leaving the box of nails, the dismembered chair and his magazine lying on the floor as he walked into the kitchen.  Zell stared after him, his eyebrows raised at the uncharacteristic show of bad temper that Seifer was displaying.  Peeved at having his good mood ruined and just plain pissed at getting accused of wasting time when he had spent half a hour trying to find Seifer’s favorite frozen pizza at all three of Winhill’s supermarkets, Zell ignored his better judgment and dropped the mail onto the couch, getting to his feet and stalking off after his lover.

“Why don’t you pick up your shit, Seifer?  The least you could do is clean up the nails and splinters before one of us steps on them.”

Seifer was drinking a glass of water at the sink, trying his best to control the jealous anger that was boiling up under his skin, making him itch for a fight.  When Zell came in complaining, however, he lost the battle for control and turned around to face off with the smaller man. 

“When’d you grow a pair of tits and turn into a nagging wife, Chicken?  If you’re feeling so damn domestic why don’t you get a broom and sweep it up yourself?”

“You know what, Seifer, fuck you.  I come home after doing you the favor of grocery shopping for the week and you give me this shit.”

“Well if I make you feel so unsatisfied, why don’t you just take a break and go stay with all your Balamb buddies like you know you want to, Zell?”

Zell’s eyes flashed with building rage, and he stepped forward to stand right before Seifer, his lips turning up in a snarl that revealed one sharp white canine.

“What the hell are you implying, Almasy?  Huh?”

“I’m not implying anything.  I’m flat out saying that you do more than visit when you spend weeks there at a time,” Seifer growled, giving voice for the first time to the ugly jealousies that he harbored guiltily in the back of his mind.

Zell was shocked speechless; Seifer had never before accused him of being unfaithful, and Zell was so deeply and truly committed to their relationship that he would never, never allow himself to even contemplate cheating on Seifer in any way.  The terrible unfairness of the accusation stung him to the core and stoked the fire of his temper to a blazing pitch.

“Say that again, you bastard…” 

“What, that you made a difficult choice leaving all you had there behind to come do favors for me here?  And I’m sure you regret that sacrifice now, don’t ya, Chickenwuss.  Leaving all your friends to come live with me; having to leave Squall all alone with Rinoa and with only your letters to keep him company…”

Zell’s face was bright red while Seifer was still composed and cold; the taller man had more practice at being an asshole and goading people, and it showed.  When Zell’s hands clenched into tight fists, Seifer just raised a fine golden eyebrow and smirked coolly, crossing his arms over his chest.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve to stand there and accuse me of keeping secrets when you won’t even tell me what happened with you and the sorceresses,” Zell spat, watching with a degree of satisfaction as Seifer’s mocking grin slipped a notch.  If Seifer was gonna throw below-the-belt punches, Zell had a few of his own to deal out.

“You keepin’ something quiet ‘cause you’re afraid I might get jealous, Almasy?” Seifer’s impassive face suddenly clouded over with unconcealed rage, but Zell pressed on, needing to spit out the rest of his cruel attack and be rid of it.

“Did you have something ‘extracurricular’ going on with Ultimecia, huh?  How ‘bout Matron, did’ja bang her too?”

Once he had finally put into words what he’d ashamedly wondered for so long, Zell realized the sheer insensitivity of what he’d said, feeling the last syllable turning to sour ash in his mouth.  Seifer was staring at him with wide eyes, pale as a sheet and shaking with fury.

“Get the fuck out of here.”  Seifer’s voice was a trembling whisper, choked with emotion and hissed through tightly clenched teeth.  “Get the fuck outta here before I do something I’ll regret.”

“Aren't you afraid I’ll go running off to suck Squall’s cock?” Zell shot back, and he just barely caught the blur of motion to his left through the red haze of his anger before Seifer’s fist crashed into the side of his face, sending him sprawling to the cold tiled floor. 

“Son of a bitch!” Zell snarled viciously, rebounding to his feet and landing Seifer a wicked punch to the chest that doubled the taller man over, wheezing for breath and twisting to grip the counter for support.  As Seifer clung to the sink and tried to breath, Zell gingerly fingered the already-hardening bruise on his left cheek, rising hot and throbbing under the scrawling black ink of his tattoo.  When Seifer pushed himself away from the counter, Zell raised his fists in challenge, but the older man just stumbled past him to the front door, which he wrenched open before turning around to fix Zell with a withering glare.

“When I get back, you better be gone.” Was all Seifer said, and then he disappeared, slamming the door behind him with such force that the walls and windows of the small house rattled.  And that was the last time Zell saw him; still fuming, he packed up most of his things right away and headed straight to town to catch the next boat to Balamb, only stopping at the bank to take out half of the money from the account that he and Seifer shared.  He arrived at the docks just as the ferry was about to set sail and was soon hunched over the port railing, vomiting up his anger and shock and the disgusting aftertaste of what he’d said to Seifer.

“‘You better be gone…” 

And he was, really.  Zell did not return to Winhill again, moving back into a dorm room at Balamb G, getting a new position as a full time Instructor and spending all his free time training or performing special missions for Squall, who had by then become Headmaster in Cid’s stead.  He fell back into the routine of Garden life quickly enough, and when he felt lonely or regretful or disgusted with himself, which was pretty much all the time, he would train harder, work harder, fight harder on missions.  Slowly, agonizingly, time crept onward, and if it didn't lessen the pain, it at least made it easier to bury deep down inside.

Despite his every effort not to, Zell found himself imagining a reunion with Seifer; seeing his old lover again, saying all the thousands of apologies that he was keeping in his heart and letting their bodies melt together in a healing, frantic, week-long frenzy of passion.  But Seifer never called, and Zell never worked up the courage to, and now here he was, nearly two years later, on his way to see Seifer Almasy for the first time in what felt like eternity.  But there were so many unhealed wounds, and so much had gone wrong; he had to wonder if it could ever be the same again.

If only Zell could rewind time…  Have the chance to start back at the beginning, when he and Seifer really got to know each other for the first time; when they first kissed; the first time they made love. To be able to experience that ecstasy all over again, and fix the creeping, ridiculous small troubles before they blew out of proportion and took it all away.  To be back when they had fallen in love, more than five years before; to again be standing in the Quad when Seifer first walked back into Balamb Garden as a student after the Neo-Sorceress War, and Zell had felt something unspeakably powerful stir to life in the depths of his soul at the simple sight of the tall blond’s handsome face.  To be there, back at the beginning of the most blissful time in Zell’s life…    

“And we’d drink, two gnarly dudes and some records, much like plates of black food.  We filled up our faces, saw some far places, stood on the roof in the nude.”

Seifer had come back to Garden after the Sorceress fiasco.  It was the only logical thing for him to have done; after all, he had grown up with the military lifestyle, and while it might not have entirely suited his personality, it was the only sort of life he knew. 

Shamed and humbled, the former Sorceress’ Knight had at first tried hiding out in an apartment in Balamb, keeping a low profile and allowing himself to be looked after by Fuujin and Raijin.  Inevitably, that state of dependency began to painfully sting what was left of his pride.  Of course Fuujin and Raijin were helping him only out of respect and friendship, as his only real friends after the disastrous, dangerous alliance he had made with the Sorceress was over.  It was still a long way to fall, however, from being arguably the most powerful man in the world to a jobless, penniless charity case being supported by others.  Grappling with the guilt from his crimes and the sense of being a useless burden to his friends, a useless presence in the world, Seifer spent many days and nights in his small rooms in Balamb relearning how to respect himself.  


While Seifer was struggling with his mental penance, the events of the war were being extensively discussed within Garden, and eventually Seifer was called in to give his own account of what had happened.  During these visits, where it was revealed and confirmed by Edea that both she and Seifer had been under Ultimecia’s control, the Garden faculty, headed by the ever-clueless Cid, concluded that Seifer was a changed man and still had much to offer as a SeeD.  If he could pass the test.  To this end, the Gardens made public their findings which all but cleared Seifer’s name, and sat back to see how the world would respond to the declaration of Seifer’s innocence. 


There was hardly even a murmur of response; now that the crisis was over, no one, from Centra to Trabia, seemed to care less about who was being pardoned or who was being accused.  It seemed Seifer’s fifteen minutes of infamy had come to an end.

Once the public announcements had been made both within and outside of Garden clearing Seifer’s name, he was, as planned, given the opportunity to once again take the SeeD exam.  To the surprise of skeptics and perhaps most of all to Seifer himself, he was able to properly carry out the exam and its orders and pass.  It was the fifth time he had taken the test, which was a Garden record for the most times to fail before passing.  His exam also broke another Garden record; Seifer’s scores on the written and oral parts of the exam were the highest that Balamb G or any other Garden school had ever seen. 

People were impressed.  Seifer was impressed with himself.  But around Balamb G there were more than awed rumors floating around; many cadets and even some faculty felt a little afraid of the formidable-looking new SeeD, and some nursed a lingering resentment.  People remembered the old Disciplinary Committee, and some students weren't so willing to forget it.  Perhaps more importantly, the Garden community had arguably been the hardest hit in the battles with Ultimecia and her minions, and while Seifer might have been proven to be only a helpless pawn for Ultimecia, none of that brought friends fallen to Ultimecia’s armies back from the dead.  And brainwashing certainly could not excuse his bullying, occasionally cruel behavior as a Garden cadet.  That some of Seifer’s natural arrogance had returned didn't help his case, and his customary black humor still carried the same sting.  It wasn’t surprising, then, that for the first few weeks of his life as a SeeD, he ate, trained, and studied alone.

Out of the old Orphanage gang, Selphie was the most persistent at approaching Seifer, making a habit of saying hello to him in the halls and inviting him to social events.  He would always greet her in return and be civil, but he politely declined to attend every party and social she suggested.  The others, not entirely trusting Seifer’s transformation from the haughty cadet he used to be to the reserved SeeD he had apparently become, were polite but distant for the most part, just as Seifer was cool to them.  It wasn’t until Seifer’s run-in with Zell that things started to change.

It happened in the Training Center, so there were no witnesses. 

Zell was working his way through grats like they were hotdogs and was beginning to wish for something more satisfying to pummel than the stupid leafy creatures.  Seifer had finished with his training for the afternoon, and was heading towards the exit, the excited energy of a workout still pumping through his veins.  He walked past a clearing where Zell was taking on two grats at once just in time to see the martial artist get knocked off his feet when he overextended a punch.  Squawking in surprise, Zell awkwardly scrambled to his feet once again and finished off both of the unfortunate creatures at the same time with an awesome roundhouse kick.  Then, unaware of his amused audience, he rubbed his bruised ass and tested his left ankle, which felt a little shaky.

“Mother-fucker!” Zell hissed, feeling his ankle tendons stretch in an unpleasant way.  It had to at least be a sprain, which meant no more heavy training for about a week.  And his right butt-cheek was gonna be one solid bruise by the time he had to sit down for dinner.  At the sound of low chuckling, Zell whipped his head around to find Seifer standing behind him, hips akimbo, his gunblade slung jauntily over one broad shoulder. 

“What the hell’re you laughing at, Almasy?” Zell snapped rather nastily, defensive at being caught getting smacked down by a grat.  He eyed the taller blond with mounting anger, finding to his annoyance that he had almost forgotten how to quickly stifle and ignore the way Seifer’s presence stirred his lust.  It was the first time he had actually spoken to the man, the real Seifer, since the time of their joint SeeD exam.  After that Zell had only seen him when he was under the control of Ultimecia, trying to carry out her orders to destroy the SeeD organization.  At that moment in the Training Center, Seifer still felt like the enemy.  And Zell needed him to still be the enemy, or he might just become too available, too attractive for Zell to be able to deny his buried infatuation.  Anger always helped tamp down the desire, and Zell turned it up full force.

“I always knew you’d squawk just like your namesake, Chicken, I just wasn’t sure I’d ever get to hear it.”  Seifer grinned easily, his eyes sparkling as it set in how much he had missed teasing Zell, who never failed to go off like a bottle rocket.  And damn but the guy was cute when his blood was up. 

“You better shut your fuckin’ face, Seifer, or I’ll shut it for you,” Zell growled, hearing his pulse rise roaring in his ears as his hands balled into fists.

“Pretty big threat comin’ from such a little wuss,” Seifer jeered, lifting his arm and easily sliding his gunblade into its holster.  He could feel a fight coming on and didn't want the damn thing to get in the way of his fun.  It had been a long time since he’d had a good honest scuffle, and the tingling anticipation was tensing his muscles and making his breath come faster.  It had been too damn long.

“You know what, I’ve been wanting to hit something really satisfying all day, and I think your face just might do the trick,” Zell spat, pushing up his sleeves, his throbbing ankle and posterior temporarily forgotten.

“‘S that so?” Seifer returned lazily, unbuckling the strap of his holster altogether and tossing the sheathed blade a few feet away.  This could get a little rowdy, he thought, purposely ignoring Zell to examine his fingernails, keeping his excitement in check, waiting for the Chicken to make the first move.  Come on, Zell…

With a snarl, Zell launched himself at Seifer, and the brawl moved out of the verbal arena into some serious ass kicking. 

Fifteen minutes later, Seifer and Zell stumbled out the front door of the Training Center, arms around each other’s shoulders, panting and sweaty.  They were quite a sight, dirty from rolling around on the ground and sporting several injuries.  Seifer had a nasty looking black eye and a split lip, and Zell was limping, heavily favoring his left leg.  The taller of the pair hunched forward slightly, not only to get his shoulder support closer to Zell’s level, but because he had also taken a rather sharp punch to the ribs.  Once outside the door they paused to lean against the wall, trying to catch their breath and regain some kind of equilibrium. After a pause, Zell leaned his head back on the cool wall and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply.

“…Well, that was fun,” He finally said, not opening his eyes.  The rush of fighting was wearing off, leaving him sore and spent and exhausted; the best kind of tired to be, in his opinion.

“Yeah,” Seifer echoed tiredly.  It had been just what he was looking for.  Zell had been just what he was looking for.  Seifer smiled, then winced as his injured lower lip protested the motion.  There was silence for a few minutes before Zell again spoke up.

“So, you hungry?  Wanna go grab some food?” 

“What, is it Wednesday already?”  Wednesday was hotdog day at the cafeteria.

“Shut up, wise-ass.  I’m starving.”

“Yeah, let’s go get some food.  But can we grab some ice first?”



“Alright, already!  Jesus.”

And the two headed down the corridor towards Dr. Kadowaki’s office, leaning on each other, each grinning inwardly as they considered the peripheral benefits of exercise. 

After their scuffle, Seifer and Zell became frequent training partners.  For the first few weeks of their newfound friendship, they’d often work out, eat a meal together, and then go about their separate business.  But when Zell showed up at Seifer’s dorm room with a couple of DVDs and a smuggled six-pack of Coronas one Saturday night, their relationship took a turn for the better.  The two SeeDs, who had formerly been such antagonistic opposites, quickly became best friends.  Their old friends were surprised but not shocked about Seifer and Zell’s new inseparability; Zell had been distancing himself from Squall ever since Squall started dating Rinoa, and although he never showed it, hiding behind bouncing energy and a grin, they all could tell that Zell was lonely.  Seifer, too, seemed lost and isolated at Balamb G, having always been rather friendless.  Without Fuujin and Raijin around he was quite alone; that is, until he started spending most of his waking hours in Zell’s company. 

Zell didn't markedly change because of his friendship with Seifer, but Seifer, who had long been reputed to be cold, cruel, and humorless, never failed to turn a few heads when he broke out into good-natured laughter while walking in the halls with Zell or joking around with him in the Quad.  Zell loved to make Seifer laugh; the tall blond’s rich, deep voice always sounded truly happy when he was laughing, and he had the most endearing habit of collapsing ungracefully to the ground when he laughed too hard, as if he was so thoroughly amused he couldn't stand.  On one such occasion, after Zell had made a sarcastic comment that had Seifer in tears on the tiled floor of the Quad, laughing so hard he couldn't breathe, Zell sat watching him, chuckling at the bigger man’s antics.  Watching Seifer’s golden hair flashing in the noontime sunlight, his eyes screwed shut as he gasped for breath, Zell felt a painful spasm in his chest as he realized that the long-buried attraction he felt for Seifer had, without his notice, gone beyond the physical.  Zell was falling in love.

Inevitably, Seifer and Zell were paired up for a SeeD mission to Centra, which went so well that Cid reassigned them together in subsequent missions with increasing frequency.  They worked well as a team, with Zell’s hand-to-hand combat strengths nicely complementing Seifer’s longer-range gunblading skills.  Life at Balamb G fell into a comfortable routine for Seifer and Zell, with missions nearly every week, daily classes, and weekends to relax and unwind.  Most Saturdays and Sundays would find the two of them in one of their dorm rooms, listening to music and talking and, after lights out, steadily working through that week’s supply of liquor.  It was ridiculously easy for Seifer to buy whatever he wanted in Balamb town because of his height and mature appearance, but Zell had only been flatly refused when he’d tried to convince the clerk he was 21.  It was easier for him just to do Irvine a favor and be paid from the cowboy’s beer stash.

Seifer, for his part, was finding it harder and harder to conceal his attraction to his best friend.  They were together so much of the time that it was easy to daydream that he and Zell were a couple; what made things difficult was when they would drink together or spend the night in each other’s rooms, and because of the alcohol and Zell’s proximity, Seifer felt his control slipping a little more each time.  He would wake up in the middle of the night, his face inches from Zell’s as they sprawled crosswise on blankets on the floor, and feel lust and other warm emotions rising to the surface of his consciousness before he was even fully awake.  The worst was when they were on pair missions and it was Seifer’s turn to stand watch as Zell slept; he would sit awake for hours, watching Zell sleep peacefully in the starlight and imagining all the erotic possibilities that sleeping-bag sex entailed.  Seifer had one of the most intense orgasms of his life one cold night in Trabia as he sat at watch, his back against a tree, touching himself as he listened raptly to Zell moaning softly in his sleep and watching in fascination as the martial artist writhed sensually, his thin golden eyebrows arching in a grimace of pleasure.  Gasping quietly, coming hard into his chilled hands, Seifer couldn't decided whether he was grateful or disappointed that the Chicken was a heavy sleeper and did not even stir at the sound of his muffled cries.

When Zell knocked on the door of Seifer’s room at 2:30 a.m. one Wednesday morning, Seifer opened the door and wondered for a blissful moment if he was still dreaming.  Zell was standing in the hallway, his eyes sparkling and a wicked grin on his face, wearing only a small towel wrapped around his waist.  Seifer felt his cock spring to attention and surreptitiously dropped his hands to the doorknob to hide his groin, deciding that he really was awake if Zell hadn’t jumped on him by now like he would have in Seifer’s fantasy.   Shaking his head to clear out the cobwebs of desire, Seifer cleared his throat.

“What the hell’re you doing, Chickenwuss?”

Zell chuckled evilly and leaned forward, his voice a conspiratorial whisper.

“I checked the hall monitors; they’re watching a video in the caf.  We’re all clear to go streaking right up to the command deck, baby!”

“What?  Aw hell no!” Seifer said, already taking off his shirt.  “Do you know how badly we’re gonna get busted if we get caught?  Holy shit!”

The taller man was down to his boxers, which he turned around and whipped off before dashing through the doorway, past Zell and down the hall like he was on fire.

“Don’t be slow, Chicken!” Seifer called over his shoulder, his bare feet slapping on the cool tiled floor.  Yelping with glee (and having snatched a terrific glimpse of Seifer’s sweet ass) Zell tore off his skimpy towel and threw it into Seifer’s room, taking off after the older man at full tilt.  At the elevators, they realized that the Garden security cameras would catch them if they went inside, so they ran instead out into the darkened quad and raced around like idiots for a while, climbing up onto the pillars and small roofed overhangs before Zell stopped, panting, and made a panicked face.

“Aw shit, I gotta pee sooo bad all of the sudden!”

Seifer snickered and nodded towards the fountain, trying to catch a peek at Zell’s shadowed crotch without making it obvious that he was trying to look.

“Just pee in there, Zell, not like anybody’ll notice in the morning.  ‘Sides, it’s chlorinated and all that stuff.”

Zell nodded and scampered over to the fountain, tilting his head back and closing his eyes as he relieved himself.  He didn't hear Seifer sneak up behind him until it was too late, and the bigger man shoved him forward into the water.  Zell toppled over with a shriek, and some of the water he splashed out got on Seifer despite his attempt to jump back away from the fountain.  Zell thrashed around in the water before finding his footing and leaping out, his face bright red and his eyes promising murder.

“God-damn it, fucker, that was so nasty!!  I’m gonna kick your sorry ass, bitch!”

Seifer just laughed hysterically at Zell as he stood, fuming, his hair sloppily dripping onto his face and his fists clenched.  Even completely buck-naked and covered in piss-water, the Chicken managed to look a little intimidating.  Seifer jumped when Zell lunged forward out of the water, and then they were tearing through the halls again, Zell hot on Seifer’s heels.

“Come on, Zell, what’s the big deal?  It’s not like it was someone else’s piss!”

“Fuck you!”

“Didn't you ever pee in the pool when you were a kid and then keep on swimming like nothing happened?  You know you did…”

Zell stopped, breathing hard, and Seifer turned around to face him, still laughing breathlessly.

“You’re an asshole.”


Zell calmly walked up to Seifer and deftly caught him behind the knee with his heel before the bigger man could react.  Seifer went down like a ton of bricks and Zell was already running past him, slipping a bit on the tiles because of his wet feet.  Seifer was still on his knees chuckling when he heard Zell start yelling at the top of his lungs, right as he ran past the… cafeteria. 

“Oh shit!”

Seifer jumped to his feet and raced down the halls towards his room, cursing as he passed the cafeteria and heard shouting behind him from the night patrol, who had been distracted from their movie by Zell’s shouting and had come out to investigate.  He rounded the corner of the dormitory hall to see Zell disappearing into his room and closing the door.  The Chickenwuss was gonna lock him out!

Seifer skidded to a stop before the door to his room, trying the knob once to confirm that he was, indeed, trapped outside his room with no clothes on at 3:15 am with the night patrol on their way.  There was no way they could have missed a big 6’3” guy like Seifer hauling ass down the hallway, and they’d be there any second and see him dancing around outside his door in his birthday suit.

“Zell!  Let me in, you little shit!  I’m not sorry I pushed you into your own piss ‘cause it was damn funny but I swear I’ll never do it again!!  Come on, I apologized, sort of.  Chicken-wuss!  Lemme in!!”

From inside the room came the unmistakable sound of the shower starting, and Zell’s off-key whistling.

Cursing loudly, the tall SeeD gave up on his room and hustled a few doors down to Irvine’s.  He pounded loudly for a full fifteen seconds before the door opened to reveal a sleep-mussed cowboy clad only in his boxers.  Seifer pushed past him into the room and closed the door behind him just as the night patrol rounded the corner of the hallway.

“Seifer?  What the fuck is goin’ on, man?  And… Wait, are you naked?!  Jesus, Selphie’s here…”

“Seifer’s naked?” Came an impossibly awake voice from the bed.  “Hey, turn a light on!”

“No!” Seifer and Irvine said simultaneously, shooting glares towards Selphie that were completely lost on her in the darkness.


“Look, can I borrow some pants?”

“Yeah, sure, man…  But do you know that it’s almost 4 am?”

Seifer caught the pants that hit him in the chest and stepped into them quickly, already moving to sit down at Irvine’s desk.

“Yeah, I know it’s a crazy hour, but Zell was gonna get revenge on me and leave me in the hallway for the night patrol to find naked.”

“Um, why were you an’ Zell naked to begin with…”  Irvine questioned as he stumbled back to bed and flopped down next to Selphie, pulling the sheets over his legs.  He didn't really sound like he wanted to know.

Selphie sniggered, making obscene noises from where she was sitting up in bed.

“Did some naughty boys forget Balamb’s “No Promiscuity” rule?”

Seifer blushed and was glad for the darkness and the amount of control he could maintain over his own voice.

“No way, Selph, and you’re one to talk when you spend more nights in here than your own room.”

Seifer paused meaningfully and he could hear Selphie’s girlish giggle in the silence. 

“…Anyways, Zell showed up and told me it was all clear to go streaking and I felt like doing something crazy so we went, and it was all going good until I… uh, until I pushed him in the fountain and he got pissed…”

At that point Seifer couldn't help but snicker.

“…And he made sure the night patrol heard him running by, and then locked me out for them to find.  Little bastard.”

“You two have strange ways of amusing yourselves,” Irvine mumbled, sounding like he was already dozing off.

“Yeah, like you don’t do equally strange things in your spare time, cowboy; don’t throw stones when you own at least five pairs of handcuffs.”

“Eep!” Selphie squeaked, a smile in her voice.  “You know about those, too?”

“Too?” Irvine echoed.  “Darlin’, who have you been talkin’ to about what goes on in here?”

Seifer just laughed as Selphie protested, and then there was a quiet knock on the door. 

“Looks like this’s my cue,” the blond SeeD said, rising out of his chair to open the door.  A freshly showered (and clothed) Zell stood there, not looking sheepish or apologetic in the least.

“Ok, I forgive you.”

“You forgive me?” Seifer stared in half-amusement, half-disbelief at the smug martial artist standing in front of him.  “How about me never forgiving you for leaving me out in the hall like that?  Do you think someone as hot as me can wander around naked and not run into trouble?  The night patrol could’ve raped me or something!”

“That’s it!  Get the hell outta my room, both of you!”

Seifer, Zell and Selphie all snickered at Irvine’s sleepy disgruntlement, and Seifer stepped outside, closing the door on Selphie’s quiet good night.

They were silent as they walked back to Seifer’s room, and only after they door was closed and locked did Zell turn around and punch Seifer in the arm.  The bigger man yelped and rubbed his bicep as Zell smiled at him innocently, only the unholy gleam in his eyes giving away the devious spirit that had given rise to that night’s escapades. 

“Now I really forgive you,” Zell grinned, flopping down onto the blankets he’d already spread on the floor.  He winked up at Seifer, who was feeling more aroused rather than peeved by the second, and the blond gunblader finally shrugged and stretched out on his stomach next to Zell, crossing his arms under his head.  Seifer flashed Zell an easy smile and they lapsed into a tired silence.  He was just drifting off, happily immersed in another Zell fantasy, when his small friend broke the silence.

“I know you were just trying to help me out, Seif, but contrary to popular belief, piss does not make a good hair dye.”

“Well, you didn't rinse and repeat, Chicken, so how can you know for sure?”

There was silence, and then they laughed until they couldn't breathe.  By all accounts, life was good.

That Saturday was movie night as usual.  Seifer showed up at Zell’s dorm room a little after 9:30, his backpack clinking heavily with several Red Bulls and a bottle of vodka.  Their last three days had been spent on a tough surveillance mission in Centra with Irvine, so Seifer had brought enough alcohol to provide for a proper homecoming celebration.  They would have invited Irvine over to drink if the cowboy didn't already have his own private party planned with Selphie.  So it was just Seifer, Zell, some stiff drinks, and Zell’s DVD collection.  They’d gone through a DVD and four Red Bulls before Zell got up and, after rummaging around in the cabinet under the TV, sat back down and tossed Seifer a plain burned DVD.  Seifer caught it with a slight grunt of surprise.

“What’s this?”

Zell shrugged, fiddling with the remote to avoid meeting Seifer’s eyes for a second while he regained his composure.  He’d almost lost the nerve while trying to find the damn thing in the recesses of his collection.

“Borrowed it from Irvine.  It’s one of his porn vids.  Wanna watch it next?”

Zell took a moment, then met Seifer’s gaze casually.  He wasn’t sure how his friend would react to the DVD, but Zell had thought about it for a long time and figured he’d created a win-win situation.  The martial artist had hopes that what he’d been feeling recently with Seifer was a mutual attraction; if so, the other SeeD would likely turn down the chance to watch straight porn, opening the venue of pressing him as to what kind of porn he liked, then, anyways.  On the other hand, if Seifer sat back and fully enjoyed the movie, at least Zell could have the vicarious experience of watching the other man get excited. 

This scheme was perhaps a little underhanded, but Zell wasn’t sure enough about what Seifer felt to do something stupid like jumping him and seeing if he kissed back; maybe, Zell admitted, he was just being a coward and sugar-coating it in cautiousness.  Either way, he’d been planning this scenario all week and, having set it in motion, was prepared to see it through.

Seifer was silent for a moment, regarding the DVD with an unreadable gaze.  Zell realized he was staring at the older man and shook himself, getting to his feet once more and grabbing their empty glasses from the carpet.

“Wanna ‘nother drink?” Zell piped up into the silence, fervently hoping he hadn’t gone too far this time.  He didn't wait for a reply and headed over to his small fridge, taking out the half-full bottle of vodka and a new Red Bull.  The sound of the ice cubes was jarring in the quiet room, and Zell cursed under his breath as he took a quick swig straight from the vodka, grimacing at the aftertaste.  Standing by the sink, he completely missed the look of utter confusion that had come over Seifer’s face as he contemplated the DVD in his hands.

“Sure, let’s watch it,” Seifer finally muttered quietly, opening the clear plastic case and leaning forward to put the DVD into the machine.  Zell felt his heart drop, and he had to swallow before he could make his voice come out normally.

“We don’t hafta, you know,” Zell said, handing Seifer his glass as he stepped over him and sat back against the foot of the bed.  “I just thought it’d be the thing to do with your best pal, you know?  I mean, you’ve seen one of these before, right, Seif?  ‘Cause I… I haven’t.”

Seifer turned his face to meet Zell’s gaze fully, and the smaller man found himself wishing for the hundredth time that he and Seifer were lovers, and that leaning forward and kissing his friend’s pouty lips would be the most natural thing in the world.  The TV was still off, and in the darkness the faint light from Zell’s digital clock and the moonbeams streaming in through the blinds just barely illuminated Seifer’s face, his eyes and pale skin glowing out of the shadows.  Staring at Zell, Seifer took a deep breath and started in on a line of questioning he’d wanted to direct at Zell for a long time.

“Zell, you’re telling me that you’re an eighteen year old male and you’ve never seen a porn vid?”  Seifer’s tone was bland and without inflection; it could have been sarcastic, or maybe it was just being very carefully controlled.

Zell colored slightly, looking down as he felt the tips of his ears burning.  He was glad for the cover of darkness: things weren’t going how he’d hoped at all.

“No,” He finally admitted, his voice commendably steady for someone who was witnessing his most secret, cherished hope get extinguished.  “No, I haven’t, Seifer.”  He waited for the coming lecture on the glories of tits and ass, and silently cursed himself once again for being an idiot.  Through his rising embarrassment, he could also feel himself getting angry, and took another hearty swig of his drink.

“Yeah, well, I haven’t seen one either, Zell.  I just don’t know if I should tell you why not.”

That got Zell’s attention through his miserable thoughts; his ears perked up, as did his libido, at the sound of Seifer’s husky voice deepening even further.

“Zell, if I tell you something, I don’t want you to get pissed, alright?  This is something I’ve never told anyone else before, but I know you’re my best friend, so I’m hoping you’ll take it well, ok?”

Zell put down his glass and stared into Seifer’s eyes, hardly daring to let himself hope.  Seifer watched Zell’s avid face and decided that he would have to just stop talking and seize the moment; he was sure he saw his own hidden lust shining back at him from the smaller man’s eyes.          


Seifer suddenly leaned forward, stopping with his eyes scant inches from Zell’s wide blue ones. 

“Can I kiss you?” Seifer whispered, his dark lashes fluttering nervously.  He could feel Zell’s quickening breaths against his own lips, and he knew that he had never in his life been more gut-wrenchingly apprehensive than he was at that moment.  What would he do if Zell turned him down?  ‘What will you do if he kisses you back?’, his body countered.  The possibilities were almost too much to contemplate.

Staring up into Seifer’s beautiful blue-green eyes, Zell could feel nothing but the sweet warm puffs of Seifer’s breath against his mouth and his own racing heartbeat, which he was sure was loud enough to be heard out in the hallway.  Could Seifer kiss him?  Hell yeah!!  Was this really happening?  Had his stupid plan somehow, against all odds, worked?  Jesus, could Seifer kiss him?!?  It wasn’t as if Zell hadn’t been fantasizing about the very situation in which he currently found himself ever since he’d first come to Garden and laid eyes on the blond sex god who called himself Seifer Almasy. 

“Uh-huh, yeah, ok…” Zell trailed off, leaning towards Seifer as the older man let his eyes slide shut in relief and anticipation, moving in as well.  Their lips met, softly at first, Seifer’s little sigh of pleasure greedily inhaled by Zell, who, after a moment, decided to be daring and slid his tongue across the seam of Seifer’s lips, probing gently. Without hesitation, Seifer opened his mouth and brought his own tongue to meet Zell’s, the warm wetness of their saliva mingling as they explored each other’s mouths.  As the kiss deepened and lengthened, Seifer brought his hands up to cup Zell’s cheeks, running his thumbs over the smaller man’s cheekbones, feeling his all the nerves in his body sparking to life as he tasted Zell thoroughly like he’d wanted to for so long. 

Zell moaned softly as the kiss went on, leaning into Seifer and blindly feeling for the other man’s shoulders.  He pushed himself to his knees and then straddled Seifer’s lap, not distracted for more than a passing instant with the thought that things were moving rather quickly.  Beneath him, Seifer was inordinately pleased by Zell’s pace and boldness, and showed his approval by sliding his hands from the martial artist’s face and down his back to settle against his ass, squeezing the muscles there appreciatively.  Zell moaned again and bucked his hips forward reflexively, and both men cried out as their arousals brushed together, each feeling the other’s heat. 

“Christ, Seif,” Zell gasped, throwing his head back and moaning once more as Seifer trailed wet, sucking kisses down his neck. 

“Mmm, Zell…” Seifer re-attacked the juncture between shoulder and neck with his tongue, noticing that the volume of Zell’s cries rose sharply when he sucked on the pale flesh there, feeling the smaller man go limp in his arms, panting beseechingly for more.  Zell rocked his burning erection against Seifer’s groin, unable to control either his voice or his body as he rode a building pleasure high more intense than any he’d ever felt before.  This was his first shared sexual experience, and damn if it wasn’t one helluva lot better than any fantasy he had ever had.  Having the star of his fantasies there in the flesh and doing wonderful, wicked things to his body probably had something to do with that.

Seifer pulled his mouth away from Zell’s skin, groaning deep in his throat at the sensations Zell was producing as he moved against his hardened cock, and took a moment to tilt his head back and watch Zell’s face as he rode him.  The smaller man’s head was thrown back, and his beautiful face was slack with pleasure as he breathlessly moaned out Seifer’s name.

“God, Zell, you’re so fucking hot,” Seifer whispered hoarsely, licking his lips and again tasting the sweet salt of his lover’s sweat.  It made him want to taste his skin forever, lick every inch of his body, the dark musky hollows and ridges of bone and hard expanses of muscle, drinking him in as he listened to Zell cry out his name ten thousand times. 

Zell opened his passion-hazed eyes at the sound of Seifer’s voice, capturing the older blond’s lips in another fiery kiss.  When they finally broke apart, Zell trailed his tongue along the shell of Seifer’s left ear before taking the lobe into his mouth and suckling gently, pulling away after a moment with a soft nip. 

“So’s this why you never bothered watching het porn?” Zell murmured against Seifer’s ear, making the larger man shiver slightly as Zell’s breath swept over his cooling saliva. 

A little disoriented by the sudden addition of a conversation to the moment, not to mention Zell’s sexy attentions to his ear and neck, Seifer knitted his brow before answering.

“Uh, yeah, this’s kind of why, Zell.”

“I’ve got a confession of my own to make, Seifer,” Zell said softly, sitting back up to look his lover fully in the eyes.  “I’ve been fantasizing about fucking you from the first day we met.  And I don’t mean the first time after you came back to Garden.  I mean the first time I came to Balamb G as a cadet and got a good look at you all grown up.  I thought then and have ever since that you are the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.  It used to piss me off so bad, how you never took me seriously when all I wanted was your respect.  When we had to fight you, you don’t know how hard it was for me to stand there and try to hurt you when all I wanted was to throw you down and kiss you instead.”

Seifer’s eyes flashed with pain but he remained silent, letting Zell speak his piece, running his hands lightly over the martial artist’s muscular back, the urgency of their arousals momentarily forgotten.

“And then, when you came back to Garden, and they cleared your name and you made SeeD, I was so pissed at myself because I didn't know then that you’d changed and I felt it all again so strong, how damn much I wanted you.  I swear I didn't try to be your friend just because I wanted this, but things just sort of worked out that way, and god, Seif, I think I’m starting to fall in love with you.”

Zell had held Seifer’s gaze earnestly throughout his entire speech until the very last line, when his words spilled out in a breathless rush.  He felt suddenly like he’d done it again and said too much, spoken without thinking and messed up something good as he was usually prone to do.  He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, waiting for Seifer’s reaction.  He thought he might die of happiness when he felt Seifer’s lips close gently over his in a tender kiss.

“Zell… We’re both such idiots.  I’ve always wanted you; even back when we were both cadets.  We were such kids back then, though, you know?  And, admittedly, I was a major asshole, but I don’t like making excuses; suffice to say I was an angry little shit and had to take it out somewhere.  When I left Garden to fight for Ultimecia…”

Zell opened his eyes once again and, seeing lines of pain drawn on Seifer’s handsome face, he reached up and cupped his lover’s strong jaw in both hands, kissing him lightly on the scar between his eyebrows. 

“…Fighting for her,” Seifer continued, getting his voice back, “Was terrible for all of us, I’m sure.  Don’t think me a coward, but I don’t like thinking or talking about those times.  And after, when I came back, seeing you again… You were as beautiful as I remembered you, Zell.  Being here together, like this… Well, you haven’t been the only one fantasizing about it, that’s for sure.” 

Zell couldn't help himself and kissed Seifer again, feeling like he was about to burst into tears of pure joy.  Their kiss was a little salty, and when they drew apart again, both men’s eyes were shining. 

“I love you, Zell,” Seifer whispered, nuzzling his lover’s nose.  “I have for a while now.”

Zell wrapped his arms around Seifer’s neck and let his body curl against the larger man’s, burying his face in the spicy warm scent of Seifer’s flesh.  He pressed slow, wet kisses to the soft skin there, feeling Seifer’s pulse under his tongue and his own arousal spiraling upwards once again.  Slowly, Zell unbuttoned Seifer’s shirt, revealing his lover’s muscular chest and hardened nipples, which he leaned down to swipe teasingly with his tongue, smiling as the older man shuddered in response. Above him, Seifer spoke, and his voice was breathless but laced with sternness. 


“Mmm?” Zell murmured against Seifer’s warm skin, leaving a love bite and grinning wickedly as he felt and heard Seifer yelp softly.

“Did you plan that porn DVD?  Was that a setup?”

Zell raised his head to find Seifer glaring down at him, and he shifted slightly as a confessional blush spread across his cheeks.  Dammit, but he couldn't tell a lie if his life depended in it; he would always turn a rather telling shade of pink.

“Um, yeah, I planned it, but it worked, right?  I mean, what was I supposed to do, get you drunk and molest you while you were sleeping?”

“That would have been a nice option,” Seifer snickered, before regaining his cold composure once again.  “I do believe, then, that this constitutes entrapment, Dincht.  You need to be punished.”

Zell shivered in anticipation, seeing the dark gleam of arousal sparkling in Seifer’s eyes.  Oh, had he ever gotten lucky; he’d even managed to find himself a fellow kink who was appropriately sexually deviant.  Zell didn't know whom to thank for the absolute perfection of the evening, but his mind went blank of most everything anyways when Seifer stood with Zell still straddling his hips and roughly slung the smaller man onto the bed, standing over him as he shrugged off his unbuttoned shirt and undid his belt.  Zell watched with rapt attention, but only the shirt and belt were removed before Seifer lowered himself to the bed over Zell’s body, nudging a knee between the martial artist’s legs and rocking his hip slowly over Zell’s erection, which had returned with full force.  Zell moaned and lifted his hips restlessly, rubbing himself against Seifer and feeling the other man’s hard cock moving against his own thigh.  Seifer leaned down to kiss Zell’s ear, trailing his tongue over the spidery black tattoo on his cheek before whispering in his ear.

“How far do you want this to go, Zell?”

Zell reached up and captured Seifer’s face in his hands, gazing up into his eyes, feeling his entire body throb with the surges of ecstasy that rippled through it. 

“I want to have all of you, Seifer,” Zell said lowly, his eyes intent and trusting.  “I’ve been dreaming about this too long to want to wait.  And god knows I’m not afraid of anything we would have together; I’ve been waiting for this for my whole life, and just being with you already makes it perfect.”

Seifer sighed, moved by Zell’s open honesty and trust, feeling his heart swell painfully with the force of everything he felt for him.

“This is my first time, Zell, so if I do anything wrong…”

“It’s mine, too, Seif; we’ll help each other.  And we love each other, and that’s what makes it so good already.”

Zell pulled Seifer’s face down to his, sealing their lips together in a sweet, melting kiss.  Slowly, teasingly, Zell started to undulate his body underneath his lover’s, moving their chests together and gradually increasing the friction between their arousals.  Seifer moaned into Zell’s mouth as the small martial artist ran one hand from Seifer’s face down his neck and side, resting it on his ass with a firm squeeze, pushing Seifer’s pelvis closer to his own purposefully.  As their kissing and grinding became more intense, Zell moved his hand across Seifer’s hip and to the front of his pants, slipping his palm between their bodies to cup the larger man’s erection.  Seifer gasped and let his eyes slide shut, the tip of his pink tongue flicking out to leave a sheen of saliva shining on his lips.  Listening raptly to Seifer’s pleasured sighs, Zell pushed gently on Seifer’s shoulder without releasing his loose hold on his penis and moved with Seifer as the older man obediently turned over onto his back, Zell astride his hips once more.  Eyes closing, he threw his head back and gripped Zell’s thighs as the smaller man used one hand to unzip Seifer’s khakis, reaching into his boxers with the other to withdraw his throbbing arousal. 

“Oh, god…” Zell’s voice was strangled with lust as he cradled the heated, heavy length of Seifer’s penis in his warm palms.  He’d imagined it so many times; sucking on it, getting fucked by it, stroking it as he watched Seifer’s face as he came.  Seifer’s penis, like the rest of his body, was sheer perfection; thick, long, and blushing a deep vital red with the blood pulsing through it.  Zell stared in fascination at the veins running down the underside, stroking it firmly from root to tip and licking his lips at the dewdrops of precome his attentions produced.  Underneath him, Seifer whimpered and shifted restlessly, tormented by his own need and Zell’s slow explorations, but Zell wasn’t yet finished memorizing the luscious sight of his lover’s genitals.  He drew down Seifer’s pants and boxers, fully exposing his groin, feeling his own still-confined cock jerk at the surge of desire that shuddered through his body at the erotic display.  Moving one hand from Seifer’s shaft, Zell lightly fondled his scrotum, the urge to taste his lover becoming overpowering as the dark scent of his sex filled his senses. 

“Zell…” Seifer moaned when Zell’s hands left him, his pelvis arching off the bed, blindly seeking the return of the sweet, slow torture of Zell’s touches. 

“Shh,” Zell soothed, drawing Seifer’s pants and underwear completely off as he slid down his long body.  “I know what you want, baby, and I’m gonna give it to you…”

Seifer opened his eyes to find Zell crouched between his thighs, his face inches from his erection and his bright blue eyes fixed on Seifer’s own.  Slowly, deliberately, and without losing eye contact, Zell stuck his tongue out and lowered his head to lick lightly at the tip of Seifer’s penis, the hot, wet muscle of his tongue probing at the slit.  The salty musk flavor of Seifer’s semen exploded on Zell’s tongue with all the glory of a first tasting, and he couldn't force himself to go slowly any longer.  Making love to Seifer was surrounding him, gloriously, in a full sensory experience that was heaven in its pleasure but hell in the way it mercilessly stoked the fire of Zell’s own untended arousal.  Seifer’s throaty groans; his clean, masculine scent of musky sex and warm cinnamon skin; the feel of his smooth taut flesh sheening with sweat; the sight of his beautiful face contorted in ecstasy; the bitter tang of his seed all encircled Zell until he was dizzy and disoriented in his passion.  Eagerly, he opened his mouth and took in as much of Seifer’s length as he was able, gripping the base of his penis and stroking what he could not fit in his mouth. 

Seifer’s breathing hitched and seemed to stop for a moment when Zell’s hot mouth engulfed his cock.  When he remembered through his intense passion that he had to breathe, he drew in and let out a long shuddering sigh, his lover’s name on his lips.  Seifer reached down and threaded his fingers through Zell’s blond hair, inadvertently ruffling the shorter blond’s ever-present crest as his fingers tightened reflexively in response to Zell’s enthusiastic, hungry attentions. 

Zell looked up from sucking Seifer off to find the older man’s head thrown back, the tendons of his neck working and tensing beautifully as he continued to vocalize his pleasure.  Zell wanted those endless blue-green eyes focused on his own, wanted the sharp arch of Seifer’s eyebrows as he moaned his need for Zell’s caresses.  Lifting his mouth from Seifer’s erection, Zell exhaled on the saliva-slicked length and smiled at the way his lover’s cock twitched in response. 

“Seif,” Zell whispered, breathing deliberately onto the hypersensitive skin of Seifer’s penis and loving the shudders it sent through the other man’s body.  “Seif, baby, I want you to watch me.”

Seifer moaned loudly, his eyes drifting open to fix Zell with a smoldering, desperately lustful gaze.  Seeing the other man’s burning need focused on him, Zell thought he might come in his pants just from the knowledge that he was giving Seifer so much pleasure.  Seifer untangled his hands from Zell’s hair and languorously raised his upper body off the bed, still reclining but propping himself up on his arms, and spread his legs so that he could see all of Zell’s body as the smaller man worshiped his.  Grinning, Zell leaned down once again and, closing his eyes, ran his tongue along the underside of Seifer’s penis from bottom to top in an exaggerated, luxurious lick meant more to visually tease than to satisfy.  Feeling his lover’s shaft harden further in his hands at his display, Zell groaned softly and opened his lips, bringing Seifer’s throbbing length into the hot wetness of his mouth slowly, massaging it with his tongue and humming softly.  Above him, Seifer watched his cock disappearing into the sweet suction of Zell’s mouth and knew he was close to losing the last of the control he was clinging to.  Staring dazedly as the smaller man drew him deeper and deeper into a blinding whirlpool of ecstasy, Seifer started panting, his breath coming raggedly as the first warning wave of heat traveled through his body. 

“Zell, oh my god…” Seifer moaned, thrusting his hips upwards gently, feeling his skin start to tingle.  He was so close… 

Zell sucked hard, working his jaw, listening as Seifer’s cries became increasingly urgent, hoarse pleading for more intermixed with sobbing breaths.  He wanted to taste Seifer so badly; the thin stream of precome mixing with his own saliva in his mouth wasn’t enough, not nearly enough, to satisfy his hunger.  Zell dropped his left hand from where it was encircling the base of Seifer’s penis and cupped his lover’s balls, squeezing gently, and was rewarded as Seifer’s body tensed for several breathless seconds, his shaft pulsing wildly in Zell’s mouth.

“Baby, I’m gonna come…Zell, I… Oh, fuck…” Seifer gasped, his body starting to tremble. 

Then Seifer was coming, hard, his back arched and his entire body jerking as he moaned out Zell’s name, his fists clenched and his eyes closing involuntarily.  Zell watched the older man’s face avidly as he orgasmed, swallowing his lover’s salty, thick semen with the fervor of a starving man and drinking in the sight of Seifer’s peak of pleasure as hungrily as he consumed his seed.  When the older man collapsed back onto the bed, panting heavily, Zell licked his lips and crawled slowly up Seifer’s body, trailing his tongue through the fine beads of sweat shining on his lover’s muscular chest before covering Seifer’s mouth with his own in a slow, deep kiss.  Beneath him, Seifer moaned huskily, bringing his arms up to twine around Zell’s neck and pull him still closer.

They broke apart a few minutes later, and Zell sat up to tear off his shirt impatiently, staring lustfully down at Seifer’s flushed, slightly dazed face and kiss-swollen lips.  His own unsatiated arousal was throbbing insistently and he again stretched out on top of his lover, flexing his hips and rubbing himself against Seifer’s body restlessly. 

“How was that?” Zell murmured teasingly, grinning at Seifer as he moved slowly against the other man.

Seifer took in a shuddering breath, visibly trying to regain his equilibrium.  He shook his head, closing his eyes and settling his hands on Zell’s rocking hips, leaning up into the contact while pressing Zell’s body closer to his own.

“Speechless?  That good, huh?” Zell started to laugh, but the sound caught in his throat as Seifer abruptly reached between their bodies and into Zell’s baggy shorts, wrapping his sweat-dampened fist around Zell’s straining cock.  Zell inhaled sharply, clenching his teeth and staring in surprise as Seifer’s eyes fluttered open, the overwhelmed look from moments before gone and replaced with a hot, sultry hunger. 

“Unbelievable,” Seifer whispered, his voice low and dark.  “It was unbelievable.  And now it’s your turn…”

Zell suddenly found himself flat on his back, his head spinning and his shorts and boxers around his ankles as Seifer covered his body with his own, the larger man’s weight pressing deliciously onto Zell as he worked Zell’s erection leisurely in his hand, toying with the younger SeeD’s nipples with his wet tongue.

“Seifer… ohh…”

Zell threw his head back and squeezed his eyes shut as the older man worked his way lingeringly down his body towards the center of his need, never stopping the tortuously slow motions of his hand on Zell’s shaft.  Raising his arms over his head, Zell gripped the bed frame, fully surrendering his body to Seifer’s pleasuring lips and hands and not bothering to restrain his cries of ecstasy.  When Seifer’s hand left his penis, Zell moaned in supplication, the muscles of his stomach clenching as Seifer’s hot mouth closed gently over his balls, drawing first one and then the other into the wet pulsing warmth of his mouth.  Writhing and panting, the smaller blond bucked his hips ineffectually, needing the relief of friction on his throbbing cock.  Seifer let the thin delicate flesh of Zell’s scrotum fall out of his mouth abruptly and opened his lips, taking in the smaller man’s penis in one quick motion and massaging the blood-hot shaft with his tongue.  At the sudden intense sensation, Zell arched his back and screamed, burning waves of pleasure coursing through his body.

Seifer pulled back a bit on Zell’s penis, choking slightly as he eagerly took in too much at once.  Still working his mouth, he stared up at the length of Zell’s body spread before him, fascinated by the beautiful play of his lover’s tensing muscles; the thick corded muscles of his thighs flexing as he pumped his hips; the flat expanse of his firm abdomen rippling as he writhed in pleasure; the hard curves of his biceps tightening as he gripped the headboard desperately.  Zell was absolutely gorgeous, and his unabashed moans and cries filled Seifer’s ears, urging him to increase his efforts.  But when he felt Zell’s shaft start pulsing in his mouth, Seifer lifted his head away, licking his aching lips and placing his palms on the insides of Zell’s tight thighs.  Zell whined at the loss of contact, a high pitched, needy sound that went straight to Seifer’s cock, already hard again even after his blinding release minutes before. 

“Seif, please… I’m so close, let me… Oh, god, let me come…”

Seifer placed a kiss lightly on the tip of Zell’s penis, making a low sound of reassurance.

“Just a little longer,” he promised breathlessly, inhaling the darkly intoxicating scent of Zell’s genitals and feeling another sharp spike of lust shoot through his body.  He wanted to hear Zell crying out for his touch forever, wanted to endlessly give his gorgeous lover pleasure until the other man couldn't take it any more. 

Spreading Zell’s thighs apart, Seifer lowered his head once again and trailed his tongue across and under Zell’s balls, moving lower to lick slowly over the puckered entrance to Zell’s body once before poking his tongue experimentally into the opening, surrounded completely by the lusciously alluring smell and taste of the smaller man’s sex.  The inside of Zell’s body was incredibly hot, and Seifer moaned, closing his eyes in rapture as he tongued his lover’s anus hungrily.  Above him, Zell yelled hoarsely once more, reaching down for the first time to cradle Seifer’s head with shaking hands.

“Seifer!  Oh god baby that’s so good… oh, fuck…”

Eager and straining, Seifer continued to eat Zell out, his fingers digging into the flesh of Zell’s inner thighs as his lover moaned helplessly, lost in the molten lust running through his veins.  Gripping at Seifer’s short hair, Zell started his pleading once again, needing release so badly he felt like he would pass out from the urgent demand of his arousal.  After what seemed like an unbearably blissful eternity, Seifer removed his tongue from Zell’s body and engulfed his throbbing cock, working a saliva-slicked finger into Zell’s body as he suckled his shaft in his mouth.  The dual stimulation and the foreign but strangely pleasurable sensation of being penetrated brought on Zell’s long-impending orgasm in a sudden blinding rush, and the martial artist cried out wordlessly as his muscles tensed in rapid spasms, jetting his release into Seifer’s mouth as he let his hands fall to clench over Seifer’s own where the taller man gripped his thighs.

When it was over Zell continued to whimper softly with each panting exhalation, his entire body aching exquisitely as he lay with his legs still sprawled apart, Seifer placing gentle kisses on the soft flesh of his inner thighs where the older man’s hands had reddened his skin.  After a moment, Seifer nuzzled his face one last time between Zell’s legs before crawling up beside his smaller lover, who was still mewling softly.  Seifer drew Zell into his arms, something painfully sweet tightening in his chest when Zell cuddled closer into his embrace, sighing his name quietly.  They lay silently for a long while, their flushed, sweaty limbs tangled together and Zell’s head tucked under Seifer’s chin.

“How was that?” Seifer finally asked, grinning softly.  Zell raised his head to meet Seifer’s gaze, staring deeply into the older man’s eyes before leaning up to kiss him, open-mouthed and thorough. 

“I didn't know anything could feel that good,” Zell whispered breathlessly when they pulled apart, burying his face in Seifer’s neck and pressing lazy kisses onto his lover’s warm, damp skin.  “I’ve never come that hard in my life.”

Seifer chuckled quietly, tightening his arms around Zell and bringing their bodies impossibly closer.

“I love you,” Zell murmured. 

Seifer sighed, feeling the fragile love he had harbored so hopefully for Zell blossoming into something deeper and stronger in his heart at the younger man’s words.

“I love you, Zell,” Seifer answered earnestly, a bit dazed as the events of the evening finally sinking in.  It was unbelievable and indescribably amazing, that he was lying with Zell in his room with the taste of the other man’s sex lingering deliciously in his mouth; that he was falling desperately in love with someone who loved him back. 

“You know, this could become a problem,” Zell said after a while, his voice sounding serious. 

Seifer tensed, a cold dread flashing through his veins.

“What do you mean?” he asked carefully, looking down at Zell as he continued to slowly kiss the taller blond’s neck.

“Well if this is what it’s like having sex with you, I’m never gonna leave this room,” Zell replied, a hint of laughter creeping into his voice. 

Seifer laughed, relaxing and poking Zell’s side with a finger.

“You jerk!  I thought you were gonna say you didn't want to be with me or something.”

Zell brought his head up to look deeply into Seifer’s eyes, his icy-blue gaze achingly sincere.

“I would never say that,” the smaller SeeD said softly, staring at Seifer a moment longer before allowing his gaze to soften.  “Really, though, I might starve to death if I never leave here, not to mention I’ll fail all my classes and go broke from never taking missions.”

Seifer craned his neck so he could nuzzle noses with his smaller lover, kissing him lightly.

“Well if you never want to leave already, it’s really gonna be a problem after I fuck you,” Seifer teased, running a hand down Zell’s back to grip his ass.

Zell moaned and shifted his body, pinching Seifer’s nipples and biting his neck lightly.

“Yeah, I was hoping we’d get around to the part where you pound my ass into the mattress tonight.”

Seifer purred deep in his throat as Zell’s touch and words stirred his quiescent arousal to life once again.  He moved his hand between Zell’s cheeks, probing at the smaller man’s opening with a fingertip before he abruptly stopped and groaned in disappointment.  Zell made a sound of protest when Seifer stopped touching him, pouting up at his lover.

“What is it?” Zell questioned, squirming slightly as his own cock started to harden.

“We don’t have any lubricant, and I’m sure as hell not gonna try anything without it.” Seifer said, frowning slightly.  They would just have to wait because he was not going to injure Zell.  It would probably be painful enough anyways even with the proper preparations.

Zell frowned too, looking put out.

“C’mon, we can just use lotion or something.  Or…um… baby oil?  Yeah, I have some vitamin E oil ‘cause I sunburn easily; it’ll work just fine.”

Seifer shook his head, looking doubtful.

“I know it works ‘cause they used olive oil in this movie once when they were in the kitchen and they didn't have…”

Suddenly aware of what he was saying, Zell blushed and fell silent, looking up with flashing eyes as Seifer started laughing at him.

“So no het porn but plenty of the other kind, huh?” The taller blond asked, grinning. 

Zell stuck his lower lip out in an exaggerated pout, sticking his tongue out at Seifer when the older man poked his nose gently.

“You’re so cute when you blush,” Seifer murmured, still smiling.

“I can’t help it if I have a healthy sex drive,” Zell muttered, the tips of his ears a bright pink. 

“Oh, well I’m certainly not complaining about that,” Seifer leered, biting one of Zell’s ears lightly.

Zell reared up to kiss Seifer again, twisting their bodies so that he was on top of his taller lover and pushing his ass backwards to rub enticingly against Seifer’s growing erection.  The older blond moaned and gripped Zell’s hips, kissing him with mounting passion.

“C’mon, Seif, fuck me,” Zell whispered huskily against Seifer’s lips, knowing what he wanted and prepared to fight a little dirty to get it.  He understood Seifer’s hesitation and thought his lover’s concern for him was sweet, but Zell wanted the feeling of Seifer’s beautiful cock deep inside him too badly to have to wait any longer.

“Zell…” Seifer tried to make his voice sound firm, but with Zell moving on top of him and making breathless little moans, he felt his resolve rapidly slipping away.  If Zell said it would work with oil… They could always stop if it wasn’t good enough…

“I want you inside me…” Zell moaned, closing his eyes and savoring the feeling of sweat rising to the surface of his and Seifer’s skin, making their bodies slide together with slick wet heat.  “I want you to fuck me so hard I scream, feeling your thick cock pounding into me…”

“Jesus, Zell!” Seifer groaned, his erection throbbing in anticipation.  “You’re making me so fucking hard!”

Zell grinned toothily, his bright blue eyes shining with lust.  He could tell Seifer was ready to acquiesce to his temptation.

“You’ve really got a mouth on you,” Seifer panted, enjoying Zell’s dirty sex-kitten act immensely.  “I like it.”

Zell purred, rolling off of Seifer and retrieving the bottle of oil from the bathroom.  Returning to the bed, he uncapped the bottle and poured a little into his palm, reaching down to Seifer’s penis and gripping it with his oil-slicked fist.  Seifer gasped at the hot, slippery friction, flexing his hips up into the contact involuntarily before he sat up, pushing Zell’s hand away from his groin.

“I need to calm down or this’ll be over in ten seconds,” Seifer told his lover, grinning slightly.  “So let me do you instead.”

Zell nodded, crawling onto the bed and kneeling on all fours, presenting his ass to Seifer for preparation.  He was expecting oil-slicked fingers, and he gasped when he felt Seifer’s hot strong tongue push into his body instead.  Zell’s cock jerked and he groaned as Seifer reached under his body to massage his balls lightly with one oil-covered hand, moaning softly as he continued to thrust his tongue into Zell’s anus.

His arms trembling, Zell arched his back and whimpered as Seifer drew his mouth away and slowly worked a long finger into his lover’s body.  The oil made it easy, and Zell cried out noisily when a second finger joined the first, Seifer’s other hand still fondling his sac. 

“God, Zell, you taste so good,” Seifer said lowly, his voice deep and roughened with arousal. 

Hanging his head and panting, Zell couldn't reply, biting his lower lip as intense sensations flooded his body.  The pleasure of Seifer’s hand on his balls and his erotic praise of Zell’s body warred with the strange sensation of Seifer’s scissoring fingers stretching the tight muscle at the entrance to his body.  When Seifer carefully pressed three fingers into him, Zell threw his head back, a high whine escaping his lips.

“Are you ok?” Seifer asked quietly, stilling his fingers and letting go of Zell’s scrotum to rub his lower back in soothing circles.  If Zell wanted to stop Seifer would agree, but damn the inside of the younger man’s body was tight and hot and inviting, and the thought of being Zell’s first and claiming his sweet body was darkly enticing as well.    

“…Yeah,” Zell gasped out, his jaw clenched.  He tried to relax his muscles to make the penetration easier, but he was too worked up. 

“Seif, can you just do it?  I think I’m as ready as I’m gonna get.”

“Yeah, ok,” Seifer said, but he didn't withdraw his hand, instead starting to move his fingers slowly in and out of Zell’s body as he kept talking.

“How do you want to do it?  I want to see your face.”

“Yeah, I wanna be able to see you t- oh, shit!”

“What?” Seifer said quickly, alarmed, stilling his hand.

Zell moaned unsteadily, shaking his head.

“Don’t stop, Seif!  That felt so good…”

Slowly, Seifer slid his fingers back into Zell, pressing experimentally along the inside of his channel.  When Zell arched his back and yelped, Seifer curled his fingertips, rubbing over the area in firm deliberate circles and watching raptly as Zell writhed and cried out.

“Oh fuck, oh fuck… Seifer, you gotta fuck me now, I can’t… Ohh… Please baby, I can’t wait, oh god, Seif…”

Growling with desire, Seifer took his hands away from Zell and grabbed the bottle of oil, sloppily smearing more onto his throbbing arousal and breathlessly ordering Zell to lie down.  The smaller man complied, throwing himself onto his back and spreading his legs, grabbing the back of one knee and drawing his bent leg up towards his chest, exposing the dark rose-colored entry to his body.  Seifer fell upon him, kissing him greedily and reaching between their bodies to massage Zell’s dripping cock.  Zell moaned pleadingly, thrusting his hips upwards toward Seifer’s body, his eyes screwed shut as he cried out.

“I’m gonna go slow,” Seifer said lowly, as much to reassure Zell as to remind himself to be careful.  He bit his lip as he let go of Zell’s cock to align the head of his own penis with the stretched entry to his lover’s body, grunting as he pressed against the tight muscle, feeling the heat of Zell’s body burning the tip of his cock.  Both men gasped as Seifer’s penis slid slightly into Zell’s body, and Seifer moved his hands to lace his fingers with Zell’s, pressing the smaller blond’s arms over his head as he pushed relentlessly into his tight body. 

Zell felt so incredibly good Seifer thought he might cry, and it was tortuous to have to go so slowly when all he wanted was to roughly sheathe his throbbing shaft in the sweet clenching heat of his lover’s body over and over again until he exploded in release.  But beneath him Zell was crying out, and Seifer could see that at the moment Zell was voicing more pain than pleasure.


“Ahh… It… It’ll get better soon, just don’t… Don’t stop…”

Zell tightened his fingers around Seifer’s, biting his lip and tossing his head, trying desperately to relax his body and find the pleasure beyond the sharp stinging pain of penetration.  He breathed deeply, kissing back with fierce energy when Seifer captured his open mouth with his own.  As Seifer’s tongue pressed against his, Zell felt his lover slide yet deeper into his body with tiny rocking thrusts.  The pain was suddenly fading, and Zell arched his back and moaned loudly into Seifer’s mouth as the head of his penis moved over the spot inside Zell that sent a spike of electric pleasure crackling through his body.

Feeling Zell’s body tense and finally start to relax, Seifer allowed himself to pick up the pace a bit, pulling out of Zell and pushing back in firmly, groaning at the vivid sensation of making love for the first time.  Staring down at Zell’s flushed face, feeling the tight inner muscles of the smaller man’s body clench around his heated erection, Seifer bit his lip and tried to hold on to his control over his body.  He was already so close to the edge after only a few full thrusts into Zell’s body, and he blinked sweat out of his eyes dizzily, suddenly aware that he was crying out loudly with each powerful thrust of his hips.

Finally reaching the point where his body was aching with pleasure and not pain, Zell rocked his hips towards Seifer’s, needing more of the hot possessive fullness that was the older man’s hard penis filling him, so good and so right Zell had to force back tears.  Sensing the flex and throb of Seifer’s pulsing shaft with nerves he’d never even knew existed before, Zell moaned through clenched teeth as the first warm shuddering waves of climax sparkled through his veins.

“Seifer…” Zell gasped, needing just a little more stimulation before he was lost in his orgasm.  “Seif… touch me, I need you…”

Seifer grunted in acknowledgement, words beyond him as his body raced to the end.  He reached down between their sweaty, entangled bodies to grip Zell’s cock, stroking him with a rough urgency that matched his own need.  Zell panted, a high constant whine lacing his rapid breaths as Seifer masturbated him while pounding into his body desperately. 

“Zell!” Seifer suddenly groaned, his fingers tightening around his lover’s dripping shaft.  “I can’t wait… Baby, I’m gonna co- ohhh…”

Seifer plunged into Zell a final time and arched his body sharply as his semen left him in a hot rush, releasing deep in Zell’s body as he cried out his lover’s name, shuddering helplessly in the throes of his orgasm.  Below him, Zell opened his mouth in a silent scream of ecstasy as the thick heat of Seifer’s ejaculate pulsed into him, triggering his own climax with a force that left him blinded and breathless and wracked with spasms as his own seed jetted out of him to coat Seifer’s hand and their stomachs.  After the long drawn out moment of orgasm ended, both men collapsed bonelessly to the mattress, breathing heavily in their exhaustion.

Seifer rested his head on Zell’s muscular shoulder, pressing a soft kiss onto the smaller man’s damp skin and murmuring wordlessly in satisfaction.  Zell threw an arm over Seifer’s back and ran his fingers in lazy circles through the cooling sweat along the line of his spine, loving the solid heated weight of Seifer’s body resting heavily on his own. 

“Are you ok?” Seifer whispered after a moment, his voice noticeably hoarsened from his loud cries.

Zell nodded silently, the haze of the afterglow taking on a sweeter lazy pleasure as he registered the loving concern in Seifer’s tone.  He bent his neck to kiss Seifer’s forehead, running his tongue lightly over his scar. 

“I don’t ever want to stop touching you,” Zell murmured against his lover’s lips as he leaned down further to kiss him gently.  Seifer returned the kiss eagerly, if tiredly, and raised a hand to sweep Zell’s wilted bangs out of his bright blue eyes.  Staring deeply into the younger man’s eyes, Seifer cupped Zell’s cheek and ran his thumb over his lower lip, the corners of his eyes crinkling in a smile when Zell kissed his thumb in response.

“Promise you’ll stay with me,” the older man said softly, his face open and vulnerable.

“I promise, Seifer,” Zell answered, kissing his lover once again and feeling like he could wander lost forever in the warm spicy scent of Seifer’s skin and the bottomless blue-green heaven of his eyes… 

“And the band played on as the helicopters whirred; Drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn, my senses finally blurred.”

The humming of an airplane arcing overhead jolted Zell out of his reverie, and he opened his eyes to find not Seifer’s beautiful face but a brilliant sunrise firing the ocean mists into a swirling opalescent curtain that was rising slowly off of the choppy gray water.  Squinting into the bright sunlight, he could just make out a dark line on the horizon that soon took shape and became the western coastline of Galbadia.  The port closest to Winhill was one that Zell had used countless times when traveling to and from Balamb and when he and Seifer had taken mission assignments.  But that was all so long ago…  The last time Zell had seen the harbor town was when he left nearly two years before, and at that time he had forced himself to not look back. 

A growing sense of nervous uncertainty was building in the pit of his stomach as his brain finally caught up with the situation he was getting himself into, and the small SeeD gulped reflexively as he fought down a wave of nausea.  He had to calm down.  It was just Seifer; the man he’d shared a bed and a life with for three years.  His best friend.  His beautiful lover who he’d struck in anger after using his own secret weakness against him.  It didn't matter that Seifer had started it; that Seifer had hit him first and accused him of being unfaithful.  Zell had long ago forgiven the older man for everything.  He had yet, however, to forgive himself. 

The ferry drew ever closer to the shore, and Zell’s heart leapt into his throat at the sight of an achingly familiar tall figure in a gray trenchcoat, leaning against one of the wooden pilings of the dock.  Zell’s eyes involuntarily clouded over with tears, and he blinked furiously to try to clear his vision.  Hesitantly, he raised one of his arms in a wave of greeting, and he saw Seifer straighten up and wave back as he started to walk towards the end of the pier. 

It had been so long but it felt like he’d just seen Seifer yesterday; as the man came into clearer focus, Zell could see the golden crown of his hair, the deep scarlet scar running between his lushly-lashed eyes, the pouty swell of his lower lip… Zell had every facet of his lover’s face and form memorized, and he realized then that it felt like he’d never left because he dreamed about Seifer, without fail, every night. 


Zell choked down a sob but lost the battle with his tears, his vision blurring.  He was still so in love with Seifer.  Staring hard at the older man’s blurred form, seeing his golden angel illuminated from behind by the rising sun, Zell wondered if he’d come to realize the depth of his love only when it was too late.

“Between pulls, he said we’re like cows in the grass, brushing off flies.  Chaise-lounging around, standing up, falling down, ‘til we no longer opened our eyes.”

When the ferry bumped gently against the dock, Zell waved a final time and then covertly wiped his eyes on his sleeve before scooping up his duffel bag.  He walked quickly over to the exit, tapping his foot impatiently as the dockhands lowered and secured the gangplank.  When they stepped aside to let the passengers off, Zell scampered down the ramp and found himself face to face with Seifer Almasy for the first time in two years.

“Hi, Zell.  Thanks for coming so quick.”  Seifer’s greeting was easy enough, but he held his body stiffly and Zell could see a distant reserve in his eyes.

“Hey,” Zell said, stuttering as he corrected himself after using his old nickname for the other man.  For whatever reason, Seifer was being cold, and Zell was suddenly unsure about why exactly Seifer had called him in the first place.  The older man certainly did not look sick; perhaps he was a bit leaner, but he looked as healthy and gorgeous as ever, Zell’s mind noted cheekily.  And the frightened, needy undertone that had huskily laced his voice on the phone was definitely not present in his smooth baritone at the moment.  In fact, he appeared to be completely normal in every aspect save the guarded, shuttered look in his eyes.  Zell wasn’t used to Seifer looking at him like there was so much impassable space between them, and he was again reminded that this was no joyful reunion where they both knew how the other would react.  History was a bulky, uncomfortable presence between them, and Zell shifted his feet uneasily as he tried to think of something to say to break the tense silence.  Seifer beat him to it.

“So, how have you been?  They been keeping you busy over there at Balamb G?”

Alarm bells went off in Zell’s mind at Seifer’s questioning about Garden, remembering the accusations that had been hurled when they’d last fought.  But he detected no hint of malice in Seifer’s tone, and decided that he was just trying to make conversation.

“Yeah, pretty busy,” Zell said as Seifer half turned away, motioning for Zell to start walking with him.  It was shaping up to be a beautiful summer morning, and the last of the cool ocean mists were dissipating, leaving the air fresh and delicately salt-scented.  The walk to Seifer’s house was a good two hours from the port town, and the two SeeDs made a brisk pace as they headed up a small hill that would bring them to the path home.

“I’m an Instructor now, but Squall’s got me going on lots of missions, too.  Not so good for my sleeping pattern, I guess, but my savings account couldn't be happier.”

Zell flashed Seifer a toothy grin, and was immensely grateful to see Seifer return a genuine-looking, if small, smile. 

“An Instructor, huh?  How many cadets in training do you have?”

“Uh, lessee… Class L has… Seven cadets?  They’re all first years, and I probably spend the most time with them trying to get basic form down.  I mean, you wouldn't think it’d be that hard to learn to deliver punches correctly, but some of these kids…” 

Zell shook his head ruefully, surprised that conversation was coming this easily, but disappointed that it was nothing more than small talk.

“And then there’s class B, all training for SeeD tests within the next term.  That class has only five cadets, but they’re all amazing fighters.  I have to watch my back with some of those ones; honest, they’re that good.  Those two are my regular classes, but then I do general training for first years when I’m needed to help.  We just got a new class of cadets in and I’ve had my hands full with whipping them into shape.”

“Gosh, Zell, you’ve become the Balamb G P.E. teacher,” Seifer quipped, laughing.  “Betcha didn't expect to end up there when you entered Garden, huh?”

Zell smiled at the sound of Seifer’s laughter, sticking his tongue out in response to the other man’s teasing.

“No, being a glorified P.E. teacher is not the final destination of my career path of choice.  But then again I never did think ahead much, and maybe that’s what happens when you don’t plan things well enough in advance: you get handed a whistle and a clipboard and have to develop a kinky appreciation for locker-room voyeurism.”

Seifer chuckled again, and Zell could feel the other man warming to him a bit. He decided to plunge ahead while he still held the reins of the conversation.

“So that’s all about me… But what about you, Seifer?  How’ve you been keeping busy these last few years?” 

Seifer shrugged, his face bland once again.

“Just doing odd jobs around town to bring in a little cash when I need it, but keeping to myself, mostly.  You know I was never very sociable.”

“Gee, Seifer, you’ve become the village recluse,” Zell joked.  “Betcha never saw yourself here when you imagined your future five years ago.”

Seifer’s eyes darkened a bit, and he looked away from Zell into the distance, where Winhill town was visible over the next couple of gently rolling hills.

“Oh, I think I’ve done enough in my life to earn me the position of a village recluse, Zell,” he said lowly, his face still averted.

There was an uneasy silence between them again, and Zell was about to just spit it out and ask Seifer what was wrong with him when the tall blond raised an arm to gesture vaguely towards Winhill.

“You must be hungry; I thought we could have a late breakfast in town before heading to the house.  I also have to do some shopping… When I called you this morning I wasn’t sure if you’d be coming or not so I really have no food at home.”

“Of course I came, Seifer!  You sounded like you needed help and I… I’ve been hoping to hear from you for a long time,” Zell finished quietly, still very much unsure of what exactly Seifer expected of him, and what he himself could allow himself to say.

Seifer was silent for a moment, and then seemed to shake himself out of a reverie.

“Yeah, I never did call, huh?  I guess I figured you didn't want to hear from me, after what I did…”

As Seifer trailed off, his voice expressionless, Zell stopped walking, grabbing Seifer’s arm and pulling the taller man around to face him.  The small SeeD’s voice was urgent and his ice-blue eyes were sincere, looking pleadingly up into Seifer’s own.

“How can you say that?” Zell asked, desperately searching Seifer’s eyes for some sign of the connection they’d shared.  But they were still closed off, and Zell’s heart sank when he came to the confused conclusion that more had changed than he’d hoped.  Seifer was holding something back, and it was something painful.  All Zell wanted to do was throw his arms around his old lover and give him all the comfort he could, profess his love and beg for his forgiveness, but for whatever reason, he was being held away.

He dropped Seifer’s arm, his face clouding as he struggled with Seifer giving him the cold shoulder. 

“Yeah, breakfast sounds great, I’m pretty starving,” Zell finally said quietly, fiddling with his duffel bag and staring out towards Winhill vacantly.  The two of them walked on in awkward silence, fighting internal battles that thinned the air between them into a cold void and left them tense and troubled.

Zell lay on the couch in Seifer’s living room, eyes wide open in the darkness, counting his breaths.  In, out, fifty-six.  In, out, fifty-seven.  In, out…

It wasn’t working.  Zell’s compact body was strung tight, his tensed muscles fighting to relax and only getting more wound up because of the struggle.  His mind was in a similar predicament; the more he tried not to think about how close Seifer was, with only a few feet and a thin wall separating the two of them, not to think about how long it had been since he had tasted Seifer’s lips and his skin, not to think about how Seifer sounded when they made love, the more his mind became crowded with those very images.  Even with a cool night breeze drifting into the room through the screen door, Zell’s skin was flushed and hot, and his libido was protesting at being ignored. 

Why the hell was he sleeping out in the living room on the couch anyways, for god’s sake?  It wasn’t as if he and Seifer hadn’t shared a bed for over three years before, when they were dating.  In truth, once the initial surge of panicked worry he felt after Seifer’s call wore off, Zell had been nursing the hope that this reunion would involve sex, and a lot of it.  So what if Seifer was a little sick?  Sexual healing, right? 

At the errant thought, Zell mentally cursed himself at belittling Seifer’s illness.  Although, the man didn't appear to be sick…  But Zell could tell his former lover had lost a little weight, and his eyes looked tired, if not in an ill way, at least dull enough to show that Seifer had been losing sleep over something.  Even slightly thinner and drawn, Seifer’s face was still the most beautiful Zell had ever seen.  It was the face that had haunted his nights for the last lonely two years of his life, the face that he guiltily pictured in the shower when he jerked off, the deep blue-green eyes and masculine, chiseled features that always had and probably always would define his conception of an ideal specimen of manhood.  He’d missed Seifer with a pain that was sharp enough to be physical, and now to be in his home, on his couch, with his body and the thousand pleasures it promised only a door away, Zell was nearly trembling with the urge to throw off the thin sheet covering him, whisper the door open, lower himself upon Seifer’s long body, and worship him slowly until he awoke moaning Zell’s name.

As to why he was on the couch and not in Seifer’s bed, Zell was still unclear.  Their initial meeting at the pier had been awkward, true, but he figured that once they got back to Seifer’s place and had a chance to catch up, they’d move on to the kiss-and-make-up part of the process pretty fast.  They always had before, after long fights.  Those encounters were usually along the lines of hey, how are you, take off your pants now!  This time, however, they’d come home from Winhill, talked for a bit about nothing, had dinner, finished the dishes, showered separately, and then headed to Seifer’s bedroom.  Where the taller man had promptly gathered up some sheets and a pillow and informed Zell that he could have the bed, while Seifer slept on the couch.  Confused and thrown off guard, Zell just grabbed the sheets and stammeringly insisted that he would take the couch, he wasn’t going to kick Seifer out of his own bed, how rude would that be, so, um, g’night, Seif. 

Now Zell was kicking himself for not dropping the sheets on the floor, pressing his body against Seifer’s and suggesting that they just share Seifer’s bed, like normal.  Except that it wasn’t normal anymore, not at all, and Zell wasn’t sure that he would have been warmly welcomed back into Seifer’s arms. 

“I could go in there right now,” Zell thought, finding instantly that, while his mind was skeptical of the idea, his body had no qualms whatsoever. 

“C’mon, Dincht,” he groaned under his breath, frustrated at his own indecision.  Seifer had called him home for a reason; companionship, certainly, but something more, too, surely.  How could Seifer be this close to him after all this time and not feel anything?  The guy was probably lying in bed in the other room, staring at the ceiling, imagining Zell’s hands and mouth on him, the way Zell’s lips and skin tasted, breathing hard, working himself into a fine frenzy.  And too goddamn stubborn to get out of his bed and bring Zell back into it.  He’d just lie there, aching, and maybe after awhile curse himself as a coward and take matters into his own hands, reaching down beneath the sheets to take himself in hand and stroke, slowly, picturing Zell’s body on top of his, feeling the sweet clenching of the inner muscles of the smaller man’s body…

Zell moved his own hand to palm the erection tenting his boxers, gasping quietly at the sweet friction.  He felt like he’d been hard for an hour – which was probably true, given that he’d been fantasizing about Seifer since they had said goodnight.  Truthfully, he’d been fantasizing about Seifer since the day he met him.  And every time he wanted him the need felt that strong, like it had been building up and throbbing for years. 

Reaching into the soft cotton, Zell took his burning length in hand and started to pulse his hips slowly, teasingly, before he realized what he was doing.  He was in a friend’s house, in his living room, masturbating on the guy’s couch.  Not only was that fairly nasty and not a little rude, but Seifer could get up for a glass of water at any moment and open the door to find Zell with a hand down his shorts, well on his way to getting jizz all over Seifer’s lent sheets and sofa.  It had erotic possibility, sure, but it was an overall unpleasant picture.  Zell grunted in disappointment and sat up, pulling his hand out of his boxers and grimacing at both the loss of pressure to his erection and at the strong smell of sex coming off his palm.

He walked into the bathroom, leaving the light off, and closed the door, grabbing some tissue and leaning back against the wall to finish the job.  Knowing he was a talker and aware that the bathroom shared a wall with the bedroom, Zell kept his moaned utterances as inaudible as possible, breathing through tightly clenched teeth and thrusting into his fist rapidly.  When he came a high whine escaped his lips, but he barely heard it himself over the blood roaring in his ears as the intense orgasm wracked his body. 

Panting, Zell let himself slide to the cool tiled floor, tilting his head back to rest against the wall.  He wanted to sleep, desperately, but forced himself to get up after a minute, flick on the light, throw the sodden tissue away, and wash his hands, although he knew that wouldn't completely remove the scent of his sex.  Sighing, Zell clicked off the light once again, opened the door, and stumbled over to the sofa, where he collapsed

It hadn’t been Seifer, but at least he wasn’t tossing and turning with frustration and was sufficiently exhausted to actually get some sleep.  Zell wasn’t sure, but he thought he might have yelled out Seifer’s name on accident while he was coming.  At that moment, he couldn't really find it in himself to care if Seifer had heard or not.  Drowsy, slipping into sleep, Zell’s last conscious thoughts involved Seifer waking up at his name being screamed, coming out into the living room, and carting the sleeping Zell into his room for some real fun.  The short blond drifted off with a smile on his face, and Seifer’s name on his lips.

Seifer sat cross-legged in a pool of moonlight at the foot of his bed, where he could look out the window at the silver moonbeams playing on the endless grassy hills that stretched away from the house for miles.  The pale light felt cool and soothing against his heated flesh and helped calm his racing thoughts.

Zell had come home.

Seifer was still struggling to believe that it was true: that Zell, his Zell, was in their home again, sleeping not ten feet away from him. 

On the couch.

Now what the hell was that?

The problem, Seifer figured, was that he had imagined the whole scenario as going rather badly for himself, with Zell throwing all sorts of accusations his way and generally giving him just what he deserved after having almost two years to stew about it.  Of course, Seifer realized he was making Zell out to be a villain, something that the smaller man would never be capable of; Zell couldn't hold a grudge anymore than he could stay angry for more than a few hours.  Regardless, Seifer had prepared to give Zell as much space as possible and generally be very apologetic.  He didn't feel like he could say any of the things he really wanted to say, and he knew that because of his hesitance, he was coming off as acting rather cold. 

But being distant was the only defense that Seifer had.  If Zell rejected him again, he didn't know what he’d do.  So he tiptoed around the younger man like he was walking on eggshells, avoiding references to the past and, basically, not being himself.  It was a very uncomfortable situation.

And now Zell was sleeping on the couch?

Dammit, why hadn’t he just left the folded sheets and pillow on the bed and let Zell assume whatever he wanted?  At that very moment, they could be together in bed, or anywhere else in the house for that matter, re-christening furniture and the different rooms.  Seifer’s personal favorite place to make love had been on the kitchen table, in front of the windows where anyone walking by could see them, especially at night.  And with the way Zell liked to holler, anyone walking close enough to see them would be able to hear Zell, too…

Just thinking about it made Seifer’s blood heat up, but he ignored his arousal, trying to decide what exactly he could say to Zell to somehow make everything right again.  His brooding was interrupted by the quiet sound of the bathroom door clicking shut, and after a moment, when he strained his ears, he could hear rapid panting. 

Oh, god, was Zell in the bathroom touching himself? 

The realization struck Seifer like a thunderbolt, leaving him dizzy and breathless.  He was actually out of bed and walking quietly to the door when he became aware of what he was doing.  Who the hell did he think he was?  He and Zell weren't dating anymore.  He couldn't just barge in on the guy.

But that didn't mean he couldn't… observe.

Seifer pressed his ear against the wall that adjoined the bathroom, only barely acknowledging his guilt at being such a lech before ignoring his conscience.  It wasn’t like he hadn’t heard Zell jerk off before… Or watched him…

Suddenly a high strangled whine wavered in the hushed nighttime stillness, and Seifer drew his breath in sharply as he swore he heard Zell say his name.  Then there was a sliding soft thump, and the sound of water running, and the bathroom door closed once again.

Wide-eyed, fevered, Seifer slid soundlessly into bed, his heart pounding wildly.  He was insanely horny after listening to Zell’s little bit of midnight action, but he steadfastly denied his body.  The following day was looking to be quite the reunion, and he’d be damned if he’d waste any of his energy on a Zell fantasy when the real thing was in his living room begging to be screwed into next week.

Grinning hugely, Seifer turned over and imagined the possibilities.

Zell woke up with the sun streaming into his eyes through the eastern-facing window that was at the foot of the couch, and he raised his wrist and squinted groggily at his watch. 

“Only 7:30?  Jesus, go back to sleep,” he groaned to himself, turning over and burying his head under the pillow. 

As he drifted off again, his mind reminded him of what he’d done the night before, and he scrunched his eyes more tightly closed, bemoaning his lack of self-control.  Fuck, what if Seifer really had heard him and was gonna wake up and tell him to get his perverted ass out of his house? 

“Way to go, genius…” Zell said, his voice muffled by the sofa cushions.  He jumped when Seifer’s voice sounded from nearby.

“Well, I don’t know if I’m a genius, but I guess I thought we could eat breakfast together.”

Zell sat up quickly, flustered at being caught talking to himself, his sky-blue eyes wide as he blinked up at Seifer, who was leaning against the kitchen doorway and smiling in amusement.

“Huh? …Uh, what was that?”

“I said I made some pancakes.  Hah, you weren't even awake yet, were you?  You still talk in your sleep?”

Zell flushed, scratching the back of his head ruefully. 

“Yeah, I still do.  I didn't wake you up last night, did I?”

Realizing what he’d just said and putting two and two together with what he’d really done last night, Zell turned a bright crimson and had to forcibly restrain himself from clapping a hand over his mouth.

Seifer’s eyes widened in surprise, trying to decide what Zell was asking him.  Was he supposed to have heard the other man last night?  Did Zell plan that?  He always was a little devious…

“Hey, how ‘bout some pancakes!” Zell chirped suddenly, his voice unnaturally high, making a beeline for the bathroom and calling over his shoulder.  “Just give me a second to wash up!”

Judging from the younger SeeD’s embarrassed behavior, Seifer figured he was not supposed to have heard him.  But that didn't derail his plans for the day at all.  He’d have Zell back in his bed by that afternoon, he was sure.  It was enough to make him want to holler “Booyaka!” like Zell was so famous for doing.  Seifer settled for whistling instead as he walked back into the bright kitchen and put the syrup in the microwave to heat up, smiling broadly all the while.

Breakfast was fairly quiet due to Zell being mortified enough to actually be silent for more than ten minutes, and Seifer being sufficiently amused by the younger man’s discomfiture to play along and not say anything to relieve his embarrassment.  While they were sitting across from each other at the sun-dappled table having coffee, however, the conversation finally picked up as Zell seized on a topic that had been worrying at the back of his mind since Seifer had phoned him two nights previous.

“So, you said on the phone you were sick, Seif.  What’s going on?”

Zell had unconsciously slipped back into calling Seifer by his old nickname, which pleased the tall blond immensely.  God, he’d missed the sound of Zell’s voice. 

“Well, I guess it’s not all that serious, really.  I’ve just been having problems lately with getting tired easily and getting random bruises.”

Seifer couldn't quite bring himself to mention the fainting and nosebleeds, rationalizing to himself that they had just had breakfast and there was no need to be graphic.  Besides, he reasoned, the doctor himself had said it was a dietary issue, so there was no cause to alarm Zell needlessly.  And if he told Zell he’d been blacking out, the younger man might not agree to the activities Seifer had planned for them later.

“Bruises?” Zell questioned.  “You never had a problem with bruising easily before, though.  That’s kind of weird.  What did the doctor say?”

“Just that I should change my diet a bit and get more rest.  I actually don’t think there’s a big problem, and I’m sorry for calling you and freaking out like I did.  I mean, it was late, and I was alone, and I just wanted to hear a familiar voice… Actually, I just wanted to hear your voice.”

Seifer, having said at least one of the things he’d been wanting to say for two years, felt a little of the tension ease out of his shoulders.  Zell was watching him carefully, his ice-blue eyes looking so innocent and hopeful and unbelievably beautiful that Seifer almost laughed out loud with pure gratitude that Zell was with him once again.  Zell noticed him smiling and knitted his brow in confusion.


“I just missed you, Zell.  I missed you a hell of a lot.”

Seifer reached across the table, laying his hand over Zell’s and running his thumb gently over the ridge of the other man’s knuckles.  Zell’s whole face lit up when Seifer touched him, and he let go of his coffee mug to lay his other hand over Seifer’s, squeezing his former lover’s larger hand with shaking fingers.

“I missed you too, Seif.  You don’t know how much….”  Zell gave up on trying to hide the happy tears that were sparkling in his eyes.  He pulled himself together before trying to speak again, and his voice only quavered a little.

“So you’re gonna be fine?”

Seifer grinned, squeezing Zell’s hand back. 

“Yeah, I should be.  Are you mad that I called you out here for nothing?”

“Are you kidding?” Zell laughed lowly, blinking rapidly to clear his eyes.  “As soon as I heard your voice I was thinking about how I could get you to ask me to come visit.  I wasn’t sure you’d want to see me again after those things I said…”

“After what you said?  I was thinking the same thing about what I did to you…”

“Seifer!  Why do we do this to ourselves?” Zell asked, laughing sadly and shaking his head.  “God, if I had just called you…”

“You’re going to laugh at me, I know, but I tried to call you at least twenty times.  And every time I would wuss out and hang up like some idiot junior high kid.”

“Yeah, well I checked my answering machine at least three times a day for about eight months before I finally gave up.  I thought you hated me.”

“I could never hate you, Zell.  Please don’t even say that.”

The two of them sat in a warm silence for a few minutes, just holding hands across the table and smiling at each other until Seifer reluctantly let go of Zell’s hands and stood up, bringing his dishes to the sink. 

“Why don’t we clean up and then head into town?  I guess you’re gonna be staying for a while, and we could rent a couple of movies and get some snacks and stuff.”

“Hey, sounds good!” Zell agreed, carrying his plates and cup to the sink and standing beside Seifer, feeling his body tingle slightly at the close proximity of his gorgeous friend.  “Here, you wash and I’ll dry, ok?”

Seifer turned on the faucet, his skin prickling into goosebumps when Zell’s arm brushed his stomach as the smaller man reached in front of him to grab the dishtowel.

“…You are gonna be staying for a while, right?” Seifer questioned quietly, his heart pounding. 

Zell looked over at him, sticking his tongue out.

“Duh!  What the hell kinda question is that, Seif?  You dork.”

Zell cupped his hand under the running water and splashed it at Seifer playfully, laughing as the bigger man yelped in surprise.

“Hah!  That’s what you get for asking stupid questions to a SeeD Instructor!” Zell declared, his sharp canines flashing as he gave Seifer his trademark toothy grin.

Seifer splashed Zell back, laughing at the shocked expression on the younger blond’s face. 

“Yeah, well that’s what you get for calling a top SeeD mercenary a whale’s penis.  Just remember that it’s Mr. Almasy to you, son.”

“Are you pulling rank on me, soldier?” Zell said sternly, making his voice gruff as he pushed Seifer playfully, making the taller man step away from the sink.  He shivered in anticipation as Seifer slowly approached him again, putting his arms on the counter on either side of Zell and effectively hemming him in.

“Watch yourself, Dincht,” Seifer whispered, leaning his body ever so slightly into Zell’s.  “It looks like I’ve got you cornered, and it never does any good to mouth off to your keeper.”

Zell was so lost in Seifer’s eyes that he didn't notice the taller man reaching behind him, collecting a handful of cold water from the tap.  When Seifer spilled the liquid down the back of Zell’s shirt, the smaller man arched his back forward, crying out in surprise.  The motion brought his groin firmly against Seifer’s, and both men gasped at their throbbing arousals rubbed together enticingly.  Seifer was the first to react, unable to control himself any longer.  He grabbed Zell’s ass with both hands and rocked the younger man’s pelvis against his own, groaning at the intense sensations that ricocheted through his body at the contact.

Zell almost stopped breathing as Seifer pulled him closer, feeling like he would absolutely die from the unspeakable pleasure of feeling Seifer’s body against his after he’d dreamed about it for so long.  When Seifer moaned lowly, Zell was spurred into action, wrapping a leg around Seifer’s waist and his arms around his shoulders and pressing his mouth to the other man’s in a desperate, ravenous kiss.  The taste of Seifer’s mouth filled his own and then Zell was drowning in a lust so deep and concentrated that he thought he might pass out.  Their hungry kiss went on for long minutes, both men panting with ecstasy as they relearned the taste of each other’s mouths and the feel of their bodies tightly intertwined.  When they finally pulled apart to breathe, Zell moved his mouth to Seifer’s ear, sucking on the soft flesh of the lobe as he urgently expressed his need.

“Oh, god, Seif, do you know how badly I want you?  I’m gonna die if you don’t fuck me, and quickly,” Zell panted, rocking his hips against Seifer’s and loving the feel of the larger man’s hot erection pressing against his own.

“Zell…” Seifer moaned, burying his face in the sweet skin of Zell’s neck and flicking his tongue out to taste his lover’s body, wanting to never stop.  He breathed in deeply, inhaling the scent of Zell, listening to his pleading cries and feeling his penis throb unbearably at the younger man’s heated words.

“Zell, baby, I’ve been dreaming about this every night for the last two years,” Seifer panted against Zell’s neck, still running his tongue in hungry licks over the flushed skin bared so temptingly before him.  “I’ve been dying for you, Zell, I want you so bad…”

Zell threw his head back, bringing both legs up to tighten around Seifer’s waist, a low sound of pleasure escaping his lips as Seifer’s pulsing arousal pressed against his ass. 

“You’re killing me, Seif… and I think if you tell me that… Ohh… that you’ve got no lube I might… Oh fuck, that feels good… I might have to…”

Zell’s voice trailed off into a rough moan as Seifer reached between their bodies to grip Zell’s erection, squeezing rhythmically. 

“Bedroom.  Bottom drawer.” Seifer managed through his gasps for breath as Zell returned the favor, going one step further and sticking his hand down the front of Seifer’s baggy track pants. 

By the time they reached the bedroom Zell was completely naked and Seifer was down to his pants, which Zell yanked down as he pushed Seifer against the bedroom wall, falling to his knees before the tall man and engulfing his dripping cock with his hot, wet mouth.  Seifer cried out at the amazing sensation of Zell sucking him off, but he didn't want to finish in his lover’s mouth, so he forced himself to gently push Zell away.

“On the bed,” Seifer ordered breathlessly, yanking open his bottom drawer and rummaging around frantically for the lube.  Zell flung himself onto the bed, squirming and pinching his own nipples, a sight that made Seifer weak in the knees when he turned back around, lube in hand. 

“C’mon, baby…” Zell invited huskily, parting his legs provocatively and reaching down to slowly stroke himself, his eyes locked on Seifer’s as the older man stared at his hand working his blushing penis. 

Seifer practically fell onto Zell, burying his face between the smaller blond’s legs as Zell tangled his finger in Seifer’s hair, crying out with abandon.  Seifer sucked hungrily at the glistening tip of Zell’s cock before moving down to take Zell’s balls into his mouth gently, panting as he was surrounded by the incredibly arousing musky scent of his lover’s sex. 

“I want you in me…” Zell whispered, his voice hoarse and entreating.  “Seifer…”

Crawling up over Zell’s body, Seifer kissed his lover deeply, the taste of their genitals mingling in their mouths, making both men moan.  Their bodies tangled together in the golden morning sunlight and husky groans mixed with breathless declarations of love as they rediscovered each other, truly reunited at last.   

“And we’d drink.  Ever notice how drinking’s like war; cup ‘o troops o’er the gums.  ‘Til the end of our health, the campaign ‘gainst myself, armed with bourbons and scotches and rums.”

Seifer stood by the front kitchen window, absentmindedly staring at the midmorning sunshine streaming in buttery rivulets through the glass and onto his hands, which were resting lightly on the tiled countertop.  His mind, lulled by the warm light and the peaceful stillness of the house, swam sleepily through his murky thoughts.  He didn't let himself worry about how tired he was, even though he’d gotten a full night’s rest the night before.  He also did not let himself dwell on the fact that, lately, he’d been taking a lot of naps, a habit that he’d never before cultivated.  Maybe because it was an especially warm summer, and because of the intense emotional upheaval he’d experienced with re-contacting Zell, and seeing his old lover again, touching him again…

The tall man smiled, remembering with a shiver of recalled lust the events of the previous night.  Well, the previous day and night.  He’d been dreaming about and longing for Zell ever since the other man left him, and Seifer was still surprised that his old lover had even agreed to come see him.  Seifer was an expert at self-condemnation, and in his mind, he had recounted the events leading up to Zell’s departure over and over again until he could see nothing but how he’d hurtfully, jealously driven the other man away.  That Zell had come back was a miracle in itself, but that he had come back and confessed he was still in love with Seifer was the stuff of pure fantasy. 

And the feel of his body…  The taste of his sweet mouth and tight skin, his thick penis filling Seifer with wild perfection, the warm sinful scent of his sex rising up to envelop Seifer in a haze of blind, desperate arousal, the feeling that he could stay buried within Zell’s body forever and let the devastating pleasure course through him until he ceased to breathe…

The only disappointing aspect of their lovemaking had been how quickly Seifer became tired; if he hadn’t dropped off into a deep, still sleep they might still be in bed together, slowly making love in the honeyed golden sunshine.  But Zell had left a cheeky note on the bedside table teasing Seifer about overdoing it when he might be sick, and saying he should give his addiction to Zell’s ass a rest while the younger man went out shopping.

So Seifer had gotten out of bed and fixed himself some coffee, wandering through the small home lost in the pleasant daze of realization that he and Zell were reunited.  Everything looked more beautiful when the house was filled with the presence of Zell: his running shoes by the front door, his towel draped over the shower door to dry, his cereal bowl and spoon lying in the sink. 

Seifer picked up his coffee cup and drained it, putting it next to Zell’s dishes in the sink and deciding that he must have gone a little crazy missing Zell for two years if he found their shared dirty dishes to be such a heartwarming sight.  Suddenly, thinking about missing Zell made him realize the painful similarity in situation between that moment and the day Zell had left him. 

Then, too, Zell had left to go shopping, and Seifer had started to work on fixing their broken dinner table chair, setting up paint and his various tools in the living room, which was warm and bright in with the summer sunshine.  A mindless task like re-painting wood left his thoughts wandering aimlessly, and despite his attempts to not dwell upon the subject, he started to examine his jealousy over Zell’s connection with his old friends back in Balamb.  The catalyst for this newest surge of resentment was most likely Zell’s recent short trip to Balamb G, Seifer thought, shaking his head at his own audacity.  Zell was a free adult and he couldn't be expected to spend all his time with his lover.  But the quiet, insidious suspicions in the depths of his mind prodded him gently with needle-fine prickles of doubt, and wouldn't subside.  Seifer had spent an hour or so fixing the chair before he stood up in frustration.  He couldn't keep his mind from spinning with jealousy, and he walked to the kitchen to have a glass of water.

Standing there, by the sink, he stared at his hands and the dishes stacked up in the white porcelain basin and forced himself to admit that he was afraid Zell was falling in love with someone else.  And at that thought, Seifer’s old, poisonous resentment of Squall Leonhart wormed its way into the corner of his mind like a maggot, reminding him that Squall and Zell used to be best friends, making him remember all the times he had seen the two of them together and felt the acidic sting of envy in the pit of his stomach, telling him that Squall was Zell’s hero… 

Seifer was so disgusted with himself for harboring such ideas that he almost threw his empty glass against the wall.  Instead, he set it by the side of the sink and walked stiffly back into the living room to finish working on the chair.  Not five minutes later, Zell had come home, bearing a letter from Squall, and all of his anger exploded in that devastating confrontation…

After Seifer had stormed out of the house, winded and clutching his aching chest, he’d wandered around for more than an hour through the green rolling hills in the hot noontime sunlight, furious with Zell and with himself.  The little bastard had no idea of what he’d gone through while enslaved by the sorceresses, and to accuse him of willingly – willingly! – consorting with them…  It made him want to spit out all his horror stories of what he’d suffered, smash them against Zell’s accusing insults and watch with angry satisfaction as the younger man paled and cringed and was forced to swallow his own cruelly barbed words with all the agony of fully understanding what he was asking Seifer to remember. 

The tall blond finally stopped his directionless stalking after he had scaled and descended from yet another gentle hill, falling to his knees in the shade under a tree growing in the small valley.  He let his body slump limply against the cool scaly bark of the tree trunk, his anger dissolving rapidly into a sick feeling of regret.  Zell had no idea what he’d been through only because he would never tell him, but Seifer didn't want his lover’s pity or the sad, sorry look that would surely cloud his beautiful sky-blue eyes if the former Knight recounted for him even half of what he had been through with Ultimecia. 

A Knight.  What a blind mistake of a title.  A Knight was not an abused, tormented and defenseless pawn.  A Knight was someone who served a mistress or master out of respect and loyalty, someone who observed a code of honor, who would never betray his friends, who fought for love and to protect the weak.  That romantic ideal of a Knight was what Seifer had wanted to fulfill, but his dreams were crushed and twisted into a wretched servitude.  He’d become his own worst nightmare, albeit unwillingly.  He’d been the kind of man who lost his humanity in a cowardly attempt to save his own life. 

After Garden cleared his name, however, Seifer had resolved to put all his past humiliations and forced atrocities behind him and start again.  But some of that old cowardly blood still ran through his veins, and he had unwittingly allowed it to surface.  He pictured again in his mind’s eye striking Zell; the terrible cracking impact of his fist with the smaller man’s beautiful, fine cheekbone; the pain and betrayal and anger that had blazed in Zell’s eyes.

Swallowing a sob, Seifer rose to his feet and started back in the direction of the house, his long stride quickly breaking into a desperate, panicked sprint as he realized that Zell might have already left to go back to Balamb for good.

After almost twenty minutes of adrenaline-fueled, all-out running, Seifer crashed through the front door, Zell’s name on his lips, but his voice died before leaving him.  He could already feel it: the lack of Zell’s presence in the small house.  It felt darker and quieter, and Seifer felt his stomach bottom out when he realized that small things were missing.  Zell’s things.  Things he’d never taken when they’d fought before.

The picture of Ma Dincht was gone from the coffee table by the sofa.  Zell’s running shoes, at least one pair of which were always lying around, were absent from the entryway.  Seifer moved like a sleepwalker into the bedroom, not even flinching as his dead eyes took in the open closet, looking raped and empty with Zell’s clothes missing.  There was no radio playing, no fingers tapping, no dull thwacks sounding from the back where Zell kept his punching bag.  There was no scribbled note. 

He was alone.

In the days, weeks, and months following Zell’s departure, Seifer dialed half of the numbers that would get him through to Zell’s private line but never finished, his courage deserting him.  He didn't know that, at the same time in Balamb G, Zell was checking his answering machine five or six times a day with the nervous anticipation of a condemned criminal inquiring about a pardon from the death penalty.  Every time Seifer tried to call and failed it became more difficult to try again.  While Zell lost himself in work and the trying demands of being a full-time SeeD and Garden Instructor, Seifer immersed himself in solitude, paying the penance of his guilt and losing himself more often than not in the vast floating world of drinking. 

Seifer would do odd carpentry jobs and the like in Winhill, come home after a long day in the sun, and try to keep himself busy.  He went through several novels per week, spent hours a day training with Hyperion, and did his best to not think about Zell too much.  But most nights, when it was late and he couldn't sleep, he would fix himself a stiff drink, or two, or four.  He awoke many mornings slumped over the kitchen table, or sprawled awkwardly on the living room sofa.  He woke up a couple of times on the floor in some part of the house.  And he woke up far too often with a hand down his pants and a mess in his lap; drinking had always made him horny, and, after all, it was the first time in three years when he had gone for more than a week without sex with Zell. 

All in all, it was a pathetic existence, Seifer knew, but he also knew that he was stubbornly clinging to the hope that Zell would show up one morning with his duffel bag and his forgiveness.  That optimistic expectation kept Seifer tied to the countryside home, that and the way that every aspect of the house contained a small reminder of Zell: the dent in the living room wall where he had accidentally punched the plaster while bouncing around and shadow boxing to his favorite song; the way his smell lingered somehow in the bedroom closet, something that never failed to get Seifer aroused when he had to dig something out of the recesses of the small space; the energetic, careful way the younger man had tiled the kitchen floor in a crazy, perfectly chaotic pattern of blue, red, and black tiles that swirled with some of the inner effervescence that defined Zell himself.  Seifer couldn't give up the house any more than he could give up his longing for his lover.

After a little over a year and a half of Zell’s absence, Seifer gave himself a kick in the ass and decided once and for all that, no matter how lonely and ruined his spirit had become, there was no good reason for an able-bodied twenty-two year old man to waste his life away in a rural cottage in Galbadia.  So he started making some calls, looking for jobs in Esthar and Centra.  He was interested mainly in working for public works projects, wanting to help rebuild some of what he had participated in destroying.  Seifer thought he’d really enjoy being a teacher, but he also felt that he didn't have the best record for that job, seeing as people might object to having the former Sorceress’s Knight teaching their impressionable young children.  He applied for a few teaching jobs anyways, and sent out several copies of his academically impressive but experientially lacking resume.

He had just returned from delivering another batch of application letters to the post office when, without warning, he collapsed on the floor by the living room sofa. He came to a few minutes later with a burning fever and an enormous purpling bruise spreading across his cheek where his head had hit the floor.  Cursing, Seifer managed to get himself to bed and was able to do nothing but sleep, drink water, and urinate for two days.  He finally forced himself to eat something, struggling not to vomit it up, and three days later, despite the fact that he still felt like a used dishrag, he dragged himself to the Winhill hospital.

They told him he had a nasty bacterial infection, gave him some general antibiotics, and sent him home to recuperate.  After a few days of taking the medicine his health improved, and soon afterwards he started going into town every day to check for responses to his job applications.  As soon as he got a few acceptances, he planned to put the small house on the market at a low price to sell it faster, then take half the money and move to wherever the most appealing job offer came from.  Seifer had already decided to leave half of the money from the house in the joint account he used to share with Zell; after all, Zell still had the access code, and had left Seifer his half of the balance when he went to Balamb, so Seifer would only be returning the favor of giving back to Zell the money the younger man had put into buying the house. 

Then, alarmingly, Seifer had another fainting spell, this time while in the shower.  He woke up with the water raining down warmly upon him, not feverish but with dark bruises on his elbow and thigh from the fall.  Concerned, he went back to the hospital, reporting that he had never before had problems either with blacking out or bruising so easily.  The harried doctor told him to get more rest and eat more foods that were rich in iron.  The more iron intake suggestion confused him because he already had a fairly healthy diet, but the lack of sleep could have been an issue.  Thus advised, Seifer headed home again.

But there were other strange episodes.  He was reading a new novel in bed when he felt a foreign warmness in his nose, and he jumped in surprise as, suddenly, his nose started dripping thick drops of blood, spattering the white pages of his book and the front of the t-shirt he was wearing.  It was the first time he’d had a nosebleed without someone clocking him a good one in a fight or in training.  Then again, he’d had his forehead sliced open by a four-foot long gunblade, so blood gushing out of his face was not as disturbing to Seifer as it might have been. 

He also noticed that he was getting tired more easily, and getting colds more often.  After he passed out once more during a daily gunblade-training session, he went back to the hospital and asked for some bloodwork to be done.  The results came in a few weeks later, as the samples had to be sent out of Winhill to the more advanced medical centers in Esthar, and the local doctor was confused enough by the results to call Seifer and have him come in for more complicated testing.  The doctor also said he would send his file to Esthar’s physicians for their analysis.

Shortly after his testing, Seifer received a several job offers, including a very attractive one from a public construction company in southern Esthar.  Accordingly, he prepared the paperwork to put the small house on the market, but on his way to the real estate office he passed out on the dirt pathway just in front of his home.

That night, shaken, scared and desperately reaching out, he put his pride and self-respect and all the cherished hopes in his heart on the line and called Zell.  After Zell had agreed to come, Seifer had lain in bed, burning with unbearable anticipation and dizzy with the thousands of thoughts tripping wildly through his mind.  Zell was coming back, coming to see him; they would sit down together, in the same room, like old times, eat meals together.  Zell would bring the house back to life; he would bring Seifer back to life.  But there was so much for Zell to forgive… He was doubtless coming because he was such a good man and wouldn't decline to help someone in need, even his ex-lover who had insulted him and struck him and done the unforgivable… 

Seifer was unable to sleep at all that night, punishing himself by repeatedly replaying the scene preceding Zell’s departure in his mind, believing he would never be worthy of the younger man again, after what he’d done…

Sighing, Seifer shook off the painful memories, pushing himself away from the kitchen counter.  Zell was back, and without a doubt Seifer had learned his lesson that the only thing his empty jealousy brought about was disaster.  Zell was so sincere and honest and loyal: he didn't deserve to be suspected of anything.  It was just that he was so gorgeous and fiery and temptingly sexy that Seifer feared nothing more than someone else, someone with more to offer and less to hide, would somehow steal Zell away.  But Zell had come back, and they were together again: it was a second chance and Seifer would not squander it.  His mysterious illness that seemed to come and go was an unfortunate addition to their reunion, but at that moment Seifer felt better than he had in weeks, and he smiled thinly to himself as he imagined confessing to Zell that he had been slowly dying of a broken heart, and that the small SeeD’s return had saved Seifer’s life.         

He walked into the bedroom and started peeling off his clothes, tossing them carelessly on the rumpled sheets and inhaling deeply of the achingly familiar scent of Zell and their shared sex.  Recalling what had transpired on the bed (and on the floor, and against the wall) stirred Seifer’s already aroused libido, and when he went into the bathroom and stepped under the shower’s warm spray, he closed his eyes and tilted his head back, luxuriating in the sensual pleasure of the water running over his skin.  He soaped his body slowly, trailing his fingertips over his nipples and letting his hands drift down to linger on his stiffening penis, barely applying pressure to his need, teasing himself mercilessly.  He pictured Zell there, standing before him, gloriously nude and stoking the fire of Seifer’s arousal with light touches and wicked words whispered in his low, husky voice.

Wanting so badly to grip himself and thrust into the tight circle of his fist, Seifer leaned forward, his eyes still closed, bracing one arm above his head against the wall, his body bowing in a smooth arch that defined the muscles of his shoulder and thighs.  He encircled his cock with his thumb and forefinger, barely touching the heated skin, and, groaning lowly, started flicking his wrist just enough to give the faintest, most fleeting sensation of friction and blissful relief.  Zell loved to tease him in the same way, and was an expert at bringing Seifer tortuously slowly to the brink of release, and denying it to him until the older man begged for mercy and was granted a release that was explosive in its ecstasy.

“Oh… Zell, baby, please…I need more…”

Seifer cried out in frustration, fully into his fantasy, not yet letting himself stroke his penis firmly, his breath coming in shallow pants.  The warm water rivulets running down his skin were Zell’s fingers tracing seductive patterns across his body, and Seifer arched his back in supplication, feeling like he would die if Zell didn't take pity on him soon.  His muscles tensed and aching, Seifer finally gripped himself with his whole hand and thrust into his soapy fist, moaning loudly. 

“Zell!  God, it’s so good…  You’re so good… Ohh…”

Whistling, Zell trotted energetically down the hill to the small house, fresh groceries slung over his shoulder.  It was still fairly early, and he was hoping that Seifer was still asleep so that he could strip and wake him up with breakfast in bed – to be eaten off of Zell.  He’d bought whipped cream and some strawberries and pitted sweet cherries, and damn but it had been difficult to get home quickly with the raging erection he’d had going for the last mile as he pictured Seifer starting in on his morning meal. 

Zell had gotten some really strange looks from other customers at the market when he found the cherries, which were Seifer’s favorite, and had let out an excited “Booyaka!”  The cashier, too, had been eyeing him after checking the contents of his basket: steaks, salad fixings, potatoes… And then the whipped cream, chocolate syrup, honey, cherry brandy, coconut rum, rainbow sprinkles, and a bunch of fresh fruit.

“Making a cake?” the older woman questioned dryly, giving Zell a knowing smirk.

Zell managed not to blush, and just grinned toothily, nodding. 

“Yup, uh-huh, a great big cake, ohhh yeah.”

He wanted to shower beforehand to give Seifer a clean plate, so as he neared the front door Zell quieted down, opening the door gently and toeing off his sneakers as he closed it silently behind him.  He stepped lightly towards the bedroom, but stopped in his tracks when he heard the shower running.  Damn!  Seifer was already awake!  Zell had taken too long debating over whether to buy sprinkles, jellybeans, or chopped nuts.  He’d only considered the chopped nuts for a moment before deciding they were too disturbing a food item to be eaten off someone else’s… nuts.  But it had been a difficult choice between the jellybeans and the sprinkles…  And now he was too late.

His ears straining, the small blond’s bright eyes suddenly glassed over lustfully.  Seifer was making some pretty unmistakable noises, among them calling Zell’s name.  Now this would be a sight too breathtaking to miss.

Zell stripped quickly by the front door in an attempt to be as silent as possible, leaving the groceries in a heap next to his clothes, and made his way to the bathroom on silent feet, making sure to keep out of line of sight of the shower until he was standing just outside the bathroom door.  Zell’s penis rose to absolute attention at the sight that greeted his eyes, and he had to bite his lip to keep himself from moaning out loud.

Seifer’s body was clearly visible through the lightly frosted glass, and he was in an utterly delicious position: his back arched gracefully, one arm extended to hold himself off the wall, his right arm moving rhythmically as he stroked his fully erect, blushing cock with firm, too-slow motions of his fist as his hips pumped a languid counterpoint.  His head was thrown back, displaying the beautiful arch of his neck, his throat working as he cried out.

Zell grinned lecherously.  He knew Seifer liked to be teased and liked teasing himself, so Zell had made his appearance at the perfect moment, when Seifer was already incredibly worked up but before he was actually allowing himself to work towards orgasm.  Zell mentally blessed jellybeans as he reached down to grip his own erection, wanting nothing more than to have Seifer inside him, but still unwilling to end the guilty pleasure of watching his lover masturbate.

That, and hearing Seifer fantasize about him.  That was incredibly arousing.

“God, Zell, I wanna fuck you so bad…” The tall man hung his head as he panted, his eyes screwed shut as water ran through his golden hair and down his face, absorbed fully in the carnal heat that pulsed through his body in waves. “Baby, I need to be inside you… oh, god, I can’t take it anymore… Zell…”

Zell’s face was flushed in his excitement, and he worked his cock rapidly, deciding at that moment that, even if Seifer could tease himself longer, Zell couldn't wait.  He didn't try to muffle his low groan of pleasure, and Seifer raised his head dazedly, his arm stilling as he squinted through the water in his eyes, a pink blush of both arousal and embarrassment staining his cheeks.

“Oh, god, Seif, don’t stop,” Zell objected breathlessly, still stroking himself.  He moved towards the shower and slid open the door, letting go of his penis as he stepped into the spacious stall. 

“That is, unless you want some help with that,” he continued, nodding towards the sizeable erection jutting out from Seifer’s groin as the older man turned to face him.  Zell licked his lips and watched with almost violent satisfaction as heated lust darkened Seifer’s stunning blue-green eyes, and he grinned once before he threw himself at the taller man, crushing his mouth hungrily to Seifer’s in a frenzied, deep kiss.  Their tongues lashed against each other in the hot confines of their mouths, and both men groaned as Zell pressed his whole body against his lover’s and their twin arousals were rocked together, creating delicious friction.  Seifer wrapped his arms around Zell, his hands frantically caressing his lover’s body, and the smaller man reached down between them with both hands to fist their throbbing cocks as one. 

Zell wrenched his mouth away from Seifer’s and attacked the taller man’s neck with his tongue and teeth, nipping him heatedly on the collarbone and bending his head further to take one of Seifer’s nipples in his mouth, flicking the small nub with his tongue.  Zell loved Seifer’s nipples; hard, flat, and a dark honey color, they were one of his hot spots, along with his ears and the insides of his thighs.  Zell knew every way to draw Seifer’s body to the very brink of orgasm, and he loved hearing Seifer beg him for it.  That’s not to say he wasn’t fully appreciative when Seifer was occasionally aggressive and rough; Zell, for his part, loved getting spanked, tied up, and being put at Seifer’s complete mercy.  But it appeared that it was all Zell’s show today, and he used every part of his body to rile Seifer up further.  The older man was bucking into Zell’s fists and whimpering when Zell lightly bit his earlobe to catch his attention.

“You wanna fuck me, Seif?  You wanna ram your big cock inside me ‘til I scream your name?”

Seifer’s eyes snapped open, flashing, and he shoved Zell up against the tiled wall, running his hands down the smaller man’s back to grip his ass.  Suddenly Seifer was in charge, and Zell was loving every minute of it, from the way Seifer was devouring him possessively with his burning eyes to the bruising grip the older man had on his ass cheeks.

“Oh yeah, Zell, you putting out today, bitch?”  Seifer growled, his eyes gleaming darkly.  Inside, Zell was howling with glee that Seifer was talking dirty to him.  Their lovemaking the previous day and night had been a tender reuniting of souls, but this was the rekindling of the other face of their sex life.  Seifer knew just what Zell liked to hear, and Zell, being the little kink that he was, could never get enough of a forceful, foul-mouthed Seifer.  He shivered in anticipation and raised his arms over his head in submission, gripping his elbows and smirking at the way Seifer appreciatively eyed the flexing muscles of his powerful arms. 

“Take it if you want it, Seifer…” Zell purred seductively, parting his legs slightly.  He closed his eyes as Seifer reached down to grip his stiff penis, working it slowly as he leaned down to whisper roughly in Zell’s ear.

“You little slut,” Seifer said brusquely, his breath hot against Zell’s ear as he stroked the smaller man’s need.  “You can’t wait for it, can you?  How badly do you want it?  Beg me for it,” the tall man demanded, thrusting his hips against Zell’s body so that his large arousal rubbed against Zell’s hip.  “I wanna hear you beg me for my cock inside you, whore.”

Zell trembled, feeling the first tremors of orgasm start in his loins as Seifer masturbated him and growled huskily in his ear. 

“Please, Seifer…” Zell started, gasping as Seifer thrust his hips against him, hard.  “Fuck!  Uhn…  Please, fuck me, I need it so… Oh, shit,” Zell trailed off hoarsely when he felt his cock start to jerk as he neared release.  Seifer felt it, too, and let go of Zell, spinning him around so that the smaller man was facing the wall.  Zell groaned at the loss of pressure and moved his arms to prop himself off of the wall, shifting his hips restlessly.  He needed Seifer inside him…

“I need to come,” the martial artist moaned, leaning his burning forehead against the cool tiles of the shower wall, feeling Seifer’s blazing body heat behind him.  “Fuck me with your thick cock, Seifer, I wanna feel you all the way inside me, I wanna feel you throbbing deep inside… Oh, god, fuck me, do it hard, do it now!” Zell panted, writhing in growing desperation. 

He cried out in relief as two of Seifer’s long fingers entered him, rough but careful, stretching his entry in preparation for penetration.  Seifer bit down on the back of Zell’s neck as he withdrew his fingers and positioned his slick penis at the opening of Zell’s body, pushing in slowly and relentlessly.  Zell cried out in pained ecstasy, his moaned pleas becoming quickly unintelligible as he felt pure fire travel up his body from the base of his spine.  There was no other feeling in the world like Seifer inside of him, stretching him to fit his girth, scorching him with his pulsing heat, thrusting into him with the same lustful urgency that Zell felt to the very core of his being for his lover.  It was so indescribably good.

Zell was moaning steadily as Seifer drove into his body, his pace increasing rapidly as he continued to pant into Zell’s ear, his voice deepening further as he approached his release.  In the heat of the moment, Seifer dropped the dirty-talking game and lapsed back into his usual mannerisms, moaning his appreciation of his smaller lover’s body.

“Oh, god, baby, you’re so tight…” Seifer whispered, biting down gently on Zell’s sensitive neck, making the martial artist arch his back in pleasure, allowing Seifer to slide in deeper.  “Zell… God, you feel so good…”

Zell turned his head so that he could capture Seifer’s lips in a hungry, frantic kiss, relishing the wonderfully familiar taste of the older man’s mouth.  When Seifer broke away and gripped Zell’s hips tighter, the smaller man gasped out encouragement, wanting to feel Seifer come inside of him, wanting the slick, hot feeling of his lover’s semen pumping deep within his body.

“Come for me, Seif,” Zell groaned, rocking his hips back against his lover’s.  “I want you to come inside me, I wanna feel you, I wanna hear you say my name…”

Seifer stiffened and sobbed Zell’s name hoarsely before his body started shuddering and he let out a long, moaning wail.  Zell sighed in pleasure as he felt Seifer’s seed jetting inside of him, and he flexed his muscles gently to milk the older man’s erection, savoring the awed, loving way that Seifer whispered his name into the damp heated flesh of his neck.

Seifer rested against Zell’s back for a moment, letting his body regain its equilibrium, before withdrawing and reaching around to the front of Zell’s hips to grasp his neglected erection. 

“Turn around, baby,” Seifer whispered, nuzzling the soft skin underneath the smaller man’s ear.  Zell complied, taking in the beautiful sight of Seifer’s flushed face, leaning up impulsively to kiss his tall lover.  Seifer indulged the kiss for a while before moving down Zell’s body slowly, spending long moments worshipping the super-sensitive flesh of Zell’s neck and his nipples.  When he finally reached Zell’s aching arousal, Seifer licked his lips before opening his mouth and taking Zell’s penis in deeply, gradually relaxing the muscles of his throat until his nose was buried in the dark blond curls of Zell’s pubic hair.

Gasping at the amazing feeling of getting deep-throated, Zell gently cupped Seifer’s face in his hands, tilting his head back against the wall and closing his eyes, moaning Seifer’s name appreciatively.  Seifer brought a hand from Zell’s waist to lightly massage his balls, squeezing softly and wringing a high, pleasured whine from his smaller lover.  What with all the stimulation beforehand, it wasn’t long before Zell was crying out wordlessly, feeling the blinding, nerve-crackling energy of orgasm moving over his body.  When he came, trembling, sobbing Seifer’s name, he faintly heard Seifer’s pleased moan through the blood rushing through his ears.

Seifer suckled Zell’s softening penis, making the younger man’s knees buckle shakily, and he raptly watched his small lover’s gorgeous face as he greedily swallowed his hot ejaculate.  Reluctantly letting Zell slide out of his mouth, Seifer rose to his feet, gathering the still-trembling SeeD against his chest in a tender embrace.  He pressed a soft kiss to his lover’s slack mouth, tracing the tattoo on the side of his face with reverent fingertips.

“Morning,” Seifer whispered quietly when Zell finally opened his big pale blue eyes, blinking dazedly up at his taller lover.

“Mornin’,” Zell returned, somewhat breathlessly, his eyes radiating happiness as Seifer smiled down at him.  He raised his arms over his head in a luxurious stretch, sighing contentedly as Seifer quickly soaped them both up, his fingers lingering teasingly between Zell’s legs.  The small blond squirmed, pouting up at Seifer with mischief sparkling in his eyes.

“I thought I told you to give your addiction to my ass a rest,” Zell laughed, not minding in the least.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Seifer returned, sliding a finger into the still-stretched opening.  Zell yelped as Seifer watched him wriggle, chuckling affectionately.  He withdrew his hand and finished rinsing off. 

“I’ll make sure to leave you alone for the next couple of days.”

“Well, the next couple of hours sounds better… Oh, and I bought you a special breakfast but I think we’ll have to wait a while before you can eat it now… Or we could just make it an unhealthy late lunch.”

“What?  What did you buy?” Seifer questioned as he stepped out of the shower, briskly rubbing his hair dry before tossing Zell his own fluffy orange towel. 

“Oh, you know, whipped cream, cherries, flavored liquor, that sorta thing,” Zell said casually, catching his towel one-handed and drying himself off. 


Zell laughed out loud, practically able to see Seifer’s ears perk up at the mention of his favorite fruit.

“Yeah… It was great, the lady at the supermarket asked me if I was making a cake ‘cause I bought sprinkles and chocolate syrup and other stuff, too.  I mean, she totally knew what I was up to, and I had to try so hard to not laugh.  You shoulda been there…”

Seifer walked out of the bathroom and into the bedroom, snickering as he rummaged through the chest of drawers for clothing.

“Well, I might have missed the buying, but I’ll certainly be here for the eating part of it.”

Zell bounded into the bedroom, a big grin on his cute face.


He pinched Seifer’s ass as he grabbed a pair of boxers out of an open drawer and stepped into them without stopping, hopping over to the groceries on one foot until he had the underwear on.  He picked up the bags and headed for the kitchen, calling over his shoulder.

“Bought some coconut rum, too!”

Seifer rubbed his pinched ass, shaking his head and smiling broadly.  Zell was back, bringing with him a return of all the perfection and simple bliss of everyday life that was painfully absent while he was gone.  Dazed by the miracle of it all, Seifer finished dressing and left the bedroom, feeling his heart wheeling free as he walked towards the cheerful commotion that issued from the kitchen as Zell coaxed the house back to life.

“And the band played on, as the helicopters whirred; drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn, my senses finally blurred.”

That evening, Zell placed a call to Balamb G announcing that he was taking an extended vacation.  He spoke at first to Squall, but had to hang up on the irate Headmaster when the phone call degenerated into a shouting match.

Hearing Zell yelling angrily in the living room, Seifer put down the knife he was using to chop carrots for a salad and walked into the living room curiously.  He caught the tail end of the conversation.

“You know what, Squall, if you’d put your own problems aside for ten seconds you’d realize that other people have issues to deal with too! …  What?!?  Yeah, that’s what I said, you stupid bastard!  I’ve been busting my ass for you for two years, not taking vacations, taking extra missions and classes and you have the nerve to…”

Zell looked up when Seifer came in, his normally friendly face set in an outraged frown.  He shook his head at Seifer, holding up his hand to signal for a moment alone.  Seifer frowned, too, before turning and walking back into the kitchen.  He wondered what the hell was happening to make Zell so pissed off.

“Hey, fuck you, alright?  I’ll talk to you later when you calm down and stop being such an asshole!  Fucker…”

Seifer heard the phone being slammed viciously into its cradle, and then the back door was opened and thrown shut.  The muffled sound of punches and kicks sounded from the backyard, along with Zell’s panted cussing.  Seifer let him work it off and finished up the salad, putting it in the fridge to cool after adding tomatoes and celery.  He was checking the steak and potatoes in the oven when Zell came into the kitchen, his face flushed but calmer, and opened the refrigerator, popping off the cap of the orange juice and chugging it down.  He wiped his mouth on his forearm and came to stand beside Seifer, who was leaning against the counter and waiting patiently for Zell’s explanation, a quizzical look on his face.

“Sorry,” Zell finally muttered, still bouncing slightly on the balls of his feet.  When he got upset he got very physically charged.

“That stupid prick…  I mean, I did everything he asked me for two years, you know?  Nothin’ that I would say no to.  I took all the shit missions that nobody else wanted, the early morning classes nobody else wanted to teach… Christ, and I never complained, not once.  I was miserable but I kept it to my fucking self.  So I admit that it was a little irresponsible to only leave a note and disappear, but it was a goddamn emergency.  I didn't know what was wrong with you, and I think it’s obvious that you’re more important to me than Garden has ever been.”

Zell put the orange juice container on the counter and came over to Seifer, nestling his body against his taller lover’s and burying his face in his broad chest.  Seifer shifted his hips so that he could lean more comfortably against the counter and wrapped his arms around the martial artist’s body, resting his chin atop Zell’s head as the younger man kept talking.

“So I apologized first thing for leaving so suddenly, but before I could even explain anything he starts in on me about what a hassle I caused him, and how could I be so irresponsible and negligent of my duties to Garden, and how he doesn’t have time right now to deal with me being gone because of what’s happening with him and Rinoa – whoo, boy, now there’s a soap opera if you ever wanted to hear one…”

“No, not especially,” Seifer put in lowly, his arms tightening possessively around Zell at the mention of Squall’s insensitive reprimanding.  He never had liked the SeeD Headmaster, and it pissed him off that he would treat Zell as badly as the smaller man was describing.  Furthermore, the relationship between an old rival and an ex-girlfriend was nothing he wanted to know about in any great detail.

“Yeah, right… Anyways, they’re a mess and Squall’s been taking it out on me for the longest time.  I didn't really give a shit before because I had more pressing concerns like getting my quality time with my right hand and my fantasies about us in every night, but it’s not like I didn't realize he was treating me like crap.  So when I called him on that after he reamed me out, he just got madder, and I can’t believe what a self-absorbed asshole he can be!”

Seifer grinned slightly as Zell insulted Squall, but he wiped the satisfied look off his face before putting his hands on Zell’s shoulders and pushing him lightly away so he could see his face.

“So what are you gonna do?” Seifer questioned, massaging his lover’s tense shoulders with his strong fingers.  “I mean, I don’t want you to resign from SeeD; I’ll probably never go back there, but you love Balamb G.”

“Yeah…” Zell sighed, the indignant set of his shoulders slumping as he finally started to cool off, Seifer’s calm presence and the relaxing pressure of his hands slowing Zell’s pulse.

“I dunno.  I think I’m gonna call Quistis’ private line and talk with her about things.  She oversees a lot of the jobs that Squall’s too high and mighty to take care of; you know, like the real work.  She should have been Headmistress but when Cid gets an idea in his head, well, it’s the only thing floating around in there and you just can’t change his mind.  Anyways, since she actually does most of the paperwork she can file me in for extended leave with pay; I’ve put in enough overtime in the last two years to get me at least a solid four months of vacation.”

Seifer nodded silently against Zell’s hair, and the younger man’s steadily dropped in volume as the last of his anger dissipated.

“Quisty won’t take any shit from Squall, so there’s really no problem.  We’re basically free to hang around here together for a while and… catch up,” Zell said seductively, rocking his hips gently against Seifer’s.  Seifer laughed, pushing Zell away in mock offense. 

“Oh, I see how it is,” he exclaimed, making a hurt face.  “You’re just going to stick around until you’ve had enough of my body and then go traipsing back to Balamb, huh?” 

Zell was laughing as Seifer pushed him away, but his face grew serious at his lover’s comment.

“Seif… I’m not gonna leave you again, you know that, right?  …Ever.”

Seifer’s eyes darkened and he frowned slightly.

“I know, Zell – I was just kidding.”

“I mean it.” Zell stated softly, pressing his body against Seifer’s once more and sighing as the taller man’s arms encircled him again.

They were silent for a moment before Zell spoke up.

“We should talk about what we’re gonna do after my leave’s over, Seif.  I mean, you’re right, I love Balamb G and I want to go back at least once in a while to teach a few classes, maybe as a part-time Instructor.  But I think maybe we should think about moving.”

Seifer tensed a bit, and Zell rushed to reassure him, tilting his head back so he could meet his lover’s gaze once again.

“I don’t mean that we should sell this place – I mean, we freakin’ built it ourselves, practically, since it was a total wreck when we bought it.  I know we both love this house.  But I also think we went a little crazy out here all alone for so long.”

Zell’s eyes searched Seifer’s for agreement, and the tall blond nodded slowly, still unsure as to what Zell was getting at.

“And you know all those job applications you sent out that you mentioned while we were coming home?  Well, after we’ve spent a few months here making up for lost time, maybe you should send out more or follow up on some of the ones you already got offers for.  Wherever you want to move, I’ll go with you.  It’ll be a change of pace, and we’ll have more stuff to occupy our time…”

“Yeah, I was starting to feel pretty useless out here with nothing to do but fix people’s roofs on weekends.” Seifer said, smiling.  He liked Zell’s idea, and he liked his lover’s reassurance that they would continue to live together. 

“I thought about it a lot, you know, after I left.  I kept wondering what the hell had gone wrong, wondering just how I’d fucked up so badly to ruin something as great as what we had going on here.”

“Or how badly I’d fucked up,” Seifer said quietly, averting his eyes from Zell’s.

“Don’t say that,” Zell said quickly, reaching up and taking Seifer’s chin in his hand to guide their gazes back together.  “Neither of us did anything – it was just being stuck out here in paradise with nothing to fight.  We both love challenges, and we had nothing to challenge here but each other, eventually.  I don’t ever want that to happen again.”

Seifer smiled at Zell reassuringly, leaning down to nuzzle his nose.

“Me neither, Zell.  But to tell you the truth, I’ve been so wrapped up in seeing you again that I honestly haven’t been giving the future any thought.  I think your plan sounds great, though.  There’re a few construction companies in Esthar I was looking at, and maybe we could get a small place in the capital.  Living in the city will make coming out here for vacations that much greater, you know?”

“Yeah!” Zell agreed excitedly, warming to the topic now that Seifer had confirmed his opinion.  “And of course we don’t need to decide anything right away – Seriously, we have a really long time to think about it.  It’ll be great.”

As if seconding Zell’s statement, the timer on the stove started beeping, and Seifer jumped a bit.

“Damn!  I completely forgot about dinner…”

He was already opening the oven and reaching for a towel to take the hot tray out with.  He leaned over in front of the oven, sniffing suspiciously, but nothing smelled burnt.  Behind him, Zell cleared his throat.

“Uh, could you stay in that position for like five seconds while I get the lube?”

Seifer snorted, carefully wrapping the towel around the heavy pan and lifting it out of the oven.

“Sorry babe, but you’re gonna be eating this meat before you get to eat mine.  I’m starving.”

Zell snickered, licking his lips as he watched Seifer’s ass while the tall man moved around dishing out portions onto two plates. 

“Oh, yeah, and don’t forget about dessert.  I’ve been waiting all day for that,” Seifer continued, putting the plates on the table and sitting down.

Zell grabbed the salad and a couple of beers out of the fridge and sat down, grinning lecherously.

“Mmm.  Me too.”

Zell was putting away the clean dishes after dinner when there was a loud thump from the living room.

“Seif, you okay?” he called, wiping the counter off with a clean dishrag.  “Seif?”

When there was no answer, Zell dropped the towel onto the counter and hurried into the living room, blanching as he saw Seifer sprawled out on the floor by the front door, his body twisted awkwardly over the step that separated the entryway from the raised wooden flooring of the room. 


Zell slid to his knees next to the fallen man, running his hands over his face and neck, finding a pulse that was shallow and thready.

“Jesus, what do I…  Seifer!  Seifer, can you hear me?  Oh my god… Seifer!”

Zell moved Seifer quickly and efficiently so that he was no longer draped over the step, cradling his head in his lap and crying out in relief when the older man’s eyelashes fluttered and he let out a faint groan.

“Seif!  Wake up!” Zell slapped his cheeks lightly, alarmed by the paper-white pallor of Seifer’s face.

Shaking his head slightly, Seifer opened his eyes blearily, staring up at Zell with obvious confusion.

“…Zell?  What…?”

Zell sighed in relief, stroking Seifer’s short golden hair reassuringly.

“You passed out or something, Seif.  I was in the kitchen and I heard you fall…  What happened?  What were you doing?”

“I was just...taking out the trash,” Seifer said slowly, his eyes clouding.  Zell noticed and was quick to question him.

“What’s the matter?  Did you hurt something?  Why are you making that face?”

Seifer sighed, sitting up slowly and wincing as his hip protested painfully at the movement.  He rested his elbows on his knees and hunched forward, rubbing his forehead.

“I blacked out.  This… This isn’t the first time this has happened, either, Zell.”

“What?”  Zell’s expression was a mixture of apprehension, confusion, and anger.  “What do you mean, it’s happened before?”

“I didn't want to freak you out,” Seifer said softly, still hunched over.  “I thought I was getting better since you got here.  But I didn't just get bruises and get tired more easily.  I had these weird things where I blacked out a couple of times.”

“A couple of times?” Zell repeated, his voice rising in volume.  “Dammit, please tell me you didn't keep that from the doctor, too!”

“No, alright?!  I told him…  And he told me to get more rest and eat more iron.  That’s all!  He didn't make a big deal out of it so why should I?  It’s probably nothing, and they’re doing some blood tests anyways, so don’t worry about it, ok?”

Zell had forgotten about the tests Seifer had mentioned in his phone call to Balamb.  Remembering how Seifer sounded on the phone that night and warily eyeing his tall lover as he sat pale and curled up on the step, Zell felt a horrible sense of unease wash over him.

“Seif… Why didn't you tell me…?”

Seifer didn't answer, but after a moment he raised his head and met Zell’s hurt, questioning eyes.

“I’m sorry, Zell.  Honestly, it’s probably some sort of nutritional thing, and they’ll call me when they know.  I’m trying not to worry about it, and I didn't want you to have to worry about it, either.”

Zell was silent and uncharacteristically still, dropping his eyes from Seifer’s face.  After a minute he stood up and offered a hand to Seifer.

“It’s late.  Maybe you should get some rest and go to sleep early, huh?” Zell said quietly, his tone subdued.

Seifer grasped Zell’s hand and pulled himself to his feet, flinching visibly as he stood.

“What’s wrong?” Zell asked anxiously, steadying Seifer with both hands.

“I think I must’ve landed on my hip when I fell – it hurts like fuck,” Seifer said, gently brushing Zell’s hands off his arms as he made his way to the bedroom. 

Zell stood on the spot, his arms hanging limply at his sides, shoulders slumping.  Seifer had pushed him away.

“Yeah, you fell on right on the step,” he offered halfheartedly, his blue eyes clouded over. 

“When are you coming to bed?” Seifer called from the bedroom, raising his voice over the audible rustling of the sheets and the slow creak as he lowered himself gingerly into bed.

“I’ll come in later,” Zell replied, unmoving.  “You just get some rest.”

He finally moved and walked to the bedroom door, reaching inside and clicking off the light.

“Night, Seif,” the small SeeD whispered, walking slowly into the kitchen and sitting down in his chair at the table, unable to shake the feeling that something had suddenly started to go terribly wrong.

Seifer woke up the next morning to the comforting warmth of Zell’s body nestled against his right side and an ungodly pain radiating all along his body from his left hip.  When he tried to sit up, he grunted at a sharp twinge of discomfort, forcing himself up despite the pain.  He had a massive headache that made itself known when he sat up, and it was making him feel a little dizzy.  Zell scooted towards him drowsily, murmuring something unintelligible before happily burying his face in the warmth left by Seifer’s body on the sheets and falling back asleep.  Seifer wondered how late Zell had stayed up the night before, feeling a pang of regret at Zell’s obvious disappointment about Seifer keeping something from him.  He supposed that he couldn't keep protecting Zell from the darker truths about himself forever; hadn’t he learned that lesson before?  But he’d really thought he was getting better…

Limping to the bathroom in the pale bluish light of early morning, Seifer stripped off his shirt and boxers, leaving the light off as he turned on the shower and let the water heat up.  He was stepping unsteadily into the stall when a spear of pain shot down his leg.  He cursed quietly, turning around to examine his hip in the mirror, and had to grip the side of the counter as he reeled in sudden shock.

An enormous purple-black bruise covered his entire lower left torso, from just below his ribcage down to mid-thigh, centered around an angry deep red welt right on his hipbone.  His left arm, too, was a dark purple around the elbow, the outside of his bicep bruised too.  The rest of his flesh had an unhealthy bloodless pallor that was visible even in the dim morning light.  He looked like he’d been hit by a car.

“Jesus…” Seifer whispered, rendered breathless by the sight of his abused body.  He couldn't possibly have fallen that hard, not with just his own body weight bringing him down…

Panting, a sick feeling of dread creeping through his veins, Seifer walked carefully to the bathroom door, leaning on the doorframe as he called out.

“Zell?  Hey Zell!”

From the bedroom came a muffled sound that might have been a “What is it…”

“I think… I think I need to go to the hospital.”

“So what’d he say?”

Zell jumped out of the hard plastic chair, his lungs constricting when he saw the slow, careful way in which Seifer was walking over to him, leaning heavily on a pair of crutches.  He had the edges of a thick white bandage showing in the gap between his belt and his shirt where the shirt’s material was hiked up and caught between his left armpit and the crutch.  Zell rushed over to try and help Seifer walk, but there was little that he could do besides sidestep attentively beside him as they moved deliberately down the hallway to the exit.

In response to Zell’s question, Seifer just shook his head wordlessly, his face contorted with the effort of walking.

“Well, are you gonna be ok?  What took so long?  You were in there for like five hours!  What happened to your hip?”

“Well, the bone’s bruised, that’s what hurts so bad.  The problem was that there was internal bleeding – they had to give me some heavy-duty shots and do a compress.  That’s what took so long.  …The doctor said it was the beginnings of a mild hemorrhage, Zell.” 

“What?!?” Zell’s sky-blue eyes opened wide in shock, his mouth gaping open as he stared at Seifer as if expecting the tall blond to finish the joke.

“Are you shittin’ me?  A hemorrhage?  You tripped at the front door, for chrissakes!  How could that have caused internal bleeding?  That’s fuckin’ crazy!  How did they… Did they take x-rays?  Are they sure the bone’s ok or…”

“Well, usually when you’re missing a couple of pints of blood that shouldn’t be gone it’s because of an internal hemorrhage, Zell.” Seifer interrupted, his face completely devoid of emotion. 

Zell stopped walking.

“…I…I don’t understand.”  The martial artist started shaking his head, slowly at first and then with increasing vehemence.  “You don’t just trip and smash stuff inside you bad enough to hemorrhage with only your own body weight, goddammit.”

“Well, apparently you do, ‘cause that’s what happened to me.  Two whole pints.  Jesus.  I had to have a transfusion.”

Seifer’s face had taken on a distinctively pale tinge, and he was starting to sweat from the ordeal of walking.

“Anyways, now that I’ve got enough blood back in me, I should be ok.  They’ve got me shot up with a bunch of blood-clotting agents, and if the x-rays were correct, there was no damage to the bone besides bruising, so taking it easy for the next week or so is about all I can do.  And they gave me a prescription for some heavy-duty painkillers.”

By this time, Seifer was breathing hard and was visibly struggling to keep moving.

“Fuck, I feel like I played chicken with a T-Rexaur.”

Zell stumbled into motion and caught up to Seifer in three easy steps, whereas it had taken the taller man nearly a minute to get that far.  Zell still had a dazed look about him, and seeing his lover’s pallid skin and the way his arms trembled from the strain of holding himself up, Zell felt a wash of dread hit him with all the power of a tidal wave.  He felt it sickeningly deep in his heart; that despite all their optimistic assumptions, there was something truly, terribly wrong with Seifer.

“Jesus, look at you; you’re about to fall over.  Lemme get you a wheelchair or something, I saw some by the front desk…”

“I’ll walk.” Seifer said shortly, still painstakingly making his way down the pea-green tiled hallway.

“This’s is no time to be an arrogant bastard, Seifer,” Zell snapped, his eyes flashing with anger and worry.  “Forget about appearances for once and…”

“It hurts too much to sit down, Zell, alright?  Just let me walk.”

Zell blinked and was only able to nod in agreement, struck speechless in his growing panic.  When he found his voice again he realized that it was choked with the tears that were brimming in his eyes.

“Seif…It’s nearly two miles to your place.  How are you gonna make it in… in the shape you’re in?  I’ll ask them for a ride from the hospital, ok?”

“It’s our house, Zell, not just mine, remember?  And I walked here without crutches: I can make it back home, too.”

Seifer finally reached the exit and moved through as the automatic doors slid open, with Zell and the concerned hospital staff watching him make his way towards the steps.  Seeing his stately lover limping slowly down to the sidewalk, the awkward arch of his back clearly displaying the pain he was in, Zell felt the tears he had been desperately holding back in front of Seifer spill over his cheeks in hot rivulets.  Tilting his head back, unable to bear the cruel reality of Seifer’s condition, Zell closed his eyes and willed with all his soul that Seifer’s sickness was as simple as the tall SeeD believed it to be.

“Think of bombs; we’re poised on the edge of disaster, whether it’s right or it’s wrong.  We opened the window, played some Nintendo, sang a few bars of some pretty old song…”

“‘Take it easy.’  That’s what the doctor said.  So you’re gonna keep your tight little ass in that bed and let me take care of you, or I might just have to knock you out myself.”

With that threat, which sounded half serious, Zell slammed the bedroom door and left Seifer frowning on the bed, propped up among the pillows with an ice pack on his hip and a couple glasses of water within easy reach.

“Shit, Chicken, you act like I’m dying,” he said rudely to the closed door. 

They had come back from the hospital three days ago, and while he had slept soundly for almost two days due to the pain medication prescribed to him, he’d been cooped up in bed long enough to start getting antsy.  It had been cute at first when Zell had taken playing nurse so seriously, but it was starting to get really annoying really fast.  Yeah, his hip still ached a bit, but he felt well enough to be moving around, at least inside the house.  Not to mention that the martial artist wouldn't even consider fooling around until Seifer’s week was up.  Now that was just cruel and unusual punishment, in Seifer’s opinion.

Groaning in utter boredom, Seifer let his body go limp against the pillows propping him up.  With the way Zell was feeding him and not letting him get up and move around he was going to gain fifteen pounds after this trying bedrest.  It must have been the lack of exercise that was making him feel so weak. 

The door opened again and Zell poked his head in, his face solemn.

“Try to sleep more.  Then you won’t be so bored,” he suggested, making a face at Seifer.  “You whiner.  Anyways, I’m gonna be reading in the living room if you need anything.  Just call me.  I’ll wake you up in a couple hours to take your medicine.  OK?”

“Yes, Ma’am,” Seifer muttered, grinning as Zell gave him the finger.

He tried to sleep, but after about fifteen minutes of counting the shadows in the plaster of the ceiling, Seifer couldn't take it any longer. 

“Nurse!” he shouted in the direction of the living room.  “Do your bedside services include blowjobs?”

“Shut up, Seifer.” Zell answered, sounding pretty bored himself.

“How about stripteases?”

“No!  Go to sleep, asshole!”

“Jesus, what do they pay you people for, anyways?” Seifer complained loudly, trying not to laugh.

“I swear to god, Almasy, you’re gonna drive me insane…”

Having found a new diversion, Seifer suddenly wasn’t quite so bored anymore.

“Seifer!  How are you feeling, son?”

Dr. Evans stood up as Seifer and Zell entered his small office, reaching across his desk to shake both their hands.

“Hello, Zell.”

Zell nodded back in greeting, the doctor’s friendly manner not putting him at ease in the least.  There had to be some kind of problem if Dr. Evans had called Seifer at home the night before to come see him in private.  It had only been about a week since Seifer had hurt his hip, which was earlier than the doctor had suggested for a follow-up visit.

Seifer sat down immediately as the physician gestured towards the two chairs facing his desk.

“I’m feeling better – the hip’s not bothering me at all.”

“Oh good, good to hear!”

“He’s lost twelve pounds in the past week,” Zell interjected darkly, shooting a sharp glance at his lover.  This was not the time to gloss over his strange symptoms.

“Twelve pounds, really.” Dr. Evans sat up straighter in his chair, a frown crossing his features before he smoothed them back into a professional smile.  “Well, I can tell you boys are nervous so I’m just gonna jump right in.”

“Good idea,” Seifer murmured.  His face looked a little pale.

“When you first came in, Seifer, I didn't think anything of what you described.  Occasional blackouts can be due to stress, dietary habits… All sorts of small everyday happenings.  The bruising was unusual, but not unheard of.  When you complained of prolonged reoccurrences, however, I sent your blood samples to Esthar for analysis, thinking that you might have been suffering from anemia.  That would explain in part the bruising and fatigue you had described.  Well, we got your results back yesterday, and there is definitely no presence of anemia in your blood.  This is good news in that we’ve ruled out one condition, but the down side is that now I’m at a loss as to what could be going on.  Now, I don’t want to needlessly alarm you,” the elderly doctor said, leaning towards Seifer and Zell as they watched him with guarded expressions.

“…but I’d like to take a bone marrow sample and have that sent in to Esthar for them to analyze, Seifer.  Bone marrow testing isn’t very common, but it will in this case help rule out Leukemia.”

Seifer’s hands tightened on the armrests of his chair, but he kept his expression level and calm.  Zell, on the other hand, sat rigidly in his seat, staring at the doctor in obvious disbelief.

“Leukemia?  You mean, like cancer?”  Zell asked, his voice strained in his efforts to keep himself under control.

Seifer was silent.

“Yes, it is a type of cancer, but I want to stress to you both that it is a fairly rare condition, and this testing would be purely a precaution to make sure that Leukemia is not what we’re dealing with here.  There is every likelihood that whatever is causing these blackouts and fatigue and whatnot is a non-serious, easily treatable condition.  The bone marrow test will help us narrow down the possibilities, is all.”

“Well then let’s do it,” Seifer said, finally speaking up.  His face was devoid of emotion and he sounded distant, but he met the doctor’s gaze steadily as he nodded in agreement. 

“How long will it take to get the test results looked at?” Zell questioned, openly worried.  He didn't like how Seifer was acting, because it was exactly the way the older man behaved when he was extremely emotional and trying to hide it.  To Zell, that translated to mean that Seifer was getting very, very frightened.

“I’ll send them to Esthar and mark them as high priority, so I should get a call from the lab over there in about a week.  I’m having their doctors analyze the marrow because I’ve never personally had experience with that sort of diagnosis and I want to leave it up to experts.”

“How soon can you take the sample?” Seifer asked, standing up.

“Oh, we can get that right now, but I’m going to warn you, it’s a very painful procedure.  We’ll draw a small amount out with a needle, and the most common area to go into is the lower spine.”

Seifer laughed darkly, not sounding amused in the least.

“I’m a SeeD, doc, not some pampered housewife.  I can handle it.”

The doctor raised an eyebrow, shrugging.

“All right, then.  Right this way and we’ll get you set up.  Zell, why don’t you wait outside.  Oh, and Seifer, you’re not going to be able to walk after this for a while, so I’ll arrange to have a nurse drive you home this time.”

Zell, dismissed, stepped aside as Seifer was led into a nearby examining room, his fists clenched and his jaw set angrily.  He wasn’t particularly upset with either Seifer or Dr. Evans, but he let himself get a little worked up anyways at the way they had shooed him off.  Being angry was better than being scared, but Zell soon realized that he was shaking not out of rage but because he was trying so hard not to cry. 

“Stoppit, Zell,” he told himself quietly through gritted teeth.  Seifer would be fine.  It was ridiculous to think he had Leukemia.  Fucking ridiculous.  The doctor had said himself it was just a precautionary test.

From the examining room came a muffled cry of pain, and Zell had to walk quickly towards the front desk to get away from the sound. 

Seifer would be fine. 

Seifer was finally able to get up and walk around two days after his test at the hospital.  There was no joking around about being nursed by Zell this time.  Seifer took extra pain medication to try to avoid waking up at all, but Zell would come in from time to time and make him drink liquids and ask about how he felt.  He checked the bruising around the puncture site once and had to sit down heavily next to Seifer, his face looking a little green.

“Oh my god, Seif, what did they do to you?”  Zell whispered, shocked.  There was a huge reddish-purple welt surrounding the base of Seifer’s spine and bruised lines of skin crawling up along the center of his back like the markings of a whip. 

Seifer turned over onto his back once again, wincing at the tenderness of his flesh. 

“You should have seen that needle, Zell.  It was the size of a fucking soda straw.  And Evans said he couldn't dope me up because the medicine would contaminate the sample, so he just shoved it right in.  I thought I was gonna faint, it hurt so bad.”

Zell leaned over and kissed Seifer gently on the mouth, making sure not to rest any of his weight on the reclining man.

“It’ll be better soon, Seif.  And once we get the test results back as negative we can stop worrying about this crap.”

Seifer nuzzled his smaller lover’s nose, smiling up at him reassuringly.

“Right.  I mean, c’mon, Zell, you know I fail most every test I take,” Seifer joked.  “Why should this one be any different?”

Zell laughed, trying his best to shake off the sick sense of foreboding that had been plaguing him since he and Seifer had seen the doctor.  It did no one any good to be moody, least of all Seifer, who needed to keep his morale up and get better quickly.

“Hey, how about I go to the store and get stuff to make scalloped potatoes tonight?  And I’ll buy a cheesecake or something.  We need to fatten you up,” Zell grinned, poking Seifer in the side.  He forced himself to keep smiling even when he felt how lean Seifer’s body had become.  When had that happened?  Zell tried to remember if he’d noticed anything before, but he was distracted from his panicked recollections when Seifer settled a hand over his crotch. 

“What would you say to getting a little frisky tomorrow, huh?  I think you’ve kept me on restriction long enough,” Seifer said, pouting slightly and smiling genuinely as Zell blushed.  For someone so kinky, he sure did blush at the least provocation.

“You think it’s been easy for me to keep my hands off of you?” Zell returned, licking his lips seductively.  When Seifer made a move to grab him he jumped off the bed, grinning wickedly.

“We’ll just have to see how you feel tomorrow, won’t we?”

“You’re such a goddamn tease!” Seifer groaned, disappointed.  He’d really thought Zell was going to take pity on him right then.

“I’ll be back in about two hours,” Zell said, strutting out of the room and blowing Seifer a kiss.  It felt so good to be bantering normally about normal things.  “Maybe then you might get lucky enough to get the nurse who does stripteases.”

The martial artist laughed as he walked out the door after grabbing his wallet, whistling, hearing Seifer call out behind him.

“What about the one who gives blowjobs?”

Later in the week, when Seifer was up and about again, he and Zell decided to clean the place up.  The day before, Zell had gotten a call on his cell from Irvine, who had asked Quistis just where the hell the small blond SeeD had gone off to.  When he called, the first thing the cowboy had asked was whether he was interrupting anything ‘important’.  Zell had laughed, happy to hear from his old friend again, and explained that no, Irvine had caught them during a five minute break.

They had talked for a while, and Irvine had wanted to speak to Seifer, too, and soon Zell and Seifer had extended the invitation for Irvine and Selphie to come and stay with them in Winhill for a couple of days.  Or course, the small house was just not big enough to accommodate four people, and Selphie could be heard shouting in the background as Seifer relayed through Zell a couple of numbers for hotels in town from the phonebook.

“A vacation, Irvy!  Take me to a nice hotel!  One with room service!  And with big king-size beds!  And those whirlpool bathtubs!  Haven’t you always wanted to do it in a whirlpool bathtub?”

Zell started laughing hysterically as Irvine tried to quiet his hyper girlfriend down, telling Seifer what was going on in the background and making the tall man start chuckling, too.  Irvine had Selphie check their calendar, and then he and Zell agreed that the two of them would come out to Winhill in about three weeks, when there was a Garden holiday and they had a weekend free.  Before Irvine hung up, he lowered his voice and spoke seriously.

“And Zell, I’m really glad you an’ Seifer got back together.  Me ‘n Selph knew it was bothering you, and we just both wanted to say we’re happy for y’all.  Ok, that’s about all the sappiness you’re gonna hear outta me.”

“And tell Seifer I can’t wait to see him and have the chance to ogle his fine ass!” Selphie shouted, giggling as Irvine said something to her.

“What about my fine ass?” Zell said loudly, yelping as Seifer walked up and spanked him.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it for you,” Seifer whispered in Zell’s free ear, standing behind him and pulling the smaller man against his body.  Zell shivered in delighted anticipation and breathlessly said goodbye to Irvine before hanging up and tossing the phone onto the couch to attend to more pressing matters, like Seifer’s erection making its presence known against his ass. 

They spent the rest of that evening fooling around, and the next day came to the consensus that, if they were having company, they had better get a head start on the cleaning. 

“Three weeks in advance?” Zell asked doubtfully, giving the living room a once over.  “What’s to clean?  The place looks alright.”

“Yeah, well I never did yearly springtime maintenance while you weren't here,” Seifer answered, running his fingers along a line of peeling paint on the front doorframe.  “We could repaint some of the woodwork and fix the busted tiles in the shower.  The kitchen table could use a new coat of varnish, too; I think the worn spot in the center is a little obvious, don’t you?”

Zell grinned, his bright blue eyes sparkling with mischief.  

“You mean you don’t like the ambiance of our sex-table?”

“I love the ambiance of our sex-table!” Seifer exclaimed in mock surprise.  “We’ll varnish everywhere but that worn spot, so I have something to use as a target when I’m pounding your ass down onto it.”

“Rawr,” Zell said, purring sexily at his lover.  “Who knew home maintenance could be so pleasing… sexually?”

They both laughed, and Seifer went into the kitchen to get a pad of paper and a pen to make a shopping list with.  While the tall man rummaged around in the odds-and-ends cabinet, Zell moved around the living room, unlatching the three windows and throwing them open to let in the sweet summer air and bright sunlight.  If they were going to be cleaning, there would be lots of dust; with that in mind, Zell walked over to the front door and opened it, too, leaving the screen door shut. 

He fully realized that the house was in great shape and the business of cleaning and re-painting was a project mainly meant to kill time, but it was a good idea.  Both he and Seifer would go crazy waiting for the doctor to call if they didn't have something to do to keep them busy. 

After Seifer had made his list and Zell had added on a few suggestions, they headed towards Winhill together.  It was a beautiful summer day, and they walked slowly to enjoy the bright warm sunlight and the clear air.  Seifer insisted that his hip and back were feeling fine, but Zell found excuses to stop momentarily several times to give Seifer a little bit of rest anyways.  They made it into town after only a little longer than normal, and went directly to the hardware store, where they found most everything on their shopping list within an hour.  Zell’s stomach started rumbling as Seifer paid the cashier, and as soon as they stepped out of the store he grabbed Seifer’s wrist, making a pained face.

“I have to eat now,” Zell stated, dropping his bag of paint cans and plaster mixes on the cobbled sidewalk and clutching his middle exaggeratedly.  Seifer laughed, his deep blue-green eyes sparkling at Zell’s antics.

“We just ordered the tile to be delivered in an hour and a half, Zell,” he said, trying to sound exasperated and failing miserably.  “We’ll never make it back if we stay in town for lunch.”

By this time, Zell was on his knees, hunched over and whimpering melodramatically, earning the pair several bewildered stares from passerby.

“Zell, get up!  People are staring!”

“C’mon, Seif, I’ll never make it home like this!  And they just opened a new diner-thingy across town…  We got a flier in the mail a few days back and they have this hotdog special where if you can eat their special supersize hotdog in less than five minutes you get as many more as you want free and it looked sooo good and you have to let us go there for lunch today, Seif, please!”

Zell paused for breath and looked up at Seifer, who was by this time laughing openly and shaking his head in resigned disbelief.

“Booyaka!” The short blond jumped up, punching the air excitedly as he ran back into the store to ask for a later delivery time for their ordered tile.  He was out of the store in less than a minute and grabbed his bag up from the sidewalk as he started off in the direction of the restaurant. 

“Now we have time to rent some movies and stuff, too,” Zell commented, grinning at Seifer happily. 

Seifer smiled back, slinging his arm around Zell’s shoulders affectionately, a gesture that made Zell’s spirit soar.  It felt so good to be with Seifer like this, both of them smiling and laughing together, out walking around town like any other couple.  The stress and unpleasant shocks of the past week and a half melted away, leaving them in a pleasant daze that lasted all afternoon and all evening, when they made one final use of the kitchen table before it’s imminent re-finishing.  Just for good measure, they both took a turn being on top, and after about an hour and one empty whipped cream can later, they stumbled to bed and fell right asleep.

The next day they got up early and started in on their project, with Zell re-tiling the bathroom and Seifer re-painting the woodwork in the living room and kitchen.  They took a break for lunch and ended up watching a movie, too, but Seifer insisted that they finish their respective projects before Zell could hook up the PS2 they’d rented the day before.  Later that night, after about five rounds of a fighting game, Seifer got sick of getting his ass whipped and challenged Zell to a game of strip poker.  Not being one to turn down such a sweet proposition, Zell agreed, after adding the term that they had to finish off the bottle of peppermint schnapps they had in the fridge during the course of the game.  They woke up the next morning naked and freezing on the living room floor with blue paint from the can by the front door smeared all over their bodies.  When Zell stood up groggily to try and locate the turpentine, Seifer started laughing so hard he almost turned purple.

“What?  What the hell did you paint on my back, you goofy bastard?”

Seifer just shook his head breathlessly and pointed towards the bathroom, flopping back onto the floor and crying tears of mirth, letting his blue-painted body go limp as he gasped for breath.  Zell walked into the bathroom and peered over his shoulder at his back, letting out a squawk of outrage at what he saw. 

Seifer had painted a happy face on his ass, the big smiling mouth stretching across both cheeks.

“Aw hell no!” Zell shouted, bolting out of the bathroom and tackling the still-laughing Seifer.  The bigger man tried to push Zell off but was rendered helpless by his laughing fit and the fact that Zell had him pinned down by both arms.  He flexed his paint-smeared fingers ineffectually and squinted up at Zell through his tears, still grinning.

“You’re fucked now, Almasy,” Zell growled, using his legs to push Seifer’s apart and settling his body heavily against the other man’s.  Seifer managed to stop laughing and tilted his head slightly, peering up at Zell through half-lowered lashes.

“Proper fucked?”

Zell grinned ferally, his fingers digging into Seifer’s wrists as he bucked his hips and rubbed his erection against the taller blond’s groin. 

“Proper fucked.” Zell confirmed, raising an eyebrow and leaning down to lick at Seifer’s ear. 

Needless to say, they didn't get started on cleaning up the paint-splattered living room until well after breakfast time.  Afterwards, while Seifer was re-finishing the table and Zell was making sandwiches, the phone rang in the living room.  Zell put down the mayonnaise and looked at Seifer, who had paused in applying finish to the wood, his knuckles whitening as he clutched the brush handle and stared at Zell.

“I’ll get it,” Zell said unnecessarily, already starting towards the living room.  He gave Seifer a reassuring look as he left the kitchen, and when he reached for the phone he didn't let himself hesitate.


“Zell?  Is that you, honey?”

Zell’s shoulders slumped in relief and he sighed reflexively. 

“Hi, Ma.  What’s going on?”

“Oh I was just calling to check up on you…  I heard from Selphie that you were at Seifer’s, and I wanted to call and say hello to the both of you.”

“Who is it?” Seifer called from the kitchen, his voice strained.

“It’s Ma!” Zell said, poking his head around the corner and winking at Seifer.  “She wants to know when you’ll be having her grandchildren.”

Seifer’s pale face lit up and gained some color again as he smiled, shouting loudly enough to be heard over the phone.

“Hi, Ma!  No pregnancy yet but we’re trying our hardest!”

Zell walked into the kitchen laughing, but frowned in annoyance as the line crackled. 

“Oh, hold on a sec, Ma, I’m gonna move the phone base into the kitchen… Yeah, the reception’s terrible unless you stand two feet from the phone.  Well, Seifer bought it so what do you expect?  Yeah, give me two seconds then call back, ok?”

Zell chuckled and dodged a lazy punch from Seifer as he walked by, carrying the phone base over to the plug by the back door.

“C’mon, you did pick it out.  This is the shittiest cordless phone I’ve ever seen,” Zell said as he reconnected the phone base.

“You shouldn’t tell Ma bad stories about me,” Seifer returned, dipping his brush into the varnish and applying it with smooth, even strokes.  “She won’t want me to be the mother of her grandkids.” 

“Well if that’s how the gender orientation works, why don’t you make the sandwiches, wench?” Zell quipped, giving Seifer a sassy look.  Seifer started laughing again, and when the phone rang Zell picked it up and walked over to the counter to continue making lunch, cradling the receiver between his shoulder and his ear as he sliced tomatoes.  After a while he gave the phone to Seifer, and tall man visibly blushed as Ma Dincht thanked him for putting up with her son once again and, in her typical motherly fashion, welcomed him back to the family, saying she hoped it’d be for good this time around.

“I hope so too, Ma,” Seifer replied, wishing she was there in person so he could hug her.  He’d always liked Zell’s mom, and he deeply appreciated her unconditional acceptance of his and Zell’s relationship.

“Hey Seif, lunch is ready!” Zell said, taking the plates into the living room and moving the coffee table with his foot until it was in front of the couch.  He set the food down and walked back into the kitchen, taking the phone from Seifer and saying goodbye to his mother, promising he’d call her back soon.  After they ate, Zell started working on the outside painting while Seifer finished the table, and by six p.m., the house was looking absolutely great, with only three window frames outside left to be retouched.

That night they curled up on the sofa together to watch the last of their movies.  It was some subtitled martial arts gangster flick that Zell had picked out, peppered with constant gunfights and intense brawling sequences that seemed to go on forever.  Seifer kept laughing at the bad grammar of the subtitles and giving Zell a hard time about the cheesy soundtrack that blared on throughout the film, but as a consequence he completely missed all the names that flew around in the first twenty minutes and spent the last half of the movie as mesmerized as Zell because he was trying to figure out just what the hell was going on. 

Both of them were too caught up in the climactic shootout to hear the phone start ringing in the kitchen.    

After three rings, the answering machine clicked on, spinning out its recorded greeting silently into the dark, empty room until the caller’s voice piped up, reedy and soft over the phone lines.

“Hello, Seifer, this is Dr. Evans.  We got the results of your test back from Esthar, and I’d like you to come into my office to discuss them as soon as you can; tomorrow, if that’s possible.”

There was a long pause, filled with sharp gunfire and shouting and loud music that filtered in from the living room, but the message machine did not click off.

“Seifer, I’m afraid I have some bad news.”

“Irene, goodnight, Irene, goodnight.  Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene, I’ll see you in my dreams.”

All of the kitchen lights were turned off, and only the dim glow of the waning crescent moon illuminated the still, darkened room.  Zell sat silently in Seifer’s chair at the table, staring vacantly at the pale moonbeams where they pooled softly on the freshly varnished tabletop.  The kitchen smelled of new paint and wood polish, a sharply scented reminder of the new beginning he and Seifer had just constructed, only to have it dashed to pieces.

He couldn't even cry.  A numbness unlike any Zell had ever felt had seeped coldly through his bones, leaving him anchored in a thick, heavy emptiness.  Deeply sunk in the dim loneliness of the house, Zell forced his mind to go completely blank, his hollow silence his last defense against the truth after his outraged denial had burned itself away.

Seifer was staying at the hospital that night.  Dr. Evans was closely monitoring his condition, running some additional tests, and preparing several prescriptions that Seifer would have to take over the next few weeks in an attempt to stave off the inevitable.  For, as the doctor had carefully informed him and Zell, in cases as advanced as his, the survival rate was less than twenty percent.

Zell had tried his hardest to remain calm while they spoke with the doctor, but when the older physician had delicately stated that Seifer might have as little as two or three weeks left, the small SeeD has lost his temper completely.  He’d been asked to leave the hospital, and for Seifer’s sake he’d somehow managed to cooperate and leave his lover there for the night.  The lost, bewildered look in Seifer’s beautiful dark eyes as Zell reluctantly watched him walk away was etched onto Zell’s mind, however, and he couldn't escape the sick feeling that he’d abandoned the older man.  It felt like he’d handed Seifer over to a firing squad.

As little as two or three weeks.  That was nothing.  It was less than nothing.  And it might be all Seifer had left.

The complete and utter unfairness of the situation had surged through Zell in a reckless tidal wave, and he had jumped up and nearly thrown his chair at Dr. Evans.  The sight of Seifer sitting slumped and broken-looking next to him had only enflamed him further.

“What do you mean two or three weeks?!” Zell had shouted, his voice nearly hysterical in its shrillness.

Seifer had flinched when his lover started yelling, but he kept staring out the window with glassy eyes and avoiding looking at either Zell or the doctor.

“Zell, please calm down,” Dr. Evans had said, the alarm in his eyes belying his composed voice.  “As I explained, that is the worst case estimate, and there is still a chance of recovery with the proper treatment.  But the fact that the cancer has been present for several years already does make this a difficult situation.  Please understand that we will do our very best to help Seifer recover…”

“Your very best?” Zell spat, gripping the back of his chair with bloodless fingers and leaning over it towards the doctor, his face flushed with fury.  “He came here almost six months ago for help and you sent him home telling to sleep more and now you’re telling me he’s got cancer and only three weeks left but you’ll try your very best?!?”

Dr. Evans finally stood up as well, eyeing Zell levelly and with a measure of compassion.

“Maybe it would be better if you went home tonight, Zell, and left Seifer here.  I think you need to calm down so that we can discuss what can be done in a logical and productive manner.  I’m afraid I’m just not getting through to you because you are so worked up.  Now I understand this is extremely stressful and a difficult discovery to cope with, but…”

Stressful?  What the hell do you know about how stressful this is for…”


Seifer spoke quietly, still gazing vacantly out the window at the summer sunshine playing over the grassy hills of Winhill.

Zell stopped shouting at the sound of Seifer’s quiet voice, and turned to look at his older lover with pain written over his features.

“I’ll be fine here for the night.  Maybe you should go.”

At the softly spoken words, all of Zell’s anger drained out of him in a breathless rush, making him feel empty and lightheaded.  He clutched at the back of his chair dizzily, his vision suddenly blurred with hot tears that smudged Seifer’s form into a watery swirl of gold and pale skin and deep blue-green.  When he could breathe again he found his voice and spoke shakily.

“Don’t push me away, Seifer…” Zell whispered, a single tear sliding down his cheek and running smoothly over his tattoo.  His chest burned painfully, and he had to swallow a sob as Seifer closed his eyes and turned his face away from his smaller lover.

“…Why don’t I take you to a room, Seifer,” Dr. Evans finally suggested quietly, his kindly face reflecting his concern for both men.  Seifer stood stiffly and walked to the door, brushing past Zell without so much as a look.  Zell choked softly at the contact, unable to keep himself from openly crying, and he remained gripping the back of the chair until Seifer was outside in the hallway.  Dr. Evans stopped at the doorway and spoke to Zell in a solemn tone of voice.

“Why don’t you come back tomorrow at ten, Zell.  That’s the beginning of visiting hours, and then you can stay with Seifer until we’re ready to discharge him in the afternoon.”

Zell nodded mutely in response, finally turning to exit the doctor’s office.  He stepped out into the hallway and watched numbly as Dr. Evans patted Seifer gently on the back and started to escort him down the hall.

Then, as they were walking way, Seifer turned to meet Zell’s eyes for the first time since they had been given the diagnosis.  His beautiful dark gaze was haunted and confused, and the pleading way his eyes held Zell’s made the younger man’s heart constrict painfully. 

“…I love you,” Zell mouthed silently, but Seifer simply turned away again and disappeared around the corner with the doctor, leaving Zell shaken and sobbing and horribly alone in the cold glare of the hospital’s artificial lighting. 

Nearly ten hours later, Zell was still lost in the throbbing emptiness that had taken him over in the hospital.  He wanted to call Seifer so badly, but kept himself from picking up the phone by telling himself that Seifer was probably out of it and wanting to sleep.  It was almost midnight when he finally realized that he was cold and tired and emotionally exhausted, and he was just leaving the kitchen to head to bed when the phone rang.  Zell ran over to the receiver and grabbed it up, his heart in his throat.


“Hi Zell.”

Zell took his breath in sharply as the sound of Seifer’s voice tore open the gates of his emotions, filling him abruptly with intense love and anguish and worry.

“Seifer!  Oh, god, are you ok?  I’m so sorry I had to leave you there, baby, and I’ll be there at ten tomorrow and I swear to god we’re gonna get through this, Seif…”

“I love you, Zell,” Seifer replied softly, his voice trembling with feeling.  At those words, Zell slid to the floor bonelessly, kneeling and cradling the phone with both hands as he tried to talk through his tears.

“Seif, I love you so much…” Zell wiped at his eyes with the heel of his hand ineffectually, not bothered in the least by his honest outpouring of emotions.  “Just don’t push me away, Seif, I can’t stand it… It hurts so bad… All I want to do is be there for you, you’ve gotta let me in so I can love you…”

On his end of the line, Seifer was crying silently, overcome by everything he felt for Zell. 

“I promise,” he finally whispered hoarsely.  “I’m so sorry, Zell…”

“Shh, don’t apologize.  I’m coming to get you tomorrow and everything will be all right again, ok?  You’ll see,” Zell said, forcing his voice to sound strong.

“Yeah,” Seifer answered quietly.  “It’ll all be ok.”

“I love you, Seifer.”

“I love you.  Goodnight, Zell.”

“‘Night, Seif.”

Zell hung up the phone and walked to the bedroom. 

Lying cold and alone in the bed he shared with his lover, Zell was haunted by the pained flash of Seifer’s eyes as they parted, but as completely drained as he was he eventually drifted into a deep sleep.  That night he dreamt of himself and Seifer, when they were younger and life was beautiful, and they still had forever to be in love.

“Oh, to dream.  Those impotent bones of extinction, flying graceful and free.  None but the best ‘cause the man cannot rest, ‘til he’s finally beaten his need.”

The rate at which Seifer’s health declined after his diagnosis was absolutely terrifying.

He faithfully took all the medicines Dr. Evans had prescribed for him, and tried to get plenty of rest and eat well, but he lost more energy every day.  Zell felt like crying whenever he embraced his lover and felt the sharp ridges of his bones pressing ever more tightly against his skin as he lost weight at an alarming rate.  What was the worst was how Seifer’s coloring seemed to fade, and not just in the increasingly pale transparency of his skin; even the deep blue-green of his beautiful eyes appeared to be bleaching slowly away, just as his short golden hair started to lose it’s healthy shine.

Through it all, though, both Seifer and Zell somehow managed to keep themselves positive, at least on the surface, and it was with a feeling of triumph that they passed the three-week marker with Seifer still in fairly decent condition.  After all, it wasn’t as if they were at the point where they had to count every day as an incredible hurdle to surmount.  But a sense of gratitude and blessed reprieve did mark their daily activities, and they savored their time together, even if every moment was tinged faintly with a desperate wish for more time and the dark, chilling sensation that despite their hopes, time was running out.

At Seifer’s request, Zell had called off Selphie and Irvine’s visit, simply saying that Seifer was a little under the weather and that they would be best if they could postpone their trip.  Selphie agreed easily over the phone, but when she extracted from Zell a promise for a visit next time, the martial artist felt himself choke up when agreeing.  He had to cough to cover the catch in his voice as he promised they’d all see each other soon, realizing than that Seifer would probably never see the other SeeDs again.

It was so cruel, Zell thought, having to watch his strong, proud lover waste away before his very eyes.  He couldn't think about it too much or he would start to feel physically sick himself, especially when his brain reminded him that, now, he probably weighed more than Seifer did.  It was only when he was gazing into Seifer’s deep eyes or holding him as they curled together in bed that he could fool himself into believing, if only just for a moment, that what was happening was all a bad dream and he’d soon wake up to Seifer’s smiling, handsome face, shining in the morning sunlight with health and good humor. 

On one such morning, when he awoke from a beautiful dream about himself and Seifer laughing and wonderfully normal together and making plans to travel to Esthar to look for a new apartment, Zell was overcome by such a desperate fear of losing Seifer forever that he had to disentangle himself from the warmth of his lover’s body and run out back to fall onto the grass, vomiting loudly.  He hadn’t wanted to wake Seifer by getting sick in the bathroom, and when he realized he’d made an absolute mess of his sleeping shirt, he stripped it off before dropping back into a crouch.  Panting, hunched over on all fours in the grass, Zell coughed violently as he gasped for breath, blinking the tears out of his eyes.  It had suddenly become absolutely impossible to deal with; the creeping, poisonous knowledge that soon he’d be alone, drifting, without the bright eyes and smile of his soulmate to anchor him to the world.  A realization of that magnitude, the infinite finality and impassable concrete presence of the word ‘forever’, the unfathomable idea of a life without Seifer all crushed Zell into a numb agony. 

“I can’t… I can’t…” he sobbed, shaking his head and clenching his fists in the lush grass, feeling cool soil squeezing through his fingers as his body was wracked with grief.  “I can’t do it… oh, god, please…”

He remained huddled in the dew-damp grass for countless minutes, until his breathing settled and he was able to tamp down, if only partially, the mindless panic that had overtaken him moments before.  He had to be strong, for Seifer and for the sake of his own sanity.  He had to believe that Seifer still had time, so that his lover would believe it, too.  He had to.

Zell stood shakily, running his dirt-stained fists over his wet cheeks, leaving streaks of black under his eyes like warpaint.  In some place inside himself, he battled with his fear and won, at least for the moment, making up his mind.  He would just have to distract himself until the panic faded, and he had an idea that would provide at least a few hours’ distraction. 

After showering and brushing his teeth, Zell checked to make sure Seifer was still sleeping before heading to the kitchen and making a bunch of sandwiches and sliced vegetables and fruits, packing the food into his knapsack and sticking the whole thing into the fridge.  He then tiptoed into the bedroom and lowered himself gently onto the mattress beside Seifer, leaning down to place a soft kiss on the older blond’s slightly parted lips.  Seifer stirred quietly before opening his eyes and blinking slowly, smiling up at Zell.

“Morning, baby,” Zell whispered, nuzzling Seifer’s nose.

“‘Morning,” Seifer managed before raising a hand to cover his mouth as he yawned hugely. 

“How are you feeling, Seif?” Zell asked, running his fingertips lightly over the curve of his lover’s cheek.

Seifer leaned into the touch, closing his eyes once more and then capturing Zell’s hand in his own to place a tender, lingering kiss on the younger man’s palm.

“Good,” he answered genuinely, opening his eyes once more to grin up at Zell.  “I’m feeling good today, actually.”

“‘Cause I’ve got a surprise for you,” Zell said, grinning back. 

When he spoke, however, Seifer’s eyes clouded and his smile lost some of its brightness.

“Zell, baby, I’m feeling better but I don’t know that I’m up to doing anything really energetic like…” he trailed off, visibly making an effort to mask the self-directed disappointment in his eyes.

Zell forced himself to laugh despite the throbbing ache that curled tightly in his chest at the sight of Seifer’s pained admission.

“Not a sex surprise, you pervert!” Zell yelped, poking Seifer’s chest playfully.  “It’s actually something much less exciting, I guess, but it’s looking to be a beautiful day, and I thought it’s be nice to get out and get some sun, so I made some sandwiches and stuff, for, you know, a picnic sorta thing…”

Seifer’s face brightened visibly, but Zell had flushed red and was scratching the back of his head bashfully, staring down at the chocobos on his boxers and babbling on in embarrassment.

“Wow, you know, now that I said that it sounds really lame, so maybe you’re thinking you don’t wanna go ‘cause it sounds stupid, but it’d be nice to get out of the house, right?  And it’s supposed to rain tomorrow so we should do it today, especially if you’re feeling better…”

“Zell, a picnic sounds great,” Seifer chuckled quietly, his heart constricting fondly at the impossibly endearing ridiculousness of Zell’s discomfiture.  Honestly, the man could cuss in the bedroom like a seasoned hooker without batting an eyelash, but he couldn't make a proposal for a picnic without blushing.  Seifer felt a thick, sweet surge of love for the younger man, and he rolled over onto his side to rest his head in Zell’s lap, curling his long frame around the smaller man’s seated form.

“Just give me five minutes like this,” he mumbled sleepily, giving in to the urge to linger in bed and in the warm comfort of Zell’s scent and embrace for a moment.

“Mhmm,” Zell answered indulgently, shifting to cradle Seifer’s head in his lap more comfortably, running his fingers in soothing, long sweeps though his lover’s fine golden hair.  The tall man sighed contentedly, and after a minute Zell decided to lie down again, wrapping his arms around the other man and tucking Seifer’s face tenderly under his chin.  Reassured by his lover’s presence and the bright promise of the day to come, with the steady rhythm of Seifer’s breathing lulling him into a blessed calm, Zell drifted off to sleep with a real smile on his face.

“It’s so ironic,” Seifer quietly said, closing his eyes and letting the warm sunlight sink into his aching bones.

Zell shifted, laying his head on his arm and settling his other arm over Seifer’s chest as he turned to face him.  They were lying on a grassy hillside about half a mile from the house, the remains of their lunch repacked in Zell’s bag and the languid heaviness of having just eaten a good meal settling over them.


“When I was a cadet, I was so ready to die, you know?” Seifer laughed softly without humor.  “You remember how it was.  Dying to save the world was just about the coolest thing a kid could do.  Being a war hero, having your name written in all the history books… For some reason, death sounded so glamorous when I was seventeen.  And then there were times when I was being used by Ultimecia when I wished for death, for the freedom it would bring and the escape from the knowledge of everything she’d made me do...”

Zell leaned over Seifer, gently kissing away the tears that pooled from under his closed lids to slide down his pale cheeks.

“But now… God, I’m so scared of it, Zell.  I wish I could have even just a little bit of that vain, idiotic bravery I had back then.  And the ironic part is I finally have you again to live for…”

Zell put his fingers lightly over Seifer’s lips, one warm tear of his own falling to splash lightly over Seifer’s sharpened cheekbone.  Seifer opened his eyes at the sensation, bringing one hand up to cup Zell’s cheek.

“If I could do it all again, I would have spent every last moment of my life with you,” the tall blond whispered, rubbing his thumb across Zell’s bottom lip and tenderly sweeping his tears away with his long, thin fingers.  “And even if it had to end like this again, I’d live this life again to be with you…”

Zell shook his head, unable even to speak.

“Please, stop…” he finally managed weakly, his lower lip trembling as he tried to hold back the endless pain that rose up within him at the resigned valediction that laced Seifer’s words.  “Don’t start to say goodbye…”

He buried his face in Seifer’s chest, and the tall man tightened his arms around his lover, staring up at the wispy clouds that dappled the blue vault of the sky.  The two men remained silent for many long moments, Seifer running his fingertips lightly over the soft skin at the nape of Zell’s neck as the younger man clutched at him, his breathing shallow.  When Seifer finally spoke, his husky voice was tinged with the fondness of memory.

“Remember back when we took the SeeD exam together, Zell?  And I made that stupid comment about telling you and Squall my romantic dream?”

Zell raised his head slightly, blinking slowly to clear his eyes.  He sniffled and regarded Seifer with a look of puzzlement.

“Yeah… I don’t know why, but that really pissed me off.  Like you had some secret to tell but I’d never know.”

Seifer smiled and laughed softly, the rumblings in his chest gently shaking Zell as he lay atop the older man. 

“It was to be a hero, right?” Zell asked quietly, leaning upwards to nuzzle Seifer’s chin.  “To be a Knight…”

Seifer tilted his head down to meet Zell’s earnest gaze, the bright cloud-dotted sky reflected in his blue-green eyes.

“A Knight?  …A hero.  Well, those were certainly goals of mine, as much good as they did me.  But, no, even back then, they weren't what I wanted most.  The thing I wanted most in the whole world was to someday be able to be somewhere with you like this; to be able to spend my life lost in your eyes.”

He craned his neck to place a soft kiss on each of Zell’s eyelids, and with a choked sound Zell pushed his body up so that his face was directly over his lover’s, leaning down and capturing the other man’s lips in a tender, desperate kiss, the urgent, sweet assault of his lips conveying all that burned in his heart.  Seifer cradled Zell’s face in his hands as they drew apart, brushing his thumbs over his kiss-swollen lips.

“I think I owe you an explanation, Zell,” Seifer said quietly, still tracing feather-light trails over Zell’s face with his fingers.  “About what happened with the Sorceresses.”

Zell’s eyes widened and he shook his head in protest.

“Seif, you don’t have to,” he stated firmly, placing his hand over Seifer’s mouth.  “I don’t want you to have to remember something that terrible when we’re together and we should be enjoying ourselves.”  He didn't say, ‘while we still can,’ but it stung the back of his throat and made his eyes prickle with hot new tears.

With their faces so close, Seifer could see all the emotions racing through the clear windows of Zell’s eyes, and he pulled Zell’s head down so he could whisper in his ear, his lips brushing the soft warm skin.

“I’m not going to push you away ever again,” he breathed, placing a kiss on Zell’s earlobe.

Zell shuddered and pushed himself off of Seifer, rolling to the left and curling up against the taller man’s side, wrapping his arms around Seifer’s gaunt frame and slinging a leg over his, entwining their bodies together and nestling his head in the crook of Seifer’s neck.

“Then I’m here to listen,” Zell whispered back, closing his eyes and clinging to his lover tightly.  His heart pounded in painful anticipation of what Seifer was about to tell him.

“I won’t tell you everything,” Seifer started, his muscles slightly tensing as he forced himself to wrench open long-locked gates in the depths of his memories and spit out the harsh truths about himself.  “I just want to explain why I did what I did, and hope that you don’t look at me any differently afterwards.”

Zell tightened his body around Seifer’s wordlessly in reassurance, and the older man continued.

“I don’t know why they chose me as their ‘Knight’.” The word fell bitterly from his lips like a sour, rotten fruit.  “Maybe because they could see how angry I was at nothing, and how weak I actually was inside of my brittle shell of reckless confidence.  How easily I could be broken into pieces to fill the mold that would suit them.

“At first they were persuasive, with Ultimecia’s smoky voice drifting like poisoned incense out of Matron’s mouth, mocking me as a child and then calling me to them as an adult, firing my aimless anger and then promising a target for its blind destructiveness.  I was sucked in by their assurance of belonging, confused and desperately willing to believe.  But the fact remains that I went to them willingly.  As stupid as I was, at first I felt nothing but selfish pride about my new position as the sworn protector of the most powerful woman in the world.  But when I was first ordered to kill a man, stand before him and run him through in cold blood when he was transfixed and rendered helpless by magic, I couldn't follow through.  That was my first failure, and the beginning of the torture. 

“I… lost myself.  To save my own worthless life and stop my own pain I lost my humanity and lived the life of a coward, frantically obeying the Sorceresses’ orders in a vain attempt to stop their torments.  They… did things to me anyways, things that I can’t let myself remember, or I might…”

Zell clutched at Seifer as the older man’s voice faltered, his sky-blue eyes wide with horror and his body trembling as he listened to his lover’s agonized words.

“Seifer,” Zell whispered breathlessly, terrified of the truth.  “They didn't… What I said to you, before, they didn't…”

“They weren't that kind, Zell.  They always had others do their dirty work.”

Zell drew in his breath sharply, fully realizing for the first time the extreme cruelty of his old accusation, his face blanching. 

“Oh god, Seifer, I’m so sorry… I’m so sorry I ever even thought…” He trailed off, his voice catching, his knuckles white as he pulled himself impossibly closer to his lover.  “Baby… Why didn't you ever tell me…”

“I didn't… I don’t want you to be hurt by the truth, Zell.  And I wouldn't be able to stand it if you lost your respect for me, after hearing what I’ve done…”

“Seifer!” Zell cried, his eyes filled with tears.  “It wasn’t your fault!  Anyone would value their life and try to stop their own suffering; I could never blame you for trying to survive, for trying to live… And I could never stop loving you and admiring everything about you, no matter what you or anybody else said to me…”

“Don’t remember me as a coward, Zell… I don’t want your memories of me tainted by what I did and what was done to me, please… Remember me the way we were before…”

“You’re not gone!” Zell shouted, disentangling himself from Seifer’s body as tears streamed down his flushed cheeks.  He flung himself into a crouch over the taller man’s body as Seifer stared up at him with wide eyes.

“You’re not gone.” Zell repeated fiercely, his shoulders shaking with emotion.  “And I will always love every part of you with every part of me for as long as I live.”

Openly sobbing, the small blond leaned down to cover Seifer’s mouth with his own in a deep, possessive kiss, tasting Seifer’s tears and his own mixed with their saliva.  When Seifer’s arms twined around him and pulled him closer, Zell reached between their bodies and desperately attacked the fastenings of their pants with one hand, raising his hips off of Seifer’s to pull away the restricting material of his jeans and boxers and freeing Seifer’s penis as well, lowering his body to rock against his lover’s.  Seifer moaned, breaking their kiss to throw his head back and gasp, one long arm grappling for Zell’s nearby backpack.  He fished out the lube and pressed it into Zell’s sweaty palm, reaching to his waist to shove down his own pants and underwear.

Frantic and panting, Zell forced himself to prepare his lover gently before pushing into him, trying valiantly to go slowly but unable to fight the all-consuming need to burn the blinding perfection of making love to Seifer into the core of his being.  Drinking in Seifer’s pleasured sighs and the sight of his beautiful face flushed with passion, Zell buried himself deeply within his lover’s body again and again, the fever in his blood rising to a blazing pitch as he worked Seifer’s throbbing erection with one hand.

Tangled in the grass, half-clothed and crying out their ecstasy to the summer sky, Seifer and Zell lost themselves in each other, if only for a few stolen moments living the dream of being together as one and eternally inseparable.    

“And the band played on, as the helicopters whirred; drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn, my senses finally blurred.”

The next few weeks went by in a blur of lazy, indulgent days, with Seifer and Zell spending every waking moment together and sleeping in the same way, clinging to each others’ bodies with frenzied affection.  Their deep immersion in each other’s company was only suspended once, when Zell’s mother came to visit them for a few days.  Seifer had thought that, as his only other family besides Zell, Ma Dincht had a right to know about his condition.  And he and Zell had both felt they could use a little motherly strength and reassurance.

Her visit was short and tearful, but she offered her unconditional love and comfort to both men; both of her sons, she called them.  At any rate, Ma Dincht was the closest thing to a mother that Seifer had ever had, and sitting beside her on the sofa, curled against her body and shaking with sobs in the circle of her arms, he was grateful beyond words for her kindness and compassion.  After Zell’s mother left, both Zell and Seifer felt refreshed and optimistic, and her firm declaration that she’d be back in a month or so to see both of them was heartening in the way that only a mother’s words could be.

Despite Ma Dincht’s hopeful encouragement, however, Seifer was growing thinner by the day, something Zell couldn't help but notice every time he embraced his lover.  Standing behind Seifer and wrapping his arms around the taller man’s slim waist, Zell would feel tears prick his eyes as he noted once again how impossibly gaunt Seifer’s body had become.  Even though he tried to ignore the circles under Seifer’s eyes and the way his old clothes hung off his frame instead of clinging to muscle, the knowledge never really went away, like a dull, seeping poison slowly invading his brain.  Zell could only squeeze Seifer tighter and whisper into his sharpened shoulder blades.

“I love you, Seif.  So much.”

And Seifer would fold his arms over Zell’s and lean back into his smaller lover’s embrace, closing his eyes and murmuring his own declaration of love. 

In this way, they passed their days wrapped up in each other’s presence, until life fell again into a steady, cyclic rhythm that brought with its routineness a lulling sense of calm.  Even the danger lurking beneath the surface seemed to draw away, until the only reminder of the passing of time was the alarming manner in which Seifer seemed to fade away, slowly losing his color and his energy and the solid presence of his flesh.  But the process was gradual enough that both he and Zell could imagine nothing was happening and remain carefree, watching the summer bloom lushly all around them like they’d done so many other years before.  And once the days started to grow shorter, they held each other more tightly to ward off the chill of the approaching autumn nights and tried their hardest to ignore the unstoppable spinning passage of time.

“‘Til the end; he passed out on the sundeck that morning, quietly saying goodbye.  But I was so hammered I sputtered and stammered, told him he couldn't just die.”

Seifer and Zell were sprawled out on a blanket just outside their front door, basking in the late summer sunshine and working their way steadily through a bottle of Scotch and a large tin bucket filled with ice cubes.  The afternoon sun was spinning slowly towards the horizon, casting long shadows in the hazy warm air and giving everything a faint orange glow.  Seifer was stretched out on his back, his half-empty glass of Scotch lying beside his right forearm and his head pillowed on his other arm.  Zell sat languidly next to him, leaning back on one arm and lazily swirling the contents of his drink with slow flicks of his wrist.  It had been hard for Seifer to get up that morning, so they had decided to stay in for the day and get a little drunk.  In the warm fuzzy embrace of the alcohol Seifer could float above his body and the pain that gnawed dully at his bones from the inside out, and in his blurry vision Zell looked more beautiful that day then he ever had before.

“Oooh, ‘m pretty gone…” Zell muttered, raising his glass to run the icy coolness over his flushed forehead.  He wasn’t sure how many he’d had, but the Scotch was more than half gone and it had been a full bottle when they got started a few hours earlier.  They had joked and laughed for a while, with Zell feeding Seifer late summer cherries as the larger man rested his head in Zell’s lap, but soon the happy energy of the first buzz had worn off into the lethargic contentment of full intoxication.  Now they simply rested together quietly, Seifer humming softly and tapping the fingers of his right hand against the blanket. 

“What happens to us when we die?” Seifer asked suddenly, his voice slightly slurred.  “I mean, do we become GFs or angels, or just burn in hell, or just disappear?”

“I don’t believe in hell,” Zell replied, his brow creasing before he laughed suddenly, tossing back some more Scotch.  “I think we become GFs.  So when somebody junctions you or me it’ll be like getting the demigods of sex to fight for them.”

Seifer laughed too, closing his eyes as the motion sent vague waves of pain up his spine, coming through the numbing warmth of alcohol as a distant discomfort. 

“The demigods of sex, huh?  Ok, I can live with that explanation.”

“We’d appear all naked and hot and the enemy would just pass out from a massive rush of blood away from the head,” Zell continued, giggling slightly.  He liked the idea of being a sex god with Seifer and spending all their free time living up to their names and making love together forever.  Zell sighed as he felt the first stirrings of arousal sparkle pleasantly through his veins, and he leaned over to kiss Seifer softly, tenderly pressing his tongue against the other man’s.

“Even if there is a hell and I go to it, I’m not worried,” Seifer said as Zell pulled away slowly.  “Because I know you’ll go to heaven and once you get there you can save me from the abyss.”

He grinned up at Zell, but blinked in bewilderment as his vision abruptly faded to white and then regained color gradually, the sky first regaining its blue in a bright halo around Zell’s smiling face hovering over his, which came into focus next.

“See?  You really are an angel already,” Seifer whispered, his lashes fluttering.  He smiled, closing his eyes once more and dreamily picturing Zell’s beautiful face wreathed in a celestial aura of velvety blue that matched his wide, gorgeous eyes.

“Can angels have sex?” Zell wondered out loud, sitting back to finish off his drink and setting the glass aside unsteadily, noticing the world was starting to spin.  Maybe it was time to call it quits and head in for the night.

“Seif, you wanna head in soon?  The sun’s gonna set and it’ll get cold in a little bit.”

Seifer forced his eyes open, fixing his gaze with some effort on Zell’s face.  He suddenly realized he couldn't really feel the pain in his bones, but he had already drifted too far into a sweet peaceful haze of his love for Zell to be concerned. 

“I’ve always loved you, Zell.  So much sometimes that I couldn't stand it.”

Zell blinked down at Seifer, looking confused. 

“Huh?  What are you talking like that for?  C’mon, I think we’re both a little out of it…”

“Don’t ever forget I lived for you, Zell.  Don’t ever forget that you loving me was what kept me alive.”

“Stoppit, Seifer!  You’re gonna make me cry,” Zell said, about to laugh until he looked closely at Seifer’s face and it dawned on him through the blur of the alcohol that Seifer’s eyes were closing slowly, his long dark lashes fluttering like the wings of a dying moth.


Zell leaned over, placing his hands on Seifer’s shoulders and shaking him gently, confusion and slow creeping dread coming over his face.

“Seif, are you ok?”

“Zell…” Seifer’s voice rose softly into the air, fragile and tender.  “I love you… For always…”

His beautiful dark eyes drifted shut, and Zell blinked down at him, dazed and uncomprehending as he stared at Seifer’s pale, unmoving face, his full lips curved into a gentle smile.


Zell’s voice was weak and uncertain, and he jostled Seifer’s shoulder lightly, plastering a grin over his face and forcing himself to laugh.

“C’mon, Seif, cut it out, this’s really not funny.”

Zell breathing grew increasingly ragged as he shook Seifer harder, the still heavy warmth of the other man’s flesh under his hand taunting him with its smooth, living feeling.

“Seifer!  Seifer, stop!” Zell ordered, gasping for breath and unable to think of anything else to do other than continue shaking Seifer’s still form.  He couldn't possibly have…

NO!!” Zell shouted suddenly, falling onto his lover’s body and letting out a low wail.  He couldn't breathe or feel anything but a thick blood-hot roaring in his ears as he clutched Seifer’s body, not even aware that he was screaming hysterically.

“You can’t just leave me!” Zell screamed, burying his face in the familiar scent of Seifer’s clothing, the tears streaming from his eyes completely blurring his vision.  “You can’t just leave me here alone!  I’m no good without you! …Please, Seifer, you have to stay with me… Seif, oh god, can’t you hear me?  Seifer!!

A howl of pure agony ripped itself from Zell’s chest, and he clung mindlessly to Seifer, sobbing brokenly as the chest beneath him failed to rise and fall with the act of breathing.

He was alone.

Alone and terrified and shaking as he was overcome by the pain of having his heart torn bleeding from his chest, wrenching along with it the trailing ends of a thousand severed nerves that left his body an empty cavity of searing, countless wounds.


In the answering silence Zell could hear his soul shatter and fall, tinkling softly, to settle around him in a shower of glittering crystalline shards.

“He was a rock; went straight for his own Armageddon, face froze in a grin.  Ambulance flying in, I never drank again.  Can’t really call that a loss or a win.”

When the ambulance arrived, Zell was once again lying on the front lawn beside Seifer’s body, cradling the tall form against him and rocking back and forth, weeping silently.  The two medics had to gently pry Zell away from the still man, loading the body carefully onto a stretcher while Zell watched dully, wrapped in Seifer’s favorite trenchcoat, hugging himself tightly to try to keep his body from trembling.  When the ambulance doors were slammed shut, Zell flinched, nodding without really listening to the instructions and information the medic was telling him and taking the paper with counseling phone lines and hospital numbers automatically, not even bothering to glance at it before he stuffed it into his pocket.

Seifer’s pocket.

He could feel nothing, and as he watched the ambulance drive away he wondered vacantly if he had anything left inside at all. 

He remained standing by the blanket near the front door until it grew dark, burying his face in the collar of Seifer’s coat and breathing deeply of his lover’s scent.  One day, would there be nothing left that smelled of Seifer?  Would his smell fade from the house and his clothes the same way that the exact recollection of his voice and throaty laugh would fade from Zell’s memory?  How long would it be until Seifer was really, truly dead and gone?

Zell wanted nothing more than to let himself quietly expire before he lost even one sweet aspect of Seifer from his mind.

Finally, as a cold breeze came up over the hills from the ocean, Zell stirred and turned to walk back into the house.  He wanted to be alone but was vaguely afraid of what he might do, so he moved into the kitchen and called his mother. 


At the sound of his mother’s concerned voice, the tears that had ceased earlier flooded back, and he sobbed into the phone, agreeing shakily when his mother, weeping herself, told him she would be there in the morning on the first boat from Balamb.  The first ferry. The one he’d taken only weeks before to come see Seifer once again…

At that thought, Zell looked slowly around the kitchen, moving to touch the freshly painted table and Seifer’s chair, fingering his lover’s coffee cup where it sat half-full on the counter.  He left the kitchen, walking dazedly through the house, seeing signs of Seifer everywhere; his handsome smiling face grinning at him from several of the pictures that decorated their fireplace mantle, the tattered velvet comfort of the old couch Seifer had brought from his dorm in Balamb G, the silvery thin ticking of his lover’s watch from where it rested, shining, on the coffee table, set there that morning while the older man showered.  Seifer was in the house, faintly but sure, and the indefinable presence of him caused Zell’s heart to throb with hope for the first time that day.

But it was true.  Seifer had lived in the small home for over four years, filling it daily with the vivid energy of his activities and emotions; the red fire of his anger, the sweet tang of his passion, and the solemn cool sorrow of his loneliness all had seeped into the walls and corners, radiating outwards to Zell and making his skin prickle into goosebumps. 

He could feel Seifer.

He could feel life returning.

Zell spent all night wandering through the small house, at times crying gently as he lingered over every facet that somehow spoke to him in Seifer’s voice, feeling the warm healing rush of his intense love for the other man gradually seep through the hole in his chest and start to ever so slowly mend the damage.  By the time the sky outside started to lighten with the coming sunrise, Zell had made his peace with Seifer and their house, and made his peace with himself.

Wrapping Seifer’s coat about himself and placing a kiss on the steel choker he’d looped and fastened around his wrist like a bracelet, Zell opened the front door and stepped out into the cool brightening morning.  He stooped to pick up the blanket that still lay on the grass from the day before, letting the cold dampness of the dew-drenched cloth soak into his hands as he folded it carefully and set it beside the front door.  The air tasted faintly of the first days of autumn and Zell inhaled deeply, remembering how in autumn’s past he and Seifer would make frequent trips to the port town by Winhill to buy the firewood that was shipped over from Centra, taking big sackcloth bags and carting them home together, laughing and talking and surrounded by the scent of freshly-cut pinewood.  Stacking the wood by the back door, joking together and eagerly anticipating the winter’s snow, Zell could recall perfectly the delicate flush of pink that washed over Seifer’s cheeks and nose as they lifted the heavy logs in the chilly evening air, and how even the tips of his ears turned red when Zell laughingly told him he should buy some pink earmuffs since he got cold so easily. 

The memory was sharp and clear cut, like a polished stone, and Zell smiled wistfully to himself as he tucked it away into the folds of his consciousness, grateful for its perfection.  He knew then that he would never lose Seifer, because Seifer was living within him.

Zell blinked back warm tears and raised his face to the eastern hills, watching the first gilded rays of sunshine arc sweetly through the cloudless sky and hearing Seifer’s voice murmuring to him tenderly, borne to his ears on the back of the first lilting birdsong.  

“I love you, Zell. …For always…”

Zell closed his eyes and whispered back to the brilliant rising sun.

“I’ll love you for always, Seifer.”

And Zell knew he would never be alone again.

“And the band played on, as the helicopters whirred; drunk on the lawn in a nuclear dawn, my senses finally blurred.”





Thank you for reading.  I hope you enjoyed it; well, as much as one could enjoy seeing Seifer and Zell suffer.  (-_-);  Additional song credits for the ending go to “My Immortal” by Evanescence, “The Scientist” by Coldplay, and “Perdido sin Ti” by Ricky Martin.  To all the NS authors who write Seifer x Zell stories; you are all wonderful!  I love your writing and how you keep Seifer x Zell love alive!  Booyaka~!  And I want to give a big thank you to Seifer and Zell, my beautiful muses who inspired this fic endeavor.  Now I seriously owe you two a happy ending.

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