One Moment, And A Year

Chapter 11 - Bridges

By Akare

Monday, February 2nd.

//All the bridges that you burn
Come back one day to haunt you
One day you'll find you're walking

There was darkness, cold, and that bitter depressed feeling that always sinks in around midnight, when you're alone and miserable. Seifer found it almost ironic that the one night he actually needed someone was the one night he couldn't have Zell. He'd fucked that one up good and proper. Couldn't have done it more perfectly if he'd tried actually.

Outside the snow fell, softly and gently. Seifer snarled. He felt like it was mocking him. Like it just knew that where he should be on a night like this was curled up in bed with some delicious naked body beside him. Except Zell would have all of nothing to do with him, he didn't have the money for a hooker, and didn't want one anyway, and the bar maid... he wasn't even sure he knew her name. It was probably Sunset or something equally stupid. Besides he really wasn't the sort to show up on a girl's doorstep at 5.27 am and demand that she let him crawl into her pre-warmed bed. And with that giggle and the sickening act of leaving a present on his doorstep he just knew she wasn't his type. He needed Zell. Stupid little chicken shit.

If it were the weekend he might have been able to wrangle permission to go to Timber and help Fujin and Raijin hand out flyers about Independence. But it was Monday morning. Oh how he hated Mondays. And the Garden was in Trabia so Seifer wasn't even allowed out. Stupid Trabians, they were still angry with him because of Her dumbarse Knight.

He considered, not for the first time, that maybe if he'd been nicer before Her then people would be more inclined to believe him afterwards. Or he would at least have more friends. Not that he needed them, friends were so over-rated.

The thing that irritated him the most though, was the feeling of missing something. It reminded him of that stupid song Irvine listened to. He knew about it only because Irvine turned his music up so fucking loud it was hard not to hear it if you at Garden. He couldn't stop thinking about how stupid he had been. Just over 24 hours ago he'd had Zell totally willing and ready to do whatever he wanted him to. But one argument, one moment of losing control of *himself* and it was gone. That was what irritated him so much more than anything else. He'd prided himself, all these years on being in total control all the time. This was why he never drank too much, because he couldn't risk doing something stupid and all his barriers coming crashing down. But he'd torn them down himself. He didn't need alcohol or drugs to do it for him. He'd been stupid and over-reacted and lost the only thing that was keeping him here.


//Baby I
Never meant to hurt you
Sometimes the best intentions
Still don't make things right//

All he wanted was to get him back, but apologies wouldn't come and probably wouldn't work. He'd just wanted Zell to understand that things were going too far. They couldn't keep it up with all the emotions getting thrown in. It would become serious and then where would they be? But instead he'd gone and done something stupid. As usual.

It was his fault, time had matured him enough to make him realise that was true. He accepted responsibilities sometimes now. Sometimes he could even be convinced to whisper very quietly that he was sorry. But that had only happened once when he tripped Quistis down the stairs. She had been being very annoying that day. Although she hadn't been seriously hurt but the look on her face was enough to make him moderately apologetic. For Seifer at least.

Now though, when it was obviously his fault, when he knew he'd been an idiot, he just couldn't bring himself to do it. "I'm sorry" were not words he knew all that much about. What went with them? Surely the words weren't enough on their own. There would have to be some grovelling in there somewhere- and he probably should. Zell deserved that after he'd hit him. Sure the martial artist could stand up for himself, he could have defended himself but that wasn't the point. Seifer hadn't meant to hurt him he'd just... lost control. It wasn't the physicality of the action that made him feel so guilty. It was... the gunblader shook his head, unable to believe that he'd changed so much. It was that he'd hurt Zell's feelings. He may have even made him cry and for some reason, deep in his heart, that hurt.


//But all my ghosts they find me
Like my past they think they own me
In dreams and dark corners they surround me
Till I cry I cry//

What had made him like this? So pathetic, so weak. But it wasn't what, it was who... it was Her. She'd broken him, and even now She whispered in his ear that this was all he would amount to. A sad, pathetic child unable to control his own actions and destined to destroy everything he touched.

But he could hardly blame everything in his life on Her. She wasn't responsible for all of him all of the time. He'd done stupid things himself without Her help before the war. The way he had treated Zell and just about everyone else was indicative of this. He'd been born with the arsehole gene, no doubt about it. But everything else he could just brush away. All those atrocities committed in Her name- though they followed him around as a constant reminder, he knew somewhere that he couldn't have stopped Her Knight. Maybe he was strong but She was stronger. But this, hurting Zell, ruining everything they had, it was his doing.

If only he'd spent a few moments considering what he was doing the Training Centre at 3am anyway he would have realised he was onto a good thing. Maybe it wasn't just sex anymore but they could work with that. He could actually listen once or twice to whatever it was Zell spent most of the day yabbering on about. But instead he kept on making the same mistakes.

In the darkness of his room and the silence of a winter's night, they crept and crowded, all these mistakes, all these moments, all the things he couldn't take back. And even with his hands pressed firmly over his eyes, he could see the clear blue accusation in Zell's look, and knew that in the smaller boy's eyes he hadn't changed at all. He was still Her Knight, and until he could relinquish control and tell Zell just how important this relationship (or whatever it was) was to him he always would be.


//Let me take this time to set the record straight//

Something inside of him wanted to run to Seifer's room and just beg him to... to do anything. To hold him, to say sorry, to just be there. And even though he knew it was the stupidest thing in the world he wanted to let him know that though it may have started with sex it ended with something more.

Zell might have been the more sensitive of the two of them but that didn't mean he was the only one who'd put anything into this stupidity. He knew Seifer felt something, he had started to say sorry after all. Or at least that was what Zell wanted him to be about to say. The thing that irritated him the most was that he felt sad and angry about it at the same time. Every time he went to call Seifer to say something (he hadn't worked out what yet) he'd end up thinking that the stupid arrogant fuck head should be calling him to make sure he was OK. He was the one who had a big bruise on the side of his face. And that disturbed him too. Seifer was strong enough to bruise Zell with a punch but he'd just whacked him really and hadn't put that much effort into it either. Seifer shouldn't be that strong. The side of his face shouldn't ache. So why did it? Why was Seifer able to hurt him so much?

Not just his face but his feelings too. The little martial artist had always tried to cover up his feelings since Seifer teased him so much. They were different to his emotions, more delicate, more private. But Seifer had got to them too. He knew how to get through any pathetic barrier Zell had created and it irritated the martial artist no end.

It was because of Seifer's irritating ability that Zell was unable to sleep now. 7am and he hadn't slept at all. He rose to make some tea; if he was going to be awake he may as well do something productive. Like mark all Quistis' essay papers. It was only the beginning of February and already she had a pile of essays ready to be graded on her desk. The woman was totally insane, Zell decided. But of course she couldn't mark them because Squall had been forced to send her on some really exciting undercover mission while Zell sat around in his pyjamas because his tattoo was too recognisable. He should have thought of that before he got it done he supposed, but then there were a lot of things he should have thought about before he did them.

//Let me take this time to take it all back//

By 9am Seifer was curled up on his desk and drifting off to sleep. It was Quistis' class but she hadn't shown up. Substitute teachers always irritated Seifer they were never quite sure what they should be doing. By rights he shouldn't even be in this class, but Squall seemed to want to keep as close an eye on him as possible. He was now a 2nd year SeeD and still taking classes, the only one at Balamb Garden. Squall probably wanted to rub in the fact that he could boss Seifer around and thus was making him take classes just for the hell of it. Seifer was wondering if there was anyway he could kill Squall and frame Rinoa when the substitute teacher arrived. Again proving the Gods hated him.

Zell always managed to look beautiful in the morning. Most other people, realistically, looked like shit. Zell looked warm and cuddly like a cat stretching in the sun. He made Seifer want to wrap his arms around him and squeeze. It was... comforting. Stupid bloody chicken. The scowl on Seifer's face grew. Why did he have to put up with this shit? OK, so it *kind of* was his fault but that was hardly the point. After all the shit he'd already suffered why this?

Of all the stupid things he'd done in his life, and there were a lot of them, that fight with Squall that scarred Seifer's perfect face, Her, dating Rinoa... Seifer tried to suppress the shudder. That had been the worst. Funny really, that he considered some daft bint worse than an evil sorceress. But Rinoa was like that; she managed to throw off one's perspective of just about anything. With her lip balm was an invention of evil demonic minions, romantic dinners were the Spanish Inquisition and sex... Seifer really didn't want to remember that.

Turning his head from the front of the classroom he tried to recollect his thoughts before Rinoa had barged her disgusting presence into them. Oh yeah, stupid things he'd done. Fucking Zell Dincht was surely in the top ten, if not the top five. Possibly even number one, because everything else could be blamed on something or someone else. Zell, however, was a serious lapse of sanity, one he would be paying for a long time yet he could tell. Depending on how long Quistis was away he could see he was going to hate this class. Zell probably wasn't petty enough to actual fail him for no good reason just because he was upset but Seifer couldn't be sure of anything these days. Least of all Zell Dincht.

He glanced up to the front of the classroom one last time before he figured he would have a nap. Zell's eyes flickered over Seifer for a moment, meeting in a gaze of hostility and hurt. Then he began teaching,


//Let me take this time to tell you how I felt//

Halfway through an explanation of the intricacies of Pain magic one of the bolder students stuck up his hand.

"Yeah?" Zell tilted his head to one side, like he did when curious.

"What happened to your face?"

Zell's hand instinctively went to cradle his cheek. "Fighting," he shrugged and grinned the patented Zell grin. "This is why you kids should be careful."

"Why don't you just use Cure on it?"

"Because I want the person who did it to remember." Someone who didn't know him well wouldn't have noticed the change, but if you'd been lying inches away from him every night for four months you'd recognise the darkening of his eyes, the angry, hurt crease between his eyebrows, and the way his chin tilted up in defiance of his hurt feelings. "I want them to know that I got hurt so they won't do it again."

While no one was looking Seifer cradled his head in his hands. Oh he wouldn't do it again. No way, no how.
He just needed to figure out how to get Zell back and then everything would all go right again. Why he needed Zell for that to happen he didn't know.

The martial artist managed to get through the class without glaring at Seifer too much. He struggled to understand himself what was going on between them. Maybe he had been right and it did go too far back, maybe they were now the same as before Ultimecia. Maybe he was Chicken Wuss again and Seifer was fuckhead, or arsehole, or anything else Zell could come up with. But that wasn't right because things were different. They knew each other's bodies so intimately now and he knew that Seifer slept differently depending on his mood: curled up, arms wrapped about Zell's shoulders and nose buried in his ear if he were sad, or happy; all stretched out and kicking if he were angry. Seifer probably knew things about the way he slept too.

When the class was over Zell waited, wondering if Seifer would want to talk to him. But although he was the last to leave all the gunblader graced him with was a glance out of the corner of his eye. In response Zell tried to force everything he was feeling into his gaze but whether or not Seifer noticed he didn't know. So he figured maybe it was time to be blunt and call Seifer, he just needed to know for certain what the fuck was going on.


//Let me take this time to try and make it right//

When Seifer got back to his room he took a long shower, trying to scrub the irritation out of his skin, because he just knew he was being an idiot. And trying not to think of the look on Zell's face as he'd left the classroom. He had been going to talk to him but had chickened out at the last moment, how fitting. Now he'd have to go knock on his door and risk being seen by other people.

He got dressed in his most apologetic outfit; he had trouble finding an appropriate shirt but settled on a pastel blue one that wasn't too hideous. Hopefully Zell would recognise his lack of trench coat for what it was: a peace offering. And an apology, but mostly a peace offering as Seifer didn't do apologies very well. He was trying to clear his head and think of something to say that might make a difference but he couldn't even work out if it was any good for them to be together, let alone work out why Zell hadn't just hit him back. He wondered if the martial artist even knew the answer to that one.

He straightened his collar and scowled at his reflection; unable to believe he was about to do this. What would he say? And how would he say it? Should he start off normal and then flow into the apology? Or should he apologise straight off? He needed a drink to nut this one out.

The gunblader was in the process of mixing a very dry martini when there was a knock at the door. Zell? He fiddled with his collar as he headed to open it, for some reason he was suddenly a bit nervous. What did Zell want to talk to him about? Their relationship or his violence? Did he want it to start up again or did he want to warn Seifer away from him forever?

It was Irvine, grinning his little slut smile, and offering a bottle of red wine. Seifer took the bottle and looked at the label, Mandy Bay Reserve, two years old, a nice little Galbadian number. Just as Irvine opened his mouth to speak Seifer slammed the door on him. It was rather nice of Irvine to give him a bottle of wine.


//All the bridges that you burn
Come back one day to haunt you
One day you'll find you're walking

When he got home the martial artist tried to bury himself in paper work. He should mark things, that was a good way to keep his mind off things. Until of course, he came to Seifer's paper on Quez that had been hidden among this semester's ones and remembered what he'd been doing under Seifer's desk as the older boy attempted to write it. A light blush spread across his face but was followed closely by a sense of loss. He shouldn't be feeling like this but for some reason the need he had for Seifer wouldn't go away.

Their relationship was just a physical thing really, but it did let him release tension. And it did make him feel wanted. It was good to have someone besides Irvine and his Ma know that he was gay. By all rights Squall should know too, but he was just so dense when it came to things like that Zell wasn't at all surprised that he hadn't noticed. He was beginning to think Rinoa had though. And Selphie knew everything about that sort of thing, she had a better gay-dar than he did, and Quistis was, well, Quistis, too observant for her own good. But none of them actually knew for sure, they just suspected, and they hadn't brought it up with him yet either. He wasn't sure if that was irritating or if it were a good thing. He knew the last thing he needed was Selphie setting him up with some of her friends i.e. another idiot from the Festival Committee.

He made himself another cup of tea and sat down in front of the television, the idiot box was also a good distraction. But there was nothing on that didn't involve bikini-clad girls and board shorted boys having angst ridden emotional dramas. He turned it off as someone knocked at his door. Thankful for this new entertainment Zell opened the door and gave his visitor his usual grin.


//But you can
Walk away
Be all alone
Spend all your time
Thinking about the way things used to be//

"Hey darlin'," Irvine oozed sex at him. "Can I come in?"

Zell declined from asking 'In what?' and opened the door for him. Irvine wanted something, he just wasn't sure he could tell what yet. "Whassup?" he asked as the cowboy draped himself over the sofa.

"You and Seifer having an argument?" he asked bluntly. With luck the shock would cause Zell to answer truthfully.

"We're always having an argument," Zell countered; thankful his mind was working quickly today.

"Mmm," the cowboy stroked his chin in thought. "But now you're not even fuckin' so somethin's gotta be up."

Zell blinked blankly at him. "What? How did you...? He told *you*?"

"No, I'm clever, I worked it out for myself. And I saw you two flirtin' at Quisty's party."

"You knew all this time?" Zell frowned, almost cross that Irvine hadn't told him about his knowledge earlier.

"Course I knew," Irvine smiled slightly. "Why did you *think* I hadn't crawled into your bed over this past couple of months?"

He was right. Irvine usually came clambering in when Selphie was away or busy or something, he claimed to need something warm in the bed beside him. But Zell thought it'd stopped because he'd had given in to Irvine's advances on a particularly drunk night. "I thought you'd got what you wanted."

Irvine wasn't sure whether mouth open, eyes wide or his rarely seen scowl would make him seem most offended, because he was. "Got what I wanted? You think I stopped 'cause I finally managed to fuck ya?" The cowboy took off his hat and swept a hand through his glorious hair. "No darlin', I stopped because you got what *you* wanted."

"Huh? You mean it wasn't 'course I let you..."

"I ain't that heartless," Irvine sniffed, acting more insulted than he was now. Zell had made it clear he hadn't meant offence by the look on his face. The poor kid was just a little insecure. "'N' don't you think that if it was just about the sex I wouldn't've been back for more?"

"I thought maybe you didn't-- I didn't..."

The cowboy grinned; Zell was just too cute. "Baby, you're the hottest guy I've ever fucked. Only two things coulda kept me outta your bed. Physical inability: castration, broken neck etc. Or you findin' yourself your own lover. And that's just what you did."

Zell snorted inelegantly, confidence reinstated with the knowledge Irvine had just given him. He moved to look out the window, embarrassed to be having this conversation. Sure Irvine was his friend, but this thing he had with Seifer was supposed to be secret. "He's not my 'lover'. Not then, and certainly not now."

"But he's good for you."

"What?!" Zell spun around and pointed at his bruised cheek. "You call *this* good for me?"

Irvine visibly flinched. "Well, no. But you know what Seifer's like. He has to be coaxed. He's a wild animal, that's what makes him so..."


"I was going to say good in bed but..." the cowboy shrugged.

"I know what you're getting at, but I really don't think I want an abusive partner, thank you." Zell sat down on the bed, flopping back to lie down when he realised he was too exhausted to stay upright. Irvine was right in a way, but he was also wrong. Seifer was good for him, but he might be able to get that same loss-of-coherent-thought-'cause-the-sex-was-just-so-good feeling with someone else...maybe. And they did have a history together that made it more... good. Zell growled in irritation. Irvine just had to open up that can of worms didn't he? Seifer *was* good for him but shit he was also an arrogant fuckhead. He couldn't get back with Seifer; he'd rather be alone than deal with all that. Sure Seifer may have been a release for his physical tension but he wasn't a release emotionally, or mentally, or spiritually... or anything else. It was a one-track relationship; things were better when Seifer was being an arsehole to him.

'Though who's to say he's not being an arsehole now?'

"What did you say to him?"

"What?!" Zell sat bolt upright. "You're saying this is *my* fault?"

From his sprawled position on the bed Irvine lazily pulled Zell's arm to make him lie down again. "I'm saying even when I kissed him the worst he did was push me into some mud. Which was pretty kinky. I would really have like him to--"

"Irvine, your point."

"Right, sorry. I reckon it must've taken a lot for him to get violent. Either that or you mentioned *Her*. You didn't, did you?"

"No," Zell shook his head. "I just said some stupid things. I didn't mean it but he shouldn't have got so worked up about it, it wasn't that bad."

"It's probably got a little something to do with the fact that he's *always* hit you when you get too big for your boots. An' besides, it's not like you two are a couple or anything... yet."

Zell rolled his eyes. "Are you playing matchmaker today?"

Irvine grinned, rolling onto his side to look at Zell. "Selphie ain't here so someone's gotta do it."

"Well stop it. He hit me, he's gunna have ta get on his knees and *beg* before I forgive him."

"Hmm," Irvine studied the martial artist's face for a moment. He was confused and angry, but also sleepy. Irvine smiled as Zell failed at stifling a yawn. His bed wasn't the most comfortable of beds in Garden but the goose down doona made it all better. It was warm and cosy here, with just the two of them. "Food for thought," he continued, disturbing the nap Zell was falling into. "There were three contributing factors. A) You two've always settled everything with fisticuffs since we was children. B) You said something mean and C) he knows you can hold your own and usually you would have hit him right back, yeah?"

Zell nodded minutely.

"But you didn't this time, and that's where the problem is. Consciously you two are beginning to think you should treat each other nicer 'cause you're together, but you're also not together so subconsciously you still wanna beat each other up. See?" The cowboy pushed Zell's hair out of the way so he could see the martial artist more clearly. "You two gotta work out what you want. 'Cause you're fucking everything's changed. Don't let anyone dissuade you from the power of *sex*."

The little blond scoffed. "That's just something I would expect you to say."

Irvine grinned. "You know me like a best friend should." He raised an eyebrow and smirked sluttishly. "Inside and out."

"Am I your best friend?" Zell asked, surprised.

"Course, who else would it be? Selphie?" the cowboy scoffed back playfully.

"How 'bout Squall?" Zell grinned. "I *know* you're in lust with him."

"Aren't you? Come on, the kid is gorgeous!"

"Yeah, but it's Squall, he's such a..."

"Good kisser," Irvine sighed.

"You actually got a kiss from him?!" Zell sat up. This was news. "Whoa."

"It was more than just a kiss!" Irvine replied, pretending to be outraged. "There were tongues involved. *Tongues*."

Zell laughed. "Got anything else out of him?"

"Not *yet*" Irvine looked up at Zell with a wicked gleam in his eye and the martial artist just knew he was planning something.


//If love feels right
You work it out
You don't give it up
Anybody tell you that//

Seifer heard the door open again behind him and was mildly irritated that Irvine knew his pass code. Unfortunately didn't really have it in him today to physically throw the cowboy out so he figured he'd just let him say what he wanted to say and then they could part company. But the way Irvine was looking at him as he mixed himself another martini made it clear it wasn't going to be that easy.

"I've just spoken to Zell," the cowboy began, picking up Seifer's drink and wondering if the bottle-of-wine peace offering had actually worked or if he'd given away one of the best bottles in his cellar for nothing.

"Good for you," Seifer replied. "Does this have anything to do with me?"

"I'm here to help."

The gunblader closed his eyes and tried to will it all away. 'Great, just what I needed.'

Seifer drew three deep breaths to calm himself and settled down to wait it out; he could cope with the cowboy in his rooms, again. He tried not to reach across the coffee table and throttle the irritating sleaze but if Irvine knew about him and Zell then he really ought to be at least a little polite so he didn't go running his mouth off to anyone who would listen.

"What the hell do you want, Cowboy?"

"Now, now, darlin'," Irvine smiled sweetly at him. "There's no need to get pissy. I'm just concerned 'cause my best-friend and his boyfriend seem to be having an argument."

Seifer felt the anger well up inside him. He wasn't sure what to be more pissed about, that Zell had told or that he was being referred to as a *boyfriend*. "He-"

"Didn't say a word," Irvine clarified. "I've known about you two for a while now." He studied the incredulous look on Seifer's face before adding. "He was as surprised as you are when he found out. Wanted to know if you'd told me. Stupid question really, you don't talk to me at all." He pouted sadly and reclined on the nearest surface, which happened to be Seifer's kitchen bench. "And here I was thinkin' you two were perfect for each other."

Seifer narrowed his eyes but asked despite himself. "What the fuck made you think that?"

"Well," Irvine smiled that lecherous, sultry smirk and twirled a lock of his hair between thumb and forefinger. "Zell's damn gorgeous, good with his mouth... and I ain't just talkin' about talkin' if you know what I mean. 'N' he's got more stamina than... well, anyone I reckon. Strikes me as the perfect little fuck for you."

"Irvine," Seifer rested the bottle of vermouth on the coffee table. "What the fuck makes you so interested in my sex life?"

"Oh it ain't just the sex, darlin', an' you know it. Zell's got the bestest sense of humour around, and he'll stand up for you like nobody's business when Squall decides he wants to give you *another* make up class," Irvine tilted his head to one side and looked at Seifer as though he were about to attack his neck with kisses. "He ain't just good in bed, he's a good friend too. You know that."

A frown emerged on Seifer's brow. Who knew the Cowboy could be quite so observant? Not him that was for sure. He even knew about Squall's little make-up lessons. And he was right about Zell. So right. The martial artist was the perfect fuck for him, but how the hell would Irvine know that? How would he know what Seifer liked and what he didn't?

"Piss off. What would you know about any of this?"

Irvine just sighed in response. "Seif, look. I know Zell and I think I'm beginnin' ta understand you."

"Huh?" Seifer frowned at him. "And how exactly are you managing that? Considering I haven't seen you since my birthday."

Irvine just smiled secretively. "There's an easy way to get Zell back. And don't bother arguin' with me, I know that's what you want."

The gunblader considered for a moment. "Let's say that is what I want. Hypothetically," he added quickly. "What would be your fantastic advice?"

"Apologise, go back and kiss his cute little feet, stroke his fragile ego and wham, bamm, thank you ma'am, you're back in business," Irvine grinned. With a little luck Seifer would proceed to take this advice and then he and Zell would both be happy. Maybe Seifer wasn't admitting it to himself yet but he was falling for the cute little punk and Irvine knew it. To his surprise though Seifer didn't respond exactly how he'd expected.

"What makes you think this is all about sex?"

Seifer was as astonished as Irvine to hear the question, he hadn't been expecting that one. But then again it was true. He frowned, it wasn't the sort of thing he wanted to say out loud but now it was out there he was curious as to what Irvine would say.

"I don't," the cowboy replied, smiling gently. "I just didn't think you would admit that it wasn't to me of all people."

"Hmm," Seifer replied. He looked as though he were about to ask another question. But just as Irvine was going to mix himself another drink Seifer spoke. "Get out. That's a load of shit."


//You should take some time maybe sleep on it tonight//

When Irvine had left Zell pulled on his gloves and began attacking the punching bag in the corner of his room. Physical exertion would get his blood flowing and then it would find its way to his head so he could use his brain to think about what Irvine had told him. At least that was the logic he thought up. It was also highly probably that physical exertion would merely wear him out so he slept deeply but he figured both were good.

He was half an hour into his daily work out when he realised he still had stiff muscles that his martial arts weren't helping him with. Resting his hands on his knees he closed his eyes and tried not to think about it. But he knew those were the muscles he'd been using almost every night for the past four months. Lifting his head again, the little martial artist cracked his back. This was Seifer's fault too. It was all Seifer's fault. He couldn't sleep because there was an itch that no amount of jerking off would scratch; he knew that without even trying. After stretching one last time he headed for bed. Where he wouldn't sleep, where he would ache for Seifer, where he would realise that getting Seifer back meant more than just having someone to fuck, but it also meant having a friend that knew who he really was.

Zell collapsed on the bed and closed his tired eyes. This would never do. Even if he did hate Seifer (which he did) some part of him would still feel like the older boy was a lover and maybe even a friend. Some part of him would look at Seifer and lust, while the other half seethed with hatred. Somehow he had to reconcile them both, the question was: how?


//You should take some time baby hear the words I said//

As he snuggled beneath the covers Zell missed the warmth Seifer's body would provide. With him when he crawled into bed it wouldn't be totally cold, there was always something to cuddle up to. Something he hadn't even noticed until it was gone. And he had gotten used to sleeping in Seifer's comfortable bed, as opposed to his. He swore there was something that dug through the mattress into his back, maybe a spring or a wooden slat or something. Whatever it was it was irritating.

He rolled onto his side and tried not to let his mind get crowded with what Irvine had said. But it did anyway. Maybe Irvine was right; they felt like they should be being nicer to each other but still maintaining their old relationship at the same time. It would never work this way, they needed to be more friendly, to be friends. But they weren't friends, never were. Maybe Irvine was right about that too, sex changed everything.

So things couldn't go back to the way they had been, but had things grown or mutated into something ugly and strange? Zell rubbed at his temples. Irvine had been right and that really made him irritable. Irvine was not right; he never had been before why would he start now? And yet it was true that normally he would have hit Seifer right back. He supposed it was pointless trying to understand now why he hadn't, better to make sure it didn't happen again. He needed to work out the boundaries of what he and Seifer's relationship were. If there were any boundaries... If there was a relationship. Then things could get back to normal.

Zell frowned as that thought came to him. Since when was it normal for he and Seifer to be fucking?


//You should take some time think about your life//

Trouble was, Seifer realised once the gun-slinging slut was gone, Irvine was right. And that irritated him beyond anything else. Irvine wasn't supposed to be right, he was supposed to be flirtatious and lazy and melodramatic not *right*.

The gunblader made himself a nightcap and sat on the kitchen floor to drink it. So he liked having Zell around to make him feel good, and wanted, and not such a lonesome, bitter, narky old grouch. But there was still that problem of it being *Zell* that he liked having around. Maybe he was starting to register the little martial artist as a friend, but that was ridiculous, they weren't friends, never were. They used each other, they were selfish; friendship and (Hyne forbid) love were based on being selfless. Seifer couldn't do that, he'd never done it before why would he start? Because he needed Zell to get rid of that horrible nagging feeling in the back of his head.


//You should take some time before you throw it all away//

Stupid fucking Chicken. He practically threw his empty glass into the sink and went to bed. As he stripped off the blue shirt he stared at his reflection in the mirror. There he was, in all his Almasy glory. Four years ago he could've had any guy at this damn Garden, but then he hadn't realised his preference for men then. It had only been an inkling. Now his future was shit, and invariably tied to the whims of his once hated rival. Depending on Squall's mood he could be kicked out of Garden for the merest thing. But then maybe Zell would stick up for him, if he could make things up to him. And there it was, the truth of the matter. He needed a friend. An ally. Zell.

He turned away from the mirror. There was nothing there for him now, once he would have seen a glorious future for that Aryan God but now he knew he was just a man in need of a friend. So he climbed into bed and decided to deal with it all tomorrow. Matron had always told them things looked brighter in the morning.


//All the bridges that you burn
Come back one day to haunt you
One day you'll find you're walking

Irvine committed himself to the act of holding up the bar at the Balamb Arms. He smiled cheerily to himself as he was handed another whisky and gave a toast to his brilliance. Without a doubt Seifer and Zell were cuddled up together as he sat enjoying a stiff drink in the orange glow of the fire. Good on him, he was a wonder when it came to relationships.

It had been hard initially to work out whether they did actually belong together but Irvine knew if Seifer would just stop being such an ass and Zell let him in they would be as perfect as... well, Irvine. The cowboy rearranged himself in the leather armchair and gazed into the fire for a little while. If only Squall was that easy. Sure he was fine with the kiss but he wouldn't let Irvine do it again. More's the pity. Maybe Irvine needed to get him slightly tipsy again.

But if he could convince Seifer and Zell to get back together then he could convince Squall to let him take off those tight leather pants. But then Seifer already knew he wanted and needed Zell, he just needed a quick shove. Zell had needed to be lead along by the hand; he wasn't sure enough of himself and who he was. Squall was going to be twice as difficult.

The cowboy took another slurp of his drink and mused watching the night sky change colour as snow clouds came overhead again. Alcohol was his friend, he knew that now, the trouble was he needed an event to get Squall drunk at and the next one wasn't until Rin's birthday, a whole month away. Even he wasn't enough of a bastard to seduce her boyfriend on her birthday. Although if she did enjoy the show last time...


//I ain't got the time
To sit here and wait around
But I got the time
If you say I'm what you want//

As a soft snowfall began again outside his window, Zell got up to watch it. It was so silent, so peaceful, so unlike the mess inside his head right now. It built up slowly against his window and turned the Hynemas trees that still littered Garden all white. They were decoration-less now, seeming so pathetic in their little black pots. The little blond cuddled his blanket around his shoulders tighter and rested the side of his head against the window. It was cold through his hair, maybe he needed to get a beanie or something but he couldn't be bothered getting up.

Out of the corner of his eye he could see the tangle of bedclothes, white sheets and big grey doona. That bed needed someone else in it. It was cold in there on his own, and the central heating didn't do jack. Sure he could go off and find himself some cutey who'd be only too willing to cuddle up with a top level SeeD on a Winter's night and possible engage in some hot sex, but it wouldn't be the same. He could talk to Seifer about things other people didn't understand: the orphanage, Squall. Seifer could make him feel wanted for being him, not because he was a pretty face with a good body.

But should he sit around and wait for Seifer to come to him? Or should he take action himself? He should be active in this, he couldn't sit around like some broken hearted princess and wait for his prince. Seifer was nothing of the sort, he probably didn't even care but Zell wanted to know how they were going ahead. Were they friends or not? So he'd go and see Seifer tomorrow morning. If he were apologetic he'd give him a second chance but otherwise no way. He could find someone else to satisfy his sexual desires who might actually like him as well. That would be nice.


//All the bridges that you burn
Come back one day to haunt you
One day you'll find you're walking

The trouble with Matron's advice was that it so often also needed someone sympathetic and nice to actually give one a little support before one 'went into battle' so to speak. "Sleep on it" usually meant that she'd think about it and come up with a way to rebuild the cubby house in the morning. But she wasn't around anymore, not for him anyway. They had barely seen each other since Her and even then they both felt so guilty it was hard to act normally. So nowadays Seifer didn't have anyone like that to talk to, stupid friends. He didn't need them, but he needed Zell.

He'd invested something in the hyperactive blond, he wasn't sure what yet but it was definitely there. Entrenched somewhere within the longing he had for the unsoiled past was the longing for his strong arms to curl about Seifer's neck and hold him while they slept. On a cold, snowy night like this it was made doubly obvious. He didn't really want to be feared and respected any more, he wanted to be acknowledged, he wanted praise and affection. Someone else could satisfy his sexual desires but Zell could still his anger at the world. He needed Zell to be complete again. He didn't want to think too much about what would happen next, all he knew was the desire to get it back. This was a part of his past he could salvage; even She couldn't destroy this bit now she was dead.

So as the snow banks grew and by his window a smaller blond drifted into dreams Seifer slept the sleep of one who knows what he must do and knows how to do it. Early in the morning he would visit Zell, before class, before the day truly began. He couldn't leave it too long without talking to him, he couldn't let it fester. He hadn't meant to hurt him, and that was what was important. Not his action but his intention.





Author's Note

Hope you liked the Sudden Song-Fic Chapter... this will probably happen again later. Man, Seifer is so awesome to write when he's pissed. And Irvine... well, what d'ya know? He ain't *just* a slut... He's a relationship counsellor as well.

Song: 'Bridges' by Tracy Chapman

The song Irvine listens to (abstractly mentioned in the first section) is "Growing On Me" by The Darkness. It's an awesome song. So 80's, I love it!

I was going to be evil and leave you guys with this cliff hanger but Moruwen said that was just too mean so Chapter 12 is up as well. I finished it real fast so I could put them up ASAP. I've decided to date the chapters so things make more sense. I've gone back and dated all the previous ones too. This makes it easier for both you and me to know what I'm doing.

Much thankees to Moruwen my beta reader. She's just awesome. And thankees to all those who review too. Please keep it up.

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