Random Disclaimer: Still with the not mine-ness. Property of Squaresoft. Mores the pity for all of us... I wonder if anyone *has* made a yaoi RPG game... hmm... *gets an idea* Any of you guys good with computers??

One Moment, And A Year

Chapter 23 - Beautiful

By Akare

Monday, 3rd August

Squall glared at the handset as he replaced, some little childish part of him wondered if he could get rid of the phone and therefore rid himself of all those annoying phone calls... Especially the ones that concerned one Seifer Almasy. The commander was sure he'd sent Seifer to Esthar with specific instructions. Don't annoy anyone. Do as you're told. Simple really. For anyone besides Seifer. The other gunblader just couldn't help himself.

Somehow, somewhere along the line Odine had gone too far. The result...? His machine had mysteriously blown up. 'My,' Squall thought. 'I wonder how that happened.' The phone call he'd just received informed him that Seifer would be returning to Balamb Garden as soon as his wounds were treated, which could be anything from two hours to three days as no one actually told him exactly what the wounds were. Of course, no one in Esthar suspected Seifer of doing a thing but Squall had known him long enough to see his name all over the incident and when the Ex-Knight returned he intended to have a very serious discussion with him about it.

When Seifer did return a few hours later Squall immediately summoned him. To his mild relief Seifer did not appear at all injured, though the commander would have liked to have seen a few bruises... just to take him down a notch or two. He figured he'd known the other boy long enough for him not to have to bother actually speaking aloud. Instead he merely raised one eyebrow when Seifer entered his office.

"Oh fuck off," Seifer replied. "I didn't do shit."

The commander nodded lightly, sarcastically. "Mmm?"

"What? You actually wanted him to experiment on me, did you?"

"He was testing his machine, Seifer."

"Yeah, on me," Seifer growled. "Do you have any idea what that thing was supposed to do? Huh? He *said* it was about testing memories and GF and all that business but you know what he was really looking for?"

Squall rubbed at his eyes as though he had infinite patience that was getting a little strained. The other gunblader knew he didn't and was prepared when the snap finally came. "For Hyne's sake Seifer! Can't you do anything right?!!"

Six months ago the Ex-Knight would have been hurt, angry and defensive. He would have yelled back at Squall and kept his little piece of information to himself. Today he didn't feel like it, he felt... relaxed, content with who he was and with absolutely no desire to yell at Squall... To make him look like an idiot? Yes, definitely. To yell? No, not really. "He was *looking* for *Her*. Hence why he wanted me. And why you played into his little hands by sending me. I knew that as soon as I got there, that's why his machine had to go."

Squall stared at him blankly for a few moments. "What do you mean he was looking for Her?"

Seifer decided to treat the commander like the idiot he was. "When you want a Sorceress, short of nabbing the bitch Herself, what's the best way to get Her?"

The headmaster frowned softly and chose to ignore the fact that this upstart had just referred to his girlfriend as a bitch. "Her Knight," he said softly.

"Yep, he wanted Her so he went for me. When I found out I was already all nicely hooked up to the damn machine so I just short circuited it and buggered off."

"How...?" Squall frowned. "How, exactly, did you short circuit it?"

Seifer just offered a maddening grin. "Was that all commander?"

"No, sit *down* Seifer. You haven't explained shit."

Seifer bit back a childish 'Have so' and sat down again. Fine Squall wanted to talk to him, that was a good start, then he could tell Commander Sulky about Her in his head and his stats and get kicked out of Garden... Great.


"I..." He looked away. He wasn't going to tell Squall, why would he do a stupid thing like that?

Tentatively the commander pushed on. He knew it was a touchy subject, bringing up the intricacies the Estharian officials had discovered about the explosion, but he thought it was important that Seifer knew that he knew about the abnormalities. They obviously reflected upon the other gunblader and had at least *something* to do with Her. He had spoken with Rinoa and her carefree manner of avoiding telling him anything made it clear that she knew something as well and wasn't letting on. As much as he too wanted to forget about the War and about Ultimecia the subject would have to be broached with Seifer, and, as Squall was nothing if not professional, he took that step. "Esthar said whatever caused the explosion was magical... Would you know anything about that?"

Seifer niftily and obviously changed the subject, making it sound as though he'd get back to what Squall had asked in a second, although they both knew he wouldn't. "How's Odine?"

"He's fine, pissed off, but fine..." Squall humoured him for a moment.

Seifer nodded and looked away. There would come a point in his life, he knew, when he would have to trust someone, at the moment Chicken was it. But Squall did need to know, he would have to be told sometime, and if he didn't say now he'd get in more trouble later when Commander Sulky found out through someone else. The gunblader took a deep breath. "I..." he rolled his eyes and resigned himself to his fate. "I used magic."

"You're not allowed to use magic, Seifer."

"Really?" the gunblader looked surprised. "Oh..." He scowled. "I know that, dumbarse."

"But you aren't junctioned..."

"I know that too."

Squall rolled his eyes, and sighed. "Do you want to explain yourself, Seifer? Or would you rather I just dock your pay and your SeeD level for wanton destruction, unauthorised use of magic...?"

The Ex-Knight bit the inside of his cheek in annoyance. Stupid fucking Squall, always manipulating him into doing as he was told, didn't he realise that being a bad arse meant *not* following the rules? "Apparently," he stopped. If he told Squall that it was Rinoa who told him he might get the girl in trouble too... Strange, he never used to feel the need to protect others.

"When I spoke to Rinoa she just giggled and said there was nothing strange going on with you..." Squall leant back in his leather chair. "Which means she knows something too, if you don't tell me now you'll be in more trouble later on."

"I know," Seifer sighed. So he knew Rin knew, no point hiding it then was there? "Rin said she could still sense Her... when she was around me."

"Her?" Squall frowned. "I'm sure that's not a good thing."

"Apparently *She's* dead but I've kept higher stats than normal and... and an ability to cast mid-level magic when unjunctioned," Seifer moved on quickly, almost as though to defend herself. "But I don't know about that, I've only done it once."

"So Odine worked out She was still around last time you were there and called you back so he could delve into your brain," Squall mused. "And you realised this and cast Thundara all over the place."

Seifer nodded. "He deserved it."

"I don't doubt that," the other gunblader replied. "But I would have rathered that you told me about this magic business earlier... Is there anything else I should know?"

"Nope," Seifer smiled wickedly for a moment. "Wanna spar?"

When Seifer visited Zell a little later than afternoon he was grinning victoriously. The fight with Squall had gone extremely well, and considering he hadn't been able to use his gunblade that much recently because the commander didn't like it Seifer felt supremely smug. When Zell opened the door to his dorm Seifer almost expected a hug, instead he got a little frown.

"Who've you been fightin'?"

"Squall," Seifer grinned. "I won. You were right, I can kick his arse."

Zell chuckled softly and turned away, leaving the door open for Seifer to let himself in. "How was Esthar?"

"Alright, about as boring as usual," Seifer sat himself down on Zell's couch, catching the younger boy by the wrist as he walked past. "C'mere." He tugged gently causing the other to stumble slightly as he fell beside the gunblader. One hand reached out to steady himself, pressing against Seifer's shoulder. The older boy winced.

"So you did get hurt," Zell muttered. "Odine?"

"Explosion," Seifer replied. "Though it didn't hurt that nutcase as much as I wanted it too."

Zell nodded slightly and pulled back the neck of Seifer's t-shirt to check the skin underneath. It no longer needed a bandage as Cure had sorted that out but the skin was still burnt, a little blistered and angry looking. The little martial artist winced. "I have some cream stuff to put on that if you want."

The Ex-Knight smiled. "Thanks." As Zell left to the bathroom Seifer called after him. "I told Squall about Her."

"Yeah?" Rummaging sounds could be heard from the other room. "I thought you'd have to after I heard about the explosion. Figured it would be you doin' somethin'."

"Something blows up and you automatically blame it on me?" Seifer pretended to be insulted.

"Yeah," Zell offered a cheeky grin as he emerged from the bathroom, tub of cream in hand. As he knelt behind the other boy Seifer grinned.

"Don't you go getting any ideas about what *else* to do with that stuff, Chicken," he warned teasingly.

"Don't *you*," Zell countered. "So why did you blow stuff up?"

"Odine was after the magic in my head," Seifer winced as he stretched the skin along his shoulder while pulling off his shirt. "I didn't like his machine so I got rid of it."

"Understandable... comin' from you," Zell replied. He took the discarded t-shirt from his partner and draped it over the arm of the couch, then squelched a little of the cream onto his fingers.

Seifer hissed as the first dollop of the cold paste touched his burning flesh. He kept talking to keep his mind off it. "So, did anything happen while I was setting Thundara on things?"

Zell hesitated. "Not really," he bit his lower lip as though in concentration. "Edea's here, with Cid."

Seifer nodded, trying to contain the slight stab of fear that accosted him. "How is she?"

"She seems fine. I think she wanted to see you. They're havin' a dinner thing tonight if you wanna go..."

At the thought of coming face to face with his ex-mistress, with the face of a woman who first cared for him, and first tormented him, Seifer felt a little shiver. He knew she felt terrible for what had happened and they had seen each other briefly since the incident but he couldn't quite bring himself to feel relaxed in her company. He couldn't be left alone with her. Seeing her would make all the memories return, not that he couldn't recall them himself when he felt morbid enough but he had begun to think his life was going OK. Maybe he could deal with it if Zell were there. He smiled softly and inclined his head back slightly to brush his cheek against the hand that soothed his burnt shoulder. And anyway, Edea had been a Sorceress, she might know a bit about the magic that lingered inside him.

"Yeah, I think I might," he looked back up at Zell returning the smile the martial artist gave him.

"Cool," Zell pressed his fingers along Seifer's spine gently, not because he was hurt there but because the smaller boy could feel the tension that had built up in his muscles. He wondered momentarily if it were due to Edea or because of Odine. But shrugged that thought aside when Seifer began twisting back to face him and pressing kisses up his arm. He smiled and wondered if maybe Seifer would need some 'incentive' to go to this party too.

The moment Seifer stepped into the room he could feel her. Not the psychotic bitch but a calmer, softer feeling that wasn't based in magic but in the simple knowledge amongst all of them that Matron was here, their mother. She had her back to him when he entered, engaged in the corner in a conversation with Zell but, even without noting the movement of the martial artist's eyes toward the gunblader, Matron knew he was in the room too; some magic lingered in her still. She turned slowly and their eyes met. She smiled but it was far more relaxed than the one she'd given him when first they met after Her. Then she had been frightened for him, sad, guilty and uncertain. Now she knew the rift between them could be mended so she met his gaze with one of honesty and hope.

"Seifer," she said quietly and while no one was looking the martial artist by her side winked at his lover.

"Matron," he replied softly. It was nowhere near as bad as he'd thought, no fear came to him, no anger, just a profound sense of calm. Crossing the room in long strides Seifer enveloped her in a hug. Now with his face away from everyone but Zell he offered a little smile that unbeknownst to him Edea felt against her shoulder. When they pulled back she looked into his eyes again and he knew instantly that she also sensed Her. He was thankful when she said nothing.

"You look well," she smiled, dropping her arms from his shoulders but keeping hold of one hand. "I'm glad."

Seifer grinned. "Me too."

His Matron laughed softly and tugged him toward the corner where a table and some chairs sat empty.

Zell watched them go, content with the knowledge that Seifer had found himself another ally, one who perhaps understood him even better than he did. Somewhere in the room though, lurked his Ma and he just knew she was either embarrassing him with stories of when he was little or chatting up some nice homosexual fellow to invite around for tea when Zell would be there. Maybe she was just gathering information but either way she needed to be stopped before she found out something embarrassing that she could tell the neighbours. The evil woman.

"Ma?" he found her at the punch table, hovering by Selphie's side. That in itself was suspicious. Selphie was an information gatherer too. "Whatcha up to?"

"Gathering information," Ma grinned at her son.

"You know," Zell leaned in as though whispering a secret. "In some places they call that gossiping."

Laughing Ma handed him a drink. "I can't help it if you don't tell me anything, forcing me to go to your friends."

"Oh please! I probably tell you more than I tell them."

"Really?" Selphie looked interested. "So does Zell have a secret girlfriend?"

"I was going to ask you much the same question," Ma replied. 'Just substituting 'girl' for 'boy'.' "I guess that means no then," she sighed melodramatically.

"There, there," Selphie patted Ma's arm, oblivious to Zell's rolling eyes as she teased. "He won't be dependant on you forever. Maybe I could teach him to cook..."

The little martial artist almost choked on his beer. Selphie? The girl who needed *Rinoa* to make sure she didn't burn things? "Ahh, no, I'm fine," he narrowed his eyes at both of them. "Now will you stop hassling me?"

"Never," Ma replied.

The middle-aged woman watched quietly as her son changed the subject, discussing life and SeeD matters with his friend. Although she wasn't involved in anything of which they spoke Ma still felt connected to it all because Zell had told her so much. One of the things she prided herself on in her mothering of him was that she was always there for him to talk to. She had ensured it. When he had first left the orphanage Zell had been quiet, shy, and sensitive. She hadn't necessarily wanted him to open up but merely to be able to stand up for himself, around her in as well as other children. So she asked him questions and told him things as though he were an adult to make him more confident. She didn't talk about him to other people when he was in the room unless she had made it clear she was embarrassing him or unless he was just too shy to talk. Taking a small child away from everything they had ever known was a hard move but she loved him and in return, he loved her. She was his Mother, and he was her son, blood relation or not, for the two of them family was what you made it.

"Seifer seems to be having a long talk with Matron," Selphie said quietly.

Zell looked over. They did seem to be discussing something with some intensity. Edea was holding Seifer's hand in both her own, stroking it softly watching him with that same pained expression she'd had when Zell had told on Seifer for picking on him as a child, a look that encompassed both concern and sadness. For a moment the little martial artist wished he could hear what they were saying but realised quickly that it wasn't for him to know. He tried to convince himself that if Seifer wanted him to know, Seifer would tell him. He was still damn curious though.

Watching him Ma began to reconsider the doubts that had formed in her mind earlier about Seifer's relationship with her son. She had thought maybe it was just her over-active imagination that led her to believe that Seifer felt anything for Zell,
but there was something unusual... She shrugged slightly. It was none of her business really but she did like the looks they gave each other when no one else was looking. A moment later, when the gunblader looked their way, she offered one of her mischievous, knowing smiles. Edea saw it too and turned at once to question Seifer.

"You know Mirrie Dincht well?"

Seifer frowned and looked back at their linked hands. "No, not really."

"She seems to like you," Edea smiled, trying to catch Seifer's gaze again. It wasn't like the arrogant, boisterous teenager he'd become to avoid looking someone in the eye. It wasn't like the child who'd become her Knight to be shy, but here he was, eyes downcast and something eating at him. She considered her options for a moment. There were two ways of getting information out of Seifer. The first was the easiest, so long as he was being cooperative, which was rare from the gunblader, but if he wanted to let you in on something personal it was sometimes best to broach the subject for him so he didn't have to bring it up. The other way was to trick him into telling you, creating a long and devious pattern of questioning that would eventually lead him to tell you the answer before he realised it. From his look Edea knew he wanted to tell her, and she could guess it was something about Her. So she just dived right in. "What's wrong, Seifer?"

Seifer looked up. "You can sense Her, can't you?"

Edea nodded sadly and looked away. Now she was avoiding it, but as much as she didn't want to remember or even acknowledge Ultimecia she knew for Seifer she would have to. "Yes, but... it's difficult to explain."

"Rinoa said it was like sensing the magic in you, even though you're not really magical anymore," The gunblader frowned. "She said it was just magic in my head, not Her."

"*Is* She in your head, Seifer? Do you still hear Her?"

"No," Seifer shook his head, drew a deep breath and looked about for another glass of something alcoholic. "I cast Thundara yesterday without being junctioned."

"That's a little... unnatural," Edea smiled softly. "Why did you do it?"

"To blow up Odine's stupid machine." Despite his best efforts to appear all grown up, competent and mature in front of his mother Seifer felt himself failing miserably. To his surprise however, Edea just laughed.

"Oh that was you, was it?" she smiled. "I heard about it from Laguna. And I can't really say either of us were very sorry it happened. Odine has always been a rather odious man."

Seifer smiled back. "He was trying to get Her out of my head."

"*Was* he?" Edea's voice, though it appeared calm and controlled, implied that she was actually angry. "Well, I'm glad you stopped him, Seifer."

The gunblader nodded sadly. "I'm not even sure what he wanted. Maybe it was just Her magic or... Maybe he wanted to bring back Her Knight..." His eyes finally settled on a glass of red wine alone on a serving tray four feet to his right. As he rose to retrieve it Edea's voice stayed him.

"Do you want to explore this magic of yours, Seifer? I can stay for a couple of days... if you want."

Seifer grabbed the glass as he thought quickly about it. He did want her to stay, in fact, he never wanted her to leave. It was soothing having a mother figure again. Not that Zell didn't cluck around him like a mother hen sometimes but Edea was wiser than Zell, not just in her years or in her magic but she knew what it felt like to have Her in her head. She knew the pain of not being able to control yourself.

"I'd like you to be here," he said softly as he returned to her side. "Would you be staying in Garden or...?"

"Squall offered Cid and I the guest suites," Edea smiled cheekily. "They're much nicer than the Headmaster's Quarters, twice the size at least."

Seifer smiled sadly. "I suppose I shouldn't keep you from talking with these people," he looked around the room. "Most of them have never met a real Sorceress."

"Oh?" Edea looked surprised. "What about Rinoa?"

"I said 'real Sorceress'," Seifer replied with a little of his old teasing.

His Matron laughed. "Well, come and see me tomorrow or something and we'll see what we can do."

Seifer nodded, watching quietly as she made her elegant path through the crowd. She really was one hell of a woman.


Tuesday, 4th August

The gunblader woke happy. He would go and see Matron and she would be able to suppress all the magic in his head and all would be well. Seifer craned his neck to see the clock. It was 6 a.m. She would probably be fast asleep and unlikely to wake for another hour at least. So what could he do for the next hour or so? Scowling Seifer turned his attention to the only entertainment in the room: the blond sleeping beside him. Zell was lying on his side, hands tucked under his chin, facing Seifer with his little sleepy frown. The gunblader slid down the bed slightly so his face was opposite his partner's. He watched him sleep for a moment before reaching behind him to stroke the nape of his neck gently. Zell murmured softly and opened one eye, seeing Seifer he smiled and closed his eyes again.


"Mmm," Zell snuggled closer, placing one hand against Seifer's chest and curling the other over his ribs. "Why're you 'wake so early?"

"I'm going to see Matron."

"What timesit?" Zell struggled to open his eyes again, thinking maybe it was later than it seemed and he should be getting up too.

"Just past six," the gunblader put a restraining hand on his partner's shoulder and tugged him closer still. "You go back to sleep."

"She'd be 'sleep now too," Zell muttered into his chest. "Stupid gettin' up so early."

"Yeah, I know," Seifer rested his chin on the top of the martial artist's head. "Now shut up and go to sleep."

Smiling, Zell put all his effort into doing just that.

Beside him Seifer found that little piece of arrogance that Matron had chased away the night before, the little part of him that said Zell belonged to him. He took a deep breath, sighed and closed his own eyes to sleep again, content with Zell in his arms. Yes, this little bundle of hyper-activity belonged to him alone.

An hour later the gunblader was awake again so he figured that was a sure sign that he was supposed to get up. He slid out of the bed, careful not to wake Zell, but as he reached the door to the bathroom the martial artist's alarm clock went off. Diving for it quickly Seifer manager to stop the hideous sound before it beeped the third time. He cast a worried look at Zell, the younger boy was showing signs of waking, rolling over to face his partner and wriggling against the pillow. Moving carefully Seifer attempted to lull him back to sleep; kissing him, stroking his hair to let him return to his dreams. The little blond beamed sweetly and snuggled against the pillow, smiling Seifer went to take his shower.

In the bathroom, Seifer ran a hand through his hair, combing out the knots that were beginning to form now the golden locks were getting long enough. He scowled at his reflection and pondered, strangely, for a moment what it would be like to see a different face in the mirror every morning, to know a different face as well as he knew his own. Closing his eyes he tried to conjure up an image of another person, not anyone in particular just Someone Else. But as he moulded the image to features he could see in his mind's eye it became the face of one who'd plagued his dreams, who smirked so arrogantly at his failures and revelled in every emotional and mental victory he had had over Seifer. It was an image of Her Knight. The gunblader sighed and turned away. The only creature he knew as well as himself was a being made of his darkest moments and indicative of his worst intentions. He was all the negative moments of Seifer's life made its own person. Seifer's drive to succeed became his desire to destroy everything that could ever challenge him, Seifer's pride and inability to take orders became his arrogance, became his drive to have power over everyone else. Her Knight was Her creation but his faults were Seifer's own.

When he finally made it to the shower Seifer forced himself not to think about it, to dream of a different place, to imagine a world where magic did not exist, where She did not exist and he had grown up happy, healthy and strong with Matron... and with Zell. He smiled at the thought. It was wistful he knew to dream of things that could not be, that could never have been. But somewhere in his heart Zell had left behind a little piece of his optimism, and where once Seifer would have seen another hurdle he now saw something to be gained from his magic. Maybe he could utilise it, use it for fighting, it had made him a lot stronger than Squall, after all. He scrubbed his scalp with vigour and sighed as the scalding, hard hitting water soothed his muscles. One thing was for sure, Zell had to get a new bed.

Zell awoke alone, slightly surprised that Seifer would be up before him when the gunblader didn't have class or a mission to go to and he did. He scowled at the clock. 7.27. Usually he rose at 7, but evidently last night's gathering had taken its toll on him and he had needed more sleep. His scowl deepened. Had he slept through his alarm? He clambered out of bed and into the kitchen, rubbing at one eye with a fist as he pondered what he could have for breakfast with such limited time.


Zell squinted shut one eye and peered, frowning out of the other one. "Why the hell didn't you wake me?"

Seifer grinned, he loved that morning expression it took at least 10 years off Zell's age. He caught the boy in a cuddle as Zell reached for the fridge handle. "'Cause you looked too damn cute."

"Geddoff," Zell pushed him away with a smile. "I have to get ready, stop distractin' me."

"How am I distracting you?" Seifer attempted a pleasant smile but it came out as a sly smirk. Zell knew he was up to something.

"Don't you even think about a morning quicki--"

Seifer cut him off with a kiss again and backed him against the wall. "You've got plenty of time. Have a shower this afternoon..." The slow smirk returned. "Or you could let me join you now..."

The little martial artist huffed crossly at his partner. "Seifer," he stopped himself from stamping his foot. "Don't tempt me when you know I have ta go."

"Sorry," Seifer replied unapologetically. His smirk broadened as he slouched against the bench top. "See you at lunchtime, baby."

Zell scowled as he shoved a piece of toast in his mouth. He considered replying with 'I hate you' or something equally witty but the toast made talking a little difficult, he settled for stalking out of the kitchen. By 8.30 Zell was showered, dressed, thoroughly kissed and heading out the front door to teach Basic Self Defence classes to the first year cadets. Seifer wondered if maybe it was still too early to visit Matron.

When she was a Mother or Matron to the children Edea had never really bothered making sure she was beautiful. Cid was the only man whose opinion on that issue she really cared about and he never said anything bad about her... Although he had reprimanded her a little for not being aware of an evil sorceress from the future wanting to take over her body. Now, however, she found herself preening before the mirror, then seating herself perfectly on the sofa with a book in hand. She reclined in such a manner that she appeared so relaxed, the kind of relaxation that only comes from being totally without worry, like a Queen... or a regal Sorceress. She folded the ends of her dress carefully over one foot to keep it warm and pushed the other foot under a cushion. It was while she was arranged thus that Seifer arrived. Upon hearing his knock her eyes darted from the page. Edea placed her book mark in the book with precision and swung her feet off the couch. She wanted to hurry to the door to greet Seifer but she also wanted Cid to answer it and usher the young man into the living room where he would meet with his Matron. The Sorceress smiled at the thought, she was trying to impress him. As she realised she was fussing over the impression she would make like a love-sick schoolgirl Seifer appeared, smiling.

"Good morning," he said softly.

Edea was on her feet instantly and rushing to his side. Not as a Sorceress to her Knight but as a mother to her son. She hugged him briefly before returning to the couch, tugging him along with her. "Are you well this morning?"

Seifer nodded. "Yeah. Am I too early?"

"Not at all," Edea beamed at him as they sat down. "I often rise early. Cid too." She turned her gaze to her husband who stood smiling at her in the doorway. He had been aware of his wife's fretting for most of the morning and a steered out of her path, he did *not* want to be asked which dress was more homey and which earrings went with it. If it had been his choice he would have picked the dress she had worn when she was under Ultimecia's control. Not because he wanted to scare or worry Seifer, but because that plunging neckline was a sight to behold.

"Shall I make tea?" the ex-Headmaster asked.

"Oh, thank you, darling," Edea smiled back. He really did understand her very well.

"Seifer?" Cid asked. "Coffee or tea?"

"Tea, thank you, sir," Seifer frowned. He hadn't shaken the habit of considering Cid his headmaster. That place in his life had certainly not been taken up by Squall. He'd never call that idiot 'Sir'. Not that he had often called Cid 'Sir' when he was headmaster but still...

"You..." Edea stopped and felt a little foolish for jumping right in but now Cid had toddled off to the kitchen she wanted to broach all the subjects with Seifer that she didn't really want to talk about with Cid in the room. Not that she kept secrets from him but Seifer might want to.

"I...?" Seifer replied.

Edea smiled sheepishly. "You didn't sleep at home last night?"

The gunblader was mildly surprised for a moment. He had gone home that morning and changed, he wasn't wearing the same things he was last night, he was showered and washed. But then Matron was a Sorceress so it probably wasn't his clothes that she'd noticed. "How did you know that?"

"You smell different," Edea grinned. "Like... it's familiar... someone I know?"

Seifer felt an uncharacteristic blush forming. Some part of him didn't want her to ask him these things but she did feel like his mother, and some part of him did want to talk to someone about it. But he didn't want to just tell her, there was no way he could say it out aloud. He settled for staying quiet.

"Hmm," Matron frowned and looked pensive. "Now it wouldn't be Rinoa, she loves Squall and I don't know her well enough to spot her by scent."

"What are you?" Seifer asked. "A cat?"

Matron laughed. "No, just an ordinary Sorceress."

"There's nothing ordinary about you," Seifer replied.

"Thank you," Edea replied with a little smile. "Quistis?"

Seifer pulled a face. "She's pretty enough... in her place. Not my sort of thing though."

"I remember I used to think you two would be quite good for one another," Edea tapped her book idly. "She would rein you in, you would set her free. Not to be?"

"No," Seifer shook his head. "She has Nida now, anyway... I think. Something like that. I don't keep track."

"Ahh," Edea nodded. "And I can't see you with Selphie, Squall or Irvine so..." The smile returned, this time a little mischievous. "Zell?"

The gunblader decided on an elusive 'yes'. "Is that a good book?" he asked, smiling.

Matron clapped her hands. "Oh good! I'd always hoped you two would stop arguing and be friends."

"Who said anything about friends?" Seifer joked.

Edea was beaming happily now, maybe Seifer made fun and acted as though Zell didn't mean that much to him she could tell by his look and by the fact that he already knew Zell's Ma that Seifer was falling for the smaller blond- whether he knew it or not.

When Cid returned he wondered momentarily what had made his wife so happy. He had thought Seifer's visit would be about the powers Seifer seemed to have retained, evidently there was something more. Glancing over at the gunblader Cid noticed a slight blush staining his cheeks, who knew Seifer Almasy *could* blush? He certainly hadn't. Now maybe it wasn't any of his business but he wanted to know if the boy trusted him as much as he trusted Edea. Cid wasn't hoping for anything, he had been an authority figure in Seifer's life not a parent but he thought he'd give it a shot.

"What *is* she giggling about?" he asked Seifer cheerily. "Did you tell her she was going to be a Grandmother?"

Seifer smiled and shook his head. "I think she's just pleased I've grown up a little, that's all."

"Well, I'm glad to hear it," Cid replied pouring the tea. "So long as you and Dincht aren't still getting into fights in the hallways."

"Not in the *hallways*," Seifer replied with a cheeky grin. "We still argue though. Had one just this morning as it happens... sort of."

"What about?" Edea questioned. She, too, was curious how much Seifer would be willing to say in front of Cid.

"Oh, he was in a hurry to get to class and I held him up. Couldn't help it," Seifer smiled thanks at Cid as he was handed his tea.

"I can imagine," Edea shook her head. "You two will never change."

Seifer looked serious for a moment as he leant to take a biscuit. "I hope not. I kinda like things the way they are."

A slow smile appeared on Edea's face, curling her lips that were now stained with red lipstick instead of the dark purple black as she had worn those few years ago. "I'm so glad you're happy, Seifer. I hope you're being looked after."

"I am," the gunblader reclined back on the sofa, resting his hand with tea cup on the arm of the chair. "I had no idea Chicken could cook."

"Chicken?" Cid laughed. "Good Heavens, you still call him that?"

Seifer grinned. "Poor kid can't shake it."

"Oh Seifer," Edea reprimanded gently. "If he's cooking for you *and* letting you sleep in his bed you should treat him with a little more respect."

"Probably," Seifer replied. "But old habits die hard. 'Sides, just this morning he called me stupid."

Laughing Edea poured herself another cup. As she watched Cid and Seifer discuss changes and remember old times she realised she had spent too long away from her children, and that was how she thought of them. Since she and Cid couldn't have children it was those they had looked after for so many years that had remained her children in her heart. She felt especially close to Seifer as he was the only one who'd never had a family, he was the only one who was still wholly hers. He had never been adopted from the orphanage unlike Zell, Irvine, Quistis and Selphie, and he hadn't been left behind by his parents like Squall. Now the other gunblader had his real father, Zell had Mirrie Dincht, Irvine and Selphie still kept in contact with their adoptive families at Christmas and birthdays and Quistis... she seemed to have put it all behind her. She had entered Garden at a young age and had dedicated herself more seriously to her work. It was important to her early on the make sure she was capable. It wasn't that she didn't like people it was just that she wanted to make sure she could cope and that everything was sorted before she started falling in love or making friends. That was why she had been quite a loner as a student and why she hadn't struggled to make friends with the much older teaching staff... until now when she knew that these people had always been with her. It was nice to see her opening up to Nida too...


Edea looked up. "Sorry. I was thinking of my little orphans," she smiled. "I take it Zell is well?"

Seifer nodded. "As hyper-active as usual."

"I'm sure you help him get rid of all that excess energy," Cid said mildly.

The gunblader almost choked on his biscuit. Did Headmaster Cid just make a lewd reference about his sex life? Whoa, this meeting was getting too weird. Seifer decided to just let that one go unnoticed. "Well, sometimes we train together."

"I'm sure you do," Cid replied. "Shall I make more tea? Or will you two be getting down to business?"

"No more tea, thank you, dear," Edea smiled sweetly and helped to stack up the tray. "Seifer, stop gaping like that, you look like a beached fish."

The gunblader snapped his mouth shut. Cid was still making lewd jokes, was he dreaming or had someone just slipped crack into his tea?

"I am capable of being more than a headmaster you know Seifer," Cid commented.

"I'm aware of that," Seifer replied, still mildly stunned and totally weirded out. "But you're still Headmaster Cid so far as I'm concerned."

"No, no, Squall is Headmaster and Commander now."

Seifer scoffed. "No, he isn't. If anyone of us is it would be Quisty."

"You don't believe in Squall's abilities as leader?" Edea looked a little disappointed but Seifer let that one go, he was used to that expression and not just from his Matron.

"His abilities as a leader have nothing to do with it," Seifer argued. "Maybe everyone else likes to follow him around like fan girls but I've never been his biggest fan, Squall and I do *not* see eye to eye on anything." He glanced at Cid. "You should know that."

Cid nodded sadly. "I would have thought you two would try to be more understanding of each other now, but evidently it's not to be either."

Seifer snorted indelicately. "Squall's just a self-centred ass (1). At least I can beat him in every form of fight now."

"It was always about the rivalry with you two, wasn't it?"

"Was?" Seifer grinned. "Is."

Shaking his head, Cid headed back into the kitchen. Seifer Almasy would always be an arrogant young man, but it was good to see he was now one with his life back on track and a partner who would look after him, and maybe rein him in a little... in Quistis' absence.

Edea and Seifer spent almost four hours in the Training Centre trying to decide which aspect of the left-over magic they would experiment with first before it fell down to Seifer's simple ability to explode a Grat that won Elemental Attack magic the most points and they settled on that. By the time they were ready to have lunch Seifer was exploding three Grats at a time. Edea seemed quite impressed, if a little disgusted at the amount of green goo Seifer managed to get all over everything, but the gunblader was obviously enjoying himself so she let him do it.

"Seifer?" she called him away from the latest pile of gunk. "Have you tried any kind of High-Level Magics?"

The gunblader shrugged before suddenly realising he was fighting without his beloved gunblade. "Did you move Hyperion?"

Edea smiled. "You left it under the last Grat."

"Oh, right." After Seifer had retrieved her from the festering pile they headed for the Guest Suites, apparently Cid was a very good cook and was making them lunch. Seifer didn't believe that for a second. The ex-headmaster had probably spent the past four hours thinking up new innuendos he could slip into lunch time conversation. He scowled and wondered exactly when Cid had turned into an old pervert.

"He's just teasing you," Edea said with a little smile as they walked from the Training Centre. "Maybe he thinks you deserve to be teased after all the time you spent aggravating the younger children... Zell especially."

"Oh, I know you think I was harsh on him but he did grow up big and strong didn't he?" Seifer grinned proudly, not at all unnerved by Edea's apparent ability to read his mind.

"And you think that's because of you?"

The gunblader paused. The tone of Edea's voice hadn't been clear enough for him to be able to tell if she agreed or disagreed with that. "I don't know," he replied honestly. "Sometimes I like to think so."

"Well, I like to think he would have turned into a less quick tempered but just as adorable and strong boy if you had left him alone..." Edea sighed. "But if you two hadn't fought maybe you wouldn't be where you are now. Who are we to say what was best? All that matters is that it's good now. And it is good, isn't it?"

"Very good," Seifer smirked. "I've got just about everything I could want."

"Just about?"

"Well..." the gunblader looked at his shoes. "Someone to love me wouldn't go astray," he replied somewhat self-depreciatively.

Edea nodded. "Well, I love you, and so does Cid, I know that." She took his hand as they entered the lift to the Guest Suites. "And I know you mean someone to *love* you but... I think Zell does that, doesn't he?"

Seifer scoffed and pressed the button for Edea's floor. "I doubt that very much. Why would Chicken love *me*?"

"Because you're beautiful," Edea replied, as the lift doors chimed. She stepped out into the hallway and turned back to the slightly stunned Seifer. "Are you coming?"

It was late in the afternoon when Seifer arrived back at Zell's room. He hadn't intended to go straight back there, especially since he wasn't being quite so stealthy as before and other people might easily see him, but he wanted to see the other blond. He was curled up on the couch when Seifer let himself in. He sat beside Zell on the sofa and tickled the bottoms of his feet so he would wake. He did, by jerking his feet roughly and almost kicking Seifer in the face.

"Watch it, Chicken," the gunblader ordered.

Zell scowled but didn't open his eyes. "Arsehole."

"Yes, dear," Seifer replied sweetly. "I had a lovely day, thank you for asking. Actually Matron and I had lunch and talked about the good old days... Oh and I destroyed about 40 Grats with magic. Now make me my dinner, bitch."

At that Zell did open one eye. "Ex*cuse* me?"

Seifer grinned and sat back. "I knew that'd get you up and about." He glared at the still prone form of the martial artist. "Babe?"

"Piss off, while you were gallivanting' 'round with Sorceress' and havin' *lunch* I had ta actually work," Zell sat up. "Have you *any* idea how annoyin' First Year Cadets are? Huh?"

Seifer shook his head and pulled the other boy onto his lap. "But I remember you. Cute little thing, you were."

Zell sighed, and wriggled to get more comfortable straddled on Seifer's lap. "Did you have a good time with Matron?"

"Yeah, had a great time," he plucked at Zell's t-shirt. "I didn't realise how much I missed her." He paused a moment, wondering if Zell would be mad at him because someone else had found out about them. But surely the little martial artist wouldn't mind their Matron knowing... "Zell..."

That didn't sound good. Zell paused in combing his fingers through Seifer's hair. "That sounds serious."

"Matron knows... 'bout us."

"Oh," Zell nodded and petted Seifer's hair again. Beneath him Seifer looked up, wanting to see the smile that would reassure him. But the glint in Zell's eye was gone, they no longer crinkled slightly upwards at the corners, his lips no longer curved in an open smile, teeth exposed under that perfect cupid's bow. He was thinking. "Did you tell her or was it the magic connection?"

"A little bit of both," the gunblader clutched at his partner's hips. "Do you mind?"

"So long as you don't mind if I tell my Ma."

"Of course not."

Zell shrugged. "No problem then." He grinned mischievously. "Did you tell anyone else?"

"No," Seifer laughed. "But Cid knows, I think he worked out what Edea and I were talking about even though he wasn't in the room. He was making lewd jokes about it and all. *That* was disturbing."

Zell giggled softly. "Cid knows huh? I wonder what he'd've done if he was still headmaster."

"Nothing, probably," Seifer slid one hand under Zell's t-shirt. "It's not against the law for two SeeD's to be fucking. Just so long as we're not 'promiscuous'."

Zell sighed and wondered if maybe he should mention that Squall had recently had a little foray to the other side of the fence as it were so he could hardly be against them on the grounds of homosexuality. But then again that was Squall's business not his own. "Seify?"

Seifer frowned slightly. "Rinoa used to call me that..." He grinned and kissed Zell hard on the lips. "But I don't mind when you say it. Now, do you want to take this to the bedroom, bathroom or kitchen? Or shall we just do it here?"

"Bathroom," Zell slid his arms around Seifer's shoulders, smiling cheekily. "I needa shower."

"Well, you'd better hang on then," he advised as he rose, carrying the smaller boy.

It took Seifer less than a minute to get both of them naked and in the shower. Zell giggled lightly as the gunblader nipped along his neck, mildly surprised that Seifer appeared to be so quick at undressing him. But he supposed the older boy had always been talented at getting what he wanted. He moaned softly, smiling, and Seifer pressed him against the cold tiles, rubbing his chest with a cloth.

"Babe..." the gunblader said softly.

Zell grinned. "You want me to turn around?"

"No," Seifer kissed him gently. "Wondering if you were done. This is much more fun in a bed."

Laughing, Zell took back the washcloth. "Piss off then, I'll do it myself." He turned his back to the other boy and began scrubbing his upper arms.

An arm curled around his waist and slowly slipped downwards. "I think you're clean enough."

"Mmm," the martial artist leant back against his partner as fingers trailed over him, and sighed. "On second thoughts, me too."

"Good," Seifer flicked off the shower and tugged Zell into the bedroom, shoving him onto the bed, never mind that they were both quite wet.

"Seif," the little martial artist complained, trying to push limp, dripping locks of hair from his face. "I'm soaking."

"Never mind that," Seifer replied, kissing up the smaller boy's ribs.

Laughing Zell figured it would be more fun to just... well, fuck rather than bothering about getting the bedclothes damp. He combed his fingers through Seifer's hair, smiling at the feel of it and the little fires Seifer was lighting all over his skin with hot nips and kisses. He tightened his knees at Seifer's hips. "Seif..."

"Yeah, I know," the gunblader leant up over him, kissing him once quickly on the mouth. "You're horny and want to fuck. Right?"

"Exactly," Zell replied with a little pout. "So c'mere."

Seifer descended on his partner with a soft, sly slink, that reminded the smaller boy of a snake. For a moment he felt like prey, and loved it. The gunblader was pretty quick with him, neither of them wanted to spend much time engaging in foreplay they wanted the other with something akin to possessiveness. Seifer wanted the body beneath him to cry and whimper his name, to arch against him in pleasure and kiss him like a lover would. Not to mention that beautiful consuming feeling of being inside him, of feeling Zell's breath against him, hearing his heart beat, watching him sleep. Seifer kissed him again softly and, when he was ready, pushed inside him.

The smaller boy arched against him, smiling. He grabbed Seifer's face with both hands and drew their mouths together, moving their tongues like the gentle lapping of waves on the shore. "Mine," he said quietly, and Seifer smiled. He could live with that.

"Mine," the gunblader replied. They moved together, rocking as one, arms tight around one another, not for something to hold onto but just for the pleasure of being so close. When Seifer came inside his partner, he paused a moment then after extracting himself slid down the younger boy's body.

"Get back 'ere," Zell ordered, scowling down at him. "Jus' 'cause you're done..."

The gunblader grinned and ran his tongue languidly across the tip of his partner's fully aroused cock.

"Seif-FER," the smaller blond clutched his fingers in the other's hair. "Baby, I'm... " He came with a low groan before sinking limp into the pillow. "Seifer..."

Finally, Seifer thought, his life was turning out beautiful, and it wasn't just Edea who gave him a place to call home by her side, it was this bizarre little blond whose bed he slept in and whose arms felt so right around him. It was here in Zell's bed that he could be a peace. If there were anywhere in the world more calming, or more beautiful, it would be with Zell in Seifer's bed. He curled beside the smaller boy, holding him tight.

"Mmm," Zell snuggled closer. "You're beautiful," he whispered.

Seifer smiled. It seemed Matron could be right. With luck Zell did love him back... Back? Seifer scowled at himself. How had he let that slip?





Author's Note

*sniff sniff*

Another birthday chapter. Only Squall's left.

But on the up side, there's another...6 chapters to go. Yay! There are things to sort out and sex to be had.


Have a good one kids.

Needed to get this mushy stuff out of the way. The next chapter has plot. I know, I was surprised too. :D

Return to Archive | next | previous