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 24 - Lion's Heart, Lion's Mane... Hell of a lot of Lion

By Akare

Sunday, 23rd August

He was *not* sulking. No matter what Seifer, Zell and Rin said. It irritated him that his best friend, girlfriend and worst enemy had all ganged up on him to declare him sulking but then people never did what he wanted them to. Even though they'd all criticised him separately, and even though they were never seen together, as though part of an elaborate scheme to make he think they weren't in league, Squall knew they were planning something. He was just wondering if he could sneak out of his office without them noticing when he realised that would never happen, they were probably right outside the door. The sound of Rin giggling made this apparent. Maybe he could just stay in his office...


The gunblader scowled. No one called him Squally. Of all the horrid nicknames... "Yes?"

Irvine was not put off though, he knew the best way to train a kitty cat: with food. "Zell's Ma made some of her chocolate marshmallow slice for your birthday."

Squall looked up. No, he would not be lured out of his office for chocolate marshmallow slice. He wouldn't.

"I think Rin's got some now..." Irvine glanced back at the door. When he turned to Squall again he found the Commander with a sad frown on his face. "What's the matter, baby?" He slid to the leather clad Adonis' side.

"You're... It's," Squall scowled at him and almost pouted before he realised he was being childish. "You're supposed to be on *my* side."

Irvine smirked. "I am, that's why I was about to suggest we duck out there, nick the slice and bugger off to the roof or something and eat it all."

A lazy, amused smile emerged on Squall's face. Irvine grinned, they'd all spent so many hours over the past few years trying to coax that look out of him, they had managed it but it was still a rare occurrence... which was why Squall smiling at Irvine's proposal gave the cowboy a little shiver of pleasure down his spine and ran all the way to his... ahh, feet.

"How about you distract them, I'll nab the slice, get the lift and then we can run?" Irvine smiled hopefully. With luck that smile hadn't just been placatory but, rather, full of mischief.

Squall nodded and took his hand gently. "Thanks."

Irvine's grin broadened. "Anything for you, baby."


Zell had to bite his lip to keep from calling out. People had always said Seifer knew how to rub people up the wrong way, but he knew how to rub people up the right way too. Did he ever! Only trouble was he liked to irritate Zell by doing it where they could be caught. The little martial was glad the elevator walls were solid, now, and not glass. A few months ago in a particularly violent storm near Trabia the Garden had crashed into an iceberg (1) and the glass had cracked, in fear of safety Squall had made them solid. He hated glass elevators Seifer always smirked at him whenever they were in one and pinched his butt. Not that he hated *that* but... He whimpered softly as Seifer bit his neck, then moved his lips leisurely along Zell's jaw to his mouth, as though they had all the time in the world and were not just about to appear in Squall's office. The little martial artist groaned as the thigh between his own pressed closer against him.


The gunblader pulled away and grinned. "We're here." As he spoke the lift doors rang and opened. They turned with amazement to the scene that awaited them. Selphie and Rinoa were sitting on Squall, trying to make him stay still as Irvine stood watching helplessly with the marshmallow slice in his arms. Things had not gone according to plan.

"What the hell are you lot doing?" Seifer asked. Then he noticed the slice. "Ahh, I see this is your fault as usual, Chickie."

Zell chose to ignore him. "Umm..."

"Zell!" Rinoa called and pointed at Irvine. "Don't let him get away! He's got the slice and he was trying to take my Squally with him."

The martial artist nodded. "Right." He was living in a madhouse... but then this sort of thing always happened over Ma's marshmallow chocolate slice. Shaking his head he took the slice from Irvine and hauled Squall up off the floor. "Since when was *I* the sensible one?" he asked no one in particular. "Here." The slice was deposited roughly in Squall's arms. "Happy Birthday from Ma." He waved an arm at the elevator doors. "Now get."

With a grin Irvine grabbed the commander's elbow and shoved him toward the lift. "Thanks Zell."

When the lift doors closed on them Zell turned with an almighty grin back to the fuming girlfriends.

"ZELL!!" they both shrieked.

He held up his hands in surrender, smiling slyly as he explained his reasoning. "Now his office is clear. We can set up the party. It's the best room in Garden for a small party after all."

The two girls looked at each other then back at Zell.

"Genius," Rinoa shook her head in awe.

"SQUEEEEE!!!!" shouted Selphie. "Partypartypartypartypartyparty!!!"

"Not too loud, Selph," Zell reprimanded. "Irvine and Squall might hear you."

"Are you sure it was worth sacrificing your share of the slice just so you could throw Sulky a party he doesn't want?" Seifer asked.

Zell raised an eyebrow at him. "If you want slice why don't you go join them?" he smirked. "Now if you're not going to help, piss off." He turned back to the two girls. "Rin? How 'bout you and Selph clear the room, I'll go get the decorations and stuff from Quistis."

Rinoa nodded. "Good thing it's a Sunday. We'd all have work to do otherwise."

"Back soon," Zell stepped into the lift with Seifer again but managed to avoid looking at him until the doors shut. Then it was a bit hard because the older boy's lips were all over his face.

"You were just desperate to get back in here with me, weren't you?" Seifer pushed them closer together as Zell pouted at him. "Why'd you lie?"

The martial artist frowned softly. "Huh?"

"About the slice," Seifer kissed his neck again. "I know you made it. What's your Ma going to say when Squall thanks her for it?"

"'No problem'," Zell replied. "Ma was too busy to make it this year that's the only reason I did." He curled his arms about Seifer's neck. "How did you know I made it?"

"I tasted a bit before," the gunblader pulled away as the lift arrived at the second floor revealing an empty hall.

Zell rolled his eyes. "I know mine's not as good as Ma's but it's not *that* obvious."

"No," Seifer looked at him for a moment, smiling slightly. The lift doors opened at the ground floor. "Yours was better." As the little martial artist blinked stupidly at him Seifer waved over his shoulder, heading for the dorms. "See you tonight, Chicken."


By four the decorations were set up, food had been bought and Nida and Xu has arrived to help, although Nida's helping skills seemed to be limited to making helpful cocktails. It wasn't even beer o'clock yet (2). So the six of them sat around picking at the chips and dip and waited for Irvine and Squall to get back, Selphie had called Irvine earlier and informed him of the arrangements and what would happen if he didn't return Squall. The cowboy had promised to be there, Selphie was scary when she had her mind set on something.

The two of them stumbled back, slightly drunk, at 6.45 to a room almost full of people but a somewhat subdued atmosphere given the birthday boy wasn't there. Selphie was about to launch into a lecture about how Irvine ought to get smacked in the head for getting Squall drunk when the commander practically launched himself at her and gave her a hug. Selphie froze in shock for a moment before grinning manically and squeezing Squall back.

"Happy birthday!" she yelled in his ear.

Squall flinched and let her go, smiling again. "Thank you."

Of course Seifer arrived late. Never one to be on time for anything, always fashionably late the gunblader strode through the door as though it were his birthday. He frowned vaguely at the decorations before heading for the bar/ Squall's desk and demanding beer from Nida.

"Do you only ever show up for things for the free alcohol?" Irvine asked idly.

"Yes," Seifer gave him a withering look. "Now go away."

The cowboy sighed and slouched beside the gunblader. Sometimes, like now leaning against a wall, almost entirely in black and sipping at a bottle of beer Irvine found it hard to resist casting an appraising eye over Seifer and coming back with the judgement: Fucking Hot. Even though he was totally aware Seifer was off limits and even though he knew the gunblader could be a complete fuckhead when the fancy took him the cowboy couldn't help but feel a certain tightening of the pants when he thought about how things were between Zell and his arrogant, annoying and damn gorgeous bed partner. Those two, together, he caught himself before he drooled. Zell on his own one drunken night had been... well, awesome, Irvine could only wonder at those black gloved hands of Seifer's running over Zell's supple body... and he *would* only wonder. He'd promised Selphie fidelity, apart from the occasional kiss, so that was what she'd get. He did love her after all.

"You could make some kind of effort to wish Squall happy birthday," he advised the tall blond.

Seifer sighed and lowered the bottle from his lips. "I'm not here to wish anyone happy birthday, especially not Commander Surly." He looked across the room to where the birthday boy was currently drunkenly watching as Zell and Selphie recounted the Fight for Ma's Marshmallow Slice at a Christmas party a few years ago in dramatic motions for Nida and Quistis who had been on a mission. Seifer wondered vaguely if that was were their relationship had begun but didn't bother with that too much. He didn't care about other people's relationships unless they fucked up his life in some way, Quistis' didn't so... good for her. Turning his back suddenly he went to pick at the nibblies, if he was going to have to put up with these people he'd need supplies. He downed his second beer pretty quickly and as he was pulling a snake from a bowl of similarly exciting animals he heard Zell's voice complaining loudly at the cowboy.

"As if!" Zell folded his arms crossly and pouted. "I could kick Seifer's arse."

The gunblader let a devious smirk cross his face. "I doubt that, Chicken."

But what Seifer didn't know was Zell had been drinking and when he did that he was far more inclined to be uninhibited. "Fine," Zell snapped. "Arm wrestle, now." He narrowed his eyes at the older boy. "Or are you afraid you might lose?"

"I'm not afraid of anything, Chicken," Seifer replied, ignoring the little picture of Her that appeared in his mind. He put down his empty bottle and sat down opposite his secret fuck buddy. He knew Zell was strong, very strong for his size, but they'd never had a real fight. Zell had never *really* tried to beat him in a battle of pure strength especially not now with Seifer's Extra Sorceress Power. He waved idly at some of the newer SeeDs who'd shown up. "Are you sure you want to prove your incompetence in front of so many people?"

Zell scowled. "Shut up, Seifer." He slammed his elbow down in the table between them. "C'mon."

With a grin Seifer took his hand. There was something curiously exciting about being this close to Zell with so many people around and no one suspecting anything, except maybe Irvine. Stupid cowboy.

"Seifer," Squall's voice cut in.

The tall blond glanced over at the commander, ready with a snide comment if Squall had some lecture to give.

"Isn't it a little unfair since... Well, you've got all that extra strength...?"

"You junctioned?" Seifer asked the smaller boy.

Zell shook his head, and shrugged. "I can beat you anyway."

Seifer smiled. "Have it your way." He flexed his fingers gently around Zell's smaller hand, surprised at the strength in it that he had never really noticed before. Before him Zell glanced up briefly before Irvine counted down.

"3, 2, 1."

The sudden tightening of Zell's fist around his hand was enough to crack bones, or would have been enough to crack someone *else's* bones. He began pushing softly against Zell before realising he'd have to put more effort into this than he'd originally thought. He pushed a little harder, using most of his strength and soon had Zell's arm at a 70 degree angle. But he glanced up at Zell, the little martial artist had his eyes narrowed in concentration, and his teeth clenched. Seifer smiled softly, he could beat the Chicken, but damn he was strong. Then Zell looked up, straight at him, his blue eyes burning, smiling and happy and Seifer lost his concentration. In a moment like an epiphany he knew what Zell was to him and found himself just wanting to touch that face, to drown in those eyes and never wake up. The hard knock of wood against the top of his knuckles brought him back to the present and the fact that Zell had just defeated him. He raised one eyebrow, surprised and slightly amused. "Unfair?" he asked Squall. "I don't fucking think so."

Zell grinned, trying to contain his joy but in the end couldn't help himself and jumped up. "Booya! Ha!" he scowled suddenly at Irvine. "Told you I could beat him."

Irvine nodded and held up his hands. "I stand corrected." He sat beside the little blond as the crowd faded away, sliding a hand over his leg.

Seifer narrowed his eyes and knew he shouldn't say anything but he'd had enough of Irvine's sleazy little remarks, sticking his nose into other people's business... Then the hand began stroking Zell's thigh, rubbing it languidly. Seifer glared at him as though in disgust. "Get your fucking hands off him."

Squall glanced across puzzled as Irvine complied. "Why do you care?"

The older gunblader just shot him a filthy look. Defeated but not disgraced Seifer rose and went to get himself more alcohol. He was actually kind of proud of Zell, that was a strange feeling, being happy for someone else at your defeat. How bizarre. But he didn't want Irvine partaking in Zell's victory. The martial artist was his fucking property.

At the bar he noticed Squall had moved across the room, now surrounded by all these people and smiled softly. The commander was a hopeless excuse for a human being, couldn't socialise to save his life. But Squall looked up and saw him smiling, the other gunblader frowned unsure of what Seifer meant by that look, Seifer didn't let it bother him, in fact he didn't care what Squall thought he was smiling about. However, six beers and three hours later Seifer found himself walking in on one of Squall's sulking sessions. He'd been trying to escape from the mournful sounds of Selphie and karaoke and had gone to the bridge with the hope of a quiet place to have a drink. There he found the Commander, feet hanging off the edge, with a bottle of wine for himself.

"Good evening," Seifer said tiredly.

Squall just launched himself right in. "I have absolutely no attraction to you Seifer-"

Seifer wasn't fazed a bit, he was well drunk by this time and was very pleased to hear that little bit of information. "Good."

Squall frowned. "I thought you... Before... The smile... Weren't you...?" Squall stopped. The expression on Seifer's face was enough to tell him he had been totally off the mark. "Good." He nodded lightly.

Seifer glared at him out of the corners of his eyes, slit like a considering cat. "Whatever slight emotions I feel for you, Sulky, would be the irritated emotions of a brother toward a brat," he took another swig of beer. "The only thing I want to do to you is beat you," Seifer smirked suddenly, smugly. "And I've done that, so there's nothing more you can offer me."

The commander thought maybe they should change the subject, talking about lust and relationships with Seifer was not how he wanted to spend his 21st birthday. "How's the stuff with Matron going?"

"Fine," Seifer shrugged. "Before they went back to the Orphanage she gave me a tonne of magic, said I should practice using it and then try drawing... I dunno about drawing, there's got to be some things I can't do without a GF."

"Summoning?" Squall replied idly.

Seifer rolled his eyes. "Thanks, genius." He took another sip of his beer before placing the empty bottle behind him. Glancing over at the other gunblader he noted Squall's eyes were closed, he was either asleep or thinking. Drawing a deep breath Seifer closed his eyes and tried summoning up some of the ice magic that lingered inside him somewhere. Blizzard came to him easily but he needed Blizzara at least for what he planned, Blizzard wouldn't do that much. When the spell finally formed, a little stronger than Blizzara but not as strong as Blizzaga he began manipulating it, moulding it to a familiar shape, one he saw almost every day. It took him a few moments to make it perfect before he looked over at the commander, his eyes were still closed, perfect.

Squall opened his eyes when he felt the icy touch across his hands, startled he glared at Seifer, then back down. In his lap was a small ice sculpture. A lion.

"Happy birthday," Seifer grinned. "Now get back in there and stop fucking sulking."

The commander smiled his thanks softly. In his hands the sculpture was slowly melting in the heat of the summer night, the intricate grooves of the lion's fur and mane were trickling water that puddled in his cupped hands and melted his little lion feet. Squall sighed, that was the trouble with life, he thought, nothing was permanent.

Seifer suppressed the desire to cuff his nemesis across the back of the head. What sort of stupid thing to say was that? 'Nothing was permanent'. Bah. The gunblader scowled suddenly. Had he just read Squall's mind? Frowning he tried to do it again but nothing came of it. Maybe these Sorceress Powers were going to be a hell of a lot cooler than he thought. Zell was going to be so jealous. Ha.

The two of them stayed a few more moments, watching the sculpture turn to mush and water. Then they rose and went back inside. It had been the perfect gift between the two of them, really. Nothing more than a gesture, not friendship, not affection or love just a simple comment. 'Good thing you're here. Now I don't have to bother about fucking everything up, you'll do it for me.'


Surprisingly this time it was Zell who left first, he had classes to teach in the morning, unlike almost everyone else who could stagger about hung over all day if they felt like it. It wasn't like they had to pilot the Garden to Fisherman's Horizon like Nida, or teach cadets like Zell and Quistis.

So, deciding there was some sort of pattern going on between the two of them, Zell headed for Seifer's room. He'd meet the drunken blond there. After tapping in the key code Zell headed straight for the kitchen. He needed tea. For some strange reason whenever he got home he liked to make tea, even though tonight he'd drunk quite a bit he wasn't all that pissed. It had been at its height when he arm wrestled Seifer... and won. He grinned and opened the fridge. Met by the indignant smell of food that had not been disturbed for at least two weeks Zell quickly slammed the door shut. OK, black tea, he could do that. He opened the cupboard hoping to find some sugar but all it contained was a packet of instant ramen. Maybe he wouldn't make tea. Maybe he should just go to bed. Zell flipped off the kettle. Bed sounded like a good idea.

He wondered vaguely about pyjamas but it was too hot to sleep in much anyway so he just stripped down and threw back the sheets. They looked clean. He gave them a tentative sniff. They smelt like washing powder, there was a plus. After brushing his teeth with Seifer's toothbrush Zell clambered into the large, much more comfortable bed and curled under the sheets. He dozed for a little while, not wanting to fall asleep because he liked the feeling of Seifer beside him, because he liked to watch him sleep.

He awoke to the feeling of the mattress moving beneath him. It seemed Seifer had arrived home.

"Hey," Zell mumbled, voice rough with sleep.

"Didn't mean to wake you," Seifer cuddled up behind him. "Sorry."

"Didn't mean to fall asleep," Zell smiled lazily, snuggling back to be closer to his partner. "Have fun?"

"Had beer," Seifer kissed the back of Zell's neck softly, causing the smaller boy to wriggle in his grasp.

"Mmm, I can smell it."

Sighing, Seifer rested his cheek against the back of Zell's head. "You need to sleep?"

Zell laughed softly. "Yes. We can fuck in the mornin'."



Zell woke at 7. He smiled on the realisation that he didn't needed his alarm, that was good, it meant he didn't have to wake Seifer and chance irritating him so early in the morning. He rolled over. Seifer was curled behind him, still sleeping softly. He lay there on his side, one hand tucked beneath his head and the pillow the other lying across the sheet in front of him. In sleep he looked so young, time with Her and time at Garden had aged him prematurely, it had aged them all, but in sleep the frown was gone. Zell almost wanted to reach out and touch him. To brush the hair from his forehead and kiss all his worries away, but he didn't want him to wake up. He wanted him to stay happy and safe like this forever.

Just as Zell was about to get up a small smile brushed across Seifer's lips, curling the corners of his mouth and crinkling the corners of his eyes.


The martial artist lay back down. "Yeah baby?"

He didn't respond, instead the gunblader reached for him, curling fingers over Zell's body and where once he would have pulled and tugged Zell toward him he instead moved across the bed onto the cold part of the sheets and nestled up close to his lover. "Mmm," he sighed. "I love you."

The little martial artist tightened his grip around Seifer. "Love you too." He felt Seifer's sigh of relief ruffle his hair and a soft kiss was planted there. "Breakfast?"

"One of these days," Seifer promised. "I'll make you breakfast."

"Nah," Zell rolled them over so he lay atop the older boy. "I like my food with less charcoal."

Seifer chuckled. "Well, in that case, hurry up, I'm hungry."





Author's Note

(1) Iceberg?! He he he.
(2) Beer o'clock = 5pm.

My boys *sniff sniff* are all growing up!!! WAAAA!! But they is sooo~ cute *huggles them both* There they finally said it. Oh and sorry about the soppy bit between Squall and Seifer I couldn't help it. The idea of Seifer making sculptures for people was too cool and it was Squall's birthday so... And about the reading his mind thing, I reckon Seifer's done that to Zell before just not so clearly, picking up feelings rather than words.

Oh yeah, and I wrote this chapter almost in one sitting. I wanted them to hurry up and say it almost as much as you lot did so here you go.

And for those of you wondering about my inconsistancy in the spelling of blond... blond is masculine, blonde is feminine.

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