Disclaimer: Fan Fiction, by definition, is done by fans not creators : ( No ownership of cute SeeD members for me.

One Moment, And A Year

Chapter 27 - Psychically Connected Much?

By Akare

Sunday, 4th October

Despite leaving from their respective rooms planning to arrive separately Zell and Seifer found themselves arriving at the door to the ball room and Quistis' party at about the same time.

"Psychically connected much?" Zell joked.

"Any minute now we'll start-"

"Finishing each other's sentences?" Zell asked, grinning.

Seifer shook his head, smiling a little. "You go in first and distract them so I can slip over to the bar."

Zell laughed and went inside. By now he was used to Seifer's antics at parties. He began his hunt for the birthday girl near the punch, someone could always be found there. Tonight it was a slightly tipsy Squall, who leant on him more than Normal Squall would and even went so far as to cuddle his arm.

"Who are you looking for?"

"Quisty," Zell replied, giggling as Squall rubbed at his eyes for the fourth time in the past minute. "Baby, you're drunk. Your eyesight'll get better if ya stop drinkin'."

"Yeah, I know," Squall sighed. "And I'd stop ruining my reputation for being unapproachable." He struggled to sit up properly. "But I like feeling relaxed."

"So long as you don't turn alcoholic," Zell waggled a finger at his friend.

Squall smiled softly. "I won't." He sighed. "I think Quistis is being hostess and offering hors d’oeuvres or something."

Zell snorted. "Typical, she can't even relax at her own party."

"She was just as bad last year," Squall muttered with a yawn.

The little martial artist blinked. Was she? He couldn't remember last year... well, except one little bit that resulted in this years party being a little bit more... of a pain in the arse. He wriggled his bottom against the soft cushions, feeling the waist of his jeans press against some of the bruises Seifer had left on his hips. Not that he cared, he loved Seifer, and at the time neither of them had noticed being so caught up in the moment so it hardly mattered. He glanced to his side and noticed Squall was dozing softly on his shoulder. "Hmm."

"Want me to take that?" Irvine asked, sidling up like a snake. "I promise I won't sully his honour."

Zell laughed softly. "Same way you didn't sully mine?"

The cowboy feigned insult as he sat down on the other side of Squall. "I sullied no one's honour. I just... showed them a new way to express themselves." A sly grin slid across his lips.

Smooth as silk, Zell thought, shaking his head. "Butter wouldn't melt. Eh Irvine?"

Smiling the cowboy lay the dozing commander in his lap. "Butter would melt. I'm way too hot."

"Sure," Zell rose. "I'd better leave you to it then. But if Rin finds out I wasn't here OK?"

Laughing Irvine shooed him away. "I'm just cuddling, nothing else."

Zell was pushing back through the crowd of Trepies when he heard Selphie whinging at her boyfriend, camera aimed.

"Aww, kiss him. Go onnnnn~!"

He gave up on his hunt pretty soon after that namely because of the bar, but unfortunately his hunt found him. A few minutes later, halfway through his third Full Moon cocktail he was accosted by Quistis who insisted on dragging him with her to 'do the rounds'.

"If I have to do it then the least you can do is accompany me, Zell Dincht," she ordered, Instructor Tone firmly in place.

Zell lowered his head just like he used to when she got him in trouble for not doing homework. "Yes, Instructor Trepe."

Quistis slapped him playfully on the arm as he grinned at her. "Don't you start that with me, young man."

"Sorry, Instructor Trepe."

Laughing, Quistis linked her arm through his. "Don't make me send a report to your mother," she paused by the punch, smiling slightly at the sight of Squall asleep on Irvine's lap as the cowboy stroked his hair and Selphie pushed for a kiss. "How is your Ma?"

"Good, she keeps asking about everyone, as usual."

"Tell her I'm still after that recipe," Quistis continued as she selected an appetising looking biscuit.

"Which one?"

"The chocolate orange jaffa cake. Don't suppose you can try and steal it off her?" (1)

Zell could feel himself blushing lightly and looked down at his shoes, hoping his old Instructor couldn't see it. That cake had never been made by his Ma and the patented recipe was his alone. No wonder Ma was refusing to hand it over, she didn't even know what was in it. Not that she couldn't work it out for herself given time. "I'll see what I can do," Zell smiled softly. "But she can be precious about her recipes. Family things, you know."

"But you don't cook," Quistis smirked, a very good imitation of Seifer's. "Do you?"

Zell frowned slightly. "Not much."

Grinning knowingly the birthday girl turned away to finish making rounds. She glanced over her shoulder at him. "Coming?"

It wasn't until two hours later that Zell finally managed to get away from the over-talkative members of staff and the over-excited Trepies and then there were drunk SeeDs and underage drinkers to talk at him. He sighed and slumped against a pillar. No wonder Quistis hated doing that, no way was he having a big party this year either, he liked little gatherings with a few close friends. All these strangers would irritate him, not to mention Seifer who'd be all funny about other people hugging him. Zell smirked at the thought, Seifer was so dumb sometimes.

Thinking of the older boy Zell cast a look around the room for him but couldn't spot the arrogant glow around Seifer's golden head. He was probably drinking on the balcony behind him. Turning the martial artist glanced out the doors but no one was there. Hmm.

A few moments later he felt rather than heard a seriously drunk Seifer sneak up on him. The other boy, despite his inebriated state was surprisingly stealthy, slinking over to Zell, hands reaching for his arse. The martial artist caught himself before he squealed when two fingers slid down the crack of his arse from outside his pants. Usually his sixth sense kicked in when people were behind him, evidently Seifer was a slippery bastard. Zell quashed that thought before it went off the rails and into some bedroom idea of Seifer all wet and rubbing his body all over Zell's again.

"Let's go," Seifer suggested, whispering in his ear, hands now attempting to reach the front of Zell's trousers.

"And what am I supposed to tell Quistis and stuff?"

"Tell 'em you're coming home with me."

"And you don't think they'll suspect something?"

"I don't give a flying fuck. You know I love you in that uniform. And I *really* love you out of it," he gave a little un-Seifer-like pout. "Please, baby. Let me fuck that sweet little arse of yours."

Zell turned from the centre of the party and glared at Seifer. "Will you keep your voice down? Hyne Seifer."

The gunblader smirked at him, as was his common practice. "Come on Zell. You're as bored by this gathering as I am."

"Be that as it may," Zell began. He stopped suddenly when Seifer's fingers began plucking at the front of his jacket, tugging him toward the balcony.

"Wanna re-live Quistis' *last* party?" Seifer whispered.

"Seifer," Zell hissed, but he let himself be led from the party anyway.

Once they were outside Seifer shoved him into a corner and pressed him up against the wall, immediately attacking his throat with hungry kisses. "Fuck Zell," he breathed heavily.

The martial artist responded by turning his head so Seifer's mouth fell upon his. Their kiss was hurried, passionate, as though they hadn't much time but still wanted to fit in all the beauty of a comfortable, loving pash. In seconds Seifer's hands had unbuttoned Zell's blazer, untucked his shirt and were up against the taunt skin of the little blond's stomach. "Mmm," Zell groaned as they slid around to his back and began massaging the tense muscles there.

His mouth moved to marking Zell's neck. There was something arousing about leaving those little possessive brandings on Zell's neck that the fighter had to find ever more ingenious ways of covering up.

Zell grinned as he came up with the perfect pay back for the love bites Seifer had, and was, littering his neck with. He slid one of his hands along the gunblader's arm then down his side, digging his fingers in lightly under his ribs where he knew Seifer could sometimes be ticklish. The older boy flinched slightly, moving away from Zell's fingers and they laughed.

"Keep your hands to yourself," Seifer ordered softly.

"Oh?" Zell asked and went in for the kill.

Seifer had to bite his lip to hold back the groan as Zell's hand grabbed his hardening member and massaged it gently.

"You sure?" Zell continued. "Hands to myself?" he softened his grip slightly, just enough to make it clear that he threatened to keep his hands off Seifer as asked.

"No," Seifer replied quickly, breathlessly, as he bucked forward into Zell's palm. "Fuck, Zell. Gotta get you someplace else, gotta fuck you."

Zell smiled, bringing both his hands down to Seifer's waist so he could undo the other boy's trousers. "Yeah? Well you ain't gettin' nothin' if you don't start pleasin' me."

That got a reaction. Seifer launched himself at the smaller boy, hands gripping his hips and pushing himself up as close as their clothes would allow. He began a trail of wet, biting kisses down Zell's neck as his hands began roaming. One, the left, was inside the little blond's shirt, running over toned stomach muscles and travelling behind him to massage those knots out of his lover's back. The other slid over the top of Zell's jacket, under an arm and grabbed the short locks of blond hair at the nape of his neck between its fingers, holding his head in place Seifer bit down on the tendon just under Zell's right ear.

Zell pushed up hard against him, forgetting all about undoing Seifer's trousers. The bite wasn't hard, it had been nastily painful for the briefest of moments as Seifer had dug his teeth in to let Zell know what he was doing, then Seifer let up a little and was pulling and sucking at the skin like a vampire.

He was thrusting slightly against Seifer when he spotted movement out of the corner of his eye. The two lovers' attentions darted quickly to the small figure just outside the ballroom, smiling softly at them. It was Kieran, the barmaid.

Seifer bit his lip. Shit. Taking a deep breath he decided some manipulation would be in order to sort out this little debacle. To his surprise though the girl just grinned cheekily and shook her head, tsking softly. "Such a waste," she sighed sadly. With a final grin she held a finger to her lips, waved and went back inside.

"Heh," Seifer said softly.

"That went well," Zell replied, somewhat nervously.

Smirking Seifer turned back to him. "We'd better get *this* going well again then."

"Seifer," Zell moaned lustfully, wrapping his arms around the other boy's neck. "Let's get outta here."

Seifer grinned. "I thought you'd never ask Chickie."

He leaned in to capture Zell's mouth in a passionate kiss. They fought for a moment or two before Zell gave in, as he always did, to Seifer's demands. The older blond slipped his tongue past Zell's teeth and into the warm cavern of his mouth, the taste of him here was beautiful too. He wanted to rip his clothes off and fuck him right on the balcony, who gave a shit who might see them? He certainly didn't.

The sound of someone clearing their throat caused the two lovers to flinch and jerk their heads up in the direction of the noise. Squall stood there with Selphie and Irvine, watching them both with an oddly puzzled and wary look on his face.

"Oh my god!!!" Selphie shrieked. "You two are so cute!!"

Irvine gave her a slightly quizzical look before turning back to the spectacle before him. Zell Dincht: arms wrapped around Seifer's neck, his face flushed, lips kiss-bruised, love bites on his neck, and breathing deeply as he tried to hide his face in Seifer's collar. And Seifer Almasy all arrogance and pride, he didn't give a shit that they'd come across him, pants half undone, hands under Zell's shirt, and a budding erection that was quickly dissipating. Damn! Irvine thought as he realised his girlfriend was right. They were more than cute, the two of them were fucking *hot*, if Squall and Selphie hadn't been there he probably would have demanded to be allowed to join in. As he was debating how to get rid of them both Quistis arrived.

"I was wondering where you'd all..." she began. "Oh hello Seifer, Zell." She graced the two of them with a beautiful smile before turning back to Squall. "Rinoa's looking for you."

Squall scowled at her. Her response had been a little different to what he was expecting. "How long have you known about this?" he asked, waving a hand in Zell and Seifer's direction.

Quistis shrugged. "About a minute, maybe less," she smiled cheekily. "Though I've had my suspicions for a couple of months now."

"Months?" Squall replied. He turned to the couple who had now finished pulling their clothes back into place. "How long has this been going on?"

Seifer shrugged, he didn't see why the hell he should have to tell Commander Surly, it was none of his business.

Noticing Seifer's reluctance Zell answered for the both of them. "About a year... Seif?" the tattooed blond looked up at him innocently, eyes wide as he kept trying to slow down his quickened breathing. He was worried about what Squall would do, obviously.

Seifer snorted inelegantly. "About that." Exactly that, now. He pulled Zell closer to him, they had drifted apart since being interrupted, but Seifer knew he didn't want to let him go. He wasn't going to back down in front of Squall, Zell was his, besides the younger boy looked like he needed some support. With this gesture Seifer figured he was telling him he wasn't going anywhere. And Zell thanked him for it, leaning against Seifer's chest with a little sigh.

To Squall's credit he noticed Seifer's defensive glare before he started asking too many embarrassing questions and there were a lot of those forming in his head right now. "Right," he said, typically understating... well, everything. "We should talk about this though... later." He glanced at Quistis. "After the party."

"Oh don't let that stop you," Quistis beamed happily. "It's winding down now anyway."

"Umm... OK." Squall was feeling a little flustered. How come he hadn't known about this? He'd suspected Zell hopped over the fence a bit but... Weren't they best friends? Were they?

Luckily Irvine leapt to help him out. "How about we head back inside huh? It's pretty damn cold out here. We can talk about this tomorrow." He moved to take Selphie's arm, knowing well he'd have to drag her from the scene but it was Zell who stopped him.

"No," he moved away from Seifer a little, closer toward the rest of them. "I don't want to be up all night wonderin' what you guys think. If you've got a problem I wanna know now." He folded his arms crossly over his chest, setting his feet apart as though ready for an attack.

Irvine couldn't help smiling. Zell was just too darn cute sometimes, standing there like a little kid about to have his favourite toy taken off him. "Darlin' you know what I think. Good luck to ya. 'Sides, it would be a little... hypocritical of Stormy or me to be against you."

Seifer frowned and glanced at Zell, who just waved one hand dismissively.

"I'll tell ya later," he reassured.

The gunblader shrugged, at this point he didn't particularly care, there was a flickering doubt inside his heart that said if Squall and co. disapproved of him Zell would end it all to appease them. He wasn't sure he wanted to think about that. However unlikely the rest of him said it was.

As Zell waited for an answer Selphie pouted at them both. "How come nobody told meee~?" She folded her arms. "I think it's cute."

The martial artist turned to Squall, obviously no one else had a problem and while he knew Squall would hardly be against them for being gay he could see Seifer's presence in the relationship being a bit of a problem.

"Um..." Squall blinked stupidly, every new word he'd learnt in the past four years left him and he was about to reply with 'whatever', when Zell interrupted.

"If you've got a problem with it Squall just say so. It..." he glanced behind him at Seifer, unfolding his arms and taking the gunblader's hand. "I won't leave him. No matter what you think."

Squall eyes flashed up at them. "I..." his mouth opened and shut a few times. "Hyne, Zell. My opinions of Seifer... You... Fuck!" The head master scowled. "So long as you're happy I'm happy... whatever my opinions of your... boyfriend thing."

Seifer frowned. "Boyfriend thing?"

"Actually," Squall continued just as Zell started to relax. "I'm a little hurt that you think I could be that... petty."

"Your rivalry with Seifer runs far deeper and longer than your friendship with me," Zell replied quietly. "You guys were fighting before I even arrived at the Orphanage."

"And *you* and Seifer were fighting every day after that," Quistis put in with a smile. "I'm curious as to what changed and why."

Zell shrugged. "I grew up and Seifer... got over himself."

"Could've fooled me," Squall muttered.

Seifer chuckled softly. "I always knew you were just a brat under all that 'whatever' business."

"And I always knew you were an arrogant bastard under that... " Squall paused and smiled softly. "Whatever."

To everyone's surprise the older gunblader responded with a hearty laugh. "See, Chicken? I said Squall and I understood each other."

"You mean you insult each other on a regular basis," Zell muttered.

"Exactly," Seifer's grin broadened and he threw an arm over Zell's shoulders. "Now can we get back to what we started?"

"Not out here you can't," Squall replied. "I'm still Master and Commander and I say bloody well do it in your room. If a junior cadet has to seek counselling tomorrow..." he scowled and left the threat up in the air.

Zell saluted playfully. "Yes, sir."

They all moved to go back inside, this was something tomorrow could sort out. 'Not that it needed sorting,' Squall thought idly. He'd meant what he'd said, if Zell was happy he was. He smiled at the smaller boy once more and was rewarded with a beaming grin. That was what friendship was really about.

Despite Seifer's insistence that they retire to his room lickety-fucking-split Zell lingered about the party a little while longer. Just under an hour later, however, they were stumbling into Zell's room, Seifer significantly more inebriated. The gunblader tripped clumsily while he was removing a boot and collapsed on the martial artist's bed.


Zell grinned at him as he removed his own shoes. "Yeah?"

"Can you do us a favour?"

"You need help with the rest of those restricting clothes?" Zell smirked, Seifer was so easy to tease when he was drunk.

"Uhh, yeah," Seifer laughed softly. "A quick fuck while you're at it wouldn't go astray either."

Shaking his head the martial artist climbed up on the bed beside his lover. "I'm glad no one reacted badly," he said quietly as he unbuttoned the gunblader's shirt.

"Mmm," Seifer nodded his head slightly. "What was with Irvine and Squall?" he frowned rubbing his eyes as he tried to clear the alcohol from his head.

"They... had a bit of a fling... before. But don't tell anyone," Zell added forcefully. "It's still, like, a secret between the gang."

Seifer sighed as he obligingly lifted his arm so Zell could peel his shirt off. "You mean Selphie and Rin knew about it?"

"Yeah." Zell paused in his undressing of the older boy and sat back to admire the strong, supple form of his lover. Fighting with a gunblade wasn't quite the all-over body sport martial arts was but it still made sure certain attractive muscles were toned. The smaller boy smiled, running a cool fingertip over light brown skin.

Seifer screwed up his nose as he realised what Zell had just told him. Squall and Irvine? "Eww."

Zell covered his face as his laughed heartily. "That was so cute," he pounced on the gunblader. "Do it again."

Laughing Seifer pushed him off, rolling them both over to lie piled one on top of the other. "Don't tempt me when I'm drunk, Chicken."

The martial artist rested his forehead against his lover's, happy to just be curled in his arms but he knew when Seifer was drunk cuddling was not his forte. Any minute now he'd start nuzzling in the smaller boy's ear, then his tongue would come into play and Zell would get all weak and shivery and just want to wrap his legs around Seifer's hips. But they would lie for a moment at least with Seifer's head resting on Zell's shoulder.

His mind ran through all the things he had to do tomorrow while he waited. He hated the way it did that, for now he just wanted to think about Seifer and how fucking gorgeous he was and how beautiful it was to have him curled up in bed. Seifer's body was heavy and warm, he could feel the muscles underneath his skin, shifting as he breathed or wriggled. His fingers were playing with Seifer's hair, curling a lock at the nape of his neck around one finger when the martial artist realised his lover was asleep. Smiling Zell drew his arms tighter around the gunblader's shoulders and closed his own eyes. Here everything was safe and good.

Monday, 5th October

Morning came swifter than either of them would have liked. Zell was having an odd but arousing dream where he was being coated in chocolate sauce while Seifer licked it all off and Seifer's hangover was just developing into a nasty ache behind his eyes when Zell's alarm went off.

"Fucking-!" Seifer winced at the volume of his own voice, he didn't even bother opening his eyes. "Ow..."

The alarm was silenced quickly and he felt a weight hop from the bed. It returned and seemed to have brought a warm cloth with it.

"Do you want it cold?" Zell asked softly.

Seifer smiled. "No, it's perfect." He rolled away from the window and the light, pulling Zell down to lay beside him and opening his eyes slightly to look at the other boy. "Just like you."

Zell grinned stupidly. "Stupid," he said as Seifer's eyes slid shut. "Coffee? Breakfast?"

"Mmm, can I have bacon?"

"And toast, hash browns, pancakes and anything else you want."

"You?" Seifer cracked one eye open again.

"You reckon your head's gonna stop aching?"

A low growl sounded in Seifer's throat. "Fine, this afternoon."

"I'm teaching," Zell replied apologetically. "Tonight."

"K" Seifer clutched at his forehead. "I need a shower."

"I'll get you breakfast," Zell kissed him once quickly. "Never say I'm not the perfect housewife."

Seifer chuckled softly. "Baby, I just said you were perfect."

Breakfast was a relatively slow affair, namely because Seifer wouldn't get out of bed or let go of Zell while he was eating. The martial artist was beginning to think it might be faster if he fed Seifer himself when finally the last scrap of pancake was gone.

"You sure you're done?" Zell asked, cuddled between Seifer's legs, the gunblader's plate in his arms.

Seifer grinned. "You've got maple syrup on your lip."

Smiling Zell kissed him. "Gone?"


Zell pouted and kissed him again, slipping his tongue in slightly as he felt Seifer's run along his lower lip. "What about now?"

The gunblader shook his head, and moved the empty plate from Zell's arms. He pushed the smaller boy back on the bed, crawling over him. "Looks like I'll have to be systematic about this." He licked up the right side of Zell's face first, kissing and suckling gently on his way. "Not there."

Zell wriggled beneath him, smiling sadly. "Babe, it's a quarter past eight. I have to go."

Seifer pouted. "You've got fifteen minutes."

"Mmm," Zell agreed warily. "But what about the washing up?"

"I'll do that."


"Yep," Seifer nodded softly, not wanting to upset the headache that threatened.

Zell beamed at him. "OK."

"No fuck though," Seifer replied. "My head hurts," he smirked. "I reckon I could kiss you pretty thoroughly in fifteen minutes though."

Zell laughed. "So long as you don't wear out my tongue, I do have a class to teach."

"Well, how about you keep your pretty little tongue in there," he tapped Zell's lips softly. "And let me do all the work."

"Sounds perfect," Zell replied, lifting his arms to take Seifer into them. This was a lovely way to start the morning, curled up on his bed making out with a perfect figure of a man. "Mmm," Zell murmured. "Yum."

Seventeen minutes later, as Zell was hurrying out the door, Seifer grabbed his wrist, pulling Zell into his arms again and into another wet, tongueful kiss. "*Now* it's our anniversary, Chicken," he grinned. "Now fuck off. I have a headache."

Zell rolled his eyes, laughing. "Love you too."

The martial artist was half turned away when Seifer replied, sneaking up behind him and grabbing Zell about his waist, stalling him a few seconds more. "It ain't just my head you're making ache, baby."

Laughing Zell squirmed a little, grinning when he felt Seifer's hardness against the small of his back. "I'll be late," he warned.

The gunblader let him go, pushing him out the door. "I'll see you later."

After doing the washing up the gunblader headed back to his room just in case someone caught him loitering in Zell's room and got suspicious, and also because his bed was so much more comfortable. He wondered sometimes how Zell managed to sleep on the damn thing but realised that more often than not the little martial artist slept on him.

When he got inside his own dorm he scowled at his reflection in the bathroom mirror and went to take a shower. It was odd showering in his room sometimes because he spent half his time in Zell's. The Instructor's bathrooms were nicer than SeeD regulation ones, bigger, newer and they had those cool heat-light things too. He was rubbing his hair dry (not too hard mind, he did have a hangover after all and damn was that threatening headache annoying) when the phone rang.

He winced and answered it mainly because he wanted it to shut up, more often than not he liked to ignore his phone when it rang and call the operators later to find out who had called in case he cared. He usually didn't. It was OK this time though because it was just Fujin on the other end.

"MORNING," Fujin declared.

"Ow," Seifer replied. "I have a hangover could you..."

"Sorry," Fujin whispered. "How are you apart from that?"

"Pretty good." Seifer lay down on the couch one arm over his eyes as the sunlight was getting too much for him. "I meant to call you guys actually."

"Sure," Fujin agreed sarcastically.

"I did," Seifer argued, wondering if now was a good time to tell them about the Sorceress Powers.

"I'll bet he was too busy with Zell, ya know?" Raijin said in the background.

"Tell Raijin if he says that again you'll kick him," Seifer ordered.

"Hmm," Fujin chuckled softly. "I kind of agree with him though."

"Oh... bah," Seifer rolled over to face the back of the couch and wondered exactly when his posse had started ganging up on him. "I... umm."

"That sounds serious," Fujin said softly and Seifer heard a faint click as Raijin picked up the other line.

"Yeah, I... Apparently... Well, not apparently, I know for sure now but... " He licked his lips as they suddenly seemed dry, took a deep breath and launched right into it. "Her Knight left behind some... status upgrades and magical abilities... In me, I mean. Matron and I were... seeing if we couldn't control them... And..." His voice seemed to leave him as he heard the dead silence on the other end of the line.

"Is Her Knight still there?" Fujin asked stonily.

"No, he couldn't leave anything *behind* if he hadn't gone anywhere," Seifer replied. He frowned upon realising that that sentence didn't sound like him at all.

Raijin giggled softly. "You just sounded like Chicken, ya know?"

"Yeah," Seifer said, slightly worried. "I noticed."

Fujin laughed quietly. "That's very cute, Seifer. You realise that."

The gunblader growled at his friends. They were ganging up on him again. "Look, I wanted to tell you about the magic stuff earlier but--"

"Are you in any danger?" Fujin interrupted.

"No. But--"

"Is She still totally dead?" Raijin asked.

"Yes. But--"

"What's the problem then?" Fujin demanded. "Hyne Seifer, magical abilities and status upgrades are awesome. You can kick Squall's arse with one hand tied behind your back."

The gunblader grinned. "I asked him if he wanted to spar the other day but he said he was busy. I reckon it's because I beat him the last time."

"He's afraid everyone'll realise you're way cooler," Fujin added.

Although Seifer could hear the joke in her voice it still made him almost burst with pride. He'd missed the unswerving loyalty friends offered... Well, friends that weren't also friends with Squall. That was the trouble with Zell sometimes he'd get cranky if Seifer insulted Squall too seriously.

"So are you coming to visit us?" Raijin asked. "Now?"

"Nah, it was Quistis' 22nd last night, my head still fuckin' hurts. And I've got stupid work. Maybe this weekend though."

"Tell Quistis we said happy birthday," Fujin asked.

"Bring Chicken," Raijin added.

"Chicken?" Seifer could practically hear Fujin's glare. "Those two on our couch would break the damn thing."

"Hey!" Seifer intervened. "Shut the fuck up." The sound of Fu and Jin's shameless giggling was enough to make him laugh too though. "You better watch it or I will bring him... and all his talk and hyper-activity and hotdogs and--"

"OK," Fujin sounded serious. "We'll be good. Raijin, stop laughing."

But the burly man continued. "I wanna see you two together. You'd be so cute!!"

"Jin!" Seifer would have sat up, outraged at being mocked so, but his head still hurt. "Screw you both," he said petulantly. "I'll stay here."

"No, no. Don't do that," she seemed genuinely apologetic. "Jin's right though. Bring him."

"I will." The gunblader considered closing his eyes again but realised it was 9.27. "I have to start work 27 minutes ago."

"Aren't you always late?"

"Yeah," Seifer sighed. "But I do have to head in today, sometime."

"OK, we'll see you this weekend." Fujin got her motherly tone for a second. "Don't make me come to Balamb again to get you."

At lunch time, given the fact that all his friends at Garden knew about his and Seifer's relationship and given that they were all being rather pleasant to Seifer, Zell didn't feel at all odd about making a bee-line for the table at which the gunblader sat alone. It unnerved a few of the other people in the cafeteria though who were totally unused to Seifer and Zell being remotely pleasant to each other, especially those who could still remember the Great Hotdog Fight of six years ago.

"You really gotta make more friends," Zell said casually as he flopped down next to Seifer.

"Don't you start," the gunblader replied. "I'm happy with the friends I've got."

Zell grinned and bit into his apple, smiling as Selphie approached. "Well, I'll be sure to tell the Orphanage gang that."

"Don't you dare," Seifer ordered.

"Is he threatening you?" Selphie teased, hands on her hips. "Seifer! You're nothing but a big bully."

The few people seated around them nodded slightly in agreement, Seifer just rolled his eyes. What the hell was wrong with all these people? Was there a reason they were so bloody concerned with his social life or did they just like to piss him off? "Remember the mossies, Selph, I swear to Hyne I am still perfectly capable of tying you up outside to get eaten alive."

Zell laughed softly. "Irvy'd beat you up."

"No, he wouldn't," Selphie sat down opposite them, dumping her tray of sparkly food in front of her. "He'd probably just flirt you to death."

Seifer glared at the gelatinous lump in front of the small ninja and wondered if the stuff could actually be classified as food. He'd once asked the canteen ladies exactly what it was made out of but they wouldn't tell him. He was almost certain by now that it wasn't jelly. "Why does your food hurt my eyes?"

"Because you've a hangover?" Zell asked.

The gunblader sighed. "I can't even eat lunch in peace," he complained, sadly.

"What a hard life you lead," Quistis interrupted, sitting down on his other side. "It's just work work work for you isn't it Seifer?"

Frowning the gunblader turned to Zell, maybe the smaller boy would know. "Why is it that these so called friends seem to be making a great deal of effort to tease me?"

Zell grinned, patting Seifer's arm and figured it was the perfect chance to get Seifer back for a comment he'd made a very long time ago now. "That's what people do when they love you."

Rolling his eyes again Seifer pulled away. "It's a fucking conspiracy."

Zell took another bite of his apple, tucking it in one cheek like a chipmunk so he could talk. "But isn't that what you once said to me?"

"No," Seifer lied, dropping the last crust of his sandwich onto his plate and taking a sip of juice. "I said that was playground psychology, tease someone so they pay attention to you. It's kindergarten."

"So why'd you tease Zell then?" Selphie asked curiously.

Seifer frowned at her a moment. His mind was in a state of disarray, it was alternatively trying to work out why he did tease Zell and being amazed at the fact that Selphie was actually eating something that looked like the intestines of a Blobra. He settled for a bullshit answer to buy himself more time. "Same reason I still tease him."

"Which is?"

The gunblader glanced at his lover. "Because he's cute when he stamps his foot and acts childish. Aren't you?" he tickled the other boy under the chin, earning himself a slap on the arm.

"Well," Squall said softly as he sat down next to Selphie. "Some things never change."

"Where the fuck have you been?" Seifer demanded. "Rin sent me looking for you for that report thing."

Squall looked at him blankly for a moment, totally emotionless. He wasn’t in the mood for an argument and knew that was exactly what he would get if he didn’t respond to Seifer. So he told the truth about his private life, in detail. It was very hard for him. "I had a headache. I went to get aspirin. Now I'm having lunch."

"You never eat in the cafeteria," Seifer argued.

"I did just last week," Squall replied.

Seifer snorted inelegantly. "Well, that file thing is down in the basement. If you want it you can bloody well come and get it yourself. I'm not hunting you all over Garden again."

"You could have left it in my office."

"Your office was locked, and Rin's a fucking slave driver and wouldn't let me come to lunch until you got it."

"Why are you at lunch now then?"

"Because I told her to get fucked."

"Are you always so rude?" Squall pressed his fingers to his temples. "Don't bother answering that one."

"Oh fuck off," Seifer snapped.

They were shaken from their argument by the soft sound of Zell giggling at them. Looking around Seifer noted Selphie, Quistis and the recently arrived Irvine were smiling too.

"You two are so cute!" Selphie squealed.

That was the second time in the past twelve hours she'd called him cute, Seifer wasn't sure he could deal with a third time. Scowling Seifer got up to get coffee, almost running into Nida and Xu as he did so.

"Hey!" Zell called to stop him.

Seifer paused.

"Your hangover...?"

The gunblader rolled his eyes. "Yes, Mother. I'll get some vitamins to make it better."

"You should-"

Seifer laughed. "I'm all right, Chicken. Breakfast sorted me out a little. Coffee will make it better."

When he was gone Squall smiled slightly. "He obeys you."

Zell started. "Does he?" He grinned in realisation that the commander was right. "He does too... Cool."

"Maybe I should enlist your help with his work," Squall joked, pushing aside the small plate of untouched salad and leaning back in his chair.

"Maybe work and play should be left alone," Quistis said in Instructor Tone and although she appeared to be replying to Squall her eyes were firmly fixed on Irvine slinking in between Selphie and the commander.

"What?" Irvine tried to look innocent and, like all true rascals, pulled it off brilliantly.

"Don't think that fools me," Quistis replied, frowning. "I can't see your hands and therefore I don't trust you one inch."

Laughing Irvine placed both hands flat on the table top. "Honestly, Ma'am, I didn't take nothing."

Quistis smirked, proving she was only playing with him. "I didn't say anything about thieving, boy."

"You're all totally insane," Nida muttered softly.

"That's why you love us," Quistis replied.

"That may be why I hang around this lot, amusement is few and far between in a military academy," Nida conceded. "But you, my darling, are totally different."

"Let me guess," Seifer interrupted dryly as he returned with two cups. "She's a special flower blooming in the desert/ snow/ concrete/ some other nasty environment and you just want to take her away from here/ put her up on a pedestal/ protect her till the end of time?" He raised one eyebrow. "You'd think people would get more imaginative."

"Actually I was thinking of 'But you're even more insane than the lot of them,'" Nida replied. "But that's quite romantic, Seifer." He smiled. "Have you been talking to Irvine?"

Snarling Seifer turned his attention to getting sugar in his coffee but when he reached for the packets found them already empty and a certain little blond thing stirring it in his cup. "The tea's yours," he said softly, mainly so the others wouldn't hear him being nice.

"Thanks," Zell beamed at him again.

Looking at them a sudden question came to Squall's mind. "Should we talk about this?"

Zell looked up. "Huh?"

"We said we'd talk about it in the morning."

"It's afternoon now," Irvine informed. "And I'm tired. We should all just head down to the Arms and have a nice hot to--"

"Irvine," Squall reprimanded softly.

The cowboy shrugged at Seifer. "It was worth a try."

"It sure was," the gunblader replied. For a moment he was a little unnerved that he and the sleazy cowboy seemed to be agreeing on something.

"We're all right aren't we?" Zell asked, taking a sip of his tea, distracting Seifer from the unnerving path his thoughts were taking.

Squall nodded. "Of course, if--" he almost jumped when Rinoa appeared, placing her hand on his shoulder. "If you want to talk about something..."

Zell shrugged. "I'm fine," he glanced at Seifer. "You fine?"

"I would be if my head didn't hurt."

Rinoa sat down beside her boyfriend a little smile on her face. "I *was* right."

Seifer looked up to find Rinoa staring straight at him. What was the daft bint on about now?

"Right about what?" Xu asked, shifting her gaze between them both. She wasn’t exactly sure what was going on this morning but it seemed as though Seifer and Zell were being friendly, which unnerved her. Nida had said something about them being caught last night making out on the balcony but that was silly, they wouldn’t… would they?

"About Seifer," Rinoa’s smile broadened. "I said you needed someone, didn't I? And even though you lied to me I was right." She grinned. "Don't try and keep a secret from a Sorceress Seifer."

Seifer sighed. "At least not when they've got a connection to a little part of your brain."

"A connection?" Squall asked.

"Because our powers are... Her's my empathy with Seifer was stronger than normal. That's why I knew about…" she nodded at Zell.

"You knew?" Squall frowned. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"It wasn't my place," she smiled softly. "I knew Zell wasn't coming to any harm so I couldn't see why it would concern you."

Squall blinked at his girlfriend. "Is there anything else I should know?"

Rinoa frowned, one finger to her chin as she thought. "I don't think so," she smiled and winked at Seifer. "But bear in mind, I know what you're thinking."

The gunblader rolled his eyes at the threat. "Well at least now you'll have *something* in that brain of yours."

The Sorceress just scowled, pouting at him and went back to her lunch. She'd get Seifer back for that one later.

Silent in his own little world as usual Squall smiled softly, hiding it behind a leather gloved hand. Everything was as it should be. No one was arguing, everyone was here, alive and laughing, and Seifer's hand was trailing up Zell's thigh. Squall looked away. Well, if Zell was happy, he was happy. And they were happy, all of them.

A quick brush of Seifer’s lips against Zell's ear was enough of a goodbye. The gunblader rose to head back to his dingy little office before Rinoa remembered that he wasn't supposed to be on his lunch break until she said so. He'd get another 5 hours of work if she realised. But as he was leaning down to get his water bottle Seifer whispered in Zell's ear, "You better hurry back tonight, babe. I need you."

The martial artist smiled softly as the gunblader left the cafeteria. Wrapping those final words around his heart he settled in to finish his lunch, his usual beaming grin across his face. All this happiness had cost him was one moment, and a year... and a few bruises but who was counting them? They'd be fucking worth it anyway, their relationship was fine now and Seifer was... well, perfect and fucking adorable and beautiful and strong and kind and so fucking good in bed... In fact when he got home, Zell promised himself, he'd tell Seifer exactly that. Boost the gunblader's ego a bit more and then get his brains fucked out, his arse pounded into the mattress and his tongue totally exhausted. Life was really damn awesome.

Heading back to his office Seifer smiled softly, knowing this year had changed his future more than any other, now he had one and all it included was one hyper-active, talkative, adorable Chicken, his Zell. And damn, he realised, did that mean so much more to him than some stupid romantic dream. What use were dreams now when, for the first time in his life, reality was so much better?





Author's Note

(1) It has come to my attention that overseas you kids don’t really know what jaffa is. So: it’s orange chocolate and it’s very tasty.

Not quite the end. There's still an epilogue/ prologue thing to go.

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