The Secret

Chapter Two

By Kuttner

Zell woke up the next morning still angry and itching to get revenge on Seifer's endless tirade of insults, but he didn't get a chance. Early that day and on the following two days, Quistis had him doing extra training and tasks whilst reminding him how soon and how important this test was. He was too busy and exhausted over those few days to bother with his pursuit of the bully and by the fourth day, when Quistis finally said he could have a break he had calmed down enough not to pursue his revenge. He never stayed angry for long. He was generally too happy a person to hang on to the fury. He had seen Seifer on occasion around Garden but they hadn't exchanged a word or even a glance. Maybe Quistis had Seifer training extra hard as well, Zell assumed and wondered: after a third failure did they give up on you? Would Seifer be kicked out of Garden if he didn't pass this year? He wasn't even thinking of Seifer now only of the SeeD exam. He wandered casually into the training area, whistling, ready for some extra honing of his fighting skills. He was pretty confident with himself. The Headmaster had even confided in him recently that he suspected Zell was the best martial artist they had. He'd felt quite proud at that, he may be small and seemingly slight but he was muscular and strong.

As he entered he heard a slight noise over his own whistling which abruptly stopped. It had sounded for an instant like someone weeping, but it had ceased so suddenly Zell couldn't have been sure. He was curious though and if someone was in trouble he wanted to help them, so he went in a little further to see if he could find the source of the suspected person.

His last encounter in here with the Disciplinary Committee was nearly forgotten so he was startled when he spied Seifer standing near some bushes alone, looking furtive and staring straight at him with an expression as though Zell were intruding on his space.

Zell noticed at once the strange way Seifer's eyes looked, slightly reddened on the skin - as if he was the one who'd been crying, but that had to be impossible. The great Seifer Almasy? Weeping alone? It was strange enough he was alone. Where were his tagalongs? There had to be someone else here - someone Seifer was teasing no doubt. Zell would protect them.

Seifer had his gunblade in his hands and was now leaning on it. It was a casual position but it looked forced somehow.

"Well if it isn't chicken wuss Zell," Seifer said, his voice sounded slightly wavering, or was that just Zell's ears. "Back for some more whipping from the Grats, huh?"

"I could whip you," Zell said, hotly, the fury from days ago returning to him with renewed energy.

"Oh, yeah?" Seifer smirked, raising his gunblade in a vaguely threatening way.

The sight of the huge blade made Zell think twice about taking on Seifer now. Sure he was alone but that weapon was huge and Seifer knew how to use it. His fury took over though and against his sane judgment he took up the challenge with an eager stupidity.

"Show me how you're gonna whip me, chicken boy," Seifer teased. He didn't look very worried.

Zell had his best metal knuckles on as he been ready to fight any monster in the training area. He was not afraid of the monsters here as he was not afraid of Seifer now. His anger blew away any fear or sense he may have had.

Zell deflected a couple of blows from Seifer's gunblade with his metal knuckles but they weren't too fast or hard swipes. Zell wasn't sure if that was because Seifer was toying with him or maybe Seifer was taking this as more training and wasn't going to try too hard thinking Zell was not worthy enough to fight properly - that would be his mistake.

Causing sparks off the clash of metal against blade, Zell let his built up fury at years of Seifer's verbal abuse give him strength. Somehow, maybe by the element of a quick surprise attack, he managed to disarm Seifer quite quickly. The taller blond was surprised when his weapon clattered to the ground but he recovered at once, raising his bare fists. Zell had seen Seifer in his sleeveless vest so he knew Seifer had little defined muscle but he was fit and he had to have some strength to even lift the gunblade let alone a wield it with such ease and skill, but odds were now heavily on Zell's side, even without the metal knuckles. He felt a surge of power and he let out a massive yell, leaping forward towards Seifer. Zell knocked the tall blond back. Seifer tried to throw a punch and it connected, without much power, against Zell's shoulder. Zell punched him back in his handsome face, satisfied when Seifer yelped in pain. The tall blond tried to counter with a quick cure. With a flurry of furious kicks and punches, Zell even surprised himself when he felt Seifer weaken considerably and Zell wrenched Seifer's arms behind his back, held him firm. Seifer was standing limply, blood on his face.

"Where are they?" Zell demanded..

"Who?" Seifer asked, he sounded hurt and confused.

"The person you were bullying. The one who was crying."

Oddly Seifer responded with a strange laugh and shook his head slightly, which caused him to grimace as it hurt from Zell's blows.

"Answer me!" Zell yelled. "Where are they?"

"Gone" Seifer replied grimly "They're gone, okay?"

"What did you do?" Zell twisted Seifer's arms, eliciting a cry from the beaten blond.

"Nothing, they left," he laughed bitterly again. "There's nothing you can do to help... them... If that's what you think."

Zell pulled Seifer close against him, hissed in his ear:

"This is payback. Don't bother me again or next time I won't be so nice."

Seifer gasped as Zell pushed him away roughly. The tall blond was so weakened by the attack he fell with a pained cry, but he managed to turn his body to look back at the angry tattooed blond, whose eyes still burned with his pent-up fury.

"Next time, chicken, I won't be alone," he managed though it looked like talking was painful.

Zell made a move toward his fallen foe and saw Seifer flinch, he decided against more. He was mad but cruelty wasn't in him like it was in Seifer. On second thought he quickly cast a light cure spell onto Seifer as a parting grace and turning on his heel, left before he could see the results.

Seifer held himself up for a instant longer after Zell departed, then he collapsed back on the ground. The tears he'd only just managed to stop when Zell first appeared threatened his eyes once more and after the briefest of battles he let them come out again. As he lay there with his arms wrapped around his head, crying, he could feel the effects of Zell's cure spell renewing his strength. It was something he wouldn't have thought of doing himself - especially if it was as Zell had said - payback. A kindly gesture but maybe all the more humiliating for that. Someone could come along for training soon but right now Seifer didn't care who saw him in this degrading position; beaten; bloody; with tears staining his face and still falling from his red eyes. No one understood him and now he was getting pummelled by runts like Zell. How much worse could it get? You've got to pick yourself up, Almasy, he mentally cautioned. Have a little more respect for yourself first. But that was the problem, wasn't it? He didn't really even like himself, let alone respect himself - so how could anyone else? Feeling sorry for himself only made him cry harder. He knew this was not the place, he should have gone back to his room, but it would not be stopped now. He let it come and it came like a flood.



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