The Secret

Chapter Seven

By Kuttner

There was a loud knocking as his door.

It startled Seifer out of his blankness. At first his heart leapt with unfounded hope that it was Zell, followed by an irrational fear that it was Squall, coming to charge him with assault or worse. The door started to open and Seifer had an urge to slam it shut before he saw who it was. He didn't want to talk to anybody right now.

"Uh, Seifer, ya here?"

It was Raijin...

Only Raijin.

Seifer had sat up on his bed and he started to stand as Raijin appeared, looking kind of lost, but brightening when he saw his leader.

"Where've ya been?" Raijin asked, in his typically direct way. "Me 'n' Fujin been waitin' in the cafeteria for hours, ya know."

"Hours?" Seifer said his thoughts out loud. "What time is it?"

"Time for lunch," was the dark man's reply.

There was a brief silence as Seifer took in that he'd been lying here dazed for maybe four hours, then Raijin frowned, staring at the blond's face hard.

"Hey, ya okay, Seifer? Ya look kinda... odd, ya know."

Seifer shot him a look that made Raijin instantly avert his eyes, fearful of the blond's wrath. However, his concern was genuine, he cared about his friend, and Seifer didn't look very well. There was even traces of a fight on his face still. Had Seifer trained more last night? It wasn't Raijin's place to push for answers.

"I'm fine" Seifer didn't want his friend wondering any more about what really happened. "I was up very late, training, so I'm still tired. It was a T-Rexaur," he continued, telling the partial truth to explain that the severe if faded bruising. If it had been a light fight the curagas would have made the wounds less visible - even though they were nearly gone as it was.

"Oh," was Raijin's acknowledgement of this information. He looked as thoughtful as he could. "Ya know, Zell was lookin' fer ya this morning..."

"Zell?!" exclaimed Seifer, barely containing the surprise in his voice, it was edged with both fear and hope.

"He looked kinda odd too..."

"Well, let's get to lunch," Seifer changed the subject, not wanting to discuss Zell here or with Raijin. Only Fujin knew some of how Seifer felt. She was the only one he could talk to about anything intelligently. She knew of his bouts of depression and once he'd confessed his suspected feelings towards Squall, but he had only brushed on these subjects very lightly, not wanting to show how weak he really felt. Fujin had been surprisingly reassuring in her own way. She was the most intelligent woman he knew, maybe the most intelligent person - though he respected Quistis for her sharpness as well. Yet because he was so envious of his instructor's position he would never show his regard for her to her face.

"I'm hungry ya know," Raijin grinned in response to Seifer's earlier suggestion of lunch.

"Then let's go," Seifer quickly dismissed his gunblade because it reminded him of Squall and followed Raijin out. Once in the hall, he took charge and lead the way, his stance one of a young man who knows his attributes and loved showing them off to the world but inside he was still in pain and confusion. After Squall's response this morning and Zell's last night, he didn't know what to do with his feelings, however he was determined not to show his insecurities to the entire Garden. His head high, though it felt like lead, and a set stare to his handsome face, and nobody would question him - not even Squall, God help him if he showed his face.

They reached the cafeteria without incident. Fujin was waiting at the table, idley playing with a spoon in her hot chocolate. She rose respectfully when she saw Seifer approaching with Raijin. Before she could speak a voice called out Seifer's name.

The tall blond turned to see Zell bounding towards him. A sudden blush swept across Seifer's cheeks although he wasn't certain of the exact reason. There was nowhere to run, people were watching. He quickly calmed himself and took on the demeanour of light arrogance, but his heart was beating suddenly very fast.

"Hey, Seifer!" Zell continued, he'd been waiting in the corner with his eye on Fujin as she waited, knowing that Seifer would show up to join his posse sometime.

"What d'ya want, chicken wuss?" Seifer asked harshly, trying to sound like he didn't care.

He saw Zell's face fall at the teasing name and almost regretted saying it.

"Uh," Zell started. "I... I thought maybe we could talk... somewhere," his eyes darted around the room, indicating the lack of privacy.

"Talk about what?" Seifer's attempted nonchelance appeared very convincing. "How much of a wuss you are? That you fell on your ass in training yesterday - from a Grat?"

Raijin let out a nervous laugh. Seifer covertly noticed eyes were on them.

"Get lost, Zell," Seifer said with finality. "We don't hang with losers."

Zell's face had become at first disappointed then anger crept in, his fists balling, then rising.

"You want me to show you who's the loser around here?" he exclaimed.

This could quickly turn embarrassing, Seifer realised, if Zell blurted about how he'd beaten Seifer up yesterday. To save face, Seifer took sudden initiative and, though it hurt him inside as he did it, he hit Zell squarely in the jaw. It was so unexpected Zell was knocked down with an expression of shock on his cute tattooed face. He scrambled to his feet swiftly. Seifer didn't want to fight Zell, especially here, and luckily Raijin grabbed Zell as soon as he was upright, restraining his deadly fists with an armlock.

"Is this how you repay people who save your life?!" Zell screamed, struggling, furious at Seifer's attitude.

"Shut him up," Seifer stated to Raijin, then he winced as the big black man clubbed Zell once on the side of the neck, instantly knocking the small blond out.

"Let's go," Seifer continued, internally concerned at the way Zell's unconscious body lay limply in Raijin's arms. "Take him with us."

"What did he mean, Seifer, ya know?" Raijin asked, hefting Zell easily in his big arms.

"Bring him," Seifer said, ignoring Raijin's question.

With Fujin following, the posse left the cafeteria with most eyes watching them go.



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