Notes: Not too weird yet, but it'll get there. *smile* For those of you who have never read my work before I must warn you that I am a huge Sci-fi writer. Therefore none of my stories are innocent. There is always some conspiracy, or .. other such thing in the works after a seemingly normal beginning. Thank you to everyone who has submitted reviews. I appreciate it more than words could ever tell. Arigato minna.

Please forgive the glaring OOCness... I try hard to make them as in character as possible. Also please forgive the little mistakes you may find here and there. I do my best but I've never been much of an editor.

Slipping Away

Chapter One

By Sniffles


Laguna didn't look up at first, his attention was captured by the photo he held tightly in his hand. The smiling faces looking up at him made his heart ache. He missed them both more than words could ever describe.

"Laguna." The voice was firmer this time. A hand touched his shoulder.

He looked up and attempted to smile at his old friend, "Yes?"

"There is a young man here who insists he must see you. He says he has information on.." Kiros' voice wandered off as he nodded at the photo.

Laguna sighed, carefully tucking the photo into the breast pocket of his shirt. "How many have appeared at my doorstep with news of my lost son?" He said quietly, "How many more will come?"

"Ward believes the boy not only speaks the truth, but he is insisting that you must speak to him."

"Ward?" Laguna dropped his hands into his lap and leaned back in the chair, rocking it back onto two legs. Ward with his silence had gained a special empathy when it came to people. He always seemed to know if someone was lying or speaking the truth. "Very well, bring him in then."

Kiros nodded, "Yes, sir."

Seifer Almasy was as tall as Laguna, but just a bit shorter than Kiros. He wore black pants, a tight black shirt and a long white trenchcoat with a blood-red cross on each sleeve. His rusty blond hair was carefully combed and slicked back. His intense blue eyes were penetrating. Laguna sat up straight as the boy entered his office.

Seifer looked around the room with mild curiousity and a touch of disdain. Evidently he was unimpressed with the dark blue walls and light blue floor. His eyes locked on the painting that sat on the wall behind Laguna's desk. A painting of Raine.

"She looks like him." Seifer commented, standing before Laguna's desk, his eyes still on the painting.

"Laguna, this is Seifer Almasy. He was once a student of Balamb Garden." Kiros eyed the youth, he didn't trust the sullen teenager.

Laguna turned his seat and looked up at the painting, "She was beautiful."

"Your wife?" Seifer asked, moving and sitting on the edge of Laguna's desk.

"She was." Laguna turned his seat again and frowned at Seifer who looked a little too comfortable.

"He has your eyes, but her face." Seifer commented, reaching out and picking up a pen from Laguna's desk. He rolled it between his fingers.

"I'm a busy man and have little time for games, so tell me why you're here." Laguna said, reaching out and grabbing the pen from Seifer's fingers. He dropped the pen back on the desk and raised his eyebrows.

Seifer smirked, "I know where your son is Mr. Loire. And for a price I will take you right to his doorstep."

Laguna's gaze hardened, "Many have come here to claim the same thing, why should I believe you?"

Seifer reached into his pocket and pulled out a long silver chain. A pendant was attached to it. He dropped the chain onto the table and stood, stretching lazily, "It's his. I took it before I left."

Laguna reached out with trembling fingers and took the chain. He held it up, gazing at the pendant with eyes that were focused on the past. He clutched the pendant tightly in his hand and met Seifer's gaze. "Take me to him."

Someone was watching him, staring so hard he could 'feel' it. Cautiously Squall looked up, and met a pair of green eyes. He frowned and looked away when those green eyes winked at him. Irvine Kinneas confused Squall. The tall, thin cowboy was the definition of popular, and he was ignoring everyone else to pay attention to Squall.

He heard movement, muffled snickers, and then suddenly someone slipped into the seat beside him. Squall stiffened, but he didn't look. He knew who had just taken the seat beside him. Sensing something the teacher turned away from the blackboard. She looked mildly surprised to see the new kid sitting beside Squall, but she shrugged away her surprise and launched right back into her lecture.

"How you feelin'?" Irvine murmured, his long, delicate fingers tapping the desk lightly.

"What are you doing?" Squall responded, already curious heads were turning and whispers were moving around the room.

"Sitting." Irvine said, his tone amused.

Squall glanced at Irvine, sure enough the relaxed cowboy was smiling. /He looks like the cat that caught the mouse./ He turned his attention back to his notebook. Suddenly Irvine's hand moved and brushed against Squall's fingers.

Squall flinched and quickly pulled his hand off the desk. He dropped it into his lap and lowered his head. His heart was beating in overtime. /Why did he touch me? Why is he here?/

"You didn't answer my question," Irvine's hand moved back to his side of the desk, "How. Are. You?" He spoke each word carefully, and slowly.

"Fine." Squall snapped, he fixed his gaze on the teacher and tried to focus on what she was saying so he could write notes.

Irvine placed his elbow on the desk and rested his chin in his hand. He sighed, "You're lying to me again."

Squall ignored him.

"Has anyone ever told you," Irvine leaned close until his breath tickled Squall's ear, "That you're terribly mysterious."

"All flights to Balamb have been diverted." Kiros slipped into the seat beside Laguna, "We've been ordered to fly to Dollet."

"Why?" Laguna asked, turning his head and frowning at his friend.

"Uprising near the city. Rebels have moved in to the mountains and for the moment they're halting all transport in and out of the continent."

Laguna looked out the window and sighed, "If this boy.. Almasy, if he's telling the truth... I'm so close..."

Kiros laid a hand on his friends shoulder, "You've waited thirteen years, one more night is a drop in the bucket of time."

Laguna smiled, "You're right. Thank you Kiros."

Kiros shrugged, "What will you tell him?"

Laguna's smile faded, "I don't know. I just... I don't know."

"The truth sounds good."

Laguna nodded, "Yes. Yes," he dropped his head and stared at his hands in his lap, "But the truth rarely breeds anything good."

Seifer looked at the large man sitting across from him. The large man never spoke, but his face spoke quite clearly for him if you watched. "You don't like me much, do you big guy?" Seifer smirked.

The large man glowered at him, then looked away. "You can't talk eh? That's cool."

Another glower.

"What's your name big guy? Otto? Mr. Big?"

"His name is Ward, he is my partner and he is the reason you were allowed to see Mr. Loire in the first place." Kiros walked into the compartment and sat beside Ward.

"Mr. Loire?" Seifer's smirk grew, "Your friend, hm?"

"You will address him as Mr. Loire." Kiros' eyes narrowed on the cocky youth.

"Whatever." Seifer muttered, but then he smiled. This time the smile was real, not the fake, mocking smirk he had shown so far. "God.. I sound just like him."

"Leonhart." Irvine fell into step beside Squall, "You know, if you tried socializing you might actually make a few friends."

"I don't-"

"need friends." Irvine waved his hand with a snort, "I know. And I'm the King of Esthar. Where you headed to now?"

Squall considered ignoring Irvine completely and walking away, but in all truth he didn't want Irvine to leave. He was excited to have someone speaking to him after being alone for so long. "Training center."

"Hey, great! I'll come along. I've been waiting to see you use that gunblade. I've heard a lot about them. And I've heard that you're the best."

Squall felt pride rising deep within him, but he squelched it before it could grow. "I'm one of the only two students in the Garden system to use gunblades. If I'm the best it's a small achievement."

"Just the fact that you use that thing is an achievement, and no small one at that."

Squall felt himself blushing at Irvine's impassioned response. He turned his head down and away quickly, hoping Irvine wouldn't notice.

"Hey, are you...?" Irvine chuckled and lightly tapped Squall's arm with his fingers, "You're blushing Mr. Iceberg?" he said teasingly. "Could it be I'm melting your friendless heart?"

Squall flinched away from Irvine's touch and started walking faster. Irvine decided to leave the poor kid alone for now, at least until they reached the training center. Then he'd work on making those too pale cheeks flush again. Irvine walked a bit behind Squall, watching the too thin body move. /He's really quite beautiful../ Irvine's eyes widened at that thought, but it was true. Squall was a creature unlike any that Irvine had ever seen. Beautiful, mysterious, and shy to a fault. He suspected that was half of Squall's problem, the boy was just too damn shy.

Irvine smirked, /Well.. I'll help him with that. All he needs is a little confidence. In himself and in the people around him./

"This will be your room Mr. Almasy." Kiros opened the door to the room.

Seifer brushed past Kiros and stepped into the room. "Yeah. It'll do." He grunted.

Kiros was finding, as more time passed, that he really didn't like the blond youth. Almasy was just too confident and too arrogant for his own good. "I don't care what you do tonight, as long as you're here in the morning. If you're not, the deal is off and we return to Esthar."

Seifer grinned at that, "Your loss."

"No. Mr. Loi-"

"He's your friend." Seifer suddenly snarled, "Call him by his first name for god's sake!"

Kiros' eyes flashed with anger, rather than respond he simply turned and walked out of the room before he could act on his anger. /That insolent little.../

Ward was outside the room. He looked at Kiros and smiled, knowing immediately who had made his friend look so angry. He followed Kiros down the hall, smiling all the way. It wasn't often Kiros got so angry, and Ward always enjoyed the show when he did.

"Not so bad.." Seifer murmured, grabbing a chair and dragging it to the window. He sat down and stared out at the rapidly darkening sky.

"Not so bad at all.."

He could feel.. 'it' building deep within the pit of his stomach. He bit off a curse and clenched his left hand into a fist. "Go away." he hissed under his breath. "Just go.. away."

But it didn't listen. It rarely did. Every day it grew stronger. He didn't know what it was, but it scared him. Because whatever it was, he had no control over it. At all. He closed his eyes and leaned his head back.

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