Author's Notes: The '*'s indicate a new chapter. This is a shounen-ai story, as in there's no graphic descriptions of intercourse, (No sex please, we're british!) but there's plenty of snogging.

Squall Almasy

Chapter 11

By Takira

"Squall, you in here?" Slowly Zell pushed open the office door, slightly unnerved that it was unlocked. The shaft of bright light from the hall illuminated his friend sprawled on the floor next to the sofa. Zell crept in and knelt beside him, nudging him softly. "Wake up man, you fell off the sofa," he chuckled. "You must have been exhausted." Squall groaned and lifted his head, blinking in the light.

"What time is it?" he murmured, patting down his hair and rubbing his eyes.

"About 4pm, you've been asleep since like noon."

"Ah man, you're kidding," Squall said, heaving himself off the ground. "Why didn't you come and get me earlier?" Zell shrugged.

"Quistis said not to, something about you being up all night, wouldn't say why though." Zell stood up and noticed the cascade of papers and news cuttings on the desk. "Is this what you were doing?" he said, heading toward it. Squall grabbed his arm and dragged him out of the office. "Woa, man, is that a photo of Seifer?" he asked, confused.

"We're late, come on," Squall mumbled, locking the door and ushering a bewildered Zell down the hall and into the lift. All the way to the front gate Squall ignored Zell's desperate queries. However, when Zell saw Quistis waiting by the car holding his bag he stopped Squall.

"Alright wait! Seeing as you insist on dragging me along on this mission, I'd at least like to know what it is. I did have plans for tonight you know..." Squall stared at the car, he'd been dreading this bit, then nodded.

"We're going to Dollet first," he explained as Zell started warming up and stretching.

"Is there trouble there again?"

"No," Squall hesitated. "That's where we think he went first..." Zell stopped and stared at Squall. He remembered the glimpse of papers on Squall's desk, the photo.

"Tell me," he said very slowly, "we're not going to get Seifer." Squall hesitated again and nodded, bracing himself for the reaction. "Are you crazy?! Just because you want him back doesn't mean that I do! I hate him Squall, I hate him. You do this on your own, I'm having nothing to do with it."

"You will come along as an order from your superior!" Squall growled, grabbing Zell's collar and staring death into his eyes. Zell froze with shock then pulled himself free.

"What the hell has got into you?" he murmured. "You've never pulled rank on me before, never." Squall hung his head. "Besides, you're not my boss anymore, you can't order me about..."

"I'm sorry, Zell, I didn't mean to yell at you, but we can't just leave him. He may be injured, he me dead and we wouldn't know."

"You're not getting it Squall," Zell replied. "I don't care, I hate him."

"We've known him since childhood and..."

"And he's bullied and belittled me since then," he interrupted. "I can't find a single nice thing to say about him." Squall shook his head in frustration.

"I don't understand you."

"I don't understand you! You've been working yourself to death recently, staying up all night, as I presume you did last night, searching for him. It's like what you did with Rinoa but, like, 10 times more!" Zell stared at his friend, watching the flush of colour turn his cheeks pink. Squall's eyes darted nervously from Zell to the floor. Recognition slowly dawned on Zell, his eyes widened. "Yea, 10 times more...and you loved Rinoa...woa!" He took a few steps back but was stopped by Squall grabbing his arm.

"Zell wait," he placed his hands gently on his little friends' shoulders and looked directly into his eyes. "Please, I need your help."

"Why me though?"

"Because you're the strongest of us all, you're the only one who's been training continuously since SWII, and you're a famous face so people will give information to you fairly freely." Zell frowned and looked to one side. "And," Squall added, gaining Zell's attention again, "you're one of my best friends, I need you." Zell sighed deeply and rubbed the back of his neck. For an agonising few moments he stood thinking, as Squall grew restless.

"You're... you're one of my best friend, too, Squall," he replied shrugging his shoulders. "And you know I'd help you whatever." Squall smiled.

"So you'll help me find him?" Zell grinned and nodded then laughed as Squall threw his arms around his neck. "Thank you, thank you so much."

"No worries, you owe me big time though." Zell grabbed his bag. "Woa, there's actually stuff in here."

"Of course," replied Quistis, "we need to leave straight away, we couldn't wait."

"You actually went through my private stuff?" Quistis glanced at Squall with a raised eyebrow.

"Why, is there something in there we shouldn't know about?" she asked slyly. Zell turned crimson.

"Of course not, um... let's just go," he mumbled, jumping in the car.

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