Stitch In Time

Chapter One

By Scarlet Fever

Zell looked up at the brilliant blue sky, bathing in the warm buttery sunlight. He felt great. The SeeD field exam had gone well, it was a beautiful day, and everything seemed right in the world. Well, except for the fact that they had to walk back to the Garden…

Damn Seifer… Zell mentally muttered, half-heartedly cursing the statuesque bully. Maybe it was all for the better. The exercise felt good, and it seemed a shame to waste the afternoon in a cramped car. It was a typical day on the continent of Balamb. The sky were the clearest blue they had been in a while, the fluffy clouds dappled across its tranquil span. The sun was high, hung seamlessly in the perfect blue, warming Zell’s flesh. The gentle, radiating heat sunk into his bones, making them warm under his muscles. He sighed happily, breathing in the salty scent of the air. He almost felt like breaking into a bad song about birds and the ocean.

Nice dance, twinkle toes…

Zell groaned as he heard a past mock from Seifer, the deep, throaty voice echoing in his brain, vibrating in his bones, warming them like the sun did. Zell couldn’t help but groan, seeing those layered blue eyes light up with mischief. Seifer’s eyes were actually the same colour as the sky…

Yeah, but the sky’s not attached to a pompous motherfucker… Zell muttered to himself, snorting aloud.


Zell looked over, meeting the bright, hopeful green eyes of Selphie. He smiled at her. She seemed nice enough.

"Nothing. Just happy, relieved…."

She sighed loudly, almost jumping on the spot. "I know. God, it was all just so exhilarating!!"

Zell smiled. He appreciated Selphie’s cheery mood. It was better than their other companion’s silence. Zell cast a gaze to Squall as he spread his arms out, stretching like a lazy cat. God, what was with him? Zell figured that Squall would be happier, more relieved. He was so cold…. And he treated Zell like he was a completely useless prick. The small, tattooed blonde didn’t know if he would have actually been better off in the car with Seifer. At least Seifer acknowledged that he was alive, even if it was to tease him.

"Are you happy, Squall? We’re going to become SeeDs!" Selphie exclaimed, laughing as she spoke.

Squall turned, looking over his shoulder at the small brunette. "We haven’t passed yet."

"Don’t count your chickens before they hatch, right?" Zell muttered.

"… Whatever."

Selphie made a rude noise. "You’re no fun. You know," Selphie beamed, her face lighting up, as brightly as the warm sun. "I’m glad we had to walk. It’s so beautiful here. You’re lucky to live in Balamb, Zell."

Zell just shrugged. Sure, Balamb was nice, and it was quiet, peaceful, but there was something missing. He may have had many friends, but Zell knew that a lot of the people from his hometown didn’t really take him seriously, especially… The tattooed blonde closed that door before he could open it. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with those feelings at that moment. Well, he never seemed in the mood to deal with them. Zell frowned, his mood suddenly darker. His sexual frustration, or lack thereof, was a sore spot for him. He knew that he was still young, but the lack of companionship sure did suck. Zell shook his head, not really wanting to go there. He turned his attention back to Selphie, who was yammering on about something. She must have thought that Zell was paying attention to her. The blonde felt bad about somewhat ignoring her.

"…Man, in Trabia, we never really got to see the ocean…"

Zell looked over to Squall, who was walking ahead of them, his pace somewhat brisk, like he was trying to ignore them, pretend he didn’t know them. Zell narrowed his eyes at Squall’s back. Why was he so cold? Squall didn’t seem to have very many friends, but it was by choice. Zell wanted to try to befriend the auburn haired boy, but it seemed like a task that was too difficult to take up.

"Hey, we’re here. I’m surprised we didn’t run into any monsters…." Selphie commented, skipping up to the Garden gates.

"Because we stayed to the main road…." Squall trailed off, wrapping his arms around his slight body.

Zell sighed. He was beginning to feel nervous. What if he didn’t pass? That would mean that practically his entire life would have been thrown down the crapper, and he would seriously be fucked. When their small group stepped into the building, Zell felt his stomach growl.

"I’m going to go to the cafeteria…." Zell announced.

"Do we care?" Squall asked.

Zell groaned angrily. "I was making it an invitation in case you wanted to come, too. You don’t have to be such a prick about it."

Squall raised his eyebrows, surprised at Zell’s outburst. He said nothing, turning on his heel, heading towards the library.

"I’ll come with you," Selphie said, smiling cheerfully.

Zell smiled back, a little weakly. "Great."

Selphie frowned, her girlish face falling completely. "Don’t let him get to you….."

Zell sighed. "I guess you’re right…… He’s just so….."

"Cold?" The small brunette offered as they walked through the airy halls towards the cafeteria.

The martial artist shrugged. "I guess."

He and Selphie entered the cafeteria, to a wall of sound, conversation and general sounds of a kitchen. Zell’s stomach churned at the smell of the hot dogs. Normally, he would have bent over backwards for them, but his nerves were so on edge that he found that even the smell was making him sick. He slumped at the nearest empty table while Selphie went up to the counter. Zell watched as she waved to many people who passed her. The little exchange student had a natural gift for making friends. Zell had lots of friends, too, so he couldn’t imagine what it would be like for someone like Squall or Seifer, to be so antisocial. Squall was worse, because at least Seifer talked to people… Sort of. He normally just poked fun, twisting the knife deeper into the wounds, almost defensively….

"Are you sure you don’t want anything?" Selphie asked as she sat down across from the thoughtful blonde.

Zell waved his gloved hand. "I’m fine. I’m too nervous to eat. Plus, I’m still on an adrenaline high from fighting that robot."

"That thing was fucking insane!" Selphie gasped as she bit into her roll. It sounded odd to hear Selphie swear, like hearing a child do it. "I’m so glad that Instructor Trepe shot it down. If she hadn’t, Squall would have been dead…."

Zell nodded, running his hand through the honey blonde hair at the back of his head. "Yeah, I was fucking scared out of my mind. Lucky you were smart enough to use Quetzacoatl."

Selphie blushed at his praise. "Thanks. I’m just glad I didn’t shit myself. That was my first actual battle. In Trabia, fighting Snow Lions gets kind of boring after a while."

Zell frowned. "Maybe we would have killed it easier if Seifer hadn’t dicked off…."

Selphie raised an eyebrow as she took a drink of her fruit punch. "He didn’t know that that guy was going to send the robot after us. We just happened to be slower, and got caught by it."

Zell grumbled under his breath. "I guess so."

"Let’s talk about something besides work…."

"Like what?"

Selphie smiled. "Do you have a girlfriend?"

Zell gaped at her for a moment. "Why, are you hitting on me or something?"

Selphie laughed her girlie laugh. "No, no. Just curious. Trying to make conversation, you know."

"Am I not good enough for you to hit on?" Zell asked, teasingly.

"That’s not what I meant!" Selphie playfully slapped his arm. "I just want to get to know you better. If we both become SeeDs, we’ll be spending a lot more time together, and I want to become friends."

"I know, I know. I was just teasing. No, I don’t have a girlfriend…." Zell trailed off, a slight pain tugging in his chest. He pushed the dead feeling of loneliness away, turning his attention back to Selphie. "What about you?" He asked, wanting to badly change the subject.

"No, I don’t have a girlfriend…." She stuck her small tongue out. "So, what’s with you and Seifer….?"

Zell groaned. "You sure can pick your subjects, can’t you?"


"Seifer is a bastard. Plain and simple."

"Why is that?"

Zell frowned. "He’s a bully…."

"Ah," Selphie sighed, knowingly. "And he picks on you."


"You know, bullies are usually bullies because they have harboured feelings of insecurity and self loathing. They use teasing as a shield, making others around them feel as bad as they do…."

Zell whistled. "What are you, a psychiatrist?"

Selphie blushed again. "Your praise is going to go to my head." She paused for a couple of moments. "Does Seifer have a girlfriend? What about that gray haired girl?"

Zell noticed the blush remained. "You mean Fujin? Oh, they’re just friends….. Why? Don’t tell me that you think Seifer’s hot…."

She shrugged. "Maybe."

"Oh, my God! You’ll make the moves on Seifer, but not on me….."

Selphie laughed. "I’m not making the moves on him. I’m just curious, testing the market…." She cocked her head. "I guess Seifer just fascinates me. He’s like a puzzle; so many pieces to put together to get the whole picture. His face doesn’t hurt, either. Don’t you think he’s handsome?"

Zell blushed. "Why are you asking me?!"

Selphie scoffed. "Don’t give me that. Just because you can see physical beauty in the same sex doesn’t mean you’re gay….."

Zell looked down, trying to stop the red flush from creeping across his cheeks. "No, I know…. I’m just not the person you should be asking about Seifer’s good qualities."

Selphie smiled sadly. "I guess I hit a nerve. What do you want to talk about?"

Zell thought for a moment. "So, do you like the Garden. God, I’m bad at small talk." Zell sighed, the blush across his pale cheeks still warming his face.

"That’s okay. I actually like it a lot. The climate doesn’t hurt. I really want to get to work on the Garden Festival Committee."

"You sure did grab the reigns on that one quickly."

"I know. I just wanted to be part of it. Trabia Garden was too small to do major functions, so the Festival Committee there didn’t really go that well."

"Do you miss Trabia?"

"Yeah, but change is inevitable."

"I think you’re in the wrong line of work."

"What do you mean?"

"You should be a psychologist, or something."

"Actually, I want to become an army psychologist. This line of work can really do a number on the mind. Plus, soldiers feel more comfortable talking to one of their own."

Zell cocked his head, studying the small woman across from him. She looked so innocent, so young, but everything that came out of her mouth sounded so mature.

"What are you looking at me like that for?"

Zell chuckled. "I find you interesting, Selphie."

"Well, thank you." She beamed at him. "Do you want to go see if the marks are going to be ready?"

Zell nodded, the butterflies in his stomach beginning to go crazy. "Yeah, let’s get it over with. I’m going retarded. I hope we did okay."

"Don’t be such a worrywart. I’m sure we did fine."

"Just because you think we did okay won’t make it so…."

Selphie scoffed, standing up. "You just need to be a little more optimistic."

"I’m plenty optimistic….."

Selphie smirked as they walked towards the elevator, keeping their pace leisurely, trying to waste time. Selphie turned as someone called her name. A slight female student was waving her arms frantically, ushering Selphie over.

"Uh, Zell, is it okay if I catch up with you later?"

Zell waved his hand. "Go ahead."

She waved to him, scampering off towards the other student. Zell shoved his hands in his pants pockets, slowly wandering to the elevator. He couldn’t believe that Selphie had gotten him so tongue tied about Seifer. Or that she thought he was cute. He wasn’t cute, he was an idiot. The small blonde figured that Selphie just didn’t know him well enough yet. As Zell walked up the stairs, he noticed that the elevator doors were beginning to swing closed.

"Hey!" Zell called. "Hold that, please!" He raced to the doors, relieved as a hand stuck between the doors, preventing them from closing. Zell stuck his arm in as well, his bare forearm brushing against the soft leather of the gloved hand. Zell threw himself into the elevator. "Thanks," he replied, looking up at the Samaritan. "Arghh…"

"Hey, Chicken-Wuss." Seifer curled his lip up in a teasing smirk.

"I should have taken the stairs…." Zell muttered as the doors swung closed behind him.

"Too late now," the tall blonde muttered, pressing the button for the second floor.

Zell groaned, leaning against the wall, keeping a wary eye on Seifer. "Where are your flunkies?"

Seifer blinked a few times, looking at Zell. He wasn’t really paying attention to the small blonde, who was giving him a wary gaze, his muscular arms folded across his slight chest. "Oh, I don’t know. I don’t keep track of them all the time."

Zell shrugged, tapping his foot impatiently. "God, why is the ride going so slow?!"

Seifer cast him a sidelong glance. "You sure are in a hurry to find out you failed…."

"Fuck you." Zell looked up at Seifer’s face. He was looking away from Zell, his mind occupied. Zell looked at the taller man’s profile, thinking about what Selphie said. He noticed that Seifer was actually very attractive. His flesh was pale, and looked like it would be soft and smooth to the touch. He actually looked very aristocratic, like a Lord or Nobleman, with his straight nose and chiseled cheekbones, which would eventually be even more prominent when he matured into his face. Zell also noticed that Seifer’s eyelashes were lush and dark, like he was wearing mascara. The deep, full lashes made his already beyond blue eyes so much more prominent.

I guess he is kind of good looking, Zell mentally credited, cursing himself when he felt a slight blush cross his face again. He looked away when Seifer turned his head, creating an elegant curve with his long, graceful neck.

"…..You fought good today, Zell."

Zell’s eyebrows shot up. This was the first time in a long time that he heard his given name pass across Seifer’s set mouth. He couldn’t really think of any way to respond, so he remained silent, his mouth slightly agape.

"Close your mouth, you look like you’re sucking cock."

Zell clamped his mouth shut, frowning. "Damn you, Seifer."

Seifer just laughed, his throaty chuckles echoing through the small elevator. "What, are you saying you don’t suck it? That’s too bad…." Seifer smirked, reaching out to mockingly stroke Zell’s cheek.

The soft leather of Seifer’s gloves tickled Zell in a way that was more erotic than anything else. Zell stared at the other blonde, his eyes wide. The whisper of Seifer’s touch was so surprising, so…. Gentle. The smaller man didn’t know if it was intentionally gentle or not. Zell’s lips parted in surprise as Seifer’s thumb traced his jaw line. And, as abruptly as Seifer had touched him, it stopped, leaving Zell’s face feeling cold, exposed.

"Your mouth is still open. Are you…. Open for business?" Seifer smirked, crossing his arms across his chest.

Zell sighed noisily. "Leave me alone, Seifer."

Seifer shrugged. "As you wish, Princess…" Seifer winked at him as the elevator stopped, the corner of his lip turning up as Zell flushed angrily, his upper lip curling up in a snarl that looked more cute than threatening. It was so easy to bait Zell, and the small, feisty man always gave Seifer the reaction he was looking for; baring his canines, the angry spark entering his pale, bright eyes.

"Don’t call me that!" Zell countered as Seifer stepped out of the elevator. Zell followed him, but tripped over his own feet. His body slightly fell forward, but stopped as Seifer’s broad back broke his fall. He banged his head against one of Seifer’s shoulder blades. Zell could feel Seifer’s laughter.

"Oh, I didn’t know you felt this way about me….." Seifer’s laugh became girlish, mocking giggling as Zell’s hands went to his hips to gain balance. Before the smaller man could pull his hands away, Seifer looped his fingers with Zell’s, pulling the muscular arms around his body.

"Stop it," Zell muttered into Seifer’s jacket.

"I don’t think I can…" Seifer trailed off, gasping falsely.

"Prick." Zell disentangled himself from Seifer’s grip. The blonde smirked, laughing at Zell’s uncomfortable expression.

Seifer cocked his head as Zell hurried away from him, practically running down the hall in the direction of the classrooms, giving an appreciative glance as the small martial artist disappeared. He couldn’t believe how easy it was to get Zell to react just the way he wanted him to. Seifer smirked, thinking about Zell’s cute little snarl. Seifer had never actually openly admitted that he liked Zell, but he didn’t really see the point to it. If the tattooed blonde knew, Seifer wouldn’t even get the opportunity to make fun of him, because Zell would avoid him like the plague. And he’d rather have a target for his barbs than nothing at all. He sighed and went in the same direction that Zell had.

While they waited for the Headmaster to arrive, Zell kept looking over at Seifer, making sure that the taller man wasn’t going to do anything strange. He couldn’t believe that Seifer had almost molested him in the hallway. The saddest part was that it was the most action Zell had gotten in a long time. He shook his head, keeping his pale blue gaze on Seifer. Seifer was standing against the far wall, his arms crossed over his chest. He seemed distracted, not as calm as he usually was. Zell wondered if he was actually worried about the results of the field exam.

"Hi, Zell!"

The small blonde turned to see Selphie standing beside him. She was grinning widely.

"Oh, hi," Zell answered, distracted.

"Still nervous?"

Zell nodded. "This is a big deal."

Selphie nodded. "Well, look on the bright side…… If you don’t pass, you can take the test again next year."

"Yeah…. There are some people who know a lot about that…." Zell smirked, looking over at Seifer. He was sorry that the lithe blonde wasn’t in earshot for that.

"You’re talking about Seifer, aren’t you?" Selphie raised an eyebrow. "You know, all the energy you spend hating him could actually be put to a good use…"

"Like what?"


"Needlepoint?" Zell raised his eyebrows. "Why needlepoint? That’s something that little old ladies do while they gossip about the neighbours."

"Hey!" Selphie made a crestfallen face. "I do needlepoint!"

Zell laughed. "Well, where are your cigarettes in shaky fingers and your beehive?"

Selphie snorted. "You’re just making a crass generalization based on societal norms. I could say that you’re a candy raver, based on your tattoo and hairstyle."

"Ugh," Zell frowned. "I hate candy ravers. They’re so….. Trendy."

"Really?" Selphie looked surprised. "I figured you’d be into that kind of scene…."

"I like raves, but not candy raves. I actually prefer industrial music."

"Well, we both learned something about each other, didn’t we?" Selphie winked at him. "I should do a needlepoint for your door that says "I heart candy raves"."

"Don’t you dare….." Zell muttered, looking up as Squall sauntered into the hall. He stopped beside Zell and Selphie, which surprised them.

"Hi, Squall…." Selphie raised her eyebrows, unsure about what to say.

Squall nodded. "Has the headmaster made an appearance yet?"

Zell shook his head. "I think he’s doing this on purpose…."

"What?" Squall asked, looking around lazily.

"Making us wait. Come on, you’ve got to be nervous as fuck……"

Squall shrugged. "I guess….." Squall thought for a moment, planning to say something else, but turned when he heard the Headmaster’s voice.

Zell bit his bottom lip. The Headmaster was saying something, but it seemed so far away, so distant, like he was in a wind tunnel. Zell was desperately trying to pay attention, but found he couldn’t. His entire body was on edge, and the words sounded muffled. He saw movement out of the corner of his eye as Nida was called. He was happy for his fellow classmate, even if he didn’t know the aviation buff that well. He then heard a squeal of pure delight from beside him as Selphie’s name was called. She jumped up and down in place, like a uniform clad pogo stick. Zell was relieved for his new friend. Selphie deserved it, for she was the one who saved their asses from that Spider robot. Zell felt like he was going to explode from sheer anticipation, like he wasn’t going to be able to handle the waiting anymore. When the tightness in his chest became close to beyond painful, the muffled sound in his ears cleared as he heard his name.

"… Zell Dincht…."

Zell involuntarily let out a strangled gasp of relief. His name had never sounded sweeter. He looked over at Squall, who simply nodded at him. Squall must have still been on edge because his name wasn’t called yet.

"Yes…." Zell cheered, sauntering towards the elevator. He cast a look back over his lean shoulder, his face sore from the huge smile on his face. Squall was following him now. His name had also been uttered. Squall wasn’t smiling, but Zell could see the relief in his stormy blue eyes. He was about to turn back towards the elevator, but his eyes stopped on Seifer. He gave the bully a teasing smirk, but it faltered slightly when the Headmaster didn’t say anymore names. Seifer hadn’t passed…. Again. Even if Seifer was a complete prick, Zell felt badly for him.

Why bother caring? Zell told himself. If you had failed, he would have been teasing you for it…. Zell met Seifer’s gaze, which seemed as hard and calculating as usual, but the smaller man couldn’t help but notice that there was disappointment lingering, trying to be stomped away.

As Zell turned, following the Headmaster and the others, Seifer sighed, his shoulders barely rising with the effort. He didn’t want to show his disappointment in front of all the other students. He didn’t want them to know that failing had affected him one way or the other.

So, Seifer, you fucked up again….. He mentally cursed. He took in his breath slowly, trying to quench the stinging feeling in his chest. He would not break down. There was always next year……

"There’ll always be next year, ya know?!" Raijin whispered, patting his friend’s shoulder.

"RIGHT," Fujin echoed. She looked over at Raijin with her one good eye, knowing that he sensed it too, that Seifer was more hurt than he was letting on.

Seifer waved his hand, trying to wipe away his feelings of failure and inadequacy. "I know. Besides, none of them would have passed if I hadn’t decided to go against orders…." Seifer knew his voice sounded arrogant and self-assured, like he always made it sound, but on the inside, he didn’t believe what he was saying. He leaned back against the wall, staring straight ahead, not wanting to meet either Fujin or Raijin’s gazes. He smirked, thinking about the beaming smile on Zell’s face. He had meant what he said about Zell fighting well, and he knew that the small, cute blonde deserved it, although Seifer knew he would never vocalize such feelings. He had a reputation as an uncaring bastard to maintain…..

After a few minutes of staring off into space, losing himself in his soupy thoughts, he saw movement, blurry in his line of vision. He focused his eyes to see the graduated SeeDs coming back down the hall. Seifer line of sight rested on Zell, who was walking like he was on top of the world. Seifer just watched him, so envious of how lighthearted Zell could be, how bright his eyes were……. How angelic he looked. So pure, so beautiful……..

He blinked, pushing those feelings away, burying them deep down, covering them up, yet again. He already wasn’t very popular, and if people found out he was gay, he would lose many of the what little friends he had. He pushed his rangy body away from the wall, taking a few steps towards the small group of graduates.

Zell noticed Seifer approaching them, and immediately was on guard, his mind flashing back to how Seifer’s ghost like touch brushed his tattooed cheek, how Seifer had held Zell against his body, the vibration of his laugh still tickling Zell’s chest, the warm, whole feeling……

What the hell are you thinking? Zell asked himself, even his inner voice sounding quiet, hushed. Don’t even go there, Zell. Seifer’s a fucking asshole…. Zell got into his fighting stance, prepared for anything. He looked over at Squall for a moment, who was standing beside him, giving Seifer a curious look.

Seifer sighed, placing his usual defensive smirk on his thin lips. It took all of his strength to put his hands together, clapping for them, showing his respect for the feat that they had achieved. Each time his palms pressed together, making the muffled clapping sound, his gloves making it sound so far away, Seifer felt a little piece of his dignity die. It was becoming more and more difficult to keep the pasted smirk on his face. What made it worse was when Raijin and Fujin joined him, echoing his hollow praise. Then everyone else joined in, creating a chorus of applause. The others were genuinely happy for Zell and the others, but Seifer just felt fake. He also felt like everyone was looking at him, thinking that he was a big, fat failure. He just wanted to crawl into a hole, away from any scrutinizing glares.

Zell relaxed his body, knowing that Seifer wasn’t going to do anything to him. He actually flushed when everyone started clapping for them. He watched Seifer as he clapped, that damn smirk plastered on his face. But it didn’t reach the bully’s eyes. Zell wasn’t used to seeing anything besides malicious emotions from the tall blonde, but he saw sadness in his almost aqua eyes. Zell looked over at Squall, who had his head cocked.

Squall nodded at Seifer. It must have taken a lot of balls to face them after such a defeat. Seifer had failed, yet again, and he was still here, showing his praise for them. The auburn haired man couldn’t help but admire it. "Thank you," Squall said, accepting the attention gracefully.

Seifer put his hands at his sides, flexing his fingers. He simply nodded back before walking towards the elevator. He wanted to break into a run, run from their gazes, run until he couldn’t stop, until his heart exploded, until he was so far away that he couldn’t even see himself…. His exterior remained calm as he sauntered away, refusing to show weakness, refusing to fail again. He could sense motion flanking him on either side: Raijin and Fujin.

"Are you okay?" Fujin whispered, dropping her broken way of speaking.

Seifer nodded. "Look, I just want to be alone… Please…."

Raijin nodded, saying nothing. He knew that he shouldn’t ask. There were so many emotions that Seifer dealt with that Raijin and Fujin couldn’t understand, mainly because Seifer would keep them locked away, hidden to everyone, even himself. The hulking student wondered if Seifer was tired. Tired of pretending, tired of hiding, tired of being so solitary….. The dark haired man looked over at his slender, Cyclopesed counterpart. She sighed her lean shoulders, but nodded, her train of thought on the same track as Raijin’s. They stopped, identically resting their forearms on the railing, looking down at the lower floor of the airy school.

Zell looked up, noticing that Seifer took off. He smiled broadly, excusing himself from Selphie. He may have had his differences with Seifer, but he wanted to be polite and thank him. He smirked, thinking that his mother would be proud of him. He sprinted towards the elevator, wanting to catch it before the doors closed. He sighed in relief, sliding through the door before they closed. Seifer raised an elegant eyebrow at him. "What’s so important? New vacuum cleaner?"

Zell groaned, catching his breath. "Jesus….. I just want to be nice, and you’re all about being a prick….. I just wanted to thank you….. For being so big about this whole thing…"

Seifer’s lips parted in genuine surprise. "You ran all that way just to tell me that?"

Zell nodded. "I was taught good manners, Seifer…"

"Was that meant as a barb?" Seifer asked, sighing. He looked away, staring out the glass of the elevator. He didn’t want Zell to see him looking at that tattooed face, didn’t want Zell to see him in a state of weakness.

Zell tilted his head, hearing the reserved tone in Seifer’s voice. He reached up, patting Seifer’s shoulder. "There’s still next year….."

Seifer closed his eyes, a warm flush coming across his pale cheeks. Zell’s gentle, warm touch made his heart skip. He shook his head, shrugging Zell’s hand off gently. He wasn’t going to go there, wasn’t going to indulge himself in fantasies that couldn’t possibly come true. He didn’t want to think of what it would be like to hold Zell’s hand in his, feel the warmth of his breath on Seifer’s neck, hear his heartbeat as they fell asleep in each other’s arms….. A painful tightness shot through Seifer’s head, originating from behind his eyes. It was easier to push Zell away, cruelly drive him away, than it was to wish for such a thing…..

"What do I care?" Seifer asked, smirking. "Honestly, if they let people like you in, I’ll get my chance sooner than later. Right, Shorty?" Seifer looked away, not wanting to lose himself in Zell’s eyes.

The smaller blonde groaned. He was trying to be nice, and Seifer was making fun of him. The taunts seemed half hearted, though. Zell wondered for a moment what really went on in Seifer’s head, if he was actually fragile and bruised like Selphie’s guess, or if he really just didn’t care about anyone but himself. Zell sighed as the elevator stopped with a jerking halt. As soon as the door opened, Seifer practically ran out, his arms clung tightly around his body. Maybe he wasn’t running, it was probably just that his legs were so long that he could move rather quickly. There was a hollow feeling left in Zell’s chest as he slowly stepped out of the elevator, almost gawking at the rapidly disappearing Seifer. Zell couldn’t believe that he actually felt something close to…. Pity for the rangy bully. He couldn’t believe that he could feel anything but loathing for the man who had made his life miserable.

Zell sighed, deciding to go to his room. He wanted to shower and get ready for the ball. He couldn’t say that he was really looking forward to it. These sort of things were always so formal, and they always made Zell uncomfortable, seeing as how he was never very refined, and always ended up making an ass of himself. He also knew that there would be a lot of dancing and the sort of thing that you needed a companion for, which would only make the small martial artist more depressed. As he undressed, dropping his clothes in a messy pile on the floor, he decided that he would at least make an appearance, maybe have a pity dance with Selphie or a couple of other girls, and hightail it out of there. Maybe he would sneak out….. Zell wasn’t really afraid of getting caught, because he left after curfew all the time, and hadn’t been caught yet. Besides, the Garden faculty was essentially mindless. Much like some of the students….. Zell smirked at this catty thought as he stepped under the spray of the shower, brushing his now limp, wet hair off his forehead. Whenever he thought something bad about others, he felt a small twinge of pleasure that he didn’t like to admit he felt, because he liked a lot of people and didn’t like feeling ill about them. Maybe this is why Seifer was always so bitchy.

"Maybe he’s just frustrated….." Zell trailed off, smirking. This was yet another oppourtunity where he wished Seifer was around to hear one of his barbs. Zell sighed, scratching that thought. If Seifer had been around, he would have heard the zing, but Zell would have been standing soaking wet and stark naked in front of him. Zell didn’t think he would be able to bear the taunting after that. A brief flash of warmth passed across his flesh, his skin remembering the feeling of Seifer’s back pressed to his chest, his hands on the tall blonde’s hips….

"Fuck…." Zell whispered. What the hell was his problem. If it was Seifer’s mission to make Zell freak out, it looked like he was succeeding……..

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