Salvation's End

BY : Grieving Leon
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > Yaoi - Male/Male > Squall/Zell
Dragon prints: 1179
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII, nor the characters therein. I don't make money off this story.

Salvation’s End

Chapter 33: Clarity

Cassidy smiled with pleasure as she walked through the sliding glass doors that led to Nymphic’s backyard.  Her forest green eyes were locked on Zell’s ass as the blonde man did handstand-pushups -- for the delight of Dommy and Cain who were smiling and clapping.

Tain rolled his eyes at Cassidy as he shut the sliding glass door behind him before the male assassin followed his partner to where Nymphic sat on an expensive declining lawn chair.

“Cassidy?” Nymphic said, turning his smile to her from watching his son’s enthusiasm.  

The female assassin finished her assessment of the perfection of Zell’s ass, then she turned to Nymphic and forced her smile away.  “Ah, sir, we got a small situation,” she said as she finished her small trek across the cement patio.  At her boss’s side, she knelt down and leaned close to whisper in his ear “Denrick was picked up by Balamb Garden SeeD.”

Standing beside his kneeling partner, Tain crossed his arms and watched Nymphic pull back enough from Cassidy to attempt to show her his glare.

Keeping her eyes locked with Nymphic’s evil stare, Cassidy whispered slowly and softly “Sorceress Heartilly.”

With a quick glance up to Tain to receive an affirming nod from the male assassin, Nymphic looked back to Cassidy’s forest eyes.  “This is a small problem?” he asked with icy words.

The female assassin shrugged as she whispered “Yes.  Because Tain and I blew up the train she and Denrick were on.”

The glare on the Snuff Lord’s face was briefly interrupted by a surprised frown.  

Setting her hand on the back of Nymphic’s reclining chair, Cassidy whispered “Obviously the Sorceress will walk away from it, but Denrick is mush-brained.”

“We had to think fast,” Tain said in a stern and soft tone, gaining Nymphic’s gaze.  “Cassidy thought fast.  It worked, sir.  And no way it can be traced back to us.”

“What’s going on?” asked Zell as he walked over to Nymphic and the two partnered assassins.

Turning up to his newest bodyguard, Nymphic paused a half second before he said “Denrick... was killed in a train accident.”

Zell’s lips parted with mild surprise.  He was privy to certain information and he knew that Cassidy and Tain had slipped off early this morning after the gay general been spotted in Timber.  No doubt Nymphic’s cryptic sentence had been crafted for the eavesdropping teenagers.

“Just outside Timber,” Tain said, still standing beside a kneeling Cassidy.

“Wow, that’s crazy,” Zell said.  Immediately, he was desperate to talk to Squall, to tell Squall that Quistis hadn’t gotten to Denrick before Nymphic picked the gay general off.  

“What’s crazy?” Dommy asked as he came up to stand with Zell.  Cain was with Dommy, standing as close as possible without touching.

“Big train wreck outside Timber,” Zell said to the younger boy.

“Oh!” Dommy said with a concerned frown.

“Tain and I were nearly on the train,” Cassidy said as she stood up.  She put her elbow on Tain’s shoulder, smiling at the teenagers.  “Close call, huh?”

The sugary teenager nodded at her, his light blue eyes wide with wonder and fear.  

“Investigators will figure out what happened,” Zell said, patting Dommy on the shoulder.  “Trains are super safe, something totally random must have happened.”

After the boy smiled in relief, Nymphic shifted in his reclined lawn chair and sat up.  The Snuff Lord motioned for a waiting servant to come over, after which the evil man said “See what’s taking Daniel so long.”

With a submissive nod, the servant headed off on the mission.

“Now, Dommy,” Nymphic said firmly, looking up to his son.  “I don’t want to hear about you getting into fights at school, what with all the stuff Zell showed you.”

“I wouldn’t do that, Daddy!” Dommy said with sincerity, pushing himself closer to Cain, against the older teenager.

Nymphic half smiled and said “No, of course not.  Now Cain can get into fights for you.”

Cain couldn’t help the smile and when Dommy brought those puppy dog eyes up to look at Cain’s face, the older teenager nodded in pleased affirmation.  

“Cain!” Dommy said with amused disapproval.

“Only to defend you,” Cain replied.  He was still swooning from the attention Dommy had been giving him, including the closed-lip-kisses, and he had taken Zell’s (and previously Daniel’s) instructions far more serious than Dommy.  Certainly he meant it when he said he wanted to be able to defend Dommy.

While Dommy smiled in reply, Nymphic began to push up from the chair to stand.  

“Zell,” the evil man said.  “Now that Cassidy and Tain are back, we need to discuss tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir,” Zell replied.

Cassidy smirked at Zell and whispered “Suck-up,” though everyone could hear her.

After staring at Cassidy for a few seconds, Zell smirked at the woman and said “You’re just upset that Dommy likes me more than you and he barely knows your name.”

While Dommy smiled his cheeks turned red and he playfully pushed Zell.  Cassidy, Nymphic, and Tain lightly laughed; before the female assassin could interject her piece, Zell turned to Dommy and spoke again.

“Sorry I had to get you involved in that,” Zell said to the sugary teenager, grinning.  He then leaned closer to the boy and put on hand on Dommy’s shoulder then said “Her name is ‘Cassidy’, by the way.”

“Ah!” Dommy said, blushing more and shoving Zell again.  “I knew that!”  He turned to wrap his arms around Cain’s middle, who wrapped his arms over the sweet teenager boy’s shoulders as Dommy buried his face against Cain’s chest.

The sliding glass doors opened and Daniel stepped outside.

“Ah, good,” Nymphic said, waving Daniel over.  The Snuff Lord then turned to the two teenagers and, with an odd smile, said “I shouldn’t be too long, maybe an hour or so.  We can have Estharian takeout for dinner.”

As the two teenagers took delight in that prospect, Daniel finished heading over and took his place next to his ward.

Nymphic stared at Daniel momentarily, asking a silent question that Daniel understood.

“Sorry for my delay, sir,” Daniel replied in a soft but not docile tone.  “I was distracted.”

“With what?!” asked Cassidy in a loud voice.

Daniel tried not to glare at her as he said “Personal matters.”

“Psha,” Cassidy mumbled, but Nymphic was already walking away.  As she followed Nymphic (behind Zell, so that she could stare at the blonde man’s ass), Cassidy added “I didn’t realize Daniel had a personal life outside of Nymphic and Dommy.”

Soon the group of four had passed through the sliding glass doors and were crossing through one of the numerous living rooms to head to the upstairs office.

“I take it Sorceress Heartilly didn’t see you,” Nymphic said without looking at either assassin.

“No, sir,” Tain said.  “I’m the one who-”

“Sorceress Heartilly?!” Zell exclaimed, eyes wide.  Nymphic and the two assassins stopped and turned to look at Zell.  

After staring and blinking a few times, Nymphic said “Balamb Garden SeeD had taken Denrick into custody.”

The four stood in the hallway, Zell turning his wide sapphire eyes from Nymphic to Tain and Cassidy.  “You attacked Balamb Garden SeeD?!” Zell said, probably too loud but he didn’t care.

“We blew up the train they were on,” Cassidy said, frowning, and her arms were crossed below her breasts.

“What the fuck were you thinking?!” Zell said, again too loudly.

“Zell, Sorceress Heartilly is level 200,” Tain said.  “The train explosion couldn’t have been more than annoying to her.”

As Zell listened, he began to realize that K’Oz might not care so much about the Balamb Garden Sorceress getting a speck of dust on her dress from a train explosion.  However, there was no way he could play his reaction off as some stupid mistake -- only Seifer would ever have believed Zell that stupid.

“We needed to kill Denrick before he got to Balamb Island,” Cassidy said.  “We’d be totally fucked if they’d gotten him there.”

“Oh, and you know why?!” Zell said, continuing to be loud because he had to keep up the act.  

Cassidy just stared at the blonde man, looking annoyed while Nymphic watched Zell with mild suspicion.  Tain sighed, shoving his hands into his pockets.

“Because... High Commander... Fucking High Commander Leonhart!” Zell said, desperate with his reasoning.  “He’s going to come here and kill us all for ‘annoying’ his sorceress!”

“They don’t know we did it,” Cassidy said.  “They might have reason to suspect, but they don’t and can’t know for sure.”

“Are you sure?!” asked Zell.  “You didn’t leave anything there that could be traced back to you?”

When the two assassin partners exchanged glances, Nymphic said “Fuck! ...What did you leave behind?!”

“W-well,” Cassidy said, slowly turning from Tain to Nymphic.  She sneered and shrugged.  “Our team.”

“But they got killed in the train wreck,” Tain quickly added.

“You left your team on the train?!” said Zell.

“They were a low level squad,” Cassidy said.  “Fodder.  Their brains couldn’t have survived that anymore than Denrick’s did.”

With an angry exhale, Nymphic shook his head and turned around to continue to walk to his upstairs office.  “The team was an acceptable loss.  So long as Sorceress Heartilly didn’t see and Scan either of you.”

“She didn’t,” Tain said.  He, Cassidy, and Zell were following behind Nymphic.

“I’ll have some people sent out to the crash site,” Nymphic said, more mumbling to himself than to his bodyguards.  “See what Balamb Garden is making of the explosion.  In the meantime,” he blinked then continued to speak in a stronger tone to Zell and the others, saying “We’re going to roll over Fynt’s warehouses tomorrow.”


Squall sat on the bathroom light gold tile floor against the wall, across from the counter and mirror.  He was hunched over, feet on the tile and knees bent.  His hands were on the back of his head as he pressed his chest against his thighs, trying to control the growing sickness inside him.

“Fuck,” Squall said, tears slipping through his clenched closed eyes, thick water droplets forming on his eyelashes.  

Shaking his head, Squall again tried to push away the sickness, the anxiety that was drowning him.  

He should not have taken Alexander Crystal.  Squall Leonhart knew it was stupid the moment he had decided to do it it, but he had on impulse while in the middle of tossing today’s drug score down the toilet.

Now the High Commander of Balamb Garden, the Killer of Sorceresses, the World Savior, was trembling and sweating, had his head spinning around so fast Squall was afraid he would throw up.

It wasn’t some side effect of the drugs that had near paralyzed Squall, it was thoughts and memories.  Sure Squall felt lightheaded from the drugs effect, but ultimately, Squall was sitting on the bathroom floor just minutes after snorting Alexander Crystal because his own fears had been released like a tsunami onto him.

He was supposed to feel carefree, maybe a little goofy -- if Squall Leonhart could ever be described as ‘goofy’.  And for the first half minute, Squall had felt that rush of endorphins in his brain.  Shortly thereafter, he began to think of Zell, sex with Zell, marriage with Zell, kids and a life and those delicious simple pleasures that Zell gave him.

War came next.  Some hallucination apocalyptic barren wasteland that was the ‘hereafter’ of a world without Zell and the brightness Zell shone onto Squall.

Battles swam through Squall’s brain, with faceless gaunt beings swinging gigantic swords as buckets of blood poured over a dying landscape where even the never-ending clouds were brown.  It felt like years to Squall, battling those hordes of creatures without reprieve.

Then Balamb Garden was in the distance -- somehow -- burning, billowing up thick grey and brown smoke into the air.  Even the bright blue and white coloring had faded with time, wind destroying the walls, rot eating the very heart of the once proud structure.  

Then came Squall’s friends, partners, closest allies all in a v-line, all of who Squall had once vehemently denied but now swore to protect.  They were just as faded, muted away, murky version of themselves.  They had relied on Squall Leonhart, and were all disappointed.  In the center of the v-line of loved ones stood Zell.

It was unbearable, the agony Squall felt at the sight of Zell there, the blonde man disgusted with him, annoyed with him, frowning down with faded and murky sapphire eyes.

Sitting on the bathroom floor, Squall dropped his hands away from his head and forced himself to stand up.  It was difficult with his shaking arms, every joint felt rubbery, every muscle ached, his skin was hot and covered in sweat.

Squall leaned against the counter’s edge and blinked the tears away so that he could look at the mirror image of himself.  He was weak and it disgusted him.  How was he supposed to be some great warrior, some great Hero if he could barely stand?!

With an aching that tightened his chest like a hand squeezing his heart, Squall sneered at his reflection.  How could Zell ever love that?  He was broken and used up, nothing without a cause and there were no causes left -- everything had been saved and now he was just a useless Hero struggling to find validation.  Just like Quistis had said.

Squall knew his Balamb Garden life had been a charade, some taped together collage of dreams and desperations, all of which he was too pathetic to ever have fulfilled.  Zell would never accept an empty Hero like Squall was.  That blonde love of his life would find nothing but disappointment with Squall Leonhart.

Then, with all the strength he could muster, Squall slammed his right hand, palm-open, against the mirror image face, cracking the mirror.

Pulling his arm back, Squall let out a disgruntled sigh at the broken circular spot where his face reflection had been.  Then Squall lowered his grey-blue eyes down to his painful palm, which was bloody and cut up with tiny shards of broken glass stuck into his skin.

Further annoyed at his weakness, Squall scoffed at the sight of the blood while tears built in his eyes.  Bitterly, Squall thought ‘What if Fynt showed up with some Alexander’s Kiss right now?  Forced it down your throat and make you dance like a monkey for him -- for his cameras.  Fuck for his cameras.’

Paranoia hit Squall like Ultima and he turned to look at the open master bathroom door, grey-blue and bloodshot eyes wide.  Adrenaline skyrocketed through the brunette man, his heart beating so hard he felt his body shake with each pulsation.

He needed Zell here, to protect him, keep him safe.  Hyne how he needed Zell.

Squall stepped backwards but his legs were weak and he slipped and fell onto his butt.  He breathed out ragged breathes as he scooted backwards, but pushing his glass-shard palm against the floor hurt so bad he paused and looked down.

Blood smeared in a broad paintbrush-like stoke outwards from where his palm had slid over the light gold tile. Squall breathed out heavily and used his feet to scoot backwards until his back hit the outer bathtub wall.  Now cornered, the paranoia and fear swirled like a storm inside Squall’s mind, and his cloudy eyes darting back and forth over the floor as he tried to think.  

The solution was easy enough: Squall moved a bloody finger from his right hand to press to the pristine left palm.  Ten seconds wouldn’t go by fast enough as the brunette man trembled, then Squall said “Activate” and the blue light pulsated from High Commander Leonhart.

At first he felt no different.  Then, as a couple seconds ticked by and the metabolism of his Level 187 body began to pump and the effect of Alexander Crystal began to fade.

It didn’t take long, maybe a minute, and Squall’s sanity had returned.  

He looked down at himself, at his palm and the blood on the tile floor.  With parted lips, he closed his eyes and shook his head, dumbfounded at himself.

“Fucking stupid,” Squall mumbled as he opened his grey-blue eyes.  He planted his feet on the floor and bent his knees enough to rest his arms against them.  Even though in horrid pain as his muscles began to grow, Squall sat plaid and watched the blood trickle from his right hand, dropping circular spots of blood on the tile between his calves.

The brunette man looked from his seat on the floor up to the broken mirror, knowing he did not have time to replace it before Zell got home.  The blonde SeeD would be here for dinner in about thirty minutes.

Squall exhaled a hard breath of air then Cast Cure and Esuna on himself, his hand immediately healing and any remnant of Alexander Crystal was destroyed from his system.  Then he completed the ten-second ritual of changing levels, and blue light pulse later, Level 3 Squall shoved himself from floor.  He immediately grabbed the Alexander Crystal and dumped it into the toilet, flushing the drugs away.

Holding the empty drug bags, Squall walked from the bathroom while thinking over the time-compression wasteland war from his delusion.  

In the kitchen, after tossing the empty bags into the trash, Squall found himself standing at a counter, hands against the black marble’s edge.  At first he wouldn’t let the words form inside his mind, but he knew what they were and what they meant.  So after standing there, staring at nothing across the countertop, Squall thought ‘Hyne, I really am afraid of being alone.”  He swallowed.  ‘Serious abandonment issues, Squall.’

Shaking his head once again at himself, Squall was about to push off the counter when he looked down to his hands and saw the sparkling engagement ring.

A smile tugged on the side of Squall’s mouth.  The memory of Zell washed over Squall, filling every inch of his memory’s landscape.  The brunette man took the moment of picturing Zell’s gorgeous smile to gently fondle the engagement ring.

Even though Squall stopped admiring the engagement ring, as he went about preparing dinner for his lover, he thought about how Zell had probably spent weeks agonizing over the ring and the proposal.  It kept a real half-smile on the brunette man as time passed, as Squall put chopped potatoes in the oven and put asparagus to steam on the stovetop.  

Squall was absently stirring around chopped chicken in a pan on the stovetop when Zell’s keys hit the front door lock.  Even from back in the kitchen, a room from the door, Squall still heard that wonderful, simple pleasure sound.

“Hey, baby!” called Zell.

After hearing the front door close, Squall called “Kitchen,” though not nearly as loud as Zell.

A few seconds later, Zell almost skipped as he came into the kitchen, smiling wide at Squall who smiled back.

“I love you,” Squall said as Zell crossed the grey stone floor over.

“I love you, too, baby!” Zell replied happily, wrapping his arms around Squall’s waist.

The brunette man felt his cheeks redden as Zell hugged him.  “You’re perky,” Squall mumbled and looked back to the frying chicken, though he was still smiling.

Zell kissed Squall’s neck, pressing his chest against the brunette man’s back.  

“Something good happen?” asked Squall.

“I’m home!” Zell replied.

Squall allowed himself a moment to take pleasure in Zell’s infectious glee and those sweet light kisses, then Squall’s smile pushed away and the brunette man softly said “I broke the bathroom mirror.”

“Oh?” Zell said in a overly sad tone.  “How’d that happen?”  His arms were still wrapped around Squall’s middle.

“Slammed my hand into it,” Squall explained.

“Are you okay?” asked Zell, loosening his hold to step to Squall’s side and look at the brunette man’s pristine face.

Squall glanced to those perfect sapphire eyes that were very blue, very saturated, not faded and murky like the delusion.  Squall opened his mouth to explain but stopped because he knew he had to explain more than the last issue.

Zell watched the brunette man turn back to the stove and absently shove the chicken around.

“Did someone come in here?” Zell asked in a hushed voice.

Unable to stop a smile -- because Squall loved how protective Zell was -- Squall said with pleasure “No.”  He looked back up to those perfect swirling sapphire eyes.  “I went out earlier.  Library, wrote the report and returned my books.  Then I thought I’d,” he shrugged, “...I dunno, buy you a ring.”

While Zell briefly smiled, he knew there was more, so he nodded seriously.

“So I had the Gil from the Light-Box,” Squall said, to which Zell briefly sneered at.  “And the Gil from gambling in Deling City.”  Shaking his head, the brunette man explained “It wasn’t really enough Gil for anything special, so I didn’t get you a ring.  But since I was out and had Gil, I decided to see if I could locate someone with Alexander’s Kiss.”

“The mind-control drug Fynt’s people mentioned,” Zell said.

“Yes,” Squall said.  “Well I didn’t find it, but I bought some other drugs while asking around.”  He turned away from Zell and stared at the cooking chicken.  Sternly, Squall said “When I came home, I took some drugs just to see what it’s like.  ...It’s not like being drunk.  And I slammed my hand into the mirror then.”

“On... accident?” Zell asked.

“On purpose,” Squall mumbled.  He sighed.  “I changed levels and Cast Esuna, so I’m fine now.  But the mirror is broken.”

“Hyne, I’m sorry, baby,” Zell said, rubbing his hand up Squall’s back and into the brunette hair.  He stepped closer, pushing against Squall’s side and leaned over to kiss Squall’s cheek.

Closing his eyes against the texture of Zell’s lips, Squall enjoyed the moment of peace.  

When Zell pulled away, Squall felt empty.  

“I love you, baby,” Zell said, rubbing Squall’s back.

“I love you, Zell,” Squall replied.

“So... it was... like a bad trip or something?” asked Zell.

“Yeah, I guess,” Squall said.  He turned the burner off and set the spatula onto the spoon rest before turning to look at Zell.  “An ... upgraded version of one of my time-compression nightmares.”

“Time-compression nightmares?” asked Zell, his eyes sparkling with concern.

Squall laughed once bitterly.  “Let’s not delve into it.  I stupidly took some drugs and broke our mirror.  The end.”

Zell nodded sadly.

“Hey,” Squall said, putting a hand on Zell’s tattooed cheek.  “I’ll talk about it some other time.  Like when we’re back in Balamb.”

“Okay,” Zell said, still sad.

When Squall stepped away to set up the plates of food for them, Zell leaned against the counter and watched.  He then remembered the train wreck incident.  “Oh, Hyne!”

Startled, Squall looked over at Zell, the cloudy eyes uncharacteristically wide.  “What?” Squall asked, seeing Zell’s fear.

“We-we got to call the Garden,” Zell said.

“Why?” Squall said, setting down the serving spoon.

Zell ran-skid over to the kitchen phone, yanked it off the wall and began to dial.

“Zell, call Seifer!” Squall said.  “...The phone logs -- if Nymphic spies and sees that we dialed Balamb Garden....”

Zell stopped dialing and glanced to Squall.  After a second, Zell hung up the phone then picked it up again to dial Seifer.

A few rings later, tired Seifer answered with a “Uh, what?”

“Seifer,” Zell said quickly.

“Oh, fuck that,” Seifer replied.  “Chicken Wuss, fuck off, it’s like 4:00 AM for me.”

Zell frowned.  “Dude, it’s almost 6:00 PM.”

There was a long pause of dead air over the line.

“Seifer?” Zell asked.

“Wow, Chicken Wuss,” Seifer mumbled.  Then in a stronger voice, the tall blonde SeeD asked “What... what the fuck do you want?”

“You need to call Balamb Garden!” Zell said, back to his quick-talking pace.  “Some of Nymphic’s people said they blew up the train Rinoa was on with Denrick.”

“What?” Seifer said, now awake.

“You need to check!” Zell said quickly.

“Shit, okay,” replied Seifer.  Then there was a click.

“...Seifer?” Zell said into the phone receiver.  The blonde man turned his sapphire eyes to Squall, who was watching him.  “I think he hung up,” Zell said to Squall before lowering the phone down to hang it up.

“Blew up the train?” asked Squall.  He didn’t bother with chastising Zell for not informing him immediately, a part of Squall knew that Zell had simply forgotten when he stepped through the condo’s front door.

Zell nodded quickly.  “Cassidy and Tain.  They went to Timber today to get... to kill Denrick, but he was already gone.  Then they were on the train and Tain says he saw Rinoa, so they blew up the train to kill Denrick, then they jumped off.”

Putting a hand onto his own waist, Squall said “How bad was the accident?”

“It’s-” Zell said, stepping backwards and almost running out of the kitchen, but he stopped himself.  He looked at Squall and said in a calmer tone “It’s probably on the news.”  He motioned for Squall to follow, which Squall did.

In the living room, Zell picked up the remote from the coffee table but was distracted by the Esuta Jewelry magazine which he also picked up and looked over at Squall with curiosity.

“Zell, the TV,” Squall said.  Amyst’s jewelry wasn’t as important at a train full of innocent civilians being blown up.

“Right, sorry,” Zell said, and he flipped the TV on.  A few channel flips later and there was a news program with an image of a fiery train wreck that had the words “Horrible Accident Outside Timber” written below.  The female newscaster was discussing the causes.

In an almost dead tone, Squall said “Wow, they did a lot of damage.”

“Yea,” Zell said softly, staring at the fiery scene.

“All those people,” Squall said, “killed just because they didn’t want us to turn Denrick.”

Looking at Squall now, Zell said “I don’t have physical proof, but they confessed to me.”

Slowly Squall turned his gaze to Zell and after studying the concerned expression on the tattooed face, Squall softly smiled.

“And!” Zell said quickly, “Cassidy and Tain left their team on the train.”

“To die?” asked Squall.

Zell shrugged.  “No one at Nymphic’s seemed to care.”

As Squall nodded, the phone rang.  Zell flipped the TV off then gently tossed the remote and magazine onto the coffee table before he dashed to the kitchen to answer.  Squall slowly followed after.

“Hello?” said Zell.

“Rinoa, Quistis, and Irvine,” Seifer said on the other end of the phone line, “were all on the train.  They’ve checked in and are fine, but Denrick’s dead -- resurrection not possible.”

“Least our people are okay,” Zell replied solemnly.  

“Quistis wanted Squall to know she’s sorry,” Seifer said.

Two seconds passed before Zell spoke.  “I’ll tell him.”  

“And I want Squall to know,” Seifer continued, “that I gave her grief.”

Zell hated it but he smiled.  “I’ll tell him that, too.”

“His Highness require anything else?” Seifer asked, but Zell could tell the egotistical man was smiling on the other end of the line.

“...Oh!” Zell said.  “Some of Nymphic’s people were still on the train.  If their bodies can be identified, even if they can’t be resurrected, it might be evidence that Nymphic was involved in the train wreck.”

“And that Nymphic attacked Balamb Garden SeeD,” Seifer added.  “Good job, Zell.”

“Uh,” Zell mumbled, sneering.  “Thanks.”  It felt weird to the tattooed blonde to have praise of any kind from Seifer.

“I’m gonna go,” Seifer said.  “I’ll call Quistis back and tell her about Nymphic’s people.  Then I’m going to sixty-nine with Genix, since he got woken up by all this phone bullshit.”

Zell groaned, sticking his tongue out as he made an “Ugh!” sound.

“Later, Chicken Wuss.”  Then Seifer hung up.

Still sneering, Zell set the phone back onto its holder and slowly raised his sapphire eyes to Squall, who was watching him with a small smile.  Zell quickly shoved the sneer away.  “Seifer was talking about... sucking dick.”

“He does that a lot,” Squall said softly, a small smile on his lips.  “Thank you for remembering to tell him about Nymphic’s people on the train.”

Zell inhaled then said “Quistis and Irvine were on the train with Rinoa.  They’re all fine.”

“They’re all Level 200 by now,” Squall said.  He turned and moved towards the counter where their dinner was getting cold.

“But they can’t level-break,” Zell said as he stepped forward to get closer to his brunette lover.  “No one can figure that stuff out but you.”

As Squall began to serve their dinner, he silently accepted the compliment.  Soon Zell was beside him, the blonde man’s hand caressing over Squall’s long brown hair.

“I love you,” said Zell.

With a gentle smile, Squall said “I love you, too.”  He retrieved the pan of diced potatoes from the oven, and as he set out servings onto the plates, Squall said “About the Esuta magazine: I went to Henry’s.”  He looked over his shoulder to Zell.  “To buy you that ring that... I didn’t buy.”

Zell only smiled.

“So Henry will be expecting you to stop by,” Squall said with mild annoyance as he turned back to the plates.  “To buy me more... To buy Amyst... more jewelry.”

After kissing Squall’s neck, Zell said “I’ll do that, baby.”

Zell then helped Squall carry their plates and a beer for each to the dining room.

A few bites later, Zell looked up from eating and swallowed.  “I talked to Daniel about Gaff,” Zell said.  

“What’d Daniel say?” asked Squall before he pushed a small piece of chicken into his mouth.

“I told Daniel I wasn’t trying to start stuff,” Zell said, continuing his story, “but that eventually me and Gaff are gonna duke it out, ’least that’s how it feels.  Which, as I told Daniel, I don’t think is appropriate behavior for coworkers.”  Zell shrugged as he stabbed a few pieces of food onto his fork.  “Daniel spoke to Gaff, but I didn’t see Gaff after.  So we’ll see how Gaff is tomorrow.”

“Alright,” Squall said, his cloudy eyes glazed over as he stared at the table before him, absently eating.

“I’ll probably be working late tomorrow,” Zell said.  “Nymphic’s gonna run on Fynt’s warehouses and I’m gonna go with him.”

“Right,” Squall said.  While he wouldn’t say, he loathed the idea of being alone all day then late into the night.  He hated being Level 3, and even more so, he hated being without Zell -- his entire world.  The implausible time-compression nightmare only reinforced Squall’s desperation for Zell and to not be alone.

At first, lost in his thoughts, Squall didn’t notice the silence.  When the brunette man finally did, he looked over to Zell whose sapphire eyes were glazed over, the dinner only a bite or so from finished.

With guilt, Squall set down his fork and stood up, gingerly taking Zell’s plate from him to refill in the kitchen.

The glaze vanished from the sapphire eyes and Zell watched Squall turn and walk back to the kitchen.  The blonde man breathed a moment, looking at what he could see of Squall through the doorway, then Zell turned away and rested his hand against the table, still holding his fork.

When Squall returned with a full plate of food for Zell, he also carried a new beer to his blonde lover.  After setting both down at Zell’s place, Squall gently set his hand onto Zell’s shoulder.  With Zell looking up at him again, Squall said “Do your best tomorrow.”  He squeezed the blonde man’s shoulder affectionately.  “And by ‘best’, I mean use your best judgement, even if that means breaking our cover to save a single life.”

“I told you,” Zell said firmly, but he spoke with love, “I understand what this mission means.  Tomorrow, I’ll play my part, gather evidence.  I won’t mess this up.”

“I’d rather have you safe,” Squall said, his hand now only lightly laying on Zell’s shoulder.

“I’ll be safe,” Zell said.  “And I’ll keep our future son -- or daughter -- safe.”

After a long pause to smile with sincere affection at Zell, Squall kissed the blonde man’s temple then sat down to finish his own meal.

“Since we’ll be at Fynt’s warehouses, I might even get access to Alexander’s Kiss,” Zell said.  “I don’t think Nymphic knows about it yet, so I might even get my hands on some without him getting it.  Maybe I can get a sample and destroy the rest or something.”

While the idea sounded extravagant, Squall enjoyed Zell’s high hopes.  “And get your hands on some damming tapes,” Squall added as he ate.

“Yeah!” Zell said with exuberance.

Pushing around some food on his plate, Squall knew he had to emphasize certain things to Zell.  The tattooed blonde SeeD had already shown difficulty with involving Squall in dangerous aspects of their mission, had hidden some of the shadier things K’Oz did for money, and probably hadn’t explained all the details of Nymphic’s “raid” on Fynt’s warehouses tomorrow.  

Looking up to Zell happily chomping away, Squall said “You can call me tomorrow.”

Zell looked over.

“Or even call Seifer,” Squall said, “for back up.  We’re all here to work together.”

After finishing his bite and swallowing, Zell lowered his fork and said “I promise I’ll do a good job.  And if I need to, I’ll call you.  But I should be fine.  I’ll do my job and make you proud.”

“You have always made me proud, Zell,” Squall replied.

With a smile, Zell went back to eating.  A minute or so later, Zell asked “Did you get any new library books?”

“Oh,” Squall mumbled.  “No.  It was a really long walk there.  And since our condo is camera free, I can write the reports here from now on.  So there’s no reason to have Amyst walking two hours to the library.”

“I see,” Zell said in a borderline-sad tone.

“Besides,” Squall said as he stabbed some chicken, “I’ll be doing all I can to get into Nymphic’s mansion again, into his offices for evidence now.”

“Right,” Zell said as he ate.  “...You know if you want, I can drive you to the library to checkout and return books.  Like on the weekends if you don’t feel like it during the week when I get home from work.”

“Thanks,” Squall said.  The brunette man paused then said “Actually, I was thinking that we could go to the Pink Pony this weekend.  See Jeff and Chad and the others.”

With a bright smile, Zell said “Okay.”

“Maybe you’ll dance with me?” Squall asked, though he was smiling as he expected an over-exaggerated negative response from Zell.

“Oh, ugh,” Zell said with a sneer.  “I mean.  ...Baby, you know I can’t dance!”

“Not even to let me grind against you?” asked Squall, still amused with Zell’s disinterest.

“I step on your feet!” replied Zell loudly.  “It’s embarrassing!”

“I don’t get,” Squall said with a laugh, “how the best Gloves Specialist in the world can’t dance.”

In a bitter but softer tone, Zell said “I don’t get it either!”  He grumbled to himself as he ate another bite of chicken.

“And you’re so good in bed,” Squall said, blushing but he had meant to embarrass Zell.  “Absolutely amazing.”  Lowering his cloudy gaze to his food, Squall said with a raise eyebrow “The things you do with your body.  To my body.”

Zell felt a wave of tingling rippled through him and his cock began to fill with blood.  

Still looking down, Squall felt his own heart beating faster as he said “The way your hips move.  The way your mouth feels.”

When Squall looked up, he saw Zell staring at him.  

Squall half smiled, paused, then said “I’m done eating.”

“Me too,” Zell replied quickly, dropping his fork onto his plate as he leapt up.

While Squall slowly stood up, Zell gathered the dishes and dashed off to set everything in the kitchen sink.

Two minutes later they were in the master bedroom, standing with their arms wrapped around each other and mouths locked together.  

Zell urged Squall backwards towards the bed but neither let up as they kissed and caressed over the other.  

Moving both hands to Zell’s cheeks, Squall kissed the blonde man deeply, heart aching as he felt each movement of Zell’s tongue.  The time-compression nightmare began to tug at Squall’s mind as he was urged backwards.  As Squall laid onto the bed and as Zell climbed onto him, Squall knew that while his life had been barren, this was the only thing he’d ever wanted: Love.

Their clothes were slowly stripped off, and with each piece removed, their mouths and hands continued to kiss and caress every bare inch of skin.

“Zell,” Squall moaned as he wove fingers through the blonde hair.

Zell’s mouth had moved down, kissing over Squall’s bare chest and stomach, hands caresses over Squall’s sides as the brunette man quivered.

“I’d die without you,” Squall moaned in a whisper, his fingers tightening from desperate in the blonde hair.

The tattooed man continued his mouth and hand movements over Squall’s skin, delicately undoing Squall’s jeans and sliding them down.

With Zell’s mouth and kisses moving over the brunette pubic hair and along his aching cock, Squall closed his cloudy eyes and whispered “Hyne, I need you.”  Squall slowly opened his eyes and said as he stared out into the darkness “You don’t understand how badly I need you.”

Zell lifted off and sat up so that he was on his knees between the submissive brunette’s spread legs.  Shirtless, staring down at the naked brunette man, Zell undid his pants zipper and said “I understand, baby.”  He shifted up to kneel over Squall, one hand against the mattress at Squall’s side while the other hand pushed the jeans off his hips.  “Because it’s how badly I need you, too.”

Wrapping his arms around Zell’s broad shoulders, Squall pulled the blonde man down so that their lips met in a soft and passionate kiss. They shifted in the darkness, wrapped together, kissing with deep affection and desire.  Soon their lube bottle was discarded somewhere in the blankets and Zell had shoved his cock deep into Squall’s tight body.

Moving his face to Squall’s neck, the blonde man held his lover firmly as their bodies slowly rocked together.  

“I’ll keep you safe,” Zell whispered against Squall’s neck.  “You never have to worry anymore.”

Squall took a deep pleasure in that.  A smile formed on the brunette man’s lips as he rocked his ass against Zell’s crotch, over that perfect and very hard cock.  Squall kept his arms wrapped around the blonde man’s broad shoulders as he nuzzled Zell.

“I’ll protect you, Squall,” Zell whispered as he grind down to shoved deeper inside.  He enjoyed the feeling of Squall nuzzling him, which filled Zell’s chest with butterflies and this aching in the very core of Zell’s soul that was desperate for Squall.  “I’ll never hurt you.  I promise.”

“I believe you,” whispered Squall in an airy voice.  He tenderly kissed Zell’s cheek, then again and once more before squeezing Zell tightly.

Their bodies grind together slowly as time slipped away.  Their mouths would meet in deep and hungry kisses filled with unconstrained desire.  

A flash of the murky, war-ravaged wasteland flashed behind Squall’s closed eyelids.  Opening his eyes, Squall held Zell tighter, fucking those deep thrusts harder against Zell’s crotch.  

Staring up into the darkness, Squall could see in his mind’s eyes those muted sapphire eyes that were empty save for disappointment.  “...I’ll do my best,” Squall said softly.

“What, baby?” Zell said, slightly amused because he half assumed some correlation between Squall’s sentence and sex.

Squall darted his cloudy gaze down to the bright sapphire eyes now looking at him in the darkness.  Their bodies continued to grind together.    “For you,” Squall said, moving a hand to the tattooed cheek.  “I won’t... make you... miserable.”

“You make me happy, Squall,” Zell said, his cock throbbing with each thrust back inside of the submissive brunette.

“I’ll do my best,” Squall repeated.  “Just know that I’m.... I love you.  I’ll always love you.  When we’re back at Balamb Gard-”

“Shush,” Zell said softly, leaning forward so that his lips brushes against the side of Squall’s mouth.  He then kissed that spot and shifted down, back into the place at the small of Squall’s neck while thrusting slightly faster.  “When you’re grouchy,” Zell said softly, holding his lover tightly, “I’ll give you a spanking.”

Squall quietly laughed despite himself.

“I love you, Squall,” Zell said.  “And I’ll always love you.”

Squall focused on the motions of Zell’s body, the texture of the blonde man’s skin against his palms, the delicious way Zell smelled.  With his lips brushing against Zell’s ear, Squall whispered “You really are my Utopia.”


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