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 40: The Beginning

There were plenty of things to say and yet so much of it had gotten twisted inside him.  Not that D-District was the place to say some of the things Daniel had felt swirling through his mind, and yet words kept slipping to the tip of his tongue.



The Lion Heart was enough to stop Daniel, though.  At the top of the gunblade’s sheath stuck out the two blue wings that shimmered like a blue star might if it were crystallized.  



It had barely been mere days, not even a week, since he’d been arrested at Nymphic’s mansion.  It had been enough time, though, sitting on that hard metal floor in the dimly lit cell for Daniel to contemplate enigmatic Squall.



His release from D-District unfolded before Daniel without much recognition.  Papers were signed, men exchanged words with Squall, and soon the High Commander was standing before Daniel, that tiny and captivating smile on the previously-submissive man’s lips.



“Come.”



It was a single word, said in that powerful tone that Daniel had learned Squall was capable of; the tone matched Squall’s uniform and Lion Heart.  Then Squall turned away from Daniel without anything more and began to walk from the room.



After a brief pause, Daniel forced himself to follow the legendary Sorceress Killer.



Following behind Squall felt comfortable for Daniel; even with his heart racing a million miles a minute, the ex-bodyguard knew he belonged there with Squall.  The trek out of the gigantic prison had been both short and long, but Daniel never lingered farther than two steps away from the High Commander.



“It’s the Ragnarok,” Squall said suddenly.



Outside now, Daniel at first didn’t understand the High Commander, as all the ex-bodyguard could focus on was the feeling of the wind on his skin and then the sight of the wind blowing through Squall’s long brown hair.  Then the ex-bodyguard saw just a short ways away the gigantic spaceship he’d heard rumors of.  It was so close, Daniel was surprised he hadn’t noticed it instantly.



“There’s clothes for you,” said Squall, turning almost look back over his shoulder at Daniel, “aboard.  You can change out of the prison uniform.”



“Thank you, sir,” replied Daniel.



Silence took up space between the two men as they finished crossing to the Ragnarok and entering inside.  It wasn’t until they both boarded the large, wallless lift, that Squall turned to Daniel to speak.



With a hand on the metal grip bar of the elevator, Squall softly said “I took Dommy and Cain back to Balamb on this.”



A half smile pulled over Daniel’s lips.  “I bet they were both bouncing around like excited chicobos.”



Squall softly smiled at that image, then he said “Dommy was a little distracted by concerns of his father.”



Daniel’s smile faded.



The lift stopped and Squall stepped off, onto the main floor of the spaceship.  The High Commander turned and watched Daniel step off the platform elevator, and those green eyes shot up to Squall’s face.



“Sir?” whispered Daniel.



“...Do you still want me?” asked Squall gently.  It was beyond his normal composure and (honestly) awareness to even considered asking such a question, but Squall had considered and had to know.  When the ex-bodyguard had been released from those chains, Squall had seen in those green eyes desperation and desire, but had it been real or wishful thinking?



Was Daniel looking now at Squall with that hunger?



“You’re High Commander Leonhart,” replied Daniel.



Squall’s tone was short and hard when he said “Yes.”  He began to turn away but Daniel spoke again.



“Am I still...,” Daniel said, and his heart ached when those cloudy spheres met his gaze again, “allowed?”



The cloudy spheres darted to the spaceship’s floor as the High Commander’s brow lowered.  Softly, he said “Of course.”



Daniel stepped forward and reached out slowly, his fingers almost twitching as they hovered three inches from Squall’s waist.  As Squall turned his grey-blue eyes back up to see Daniel standing so close, Daniel reached passed Squall and lightly, almost erotically but with hidden hesitation caressed the hilt of the Lion Heart.



Although the Lion Heart was not a physical part of Squall's body, the High Commander could still feel Daniel’s caress.  



Again, going beyond his normal composure and general friendliness, Squall lifted his gloved hands up to lay on Daniel’s chest.  The ex-bodyguard flinched from Squall’s touch, but Squall ignored that as he slid his hands up and over the man’s shoulders, around to Daniel’s back where Squall pulled his friend into a real hug.



Daniel stood frozen a second or two as the most powerful man in the world hugged him.  Then the ex-bodyguard lifted his hands up and wrapped them around Squall’s waist to hug his friend back.



While Daniel had not condemned Squall the day of the arrests, when it was first brought to light that Squall was High Commander Leonhart, Daniel had other concerns -- such as Dommy’s well-being after Fynt’s trespass.  Today, Squall had been afraid his real name, life, and status would make Daniel abandon him, and Squall felt that thought circulate inside his mind and briefly dive down to his mouth.  But Squall kept his mouth shut, only frowning in his stoic relief as he held the hug longer.



“I’ll always want you,” Daniel whispered.  He could feel the weight of the Lion Heart’s hilt bump against his arm as he continued to hug Squall.  “Sir.”



It was long seconds later before Squall broke the hug and stepped backwards.  He allowed himself a moment to stare at Daniel’s beautiful green and intense gaze, then Squall stepped back a second time and turned around to lead Daniel to the cockpit.



“We’ll pick up Dommy and Cain from Balamb Garden,” said Squall in a harsh and stern voice.  As he walked, he motioned to a bag of clothes set on a chair, which Daniel grabbed while following the High Commander.  Still using the High Commander tone, Squall said “Then I’ll fly us to Esthar.  My father will take care of Dommy and Cain.”



They were passing through a doorway when Daniel said “Your father is the President of Esthar.”



“Yes,” Squall replied, only mildly surprised Daniel knew.  It was not a hidden fact but his relationship to Esthar’s president was more well known to the younger generation who had learned it in school -- after the second Sorceress War and Ultimecia’s death.



“I’ll be staying with them,” Daniel said.  While he meant it halfway as a question, his words were more an affirmation to Squall that he understood was his life was to be.



Stopping in the next doorway, the one that led to Ragnarok’s cockpit, Squall turned to look at Daniel in the blue jumpsuit.  “If that’s alright.”



“I love Dommy,” Daniel said.  “I want to protect him.”



“...You’re my family now, Daniel,” Squall said.  While he meant those words as a precursor to another statement, he paused too long and Daniel spoke.



“I’ll make you proud, sir,” said Daniel, his heart ached with desire as he made the promise.



The soft and weak smile pulled over Squall’s lips.  He glanced down for half a second to enjoy Daniel’s statement, then Squall returned to the green gaze.   “...We’ll see each other on holidays. Birthdays. ...Whenever Dommy wants to visit.  Whenever you want to visit, Daniel.”



Squall headed passed through the cockpit’s doorway and slipped into the driver’s chair.  Daniel followed Squall and stood behind the High Commander.  As Squall began the start sequence, Daniel said “I want to stay with Dommy, to protect him, but... I don’t want to be away from you.”



“Dommy will have royal guards and he’ll be a grown man in a few years,” Squall said while flipping a few final switches.  The Ragnarok began to hum.  “You can visit me whenever you want.”  He paused, glanced down then looked back to Daniel.  “Just you.  If you ever want.”



Daniel nodded.



When Squall turned back to finish the last of the start sequence, he softly said “I’ll come visit you, too, Daniel.”



As the Ragnarok’s engine roared to life, Daniel smiled down tenderly at Squall.



~*~



Ma Dincht hadn’t asked any questions when Zell returned from his trip after less than a day instead of taking a week.  The tattooed man had been in slightly better spirits than when he’d left, and aside from returning with a duffle bag (contents unknown), he returned with a tiny stuffed lion that he carried half-sticking out from his pocket.



It was a relief for Ma Dincht that some of her perky son had returned, though she could still see his smile was not complete.  With the recent confession of a sexual, homosexual, attraction to Squall Leonhart, Ma Dincht assumed and hoped that the rest of perky Zell would return when he was reunited with the stoic High Commander.



When the Ragnarok flew overhead a few days after Zell’s quick return, Ma Dincht was not surprised at Zell’s exuberance to head back to the Garden.



In the backyard again, Zell bounced up from the lawn chair and watched with wide and excited sapphire eyes as the spaceship roared above, heading straight to Balamb Garden.



Standing there on the cement patio, Zell’s heart began to beat faster and then so hard he was certain it would burst from his chest.  A wave of excitement flooded his body, making him tingle all over, and a small but eager smile filled his lips.



“M-Ma,” Zell stuttered as he tore his eyes away from the Ragnarok.  Looking at his mother, who was smiling at him knowingly, Zell said “I need to head to the Garden.”



“Of course,” Ma Dincht replied sweetly.  She slowly stood up as Zell stole another glance at the Ragnarok, then the blonde SeeD dashed back into the house to retrieve his belongings.



A few minutes later, Ma Dincht stood in the kitchen while washing a few dishes from earlier.  As she set another clean plate into the drying rack, Zell stampeded down the stairs and rushed to the front door where he came to an abrupt halt.



Drying off her hands onto her apron, Ma Dincht turned from the sink and walked a few paces to the kitchen doorway.  Zell dropped his duffle bag at the entry way and turned, smiling brightly, and then walk-skip-hopped to his mother to kiss her on the cheek.



As they exchanged smiles, Zell said “I’ll call you later tonight.”



“Okay, honey,” Ma Dincht said happily.  When Zell gave her a quick but tight hug, she said “Bring Squall for dinner.”  They pulled from the hug and Ma Dincht could see the rapid wave of uncertainty fill Zell’s sapphire eyes.  “Sometime.  See what he wants to do.  Maybe we can have a Sunday dinner together.  That would be nice.”



“I’ll see what he says,” replied Zell in a soft voice.  He still had a lot to talk to Squall about, a lot of apologizing for the horrid things Fynt had made him do.  He was still scared of Squall, but he knew now what he had to do.  He’d done a lot of thinking on the train and over the passed few days back from his K’Oz-adventure.



A “Goodbye” and a minute later, Zell was out the door and running down the road, the duffle bag smacking him on the lower back and ass as he went.  Panic rippled through Zell for a half second as he reached down to search for Little Zell in his pocket, but the toy was there, half sticking out like earlier.



At the edge of town, with his heart racing from more than the sprint, Zell skip-ran to the car rental booth.  He never normally bothered to rent a car, after all he was a physical fitness nut and preferred to do the hearty run between Balamb Garden and town, but today he was in a hurry.



Unfortunately, not even the car was fast enough, and Zell’s heart sank when he had driven halfway to Balamb Garden: The Ragnarok had lifted off again and was flying away.  He had held off smoking at his mother’s for fear of her judgement, but with the stress and the fact that he used to chain smoke just last week, Zell reached into his pocket for the packet he’d absently picked up in Dollet.



At first, as Zell lit the cigarette while driving, Zell was only mildly disappointed, and he allowed himself a scrap of wishful thinking: Maybe Squall hadn’t been on the Ragnarok this time.  Though, no one else really used the spaceship.



The mild disappointment eventually expanded into a teary-eyed and near paralyzing fear that Squall had left so quickly to avoid Zell.  Only half of the rest of the drive to Balamb Garden was spent crying, however, and Zell forced himself back together.  He had already reasoned over the past few days that Squall still loved him, despite the torture.  It would take apologies and begging, and then doting on Squall, but Zell could make it up to the beautiful brunette man, at least in some way.  Squall would forgive.  The beautiful brunette had, after all, confessed his love and dreams, even named their child.  Zell was a hopeful man despite the fears.



Pulling into Balamb Garden’s Garage, Zell’s red and puffy eyes were almost back to their normal exuberant blue gaze.  He slipped the rental car into an appropriate parking space then leapt from the vehicle, yanking the duffle bag from the passenger seat and onto his shoulder.



Just as Zell reached into his pocket for another cigarette, someone shouted behind him.



“Sir!”



Zell turned as he slammed the door shut to watch a wide-eyed Ensign come to halt after a short run.  



“Lt. Commander Dincht!” the young officer said, and a smile quickly burst onto his face.



Zell tried to smile back as he awkwardly shifted the duffle bag strap uselessly on his shoulder while stuffing the cigarettes back down.  He had always felt awkward with such a grandiose rank, and it had been some time since any SeeD (other than Squall or Seifer) had referred to him as such.



“Welcome back, sir!” the young officer said.



“Thanks,” Zell replied plainly.  He tried to smile even though he felt embarrassed.  “You, uh, working Garage duty?”



“Yes,” the young officer replied.  He then held out his hand.



Zell glanced down to the open palm then slowly set the rental car keys onto the young officer’s hand.  “Thanks,” Zell mumbled.



“Sure,” they young officer said with a small frown matching his smile.  He glanced to the rental car then back to Zell’s face.  “Will you be needing the car any longer, sir?  Or shall I see to its return?”



“Just have it sent back,” Zell said, motioning to the car with his free hand.



The young officer then saluted, and after Zell saluted back, the Ensign stepped away to go about his job.



“Um, do you,” Zell said and the young officer quickly turned back around to face Zell, “know if the High Commander is still here?”



“Sorry,” he replied as he shook his head.  “I’m not sure.”



“Okay,” said Zell with mild exasperation.  “Thanks anyway.”  The tattooed blonde then walked through the Garage, towards the double doors that led to the main hallway.  



It was a minute or perhaps two as Zell walked through Balamb Garden for the first time in nine months, people smiling at him, giving him cheers, and happily saying “Welcome back!” and the like.  Then one of Zell’s long time friends and fellow SeeD, Kevin, approached him.  Seeing Kevin made Zell feel disillusioned and suddenly it felt as though years even had gone by since he’d been at the Garden.



“Hey, man,” Zell said.  He stopped walking to his first destination: To check in at Squall’s High Commander office to see if the brunette man was still on grounds.



“Zell!” said Kevin happily.  Kevin was a fellow Gloves Specialist, Level 78 when Zell last saw him -- Level 103 now as Zell absently and instinctively Cast Scan.



“Wow,” Zell said softly as Kevin smiled and patted the tattooed blonde on the shoulder.  “You level-broke.”



“Yea, dude!” Kevin said with a wide grin to match his eyes.  “It was crazy.  I had to take a special course like four weeks ago. ...Wish you’d been there.  I had to take the course from Headmaster Trepe....”  Kevin shook his head at what had been a long shared disapproval between the two of them regarding Quistis’ uptight behavior.  



Nine months ago, Zell, Seifer, and the people who’d defeated Sorceress Ultimecia were the only ones who’d broken Level 100.  Seeing his friend over Level 100 gave Zell a sick feeling of being left behind.  How much else had changed over nine months?



“Hey,” Kevin said, the smile returned and an added brightness sparkled in his eyes. “Claire’s been waiting for you to show up.”



Claire.  The sickness in Zell’s stomach grew.



“Since the High Commander and Almasy showed up,” Kevin said, “everyone’s been looking and waiting for you.”



“I was at my mom’s.”  Zell didn’t want to stand there any longer and talk to Kevin, even if they used to be great friends.  He needed to see Squall.



“Yea, that’s what High Commander Leonhart said,” Kevin replied.  He paused then added, “Claire especially missed you.”



“Okay, well, is, uh, Squall here?” asked Zell, trying to side-step anymore conversation about his (ex?) girlfriend.



“I think he took off again,” said Kevin, and his smile dwindled down slightly.  He frowned and stepped closer to Zell, whispering so that the happily wide-eyed passerbys (who shouted “Zell!” and “Welcome back!” and the like every so often) didn’t eavesdrop.  “Squall’s been followed around by some teenagers.  And like, ...Almasy ...brought back a teenager, and people are saying that kid is Almasy’s ...boyfriend.”



“Genix is a good kid,” Zell said abruptly in an angry tone.  



“-What?” Kevin said, standing tall as he was slightly surprised at Zell’s snapped statement.



“Genix... Seifer’s boyfriend,” Zell said.



Kevin didn’t have a response.



“He’s a good kid,” said Zell.  He then shook his head and looked to the cement.  His heart and mind were racing.  He then turned his sapphire eyes back up to Kevin’s apologetic expression.  “And,” Zell said, still overtly angry, “I’m not sure what the fuck you were just saying about Squall, but those other kids, Dommy and Cain, are not Squall’s boyfriends!  They’re good kids Squall’s trying to find a home for!”



“I-I’m sorry,” Kevin said.  He was surprised that Zell didn’t find Seifer Almasy’s sexuality at least strange, but he was far more surprised at Zell’s harsh anger. “And I didn’t-”



“Just shut the fuck up,” Zell said, his voice loud and the people walking by stopped to stare.  Zell knew that was over the top, a K’Oz statement, and he was breathing hard.  He wanted to punch Kevin so bad -- for a number of things, some of which were beyond petty, such as being over Level 100.  “Hyne sake,” Zell said, and it was all he could do to keep from punching Kevin.  “Let Seifer suck cock!  None of your business, or mine!  Or anyone’s!  ...Fucking standing right here, mousing-around, whispering about Seifer.  You mother fucker, you know Seifer would shove your face through the cement if he heard you!”



“Zell.”  It was a woman’s voice, standing to the side of the tattooed blonde.



It was then that Zell realized he was an inch from Kevin’s face, who looked shocked and maybe even slightly afraid.  Zell blinked then stepped back, staring at Kevin -- one of his best friends -- a second longer before turning to look at the woman who’d spoke -- Rinoa.



Rinoa was standing with Claire and a few other girls Zell knew to be friends of Claire’s.



Breathing was all Zell could do at first as he stared at the shocked women.  



“Zell,” Rinoa repeated.  When Zell frowned at her, she stepped forward and began to reach a hand out.



“I came back to see Squall!” Zell said thoughtlessly as he stepped defensively away from Rinoa’s rising hand.



Lowering her hand back down, Rinoa gently said “Squall left on the Ragnarok with Dommy and Cain.  And another man.  ...Daniel.”



So Daniel was out of D-District.  



“W-where are they going?” asked Zell, pushing down the immediate jealousy.



Shaking her head, Rinoa said “I don’t know.”



“Zell,” Claire said.  She was a pretty girl, a Gloves Specialist that Zell had started dating after training with her a lot.  Today she was wearing a knee-length white summer dress with daisies on it.  She looked cute, her long hair slightly wind blow -- she was never much of a make-up or hair-style girl.  And Zell remembered how nice she was, like Dincht had been.  “Zell, are you alright?”



Zell did not want to see her.  The tattooed blonde stepped backwards and shook his head at her though he was not replying to her question.  Then Zell looked at Rinoa and asked “When will Squall be back?”



“I don’t know,” Rinoa said gently.  She’d already been exposed to this new angry-Zell, so she kept her calm fairly well.



The image of Daniel kissing Squall intruded inside Zell’s mind, and his eyes watered.  He knew it was foolish -- hoped it was foolish -- to think those things, and he tried to banish the image.



“Perhaps,” Rinoa said, still trying to speak gently, “you’d like to go see Seifer?”  It was almost laughable that Zell Dincht would want anything to do with Seifer Almasy, but Rinoa had met Seifer and Genix when they returned, and she assumed at least they would be familiar to Zell -- more so than the Garden seemed to be.



With water in his downcast sapphire eyes, Zell nodded.  He lifted a hand up and harshly wiped his cheek after a single tear slipped out.  He didn’t dare look back up, as he figured Claire was probably in tears, too.  While he felt like an ass for his reaction to her, it was better than blurting out in front of everyone that he was gay and in love with Squall and wanted nothing to do with the poor girl again.



“Seifer is in his dorm,” Rinoa said.  She’d taken a step forward but was still a few feet from Zell who nodded.  “Is there-”



Zell cut her off.  “Thanks, Rinny.”  He looked at her, then saw Claire a few feet behind, the girl’s eyes were red from tears.  “...Sorry, Claire.  Stuff’s just.... A lot of things happened to me.”



Zell didn’t give Claire a chance to reply, not even just in her eyes, and he turned away to run through the Garden to the Dormitory and then to Seifer’s dorm.  Sure, Seifer would call him ‘Crybaby’ for certain, and ‘Chicken Wuss’ a few times for good measure, but at least Zell could be away from everyone else, safely away.



The duffle bag repeated it’s lashing on Zell’s thighs and ass as he ran, and when he’d managed to get far enough away from that scene with Kevin, people began smiling and waving at him again.  Zell eventually forced a few smiles for the sake of these people, but a few corners later, Zell was dashing down an empty hallway to Seifer’s dorm.



While inhaling a few deep breaths though not remotely tired, Zell knocked three quick and loud times on the door.



It was a relief to see Seifer when the door opened.  At first the tall blonde looked beyond angry, like he was a giant and some ant had just disturbed his beauty sleep, but the unabashed fury dissipated at the sight of Zell and Seifer almost smiled.



“Chicken Wuss,” Seifer said with obvious pleasure.



“Squall isn’t here,” Zell replied, his sapphire eyes sparkling with hints of regret.  



The tall blonde stepped closer to the doorway and his elbow bent and lower arm above his head resting against the doorframe and the door pulled close to his body to block Zell from seeing inside.  Seifer sneered at Zell and said “You know we fucking hate each other, right, Zell?”



“I ran away from Claire,” Zell said softly, his sapphire eyes glued to Seifer’s smug sea-blue gaze.  “And I yelled at one of my best friends.  You’re all I got.”



With a single smug laugh, Seifer replied “Rinoa kept asking me about you when I saw her.  Fucking bitch kept going on and on.  I’m sure she’d stroke your cock to make you feel better.”



“Ugh,” Zell said, his reaction immediate and thoughtless.  And like always when talking to Seifer, Zell’s voice slipped down into that child tone as he said “You’re gonna make me vomit.”



“You’re such a romantic,” said Seifer as he shook his head.



“You know I’m in love with Squall,” Zell said loudly, frowning up at Seifer.



“I’m just wondering,” Seifer said plainly, “if you’re going to go homophobe now that we’re back at the Garden.”



“I won’t!” Zell snapped and he suddenly began to think maybe he should just go back to his dorm room to be alone and cry.  Seifer was such an asshole.



Shifting to stand tall, off the doorframe, Seifer lowered his arm back down and let the door swing open a little further.  He reached down, which drew Zell’s gaze, and gently tapped Little Zell sticking from Zell’s jean pocket.  Softer than he meant to, Seifer said “You’re a dork.”



“Shut up!” Zell said, snapping again, but his voice was still that child tone.



Seifer stepped backwards to let Zell enter his dorm room.  The wall-sized TV was on in the background and some cartoon was playing and Genix was turned around on the couch to smile back at Zell.



As Seifer shut the door behind Zell, the tattooed blonde dropped his duffle bag close to the wall and said to Genix “Hey.  How’re you doing?”



“Great!” Genix replied with excitement.  “Although...”  The smile faded on the boy’s face and he frowned to say “Squall took away Dommy and Cain.”  Then the hazel eyes sparkled and Genix smiled again.  “Squall had some hot guy with him.  Daniel.  Apparently he’s going to be Dommy and Cain’s bodyguard in Esthar.”



Zell had wandered over to the couch.  “Esthar?” asked Zell as he sat down opposite Genix.



“Dommy and Cain are going to live there,” Seifer explained as he, too, headed to the couch to retake his seat beside Genix.



Genix picked up Lady Seloria who’d been resting awake beside him.  Then the tiny teenager shifted around and slid over the cushions to sit next to Zell, puppy in hand.   “At the palace!” said Genix with a bright smile.



“With Laguna,” Zell whispered the revelation to himself though he kept eye contact with Genix.



“Yep,” Genix replied.  As Seifer sat down heavily on the couch beside Genix, the hazel-eyed boy glanced back to his boyfriend and said “We’re going to go there for the Sorceress’ End celebration.”  Seifer smiled tenderly back at Genix.



The Sorceress’ End celebration was a day previously set in Esthar to rejoice in Adel’s death.  After Ultimecia died, it became a world-wide holiday celebrating the end of the second sorceress’ war and Ultimecia’s death.  It was a summer holiday, in a little more than a month, with fireworks.



“Then,” Genix said, now looking back at Zell.  Lady Seloria had, with a bobbling pink ribbon atop her head, wondered over to Zell and was now in the first stages of attacking Zell’s gloved hands.  “Maybe for Christmas.  Or like Dommy and Cain will come here.”



“Squall should be back early tomorrow morning,” Seifer said, answering the only question Zell had on his mind -- Seifer knew.



Looking down at Lady Seloria attempting to wrestle off the K’Oz glove, Zell used his other hand to gently pat the tiny puppy and he smiled.  Softly, while patting the puppy, Zell said “I haven’t seen him in like a week.”  



Genix leaned against Zell’s side as they both watched Lady Seloria conducting the desperate attack on the gloves.  Happily, Genix said “When Squall gets back, you two can spend the next week locked in your dorm.  To make up for lost time.”



“Did he ask about me?” asked Zell as he turned his sparkling sapphire eyes up to Genix’s face.



The tiny teenager met the tattooed man’s gaze and hesitated.  “Well, no, but he was being super serious.”



“Oh,” mumbled Zell.  He went back to watching and petting Lady Seloria and reached into his pocket for the near empty cigarettes.



“He was being Squall,” Seifer said loudly, his right arm on the back of the couch rest towards Genix and Zell.  He wanted to kick Zell out of his dorm so he could go back to making out with Genix, but he knew somehow over those weekly lunches with Crybaby Dincht, they were kind of friends -- and Seifer for whatever bizarre reason didn’t want to ruin that. “He’ll be all over your cock when he’s back.”



“Which,” Genix said seriously, looking at Zell who turned up with curious eyes, “would be fine if it happened here.”



“...What?” Zell asked with a small frown as he placed he cigarette between his lips to light.



“If Squall got onto your cock here,” Genix said.



“Ah, fuck no,” Seifer quickly spat and frowned at Genix who turned to smirk at the tall blonde SeeD.  “Don’t say nasty shit like that.”



With a wrinkled nose and evil smirk, Genix said to Seifer “We could film it.  ...You do still have those photos of Squall in the Light-Box.”



“What?!” blurted out Zell, lowering the cigarette down to his knee as he leaned passed Genix to glare at Seifer.  “You better not-”



“Shut up,” Seifer said to Zell.  “I do have those photos and they’re perfect blackmail.  So you and Squall better not cross me.”



“I’ll beat the fuck out of you,” Zell said, and he would have jumped up if it hadn’t been for the tiny puppy playing on his lap.



“Crybaby Zelly is going to beat the fuck out of me?” asked Seifer as he settled back into the couch, smiling with vicious amusement.  “All I’ve ever seen you do it swat flies.”



“Fuck you,” snapped Zell.



“I’m still higher level than you,” Seifer said with deep pleasure.



The rage was building inside of Zell and he thought of Kevin and that friend’s new level.  Zell briefly regretted all the times he’d spent hanging out with friends and going on dates with Claire, Jenny, and the other girls.  His life would have been better spent training, not fucking around.  He needed to get stronger to protect Squall.



Zell turned away from Seifer’s smirk.  Rage was bubbling so high inside him, he was surely about to erupt.   Breathing ragged breaths, Zell forced himself to remember that he was no K’Oz and would not actual beat up Seifer or anyone.  He had proven that much to himself by returning from Dollet without incident.



A half minute had passed: Genix had gotten lost in his cartoon while still against Zell’s side, patting Lady Seloria who’d grown tired of wrestling with Zell’s gloves.  Seifer turned away from Zell, having felt as though he won that argument and it was over.



Finally, Zell spoke.  He kept his eyes on the coffee table before him while gently patting Lady Seloria with Genix.  “I went to Dollet.”



Both Seifer and Genix turned to look at Zell’s face.



The tattooed blonde blinked and looked up while bringing his gaze to their waiting expressions.  “I was going to go to D-District.  I was going to go kill Fynt.  Maybe Nymphic, too.”



Genix’s hazel eyes widened but Seifer kept a calm expression as he stared at Zell, trying to come up with a response.



“I got all the way to Dollet,” Zell explained in a soft but heavy tone.  “Then I realized I was being crazy.  I can’t go around killing people, even if I think they deserve it.”



“Didn’t Squall say it was wrong or something?” asked Genix.  “I mean, isn’t the reason you and he and Seifer all went to Dollet and spent those months undercover, because you couldn’t just kill bad people?”



“I realized that,” replied Zell.  He took a breath then said “But I got all the way to Dollet before I did.”



As the room filled with silence, Genix patted Zell on the shoulder.



“I went back to my mom’s,” explained Zell.  “Then went I saw the Ragnarok return, I raced back here, but Squall was already gone again.  ....I saw some of my old friends already.”  He paused.  “Kevin mentioned you, Genix, and Seifer.”



Seifer’s heart skipped a beat with anger.



“I screamed at him,” Zell said as he turned away to look back at the coffee table to absently smoke.  “Fucking Claire-” He quickly looked at Genix. “-my girlfriend.  Ex, as soon as I explain to her we’re no longer dating.  ...Claire happened by or something.  I think she looked scared of me.”



“You?” Genix said with a deep, unconvinced frown.  “You’re harmless.  Like Seifer.”



Seifer quietly laughed and mumbled “You do know I tried to take over the world, right, Cupcake?”



“It’s weird being back here,” Zell said after blowing out smoke, ignoring Seifer.  “And I don’t want to go back to my dorm.  Only reason I came back is because I thought Squall was back.”



“What’s wrong with your dorm?” asked Genix.  He slipped an arm over Zell’s shoulders and set his other hand on the small blonde’s chest.



With a sneer, Zell said “It’s got all my old stuff.  Photos everywhere.  Stupid shit I don’t want anymore, and I don’t want to see it.  Like, I got this big stuffed toy Mesmerize that Claire gave me for my birthday.  ...I don’t want to see that stuff.”



“So you’ll stay here tonight,” Genix said softly, patting Zell’s chest.



“Fuck no,” Seifer said quickly.



Genix rolled his eyes and sighed then focused his hazel eyes on Zell’s face.  “And when Squall’s back tomorrow morning, you can just go back to his dorm.”



“Hyne,” Seifer mumbled, but he understood he would not win the ‘kicking Zell out’ argument.  



“...You sure I can stay?” asked Zell.  He hated Seifer but he’d rather be called ‘Chicken Wuss’ all night than see those old photos of himself smiling with old friends and girlfriends.



“Yes,” Genix said with a bright smile.  He glanced down to Lady Seloria who’d settled down onto Zell’s lap and was snoozing away.  “And look,” Genix said, turning back up to Zell’s tattooed face, “Lady Seloria is all for you staying!”



Seifer sighed loudly.



~*~



It was fifteen passed four AM when Squall walked back onto Balamb Garden grounds.  It had been difficult saying the ‘Goodbyes’ to Dommy, Cain, and Daniel, but he would visit them -- with Zell -- soon enough.  It had been awkward seeing his father, Laguna, but it had been nice seeing his sister, Ellone.  Both had promised to take care of the two teenagers along with Daniel.



The Ragnarok was parked outside of Balamb Garden and it had been a ten minute walk to reach the front gates of the mercenary training school.  The morning air was warm but not too warm; like luke warm hot chocolate on a midsummer day: The weather in Balamb was always perfect.  So the walk had been nice.



After passing through the front gates, Squall walked another fifty feet until he reached the guarded check-in entrance and a wave of self-consciousness hit him as he wished Zell where there beside him.  



Gently, Squall shifted the tiny brown Yorkie puppy he held against his chest.  The tiny puppy was asleep, having already brought about a typhoon of puppy-destruction in the Ragnarok cockpit on the way from Esthar back to Balamb Garden.



“Sir,” the guard behind the glass check-in counter said.



Squall burned his eyes into the man, then shifted the large cloth shopping bag on his shoulder before pushing through the rotating metal bar of the check-in gate.  Without another word, Squall continued into the Garden, hoping that later that day would not be filled with a bombardment of puppy-questions.



The Yorkie puppy, after all, was a gift for Zell.  Maybe it had been impulsive to get a dog for Zell and him to have together, but Squall remembered how much Zell had adored tiny Lady Seloria.  And Squall couldn’t help the thoughts of this tiny Yorkie being the first part of their new family.



Squall had made it all the way passed the Cafeteria entrance and was walking up to the Dormitory when he noticed Quistis walking towards him.  Squall held in a deep, annoyed sigh.



“Squall,” said Quistis with a small smile and stern nod.



“Quistis,” Squall replied as he stopped walking to stand before her.  He knew she could see the puppy in his hand.  “You’re up early.”



“I wanted to prepare a few things,” Quistis said, her hands folded together at her stomach, “before the D-District office opens.  There’s still a lot of paperwork to be handled while the multiple trials are conducted.”



“Of course,” Squall said.  He knew Quistis and the other powers that be at Balamb Garden were handling much of the paperwork for him: He still had a debriefing to go through and then a small break before he’d been expected to start his High Commander duties again.



Trying to smile, Quistis said “I’m glad you’re home.”



Squall stared at her wordlessly.



“Maybe after you’ve gotten some sleep,” Quistis said; she was not put off by the lack of reply, as Squall had always been quiet and stern like that, “we can catch up.  Have dinner together?  I found this wonderful pineapple and chicken recipe-”



“No,” Squall said.  He stared at her then stepped forward, less than one foot from her, and then said “...You see this dog?”



Quistis darted her gaze down to the tiny puppy then looked back up to Squall’s grey-blue eyes.  “I wasn’t going to ask.”  She had assumed the puppy had something to do with the two teenagers, Dominique and Cain, that Squall had been taking care of.



“It’s for Zell,” Squall said, almost whispering as he stared at her.  “My lover.”



Quistis was immediately confused: She was one of the few people at the Garden who knew the details of Squall’s assignment in Dollet, one of the few who knew that Squall and Zell had been playacting as boyfriends in the undercover assignment.



“I’m gay,” said Squall.  “That’s why I was never... Whatever.”  He shook his head and stepped to the side before locking his gaze back with her uncertain expression.  “I know what you’re thinking.  Think it.  I don’t care.”  Squall then lingered a moment longer to stare into the woman’s eyes, trying to emphasize his seriousness, then he stepped passed her and returned to his trek towards Zell’s dorm.



Quistis stood on the main path for at least another fifteen seconds, breathing slowly before she finally got her legs to work and she began to head forward again, to the main elevator to go upstairs to her Headmaster office for work.  As she went, she considered Squall’s words, the puppy, and the scene Zell had made upon his return to the Garden yesterday afternoon.  



The hallways in the Dormitory were empty, it being far too early for the normal crowds to be walking around.  Soon Squall arrived at Zell’s dorm, and his heart began to speed up.  Knocking on the gorgeous tattooed man’s dorm door, Squall felt his breath catch in his throat.  He wanted, needed, to see Zell’s perfect smile and sparkling sapphire eyes.  



Seconds ate away at Squall’s resolve and he found it harder to knock on the dorm door a second time.



Waiting again, Squall glanced down to the sleeping miniature puppy.  He wondered if Zell would like it.  



Seconds went by again, now eating away at Squall’s sinking heart.  Zell still did not answer.



With his free hand, Squall reached down to the doorknob and tried to turn it, but it was naturally locked.  He released the doorknob then stepped back and stared at the barrier.  Maybe Zell wasn’t back yet.  



Closing his eyes, Squall breathed out a long and quiet breath.  He knew it was too early to call Ma Dincht’s house to search for Zell.  As quick as the fears surfaced, Squall shoved away the childish notion that Zell was with that girlfriend: Squall knew he was going to marry Zell and those thoughts were useless fears.



Opening his eyes again, Squall frowned at the door then turned and reached his free hand up to his shoulder and grasped the large cloth shopping bag’s strap.  He shook his head and stepped away from the door then began uncharacteristic slightly-trudging steps back to his own dorm.



Before Squall even knew it, he was back in his own dorm, turning on the overhead light to his large High Commander living room.  He closed the door behind him and locked the deadbolt thoughtlessly then walked over to the couch while sliding the Lion Heart from its sheath.  He set the gunblade onto the coffee table as he sat down heavily onto the couch.



Squall tossed the cloth bag onto an empty cushion to his left, still clutching the tiny, sleeping puppy to his chest.  After a few seconds of not thinking about anything because the brokenhearted emotion had filled him to the brink, Squall realized how empty his High Commander dorm was.



In the living room, all he had was the brown suede couch with two matching side chairs and the coffee table dividing them.  No TV or pictures hung anywhere.  No decorative rugs.  



Squall glanced to his right to look at the open door to his dorm office.  Inside, even in the low light, Squall could see the empty white walls.  The only thing in the large room was his dorm office’s desk and chair.  The desk was stacked neatly with various paperwork.  Then Squall turned to his left and glanced behind him to his kitchen.  It was lavish with expensive appliances, but it, too, looked empty from lack of use.  No bowls of fruit set out or magnets on the refrigerator, no toaster or blender, just a single coffee pot sitting to the side on the black marble countertop.



Squall knew even the coffee supply was gone, as he’d thrown away that item (the only food item in his kitchen) before he’d left for Dollet nine months ago.



The soft groan of the puppy caught Squall’s attention and he immediate brought his gaze back to the tiny animal in his hand.  His heart raced and he was momentarily afraid he wouldn’t know what to do if the puppy wanted something -- he had expected to have Zell to help take care of it.  But the tiny Yorkie simply finished a small stretched and went back to sleep.



With his racing heart calming down, Squall turned to the cloth bag at his left, some of the dog clothes had spilled out.  He frowned and reached over to pick up the tiny suit that the puppy would fit into eventually -- not now, though.  He’d bought a boy dog for Zell.  



After staring at the blue suit, Squall set it back down into the open bag while thinking over how the new puppy’s belongings were the only thing in his dorm that made it look as though someone actually lived here.  Then as Squall stared over at the various colored suits and bow ties he’d purchased (along with special puppy food and puppy treats he’d been sure to buy), Squall wondered if his impulsive purchase had been too impetuous.



“You know,” Squall said as he turned to look down at the small sleeping puppy.  “I have no idea what to do with you, Dog.  You’re supposed to be Zell’s.”



Of course the puppy made no move to reply.



“What do I even do with you when I sleep?” Squall asked.  He glanced around, imagining all the places the puppy might go, perhaps getting stuck or lodged under the couch or something similar.  “Hyne,” Squall mumbled.  He flinched in the beginning motion of leaning over to remove his boots, but he decided that was too much trouble.  He was exhausted after taking care of Dommy, Cain, and Daniel, flying halfway across the world and back a few times.  



Squall slid down until his head leaned against the couch’s large cushioned backrest and he closed his eyes.  It wasn’t even worth standing up to turn the overhead light off.  It was as good a place as any to sleep, especially with the tiny Yorkie to deal with.



Keeping the puppy clutched to his chest, Squall figured he could get a couple hours sleep then he’d call Ma Dincht to find Zell.

 



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