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Title: A Very Slow Descent Into Madness
Rating: PG-13
Pairings: Seifer/Zell (FFVIII)
Disclaimers: standard disclaimers apply, unfortunately.
Summary: Six times that Seifer Almasy died, and five times that he came back.
Word Count: 5,639
Notes: for archive purposes






“He’ll be back soon,” Quistis assures everyone for the seventh time, looking less and less certain as time continues to crawl by. She sits primly upright, looking very stern every time she repeats the same phrase. Her eyes are wide and she is staring resolutely at a dark spot on the opposite wall, and every few moments she reaches up to adjust her glasses, the back of her hand nudging her slightly-pink cheeks. Zell thinks he’s never seen her do such a poor job of pretending not to cry before.

Selphie is pacing around, bouncing, skipping, and twirling silently. She looks merely thoughtful, but every time her back turns Zell catches a glimpse of that perky expression sagging a little.

Rinoa is morose, staring vacantly at her knees and occasionally blurting out random statements, as though she can’t quite keep all of her thoughts in and every once in a while one slips through her lips. “Once we went to this movie, and it was so bad he threw my popcorn at the screen and we had to leave early,” she says haltingly, the revelation in segments. She twists a lock of hair around and around her finger, pulling out hairs one at a time and shaking them off onto the floor by her feet. “He was terrible at maths,” she says. “He couldn’t do it in his head.”

Zell sits twitching his foot nervously and remembering how he gloated for days the last time they fought one-on-one and he won, rubbed Seifer’s face in the dirt. How good it felt to be on top then, and how it just doesn’t feel so good now.

Finally Squall comes back into the room and announces that they've been signed on by Galbadia Garden for a mission, and Zell knows he's not the only one silently grateful for the distraction.





Time Compression. Zell thinks deeply about it, but he still doesn’t get what it’s about. The others are all pretty gung-ho now, en route to Esthar, but somehow Zell really doesn’t think they fully understand either. All of the past and future condensing into one moment, the entire of time and space melted into a singular entity? It sounded stupid, to say the least. But it’s not Zell’s job to think about it, it’s his job to stop it, so he doesn’t plan to muse overlong on his own theories about it. Leave that to Quistis and the rest of the brain trust; Zell would rather spend his time training up.

Everyone else is preoccupied with their own problems, so it’s easy to escape company as he spends most of his time hanging about the training center, taking out his frustration on grats and the occasional T-rexaur. Squall has gone MIA with Rinoa, although everyone seems sure he must be on his way to Esthar, so that’s where Garden is headed. Quistis is entirely busy with heading that up, and spends most of her time holed up in the cockpit with Cid, Edea, and Xu, no doubt discussing overly-complicated issues and arguing amongst themselves about battle plans; and Zell thinks he’d rather not get in the middle of that. He hasn’t seen much of Selphie - she was no doubt immersed in trying to convince everybody that she was as cheerful as she always was, or at least, had always been before Trabia Garden was leveled. Irvine, undoubtedly, was three steps behind her as always.

Zell pushes further into the overgrown depths of the training center, towards where the bigger, more dangerous beasts hide, not that he isn’t more than a match for anything in there nowadays. Hadn’t he taken down a sorceress and her knight, twice? And that wasn’t counting all the times he’d sparred with Seifer long before any of them knew the horror of a real war. Well, okay, he’s probably lost just as many bouts with the other boy as he’s won, but only because Seifer always fights dirty; sneak magic behind his back, dirt in the eyes and all, not to mention the taunts. Perhaps Seifer’s best talent is his ability to provoke anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Was, Zell corrects himself mentally. He still finds it hard trying to think of someone who had, just a few weeks ago, been an everyday part of Zell’s life, in the past tense. Zell realizes as he fights his way through the jungle terrain that there’s a part of him that’s still expecting Sefer to come slinking out from between the trees even now, to goad him into a brawl like he’s done so many times, before he thinks dismally that even if Seifer were alive, there’s still no way he’ll ever be let back through Balamb Garden’s gates again, now or at any point in the future, now things have gone too far. If Galbadia wins the war, Seifer will be the hero who died to protect his sorceress; and if they lose, he’ll be just another casualty. Neither option seems particularly appealing to Zell, and he stomps and kicks his way angrily through the dank, humid greenery.

Though he did come back from the dead once before, he thinks suddenly, and a twinge that feels not unlike hope flashes through his chest for a brief moment. There is a sudden movement to the left, and Zell leaps forward, lashing out, and he feels his strike connect with the waxy, fibrous flesh of grat belly, and he is more relieved than he would admit even to himself that it feels nothing like the memory that seems seared into his brain of knuckles cracking on high, proud cheekbones and smiling green eyes tenderly ringed purple, even though Zell was going easy.





Selphie is flitting around the room chipperly as she makes plans, taking down names, doling out tasks like making punch and finger sandwiches and hanging coiled lengths of pastel crepe paper across the Quad for decoration. Zell himself is supposed to be sticking little cut-outs of paper in the shapes of flowers and stars onto the invitations with glitter glue, but his “finished” pile is only two or three envelopes higher than it was an hour ago, when Selphie last came to check on him and chide his lack of enthusiasm for the task. Rinoa and Cid are standing a dozen or so feet away from where Zell’s sitting, trying to discreetly scoot close enough to hear what they’re talking about, although he’s pretty sure he already knows.

“We’ve still got people out searching, but there’s been no news as of yet,” Cid remarks very quietly, and Zell watches Rinoa’s expression droop out of the corner of his eye. She nods understandingly, and Zell looks sullenly back down at his lap, sighing as he relinquishes his grip on the tube in his hand and grabs a spare bit of scrap paper to wipe off his blue glitter glue-covered fingers. There are footsteps nearby and he looks up to find Quistis taking a seat on the floor beside him.

“How come Selphie’s not got you working?” he asks her after a silent moment. “She’s bullied the rest of us into this silly project of hers.”

Quistis smiles and shrugs, and they both watch from a distance as Selphie strong-arms Xu and a few SeeDs with her into gluing strips of paper into a brightly-colored paper chain, smiling sweetly as she hops off oblivious to the glares shot coldly in her direction from the group after she is gone. “And Squall,” Zell adds, squeezing little blobs of glue onto the corners of a new envelope and dotting yellow and pink stars over it. “I notice he’s not suffering here with us.”

“I’ve no idea where he is, but he was smart to have got out of here while he had the chance,” Quistis says softly.

“Yeah, the bastard,” Zell curses under his breath, and his companion laughs, but he thinks it sounds a little fragile. They’re quiet again for a minute or two, and Quistis absently takes a stack of plain envelopes from him and begins drawing glittery squiggles around the edges.

“They haven’t found Seifer yet,” she says after a while, staring not at the card she is distractedly squeezing oozing blobs of glue onto, but somewhere into the distance.

“Yeah,” Zell replies.

“He must have been in the Time Compressed world with us,” she says next, thoughtfully. Zell says nothing. He wants terribly to forget everything but it’s imprinted on his memory, the dark emptiness, a small black hole in the back of his mind. “I keep thinking,” she begins again, trailing off.

“That’ll get you,” he murmurs, but she doesn’t hear.

“We were all trying so hard to bring each other through, thinking about each other, but I didn’t think about him,” she continues. Zell wants to run away from the conversation but he can’t seem to move so he sits stone still. She says, “I keep wondering if I’d just thought about him, too, maybe we could have brought him back through with us, you know? If we’d all just wished for him as much as we were wishing for each other, just a bit. Do you think?”

Zell doesn’t answer, clenching his teeth as he slides a card into its envelope with shaking hands.

“I guess it’s too late for that now,” Quistis finishes weakly. She sets down her tube of glitter glue and hands her small stack of finished invitations back to Zell, standing up and dusting sparkles and scraps of paper from her lap. She pauses, contemplative, and adds at last, “It’s just that I always wonder.”

Zell stops and puts down his card and his glue and watches her leave, not feeling any better to know that he wasn’t the only one who was wondering. Late in the night when it was dark, he wondered, and for brief, nightmarish moments he felt like he was back in that world of darkness and emptiness, calling out to the others and hearing their voices calling out to him, and never once hearing Seifer’s voice, and wishing so badly that he would.





It’s the sight of a white trenchcoat that catches Zell’s eye; Nida and the rest of Zell’s squad are already backing out of the smoldering building, and Zell can hear his second ordering cadets this way and that after stragglers. Zell follows them back slowly, feeling muted and looking around at the carnage in the dark basement, looking at the door across the room where the flash of white disappeared through, wondering if he can make it there before the fire consumes the whole building. It was supposed to be just a routine sweep; they’d heard there was some kind of illegal weapons ring going on underground, but they hadn’t expected to find a full-scale mob waiting for them down here, and when some fool let loose with Firaga, Zell knew things had gotten out of hand.

“Dincht, the ceiling’s gonna come down!” Nida shouts from behind him, but Zell doesn’t reply. Without thinking more than once about it, he sprints across the basement room, ignoring his partner’s yells, stepping deftly over bodies and burning chunks of debris. He fells the steel door to the back room with one well-aimed kick, and jumps through the doorway. The fire has spread and is creeping across the ceiling in here too; and there are several men escaping up a staircase in the corner, but Zell doesn’t care as much about catching them as he does about making it across the room and beating Seifer to a pulp before he can escape himself.

Seifer smirks, almost as if he is glad to see Zell there, and Zell can’t believe it’s been three years since he saw that smirk, and that he misses it. Seifer quickly ejects a small disc from the computer he is standing at and slips it into his pocket, grinning as he shoves the machine off the desk and into the corner, where the fire quickly catches it.

“Chicken-wuss,” he says cheerfully, like they’re not standing in the middle of a burning building that’s about to collapse on top of them, like they just met on the street, like he’s actually happy to meet Zell there. But that’s the only word he gets out; Zell bounds across the room in two strides and plants his fist in Seifer’s cheekbone, followed swiftly by one to the gut; but Seifer is quicker than he expected, and a sharp elbow to the sternum leaves Zell breathless and reeling backwards, the blow to the lungs on top of being in a smoke-filled room more crippling than the actual physical pain. He raises his fists again, staggering backwards, even with his best pair of gloves on feeling that he broke two fingers on that first punch, but Seifer is at the back door already, grinning even as blood trickles from the corner of his mouth and down his chin, but angrily this time. He clutches his ribcage, and Zell is sure by watching the way he moves that he broke something.

“Sorry, chicken, can’t play now,” he sneers, all snarling teeth and sharp green eyes. How did I ever think that I missed this creep? Zell thinks to himself. All of a sudden Nida is at his shoulder, and the other SeeD grabs him roughly by the arm and yanks him backwards the way they came.

“Leave him, the building’s coming down!” Nida screams in his ear as the ceiling creaks menacingly, but Zell doesn’t tear his eyes from Seifer as he is jerked haltingly backward, until slabs of plaster and wood begin breaking from the ceiling and raining down on them, and the last thing that Zell sees before the stairway falls in around Seifer is the other man staring at him, grinning, and it seems to Zell that his green eyes are burning far more deeply than the blaze around them.





“I haven’t seen you around here before, love,” the cute blonde tending the bar remarks sweetly to him as she fills up the pint glass for the fourth time. “From out of town, are you?”

“Yeah, I’m on holiday from Balamb,” Zell replies, though not very enthusiastically. He suspects that she’s trying to flirt with him, as she’s been doing most of the night - and if the patrons of the bar that night represented its usual clientele, it was no wonder that she would. Zell had simply picked at random from the small list of bars in Dollet that weren’t exclusively fishermen’s digs this small place, and it wasn’t much... but at least they had good beer on tap. Dollet wasn’t exactly a vacation destination, but Esthar was too weird for Zell’s tastes - all that neon lighting and pastel clothing - and he didn’t much like to hang out in Deling City for any length of time, not these days, you never knew who was going to pop up there.

“Enjoying yourself, then?” she asks him, and he looks up from his beer with a sigh.

“Yeah, it’s alright,” he replies wearily. She gives him a look, and then her expression turns sour as she realizes that he’s not going for it, and she returns to the other end of the bar where a group of men are arm-wrestling, laughing exuberantly ever time one of them slips and falls on the floor. Zell watches with a muted interest for a minute or two, and contemplates leaving.

“My goodness, what a pleasant surprise this is,” a voice, smooth and deep, whispers suddenly in his ear, and Zell catapults off his stool, his hackles instinctively raised by the voice his subconscious knows even before he can consciously comprehend who is standing next to him.

“Christ, you just don’t stay dead, do you?” Zell breathes, as much as he can with his chest feeling as though it’s being squeezed like an empty can. Seifer quirks his head to the side and grins, and Zell feels quite strange - wait, it’s happiness; that can’t be right! Since when did the sight of Seifer inspire any kind of positive emotion?

“Terribly sorry to disappoint,” Seifer replies, flagging down the bartender and ordering a double of something dark, Zell doesn’t catch what it is; for a few moments, he’s too busy trying to work his mind around the fact that Seifer is here, alive, again, and how many times can a guy come back from the dead? He takes the stool next to Zell’s and sips his drink, and says silkily, “have a drink with me, chicken-wuss.”

Zell simply stares. Something about the situation just doesn’t seem anchored in reality. Seifer waits a few moments, still smirking, damn that smirk, Zell’s knees feel like jelly. “Not going to tell me not to call you that?” the other man teases.

“I was thinkin’ it’d be more effective just to deck you, but I was gonna wait until no one was looking,” Zell replies coolly, taking his seat again, but he glares at Seifer. “You’re a criminal. I oughta turn you in.”

“Only in Deling City,” Seifer replies easily, looking smug. “Here I’m just a plain old tourist. As are you, I’ll assume.”

“Like if I was on assignment, I’d tell you!” Zell hisses, guzzling beer in the hopes that it will cool him down, but it seems to do just the opposite; he hopes it’s too dark for Seifer to notice that he’s gone red. “And how in the hell did you survive that last time?”

“Just lucky, I guess,” Seifer says vaguely, and then he gives Zell a rather poignant look. “I mean,” he adds a second later, clearing his throat, “to think I’d run into you here...”

“I wouldn’t call that luck,” Zell scoffs. “More like some kind of crap fate.”

“I guess that’s what I get for trying to be pleasant.”

“Whatever, Almasy,” the martial artist growls, draining his beer and spinning off the stool angrily. “You don’t got the right to expect me to be nice to you after you’ve gone and died so many fuckin’ times. Fuck off outta my life already.”

He slaps some money down on the counter and turns to leave, resisting the powerful urge to thump Seifer a good one, but he doesn’t get more than a step away before Seifer grabs his arm and pulls him back. “Fucking get off!” Zell curses, yanking his arm away, and he snarls, “People think you’re dead, you know! People who actually, like, I don’t even understand this, they worried about you, when you never turned up after the war, there were actually people who cared! I, I mean,” he stammers after a pause, as Seifer stares in silence, “not me, I mean, but other people - Rinoa-”

“I could not care less,” Seifer says shortly.

“And Quistis!” Zell barks. “She was depressed for months thinking she mighta saved you from the Time Compression, and you know who was her fucking sounding board? Me! And I didn’t tell nobody that I knew you were alive, I figured, hell, there’s no point to it, people were finally getting over it. All this fucking time, I’m the only one who knows you been alive!”

Zell breathes heavily after finishing, waiting for a response, and Seifer watches him inscrutably, seeming to think about one. Then he grins. “Well, we oughta be able to do something about that,” he says deviously.

Four hours and more than one bottle of whiskey later, Zell stumbles out of the bar as it closes with Seifer half a wobbly step behind him, the other man still grinning, and Zell feeling... well, not less angry, but less actively angry; he knows he should be giving Seifer hell for all he’s done, but somehow at that moment it seems less important than it did when he was more sober. He hobbles a few steps down the street and stops, only to have Seifer collide with him a moment later, and somehow he manages not to faceplant on the pavement with Seifer’s help.

“Bars’re all closed,” he mutters to Seifer as they try to navigate their way down the dark street.

“Not goin’ to a bar, sweetheart,” is Seifer’s reply, and lacking a response to this - probably because his brain has been thoroughly marinated in liquor for the past few hours, good lord, it was going to be rough in the morning - Zell simply follows as Seifer leads the way to wherever it is he wants to go. Seifer guides him down dark back alleys, over rubbly sets of train tracks, around chain-link fences, and perhaps, Zell has to surmise after once blinking and realizing that they were laying in a patch of long grass, through a few backyards. He seems to know where he’s going, so Zell doesn’t think overmuch about following; he just does. His vision is hazy and patchy, and his perception seems spotty, and only when he feels the ground slipping out from under his feet does it register that they’ve ended up on the beach.

Zell follows Seifer across the dingy sand and out onto an abandoned and dilapidated old pier. Seifer staggers out to where the edge of the walk slopes brokenly downward and disappears into the dark water. “What, you wanna go swimming or summin?” Zell mumbles, hanging back closer to land.

“No,” Seifer says dumbly, swaying in the wind at the end of the pier. “I heard you. That’s what I always wanted to tell you.”

“You hear me what?”

“I heard you. In the Time Compressed world,” Seifer explains, and Zell feels suddenly strangely light. “You were looking for me. I didn’t hear anyone else.”

“Yep, see, that’s where I differ from my colleagues,” Zell says back jokingly, but he feels hot. “I prefer ta save people before it’s actually too late, as opposed to jus’ regretting it for years after the fact. I’m proactive, y’see,” he says cheekily. Seifer turns and walks back toward him. And when a blinding white light suddenly flashes over them, strobing across the beach, for a split second Zell can see the expression on the other man’s face, which is more serious and deep than he knows how to interpret.

“This is the Dollet County Police Department,” a mechanized voice echoes over the dunes, and Zell and Seifer throw themselves flat on the pier as the searchlight pans back and forth over their heads. “This beachfront is restricted property. Please show yourselves and allow us to escort you peacefully to the station...”

“Polite, aren’t they?” Seifer giggles, and Zell wastes a few seconds marveling over it before a thought occurs to him.

“We’re still in Galbadian territory,” he says, a chill running through him at the thought of what it meant. “If you’re caught, you’ll be executed, Seifer.”

“That is probably true,” Seifer agrees. Zell pushes himself up to stand, and is abruptly yanked back down to the ground, Seifer snarling, “What d’you think you’re doing?”

“Surrenderin’?” Zell answers with a shrug. “They ain’t gonna stop searching until they’ve found someone, and if I go out now, they won’t bother to look any more for you.”

“You can’t get arrested!” Seifer says adamantly, eyes narrowed blearily in a glare that Zell thinks he might be afraid of if he were sober, which he luckily is still very far from. He punches the other lightly in the arm, and then slumps down on his elbows, laying shoulder-to-shoulder with Seifer.

“I’m a SeeD!”

“Who’s trespassing,” Seifer reminds him sternly. “And clearly very drunk. In public. You could lose your job.”

“Yeah, and you could lose your life, mate,” Zell shoots back, meeting Seifer’s stare with just as much determination as the older man. They’re hardly inches apart now, and Zell can smell the whiskey on Seifer’s breath, his eyes gleaming every time the searchlight sweeps their way. Zell’s vision is fading gently in and out, and he can’t tell if he’s gotten closer to Seifer or not; like a moon drifting gradually toward a sun, like some kind of gravity, it just seems to be the natural way to go. He lays poised like that for several of the longest minutes of his life, not an inch away from Seifer and yet it might as well be a thousand miles for all he could do to close that tiny bit of distance.

“I been executed once before,” Seifer whispers impudently, flashing that grin - I’ll miss it, I’ll really miss it this time, I swear it, if he goes, Zell thinks desperately to himself - and he jumps into a kneeling position, turning only to give Zell a mighty shove and send him tumbling over the edge of the pier into the sand dunes below just as the lights all swing around and pin him on the walkway. Zell watches from the shadows below as Seifer rises unsteadily to his feet, holding out his arms in a gesture of surrender, and two police droids swoop down the pier and converge on either side of him to escort him back across the beach.

And though Zell scours the Galbadian papers every day for weeks afterward, he finds he is never relieved by the continuing lack of news concerning the event; because he knows it’s far more than likely that the Galbadian government will keep whatever did end up happening covered up expertly, not to have to say, “well, this fugitive that we’ve all thought has been dead for years is actually still alive, but this time we really are going to execute him!” That if Seifer did manage to escape again would really be the only way it would make the news. And Zell likes to think that if Seifer was still out there somewhere, still alive, he’d have the decency to let Zell know one way or another, after what had happened. But that last, he knows, is just a silly fantasy - because weeks and months pass, and, one way or the other, nothing ever comes.





“You do have a talent for proving me wrong,” Zell says quietly, a warm breeze drifting off the sea and whistling saltily around them, blowing his hair this way and that. Seifer takes a few sidling steps toward him, the ends of his long black coat fluttering in the wind.

“I try my best,” he answers at last, smiling a little. Zell can’t seem to make his facial muscles work anymore and so he just stares blankly to one side of the other man. When Seifer walks up to stand beside him, Zell turns the other way, gazing out over the docks he grew up on, everything glazed in the warm orange glow of the sinking sun. “What?” Seifer says eventually. “Got nothing to say to me? There’s a first.”

“Think I said it all last time you died,” Zell says coolly.

“How many times has it been, then?”

“As far as I’m concerned, if you do it more than once that’s too many times,” Zell replies. “What are you doing here?”

“On holiday,” Seifer says cheekily, and Zell knew he would miss that smirk. “And you?”

“I live here, you dink,” Zell snaps. There is silence, and he senses Seifer watching him, but for a few minutes he can’t go on. He clenches his left hand in a tight fist; his right in a weak one. It’s only been two months, and in the same timeframe, somehow, a hundred lifetimes. “I’m retired,” he says eventually.

“At 27?” Seifer muses. “Bit young.”

Zell breathes, the salty tang of the ocean air not as calming as it usually is to him. “Compulsory retirement,” he says finally, and he holds out his right hand so that Seifer can see the skin still rippled with scars, the three permanently-bent fingers, the ridges of bones that are not quite in the right place anymore. “Fractured all the bones in my hand on a mission up in Trabia,” he explains, thinking that it doesn’t get any easier to say no matter how many times he does it. “We were far up in the mountains, couldn’t get down in time to get it set right. So that was it for me.”

Seifer doesn’t say anything back right away, staring down at Zell’s crippled hand as though he’s not sure he’s seeing it right. “Sorry to hear it,” he says, shrugging casually, and Zell doesn’t want to look at him to see if he’s faking it or not. “What a shame. It’s been so long, I was hoping for a bit of a spar.”

His tone is mocking, and Zell grins wryly. “I still got one hand, which is more than enough to take you out, Almasy.”

“Are you looking for a fight?” Seifer laughs. “Because I’m always more than happy to prove you wrong about anything.”

“Nah,” is all Zell says in response. “I’m over fighting with you.”

He begins to wander up the walkway slowly, while the sun melts gradually into the western horizon, casting them in muted shades of red, purple, and finally black as the night settles in. Seifer stands unmoving in one spot, while Zell strolls absently up and down the pavement, drifting down toward the waterfront and then back up again, quiet. The docks used to be his favorite place to go to think, the smell of the ocean and the sound of the wind herding the waves to shore, but not anymore. Another line on the list of places he can’t go anymore after tonight.

“How did you escape?” Zell asks after a long while, ambling back toward Seifer in the end. “The Time Compressed world.”

Seifer thinks about the question, and sighs. “I had things to do,” he answers simply. “I couldn’t stay there.”

“Yeah, but, if you heard me,” Zell starts, hesitates for a tense moment, and continues, “calling for you, why didn’t you answer?”

It’s a few minutes more before Seifer answers him again. “I had things to do,” is all he says.

“You know, it’s like,” Zell gives a dry chuckle, folding his arms in front of his chest. “I really want to hate you, but I can’t, and that sucks even more.” The other man is silent, and Zell stomps up to him, suddenly angry, and for the first time in years, looks Seifer right in the face. “If you’d just stayed dead the first time,” Zell says, and never finishes.

“Had things to do, Dincht,” Seifer repeats. Zell tosses a quick left jab and his knuckles skim Seifer’s jaw, but before he can step back, Seifer moves forward and snatches his right arm, holding him in place just inches away.

“What, you’re just gonna hold me here?”

“I’d actually rather not be punched in the face by you tonight,” Seifer says coolly. “As I recall, it’s not that pleasant of an experience.”

“Yeah, well, you’re holding the wrong arm, mate,” Zell sneers back. All Seifer offers in response is a smile.

“I don’t think I am,” he says, and his hand slips down Zell’s arm, and his fingers rest gently on the back of Zell’s scarred hand. “That last time,” Seifer goes on softly. “On the beach in Dollet. You could’ve stopped me going.”

“I figured you didn’t want to be stopped,” Zell replies. Seifer nods in confirmation, and Zell finds himself glad that it’s so dark out that he can’t see the other man’s expression, nor hopefully can Seifer see his. “So what now, Seifer?” he wonders at length.

“Back to yours?” Seifer offers cheekily, and Zell can’t see it but he knows Seifer’s smirking. He snatches his hand back and crosses both arms over his chest, and if he can’t actually see Seifer’s expression of disappointment he can feel that it’s there, it’s almost in the air. He hears Seifer sigh, and then remark evenly, “If you want to walk away from me, you won’t see me again.”

“Is that a threat or a promise?” Zell shoots back weakly.

“It’s just a fact,” Seifer says, and leaves it at that.

Zell hesitates, for just a moment, thinking about what it would mean to not walk away right now - and for a split second he remembers sitting on a hard, stiff-backed couch in an unfamiliar Garden, and wondering to himself why he felt so empty and dark, why it hurt so much. A question he’d already asked himself far too many times in the past ten years. A question he would certainly be asking himself again in the morning.

And an hour later, when he’s still wandering aimlessly through the dark streets of Balamb alone, he thinks about never seeing Seifer again, and it’s not as bad as it was five times before.






~

originally posted to seiferzell


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