By: Chaos and Raven

A few days earlier, Seifer Almasy would have sworn up and down that the rest of his life was going to suck very, very hard. Due to the efforts of a few people he once tried to kill, however, the world grudgingly admitted that maybe he didn’t deserve to be drawn and quartered. It didn't change much. He was still mocked, ridiculed, and generally humiliated whenever he left Balamb Garden, but so long as he stayed inside he was tolerated and even feared a little. That was good enough for him, these days.

Almost everyone was celebrating the narrow miss to the end of the world, but Seifer was only privy to one party, and even then only because Edea had been insistent that he be treated kindly. He was fairly certain she felt guilty about her part in his fall from grace. Honestly, he thought that was absurd. He hadn’t somehow betrayed his personal code of honor in serving the sorceress, but both Edea and Odine had cooked up some crazy mind control theory. That was the only thing salvaging his reputation, so as a show of good faith he attended their little shindig.

It wasn't especially interesting. Despite the casual dress, the celebration still held a stiff, formal quality that was fairly common in Garden functions. Not that Seifer gave a damn. He was hiding in a corner, sitting at one of the heavily decorated tables and a good two-thirds of the way though his second bottle of champagne. He supposed, given his temperament, getting drunk wasn’t the brightest course of action, but it was that or try to make small talk with people he cared nothing about.

Selphie was running around accosting people with her video camera, but she had thankfully given his corner a miss after he glared at her. Squall and Rinoa had indiscreetly left a while ago to do some sort of unspeakable things to each other. Back when Rinoa would do unspeakable things with him, Seifer kind of liked the thought. With Squall mixed into that equation it gave him the heebie-jeebies. Across the room on the dance floor Irvine and Quistis were doing a kind of sexy flamenco and laughing like idiots. Zell had been choking down his beloved yakisoba sandwiches earlier but he was no longer in sight. Seifer fought back a smirk. Some things never changed.

"Guess who?" A voice sang out, and hands descended over his eyes.

Seifer reached up and tried to disengage his blindfold but found the grip too strong. "The only person I know who is suicidal enough to sneak up behind me is Selphie, but she doesn't have your grip, Dincht."

Zell blew a raspberry at him and the hands swung away. "Boring. You could have at least pretended to be surprised."

"Somehow, I don’t think surprising me would be particularly good for your health. What do you want, anyway?"

Zell plopped down on the floor and rested his head against the table leg. "I'm bored. Everyone else is doin’ something but me. Then I saw that you weren't doin’ anything either. Since misery loves company and all." He made a vague hand gesture which probably explained everything but that Seifer couldn’t quite decipher.

Seifer resisted the urge to mush down Zell's spiky blond hair. "You drunk, Chickenwuss?"

Zell gave an overloud bark of laughter, wobbling back and forth a bit, and Seifer had his answer. "Don’t call me that!"

"Sorry Chickenwuss, old habits,” Seifer said. He took a sip of his champagne and wondered how much Zell must have drank to get toasted on such a sissy beverage. Lightweight.

"I hate that nickname. I’m not a chicken or a wuss.”

Seifer chuckled a little, a sign that perhaps he ought to stop drinking lest he become chummy with Dincht. "I’m afraid you’re stuck with it until I find something you hate more," he said, infusing his voice with as much snide regret as he could manage. It was a tone he’d perfected to piss off teachers, but it worked equally well on Dincht and sometimes even Leonheart.

“Dickface,” Zell muttered and then punched Seifer in the shin.

It hurt enough to bruise but Seifer wasn’t going to be a sissy about it. Zell’s punches always left some kind of injury, even when they were younger. The slightly crooked line of his nose was Zell’s fault even though the scar across it attracted more attention.

There was a slight rustle of fabric as Zell disappeared beneath the tablecloth and then pressure against his shins. Seifer figured he could kick Zell out of the way if he really wanted to but it would undoubtedly leave him on his back and bring the rest of the room over to investigate. Not in his best interest, all things considered.

"What the fuck are you doing, moron?” Seifer asked, trying to tip his chair back far enough to see.

"Sitting, jerkoff,” Zell muttered. “And this way I don’t have to see your stupid smug face.”

"You could at least make yourself useful while you’re down there,” Seifer said.

There was a short pause and even without being able to see it Seifer knew exactly the expression on Zell’s face when he said, “Ew! Who knows what kind of gross STDs you have. Aw man, grody. I’d rip it off before I put your dick anywhere near my mouth.”

"Considering your proximity at this moment,” Seifer said, “I don’t necessarily believe you.”

As if to lend credence to Seifer’s teasing, Zell rested even more of his weight on Seifer’s legs instead of pulling away. There wasn’t anything sexy about Zell’s drunken dumbassery, but Seifer did rather like the thought of putting that annoying mouth to a better use. He frowned, eyeing his nearly empty bottle. Getting drunk did terrible things to his inhibitions -- more than he realized if he were seriously considering crybaby Zell for a sexual partner.

Zell snorted, wiggling around until he found a position that didn’t involve knees in his back. "Don't worry; your chastity is safe from me."

“Are you saying I’m not good enough for you?” Seifer asked. His verbal sparring skills also seemed to decrease dramatically with the consumption of alcohol. It was almost enough to abstain. Almost, except that everything the sober part of his brain said was a bad idea, the drunk part was growing increasingly fond of. Like Zell on the floor between his knees. Seifer slouched a little more and spread one leg out.

“Hey asswipe, I was using that.” Zell punched him in the leg again, this time harder. He unerringly found the same bruise he’d left before and Seifer flinched a little. “And yes, I’m way too good for a conceited, self-centered, conceited, big fat jerk like you.”

“You said ‘conceited’ twice.” Seifer said mildly.

Zell shifted his weight again, pressing his cheek against Seifer’s thigh. “Maybe you should read something into that then. Jerk.”

“Seriously though,” Seifer said. “I have better ways to spend my time than sitting around getting insulted by you all night. Are you going to buzz off any time soon or am I going to have to move you?”

“Better things like what?” Zell snorted. “Getting dunk by yourself in a corner?”

Whatever mental faculties Seifer had lost throughout the evening, it seemed that Zell had picked them up. Not that Zell was stupid exactly; he just had a habit of resorting to swearing and fighting instead of witty repartee. Seifer was very nearly impressed. That was probably the alcohol talking, though.

He gripped his bottle, resisting several warring impulses. “And if it was? What business is it of yours, Chickenwuss?”

“I’ve made it my business, duh. So, you can either get drunk with me, or…”

“Or what?” Seifer snapped. His eyes narrowed as he watched Instructor Trepe weave her way subtly towards his side of the room. She’d already targeted him or he would have slipped out the door before she could get close.

Zell shrugged, bringing Seifer’s attention back to their conversation. “I hadn’t got that far,” he admitted. “But you won’t like it!

Quistis stopped several paces from the table and curled her lip in disgust as she took in Seifer’s slouch and the nearly empty bottle beside him. “Have you nothing better to do than fill your body with toxins, Seifer?”

"Is there something in particular you want or are you inflicting yourself upon me out of general malice?" Seifer asked back. He’d accepted that most people were going to treat him like some sort of fungus, but that didn’t mean he’d take their crap.

“I'm looking for Zell.”

Against Seifer’s leg, Zell shook his head frantically. Seifer mooshed Zell’s hair down, placing one palm against Zell’s head to stop him from moving. It was nearly a toss-up as to who he’d prefer to piss off, but Zell was slightly more in his favor at the moment.

“And you came to me why?” Seifer ran his free hand through his hair, slanting his gaze across the room. Just in case Quistis was under the mistaken impression she had his full attention. “I'm not his baby-sitter.”

“It wasn't completely outside the realm of possibility that you might have seen him.” She sighed. “You don't always have to be so rude, Seifer.”

Seifer grit his teeth as Zell clenched his hands around Seifer’s calf with an iron grip. He smacked Zell as subtly as he could. While they weren’t exactly in a compromising position (which wasn’t true, they totally were), nothing good could come out of people (Quistis) finding Zell under Seifer’s table. “Give me a good enough reason not to and I’ll consider it. Until then, piss off.”

Quistis once again shot Seifer her most disapproving scowl. Her fan club would have wet themselves in glee but Seifer only sneered back. “If you see Zell, please tell him I need to speak with him.”

“Have a good night, Instructor,” Seifer replied, toasting her retreating figure with the champagne bottle. Beneath him, the grip on his pants loosened slightly and Zell sagged on Seifer’s leg in relief. Curious and curiouser. “You so owe me one, twerp.”

“No duh. Man, she’s fucking persistent.”

“What’d you do,” Seifer asked out of morbid curiosity, “short sheet her bed?”

Zell shook his head and heaved a big sigh. “I dunno if you know her, but there’s this chick that works in the library who I guess has a thing for me. Rinoa got it into her head that I totally need a girlfriend or whatever, and now none of the girls will leave me alone about it. I already tried to politely decline, but they think I’m being shy or some crap. It’s retarded.”

“That’s fucking pathetic, even for you Dincht. You should just turn the girl down.”

“I know! You’d think it’d be extra special easy, right?” Zell said. “But every time I wanna be like ‘hey, you have no personality, sorry I can’t date you’ somebody comes and fucks it up. I was totally going to do it tonight but then there was Selphie with her freaking video camera. Like I want that caught on film.”

“You’re completely retarded. Also, never tell a girl she has no personality, that’s shitty.”

Zell laughed, his whole body vibrating like a tuning fork. “Like you’re some sort of magical girl expert. Your last girlfriend dumped you for a guy with negative communication skills and bad fashion sense.”

“Low blow, Chickenwuss,” Seifer said with a frown. There was a pause where he probably could have thrown in a jab about Zell’s height. He wasn’t quick enough, and the moment passed.

“‘M sleepy,” Zell muttered a few minutes later. “Time ‘zit? Still early?” There was a loud thump followed by the most mournful sound Seifer had ever heard as Zell hit his head against the table while trying to stand.

“Are you gonna live, Chickenwuss? I really don’t want to be blamed for your death.”

“I don’t know,” Zell replied in a tragic wail. “I think I broke my head. Oh god, I still see stars...”

Seifer kicked back his chair and peered under the table. Zell was clutching his head in a miserable ball that was nearly as pitiful as it was hilarious. “How you make it out of your room every day is one of the world’s greatest mysteries. Come on, retard. You should probably get an icepack for that.” He carefully drew Zell out from his hiding place and propped him in a chair.

Zell sighed. “My brain is in a hundred thousand pieces right now. It’ll probably hemorrhage in my sleep and I’ll die.”

“You’re not going to die, drama queen. You aren’t even brain damaged. Though, it’s not like it would show if you were.” Seifer frowned. The infirmary was closed at night, except for emergencies which, despite the noises Zell was making, this probably wasn’t. He could leave Zell there and hope that someone else noticed that Zell was a little more punch drunk than usual. Of course, the entire congregation had studiously been avoiding Seifer’s section of the ballroom. It was more than likely that they’d recall he’d been there as well, and then he’d be blamed for Zell’s fatal head injury.

Seifer sighed. His night just kept getting better.

The room throbbed when Seifer opened his eyes the following day. Even through curtains, the early morning light was very bright and very caustic against his hangover. He groaned loudly, and hoped he’d been smart enough to leave a glass of water near the bed. Groping blindly, he nearly tipped the glass all over his night stand before getting it to his mouth. The water was lukewarm but still tasted amazing compared to the rotting garbage flavor that coated his tongue.

Considering he’d practically been drinking carbonated juice the entire night, it was something of an affront to his senses to have the worst hangover since the beginning of time. He swung his legs to the side, offering up a weak, squinty glare to the body occupying more than half of his already tiny dormitory bed. Hopefully Dincht hadn’t actually given himself a concussion because neither of them had made particularly sound medical judgments the night before.

“Go back to sleep, you fucker,” Zell muttered into his pillow. “Can’t you see I’m dying here?”

“Ah, sleeping beauty has awakened,” Seifer mused. “With her dubious honor intact.”

Zell lifted his head slightly, wincing at the movement, and glared at Seifer. “Go lick an electrical outlet,” he suggested.

Seifer didn't reply, but his slight smirk widened into a grin. He could feel his hangover getting better already. Zell was clearly a joy to be around in the mornings.

Zell slowly pushed himself into a sitting position, wincing and groaning like an old man. He sneered at Seifer’s unabashed nudity until he noticed his own equally exposed state. “What happened?" He croaked, looking even more like he was about to vomit. “And what did you do with my clothes?”

“What, you don’t remember?” Seifer couldn’t really pull off the sad and hurt combination he wanted, so he went for dismayed and slightly angry instead. “And here I thought I was special.”

Zell stared at Seifer with growing horror in his eyes. “Take it back, you shit. I don’t care how drunk I was, I would never, ever, ever fuck you.”

“Oh please.” Seifer sneered as he rummaged in his dresser for some pants. The effect was completely lost on Zell, unfortunately. “You accosted me while I was getting nicely toasted and proceeded to entertain yourself with my leg. Then you concussed yourself, forcing me to baby-sit you. Your clothes are presumably on the floor next to the bed because it’s intensely uncomfortable to sleep in denim and evidently you don’t believe in underwear.” Not that Seifer had any room to be casting stones on that last count. He wasn’t prone to constricting garments around his nethers either.

There was a telling silence behind him as Zell presumably verified his explanation with the fragments of memory left from the night before. Seifer had already decided that he was never going to indulge in champagne again. Not even tequila knocked him on his ass like that.

He smiled an intensely self-satisfied smile and turned back around, leaning casually against his dresser. “And also, you owe me a favor.”

Zell’s face turned an interesting shade of fuchsia. Seifer would guess that color meant about 80% furious and 20% embarrassed. “Perv! Could you have possibly made that sound any more like sexual favors?”

“Well, you do keep bringing it up,” Seifer said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “A less chivalrous man might read something into that.”

Zell hiked the sheets up a little higher on his torso, looking like he’d been forcibly deflowered in a romance novel type fashion. Not that Seifer was especially knowledgeable about such things. Sometimes, a man got bored, that was all.

“As much as I would like to pluck your delicate flower,” was as far as Seifer got with that particular thought before it struck him that it might actually be true. He’d made a point denying it before, but as he’d said, it kept getting mentioned. There really was no way he’d ever drink champagne again. It made him stupid, hung-over, and gay apparently. “Huh,” he said after a moment. “Want some coffee?”

Zell was staring at him like he’d lost his mind, and well, yeah; obviously he had a little bit. Probably, though, this wasn’t the worst idea he’d ever had. The champagne was the worst idea, according to his hangover. In theory, a potion would clear up about 85% of his dehydration. Caffeine and breakfast would cure the rest, although a real breakfast would have to wait for now. He’d only broken dormitory regulations enough to have a hotplate for making coffee.

The potions were in his desk drawer. He kept an extra stash of them there, aside from the ones he wore with his coat. You never knew when you might need a potion, he thought. He drank half of one and wiggled the bottle enticingly at Zell. Zell took it grudgingly but thanked him anyway.

It was comforting that they were both still unclothed, even if Zell still had the sheets wrapped around himself like a sissy. They were both guys, no reason to be modest. Nothing that hadn’t seen a hundred times before in a locker room. Seifer was some what regretting that he’d never bothered to take a closer look.

“About sex,” Seifer didn’t say. He thought about it instead, contemplating whether or not there was a good way to bring it up. The answer (to both quandaries) was probably no. He wondered what specifically Zell had against him, and how easy it might be to overlook. People generally found him charming, or at least attractive, so it wasn’t like he had nothing going for himself.

“So, what do you say?” Seifer asked eventually. “You, me, clothing already conveniently on the floor. It’s clearly a recipe for success.”

“You have completely lost your mind,” Zell said, looking warily towards his clothes. He was probably thinking about making a break for it, but Seifer didn’t think he would. “Where does that type of leap of logic even come from? I’m really not going to have sex with you.”

Seifer frowned. He had been hoping he wouldn’t have to try to talk Zell into it. “Why not? It’ll be fun.” Probably, anyway. He was a little hazy on all the mechanics of the act but it couldn’t be too complicated.

“Oh my god, fuck off and die,” Zell said, sliding to the other side of the bed and grabbing at his things on the floor. It looked like Seifer had pissed him off again. “You spend about five minutes being a decent human being and then shit all over it! I’m not going to get with someone who I can guarantee is going to treat me like crap. I wouldn’t take that from you, or anyone for that matter.”

Seifer pursed his lips, watching in disappointment as Zell tugged his shorts on. That had been his biggest advantage. “I could probably make it to fifteen minutes without too much trouble,” Seifer said.

“The answer is still no! You are totally brain damaged.” Zell dropped his arms which had been about to put his shirt on. “I’m not just going to do it on your say-so. Do you really think I’m that easy?”

Seifer hadn’t actually thought that deeply about it at all. His preference ran towards instant personal gratification. If he had considered their situation, it would have been obvious how such a thing would be impossible with Zell in the mix.

It was on the tip of his tongue to say “I was hoping” but Seifer did have some self preservation. Zell wasn’t just insanely fast; he was also easily strong enough to take down someone twice his size in one hit. Seifer wasn’t keen to have it happen again. “What’s the problem then? You want roses and moonlit walks?” Seifer asked, crossing his arms over his bare chest. “Fine then. We can go on a date right now.”

Not that Seifer really knew anything about dating. Rinoa had been in charge of their relationship and he’d gone along with it for the making out. It hadn’t occurred to him until just then that most relationships probably didn’t work that way.

Zell stared; his face had been stuck in the ‘you are the biggest moron on the planet’ expression for a while now. It was kind of insulting, really. There was a limit to how much Seifer was willing to be dissed, even for this.

“Look,” Seifer said, intending to make some sort of brilliant point when the “bweeep, bweeeeeep” of the Garden’s fire alarm interrupted him. He narrowed his eyes menacingly at the ceiling, where the sound seemed to emanate from. “I’d better see towers of smoke, is all I have to say about this,” he said, marching to the door.

Behind him, Zell scrambled for their shoes and Seifer’s discarded pants. “You fucking lunatic, you can’t just go out there naked!”

There weren’t many people in the halls yet, but it was still early. Most students were likely recovering from the over indulgence the night before. Seifer could already smell the smoke just outside the dorms, so at least it wasn’t a drill or something absurd like that. Some heads would have rolled, if that were the case.

Seifer nodded absently at the few people he saw making their way to the front gates, ignoring the horrified stares. He could hear Zell cursing as he tried to put his shoes on while his arms were full.

“You’re going to crack your head open again if you keep tripping yourself, Chickenwuss,” Seifer said, barely pausing to check behind himself. There was a cluster of girls just outside the door who were blushing and giggling into their palms.

“Whose fucking fault would that be?” Zell yelled, finally catching up. He chucked the pants at Seifer’s head and visibly restrained himself from following with the heavy boots.

Seifer winced as the zipper stung his cheek. He wondered if it left a mark. Not that he was vain, but he’d have to get Zell back if it did. It was chilly outside in the pre-noon light, and the breeze carried the faint scent of smoke on it. Students continued to steadily exit the building, and the alarm screeched continuously in the background. Seifer folded his pants and tucked them under one arm.

Zell punched him in the kidney.

It was probably a bad sign that he thought it was more cute than abusive. “Knock it off, Chickenwuss,” he said. He’d spotted Squall exiting the building and he wasn’t really interested in putting his pants back on until he saw the look on Squall’s face. It was sure to be amazing.

“You… Argh. You’re impossible! Put your fucking pants on, Almasy! There are kids here who don’t need to see your junk in all it’s naked glory,” Zell said in a voice that carried all across the front courtyard.

Anyone who hadn’t noticed Seifer’s nudity was now staring at them with big googly eyes. “I don’t think they heard you in Esthar, Dincht. What was that?”

Zell’s face was that lovely shade of pink that meant he was about to blow a gasket or more probably kill someone. “I said that no one needs to see your giant white ass, you fucking nudist. Put your pants on! I brought them for a reason.”

Seifer had let his guard down; paying more attention to the fact that Zell was talking about his manly bits than the people around him. He would have to work on that, he decided when Squall said, “Is there a problem?” from directly behind him.

They both turned, Seifer with his most obnoxious and ingratiating smile prepared. “Not at all, sir. Dincht was just reminding me that my attire isn’t appropriate for all the young and impressionable minds here. Fortunately, he’s much more of a morning person than I am and he was considerate enough to grab my pants as we were leaving.”

“I’m going to kill you,” Zell growled under his breath. “I’m going to kill you very slowly.”

“I see,” Squall replied carefully. His jaw seemed to tighten and his eyebrows pulled together in a slight frown. “I’m sure we’d all appreciate it if you’d take his advice.”

Rolling his eyes as Commander Killjoy stalked off, Seifer finally did as he’d been asked and tugged his pants on. It was, admittedly, a relief from the chill air, though he hadn’t noticed the cold until then. There was still an excess of prurient interest directed towards them but Seifer took that as his due. It was better than the usual antipathy.

“You’re deranged,” Zell said, briskly rubbing his arms.

“Come on,” Seifer said with a grin, “that was pretty funny. Also, I’m pretty sure every girl in Garden now thinks we’re sleeping together.” Seifer ran a hand through his hair, trying to tell if he had bed head or not. It was pretty difficult for people to take you seriously when your hair was flat on one side. Not that Seifer was about to tell Zell that because Zell actually looked pretty cute with mussed up hair. It would be a pity if he went off looking for hairspray now.

Zell groaned because yeah, that was pretty true after their display. “Fucking hell. I’m never going to get a date again. Jackass. You couldn’t have found a more appropriate time to play nudist? Like, some time when I wasn’t actually around?”

“It’s all a part of my sinister plan,” Seifer said, which was a lie because he couldn’t come up with a sinister plan if his life depended on it. Acting out sinister plans worked okay, but actually thinking them up? That was pretty boring. Better to leave it to people who had the aptitude.

Zell knew this, evidently, and said, “You’re so full of crap.”

They all stood around in front of the main entrance, waiting for the ‘all clear’ sign. There were some teachers milling around, and Seifer was pretty sure he saw Quistis in her nightie, but it was impossible to tell for sure. He was going to pretend he had and tease her about it later, regardless.

By that time, he was pretty sure that whatever it had been, they were over-reacting. Probably someone got caught smoking and dropped their cigarette or something equally absurd. He wanted breakfast, and to curl back up in bed. Maybe this time to actually appreciate Zell’s nudity against him. It was unfortunate, he thought, that his (he hesitated to call them “feelings”) interest in Zell didn’t occur to him last night when he might have taken drunken advantage.

On the other hand, it presented a unique challenge. Zell resisted Seifer’s slight advances earlier but that didn’t rule out a case of bad timing. Hope sprung eternal, and all that business.

The intercom chime sounded, and Cid’s voice rang out over the courtyard. “I apologize for the disruption this early on a weekend. The fire has been contained at this time, so please return to your dormitories. Also, please be considerate of the faculty members who are cleaning up the final remnants of the fire by staying out of their way.”

Seifer tipped his head at Zell and walked back inside. If he was lucky, Zell would follow his lead. If not, he could try his hand at sinister plans on a small scale. It wouldn’t be his preference of course. Seifer liked things to be simple, point A to point B. When there was a lot of complication in the middle he tended to lose interest.

Zell caught up to him part way across the quad. “The upside to you being a moron,” he said, “is that the piranhas seem to have moved on.”

“I think you can probably stop trashing my intellect now,” Seifer replied. “You’re no Professor Odine yourself.”

“Thank god for that. Have you met that guy? He skeeves me so bad.” Zell shuddered dramatically. “Every time he opens his mouth I just want to punch him. It’s worse than you, even.”

Seifer grinned and slung his arm over Zell’s shoulders. He fit neatly there, and his skin was cool from the air outside. “I was thinking brunch, what about you?” Seifer asked. “It’s still early, so I bet we could get to Balamb in time.”

Zell shook his head and reluctantly grinned back. “I’m not going to put out, I hope you realize that,” he said.

Not yet, Seifer thought. He wasn’t used to being patient, but it might be a fun game to play for a while. Eventually, Zell’s refusal would just be a force of habit. Maybe not today, maybe not even next week. Seifer was willing to wait. Just this once.