Author's Note: OK, I'm a beginner. This is my first attempt at writing FF8 fiction and I'd like feedback if you care. Maybe I should tackle a shorter fic, not a super long one with 7 different characters and 7 different perspectives and 5 or more major problems going on at the same time. But hey.

Barbed Wire

Part I: Discoveries

By Jamaica

Irvine:

Summer at Balamb Garden was unbearable.

It's not half as bad Esthar, though, but Esthar with all of its high-tech equipments and that huge protective barrier could get rid of the heat quite easily. Gotta give it to Laguna to run the city as smoothly as he did. But here at Balamb, all we students and teachers could do was to wear as little clothing as possible, which wasn't easy considering our uniforms were all long-sleeves and we're required to wear pants, not shorts, except for the females. Why did they get to walk around in those my-god-I-can-so-see-your-underwear mini-skirts while us men had to be stuck in this sticky, hot piece of crap?

And the odd thing is that no one was complaining besides me!

I sighed and dried my hair with a towel. I had just finished training at the Training Centre with a huge T-Rex. Is it just me or those T-Rex are getting bigger and bigger and hurt more each time I fought them? I barely defeated it with Diablos and Alexander combined, whereas only Diablos would suffice before. Levelling up sure has its downsides.

I put on my pyjamas and jumped into bed. I didn't dare leave the window open, even though I desperately needed the air. Only hot steam would soar in, not cool night air you would expect in Deling City. Now that's a good town to live in.

Call me biased. Hey, I spent most of my 19 years living there. There's gotta be a bond forming simply from that. I wondered around to the Galbadia Garden sometimes, but my home didn't belong in Garden. If it did, wouldn't you think I'd be a SeeD already?

Suddenly I heard a groan coming from next door. Ha, Squall's getting it on with Rinoa again. Wait a minute, wait, he couldn't be. Rinoa was in Deling City right now; she said her father called. Well, she didn't exactly use that term, but it's the same person, only different names. So who's Squall banging right now? From the sound of it, it seemed pretty good.

Actually, I wouldn't know. Believe this or not, I'm still a virgin. Yeah, shocking, huh? Everyone here at Balamb Garden thinks I sleep with someone different every night. Yeah, right. So I flirt and hit on people like crazy. Hey, it's fun. But I had never touched a girl. Or guy, although I am pretty positive I travel down a straight road. It's usually guys giving me the eye, not the other way around. But try to tell these things to any of my friends and they'd laugh in your face. So I just quit after a while. The only person seemed to believe me a little was Quistis. But just a little.

Anyways, these walls at Garden were not very soundproof. When Rinoa first came here, I could hear them as clear as anything. It's annoying. People do want to sleep, you know? But after about 3 months or so, it stopped. Just suddenly Rinoa stopped coming to Squall's room. They still kissed and hugged and all that in the hallways, but no more night action. I didn't ask. Someone's private life is a dangerous ground to be walking on. Especially Squall's.

Another groan. Geez, I think I'd sleep better in the Training Centre with Grats and T-Rex's roaring beside me. Maybe I should move my bed. Oh, wait, these beds are nailed on the floor. Dang it.

I was about to knock on the wall to silence them at least a little until I heard a new voice. My hand froze in mid air and my eyes widened. This voice was male, and it's not Squall's.

It's male and it's not Squall's.

I blinked. Their cries were getting even louder. Huh. I sat up straighter and continued to listen. Maybe I could figure out who the other guy was by his voice. Dude, that sentence just sounded so weird. Squall's gay?

Maybe that's why Rinoa stopped visiting him. The hallway display was just for show. He became headmaster now since Cid retired. He probably needed a normal image. And banging guys in the middle of the night is not quite normal for the average minds.

Me? I don't give. The world is a weird place and whatever he wanted to do is none of my business. Unless, of course, he's keeping me up and I really really wanted to go to sleep.

They're calling out each other's name now. Great. Please stop. It's not like there's nobody else besides me and them in this sector. Oh, wait, there was nobody else besides us in this sector. Squall, being headmaster, had his own sector. The only reason I was here was because I joined the Garden relatively late and they ran out of dorm rooms. They couldn't put me in the Junior classmen's place even though they came after me, some rules said something about that. So I had to share it with Squall.

And with whoever was banging Squall really good right now. I could hear everything so clearly, except for the person's name. Jesus, come on. At least I should know who was depriving me of my sleep!

I put my ears to the wall. I could hear the other person's voice as clear as anything now. But names, people, names!! The voice was a rich baritone. Think. Who had a rich baritone like that here? I assumed it was someone from Garden because no civilians could get in at this hour. Or should.

Whoa. Hold on. I heard it.

I heard it very vaguely. But, but I was pretty sure that's it.

But... that's impossible. It couldn't be. Not him!

But...

But...

The name from Squall's lips was "Seifer".

Squall:

"Oh God... Seifer..." I groaned. I didn't know how loud I was. I didn't care. The heat from his body and from the surrounding atmosphere was driving me insane.

He kissed me hard on the lips. I struggled under him vainly; knowing him being both taller and heavier there's no way I could escape. And why would I want to? After all these years of tension between us, we finally figured out where it was coming from.

I had always seen Seifer as my ultimate rival. With good reason, too, considering whenever we saw each other it always ended in fighting. Just look at my scar, and his. And the entire Ultimecia incident did not help much, either.

But after her defeat, everything changed.

I guess Time Compression forced back all of our memories. I could remember things back when I was 5 years old and living in the Orphanage with Matron. Sis would be watering the flowers in the garden and talking with Quistis. Zell and Selphie and Irvine would run around, playing chase or tag, and Zell would somehow trip and hit his head or scrap his knee. Then Matron would come and patch him up. Seifer would pick on him then, and I would always defend him. And there goes another fight.

We really hated each other back then. I mean, how much do you know about your sexuality when you were five? I always wanted to beat him, to surpass him, and he thought of the same thing of me.

When exactly did things start to change? I didn't know. GF erased my old memories and my old feelings. But after I got it back...

I really did thought I was in love with Rinoa. We seemed to be perfect for each other. I actually thought of proposing to her a few months after the defeat of Ultimecia. But then old feelings rushed back. Feeling acquired when I was in the early teens. Feelings that I no longer remembered I have, or thought I ever had.

I tried ignoring it for a couple of weeks. I thought it's just hormones running wild. Nothing more.

Wrong. Dead wrong in the centre.

"You're gone again," Seifer's voice brought me back to the present. "How many times do you do that each day?"

I smiled at him. "I was thinking about you."

"Oh really?" His eyes danced mischievously. "What about me?"

"How you were so mean to Zell when we were little," I ran my fingers down his chest. "And how I hated you back then."

He pushed my hand away. "So what changed?"

"You."

A sudden seriousness crept into Seifer's eyes. Oh those beautiful eyes ranging from blue to green. I could get lost in there.

He sighed softly and pushed himself up, off of me. He started to walk toward the bathroom.

"Was it something I said?" I called after him.

"No," He replied. "It's too hot."

It indeed was. The bed cover was pretty much soaked with our sweat and other stuff. I felt icky just lying there. Unfortunately, I had only one clean sheet. I didn't know Seifer's casual visit would turn into this.

Seifer re-emerged from the bathroom wiping himself with a towel. Another towel was draped on his shoulder. He threw it at me. "Clean up. You look like you've been attacked by a Blobra."

"You're not much better off." I wiped off my sweat while climbing off the bed to search for my pyjamas. They were somewhere in this room, I was sure. I just needed to find it.

"Aha!" I exclaimed as I successfully retrieved my clothing. They were dry, thank goodness. I couldn't imagine wearing something wet to sleep. That bed alone was enough.

"You're not planning to sleep on that thing, are you?" Seifer asked me as he pulled on his pants. "It doesn't look too comfortable."

"What am I going to do about it?" I asked back.

"You can sleep in my room," That mischievous smile was on his face again.

"Right. And tomorrow morning all Garden would know about us. Can't allow that to happen."

"And why not?"

"Because it can't." I said exasperatedly. I did not feel like explaining it to him again. He wouldn't understand anyways.

"Because you're scared of what people'll say?"

"Because some things are best left unknown." I stripped the cover off my bed and threw them in a bag by the corner. Laundry day would have to come a day sooner.

Without warning, Seifer grabbed both of my wrists, forced me to turn around to face him, and backed me up to my wall, hard.

Seifer:

I pushed his hands above his head so he couldn't resist or hit me. His face was full of surprise and he instinctively tried to break it off. No way he's backing out this time.

"That is bullshit," I told him clearly. "You're not gonna get away with that reason right now. Tell me the real reason why you want to keep this under. Because I am so fucking tired of hiding."

His blue-grey eyes burned into mine. Great, he's talking without talking to me again. It happened many times before. No wonder he thought I wouldn't understand. Would you be able to understand what someone's trying to say just by looking at his eyes? Short answers, maybe. But not long complicated explanations like the one he needed to offer me. And he needed to offer me it right now.

"Squall!" I exclaimed. I knew my hands were hurting his wrists, but he needed to talk. He had to talk. With his mouth.

"I... it... can't be helped." He managed.

"What can't be helped?!" Boy, I was getting angry. This was one of the few things we argue about now. But it got to me so much every time.

"Seifer, I can't."

I growled. I felt like slapping him, but I didn't. Huh, maybe I did change like he said. I knew if this was 3 years ago, he would be bleeding and bruised and lying on the floor. But he's fine now. And I still can't get crap from his mouth.

Did I change for the better or worse, I don't know.

"Seifer, please..." his tone changed. Oh, shit, don't do that. Don't look at me with that look in your eyes. The half-begging half-hoping look. I can't stand it. I never have to stand it before because he never looked at me that way before. I always picked on him, and he always looked defiant and stubborn. Then we'd fight like hell. Then Quistis or someone had to break us up like hell. His eyes never carried that look at me. Ever.

Until a year ago.

Until I got my memories back. And he his. Every single piece of memory, whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes I still curse at that bitch Ultimecia and her damn Time Compression. Not because she brainwashed me, but because she gave everything back to me. Everything. Including...

Well, let's leave it at that. This year felt like heaven. Seriously. I never thought I'd feel this way about anyone. Or would ever feel this way, period. But, I did.

Squall was hesitant when I first found him. He had just been made Headmaster, and the pressure was still at its peak. He didn't want to get tangled in something so complicated yet. So he didn't. Plus, Rinoa was still his very close girlfriend. But after a while, I guess he finally accepted it and they distanced. They're still close to the untrained eye, but I knew better.

I should know better, damn it. I knew the exact date when they stopped sleeping together. And I remembered the exact date when he called me into his room.

Now that's heaven.

Made me wonder what he saw in Rinoa in the first place. It always made me wonder, since he deserved better than that slut. Yes, slut. And I'm being generous at that term giving that she hadn't done anything to deserve the title "whore" yet.

I mean, come on! When I first met Rinoa, I thought she's wonderful, like any other young man would. She's delightful and sweet and energetic. And she got a nice body. What's not to love? Unfortunately, her attention-giving habit was like a constant thing, and not at one person, I'll tell you that.

I went to Timber's TV station and risked my head for her cause. It's a good cause, I admit. But I did that for her. Noble, huh? Well, then, a few days later, she thought I was dead. Actually, Squall told her I was not dead, but still, what did she do? Ran straight into my archenemy's arms. Literally. I mean, I deserve a little bit mourning time than that, don't I? Days?

So that pissed me off. Her flirting with others after her thing with Squall was not nonexistent, either. Irvine told me this when we're just talking about stuff. Yeah, I get along with all of them people pretty okay now. Anyway, her attempt to "scratch" Irvine to death was not what you call clean. He told me himself, and coming from a guy with a reputation like him, that's pretty bad. I've also noticed her behaviour around Zell. Subtler, yes, but still noticeable. Just watch the way she put her hands behind her back, lower her chest to show her pretty nice cleavage, and then attempt to have a conversation with Zell. Yeah, right, he's not that stupid. Nobody's that stupid.

Squall didn't say a word about all those. I know he knew, but chose to ignore it. I don't know what Rinoa's trying to accomplish. Did she plan to get inside the pants of all of us guys from the orphanage because she felt left out or what?

I tore myself away from these random thoughts and found myself facing those eyes again. Damn him. Damn him. Stop.

I felt my hands lightened up on his wrists. I wanted to kiss him so badly right now, for he looked so vulnerable. Squall looking vulnerable, since when? But since when did I become so soft-hearted?

My lips brushed lightly against his. Then I gave in and kissed him with full passion. After we were both rendered breathless, I let him go and turned toward the door.

"Seifer -" Squall started. But I raised my hand to silence him. I know what he was going to say. I didn't need to hear it again.

I slowed my breathing down, then I picked up my nightshirt and walked out his door.

Quistis:

A door clicked somewhere down the hall. Then light footsteps followed. Who would be up at two o'clock in the morning?

My hearing had improved greatly these days. Probably because of Siren. She's junctioned to me all the time. We each had our designated GFs now, instead of switching between members. Mine were always going to be Siren, Leviathan, and Doomtrain. I like this combination. It's very well balanced. And the only side effects were positive ones like the improved hearing. Memory loss was no longer an issue. Time Compression altered many things, including natures of GF. How odd yet useful.

I waited until the footsteps passed my door before I opened a crack and peeked. It was Seifer. Coming from Squall's room, I guess.

Yes, I know many things that were going on in this Garden. I know the way Squall and Seifer's friendship were going that it's becoming more than friendship. Although they hid it well from the rest of the student body, it didn't go past me. From the heatless eyes of Squall whenever he was with Rinoa, and vice versa, I could tell she knows, too. Of course she knows. She's not na´ve and Squall, being as self-conscious and guilt-ridden as he normally is, would have told her already.

Rinoa wouldn't care that much. She had given herself many other fresh opportunities around here. That I know, too.

I sighed slightly and went back to sit on my bed. I was having a severe case of insomnia right now. For what reason, I didn't know. My mind somehow wondered to the couples formed from our little orphanage group. Irvine and Selphie. Zell and his girlfriend, what was her name again? I could never remember. Then there's the complicated triangle between Squall, Seifer, and Rinoa. I hope they sort it out.

A sudden case of loneliness enveloped me. I was still alone. Yes, even though I always have the Trepies worshipping me like I'm some kind of goddess. How ridiculous. They admire my skills as a fighter and a few men admire my beauty. Ha, I know what I look like and it's nothing special to be pondered about.

And I also know there were plenty of other students who nonchalantly gave me the nickname "The Bitch from Hell." I knew my own reputations here, too, not just the good ones.

Dr. Kadowaki had asked me to be her assistant in the infirmary. I agreed. I felt useless anyway after my demoting to SeeD from instructor. Now the Sorceress was gone, SeeD had really become the Elite Mercenary that we once put up as a cover. Dr. Kadowaki was going to retire soon, after the footsteps of Cid. I had a feeling the future doctor of Balamb Garden would be me.

That scared me more than anything else. Me, a doctor? I'm a warrior, not a caregiver. At least I did not think so.

I shivered despite the sweltering heat. Oh, I longed for an arm around me. Strong arms where I can hold on to and then put my head to his chest. And feel safe.

I remember when Squall went to rescue Rinoa. It didn't matter what happened to them now, but then, they loved each other. I still remember that single thought when Squall rushed in the Sorceress Memorial and broke the machine with his Lionheart: I wonder if anyone would do this for me. That was the only thought I had in my mind then. It's selfish, I know. I should be happy that they pulled through and everything was all right. I should be happy for them, but I couldn't.

I couldn't.

I felt so empty. Watching the two lovers fell in each other's arms, I could only feel the stinging and empty pain. Not because of my affections for Squall. But the sight and my vacant heart did not mix well.

I chuckled softly to myself. How could I even think of being the doctor? Doctors need a lot of emotional training, especially in a place like this. I couldn't even take the simple emotion of rejection. Rinoa would be better at this than I am. She took Squall's rejection exceptionally well. She had back- ups, perhaps, but still.

Such pain. Such pain.

I rubbed my pounding temples with my fingers. Insomnia could really mess you up. I needed a break. I couldn't handle being here, in the Garden, anymore. There wasn't much for me to do, considering Dr. Kadowaki was still here and SeeD missions decreased drastically after the return of peace. In an atmosphere like this, one tended to think too much.

Perhaps I should go visit Matron and Sis down at Centra. Oh, pardon me, they're known as Edea and Ellone by now, right? I could never change the habit of calling them as we called them when we're little. Those were the carefree days. I loved it. I longed to travel back in time, but, after Ultimecia time travel seemed to have lost its lustre for all of us.

"Bling!"

The ring of my videophone jolted me out of thought. I glanced at the address; it was from Deling City. Who in the world would call me at way past two in the morning from Deling City? It's probably even later than that over there, considering the time zone change. I reached lazily over to the phone and switched it on.

It was Rinoa.

"Speak of the devil," I murmured under my breath. She couldn't hear me because I hadn't hit the "accept" button yet.

"Quistis?" She asked.

"Yes?"

"I, uh, I have a problem."

And she decided to tell me at this hour? Ugh, why did I have to be so mean to her naturally? I forced my tone down to a pleasant scale and asked, "Okay, what is it?"

Rinoa nervously twitched her necklace. "My, uh, that man, um, no, actually, that woman, well, anyways, I need to talk to Squall."

"Then why don't you just call him in his room?" I frowned slightly. Squall had a videophone, too.

"I... can't." She was really stumbling. "I need to talk to someone about him, and then I can talk to him."

"About what?"

Then she told me something that I nearly fell off the bed.

Rinoa:

"I need to marry him,"

I watched my words take its toll. Quistis' eyes were wide as saucers and she nearly tumbled down on the floor.

I didn't blame her. My own reaction was worse than this. When that woman told me, with that man, that I needed to marry Squall, I was screaming "What?!" on the top of my lungs and backing away. They expected that reaction, so they weren't spooked at all and continued to tell me that in a super steady voice. I needed to marry Squall.

Why? I asked them.

Why, isn't that what you always wanted, dear? That woman said to me in her false lovely tone. He is your true love and you like to marry him some day, right? Why not now?

They didn't know about us. I never told either of them about our, or our lack there of, emotions. Squall was gay. Period. He was in love with Seifer. Period. I was a decoy so the students at Balamb Garden wouldn't look at him funny and lose their respect for the headmaster. Period.

Nothing else.

I wasn't hurt as badly as I thought I would be, which was surprising. In fact, I found myself a new boyfriend only months after our break-up. Nobody knows him. He kept his mouth shut about everything, so I know I can trust him. Squall didn't even know he existed until I decided to tell him because, well, I should. His mind was too focused on Seifer.

I can't marry him. I don't love him anymore! I yelled at those two people. And neither does he!

That woman narrowed her eyes. She looked so evil when she does that. You have to marry him.

Why?

Because you have no choice.

Why?

Then she told me why. And I froze. I couldn't believe my ears. No way. No way!

No way! I exclaimed at her.

Yes. It's true. I know it's true. You have to marry him. Or else.

"M-Marry him?" Quistis' voice quivered. "Why all of a sudden you decided you need to marry him?"

"I didn't decide it! Those two people decided it!" I exclaimed. I was frustrated. And scared. Quistis didn't understand.

"Your father and your stepmother?"

"Yes."

"They don't know?"

I sighed. "I never told them anything. They couldn't take it. The reason they want me to marry Squall is so I can stay at Balamb and never return to Deling City. That woman hates me. I'm not a SeeD. So the only other choice was to become the Headmistress. Or they'll have to support my life when I get back here." This was true. But it's not the main reason.

"But, but you know Squall won't marry you, right?" Quistis' eyes were darting everywhere but at the computer screen. She was lost. Heck, I was lost myself.

"He has to, one way or another," my voice sounded steady and calm all of a sudden. This was it. News breaking time.

Quistis noticed the difference in my tone. She narrowed her eyes and stared at me. Then she seemed to realize something and stared at me in disbelief, but I knew she believed every part of it.

She's quite keen about everything. No wonder they called her the child prodigy.

"You're pregnant, aren't you?"

I nodded silently.

"You stepmother found out about it, didn't she?"

Yes.

"It's not Squall's, right?"

Right.

"But you didn't tell them. And no one else knows. Does the father know?"

No. I didn't know until she told me.

"So they're forcing you to marry him. And you have no choice but to do that. Because if you don't, what'll happen?"

"They'll invade the Garden to punish Squall for getting me pregnant."

Quistis laughed ironically. "Wonderful. Wonderful. Have you considered telling them the truth?"

"I can't. They won't believe me. They don't know anything that's been going on for the past year. Nothing."

She sighed heavily. "Well, what do you want me to do now?"

"Can you come to Deling City soon? Bring Squall and the rest of our friends and we'll meet somewhere and then we can discuss the matter. Please?"

They were my last hope. I didn't know what to do.

"Who's the father?"

"Ryan Sullivan."

Quistis nodded slightly. "I know who he is. He seems to be a very responsible and nice person. If he finds out, do you think he'll do anything irrational?"

"No, of course not." Not Ryan. I know Ryan. And he knows me.

"Positive?"

Positive.

"Okay, I'll see what I can do. Then I'll contact you."

"Thanks." A lot.

Quistis reached over and turned off the receiver. But right before the screen faded, her expression suddenly turned to shock. Her face turned toward the door as if listening to something. Then she bolted out the room.

What's going on?

Zell:

The first thing I saw on my desk was a pile of letters. Kinda late for delivery, ain't it? The one on top was from Ma.

Ma? She didn't need to mail me nothing. I could just drop by whenever. I mean, it's Balamb. How far is that?

Then I looked at the letter closely. The handwriting didn't look like Ma's. But it was definitely from my house. Frickin' hell?

I tore the letter open. Ah, it's from Big Bad Rascal's Mom. What did he do this time? I betcha it's some big mess that I gotta fix again. That boy just couldn't stay out of trouble. And I was always the one who fix it. Me.

Kinda ironic, but hey.

I plopped down on a chair and started to read the letter. It's all written in red ink. Urgent, I guess.

Dear Zell:

This is Rascal's mom writing in place for your ma. Hurry and get here. She won't listen to you and went to get the clover herself and got stung by a bite bug. I can't cure her. This seemed to be a very high level bug and require some urgent magic. I don't know what to do and she's not in good shape. Help. NOW..

What?

WHAT?!

I scanned the letter twice before it dawned on me. Ma. Ma!

"Ma! NO!" I screamed loud and jumped up. Damn. Damn.

Why didn't she listen to me? Good God why? She needed the clover to mend my gloves. I told her I would get it myself! I told her!! No, she gotta go by herself. Now look what happened.

I growled angrily and threw my fists around. I grabbed some stuff quickly and bolted out the door, slammed it behind me.

I know it's after Garden hours and I shouldn't go anywhere. I didn't care. I really didn't give a damn anymore. Ma's sick and I needed to get there.

Now.

"Zell!" Somebody's yelling behind me.

Sorry, I ain't gonna slow down. I must go straight home.

"Zell! Where are you going? What happened?" It was Quistis.

"I gotta go home!" I yelled back at her.

"Why?" She caught up with me. "What happened?"

"Ma got sick. I gotta go! Don't stop me!" I was halfway down the hall by now. Don't try to stop me. Please.

She didn't. Instead, she ran along side with me.

Oh, yeah, she's the doctor assistant now, huh? This counted as emergency, right?

"HEY!!" Another shrill voice sounded far behind us. I think it's Selphie. Geez, my outburst must've pretty damn loud. Oh, well.

Couldn't care less now.

"WAIT UP! YOU GUYS! WHAT'S UP?"

If I didn't wake up the whole school, she sure as hell did.

The door was right in front of us. I zoomed through the security bars and crashed out to the yard. Come on, faster!

"What happened?" Quistis asked me between breaths of air. She's still keeping up with me? Daw, girl.

"Ma got bitten by a nasty old Bite Bug," I answered.

"Oh,"

Nothing more. We flew out the door and onto the road. Balamb, 10 minutes away. I betta make it in five or else.

The night was pretty quiet besides for one or two bugs buzzing around. Those damn bugs. I swear I will kill every single one of them when I get the chance. Just ya wait.

There's the town. Man, my leg's gettin' tired. Come on, man, you can do it!

I felt like the streets blurred and then I crashed into my door. "Ma!" I yelled out and dashed to my room.

"Shhh!! Zell!" Quistis warned me. Oh, yeah, Ma could be sleepin'. Oops. Where was she?

"Zell!! Thank goodness you're here!" That's Big Bad Rascal's mom. I stepped in the room where her voice generated.

"Where's Ma?"

"Upstairs," She led me quickly toward my room.

"HEY! GUYS!" Selphie's voice shrilled downstairs. How did she get here so quick?

"Up here! Shhh, Selphie!" Quistis called down there. I looked at the person lying on the bed, and stumbled backwards.

Ma looked horrible.

Her skin was so poisoned it looked blue. Sweat dropped off her forehead. There was a huge bruise on her left arm, probably where the damn bug bit her. She was twisting and turning. Her body was feverishly hot.

Good God help me.

"Ma?" I knelt down beside her. I used Esuna magic and a couple of Remedies. No change at all.

"I tried all the store-bought drugs. None worked. What is going on?" Rascal's mom asked worriedly.

"Mega mega bummer," Selphie exclaimed. "This doesn't look good."

No shit. What was I supposed to do? I felt something hot rolling in my eyes. Then it fell off my cheeks. Jesus, can't cry. I can't cry.

Quistis knelt beside me. She took out a bottle of Elixir and tried it on Ma.

Nothing.

Damn it all!

Damn it all!!!

Selphie:

Mrs. Dincht looked so terrible. Zell was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Quistis was frowning. And me? I don't know.

Zell's loud scream and cuss words kinda woke me up. I actually didn't know I was asleep until his voice jolted me out of bed. I was thinking about Trabia before I drifted off, I guess.

I missed my friends terribly. Especially now that I could remember all my experiences and fun that I had in Trabia. I missed them so bad.

I remembered every little thing. Me and Jen running around on a hill while Mai try to chase us down. Sometimes we would run into a monster and we killed it with ease and would laugh when we got victory. Trabia Garden didn't have many tough monsters. Even if there's monster we couldn't handle, like an out-of-proportion Snow Lion or something, Steve and Matt would come and they would "rescue" us. It was great.

The four of them were in a band now. They were called the Junk Yard. I only heard them perform once. Once was enough. They could have been major stars if they performed somewhere like Deling City or Esthar, or maybe even Dollet. I don't know.

I missed them.

"Selphie?"

I should go visit Trabia soon. I needed to talk to Squall in the morning for my release.

"Selphie Tilmitt?"

Then I would be the producer again and hear the Junk Yard perform once more.

"Hey, Selphie! People dying here!"

"Huh?" I snapped back to reality. Zell was staring at me like I was a ditzy kid while Quistis simply shook her head. "Sorry, Zell, what?"

"How did you get here so fast?"

"I drove a car," What kind of odd question was that?

Zell slapped his forehead. "Damn. Why didn't I think of that instead of running? Oh, whatever. Big car?" He turned to me.

"Uh, yeah. What?" He's confusing.

"We're going to take Mrs. Dincht back to the Garden," Quistis explained. "I need Dr. Kadowaki's help to confirm what kind of poison she was attacked with. It's too rare for someone like me to cure."

Something odd twitched in her tone. Why did she seem so sad?

"Well, don't just stand there! Help me!" Zell barked. I guess he's too stressed. People get rude when they're stressed.

Zell and I lifted Mrs. Dincht's still form from the bed. She was heavy. Quistis was ahead of us holding doors open. We struggled down the stairs and toward the door. She was really major heavy.

Somehow we got her on the car and then we all piled inside. I drove. Zell couldn't drive, not like the lunatic condition he was in. Quistis sat by Mrs. Dincht, her eyebrows were still furrowed together.

About six minutes later, we parked inside the Garden Parking Lot. I cringed a little when I realized I had to help Zell carry Mrs. Dincht to the infirmary. Oh, boy, I'm gonna have a sore something by the time we get there.

"Hey, fellas, what's going... whoa!" came a familiar voice from not far.

Irvine! My sweetie who just has perfect timing in a lot of situations. He saw Mrs. Dincht and his eyes deepened.

"Yeah, man, need a lil' help here." Zell's voice sounded crackly now. Was he crying in the backseat? Yuck. I felt so bad for him now. It must've been very very difficult for him. I mean, if he and I switch places, I probably would be bawling. At least he still had his head clear.

"Come on, go to the infirmary now." Quistis bossed. "I'll go get Dr. Kadowaki." She disappeared in front of us.

Irvine and Zell each took one of Mrs. Dincht's arm and carried her down the circular walk. I sauntered behind, trying to help them balance it out. Irvine's a good 7 inch taller than Zell, and that would mess up the weight distribution. So I tried to help Mrs. Dincht to be as comfortable as she could be, considering she couldn't move at all. I wonder if she's even conscious.

We finally reached the infirmary. Dr. Kadowaki walked to us immediately and helped Mrs. Dincht on a bed. Zell looked somewhat relieved. He plopped down heavily on a chair and buried his face in his hands.

I walked over and smoothed his hair. Poor baby. His tight neck muscles relaxed a little as I kneaded it.

"What can we do right now?" Irvine asked Quistis quietly. She shrugged and sighed.

"I don't know, Irvine. I tried Elixir and it didn't work. The only more powerful drug I know is Hero and Holy War. Where could we get those in Balamb, I..." Quistis' voice trailed off.

"Quistis is right," Dr. Kadowaki agreed after she briefly examined Mrs. Dincht. "The Bite Bug was at least in the 90's level. I've only seen a few of these cases."

"Well, we can't just sit here do nothing and watch Ma die!" Zell exploded.

"Calm down, Zell," Irvine soothed him. "She won't die. We won't let her."

"What did you do with those few cases?" Quistis asked Dr. Kadowaki. Good ole Quisty, asking the right questions.

"I made an antidote to cure it before," Dr. Kadowaki continued. "But, I had 100 Heroes or so on my hand at that time. I was lucky. Now where could I find so much Heroes, I don't know."

"Well, if you lack Heroes, then I will find them!" Zell stood up defiantly. "Give me a week and -"

"She don't have a week,"

Zell visibly deflated down to zero. The next time he spoke, his voice shook so bad that I thought he was going to break down right there. "H-How long does she...?"

Dr. Kadowaki sighed heavily. "4 days. Top."

"Ma!!!!!" Zell couldn't control it. I was scared to touch him now, fearing he would detonate. Boy, 100 Heroes. The only person I know who stashes Heroes like that was Jen. She probably had about 500 of them somewhere in T . . ..

Hey, wait a minute.

"How long does it take for someone to come from Trabia to here?" I asked.

All of them looked at me like I was crazy. What? It's a relevant question.

Oh, they didn't know that.

"Uh, about half a day," Irvine answered me. "Selphie, why -?"

"Yes!" I jumped up in jubilation. "Booyaka! I know where we can get all them Heroes! My friend Jen stash Heroes like crazy. She lives in Trabia. I'll go call her right now and she can come down here by tomorrow and then Dr. Kadowaki could make that potion and Mrs. Dincht'll be all right again!"

And I could also see my friends again and hear Junk Yard perform. Wasn't this great?

I was so proud of myself.

Irvine:

The grin on Selphie's face told all of us clearly that she wasn't joking.

And her next predictable move was dashing out the infirmary, totally ignoring us standing there gaping at her, and vanishing.

"Uh -" Zell, who finally calmed down enough, or should I say, stupefied at the moment by his fellow friend's action, fumbled. No kidding. I don't think there's any other person on this huge full planet with the energy of little Tilmitt. If there are, I sure haven't met them.

She's a little firecracker ready to explode. In a totally positive way, of course, but nevertheless, a firecracker.

"Well, what simple way to solve a rather tricky problem," Quistis commented. She looked more bewildered than relieved, as for probably all of us. "Selphie probably will invite all her friends over from Trabia. She told me something about a band a couple days ago."

"I'll keep her on some stabling medicine for now," Dr. Kadowaki returned her attention to Mrs. Dincht. "You kids try to get some more sleep out of the night. It's not quite 3:30 yet. Zell," he looked up at her. "it's going to be okay."

He exhaled a deep breath, obviously he's been holding that in for a while. "I'm gonna stay here for the night, k? Y'all go ahead. Sorry for keepin' ya up."

"No pro. Glad to help." I turned toward the door. Sleep, goodness, I wonder if I'll be able sleep at all tonight. Too much excitement is really troublesome in some occasions.

"Yeah, and thanks."

I grinned to myself. It's really kinda rare to hear Zell say an appreciation sincerely. Sure, he shows almost everything on his face. But they're all exaggerated beyond belief. How many times a year had you seen Zell with a very sincere and serious expression? Almost never, right?

I was about to go when I saw Quistis staring blankly at a wall. She looked so tired. What's up? Oh, right, not everyone has an inexhaustible amount of energy like Selphie. I keep forgetting that.

"Walk you back?" I extended my hand to her. Her eyes refocused on me with a little surprise at first, then she smiled and took my offer.

Hey, I was named the charmer for a reason.

"Sleepy?" I asked her as we strolled back toward the dormitory. What kind of idiotic question was that? No duh she's sleepy. It's the wee hour in the morning.

"I wish," she chuckled slightly.

Huh?

"How come?" I glanced at her. She sick?

"Insomnia. I had that problem ever since I was young."

"You're still young," I said to her. I wasn't trying to twist her words, but she's making me feel old. I don't like feeling old. She's just one year older than me. One.

She seemed to be surprised at that comment. "... Thanks."

"What? Nobody ever told you that before?" She must've been joking.

Quistis shook her head. Then she smiled again, more to herself than me, and asked, "So why are you up?"

"Zell woke me."

A little mischievous smile glistened on her lips. "Right. Squall and Seifer keeping you up, huh?"

Whoa. Somebody knows their surroundings good. "Yeah. How did you know?"

She sighed a little. "It's kind of obvious. To people who know them, that is."

Okay. To her, maybe. I know them, and I didn't figure out crud until I heard them just a few hours ago. And I still couldn't figure out why or how in the world could those two rivals end up slamming each other, but who cares.

Wait, how did Quistis automatically assume that I know what's going on? I did live next door to Squall, but still. Squall and Seifer obviously care about people knowing their little secret. So what's Quistis doing spreading the word?

Or maybe I was just paranoid. What's wrong with me? Why's my mind rambling right now? Ha, this was funny. Irvine Kinneas caught in an un-suave moment. Very rare. The night really did take its toll on me without me realizing it, huh?

"You're suddenly quiet," Quistis' voice rang beside me. "Are you nervous about something?"

"No. Why?"

"Your hands are clammy."

They indeed were. I hadn't let go of her hand yet. I hadn't even realized we were holding hands until now. Wait up, I was really out of it tonight, weren't I? Usually when I offer someone a hand, either them or me would've dropped the gesture when we started walking. That's suave, you know. A little subtlety goes a long way. But look what happened?

I seriously better get some sleep.

Quistis stopped in front of her door. "Well, thanks for walking with me. Get some sleep."

"Yes, Instructor," I joked. I gotta recover some of my curiously lost wit. "And sweet dreams to you, too."

The minute that left my mouth I felt like slapping myself. She just told me she's suffering from insomnia. Duh! Don't say that sentence. Should offer her some Sleep spells. Should have said something as simple as "See ya later in the morning." Yeah, now that was more than enough. Dang it.

OK, Kinneas. Something's wrong with you. So many fumbles in one night. This gotta be a record.

She, however, only smiled once more and went in her room. There's something nagging about that smile, though. I couldn't figure it out, but there was something.

Well, whatever it was, I was in no condition of figuring it out. I need some shut-eye, very badly. So after a moment of pondering, I shrugged and walked back toward my room. Hopefully Squall and Seifer were asleep by now.

My neighbours were silent, at least at this moment. Good. I opened and closed my door in one motion, careful not to slam anything. No more pounding noise coming from the wall. Great.

The only thing left that even resembled pounding was the beating of my own heart.

Squall:

I woke up with a pain in my back. Ouch, shouldn't try to push myself up on my arms. That was refreshing, I thought as the sting completely defogged my head. Where was I?

I looked around and discovered that I spent the night on the floor. My eyes trailed over to the soiled bed cover in the corner and everything came back to me. My goodness, I managed to anger him again with the same issue, hadn't I?

How many times had this issue come up? Every time I hid myself. Every time I ran away from his questioning glares. And every time I hurt him. Deep.

I didn't want this. No, I never wanted to hurt him. But, I couldn't face it. I couldn't face the reality of me. Of us. Not with all these people in Balamb Garden around us every day.

Ha, I laughed bitterly at myself. All in all, I was still jumpy around people. I was still afraid of getting out of my protective shell and face people. Will little Squall ever grow up?

Too many thoughts for one morning! I grunted in frustration and climbed up from the floor. I went to the bathroom and splashed water all over my face. That felt good.

I quickly peeled off my pyjamas and got dressed in the usual attire: white shirt, black jacket, slightly tight black pants with all my belts and bullets for my gunblade, and boots. I opened my dorm's door and walked toward the cafeteria.

Only Quistis was there when I walked in. She looked awful, like she hadn't slept in weeks. A pale pallor damped her usually bright face. She was sitting there, drinking some orange juice. She looked up at me when I slid next to her.

"'Morning," she greeted me.

"'Morning. Rough night?" I asked her.

She smiled a little. "Yeah. Pretty much. You didn't hear Zell's outburst last night?"

Nope. I was out like a dog. I shook my head.

"What happened?"

Before she could explain anything, though, another figure glided across from me. Without even looking, but simply from the sound of his cowboy boots, I knew it's none other than Irvine, with his coffee. Coffee and cowboy seemed weird to me, but everyone got their quirks, and I was in no mood of analyzing anyone else's habit right now.

"Sup?" He grinned his famous seductive smirk.

"I'm trying to bring Squall up-to-date with the situation," Quistis replied. "Mrs. Dincht got poisoned by a high-level Bite Bug. Zell found out about it the hard way, through a letter. We were pretty much busy with trying to figure out a cure for Mrs. Dincht for the night."

"Oh?" I raised an eyebrow. How come no one informed me? I was, after all, the Headmaster.

"So that's why that chicken-wuss was screaming bloody murder at around two this morning, right?"

Seifer plopped himself next to Irvine, across from Quistis and diagonally from me. Quistis rolled her eyes and sighed. "Seifer, show at least some kind of respect for Zell during time like this, please. He's still down at the Infirmary. I'm going to take him some breakfast later."

"No need. Ms. Overly-Hyper-Drive was on her way down there. She just told me to tell you, Headmaster, that she'll be in Balamb all day, waiting for her friend from Trabia." Seifer's tone masked a sneer.

"Selphie's friends are coming from Trabia?" I frowned. I really was missing out a lot, wasn't I?

"You are being a very good Headmaster right now. Aren't you supposed to know everything that's going on here?" Seifer was trying to get on my nerves. Our little cover act, of course, but today was a little bit overboard.

"Hey, back off!" I snapped.

"I was going to inform him until you interrupted me, Seifer," Quistis was getting fed up with his BS. She didn't know what's really going on. I had the sudden urge to tell her he's acting and so was I. It's not like that between us two, really.

Irvine suddenly snickered. "You know, if you want to chat with Squall, why don't you go sit next to him, Seifer? Spare me the caught-in-the-middle position and save you some energy from trying to get at him but not touch me at the same time."

My head snapped up. What?! Seifer was gaping at him. Quistis had a hint of laughter in her eyes, and no surprise at all. Irvine simply returned my stare. His expression had "I'm not stupid like you two idiots thought I am and I know exactly what's going on for a long time now" written all over it.

"Clever," Seifer finally said. However, the glistening in his eyes told me he's up to something. Seifer doesn't like being caught in a surprise. "So... tell me, what made you suspect us?"

Irvine stiffened. He glared at Seifer and braced himself abruptly against the table. Seifer grinned a wicked grin. I noticed that his hands disappeared under the table.

"Seifer," A very noticeable strain crept into Irvine's calm voice. "Get off me."

Quistis stifled a laughter beside me. "Aw, what?" Seifer coaxed. "The great Casanova is not used to a little attention from the same sex?"

Irvine was indeed blushing. More from discomfort and anger than whatever Seifer was obviously hinting at. He stared into the still grinning blonde in the eye, then suddenly leaned forward and kissed Seifer full on the lips.

"Whoa!" We all jumped up from the table. All from shock except for Irvine himself. What did he think he's doing?! That's my Seifer he was kissing.

I realized I was suddenly jealous. Very jealous, in fact. My eyes were probably spitting green acid out right now. And what's worse, I couldn't even defend my boyfriend. Because everyone else around us didn't know about us. Because I didn't have enough guts to admit it.

I felt anger flared up within myself. Seifer was so right. I was a coward.

I made up my mind right then. If Seifer bring up the subject about going public again, I would not run away. I would accept it. And I would tell people without shame.

Seifer:

"What the fuck do you think you're doing?" I exclaimed.

Irvine's smirk could split wood. "I thought you might enjoy it." Then he added silently. "Faggot."

My eyes got even wider. Nobody ever said that to me in that tone. What the fuck? Was Kinneas looking for decapitation or what?

"Hey, hey, boys, stop it." Quistis stepped between us. She was laughing a minute earlier, but the mirth was all gone now. "Irvine, apologize."

He looked at her. "Why?"

"That was rude. I'm not gonna trash down cuss words, but that word is rude. I don't care what you straight men talk about when you're alone, but not in front of me. Apologize to Seifer."

He continued to stare at her, but with more respect in his eyes now. Then he turned to me and said sincerely. "I'm sorry."

I nodded briefly. I gotta remember to thank Quistis later.

Was this what Squall was so afraid of once we go public? Name-calling and shit like that?

"What was that?!!" A voice sounded loudly behind us. Leave it to that little chicken wuss to make awkward situations more obvious.

"Nothing." Squall finally spoke up. "What are you doing up here? I thought Selphie brought you breakfast already?"

"Yeah, she did. I'm here to thank some people for helpin' me last night. But... what was that?" Zell crossed his arms.

"How is your mom?" I switched the subject again. "She okay?"

"She will be perfectly fine once Selphie get those damn Heroes she promised." Seeing that everyone here didn't want to talk about the subject, Zell conformed. "That's one issue outta my head for now."

"That's good, because I have another issue coming up. And it involves pretty much all of us here." Quistis suddenly stated. Christ, what now? "But, this is not the place to discuss it. You guys set a time when we can get away from this Garden. And a place where there'll be no chance of running into any other students or faculties."

Huh? "Why?" I asked.

"I'll tell you when we get there."

"Well, wouldn't Selphie be left out because she will be around her Trabia friends today?" Irvine questioned. He should be concerned since she's his girl and all.

Quistis sighed. "I haven't thought about that. But this is pretty urgent, so I guess I'll tell her later. Or one of you could, but anyways. Come on, aren't you men supposed to decide without any hesitation?"

"The Triangle, then." I said.

They all looked at me, except for Squall, who knows exactly what I was talking about. Some times we would just sneak out the Garden and run around Balamb. We would go to this little dark club that nobody ever heard of, and no Garden students would dare go, if I must say so. I didn't give a damn about it, and Squall shouldn't, either. That's the only place we've been where he would kiss me and grind without worrying about any kind of shit. We haven't been there lately, though.

"It's a nightclub in Balamb," Squall explained. "I... well, we've been there a couple of times. No chance of running into any Garden people."

"We?" Zell asked. Idiot.

Quistis and Squall exchanged a glance. I scoffed. Irvine simply stood there. His sudden quietness somehow disturbed me. Irvine never shut up. He doesn't say stupid things, though, but he never shut up.

"I need to go check on Mrs. Dincht." Quistis said. Squall thought for a second, then he followed her toward the direction. Headmaster duty, I guess. Zell still looked confused. He shrugged and happily tailed after them. Heh, at least he's smart enough to ask Squall or Quistis rather than me with his questions.

"Guess it's a boy's night out, eh? Well, with Quistis, but still." Irvine said to me.

Boy, he sure was confident. Even foolhardy. I mean, if it's not for Quistis, I'd bashed out his head after that kiss. Or at least we would be fighting in the middle of the cafeteria. I didn't care. Now he's still talking to me like nothing happened. Haven't met anyone this brash for a while now. Chicken wuss was, like his name, a chicken wuss in front of me even though he acted all crazy. And Squall wouldn't back down if I challenged him, but it's always me challenging him, not the other way around. But this guy...

I didn't do shit to him. Well, maybe a little. But all I did was put my hand on his thigh. That's it. I hate being surprised and he caught me in an awkward moment. I gotta give him something to remember.

Didn't expect it to turn back on me, though. Smartass.

"Trying to figure out how to get me back, eh?" Shut the fuck up.

"If it's not for Quistis, you'd be dead by now." I sneered at him.

"It kinda surprised me a lil' when your boyfriend didn't kill me after he saw me do that. Why do you suppose Squall just watched and said nothing?"

Whoa. What's he getting at? I narrowed my eyes.

"Don't have to look at me like that, hon." Irvine's tone turned a shade more serious. "Hopefully after this he'll be more willing to talk it out with ya. Well, anyways, I gotta bolt. See ya some time later." He turned around and left.

I stared at his back. What the fuck... ?

Suddenly it hit me. Just like that, it rammed me in the head. Little bastard! Fucking little bastard. He knew exactly what he was doing, didn't he? I underestimated him. No wonder he's such a charm around here. He understood my problem without me saying a single damn word. Girls would kill for a guy like that.

Guys, too.

Shit. I gotta find a way to thank him now. Shit!

Quistis:

"OK, now can you tell me what was that back there?" Zell persisted. He felt safe enough to yell now because we're in my room.

Mrs. Dincht was doing well. Dr. Kadowaki said she had all of the antidote's ingredients except the Heroes, which wouldn't be any problem when Selphie's friend gets here. She also somehow conjured up a potion to extend Mrs. Dincht's energy for a week, so we had more time than we started with. Zell was very relieved. Or he wouldn't even agree with going to the Triangle or whatever Seifer had said we're going tonight.

"How much had you seen?" Squall asked. He chose to explain himself? Huh, I thought it would fall on me, as usual.

Guess Irvine really knew what he was doing.

"Everything after Mr. Casanova kissed Seifer. Is there something I should know about them? Shouldn't be, right? Cuz Seifer looked pretty pissed."

"No, there's nothing going on between them." Squall took a deep breath. "However..."

He couldn't continue. Zell was standing there gaping for him to finish. Oh, please, Zell, think!

"Irvine did that to make me jealous." Squall finally said.

"Jealous? Of what? Or, who?" asked Zell. Then, his eyes flashed. He gasped and backed up a few steps. "No. NO! But... aren't you with Rinoa? Isn't Seifer you ultimate rival? What the heck... ?"

"Zell!" I interrupted his string of outbursts. Someone was going to hear him, even with all these walls. We heard him fine last night, didn't we?

"Why would Irvine want to make you jealous?" Zell lowered his voice.

Squall shrugged. "I have no idea."

He didn't? Really? I thought he was keen enough to figure it out. "Isn't it obvious? Look what you're doing right now." I said to him.

"What?"

"You're telling Zell about you and Seifer. That's one step closer to admit to yourself and not be hiding from it anymore."

Squall's eyes darted around. He was thinking hard. "I, I guess. Wait, how do you know so much about us, Quistis? We're that obvious?"

I smiled. "No. I hear you two argue sometimes, among other things." His face turned a shade of red. "My hearing improved recently because of my GF. Squall, if you hadn't felt the jealousy of Seifer kissing someone else, would you even decide to at least tell your immediate friends about you two?"

"I - I guess not. You mean Irvine did it to help us?"

"To help you. Seifer was more than willing to go public, that was obvious. Remember the first time you admitted out loud your affection for Rinoa was right when she was in a coma? I think you need some shock or other intense emotions in order to face yourself and others. Don't you agree?"

He didn't say anything this time, but nodded.

"Well then, it's all good." Zell piped. "I gotta go run some errands for Dr. Kadowaki. So I'll see y'all tonight. Where do we meet?"

"We'll meet at the gate. No, wait, that would be too conspicuous. Let's meet at your house in Balamb. Around... what time, Squall?" I asked him.

"Uh, 8 o'clock." He said.

"Okay. Zell, would you mind go tell Seifer and Irvine that? I have other things to discuss with Squall." I did. It would be better if he knows about Rinoa before I break it to everyone else.

"'K. I'm gone, then. See ya cats round latah!" Zell disappeared from my room.

I went to my computer to turn on the videophone. Might as well call Rinoa and let her tell him herself. I didn't pay much attention to Squall until I felt his gaze on my back.

"What?" I paused my hands.

"Isn't it kind of wrong not letting Selphie in on this?"

That couldn't be helped. She was with her friends tonight. "Squall, she has guests coming."

"So? We're a clique of friends. We can't just leave one member out on an important issue. And this one sounded mighty important."

Look who's talking. "I don't remember you telling any of us, save maybe Rinoa, about you and Seifer, either."

"That's different. I didn't organize a meeting and specifically leave out somebody. There's a lot of things we could have done to involve Selphie in this. You just didn't bother with it. That's not like you. Usually you don't miss out a single detail and would try all kinds of methods to accomplish something. What's going on?"

I didn't know what he was talking about. I did not intentionally leave off Selphie. I didn't.! Did I?

Did I?

Why would I intentionally leave Selphie out on something like this? She possessed absolutely no threat to me in any way with any of my relationship with the boys. The only way you could be threatened by someone like Selphie is if you like -

If you like -

Oh dear God. No. I could not be. No! Was I depressed and lonely enough to grasp a straw as unsteady as this one?

"Quistis?" Squall's voice crept inside my head. The outsider always sees the situation more clearly than the ones involved. That is so true.

"..." What could I say?

And since when did Squall suddenly become talkative?

"Look, I'm just saying," His tone softened a little. "I'm just wondering what the others would think. It's not like it's just a boy's night's out. From that address written by your computer, I'm guessing this thing involves Rinoa, too. So that's everyone involved in Ultimecia except Ellone. And Selphie's not present for it? If I didn't ask this, then Irvine or Zell or even Seifer, would. Wouldn't Selphie's feelings be hurt when she finds out about the meeting? You know she hates being left out of anything."

Somewhere in the very back of my mind I felt a smile. A cruel smile. Oh, God, I couldn't be this awful, could I? I wanted Selphie to get hurt. Because I was jealous.

I was so jealous of her. Being the object of his affection. His.

Since when had I felt this way? Since my insomnia struck? Or was it because of this that I had insomnia in the first place?

Guess he didn't just make Squall jealous today. The Great Casanova, indeed.

The room was spinning. I needed air. Fresh air. Please.

"Squall," my voice quivered. "Call Caraway's Mansion and talk to Rinoa, please. I, I need to get out."

He started to say something else, but I bolted out the door before any word reached my ears. Run.

Quistis, you're pathetic.

Rinoa:

Sigh.

I was bored out of my mind. That man locked me in this room again. How predictable. He wouldn't let me go anywhere now until I convince Squall to marry me. I mean, how rational was that? You don't just lock your daughter up in a room. Whoever your daughter loves is her business, not yours!

I missed Ryan. I couldn't call him or anything because he didn't have a videophone. I could try to call Quistis again and ask her to put him on the line. But then people would suspect something if he go into her room for privacy. Gossip's worth its weight in gold, but sometimes they're awful.

I wondered if she told any of the guys yet. I know, I know, it's only one day after I told her, but I still wondered.

Sigh again. I was so bored. I wished Zone was here. Or Watt. Or even my dog, Angelo. That woman hated my dog and she kicked it out of the house. Hey, that was my dog, not hers. She had no right to treat Angelo that way.

"Bling!"

Hey! My videophone! Maybe it's Quistis. Finally!

I jumped up from my chair and reached to turn the computer on. The screen blinked. It was indeed from Balamb Garden room B17. All right!

Squall's face stared up at me.

Huh? Where's Quistis?

"Rinoa?" He asked.

"Uh, yeah. Hi. Where's Quistis?" I stammered. I hadn't expected him to call me. Did she tell him already?

"She's... busy right now. She told me to call you and said you have something you need to tell me. What's going on?"

What? I had to tell him? I? Yeah, it's me who wanted to tell him in the first place, but the whole reason I called her was so someone would be there with me so I won't tell him alone. She, she just left me hanging like this? How could she? Meany.

"Well?" Squall looked at me. He was so clueless.

I didn't want to do this now. I was scared. Very very scared.

He was patient. Squall was always patient, wasn't he? Sometimes that drove me nuts. Say something else. Come on!

I took a deep breath. I needed it. "Well, it's like this..."

His eyes kept getting bigger and bigger as I explained. When I was finally done, the first words form his mouth was "Are you absolutely out of your mind?!"

"No. If I am, then I wouldn't even be discussing this with you right now!" I exclaimed. He's so mean at times. "What do you want to me to do? Huh? You want to marry me or want to see the Garden destroyed?"

"The Garden is not that easily destroyable."

"Yeah, so? You reputation is, though." Please, he didn't want the stuff between him and Seifer to get out.

Squall laughed bitterly. "Ha. I think my reputation is already destroyed. But you know what? I don't care. You do, though. You don't want your reputation be degraded any lower, do you?"

Ah! Little ... How dare he! I swear, if I was there with him, I would've clawed out his eyes with my bare hands.

"You, you, shut up!" was all I could manage.

"Rinoa, get this straight. I can't marry you. I won't marry you." He waved his hands in frustration. "It's not fair to you, me, Seifer, and Ryan. I can't do it."

"Do you honestly think I want to marry you any more than you want to marry me?" I cried. I so needed to slap him. "I know we can't get together. What I want to discuss to you and all the others is that what in the world are we going to do about it. About them and their threat. That's why I called Quistis."

Seeing me losing it somehow made him cool down. "We're gonna discuss it tonight. We can't do it in the Garden, too conspicuous. I'll call you then."

"Wait, I have to participate?"

"Of course. How could I explain this?"

"Quistis can."

He sighed. His expression changed somewhat. Odd. "Rinoa, when you called Quistis, did she seem... unusual to you?"

"What?" What was he talking about? "No." Other than the fact it was a little odd to find her still all dressed and awake around, what time was it there? 2 or 3 o'clock? But I guess she's been busy being a doctor's assistant. Patients are timeless.

"Never mind then. We'll call you tonight."

"Around what time?"

"Uh, 9 or something. Here that is. I don't know what time that would be in Deling City."

"That'll be midnight. Okay. Hey, Squall, I got a question. What happened last night?"

"What are you talking about?"

"After I called Quistis, she bolted out the door as if she heard something. Somebody screaming or what?"

Confusion spread on Squall's face, but he quickly recovered. "Oh. That. Um, it was Zell. I'll tell you about that later, okay?"

Zell. That itself would explain a lot of things. "Okay. I'll see all of you tonight, then."

"Yeah, bye."

"Bye."

Click. I closed the videophone. Imagine what expression would each person wear when I tell them the news. Squall and Quistis probably would be calm, since they knew already. Seifer, oh goodness, he'd freak. So would Zell. He'll freak for different reasons than Seifer would, but they're both gonna be loud, I promise you. Selphie, hmm, would be like "Mega mega mega bummer." Or something like that. She did not act or look like a 19-year-old, but nevertheless was one. And Irvine probably will be the one trying to calm everyone down and suggest some practical solutions. He may be driven by his hormones most of the time, but when something serious really did show up, he'd be the one with the most common sense. You just can't tell by the way he approaches it, though.

Oh, well. Guess I just had to wait 'til tonight to figure out this crazy situation. Watch it becomes something simple. I mean, it's weird, but crazy stuff usually end in simple ways, it's the simple stuff that'll kill ya.

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