Squaresoft owns everything, naturally. I'm just... er... playing. Yeah. That's it. ^_^
Hold your breath...
Make a wish...
Count to three.
Take a look,
And you'll see,
Into your imagination.
If you want to view paradise,
Simply look around and view it.
Anything you want to, do it...
(with sincerest apologies to Gene Wilder and Willy Wonka ~_^)
I'm hoping if I post the first part of this then it'll encourage me to get over being lazy and finish up the rest of it.
Make a Wish
"Anybody want the last piece?" Selphie asked.
There was a chorus of denials and the brunette, with a delighted grin, bypassed her own plate altogether in favor of just leaning over to plunge her fork directly into the last piece of cake left on the platter. Irvine, despite his earlier refusal, waylaid the bite on the way back to Selphie's mouth, earning himself a jab with her fork and a smear of icing across his face.
Zell leaned his chair back, stretching broadly. It was late and the quad was long deserted excepting for those of them clustered around the table set out for the evening. Some of the streamers hung around through the trees had come loose and were hanging down, fluttering gently. There was confetti everywhere - Selphie's idea - and he was fairly certain he could still feel some of it down the back of his shirt. The table was littered in the remnants of cake and icecream and scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon and an excess of alcohol bottles.
Irvine had battled Selphie to a standstill with their forks and they were sharing the last piece of the cake, Selphie's face blissful as she licked icing from her fingers. Xu was yawning, her head pillowed against Nida's shoulder as he and Quistis finished off the last of the tequila. Zell swirled the last swallow of beer around his own bottle before upending it and adding it to the other empties collected in the center of the table.
At the head of the little table was the guest of honor, something which he obviously considered very dubious indeed. Squall looked like he'd eaten something sour but he'd looked that way all night and at least, now, it was more of a mellow habitual sour than the uptight "whatever" sour that he had been when they'd finally cornered him and dragged him to the little party. There were bits of confetti in his hair and, of all things, a shiny little bow stuck at a jaunty angle on the top of his head - courtesy of Laguna. The older man was seated beside his lover, leaning on the arm of Squall's chair, and he had actually managed to coax Squall into eating half a piece of cake and some of the icecream, inbetween the drinks.
All in all, it was probably the most successful birthday party in his honor that Squall had ever been forced to sit through and the friends who had thrown it were all looking fairly pleased with themselves.
Quistis, remarkably steady on her feet for a woman who had put away as much tequila as Zell had been counting her drinking, pushed herself up and, grabbing Xu's discarded fork, used it to tap against one of the empty bottles. "We should probably call it a night," she announced. "Before Squall decides to kill us all in our sleep."
Squall just directed his eyes upwards with the look of a man who was suffering. Quistis ignored him. "BUT... but before we do, I've got one more present." Now Squall really looked like he was suffering. Quistis bent to fish under her seat and came up with a rectangular box wrapped in silver paper, about as long as her forearm. "This," she announced loudly, waving an admonishing finger at Squall and Laguna, "is not to be opened until you get back to your room! Then you two can enjoy it in private."
"Quisty!" Selphie exclaimed in mock shock before bursting into giggles. Laguna was turning a bright shade of mortified red and even Squall looked taken aback, accepting the box rather gingerly and frowning as he shook it slightly.
"Don't you dare break it," Quistis warned him, then added in her best instructor voice, "And - Commander or no - if I see you before noon tomorrow, or in uniform, I'm putting you on report! Day off, that means you don't work, you hear me?"
Squall nodded and Irvine, with a groan, shoved his own chair back. "Don't suppose you can get me one of those, Quisty?"
"The present or the day off?" Selphie demanded between giggles. Irvine dumped his hat onto her head, effectively muffling her.
"I meant the day off, brat. Someone's had too much sugar."
"Better sugar then what I'm going to be feeling tomorrow," Nida said with a grin. "Worth it, though. Come on, Xu, wake up."
"...have to?" Xu mumbled, rubbing at her eyes.
One by one they got to their feet and started saying goodnight, punctuated by some good natured dwadling. Squall had packed the gifts they had gotten him into one of the discarded boxes but somehow the little stuffed lion Selphie had given him got lost under the table; Laguna rescued it, to Squall's consternation, and Selphie indignantly stuffed the fist sized toy down Squall's shirt after banging him over the head with it. They left the mess where it was, to be cleaned up in the morning, and trailed their way out of the quad with Selphie leading the way, Irvine's hat waved about wildly in her hand as she evaded his grabs for it.
"Zell." The sound of his name made him turn and Zell paused at the top of the steps, waiting for Squall to catch up. Laguna had gone on ahead, the box of gifts now safely in his possession after Selphie had declared that Squall was likely to 'accidentally slip' and wind up tossing them into the fountain.
Squall was dusting the confetti out of his hair, the bow nowhere to be seen. The two men walked together, bringing up the rear of the little procession that was heading back towards the dormitory wing. Zell, hands in his pockets, grinned a bit lopsidely at Squall. "Come on, admit it - that wasn't so bad."
Squall flicked his hair back. It promptly slid into his eyes again. "Maybe," he admitted grudgingly. "Look... I just wanted to say thank you."
Zell could feel his face heating up. "Why? All I did was get you a card."
A wry smile curved Squall's lips. "That's why. I didn't want anything and that's what you did. So thanks."
Zell rolled his eyes. "Man, you just weren't raised right. You're supposed to milk a birthday for all it's worth! You don't turn eighteen every day!"
"Don't remind me," Squall muttered. "And..." he broke off momentarily, twisting around to dig a hand up beneath this back of his shirt, "who's damn idea was it to get confetti poppers?"
"My money's on Selphie," Laguna interjected. The older man had hung back, waiting for them, the box with the present tucked beneath one arm. He scrubbed a hand through his hair, leaving it more wildly disarrayed then before. "Between that and the champagne... I need a shower."
"You'd win that bet," Zell told him. "You got soaked, didn't you? Irvine really shook that thing up."
"Some of us," Squall commented dryly, "know when to duck."
They walked the rest of the way in a companionable sort of silence and Squall didn't even protest when Laguna slipped his free arm partially around the younger man's waist, fingers hooked through his belt loop. It was, Zell decided after a sideways glance, just damned cute. Everyone knew the real reason the President of Esthar seemed to find so many excuses to visit Balamb Garden but Squall, usually, was so circumspect in public that it would have been hard work to find any concrete proof. Laguna was an open book, easily read, but he wasn't often allowed little displays like the current one.
At the hall where both Squall and Zell's rooms were Zell made to bid them goodnight. "See you tomorrow... or not," he added with a grin. "Don't think Quisty won't report you."
Squall made a face. "Whatever. Why don't you come on back to the room with us?" He made a long armed reach across Laguna, plucking the last present Quistis had given him from the box and hefting it. "Give this a try."
The look on Zell's face must have been comical because it earned him a rare, brief grin from Squall. "Relax, Dincht," the other man told him. "Whatever it is, it's drinkable. Dildos don't slosh when you shake them."
"Squall!" Laguna was turning red again and Zell had to laugh. Squall paused outside the door to his own rooms long enough to fish his keycard from a pocket, casting an arch look at his lover.
"You know that's what you thought of first," Squall accused, stepping in as the door slid open and flipping the lights on. "Put those things on the desk or something."
Laguna deposited the box on the standard issue desk, then made a face as he tugged at his still damp shirt. "You two have a nightcap," he told them. "I'm going to go take a shower before this all starts itching."
"Fine," Squall said, waving him on. Laguna dug a shirt that was obviously his own from the dresser and disappeared into the adjoining bath.
"Sit where ever," Squall told Zell, claiming the edge of the bed for his own seat. "I think there's glasses on the shelf over the desk." The room, Zell wasn't surprised to see, was painstakingly neat and, though a bit larger than the standard quarters, didn't have much of anything beyond the typical furnishings everyone had.
Snagging the desk chair and two glasses from the shelf, Zell sat down by the bed. "Ever think of actually decorating this place?"
"Why bother?" Squall had ripped the paper to reveal a plain brown box - opened, it tipped a dark bottle into his hands. He examined the label with a frown. "Huh. Quistis has good taste."
"Scotch?" At Squall's nod Zell grinned, holding the glasses out. "Sweet."
"On top of the beer you've had?" Squall pointed out, inspecting the bottle's top. "You won't be saying that in the morning."
"Wuss. I can take it."
Squall said nothing and dimly Zell was aware of the sound of the shower starting up in the next room. Squall was looking at him now, the scotch held between his hands, his expression unreadable.
"What?" Zell asked a bit self-consciously. "Don't tell me I've still got icing on my face."
The other man just shook his head. "I wanted to talk to you," he said without preamble.
Zell blinked, then blew out a breath. "That doesn't sound any type of good. What's up?"
Squall shrugged slightly, not looking away. "You can keep this to yourself?"
That really didn't sound good and Zell hesitated a moment before replying. "Yes." And, when Squall just kept looking at him, "Yes, damn it." He scowled. "That was just that once! Let a guy live it down, would ya?"
"Fine." Squall looked away. Sliding a fingernail underneath the foil on the top of the bottle, he unwound it in a long spiral of bright silver. "Then this is for your ears only." The foil was discarded on the floor in a casual gesture at odds with the flat tone of Squall's voice that was making Zell feel tense.
"Laguna is my father."
There was a moment of perfect silence following the four words in which Zell could feel the long skip of his own heartbeat and swore he could hear the scramble of his mind as it tried to wrap itself around the sentance, the final reaction exploding up his throat to his tongue. "WHAT?!" he choked.
Unfazed, Squall didn't look up as he braced the bottle between his knees, peeling the seal off the top. "You heard me."
"No," Zell managed with a squeak. "No, I didn't! Or at least, I'm going to pretend I didn't. What the hell did you just say?"
"You heard me," Squall repeated. A hard twist broke the last of the seal and he had the bottle open, offering it to Zell, who held out his glass in a sort of daze and let Squall fill it to the top.
"Look," Zell said rapidly as he took the glass back, "whatever little fantasies you guys are playing out in the bedroom, I really didn't need to know about it..." He broke off to gulp down a quick swallow and promptly exploded into coughing.
Taking it as a warning, Squall filled his own glass but tasted it cautiously, brows rising as he looked at the bottle with new appreciation. "Damn... remind me to thank Quistis."
Zell waved a hand at him, still coughing. "Oh no," he gasped when he could. "You're not getting out of this, damn it. Are you fucking serious?"
"What?" Squall asked, deadpan. "About thanking Quistis?" At Zell's thunderous look he grinned slightly, then shrugged. "Alright, I know... Yes, I'm serious."
Zell couldn't find any words to reply to that. Taking another sip and leaning back in the chair, he blinked at Squall. "Are you sure?" he asked at last, sounding hopeful.
Squall made a small, disgusted sound. "Yes. Look, as much as I trust Ellone, she was only three at the time. I wasn't going to take her word for it." He glanced sidelong at Zell, expression neutral. "I had Kadowaki do a blood test."
Another small shrug. "And it came back positive. He's my father."
Zell felt rather like he had just been sucker punched in the gut, the comforting familiarity of the world falling out from under him in a dizzying whirl. "Then who's your mother?" he demanded. "Julia?"
Squall looked pained. "Zell... that would make Rinoa my half sister."
"Sorry," Zell managed. "Sorry, forget I said that." He sighed, rubbing at his eyes, trying to corral his scattered thoughts into some sort of order. "Shit... wait, wasn't there some girl in Winhill?"
"Raine," Squall answered automatically. "That's right, you were with Ward that session, weren't you? Her name was Raine."
Zell tipped his head back, staring up at the ceiling. It wasn't offering any answers. "Is she..?"
"Dead," Squall said shortly. "Right after I was born."
"Okay." Zell took a deep breath, letting it out slowly. "Okay." He sat up abruptly, glaring at Squall. "But.. you... he..." At a loss for words, he ended up gesturing, the sweep of his hand indicating the bed Squall was sitting on and the bath where the shower could be heard, the contents of the glass he was holding sloshing dangerously. "Did you know?"
"What?" Squall asked with the ghost of a smile. "When I started sleeping with him? No." He swirled the liquor around his glass, taking another sip. "I didn't give him much chance to say anything."
Zell just stared at him, trying to remember how to breathe. "You," he said at last, flatly, "are fucking insane. You walked all over him, didn't you?"
Squall frowned. "Wouldn't put it like that," he said irritably, and his tone, at least, was the usual and predictable one he mostly used around Zell.
"Tch, yeah, okay, whatever." Zell leaned back again, obscurely feeling a bit better. "Fuck."
Squall was watching him from under half closed eyes, his expression carefully bland. "You alright with this?"
"No. Yes. Maybe," Zell answered truthfully. "Look, I don't know. This is a hell of a thing to throw at a guy, y'know? And you don't pull your damn punches. Why the hell are you telling me, anyways?"
"Somebody needs to know." Squall hesitated slightly. "In case anything happens. To either of us." He ran a fingertip around the edge of his glass, eyes fixed on it rather than meeting Zell's gaze. "If anything goes wrong in Esthar they know to call me. But if something happens to me I need somebody here who could call him." He half shrugged, one shoulder shifting. "Maybe keep him from doing anything stupid."
"Why me?" Zell asked quietly.
Squall sighed. "Because I can count on you to do it," he answered shortly.
Zell said nothing for a long moment. When he did speak he sounded subdued, the word half choked in his throat. "Thanks."
In the background Laguna's voice could be heard over the spray of the shower, cheerfully and tunelessly singing a song that had been on the radio earlier. Zell took another swallow of the scotch, letting it burn warm down his throat. "You sing better then he does."
The dark line of Squall's brows rose upward. "How would you know?"
Zell managed a weak smile. "You sing with the stereo when you're driving." Squall was caught between a dubious look and something bordering on horrified. Zell's grin grew broader and he jerked a thumb back towards the door to the bath. "Nothing that loud."
The corner of Squall's mouth curved slightly. "He's completely tone deaf. You should hear him try to whistle."
Zell started to reply, then stopped, closing his mouth with a snap and shaking his head. Squall watched him, absently turning the glass of scotch around between his fingers. "You sure you're alright?"
"Ask me again when this wears off," Zell told him bluntly, raising his own glass before tossing back the last swallow. "I just can't fucking believe I'm sitting here having this conversation with you. This is too damn surreal."
Squall shrugged slightly. "Take your time. Or don't think about it too hard - 's what I do."
"Why am I not surprised?" Zell remarked a bit sourly. "What about him?"
"Laguna?" Squall shrugged again. "We don't talk about it much." He paused, grimacing. "Hells, that doesn't sound right. Look... Done is done, right? You can't change the past. What we've got right now... it's good. So why fuck it up with something from the past that doesn't even exist?"
"Yeah, I guess I can understand that." Zell sighed, dropping his head back and rolling it from side to side to work out the ache at the base of his neck. "Did he know? I mean, like, when we went to Esthar that first time..."
Squall rolled his eyes towards the ceiling. "Yeah, but only because Ellone had just told him."
Zell's head came abruptly back up. "Ellone? Oh shit... does she know that... you and he..."
"Hells no," Squall said flatly. "And I'm sure as fuck not going to be the one to tell her."
Zell made a sealing gesture across his lips. "Right with you there."
"I don't think any of us are suicidal," Squall commented dryly. He grabbed the bottle, offering to fill Zell's empty glass.
"I shouldn't," Zell told him seriously, but held the glass out anyways and let Squall fill it halfway.
The sound of the shower cut off abruptly. Laguna's voice could still be heard, clearer, humming a vaguely familiar song that Zell could dimly remembering hearing somewhere. He took another swallow of the scotch, letting it set the world to dipping slightly around him, the floor under his feet not feeling quite real. Squall's gaze, when he met it straight on, was as uncommunicative as ever. "Does he know you were going to tell me?"
The other man's expression never changed. "No."
Zell swore softly and downed the rest of the glass, coughing. "Shit. Shit. Dammit, Leonhart, one of these days I'm going to kill you."
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