Notes & Dedication: I don’t think I would have been able to do this chapter without the help of my dearest Muse Owl. Hopefully his feathers aren’t too ruffled from all the stress I put him through ^_^(). Thanks Natey! Eheh…Heehee…Oh, and lyrics to the song is Time After Time by INOJ, yah? Yah!

Time after Time

Chapter 8 - Kokuhaku (confession)

By WanderingTonberry

A small diamond gleamed against the light of the rising sun. As if racing the light that had begun to filter through the world, the small jewel fled from where it had stood, waiting. It glided across smooth hills and valleys, till it came to stop upon the edge of a cliff. Hanging for the span of heartbeat, it plummeted to the darkness below.

Zell brought up his hands and hastily wiped away the teardrop that had escaped his eye. What he wouldn’t have given to hear the sweet sounds of the ocean…He wasn’t sure, but for some reason beyond his reasoning it had been a habit of his for as long as he could remember. When he had asked his mother as a young child, she had always smiled one of those smiles that mothers gave when they humored their children. She had said that he had been a little sea nymph born from the waves themselves.

And yet, though he could not put his finger on it, it had seemed lacking. Almost as if…even though the waves had been present, with their soft siren songs dancing through the air…and the rising sun, hovering high into the sky from the waves…Something had been absent.

Zell brushed at his wilted locks, wishing that he could shower. Although it was still early in the morning and he doubted Seifer would be up for awhile, the thought of being walked in on again was a bit…embarrassing. Especially after all that had been going on as of late. Oh the possibilities…The tattooed blonde sighed and heaved himself to his feet. Perhaps being walked in on wouldn’t be such a bad thing…He’d get to see that look of shock again…The cute little way Seifer’s cheeks tinted when he was embarrassed…Zell shook his head and gathered his change of clothes.

As the small blonde walked across the campsite, he spotted a Tonberry perched on a boulder near the adjacent clearing where the portable bathing facility stood. He stopped before it, dangling a particularly chubby package of Twinkies before its little grasping paws.

“You’re gonna make sure that nobody comes into that clearing while I’m bathin’, right?”

The Tonberry nodded, distracted by the delicious morsels floating just out of his paws’ grasp. Heaving a defeated sigh, Zell tossed the package to the distraught creature. Sure, they were deadly when they wanted to be, but it seemed that Tonberries were more often than not obsessed and distracted within their presence. Perhaps it was the fact that Selphie spoiled them rotten with those gooey yellow treats…

Zell inched his way around the feasting creature, emerging into the sunlit clearing with a thankful sigh. He turned to listen to the sweet morning melodies of a passing songbird, a slow smile creeping onto his parted lips. Deciding to give into the wonderful feeling of joy the song spread, Zell began to give lyrics to the bird’s melody.

“I'm lying in my bed

Hear the clock tickin'

I think of you

Caught up in circles

Confusion, there's nothing new

Flashback, warm nights

Almost left behind

Suitcase of memories

Time after…”

Zell paused in his song, blinking. Where had that come from? It was almost as if…He shook his head. He had no talent for composing. And yet…Here he was, singing words that came straight from his soul, describing just how he felt. Miraculous indeed. He whispered his thanks to the songbird and slowly stepped into the hot spray of the shower cubicle.

The tattooed blonde leaned back against the quickly fogging glass, closing his aqua eyes. He smiled slowly, repeating the words to his new song to nobody but himself. He had done it. He had finally brought to light what had been plaguing his heart.

Selphie ladled out porridge into a variety of bowls, which resided in a mesh of strange colors, sizes, and shapes. Tossing scrambled eggs, bacon, and sausage directly into the porridge of all but three bowls, she handed them out to the crowd of Tonberries eagerly waiting behind her.

“Selphie…Are ya sure that it’s safe to feed them that…stuff? I mean…Aren’t ya supposed to eat that stuff separate??” Zell wrinkled his nose, looking a little sick. He brushed back some of his wet bangs, smoothing them back against the top of his head.

“That’s odd…I still have one Ton Gruel left…Somebody is missing!” Selphie looked down to the Tonberry closest to her left foot. “Hey, where’s the one I sent to…”

A sudden roar from the tent that had recently become home to both Seifer and Zell gave away the location of the missing Tonberry. They watched it rush and tumble from the white structure, fleeing for its life. The largest surprise of the morning would have to have been the disgruntled young man emerging from shelter with nothing more than a thin sheet wrapped around his waist. Zell hid his blush, trying to find the situation extra amusing so that he may cover for his sudden lack of cool composure. Taking a moment, he raked his hungry gaze over the tall blonde’s naked chest and abdomen. Gods above, he was beautiful…

Zell shook his head, trying to clear it of the wonderful, almost ethereal image that had taken up residence within his mind. Seifer was too handsome for his own good…too tempting. Trying to distract himself, Zell turned back to Selphie, who had happened to be lecturing her small army on the purpose and function of the napkin tucked down the front of their robes.

“I TOLD you! It’s so that you don’t get that stuff all over your robes! No! Don’t wipe your mouth on your sleeve!!”

The Tonberry in question looked up, then slowly took its napkin and dabbed at its mouth. Beaming with approval, Selphie gave the little Ton a kiss on the head and went back to fixing breakfast for the human members of the party.

“They just don’t seem to understand the fundamentals! How will they ever learn etiquette now?”

“Umm…Selphie wh—Hey! What’s the big idea?? Lemme go you ass!!”

Seifer glared, apparently not completely awake as they had hoped. He held Zell within his iron grip by his collar, eyes narrowing. Had he been a Ruby Dragon, steam would have been billowing out of his nostrils. He adjusted his grip on Zell, giving him a look that could very well strike down the largest of prey.

“You little SHIT. What is your fucking problem?! Why the HELL do you have to come INTO the tent and make all that FUCKING noise?!! You a little pervert of something? A queer?? Having the nerve to try and look at me while I’m naked!! You. Are. Dead.”

The taller blonde shook Zell roughly, snarling. It seemed like their little tussle had attracted an audience. The Tonberries sat with their spoons in mid-shovel, watching them with rapt attention.

“Hey, hey! Stoppit!” Selphie jumped up and down, trying to get their attention. “Wake up, Seifer!! You’re dreaming!!!”

“Yeah, wake the FUCK up!” Zell resorted to the quickest thing he could think of. He made a grab for Seifer’s crotch and twisted. Hard. Very Hard. Zell fell with a thud as he escaped from Seifer’s death grip, gasping for breath”

Seifer’s long body curled in upon itself as he clutched at his seriously abused anatomy. “….Fuck…” Seifer’s head lifted slowly as he heard the unmistakable ear-splitting cry of that could only be one thing: Selphie’s Official Bonding Retreat Whistle Delux.

“THAT’S IT! Peer Mediation!!!”

The group gathered before Selphie’s tent, the Tonberries behind her and her two naughty subjects before her. Thankfully, after his ‘horrific attack’, as Seifer had put it, he had dressed. Shifting the ice pack on his crouch just a little to the left with his gloveless hand, Seifer shot a glare at Zell, who returned it with equal fervor.

Seifer rolled his aquatic eyes, not wanting to be here in the least. “So what exactly is this Peer Mediation shit?”

The jumper-clad girl set her hands on her small hips, glaring heartily at both of them. Had she not been dead serious, they probably would have found this sight rather amusing. She turned her back to them, beginning her explanation.

“I don’t get why I hafta be here…It’s not even my fau-”

Selphie whipped around, her curled hair looking more like a pair of horns than anything else. “Zell Geoffrey Dincht! Fondling the goodies of a man you are not involved with is a serious crime!”

“I think the more appropriate word for this situation would be ‘squash’. Or ‘mutilate’. Or…”

“Okay, Okay! I get the point…Geez…But he picked me up first! I still say this is all his fault!”

Slapping her hand against her forehead, Selphie shouted, “That’s it! Seifer, come with me! Zell, find a Tonberry. It’s mediating time!” With that, Selphie started dragging a wincing, swearing, and rather twitchy Seifer to the other side of the clearing.

Biting his lower lip, Zell looked from his disappearing friend and rather recent obsession to the crowd of Tonberries by his feet. One by one, they dragged folding aluminum chairs from behind Selphie’s tent into a semi- circle around him. When the last Tonberry, obviously the leader of the group, sat down, the session began. Zell seated himself on the soft grass. How was he supposed to mediate with these guys? As far as he knew, Tonberries weren’t exactly the most gifted of creatures when it came to speech. They got in a few words here and there, but that was with a lot of effort!

Something white caught his sky-blue eyes. Drawn to it, Zell could make out a whiteboard, a thick green pen, and a cloth. He was going to communicate and council manually?? Now THERE was an odd approach to it…And so it began.

The Tonberry before him began to scribble, the soft squeaks of the pen sounding ominous and interesting all the same. Zell began to find himself thinking up small questions. Like, how could they write? They didn’t have thumbs…Or, how did they even know how to write? Did they have an education system?

The Tonberry turned the board around slowly, resting his paws on the top of it to balance everything out. [Hi, my name is Woodrow Starfish III, and Zell I will be your mediators. These are my pupils.]

Woodrow gestured toward his 11-some-odd peers sitting around them.

“Umm…Sure. So how do we do this?” Zell rolled his eyes, waiting for Woodrow to carefully erase the whiteboard, then scribble his next series of words down.

[What do you think is the problem, Zell?]

“Umm…Well…I think…It has somethin’ to do with me and Seifer…We don’t really seem to get along, ya know?”

[Well, I would think that would be obvious.]

“Hey, ya asked me what I thought the problem was! I told ya what I thought!”

[Calm down. No need to become angry. When one is angry, one can never solve anything.]

“Try tellin’ Seifer that.”

“Seifer! I already let you use those bad words too many times! Don’t make me give you another ‘fuckin’ shit’ card!”

“If you don’t like it, don’t consider it a word. Hyne, what I wouldn’t give for a cigarette right now…”

“Cheer up Seifer! We’re gonna get through this and soon you’ll be able to express yourself in an orderly way!”

“Like I fucking need help to express myself.”

Selphie bristled at his words, but kept a wide smile plastered on her faced. “Okaaaay…I’ll ask you again! How do you thi-”

“I don’t feel like thinking right now.”

“Seifer! I’m trying to help you here!”

“Did I say I wanted your help?”

“You’re on this retreat for a reason, Mister!”

“Not by choice, of course.”

“FUCK! FUCK FUCK SHIT FUCK!” Selphie pounded her small fist upon the portable table separating herself and Seifer. This was so frustrating! She should have taken Zell to mediate! Trying to calm down, Selphie cradled her head on her arms against the table. She looked up as something poked her in the arm. She glared at Seifer and threw the word card at him. “You can’t give me one of these!”

“So anyway…I keep thinkin’ that there’s somethin’ more between us…Like it’s buried or somethin’…Know what I mean?”

Woodrow shook his head, but motioned for Zell to continue. He had finally gotten the boy to open up to him. A wondrous accomplishment in itself. The little Tonberry straightened its robes, then wiped off his board, just in case he wanted to make a comment sometime soon.

“Anywho, I think that maybe I feel…Maybe I feel more for him…Than just hate.”

Zell blushed. It was so hard to just say these things aloud. He barely had acknowledged these feelings within himself! How could they expect him to really get the hang of what was going on so soon? Well, at least he was doing better than Seifer. He had never seen Selphie so mad before. Just how did she learn to cuss like that? She could give any of the Balamb sailors a run for their Gil.

[Do you think perhaps that your feelings stem deeper than that of just friendship?]

“Well, we’re not really friends…”

[Yes, that was a bit obvious, don’t you think?]

“Geez, will you stop sayin’ that??”

Erase Erase. Scribble Scribble.

[Sorry, my mistake.]

“Damn right, little fella.”

The Tonberry gave him what appeared to be a grin. Zell shrugged and let his gaze wander across the clearing to where Selphie was sitting on the table right in front of Seifer, handing him a variety of cards. Despite the massive pile of cards that lay in the bully’s lap, it looked like they were actually making some progress.

“Well…It’s like this…”

Selphie shifted her grip on Seifer’s shirt collar. “Come on! Just cooperate with me here! The sooner we solve this little problem the sooner you can go and smoke those little death-bringers! Of course…I’ll probably put you through talk for that later…But let’s take care of this first!”

Seifer sighed and closes his eyes. After a moment, he began to speak. “Alright…The thing is…I’m uncomfortable around him.”

Selphie blinked, her hands sliding from Seifer’s shirt. “What do you mean? It’s just that simple??”

A growl erupted from Seifer’s throat and he cracked open an eye to glare at her. “No. It’s NOT that simple. It’s like…Well, I think it’s deeper than that.”

“What do you mean?” Selphie spoke hesitantly as she slowly tried to climb off the table and back into her lawn chair. “It’s deeper, how?”

Seifer stopped talking then. He heaved a soft sigh of defeat and cleared his throat. His eyes softening to a pale jade instead their usual critical blue. Seifer turned his head and gazed over to where Zell was talking quietly to the Tonberries. As if feeling Seifer’s eyes upon him, Zell looked up from his mediator and met Seifer’s eyes, a confused expression is almost childish features.

“I…I think I love the little guy.”

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