You can only kill me once

I was quietly eating a pile of warm comforting hotdogs. Everyone else was busy, so I sat alone, listening to the babbling voices around me. The cafeteria was buzzing with excitement about the Garden winter festival in a month's time

As usual I had been roped into helping. No-one could refuse Selphie; she would keep going on until you agreed. Avoiding her was harder than any mission I've ever done. At least I didn't have to look over my shoulder anymore.

She followed me everywhere for about a week, even into the guy's changing rooms, frightening the hell out of Squall. I took another bite out of the hotdog and chewed ferociously at the memory to stop myself from laughing. I almost choked.

He's too cute when he's embarrassed; he goes all pink and stares at the floor. He looks so much better when he smiles which is very rare and only happens when he fights. Yes, I have been paying attention. I also like to watch Irvine walk. Preferably away. The charm doesn't work on me; I'd like a man who has more depth than a shallow puddle. Something I would never tell Selphie about her latest fling. Then there's a pretty blonde that I've been writing to in Galbadia. He's got a nice smile and is a kick boxer like me. He's kinda cool and funny, not that I'm going to tell him that and go all mushy.

Ok, I like guys. Only one person knows and that's my best mate Selphie. She got all giggly when I told her and she tried to set me up with "a nice redhead from Balamb" who was "just your type". It was bloody awful and I told her not to help me ever again. Someone should stop her having sugar, but that would be as unappreciated as someone taking away my favourite food. Quistis once told me what made up the doggy goodness and I almost stopped eating them…for a day. Not that I'm addicted or anything.

Out of nowhere a male hand snaked around the side of my plate and grabbed a hotdog before I could protect them.

"Thanks for lunch Chickie"

There was only one person who called me that and it wasn't the Irvine the perpetual flirt.

"Asshole" I muttered under my breath

"And it's nice to talk to you too"

His voice held the usual sly sarcasm. I looked up and saw Seifer and the other two members of the Disciplinary Committee.

"What do you want?" I snapped

"Where are your manners, Dinght? I've been told to give you a message. You're leading the intensive training this month. Not that I will ever need your help."

He laughed at his oh so sparking wit and his minions joined in. Talk about evil villain syndrome.

"Who told you that?" I asked, knowing immediately who to injure.

"That information came from the office of the almighty ice princess."

"Why didn't he tell me himself?"

"Because he's an anti-social little shit."

This cued another laugh from Fuujin and Raijin.

I recognised the name that he calls Squall. I don't know where that particular name came from; he's too much of a moron to come up with it himself.

"Isn't this the part when you tell me your evil plot to destroy the world?" I said quietly.

Seifer polished off the hotdog in two bites and slowly licked his fingers, as if to rub my nose in that fact I had been too slow.

"Later"

He strutted off like he owned the place, the committee following obediently behind.

Crap, I had no choice but to agree with Squall. Disagreeing can cost you Seed levels and a month of car washing duty. I never want to do anything with those cars again. The creepy guy at the petrol station kept flirting with me and kept making disgusting comments about my hair

I pushed away the remaining hotdogs, having lost my appetite. That smug laughter putting me off. Oddly, he has been the only person to pick on me for months. Hopefully they're working on a rota system and not all waiting to jump me at the same time. I put my rubbish in a bin, feeling like I had betrayed a friend and left the room.

The whole Garden was covered with decorations. Mistletoe hung from the doorways, but not as much as last year when Irvine went on the rampage with the stuff taped to his hat. Bloody menace.

The hallway was practically empty, no need for the usual avoidance tactics. I carried on to the quad and stumbled into a short, soft object.

"Watch it."

My vision finally came into focus

"Sorry Selph." I scratched my head and tried to look repentant, but she was obviously not having any of it.

She tapped her foot impatiently. Not her usual peppy, sugar filled bouncing at all.

"You're late; I was ready for your help two hours ago."

I couldn't really tell her that I had been avoiding her all day, that I hadn't even practiced and had talked to the other person I didn't want to talk to, just to avoid what was about to happen right now.

"Couldn't someone else help?"

"Squall was busy with some Garden stuff, Quistis was teaching, Rinoa didn't want to break a nail and Irvine is cutting out things with me." She counted everyone off on her fingers. "But..." Her eyes lit up "I have found someone to help you."

"Did you blackmail them?"

"Better."

Out of the shadows behind Selphie stepped a figure in a long coat and cigarette in his hand. The plume of smoke curled around her head and she flicked it away with a wave of her hand.

"Chickie, twice in one day." He drawled "You should feel honoured."

"What's he doing here?" I stuttered with anger.

"He is doing me a favour."

"Anything for my Selphie" He gave one of those melodramatic trademark sneers

"Leave it out Seif" Selphie snorted.

She rolled her eyes and batted away his arm that he had placed possessively around her shoulders. From the look on his face, the nickname irritated him as much as he did her.

"I need a tree from Trabia, any complaints see Squall." Selphie snapped

She turned on her heels and went back into the quad, probably to keep Irvine from causing any trouble. This left me and the ex-knight scowling at each other. There are a few things I would love to say him, but I carried on with expressing myself in the non verbal way.

Seifer stubbed the cigarette out against the wall and let it drop to the floor.

Smoking is such a nasty habit

"Let's get something straight. I don't like you; I'm just doing this for Selphie."

What a weird thing to say. By that display a few minutes ago, I had figured that. I'm not as dumb as people take me for. People always feel the need to repeat things around me which can get quite annoying, but sometimes it's better to appear stupid because no-one asks you any questions. It was a tad odd to see my worst enemy and best friend being mildly friendly even though they were just winding each other up. If he was threatening her, he was in big trouble.

I felt a bit confused when he put his hand out for me to shake. I shook it slowly, expecting there to be a trick or something, but his hand felt normal, just a little cold.

"Trabia huh? Why are you doing this for Selphie, what's she got on you?"

"Are you going to shut the hell up or are you volunteering for surgery?"

He stalked off this time in the direction of the Ragnarok hanger and I had not choice but to follow behind.

Way to go Zell. Piss him off before we even leave. My life had suddenly got all distorted, the guy I've hated forever is in the cockpit on the Ragnarok and we are travelling to Trabia to find a giant Christmas tree. He said that he was 'doing it for Selphie'. Is she blackmailing him? I bet it's to do with that fishing trip a year ago, no-one ever told me what happened.

"Get up here Dinght." I heard my enemy's voice over the speaker. I climbed the steps to the cockpit and watched the white landscape as it passed in front of us. I must have lost track of time.

"Where are we?"

"Galbadia. Where do you think?"

It was the first time he had said a word to me since we set off. He smirked at me, his eyes creasing up at the corners. I know that's a strange thing for me to notice, I was just a little surprised that there was just sarcasm in his voice and not the usual malice.

He turned to me as we landed.

"Let's get this over with."

We spent the next three hours traipsing through snow in silence, trying to find a fir tree that would come up to the standard of little miss perfectionist at Garden. My feet were frozen and my glare could melt rocks by the time we found the perfect one.

Unfortunately, the excess weight was not taken into consideration during the walk back and we were up to our thighs in slushy snow. Seifer's coat was a mess and dragged behind him like a sulking child.

Halfway back, he slipped on the snow up to his waist and dropped his half of the tree.

"Fuck." He shouted, his voice echoing around the valley.

I lowered the tree into the snow and grabbed his hand before he slipped any further.

"You owe me one." I said, trying not to sound smug.

He glowered, pulled himself up to full height and silently picked up the tree.

We slowly pulled it up the slope onto the Ragnarok with thick rope, bringing half of Trabia's snow in with us.

"See ya Chickie." Seifer said as soon as the loading bay doors closed.

He walked off, leaving me with a distinct absence of light

"Cccold" My teeth chattered to no-one in particular as I go up and looked around in the dark.

An orange light appeared in my peripheral vision. Seifer stood at the top of the steps leading to the sleeping quarters, holding his lighter that cast shadows on the walls

"You coming or not?"

I jogged to the spot where he stood.

"Now, we're even." A ghostly smile played on his lips as he let me follow him into the ship.

I could never understand him. One minute he was as nice as cherry pie and next he was a self centred bastard. He used to pinch me when we were little to make me cry, then laugh. Luckily, he grew out of that one. Not that I paid much attention to any new habits of the blonde with the emerald eyes and the practiced sneer. Way too much observation there, he's not even that nice looking and don't get me started on his toxic personality. He just provokes me and finds it funny in that arrogant way of his, that isn't even remotely sexy.

As soon as we got back to Garden, he disappeared and left me to organise everything. I searched the whole damn place for that creep. I found him leaning in a wall, terrorising first year cadets. A cloud of smoke was in the air and ash on the floor.

Are you going to help me then?"

He looked down from his 6ft and smirked, blowing smoke out his nose.

"Maybe, maybe not" He said in his usual infuriating way.

It was as if his mission in life was to make me go totally demented.

"Fine." I snapped. "You know there I'll be"

I cajoled, -well threatened- some cadets into bringing the tree out into the hanger.

I stood there and waited for nearly an hour for Seifer to arrive. By that time, I needed some serious defrosting, and shadow boxing hadn't helped in the slightest. He came out of Garden and threw something at me. I automatically went on the defensive.

"It won't bite" he said.

I unravelled the clump of fabric and it turned out to be a coat. I suspiciously put it on, checking all the pockets for sharp things. It was a considerate thing for him to do, but then again he wouldn't be able to annoy me if I died of hyperthermia.

"Don't you trust me Chickie?"

"Stop calling me that."

He laughed and picked up the trunk of the tree, leaving me with the branch end. The more inconvenient one.

I began to walk slowly backwards. My upper body strength was not created to carry trees. I'd rather be outside oblitering bad guys.

We struggled down the hallway with the giant tree. I turned a corner and the momentum smashed Seifer into a wall.

"Watch where you're going!"

"You're supposed to give me directions, walking backwards remember" I shouted

"Am I fuck." He retaliated even louder

I dropped my end of the tree in disgust.

"Get your own tree"

"I was told to carry this one."

"When does the great Seifer take orders?"

"I'm doing this for Selphie" He said through gritted teeth

"Selph has power over you? I thought that you were nobody's bitch. No wait, Ex-sorceresses knight." I stopped to look at him, I expected there to be at least a flicker of annoyance on his face, but there was nothing. I started again, determined to piss him off like he did to me. "How the hell did you get back in here? You must have been especially nice to Squall. You do have a lovely name for him don't you.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" He bellowed. "I should have never listened to Selphie and her ideas. She is my girlfriend and a crazy little bitch if she thought everything would work out."

I stopped talking, my mouth opening and closing. No words could escape. I felt a vague feeling that could possibly be classified as disappointment. He was obviously enjoying the shock value. A load of students had piled out of the cafeteria to listen and Quistis was standing in a doorway with a 'what the hell' look on her face.

I was still dumbstruck, how could Selphie not tell me. What about Irvine?

"Pick up your toys Chickie."

Seifer's lips curled into a sneer and he turned away. He lit a cigarette in the no smoking section of the building and sauntered off, leaving an apocalypse where he once stood.

I wandered absentmindedly from the carnage. I had to bribe and threaten some cadets again, to move the tree into the quad. I felt so angry with Selphie for not saying anything. I was disappointed that she didn't trust me enough to tell me, but it was a match made in Hell if you ask me. Not that anyone would. The sick feeling still niggled though. Maybe it was indigestion, but I hadn't eaten anything for ages.

I jogged to the cafeteria. One of the lunch ladies would take care of me. All I had to do was smile nicely and listen whilst they tried to fix me up with one of their granddaughters. I hadn't the heart to tell them that I wasn't interested.

I passed an empty classroom and stopped when I heard a voice.

"I don't know why she's bothered with him. He's such an egotistical pig, so Seifer. There is not other way to describe him."

It was Rinoa and she wasn't much better. There's a 'We hate Rinoa' fan club in the Garden somewhere. It's probably related to her relationship to Squall, but everyone knows that he's as straight as the flight pattern of a drunken pigeon. She can be so self absorbed, she doesn't even notice.

"Bad boy thing I think."

The second voice belonged to Quistis. I didn't think that she was one for gossip.

"You went out with him for a while didn't you Rin?"

"Then I came to my senses."

The both laughed at that comment. Before I could stop myself, I walked into the room.

"Well, Squall is just Squall." I snapped. "Who, if you haven't figured it out yet always looks at guys when you go out."

Maybe it was a bit of an over reaction and a little too loud. They both went quiet and I stalked out of the room, half pleased with myself for shutting them up and half worried because Squall would kill me.

"Now she knows" Said a deep voice.

I looked to the left and saw Seifer leaning against a wall in his usual fashion. I jumped and my heart stopped for a second.

"Don't need you sticking up for me Dinght"

"Wasn't. Was mad at Squall. Defending Selphie" I mumbled.

I wandered in the opposite direction, but I could have sworn I heard him say my name.

After that he disappeared for a couple of weeks. I toyed with the idea of asking Selphie where he went, but that would be like asking a gossip columnist to keep quiet, it would be all over Garden by lunchtime. There were no more daily arguments and I had thought of some pretty good comebacks. I had to always be prepared for any vicious onslaught of abuse. I admit that I have problem and it involves the man who has preoccupied more of my waking thoughts than I would like and a few of my sleeping ones. I've had really weird dreams.

I ran to the Training centre. The only place that could make me feel better. I watched a T-Rexaur who was ambling around minding it's own business. I jumped over it's errant tail and pounded at its left flank with my best moves.

"Kicking it on the ankle won't work."

I've never liked remarks about my height. So what if I was a little short, it made no difference to my fighting skills, in fact it made me quicker.

I continued to beat the monster; the smell of cigarette smoke wafted over and knew exactly who it was. I back flipped over the tail again, but my leg got caught and I fell to the ground. I pulled myself up off the leaves and debris and gave the beast a final pounding. The monster finally fell and I turned.

"I know that you were trying to impress me, but you could have got killed."

I had a really good comeback, I swear I did, but as soon as he spoke, all the witty remarks made a kamikaze jump out of my head.

"Where have you been?" I asked

"None of your business" He snapped. "I hope you're spells are more competent than your fighting, or we're screwed in the sparring department."

I casually threw a fire spell at him and it hit the tree a couple of inches to the left.

"Obviously not."

"What's your problem?" I asked.

To think I missed him a little, I must have been delusional through lack of hot dogs.

"Just you." He answered snidely.

A ball of ice materialised on his palm and he threw it. I was just about to insult him, when I heard a thump and something was dead on the floor. It must have sneaked up behind me. That asshole had saved me. Now I owed him a favour, which was something that I definitely didn't miss.

He walked over and cast cure on my wounds. He leant in close, the smell of smoke and coconut assaulting my senses. A tingling sensation resonated through my body giving me goose bumps. I felt my heart beat a little faster and my mouth go dry. I knew that I'd gone pink. He smiled.

"You owe me one" he whispered in my ear as he got up and left.

My brain seemed to have gone screwy; he's supposed to be the man I hate. How confusing. I tried to pretend to everyone that he had no effect on me. Even though when he walked into a room I was in, I couldn't breathe properly. He probably had no feelings for me at all and would just make my life hell.

The only way to have some control over myself was to stay in my room unless I had classes or a mission. It was difficult not being able to see my friends, but I was also avoiding Squall who was refusing to look at me since he was outed by Rinoa via the Garden loudspeaker.

The day before the winter festival, I was walking down a corridor towards my room when I was yanked off my feet and pulled into a small room. After being almost knocked out by a broom, I worked out that I was in a storage cupboard.

"You're going to do what?" Screeched a high pitched voice in my ear. "After all my hard work"

"Hello Selphie, can I help you." I tried to be polite, which was hard, after being dragged into a confined space, by a screeching harpy. "I have a date for the festival dance, Irvine set it up. I got a pep talk from him. He said that I'm not getting out enough."

"I'll kill him" She tried saying it under her breath, but Selphie can't be quiet when she's angry.

"What's the problem?"

"Who is the date with?" She asked quietly, changing tactics.

My stomach bunched up on the inside, this was dangerous Selphie territory.

"A friend of Squall's"

"You told Seifer about this?

"I told Fuu, she seemed to be happy for me. Come to think of it, she was extremely happy that I was going on a date with a guy. Overly enthusiastic actually, she said two words. I did walk past Seifer in the cafeteria and he didn't even look at me. He didn't even bother to trip me or anything, he looked a little preoccupied. Shouldn't you go and see what's wrong?"

"Zell, you're so dense." She snapped

"Huh?"

"You haven't noticed have you?"

"Noticed what? What are you talking about Selph?"

I wished I hadn't spoken those words as soon as they escaped my lips; I braced myself for a Selphie tirade.

"Not what, who. Tall, blonde, smokes like a chimney, unfortunately. She added the last word with a sigh, but quickly snapped out of it. "Has a way with words, enjoys making you jealous." She counted them off on her fingers.

The only person I could picture in my mind who fitted that description was Seifer. That stupid smirk and that stupid coat. The I couldn't care less attitude, the wicked sarcasm, the way he could make me feel safe.

The words, 'likes making you jealous' finally floated into my brain and tapped on the front of my head. I must have looked a little shocked and I knew that all the colour had drained from my face. Another mistake to make in front of Selphie, she's a smart girl.

"So it clicks. It took you years to figure out what I did in 2 days."

"There wasn't a you and Seifer at all was there?"

Selphie sighed and shook her head.

He kept saying he was doing all that stuff for you."

"That's because it was my idea. I knew that you would help me with the festival, and that would mean he could be around you."

"You told him to piss me off then scarper?"

"Yup" She said smiling as if she was going to get a great reward

"It was all a set up, wasn't it?"

"Yup"

"I told you never to help me again."

"Got you interested though didn't it?" She said smugly. "Remember that guy I set you up with in Balamb?"

"When I told you never to help me again"

"Yes, you said that, but then I figured that he was too nice."

I eyed her suspiciously. It was quite difficult for her to get the full effect, when we were trapped in a dark closet.

"And?"

"I was in the quad a couple of months ago and saw Seifer holding up a cadet against the wall by the throat, threatening to set him alight with that 6 inch flame he's got. He was trying to get the kid to apologise, which is kind of difficult when your wind pipe is being crushed."

"He's always hated the cadets."

"When the dispute was over and the poor kid was getting his breath back, I asked what had happened. The kid said that he had made an innocent comment about you and the 'psycho' - his words not mine- went nuts and started to act all strange. Seifer said that no-one was to go anywhere near you and to get the message around Garden. Poor guy was traumatised."

"There has to be more than that. He might not have wanted other people around so that he could pick on me himself. He probably doesn't even want me."

"This next bit's the kicker. I heard Seifer talk to himself. You never want to hear that. When he starts, do this." Selphie put her fingers in her ears for a second "He mentioned you, rather a lot actually. She looked at me to gauge my reaction." Anyway, I figured that a possessive psycho might do it for you."

"How did you know that I would feel the same way?"

"Hiding away in you're room proves you are in denial." She said accusingly, poking me in the chest as she said it. "Running away whenever he enters a room? You're not as good at pretending as you think you are."

I shook my head at her, she knew me too well

"Admit it, you think he's sexy."

I smiled, a sly one that told her all she wanted to know. Like I said before, she's a smart girl.

She turned me round.

"Go make him wail like a fucking banshee"

I wheeled round and gawped at her

"Selphie" I said, shocked at her language.

She smiled and shoved me out of the now open door.

I walked in the direction of the sleeping quarters. Was this the most irrational thing ever? What if it was all a joke? I got to Seifer's room and stood there looking at the door wondering whether to knock. I raised my hand and the door opened.

"What to you want?"

He was standing right in front of me. I shrugged my shoulders, resigning myself to my fate, regardless of how gruesome it was.

"You can only kill me once." I garbled

I reached up to pull him down to my level and quickly kissed him experimentally on the lips. He just stood there, most probably in shock and I closed my eyes waiting to be knocked to the floor.

Then he kissed me, of his own accord this time. Tilting my head up gently with his fingers, I closed my eyes and kissed him back.

It was softer and slower than I thought it would be. The mention of fireworks would be too cliché, it felt more like an earthquake.

He suddenly stopped and I couldn't help feeling disappointed.

"Zell?" He whispered in my ear.

It was the first time he'd said my name to my face for years. His minty breath tickled my neck, perhaps he had figured out that I hated his nasty habit.

"You're coming to the dance with me"

"Ask me properly"

I wasn't going to let him bully me.

"Will you go to the dance with me? He asked, running his ringers down the side of my face

"Okay"

"Good" He smiled, pulled me into his room and shut the door.