Author's Notes: Okay, it's come this far. A yaoi author is writing a het story. Not just any het story, but a Zell/Rinoa het story! To say that said author had gone bonkers could be considered a blatant understatement, however, the author does have a (somewhat) logical explanation for why she suddenly decided to churn out such a strange pairing: she hasn't given either Rinoa or Zell nearly the attention they deserve in her other stories. This story isn't just a pairing fic, it is also a character study, a character study she hasn't given to either Zell or Rinoa in the past and thus would like to do so with this strange little story. This fic is also another attempt at humour, as the second chapter will contain quite a bit of more or less funny scenes (maybe thy aren't funny at all because, after all, we already established that this author is nuts – she would therefore like to kindly ask her dear readers to find out for themselves.)

The author is apologizing for having gone crazy and promises to swiftly return to her usual stories. This little crazy piece will, after all, only be three chapters long.

The main reason for the author to post this little piece was the fact that the first two chapters had been sitting on her pooter for many months, and she eventually figured that some little soul might actually like it a little. Also, it's contains the first het sex scene she ever wrote, so she's a little proud. (after all, everybody should be allowed to have their own little illusions! Her illusion's just that she can write het sex scene! So what, rather harmless compared to other people whose illusions are that they can fly or that they can have pacts with tyrannical communist leaders and expect to live in peace or... okay, I'll stop now.)

Disclaimer: The demented author doesn't own FFVIII or Zell or Rinoa.

Pairing: Zell/Rinoa. Sorry. Really sorry.

Timeline: Set during the Balamb Town mission on the 2nd disc.

Rating: Will be heavily M-rated. Yes, folks, there is a sex scene coming for us in the 2nd chapter... yes, yes... The author will make sure to give you the link to the naughty version then.

(Eventual) Warnings: underage drinking, sex, language. Her hentai demon demon was riding the author hard. The author doesn't really think it can only be seen as a PWP, though.

Feedback & Distribution: The author would welcome reviews very, very, very much, but doesn't like flames from people whose sole reason for flaming is the fact that they don't like the pairing.

Length: Three chapters.

Upload Schedule: Most of the story is already written, so it shouldn't take as long as usual... (look at the sweat drop over the author's brow – she just knows she's going to take a small eternity for this one, too. But she deserves it for having gone bloody nuts, don't you all agree?)


---Sugar Skin---

--- Chapter 1: Loneliness is Evil---

Rinoa was actually grinding her teeth together in silent, but agonizing anger as she lay there, wrapped in the very same thick blankets which Zell had spread out for her over a soft mattress which Zell had, again just for her, borrowed from their neighbours. She wanted to punch through that soft, feathery mattress right now, imagining it was Squall's face. Making a small sound, but biting down on her lips as she remembered that Zell was sleeping in his bed only a couple of mere meters away, very much within hearing distance, she muffled the sound. She didn't want to arouse the sleeping blonde's attention, didn't want to disturb his sleep when he was kind enough to let her stay on his bedroom floor, the fact that he had squarely refused them in the beginning notwithstanding. In fact, knowing that Zell wasn't exactly happy about them staying at his house only increased Rinoa's wish not to disturb the hot-tempered blonde too much. Balamb Town was currently blocked off from the rest of the world as some search party was feverishly looking for a girl named Ellone, having left Rinoa and Squall little choice but to ask Zell for accommodation. He had been very reluctant at first, but had eventually given in - a certain grumpiness continuing to stay with him the entire evening.

Sighing, she ran a hand through her silky, raven hair and as her thoughts returning to Squall once more, another wave of anger washed through her – this time, one that was powerful to make it difficult for her to will herself not to bite down on her lower lip with enough force to draw blood. Rinoa might have been been quite the passionate and quick-tempered woman who didn't hold any grudges, but she knew that this time, she was really pissed. Never mind all the previous times Squall had been cold or downright mean to her and his comrades, never mind the countless times he had refused her in one way or the other, a refusal that went far beyond 'I don't want to fuck you' and could be more translated to 'I don't want to look at you', which was insufferably more offensive -- still, Rinoa had managed to come around every single time.

Since it was one of Rinoa's self-proclaimed principles to try to be nice and fair to everyone who crossed her path, she found it somewhat irritating that Squall of all people would be the person to flat-out decline his friendship. Rinoa Heartilly wasn't used to not getting what she wanted, especially when she wanted it as badly as Squall's friendship – and, quite frankly, there was also little she despised more than not getting what she wanted. But still, quite miraculously, she had never really been able to be mad at Squall for very long.

Until now.

This time, he'd just hit it right on the mark. This time had been the straw that finally broke the overworked camel's back. Refusing to sleep in one room with them for reasons that she suspected were far less noble than his bodyguard story indicated. Squall, who was painfully absent from the room and was sleeping downstairs on the couch somewhere, had acted like it was unthinkable to share a room with Rinoa and Zell, even though Rinoa knew full well even students at Balamb shared rooms until they became SeeDs and even though Zell's floor was big enough for two or more people to comfortably fit in without poking each other in the ribs every single fucking time they turned around in their sleep. The girl suspected the one and only reason Squall had insisted on staying downstairs was not wanting to share a room with her, for whatever reasons his twisted little mind had come up with.

Groaning slightly, she turned from one side to the other, opening her eyes in the darkness. She could make out random shapes and objects and she could hear Zell's soft breathing; a very youthful, even breathing that could have lulled her to sleep as well if she hadn't been too occupied by trying to keep her anger at bay enough so she wouldn't run the risk of spontaneous self-combustion. She'd just read an article on that this morning. Scary thing. Squall, of course, had only looked at her with a look that clearly read, 'What, do you still believe in fairy tales...?'

Granted, maybe she was a little too romantic for this world sometimes, but even if she, convinced of herself to the last bit, could maybe admit to be somewhat leaning towards the romantic, more emotional side, then Squall should see as well that his behaviour sure as fucking hell wasn't all that normal, either. In fact, Squall was about as far away from being ordinary than she was from volunteering to appear as a bikini model in President Deling's voting campaign. In short, not very likely.

She rolled on her stomach, pursing her heart-shaped mouth as she pressed her head against the mattress, the warmth and thickness of it muffling the quiet groans escaping her throat. Just as she was about to suffocate, she got up again, trying to find a comfortable position so that she would maybe, with the luck of a man winning the lottery, fall asleep in the end. As much as she was angry at Squall, tossing around on the mattress for another 5 hours or so wasn't a very enticing outlook either, especially considering the mission they had to successfully complete the following morning. But just when she decided to tell herself to sleep, she heard a mumbling from beside her, followed by shifting and the sound of the sheets moving.

"Ri.. Rinoa?" Zell asked. She had expected his voice to be groggy and drawling with sleep, but he didn't sound like he'd just been waken up at all. Still, a pang of guilt shot through Rinoa.

Great, Rinoa, she thought to herself sourly. You just had to wake him up, didn't you?

"You can't sleep..?" Zell asked.

"No.. " she said quietly, wetting her lips. Hell, no point in lying, was there? What other reasons did she have to groan and toss around on her mattress other than the obvious one – that she couldn't sleep? She cleared her throat. "But it's all right, Zell. Just go back to sleep. Sorry to wake you up, you know?"

"Don't worry about that," Zell's voice, which was reaching her through the darkness, sounded even more youthful and cute than usual, without any visuals to distract Rinoa from really listening to him. His voice had been one of the first things Rinoa had paid attention to when meeting Zell, though she had admittedly not paid much mind to his voice – or to Zell, for that matter. She sighed, guessing she had just been too interested in a certain cold guy who acted like he was indefinitely more declined to eat rosty nails for dinner than to acknowledge her as a three-dimensional human being. A real hand for picking the uncomplicated guys, hadn't she just?

"Um, Rinoa..?" Zell spoke up again, just as the dark-haired girl had settled back into the soft mattress.


"Maybe... you can't you sleep because of me...?" he trailed off, sounding embarrassed, something that piqued Rinoa's interest, temporarily distracting her from her internal Squall bitch-fest.

"Huh?" Rinoa asked, blinking to make out Zell's silhouette in the darkness, which was somewhat difficult since she wasn't used to light that dark. Balamb Town was a very small town, and the light that made it into their rooms from the streets was dim at best. Rinoa remembered her room in Deling had always been bright at night, from thousands of neon lights floating up from the city below.

"Oh!" Rinoa exclaimed, smiling in the darkness. "No, you didn't snore."

There was a pause from Zell's end. "I didn't meant that, but… nevermind."

"Thanks for letting me stay here, Zell," Rinoa muttered, figuring he wouldn't mind talking to her since she had already woken him up and maybe she wouldn't get the chance to thank him tomorrow. "I mean, I know you aren't thrilled by it. So, you know, thanks. Also, again, so sorry for waking you up! I didn't mean to."

"Don't mention it. I'm not tired right now. You woke me up but I'm not all groggy like I usually am when someone wakes me up. It's usually advised to wear a motorcycle helmet when attempting to wake me up."

Rinoa laughed genuinely. She could hear him moving on his bed and she tried to make out what he was doing, but soon gave up as she noticed yet again that all her attempts to see something in this darkness turned out to be rather futile. "I'm kinda surprised, though," Zell added.

"Surprised?" Rinoa echoed. "By what?"

"Well, maybe I was wrong or something, I just figured you'd wanna stay downstairs with Squall instead."

Rinoa tried to sound non-chalant. "What gives you that idea...?"

"You act like you have a crush on him," Zell said.

"Gosh! Are you always this blunt?" Rinoa gasped.

"So I hear," Zell said softly, but his voice lacked his usual carefree confidence, sounding like he was almost shy about something, something that Rinoa chalked up to the fact that he probably didn't have to share his room very often and the fact that said sleep-over was a girl probably didn't help any to soothe his nerves. Although Rinoa didn't know the small blonde very well, she was quite good at judging people at first sight (or so she liked to think of herself) so she had immediately gotten the 'shy around women' air from the cute blonde, something she actually favoured to the 'asshole around women' air. On a rational level anyway. But sadly attraction wasn't always rational... in fact, Rinoa figured, it probably usually wasn't and again she thought that she just had a hand to drool over the most challenging, anti-social men.

Rinoa frowned in the darkness. "Squall's a dick."

"I know," Zell answered, his voice returning to some of his usual eagerness. "Squall's a dick. Seifer's a dick. And a much bigger dick than Squall, I might add. Um. Not literally of course..."

Rinoa laughed quietly to herself, feeling at ease talking to the blonde martial artist, something she definitely hadn't felt the past couple of hours. "I might actually be improving then..." Rinoa muttered, a sad look washing over her face as she said this. As much as she was angry at Squall and at herself for having let herself develop a certain fondness for the stoic brunette, she couldn't deny that there was another feeling creeping inside her right along the anger.


Rinoa had never really been lonely before and had always had many friends to surround herself with, but ever since she had joined Squall's group, she had felt incredibly lonely at times. When she'd seem them fighting, their abilities so much more developed than hers, outclassing her in every single aspect of fighting. When they were talking, about Garden or life, topics she had nothing to contribute to, topics that were as foreign to her as her own little Timber mission, which she still held very dear to her heart, was to them. They weren't all best buds and there was tension among them sometimes, but there was also something that told Rinoa that they were a group, that they were somewhat connected and that, no matter how much she wanted to, she could never be a part of it even if they agreed to try to integrate her as a full member. Even if they really tried, she would never be like them.

Zell was silent and Rinoa reckoned it was probably because he noticed she was sad, but was way too awkward to figure out how to support her. Rinoa couldn't see Zell being a master at consoling others, a trait he shared with the vast majority of teenage boys his age and even beyond. Rinoa silently thought about a way to lift her spirits. She thought about drinking a can of beer or two, something she did sometimes when she couldn't sleep, haunted by nightmares or thoughts that wouldn't cease to roam her head like pirates. Drinking a little bit of alcohol tended to send her into a peaceful, heavy slumber, something she desperately needed right now. She figured she wouldn't be much use for Zell and Squall tomorrow if she was almost unable to keep her sleep-derived self on her wobbly feet.

"Do you..." she thus started delicately, trying to sound innocent, "have something to drink?"

"What, now?" Zell exclaimed and Rinoa giggled as she imagined his surprised face. Zell was one of those people who couldn't hide their emotions and instead openly displayed them on their faces. "You mean, like, orange juice..?"

"No, Zell," Rinoa said. "I was thinking more along the lines of beer."

Zell gasped and she giggled yet again. "Wait, let me get this straight," Zell mumbled, "you want me to give you booze?"

"Zell, you're a teenage boy," Rinoa said with, teasing in her voice. "I'm sure you're not quite as innocent as you might seem."

"Wait, let's turn on the lights first, aight?" Rinoa heard Zell getting up, commencing his way to the light switch as he accidentally hit his toe on something. Rinoa heard a yelp of pain and she couldn't help but laugh quietly under her breath, a laughter that eased yet a bit more of the tension inside her body, allowing her to temporarily forget all about her problems. She knew they would come back eventually, and likely with more force than before, but she welcomed the chance to abandon them by having some mindless fun with the witty blonde.

Zell cursed something under his breath that contained the word 'fuck' quite some times, and then he bathed the world into blinding light with one motion of his hands, light that quite violently raced right into the dark-haired girl's eyes. She closed them, groaning in pain. When she felt like she could open her eyes without having to worry of them getting burned out of their sockets by Zell's light switch, she saw Zell standing in front of her, a tight-fitting but rather old-looking dark blue t-shirt revealing part of his abdomen, his usually so spiky hair tousled and falling into his big, blue eyes in wet, slick tresses. He was also wearing a pair of grey pants that were obviously meant to sleep in and Rinoa couldn't help but grin at his appearance. Zell in pyjamas ranked on the cuteness scale (which ranged from acne sprees on butts all the way up to kittens and Squall's eyes) somewhere close to the top.

"Nice pajamas," Rinoa observed, smiling warmly.

Zell scratched the back of his head in embarrassment, slightly bowing forward as he did so, something that the blonde martial artist seemed to be doing quite a lot. "Well.. er.. thanks?"

Rinoa smiled again. There was something about the straight-forward, no-nonsense way that Zell had to him that made Rinoa feel less lonely. The raven-haired girl thought that it was perhaps not so much their fault that she felt like an alien among them a lot of times; it was probably also herself who, although very civil, was often too wrapped up in Squall to really socialize with the other team mates on a regular basis. Her smile fell and she sighed for a moment, looking down at the blue blanket she had wrapped herself in and at the silky blue pyjamas she was wearing underneath. Clothes that she knew would make her feel idiotic if Squall ever saw her in.

"Rinoa...?" Zell asked, raising one of his golden eyebrows.

"Hm? Oh," Rinoa shook her head. "Well, do you have something to drink?"

Zell regarded her out of his pale blue eyes, the colour that many people thought of as cold and icy, yet were very much not cold on Zell. His eyes were too alive and interested to ever really look hostile. "You really want something now?"

"Yeah, Zell," she sighed. "I can't sleep at all. A glass of wine or some beer will help me relax." Zell frowned and Rinoa hastily added, "I need the energy tomorrow. I mean, without Quistis, Selphie or Irvine, who's gonna fight for me if I can't?"

Zell sat down on the floor in front of her, regarding her carefully. Rinoa smiled at him as she saw the glint in his eyes, knowing he wouldn't refuse her this tiny little wish, just as most, if not all teenage boys wouldn't. Well, they probably got shitfaced in clubs or with their friends and rarely with a pyjama-clad girl who was sleeping in their room with them, but Rinoa was willing to bet said prospect didn't sound quite that horrible to most teenage boys.

"Well, I don't think we have beer, but my Ma has some Bacardi," Zell said, his voice probably involuntarily lowering itself to a whisper like he was confiding her in on a secret, which was kind of cute considering how thick the walls were. Zell grinned at her, something that made his eyes glitter. "I guess a glass or two would be all right, eh?"

"Well, if it's all right with you," Rinoa trailed off. "I mean, you were sleeping."

Zell shrugged. "I don't usually sleep more than four hours a night at the most. I don't think any of the other SeeDs do either, ever since we left Balamb for Timber..." He noticed Rinoa's expression. "Not that there's anything wrong with sleeping longer than that, though! I mean, sleeping is kinda fun, isn't it? I mean, not that you actually do anything, it's just, you know, I mean... relaxing?" he asked with a small grin, but it soon fell. "Shit. Sorry. I'm an idiot."

Rinoa laughed. "It's all right. I just like sleeping, I guess. I used to sleep up to 12 hours a day."

Zell's face fell. "No way!" he exclaimed passionately. Zell was definitely cute, in a lost-puppy sort of way. He wasn't the kind of guy that was sexy in his dark mystery like Squall was, or a guy that was attractive because he acted like he owned the world and didn't give a shit like Seifer. Zell was charming in a very boyish and helpless, yet very natural way, a way Rinoa had never found herself particularily attracted to but which she was enjoying right that moment.

"Damn," Zell muttered and scratched his back yet again before he got up in one swift, elegant motion. "Well, I'll go down to get that bottle.. but we shouldn't overdo it, I mean, having a hangover won't be all that great tomorrow, either, will it?"

"Imagine what Squall would do to us," Rinoa said, making a half-serious face.

Zell grinned at her. "Maybe it would actually be cool to see Squall all angry and stuff."

Rinoa nodded and they shared a comfortable silence, just looking at each other, something like silent understanding between them, something not quite tangible, something quite delicate, something not really sexual, but there nonetheless. Rinoa was starting to get a hang for the other man, reckoning that he probably despised being somewhat underappreciated among the others, something that had not even passed Rinoa's very pre-occupied-with-certain-brooding-brunettes mind. A lot of the times, Rinoa noticed that the others were sort of talking above Zell's head, like he wasn't on the same level they were. The dark-haired girl didn't yet fancy herself to be an appropriate judge of Zell's intelligence (or lack thereof) but this certain behaviour on especially Squall's and Quistis' part had always striked her as in desperate need of improvement. Rinoa noticed that Zell started to get restless under her gaze.

"Well... go then," she said softly, breaking the moment.

"Uh, right. Sorry," Zell sputtered. "I'll be right back, then." He turned around to go and Rinoa noticed that his body looked much more muscular from behind, his broad shoulders which narrowed into a lean, trim waist more impressive than up front. Rinoa had often noticed that men looked bigger from behind than they did up front, but it was especially noticeable in Zell Dincht, a guy who could almost be considered petite because of his height, boyish features and lean stature, but whose shoulders were impressively wide and everything masculine. The raven-haired woman pursed her lips as Zell softly shut the door behind him, leaving her alone with these strange thoughts unwilling to leave her mind, because she knew that although Zell was attractive, he didn't measure up to Squall. Gosh, she thought, bringing one hand to her temple, Squall is getting more to me than I thought.

--- tbc