"Ow, Jesus, I poked myself in the eye!" Zidane grabbed at his face, dropping a strange brown square object.

"Eye molestor," Zik grunted at the blonde.

"You should know better than to closely inspect anything the school makes, Tribal," Freya very gradually stirred a cup of thin generic tea with one of the dining hall's spoons. The usually noise of lunch hour was drowning out the clinking metal against ceramic, but she didn't mind. The little teabag swirling in the lukewarm water spun around the spoon. Looking up at her lunchtime companions, she inclined her head. "They are known to attack."

Zidane rubbed at his eye with one hand and flicked the strange object off the table with the other. "I'm sorry, anything called an 'almost candy' bar needs close inspection."

By all means the food served in college wasn't bad, but it wasn't anything near good either. Nor was it particularly identifiable. Usually the selection of deserts were those that were most intimidating. Most of them looked like they'd been left out on the road during a hard rain before the delivery truck ran them over. Some people ate them- mostly freshman. The rest of the campus generally steared clear.

It had of course, then, only been scientific curiousity which had caused Zidane to pick up one of the daily 'treats' and bring it to their table for examination. After it had successfully fended off attacks by knives, forks and sporks he'd resorted to softening it in orange juice before trying once again to disect it.

Apparently the desert from hell had other objectives, though.

"You're boring." Zik muttered before returning to eating his pasta.

"Well excuse me, if I could summon a better entertainer I would. But Zack's off bailing out that Cloud kid." Zidane rubbed tenatively at his eye one more time. It was bloodshot now.

Freya sipped her tea and raised her eyebrows. "Bailing him out? What's he done now?"

"Now? What'd he do before?"

"Shut up," Zik's voice killed explanations, the white-haired student looking over the rim of a cup and pointing over Freya's shoulder.

Coming towards their table, hands in the front pocket of his sweater was Cloud. The blonde looked less skittish than the last time they'd seen him in the dining hall. This time, though, he seemed completely drained. His movements were depressed and his voice subdued when he spoke. "Hey." He didn't look at them when he spoke.

"Hey," Zidane rapped his knuckles on the table. "Take a seat. How'd it go?"

Cloud shook his head. "Don't have time. I just wanted to know if Zack was here."

Shaking her head, Freya leaned over the back of her chair. She spoke softly, trying to seem comforting. "He hasn't stopped in for lunch, sorry Cloud. Are you alright?"

"I'm fine." He looked anything but fine.

It was difficult to miss that. Biting his lip, Zidane leaned against the table and thought. "Hey, did you check the room?" Cloud shook his head and made a sort of muted sound of apathy. "He might be up there."

"Yeah, sure."

"Wait a minute," reaching down, Zidane fished through the front pocket of his backpack. Hooking a keyring around his finger, he deposited it onto the table with a clank. "There, take the key. Door might be locked." He slid it across towards Freya, who lifted it and handed it over her head to Cloud.

Taking the keys cautiously, Cloud blinked in confusion. "Why would it be locked?"

Zidane flicked his tail. "That's just the way he angsts."

"Angst isn't a verb-"

"Spend some more time in college. It becomes one."

Staring at the lunch table, Cloud held up the keys. They jingled in his hand. "Are you sure it's okay?"

"Yeah, don't worry about it."

Freya sipped at her tea again. "Zack has never been mad at his friends for more than two minutes." Her strange ears flickered a moment. "And remind him he shouldn't be skipping classes."

"Sure..." Cloud slowly returned his hand and the keys as well to his front pocket. "I will. Thanks."

As the blonde freshman was leaving, he was vaguely aware that the conversation behind him was turning towards questions of what he had done. Shaking his head and exiting the lunch hall, he turned the keys over in his pocket, thinking.


Your letter is over twenty four hours late. You better write more often, you know. You're supposed to be on time with this.

Zack prodded the scrolling keys on his laptop, making the short letter shoot up and down his screen. Right now sending e-mail to friends was honestly the least of his worries. He'd already written about five different varieties of replies to it, all of them ending in a bitter and snide remark and he'd deleted them all before sending them. This letter was probably going to remain unanswered for a while.

Propped up against the wall, he didn't really feel like thinking about anything. The TV was roaring and crashing in front of him but he wasn't registering anything on it. The heater clicked on and clicked off again, a momentary bit of electrical confusion.

The dormitory was quiet, for the most part, which felt odd but nice at the same time. Being the only person there gave him an opportunity to think.

Even though he didn't want to do that.

He was feeling trapped and he didn't like it. Seifer was going to cause more trouble for Cloud, he was absolutely certain of it. If he got in the way, it was only going to be worse.

He didn't even want to question how much worse it was already going to be just from his threatening Kuja. Hopefully not at all. Kuja wasn't a whiner and Seifer wasn't interested in solving other people's problems, just his own.

At least that was how he had been last year.

Zack's stomach growled and he ignored it.

Clicking a few times around his inbox, Zack started a new letter. He addressed it to his professors, made it simplex. I'm not going to class today because I'm not feeling well. Please tell me what I'm going to miss. I don't plan to drop the class. Click. Sent. The internet was nice because it could be so concise and easy to cease contact with people when you wanted to.

The only problem was it could only be so entertaining for so long. Flicking the screen up and down a few more times, Zack closed out of the browser.

Cloud would probably have to go to one of the school's support groups, same as he had the year prior. They wouldn't do anything, though, he knew that from experience. The groups only served to annoy and waste time. He wondered if they would be student run the same as last year or not. This early in the year, when the group started up, it would probably be cronic trouble makers and a bunch of freshmen. Cloud's roommate would probably get stuck there too. Big shock that I'm not going to be there. I would have thought they'd be snooping around me like bloodhounds.

A key clattered in the lock and Zack didn't look up. When the door creeked open, he was opening the browser up again, getting ready to compulsively check his e-mail. "Hey."

"Can I come in?"

Since it wasn't Zidane's voice, Zack's head snapped up in a moment of confusion. Cloud was trying to wrestle the key free of the lock without crossing the threshold, his eyes down. Zack blinked in a sort of mild confusion and waved to Cloud. "Yeah, c'mon. Close the door behind you."

Cloud shut the door, looking anywhere but at Zack. That was starting to become a regular form of behavior for the blonde. He finally rested his attention on the TV. Pointing, he said, "Deep Blue Sea?"

"Eyup." Zack closed the laptop and slid it back into the crack between his matress and the wall.

"But that movie's terriable!"

"Don't I know it. They show bones in the shark's fins on the closeups, the tiger sharks are basicly great whites with stripes painted on them, they kill off the only good character-"

Cloud blinked at him. "The chick?"

"Na, na. The parrot. And don't call girls chicks," Zack pointed at him. "It makes you sound stupid. And in ten years you'll just sound stupid. Like old geezers with no teeth and scurvy who call them dames." He shuffled to the side as Cloud sat on the edge of the bed. "So how you doing?"

Shrugging, Cloud remained silent before pointing to the TV. "Can you turn that crap off?"

"You turn it off. I don't want to move." Cloud rolled his eyes and picked up the remote that was less than five inches away from Zack, flicking off tele. "So?"

Shaking his head and leaning back against the wall, Cloud sighed. "So...I'm stuck going to this stupid group thing and they're sending a call home."

"See, you didn't die. And the group's not bad, just stupid."

Cloud shrugged again. "Yeah but I'll be dead on our first long break though. My parents are going to take my head off." Before Zack had a chance to interject, the blonde tilted his head to look at him. "You've been to the group thing?"

Zack stared at him a moment, letting himself gradually slide against the wall. Tilting slowly, ever so slowly and remaining seriously fixed on Cloud, he finally fell over with a thump onto the bed. Cloud snickered and Zack flopped a hand limply on the bedspread as he spoke. "Like I said, everyone's stupid as a freshman."


"So don't feel bad."

"No, I mean," Cloud looked across the room at Zidane's glossy theatre posters. "What did you do? How'd you wind up there?"

Zack looked to the side, which was down at the bed. The weave of the fabric blurred together this close. "It's lame. Don't you have class or something anyway?" He flicked his eyes to the blonde.

"No, I only have one on fridays. And they came and pulled me out of it."

"Depriving young students of their freedom to learn...what's next, imposing on our free will? Preventing us from getting scurvy when we want to? Arg, that's my lifestyle choice, the bastards. The fruit rapers. The-"

"So what happened?" Cloud apparently wasn't going to let him dodge his way out of this question.

Flopping an arm against the wall, Zack started to reach for the laptop. "You can read it, I wrote it all down-"

"I'm not going to read your journal!" Cloud looked at Zack like he'd just lost his last marble. Not just lost it, as if it had just leapt clean out of his ear, sprouted feet and ran for the window, opened it and taken a two story plunge onto the pavement screaming in a high pitched voice.

"Why not?"

"Are you nuts? Since when has reading the private journal of someone you see every day been a good idea?" He looked nearly desperate. "It completely kills friendships, I'm serious."

Zack had the mental image of Cloud walking into his high school and suddenly being avoided by a crowd of people all muttering to themselves. Thinking it over, he had to admit, there was a lot of needless angst in the old entries. Not to mention a lot more evidence of stupidity than he really cared to broadcast to the world anymore than he previously had. "Okay, I get your point."

"So you're going to tell me." Cloud inclined his head and looked serious.

"Yeah, sure..."


So in all honesty it didn't start until after midterms had been through with, so I had a few more weeks on you in terms of being stupid there. And I mean that in the most loving of ways, seriously.

I'd already been skipping a couple classes. Once a prof told me there was no attendance taken, fft, that was my ticket out of there. I don't know what the hell I thought I was doing. I guess I thought I was smarter than I really was. I mean, I'd pulled decent grades in high school, so I guess I figured I could do that without any motivation in college.

So first off, seriously, go to your classes.

No, that's not what the thing really was. I'm getting to it. Yes, in a roundabout manner. Give me a break, this is recent history. I still regret it.

So like I say...Around that time I met up with Seifer. I don't mean like 'boom' suddenly or anything. We'd been bumping into eachother around campus and stuff and saying hi. He was always saying he liked my hair and shit. But we ran into eachother again in the mail room, cause I guess we were both skipping classes. Or he didn't have one. I dunno. He was already a sophmore anyway.

There was this poster, one of the really lame ones that they paste up everywhere. Anyway, this was for uhm...I think it was the club for lesbians and gay and bi. Cause we started making fun of it. I mean, the thing is that the people who design these posters act like you need some form of support.

What? Me? Yeah, I've known I'm gay since like...high school or something. Na, I wasn't freaked out. I guess I went to a really liberal school.

Anyway...I think I said something like how it was talking down to people. I was just talking out loud, you know? And he heard me and said something back about it.

You know, one thing leads to another, la ti da da...We went up to his room, did the vertical mambo...Hey, you're the one who asked me to tell this story. What, do you want me to go into florishing detail with tons of flowery euphamisms? Yes, his throbbing man-stick penitrated my rear gates and demon seed...anyway.

So being an idiot, I figure this means something like trust. See, you get why I'm all nervous for you now, don't you? I did the same thing you did. Seifer had me help with drop-offs and pick ups. And y'know, I guess I thought we were dating or something. Cause that's how it worked in high school.

Yes, you're right. This ain't high school. So in the process of being fucked in the ass, I got fucked in the ass.

Well see, I was just being stupid. I mean, I knew Freya already and a couple other people but I wasn't really hanging out with them or anything. And they kept telling me ya know..."He's bad news, he's only using you, we've heard him talking" and stuff. Yes, that does sound familiar, doesn't it?

So there's a three day weekend break coming up, and Seifer's going home. So I'm supposed to take his place and go to this party and deal and stuff. No, hell no I didn't do it! Well, mostly because I was lazy. Saying I cared about a reputation would be giving myself too much credit.

I dunno, to you and me that's not a big deal. But maybe there was some big thing that was supposed to happen there or something like that. Seifer had given his word. I don't know. But he came back and found out I'd slacked and he was pissed.

Well no, we wound up beating eachother to snot. I mean, neither one of us was the most rational person and I took it personally and he took it personally and we wound up both in the health clinic. And Seifer's like the freakin Al Capone of campus, ya know? So the whole time I had people knocking on the door while the doc was checking me out and dropping weird hints. Like what? I dunno, I can't remember. Stuff like "some people are very disappointed with you" and "you know campus rules about fighting" just creepy ambigious stuff like that.

And I get out of the clinic with a few stitches and bruises only to find my room being dumped upside down. Since I was too busy being sewn up to get back to my room and dispose of the evidence, the shit Seifer gave me is still out. And unlike you, I didn't have the heads up. They were waiting outside the door for me.

Eh, I had it in the desk. Hey, I didn't know at the time.

Oh, their reason was the best though. Seriously. Seifer must have tipped them off, but that wasn't a good enough reason because they tell me it was because my roomie'd noticed it was 'suspiciously clean.'

So on top of fighting, I'm stuck with this whole loverly drug strike on my record. That was around the time I actually started making decent friends, because I was looking for anyone who could possiably bail me out. Prettymuch everyone was sympathetic to some degree. We tried finding ways to get me off the hook, but like I told you, there's weird rules about room searches. Since I'd been storing the shit in a desk that belonged to the college they had every legal right to search it.

That's basicly it, though. I mean, aside from details and aftermath. Siefer and I basicly tried to subtly kill eachother for the rest of the year, I made other friends, stuff like that.

What? Yeah, that's the only thing. Don't make fun of one time occurances, dude, one time matters a lot. Not everything has to be built up or worked out like in books. Sometimes all it takes is one fuck up to shape the rest of your life.

So. Now you know.