Squall hated mysteries—they were probably on his top five list. Information was a critical part of any mission, battle or even war, and to have it so cryptic and difficult to understand or grasp drove him up the wall. Especially if the information was not only ground-breaking important, it also pertained to him personally.

And if there was one thing Squall hated above mysteries, it was mysteries that had some personal issue attached to them.

It was one of the main reasons he tried so damn hard to get Zidane to talk, prior to his coma. Obviously Zidane was a personal issue, and a mystery at the time (oh hell, he still was.) that Squall couldn't decipher. It drove him crazy, and then the brat goes into an unexplained coma… more mystery and personal. And everyone saw how Squall reacted to that… he tried to walk on foot carrying a comatose person all the way to Esthar.

It surprised no one when they'd catch him staring at the wall with that tight, pensive look on his face. Rinoa and her Sorceress Power was now a personal issue, as was this whole crisis really. Especially with Zidane's involvement. There was also Laguna, who apparently also went to the war-world, but the bastard apparently also suffered such convenient amnesia and Squall was no closer to the truth than when he tried to get the information from Zidane.

At least with Zidane, if Squall actually wanted to put the effort into it, he could probably seduce the story out of the tail-sporting blond. He couldn't do that with Laguna—the mere thought sent disgusted chills down Squall's spine, and not just because the guy was older and obviously not his type. There was something else, something Squall knew but didn't remember.

How the hell did that work? Finally Squall let out a loud growl of frustration and fell backwards onto the bed, now staring at the ceiling with a hateful glare. Only day one of this whole new 'plan' and he was already losing his mind.

"What's up, precious?"

Before Squall could react, Zidane seemed to jump out of nowhere and landed on him, straddling Squall's waist and smiling ever so charmingly. Squall had to, still to this day, steel his initial self-defense urge to throw Zidane off and spent a few seconds clenching teeth and fists before relaxing and settling his hands on Zidane's hips.

"I don't think 'precious' works as an endearment," Squall said nonchalantly. "That implies small, or cute. I'm neither… although it fits you well enough."

Zidane huffed. "Quit being such a manly man and accept the fact I like calling you stuff."

"Someone has to be the man of this arrangement."

"Ass," Zidane smacked Squall's chest, huffing as he crossed his arms. "What're you doing all by your lonesome here?"

Squall pulled his hands down Zidane's thighs far enough so he could prop himself up on his elbows. "Thinking, like a leader should be. Refining the plan, making new ones as back up, the usual."

"So," Zidane smirked. "You're brooding."

"Maybe. Why aren't you training with Rinoa?"

"Edea apparently noticed something and cut in for Sorceress time. And since everyone else is still doing whatever they wanna do, I figured a little special time with my boyfriend was in order." Zidane smiled widely before wrapping his arms around Squall's neck, laying down on him.

Squall rolled his eyes, but laid back down and wrapped one arm around the smaller male, the other arm used to pillow his head. Zidane's tail happily waved in the air as he snuggled close, content to lay there and perhaps even fall asleep. Despite how tempting it was, Squall knew this wasn't the time, and he looked down at the golden hair under his chin.

"Zidane, be honest. Was Laguna there?" Squall asked. Zidane lifted his head so he could look at him, and despite their lips ever so close and the temptation to kiss him, the mercenary had to ask. "The war world."

"I don't know," Zidane answered. "I mean, he wasn't there during the last battle. But… but the war had been going on for years, recycling over and over. He might have been in a different cycle and… well, like he said, he didn't make it."

Squall frowned, although Zidane didn't quite get why it mattered. So what if Laguna was there at one point? He wasn't there when it mattered, and…

"I only really remembered you, Zidane, when I noticed you and Squall holding hands."

Zidane couldn't help the grin on his face, and when he noticed Squall's questioning glare, the thief chuckled. "He said he remembered me cause he saw us holding hands… that means we were in other cycles too. And together."

"… and?"

Squall was so dense, but Zidane could deal with that. He pressed a quick kiss to Squall's lips. "Assuming each cycle was fresh and we always forgot, the fact we keep coming back to each other… heh, does our promise seem so far-fetched now?"

Squall actually smiled. "You're so…"

His statement was cut off as the door to the room was swung wide open, slamming into the wall opposite and Laguna marched right in, now dressed in the familiar jeans and jacket getup. He was going to say something, but when he realized the position the two were, on a bed, Laguna blinked.

"Uh," he, for some reason, shaded his eyes. "Am I interrupting something?"

"No—" Zidane started, and Squall sat up a bit, both arms around Zidane.

"Yes, you are," Squall snapped. "Learn to knock."

"Sorry," Laguna shrugged, as if walking in on two guys wasn't that shocking. The guy either was dense or had nerves of steel, Squall wasn't sure. "Since you're the leader, I figured I'd go right to you for any updates."

Zidane huffed, but he dutifully climbed off Squall before the mercenary could do it himself. Work came first, especially since 'work' now included saving the world. Squall sat up and rolled off the bed toward Laguna, leaving Zidane there without even a quick kiss, and the blond couldn't resist pouting at his back.

Laguna held up a hand. "No need to leave the room, man, it's just a quick blurb about my folks at Esthar." Squall stopped, and Laguna either didn't notice or just ignored his glare. "About those extra space ships? Only two are in working order as of now. The other two are suffering some technical hiccups, so we're going to dismantle them and use their generators to power up the remaining ships. Once those two are finished, it'll be our ship's turn."

Squall frowned a bit. "So more Estharians will be coming here."

"Well, actually," Laguna pointed at him, a bit randomly Squall thought. "I was gonna run by you, we can return to Esthar. With the return of radio waves, a lot of our stuff works a lot faster and with us there, orders will be more reliably followed, y'know?"

"I hope your amnesia is accounting for the fact you're forgetting that your people despise Rinoa."

"Who says they gotta know? Look, it's just an idea, and I assure you if we go I'll keep her safe." Laguna offered one of his charming smiles, and even Zidane thought it was quite nice. It kinda reminded him of Squall smiling, not that the mercenary smiled that large. Just the way his face looked…

"Plus," Laguna shrugged. "Odine might have something about this war-world."

Zidane's tail went rigid as Squall's eye ticked. "How could he?"

"Creepy old scientists tend to know stuff about that," Laguna chuckled. "Naw, when I disappeared and came back, he ran tests. I didn't care about the results, but he might still have 'em."

Squall actually looked back at Zidane, who was giving Laguna a pensive stare. This was something Squall immediately wanted to jump on… but there was so much else going on that was more important. He faced back at the President and crossed his arms, glancing away toward the wall.

What could Odine know that Zidane won't tell me? Squall thought. Then again, Zidane hasn't told me much… we never did get to talk about it.

"We'll see," Squall finally said, uncrossing his arms and looking to Laguna. He held a hand up. "Now, if you don't mind…?"

"Huh?" Laguna blinked, as if snapping out of a daydream. He suddenly laughed and rubbed the back of his head. "Oh, oh! Yeah, sorry. You kids have fun." He waved as he exited the room, Squall closing the door rather loudly behind him.

When Squall turned back to the bed, Zidane could tell they weren't going to have the 'fun' he wanted. Not immediately, anyway. "What?" the blond asked.

"I think we have a good few minutes to talk," Squall said, sliding into the bed again. "I don't have this crazy urge to insure you're okay and with me, you're not afraid of offending me, and everyone pretty much is aware of our messed up circumstance. So fill in the holes."

"Gotta tell me what's a hole and what's not," Zidane replied, crawling to him and wrapping his arms around Squall's neck again.

Squall wasn't going to give Zidane a chance to do his usual wooing; he scooped the thief close with one arm and swiftly flipped Zidane onto his back, pinning him down with his larger body. Zidane let out a surprised, but pleasantly so, exhalation right into Squall's ear.

Damn, that was a point in his favor; Squall couldn't help the little shiver. But now Squall was in charge, and they were going to discuss. "I remember most about our comrades. About the war and us. What I don't recall much is Ultimecia, her role on the side of Chaos."

Zidane frowned. "I don't know much," he said. "You were secretive about it, to be honest. The most I know is she's a witch of time, was your obstacle for the crystal and was insane. And creepy."

Squall decided to be blunt. "If Dr. Odine has something on the war-world, is there something you want to tell me before we see him and shit hits the fan?"

Zidane tilted his head a bit, regarding Squall and seriously thinking. He was honest when he said he didn't know about Ultimecia, other than she was crazy and also retained her memories somehow. Squall knew about them as a couple—perhaps not specifics, but that wasn't important—and… well, there wasn't anything he could think of.

"No." Zidane finally said. At the look Squall gave him, he felt a little hurt he wasn't believed completely. "I swear!"

Squall kept staring at him, but then unwound his arms from around the blond and pushed himself up. Zidane remained beneath him, staring up at him and wondered why he wasn't believed. Zidane only lied to Squall in the beginning, and he understood why. Now that all that drama was done, he told the truth! Well, not about stealing, but that was little things…

"All right," Squall murmured. "I suppose it doesn't matter. Her goals there wouldn't pertain to this world, anyway."

"Yeah…" Zidane slowly agreed. "Two different worlds, different fights."

Squall supposed that was the end of it. He lowered himself back onto Zidane, resting most of his weight on one arm as the other hand caressed Zidane's cheek, down to his chin, where he tilted the blond's head up a bit so he could lightly kiss him.

Zidane's eyes closed and his own hands reached up, running his fingers through Squall's hair. Maybe he would get his fun after all.

"… swear something's up," Laguna muttered, staring at his hands as he sat down heavily into a chair.

"What do you mean?" Kiros asked.

Laguna held his head behind his hands. "You had me all convinced this war-world thing was totally just me stressing at being President and missing Raine," he said. "But now that I'm around two people I'm dead sure were there, and have said they were… I feel like it's trying to come back."

Kiros put a hand on his hip, giving Laguna a critical look. "Trying?"

"Yeah." Laguna looked up, resting his forearms on his knees. "Like there's a block in my head, and I feel the memories coming at it, but I can't move the block. A few slip in, but they're small things, like remembering Squall and Zidane were boyfriends."

"That's actually a big thing," Kiros said. "Considering…" he glanced around, then lowered his voice. "Your relationship with Squall."

Laguna frowned dishearteningly. "Kiros… I wasn't kidding when I told him I felt like I knew him and was meeting him for the first time. When Ellone told me all about him… I sort of already knew. It was still a shock but… I already knew. Did I know in the war-world? I dunno, man. Maybe I did, I'm not shocked or disgusted my own boy is into boys. I saw them holding hands and thought it was natural for 'em."

"So you are remembering." Kiros finally sat down on a chair opposite of Laguna, and the President felt more at ease. He hated it when people stood over him when he sat.

The older man shrugged, flicking some of his hair out of the way. "I guess, but apparently Squall and Zidane don't remember when I was there, and I wasn't there during what Zidane said was the 'final cycle.' So, what happened to me?"

"That you'll have to tell me. As much as I know how you work, I'm not in your head."

Laguna laughed. "You'd know where to look if you were!"

Kiros raised one of his eyebrows. "As if, it'd be a mess in there."

Laguna laughed again, over-exaggerating the sound so obviously Kiros just waited patiently for him to realize he wasn't fooling anyone. Eventually the laughter began to tamper off, and soon Laguna was pressing his pursed lips against his knitted hands, staring at the crumbling wall on the other side of the room. Despite the front he put up, Kiros knows Laguna was a deeply introspective man, one highly attuned to emotions and his own sense of justice. Unfortunately that did lead to Laguna being taken advantage of, and prone to stress and worries.

When the President finally looked back at his advisor, Kiros didn't need to ask why. He just nodded and said simply, "He deserves to know."

"But it doesn't matter," Laguna argued, as always. "Look at him, Kiros. I wish he didn't have such a shitty job, but I'm proud of him, even if I have no right. He's a Commander, he's gonna save the world. He's got all these awesome friends, a home, a special someone… he's an adult. He went all his life without me, who am I to barge in?"

"Look at it this way," Kiros offered, "You were both taken to this war-world. Both chosen by the same Goddess. Fought side-by-side for a common goal. Maybe you got along and maybe you didn't. Maybe you knew you were related and maybe you didn't. Now look… back in your own homeworld, you're here with him. Chosen by fate, fighting side-by-side for another common goal. You're bound to this boy, Laguna; he's your son. Even if he doesn't want you to be active in his life… he still needs the closure of knowing his parents."

"Should wait," Laguna said nervously. "Wait til this is all over. He's got enough on his plate."

"I'd say now is no better. He could use a father's support."

"I'm a shitty dad, Kiros," Laguna replied lamely. "I didn't even know I had a boy til I was flat out told."

Kiros chuckled, although Laguna didn't see the humor. "That's life," the dark-skinned man said, and it only made Laguna glower at him.

Rinoa felt like she was going to collapse, but she held the crystal tightly between her hands as she tried to focus onto it. It was so weird, the fact the hunk of rock both felt cold and alive in her hands… and that it both accepted and rejected her power. She was a Sorceress the entire time she had it, why was it being so difficult now?

Maybe cause it was Zidane's, that thief. Rinoa wanted to smash the crystal, but she tried to keep her violent urges under control. Wherever she got this weird violent streak, she hoped it faded away eventually. She wasn't a violent person… very rarely did she wish harm on anyone, rarer when she actually meant it! Although maybe that's why she was having such a hard time?

Rinoa sighed heavily, letting the crystal thunk against the wooden table she sat at and feeling exhausted. Technically she hadn't cast a single spell, yet it felt as if the crystal was draining her of her magic… her now natural magic. The feeling of having a temporary reserve was gone, now replaced with a familiarity that wasn't in her head like Para-magic. It was part of her soul, and the fact she felt drained of it was alarming.

She stared at the orange rock. She cared for Zidane… if she didn't, she would have left him to die when the Estharians attacked. If she didn't, she would work her hardest to rip Squall back from him. He was still her friend, so why did Rinoa feel so betrayed and spiteful?

Squall wasn't hers when he came into the picture, she now had to come to terms with that. She was still working on it… but if what she heard was true, that her would-be Knight had long ago been with Zidane… then she did ever have a chance? Rinoa frowned a bit. Fate was a cruel, cruel bitch, to bring such a man into Rinoa's life and snatch him away when she needed him.

Edea had stressed about how good Sorceresses had Knights. Sorceresses like Adel and Ultimecia didn't have them, even if Seifer thought he was one. Seifer was a tool, Edea had said… A Knight, essentially, would be Rinoa's life partner. When she had said that, Rinoa would admit she thought of Squall. A part of her, the selfish part, firmly believed that was the case.

He doesn't belong! Rinoa's mind raged. He doesn't belong here! He'll make Squall unhappy, I know it. We don't accept gay people here. Squall is a military commander, they'll demote him. Remove him from Garden, from all he knows. I know Zidane will make him unhappy, but I can keep Squall happy!

But why wouldn't Squall see that? Rinoa folded her arms and rested her head on them, fighting the urge to cry or scream. If she could, she would go back in time and never rescue Zidane from the ocean. She'd leave him there, let him drown! They don't need him, Squall doesn't need him. Squall was supposed to be her Knight, so she'd be a good Sorceress. They'd keep the world safe, together.

If only Zidane never came here.

Rinoa sighed heavily and shoved her selfishness aside now that it had time to rant. She couldn't go back in time, couldn't regret the actions she had taken thus far. She had to deal with the cards she had.

Ultimecia is trying to go back in time for some reason, Rinoa thought. I wonder, under all the insanity, her reasons are ultimately like mine? She'll compress time so she'll never feel the same hurt again.

No, no, Rinoa shouldn't start sympathizing with the enemy. Ultimecia was evil, downright evil and destructive. She wanted to compress time for evil reasons, nothing more. And besides, selfish reasons were just as bad as evil if they hurt others. That's why Rinoa didn't speak against Zidane and Squall, because she loved Squall enough to let him be happy with his choice.

But still… one couldn't help but wonder what Ultimecia's true goal was. In a way, Rinoa felt like she could relate.

She picked up the crystal and tried to focus again. She had to learn to get this thing to accept her power and let her channel it when, where, and how much in precise amounts soon. Saving the world from the madness of a scorned woman was the priority, no matter if Rinoa felt like she could be that scorned woman herself. Wasn't like she didn't have the power herself, anyway.

Author's Note: I'M BAAAAAAAACK!

Nursing school is retardedly stressful, and I practically broke down in the middle of the computer lab when I got my passing test results. I seriously had a mind crash in all the relief lol Til next semester, anyway. I'm also sorry for the not-so… cool update, but after this, we'll get more action and drama, I promise!

But now, onto replies!

Lady Phantome – I hate school too, but it's a necessary evil, I can't deny that. But haha, I do admit the flower field was my favorite part too. I remember when I first played FF8 and thought the original scene was corny. And don't worry, Laguna will be Laguna and do something Laguna-ish in the near future.

As for Magnetized? Next weekend I'll have 2-3 chapters to post. Look for it probably around Sunday night (so they're written and BETA'D lol)

Wingsong5555 – No bullet wounds this time, but everything's gonna be coming together soon! Dun dun dunnnn.

Soari – Thank you! =D I hope you continue to enjoy it and come to love 8x9!

Kupo-Lady – Your reviews always make me chuckle XD I'll try to answer your questions without spoiling! If I don't answer some, that means there's a major spoiler attached XD

Did Zidane actually steal Squall's heart?

In Rinoa's mind, yes. To her, she figured she 'had Squall' she just 'needed time.' Time that Zidane stole. lol

Did the concert in Squall's honor happen in Magnet's timeline?

Yes! If you go back to the first chapter, you'll see Zidane notices there's tension between Squall and Rinoa—because of the outburst Rinoa had during said concert. I think it was 'not right' they were 'buddies' again after such an outburst on her part, I would think they'd have a tension for a while. So yes, the concert did happen, and the outcome I went with was if Rinoa had her tantrum lol Also, Rinoa wanted to walk with Squall before and after the concert: one was a tour of the Garden (Before) and one was just a walk (after).

Does Laguna remember Squall is his son?

Yes, Laguna is aware Squall is his son. If you recall near the end of Disc Three, Laguna tells Squall, "I have a lot to tell you…" Also, Ward will mention Squall "doesn't look like his father" and Kiros follows up with "You look very much like your mother." So in this point of the FF8 timeline, Laguna knows, he just doesn't say anything.

As for your other comments, you'll just have to wait and seeeee what happens! =D

Everyone – Don't be afraid to ask me questions =) The only time I won't answer is if they're potentially spoiling of the story!

See you next time!