The Blitz held out a hand, calling down a Thundaga, and Seifer jumped back, crouching to ground himself. Zell stopped, halfway into an attack, and stood there, palms up. A crack and a flash, and when Seifer could see again, Zell was already moving, electricity crackling along his skin, a spark of Quez behind his eyes while he aimed a flurry of kicks and punches at the thing. Before Seifer had half a chance to jump back in, the Blitz'd crumbled to rock and dust, making a messy pile on the sand.
Zell stopped to breathe, wiping dust and sand off his palms, and Seifer crouched to dig through the rock, to find --
-- a Wizard Stone. "Dammit!" he snapped, and Zell crouched to punch a fist into the sand, kicking up a cloud of rock dust.
"Another friggin' wizard stone? How many of these things are we gonna have to fight?"
"God damn it!" Seifer hurled the useless piece of rock away. "What the hell is this mission? Why the hell isn't it Squall out here fighting fucking Blitzes?"
"Hey, man," Zell said, waving his hands like he wanted Seifer to calm down, "you know Squall's away on that big contract --"
"Oh, of course. Mr. Almighty Commander's off fighting a real battle while we get stuck in the goddamn desert, looking for rare items that aren't here!"
Zell'd tensed, and now he was holding up a fist, actually starting to get pissed at Seifer instead of the stupid mission. "Squall's out there fightin' for Garden --"
"Well we should be too!"
Zell blinked at that, then slumped a bit, puffed out a breath. "...Yeah." And then, kicking at the rocks, "Man, this sucks! I wanna be out there helping!" He punched a fist into his palm. "But -- this, this's an important mission, Squall said so. Garden needs these things so we can --"
"Oh, shut up about the stupid mission already, Dincht! It's a fucking waste of time, and you know it! Squall doesn't trust me, so he wanted me out of the way for his big important mission, and you got stuck babysitting."
Zell took a step back, like Seifer'd hit him, then recovered himself, bringing his fist up. "That's not true, Squall wouldn't--"
"Why the hell do you always defend him? I hate to break it to you, chicken-wuss --"
"Don't call me that!"
"-- but your big hero makes mistakes and holds grudges just like the rest of us."
"Grudges?" Zell'd grabbed Seifer's coat, at some point, was yelling in his face. "You're lucky he even let you back in Garden! Why the hell should he trust you?!"
Seifer fists were clenched, hard enough that Hyperion was making his hand ache. "Fuck this," he snapped, and turned away, shaking Zell off. Went maybe three steps before realizing they were completely stranded here 'til the Ragnarok came back for them. Kept walking anyway.
A few seconds, and Zell was shuffling through the sand after him. "Seifer!"
Hell with the whole thing. He'd tried, he'd fucking tried, passed the stupid SeeD exam, went on missions -- with the Chicken-wuss, even -- followed orders, even did his goddamn paperwork, and it wasn't enough. Well, hell with that. "Squall can takes his 'important mission' and shove it up his ass. I'm sick of being his errand boy."
"The hell do you think you're going?" Zell asked, tripping through the sand to keep up. "Our camp's back that way."
Seifer turned on him. "I had the whole goddamn Galbadian army at my command."
Zell's expression went dark, just like that, a light switching off and something else switching on. He didn't say anything, for a long time. And then, "I know that," hard, and dark, and even when Zell was pissed -- especially when he was pissed -- it was all there, everything he felt and everything that'd happened laid out like a wound for Seifer to pick at. "I was there when you attacked Garden."
Hell of an attack it was, too. Squall'd hardly been able to hold up a defense. Seifer forced a smirk. "It was really more of a massacre than an attack --"
Seifer was on the ground, suddenly, his jaw throbbing and sand scraping down the back of his coat. And Zell standing over him, glaring down. "You're an asshole," he spat. "You're such an asshole, I can't believe I --"
Seifer was smirking, over the pain in his jaw, climbing to his feet, sand slipping in everywhere. "You what?"
Zell was tense, still, not looking at him.
"You what?" Seifer could taste blood in his mouth, from the hit -- and it was interesting, not knowing whether Zell was going to snap at him or turn away or haul off and hit him again. He reached out to grab a fistful of Zell's jacket --
-- and Zell jerked away from him, shaking his head. "You know what? You wanna go -- you wanna go get lost in the desert, go ahead. I'll tell everyone at Garden you just gave up."
Seifer grit his teeth, felt his fists clenching, and Zell was already walking away, headed back towards camp.
"Maybe the army'll take you back."
* * *
God, Seifer hated the desert. Heat and sweat and sand that got everywhere, and the only landmark he had to go by was a big cactus that he could swear was moving everytime he turned his back.
It was late when Seifer got back to camp, the sun slipping low in the sky. Few more days and the Ragnarok would come, unless Garden'd decided he and Dincht were useless and left them out here like a couple of unwanted pets.
Seifer hoped that wherever the hell Squall was, he was getting his ass handed to him.
Zell was sitting at the entrance to the tent, knocking sand out of one of his sneakers and making a point of not looking in Seifer's direction.
Seifer dropped a stone in front of him. "I found one."
Zell blinked -- then dropped the sneaker and grabbed up the stone, checking the markings. "You -- whoa! Whoa! It's just like Quistis said, I told you there was no way Blitzes would be carrying, like, actual jet engines, but these things are from ancient Centra and nobody really knows how they work but they have magic in 'em and you can use them for the propulsion systems on flying machines --"
Seifer rolled his eyes. "Yeah, whatever. Gimme some water." He tossed his empty canteen and Zell caught it easily, then leaned back to pull a fresh one out of the tent.
The water was warm and stale, and Seifer half-emptied the thing in a few fast gulps, Zell watching him the whole time, trading the stone from hand to hand. "I hate the desert," Seifer announced, when he could breathe again.
Zell glanced at the stone, then back at Seifer. "You're still an asshole," he said.
Seifer smirked. "I try."
Zell scowled at him. "What happened to running away?"
'Running'. Please. "And miss out on such pleasant company?" Zell scowled even more, while Seifer pulled his coat off to shake the sand out. Then he kicked his boots off and pushed past Zell to climb inside the tent.
"H-Hey! I'm still mad, get your own tent."
"Bite me," Seifer said, laying on his back, bunching his coat up under his head for a pillow. "I'm the only one here who got any work done. And anyway, wouldn't want you getting scared in the night."
"Shut up," Zell said, and looked like he wanted to hit Seifer, but doing that would mean getting in the tent with him. Eventually he settled for just saying, "Bastard," without putting any real feeling into it.
Hard to believe. The heat was so bad the chicken-wuss was too drained to even have a big spaz-out. "You wound me."
Zell pocketed the stone. "Your face is all bruised 'n stuff," he said, pulling his sneakers into the tent and putting Seifer's boots next to them.
Seifer rolled his eyes. "Whose fault is that?"
Zell crawled inside, glared at him, zipped the tent closed. "Yours, for pissin' me off!"
"Hey, it's not my fault you can't control yourself when I'm around."
Zell shoved a Hi-Potion at him. "Here."
Seifer debated a minute about refusing it, just to piss Zell off, then decided he was too damn tired to fight now, anyway. He took it, popped the cap off, and tossed it back quickly, trying not to notice the taste.
Zell lay back, hands on his stomach, staring at the ceiling. Quiet and thoughtful. If Seifer weren't so tired he'd kick him just to make him stop. "You really miss bein' in the army?" Zell asked.
God. It was too damn hot to be arguing about this. "I wasn't in the army, I was running it. There's a difference."
"You really did order that attack on Garden," Zell said, like he was only just getting this now, when it was all over and it was too late to even do anything about it.
"I didn't order it, I --" Seifer cut himself off hard enough his jaw snapped shut and started throbbing again. Like he needed to explain himself, make excuses to the goddamn Chicken-wuss.
Zell rubbed a hand over his face. "Lotta people got hurt," he said, and he sounded as tired as Seifer felt, only not half as pissed off.
"That's what happens when you fight a war," Seifer snapped.
"Well you were on the wrong side!" Zell snapped back at him, up on one elbow now, and properly pissed again.
Seifer blinked at him. Looked up at the tent overhead. Worthless child, she'd said, used him and left him. Left him. "...Yeah," he said. "I was." And Zell blinked a bit, not sure what to do with that. "Hell of a ride while it lasted, though."
Seifer could remember -- standing there, at the center of it all, above it all, an army at his hands. Say the word and they went, tore the Garden up and Seifer didn't even have to do any of it, just stand there and give orders.
The way the soldiers looked at him, all that fear and awe, like he was a -- a fucking savior, there to lead Galbadia to conquer the world. Like he gave a shit about Galbadia. All he cared about was her, her dreams and her promises and her glory.
Only she kicked it, and Squall won. And the way people at Garden looked at him now, it was -- like he'd crawled out from under something disgusting. There was still fear, though. Plenty of it. Cowards.
Zell was looking at him now, confused and pissed off and confused about being pissed off. Zell never looked at him right. Never as pissed as he should be, or pissed about the wrong things. Sometimes he looked sorry. And yeah, sometimes Seifer shoved him against the nearest wall and kissed him, just to shut him up, and then he wasn't looking at Seifer at all. Said Seifer's name sometimes, against his mouth. Still pissed, yeah, but it was sort of muffled and --
Hell of a lot better than pity, anyway.
Zell finally just shook his head. "You're an asshole, Seifer," he said, like that was an important decision he'd just come to.
"Better than being a chicken-wuss," Seifer replied.
Zell punched him, not very hard -- for Zell, which turned out to be hard enough to knock the breath out of Seifer for a few painful seconds -- then rolled over and went to sleep.
"Good night, Chicken-wuss," Seifer said, when he had his breath back.
"Shut up, Seifer."
* * *
When Seifer blinked awake again, it was dark, and Zell was curled against him, frowning in his sleep, hands in loose fists. Seifer gave some thought to shoving him off, maybe waking him up so they could argue some more, but he was cold everywhere they weren't touching.
God, he hated the desert.