Uncovered: Berkeley
January 2003

 

[Berkeley]

Shrugging the small bag more comfortably onto my shoulder, I press the button to open the door to my new 'home' for the present.  I'll never admit it out loud, but it was intimidating to pass through the gates to Esthar Garden.  Everything is just too damn... perfect.  No trash litters the spotless carpets, all the scattered plants are green without a single brown leaf, and every person I've noticed, aside from the other newbies, have been outfitted in wrinkleless uniforms.  It's nothing like the home I'm used to.

I walk into the small common room and then go to room B, the door opening before I punch in the code I was given.  Inside the basically closet sized room is a long dresser and a bunk bed, and a young boy that looks my age is up on the top mattress, his legs swinging as he sits there.  His dark brown hair looks rather sleep tousled despite it being late afternoon, and soon enough muted green eyes fix on me with interest.

"Ah, are you my roomie?"

"I... guess."

He jumps smoothly from the bunk top and then sticks out his hand.  "I'm Isan."

I glance at the hand before taking it loosely.  "Berkeley."

"Nice to meet you.  Say, do you care where you sleep?"

"Bottom bunk is fine."

"Cool, thanks.  I already unpacked.  Hope you don't mind, but I took the right hand drawers."

"Nh."  Something about the guy bothers me, as if I should know him though I can't imagine why.

"So want to get dinner with me?  I'm really hungry after missing lunch."

Embarrassingly, my stomach growls out my answer for me.  I haven't had anything since dinner last night, but that's a typical occurrence.  I guess my nervousness has made me hungrier than I'm used to.

Not used to the layout of the place, I follow Isan who seems to know where everything is well enough.  Unfortunately I have to listen to him rattle on about Garden and the classes that start tomorrow.  Granted, he does try to lure me into talking with him, but I just can't share in his obvious enthusiasm about our future here.

One step into the cafeteria, I know something isn't right.  The volume of the various discussions lowers to whispers and murmurs, all eyes shifting in our direction.  Isan is either oblivious or doesn't care since he continues talking about some Uncle with an obsession for the hotdogs here, so I decide to follow his lead and just get my food.  Being free food at that, I probably get more than I really should.

Turning around, I find Isan surrounded by a horde of students, everyone from first years to seniors.  Overhearing the scattered words, I finally realize just who my roommate is - Isan Almasy, the son of the Commander of this Garden and somehow connected to the Headmaster as well.  The ten-year-old kid stands there smiling like a fool while talking to the various people around him.  Idiot.  Doesn't he realize that they only want to use him to get an inside track?

Taking my tray to a distant table, I hold back a groan at the realization that I'll have to put up with the self conceited ass for the next year at the least.  I really should've settled for Balamb Garden.


"... Okay, Mum.  I won't let it bother my studies.  Just promise to let me know the minute... anything happens."

There's a pause on the other line and a hitched breath.  "I promise.  Do good there, baby.  I love you with all my heart."

I attempt a smile even though she can't see it with the phone at home lacking the vid feature.  "Me, too, Mum.  Bye."

After hanging up the receiver, I can only stare at it for a time.  Didn't even realize how much I missed home after these few months, and now this happens.  Logically I know I shouldn't worry about it, I mean, what can a kid like me do even if I was home to help.  But...

Turning around, I'm surprised to find Isan standing at the doorway to our room, his green eyes wide open in sympathy.  As if I needed that from him.  While I can say that he isn't the stuck up brat I thought he'd be and certainly talks less when he isn't so excited, it doesn't mean I have a reason to like him.  More so, I don't feel like becoming just another one of his numerous groupies.

"Is something wrong at your home?"

"What, didn't eavesdrop on the whole conversation?"

He frowns a little, but oddly doesn't apologize.  "I'm going to go watch some people spar if you feel like coming."

"No thanks."

"Okay.  Um, if you wanna talk later, I can be a good listener."

"... ..."  It takes effort to not roll my eyes at the cliché statement.

As always, he refuses to be offended by my lack of reply and smiles.  "Well, see you later."

It's silent when he leaves, the other two kids that live in the shared dorm room off playing some war game.  I walk into 'closet' that Isan and I sleep in, my eyes moving straight away to his side of the dresser.  It's not the first time I've stood in place and stared at the locked drawers, the same debate going through my head but with a new item that adds weight to my decision.

My family is full of thieves.  I'm pretty certain my grandfather stole for his livelihood, and I know for a fact our father was a thief.  Too bad he was also a hopeless drunk at the same time, dying a few weeks after Maddy's birth four years back.  Most of us just steal little things when we have to, never enough to gain attention, and while it doesn't make for a great life, we live well enough.  The second oldest son, Pierce, is the ambitious idiot of the family, getting himself in jail many more times than the rest of us put together.  He shows us the value of control and patience.

Next thing I know, I'm standing in front of the dressers, working the security lock until it opens for me in under a minute.  Just a little something could help at home.  Isan's parents are fucking heroes, so they must have money to spare.  Hyne knows the kid is dense enough to think he lost the item instead of me stealing it from him.

"Wrong drawer."

I freeze in my movements of carefully shuffling through clothes, then mentally berate myself for getting too deep into my thoughts to notice someone's entrance.  Only when my glasses shift down along my nose do I move, pushing the bulky frames back into place.  With thoughts rushing through my head for how to explain my actions, I look at Isan and freeze once again.  He doesn't look upset, confused, suspicious, or anything he should be.  And there certainly isn't the child's smile I'm used to.  Only a serene, understanding curl of lips.

"It's the bottom drawer."

"I..."

"Go ahead and open it yourself."

Sighing, I decide to do what he says and amuse him.  Not like he doesn't already have enough to get me kicked out of Garden.  The lock goes easier this time given the practice on the top drawer, and my eyes are immediately drawn to the back corner where a pouch of what must be coins rest.

"Take it.  I don't need the gil for anything important."

"I can't just--"

"It's for your sister, right?  Sorry, I did overhear some of it when I was originally leaving.  I couldn't force myself to ignore your voice when it sounded like that."

I place a hand on the pouch, but don't take it.  "It won't help, you know."  He doesn't reply, which seems rather amazing.  He simply stands there, waiting for whatever I feel like doing.  Meanwhile, I can't take my eyes off that sack of gil which could feed the family for at least a few months.  Maybe longer if they stretched it out.  "She, my little sis got bit by some odd looking monster.  Antidotes aren't completely getting rid of the poison and the doctor hasn't a clue what else to do.  Mum just keeps buying antidotes and potions to keep her alive a little longer."

Before I sense his movement, Isan is suddenly kneeling next to me.  That boy moves too quietly when he feels like it.  He reaches over to grab the pouch of coins and pushes it against my chest until I take hold of it.  "Let's go."

"Eh?"

A hand too small for its strength grabs my arm, and he pulls me to my feet.  "I heard Dad talking about it before.  He might know what your mother can do."

I'm half dragged through Garden at that point, managing to place the sack of gil safely in my pants before we get too far from the dorm area.  I feel like I should be arguing with Isan, telling him to mind his own business, but he doesn't really give me the chance for that.  And I have to admit, this stern, more mature side of him confuses me.

All too soon, he leads me down a restricted hallway and then knocks on an unlabeled door.  In short time the door slides open and reveals a large man that glowers down at us, the dimly lit hallway casting odd shadows along his face.  Never before in my life have I squeaked in fear.

"Hey, Dad.  Listen, I know about the rules and stuff, but I was hoping to ask a favor.  This is Berkeley, my roommate."  Narrowed green eyes shift my way as Isan continues.  "His little sister is dying of that weird poison you and Mom talked about earlier this year.  Could you tell his mother how to treat it?"

After a tense pause, the Commander speaks.  "Where's home for you, cadet?"

"T-T-Toel, Commander, sir."

The large man stares at me intently as if daring me to stay.  If I thought I could move my legs, I probably would have instinctively bolted when he first opened the door.  So instead, I helplessly stare back, unable to break eye contract.  Suddenly the Commander sighs while moving back from the doorway, and I can physically feel the pressure drop from crushing to nothing.

"Yo, Squall.  We're eating out tonight."

There's a quiet reply, unheard from where we stand.

"Just a little field trip.  I haven't eaten at Pete's in near forever, so it should work.  And hey, grab two of Isan's jackets, would ya?"

"Thanks, Dad."

The man frowns.  "This is going to cost you, kiddo.  Nothing until the winter break, got it?"

"Un.  I figured something like that."  The hurt in his voice confuses me, but I don't have the opportunity to question the reaction.

Everything was completely out of my control at that point, as if I found myself on a rollercoaster and had to just let it take me where it may.  I was made to wear one of Isan's jackets and then led down to the garage where the four of us got into one of those fancy Estharian trucks.  The Commander and Isan were the only ones who talked during the long ride, the Headmaster spending time on a phone contacting my mum to get Maddy to a specific hospital and then he called for someone else to meet us there, as well.  After that he was silent, and I had to wonder if he fell asleep in the passenger seat.

But now we're in some smelly, too white hospital room with Maddy lying helplessly on a bed.  Only Mum is here from the family, and she hugs me tightly the second I walk into the room.  There's another man in the room, looking too stern and formal to be a doctor.  The Headmaster approaches him directly to explain the case at hand about mutating monsters and this latest poison that has come as a result.  I guess it bothers me somewhat that he's using my baby sister as a bargaining tool, but I can understand the necessity of an example.

Suddenly there's a hand holding onto mine and Isan is by my side.  "Sorry.  I just remembered why my parents were talking about the poisoning cases.  Some people refuse to believe it's a problem and won't do anything about it.  But Mom will certainly heal her, so don't worry."

"Un."  Biting my lower lip, I watch as the Headmaster and Commander take positions next to Maddy.  "What did he, the Commander mean that this will cost you?"

"Ah, it's no big deal.  Every other week I get dinner with them as a family, but now I'll have to wait until the break.  Really, it's nothing."

Liar.  I can hear the mix of nervous and sadness in his voice.  While compared to my sister's life, it may mean nothing, but to him it still hurts.  And then I realize what he's giving me.  I never really noticed, but unlike some would think, Isan isn't favored by his parents.  Just treated like any other green cadet and basically ignored.  I'll admit to being homesick over the months, but I couldn't imagine standing face to face with my mother and have her act like she didn't even know me.  And now he won't even have that small bit of assurance of his parent's love until winter break because he broke some kind of rule and asked for help.  Help for someone he doesn't even really know.

The treatment looks painful for Maddy, requiring Esuna spells being cast continually up her body until she vomits out a greenish fluid that looks to have worms squirming around.  The Commander instantly casts a fire spell on the mass, then moves back to support the Headmaster, the man looking tired from doing the long string of rapid spells.  My eyes widen when he kisses the smaller man's forehead and whispers something.

I've overheard my uncles enough times to know what most people think about Leonhart and Almasy.  The common theory is that it's a complete sham that they work together and live in the same suite.  Something about the Headmaster doing it so that people could feel safer with a madman on the loose.  Another theory has to do something with the Commander being broken and the Headmaster had only taken control of the leash, whatever that means.  Then my uncles would laugh about a relationship between the two fighters, saying both were too proud to take anything up the ass.

I don't know much about homosexuals, but I know it's frowned upon.  Fag, queer, cocksucker... I've heard all of those insults before, but I just can't connect it with these two men, especially not after saving my sister's life like this.  While I haven't learned anything about spells yet, if it wears out the Headmaster, it must be hard to do and thus the reason they couldn't just tell my mum or the doctors what to do. 

Fuck, I don't know what to think.

Forcing thoughts aside, I smile watching Mum and Maddy, the small girl nearly drowning in hugs and kisses.  From there, Mum thanks the two men and tries to offer some kind of payment though it's impossible for us to pay what they must usually charge for a personal visit.  The Headmaster smiles vaguely and shakes his head.  He speaks briefly to the suited man who now has a somewhat paler complexion after the demonstration, and then the Headmaster and Commander are leaving the room.

Given the moment of privacy, I go over to the bed and hug my baby sister, the girl still dazed about the events around her.  I then manage to hand Mum the pouch of gil that Isan had given me.  She frowns instantly, asking where I got it.

"He won it!" Isan offers from behind me.  "And we gotta go, ma'am.  It isn't beneath my parents to leave us here for taking too long."

Taking my hand once more, he drags me from the room, giving Mum no chance to refuse the money.  I silently thank him.

Another short car ride later and we end up in a small restaurant that, while greasy looking, has really good burgers and the like.  I haven't eaten here since a couple birthdays ago, but I remember it well.  Reading the menu, though, I realize how stupid I was to give Mum the whole pouch of gil without taking some for myself.  So I set the menu aside, and sip at a glass of water.

"Hey, kid."

I start at the deep voice and look warily at the Commander.

"What are you ordering?"

"I'm not--"

"Wrong answer.  You will order something, an actual meal, and not the cheapest one listed.  Got it?"

While the tone technically isn't threatening, this is the Commander sitting in front of me.  "But, sir--"

"Since it's our fault for dragging you away from the caf, we're paying.  No arguments from cadets."

At Isan's snicker to the side of me, I relax a little.  "Understood, sir."

The Commander goes back to has menu, muttering something about stupid kids that can't handle a free meal.  While I shouldn't be able to tell from the neutral expression, the Headmaster seems amused by the exchange.  I know Isan is.

After we order our dinners, time continues like it had in the truck with Isan talking about random things to his father.  The Headmaster joins in when the dark haired boy asks more about the mutated monsters in the area.  Apparently the mixture of poison and parasites makes it impossible for only antidotes to heal a person, and instead everything has to be driven out of the body. 

As the discussion turns to Isan's time at Garden, I almost feel like I'm intruding while sitting here, but it's interesting watching the two most powerful SeeD soldiers in this human light with their son.  Whether for good or bad, I doubt I can ever see the Headmaster and Commander in the same way again.

"And Berkeley here is really smart.  He helps me with homework all the time."

I stare at the younger boy, utterly confused.  I know I'm rather smart, that fact alone getting me into Esthar Garden without paying a single coin, but helping Isan?  I've only been petty these last months, pointing out any mistake he made with the hope to make him feel stupid.  I thought he was being sarcastic every time he thanked me for that.

"And he can open locks really quick.  It's neat to watch."

I pale at the statement.  He's trying to get me kicked out after all?

The Commander only hums in reply, neither men reacting to the comment otherwise.  Maybe it helps that dinner was served at that moment.  Despite my nervousness, I'm able to eat the entire plate of thick fries and a large greasy burger.  It doesn't matter anyway what I could say to the Commander, since he'll certain believe his son before me.  Might as well enjoy the free meal while I have it.

Time drags until everyone is done and the bill is paid.  I follow a few steps behind the family as we head back to the truck.  I try to remind myself that I hadn't wanted to go to Garden anyway, only doing so because I could get in without paying and thus relieve some of the family burden from Mum.  It doesn't matter that I just found out how much of a stuck up ass I was being to my roommate who could've been a decent friend.

"Hey, kid."  At the deep voice, I look up at the Commander.  With a nod of his head, he motions to the car.  "Open it up."

Eyes wide, I manage an, "Eh?"

"Open it up, and be quick about it."

Well, no use denying it.  "Yes, sir."

By habit alone, I carry a small kit for working several types of locks.  Never know when some idiot will leave a few gil on a car seat.  But this Estharian design truck is more sophisticated than the normal cars I deal with, especially with the alarm to bypass.  Strangely, it doesn't bother me too much that the Commander watches me quietly as I work.  I just go through the motions without thinking about much else.  In time, I grab the handle and the door swings open without a sounding alarm.

"Squall."

"Two and ten."

"Hmmm, not too bad kid.  Of course pretty shitty to actually steal something from the car, but I guess it's the first time you've dealt with this model, right?"

I nod, suddenly very confused with the situation.  Why was the Headmaster timing me?

"Well, say goodbye to your Tuesday nights, kid.  Get in the truck."

I stare at him numbly, still not understanding what was happening.  There's a tug at my arm, and Isan manages to drag me into the back seat with him.  The boy's wide smile certainly isn't helping my state of confusion much.

"I'm not... expelled?"

Isan laughs.  "Worse than that.  Dad's going to be teaching you."

I look at him blankly.

"He teaches some specialized courses, like how to break into buildings.  But most of them are kinda secret."

The Commander scoffs from the driver's seat.  "I'm not here to teach beginners and idiots.  I'll instruct the people I want to instruct."

Realizing the honor I was just given, I smile a bit shyly at the idea that I'm apparently worth some of the Commander's time.

"Congratulation, Berkeley."

Meeting those soft green eyes, I shake my head.  "No, call me 'Lee'."


Lying on my bunk with my chin resting on folded hands, I glare at the innocent looking box sitting on the edge of the bed.  In four days I'm supposed to have this thing open, take out whatever is in there, and then close it back up as if it had never been opened.  Damn midterm.  I can't even figure out how this thing would open up, and it's been two days.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was some sick joke of the Commander's, giving us a box that can't be opened with anything short of a high power laser.

"No... nooo..."

Blinking, I look up at the bottom of the top bunk where Isan is asleep, being nearly one in the morning and all.  Quietly I slide off my bunk to check on the younger boy, finding him curled tightly in his sheets.  Looks like even wonder kids have nightmares.

"Hey, Isan," I whisper softly, not too certain if I should try waking him or not.

His eyelids snap open at the call of his name, his eyes the brightest green I've seen yet.  "... Lee...?"

"Yeah.  You okay?"

He bites his lower lip and shakes his head, tears soon flowing when he squeezes his eyes back shut.  Stunned briefly at the sight of tears, brother instinct in me flares up and I pull myself up onto his bed.  He latches on almost immediately to me, the worn t-shirt I wear at night eventually stained with his tears.  I can only hold him close during this time, myself too baffled to react more than I have.  I've never seen Isan cry.  He's been in fights, had insults throw at him, and more, all taken in stride with a smile.  It somewhat worries me that there's something in the world that can bother him this much.

Eventually he calms down, pulling back from me with an apology and a very weak smile.

"Is something wrong?"

He looks about to deny it, but then sighs with a nod.

"Want to talk about it?"

He silent for a long time before speaking.  "You know about the Sorceress Knight from the third war?"

"Yeah."

"Did you know it was my dad?"

I can't help look a little shocked.  "You didn't?"

"I guess I knew deep down, but no one ever said straight out, 'Seifer Almasy was the infamous Sorceress Knight'."

Of course, heaven forbid adults be direct with a touchy subject like that.  "Well, you know, they say he was under her control, though.  It's not like the Commander to do what he did."

He smiles a little.  "He was.  And Mom says he would never kill us even if he was controlled again, but...  I don't like my dreams."

"Then take control of them."

His nose wrinkles a little as he looks at me questioningly.

"I figure you trust the Headmaster's words, and it's your mind, so try to change the dream."

"How?"

I shrug.  "Probably easier said than done, but I don't know.  Maybe while you're going to sleep, think about how much the Commander wants to protect you.  Try to make who he is now separate from who he was."

"Un.  Thanks, Lee."

"No prob.  And wake me up if you need to.  Sleep is for the weak, anyway."

He laughs a little, but I can tell he isn't ready to go back to sleep just yet.

"Say, can I ask you something that's been driving me crazy for awhile?"

He nods.

"Why do you call the Headmaster 'Mom'?"

Unexpectedly, Isan looks nervous at the question.  I thought it would be some kind of joke by the Commander, thus an amusing story to tell and further relieve the tension tonight.  I didn't want him to tense back up on me.

"Sorry, I didn't--"

He shakes his head.  "It's okay.  You're my friend, right?"

"I guess."

"No, I mean a real friend.  Not like everyone else here that wants something for being nice to me."

I stare at him silently, once again caught off guard by his perceptiveness.  And here I thought others were taking advantage of him, but looks like the reverse is more so the truth.  "Yeah.  If I wanted anything, I could just steal it from you."

He doesn't smile at the on running joke between us.  "The Headmaster, Squall Leonhart... he really is my mother."

"I don't think I understand.  I mean, he's a guy, right?"

"Un.  But there's this spell that let him have me..."

After a stunned moment, I laugh out loud, the vision of the Lion pregnant too ridiculous to imagine.  But at Isan's hurt frown, I realize that he actually believes what he's telling me.  "Come on, Isan.  A man pregnant?  It doesn't happen."

"There's proof.  And when does my mom lie?"

"... Isan, if this is a joke, it's not funny.  Stop kidding around with me."

He pulls his knees to his chest, hugging them tightly.  "You don't like me now."

Sighing, I take off my glasses to better rub the bridge of my nose.  "I don't even believe you yet.  But if, if it's true, I'm not going to start hating you because of it."

"Mom says people don't like others who are different."

Vision returned with my glasses back on, I realize how perfectly his hair color matches that of the Headmaster.  ...Fuck, I'm starting to believe this kid.  "Yeah, well, I like you because of you.  I don't care who your mom is."

"Really?"

"Sure.  Hell, I think of you as family since saving my sister."

He blinks.  "Like brothers, or something?"

"Why not?  Brothers?"  I hold out my hand.

His trademark smile back in full force, he grasps my hand tightly.  "Brothers."

After a moment of silence, curiosity overwhelms me.  "Now, about that proof you were talking about..."


I wake up to stare at a white wall, confused momentarily at the rare event of not waking to a blaring alarm clock.  Then I remember it being the first day of winter break, no classes for a week to give students a chance to visit family for the holidays.  I'm not leaving until tonight, choosing a morning of peace at Garden instead of the insanity that would occur at home.  At this blessed moment, I decide it was the best decision I've made in a long time.

Sitting up slowly, I yawn and stretch before noticing something to the side of me.  Turning, I find Isan sitting against the dresser, the boy still wearing the loose clothing he sleeps in.  He's been waiting for me to wake up?

"Good Morning!  Here."

Blinking sleep from my eyes, I stare at the green envelope he hands my way but don't touch it.  "I thought we agreed on no presents for Christmas."

"No, you decided that on your own.  So take the damn thing."

"Isan, you know that--"

"And I'm telling you it doesn't matter.  I don't expect anything in return."

Sighing, I take the envelope but only stare at it for a time.  Hard to believe sometimes how much things have changed since our first meeting over a year past.  I think I know almost every secret about Isan now, and the boy has some large ones.  Aside from the paperwork and photos, the thing that convinced me the most of his parentage was the look of relative horror on the Headmaster's face when his son ask him to explain everything to me.  Everything else just spreads out from that point, including his 'Granddad', the odd variety of 'Aunts' and 'Uncles', and some dangerous 'adventures' the boy was inadvertently subjected to.

In return, Isan knows plenty about me as well, especially about my family situation.  He handled it differently than I thought he would.  I was expecting pity, offers of money, or something of the like.  Instead he just asked the simple question, 'But you all really love each other, right?'  Love.  No, it doesn't pay the bills, but it still manages to keep you warmer at night.  A year ago I would have never thought a kid like him would understand that, how I wouldn't trade my family for a richer life.  But I know better now.

"I can't return it, Lee, so just open it and worship me."

I glare at his smile, then open the envelope rather viciously.  The sight inside makes me pause.

"I know how much your glasses bug you.  The lady said that a gift certificate of that amount would be enough to get two pairs with nice frames.  And you'll get a free set of those clip on sunglasses.  The nice kind."

"Isan..."

"I swear I won't buy you anything again until you say it's okay, just except this for now.  Alright, big bro?"

I can't help but to breathe out a laugh at the determined look on his face.  "Alright, alright, you little brat.  I'll forgive you this once."

"Great."  He shifts his sitting position slightly, and I notice something glint in the light of the room.

"What's that?"

"Oh, this?"  He lifts up from his chest a necklace that appears to be a leather strap tied around a single heavy chain link.  "It's a present from my parents.  I accidentally found it, so they decided to just go ahead and give it to me early."

He crawls forward a little to let me see it.  On one side it reads, 'adopt our strength,' and on the reverse side, 'know our weakness'.

"You know the necklaces my parents wear?  Well, this is made from the same metal.  Actually, it comes from Mom's necklace since Dad's choker is too small to take anything from it, but originally the necklaces were made from the same batch of metal."

"He-eh.  Who knew they were so sentimental."

The conversation stops with loud pounding on the door.  Isan gets up first to open the outer door to the common area, while I stand up and lean against the doorframe of our shared room, curious of who wants to bother us relatively early in the morning.  Last thing I was expecting was the Commander, the large man not looking happy.

"Dad?  What are... oh."  The boy snickers and the Commander looks about ready to kill.

"Unless you want to be hung by your toenails, I suggesting moving it, boy."

Isan moves to the side, his smile wide despite the threat.  "I'll go get a towel for you to use."

When he walks into our room, the Commander's gaze meets with mine as if just noticing I was here.  He strides up and towers over me, his expression the darkest I've seen it.  I squeak in fear for the second time in my life.

"You will not tell anyone of this," he growls at me.

I'm thoroughly impressed with myself when I manage to nod.

"Stop threatening innocent bystanders, Dad."  A towel is thrown in the Commander's face.  "You'll feel better after a shower."

He glares at his fearless son, then stalks into the bathroom while muttering something about it being his birthday.

"You okay, Lee?  You look about ready to faint."

"What... was that?"

"Dad's in trouble with my mom."

"Huh?"

"About once or twice a year, they have a fight and Mom locks him out of the bathroom."

I stare at him unbelievingly.  "No."

He grins.  "Yes.  Everyone else thinks it's hilarious except for them.  Don't worry, he's not angry at you.  Just venting his out frustration."

"And he's here why?"

"Not certain, actually.  Maybe he got tired of the jokes in the locker room."

I shake my head.  "How can you handle your parents?"

"Why, something wrong about them?" he asks with true innocence. 

I can't find it in me to respond, and certainly not with the Commander himself in our bathroom.  Who knew a friendship could so life threatening?  But, looking at the soft green eyes opened a bit wide in curiosity, I have to say this friendship should be worth that bit of danger.  Knocking his head lightly with a fist, I walk into our shared room with the intention of going back to bed.  They say with some large, threatening animals it's safer to play dead.

 

{Owari}

 

Author's Whining -- Sorry about this probably being boring, but just felt like writing this more so to help me understand the friendship between Isan and Berkeley a little better.  No, there never was nor ever will be sexual attraction between these two.  Just best friends and confidants for each other, so get your mind out of the gutter.