Well, I have a good reason—my mom got a super-rare sickness and almost died one summer, and then after that I started my senior year, and then I started the grad school application process. But Jesus, what a long time to be away. I've missed this story! And the weirdest part is just how OFTEN I've thought about it, but never had the time to update. Seriously, you guys got no clue how many times I'd literally schedule this chapter in my to-do list and then have it superseded by something more important. Well, that's life I guess. Sorry to anyone who thought it was dead.

"It smells delicious, Uncle Laguna!" Ellone chirped.

His big sister was right; the kitchen was filled with the mouthwatering aroma of pancakes, more or less drowning out a lingering whiff of smoke as they sizzled. Squall sat wearily on a barstool, his elbows propping up his drooping head, and wondered if he'd be able to resist falling face-first into his food.

'No,' he admonished himself, shaking his head. 'I'm a SeeD. I've been through stuff like this in training and on the battlefield all my life. This is nothing. I won't fall asleep.'

He glanced over see Laguna flipping a pancake in the frying pan, whistling a light tune with a smile on his face. Ugh, the guy was twice his age and he wasn't even tired a little bit. What the hell was that guy even made of? It just wasn't fair! The man in charge of the largest nation on earth for nearing 20 years can sing like a bird after a sleepless night, while the youthful teenage commander can barely hold his head up. Try as he may to salvage his pride and follow the older man's example, the kitchen was too warm and the air too full of the comforting fragrance. Squall couldn't help but close his eyes for just a moment or two.

When his head snapped up a moment later and catapulted him back into consciousness, his ears were met with a laugh.

"Y'know, kid, if you're that sleepy, just conk out for a minute! Not like you're in class," Laguna chuckled.

Ellone nodded. "Uncle Laguna is right, you look worn out! Did you not sleep well last night?"

"We were both a little insomniac. But hey, I showed him the stars up on the rooftop!"

"Oh, yes, the stars look so lovely from up there… but you must be tired if you didn't sleep, Squall! Why don't you just rest your head for a moment?" she touched his shoulder, a mothering look in her eyes.

Against his better judgement, he almost complied for the sake of making his sister happy. It was almost embarrassing how, even after all this time, she could get him to do anything she asked. But Squall was not a baby anymore, and didn't need to be treated like one. Soldier through and through, he shook his head stonily. If they could stay awake, there was no reason why he shouldn't be able to. He was a SeeD, dammit! And a commander, no less!

"No, I'm fine," he protested. "Stuff like this was part of my battle training. And maintaining our discipline even when we're not on the field is one of our greatest responsibilities as SeeD."

"Yeah well, you're not a SeeD here, you're family. No one's gonna pop outta the bushes and stab at you. Though if they did, you know I would totally whoop their butts! Seriously, I may be getting older, but I can still fight with the best of them! Kinda like what happened last month. Yeah, Kiros had gotten wind of some weird stuff happening near the Nortes Mountains, and usually I don't handle that stuff. But I was just dying to get out of this stuffy place! So after a lot of plea—err, negotiating, I finally…"

As the world melted together in blackness and warmth, Squall dimly questioned why he always seemed to drift off one way or another when Laguna told a story.

He blinked; it was a little brighter in the kitchen, and a platter next to the stove was piled high with Pancakes. Ellone reached into the refrigerator and grabbed a large pitcher of orange juice. When their eyes met, she smiled mischievously.

"Well hello there, Mr. I'm-A-SeeD-And-SeeDs-Don't-Get-Sleepy! Are you ready for breakfast?"

"Whatever," he grumbled.

"Aw, Ellone, don't tease him too much," Laguna chuckled from behind him.

He almost felt a spark of respect—after all, Laguna was once a soldier himself, so surely he would understand why it was not a laughing matter—when he felt a large hand ruffling his hair.

"I want a turn too sometimes, y'know!"

As annoyed as felt in that moment, he also felt that strange feeling again. It buzzed at the top of his head where Laguna's hand had been, jumbling together with his ire. He was certain this was the most exasperated he'd ever felt. But somehow, in the end, he found himself biting his cheek to hold back a traitorous smile.

Laguna was really a pain in the neck.

And now you're gonna hate me even more. Okay, this chapter is super short. It's barely a chapter. But because I'm so busy with grad school, I'm trying to crank out what little pieces I can. Because God knows if I refuse to publish something until it's at least 2k I'll never post anything at all. Consider this a preview, and hope that I can add the next part soon!