Big Yellow Birds by paxnirvana
Rating: PG-13
Fandom: Final Fantasy VIII
Archive: Please ask.
Date Completed: 3/18/03

Author's Note: Not part of the 'Liontaming' timeline, 'tho I suppose it could be... *grin* I love Chocobos! They're my favorite recurring theme in the Final Fantasy series. And the sight of Squall sitting on the back of that big yellow bird... LOL!

Disclaimer: This is for entertainment only, no money being made. Square owns them all... but I wish they'd put more of 'Leon' in Kingdom Hearts! Yowza baby!

* * * * *

Zell lay sprawled in a clearing thick with grass and midday sunlight, eyes closed, hands folded behind his head, humming to himself. Enjoying a brief respite from searching for more powerful GFs and battling monsters. It was good to just lie around sometimes, he thought. He propped one foot over the other knee, shaking his foot a bit. Jiggling it. Faster and faster. He sighed deeply, staring up at the thick canopy of leaves that arched over the edge of the clearing from the surrounding trees. Pretty, he supposed. If one was into nature and all that shit. Quiet too, except for the little clicking sounds from his shoelace ends as they rattled together.

It was a chocobo forest. Thick and lush and green. And quiet. Really, really quiet. Peaceful. He sighed heavily again.

Actually, he was bored stiff. They were waiting for Squall to catch some chocobos so they could ride back to the coast where they'd left Balamb Garden. They'd wandered quite a bit further into the wilds of Centra than they'd planned. The thick chocobo forest had been a welcome sight in the middle of all that bare, blasted red desert. He was sick of fighting Belhelmel and Blood Souls. Status Attacks just pissed him off and Holy Water always tasted like acid when he got Zombied – but at least it cured it.

"Hey, Irvine," he called to his companion where he sat against a nearby tree, hat tilted down over his eyes. "Why don't monsters come into the chocobo forests, do you think?"

Irvine sighed deeply, nap interrupted for the fourth time already, and lifted his head, pushing his hat back reluctantly. He might as well give up trying to snatch any sleep. There was no rest to be found around Zell. He had even more of a motor-mouth than Selphie. But at least with Selphie, he could be sure she'd stop talking while he was kissing her. If Zell was quiet you could be certain of one of three things; he was unconscious, he was Silenced, or he was eating. And since he currently wasn't any of the three Irvine briefly contemplated casting Silence on him himself – except he was sure Zell had a couple Echo Screens tucked in those baggy shorts of his somewhere.

"You ever seen a pissed-off chocobo?" Irvine said with a short sigh. Preparing to expound on things chocobo once again. Maybe if he quit wearing ranch clothes, people might not bug him about the big yellow birds anymore. Nah. The hat was too damn cool.

"Um... no. I'm from Balamb Island. Not a lot of chocobos there."

"I noticed," Irvine said dryly. "Ain't much there but Bite Bugs and Caterchipiller. It's one of the things I love so much about Balamb."

Zell reared up and leaned back on his elbows, frowning at Irvine with a puzzled expression on his face. Completely missing the irony in his tone. "Huh?" Zell said succinctly. Irvine let it go.

"Wild ones breed in these forests," Irvine said with a lazy wave at the dense greenery behind them. "All the moms come in here to lay their eggs and raise their chicobos. The dads defend the outsides of the forests or just wander around. Anything that comes into a forest and threatens the chicobos… well, trust me, a pissed-off chocobo mom is a meter-half of lightning-fast fury that's stronger than a hurricane and nastier than your boxer shorts on wash day."

"Hey!" Zell squawked, flushing slightly.

"Truth hurts," Irvine said with a tight grin. Zell frowned. "Anyway, they've got beaks sharper than your hair and talons that can gouge strips outta dragonhide and they don't give up until their foe's deader than Rinoa's hopes to get Squall to talk about his feelings."

Zell snorted in disbelief, rolling his eyes slightly. "Yeah, right. Like they can really take out Ruby Dragons." Zell laughed hard for a moment, but quickly sobered at the grim, vaguely horrified look that had bloomed on Irvine's face.

"Don't laugh. You ain't seen it. I have." Irvine shuddered dramatically. "It ain't pretty. You get on the wrong side of a chocobo mom and you're dead meat, my friend."

"No way." Zell paled slightly, glancing warily around at the forest as if expecting an irate chocobo to come charging out at him any second.

"How do you think chocobos survive with all the monsters around?" Irvine asked, leaning back against the tree again, a patiently amused look on his face.

"They run fast?"

"Well, that they do, but they're also pretty deadly."

Zell frowned nervously. "Good thing they like people, huh?"

"Yup."

Zell went quiet, still looking around the peaceful glade warily. Irvine let his eyes close again and actually began to hope that he might get a decent nap in finally.

"Hey, if you're such an expert, why aren't you in there catchin' chocobos for us to ride instead of Squall?" Zell asked after a time.

"First of all, he never asked." Irvine gave a slow smug smile, looking almost like a cat in cream. "And second... c'mon Zell, don't it make you laugh thinkin' of Mr. Grim Squall in there with his whistles trying to catch chicobos and forkin' over gil to that kid every time they snatch one?"

Zell's eyes widened and his jaw dropped in open astonishment. "Wait... you mean there's another way to catch the big ones?"

Irvine laughed, pale eyes flashing with mischief.

"Oh, yeah. But Squall's got some strange little test of wills goin' with that kid in there and I ain't about to get in the way of that. 'Sides, chocobo forests are rare." Irvine folded his arms behind his head again, shifted to the side and settled back down on the thick grass. He crossed his booted feet and closed his eyes with a sigh. "Not to mention the most peaceful places on the planet. Gets us a little down-time, if you know what I mean."

Zell just stared at him goggle-eyed for a moment in disbelief.

"Shit, Kinneas. You better hope Squall doesn't find out or you're a dead man."

"Find out what?" a cool voice asked from the far side of the clearing.

Zell bounced to his feet, blue eyes wide with shock as he stared at the lean, black-clad man who stood under the edge of the canopy of trees, a habitual frown on his face. Three big yellow birds clustered behind him, 'wark'ing curiously at the inhabitants of the clearing. "Squall!"

Irvine lay calmly on the grass, hat still shading his eyes. But he'd tensed up some, one could tell.

"Nothing important," Irvine said with commendable ease. Then he pushed his hat back and smiled brilliantly up at Squall from his position on the ground. "Got some, I see."

"Whatever..." Squall said after a brief, narrow stare at the Galbadian, dismissing his own curiosity as he led the three birds into the heart of the clearing. Zell let out a strangled sound, eyes going even wider instead of relaxing at Squall's calm response. Then Irvine realized it wasn't Squall Zell was gawking at.

Irvine stared a bit himself, his mind going distressingly blank for a moment. Because, rubbing up against Squall's leg lovingly, it's little head crowned with a downy tuft of feathers, was a chicobo. At every move Squall made, it scrambled to keep up, it's strong little legs pumping furiously to keep pace with the man's longer stride.

Irvine pointed at it dumbly. Squall sighed, folded his arms over his chest and looked away.

"Don't ask."

"It's following you."

"Yeah..."

Irvine blinked. "That means..."

"Don't start."

"Means what?" Zell snorted from behind the hand he'd clamped over his mouth to keep back a bray of laughter, eyes dancing above. The image of their stoic Commander being followed by a fluffy little ball of downy yellow feathers was too amusing to contain.

Irvine rolled gracefully to his feet, looking around at the three adult birds standing quietly around the clearing. None of the three seemed distressed at all by the attention the little one was giving Squall. The little chicobo stopped on top of Squall's right boot, looking longingly up the man's body toward his face. Little yellow wings flapped urgently and the tiny creature let out a soft 'wark' of demand. It looked like the thing wanted to be picked up. Squall just closed his eyes with a heavy sigh.

"That means," Irvine began, trying to stifle the smile growing on his face and failing utterly. "This little guy thinks Squall is…"

Squall's eyes flashed open in warning and he growled out, "Kinneas..."

"...his mother!"

- - fin - -