HITTING THE TOWN

Chapter 1

The SeeDs sit around the room. Irvine sits on his own. ZELL and SQUALL face each other across a table playing chess. QUISTIS is opposite IRVINE, buried in a book.
IRVINE: I'm bored.
ALL: Silence.
Squall moves a piece. Zell stares at the board, scowling in concentration. QUISTIS licks her finger and turns another page.
IRVINE: Can't we go out? The Dog's doing that one gil for three pints offer again.
QUISTIS (idly): We're busy.
Silence. Ivrine gets up. He drifts over to Zell, who is still figuring out his move.
IRVINE (quietly): Buy you a pint.
Zell blinks. The hand stretching out for a piece halts abruptly in mid-air, then, slowly resumes its journey.
IRVINE (temptingly): There'll be hotdogs.
ZELL (leaping up. Chessboard goes flying): Yeah Baby! Oops…
Squall scowls, folds his arms and stares out of the window, scowling. Zell goes down on his hands and knees and starts snatching up chess pieces. Irvine sidles up to QUISTIS. She is watching him from over the cover of her book. She is pretending mock irrational at his intrusion, but a small smile plays across her lips.
IRVINE: Watcha reading, gorgeous?
QUISTIS (ironic tone): Trust me, you wouldn't be interested.
IRVINE (reading upside down): Maceler's Inter-molecular Metaphysics in the Fifth Dimension, Vol VI. Gods! That thing doesn't even have a plot. You don't want to read that stuff babe! You want to come out with a good lookin' guy like me!
QUISTIS (smiling): You know, you're incorrigible when Selphie isn't here?
IRVINE: What does incorrigible mean?
SQUALL: It means you won't shut up.
IRVINE (snapping fingers): You know Quisty, that's what I like about you. You use words that are even longer then my-
QUISTIS (loudly, holding up a gloved hand): Enough! You win! She snaps her book shut and stands up (pouts) But I want a Pink Lady.
IRVINE: I love to see a willing woman. For such a beautiful lady, how can I resist?
He wraps his arm around QUISTIS's waist, and throws the other across Zell's shoulder. He gooses QUISTIS. She slaps his shoulder. Ivrine gives her a mock hurt look then looks speculatively down at Squall. The Commander hasn't moved. He sits, arms folded, staring out of the window.
IRVINE (grinning, still with his arms around QUISTIS and Zell): Coming Commander?
SQUALL (monosyllabic): No.
IVRINE (temptingly): They'll be boys wearing leather there…
SQUALL (distantly): Whatever.
IRVINE: C'om on Squall. With Rinoa off on her 'I Was A Demi-Goddess Child Soldier' book signing tour, its up to us, your friends, to show you a healthy social alternative to your narrow, hate-filled existence.
SQUALL (he looks uncertainly at QUISTIS.): Is going out normal?
QUISTIS (sardonic look at Irvine): Probably not the way Irvie does things. But for most people, yes.
SQUALL (reluctant. He stands up and throws on his jacket): Just the one drink then.
IRIVINE: Brilliant! I'll hire the car.
SQUALL: Fine. The money's in the cabinet.
IRVINE (heading for the door): No Commander, it's in my belt.

Chapter 2

Inside the Dog's Head
SQUALL (standing up): My round. What's everyone having?
IVRINE: Voja and Coke for me.
QUISTIS: Same please.
ZELL: Can of Gab, Baby!
SQUALL: Zell, it's a pub. The beer comes in a glass.
Zell (shrugs shoulders):Fine. Bring a glass and I'll pour the beer in.
SQUALL: ……
QUISTIS: Aren't you having anything Commander?
SQUALL (smiling): I think I'll stick with a lime and soda for the moment QUISTIS.
He walks off to the bar. Irvine pulls a face at the others, then motions them together. They go into a conspirital huddle.
IRVINE (voice lowered): Why's he not drinking anything?
ZELL (bites into a hot dog): Mmmmagnosh. Mm. Yeah, baby. Squall, like, doesn't drink alcohol baby. He says it makes him act strange, like.
IRVINE (concerned tone): Look guys, we're supposed to be having a good night out here. We can't go bush jumping or nicking traffic cones if Squall's still sober! We gotta loosen him up a bit!
QUISTIS: And just how are you going to do that Cowboy? You know that when Rinoa's not here to take him out of himself he regresses back to his old self.
ZELL (protests): He's not that bad baby! Like, he's here isn't he?
IRVINE and QUISTIS (simultaneously): Whatever.
QUISTIS (challengingly to IRVINE): Well? Just how are you going to pull that one off?
IRVINE: With my teeth if I have to, babe.
ZELL: Painful baby!
QUISTIS (flushing): Very funny smartarse.
IRVINE: I've got something on me that could take Squall out of his shell. He holds up a small blue pill I lifted this out of the evidence locker at Garden as a favour for a pal. Hyperstimulant. Guaranteed to reduce all higher brain functions to mush for the next twelve hours. Squall always complains he spends too much time thinking. His body needs a break from him. Its got six years of vomiting on the street to catch up on.
QUISTIS: But we're Squall's friends! We can't do that to him! It would be a total abuse of trust! Actually… sounds kinda fun…
ZELL (grinning, flashing fangs): Brutal baby!
IRVINE (querulous): Is that all you're going say in this fic?
ZELL (shrugs his shoulders): Yeah… The author's put my character development on hold until he can figure out how to shoehorn me out of the dim blond hunk stereotype.
QUISTIS (tosses her hair): Ouch. Hard luck.
ZELL: Tell me about it.
IRVINE (drops the pill into Squall's half-finished first drink.): Chucks away!

Chapter 3

6 Hours Later….

(Author's note: In order to stop the spellchecker having a nervous breakdown, the author will have to type as though the four SeeDs are still capable of coherent speech. And they say today's kids lack imagination.)

SQUALL, QUISTIS, IRVINE and ZELL are all staggering up the quiet street. It is now 3:00 am.
ZELL (slugs back drink): Mmm. Great night. Time to head back. Where's the car?
IRVINE's brow wrinkles. He looks along the street. Looks back along the street. His hand flies to his mouth. He giggles. Titters. Then laughs out loud. Tears stream down his face as he bends over drunkenly.
QUISTIS (laughing with him): What?
IRVINE (shaking with laughter): There isn't a car! We're all fucked! I forgot to book a return!
QUISTIS: Shit!
ZELL: You really are a cunt.
IRVINE (catches Zell's eye): I know!
They both break into peals of laughter.
SQUALL (eyes glazed, looking down on them): Ground Control to Major Tom, can you hear me?
ZELL (ignoring SQUALL, still giggling, his fangs bared): How are we going to get back to Garden?
IRVINE (plaintively): I don't know.
QUISTIS (thoughtfully): There're all these drivers around. Why don't we borrow one of their cars? You know, being war heroes and all.
SQUALL: Certainly matron, pass me the tea-towel.
IRVINE (gratefully): Brilliant idea, as usual babe.
QUISTIS preens. ZELL wanders up to a parking car and bangs on the roof to get the driver's attention. Startled, the driver looks up. Scowling at ZELL, IRVINE rests his arm on the roof and leans down to the driver's window. His breath exhales in white clouds. His eyes are wide and reddened. He reaches out for the door handle.
IRVINE (cheerfully): Alright babe, mind if we borrow your car?
The driver squeaks, and hits the central locking system. IRVINE pumps the handle a few times, looking annoyed.
SQUALL: Mission, this is Gound Control. That's a negative.
IRVINE: This isn't right. Can't treat us this way! We're heroes. Saved the world. He spreads his arms dramatically We died for our Garden!
ZELL: Irvie, your over-reacting baby. Junctions to Strength. Locks ain't a problem for us. Pulls the door off. Car alarm starts to wail. Terrified, the driver plunges into the back seat. Annoyed at the noise, Zell punches the dashboard. Through the steering wheel.
ZELL: Stupid car! Pulls his fist out. The wheel falls off. Oops.
QUISTIS (Giggles, her hand over her mouth.): The Chicken-Wuss strikes again.
ZELL glowers at QUISTIS. IRVINE pushes his hat back and scratches his head as he considers the damage.
IVRINE: Well Zell, you've wrecked the car. How are we getting back now?
ZELL (slowly, in deep thought): We can stay… with Ma. Tomorrow, I'll fix the car. If we each Junction to Strength and take a wheel we should be able to get this thing home…
IRVINE: Okkaayyy. But we're stopping off at the supermarket on the way to your Ma's. I'm hungry, and I want some crisps.
QUISTIS (Takes the left front wheel): Ready everyone? Hup!
The car is lightly lifted onto the shoulders of the four SeeDs. Inside, the trapped driver is frantically dialling on her mobile. The SeeDs have made it to the end of the street when a patrol car pulls up in front of them, and deputy clambers slowly out. He is a big man, easily topping six feet, with a paunchy beer-gut spilling over his gunbelt. His body looks like its carrying a spare tyre. A name badge declares him to be 'Community Protection Officer PEARSON'. Grimy and unshaven, OFFICER PEARSON looks as if he has just been woken up. He does not look happy about this fact. Seeing the driver's frantic waving he strides slowly over to inspect the quartet.
OFFICER PEARSON (peering at QUISTIS, whose face is concealed in the darkness): All right young lady. Fancy telling me what's going on here?
QUISTIS (beaming her best pupil to teacher smile): Yesh Offica, We broke this car here, so we're taking it with us to fix at Zell's Ma's house. But first we're stopping off at the supermarket.
OFFICER PEARSON has been listening to QUISTIS's voice with a growing expression of horrified recognition. Now he takes a torch from his belt and flicks it on, running it quickly over QUISTIS's face.
QUISTIS: Hey!
OFFICER PEARSON (hurriedly): Sorry!
He ducks around the car and shines the torch onto SQUALL's face.
SQUALL (leaning forward conspiratorially): I see dead people.
OFFICER PEARSON (ducking hurriedly back to QUISTIS): Sorry to have bothered you ma'am, but we've had a report of a kidnapping. The caller said four kids had picked her car-
DRIVER (indignantly): Yeah! Me! These are the kids! Aren't you going to even arrest them, officer?
QUISTIS (genuinely shocked): You can't arrest me! I'm pregnant!
ZELL's and IRVINE's knees dip simultaneously. The car tilts dangerously. The driver screams and grabs the sides of the car to stop her slide.
SQUALL (sagely): Pass the cucumber sandwiches please Mary. Gosh aren't the roses doing well this year?
OFFICER PEARSON (holding his hands up placating, sensing a distinct degeneration in the atmosphere): No one's getting arrested here. (Innocently) I just need to your know your route to the market.
QUISTIS (sniffily): Down, left, second left, first right and down- along Green Dolphin Street.
OFFICER PEARSON (snapping his notebook shut): Thank you ma'am. Just one more question. Would there be any reason for you to behave irrationally? Any childhood trauma perhaps?
QUISTIS: Well Officer, my memories are pretty vague. But from what synaptic boosters and hypno-recall have brought back to me, I was a bit of a problem child before I got sent to Garden at twelve. My adoptive parents cruelly neglected me emotionally, and so I, well, charges were never brought, you understand?
OFFICER PEARSON (supportively): Perfectly.
QUISTIS (cheerfully): These days of course I'm perfectly emotionally balanced. The only thing that really bugs me is when I can't get any Twinkles at a store.
OFFICER PEARSON: Really?
QUISTIS (seriously): Not stocking Twinkles should be a capital crime, Officer.
OFFICER PEARSON: Indeed, ma'am. He tips his hat respectfully Thank you. On your way now.
DRIVER: What about me!
IVRINE: Wow! Hot babe up there! (He remembers QUISTIS) Ahem.
ZELL (distracted): Don't worry baby, you can crash with us while we get your car fixed, like. (His eyes stray to QUISTIS. He sounds stunned) She's pregnant!
The quartet wander off. OFFICER PEARSON stands statue-like for a moment. He seems lost in thought.
OFFICER PEARSON (muttering to himself, mantra-like): Attention and Twinkles. Attention and Twinkles. From now on, she won't even be able to breathe without me being there for her! He picks up the radio. Hello? Yeah, Pearson here, over. Yeah, it is a kidnap. Listen, I've got situation 10024 here. No, I'm not joking. Yeah, I had a sense of humour. It's just packed up and gone on a long holiday somewhere tropical. We're going to need the riot platoon, at least. Yeah, I'm going to notify the Army. You get the Mayor out of bed. Pearson out, over. He pulls out his nightstick as he climbs into the car. Right. Some Quality Time with my children, coming up.

Chapter 4

The SeeDs stand at the top of the road. It stretches down to the market, but their way is barred by a wall of riot police, armed to the teeth with shock mauls, riot shields, stun grenades and shotguns. Behind them, MAYOR BENLACK of Balamb, stands on his new series six Pulma, newly shipped in from Estar.
MAYOR BENLACK (talking through his loudspeaker): THIS IS YOUR MAYOR SPEAKING. YOU ARE ALL UNDER ARREST HERE. STEP SLOWLY AWAY FROM THE VEHICLE. LAY DOWN ALL OBJECTS YOU ARE CARRYING AND RAISE YOUR HANDS.
SQUALL: Whoops, Mrs Miggins, you're sitting on my artichokes.
IRVINE (annoyed, setting the car down): Gods sakes Squall, control yourself! We're being arrested here.
Several seconds pass
ZELL (worried tone): Do you think we should have put the handbrake on?
IRVINE (awed tone): The way it rolled down through all those policemen…
QUISTIS (horrified): And hit the Mayor's new car…
SQUALL (pointing, softly): Coo. Pretty fireball…
IRVINE: He sounds pretty ticked off about it.
QUISTIS: Selphie's going to be in mourning. There're only three hundred of those models off the production line. It'll be like we've murdered her aunty or something.
ZELL (groans): Like, guys, Selphie isn't our problem right now. He points to where a line of police officers are marching slowly towards the SeeDs, with the wavering tread of people who have suddenly realised just how worthless their new pension plan is. Sighing, ZELL begins to limber up. I'm so going to it catch off my Ma when I get back, baby. I mean, I was brought up to respect the law, like. If she finds out I helped exterminate the entire Balamb City police department she'll go nuclear.
The leading wave of police reaches the SeeDs, and hesitates. One shoulders his way through the press and confronts QUISTIS and SQUALL. ZELL and IRVINE leap forwards, but find their way blocked by another charging knot of police.
ZELL (excitedly, leaping about the circling policemen): Don't you dare touch her! She might be the mother of my child!
IRVINE (weakly): Or mine!
SQUALL steps in front of QUISTIS, Leonheart trailing loosely from his left hand. The giant's 6' 4'' body makes his 5' 8'' frame look frail and slight by comparison. He looms over SQUALL, a monolith clad in black. His face is hidden entirely behind his black helmet cum gas mask, the breathing operator issuing a menacing hissing noise with every intake of air. His massive gauntleted hands grasp the handle of the glowing red bar of his shock maul, the weird droning of the weapon mingling weirdly with the hiss of the mask. Red light flickers over the two combatants.
SQUALL (face slightly down, voice strangely strangulated): Strike me down and I shall become more powerful then you can ever possibly imagine.
All the officers freeze as they recall the rumours of the destructive potential of Squall's Limit Break. The giant hesitates, checking for injuries. SQUALL's right fist, still Junctioned to Strength, shoots out in a blur of motion, and crashes onto the point of the giant's chin with a perfect upper cut. With a sound like a joint of meat hitting a rock slab, the giant is lifted clean off his feet. He flies through the air in a graceful arc, straight onto the roof of a nearby car. Which buckles under the force of impact. The glass windows explode outwards, and shards of glass rain down everywhere. Tinkle-tinkle.
SQUALL (satisfied): Sucker.
ZELL (admiration): He bares his fangs as a flood of police hurl themselves forwards Brutal Baby!
SQUALL (raving, swiping left and right): DIIIEEEE POOONNNDD SKKUMMM!

Chapter 5

The four SeeDs lie sprawled uncomfortably on the concrete floor of the cell. There is no sound except for the four's quiet breathing. IRVINE is lying half across SQUALL's chest, his long hair splayed across it. SQUALL stirs in his sleep... His hand creeps out across his chest and finds IRVINE's head. It begins to stroke IRVINE's long hair.
SQUALL (moans happily): Rinoa-
IRVINE shifts uncomfortably on the ground. His overcoat makes a small rustling noise as he moves. SQUALL's eyes slam open. For a moment all is blank, and his brow furrows as he tries to work out why he is lying on a cold floor with IRVINE in his arms. Then the scene clicks into place. His eyes grow wide and his mouth forms a silent 'o'. He shoots up into a sitting position as though scalded, back ram-rod straight, and emits a high pitched scream.
SQUALL: YYYYYYyeeearghhh!
The others leap awake, snatched cruelly from sleep.
IRVINE (groaning, clutching his head): Ooohhh. What did I have to drink last night? My head feels like there's a Trabain line-dancer living in it.
ZELL (croaks to SQUALL): How was the trip, baby?
SQUALL (wildly, staring at ZELL): What?
IRVINE is making frantic 'stop' movements with his hands.
SQUALL: His head rotates slowly towards IRVINE, who freezes in mid-flap. You put a com-stimulant in my drink, didn't you Irvine?
IRVINE (hands held out defensively): Only to loosen you up a bit Squall.
SQUALL (levelly): Irvine, I want you to understand that what is going to happen next is, absolutely and beyond a shadow of a doubt, for your own good.
SQUALL lunges towards IRVINE, grabbing his head and begins slamming it against the cell wall. ZELL and QUISTIS throw themselves on top of SQUALL, trying to hold him back. IRVINE gives a startled yelp, then leaps away from his snarling commander, who is dragging QUISTIS and ZELL with him, arms out stretched, tendons straining.
SQUALL (flecks of foam): NNNAAAAAARRRRRGGGGG!
The door hisses open. The SeeDs freeze in place as an exhausted HEADMASTER CID stands in the open doorway. Then ZELL, QUISTIS and IRVINE groan and cradle their heads anew, as the harsh corridor lighting illuminates their gloomy cell.
CID: Giving them an evil look I see you're awake then.
SEEDs:The SeeDs snap to attention, then clutch their heads. Sir!
CID (sarcastically): Good morning everyone. All well? How are the hangovers? Bad? Wonderful! Would anyone like to see this morning's papers?
IRVINE: Sir?
Smiling brightly, CID removes the Balamb Morning Post from under his arm and throws it on the floor, where it lands with a loud thwack.
ZELL (squinting): 'ARMED TEEN CRACKHEAD GANG STORMS STORE: 10 held hostage in Balamb supermarket horror.' Like, heavy duty stuff baby. Say, this didn't have anything to do with us did it?
IRVINE (hopefully to CID): First offence?
CID (wonderingly): You really do have no idea how much trouble you're in, do you?
QUISTIS (horrified): There's more?
CID (ghastly smile): Counting off on his fingers. 63 Balamb District police officers and the mayor in hospital. 74 Galbadian peacekeepers killed-
IRVINE: sweatdrops '……'
CID: Don't interrupt Irvine, I wouldn't want you to miss any of this. Twelve SM0 8Gs taken out. Half of Balamb flattened. General Caraway's Reed Crested T-Rex so traumatized it still won't come out of its cage-
ZELL: What did we do to that?
CID: You tied its tail round its legs, then you took its head and shoved it up its-
QUISTIS hand up: ENOUGH! Errr… sir.
IRVINE: Self-defence?
CID (madly sardonically cheerful): points at the paper, reciting from memory Leader's demands: 'I want a hug!'
SQUALL blushes scarlet as the others snigger. CID's face becomes deadpan as he continues speaking.
CID: You went up to the roof of the shop and cried because nobody loved you, and 'Sis' wasn't there to give your bedtime hug. Then the negotiator asked you if you had any more demands and you said you wanted Laguna to tell you a bedtime story.
SQUALL: …….
CID (disbelieving): We had to bring the President of Estar and his first lady all the way across from Estar City to hug you good night and read you 'A Knight's Tale'.
QUISTIS holds up a gloved hand to her mouth a titters. CID's eyes slide across the room to her and she freezes as his lips peel back into a mirthless grin.
CID (adjusting his jumper): And as for the rest of you….
There is a shuffling of feet. The three stare at the floor as SQUALL takes his turn to snigger.
IRVINE: Mitigating circumstances owing to the age of the defendants?
CID (relentless): Irvine and Zell drank the store's entire liqueur stock. You had the manager pour straight shots for you, and every time he spilt a little you bounced his head off the till. You were very particular about it.
ZELL (amazed): Didn't we collapse?
CID: You'd cast Antidote on yourselves and sober up. Then you'd look around the store, scream 'Oh my Gods! What the hell have we done!' and immediately grab another bottle.
SQUALL (squinting nastily at QUISTIS): What about her?
QUISTIS: sweatdrops, glaring at SQUALL …….
CID: You put an old man in hospital.
QUISTIS (indignantly): I did no such thing! (Demurely) I'm a nice girl.
CID (dryly): You kept telling him you were pregnant. You seemed to think he was your adopted father. In retrospect it probably wasn't too clever of him to have told you he'd be buggered if he listened to you repeat yourself again.
QUISTIS (flushing furiously): Why didn't he run away?
CID (incredulous): How? He was a war veteran with one arm and no legs!
QUISTIS (small voice): Are we going to prison?
CID: Are you kidding me! You think we'd trust any prison to hold the Orphanage Gang? If you didn't blast your way out of the place that maniac Selphie would probably charge off to the rescue in Ragnork! Cue Sorceress War Three! Besides, after what you did Garden's undergoing an economic miracle. Xu practically had an orgasm when she saw the figures.
SQUALL: Sorry?
CID: For starters every terrorist group, guerrilla movement, dictator and monster hunter under the sun wants to hire SeeDs. Plus we've been approached by the four largest insurance firms the business, who offered to pay for all the rebuilding work in exchange for us banning you from any substance stronger then caffeine. Then there's the fact that any city that thinks you might be dropping by wants to hire a Disciplinary Committee, the Galbadian Army's request to test new war machines out on you, the list just rolls on. Even if we did have to use up our entire stock of Phoenix Downs to revive all those people you killed.
ZELL: So we're scot free baby! Makes a punching gesture. Brutal!
CID (grins): ……..
ZELL (loses smile): …….?
CID (eyes glinting evilly): Consider yourself lucky, Mr Dincht. While you were asleep Balamb prosecutors came forward with a huge list of charges, and demanded your extradition. They wanted the ultimate penalty. But after I told them Garden had records showing you'd been collectively killed or mortally wounded on no less then 132 occasions without apparently learning anything, they became a bit depressed.
ZELL (conversationally): Getting killed was always the worst part of the job for me. Generally, being eaten was the worst. I remember when-
CID (loudly): And as we'd resurrected everybody, even though they hadn't had health insurance, AND we're paying the reconstruction costs, I was able to beat them down to 367 counts of causing grievous bodily harm, 17 counts of assault with a deadly weapon, 78 counts of malicious destruction of property and one count of driving whilst under the influence.
SQUALL: ……?
CID (promptly): Possession of a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, Political terrorism, kidnapping, ten counts of hostage taking and 367 counts of murder. Difficult to prove the last one when all the dead people were walking around the next day.
SQUALL (sweatdrops): …….
IRVINE: So we got off?
CID: Nope. As it is, taking into account your previous character, age and Kadowaki diagnosing post-traumatic stress syndrome in you all, we were able to cut your sentence to a single extended tour of duty. Pack your bags. You leave at dawn.
IRVINE (cockily): Thanks for getting us off Dad. How did you manage to get the Prosecutors to agree to it?
CID: I told them where we were sending you.
SeeDs all freeze.
CID: Thanks to you idiots, we're completely out of Phoenix Downs. Fortunately Kadowaki was looking for volunteers for her visit to northern Esthar. Every since the Lunar Cry it's been crawling with monsters. This way we can kill two Fire Bombs with one Meteor strike. We can send you off to discover new and fascinating rare species of monsters. You'll meet creatures with real benefits to give to mankind, miracles of nature. And then you'll kill them! Plus we get you out of the way and sober for two years. Could be a record.
ZELL: But the place is a death trap! There's species they haven't even discovered in there! I've heard of things the size of a house, with envenomed tentacles that paralyse you with a touch, and critters with poisonous claws that kill you with just a scratch. They give me nightmares, and I've all the intellectual capacity of a squashed ant.
CID: And they said nature was blind. The mind boggles at the possibilites, it really does. Have a nice time….

Chapter 6

CID leaves, cackling. Dejected, the SeeDs are about to slouch out when SELPHIE and RINOA burst into the room.
SELPHIE: Hi, everyone. Gods, we saw it all on Centura News Network! Quistis, who's the father?
ZELL and IRVINE (simultaneously): He is! Errrr….
SELPHIE (lip wobbling, to QUISTIS): You slept with my boyfriend?
Her head swivels to glare at IRVINE.
SELPHIE (furious): You got my best friend pregnant!
IRVINE (defensively): Unintentionally! Oh…
SELPHIE starts after IRVINE, who squeals, then runs for it. SELPHIE makes to follow, but stops at the door and turns to QUISTIS, looking rather lost.
SELPHIE (uncertain): Look… How was Irvine when you actually… did it?
QUISTIS (incredulous): You mean you've been going out for two years and don't actually know?
SELPHIE (furious, blushing): It was just like the sniper mission! Every time he'd just get really nervous, work himself up, and then shoot early!
SQUALL and ZELL roll around laughing.
SELPHIE: What did you do that was so different?
QUISTIS frowns in thought, then grins. She leans down and whispers in SELPHIE's ear.
SELPHIE (unusually thoughtful): Really? Is that all?
QUISTIS (succinctly): Yup.
SELPHIE (depressed): He'll be hiding from me by now. There's no way I'll be able to find him, never mind show him what he'll be missing by two-timing me.
RINOA (archly, butting in): What was he like, Quisty?
QUISTIS (thoughtfully): Okay, I guess.
RINOA (equally thoughtfully): You really want to find him, Selphie?
SELPHIE: I can't spread convincing rumours about how bad in bed he is unless I've slept with him, can I?
RINOA (astonished): Sorry? I mean, No Selphie. Obviously not. But if you want to find him, telepathy being amongst a Sorceress's powers, I'll get to him.
All three women exchange Significant Looks, then head for the door.
ZELL: Stop, Quistis! The author says here that as your technically boyfriend, you've got to dump me first!
QUISTIS (distracted, slightly breathless): Fine. Zell, you're dumped.
ZELL (punching the air): Alright, BABY!
Exit QUISTIS and SELPHIE. RINOA pauses at the door, and looks SQUALL archly in the eye, before indicating ZELL, and winking. SQUALL nods his understanding and gives her a thumbs up sign. RINOA smiles at him, than leads SELPHIE and QUISTIS across the corridor to the room where IRVINE is hiding. She switches the light out, and QUISTIS and SELPHIE enter. RINOA follows.
IRVINE (in the sudden darkness): Hel- mmmmaaahhhawwww!
Back in the cell ZELL turns to SQUALL. He seems depressed.
ZELL: Squall, it's nearly the end of the fic, and the author still hasn't thought of any way to make me an original and interesting character. Can you do anything?
SQUALL: Sure, Zell.
The startled ZELL is suddenly hoisted across SQUALL's broad shoulders.
ZELL: Whua?
SQUALL (kindly): Zell, shut up for once.
SQUALL opens the door to his room, and disappears inside with the grinning ZELL still across his shoulders. RINOA and SQUALL reappear to shut their doors. RINOA blows SQUALL a kiss. SQUALL rolls his eyes back at her, and makes a get-on-with-it gesture. They shut their doors in perfect synchronism.

Epilogue

CID and EDEA stand on the little quay by the ruined lighthouse as the quartet stand on the ship's deck and wave at the little group below. RINOA and SELPHIE wave back. ZELL sits down on a thick fluffy cushion, wincing. All four have deep shadows under their eyes. LAGUNA and ELLONE stroll up the gangway, arm in arm, and the ship begins to pull away.
SQUALL (hostile): What are you doing here?
LAGUNA (guilelessly): Well, your court supervision order stipulated parental supervision. We'll have some quality time together as father and son at last.
He spreads his arms wide for a huge. SQUALL's horrified gaze slides passed him to meet ELLONE's gaze. She is sniggering behind her shawl. SQUALL sprints to the back of the boat and grasps the railing, staring desperately at the dwindling shore line.
SQUALL (shouting): Cid you git! I'm going to get YOOOuuuuuuu-.
LAGUNA catches him up from behind and pulls him kicking and punching into a crushing bear hug.
LAGUNA (happily): This is just great son. We can swap hair care tips around the camp fire at night.
SQUALL: Irvine, I need another pill. Now.
CID and EDEA watch from the shoreline. CID giggles. EDEA frowns down at him.
CID: What?
EDEA: I've just realised something. I'm a good looking forty-something career woman who can pass for a thirty-something, and I'm living with a weird, wrinkled monkey of a man, who shuffles around the place in slippers and a woolly jumper. I ran a Superpower when I wasn't with you!
CID: I've given you this ruin haven't I? What more do you want?
EDEA (dreamily): Running water.
She hitches her dress up and sprints off after the departing boat. Reaching the edge of the quay she leaps into the sea, and strikes out after the ship with powerful strokes. CID watches her, mouth agape.
EDEA: LAGUNA, WAIT FOR MEEEEEE!
CID: Stop Edea! I don't know the washing machine setting for wool!

THE END