Whenver I play Final Fantasy VI, I take an extra long time with Sabin's branch of the story by saving up gold to buy the best armor for all the people I'll reunite with later on. That and at that part of the game, Gau is really one of the stronger characters, able to use spells no one else can. So I wondered in a realistic sense, what would these three be doing in this situation? And I came up with this story.

Sabin half-collapsed against the bed frame now that he was able to relax. His knightly companion preferred to fall into a chair near the table. Their newest arrival sought to press his body against the stone floor and panted lightly to cool down.

This was perfect. Truly he must have done something to anger the gods. While trying to help his brother and the Returners, he'd been swept down the other branch of the Lete River. In that time of several days, he'd hired a mercenary of dubious origins, infiltrated an Imperial camp, saw Doma and her people poisoned, made the acquaintance of Sir Cyan of Doma, fled the camp, got trapped on a train taking souls to the afterlife, lost the mercenary, fell down a steep waterfall --- and battling pirhanas leaping out of the water, mind you --- and ended up here, in the middle of nowhere.

Upon arriving at the hostile region known as the Veldt, Sabin had found a little wild boy named Gau. He was befriended easily enough with some food, but now they seemed to be stuck with him. To top it off, all three had been chased by the vicious beasts that inhabited the plains and only through sheer luck made it to the one lonely town at the edge of the grasslands.

I don't even know where Mobliz is on a map! I've never heard of it OR the Veldt, Sabin thought. How am I supposed to help my brother when I don't even know where I am?!

Angrily, the martial artist slammed his fist into the wall, cracking it with his claw weapon.

"Sir Sabin, now is not the time," the older man at the chair whispered, his strength low.

"I don't have a clue where we are! This is nowhere NEAR Narshe! And even if we knew how to get back, there's miles of grasslands filled with all those damn monsters! I thought you said the falls would take us to a waterway to go to Narshe!"

Cyan rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I have never been to Narshe, but others have in mine kingdom and they all agreed that if thou traverse through the falls, thou canst reach the town through that direction."

"Well guess what?! They were all wrong! And on top of that, now we have to deal with a little beast boy who probably doesn't know his right from his left! Stupid!" Recharged by his anger, Sabin stalked out of the room.

"Uwaoo?" Although Gau might not have understood all the words, he recognized the tone and cringed into a ball on the floor.

"Someone is just a little upset, I fear." The knight set his sword and shield aside and sat on the ground with the wild boy. "Sir Gau? It's all right."

The tanned face, framed by ragged fringes of gold-green hair, poked up from his arms. Green eyes were huge and a little fang poked out from his lips. "Me sorry. Me make Mr. Thou angry."

"Thou didst not make Sir Sabin angry. He's just frustrated by a lot of things now. He has friends in danger he wishes to help and cannot at this juncture of time."

"Cyan not Mr. Thou's friend?"

The knight blinked at the reply. "Well … I am uncertain. We met under confusing circumstances and have been oscillating wildly from each situation to the next. Only now we get a chance to rest and various duties and obligations now tug at Sir Sabin's heart. He is torn on what to do."

"Me is Cyan's friend?" Gau sat up, looking a bit like a dog at attention.

The man smiled. "Sir Gau is mine friend. Sir Sabin will be friends with thee and thine, I think, when he stops worrying about his family."

"Uwaoo?" Gau cocked his head and looked up at Cyan.

It seems the sound is an all-purpose question denoting puzzlement over a particular issue. It will serve us well to decipher his calls so as better to communicate, the knight thought to himself. "What is thy question, Sir Gau?"

"Family? Me not know that. Is good?"

Cyan paused. How could you not know what that word is? Perhaps he merely speaks another language other than Common. Surely everyone knows what the word means. "It means a group of people you are close to, like mothers and fathers and siblings and friends and you are collected as one unit."

Gau chewed at his lower lip and mulled the words over. "Is like pack?"

"Yes, Sir Gau. A family is similar to a pack and Sir Sabin is trying to find a way back to his pack."

"Oh. Me understand that. Me and Cyan help Mr. Thou back to pack!"

"Indeed. But first, let us rest and build up our strength. When we are refreshed, we shall tackle the problem anew and come up with a solution."

Night fell on the savanna town. Too poor to afford the fine bedding of the inn, the three had returned to the small room of the relic shop owner.

"Sir Sabin, while I appreciate thy zeal to have us properly outfitted, we are now lacking in funds to continue our journey," Cyan commented.

"I thought we had more money! But at least now that we bought that White Cape, the shop owner will let us use his spare room for as long as we want for free!"

"This much is true. We may yet save money whilst we figure out what to do." Along with their meager lodgings, they were allowed one meal a day by the owner. Cyan drank the rest of his weak tea, Sabin nibbled at a piece of not too stale bread and Gau gnawed on a strip of dried meat at his spot on the floor.

"I know what we have to do. Get to Narshe. But you're right. We're lost and we don't have any money."

"Me not lost. Is Mobliz!" Gau offered helpfully.

Cyan smiled briefly. "Sir Gau is correct. And thou, Sir Gau, perhaps thou canst aid us."

"Uwaoo?" The wild boy blinked.

"What do you mean?" Sabin asked.

"Well, we ARE lost, Sir Sabin. Sir Gau isn't. Perhaps it is he who can lead the way back home."

Sabin looked down at Gau, crouching on the ground. "He's going to lead us and help us? He can't even speak Common properly. He's a little wild thing along with all the other wild things that are holding us back!"

The martial artist didn't have time to even curse his remark before Gau leapt up and stared him eye-to-eye, putting clawed hands on his shoulders. "Me. Not. Stupid," Gau said very slowly and clearly.

At this close range, Sabin realized that boy was whipcord thin, but not through neglect. Every ounce was made for strength, leaving little room for fat. Along arms and skin bared to years of the sun was a tracery of old scars. In the face only inches from his, he could tell the nose had been broken at some point and the skull had been dented from a tremendous blow in years past.

"No," he agreed quietly. "Gau not stupid. Mr. Thou is stupid."

The wild boy, clearly not expecting these words, stood back and fell on his rump in shock. "Mr. Thou not stupid!"

"No, you're wrong. I am. I keep blaming everybody else for what happened. It's not anyone's fault I'm here. But I think I need to tell both of you why it's so important I get back home."

Cyan and Gau stayed silent while Sabin told the story of how a small group of people were starting to rebel from mighty Empire. He told the story of his brother, the king of Figaro, and his contact with the Returners, the thief called Locke. But most of all, he told of the mysterious girl born with magic named Terra, who could have the power to end the war.

The crickets seemed to chirp right outside the window of the rented room. Sabin tossed and turned on small couch, trying to find a comfortable spot.

"Sir Sabin, thou cannot sleep either?"

Sabin couldn't see Cyan across the darkened room, but he could hear his amusement. "What was your first guess?"

"While I doth not mind listening to thee toss and turn for nearly an hour, it underscores the fact that I have a similar problem finding slumber."

"It's always hard to sleep in a new place. Apparently Gau doesn't have that problem."

"Although sleeping on the roof does not sound very comforting to me. What place didst thou call home, Sir Sabin?"

Cyan could hear an answering sigh. "Where did I call home? A long time ago, it was Figaro. But now, it's just a small cabin outside South Figaro. It was small and stripped of anything not remotely necessary, but it was home.

"I lived with my master, Duncan, and his son, Vargas. My master taught us the basics of his lifestyle and the secrets of the fighting arts. Part of the time he lived with us in the cabin and part of the time he lived with his extremely understanding wife in South Figaro.

"It was ten years I spent like that. I don't have any neat words to sum up ten years of living where you're happy. I couldn't tell you how old I was when I met my first girl in town or spent my first week in the mountains alone or the day I could do all of my katas and still stay on my feet, despite all the sweat pouring from my body.

"I was just simply content to be happy. He was like my father that I had lost. Vargas was like a more competitive Edgar. I thought it would last forever.

"But Vargas killed his father because he thought he wouldn't inherit the mantle of new teacher. So the man I trained with all this time really wasn't who I thought he was."

Sabin's voice dropped to a whisper. "And my father died again."

Cyan closed his eyes. More than anything right now, he wanted to be back home, lying in bed with his wife, feeling her closeness and hearing the sounds of his son in the next room. But he couldn't have that, any more than Sabin could have his simple living near the mountains with his small family.

"Cyan?"

The knight wiped his wet eyes. "Yes, Sir Sabin?"

"If the Phantom Train carries the souls of the departed, where was Duncan? Where was my master?"

Cyan sat up on the bed and gave a watery smile in the darkness. Why dost thou sound like mine own son, asking me to make things right because he thought I could do anything? "I think that thy master wants to make sure his son is all right before he is content to leave."

"B-But Vargas was…"

"I know what I said. And I understand his pain well." It was only a few footsteps across the room, quickly crossed. "It is not any easier for a son to lose a father than a father to lose a son, I fear."

Sabin sat up and could see the knight sitting by the couch. "You're not going to tell me that I should buck up and be a man and not cry?"

"Well, I can hardly do that, can I? It does not matter how old thou art. When thou lose that which thy love, for a while, thy world crumbles. Even when thy seest them wave goodbye, it dost not make it any better, Sir Sabin. It dost NOT."

The knight did not mind, much, that the grieving son borrowed a shoulder of a grieving father, even if it was to use all manner of vile speech to curse his tears.

"Thou canst not teach such language to Sir Gau. It would be improper."

Cyan felt Sabin laugh into his shoulder. "But it would make Mr. Thou laugh quite a bit."

"True. He is an odd lad, but not mean-spirited." Once he felt the younger man compose himself, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket. Sabin took it gratefully.

"I was thinking before that I wish I could be him, just to not worry about so many things. But I've changed my mind."

"Why is that?"

"Because I don't think he HAS any family. He doesn't mourn over things lost because he never had them to begin with. And that's not right, Cyan."

"Well, the world is not kind to all. We are lucky."

"And we can't make it right."

"What do you mean?"

"When we get enough supplies and money, we're going to Narshe. We can't come back here. What will happen to Gau? Gau not stupid, after all."

The knight sighed. "I had not thought of that. We both know the pain of being away from home, so I am not certain we can take someone else from theirs."

Sabin summed up their dilemma with a neat expletive.

"And on that note, why don't we try sleeping first to get strength. We'll see what we can do to improve our situation tomorrow."

"Good point. Hey, your speech is growing less formal. It kind of comes and it goes."

Cyan smiled. "It is a conceit of the Doma knights … but I must admit that at times I find it terribly annoying. You won't tell anyone, will you?"

"Thou art in a lot of trouble if thine enemies find out, but they shall not hear it from mine own lips."

Sabin was promptly thwapped with a couch pillow. "Go to sleep, Sir Sabin."

The morning gave the men lighter spirits and the wild boy a yearning to wander his untamed realm. With halting speech, he tried to explain the complexities of the Veldt. Animals from all over the world migrated to this place, which explained why the only town around was on the very edge instead of in the middle.

After a day of meager hunting and much running away, the three returned to town with a little bit of gold. It would be enough to start the supply run.

However, this was before they chanced upon the house holding an injured lad from Miranda. He was far from home and hurting for news from his homeland.

The town did possess carrier pigeons talented enough to carry small trinkets and letters to the different towns in the world.

"That'll be 500 gold to send a letter," the express trainer said.

Sabin, Cyan and Gau looked at the pile of gold in Sabin's hand. They looked at the trainer, then back at the house of the injured lad, then at each other.

Sabin sighed. "Here you are, sir."

"That was neatly done, Sir Sabin," Cyan commented as they headed back to their single room behind the Relic shop.

"Well…if I was stuck and couldn't move, I'd sure want someone to help me! I know we're stuck, but we can at least fix our problem."

"Uwaoo!" Gau didn't quite understand what had happened. If something was hurt, they either died or they suffered in silence and lived to hunt again. But Mr. Thou and Cyan had helped the sick one by sending a letter. He chewed on a lip at this new thought. People were just like animals, weren't they? And the injured one wasn't pack, so why bother?

It was something to think about that kept his mind away from his empty stomach while he tried to sleep.

"I've got a great idea!" Sabin told the knight and the wild boy the next day.

"Is what, Mr. Thou?" Gau asked while loping along on all fours.

"Because of the strength of the beasts, we need stronger armor. Well, we keep fighting and we'll get the money to get the armor. The beasts here are so powerful that this town has incredible defensive items and weaponry. We'll get enough money to buy provisions and weapons AND get enough to outfit everyone waiting for us back home!"

"We don't have the money for that now. And why not wait until we can find a way back into environs we know about?" Cyan questioned him.

"Because this armor is harder in stronger than anything I've seen in South Figaro. Since Figaro and Narshe are in the same area, the same is probably true for them! If we can buy these things here, then everyone at home will be strongly equipped to deal with Kefka," Sabin explains. "Besides, if we get to another town, what if the armor isn't as strong? We wouldn't have time to go back to Mobliz and then head back to Narshe."

"You do have a point, Sir Sabin. Kefka is most treacherous, thus any advantage we can have would be welcome. It will lengthen our stay here, however."

"I know. But everyone back home will need this. And… we still have to help send things for that soldier." Sabin grew lost in thought for a moment, but then was recalled by Gau tugging his pantleg. "Yes? You need something?"

"Mr. Thou, what is armor? Why you need it?"

The martial artist blinked and then frowned. "Didn't you hear what I just said?"

"Sir Sabin, allow me." The knight stopped and kneeled down to Gau, who had sat down much like a dog would. "Sir Gau, thou dost know that thou art quick and fleet of limb and tough in body?"

"Is good! Is tough, live. Is not tough and not quick, is food."

"That is true. Thou…I mean, you are very agile and can spring away from weaponry and attack. Others are not so fortunate and we need the toughness of metal to protect us. We are gathering funds so we can buy enough of these sheets of metal to protect our friends who are not as fast and swift as you. With the armor, we can take more punishment and it makes us tough.

"So if we give these sheets of metal to our friends, we will all be strong like you and we can fight equally against our enemies that would hurt us." He patted Gau on the head. "Do you understand?"

"Uwaoo!" The tone was answer enough. "Me understand! Need money get shiny metal to help Cyan's friends. We go, we fight, we hurry!" With that, he scampered off into the high grass.

Sabin blinked at the wild boy's passing.

"Sir Sabin?"

"Y-yes?"

"Sometimes we must not assume everyone knows everything. And it is ill done if you demean someone for lacking your knowledge. Grace and courtesy can go far if you choose to apply them, karateka."

Sabin did another double take with those words and watched Cyan follow Gau into the Veldt.

A small amount of gold was left after the daily message fee for the injured soldier and the armor purchases. It was enough to make sure they all had enough to eat and could relax for another clear starry night in Mobliz.

Gau gnawed on the remains of dried meat, but he was looking up at the two men. Cyan was scratching something into paper and Mr. Thou was doing something funny with his hands. Wary of Sabin's temper, the wild boy slunk over to the bed and climbed up. Cyan stopped his writing to look up at him.

"Why Cyan do?"

"I am writing down our adventures, Sir Gau. I'm also writing down my thoughts for the day."

"What is…ri-ting?"

"It's taking the words we say and putting them down on paper. We use them to write down things so we do not forget them. Do you see here, Sir Gau?" The knight flipped back a few pages. "This is where I wrote here when we first met you and came here."

Gau gasped. "Gau on paper! But…me Gau?" He scratched his head over that one.

Cyan nodded. "Yes, Sir Gau is here. Sir Gau is also in this story here."

"Oh! Gau in story!" He hadn't known that stories came from paper. What a lot of things these people knew!

"Yes, Gau is a part of the story."

Ever since the afternoon's rebuking, Sabin had been mostly quiet all that day. He was envious of how easily Cyan could explain something to Gau without lecturing. I guess I've been a student too long. Most of my lessons DID come with lectures. I wonder… "Hey, Gau?"

Gau's head perked up.

"Do you know how to make a punch?"

"Is punch, Mr. Thou?"

"Yes. That's what I'm doing here." He demonstrated by punching into the air. "I'm practicing so I don't forget."

Cyan set his letter aside to watch the little lesson. He caught Sabin's gaze and nodded approvingly. Mayhap he's never had a chance to teach.

Gau scratched his nose with a claw and watched Sabin punch the air. Slowly, he crawled down from the bed and across the room to get a closer view.

"Do you want to try?" Sabin asked.

Sheepish, the wild boy ducked his head. "Gau not know."

"That's all right. You can learn. Gau not stupid, after all."

Gau blinked and looked at Sabin. Brightening, he said, "Yes! Me not stupid!"

"Right then. Sit next to me and do what I do. I know you can slash with those claws. I've seen you do it. But if you could punch with your hand, it would be stronger."

"Why is stronger, Mr. Thou?" He crawled up the couch and sat in his dog sitting upright position.

"It's stronger because your hand is closed and you can deliver more force. It's also harder to stop. Here, try to use that claw thing of yours, Gau. I'll show you."

"Mr. Thou?"

"It's all right. I'm trying to show you how this works."

Mr. Thou hurt his head! But he could hardly disobey Mr. Thou or Cyan. He stood up and raised a claw for one of his nice Rages…

…and it was caught before it got far. "Raawr?"

"A punch takes less time than a clawing. See, take your fingers and fold them up so, and hold your wrist like this…"

Cyan was suitably impressed. Gau had a large capacity to learn quickly. It was frightfully faster than watching his own son learn. Why didn't he know these things before if he could learn so very fast?

"Now try to punch me and watch what a difference it makes!"

Gau stood with his back straight and on the balls of his feet and with his arms protecting his body, just like Mr. Thou said. It was really hard, but he was going to be good and try. Mr. Thou was smiling at him like he was doing all the good things and it made Gau smile as well. He was going to get Mr. Thou and punch just like he said. He was quick and he shifting his weight forward for the punch and it slipped under his guard and slammed into Mr. Thou's chest.

Sabin gasped and coughed. The punch had been lightning-quick and solid. Surprise pain tears formed in the corners of his eyes. "By the gods! Gau, you really got me…Gau?"

The wild boy wailed in dismay and scampered into a corner, trying to make himself as small as possible. "No, no, no, NONONONO!" he yelled, his voice rising in pitch.

"Sir Gau?" Cyan slowly walked to the corner of the room and crouched down to Gau's height while Sabin was still stinging from the punch and trying to figure out what had gone wrong.

"No, nonononononoNONONO!"

"Sir Gau, you didn't do anything wrong. Sir Sabin wanted you to punch and you learned very quickly. So it's all right if Sir Sabin missed and didn't catch your guard."

The wild boy whimpered and balled up.

"Gau, you really didn't do anything wrong. I was just surprised! You didn't hurt me that badly. I just couldn't react in time." What did I do?

"No hurt Gau! No hurt Gau!"

"Who is hurting you, Sir Gau? No one is hurting you here. We certainly won't hurt you. You've been a big help." The knight reached out a hand to touch the boy's shoulder. It was nearly rigid with fear.

"Me just help, me always help. No want head hurt. No, please? Please? No throw things at Gau. No, please?"

Sabin frowned. "No want head hurt." …oh gods. His head. That dent… "Yes, Gau. Gau is always a good help. We're not going to throw things at you."

Cyan grew pale at the thought of someone, anyone, striking a child for no reason. Gods no…someone abused this boy. That's why everything is new. He's afraid of the villagers and he's stayed away, so he's learned nothing of people. "Sir Sabin is right. Those people who hurt you were wrong. You have been nothing but helpful to us." He tried his most comforting of tones. It had helped make his son crawl out from under the staircase when lightning had crashed right near his window. "You know, it is certainly ill form for people to throw things at each other just for making mistakes. I have certainly had the years to make many mistakes. If I had something thrown at me every time I did something wrong, my face would be a mass of puffy bruises."

Gau's head peeked up. His lip trembled and his eyes were filled with tears. "Cyan? Why Gau…? Why hurt not hurt?"

"Because Sir Gau is feeling sad and when you feel sad, sometimes you want to cry. It hurts inside, but it's not because someone hit you. That's what that is. You just want to cry. And it's all right if you have to cry if you're sad."

With a little whimpering noise, Gau buried his head in the knight's chest and wailed, not having words to express the vast pit that seemed to swallow him up inside.

"It's all right, son. It's all right." Cyan could believe, almost believe that he was just comforting his son from a nightmare, some horrifying dream that had sent him running to the safety of his parents.

Is that why I can't go with you, Owain? Because you knew someone else needed me? Someone else needed a father?

Sabin had to choke down his anger. Why, dear gods why, had these people hurt his boy? He hadn't realized it at first, but Gau was extremely smart and could learn fast. Why couldn't they see that?

And why didn't he have the words to make Gau feel better. Why couldn't he do the same thing. Because I've never had children and I don't know how.

But if a wild boy can learn…maybe I can too?

Sabin and Cyan, under the guidance of Gau, were growing accustomed enough to the Veldt that every day the party ventured further from the savanna town. On this day, the sun was nearing its peak and the only way back to town was by compass, for no visual signs were evident.

Hazy, lazy days followed one after another in the wilderness. The need for urgency faded and although Sabin knew they had to get to Narshe, the remoteness from the situation dulled his senses. The end of each day was spent sending mail for the soldier and stocking up on armor, weapons and potions. Each day's pay was not quite enough to buy everything Sabin felt was necessary for their departure. So the journey back to Narshe was put off for another day, and another…

Sabin walked alongside Cyan and the wild boy scampered on ahead, flushing out any game for dinner. He rolled a sprig of milkweed in his mouth, feeling at peace. He hoped Cyan was finding some reconciliation for his feelings of loss of country and family. I suppose having two wayward "children" to look after doesn't hurt either.

Gau was learning to write, Cyan was learning how to tan hides and Sabin was learning how to teach. It became easier, under the knight's example, on how to explain to Gau what you wanted.

No wonder I got passed up for the mastery. I know all the katas, but I guess I never mastered the art of simply teaching. He smiled to himself. I wonder what Duncan would make of all of this?

"A gold piece for your thoughts, Sir Sabin," Cyan said.

"What? Oh, I'm just thinking about how funny life is sometimes. And that I'm glad I met you." Sabin outright grinned at the knight's discomfiture at such words. "Does it kill you to take a compliment? I like this. Just the three of us."

"Nearly like a family," Cyan murmured.

Gau's shriek of alarm aborted any more conversation. "Uwaaaaaaaooo!"

"What is it?" Sabin fitted a fighting claw on each hand.

Cyan narrowed his eyes to look ahead. "I don't believe it. There's Imperial soldiers here!"

"HERE?! In the middle of nowhere?"

"Truly. And Sir Gau is trying to take them on by himself."

Sabin sprinted forward in fear, cursing the names of several gods in his head. They won't dent his skull, they'll break it!

Gau, in a panic, forgot his lessons on punching and starting clawing at every face he saw. He saw one of the men raise up a sword to strike, but was impaled on the end of Cyan's Dispatch. The other two men were painfully suplexed into submission by the martial artist.

The wild boy dusted himself off and bleated in alarm again. The fighting had attracted huge numbers of beasts eager for meat and their ranks encircled the party.

Sabin stood back-to-back with Cyan. "Suggestions?"

"Make toward the wolves and then keep running after they are vanquished."

"Any better suggestions?"

"Try not to die. The beasts want blood."

There was that feeling again, the one that Cyan said was when you felt sad. But it was also angry! No, Mr. Thou and Cyan had to keep going and go back home! The animals were his friends, but he had to help his human friends, because they'd been nicer than anyone had ever been to him! But he was going to scare everyone away now, because he had to be mean. Really mean.

"Raaaaaaa-a-a-a-a-aaaaaaaAAAAAAAA!" The shaggy bottlebrush end to his hair nearly stood on end and all of Gau's vision faded to red.

"Sir Gau?" Cyan started.

Sabin yanked the knight backward. "By the gods! Get DOWN! He's a berserker! Don't draw attention to yourself." He fell flat to the ground, eyes wide with shock.

The animals drew a few steps back, fearful of the display. The animal kingdom was full of such threatening display, but mostly that is all it was. Mostly.

A red halo surrounded the wild boy and in response, pillars of fire erupted from the ground, incinerating many beasts on the spot. Not content with that, Gau changed his aim and a yellow halo surrounded him, which was followed by bolts of lighting from the clear blue sky.

Animals bawled in panic and fled everywhere. Gau raced on all fours to catch up to a Vomammoth. Sabin choked back on bile as the animal was ripped apart by a clawing attack. Gods and goddesses. This is why they hate him. They treat him like a monster. He knows MAGIC. He's the region's top predator. If any hunter from Mobliz got wind of this carnage, it was only a matter of time before they would send out the town to kill the child.

Gau felt faint and dizzy after letting loose his Rage. Now…everyone's gone. He fell to his backside and bowed his head. I'm sorry, animals. But you were going to hurt them. I can't let you hurt them. They have to go home.

Cyan slowly stood up. "I think it's safe now." His heart had lurched the moment magic began to form around the boy. Only now was it deciding the danger had passed.

Sabin waited until his breathing calmed before approaching Gau. "Hey. Are you all right?"

Slowly Gau raised his head. His eyes were half-lidded in exhaustion. "Mr. Thou? Why…why here? Run away, Mr. Thou."

"I'm not going to do that to a friend. I didn't know you knew how to use magic! I mean, I was a little scared, but I've seen it before. Having magic doesn't make a person wrong or any more right than someone who doesn't have magic. Terra has magic. Maybe she can teach you how to control it so you don't get tired."

"Mr. Thou…not…scared."

"Not of you. Maybe of the situation we're now in. Your rage is what people are scared of in the town, isn't it? But you've never hurt anyone with your rage, have you?"

"Ooooo." He shook his head. "No hurt people. Just bad animals."

"It proves to me that you are a good person, Sir Gau. I shall not abandon you either. However, in light of this situation, I do not think it is safe for you to ever return to town." Cyan scanned the horizon; for now it was safe and empty. "It does leave us in a bit of a problem. All of the armor and supplies we've collected are back IN the town."

"We'll have to go back for them. Which means…Gau, you're going to have to trust us and stay here."

"Uaaa?" The wild boy tried to stand, but fell to his knees. "Nononono! Stay here!"

"We cannot stay. Our friends waiting for us need the supplies. Sir Gau, you have to trust us. Just as we trusted you to save our lives, you will have to do the same while we save yours."

"Gau scare…they run away…"

Sabin knelt down and cupped the boy's face in both of his hands. "Listen very carefully. We are coming back. We're doing this because if you come back with us, the people in town will kill you. But we have to get our things in town. We can't live off the land like you can, Gau. I'm promising you right here and now that we are coming back. I'll give you some proof." The martial artist unfastened the leather belts of his claw to his arm. "I'm giving this to you to look after. I'm coming back for it, so take care of it, all right?"

Gau nodded. "Me watch…Sabin. Sabin and Cyan, have to come back, they promise! Gau stay here! Gau promise!"

"Very good, Sir Gau. Come, Sir Sabin, let us make the utmost haste back to town!"

Gau was heartened when the two men waved back to him before he lost sight of them in the haze of the day. He just had to be good and wait.

To pass the time, he sated his hunger on the cooked meat of the fallen animals. He badly wanted a drink, but he had to keep his promise. They could find water together.

With the cleanest portion of his animal hide cape, Gau polished the claw. Strange what humans had to do to have claws like animals. He had to wait here. He promised.

He ran a bit in the immediate area after he felt better, but always ran back to the spot where he left the claw. He napped, scratched, sang snatches of made-up songs and watched ants crawl along the ground. He had to wait here. He promised.

Soon the sun began to plummet and the sky turned to pinks and purples. No Cyan. No Sabin. But he had to wait. He promised.

The stars filled the sky. Gau was very tired and rubbing on his eyelids didn't seem to help. So he howled to the moon, like the wolves did, singing to find the pack. But he had no pack. Not really. So he bayed to hear the sound of his own voice on the loneliness of the Veldt.

He made a sound of startlement when he got a response! Unsure, he howled again. There! There it was again!

This time, he bayed loudly and long, putting all those strange feelings in his heart into voice. They were all the feelings jumbling together ever since he met to the two nice humans. His voice gave and the howl stopped with an ungraceful crack.

"Gau, we're coming!"

Oh, it was Sabin! And there was Cyan! They came back! They came back! And they were so happy to see him and they hugged him and told him how good he was to wait and they were sorry it took so long but they got lost and were wandering around and then they heard the howling and came back and it was nice to have everyone back together!

"Well, there's no going back to town now. What are we going to do?" Sabin asked no one in particular. He got a tug on his pantleg in response. "Yes?"

"Gau has home. Gau has shiny treasure. Maybe help?"

"You DID tell us about a home one time, Sir Gau. It would be nice to have somewhere to stay that wasn't so open."

Singing to himself, the wild boy scampered on ahead to lead them to his small cave in the Crescent Mountains.

"I don't believe this! This is his shiny treasure!"

The following day found the party staring at Gau's horde. "Is good shiny?"

"Is VERY good shiny!"

"Sir Sabin, why is this good?" Cyan frowned at the strange helmets and packs.

"Do you remember the town telling us about the Serpent Trench? It runs to Nikeah. From Nikeah, we can catch a boat or something back to Narshe! This treasure is the diving bell. If we wear the helmets, we can breathe the air stored in the pack. It should be just enough for us to make it to the town. We can go HOME, Cyan. We can finally help stop Kefka!"

"Kefka…that evil, evil man." Rage that had dulled on the savanna sprang to life once more. "I shall never forgive the cruelty of his actions."

"Me either. But we can go put a stop to all of it."

Gau watched both of them quietly. They were doing something funny with his treasure, but it was all right since it was now theirs. But they were talking like…like…

"Cyan, Sabin…go away. But…promised! Gau good! Gau stay! Why go?"

The conversation between the men ceased. "Gau…we can't stay here. We have to go. Our friends need us. They need these supplies."

"Sir Gau, you are the truest of companions. But we must hurry and stop Kefka."

The wild boy's voice came at a whimper. "But…Gau…good…"

"I know you are." Gods, why did it hurt so much? They had to go and stop Kefka, but why so much pain now? "Gau not stupid, Gau keep his promises. We'll figure out something, all right? We'll bring our friends back here and Gau can meet everyone, all right?"

Gau didn't trust himself to voice, but he nodded. They would come back. And he would wait. Sabin said he'd come back so he'd wait.

He watched them both leap into the fast current of the trench…and disappear.

There, there were those things again. Those tears. And a large emptiness in his chest. Where did that come from? It wasn't there before…

"Gau!"

The cry roused Gau from his tears and he scampered to the edge of the cliff. Sabin and Cyan were partially underwater, but they hadn't yet gone deep enough into the current.

"Sir Gau, we were wrong! Listen to us!" Cyan called from his diving bell.

Sabin stood as high as he could out of the water and held out a hand. "Come with us, Gau."

"Wh-what?"

"I was wrong. I don't care that I don't understand what's happening, but I won't fight Kefka if I have to leave you behind. I'll stay here forever and end the quest here."

"But, but Sabin go! Save friends!"

"You're my friend too! I don't want to leave you here alone where those people can someday find you. I don't want to come back here in the future and realize that you died long ago. I want you to come with me."

"But Gau hurt people! Get angry!"

"No you don't, Sir Gau. You're very careful with your powers. And frankly, our friends need help. You're very strong, Sir Gau. You can help us fight Kefka!"

Gau…help? Gau…help people? Yes, Gau want to help people!

"We can fix the diving bell for three people. But we can't make you come with us. You have to want to do that."

Gau lifted his head to look beyond the river, to the ocean, to places unknown. "Gau scared. Gau not know things. Gau want stay here!"

"I know you do. But sometimes life doesn't let you do that. Sometimes you have to change even if it frightens you because you don't know how it'll end. But I promise that whatever happens, I will be there with you. Cyan will be there with you.

"I don't know how it'll all end. We might not get very far. We might not win. But we won't win at all if we never try."

On the banks of a fast moving river, youth, man and father look to each other for guidance in the murkiness of life.

The father calls encouragement to the figure on the cliff. The youth trembles, afraid of the unknown and the outside. And the man offers his hand for help and his heart in his eyes.

"Give me your hand, son, and it'll be all right."

The youth, on some level, understands that something deep has changed his heart, changed all their hearts. He was packless, but now he has pack. And the pack stayed together. With a cry of dismay, he leaps from the ledge.

He is caught by the man. "I have you, son. I have you."

The father swims nearby, smiling to himself. Perhaps I am still needed, if only to help make new families where there was nothing.

The man pumps his fist in triumph. "Next stop, Nikeah!"

Youth, man and father disappear under the water.