Disclaimer: FF8 characters are not mine. Originals are.

Author's Note: This is pretty much pure fluff! It's just a nice little look at our heroes during peaceful times. Enjoy!

Epilogue: Respite

Peace by persuasion has a pleasant sound, but I think we should not be able to work it. We should have to tame the human race first, and history seems to show that that cannot be done. ~ Mark Twain

2 Years Later...

oooOOOOooo

The sun shone brightly overhead as the breeze teased the fine blonde locks of the baby sitting in the grass. Small chubby hands grasped fistfuls of the green stalks and yanked, scattering the shredded sod across the skirts of her pretty turquoise sundress. She laughed a bright sound that carried in the air and watched with huge green-blue eyes as a butterfly -- a startling splash of orange in the sky --hovered over-head before swooping past. The child reached as if to catch it with those tiny hands, but it fluttered away, out of reach and disappeared into the distance.

She looked up when a shadow fell over her and grinned, reaching out. Her request was fulfilled when a pair of strong hands grasped her by the waist and lifted her up high, higher and she laughed again. Snuggling against a strong shoulder she made a little sound and pointed into the distance.

Seifer turned slightly, his one-year-old daughter settled against his hip, and gazed out where she had pointed. In the distance he could see the sun reflecting off something- the domed top of Balamb Garden. The school sat there, barely a speck on the horizon, but he knew that close up it gleamed like a newly polished coin. The final repairs had been completed only months ago, though it had been functioning for well over a year.

It was cool inside the house: a little two-story cod style building with whitewashed siding and forest green shutters. Seifer let the back door bang shut behind him as he made his way towards the front of the house. His daughter squirmed in his arms, babbling wordlessly and he glanced down to make sure she wasn't chewing on his shirt or something otherwise appalling. She grinned up at him and reached up with one tiny hand to pat at his face until he smiled back.

The lock on the front door snicked lightly before it swung open and Quistis stepped inside. She wore her SeeD uniform, and her hair was clipped back as usual, though strands had slipped free to tickle at the back of her neck where it was damp with perspiration. She spotted them and smiled, slipping off her glasses as she eased the door shut behind her. Dropping her keys and SeeD ID card on the table near the front door, Quistis made her way across the room towards them, reaching for the baby.

"Hello there, I missed you," she said, kissing her little cheeks until the girl was squealing with laughter.

"Well that's sweet, Quis," Seifer said with a smirk, reaching over to draw her close.

She rolled her eyes, stepping away from him easily.

"I wasn't talking to you." She laughed at the look on his face and relented, leaning up to kiss him. "Okay. Maybe a little. I wasn't gone that long."

"Your mission took two weeks. Two very long weeks during which I was trapped here doing all the work," he complained dramatically.

Quistis sighed and made her way to the kitchen. "Don't complain. I stayed here when you went on that classified mission that lasted a month. And besides, Rinoa is right next door now. I'm sure she was around to watch Em when you needed to go out. Hyne, it's like I have two babies."

Seifer scoffed, watching her from the doorway. So what if she was right? Rin and Commander Puberty had gotten married a few months after the peace agreement was settled with the GFs over two years ago. The Commander's quarters had been big enough for the two of them but they'd purchased their own house when Rinoa had become pregnant a month later. Both men had protested living so close to one another, but the women were set on it, and so that's the way it was.

"So how did it go?" he asked, watching her pull a bottle of water from the fridge.

"Not so well," she replied with a sigh. "Ever since the accident, our relationship with Esthar has been declining. We spent two weeks trying to convince them and they're still set on keeping their borders closed. They refuse to share any technology either. I think they blame us for Laguna's apparent death."

"That's stupid. It was technology from their city that sent that ship down."

She shrugged, taking a long drink from the water bottle. "We pointed that out, but they're more focused on the fact that he'd have never have been on that airship if it weren't for us." Quistis tilted her head when the baby in her arms leaned forward to grab at the clip in her hair. "We're having dinner with everyone tomorrow."

He groaned, "Why? Didn't you spend two whole weeks with those goons?"

Quistis rolled her eyes, "Only Squall, Xu and I went to Esthar. We're going, so its no use complaining. Selphie wants to see Em."

Seifer groaned again, staring accusingly at the child in question. "She saw her last month. I still say once a year is often enough to see how much she's grown and shit."

"Seifer!" She cut him the "don't you curse in front of our daughter" glare. "Anyway, Squall and Rinoa will bring Aidan too, and Raijin and Fujin are coming, and Zell will be there."

"If you're trying to convince me to go you're doing a crappy job of it."

"What, don't you want to see Raijin and Fujin?" She tossed her empty bottle into the recycling.

"Of course. But not all those other geeks."

Quistis sighed. "You're such a blow-hard. You know you like them."

"No," he answered firmly. "The cowboy is tolerable, but the rest of them…"

"We're going." Shifting the baby to her other hip Quistis left the room, ending the conversation.

oooOOOOooo

"Rin! Quisty! Look!!" Selphie charged towards the group of people who had just arrived at one of Balamb City's most popular restaurants.

The other diners stared as the petite brunette raced across the room, the satiny material of her gold and pumpkin striped slip-dress swishing. Both Seifer and Squall made hasty escapes, moving across the floor towards the terrace which the large group had reserved for their private use. This left Quistis and Rinoa standing, staring at the hand Selphie had thrust in their direction. Adorning her left ring finger was a gold band holding an immense yellow diamond.

"Holy Hyne," Quistis gasped, grabbing her friend's hand for a better look.

Rinoa was equally in awe. The rock was easily twice the size of the very respectable diamond that sat on Rinoa's own finger.

"Irvy surprised me with it last night. It was so romantic! He took me on a picnic to the beach and there were candles and champagne!"

The other women listened with envy as they followed her out to the terrace.

"What I was to know is how Irvine could afford a rock that big." Rinoa said as she set her son in the provided high chair next to her seat.

"He said he's been saving up since he met me." Selphie leaned in to coo at Em who was settled in her father's lap. Finally he thrust the baby into her arms.

"Alright, you can have her. Just get out of my face!" he groused.

Selphie laughed and smiled sunnily, hugging the child. "I just want to start practicing," she said and beside her Irvine choked on his drink and turned red.

"Selph! We aren't even married yet!"

"Yeah," she said with a grin. "But it sure will be fun trying for a baby."

Seifer looked disgusted. "Excuse me, we have to eat here."

"Awesome!" Zell exclaimed suddenly, causing all eyes to turn to him. "They have a hotdog platter here!"

Rinoa stared at the menu. "Zell, that's for a whole party."

"So? It says it's twenty hotdogs. I know I can eat that many."

He smiled, clearly imagining his feast as the others eyed with him looks varying from reluctant acceptance to mild disgust.

"Owww!" Zell was pulled from his hotdog fantasies with a sharp pain. Em was leaning over in Selphie's arms and had grabbed a fistful of his hair, giving it a gleeful yank. Selphie gasped and pulled the girl back while her mother admonished her across the table and her father snickered. Zell shot him a glare and looked warily at the child, who looked all cute and innocent again.

"At least Aidan behaves," he said, indicating the two-year-old boy sitting in the quietly in his high chair. He was eating some sort of dry cereal and half of it was littered on the floor below him.

"Mostly," Rinoa agreed, wishing they had a dog around to clean up after him as usual. "But he's a year older. He went through that hair pulling phase too. He was always pulling Squall's hair."

The Commander grumbled under his breath as the waitress came along to take their orders. It wasn't long until Zell had a steaming pile of hotdogs in front of him.

"No matter how many times I see him do it," Irvine said, turning to his own steak dinner, "I still can't fathom how he eats that much."

"Chickenwuss, you do know what you're shoveling into your mouth over there, right?" Seifer pointed with his fork. "That's like the leftover parts from every monster on the continent."

Zell shrugged, chewing noisily so that Selphie inched her seat further away from him and towards Irvine.

"Clearly that doesn't bother him," Quistis replied, concentrating on her seafood dish so that she didn't have to look at Zell. "So when is the date?" she asked Selphie.

The other woman smiled, leaning close to hug Irvine's arm. "We're thinking of early next spring." She twirled a string of pasta on her fork. "I want to have it at Garden. Since the rebuilding, the Quad looks great and in spring all the cherry trees will be in bloom."

"That sounds lovely." Quistis smiled back, and glanced over at Zell's now empty plate. She stared at him in shock, noticing that his face was now a particular shade of green. "Zell, I think you ate those hotdogs a little too fast."

Rinoa was concerned. "Maybe we should take him back to Garden?"

"We got it," Irvine said, laying down money for their portion of the meal. He stood and moved to help Zell up, awkward because he was a good half a foot taller than the other man. "You better not barf on my good boots…" he muttered as he half-dragged Zell away.

Selphie bent to hug Quistis and Rinoa, and then even Squall, who sat there stiffly until she released him. "It was great seeing you guys again! Fu, Rai, see you back at Garden!"

"LATER!" Fujin returned her wave, and then looked over at Quistis and Seifer. "LEAVE?"

"Nah, I think we'll stick around a little longer. Now that Chickenwuss and Little Miss Perky are gone it might actually be relaxing," Seifer said with a smirk before taking a bite of his burger.

Rinoa turned her head to watch Selphie and Irvine below them helping Zell into the back seat of Irvine's black sports car.

"Ten gil Irvine is cleaning puke off those leather seats in the morning..." Quistis said under her breath and Rinoa wrinkled her nose.

"I'll pass on that bet." She sighed, tilting her head back as a breeze teased through the strands of her dark hair. "This is so nice. I hope things are like this for a long time."

"I wouldn't bet on that either…" the blonde replied, gazing out into the distance. "I wouldn't bet on it."