Chapter 21

Zell commanded the hot dog vendor on the corner to pile on even more sauerkraut. It was a beautiful day, the spring rains having finally let up in Balamb Town. The sunshine meant that everyone in town wanted to get outside and feel it on their skin. To Zell's delight, this also meant that the street corner hot dog vendors in town would start wheeling out again. Ever since Garden changed their cafeteria catering company and the hot dogs had lost all their fantastic flavour, he'd been looking forward to this day.

"Come on, dude. I want your wrist to be buckling under the weight of that kraut."

"Why don't you just order another hot dog?" The vendor asked, scowling. They all knew Zell rather intimately.

"Because then word would get back to my mother." Zell put some gil down and took the hot dog, almost instantly shoving half into his mouth. "She's always on my case about eating healthier."

"Well, hopefully your fear of your mother won't stop you from buying," the vendor pointed out as another customer walked up to his cart. "How else would I pay my rent?"

"Ha ha, asshole." Zell wandered away from the cart, munching happily on his meal. His pleased mood soured when his eyes roamed to the magazine stand next door. The front of the local papers all showed Xu's face, talking about her impending execution. Of course Zell knew about it, since he'd been in the audience of the Garden tribunal, but seeing it now open to the public just made it... he didn't even know. His feelings about Xu were still so tangled. He distinctly remembered Quistis's face, stony and blank. She hadn't spoken of the tribunal since, whenever he'd see her around Garden.

It had been nearly two years of a dragging, messy trial where Xu kept paying lawyers to find legal loopholes for an appeal. In that time, Quistis had come back to Garden to teach, stating clearly she wanted nothing to do with administration. Squall still hadn't come back, but Zell had heard rumours that Instructor Pellani, the language teacher, was retiring because of rheumatoid arthritis, and Squall's name came up often. He'd always been remarkable at languages, particularly the difficult to master dialogs of Esthar.

Zell didn't know if Squall wanted the job or not, because he'd barely seen his former friend. Quistis was polite to him, but there was a cold distance that made his heart break. He'd actually seen Seifer more than Squall, strangely enough. Seifer was moderately famous in his own right because of his show on Dollet television, but when he wasn't filming on location, he'd taken a position as a herpetological liaison with the Balamb Town zoo. He was overseeing a possible tonberry pavilion, and also took care of milking the zoo's snakes, and offered education on the life of wild Centran reptiles.

To Zell's chagrin, amidst all the shots of Xu, there was a men's health and fitness magazine that actually had Seifer Almasy on the cover. It did nothing to brighten his mood. Neither did the fact that Seifer looked really tanned and cut, and Zell's body had been softening as Garden sent him out in the field less and less because of teaching duties. He was still in great shape, but it was something he'd noticed and zeroed in on every time he looked in the mirror or put on a pair of pants and saw a little bit of skin bumping over the waistband. He would have lost his appetite if it were anything except hot dogs in his mouth.

A month prior, Zell had actually gone for a coffee with Seifer. They'd passed each other on the sidewalk and had a brief, awkward conversation, where the ice had been broken by Seifer insulting his outfit. Other than walking with a slight limp, and thin scars on his face that only showed up when he stood in certain sunlight, Seifer almost looked like nothing had ever even happened to him. He was confident, muscular, handsome and commanded attention with every movement, though his eyes gave it all away. There was a sadness in them, a humility and humanity. The fashion insult had felt like old times, as had the flash of indignant anger on Zell's behalf, so they'd gone to the nearest cafe.

"Are you going to go to Xu's sentencing hearing?" Zell had asked when they'd found a table, mugs of fancy coffee in front of them.

"No," Seifer had answered easily. Surely. "I don't... need to. I'm done with her. She ceased to exist a long time ago for me. You?"

"I don't know," Zell answered, feeling strange to be so open with a man who'd bullied him so mercilessly throughout his childhood. While this Seifer may have still flung the sarcastic, quick insults with ease and skill, he had a new layer of compassion in him that made it easy to talk to him. "I know that Garden's going to ask for SeeD to be witnesses to her execution. Maybe it will finally seem final if I agree. But..."

"You loved her. You can't always change those feelings, no matter how much the person is acting like a complete dick."

Zell cocked his head, sensing the personal undertones. "Like when Squall was drinking."

Seifer leaned back in his chair and gave a brief shrug.

"How... how is he?" Zell asked, the subject of Squall having been breached. Quistis always just said 'really well' when Zell asked. He wondered if he'd get the same non-answer from the man sitting across from him.

The smile that broke across Seifer's face could have put the sun to shame, and it told more than any words. If Squall were feeling the same amount of happiness that made Seifer's eyes sparkle, then he was doing more than 'really well'.

"I think he likes being a househusband," Seifer said, smirking. "I'm sure your mother told you we bought that place on Cherrybark?"

"Yeah, she knew pretty much the day it got sold."

"It needed a lot of work. Hell, it still needs work, and Squall's done a lot of it himself. He started digging up the backyard to make little hovels for Sunny. Serino didn't really appreciate it."

"Who's Sunny? New cat?"

"My tonberry. I rescued her when her tribe threw her out. She'd been wandering around outside the Centra Ruins. I know I'm not supposed to interfere because it's playing Hyne, but... I couldn't just leave her. Her unwillingness to conform to their society reminded me of me."

"Jeez, how many animals do you have now, anyway?"

"Well, Bahamut and Serino don't really count, because they're more companions than pets." Bahamut had been loathed to leave Dinara's son again, and often hung around their house in miniature form, a dragon about the size of a large house cat. Serino came and went as he pleased, having found a female in the Balamb mountain ranges, but he seemed to consider Squall and Seifer's gardens his home. Squall had also almost immediately rescued a few cats from the shelter when they'd bought the house. And, whenever Rinoa and Raijin came over, they also brought over their two dogs - a little teacup terrier that Raijin often carried in the crook of his arm, and a large elkhound, so it made quite the menagerie. They also had the occasional visitor in Serino's arch-nemesis, the raccoon who lived just beyond their property.

"I'm surprised you two haven't wanted to kill each other yet."

"We still fight," Seifer said nonchalantly. "All couples do. But me going away for a month or so at a time probably helps us stay together," he chuckled. "Frankly, my dick is glad when I go away. He wears me out."

Zell was glad that he'd only brought the mug to his lips and hadn't yet sipped, because he would have spit hot coffee all over the place.

"What?" Seifer demanded at the shocked look on Zell's face. "Grow up, Dincht."

"I... I can't picture Squall having sex. Like... ever." It's not like Zell went around picturing dudes he knew having sex, but he knew that they did, and the idea wasn't outlandish. But Squall always seemed so sexless to him.

"Why does everyone think that! He's an animal. I can't keep up with him. I'd feel old and tired, except he's hot as hell and it's amazing."

"Please. Stop."

"He's so pent up all the time, when he lets loose, he just wants to get pounded."


Seifer grinned wolfishly, loving to see Zell squirm. He was sure Squall would be furious at him talking so openly about their sex life to Zell Dincht of all people, but Seifer was enjoying himself too much.

"I thought that... you know... isn't it dangerous to the body to... urr, ummm... have so much anal sex?"

Seifer rolled his eyes and made a face that always seemed to be reserved for talking to Zell Dincht. "There are more ways to have sex than just penetration. Your lack of imagination makes me weep. I feel sorry for any of your girlfriends. Well... except for Xu. She deserves bad sex."

"I'm good at sex!" Zell protested loudly. When he got a couple of annoyed and scandalized stares, especially from a nearby girl with a very pretty face and long legs shown off by short-shorts, his face flushed and he glared daggers at Seifer and kicked his foot under the table. "You never..." Zell leaned back in his chair. "You never... thought about me, did you?"

"Thought about you... what?" Seifer raised his hands expectantly, thought he very well knew the answer. He'd just wanted to goad Zell into verbalizing it.

"You never wanted to have sex with me, did you?"

Seifer threw his head back and laughed. People looked over, some of the gazes lingering. Including, to Zell's horror, the cute girl who'd flashed him the evil eye only moments before. Damn bastard got all he attention, even from girls.

"Well, you do have a rockin' body. Maybe if I were really, really, really drunk or high, and I knew I wouldn't remember it the next morning."

Zell tossed some money down on the table for his coffee, ears burning. "You're such a dick."

"Or maybe with a bag over your head," he added, still laughing. "Oh, no wait! With a ball gag in your mouth so I wouldn't have to hear you talk."

Zell stuck his middle finger in Seifer's face. "Fuck. You."

"Nah... I think even with the gag, I'd still need the bag over your face," he replied as Zell stormed out, cursing under his breath.

Now, Zell thought back to that conversation when he spotted the familiar figure of Squall Leonhart across the street, full of lean, feline-like grace. He wasn't alone, but strangely he wasn't with Seifer or Quistis or Raijin, or even Rinoa. He wasn't even with an adult. A small child stood next to him, pointing something out in the window of the weapons parts store. One of his hands was encased in Squall's, and Serino was perched on the child's back, like a fluffy knapsack.

Zell downed the last bite of his hot dog and jogged across the street. "Uh, hey!" He greeted, putting up his hands when Squall started, surprised. "It's just me, dude."

"Oh. Hello," Squall greeted, full of the same cold politeness he'd been forced to show back when they were Garden cadets. Hell, that conversation a month ago with Seifer really made it feel like Zell had gone back in time in regards to both men. Except that Squall and Seifer were now in a relationship, but that had even been rumoured during their school days. Even back then, everyone had sensed that Seifer and Squall understood each other on a level that went deeper than anyone could fathom. Apparently, even deeper than both men had been able to understand back then. It seemed destined that they were soul mates.

"Haven't seen you in a while," Zell said, shuffling his feet. Squall stared back at him with blank eyes, but at least he wasn't coldly and quietly telling Zell off. It was probably due to the presence of the small boy, who now pressed himself against Squall's leg, turning his face into his hip in painful shyness. Zell saw the burn of blush in his very pale cheeks. "Is he yours?" Quistis hadn't mentioned that Seifer and Squall adopted a child, but there was an air of familiarity between Squall and the boy.

"I'm babysitting," Squall answered tersely. "This is Vivi. Vivi's mom works at the zoo with Seifer."

"Vivi, huh? Different name." Zell crouched down to the boy's level. He had unusual colouring, with pale ash blond hair that looked almost silver, and the most extraordinary gold eyes Zell had ever seen, large and luminous in his face. His cheekbones were very high, and his eyes slanted upward and were almond-shaped to give him a very exotic appearance.

"It's short for Victor Vincent."

"Hi, I'm Zell," he greeted cheerfully.

The boy mumbled a little 'hello' that got lost in Squall's leg. He couldn't have been more than four or five, but he had a very intelligent gleam in his eye, and a strange magical aura that Zell could sense because he'd forgotten to disjunction Ifrit after training potential SeeD at handling GF.

"What you got there?" Zell asked, gesturing to the parcel that Vivi clutched in his free hand.

"We're building a motorcycle," Vivi answered, voice barely louder than the sound of the ocean in the background.

"It's for Seifer," Squall answered, looking down at the boy with a rather paternal look in his eye. "We're rebuilding a Hammerhead for his birthday, since his other one got stolen when he had to leave it behind." Squall's words sounded like casual conversation, but the underlying tone in them made Zell feel like he'd been kicked in the balls. Obviously Squall hadn't forgiven or forgotten yet.

"We have to go." Squall gave Vivi's arm a gentle tug and they went towards the entrance of the junk store.

"Can we get the clock for Sunny?" Vivi asked, shyness melting away now that it was just him and Squall. He didn't do well with strangers, and only really talked to his mother, and now Squall, Seifer and Quistis when she came over to visit. He was still wary around Raijin and Rinoa, but at least he didn't run away whenever they showed up any more. Most children warmed up to Raijin first, but Vivi was more intrigued by Rinoa because he sensed her magic in a way that was highly unusual for a child so young.

"Yes. Maybe she'll leave the fuse box alone if she has it." Sunny loved to dismantle things, and Squall and Seifer often bought her junked machines or such things so she'd leave their stuff alone.

"I'm really good at fixing things!" Zell called.

Squall stopped, forgetting that Zell was even there. He looked over his shoulder and saw the sad, desperate look on Zell's face.

"I know a lot about engines... I could help you find parts for it. Pieces for Hammerheads are really hard to come by, and a little finicky."

"I'm realizing that," Squall answered truthfully, Zell's pitiable expression making him let his guard down momentarily. It might have also been the fact that the engine was really annoying to try and get working. He had the motorcycle hidden in a garage he'd rented out in town, and worked on it whenever Seifer was at work or out of town with Raijin filming. He'd had the hulk of the thing for over six months, and knew he'd grossly exaggerated his mechanical skills.

"I know some mechanics in Deling City that work with a lot of military stuff," Zell said in a rush, seizing hold of the opportunity to talk to Squall again. "The army usually keeps the stuff for scrap, but they could probably sneak it out if I ask."

Squall didn't want to ask Zell for anything, but he knew that this motorcycle would surprise the hell out of Seifer and that he'd loved his old one. "Well... I am having a hard time finding a gas tank."

"I can do that!" Zell exclaimed, punching the air with his fist with enough exuberance that Vivi flinched and cowered behind Squall. "So you'll let me help you, dude?"

"... maybe." Squall cocked his head. "That's not a promise, though."

"I'll take it."

Squall silently nodded in that way he had that said 'I want to end this conversation now'. Zell watched Squall and the kid go into the tinkerer's store, overjoyed that he was being given even the slimmest of chances for redemption. Those were the only kinds he'd ever get from Squall, but there was still hope. After all, if Squall Leonhart of all people could look perfectly at home with a child, then anything was possible, really.

"Did you know that there are cash rewards, and substantial ones at that, to anyone who gets their hands on a sex tape of the two of you?" Quistis asked, laying on the oversized cushioned swing in Seifer and Squall's backyard. It was a beautiful day where the sun shone almost relentlessly, but an ocean breeze kept it from getting too humid.

"Really?" Seifer asked with a eyebrow cocking up over the rim of his sunglasses. "How much?" He grinned as the smallest, yet scrappiest of their cats, Rosetta, kept trying to pounce on Sunny's tail as the tonberry hung a strange wreath made of braided dandelions and twigs from the mouth of one of her new hovels. Seifer knew it was a tribute to Odin, whom the tonberrys worshipped as a god.

"At least a hundred thousand gil." Quistis wiped the back of her neck with a silk handkerchief given to her by Edea. It was far too hot to be wearing her full SeeD uniform, but it was kind of an official day.

"Who'd pay that much to watch us fuck?" Seifer wondered.

"Apparently a lot of people," Squall commented from where he barbequed chicken.

"You're sure you're not staying, Quisty? It's almost ready." Squall's prior comment referred to the other day when he and Seifer went through some of Seifer's fan mail that had piled up. Considering he did educational programming, there were a lot of naked photographs and pornographic letters. Seifer made light about saving the male ones to jerk off to later, or leaving them on Squall's pillow as a joke, but Squall didn't think it was so funny. It wasn't only his natural tendency towards jealousy where his boyfriend was concerned, but Seifer'd had problems recently with a man stalking him - following him home sometimes, always hanging around the zoo, 'accidentally' being anywhere that Seifer and Squall went on a date.

He'd stayed away, though, after Squall had cornered him in the farmer's market one day and very calmly and quietly threatened to kill him, saying if he didn't believe him, to do an internet search on Astor Wakefield. At first, Seifer's more than ardent fan had laughed it off, but then saw the seriousness in Squall's face. And Squall really had meant it. He'd brutalize anyone who tried to hurt Seifer.

"Nah. I have to go soon." She checked her phone again. Both men noticed she'd been doing this every ten minutes, but she just brushed off their questions with a "later." She rose to her feet and began smoothing out any potential wrinkles in her SeeD uniform. "And I don't think watching an execution on a full stomach is such a good idea, even if it is 'humane'. Whatever that means."

Xu's execution was happening in four hours, and Quistis had agreed to be one of the witnesses. Even though Squall hadn't officially gone back to Garden, he'd been offered a spot as well, which he'd promptly refused. Quistis didn't know why she'd agreed to it. Maybe because she didn't feel the same level of closure that Squall and Seifer felt where she was concerned. Maybe because Quistis wanted to see if there was any of her old friend still in Xu's eyes in the last moments of her life.

"If Jurgen shows up here, can you tell him to come to Garden to meet me afterwards? I texted him, but he's probably in transit." She picked up her purse. "Just so you know, the sex tape is still in a war with a picture of Squall passed out drunk as to which one would get more money from the tabloids."

"What if it was a drunk sex tape?" Squall asked, grinning at the rare joke he'd just made. "Double the money?"

"Maybe you could even wear the uniforms I brought you."

Squall's eyes widened dangerously as he stopped looking at the food on the grill to give Quistis a death glare. "And, they said they'd talk to you about a position on Tuesday." She laughed as the look on Squall's face got even more murderous. He could have just turned that look on Xu tonight, and they wouldn't even have to spend the money on an executioner. She waved over her shoulder, head thrown back in laughter, as she headed to the driveway and her car.

"What job interview?" Seifer asked, turning his head towards his lover. His expression looked blank, eyes hidden behind his sunglasses, but his voice held interest. "With Garden?"

"Maybe," Squall muttered, stabbing at the center of his hamburger to see how cooked it was. He did it with a little more violence than necessary, angry at Quistis and her big mouth.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Seifer asked, rising from the reclining patio chair he'd been lounging in. Squall disapproved of this, because while Seifer had been laying back, he'd been giving a rather nice view of his stomach because his shirt only had a couple of buttons done up.

"Because I knew you'd get that tone in your voice, and I don't know what's going to happen."

"What tone?"

"Happy. Proud. I don't know if I'm going back yet. I'll have to see how I feel... stepping back into that building."

"What kind of job?" Seifer asked, slipping his arms around Squall's waist from behind. He was wearing his grubby painting clothes, with jeans and a tee that were both too tight. The jeans made Squall's ass look so good that Seifer just wanted to bite into it. It also made him want to say fuck the food and just have sex right there on the back lawn.


Seifer purred, then chuckled as he gently bit into the nape of Squall's neck.

"You pervert. Instructor Braedley is retiring."

"Maybe I should go back to Garden. You could teach me how to master foreign tongues."

"How very original," Squall commented sarcastically, though the feeling of Seifer's voice vibrating against his back was causing his cock to come to life. "That sounds like an Irvine line."

Seifer laughed. "I did save that naked photo of himself he sent me. It might have to start making an appearance again."

Squall shook his head and rolled his eyes, wishing with all of Hyne's powers that Seifer were joking. He'd unfortunately been the one to open that particular fan letter, and the image had been burned into all his nightmares. Seifer had pointed out that Irvine did have a large penis, and kept teasingly trying to get Squall to look at the most inopportune of times, but there were some things Squall just did not want to know.

"I just hope you'll go into the interview with an open mind, Kitten. Or, at least don't go in with the idea of yelling and berating everyone to the point of tears, okay?"

"But this is a place that sanctioned torturing you," Squall mumbled, focusing on the chicken rather than the man spooning him. If he looked at Seifer now, when his mind was flashing back to that tiny room of horrors in FH, he'd start crying.

"Xu did it. Not Garden."

"I wish I could reschedule until a while after the execution, but this is the only time they have." Squall didn't want to go into Garden so close after Xu's death, because he knew he'd probably feel some strange, ghostly kind of energy left behind by her, especially where she was being forcibly killed. Xu's ghost was not something that he wanted to encounter.

"I think you'd be a good teacher."

"Praising a teacher?" Squall asked with a cocked eyebrow, lolling his head back so he could rub his cheek against the side of Seifer's neck. "How unlike you." His mind wandered to the package Quistis had acquired for him, and he grinned.

"My delinquency wasn't always the teacher's fault." Seifer grinned. "I mean, nobody thought you'd be good with kids, either. But you're great with Vivi."

"I think it's just Vivi. He's the only one I don't want to duct tape their mouth shut."

Seifer pulled away as Squall bent to lower the propane output on the barbeque. "Anulia is sick again, I think. She hasn't mentioned anything, but she's not looking well, and she's been leaving for appointments." Seifer referred to Vivi's mother, who as a single mother, had to work double-shifts as a janitor at the zoo in order to afford to take care of her son. She'd had cancer in the past, and Seifer wondered with concern if it had come back.

"Vivi never mentioned anything."

"Maybe he doesn't want to. He knows what's happening. That kid is spooky intuitive. Maybe it will make it more 'real' if he acknowledges that something's wrong with her. I wonder..." Seifer stopped, perching his sunglasses on the top of his head. "You think she'd ask us to look after him?"

"Would you want to?" Squall asked, taking the chicken breasts off the grill.

"We can't just send him to a foster home. I mean, Matron's was nice and she loved us, but... it wasn't the same as a home."

"That didn't answer my question," Squall pointed out, looking at Seifer gravely. "Love and obligation are not the same thing. If they were, I'd still be with Rinoa."

"Yeah. Yeah, I'd want to. You?"

Squall nodded. Inside, he kind of actually thought of Victor as his own, selfish thought that may be. The thoughts had cemented one night when Vivi was staying over because his mother was working overnight, and he'd woken up from an awful nightmare in which he'd been created in a factory, rather than born. In his distress and through the tears, he'd accidentally called Seifer 'Dad'. Seifer had been amazing in calming him, and it had made Squall see perhaps a different path that his life could take, something other than he expected. It also had made him miss his own father so much that he'd called Laguna, and happily listened to an entire nonsensical, meandering story about Laguna's on-again off-again relationship with Vanessa, and Squall hadn't interrupted once. Nor had he wanted to.

They looked at each other seriously for a moment, so deeply in that way that only they could look at each other. Seifer then shrugged a broad shoulder and gave a carefree, Almasy smirk. "Well, it's a moot point anyway. He still has a mother." The smile tightened around the edges, showing Squall just how sick Seifer thought Anulia actually was.

"So, what's with these outfits that Quisty brought over? We're not going to some lame dinner party again, are we? I mean, I like Zachary and Kaleon, but their theme-parties always just disintegrate into drama and itchy, uncomfortable clothes." Seifer rolled his eyes. "We should just make pasta and play cards." The thing that Seifer liked most about Zachary and Kaleon, in spite of the couple's horrible sense of party throwing, was that they were friends Squall made all by himself, meeting them at the Triple Triad club he'd joined that was populated almost exclusively by gay men. Seifer had never been so proud. It was like watching a baby take his first steps.

"No..." Squall trailed off, a little bit of mischief glimmering in his eyes.

Seifer opened his mouth to say some flip remark, but his mouth just split into a big, masculine grin instead. "So, uh... why are we still standing out here?"

"Food first." Squall stepped out of reach when Seifer grabbed for the front of his jeans.

"What?" Seifer asked, outraged. He continued to try and paw at Squall, but the shorter man would have none of it, and set out their supper on the patio table.

"There. I took a bite. Can we please dress up and I can fuck you senseless now?"

Squall said nothing and slowly cut up his food and took a small bite, chewing it methodically. He could feel Seifer's impatience and ire wafting from the other side of the table. It made him grin. By the time he finished his chicken, Seifer was glowering and pretty infuriated. Of course, the anger did little to lessen his desire for Squall. In fact, it heightened it.

"I'll be back in a minute." Squall pointed his finger at the other man. "Stay."

"You fucking bastard. I should punch your lights out," Seifer muttered, crossing his arms. But he did as instructed. Hyne, Squall had him whipped. He craned his neck to see where his boyfriend had vanished to, but could only see his horny and impatient expression reflected in the sliding glass door Squall had just put in earlier that week. His mind started to wander to what Quistis could have brought. Probably something leather, knowing Squall. He hoped it wasn't something too bondage. Squall loved being dominated and restrained, and it sometimes left Seifer uncomfortable because of the lovely confinement issues that Xu and Astor left him with.

Squall came back out casually and sat back down, slowly sipping his soda. "Upstairs, you'll find a dry cleaning back on the bed. Put on what's inside and meet me in your office." He took another drink and rose to his feet. "Wait fifteen minutes before coming downstairs."

Seifer tore upstairs, the new door rattling in the runners with his fervour. When he got to their bedroom and opened the bag, he had to laugh. He wasn't terribly surprised when he saw what was inside, though he appreciated Squall's sense of irony. Squall had reservations about going back and being a SeeD, but he seemed to have no qualms about using Garden's uniforms in sexual role-play.

Seifer took the uniform out of the bag, and saw that it was a cadet's uniform, rather than a full-fledged SeeD's. It felt very strange as Seifer removed his clothes and dressed in the simple navy outfit. He'd rarely worn his cadet uniform as a student, even when it had been required. The uniform fit fine, though it was a size or two too small and clung to his chest and thighs, which Seifer was sure Squall had requested. Once dressed, he looked at himself in the mirror. He felt transported back to his student days. The uniform still felt itchy and confining and full of conformity and blind duty. Seifer even took a comb and parted his hair, which had grown a little longer than he liked, and then smoothed it back. It made him look younger and more fresh-faced.

He waited the instructed fifteen minutes before slowly going downstairs, cadet boots clomping on the steps. Would Squall also be in cadet uniform? Seifer hoped so, because the outfit had always looked pretty adorable on him. Maybe they'd re-enact some of their infamous gunblade sparring sessions. The memory caused Seifer's genitals to jerk and his testicles, the real one and the silicone replacement he'd gotten six months earlier that just kind of blindly followed the action of the real one, to raise up towards his belly.

He found the office door closed, and decided to gently knock. "Come in," Squall's voice tersely commanded, no playfulness in his tone.

When Seifer opened the door, he found that his knick-knacks had been cleared away to make the desk look barren, cold and authoritative. Squall sat behind the desk, gloved hands folded neatly on a closed file-folder. Rather than wearing a cadet uniform, he work full SeeD regalia, and looked at Seifer with the cold remoteness all SeeD instructors had stared at him with. Even Quistis.

"Sit, cadet Almasy."

Seifer almost did so with quiet obedience, but the uniforms and Squall's demeanour really did feel like old times, so he acted accordingly. He flounced down in the chair with gusto and a 'fuck you' mentality. "What's up, Squall?"

"I am your superior, and you will refer to me as Commander Leonhart, or Sir."

"Sure. Sir," Seifer dragged out the honorific with pure scorn, just the way he always had. It had always made him sick to have to call the upper-echelon of SeeD 'Sir' even when they hadn't deserved the respect. He also didn't make a secret that his eyes swept over Squall's body, encased perfectly in his SeeD uniform. Hyne, he looked so fucking hot, it made Seifer's dick twitch. He remembered doing that to commanders and Instructors in his cadet years, and loving the way their cheeks would flush with embarrassment, distaste, or even barely contained desire in a couple of opportunities. But not Squall. He didn't even flinch.

"Stuff like this is why you're never going to be SeeD, Almasy. Are you even capable of following the simplest of instructions?" Squall asked, looking over his folded hands at Seifer. His eyes were a winter sea, just the way Seifer had always remembered. He'd spent so much time to try and get Squall to show his real self while they'd been in school together. He'd known Squall was so much more that what he projected, and Seifer had wanted to see it, to bring it out. With violence if necessary. And it usually had been necessary.

"The instructions are simple. They're so simple they don't require any original thought."


"Sir," Seifer dragged out. "Why should I follow instructors that will turn me into a faceless automaton. You need soldiers with actual brains out there."

"We need people to work as a team, Almasy. You're so selfish that you never see beyond your own delusional goals. You put everyone around you at risk for whatever pipe dream you live in that makes you think your actions don't affect the whole unit."

Seifer flinched, the ice in Squall's voice and eyes, coupled with the jab at his own past romantic notions, actually... hurt. And yet his desire for Squall was flaring to uncomfortable levels inside himself. "At least I use my brain, Leonhart. You have to be able to think on your feet in the field. If you hold their hands, the only thing they'll know how to do when a real crisis happens is cry home to their Instructors."

"You have a responsibility, cadet Almasy." Squall's voice actually almost sounded desperate there, and flash of emotion hinted underneath the frozen glaze of his eyes. The sexual tension between them snapped like rubber bands. "You have more skill than all the other cadets combined, and yet you show nothing but recklessness. You need to be an example for them, since they don't have your talent. And you waste that talent and intelligence on selfish designs of what? Some crappy old Sword and Sorcery movie from twenty years ago?"

"Fuck you, Squall." Seifer's eyes burned into Squall's, but his gaze kept moving across Squall's shoulders, and the way the cut of the SeeD jacket accentuated the narrow tapering of his waist.

"How dare you speak to a superior officer with such insubordination."

"Yeah, yeah. It's easy to be strong when you're sitting behind a desk." Seifer rolled his eyes. "You don't care what happens to those cadets, if they get hurt. There's more where they came from, right? Just raid the orphanages like Garden always does. No, SeeD only care about looking good and earning money for benefactors like high-class, militarized whores. They only care about the 'Yes, Instructors' and having their egos stroked and their dicks sucked."

Squall opened his mouth, but snapped it shut again with an audible click. "You're an insufferable asshole, cadet. I'd give you lines or detention, but would it even work? I could completely agree with everything you're saying, and you'd contradict it just because you need to argue everything."

"I argue for what's right."

"You argue for what's right for you." Squall threw up his hands. "And you're not even listening to me."

"That's not true. I listen to whatever you say. Most of it just makes me sick. You're better than this blind obedience."

"And being a Sorceress's Knight isn't about obedience? A Sorceress would cow you and make you do a lot more than clean out the fat traps in the cafeteria, or 'suck my dick' as you so eloquently put it. You want to be a kept pet? You want to be a private killer? You want to be a figurehead? You want to be less than nothing in a tyrant's eyes? You want to be another Krille? How about Dexterra?" Squall rose to his feet and counted names off on his gloved fingers. "What about Marlenne, or Penelo? Azabaashe?"

He stopped and leaned against the desk in front of Seifer, whose cheeks were now burning angrily, shamefully. He glared up at Squall, who stared down at him impassively, like a beautiful cold star that burned hotter than humanly imaginable, but was too far away for it to be nothing more than a remote, distant spec of light.

"And you should also know better than to sneak off at night to break Garden conduct codes. You are underage, and under Garden's care. And you're also abominably stupid if you think you can sneak out to engage in illicit sexual affairs with garage mechanics without anyone in Garden knowing," Squall pointed out calmly and blandly, as if he were talking about the weather instead of this sexual turn of conversation. "Saying that the SeeD are the ones that need our dicks sucked? Hypocrisy doesn't really suit you."

"What are you implying, Squall?"


Seifer's eyes flickered down Squall's body again, lingering on his groin. He refused to call Squall 'Sir' again.

"You're not even going to try and follow orders?" Squall asked. "Maybe I should just recommend your expulsion?"

Seifer looked up and saw heat festering in Squall's eyes. The tension in the air was now hot and palpable. Squall's words were angry little barbs in the air, and Seifer just wanted to shut those words up by fucking the other man senseless.

"Maybe you can go back to your orphanage. Like a failure. But don't you want to use all these talents to do some good?"

"What 'good'?" Seifer asked angrily. "Yeah, all that paid murdering and mercenary work really tugs at the heartstrings. So, write me the fuck up, Squall. Expel me. Give me detention. Whatever, as you love to say."

"Make you suck my dick?"

Seifer's brow furrowed. This role-playing was feeling so real, like they'd stepped back in time, that at times Seifer forgot that they were 'acting'. Seifer may be the one on television, but Squall was a far better actor than him. He'd been acting all his life, hiding his real self behind these cold, iron shields. Even now his performance was so convincing he was fooling his own lover.

"You seem to like doing it for random mechanics."

"Yeah. By choice, Leonhart."

"You seem to want it to be a choice, the way you're looking at me."

Seifer's eyes immediately roamed, and he cursed under his breath for being so obvious, even after being called out about it.

"Consider it detention. Or penance." Squall's eyes or voice didn't betray the lust raging in him. He grabbed Seifer's wrist and put it to his groin, where the erection hidden under the front flaps of his coat certainly betrayed it.

"Who says I want to?"

"Don't lie now," Squall said calmly, though he had to lean back against the desk because his legs were shaking under the weight of all the sexual tension and frustration in the air. "Not after you made such a grand production about being the last free-thinking man."

Seifer was already undoing the fastenings of Squall's trousers, feeling the hard, familiar heat against his fingertips. He parted Squall's jacket and lowered his pants and underwear. "Well, I did want you to show me you actually have a backbone and a personality. Too bad that personality is a domineering asshole who takes advantage of his students and subordinates."

Squall slowly took in his breath as Seifer's mouth covered him. Seifer never did things halfway, so he took most of Squall's erection in his mouth in one motion. Squall's erection filling his mouth better separated this little game from reality, but Seifer still sucked off the other man with a little bit of anger in his heart, too. Maybe he still carried more bitterness about his Garden days than he realized. His hand joined his mouth on Squall's cock, and worked it for all he was worth. He heard Squall quietly expel his breath, and as he pushed past his gag reflex to use his throat muscles to stimulate Squall's erection, he opened his eyes and looked up into Squall's, his free hand now in his pants and working his own erection.

Squall stared down at him, a war going on within his eyes. Seifer could see that he was struggling with maintaining this act, but his Squall was lurking under the surface. The real Squall. The Squall that Seifer had always known was there, and had so desperately wanted to unleash. The one who was warm, compassionate, passionate and had his own definite opinions about things. Definitely not a faceless automaton. Seifer put all his cocksucking talents to use, which were considerable if he was being so bold, and tried to unleash that real Squall. Hyne, that had been his biggest goal as a teenager. And he'd won it. He'd seen that real Squall, and he'd never felt more honoured about anything in his entire life.

Squall bit his lip to keep from crying out. He was holding a last desperate thread trying to keep their little game going, but it was getting more difficult with Seifer sucking him off so expertly. He wanted to run his hands through Seifer's hair and across his face and the muscular chords of his neck, but he restrained himself with the last of his willpower, gripping the edges of Seifer's desk so hard the wood and his gloves both creaked. Why had he not seen the signs between him and Seifer way back then? Why had it taken so long?

Seifer always said they just weren't ready. Maybe they would have fucked and fizzled out, and Squall wouldn't experience the same pounding in his chest as he felt right now that only was partially because of the amazing blow job he was getting, and mostly because of how much he loved the man performing that fellatio. Maybe he would have run away because it was only in the last year or less that he'd even been able to admit to himself that he wasn't 'bisexual', and he never much thought about women anymore, except in some sort of passive 'noticing when a woman is pretty but not really desiring her' capacity.

Squall lolled his head on his shoulder and looked down at Seifer, who was still looking up at him, jerking himself off rapidly now, close to orgasm. It caused Squall's belly to tighten and his testicles to raise up against his pelvis. Just before he felt the waves of his own orgasm washed over him, he jerked his hips back so his dick came out of Seifer's mouth with a wet, audible pop. He gripped the base of his own cock and ejaculated on Seifer's face, painting him with thick, wet trails and splatters of semen. Some went up his nose and Seifer had to snort to avoid breathing it down as he came himself, semen splattering on the floor between his knees.

Squall couldn't help but chuckle as Seifer wiped it away, licking his fingers as he did so. "Shut it," the blond chided gently, pressing his forehead against Squall's thighs. Squall was still chuckling under his breath, thumb moving across the bridge of Seifer's nose where he'd missed a white smear. Seifer looked up as Squall brought his finger to his mouth and tasted his own spunk. He grinned and brought Squall's softening penis into his mouth and gave it one, long, slow suck before relinquishing it and rising to his feet. He cocked his head and enjoyed the disappointed little noise Squall made before he straightened the cadet uniform's jacket and did up the pants.

"That was... kinda weird," Seifer commented, fully rearranging himself. "I kept forgetting that it was a game."

"Mmm," Squall agreed distantly, mind started to wander deep within himself.

"It was fun and all, but I wouldn't want to do it very often. We were both kinda dicks to each other back then, and the tension may have been hot from our rivalry or whatever, but things are so much better the way they are now."

"Mmm." Squall continued to lean against the desk, suddenly lost in thought as he refastened his trousers. He also had forgotten that they weren't back in Garden, barely civil to each other while still being more closely connected than Squall had been with anyone. He thought of the old Seifer and Squall, and all the horrible things that had bridged the gap to the current Seifer and Squall. So much of it could have gone wrong. He thought of Anulia and how fragile life could be. He thought of Seifer always hanging around dangerous and/or poisonous animals.

He thought of Xu, maybe dying at that very instant. He thought of them, living.

"Hey," Seifer commented gently. "Where'd your mind go, Kitten?"

Squall slightly shook his head and came back to his own body. It surprised him that Seifer was leaning on a mop, and the floor was damp and clean where he'd scrubbed away the semen he'd emptied from his own testicle. He hadn't even noticed Seifer leaving the room or coming back. He looked up into Seifer's face, and felt a tight pull across his chest, akin to pain. He ripped off his gloves and shuffled forward and buried his face in Seifer's chest, arms tight around his waist. He just really, really wanted to hug Seifer right then.

"Whoa," Seifer whispered, pressing his face into Squall's hair, breath taken away by the fierceness of his lover's embrace. He tilted Squall's face up with two fingertips under the chin, and saw everything, every thought and feeling, in his eyes. Squall's head came back to rest against Seifer's shoulder, his hands moving up under the form-fitting navy cadet jacket. He pressed one hand flat against Seifer's back and the other flat against his chest, and felt him breathe, felt his heart beat. Felt him live. He counted out the beats abstractly in his head, like the ticks of a clock.

Lets go dancing, Squall murmured against Seifers chest.

But you hate dancing. Hed finally gotten Squall to dance with him, but only in the privacy of their home. Whenever he got the urge to go clubbing, he always went with Irvine, which enraged Squall. But not to the point that hed actually consider fast-dancing in a place where people could watch him.

Seifer felt Squall breathing against him, quick and charged, much like the feeling of his jugular pulse under Seifer's fingertips. Squall's hands on him made his own heart start to beat faster, and he breathed in the smell of Squall's hair, which smelled like sex and leather and home and life. Seifer never felt more safe and alive than when he was in Squall's arms like this. "I love you, too," he whispered gently.

While Seifer had sat down across from Squall at his office desk, Quistis was sitting down as well. She lowered herself into a semi-comfortable chair, looking at a blackened window. She assumed the chairs were pretty cushy in case someone got faint at watching someone be executed. Again, she pulled out her phone, her fingers quickly skirting over the touch screen of her phone to check her inbox. Again. When she saw nothing new, she put it down on her thigh reluctantly. She had to resist the urge to check to see if she'd gotten any new messages in the two seconds it took to put her phone down.

Hyne, she wished she'd just stayed with Seifer and Squall instead of coming here. The waiting and staring at her own reflection in the darkened window to the execution room made this whole thing seem like a foolish idea. Instead she looked at her phone again, and hoped that Jurgen's train got in on time. Of course it would, though. Estharian trains were rarely late. She knew he hadn't exactly approved of her doing this, but he hadn't tried to stop her. He knew her well enough that it was useless. She'd go with or without any man's permission, and she would have come here just to spite him if he'd tried to forbid it in some silly male idea of 'protection'.

Luckily, Jurgen was more sensible than that. She thought of the way his silver eyes would warm up when he looked at her. People thought he was cold and almost robotic because of his stern Estharian soldier's demeanour, but she knew the heat beneath those eyes. She knew the strength of his arms and the wonder of his brain and the beauty of his body.

Maybe that was a thing she found attractive, because it was something Jurgen had in common with Squall. She sighed and checked her phone again, knowing full well there would be no new messages, but she couldn't help it. The message was pretty damned important.

Quistis looked away from her phone when she felt the presence of someone beside her. Nida lowered himself in the chair next to her, also decked out in full SeeD finery.

"Hey," he greeted calmly. It had been long enough that he'd gotten over never getting Quistis as his girlfriend. She was obviously happy with her new boyfriend, and he had a girl that he sometimes took out that he enjoyed seeing. However, things still were somewhat strained. They always would be, even after today. "Ready?"

Quistis smirked. "No. But..." She shrugged. There was no way to vocalize how she felt about watching her former best friend's death.

"You think it's petty of me to choose to sit right beside you where she'll see us right off, when they are a bunch of other empty chairs?"

Quistis's full mouth tugged up at the corners. "Just a little bit. But I think Hyne wouldn't disapprove."

"You look really good."

Quistis's brow furrowed, and her eyes looked troubled behind her glasses. "I don't feel really good."

"Maybe not, but you look it."


"I don't mean it like that."

Quistis fell into silence, checking her phone again.

"You decided to come after all?" A voice asked behind them.

Quistis looked over her shoulder and saw Selphie sitting there. She seemed alone, but there was an aura of black, odd magic about her that led Quistis to think that Doomtrain was probably actually occupying the chair next to the pixie-like brunette, though the GF was making itself invisible.

"I'm surprised you did," Nida commented to her.

"I'm not," was Quistis's reply. "I am surprised by your hair, though."

Selphie patted her quite-short pixie cut. It was dramatic, but it suited her very well. "I guess Zell decided not to show up after all," she noted when she counted the people that had filed into the room.

"I can't fault him," Quistis said. "Hell, I shouldn't even be here."

"You have more right than any of us," Selphie said seriously. She and Quistis could carry on conversations now quite easily, and they'd even gone shoe shopping together with Rinoa, but she still didn't think Quistis would trust her with her life yet. Or maybe ever. She hadn't even spoken a single word to Squall in over a year. Because she was Selphie Tilmitt and she knew many things she wasn't supposed to, she knew about Squall's job interview to replace Instructor Braedley. While she did know a lot, she had no clue how to navigate Squall Leonhart's mind, and thus didn't know if he'd decide to come back. Selphie hoped so. She missed him. And she missed her silly schoolgirl crush on Sir Laguna.

The lights dimmed and came back on in a slow pattern, signalling that it was almost time. The lights came on in the room on the other side of the stark, dark window. Garden had decided to execute Xu by electric chair, and the contraption sat stoic and silent in the center of the room. Everyone grew tense and silent. One last time, Quistis checked her inbox, then put the phone away as Headmaster Alphard came into the room and inspected the chair and the activation switch.

Because Garden was a private institution, there would be no last-minute reprieves for the prisoner that was now being brought in, flanked by two large, heavily armed SeeD, her head shaved bald for the upcoming event. Quistis watched Xu's face carefully, the way her chin was held haughtily up in the air as she glared at the men guarding her. She seemed like a regal Queen entering her throne room, except all of Xu's swagger and bravado faltered when she laid eyes on the electric chair that would become the last place she'd ever sit. Her eyes flashed their whites, visible even from where the witnesses sat. Like a startled horse.

There were no ceremonies or speeches as Xu was led to the chair and none-too-gently put into it. She wore a simple jumpsuit of drab grey. She wouldn't even get to die in her SeeD ceremonials, having been officially stripped of all ranks, titles and privileges at her sentencing hearing. Quistis saw that Xu momentarily tried to struggle as the burly SeeD strapped her legs into the chair, but then seemed to think better of it. Instead, she straightened her back and stared straight ahead as they finished fastening her in. And, her eyes found Quistis.

Quistis felt proud of herself for not flinching away from the eye contact. Xu's glare could have stripped the stink off shit, but really... what did it matter? Quistis stared right back, trying to find hatred or any kind of hot feeling towards Xu, but she just felt sad. How did Xu have the strength in the last moments of her life to still look at Quistis with such venom?

The process of strapping Xu in seemed to take forever, but in actuality only took moments. Xu glared at Quistis and Nida, even as they pushed her head back and strapped it in place with a strap under her chin. Quistis slightly shook her head as they put the electrodes to Xu's shaved temples. Even then, she still glared at Quistis and Nida, as if they'd been lying to her for two years about having a relationship, and just decided to tell the truth today of all days.

Xu must have seen something on Quistis's face that made the whole thing real, because her anger slowly melted away. She suddenly looked like she'd been hit in the face with a hammer. That fear that had shook her upon entering the execution chamber was now back, and overrode any wrath Xu may have felt at being denied the Headmaster's seat. Quistis saw the fear in Xu's eyes that she herself had lived with while on the run in Centra. She'd lived with it before that, too. She'd lived with it when Garden became a prison more than the only home she'd had. She'd lived with it whenever she walked in a room and the conversation would awkwardly halt into pained silence. She'd lived with it while men catcalled her and propositioned her. She'd lived with it when she thought that she'd die in Centra, on the run. She'd lived with it when she'd thought Seifer had died in the Kashkabald. She'd lived with it when she thought, after everything had finally started to turn back around, that Eden and Ultimecia would kill her two best friends.

Quistis hoped that Xu was feeling it, now that she didn't have any more time to live with it. She wouldn't suffer fear and pain, the real kind that slowly gnaws at you like miniscule shards of broken glass. Quistis still felt it, whenever she looked at Selphie and Zell, and even sometimes Rinoa. Xu would never have that prolonged feeling of having your life ruined. It left Quistis without the real ability to feel sorry for Xu, but she still didn't feel any joy as she watched her former friend become completely immobilized with no way to escape the inevitable.

Quistis felt Nida's hand cover her own as the small room's door was opened and a man came in in street clothes with a hood obscuring his face. The person pulling the switch had been hired out, a civilian with no ties to Garden. It made it more impartial. Xu tried to move her head when she heard the executioner come in, but she couldn't do anything other than struggle feebly.

"Do you have any final words?" Headmaster Alphard asked, his face blank of any emotion.

Xu remained silent, eyes never wavering from Quistis's face. She didn't even seem to notice Nida anymore. Quistis stared right back. This kind of eye contact with Xu, at a moment like this, was difficult, but the blonde felt like she owed it to Xu to not look away. Eventually, Xu gave the slightest shakes of her head, and the hood was lowered over her face. At that moment, Quistis blindly squeezed Nida's hand. Alphard and the SeeD guards left the room, leaving only Xu and the executioner behind. A pin drop could have been heard in the agonizing, slow seconds that the room sat silent and still. Then the executioner flipped the switch, and they all saw Xu's body start to convulse. It seemed more horrifying to Quistis because she could only hear the rapid breathing of a few of the witnesses in their small room. Her own breath came out calm as Xu lurched against her restraints, fingers and toes dancing against the electrical charge.

Xu convulsed for what seemed like forever, her head finally lolling onto her chest when the executioner shut off the electrical current. Small wisps of smoke escaped from under the hood, and then Dr. Kadawaki appeared, checking Xu's pulse. When Xu was pronounced dead, the lights in the room were shut off, but none of the witnesses moved. Everyone sat in tense, strained silence for longer than it had taken to view the execution.

Quistis and Nida continued to squeeze hands as they heard SeeD behind them getting up to leave. "It only lasted a minute or two," Selphie said quietly and seriously, voice barely above a whisper but still sounding like a Behemoth's bellow. It seemed like nobody had spoken for hours.

"It seemed to go on forever," Nida said. He now seemed to realize that he was holding Quistis's hand, and slowly pulled his own away, resting it in his lap. Quistis barely noticed, still focused on the window that separated her and Xu. Instead of her former friend strapped into a death chair, she saw her own face, pale and stony.

"I listened to the recordings she had of Seifer too, Nida," Selphie said, rising to her feet. The faint whiff of oil and noxious gas wafted from her like perfume. "Compared to that? It wasn't nearly long enough."

"That doesn't make it even," Quistis said quietly as Selphie gently squeezed her shoulder before leaving.

"You okay?" Nida asked when they were the only two people left in the viewing room.

"No. I could have killed Xu myself. I had the chance, I had her alone. I couldn't do it. I guess having someone else do it doesn't make me desire it any more than I did then." She pulled out her phone to see if Jurgen had texted her, and remembered the message she was waiting for. She found a note in her inbox, and calmly went through the prompts of her voice mail, and listened to the message.

"You okay?"

"Mmm," Quistis murmured, slowly rising to her feet. The message had been recorded maybe a minute after Dr. Kadawaki had pronounced Xu dead. "I'll see you around. Jurgen's coming into town."

"Okay..." Nida trailed off, balling his hand into a fist. He still felt the warmth of Quistis's hand within his own, and it flared through his body, making his chest tight. Damn, he realized he'd maybe never be completely over Quistis Trepe. He may as well join the Trepies and wonder about what it would be like to actually be hers.

Quistis walked through Garden, distracted. Nobody really came up to speak to her because they knew where she'd come from. Some gave sympathetic nods, or tight smiles that looked more like grimaces. But Quistis paid them no attention. Their pity didn't really seem better than the ire they'd given her two years prior. She stepped out into the hot Balamb sun, and immediately saw Jurgen leaning against the lip of a fountain, standing in plain sight so he'd be easier for her to see. Not that she wouldn't notice him. He turned heads, and not just Quistis's own if she went by all the female cadets who were giving him appreciative one-overs and giggling behind their hands.

He looked lovely in loose linen slacks in a pale crme with a almost sheer short-sleeved shirt in the palest of robin's egg blue that made his eyes stand out even more. He also wore sandals and mirrored sunglasses perched in his hair. She refrained from getting a big stupid grin on her face and running into his arms. She did quicken her pace, though. When she reached Jurgen and kissed him on the mouth, she allowed a victorious little smirk over her shoulder to a pair of older cadets in one of her classes, who looked put out that the best looking man currently on the property was taken by one of their teachers.


She nodded silently, not really wanting to vocalize anything about Xu's execution now that she was in the sunlight. He took her hand and they walked down the long staircase to the outside entrance to the garage.

"You've really done it this time," Quistis said, leaning into him a little as they went into the echoing shade of the garage towards her car.

"What? I only gave out my phone number to a couple of the girls. I swear."

Quistis shook her head, fishing for her keys. She pressed the unlock button when she finally found them hidden under a tin of mints. "I hate when you joke. Because I sometimes think you're actually serious."

"You can't seriously be mad at me for being late?" He checked his watch after putting on his seatbelt, then showed her the face. "I was only thirty seconds late, and you came out after I did."

"You really think I'm that petty about punctuality?"


"Well, okay. Maybe I am, but that's not what I meant."

"What then?" He asked as they pulled onto the island highway, back towards town. They were heading to Quistis's place for the night, rather than meeting up with Seifer and Squall later. She wanted some definite private time with Jurgen, where her SeeD uniform would fall to the floor the second she got behind a closed door. It seemed even more important to be alone now

"You knocked me up, Mr. We-Don't-Need-A-Condom."

"Hey, you're supposed to be on the pill, so that's all on you. Wait what?"

She grinned, pleased that she caught him off-guard for once.

"A baby...?"

"That's usually what comes out in the end."

He was opening and closing his mouth like a fish, unable to form words in his surprise.

"I was waiting for a message from my doctor all day. I missed a couple periods, and... well, I told her to just give me a voice mail if she couldn't reach me, because I'd be unavailable." The timing seemed almost serendipitous to Quistis. Just as Xu exited the world, she found out about a new person eventually coming into it. "I totally figured that Rinoa and Raijin would have a baby first, since they're actually trying for one and you know would be good parents."

"A baby..." Jurgen whispered.

"Do you want a baby? Because I'm kinda excited."

"Yes," he answered almost immediately, though his face still had a dreamy, shocked quality to it.

"I hope it gets your eyes."

"Yours aren't too bad, either." Jurgen cocked his head and stared at her, examining her in a new light. He slowly reached across the car's console and rested his hand on her belly. There was nothing to feel yet, but he thought for certain he could feel possibility. "We should celebrate."

"Definitely. We could go to a nice dinner, or just go home and you could ravish me."

"I'm kind of partial to the second choice. So, where to?"

Quistis smiled a dazzling smile, her golden hair glinting in the sun. "Everything good happens when you move forward." She put her foot harder on the gas, and did just that.