In five years it took me to write this story my style and the tale itself evolved far beyond what these first chapters began as. Reading back through them revealed plot holes, typos, continuity errors, and some just plain silly stuff that I'm quite embarrassed for having missed the first time around! It's high time this story had some editing done.

When possible dialogue has been taken directly from the game- typically from the Gameboy Advance translation, though the SNES translation was consulted as well and used when I deemed it a better fit for the situation. Overall I tried to keep everything as close to the game as possible, from plot details to mechanics. I hope you enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

I do not own Final Fantasy VI.

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This was NOT what he had been hired to do. Shadow drifted away from his companions, to the far side of the room, trying his best to look distant and unconcerned. And succeeding wonderfully. He reached down to scratch Interceptor between the ears, tuning out the old man's prattle in favor of his own thoughts, which at this point mostly consisted of how soon could they leave. Memories spun around inside his head, threatening to break his concentration, but he kept them at bay by plotting the quickest route out of this town, back to the boat.

That precious concentration was broken when a door on the other side of the room, the one that lead to a stairwell, opened up.

"Grandpa, who're they? Are they friends? Can they use magic too?" the little girl said happily. Had anyone bothered to glance at Shadow, they would have seen his eyes widen ever so slightly. She was tiny and thin but seemed to be in good health. Her short red-blond hair fell messily over her face and she had a smear of paint on one cheek. She bounced over and inspected Locke and Terra, peering up into their faces with an appraising look, almost like she was sizing up an item at the Jidoor auction house before bidding.

"Sh-shush!" the old man frantically tried to quiet her. Jumping away as the old man grabbed at her, she happened to glance into the shadows that one assassin was trying so desperately to disappear into.

Her eyes lit up, "What a cute doggie!" Behind his mask, Shadow's lips twitched. Interceptor, cute? He was sure she wouldn't think so if she had seen the black dog tear out the throats of several monsters just this morning. But of course she hadn't, and now she was coming closer, reaching her hand out for Interceptor to sniff.

"Back off. He bites," he said in a last ditch effort to stop the girl from coming near. But Interceptor did not bite. Instead he sniffed the offered hand and wagged his tail as a tiny hand scratched under his chin.

Three pairs of eyes stared at the assassin in shock. Terra and Locke because they had never seen anyone besides Shadow touch Interceptor without being bitten and the old man, Strago, had likely not realized that the assassin was there. Shadow stared back indifferently. The dog is strange, just like you lot, no need to make a scene of it.

With a sharp shake of his head Strago snapped himself out of the surprised stupor. He yelled at the girl, "Go back to your room!"

The girl looked up from petting Interceptor. "Why do I have to go to my room? You never let me have any fun," she pouted. Stubborn.

"Because I said so! Now shoo!" Strago retaliated. By the tired look on his face, Shadow could tell disputes like this were common.

". . . Fine," she sighed. She patted Interceptor on the head before starting to trudge across the room. And damn it if that dog didn't follow her! When she realized she had a companion, the girl giggled happily and darted up the stairs, Interceptor at her heels. Shadow could feel Locke and Terra's incredulous stares. He steadfastly ignored them.

"Oh dear . . . Seems to have taken a liking to your dog," Strago sighed. The girl must have heard him, because an audible, "Hmph," came from above them.

"That child . . ." Strago shook his head, "my apologies."

"It's fine," Shadow growled, "he usually doesn't like other people though . . ." 'Doesn't like' didn't come close to covering the animosity Interceptor normally held towards members of the human race who were not himself . . .

Strago and the others began to speak again, but Shadow tuned it out. Instead he listened to what was going on above his head. The little girl was talking to Interceptor, showing him around her room. She showed him her paints and her brushes, and told him that once she mixed some black paint she would paint his picture, because he was such a handsome dog. Talking to him like she would a human, she asked him if he wanted to play a game. Shadow couldn't help grimacing a little when Interceptor woofed in response. He heard her say, 'Okay fetch it is,' and then the telltale thump of a ball being thrown against the wall. Claws scrabbled on wood floor boards and Shadow assumed that Interceptor had retrieved the ball, because it thumped against the wall a second later.

"Thanks for your time," Locke told Strago as he and Terra headed for the door.

"Sorry I couldn't be more helpful!" Strago replied, a relieved grin plastered on his face.

Liar. Takes one to know one. Seeing his companions finally leaving, Shadow turned to go as well.

"Interceptor!" he snapped. A moment later the big dog was at his side, panting happily. The little girl ran down the stairs, despite a cry of dismay from Strago, and over to them. She wrapped her arms around Interceptor in a tight hug, then scratched him once more under the chin.

"Bye-bye," she said sadly. Stepping back, she looked up into Shadow's eyes. And smiled at him.

"Can you bring Interceptor back again some time?" she said hopefully.

"Relm!" Strago yelled.

Shadow just stared at her. Stared at her for longer than he should have. She met his stare, looking right at the gap in his mask that showed his strange pale eyes and blue dyed skin, looking at him with her pretty hazel eyes. Pretty hazel eyes that showed not even a trace of fear.

"Relm!" Strago yelled again.

The sound dragged Shadow back to reality. He ripped his eyes away from the little girl and stalked after the swiftly retreating Locke and Terra. Interceptor hesitated at first, but at the snap of his boss's fingers he ran to take his place beside the fleeing assassin.

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It was mostly grammatical changes in this chapter, coupled with a better set up of the voice in Shadow's head, which I did not decide was going to be almost a character of its own until several chapters later.