Disclaimer: Disclaimers: I do not own Final Fantasy, the game and it's characters belong to their respective creators and companies. I'm just borrowing them to play with.

Warnings/author's note: Utterly sappy, the story is set roughly ten yearsafter the end of the game. Seifer is now a SeeD and Squall is stillCommnader of Balamb Garden.

Birthdays and Homecomings

By CmdrLeonhart

In a moment of near complete stillness, Raine Leonhart sat quietly in her Da's lap, turning her favourite toy around in her hands, studying it intently. She never went anywhere without the little dolly and today was no exception. It went to bed with her, into town, to all her sitters, on visits to 'Gampa', and it even sat on the edge of the tub when she got a bath. It was extraordinarily special, given to her by her Da and Papa. For a moment, the little girl's fingers strayed to her Da's leg, brushing against the dark blue material of his SeeD uniform, delighted and happy to spend time with him, before they returned to playing with the dolly.

A small smile curved Squall Leonhartís lips upward, glad of the decision he'd made earlier. In no mood to hear 'Commander, you're needed to do this...' or 'Commander, you're needed to do that...', Squall had packed a picnic lunch and taken Raine outside into the meadow that surrounded Balamb Garden. For this day was special. On this day, his beautiful, bright, bouncy little girl was turning two.

Squall sighed with contentment, continuing to pull the brush through Raine's dark hair, watching in fascination as warm sunlight highlighted the red strands, making it shine like burnished copper. In that moment he suddenly understood the obsession Seifer had with touching and playing with his own hair. He could sit here for hours and never tire of the feel of silk running through his fingers.

Some time earlier that afternoon, Squall had abandoned the idea that he would ever be able to pull her hair back into simple, but adorable pigtails. Squall smiled wryly to himself. He, Commander Leonhart, the Lion of Balamb, was able to face down and defeat an evil sorceress and to write out a very detailed course of action for a battle plan, but he could not make an even part down the middle of his daughter's head to save his life. He was determined to get it right though...someday. Today he just wanted to enjoy some time alone with the sunshine of his life.

Besides, Raine didn't care anyway. She was just happy to be with her Da, to have him to herself, reveling in the special attention he lavished on her. Turning her small face upward, Raine gave her Da a warm smile, her green eyes luminous with boundless love.

Lifting a hand, Squall caressed one angelic cheek. No one was immune to her charm, especially not him. Squall melted as he felt his being flooded with all the caring and love he felt for his daughter. Before Seifer and Raine, he never thought he would be gifted with such unconditional love, never thought that he could feel so much for such a small little person. It was humbling, and banished the uneasiness that had been plaguing Squall the past several days to the farthest recesses of his mind. He and Seifer, through the progress of technology, had been blessed with a precious gift and he knew it.

Gathering Raine into his arms, Squall hugged her tight, breathing in her sweet innocence as her little arms wrapped themselves around his neck. He smiled as he whispered, "I love you, my sweet Raine."

"Da," Raine sighed, her soft curls tickling Squall's cheek as she placed a wet kiss on the side of his head. They remained that way for a long while, simply enjoying the closeness of the other, until the sound of approaching vehicles encroached into their little world. As one, Squall and Raine turned to watch several cars as they draw closer, curious as to who it could be. Not many people came to Garden who weren't looking for some kind of aid, who weren't returning from a mission or dropping off a youngster to become a cadet.

Squall got to his feet, pulling Raine up with him, the little girl holding onto his pant leg. He shaded his eyes, peering at the lone car lagging behind the other two that sped past on their way toward Garden. Hope and anxiety warred for a place in his heart. The uneasiness returned with a painful jolt. Though Squall *knew* Seifer could take care of himself, that never stopped him from worrying on the rare occasions that his lover, his lifemate, went out on a mission of his own..

The vehicle stopped and Squall's breath caught in his throat, his hands unconsciously pulling Raine closer to him, fear nagging at his heart. He knew Seifer's team was returning, he just didn't know in what condition or when. The only transmission they had received from the group stated that they had been fired upon by snipers, with one team member down and they were retreating. Then nothing more. The SeeD team had gone to radio silence. And that had been a few days ago. Little did Squall know that all his worrying had been for nothing.

In seeming slow motion, the driver's side door opened and Squall waited in tensed silence to see who would get out. Then a blond head popped up over the roof, an oh-so-familiar smirk plastered on an even more familiar scarred face.

"Papa!" Raine cried suddenly, pulling away from her Da, running full tilt boogie towards Seifer. Her arms flailed in greeting, a huge grin spreading across her face as Seifer knelt down, awaiting the oncoming storm about to barrel into him.

Squall let out the breath he had been holding at seeing Seifer unharmed, catching their daughter up in a big hug, swirling her around in the air to the tune of her joyful giggles. At a much more sedate pace, Squall approached the two most important people in his life. And as Seifer folded him into their embrace, Squall said, "Gods, but were you missed."

Seifer smiled, burying his face in unruly brown hair, inhaling the familiar, intoxicating scent that was Squall. "Missed you, too," he whispered in Squall's ear, shifting a squirming, squealing bundle of little girl before she got squashed between them. "It's good to be home."

"Papa home! Papa home!" Raine chanted, grabbing a handful of shoulder length blond hair and tugging hard. "Cake now!" Squall grinned, reluctantly moving away to pick up the scattered remnants of his picnic with Raine and replace plates and such into the basket.

"Remind me again why I let my hair grow out?" Seifer asked, wincing slightly as he carefully extracted small fingers from their death grip on his hair. He didn't mind in the least though. He was too happy to finally be with his family again after spending several days despairing over whether he'd ever get the chance to see them again. His team had only managed to escape their pursuers by the sheerest of dumb luck.

"You never complain when I do that," Squall replied drolly, pausing to look over at his lover, mischief sparkling in grey eyes.

Seifer blinked, then chuckled heartily, watching with amusement as Raine gave them both a quizzical look. Then she shrugged and squirmed some more, indicating that she wanted to be put down. Seifer complied, setting her on her feet. The minute she was free, Raine made a beeline for her dolly, cooing softly at it, promptly tuning her daddies out as she brushed the dirt off it's dress.

"I won't complain tonight either."

"I know," Squall replied softly, eyes darkening with desire. He batted his lashes at Seifer in a way Squall knew would drive the older man wild. Then he scooped their daughter up in his arms, turning to make his way back to Garden, a strangled 'Tease!' floating after him on the breeze. Squall chuckled. First they would celebrate Raine's birthday with cake and presents. Then later, in the privacy of their bedroom, Squall and Seifer would have a celebration of their own.

Life was good.

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