Disclaimer: The characters belong to Square Soft. The story is my gift to you.


Chapter Eleven

By Race Ulfson

Trent ground out his cigarette with a vengeful twist. "You honestly expect me to believe you're some kind of hero?"

I grinned at him, even though it reopened the cut on my lip. I knew the effect was slightly dulled by the fact that my left eye was swollen shut, but I also knew I had a very irritating smirk.

"No," I said, keeping my voice pleasant. "What I want you to know is that I don't give a grat's ass what -"

Trent kicked me in the ribs. I folded up as well as I could with my hands cuffed behind me to the chair. It knocked the wind out of me so I could only mouth the word that came to my lips. Prick.

He smiled thinly at me.

My good sense, such as it is, tried to make me stay silent. After all, I knew why the chair was metal and bolted to the floor. I knew Galbadian interrogation techniqes.

"You know," Irvine drawled, "That's Garden property you're messing with."

"That he's even still alive is an embarrassment to all of Galbadia, including your precious Garden."

"Let me clarify." Too fast to see, Irvine pulled his side arm, holding it against Trent's head. "Touch him again and I'll kill you."

Trent spluttered and I managed a wheezy laugh.

"Ignore him, Kinneas. He's still mad because I wouldn't promote him all those years ago." Did I ever listen to my good sense? "Maybe if he'd been a bit better at cocksu-"

Not taking his eyes off Trent, Irvine said, "Don't push it, Seifer. And don't put me in the middle. You don't know where my loyalties lie."

"Yeah I do," I said. "With Squall."

Laguna Loire gently took the pen Zell had been tapping for the last twenty or so minutes.

"Sorry," Zell said. He gestured to the 2 way mirror and beyond, to the room where Squall was efficiently reporting to Kiros and Selphie. "I feel like I'm spying on him."

"You are." Laguna sighed. "I'm sorry, that wasn't very diplomatic. ... I think you knew a lot of this already, anyway."

"Not as much as you'd think. Squall... never tells you what's wrong. He's only opening up now because he's trying to help Seifer."

"He loves him."

"Yeah," Zell said, leaning his head against the cool glass of the mirror. "What good will it do him?"

Squall continued the debriefing, face blank, voice expressionless as well. Laguna watched his son palm away tears almost absentmindedly, and felt his own heart ache.

"Maybe there's some good I can do," Laguna said.

I stretched my legs out and slouched in the chair, sitting with my tail bone just on the edge of the seat. I was trying to get at least slightly comfortable, not easy as I was still cuffed to the damned thing.

Trent had given up and left after Irvine made it clear that Seifers were out of season. The Cowboy followed shortly thereafter. I guess they had decided to try the 'Let 'em stew' method, also known as Death by Ennui. Ordinarily I would take the opportunity for a practice nap, but I was worried about Squall.

Speak of the devil.

Squall strode in, looking every inch the Commander. I did note that pale strawberry pink was indeed his color, and that the gray leather pants fit well enough to be illegal.

"They reached a decision," he said.

I waited, wordless for once.

Squall smiled, one of his rare, sweet, happy smiles, and held up the key to the handcuffs.

"What does that mean, exactly?"

"Apparently healing is either done medically, naturally, or magically. You've spent the last few years combining medical with magical. My father - Laguna Loire - is offering you a grant to study medicine and magic in Esther."

My heart stopped. "Med School? In Esther? That is THE school! The best! ... it costs a fortune."

Squall waved his hand, dismissing that. "That's what the grant's for. You're on your own grade wise, though. He won't pull strings for you to become a second rate Healer."

Like I would settle for second rate. I have my pride. But I'd take help getting IN. I'm proud, but I'm not stupid.

"So I'm free?"

"Conditionally. Sort of on Probation." Squall swung a leg over mine and sat down, straddling me.

"What if I don't agree to the conditions?"

He leaned close and stole a kiss. "What makes you think you're in control enough to have a choice?"

I kissed him back. "Are you my Probation Officer?"

"Yes." Squall rubbed on me a little as he reached around to unfasten the manacles.

"I'm a very bad boy. I'll need almost constant supervision." I rubbed my wrists and then his ass.

"I know. I've arranged for a sabbatical from the Garden. Quis and Zell do all the work now, anyway."

"Well, in that case..." I pulled Squall into my arms. "Let's just see who really is in control here," I said, and kissed him breathless.


Thank all of you so very much for the reviews and encouragements. Now that "Hero" is no longer commanding my full attention, I can go back to my first addiction - reading YOUR stories. Thanks again! I'm off to self indulge!

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