Author's Notes: A silly thing I needed to get out of the way. Takes place some time after "Hero".

Male Bonding

By Race Ulfson

"We are so lost. I can't believe you are my father."

"What?" Laguna looked like a scolded puppy. "What did I do now?" He collapsed at the foot of a large tree.

Squall glanced up at Kiros and Seifer who were returning from their scouting mission. Kiros shook his head. Seifer just grinned at him and flopped down next to Laguna. Kiros followed, more carefully.

"You have no sense of direction," Squall said.

"You do?"

"Yes." He pointed. "That's obviously north."

Laguna made getting up motions. "Great! Which way is the camp?"

Frustrated, Squall said, "I don't know! We've been running like nuts through the woods all afternoon chasing you!"

Laguna settled back down. "Well, I know which way is north, too, Kiddo, so quit questioning your genetics. You're just as lost as I am."

"Too dark to keep wandering about, now," Kiros said.

Seifer reached up and pulled Squall down and into his lap. "At least we finally killed the damn thing."

"That's a new monster, something leftover from the Lunar Cry," Kiros said, looking over the card Laguna still held in his hand. "We should name it."

"Damnfast," Laguna suggested.

"Running Sumbich," Seifer said.

"Getmelost," Kiros put in.

"Whatever," Squall muttered. He looked up, pink, when the others started laughing.

"I wonder if Whatever is good to eat." Seifer looked hopefully at the card.

"Probably not." Laguna tucked his new Whatever card in his jacket pocket and leaned back against the tree, closing his eyes. "We tried a lot of them when we were in the Army, and most made us pretty sick." At Squall's sigh he leaned over and patted his son on the arm. "It's not that bad. All we have to do is wait until light, head north until we hit the river, and we'll be back in camp in time for breakfast."

"Does anyone know the way to the camp from the river?"

"Shh. Don't argue with your father." Seifer laughed into Squall's neck, making him squirm.

"Thank you, Seifer," Laguna said with much dignity. "Things could be worse, you know. It could be raining."

Kiros, veteran of many an adventure with Laguna, made muffling motions at him. He gave up when lightening lit up the forest. The crash of thunder was followed immediately by cold, drenching rain.

"Thanks, I needed that," Squall said.

Seifer slapped him on the ass. "Up! I may not have been Garden's star pupil but I do remember something about trees and lightening storms."

"We need a cave or something," Laguna said, looking around.

"We need a hotel." Kiros said, under his breath. "Must have… room service."

"I'm with Kiros," Seifer whispered to Squall.

"You're the one who thought up this male bonding get filthy and grow beards hunting trip!"

Seifer scratched his chin. "Oh, yeah. When are the rest of you gonna start your beards?"

Laguna took the opportunity of the next flash of lightening to set off purposefully into the forest.

"Dad! You can't charge around the woods in the dark in the pissing rain!" Squall started after him. "You'll get lost!"

"Even more lost," Seifer corrected helpfully, grinning at Kiros.

Kiros gestured Seifer in front of him. "We may as well follow. It's been my experience that Laguna Loire will inevitably find something."

Trying to both track Squall and not crash into the underbrush, Seifer said, "Good or bad?"

Kiros chuckled. "Not knowing is part of the fun."

"See?" Laguna said, waving his arms around. "Even better than a smelly old cave."

Kiros held up a glow rod, trying to examine the creeper covered walls. "This is some sort of old temple, I think."

"Not the safest place to spend the night," Squall said, frowning at the numerous open arches.

"You can stand out in the rain if it makes you feel better." Seifer wrung out his jacket, momentarily missing the old trench coat.

"It's perfectly safe, Squall. I wonder if there's a secret passage or something?" Laguna trotted around, mainly to keep warm, checking out faded patterns in the filthy tiles. He tapped something with his foot and disappeared with a "Whoop!"

"Dad!" "Laga!" "Laguna!"

"…Found a trapdoor," Laguna called up, sounding only slightly unsteady.

Kiros crouched by the opening, trying to discover the trigger and not dump them all into the pit. "Are you ok, Laga?"

"Yeah. Kinda dark down here… What is it I'm standing on?"

"Here!" Squall tossed down his own light, wincing as it bonked Laguna on the head.

"Ow!" Laguna picked up the glow rod. "Oh… snakes."

Kiros backed away from the opening slightly. "Snakes?"

"Lots of snakes. Ew, I sorta landed on some of them, poor little guys."

"Laguna, get out of there now." Kiros was sounding a bit desperate.

"What kind of snakes, Dad?"

"Um… friendly snakes."

Seifer was about to rupture something trying not to laugh at Kiros' expression. "Who has the rope?"

"I do," Laguna said in a distracted tone.

Squall face palmed. "That's no help."

Seifer sat and swung his legs down into the hole. "I'll go down and boost him back up. Then the three of you can lower the rope to me."

"Let me cast Blizzard down there, first." Squall said. " Make the snakes less friendly."

"By all means," Kiros said, "Make the snakes less friendly."

Laguna obediently moved out of the spell's target area. He shivered in the suddenly icy air, suddenly reminded he was sopping wet. He shifted from foot to foot, waiting on Seifer. A darkish area in the wall caught his eye.

Seifer dropped lightly down. "Nifty. Crunchy snakes."

"It's shelter. We could all stay here, it's more out of the rain."

"And what, stack the snakes for furniture? First, nothing on this earth is going to get Kiros down here in a room full of snakes, stacked or not. Second, it's colder than Shiva's ass. Let's get out of here."

"There's a door over here." Laguna pointed. "I want to check that out, first."

Squall heard that. "Door?" He looked at Kiros who shrugged helplessly. "Dad, leave that for now!"

"Laguna, come on!" Seifer's voice drifted up. "Laguna, don't open that – Laguna? Dammit! I'm gonna get you one of those kid leashes, I swear to Hyne!"

"Where are they going?" Squall leaned over the pit, peering anxiously. Kiros grabbed him by the belts before he pitched in after his lover and his father. "Seifer?"

"Laguna?" Kiros called.

Squall sat back on his heels. "Now what?"

Kiros sighed. "Now we wait for the commotion."


"With your father, there's always a commotion."

"That was quick," Squall said, leaned down to catch Laguna's hands.

"Seifer took one look at the big snake and carried me all the way back here."

"Big snake?" Kiros looked down the hole dubiously.

Laguna brush himself off. "I think it was a Guardian Force."

"Guardian Force?" Squall's eyes glittered.

"Hey, don't forget me," Seifer said, still below. "The snakes are waking up."

Squall jumped down, landing partially in Seifer's arms.

"What the?" Seifer said, putting him on his feet.

"Guardian Force."

Seifer's shoulder's sagged. "Squall, it's a great big snake!"

"It's a Guardian Force." Squall scanned around for the door, stepping over reviving snakes.

"It's pissed," Seifer called after him.

"They're always pissed." Squall headed down the narrow passage way.

With a groan, Seifer followed him. "Laguna saw it first."

"We'll fight over it later."

Seifer caught up with him in the large chamber. Squall was observing the giant cobra as it twisted and hissed its displeasure at uninvited company.

"You sure you want to do this?"

Squall looked at him disdainfully. "Please. I have Shiva." He slipped into the chamber and walked in confidently, almost arrogantly.

No simple cobra, the creature did not strike straight out, but like a rattlesnake, coiled back on itself so it was difficult to tell how far it's reach might extend.

Seifer circled around, not quite as confident. He had never been quite as good with GFs as Squall, and was ready to bail. "Squall. We should just leave it - we don't need it."

"It's been exposed now, someone else will find it. Him. We can't leave it for the Galbadians or Odine." Squall was fast - Seifer saw the spell starting just as the snake was moving.

Blizzard again, and the Great Snake hissed its anger, taking the brunt of damage on its side, the head striking for Squall - or rather, where Squall had been.

Squall was moving, gunblade slapping up repeatedly, striking sparks from poison fangs longer than he was tall. He let them slide down the blade, deflecting away the impact as if they were bamboo practice swords instead of 50 lbs of ivory.

The Snake Guardian slashed around with its tail, surprising Squall who countered by rolling to the side, gaining a scuffed knee and bruised his ribs but evading the deathblow.

Seifer was on it from the other side without even thinking, giving the creature a mighty whack with Hyperion and gathering energy for his own bit of magic. Not fire on this, he thought, electrical - fire might counter the cold spell that was slowing it down.

When the Bolt hit it, the Snake Guardian thrashed and turned to strike at Seifer, and again got steel in its teeth. While it was busy with Seifer, Squall started to Draw it. Seifer saw in the creature's lambent eyes the realization of what was happening as it turned back to Squall, too late. Again Hyperion found its target and the great Snake collapsed into Squall's powerful pull, Drawn and gone. The creature faded from the real world and became just another GF.

Seifer scanned Squall for damage, casting a Cure mainly to comfort himself. He leaned on Hyperion, knowing what was coming next.

Squall resheathed Leonhart and stood, swaying slightly as he fought the second battle with Snake Guardian trapped in his mind. Junctioning GFs was Squall's true talent and it wasn't long before he turned, smiling triumphantly, to Seifer. "Got it. Python." His eyes changed slowly from yellow with slit pupils to their normal cool blue gray.

Seifer shook his head. "Let's get outta here."

"No rope," Seifer said, looking up.

"Is that you?" Laguna called down. "You've been awfully quiet. Everything ok?"

Mischievously, Squall said, "We've been fucking."

Seifer gave him a look of horror. "In a pile of snakes? As if!"

"What's wrong with the snakes?"

"Hyne, you wouldn't know what was going where." Seifer shuddered and Squall laughed.

Laguna's voice drifted down. "Should Kiros and I come back later?"

"Where's the damn rope, Laguna?" The snakes were getting friendly again. Seifer frowned at them even as Squall smiled benignly at his little reptilian buddies.

"Ah, the rope. Did you get the Guardian, Squall?"


"Well, then, let's hear a little praise for your old Dad who found you a new Guardian Force, hmm?"

"Laguna, you got us lost in the woods, in the dark, in rain. Then you found us shelter in a temple full of snakes!"

"I'm not talking to you, Seifer. I want Squall to say it."

Squall appeared to be considering his options.

Seifer pulled a snake out of his sleeve; grateful he was wearing old, tight jeans and that they were tucked into his boots. "Squall… get me outta here."

"His name is Python and he's pretty cool."

"And…?" Laguna was having trouble keeping the laughter out of his voice.

"And so are you. Throw down the damned rope before Seifer has heart failure."

Taking offense at that comment, Seifer deposited the next several handfuls of snakes he pulled off himself onto Squall's head.

Once again safely topside, and denuded of snakes, Squall announced, "Okay, I'm going to summon the Ragnarok." He pulled the communicator out of his pocket, looking up in surprise when he felt three pair of hostile eyes on him. "What?"

"You can call the ship?" Laguna said, disbelieving.

"Why the fuck didn't you do that hours ago?!" Seifer made strangling motions.

"Like when it started raining?" Kiros added.

Squall shrugged. "Where's the adventure in that?"

Seifer smacked his forehead. "Sweet Hyne, it's genetic."

"You can call the ship?" Laguna repeated.

"I thought you wanted a he-man roughing-it hunting and camping trip! I didn't know I was going with the Whine Club!" Squall rolled his eyes. "I did try hours ago. I think Python was interfering with the transmissions somehow."

"What I want," Kiros said with great dignity, "is a hotel room with room service."

"Dollet's the closet," Seifer said cheerfully.

"I could use a shower," Laguna agreed. "I'm covered with snake… stuff."

Hours later Seifer sat on the edge of the wide bed in their room at the Ducal Dollet, talking to Kiros on the house phone. He hung up when the bathroom door opened, emitting clouds of steam.

"Kiros found a snake in Laguna's pocket and refused to go back to the forest for any reason. Looks like the rest of the vacation is back in the lap of luxury, oh, well."

"What about our stuff?"

"Your dad left his cell phone in camp so the secret service guys are gonna track that and pack us up."

Squall came into the bedroom. "You mind? I mean, this was all your idea, the whole 'male bonding' thing."

"Hyne, no." Seifer looked his lover over appreciatively. "We can think of ways to pass the time, right?"

Squall smiled. He undulated over to Seifer and kissed him, flicking his tongue rapidly over his lover's face and lips before releasing him. "I'm glad you mentioned that. Do you know what Python was the god of?" He pushed Seifer back onto the bed and kissed him again. "Who needs male bonding when we can do male bondage?"

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