In which Seifer and Squall have a good talk about everything, beat the b'jeezus out of each other, and other good stuff. This fic brought to you by CHOCO-O'S!! Yummy chocolate rings and chocobo shaped marshmallow bits, fortified with mostly sugar and part of every hyperactive SeeDs breakfast! (They can't eat hot dogs ALL the time.)
(And if you're wondering about Seifer's line about being a home improvement company, go here.)

0=)~

Touchstone

Part 2

By Tenshi no Korin

It was full dark on Centra by the time Squall got there, swinging down from his chocobo and leaving it tethered to the crumbling gate-post outside the orphanage wall. A full moon populated the ruins with unlikely shadows; Squall shifted his grip on his gunblade, warily. The world was still full of monsters from the Lunar Cry; there was no telling what might be making its den here.

One shadow shifted near a pillar and Squall started. The sound of the hammer going back on Lionheart ricocheted off the stone walls, blade humming with blue energy as he lifted it.

"Jumpy, Leonhart?" the shadow asked, emerging. Moonlight turned blond hair gold and a trenchcoat to pure platinum, Hyperion sharp and dark and ominous, gleaming in one gloved hand. A cigarette ember flared as Seifer took a drag from it, the small pinpoint of fire softening the achingly familiar arrogant profile, making the scar look new. The wind shifted and Seiferís scent washed over Squall: steel and bitter cinnamon of his body, dragonskin leather of his coat.

Squallís stomach contracted with the potency of it all, he reached out to steady himself against what was left of the main archway.

Seifer tossed his cigarette to the weedy pavement and ground it out with one steel-toed boot. "Relax. Itís all over with, remember?" Seifer gestured, his gunblade flashing like black lighting as the moonlight caught its flat.

Slowly Squall uncocked his weapon, leather jacket creaking as he lowered it but did not completely set it aside. "Bitter?" he asked. Seifer didnít sound bitter, he sounded bored. Like when Quistis would make him recite battle facts in class, something in his tone making the perfect oration a statement on how trivial the whole thing was. On how much he didnít care.

"Why should I be?" Seifer folded his arms, gunblade dangling casually from his hand. "I had my moment. You had yours. Although the press liked yours rather better I think. ĎLion of Balamb.í You KNOW thatís what theyíre calling you these days?" Seifer snorted. "Of course you donít. You never paid attention to that kind of thing. What a waste of fame."

"I didnít come here for you to make fun of me," Squall growled, angry in that reflex way that Seifer inspired, furious with himself for how easy it still was. Too easy. And too soon, he decided instantly, turning to go. Too soon for this, scar throbbing as if just-given. He should leave before they gave each other some more.

"Wait, will you?" Seifer sighed, sounding tired and older. "You never COULD take it, could you Leonhart? Never could handle a tease, not even when we were brats together. Crissakes, at least Dincht would yell back at me. You just balled up your fists and swung. No wonder we beat each other to a pulp all the time." He made it seem like it was something that had happened in the dim recesses of time, their rivalry. As if it hadnít been less than two months since Lunatic Pandora darkened Estharís skies.

"I shouldnít have coó" Squall froze as a hand descended on his shoulder, and a familiar voice breathed warm on the back of his neck.

"Gonna run away on me, Leonhart? Afraid to talk to your old rival? After all weíve been to each other... Iím WOUNDED."

"You might be if I donít leave." Squall jerked away. "Iím not afraid of you." He bit down on the rest of the retort, puzzled by the complete lack of antagonism in Seiferís eyes. It was easy enough to sift through Seiferís dialect of taunt and arrogance to find the true meaning to his words. "I just think itís too soon."

"Too soon, too late, hell Leonhart, we never had our timing right, why should we start now?" He sat down heavily on a fallen column, Hyperion across his knees. "I just think itís kinda strange how we both turned up here, tonight, without any real reason. But go if you want to. Gods know you donít have to answer to me anymore." Seifer pulled a cigarette from the silver case in his coat pocket, lighting it with a murmured word of magic. "Iím gonna stay for a while."

Squall watched him; the smoke curling around Seiferís head like an aura before a sea-scented wind blew it away, ruffling his trenchcoat. "You are real, arenít you, Seifer?" he asked, his voice strangely tight. "Youíre not dead or a ghost oró"

"Superstitious, Leonhart?" Seifer chuckled. "I had no idea. Donít worry, Iím not dead." He smiled, and then Squall caught the something different haunting his rivalís features, even if he couldnít yet give it a name.

"You were though, werenít you?" Squall sat down next to him. "I saw you. In Her castle."

"I was a lot of things, Squall." Seifer cradled his cigarette thoughtfully. "Dead is probably the least interesting of them."

"Fuujin," Squall said suddenly, the previously sought name escaping him. He tilted his head, trying to look Seifer in the eye, to verify his hypothesis. "Laguna said she must have done something. That you had been...gone." Dead, his mind echoed, supplying Lagunaís exact words. I donít understand it, but he was Dead. And then he wasnít. You got me, Kiddo. Ask him about it.

"Laguna, eh?" Seifer changed the subject smoothly. "Isnít he the President of Esthar? Whatíd a goofball like that do to wind up in charge of a nation?" Seifer snorted. "Probably canít tie his shoes withoutó" He noticed that Squall had gone abruptly stiff, and held up his hands. "Hey, donít insult the good guyís buddies, right?"

"That GOOFBALL," Squall said, icily, "Is my FATHER."

For once in his life Squall had the privilege of seeing Seifer Almasy completely floored. He recovered after a moment, putting a hand to his mouth to take a drag from his cigarette only to discover heíd dropped it. "Your DAD?" he repeated, beating idly at the singed place on his trousers. "You donít look a thing alikeó" He leaned in closer and Squall fought the recoil instinct. "Hn. Maybe just a little... around your eyes." He sat back, exhaling loudly. "Jesus, Leonhart, you really found your old man?"

Squall waved him away impatiently. "Thatís beside the point, Seifer. I want to know about Fuujin. Is she a sorceress? Did sheó"

"Donít worry," Seifer smoothed his hair with one hand. "Sheís not gonna take over the world or compress time or anything that you and your cronies need to pull a witch hunt for." He smiled softly to himself, and Squall tilted his head in puzzlement.

"FuujinísÖ Itís like youíve got her written all over your face or something. I donít get itó"

"Of course you donít." Seifer smirked over at him. "You canít even see it on yourself, can you? But youíve got that hyperactive twerp of yours behind your eyes now too. They take part of us away when they save our lives, you know. They become part of us. Itís not much different than GFs. Anyway," Seifer stood, coat belling out behind him in the wind. "Sheís a sorceress and being a knight is about the only thing Iím good at, so Iím hers. Besides." He looked down at Squall, blue eyes eerily bright in the moonlight. "She rode the wind to bring me home. I was dead, or lost, something. Sucked into time. I donít know how long I wandered in my own past and bits of future before I heard her, before I jumped." His eyes narrowed. "You know exactly what I mean, donít you. You were lost there too. I saw you."

Squall knew. The delirium of time distorted, the nightmare of true aloneness. How long had Seifer been there before she called him? It would explain the age in his eyes, of time that bore on the soul and not the body. Years, Seiferís face seemed to say. Eons. The wind howled between them as they measured the Time in their eyes.

"Youíre in love with her," Squall said, at last.

Seifer did not react, the breeze lovingly ruffling his hair. "You love Zell, donít you? Or is it Rinoa?"

Squall frowned down at his hands, not answering.

"I thought so. Guilty, arenít you. You SHOULD love her, after what she did to bring you back. If you want to be her Knight." Seifer shook his head, smiling. "Iím sorry, Squall. You will never be a knight. Protect her, care for her if it pleases you, but thereís a level of devotion you lack. Fuujin has me and Edea has Cid and Ellone has LagunaÖ We arenít the same in how we choose to guard them, but everything else falls aside for their sake. Not for you. You canít lie to me, Squall. I saw the past that rolled so distortedly around you. I saw the other faces mixed with hers." Seifer crouched down, looking at Squall who was still contemplating his hands. "If you were her knight, hers would have been the only face you saw, the only voice you heard. But you were looking for all of them, even for me. No wonder you got so lost."

"I thought they would find me." Squall seemed to forget Seifer was there. "I thought HE wouldÖ always in my armpit, every time I turn aroundÖ"

Seifer shrugged. "Zellís not a sorceress. Youíre just lucky Rinoa is."

"Not a knight, huh?" Squall smiled ruefully. "Then what am I?"

Seifer stood up, and laughed softly at it all. "The one thing I could never be. A SeeD. A commander. The messenger sleeping lion heart in the Garden. You know, in the centuries to come, before She is born to threaten our past, that Generations of SeeDs will fight and die waiting for a salvation that existed long before them?" He paused, to make sure Squall was paying attention. "For you and your friends to come from the past. Squall Leonhart will always be the epitome of SeeD. You have no idea the impact of what you have done, do you, Squall? You donít think in terms of Legend." Seifer flashed a grin that for a moment was full of challenge. "You never read the right books, Leonhart. You never dreamt of anything besides not being lonely."

"What do YOU know about my dreams, Seifer?" Squall said, standing. "Just because you always wanted to be a heroó"

"Did I say that?" Seifer cocked an eyebrow. "I donít think I did. I just wanted to be REMEMBERED. You realize now, after living through time, that that is all that really matters, neh? Well youíve done it, Leonhart. They might forget that you were a problem student and that you always wore that damn queer jacket but by Hyne theyíll remember you. Theyíll die for it."

"And what about you?" Squall asked, self-consciously straightening his coat, pretending that Seiferís words hadnít shaken him.

"Weíll see how I find my immortality." Seifer for a second looked dangerous, chaotic. "Iím not done looking yet." He shrugged, and the edge was covered, but not dulled. Seifer Almasy wasnít out of the picture yet, not by a long shot. He flipped the topic back where he wanted it, manipulative and mercurial as always. "So you love the little tattooed punk, huh? Never would have guessed it a year ago." He lifted his face to the darkened sky. "Not too surprising, actually. I mean, they SAY you go for the ones like your parents and he IS a lot like your dadó" Seiferís hand shot up to catch the fist that came flying towards his face. "Geez! RELAX, will you? Iím not out to kill you."

"THIS week," Squall muttered, unnerved by a Seifer whose plots he could not predict. He tugged on the hand that Seifer still held. "Gods only know what youíreó"

"Stop," Seifer said, softly. "Just stop, Squall. Iíve paid my dues, done my penance. You win, itís over. " His grip tightened on Hyperion, his voice raw. "I have other things to protect now besides my reputation and my pride. I will fight no more battles with you. Certainly not ones Iíve already lost. Live your life; youíve earned it. Let me try and live the one thatís been given back to me, alright?"

Stormgrey eyes and cloudless blue stared at each other a long moment and Squall, at last, nodded. "Alright, Seifer."

Seifer realized he was still clutching Squallís hand with enough force to break knuckles and he released him, slowly.

"Besides," Squall had to fight to keep the grin off his face, not sure how he knew but knowing he wasnít wrong, "we both know what itís like to grow up without a fatherÖ Wouldnít want another kid to go through that."

Seiferís expression shifted between surprise and denial and finally settled on pride. "Nah, we wouldnít want that." He was smiling too, as close to sheepish as Seifer Almasy ever got.

"How soon?"

"Eight months or soÖ I guess." Seifer ruffled his hair.

"She knows already?" Squall wasnít much on the subject of offspring but he figured it took a little longer than that to be sure.

Seifer cleared his throat. "She knew THEN." He added defensively, "She IS a sorceress, you know?"

"I wouldnít." Squall retorted. "I donít go in for that sort of thing."

"Aw, Címon," Seifer teased. "You and Rinoa didnító"

"No, Squall returned, firmly. "Maybe youíre attracted to sorceresses but if you ask me they still give me the creeps." He sat down again, and considered. "I did kiss her, but I think Iíd had a bit too much champagne. Anyway, Ió"

"Felt like it was the thing to do." Seifer finished. "Hn. You seemed awfully squashy on her as far as I could tell."

"Sheís a good kid," Squall admitted. "I honestly didnít think she was gonna live through it. But as far as personal entanglements... No. She has more fun hanging out with Selphie anyway. Rinoa isnít quiteÖ one of us. Besides," he concluded, almost sly, "I seem to prefer blondes."

Seifer gave him a long look. "A sense of humor? Maybe I hit you a little harder than I thought."

"Yeah well you sure as hell didnító" Squall stopped, lips curving ruefully. "Truce, right? Gonna take some getting used to."

"Squall," Seifer began, the pitch of his voice changing as he carefully lowered Hyperion across the column where heíd been sitting, "About ZellÖ"

"Seifer, you donít have toó"

"I did the only thing I could, Leonhart. If Iíd turned him down, it would only have made him feel even more helpless. I didnít believe I was thinking anything so clearly at the time, but maybe somewhere inside Ió"

"Seifer," Squall blinked slowly, "what are you talking about?" He unconsciously gripped his gunblade, a nervous fluttering beginning in his chest. "What are you trying to apologize for?"

"He never told you?" Seifer asked, more to himself than to Squall. "I must be doomed to underestimate that twerp."

"Never Told Me What?" Squall slowly got to his feet. "SeiferÖ" Lionheart, in his hand, pulsed an uncertain blue as it woke.

Seiferís smile twitched. "Aa. You wouldnít kill me for yourself, or for her, but you might just kill me for him, mightnít you?" He held his arms out; hands empty, leaving himself wide open. "Well go ahead, Squall. Not like you could miss. Iíve got a fucking X on my chest."

Squallís gunblade flashed up like a blur of blue light in the darkness, nearly blinding Seifer. The weapon stopped at the last instant, tip throbbing so close to his throat he could feel the energy-heat of the bladeís edge.

"I suspected something like that," Squall said, conversationally. "I have, after all, known you a long time. I know how you operate. Zell canít hold a secret as well as heíd like, and we all have nightmares these days. I just wondered how much truth there was in his." Squall pressed closer, and his gunblade kissed a shallow cut in Seiferís throat. Not more than a scratch, really. Just enough to bleed.

Seifer, arms out as if crucified, suddenly had a backward flash of dťjŗ vu. He could see himself in Squallís face, the scar reversed, madness in his eyes. Heís going to kill me, Seifer thought, with astonishing clarity. Fuck, I had the brat wrong all this time.

But when Squall moved it was to slide the gunblade away, resting it on Seiferís collar. "But Iím learning a little how Zell works too."

Seifer raised an eyebrow, curious.

"What would you do," Squall queried, almost airily, "If someone ...how would you put it?" His brow furrowed as he thought, trying to remember the sorts of books Seifer would have lying about his room. "Ah, Ďoffended the honourí of your sorceress?"

Seifer, deciding he was not going to get run through, lowered his arms carefully. "As a Knight, you mean? Well, I guess the proper thing would be to challenge them to a duel."

"Alright." Squall nodded. "I challenge you to a duel." The words sounded ridiculous to him, archaic like dialog from some hokey movie theyíd watched as kids. But it was Seiferís language, and he understood it.

The language, anyway. The man and the motives behind it were eluding Seifer. However a duel was a duel and even if it would prove nothing and only get one of them dead, "I accept." He still had his rules to follow.

Lionheart left his shoulder and Seifer bent to retrieve Hyperion. He straightened, and then hesitated, confused. Squallís gunbladeóthe one that had slain the as yet unborn sorceress Ultimeciaówas lying discarded on the ground. Squall held out something in both hands, nestled in paper that rustled in the breeze. His expression was grim, the blank mask Seifer knew so well.

"Choose your weapon."

Seifer blinked. Cradled in Squallís outstretched arms were two wooden swords, lying one atop the other in a cross.

Seifer stared at the toys and Squall stared at Seifer, and the night wind howled in the ruins of their childhood.

He should have cracked a joke, or at least managed a snide expression, but Seifer could not bring himself to do so. Instead he solemnly took up the weapon that bore his name. A duel was a duel, after all.

Squall hefted his own, tossing the paper aside, and saluted Seifer with it. "En garde."

The wooden blades clattered as they fenced across the orphanage in the moonlight, clumsy at first with the shorter, lighter implements. They tripped and stumbled and darted over rubble. Squall was silent as always, but Seifer flung taunts and curses and the occasional handful of gravel, but the latter was only when Squall climbed on a crumbling rooftop out of reach and Seifer got impatient.

Eventually they fought their way out of the ruins, onto the grassy plains of the lighthouse. And there it was fists and boots and flats of blades and Squall drug a hand across his bloody nose and Seifer was going to have a smashing black eye tomorrow but they didnít care, grappling in the tall sighing grasses.

How long it went on they didnít notice, working their way back through ruins and tumbling down a kicking biting and somehow still holding their weapons roll down a steep slope and right smack into morningís high tide.

The air was turning grey-pink with dawn when they finally collapsed, flat on their backs in the wet sand and gasping for air like some sort of battered and beached cetaceans. Theyíd both flung aside their coats at some point much earlier, their clothing smeared with mud and blood and seawater, Squallís shirt ripped almost beyond recognition.

Neither one was sure who laughed firstóeach of them would swear it was the otheróbut somebody chuckled and somebody snickered, and before they knew it they were curled in soggy balls of bruises and lacerations, laughing so hard they thought their few unfractured ribs would break.

"That," Seifer said, after a long slow intake of breath, "was a DUEL."

"Who won?" Squall wondered, wincing aloud as he rolled onto his side. Damn those little dinky swords could sting like a bitch.

"Damned if I know," Seifer grinned, groaning as he tried to sit up and then deciding against it. He rubbed at his scar, chuckling softly into his glove. "You beat the living shit out of me."

"Same here." Pause. "You want a curaga?"

Seifer shook his head. "Nah, not really. You?"

Squallís eyes narrowed, smiling where his bloodied lip couldnít. "Nope."

"I canít move," Seifer announced.

"Me either."

This caused a fresh round of punch-drunk sniggers, dissolving into muttered profanity when it hurt too much.

"So now what?" Squall struggled to his elbows. The sun was rising beyond the orphanage, turning the water gold. "Who makes the demands when the duelís a draw?"

"Both of us," Seifer said decisively, after a momentís pause to examine the damage done to his childhood weapon. It had held up surprisingly well. "One each."

"You first."

Seifer brushed sand off his arms, thinking. "Pandemona," he said at last. "I want it back for Fuujin."

"You have one demand of me and thatís what you want?" Squall didnít bother to hide the surprise.

Seifer nodded. "Thatís what I want."

"Well... alright." Squall frowned. "As long as she wonít use it to take over a nation oró"

"Fuujin has no interests in taking over anything besides the bathroom every morning," Seifer retorted. "I want to make sure sheís safe. A GF would help."

"You know what they do to your mind?" Squall cautioned. "Fuujin might-- what? Whatís so funny?"

"You know what they do to OUR minds... Sorceresses are born Callers. Just like in the books. Fuujin could tell you how many times she had to pee on any given day ten years ago. Trust me. I know what Iím doing. So is it agreed?"

Squall tugged off his glove, hand hovering over Seiferís forehead, not quite touching the scar. "Transfer Junction: Pandemona." Energy flared briefly behind Squallís eyes and in the palm of his hand. Seiferís hair shivered in a breeze that wasnít there, light pulsed in his irises and dimmed.

Squall shuddered. There was an intimacy in passing on a GF hand to handónot like having them clinically dispensed by Garden. He had forgotten the way Seiferís mind felt under ungloved fingertips.

"So what do you want from me, Leonhart?" Seiferís voice was rough with something, perhaps only a nightís worth of brawling, perhaps not. "Gonna banish me to Esthar or something?"

Squall frowned with his eyebrows, and struggled to his feet. His belts had left strange prints in the sand. "What are you doing these days, Seifer?"

Shrug. "Not much. Acquiring rare items for people who want them, mostly. No challenge in it, though. Knocking off an Ochu or three a week is pretty boring shit." He stood as well, swearing at the sand in his boots. "But it pays the hotel bills."

Squall was staring up at the Orphanage ruins, toy sword held loosely in his hand. "Were you happy here? As a kid?"

Seifer peered at the remains of Edeaís house, trying to see what Squall found so fascinating. "Yeah, I guess I was. Everything got so fucking complicated after that." He laughed quietly. "I mean, I know I was a terror but it sure as hell was a great place to grow up. Plenty of room to run aroundÖ I loved the parts of the place that were ruins even when we were kidsófelt like I was king of the world, in some castle on the cliffs. Dreaming the days away." Seifer sighed, rubbing a bruised shoulder thoughtfully. "You know it used to be a temple? Before the Lunar Cry hit Centra, it was some big important Hyne whatsit. Matron told me."

Squall shivered. In the whole of their conversation, it was the first time Seifer called her that. "Cid and Matron are both going to the White SeeD ship," Squall announced. "Theyíve left this place up to me, and the Garden... under my command."

"Well wonít we be a busy little boyscout," Seifer said tartly. It was one thing to lose but Squall didnít have to flaunt it. Seifer was feeling the effects of a long night and it was making him grumpy.

But instead of a retort back, Squall just nodded. "I know. I didnít want it butó" he shrugged as if to say, what can you do? "Shame about it just falling in like this. Too many monsters running over the planet after the Cry. I know IíM too busy to do anything about it."

"Yeah." Seifer agreed, getting suspicious. "Whatíre you driving at, Leonhart?"

"I was never very happy here." Squall said, softly. The sun was up now, beginning its arc through a perfect blue sky. "But it was my own fault." He turned to face his rival, the sun rising behind Seifer. Funny, Squall thought, If we were in one of Seiferís books, who would be the bad guy? Him, all shining and blue-eyed golden? Or me dressed all in black? "Itís not a demand. Itís aóan option. This place needs someone to tame it, to make it the haven it used to be. It took a Sorceress and her Knight to do it last time. Could you do it again?"

"Do I look like a home improvement company?" Seifer didnít sound entirely opposed to the prospect, looking at the ruins and perhaps dreaming the walls whole again.

"I just donít want a ruby dragon making its den here. Forget building the damn thing, thatís what the Garden team of engineers are for."

Blink. "The Garden what?"

"Well we canít keep relying on wars for funding. Theyíre in training at FH right now. Lot of the guys from Trabia are in on it." Squall waved the issue aside. "Will you do it, Seifer? We all want this place in one piece again." He smiled, and played his last card in the triad, center square. "You DID say it was a great place to grow up. Better than the Balamb Hotel, anyway."

Seifer looked at the lighthouse, black against the blue sky. He laughed suddenly, bright in the early morning summer wind. "Damn if you havenít learned some diplomacy, brat. Thereís hope for you yet."

"Thanks," Squall said, and meant it. "Youíll do it?"

"Yeah." Seifer murmured. "Yeah, Iíll do it."

"Goodó" Squall exhaled, and Seifer held up a gloved hand.

"But donít think Iím doing it for YOU." Seifer stretched. "Howíd you get here, anyway? Garden drop you off?"

"I came in on a ĎBo. What, didnít you?" If Seifer thought he was going to hitch a ride back on the Garden then he had another thing coming.

"Nah." Seifer shrugged. "Fuujin blipped me in."

Squall frowned, wooden sword on hip. "So, how are you going to get back?"

Seifer took a deep breath of the morning air and smiled back at Squall, the very picture of innocence. "The question IS," he said, "How are YOU gonna get back, twerp?" And two gloved hands shoved Squall flat on his ass into the next coming wave, and Seifer took up off the slope with astonishing speed for somebody whoíd just been up all night fighting.

"You sonufaBITCH!" Squall exploded, spluttering up from the water and tearing after him.

Neither of them noticed the two abandoned toy swords lodged hilt-up in the sand, lazy morning sun casting long shadows behind them.

"Yer late." Zell said, slurping his cereal noisily and not looking up from his vidscreen as he perused the morning messages at the table of their small shared room. "Nidaís got his panties in a wad again."

"Tell Nida to go blow a Moomba," Squall grumbled, from the doorway. "Iím goiní to bed."

"Heh! Thatísó" Zell glanced up, and his spoon clattered into his Choco-Os with a milky splat. "My God! What the hell happened to you?!? Was it Seifer? Didja kill him?" Zell gingerly lifted Squallís face, wincing sympathetically at the bruise ringing Squallís left eye and the swollen lower lip. He knew too well the damage that Seiferís fists could deal out.

"Nah, nah." Squall waved a hand lazily, smiling. "We had a great time. Really." Squall chuckled. Damn, it really HAD been fun.

Zell wasnít convinced. "How many fingers am I holding up?"

"Damnit, Zell, I donít have a concussion! Iím just tired... Had to jog over half of Centra to find a Chocobo." Squall started to shed his jacket, hissing slightly as his muscles protested.

Zell pulled Squallís coat off the rest of the way, flinging it on a chair and herding Squall to the bed.

"You are going to bed and Iím getting Kadowaki. You sound delusional."

"Mínot delusional." Squall muttered, flopping face-first on the rumpled bed, boots dangling off the side. He made a grunt of discomfort, and groped in the blankets under his stomach to remove the Mog. "The hellís this thing stuffed with, rocks?"

Zell shook his head, trying not to laugh. He was willing to bet Squall and Seifer had pounded each other into the dirt, and had a helluva time doing it, too. He knelt on the floor and unstrapped Squallís boots, tossing them to the floor and pushing Squall the rest of the way on the mattress. "Go to sleep. Iíll be right here if you need me."

"Mm. Thanks." Squall rubbed sleepily at his eyes. "Hey, Zell. Seiferís gonna take care of the orphanage project."

"How? By razing it the rest of the way to the ground?"

"Nah, Iím serious." Squall yawned. "He wants a nice place to raise his kid."

"WHAT?!"

"Didnít I tell you? Fuujinís a sorceress. And sheís pregnant."

There was a muffled thud.

"ZellÖ?" Squall rolled over again, and blinked. Zell was passed out cold. Squall grinned, and hauled the martial artist up into bed with him. After a moment he fished in the blankets for Furu the Mog, and tucking it comfortably under his chin, dozed off into sleep with no dark dreams to haunt him.

~owari~

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