Living Life
February 2003

 

[Part Three]

[Isan]

The sound of footsteps on stone wakes me from deep sleep, but not completely.  Feeling a brush of cold air, I reflexively clutch the warmth before me tighter.  Only then do I dare to open my eyes and stare bewildered at the combat boots standing just in front of Seveyn's feet.  Sleepily I glance up the black-clad body and grin at the sight of Carbuncle sitting happily on the man's shoulder.

"Morning, Mom."

He frowns.  "I'd expect a faster reaction than that."

I part chuckle, part yawn at the terse tone.  "I heard you.  I also know Carbuncle wouldn't let just anyone in."

The corner of his mouth twitches into an almost smile.  "Still, you should be prepared for anything."

I don't listen much to the scolding tone, more curious about his hint of amusement.  "Where's Dad, anyway?"

"Carbuncle didn't feel like letting him in."

Granted I try to hold back, but picturing Dad's glare at the relatively harmless GF, the laughter practically explodes from me.  Whether from the noise or my body movement, Seveyn starts in my hold, his head almost smacking into my chin at the abrupt waking.  His gaze immediately focuses on my mother, and I think I hear him swallow nervously at the realization of what position we were caught in.

"Headmaster."

Mom looks down at him with an unreadable expression.  "Did you get any results from disregarding your orders?"

It's rather impressive that he doesn't flinch under that gaze and condescending tone.  Instead, Seveyn just nods and reaches into his jacket pocket to pull out the case containing the disc of information.  "Most of it is still coded, but I managed to grab all of the information, as well as destroy the files on that system."

Taking the black case in hand, Mom turns to the entrance of the cavern.  "Let's go home, boys."

Sighing, I first help push Seveyn up to his feet, and then stiffly get off the hard ground myself with use of the cave wall.  We both take a brief moment to stretch and dust of our clothes that had stiffened overnight from salt water.  Stealing a glance at the white-haired boy, I notice a faint blush when he handles his still damp braid.  A smirk stuck on my face, I go on ahead to the exit, my smile widening at the sight of my scowling father.  Mom seems to be toying with him, standing just barely behind the barrier that is still in place.

"What the hell did I ever do to that furball?  Nothing!  He just likes you because of those damn treats you keep giving him."  He points headedly at the offending GF, his finger getting singed on the invisible barrier.

I blink at an unexpected sight - did Carbuncle really just stick his tongue out at my father?  ...Hyne, it must be too early in the morning for me.

Mom turns at my approach, Seveyn lagging a few steps behind me.  "Have you explained anything to him?" he asks quietly.

"No.  Figured I need something to talk about on the trip back."

He just nods, then scratches under Carbuncle's chin.  "And what is this little one still doing around?"

I sigh.  "Hell if I know.  Think anyone would notice if I made him a pet?"

Blue-gray eyes look at me with the clear meaning, 'people aren't that blind.'

Placing a hand on the furry green head, I make the GF look at me.  "You can go now."  It stares at me blankly.  "Please," I beg quietly.  Apparently hearing what it wanted, the demon purrs lightly and vanishes with a burst of soft light.

Mom and Dad stare at me with the same amused, questioning look.

I mutter out, "Don't ask," while walking out of the cave.

Dad chuckles.  "Three months you've been practicing with those things and you came up with 'please' to get rid of them?  That's rich!"

I turn to glare at the man, then noticing his redden nose.  "You ran smack into the barrier, didn't you?"

That stops his laughter.  "Not my fault.  Squall walked straight through without any problem.  I don't know what that beast has against me."

Mom places a hand on his shoulder.  "We should leave."

Grumbling, Dad agrees with a slight nod and starts to walk off with him.  I watch them go a short distance before glancing over at the silent beauty.  Reddish eyes are downcast, Seveyn most likely uncomfortable with the banter of my family.  It's rather impressive how easily he can make himself hidden and forgotten.

"Seveyn."

He starts at his name, eyes meeting mine with part embarrassment.  I don't comment, only nod my head in the direction of where my parents were going.  It's not good to lag too far, the twosome having no reserves against leaving someone behind for being too slow.  After he adjusts the strap of the black bag I had forgotten about, Seveyn crosses his arms tightly and steps forward.

"Want me to get that?"

He shakes his head.

We walk silently for a time, my parents not too far ahead of us.  I'm partly surprised that Dad even let my mother come on this pickup mission, but it seems not even Seifer Almasy would dare say 'no' to the pregnant Headmaster.  ...Hyne, I'm a going to be a big brother.  Sometimes that thought just appears out of nowhere, making me smile like an idiot.  It's too surreal.

A stifled sneeze makes me look over at the white-haired boy.  "You okay?"

He nods.

"So... do you have some questions for me?"

Reddish purple eyes glance at me warily.  "Would you mind?"

"Of course not.  I'll answer what I can."

There's a short wait before he asks, "Why did you hold me like that last night?"

"Heh, that's an easy one - I'm attracted to you.  Keeping warm was a nice bonus."

His eyes go wide as Seveyn stops in place to stare at me.  "You can't be."

I stop and turn to face him.  "I am."

"But... you can't."

"Does it bother you?  Another guy liking you, that is."

An odd look crosses his face as he thinks about it.  "I guess not, but that isn't the point."

I laugh at his uncertainty.  It's amazing he can be so shy at one moment, but when it matters, he takes control of his fears and worries without hesitation.  "It may not be the point to you, but it's a relief for me."  I lean forward, my face bare centimeters from his.  "It means that I have a chance with you."

He blinks in bewilderment and pale lips part invitingly, but I don't take advantage of the situation, probably already pushing the self-conscious boy too far.  Sometimes I think I have too much of my father in me.  After straightening and moving to the side, I place a hand at his back and press him forward to start walking again.  He is silent as we continue on, and soon enough we catch up to Dad who leans against a tree.  Just then, Mom steps unsteadily out of the covering of bushes, a fierce scowl directed at the unthreatened blonde.

"Better you than me."

I wince at Dad's words.  Talk about poking an enraged T-rex with a sharp stick.  The sudden smile on Mom's face certainly doesn't soothe my worries at all.  He grips my father's chin with a gloved hand and pulls himself up for a kiss.  While the larger man looks pleased about it at first, green eyes snap open when he steps back quickly and wipes his forearm across his mouth.

"Fuck, that's just nasty."

Mom smirks before walking off.  "Forgot the canteen on the ship."

"Forgot.  Sure.  You know, you can't blame everything on this pregnancy."

Mom whips around to glare at him while I press a hand to my face.  From the corner of my eye, I notice Seveyn turn slowly to look at me with wide, questioning eyes.  Well, I guess that's just one more thing I'll end up explaining to the white-haired beauty.  At least it should make the whole guardian force issue a bit easier to understand, that is if he'll actually believe a single word of it.  Hyne, why do I already have the image of him backing away from me like a green cadet from the Commander when he hasn't had his coffee?


[Seveyn]

With a calming breath, I step out from the elevator and make way to the Headmaster's office.  My mind swirls with the possibilities of his summons this afternoon, foremost are of course the family secrets that I managed to stumble my way into yesterday.  The Headmaster and Commander are truly Isan's parents, the boy not the result of some love affair by one of the two men nor a random orphan of war.  Because of that unnatural pairing, Isan can control the GFs like no other, their strength boosting his natural abilities.  And now the Headmaster is pregnant once more, that being the real reason behind his early retirement from SeeD...

And to think, just a few months ago I was almost obsessively looking for information on Isan.  Never did I consider that he had such secrets hidden away.  I'm impressed that the Headmaster and Commander could keep everything out of the public eye... actually, no, they kept most everything in the open but never offered details or explanations.  Smart of them to let the public assume whatever they wanted.  Much safer than the truth which could lead some people to panic.  Heroes are one thing.  Heroes that are far too strong make people nervous.

I'm buzzed into the office, only the Headmaster sitting behind the desk this time.  He waves me to a chair before I have the chance to salute, then he stares at me silently for a time.  I don't move under that cool gaze, keeping my nervousness under control.  He sits back in his chair then, his hand going directly to his stomach that looks flat under the loose, dark shirt he wears.  I wonder if I would've notice such a move if I didn't know of the life he is carrying.

"I trust you to not speak freely of the things you were told yesterday, so there's no reason to cover any of that."

I nod.  There's no benefit in such betrayal.

He sighs.  "Onto other matters, I've examined the information you retrieved for us.  I suppose you've never heard of the term Project MAGES before."

"No, sir."

"And yet you probably know more details about the project than what is listed in these files."

"...Sir?"

"I know about your past now, Seveyn Zehrou... or should I say number 7-0?"

Then I'm standing, not remembering the motion of getting up or knocking the chair back with my sudden movement.  The need to escape floods throughout me, but I can't make my muscles work like they should.  Darkness threatens my vision, closing me off from the rest of the world, from the pain it wants to cause me.  No more, no more, no more... but there's no where to run, no one would hear me scream, no one would care if I cried...  I start at the feel of coolness on my face, darkness fleeing as I stare into calm blue-gray eyes.

"Relax.  You're safe."

"I... I'm sorry... sir..."

The Headmaster smiles vaguely before guiding me to another chair.  "I have to hand it to you, running into the lion's den by training to become a SeeD."

"I don't... There was nowhere else..."

He looks at me curiously.  "You are a sorcerer.  Don't you know this?"

My wide-eyed gaze is hopefully enough of an answer for him.  Words are getting to be too difficult to manage.

"Interesting.  Then you can't control your powers?"

"Powers...?"  I guess strange things would happen around me at times, but powers?  A sorcerer?

He closes his eyes for some time, the silence oddly comfortable with the man.  Almost like with Isan.  ...Isan... what am I supposed to tell him about this?  He's officially a SeeD, the decision made unanimously this morning by a small group of instructors despite the Headmaster's recommendation to make the teen test another time.  Certainly he'll want nothing to do with me once--

"I have an offer for you," the Headmaster begins, interrupting my thoughts.  "Would you be willing to train with Edea and Rinoa?"

"The sorceresses of the last war?"

He nods.

"... I could, but I swear, I don't know anything about these powers you say I have."

"I'm certain they'll be able to judge that for themselves.  Be ready to leave with us in two days."

'With us'?  "Sir?"

"I have my own reasons to visit them."

Hearing the dismissing tone in his voice, I stand up from the chair.  "May I ask that you not tell Isan, sir?"

The Headmaster tilts his head curiously.  "He'll find out.  He is coming with us."

Reluctantly I nod my understanding and turn to leave the office in a thought filled daze.  At least some things make more sense now: my inability to junction properly with GFs, the way I heal faster than normal, the spark of electricity I sometimes feel coursing through me without reason...  But I don't want this.  And there's a quiet voice in my mind that says the Headmaster wasn't telling me something.  Rather, he's probably not telling me plenty of things, trying to protect me from myself and my fears.

By the time I reach my temporary room, my head hurts from too much information and the serge of sickening emotions I've always managed to hideaway in the back of my mind.  Leaving the lights off, I stumble onto my bed and lie down to curl around a large pillow, burying my face in the cushion.  Sleep is the only safe refuge that I can rely on.


[Squall]

Lying fully on the couch, I chew distractedly on a piece of sugarcane while thoughts wander around in my mind without focus.  The worries about that white-haired boy being a sorcerer transforms into thoughts about the pregnancy that I believe he indirectly caused, and then continues on to ideas about names and the newest toys.  That of course leads to dread about that damn baby shower happening in a couple days at the orphanage.  And why do I feel fat all of the sudden?

The rambling thoughts end abruptly when the front door opens.  "That's it.  We're not leaving this room until we leave for good."

I smirk.  "And why's that?"

"My replacement is starting to freak out.  So far he's asked me about what to do in case of an attack by blobras and how to handle a grat uprising in the training center.  The idiot even wanted my opinion about which pocket he should keep the set of keys I gave him."  As Seifer rants, he waves me forward so that he can sit on the couch.

I settle back against him.  "Sheri gets back tomorrow morning, so I should get the same from her."

"Were we this bad when Esthar Garden was handed to us?"

"Whatever.  I think you were laughing maniacally for a month."

"Heh, there was that."  With his arms loose around my waist, Seifer leans forward to rest his chin on my shoulder.  "So how was your day, lovely?"

"We have a fourth coming with us to the orphanage."

"Oh?  I thought there already were four of us," he says while rubbing the small mound of my stomach.

"You know what I mean.  Seveyn is joining us to met with Edea and Rinoa."

"A present for our little cub?"

"Nothing like that.  According to that information about Project MAGES, the boy is a sorcerer."

"You're kidding.  That lab rat?"

I sigh.  "Never call him that to his face.  He may not react well to it."

"What, he has Zell's temperament somewhere deep inside of him?"

"No.  In a way, he truly was a lab rat."

Seifer pauses in his motions, his tone suddenly serious.  "You still have the files?"

"There's a personal copy that I'll let you look over."  With a slight smirk, I add, "For some reason the Garden's disc has numerous errors on it."  Like hell I'm going to let just anyone view the information on the poor boy.  Certainly not a high ranked SeeD that may decide to label him a threat.  If any of the information is correct, there's explosive power hidden within that boy, a power that people will want to either control or destroy.  It's equivalent to Isan's situation with the abilities he controls, but I trust our son to take care of himself.  Seveyn on the other hand may be too damaged inside to manage the same.

"Signing yourself up as that boy's guardian angel?"

"... ..."

"Well, no complaints from me if he tags along.  And I know Rinoa will love watching over another hard luck case."

"It's his fault, you realize."

"Hmmm?"

"When I healed him that first time, I think he somehow reactivated the pregnancy spell."

I can almost hear the wide grin that must be forming on his face.  "Well, well, well.  I need to get that boy something special to show my appreciation."

"Do you even remember the pains of raising a child?"

"I remember the first time Isan called me 'daddy'."

I curl into the pillow of the couch.  "Fucking selective memory."

Seifer pulls me back into him, lifting up my chin to angle me back for a chaste kiss.  "I remember the night he said his first word."

"I believe you also have the video."

"Mmm, we really need to add to that collection someday.  Maybe a special pregnancy episode."

I glare at him, but it doesn't quite work from this angle.  I'll have to remember to avoid all bets while I'm pregnant, though I imagine Seifer will somehow be able to sneak one in.  "There's something else we need to have a word about."

"Yes?"

"Something seems to have been misplaced..."

Green eyes widened slightly.  "Um, actually I better get started on dinner--"

Before Seifer can push me off, I place my hand lightly over his crotch, only the thin material of slacks protecting him.  "Where is it?"

He squirms a little beneath me.  "Now, Squall.  You have your irrational moments while you're pregnant--"

"It's my gunblade."

"And those are my testicles."

"Do you want them cut off or ripped off?"

"I swear it's in the name of self-defense.  You don't want the baby to grow up without a father, do you?"

"Would probably be better off," I mutter.

"Alright, then how about this," he leans forward to speak into my ear, "Do you want to argue about a blade that isn't even here or do you want your personal chef to cook dinner?"

"... ..."

His voice takes on a husky tone.  "A large steak is marinating in my patented teriyaki sauce as we speak."

"...I...hate...you..."

"If you say so, love."  He kisses my temple before escaping my loosened hold to eventually stand up.

"This isn't over.  I want my damn blade back."

"And you'll get it back once I deem you sane."

"I'm not that bad."

He grins while leaning over me, a hand placed on the couch to support him.  "Let's test that statement, shall we?  First, what did you have for breakfast?"

"Scrambled eggs and yogurt isn't strange."

"It is when mixed together, idiot.  Don't you think I didn't notice.  Second, what's your greatest worry about seeing everyone at the orphanage?"

"Nothing."  Did I answer that a bit too sharply?

The grin widens.  "I've seen you scowling at the mirror lately.  You aren't fat, Squally-boy, you're pregnant and gorgeous.  Lastly, a reaction check."  His voice gets serious as he bends in closer.  "Do you realize that starting next week, we won't have the brat around anymore?  We probably won't see him for months at a time or longer depending on the missions he's given as a SeeD.  He might not even be able to make the holidays.  Worst yet, this means that our little cub doesn't need us."

I stare at him wordlessly.  I suppose I knew all those things, and I certainly expected the day when Isan would have his own life.  But, next week... already... Ah, fuck.  "Go make dinner," I growl out while palming my eyes.

Seifer pulls my hands away from my face and kisses away some tears that leak out before smiling at me softly.  "Don't worry.  I feel the same."

Sighing, I wipe away some moisture from my eyes.  "It's worse this time, isn't it?"

"Nah.  Last time you were battle hardened from saving humanity, and you were also fighting your emotions every step of the way.  I'd like to think having me around means you don't have to keep up that icy front."

"Ham."

"Only for you, love," he says with a wink.

The bastard.  Probably the only person who could handle me so easily and he knows it.  "Where's this damn steak you keep promising me?"

"Coming, master of mine."


[Isan]

Knocking loudly on the door for the second time tonight, I wait for a reply.  When Seveyn didn't answer the first time I was here, I tried looking for the white-haired beauty everywhere else I thought he could be, but in the end, his room still seems to be the most likely destination.  He hasn't shown up for either lunch or dinner today and I can't help worrying a little bit.  I don't really think it has anything to do with what he learned about me yesterday.  Sure, he looked a bit perplexed about everything, but not horrified.  Considering he wasn't against having dinner with Berkeley and me last night and for breakfast this morning, I can't image why he'd suddenly decide to avoid me.  Only thing I can think of is that he finally got sick from our dip in the ocean.

The door abruptly hisses open, Seveyn looking ragged with messed hair and a wrinkled uniform.  His expression is almost painful as he tries to squint out the bright lights of the hallway.  "Isan?"

"Hey.  Didn't mean to wake you."

"It's okay."  He runs a hand through long hair, not succeeding in the attempt to straighten the messed strands of white.

"You alright?  You missed lunch and dinner."

"Nh."  The reddish purple eyes don't quite meet my gaze.

"As if that was believable.  What's wrong?  Is it about yesterday?"

He blinks, eyes widening.  "No.  It's nothing about that..."  He trails off, the tone telling me that there is something bothering him.

"Anything you want to talk to me about?"

"No."  The answer too sharp to believe, I stare at him until he relents.  "I don't want to, but I should," he says mostly to himself.

"If you don't want to--"

"It's fine.  You'll find out eventually."  He steps aside from the open doorway, a silent invitation inside.

Given there's no seating in the SeeD room, I take a spot on the corner of the bed and pat the mattress to offer Seveyn a place next to me.  He shakes his head before crossing his arms protectively around his chest.  Knowing that he's already decided to talk to me about whatever is bothering him, I lean back on my hands and wait for him to start when he's ready.  Can't consider it a burden to be given the chance to look at the alluring teen while I wait him out.

"I had a talk with the Headmaster today.  He examined the information we retrieved and discovered that I have powers.  That apparently... I'm a sorcerer."

I'm stunned a moment by the declaration, never hearing of a sorcerer before.  "Wait, 'apparently' you are a sorcerer?  You don't know yourself if you have these powers?"

Biting his lip, he shakes his head.

"He-eh, sounds a bit like me a year ago.  So what's the problem?"

Seveyn stares at me incredulously.  "You're a SeeD."

It takes a second before I realize what he's implying.  "And my aunt is probably the most powerful sorceress out there, but I'm not going to suddenly hunt her down.  Although now I see why Mom postponed your promotion indefinitely.  A sorcerer within the SeeD ranks... while it's a piece of irony that I'm certain Dad would've enjoyed, I can imagine the havoc it would've caused."

"You don't mind?"

The unrestrained hope in his voice catches me off guard.  Standing up from the bed, I approach him as he backs a step and presses against the wall.  Hand on the wall, I lean forward to look down into wary, but not fearful eyes.  "And why would you be so worried about my reaction to this?"

"You said you liked me."

"That I do."  I brush the fingers of my free hand along his cheek, his eyelids briefly closing at the light touch.

"Why?"

Cupping the side of his face with my hand, I waste a few moment staring into the red-violet eyes.  "Not certain really.  Of course you're gorgeous and you didn't run screaming after everything I told you about myself, but there's something else.  Something that makes it feel right when I'm with you, touching you, holding you.  If you're willing, I'd like the chance to explore this more."

"I don't understand what you want from me."

"Nothing from you.  With you."  Taking advantage of his hesitation, I kiss the corner of his mouth, wet the area lightly with the tip of my tongue before I trap the soft flesh between my lips and tug lightly as I pull back from him.  His expression of bewildered innocence makes me think of Nuala's declaration of his angel status.

"You confuse me."

I smirk at the odd comment, holding back an offending laugh.  "I've been blamed for worse."

"You don't understand.  Most people get uncomfortable around me.  Headmaster Trepe was the first who wasn't bothered by me.  Then there was you, your parents, and your friends..."  His eyes go unfocused as he looks to the side.  "I'm not used to it."

As I think about his words, my hand drifts down slowly as to not tangle in the soft hair.  Reaching his lower back, I pull him against me to form more contact between us.  "Maybe people react to your powers on an instinctual level, afraid of your hidden strength.  But Aunt Quistis and my parents are powerful enough themselves to not fear you.  The same probably applies to me.  As for Lee and Nuala, they wouldn't be afraid of anyone I trust."

"You trust me?"

The chuckle escapes me.  "If I didn't, would I be doing any of this?"

His arms drop out of their protective hold, the freed hands shyly grabbing onto the sides of my shirt.  The sense of rightness overwhelms me, just as it had the other night when I held him tightly against my body without hesitation.  The tenseness in him that I had caused by such a move made me fear I went too far, but I couldn't make myself loosen that hold.  When he had relaxed in time, I was amazed by how well he seemed to fit against me.  The same serge of sensations from that night flows through me now.  Hyne, if this happens from merely holding onto him...

"Can you stay tonight?"

The question startles me, especially considering the less than innocent direction of my thoughts.  "What?"

"I couldn't really sleep before, but maybe... if you're here..."

Only because he's pressed against me do I notice tiny shivers within his body, his voice and stance otherwise appearing steady.  I laugh inwardly that he's yet another master at masks that I have to associate myself with.  "I'll stay as long as you want me to."

He sighs relieved.  "Thank you."


[Seifer]

Leaning back against the wall of my window seat, I watch as Laguna hand waves through one of his dragon stories to the two teens sitting in front of him.  Four hours we've been on route to the orphanage and there hasn't been a moment of silence with both the president and Isan retelling the same old tales to Seveyn, the boy rather wide-eyed and softly smiling throughout the entire thing.  White hair, reddish eyes, pale skin... lab rat indeed.  I got around to reading those Project MAGES files yesterday and it left me feeling sick inside.  It doesn't surprise me that the whole idea was Ultimecia's, the possessed Edea starting the project long before her big coming-out parade.  Using defenseless, unwanted orphan boys in the attempt to create sorcerers that would fight under her command...  The descriptions of their research was one thing, but that fucking photo of the blue eyed, brown hair boy '7-0' had been was the line for me.  That his body had changed under the stress of their experiments--

"You're scowling."  Squall momentarily blocks my view of the others as he sits down next to me.

"Can't help it."

"He'll think you have something against him."

With a sigh, I turn my attention to pale looking brunette.  "You okay?"

He nods.  "The turbulence didn't help, though."

"Kiros announced that we should be landing soon enough, just incase you didn't hear."

"Unfortunately I did."

Smirking at the sour tone, I look back across the aisle.  "Think we should warn the cub?"

"No.  It's not our life to speak about."

"Fine.  But I'm joining you in that guardian role you've taken up."

"Oh?"

"I've hired a SeeD to be his personal guard until we're certain no one will connect him to that mages shit."

He smiles vaguely.  "Let me guess.  Being former Commander means you got to select whichever SeeD you wanted."

"I like to abuse my perks."

"When will Isan find out?"

"After the weekend of fun.  Speaking of which," I glance out the window and notice the ground rising up.  "Looks like we have arrived."

Squall tenses immediately, stormy eyes narrowing.  "I've changed my mind."

I laugh a bit too loudly, all sets of eyes turning our way.  "What, hoping to hideaway in here all weekend?  No one will let you get away with that and you know it."

The aircraft sets down with barely a jolt to signal its landing, Squall frowning even more at the bare movement.  Laguna looks at me curiously with a touch of worry in the dark green eyes.  At my smirk and shake of the head, he smiles his quiet understanding about the trouble this lion can be.  The old man is the first to stand up, moving to the front of the aircraft to work the door and ramp for our exit.  Kiros thankfully appears before Laguna can break the piece of machinery.  In short time a familiar squeal carries up to us, and Squall stands with a reluctant sigh.

"Squaaaaaall!"  Selphie runs up into the aircraft and flings herself at the poor guy, though she's wisely being more gentle than usual as Squall remains standing despite the 'attack'.  "Oooooh, I'm so happy for you, sweetie!  Come on, let me have a looksie at the newest addition!"  That being the only warning, she steps back and lifts up his white shirt without shame.  "Hmph, that's completely unfair.  You're so much thinner than I was when had my second angel.  Are you certain you're eating enough?"

The barest hints of red in his cheeks, Squall pushes his shirt back down.  "... ..."

She laughs happily at his scowling expression, then grabs his wrist.  "Everyone else is here already.  Let's go, sunshine."  Unable to resist the woman, Squall is dragged out of the aircraft without argument.

"Well damn, I couldn't have tried to plan that better."

Isan laughs at my words.  "It's like the rest of us weren't even here.  I don't know whether to be offended or relieved."

"Don't worry - we'll get ours soon enough.  Let's go, kiddo."

Several minutes later it's complete chaos as we join up with the party that had already started behind the orphanage, the old building remodeled and enlarged over a decade ago.  A rather large group of kids of ranging ages that I don't recognize play on the beach within easy sight of the numerous adults.  It looks like Fujin and Raijin are also enjoying the beach while playing lifeguards for the group of orphans, too.  My attention is diverted by light laughter as Selphie and Rinoa fuss over the 'delicate' lion.  Irvine stands next to his energetic wife, though he doesn't seem to offer Squall any hope of salvation from the motherly women.  Looking further, I notice that Isan with Seveyn close behind has already caught up with the two oldest Kinneas boys.  More than likely there will be a duel of rifle against gunblade within the hour.

"And how's the proud papa?"

Turning, I smile at the sight of the lovely blonde.  "Hey, Quisty.  What are the hell are you doing here?  B Garden could explode without you around."

She pouts.  "Ha, ha.  I have taken plenty vacations in the past.  Just because I'm not as lazy as some Commanders out there..."

"I'll have you know that I'm an ex-Commander now, thank you very much."

"And the people of the world breath a sigh of relief," comes a deeper voice from the side.

"Phft, since when does your opinion count, Chicken?"

"Since I could take you in a fight."  Zell punches my arm, not even attempting to hold back.

I sneer at the small, but heavily muscled man to hide my wince.  "That's some fantasy you've got there, featherbrain.  Did Quisty here smack you around one too many times for not doing your job properly?"

"Come on, let's have a match.  When I win, you get to buy me a year's worth of--"

Taking a handful of his shirt, I jerk the man up close, my face barely an inch from his.  "You fucking even mention the h-word and I'll string you up by your minuscule balls and use you as a punching bag."

The strangled 'meep' from the chicken is rather satisfying.

"Seifer..."  Strange hearing my name in a scolding tone that doesn't belong to my lion.

Surrendering to Quistis' implied demand, I release Zell's shirt with a little push.  "Squall has issues with processed meat, so don't talk about your obsession where he can overhear you.  Got it?"

"Hell, why didn't you say so from the beginning?"  Blue eyes shift over to where the brunette stands.  "Is he really... pregnant?"

I smirk at his hesitation.  "You make it sound like he's dying.  And he better be pregnant, or else he's just getting fat and going insane at the same time."

"Really, Seifer.  He can't be that bad.  This is Squall we're talking about."  Belying her words, Quistis looks at me interestedly above her glasses, eager to hear just how bad the Ice Prince can get when he loses control over his emotions.

"Go see for yourself while Selphie has him out in the open."

"Well, we should at least say 'hi'..."  Warily, the chicken heads for where Squall is, the brunette currently defending himself from being force-fed a cake of some sort.

"I noticed you brought Seveyn along."  When I don't respond, Quistis continues.  "Does he know what this get together is all about?"

"If you mean about the lion and his cub, then yes, the kid knows the basic details."

"Are you going to make me ask why?"

"Squall hasn't informed you of anything yet?"

She shakes her head.  "He mentioned keeping Seveyn a little while longer, but nothing about this.  Is there something I should know?"

"Maybe.  You call him 'Seveyn'.  Why?"

Light blue eyes stare at me blankly.

"You'd normally call him cadet Zehro.  Don't tell me that the Queen of Balamb is showing a bit of favoritism."

"Maybe a little.  There's something about the boy that makes me worry about him."  She pokes my chest.  "Just like a couple trouble students of mine many years back."

"I assure you, I have no idea what you are talking about."

"Fine, be that way.  I'm going to go harass Squall."  With a small wave, she strides off with her regal sway.

Watching her walk away, I wonder for the hundredth time why someone hasn't claimed the beauty yet.  More than likely Quistis still hasn't gotten over that bastard she divorced nine years back.  She deserves so much more.  Glancing over at Dincht, I can only shake my head, resigned to the fact that the chicken will never grow up.  I'm surprised sometimes about the decent job he does as Commander in Balamb, but that could just be due to Quistis' dedication to her role as Headmaster.

Realizing that everyone has basically migrated around the mother-to-be, I wander over myself.  The lot of them suddenly burst into laughter, meanwhile the scowl Squall sends their way would've sent weaker people running for their lives.

"Did I miss something good?"

Bent over and panting in laughter, Zell stutters out, "D-did... did you really... t-take his blade?"

"Fuck yeah.  I hold supreme value for my life."

While the others try to rein in their amusement, I look at Squall, the man attempting a threatening glare at me but it fails for some reason, appearing more of a pout.  I then notice a dab of frosting under his lip, the opportunity too perfect to resist.  Leaning in, I lick up the sugary sweetness and lightly bite the protruding lip.  Moving back, I stare into the gray eyes of streaked blue, and for a brief moment there's nothing but that spellbinding connection between us.

Of course it's ruined by an overly sweet, "A-aw," from Selphie.

I glare at the woman.  "Really, Selph, must you do that every time?"

She blinks at me innocently.  "But Squall's never been pregnant before."

I sigh in defeat, knowing better than to try to force the woman to be rational.  I still remember the day years past when she showed up unannounced in Esthar, so afraid of her first pregnancy and of her future motherhood that she was in tearful hysterics.  Since then she's gotten it into her head that Squall is the role model mother, much to the lion's embarrassment.  And she's the one who has survived four boys, not including Irvine.  It wouldn't surprise me if Selphie is actually holding back on her excitement about his unexpected pregnancy.

Abruptly the energetic woman grabs Squall's hand yet again, leading him inside the orphanage.  "Come on, everyone.  It's present time!"

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining -- Whee, this story is going nowhere fast, but it's actually kind of fun on my side to just take my time through all of this.  And it's not my fault I've gotten questions along the lines of 'what happened to everyone else?'. ^_^;  Anywho, just as a note for gutter-minded people, no, Isan and Seveyn did not do anything yet.  I wouldn't deprive anyone of their first time. ^_-  And glad I've been doing the Winner shorts because I just realized I haven't done a lemon in this ficcie for two chapters.  Gasp!  Well, with Squall in the bleh stage of pregnancy and Isan being careful to not scare off Seveyn, it's hard to find reason for a random lemon scene.  Perhaps next chapter.