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Pilot of the Ragnarok

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Was it dreams coming true? Or nightmares coming un-true? How does one describe the most fantastical, terrifying event that ever happened in history? 

Some of them insisted that it was life-changing, (well, mostly Zell) as if there was some normal steady course of existence that would have happened instead. As if Ultimecia stole everyone’s scripts and suddenly everyone was forced to make a new destiny.

Okay, so what happens after the ultimate showdown?

Everything usually just got bigger and stronger; a new thing to fight, a new goal to work for. Suddenly though, the real challenge was to create purpose from nothing. Cobble together whatever skills accrued in a short life for the whole point of taking down a being of such immense power then make them relevant and marketable to the Balamb municipality and the surrounding regions.

They had their big party, maybe a last hurrah of their adventures, or to give a final farewell to innocence. Cheers and hugs and few stolen kisses, most notably all those winks and nudges directed at Squall, who did a fair enough job proving them right. And maybe a bit from Selphie, who couldn’t help but try to see if the flirtatious sharp-shooter from Galbadia was worth all the fuss and the generous helping of teasing and flirting he regularly doled out on any and all ladies.

Life went on. Garden continued on. Squall still the leader, Rinoa still his adoring sorceress, Zell and Quistis putting their skills to good use. Selphie trying to convince everyone to get matching tattoos to commemorate their great battle. Irvine vetoing her crazier ideas first before Squall had to do it. 

Irvine adored her though, and when she wasn’t being particularly weird, he enjoyed her enthusiasm. He especially enjoyed her enthusiasm in regards to their personal relations. In bed. 

Currently, he was over her, pushing himself into her warmth as she made the obligatory sounds and reactions she knew he loved so well due to the years they’d been together. He was glossy with a sheen of sweat, somewhat from exertion, but also the stifling heat trapped in his room during the typical Galbadian Summer. It was okay. She’d survived worse. 

Not that she didn’t complain, she let him have it every time she visited him on his home turf. Always too hot, and he didn’t mind a bit. 

His long bangs jostled against his shoulders, errant hairs sticking in the sweat and making small web shapes on his skin. Her legs were sticking up and bouncing around like riding an imaginary bicycle upside-down. 

“Uhn uhn uhn uhn” she repeated to his rhythm. 

“I’m close, babe.” His movements became jerky and he shifted his weight to his left arm, freeing his right hand to reach for her chest. Only half conscious, he squeezed her small breast, made smaller from her position below, and she cooed at him automatically. No big deal, really. Her mind was on work anyway. It doesn’t have to be stellar every time, does it? She liked making him happy, and he was easy to please. That’s more to say for the other guys she knew. You’d have to be a sorceress to figure out how to get a smile out of Squall. SeeD-related Missions were few and far between, so most of her time was focused in morale and administrative duties anyway, and- 

“Babe. BabeSelphie. Help me out here.” Her eyes refocused on his and she smiled a bit sheepishly. 

“Stop following. Go the opposite way. Feels better” he said. 

“Erm, yeah. Sorry!” 

She suppressed a grimace, probably a habit she was absorbing from the Commander, and reasserted her attention to the moment. Her guy. Tall, lean, and auburn-haired, with a manner learned from the outskirts of Deling. He filled out in the years since they met; his face squaring off, torso broadened. She didn’t remain static in that time either, getting into her second decade and a more sedentary career path worked their way into her rear end. 

She felt her thighs shifting weight with each thrust. A for-real jiggle of the thighs. The grimace was creeping into her mouth now. His breaths became short gasps and she knew with some relief that the show was almost over. She traced a line in between his pecs as he came into her, but he didn’t acknowledge her touch. He had too much happening on between his legs for much focus anyway. 

Three final strong thrusts, a grunt, and he found release. He pulled out of her, and pushed off, landing on his back to her right. He let out a sigh and looked at the ceiling. She turned her head and looked at him, willing him to make eye contact, just so much as to show appreciation for her efforts. Seconds pass and he just breathes deeply, bringing his body back down, eyes closing. 

Oh well, at least it’s good exercise, right? Who needs fun when you’ve got comfortab- 

“Irv?” 

“Yeah, babe?” 

“Did’ja really mean it when ya said you wanted me to quit Garden?” He frowned at her question, and took a moment to choose his words 

“It’s okay if you wanna stay on, babe. I just… I’d like to see you working someplace with a future. You deserve better.” 

“We have a future because of Garden, though” she replied, recalling back to when they fought together to take down the time-witch Ultimecia and stop her time compression from decimating their world. 

“Yeah, a privileged system that just happened to coincide with all that magic and end-of-time hubbub. Garden was only made to fend of crazy sorceresses. It’s destiny is done… ” he laughed at how maudlin he was sounding and put his hands behind his head. “But it’s been five years. We still have to grow and move on, so I think-” 

She balked. “You think… You think I haven’t grown? I haven’t learned? I haven’t-” 

This wasn’t going the way he planned. Actually, this conversation never did. The past few years he’d been trying to get her to detach from her role at Balamb, and doing his best to build a life of his own, away from Galbadia Garden. But she held fast to that Balamb; he knew it was probably a hangover from the time she lost her first Garden. But five years was enough already. 

“Babe, don’t be puttin’ words in my mouth I didn’t say. You have learned, but Garden has not. It doesn’t have a purpose anymore.” 

“Just because G Garden was completely absorbed into the Galbadian military, does not mean Balamb has no purpose. It has a responsibility to all the students who went through it. I have a responsibility to it, too.”

She was right about that. Garden had a responsibility to get out every single drop of mercenary blood from the minors that had been surreptitiously dumped in her bosom. Just kids, and they were handling weapons and violence when they could hardly control a boner in the middle of class- 

“I just think you can do it without “Garden” emblazoned on it” he looked over at her finally, ”just, like, open a clinic to help them. Independent-like.” 

“Irv. Irvy. I know you want that for me. You’re all too happy to cut off everyone and have your own thing. I know you mean well, but it’s just not that easy. There’s money, and resources, and… just things I can do with the others and Cid. Helping together.” 

He sighed, she wasn’t going to budge on this. He was all too happy for her selflessness to be bestowed on the world, but it was time to make their own future together and just be a little bit more inward thinking. He could only be so patient, after all.

“Selphie.” He looked back up at the ceiling, “What about us? Are you still happy with me?”

She felt a weight in her gut at his words. Part of her was furious that he would even accuse her of not being one-hundred-percent Team Irvine. Her loyalty and affection knew no bounds and she smothered him in it at every opportunity. Although, realistically, the opportunities arose less and less. And that’s when she felt a pang of guilt; had he known? Did he feel that disconnect? Was she bored of him? 

It wasn’t possible. That’s not a very nice thing to do to him! Selphie Tilmitt gives one-hundred-and-ten-percent of her heart to everything! 

She lifted herself up and rolled into his side. He stayed still, but looked down to her with an eyebrow raised. Gingerly, she rested her hand on his bare chest, but her eyes took on an intensity that he hadn’t seen in a long while. 

“I love love love love love love LOVE you, Mister Kinneas. If I’m not happy with you, who else could I even be happy with?”

 

-

 

Selphie felt conflicted as she folded up her dirty clothes and packed them into her duffel bag she used for her usual weekend with Irvine. It had been comforting to see him, as usual, but he would always press her with hints about leaving Garden. Hints about being more serious about him. Hints about giving him some kind of family. 

She just couldn’t get into that with him, he understood her position of loyalty to some extent, but she also felt she couldn’t fit into his kind of ideal partner. She was his fantasy girl since they were small, the girl to which all other girls were compared. He got her finally, but she liked to fly crazy spaceships around the map and that wasn’t exactly a part of the fantasy. 

They all watched Squall and Rinoa as the model pair, bonded so romantically by fate, the princess and her knight to ride off into the sunset. Now that was how it was supposed to happen. 

Wasn’t it? 

Selphie recalled the time a few months back when the girls had met up for drinks in Balamb after Garden hours; Rinoa, Selphie, Quistis, Xu, and a few others who worked in the administrative realm. The new girls were dying to get some dirt on the boss and slyly picked at Rinoa for input. 

“Really, he couldn’t be nearly as terse at home, Rinoa? He’s a fair boss, but it’s hard to believe he’s younger than me!” 

“Now, now,” Quistis interrupted, “We’re all allowed to have our work-face.” 

“He is just really intense about work, guys” Rinoa explained, “He just doesn’t want to romanticize Garden. It’s hard and he wants everyone to see that. As for home…” she brought her chin the the center of the table, conspiratorially, and wiggled her eye brows, “imagine his outrageous desire for success when looking for the G-spot” All the girls broke into peals of laughter at Rinoa’s bawdy comment.   

“Alright! Alright, fair enough! I have to see his face on Monday with that in mind!” 

Rinoa held up a finger, “Just don’t let on that you know his secret, or I’m going to have to sleep on the couch. He hates when I give away that he has a personality. What about you Selph, you and Irvine have been together about as long as we have. Still working on taming the wild behemoth?” 

Mid-sip, Selphie sputtered, “Behemuff?!” She coughed and made an expression as if she had bit into a lemon. “I… we’re fine. Nothing new.” The girls still stared at her, expecting something interesting. She blinked and looked around the table at each of them. Then around a second time. 

“C’mon. No talk of wedding bells? Getting him to buy a place in Balamb?” one of the office ladies inquired.

Selphie shrugged, doing her best to look disinterested. Honestly, she’d like to know if there was anything interesting herself. 

“I think he wants me to choose between him and Garden.” 

Rinoa’s smile faded guiltily. A sense of discomfort eased over the girls, except Quistis, who spoke up first, “Seriously, Selphie, why would he do that? Garden was for us. You, me, him. It’s beyond simply being ‘our home’. It’s the very physical manifestation of family. He… he’s being totally unreasonable.” She looked to her drink and wrapped her hand around it defensively. 

Selphie explained to the best of her ability, “He was the only one who was in Galbadia. He just… got a different feeling about Garden from that. And I, for sure, had tons of good memories from Trabia. He just saw this nasty, regimented place that tried to force him into a box he never really fit.” 

“So what are ya gonna do?” 

Selphie picked at the wooden skewer in her drink and poked at the ice while she considered, “Just the same, I guess. It’s fun seeing him in Deling City. He has that marksman training thing happening, too. He loves showing off to his students. Bam! Bulls eye, every time! They’re mostly city police, so he makes good money from the contracts. I mean, he hates the mayor but has to really suck it up! His home is great, small, but-”

“Y’know, ” Rinoa had to cut off Selphie there, because the girl was always proud about her man’s accomplishments and tended to prattle on and on about them. “We’d miss you, but if you wanted to move closer with him, it’s understandable.” 

Selphie tried to read into Rinoa’s remark, and it’s not like it wasn’t true. Rinoa would move mountains to be with Squall. Well, more the other way around, but still. Actually, Rinoa would drop anything and everything to follow him. It was her nature, her story. It was easy enough to give up the material comforts worthy of the general’s daughter to stay with her true love. But, was that possible for Selphie? Being active in Garden and supporting their current administration was her soul. Was it also her heart? It wasn’t fair. Rinoa played her part beautifully, standing alongside her soul-mate, pouring inspiration into him.

“I can’t give up Garden. It’s my purpose. And, I think he gets that too. So we just do our best to make it work! And absence makes the heart grow fonder, y’know?” 

Rinoa just nodded, but couldn’t quite get at Selphie’s conclusion. Selphie continued, “If we got too serious, we’d have to make kids next. Imagine! I have plenty of kids at work.” 

“Accurate assessment, Selphie“ Quistis gave a knowing look to her fellow Garden staff members, “And thinking of work makes me want another round” she stood up from the table and beckoned the others, “What’s your poison, girls?” 

The new girls asked for refills and got up to use the ladies’ room and Xu stood up to join Quistis at the bar, to order something excessively complicated and use that to critically examine the bartender. They left Selphie and Rinoa alone, both a little bothered at the way the conversation had gone. Rinoa, not wanting to look like the smug victor of the gossip circle, had to say something. 

“We’ve been trying.” 

“Trying what?” Selphie asked. 

“Trying to make kids.” 

Selphie hitched and her chest nearly floated to the ceiling. “No! No way! Your babies will be so incredibly-”

Trying, Selphie” she stressed, and Selphie’s eyes returned to their normal size. 

“Whaddya mean? Like, problems?” 

Rinoa sighed, “We don’t know. I talked to Kadowaki about it, but I think I have to find a specialist. We’re not in a rush, mind you, but it turned into this thing where… we’re a little worried.”

“Oh Rin… Rinny Rin, I… umm. Let me know if I can do anything! I mean, I was adopted, so there’s that and-” Selphie stopped her words, but feelings were bubbling over. As if Selphie was the one confessing to the news. 

Rinoa pat Selphie’s arm accordingly “Please don’t get upset, it’s a pretty common thing, really. But…” Selphie’s eyes were enormous and watery, and she stared at Rinoa, “It could be the nature of sorceresses, or just everything we went through.”

“The stress?” 

Rinoa noticed the other girls returning to the table and her voice softened, “Magic, Guardian Forces… Time Compression… could be anything” 

Selphie looked at Rinoa, feeling a pang of shared sadness. She looked over at Quistis who has just sat down, setting a collection of drinks on the table. Quistis looked startled at Selphie’s intensely forlorn gaze. It was a pure beam of sadness directed right at her. 

“Selphie, I’m fine with being single, I’m 23, there is plenty of time to-” 

Selphie put her head in her arms and cried. Quistis looked completely bewildered. Rinoa shrugged and just pat Selphie on the back. 

“I think three drinks is her limit, guys.”

 

-

 

Selphie withdrew her lips from Irvine’s as she hoisted her bag over her shoulder then made a mad dash for the train back to Balamb. She kept thinking about her conflicting desires as she climbed the steps to the car,  and it churned uncomfortable emotions in her stomach. Time compression, sheesh. We are all so messed up, she thought to herself. 

Irvine was doing pretty well, however, and maybe that’s why she needed to be with him. Not financially, but because he was a emotional rock. He was firm in his ideals, his passions. He had been a flirt and a huge goof when they first met; it was not love at first sight, as some would like to recall. Her fondness came after a fair deal of relying on each other for survival. But he also used to piss her off constantly. Was that it? The whole stable, nice guy thing wasn’t her type? Did she want to go back to the immature flames of jealousy? 

As for herself, in the five years since, she shut down the part of her brain that loved to tease boys and flirt with reckless abandon. Was it his fault? Or just the nature of getting older? She yawned and her eyelids drooped as she mulled over the state of things.

The state of Selphie Tilmitt.

The train was rolling along the tracks and she halfheartedly peered out the window. The train was a great place to be contemplative, for its rhythmic movements and the quiet solitude of the SeeD car. Actually, it wasn’t the SeeD car anymore, just a luxurious reminder of times past, but she reserved it as often as it had been available for the long over-night journey back home. Hopefully she could do more sleeping and less thinking. 

“Train sleeps are the best sleeps” she mumbled out loud to no one. “Trains are always waaay awesome.” She kicked off her shoes and laid her legs across the plush velvet bench seat, letting sleep take her off to somewhere else.

 

-

 

She dreamed she was floating in a mass of clear jelly. She was bouncing around, and giddy with the awareness that she could breathe the stuff. She hit the smooth, rubbery walls and giggled, “Hey, this is pretty fun! Woo-hoo!” She did a flip and walked a full 360 degrees, defying all sense of reality, when suddenly there was a deep sense of gravity and a strong tug. “Hey!” she cried out, when there was a light. She was getting sucked towards it, and she couldn’t decide if it were a good thing or a bad thing. Don’t go into the light, they say… It means you’re dead! But, what good was floating around this dark place? 

Her mind stopped obeying her commands and she whooshed through the light. As, as dreams are apt to do, her perspective blinked to a new point. She was overhead, watching Rinoa, donning a medical robe and held down in stirrups, sweat on her forehead, flailing and clearly in agony. She knew what it was. 

Her eyes blinked open and Selphie let out a long breath. She had been holding it in the duration of that dream, until the significance jolted her from slumber. It went weird fast. It was way too weird and uncomfortable. Like, the brain processing her fears and making it… ugh, just weird! 

Well, that’s dreams for ya. The car was dark and only the flickers of lights from the occasional settlement reflected off the window. Endless plains, a sea of grass. Surely, she still had hours to go. 

I used to have good dreams on trains, didn’t I?  She pouted to herself. She turned over, lying on her stomach and resting her cheek into her folded arms. 

Let’s try that again, shall we?  

Chapter Text

He was just so happy. He was so happy he could die; just that happy. His stomach felt warm, and the feeling slowly rose higher, his whole chest enveloped in this incredible sensation.

Oh man, just bliss. 

She smiled up at him. Totally here and real, and it’s all he wanted. He put his hands on her waist, sinking them smoothly along her curves and wrapping himself into her tight. He leaned his widening grin into her neck, taking in deep, shuddering breaths of her scent, feeling all those memories come back. Long strands of chestnut brown hair tickled against his forehead, competing with his own long, dark strands. She writhed at his touch, each of his exhalations contorting her body like he was just doing everything right.

For once.

So he relished it. But he didn’t want to wait. Oh no, he wanted her. She’d forgive him for this, he waited so long for this, after all. She knew he was driven and extremely impatient as he ran his hands over her torso, just grazing those tits… Ah, it was too much. Too good. 

He didn’t have to do much, as soon as his fingers lingered over her nipples she reacted so beautifully. Crying out, body begging him. His face was getting warm, his mind also getting dull. He kissed her jawline, and just moved the the point between her breasts, letting his lips linger as his hands wound their way over her buttocks, dipping into the creases of her legs. Between them. His finger tips dancing along the edge of her soft hair, wetness settling there and beckoning him further. 

He hoisted himself back up, over her once again, and this time looking her in the eye. Her face was absolutely gorgeous, lips slightly parted, tongue peeking out as she panted with need. Her eyes looked right at him, none of those furtive, irritated glances he usually got. God, he missed those eyes, blue and deadly serious all the time. 

There was no question what those eyes were telling him to do. Not ‘get away from me, you smell like you haven’t changed clothes in a week’ or ’get out of the kitchen before you break another glass’ or even her favorite ‘Stop encouraging her’. 

He gently pushed her legs apart and positioned himself, the tip of his cock awaiting entry at the folds of her sex. 

It was enough to let a tight breath escape through his teeth in a hiss. He had to ask. It was a momentous occasion. His hands were almost shaking.

“Raine, it’s okay right? You’re ready? I-I love… I mean… Can I?” Aww, that was so dumb. He pursed his lips together and his face became hot from more than just the scene before him.

“Why would you want to do that, Laguna?”

He started. Her face dropped all pretense of pleasure. Her naked form was suddenly clothed in her usual attire. Well-worn denim jeans that blocked him off, a tattered ivory sweater creating a barrier from his touch. “W-why…?”

An echo-like, terrifying voice, with no intonation came from her lips.

“Because I’m dead.”

 

-

 

Laguna Loire shot out of bed, gripping his knees and nearly hyperventilating, each gasp too strong for his chest to register as actual breathing. He blinked and shook his head furiously, looking around the darkness to regain his bearings. He was here, home, in bed. The sheets, same as ever, too smooth and too expensive, as was everything else in the room other than his own meager trinket collection.

Then he recognized his location and the time- My God, what time is it? Oh geez, three something in the morning. He ran his fingers into his hair and groaned. His stomach quivered through the jolt of feelings, stirring up arousal and disgust. The combination of feelings that left him with a guilt hangover for about a week.

And then he would go back to chuggin’ right along as usual.

Gotta get through this. Gotta just… sleep. Sleep it off, man.

But when he closed his eyes, he just saw the image of that pale and lifeless Raine, desiccated eyes that still managed to focus on him; accusing.  

 

-

 

Selphie hurried through the front gates of Balamb Garden, anxious for her own room and because the train was two hours later than she expected and that threw her off on a Monday morning. Squall would understand, but students weren’t so sympathetic. She clipped her ID badge back on her lapel of her standard issue SeeD uniform, and tried her best to exude the confidence such an outfit should endow; sharp padded shoulders, pointed tie, and a strict pencil skirt. Serious, knee-high black polished boots clicked along the floor through the studious silence of classes in session, broken only from the passing of the occasional staff who bothered to wave. She leaned into the control panel at the elevator this time, the sensor acknowledge her status as senior staff with a sure beep.

“Booyaka, Commander! I am so sorry, the train-” she blubbered, fumbling her way into the headmaster’s office. He looked up from the computer terminal at his desk, barely giving her dramatic performance any interest.

“It’s fine, I know. I checked.”

“Oh. Whew. Still... Sorry ‘bout it.”

“You just missed the staff meeting, but I had them save you a pastry.” 

She beamed at him. Her commander! 

“Squall, you can really perk up a girl, y’know that?” He responded with quick raise of his eyebrows.

“I assigned you to a short security detail this week, Selphie.” She looked at him, waiting for the rest. He was silent for a few beats longer than necessary. Not typical for him in giving-orders mode.

“Um. Yeah?”

“VIP. Just extra security on a standard visitation. You’ll join the Esth-”

She cut him off with a high-pitched squeal before he could finish and flung her duffel to the floor, bounding over to Squall’s desk and very unprofessionally squeezing him around the shoulders. He screwed his eyes shut and tried to interrupt her… a few times. It was hopeless. She was tightly gripping him and emitting a whine of terrifying pitch into his head. What was kind of like Siren, but worse? Oh yeah, a Banshee.

‘Banshee’ Selphie had to stop and take a deep breath so he used that opportunity to hold a hand up and made an effort to relax his face.

“He’s slated for arrival in Deling for a speech and some schmoozing on behalf of Esthar. You’ll accompany the President-” There was that alarm again, just a few decibels lower this time, so he continued, “from FH, and just watch him. Make sure he doesn’t climb out any windows or stick his fingers in any sockets” he finished dryly. Selphie was leaned over him with her hands firmly gripping his shoulders. If it were any other girl… it would have looked pretty compromising, but this was Selphie and she would probably collapse to the floor if she let go.

She asked the first rational question that popped into her mind, “Am I driving?”

“Ah, no. It’s by train. The new line was partially funded by Esthar, so. He has to at least use it before singing it’s praises. You’ll have a private car of course.”

She looked positively giddy. She took a deep breath to humor her dear friend. He looked beyond done with her. “Who else is on assignment?”

“Just you. As I mentioned, he has a retinue of soldiers lined up to accompany him… and…” she looked at him, eyes bulging as she hung on his every word, “he said that would be too boring.”

She grinned. The best! Dandy old guy indeed!

Squall sighed “But he’s paying well, and it’s a good direction to take Garden, showing pleasant, happy personnel.”

She huffed, so typical Squall. Find a way to make it all business. Not that she didn’t agree with what he said, but she kinda knew the real deal behind his intentions. Squall certainly didn’t hate his father, but he kept a fair distance, and happily dumped grossly expensive Esthar contracts on other Seeds. He appreciated the generous financial support, but he couldn’t ever really say it for what it was:

Garden couldn’t exist these days without a benefactor.

It was expensive and unpopular. Selphie did what she could to make morale the very best it could be; they no longer trained SeeDs, they trained at-risk youth. It was hard. They were all fighters, not councilors. Those SeeDs that were left could only do so much when a kid who lost his whole family to conflict tried to commit suicide. The one teenage girl raped by soldiers who ran away, seven months pregnant. Really little ones who idolized the violence because they saw it in all it’s gory power.

They desperately needed the disguised support that the president of Esthar provided, and it grated at Mister I-don’t-need-anyone Leonheart.

Squall just had to grin and bear it. 

 

 

Selphie hummed along through the workday, positively giddy. She hadn’t had a mission assignment in ages (and they were pretty much guaranteed more fun than desk warming) and it was…! It was…!!!

She couldn’t even think his name in a rational way.

Squall’s dad! Omigod! He is soooo cool!

The last time she saw him was, maybe a couple years ago? It was Squall ’n’ Rinoa’s wedding, and, well, he was a busy guy. Photos taken, making the rounds, being a proud papa bear and all that. Looking adorably shell-shocked that he had offspring and that said offspring was getting married. Also doing a lot of ugly crying that’s really awkward and un-cute on a man (at least according to Xu).

Selphie clicked through her terminal and looked for the digital photos to relive the memories. Ah, mostly her and Irvine, of course. Posing all over the place. Having too much fun, too much free champagne. Mmm!  

All those “You’re next!” comments directed at her… 

She sighed. 

Then she found a really good one, Irvine looking so slick in a suit, with that pretty little thing hanging on him. 

Ah, me fifteen pounds ago.

She yanked her boots off and folded her legs into the office chair. Time wasn’t unkind, per se. She was still a total babe. But, just not the babe she remembered being.

Another sigh.

She twirled her finger in her hair and idly flicked through countless self-pics as they became more blurry and even more terrible. They were in chronological order, and the diminishing quality was very obviously the effect of the champagne.

Then she caught an unintentional shot of Laguna. The camera focused on the background instead of Irvine. It featured Rinoa, looking up softly and smiling and him, and Laguna’s eyes squeezed into tiny slits because his smile had taken up half his face. A really sweet moment of affection for a new daughter-in-law.

She skipped the next few photos and found the one she got together with Sir Laguna. Irvine ran off with the boys and Selphie used that chance to say ‘hi’. Boys could really get jealous, y’know? 

She looked at the photo and wondered why she even kept it. She looked trashed. Seriously embarrassing. And Sir Laguna looked tired. Must’ve been right before bedtime. Poor guy. He looked nice though. His jacket was a size bigger than necessary and he didn’t wear a tie; the standard uniform for man who’s seen enough and is just proud that he bothered to wear socks.

So cute.

 

 

Here’s what really happened: 

Selphie was furious. Or something like that. Stupid Irvine saw a waitress carrying a tray of more champagne and told Selphie, “Wait right here, I’ll be right back, but yeah, like that’ll happen. She saw the waitress’ low cut top and rack bursting at the seams. More specifically, he saw that and wanted to see again, after she turned away and wove back into the crowd of revelers with her tray. 

So, Selphie had the camera and noticed Rinoa, “Well, can’t have too many pictures with the bride!” 

But then at that moment, of course, the bride steps back from her conversation and is distracted to another conversation and goes running off, revealing Sir Laguna in her wake. Sir Laguna! Photo time! Best! With the best man! No… dad. Of the bride. Groom! Yes! 

Stepping very carefully, she approached him, “Sir Lagunaaaah-” His eyes went wide and he grabbed her arm to help her regain her balance.

“Selphie! Are you doin’ okay? 

I am better than ooo-kaaay! Take a picture with me! He leaned in with her and looked at the camera she had at arm distance. She put an arm over his shoulder and squeezed them closer together. He flinched and the flash went off. 

Selphie looked at the review screen and moaned. “You blinked!” 

Sorry! 

He was wearing a pin on his lapel of the symbol of Esthar and she poked it like it was an elevator button. “You can do better than that! Better than some half-cocked loser cowboy chasing after waitresses! 

He made a tight smile in response, a bit uncomfortable to be privy her to drunk confession.

Well, let’s do it again.

Selphie deleted the erroneous photo and steadied it again, continuing her little rant. “Well, he can look at tits all he wants, cause tonight he’s jus’ doin’ it with me!”

There went the flash. Laguna scratched the back of his neck, “Selphie, how ‘bout a glass of water? I think tomorrow-

But she was off again, stomping back to Irvine who was having a mock-fight with Zell. She grabbed Irvine’s collar and tried to pull his face down to kiss him, but he was still determined to best Zell, blocking him with his forearm from behind her back. Irvine’s face was getting pulled around from the action and then she yelled at Zell to cut it out and Irvine got mad, and it just became a big stupid drunk mess thereafter.  

Shindig like this’s just for the kids… Laguna said to himself, smiling wistfully. “Let ‘em be happy.

Chapter Text

 

I’ll save this photo for Rinoa, but that is enough nostalgia; time flies! Gotta work! 

Selphie closed the computer folder displaying the wedding photos and started going through her work messages that built up over the weekend she spent in Deling City. She made a few replies, sent off a few more requests and added some new events to the intranet calendar. Then she saw the communication from Squall regarding her mission schedule. 

 

To: Instr TILMITT ID:98715464

Fr: Cmmdr LEONHART ID:98711056

RE: Written Brief Client: President of Esthar; Loire, Laguna// Case 00002687565432165 

0500 Depart RNR

0800 Arrive FH: detail, meet client

0830 Train ETD FH

1726 Train ETA DC

Attend client event and escort to arranged lodging [GALBADIA HOTEL, exec suite/attending room]

0900 Client to be picked up by personnel and return by private carriage.

1200 RNR ETA BG//END  

 

She looked it over and considered. Since it was an overnight on Saturday in Deling, maybe she could just stay with Irvine. Unless she was required to watch the president while he slept? 

She chuckled at the thought. SeeD isn’t exactly the one to call for that kind of service.

  

To: Cmmdr LEONHART ID:98711056

Fr: Instr TILMITT ID:98715464

RE: RE: Written Brief Client: President of Esthar; Loire, Laguna// Case 00002687565432165 

Squally-poo, can I just have a sleepover at Irvy’s place? Or do I HAVE to stay at the hotel for the overnight?

  

She hit send. She had some club meets to manage after regular classes so she opened the folder to create a simple minutes sheet. Then she stared at her email. 

She drummed her fingers on her desk. 

Xu cast a pointed look at her. Selphie smiled and did a little finger wave. 

‘Watching him sleep’ Hah hah.

 

-
 

In Esthar, “President” meant something entirely different to what he was taught growing up. Just a part of being thrust into the spotlight of another culture, he figured. But when he knew it was a bogus title, and world leaders shook hands with him and called him President with all sincerity (malicious or no) a little part of him wanted to laugh in their faces. 

Actually, the rest of him thought it was absolutely hilarious too, and he had to hold back a snort on many occasions since Esthar opened negotiations with the outside. It’s a good thing he got used to it over twenty years, because if he was thrust in this situation in his late twenties… 

Ah, well besides panicking over too much attention and how wound up he’d get over things, and the way blunders seemed to cascade like dominoes… 

Okay, well somethings never went out of style. 

His late twenties was a bad time. Capital B. A. D. To be a complete wreck, as he was, and then being coerced into a role meant to “unify and inspire” half the world’s weight? 

Fake it til you make it’ ain’t got nuthin’ on Laguna Loire. I am the champ. 

First, I saved their sorry asses from a crazy sorceress. Then I told them I’d only play along with their little political fun-house if I am the one to personally control all dealings with the frozen Azel and they so thoughtfully obliged. I kept in the game. Kept sharp. No more Ellone touchy-touchy. No more kiddie open-season. Then when the dust settled, I was ready to go back and shock the heck out of-  

Laguna was startled out of his reverie by a notification message sliding up to the desk interface. He sat at the head of a slick-designed console-desk hybrid. He could drum his fingers on the surface and it would convert the taps into a symphony. But this came through all the private channels direct from the commander’s office in Balamb Garden. 

Let’s take a look at the specs of this weekend’s entertainme- I mean, armed escort, he sighed. 

Never once did Squall ever bite on any of his more frivolous requests. He didn’t want to outright ask him, Hey man, let’s have some laughs at this black tie charity dinner they’ve suckered me into giving a speech for. Tons of babes. 

Ah no, he reconsidered, that’s for bonding with bros. And he’s got Rinoa. Squall is… a… my… Imagine asking him to play catch? Go fishing? What the Hell was that all about anyway?  

Laguna didn’t have a clue. Begging Squall to play nice and pretend to be happy when he came around would be hypocritical. 

Yeah, yeah, almost fifty and can’t get over my busted up childhood, whatever. I don’t even need a mom when I got Kiros. And Ward can beat up any kid on the playground.  

I hope Squall’s got those kinda friends.  

So he read the note. 

You will be accompanied by SeeD operative Tilmitt, S.  

She likes trains. 

“She… likes…?” He snorted, “Bahamut’s balls, I think he’s tryin’ to be funny! He never includes details that aren’t super important and boring!” He read through the rest of the communication, but nothing else caught his interest. Kiros popped his head in the door. 

“You alright man? I heard the sounds of an old man losing his mind and came to investigate.” 

“Ha. Ha. I’ll have you know that this crazy old man was ready for the loony bin as soon as he woke up this morning. Take me away!”

“Faaar away.” Kiros agreed.

 

-

 

Selphie was doing her best to make sense of the whirlwind that was the Garden Festival Committee room. The kids got so excited putting together this party; she remembered those times begging and slavering all over anyone to help. But now all that fell on their little shoulders. She just ran some numbers for budget, made sure they kept up on their promises, and basically sat back and watched. Or helped with clean-up. 

She held up a few of the handmade posters, one was very… floral. “Garden Festival in our Hearts” Hoo-boy. Another one with some kind of terrifying spider bear drawn meticulously in graphite emblazoned with “GARDDEN FESTIVAL OR DIE TRYING” Well, spelling aside, the kid had their heart in the right place. She set the ones with glue and other attachments along the wall and stacked up the rest. The kids’ll put ‘em up next meet, then after that they’ll come up with some fund raising ideas- 

An irritating vrrt interrupted her train of thought. She looked at the desk. The noise continued, and she spun around, surveying the small work room. She started patting down the papers and then found her phone tucked in a pencil cup. The cup rattled one last time before she dug it out and accepted the call.

“Babe.” 

“Irvy. How’s your day?” 

“Good. You busy?” 

“Nah, just cleaning up after Festival Committee. The kids do such great work.” 

“That’s nice. Hey, listen… Babe…” She got a twinge of concern from his stalling, but stayed silent. “Babe, I feel kinda bad for how we left last time… and…” 

“Well, I think it’s time we had a little sit down type talk.” 

Her face went pale and she slowly sat on the edge of the table and tightened her knees together anxiously. 

“I love you, Babe… But…” 

Aww, no. No no no. Today was so good. So good. 

“But.” she replied, her voice flat. Trying not to judge, trying not to read into one little word… 

“I’m tired of fighting for ya against Garden. I’m just a man. I ain’t perfect, I’ll give ya that.” 

“No Irvy, don’t say that, you’re my hero” she pleaded with him. She couldn’t bare to hear him say it. He couldn’t possibly put his value so low. And certainly not the value in her eyes. “What… do you want from me? I can do it. I can fix it! We can!” she was on the verge of a… maybe not a meltdown, but a whole mountain of blubbering.

“Babe, don’t say that, please?” 

“Why not? There’s gotta be something…” 

“Listen, we can talk about it next weekend, okay? I can shuffle the new schedule around and-” 

“I have a weekend mission.” 

“Aahh, what? Seriously, Selphie? See this kind of crap is what I mean by-” 

“Irvine Kinneas! It is not ‘crap,’ it’s just helping out people who… need helping out! It’s not all about you! It’s not even about me! It’ll even be in Deling City and I’ve already asked Squall if I could make time to see you before I go back.” 

He made a heavy sigh. She did this to him. He manned up, tried being honest, reasonable, and she just throws it back in his face to have her way. “Selphie. Answer me honestly.” 

“What.” She didn’t like his tone. It was blunt. Blunt and hurt. So she dished it right back.

“Is it even possible for you to just leave all that behind to be with me?” 

She was silent. Her mind churned desperately for an answer. 

He continued, “Ever? At all? Did you ever think about being Mrs. Kinneas?” 

Well, she used to. When her imagination ran wild and she daydreamed about wedding bells and king-sized beds meant for lovers. Like those commercials with a happy couple riding chocobos on a tropical beach, passing hearts drawn in the sand. Planning Rinoa's wedding was practically a dream come true. But then… how come she felt a couple weekends were enough? 

She just didn’t want to be alone. Selphie did not handle alone. Mediocre sex here and there was worth having a warm body to hold. And even better to wake up to. But as long as there was someone out there to love her, it was all fine! It’s been so long, she’s not gonna be able to… 

“Selphie, I love ya. I love ya and you are the most sacred memory I can scrape outta my mind. You are my dearest friend…” 

She covered her mouth with her free hand to muffle her hiccups as tears began pouring over. 

“Aww, Sephy… No… please don’t do that over me. I hate this. I want to hold you so bad.” 

Like a friend she thought bitterly. But she wanted to hold him too. “Look. Just, don’t do anything stupid. Have a sleep. Nothing changed, okay? Nothing changed until we sort this out face to face.” she gulped back another wave of sorrow, but ended up bellowing a distraught moan and her choked sobs filled the silence between them. She nodded at the phone, but he couldn’t see. 

She squeaked out something vaguely resembling “Okay.” 

He responded, “No matter what, I love you Ms. Tilmitt. Don’chu forget that.” But he still hung up.

 

-

 

It was a few days later and they had a more productive talk since, and now she was stuck in shotgun as Zell piloted the Ragnarok to FH. She wanted to drive the beast. It was a giant, sexy, red beast. It could be her new boyfriend!

It’s not like I have anyone better lined up, she fumed. 

“Little quiet over there” Zell quiped. 

She unlatched her forearms from the tightest cross known to man and sighed. She couldn’t help it. Nothing she could say to Zell anyway. She had promised Irvine not to tell any of their friends yet, they’d have one final fling in Deling then… 

Ugh, he wanted break-up sex, even. What a selfish… 

“Whatever.” she mumbled. 

Zell raised an eyebrow at her. “Look, Squall explicitly told me that I’m the pilot today cause I gotta earn the hours, I’ll make it up to you, I promise.” 

“Oh Zell, it’s not about you” He looked relieved. But I still want to grab that throttle and pretend it’s someone’s neck…. 

”Well, whatever it is, I certainly wasn’t expecting it right before you get to spend the day with Laguna. I thought you were pretty much obsessed with him.” 

“Thanks Zell, your confidence in me is heartwarming.” 

“Hey, I’m just stating facts over here, Miss Commander-Junior.” 

“Ha. Ha.” She tried to make it extra sarcastic, but the corners of her lips perked a little.

The landing pad was connected to the shiny, almost-brand-new train station. The station reeked of progress, promising a boost of everything to the sleepy, if not totally whacked-out, seaside backwater. Selphie checked her phone and reviewed Squall’s email again. She and Zell both had to wake up an an ungodly hour for this mission, it wasn’t fair to unleash her grumpiest attitude on the guy. Squall couldn’t confirm her mission specs regarding the sleeping arrangements, but he told her she can just ask the client. And it didn’t even matter now anyway, as sleeping with Irvine just filled her with dread. He did concede to a later return on the Ragnarok so she had more than a few hours to kill in Deling once Sir Laguna was safely packed away in a much safer and speedier Esthartec airship headed back home. 

“Alrighty Zell, there’s my date, I just need about a gallon of coffee and I’ll make it.”

“Whatever you do, don’t fall asleep.”

“What? Why?” she asked, concerned. 

“Laguna’s gonna be right there. It’d be weird and probably break space-time” he replied, referring to their first experience of Ellone’s dreams. 

“Oh, you are a funny guy, running on half-night’s rest. I would probably be hovering over Kiros anyway.” 

“Poor guy never saw it coming”

Selphie ignored Zell’s remark and just pulled the case strap to her shoulders. She had her weapon, clothes, her Seed uniform starched and extra pointy. 

“Wish me luck. I’ll treat you to a coffee when you pick me up.” 

He corrected, “Steak, rare. From that one place behind the hotel.” 

Selphie rolled her eyes and made her way out of the magnificent flying machine. The new dock had a platform that attended passengers from any sized flying craft. A spectacular upgrade from Esthar. She comfortably walked into the new station and checked her watch. Not yet eight. She yawned and had a feeling Sir Laguna would run late. She found a small vendor stall selling coffees and various packed meals and snacks. Actually, they all looked really tasty, if not a bit outside of her normal breakfast routine. 

Ah, you only live once, I suppose. She asked the attendant for the largest sized coffee they sold and took a small packed meal with a small grilled fish settled on a bed of rice. It looked nice too, with vegetables cut in flower shapes and a colorful sauce. Like a little framed picture. Fisherman’s Horizon, what a place. She looked around, but no one looked like the Esthar entourage, so she made her way outside to sit and eat. 

The smell of the sea here was strong, way different from Balamb… as if she expected something similar. She supposed this mission came at the nick of time, to just give her something to shake off the reality of her longest relationship ever just falling apart. She picked at a delicately carved tomato rose and got just a little bit misty eyed when a voice from behind her broke her somber mood. 

“You know there’s this cat staring at you like you’re going to tell it all the secrets of Hyne.” 

She turned to look up, the plastic pack balancing on her knee. “Oh, wow, you’re…” 

“Laguna? We’ve met?” 

“...on time.” she finished. 

He laughed. He didn’t carry anything, and just had his hands stuffed in his pockets. She saw the cat he was referring to, and she tossed the little grilled fish head its way and closed up the box. 

“The guys are ready and waiting, but wow, is that a coffee? It looks like a flower pot. Man, I had one already, but…” 

“Why don’t we share? I’d hate to make you late. And this is, like, the biggest coffee I’ve ever seen. I didn’t even know it was a thing here.” She took a sip and handed it to him with a smile. He accepted with some hesitation, looking at the spot where she had brought it to her mouth. 

It got a little warm suddenly, her manner wasn’t like the giddy teenager he remembered. It was really chummy. Chill.  Maybe something was wrong with him. He took a swig of her monster coffee and made a face. His eyebrows shot up to his hairline.

“Oh, yeah, I guess FH-style means it’s like half sugar or something. It’s… interesting,” she observed. 

He smiled and gulped the contents, emitting a cough. “That doesn’t explain how these people can be so calm and peace-y” 

She laughed at his remark and nodded as they made their way to the train platforms, “Right? I’d be bouncing off the walls.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Settling in to the train car, Selphie had the huge coffee back in her free hand and the retinue of Esthar soldiers flanked each corner of the private car.

Even better than the SeeD cabin, she thought to herself, lavishly enjoying the scenery. If we were in that one, I’d be sitting in someone’s lap- this is HUGE.

It looked super spiffy and modern, with windows that wrapped into the ceiling and made beautiful designs when the sunlight hit, reflecting sparkles on the floor. There was a functional work desk, a sitting area with love seats, a half-concealed sleeping area for longer journeys and an efficient digital screen that connected the car to the concierge; no doubt to cater to the passengers' every whim.

Laguna examined the monitor with his fist under his chin, deep in thought. Selphie looked at him, a little sadly, thinking about Irvine and all her self-indulgent wishes that he fall off the face of the earth. She had a pang of guilt. She hurt. She really really did. But he’s not dead. 

Poor ol’ Sir Laguna, she mused. She pressed her mouth into the cup opening, like there was some chance that coffee-flavoured sugar can stop tears from welling up in her eyes. It was too much. 

She wanted a fun train ride, dammit. 

“Whatcha looking at, Sir Laguna?”

“Ah, just…” he looked at her, then up to the ceiling, smiling a bit from some amusement happening in his own head. “Nuthin’.” 

She looked at him queerly. “Now ya gotta tell me.”

He bit his lip, but his mouth grew into a smile, Selphie really wasn’t sure what to think. It was quite charming, but she was well aware of his ability to make things too fun.

“I’ll tell ya later,” he lied with a dismissive wave of the hand.

The conductor personally visited the VIP car to make the announcement that they were ready to depart and to have a spectacular journey. Selphie was a little giddy with the whole luxury train thing. This was beyond her wildest expectations; it was the Ragnarok of trains. The president slathered on the charm and shook the conductor’s hand, thanking him like he wasn’t the one who had the whole line installed in the first place. 

“I’m just happy to be here to see it for myself!” he exclaimed before a few pictures were taken.

Relieved of his honorable duty, he strode over to where Selphie was sitting and took a seat on the love seat across from hers. He looked like he wanted to say something, but kept shutting his mouth before he could blurt out anything beyond a half-consonant. 

For a second, it was too much for Selphie to bear. Too direct for some reason. She shifted to face the window and stretched her back. He too, looked away, reclining an arm behind the back of the small sofa. 

The departure was smooth- so smooth in fact, Selphie was blinking and looking at all angles to make sure it was actually moving. 

“It’s awesome” she breathed. Less than an hour ago she was exhausted and ready to tear out Zell’s esophagus, but now she was totally awestruck. She has seen some sights in her life. Watching the Salt Flats melt away into Esthar City was probably the best, but being in this car, it was like gliding on air, but with the comfort level of being at home in pajamas watching movies all weekend with… 

Ah, damn. 

Just when it was getting good. She wished she could ask one of the soldiers to just give her a little zap every time Irvine crossed her mind. 

She drew in a long breath and pulled the collar of her dress uniform. The dark gray pencil skirt held her legs together tight, but also made her desperately want to take off her boots. She usually just kicked them off and hid them under her desk, but this was a glamour mission. Look pretty enough in the background when the VIP has his picture taken. SeeD was an unpopular distinction, but Squall would let it die kicking and screaming.

Okay, well, not screaming. Kicking and scowling.

She felt a bit odd and looked up and saw Sir Laguna look away. 

Oh. Ohhhhhh, this is weird. Too weird. Can he tell? I bet he can. He can probably tell me and Irvine broke up. 

Breaking the tension, Laguna spoke up first, “Well, this was a bit of an early adventure for me, so I think I’m gonna take a little n-” 

“We broke up,” Selphie blurted.

Laguna stared at her. 

She cringed inwardly, Aww, now it’s super awkward. 

Umm, I’m sorry to hear that… 

“Yesterday. No one else knows” She wrung her hands together in her lap, embarrassed at her confession, but also relieved to have someone neutral to get it out to. He leaned over his knees and cupped a hand to his chin.  

She sniffed. 

His eyed widened and he gripped his knees. He could barely handle his own emotional flim-flam, but he knew well enough there was a pretty girl across from him on the verge of tears. Was he supposed to comfort her? What could he say? 

Don’t worry, it’s not so bad being alone forever.

Enjoy richer friendships without the distractions of romance.  

A life well-lived is never empty? 

Oh these were simply terrible. He was sitting at the edge of the sofa now, mulling over his options. Bad anecdotes were out. Threatening to kill that sharp-shooter kid was out… he had some loyalty to the fellow Galbadian. He could touch her, soothe her pain with an embrace, and she’d dip her head and press her lips into hi- 

Aiiiiiiieeeeeee, no no no no no no, he mentally berated himself. It was that dream from a week ago, still ringing in his head. The wet dream from Hell. He was a healthy enough guy, sure, but it would take days before he could whack himself off without seeing a corpse. 

Selphie was the total opposite of that. So alive and… too young. Much too young. Squall’s little pal. 

”Do… you… want to… talk about it?” That’s it. Be nice, dammit. Uncle Laguna to the rescue! He gave a bit of a smile, trying not to mix his own subconscious insecurity with the poor young lady suffering before him. 

She wiped at her face with the back of her hands, sniffing. “Wow, thanks for being so nice. I’m sorry to be kind of a wreck today.” 

“Hey, I’m a wreck most days. I’m, like, a level 99 wreck.” 

She laughed a little, “You are not a wreck, you’re so coo-” the train jostled a bit and the light flickered for a moment.

“Weird… it’s not supposed to move like that.”

She looked at him “What do you mean?” 

He shrugged, “Maybe some error in the tracks. Why don’t we just sit at that couch so if it happens again, we hit the arm rest instead of the floor.” 

“M’kay” She got up, disappointed to be such a bummer in front of Sir Laguna of all people. He’s fun. I’m fun. This is supposed to be mega-fun.

“Listen,” he said as he lowered himself into the love seat next to her, “You’re strong. You’re practically invincible, the way I see it. Not a lot of folks know about all that sorceress stuff like we do. It was nearly the end of the world. So I know for a fact you’re a courageous young lady.” 

He gave her a smile and glanced at the ceiling, “Now, we can’t do much about matters of the heart, so give yourself what you need to get happy despite the rest.” 

She looked at him softly.

He blinked. 

A moment passed. 

Then she hugged him tight. 

He smiled, somewhat satisfied and didn’t let himself react. Good job, ol’ boy. His fingers were woven together, balled tightly between his knees, wondering at the appropriateness of hugging her back when she got to be so pretty

Her eyes pressed into his sleeve. She was so mad at Irvine. She wished he was here, putting his arm over her shoulders, pressing her with his sloppy kisses, begging for sex… 

She retracted from Laguna quickly. She had a bit of a brain lapse there. One ticket to rationality, woo-woo. For a second, she actually wanted… wanted to just get lost in the moment and pretend.

That is not very one-hundred and ten-percent behavior, Ms. Tilmitt!  

But then… she didn’t have to look up at his face to know Sir Laguna was… well, a handsome guy. Older guy. Something like that. But not too old! Definitely old enough to be Squall’s Dad…   

Yet, she was always fond of him. She was fond of him before she herself even existed in his reality, through Ellone’s strange time-traveling gift.

There was another jolt from the train and they slammed into each other, shoulder to shoulder. In the jostling, she clutched the front of his shirt and he grabbed at her legs before she could go tumbling over the seat. The light panels flickered out and the soldiers started yelling. The breaks started to smooth out and as the movement stabilized, Selphie put her feet back onto the floor and caught Laguna’s expression; bothered beyond just the shaking of the train car with his hair askew and falling over his face, mouth open. She released his shirt and just put a hand on his shoulder. The train stopped and Selphie stood up immediately. The Esthar men filed out, the last one gesturing at her to stay put and keep an eye on the president. 

She gave a firm nod, the rough toss of train knocking her out of her reverie over Irvine. 

She was standing over his knees, and he looked up at her, whispering, “You okay?” 

The door to the car clicked shut and left them back in the dim train car. She felt a surge of bravery take over her limbs. What would happen… if she just… 

She kneeled on the couch, one knee to his right, the other pressed up against his crotch, she looked down at his face. He was in some kind of shock. His mouth opening and closing, his eyes terrified, huge and green. Geez, it was a little insulting actually. 

“What are you doing?” She hissed, in a voice… that scared her a little actually. “Touch me already.” 

His hands were actually shaking now, like she was death itself. But he moved them forward and placed them on her hips. Time stood still and she forced her hand through his hair, softer than Irvine’s, and it caught in a tangled mass at the back of his neck where he kept it tied back. 

“Lower. Like you mean it,” she rumbled. His hands slipped down to the hem and he tucked just the tips of his fingers inside. She gasped, his first contact to her skin. But then she remembered her hand in his hair and yanked his head back, and he moaned. 

“I don’t think you meant it” It was like ice-cold Shiva took over her words, possessing her mouth; feeling strange and foreign. His hands snaked their way to the fronts of her thighs, moving up her skirt. He became some kind of puppet, taking her commands as if he… wasn’t… himself either. 

She leaned down, looking directly into his face, his eyes traveled to her lips. His thumbs reached the edge of her underwear and she saw his neck react as he gulped quite helplessly , “P-p-please…” 

With her free hand, she ran the back of her index finger along the length of his neck down to his open collar, meeting the chain of his necklace. She felt him harden against her knee, and she got a little teeny tiny thrill. This was so messed up, but it had gone too far already. She leaned into his graying temple and exhaled. 

“Don’t talk. Keep going.” No going back now.

One of his hands made its way between her thighs, sandwiched between her soft flesh. He wanted to look down and see it, to confirm if this was really happening to him, but his head was trapped against the seat by her fist in his hair. His heart was pounding and he felt her warm breath pushing the ghosts away from his mind. His fingers made it to the crotch of her panties, incredibly hot to his touch. He pulled his hand towards himself, letting the blade of his finger follow the groove of her covered sex and was rewarded by the most delicious gasp from Selphie. 

The whole time, he had been questioning if this was some kind of terrible prank. He had no business with women, what with the guilt, the nightmares, the history of piss poor luck, the kid he barely knew, the country he barely ran… and so on. Selphie couldn’t possibly hate him enough, but there were plenty who did, and what more could you do to a man than humiliate him at the basest level? That’s why he avoided this kind of mess as much as possible. 

But then… she didn’t wait for him to react. She told him what to do and he just followed. It was amazing. In this state, he would throw himself out the window if she said so. Her skirt was hiked up her waist and he felt the certain wetness of arousal. He wiggled his finger again to make sure he wasn’t just making it up in his head, but the way her breath would catch as he moved was making his head spin in ways it hadn’t in ages; except in dreams. 

Only the good parts, of course.

Selphie felt like her face must have been as red as a bomb. Her nose was rubbing into the hair behind his ears and she couldn’t even control her voice anymore. He was just feeling around, and while it was nice, she felt tense and anxious. 

Do something before I have to regret it, Sir Laguna, c’mon. He finally hooked a finger into the hem of her underwear and that was when the shadows of the soldiers came stomping across the car window.

She nearly jumped out of her skin between the realization of impending company and the feeling of her final barrier being broken by Laguna’s hand. She cussed and made a dash for her weapon, yanking her skirt back to it’s original position.

For a second, Laguna looked disoriented until he recognized the marching beat of his men. Damn, what the heck was that all about?

Selphie got into fighting stance as the soldiers arrived, putting on a good show as Laguna awkwardly adjusted his pants and pulled his hair tie out to re-affix it.

“Is everything alright in here, Miss?” the conductor followed in the Estharian soldiers.

“Ah, yes. No security breach.” She tried remembering what happened just a few minutes before, “What about the train? Any cause for the big shake?”

“Track damage” he replied, “Looks like some heavy-duty attempts at sabotage, but there are reports of monsters in the area; some of which have some wicked magic abilities.”

“Like what?” Selphie inquired.

“Maybe Meteor, something like that. But it’s mostly terrain damage, not so much to the track itself, that’s why we didn’t derail.” 

“Whew” Laguna interjected, “We’ll really have to investigate that. I thought these trains had better track monitoring to prevent this kind of thing.” He shifted in his seat again, but brought his fist to his chin to consider his project, “There’s a major warning system in place for track obstruction, but not the track itself. That’ll be something to work on, I guess.” 

The soldiers resumed their positions and the conductor announced a return to their journey. Selphie held her weapon lamely, not prepared for any conflict, but not really ready to release her grip on the protective feeling of Strange Vision. It was a beaut, the intricate design and colors that gave her a distraction from making eye contact with the President of Esthar as he discussed with the soldiers about the safety of his pet transportation project. In the corner of her vision, she saw him gesturing with the hand that she had felt just a moment ago. She was no good at holding in her feelings, but Sir Laguna certainly was, as he carried on and even laughed with his men about some joke at his expense. 

They began moving again and she made an attempt to come back to earth. They had hours to go, and even still, an appointment with Irvine who has almost all but disappeared from her mind during the train’s small delay. She repacked her nun-chaku into the SeeD issued bag and sat back in her original seat. By the time she worked up the nerve to look back at her client, he bounced up nervously. 

“So, guys, where’s the bathroom in this thing?” 

One soldier stepped to the wall and hit a panel that released a sliding door that was nearly invisible. Laguna looked a little impressed, but mostly baffled, thanking the soldier and exclaiming “there are gonna be some emergencies in this car if it’s this hard to figure out!” 

The door shut behind him and a white light slowly illuminated overhead. There were many buttons and screens available, but he just gripped the edges of the sink and leaned his head toward the mirror until it made contact and he took a deep, shuddering breath. 

Gotta get it together, man, he thought to himself. He pushed back and looked down at himself, still hard and bothered from Selphie and her sudden interest. Or whatever it was. She just broke up with her boyfriend and was making poor decisions, he figured to himself. It was at least pretty flattering to his ego. What else is a guy his age supposed to fantasize about? He certainly wouldn’t be a world leader alone in having something on the side half his age… He grimaced. She was too good a girl for that business. She was meant to be right there in front, arm in arm, waving at the people and smiling. So proud to be with him, not some secret- 

The tap ran ice-cold, cutting off his thoughts. They were getting too crazy anyway. He was getting attached in that way he used to. He was always better at thinking about being a romantic hero than actually being one. He washed away the evidence of the moment, then rubbed his wet hands over his face, willing himself some smarts to get through the rest of this trip.

Selphie was reading a magazine and smiled at him when he came back from the bathroom. He relaxed a bit and smiled back, easing into the opposite seat. Pretty soon he was slumped over, snoring away and she was trying to stop letting her eyes sneak over the top of the magazine.

The rest of the ride was punctuated by embarrassed apologies from the train concierge regarding the sudden stop earlier, an exquisite lunch for all the occupants, and Laguna making outrageous requests from the concierge to get the passengers in the remaining cars to join in a traditional folk dance from Centra, wear crazy hats made from train brochures, trade random contents in their bags, and just generally the kind of goofy stuff that Laguna could never have pulled off until he got powerful enough to implement and old enough to find entertaining. At the end of the final verse of a drinking song, he treated the entire train to the contents of the dining car at his expense and shook hands with all the passengers, giving special attention to the kids, reminding them that the world was their star and to reach for the oysters. 

One little girl was completely smitten and tugged at his hand. Selphie was behind him, since the guards terrified most of the passengers. He crouched down to the little girl’s level and she whispered something to him that made him laugh. He whispered back and she nodded, beaming. Selphie felt a weird pang of jealousy with how easily he could interact and become totally engaged with people. Irvine had a little bit of that charm himself, but pretty much saved it just for attractive women. She could do it too, or at least, she wasn’t afraid to try and engage with people, but sometimes it came out weird. She had to take it slow with the kids at Garden, since they were a mixed bunch of personalities and traumas. She was ordinarily an explosion of feelings, and this current mess was no exception. 

She would do her absolute best not to make anything of it. A tall order, but absolutely necessary. 

As he made his rounds, a woman in the crowd swung an arm over his shoulders and made to kiss his cheek, excitedly. Selphie made to remove her, a hot flash of possessiveness tightening her knuckles, but as it passed, the woman shrunk back into the crowd, looking gleeful, and leaving Laguna a bit flustered as he held on to his wry smile. Selphie nearly tripped herself, trying to hold back the less than flattering instinct, but had to concede that Sir Laguna was managing fine and was a popular figure. Step back and just watch for suspicious figures, if you bite the head off every woman in his radius, you’ll look like the suspicious one. 

Around 5 P.M., Laguna and Selphie made their way back to the private car and he began making preparations for his arrival speech. He looked over his notes and made a few additions, occasionally asking Selphie for a more interesting synonym, or a clearer way to say this or that. He hunched over his work and his bangs gently swayed with his thoughts. She had read his writings plenty of times, but had never seen him actually working on it. She sat straight, knees together and completely fascinated. His lips mouthed the words silently and he went back and erased, then mouthed it again, even smiling as if on cue. He straightened up again and tapped the little stack of papers against his knees and tucked his bangs behind his ear. 

The train announced the arrival at Deling City, and the soldiers lined up at the door. Selphie put on her bag and tapped Laguna’s elbow.

“Break a leg, Sir Laguna.”

He felt a strong urge to kiss her lightly, the way he did after Raine wished him a successful hunt. The way he did before he left Winhill for the last time. The thought made him shudder and Selphie gave him a concerned look.

“Nerves” he lied and shrugged.

The train arrived and there was a crowd of interested onlookers, eager to catch sight of the elusive Estharian leader. It was common knowledge that he enjoyed the position of leadership because of his bravery in the face of removing the all-powerful Adel, but upon actually seeing him, it became harder to believe the history books and easier to see him as some lucky schmuck with the right people skills.

He gave his speech and the crowd responded well enough, and the mayor of Deling City met him with a handshake and more photos. The entourage was whisked to a banquet dinner where Selphie hovered in the peripheral, listening to the political shop-talk between Laguna and the other representatives in the government and construction industry. He mentioned some of the track issues, but the others seemed less interested in the minutia and more interested in the percentage of the bill Esthar was willing to foot. There were a few toasts in his honor and a few more in gratitude of the hospitality, and after a few hours they said their farewells. Selphie escorted Laguna out of the banquet hall and met with the soldiers and they were driven in one of the mayor’s private vehicles to the hotel.

The ride was silent as they made their way through the city. Laguna seemed to sway with the vehicle after the exhaustion of the day and the whiskey from the banquet. Selphie felt her eyelids droop from the intensity of constantly searching crowds for safety risks and listening for anything considered threatening to the President. Especially that it took considerable effort to do that after the morning’s events. But she was a SeeD and could handle her actions with razor-sharp precision, if not her feelings. 

They checked in briefly and made their way to the presidential suite, the soldiers assessing the room and agreeing upon their shifts and positions in the outside hall. Selphie stood alone in the room with Laguna after a quick sweep for threats. The door was open and she heard the men chatting after a long, serious day for them.

“Okay, well, I have the attendant room down the hall, but you can contact me directly anytime with the intercom next to the lamp control.” 

Laguna was nodding to her instructions, but unable to hold eye contact. He was watching her mouth as she spoke and fiddled with his pants pockets anxiously. She turned to leave, but he couldn’t find the words he wanted. 

Hey, you can just stay here. Big bed, y’know. If you can scare away the ghosts, I’ll do anything you want. 

Out in the coolness of the hall, she pulled the door shut, and let out a breath. She motioned to the soldiers and gave them a nod of thanks that she wasn’t stuck with overnight watch duty and could enjoy a real sleep. She tossed her bag onto the table by the door in her significantly smaller chamber than the one the president was sleeping in. She sat on the bed thinking about the much bigger bed in the other room, and then remembered the bed she had originally meant to sleep in that night. Asking Laguna for the night off to see Irvine became a foregone conclusion for many reasons, but she still had unfinished business on that account.  

Getting back up, she walked to the table and fetched her phone. There was a message from Irvine, and she considered for a moment. It was late, but not unreasonable. The message was less than an hour old. 

“’Ello?”

“Hey Irvy. Irvine.” 

“Babe.” She cringed at his term of endearment. “You finished? Everything good?” 

“Pretty much. Just make sure Laguna makes it home tomorrow then I’ve got a few hours to kill.” 

“Oh, you on duty for your hero, eh?” 

Good thing it was just the phone call and he couldn’t see her expression. “Simple escort mission’s all.” 

“Ah hah, I see,” he replied.

“Irvine, what’re you doing now?”

“Just waitin’ til I can see you.”

“Wanna have a drink? The bar here’s really nice.” Always been.

“Aw, babe, it’s pretty late already…”

“You don’t have to. But I need it.”

“Well, in that case. Gimme thirty.”

“’Kay.” She paused. Why not finish this day more awkward that it started? “See you soon. Thanks.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Laguna laid on top of the bed mulling over the day. He felt exhausted, but productive, and on top of that, slightly buzzed and somewhat horny. He couldn’t help that, it was right in the middle of one of those nightmare weeks he occasionally got and Selphie just disrupted his train of mental anguish.

Now he had a new, strange kind of anguish, where he remembered she was practically best friends with Squall and had this guilty feeling that he couldn’t just find his own woman, but had to force himself on the social circle of his own son.

And what was that anyway? A son? That kid that saved time. 

And also inadvertently revived all the rage he had after losing Raine so many years ago. Elle’s revelation had answered some questions, but made more. He wanted to hold on to Squall as some tiny connection to Raine, but he also feared those demons coming to the surface to drag his happy-go-lucky ass to Hell like he deserved.

He sighed. This was awful. Why did it always have to go in this direction? Why didn’t he ask Selphie just to stay with him a little while? Just talk. Hold hands. Bury his face between her legs. Whatever!

He swung his legs over the side of the bed and managed to get himself in a standing position. Back in his salad days, never in his wildest dreams would he have imagined to be the occupant of the presidential suite of the Galbadia Hotel, and the nostalgia pained him. Oh, how he used to fritter away his money on over-priced juice just to see that piano player. Time to suck it up and go see it again. It was even more uncomfortable knowing his lovely daughter-in-law could have actually been his own daughter if things had been different. But he loved Rinoa like the perfect part of his little messed-up family; an affectionate match for his own boy. Maybe he secretly liked her more than Squall… which wasn’t hard.

Laguna grabbed one of his guards to escort him down to the hotel bar. Just one drink, then back to bed. I promiseNot even the hard stuff.

Together, they descended into the lobby. Laguna with his hands in his pockets as his eyes saw the hotel through the lens of nostalgia and age. Once upon a time, the most spectacular building he’d ever lain eye on, but now just looked gloomy and outdated compared to the designs of Esthar. He was about to step onto the staircase that led to the bar when he heard her voice; it was Selphie talking to someone. He narrowed his eyes and walked a bit closer to the wall, until he saw the back of her head and a black hat. Laguna slipped into a booth by the door, but out of Selphie’s sight. He motioned the waitress to bring him a glass of wine and the soldier slipped into the shadows of the wall.

Laguna leaned into the table and cupped his chin in his hand.

 

-

 

Irvine had a hand over Selphie’s, but made eye-contact with his drink. She already looked tired from a long day, but was made extra tired by the reminder that she couldn’t manage her heart as well as she had hoped. His fingers idly grazed over the ridges of her hand and he took another sip of whiskey. 

“There really isn’t another girl, Sefy,” Irvine interrupted the silence, “I just think it’s time. Do you really not trust me?”

“If it were another girl, then it’d be her fault and not mine.”

“It’s not your fault. Not entirely, at least. But I wanted to see you more than a couple’a times a month.” 

“You’re the one who moved away. You could’ve done all this stuff in Balamb. They even need stuff there like you can do.” 

“Babe,” he defended, “you’re the one who moved to Balamb. You coulda gone back to Trabia too, but chose to stick around B Garden.”     

“...Then you got the job that eats away at your weekends.” she snipped. 

Irvine sighed, here it was again, “I have a business and it’s what I have to support my home and my woman who everyone asks why ain’t she here? And you have seniority in Garden and have the luxury of being able to ask for time off, which you never take them up on-” 

“I want to save it for the big favors.” she pouted.

“Selphie, are you really callin’ me small potatoes?”  

She huffed, no way she could win this. She was halfway to mad, which although an improvement from all the crying done earlier in the week, wasn’t about to do anyone any good.

“Irvy, how long has it been?” She wanted to know, but it hurt so bad, “how long have you felt like there was something wrong?” Maybe she didn’t even see it. It wouldn't be the first time she'd be victim of her own rose-tinted worldview.  

“Now babe, I can’t give you an answer for that, it kinda crept up on me.”

“Like whenever we talk about Garden?”

“Naw, I love fightin’ with you over your life.” She rolled her eyes at him and he smirked, “it’s when we fuck and you don’t even try to kiss me once.”

He looked her dead on.

She winced. “I didn’t even think you wanted me to.”

“I always want your kisses, babe. I mean, not the same time you’re down there-” he gestures under the table.

“Ahhhh, don’t say it! You’re so bad!” Her arms flailed above her head and she quickly retracted them to her chest.

They were quiet for a moment thinking about those times. She caught a little shock in the pit of her stomach and he put his hand on her thigh.

“Hey, I know we’re supposed to meet up after you’re done and all, but…” 

She looked down at his hand on her leg sadly, and her eyes narrowed, “Yeah?”

“Let’s get some air, eh?” 

“Fine.”

Irvine waved over the waitress and paid the bill. They stood up and he put his arm around her waist as if she was still his. She thought she saw one of the Estharian soldiers out of the corner of her eye as she made her way out of the bar, but figured the guy needed a break too, at least.

They left the hotel and turned the corner down the alley flanking the next building, suddenly his tongue in her mouth and her hands pawing at his shirt like old times. Her hands made their way up and around his neck and he pressed into her mouth, possessing her from the inside. One of his hands traced her spine, the other reaching down to grab her butt.

Their mouths separated enough for each to catch their breath, and she leaned back into the ledge that was just enough for her to sit on while he-

Or…

She whirled him around and pushed him into the wall.

“Hey, ow, what’re you doing?”

“Just sit” she demanded.

“What? Why?”

“Do it, already.”

Irvine made a face and complied, “Okay, now wha-” Selphie climbed up over him, grinding a knee into his growing erection. Her face became stone cold and he cocked an eyebrow. She looked down at him.

“Touch me.”

“Yes, ma’am” He put his hands on top of her chest.

“Try again.”

“What?” 

“I said try again.” 

Irvine looked a bit irritated with this demanding attitude. She must be mad, taking it out on me here like this.

He slid his hands down her waist and she suddenly moved a hand to his neck, snaking her fingers through his hair, and jerking his head back.

“Ow! Selphie, what the Hell?! I know you’re fucking mad, but what has gotten into you?”

Her eyes widen and she lets go, stepping back from him. He stands up, balling his fists, and she flinches.

“Oh Selphie, what the Hell, I am not going to hit you. Just… ”

She covers her face in her hands. It’s not tears, just total humiliation. What was she thinking? Has she totally lost it?

Irvine watches her carefully. He notices from the corner of his eye a few people staring from the street as they walk past the alleyway. Great, now it’s becoming a show. He runs a hand over his hair then crosses his arms.

She makes some attempt to compose herself. She’s really done it this time. They were already over, and here she was, making sure to cast Firaga on that bridge. Already trying to test if it was really over when it was already long gone.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“Yeah, well, so am I. I’m sorry Garden fucked us both up.”

She wanted to argue, but she didn’t have it in her to correct him for the millionth time. She just didn’t want him and his simple minded, one-directional life anymore. She shuddered. He moved to take his coat off as he always had, but she held her hand out to stop him.

“Please go. Please. I can’t… I feel…”

He stopped and looked at her. “Y’sure?”

She crossed her arms and looked at the ground, “Yeah.”

“Alright, well… You gonna be okay? I mean, not going to do something stupid?”

Like work for Garden? “I’ll be fine.”

“Well, okay.” He faltered for a moment, then settled his jacket back down and ran his hands along the collar to smooth it out. She didn’t look up at him, but he tipped his hat out of habit and strode out of the alley. He looked back at her, but she kept looking down. He let out a sigh and moved on, diving into the Saturday night crowd of Deling City.

When he was out of her peripheral vision, Selphie let her hands drop to her sides. Why on earth did she do that? Better question, why did she do that twice in one day?

 

-

 

So much for a glass of warm milk, Laguna mused to himself. He was more glum and more drunk than he was when he made his way to the hotel bar. One glass of wine turned to three, then he gave up before he had to beg his bodyguard to carry him back to his bed. He had too many memories spinning in his head, and after seeing Selphie run off with her old boyfriend, figured he could use all the help he could get to just black-out unconscious. Maybe he ought to be happy for her, but he was alone in another outrageously enormous bed and could have a nice shameful pout.

He looked over at the button meant for alerting her in an emergency. He scoffed. Helllllp, I lost my dick and I need you to help me find it. He giggled drunkenly to himself and snorted, then rolled over onto his side.

“Oh, grow up, Laguna.”

“Pardon?”

“You heard me.”

All around was a field of tulips, an amazing rainbow of color, and the perfect place to knock Raine to the ground and pin her down to steal a kiss. He feigned innocence and gave her his best grin, all teeth and little lopsided. She responded with a smirk and playfully whacked him in the chest with a garden glove. He kissed her forehead and his hair fell around her, like a curtain.

“I’m serious, Loire, off.”

“I’m serious too, y’know.”

“Yeah, seriously annoying. I’ve got a lot to do.”

“Yuh-huh. I’ve heard that one before.” He leaned into her and she turned her face away. Didn’t matter, he connected his lips to her neck, purring his way up to her ear. She let out a little gasp and he tried not to look too smug.

“Why do you just love being such a bother?”

“Mmm, turns me on when I see you all grumpy-pants over me” he kissed behind her ear, gently licking the edge. She made a very nice little noise that he hoped was a signal of her weakening defenses. It wasn’t enough, however, and she was back to trying to shove him off of her.

“That is the worst turn-on ever. I must be totally desperate.” 

He had size working to his advantage, because on her back, she couldn’t do much to turn the tables on Laguna. But she was feisty, and boy, he loved to push her buttons.

“Desperate for what, Raine? Tell me.” He moved a hand up to her cheek and stroked it with the somewhat cleaner back of his fingers. She took advantage of the somewhat less-stable position he had with only one hand holding him up and hooked a leg around one of his, and using the weight to propel herself out from under him, leaving him face-first in the dust.

Laguna got up with a grunt and watched Raine walk away from him, carrying a large basket. Her back was grazed with the dirt and he watched her smooth movement echoed in it. He picked up the other basket and made to catch up with her. It was hot and he was sweating in the intense sun.

“Say Raine, what are you even doing out here? Are you taking in some cuttings?”

Raine looked over his shoulder back at him. “What? Laguna, don’t you know?”

He scratched the back of his neck. “Well, uh, nope.”

She beckoned him slowly, gesturing in her basket. “Take a look.”

Something felt weird all the sudden and he shook his head. “Y’know, maybe I’ll just head in and get a nice big glass of water-” she was suddenly at his side, like time skipped the parts where she needed to walk. The hair on the back of his neck prickled. This is wrong, really, really wrong.

He looked up and Raine’s face was just a gaping black hole and she gestured at the basket as if strings were moving her limbs.

Her voice came through like an echo bouncing off the walls, “Take a peek. It’s yours anyway”

Oh, he definitely did not want to know now. He screwed his eyes shut and shook his head the way Elle would do.

Then she did something and his eyes flew back open and he had the non-face of Raine right in front of his. He could nearly see stars in her nothingness. It was almost pretty. Maybe it wasn’t so bad, whatever this crazy non-Raine had in her basket.

He leaned over the edge and right away he cringed. Shoulda known better. It was stained in blood, and it was becoming apparent the basket was dripping in the stuff; fresh and vibrant red. And at the bottom was a tiny baby, squirming and making tiny fists. Squall…?

No, it was a girl.

“You know who she is, you bastard.”

 

-

 

He woke up in a coughing fit, balling the sheets in his fists.

“Dammit! What the Hell!?” he yelled in the dark. He leaned his forehead into his palms and groaned. That’s what he gets for all the drinks. That’s what he gets for being a coward. The dreams were far worse when they blurred with his actual memories of Raine. Those few cherished moments were becoming tainted with these horrible nightmare images.

How could he remember her anymore? Over twenty years ago, and his subconscious was staining the memory.

She would have wanted the best for him. She would have wanted him happy too, right?

Back then, it was benevolent fairies.

Now, just angry ghosts.

Chapter Text

 

 

Selphie looked at the noisy device at her side, alerting her to get started with her day. She sat up and shut off the alarm when the memories of the day before suddenly rushed into her head and causing her to lay back down slowly and cross her arms and pray for sweet death.

“Three. Two. One… Augh, Sir Laguna, what the Heck was I thinking?”

“And Irvine. Irvine. Double What-the-Heck.”

She brought her hand to her forehead and groaned. Time to face the music.

Her legs jutted over the edge and landed on the carpet with a soft thud. She looked at her clothes, hastily thrown on the floor with her mess of uncomfortable feelings after making her way back from the meeting with Irvine. Maybe it wasn’t too late to get the Ragnarok pickup back to its original schedule.

Ah, she already tried to make so many exceptions just for him, and it wasn’t even worth it at all. She shook out her pencil skirt and peeled off the underwear she slept in and headed for the shower. She would clean up and check on Sir Laguna, send off a quick email to the commander, and try to figure out the best way to kill an extra four hours in Deling City.

 

-

 

“Oh, Selphie… I almost… didn’t recognize… you there.” Laguna huffed through a series of push-ups while on a small monitor in front of him was a video feed of Kiros.

Selphie leaned against the open door frame and consciously pulled at the ends of her hair. It was still wet and sagging like it couldn’t handle the weight. Pretty soon it would bounce back up, announcing to everyone that it was the master of gravity. She hadn’t felt the need to change it; being a busy SeeD put a whole lot of aesthetics in the background. Chipper, she could manage, girly was better left to Rinoa. Or even the consummate professional, Quistis.  

She didn’t really care how she appeared in front of Sir Laguna anyway, she’d done enough damage. He didn’t seem to care much either, just barreling through a morning work-out routine in a pair of draw-string pants while trying to give Kiros as much information as possible on his trip.

He held a plank position and continued talking into the monitor, “You wouldn’t believe these blowhards, seriously, if it was you, they wouldn’t have been able to make it out of dinner with all their fingers”

Kiros laughed on the screen. “It’s habit for these guys to make demands and have their peons stumble over themselves to make it happen… Your job is just pictures and jokes”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. ” His torso quivered, but he held the plank.

“Laguna, you are the man most qualified to ingratiate yourself.”

“Well, it’s kinda fun when it’s normal folks, but anyone in a suit-” Laguna let his body fall to the ground and pushed up by his shoulders.

Kiros rolled his eyes “Clothes maketh the man, not that you care. By the way, is that Selphie there?”

She had been watching their interchange, arms crossed lightly. If Kiros was right, there’s no way Laguna was a good example. He was a powerful voice in global politics, who dressed like he was meant to run a bar in FH, and underneath was a scarred, sinewy figure who really, really didn’t look like he needed an extra security from SeeD. And he flashed her a grin like he had caught her making that observation.

He rolled up and handed the video device to her, “Say hi to Uncle Kiros. I’m gonna hop in the shower.”

“He’s insufferable, isn’t he?” Kiros smirked, his face always a bit too serious considering the company he kept.

“Oh, Mr. Kiros, he’s not that bad.” He gave a snort, but she continued her defense. “Really! Nicest man ever.”

“Oh, he’s nice alright. Ah, but I forgot you know us pretty well. It’s when Commander Leonhart assigns a green SeeD and Laguna talks their ear off. Freaks ‘em out having a high-profile client telling every bad joke he knows.”

“Ahh ha ha, really? I guess it’s been too busy for that. Maybe I’ve heard all his stories already.”

“Well, you might know them better than he does himself. He gave me a run-down of the train incident and speech, but what else kept you busy?” he pried.

Selphie blanched slightly. “Um, ah… I think he took a nap?”

Kiros was at a desk, and twirled a pen in his hand. “Ah, yeah, he’d hate me to say, but he has had a lot of sleep troubles lately. No wonder he didn’t mention it; it embarrasses him.”

She struggled with the idea of Laguna being embarrassed about something like that, at least in the light of other things worth being mortified over, “Sleep troubles?”

“Yeah. All of us got it. Trauma, guilt, magic, stress, proximity to sorceresses… The worst kind of nightmares, Selphie, I’m telling you.”

“You have nightmares now, Mr. Kiros?”

“My life may look cushy now, but those hard times stick around in the subconscious,” he tapped his temple, “those bad experiences have to come to the surface sometime. When we had monsters to slay, it was easier to work off those feelings. But that’s also dangerous.” Selphie just nodded and bit at the end of her nail. She was no stranger to what he was saying.

Kiros continued using his pen to gesture, “I keep telling him to work on it, but he’s way too stubborn to talk to anyone in Esthar about it and even really vague towards me. I even tried getting him to meditate with me a few times. Never again, Selphie. Never ever. I’d tell you what I think his problem is, but then he’d kill me.”

She bit her lip, considering. The bathroom door clicked and Laguna came out with a big sigh of relief. He was in a clean outfit, nothing special, and rubbing a towel through his hair.

“Well, here he is if you want to talk s’more.”

“Nah, Selphie. I’m good for now. Make sure he consumes something other than coffee. It was really good to see you. Actually, it gave me a lot of peace of mind.”

Hoo-boy. She was equal parts flattered and painfully guilty now, but she hoped it came across as modest. “Alright Mr. Kiros. I really owe you a big ol’ hug.”

“That’d be lovely. You should come to Esthar more often. Can’t remember if you met the kids.”

“Ahhh, I can’t believe how busy I’ve been. Okay, gonna try. Really really!”

“Alright Selphie, take care. The transport should be in Deling in two hours, then we’ll get him out of your hair.”

“Hey!” Laguna interjected, but the video link went blank and he looked back up at Selphie, “What did he tell you? He told you about the hole in the 14th story wall didn’t he? Well, I said I had nothing to do with-”

But she was already halfway out the door. Just as well. The affection she could share with Kiros, who was a terrifying bad-ass to pretty much everyone he met, felt too comfortable. He gave his hair another couple rubs and tossed his towel back into the bathroom. She still had that boyfriend and he still had his nightmares. His mind flickered to his dream that he had been trying to forget since he woke up, and frowned at what the implication had been.

I’m not…

It’s not like that.

“Sir Laguna, ” Selphie’s head popped into view of the doorway, “Breakfast?”

That comfortable feeling came back, but he prickled with all those other conflicts. 

“Ah, just have them send up something. I have a few messages to review before getting back on the road. Err, sky.” 

She looked a little bit disappointed, but put on her best can-do smile and did a little salute before turning and making her way to the elevator.

 

-

 

Selphie had made the request for breakfast to be sent up for Laguna and the other soldiers before getting herself settled in the corner of the hotel cafe with a coffee. She wasted as much time as possible, finding an abandoned news paper and trying to find anything adequately distracting. There was a nice shot of Laguna’s speech from yesterday, and she caught herself in the background retinue. 

“Hey, I managed pretty well, considering,” she mumbled to herself before taking a sip from the hotel mug. “That is the face of the friendly SeeD” and not the one of having a major life crisisSquall would be proud.

Oh, yeah, and completely disgusted!

She let her head hit the table, dramatically. A few other guests looked over at the noise and she smiled apologetically. The article covered mostly facts about the rail line and the innovations from Esthar that were considered way beyond futuristic in Deling City. They took some quotes from the president’s speech, but mostly kept the boring parts and omitted the parts the crowd liked best, probably to keep the Galbadian leaders from getting jealous.

“Ugh, Galbadians”

But Laguna was one of them too, sort of. No mention of his past in the military; did they even know? In his speech, he talked about his affection for the city, without explicitly saying hometown. He’d been moving all around the world for as much as she knew about him. Maybe he really didn’t harbor that much nostalgia for the place? Maybe the powers that be were afraid to reveal that the president of Esthar was just some nobody and it upset the status quo? It was no secret Galbadia was a structured place where the elites mingled with the elites and that was that. Rinoa chaffed under that, even though she clearly was in a position anyone would have traded their right hand for.

 

Trabia, on the other hand, was a glorified small town. People were considered next door neighbors if separated by the length of the entire Deling City Main Avenue. That’s why she was so eager to join Garden. Make friends, have adventures. Her family was incredibly protective of her, but she had the boundless enthusiasm not quite meant for rural life. She’d get hurt if she didn’t learn to take care of herself. Trabians had the luxury of being whoever they wanted to be, and fiercely independent. Balamb was a little like that, so it’s no wonder Zell was the only other one that had an adoptive family who really cared, but could handle the kind of damage they carried from being torn from their birth family. 

Selphie sighed and started back to the beginning of the newspaper. She already had her bag ready for check-out and was considering going back up to check on Sir Laguna when she saw his men flanking the lobby as he appeared from the elevator. She folded the paper and tucked it in a pocket on the side of her bag, then hopped down from the stool and made her way toward them.

Sir Laguna made a little wave and Selphie called out, “They got a nice shot of you in the Times.”

“Oh?”

“Less… flailing. More president-y”

“Remind me to send them a thank-you card.” One of the soldiers opened the door, two going out first, two hanging in back.

“Well, I like the flailing. Better than being stiff,” she admitted as she touched his elbow, leading the way out the threshold of the hotel while the staff bid them farewell in the most formal manner possible; straight backs and firm salutes.

A private rented car awaited them and whisked them off to the airship port. At the docking bay, a silvery monster of an airship waited for them, the smooth lines familiar to the Ragnarok, but this one was almost modeled after those annoying little fastitcalons that littered the beaches all around Balamb. It was noisy and humming with readiness to depart. The door slid open as they arrived and an attendant decked in Estharian robes acknowledged the group.

The president waved at the attendant and the soldiers filed in a line behind him.

“Well, ah,” Laguna started, “it was… it was… kinda… fun, I guess?”

Selphie leaned in and gave him an awkward hug, not really sure where to put her hands when touching him put other things in her mind. He accepted it, and gave her back a few equally awkward pats.

“Want me to say anything to Squall?”

Laguna looked at her, running over yesterday and thinking how much he did not want Squall to know. She picked up on his train of thought.

“I mean, like ‘Hi’ or ‘I hope Garden is doing well’…” she prompted. He chuckled a bit.

“Yeah, send him and Rinoa my love.”

“Okay, definitely. I’ll do that.” She smiled at him until he turned away to board the craft. She stepped backwards until she hit the red safety line and waved at the airship as it became louder and started to hover in place before shooting through the sky.

Her arm dropped her to side and she let out a long breath she had been holding.

 

-

 

It was another unbearably hot and boring day in Deling City before she was to meet Zell back at the port again with the actual Ragnarok. She did her best to keep herself entertained in the city, eating an ice cream by the Arch Gate, looking in a few shops, getting a few serious looks from citizens since she was clearly in SeeD uniform. She definitely got looks when she browsed a store with military paraphernalia. She bought a few things meant for wilderness survival to give to some of her more adventurous young wards, and hopefully keep them out of too much trouble. The cashier cast her a look that she ignored as politely as possible. She hadn’t really considered a spare outfit for a mission, but habit that she usually wore the uniform at Garden led her to forget their place in the rest of the world. Maybe Irvine really had something to his grudge.

She snuck a few peeks at the newspaper she had smuggled out of the hotel dining room. It took capturing Sir Laguna at his absolute most serious before he even made a flicker of resemblance to Squall. She would point it out to Rinoa later and they would giggle about that, and pretend that was all to it.

She had a few bags in her hand as she boarded the Ragnarok, Zell giving his usual grin, but it broadened as he saw what she was carrying. 

“Seriously, I forgot what you wanted. Meat? Something bloody?” She dropped one sack in his lap and made her way to the passenger seat, tucking her weapon pack in a holding compartment and looking in her own take-away sack from the restaurant.

He reached in and took out a paper container, giving it a little squeeze to peek in the side.

“Looks awesome, Selph, thanks!”

“Yeah no problem, if you want to eat and let me handle the controls-”

He put the container back in the bag quickly and clicked his tongue at her “Hours, remember? But nice try.” Selphie huffed but he ignored it as usual, “Hope you had a good time. How’s Laguna these days?”

She looked up and exhaled, “Same old, same old, I guess.”

Chapter Text

 

Selphie jumped back into her usual routine with gusto. Or at least, what felt like gusto to her.

At one point, she overheard Xu say to Quistis, “You remember what she was like after the Trabia incident? Yeah, like that.”

Selphie pretended she didn’t hear it, as that was generally the best way to react to Xu and her sharp demeanor. The newspaper from Deling sat face down on her dresser, and each morning she got ready for work, she would tell herself to do something with it; frame it or throw it away. But it sat there and she would resume her schedule.

Two weeks passed, and it was about the time she would have gone off for another visit to DC, except… that wasn’t happening. She hadn’t mentioned her break up to anyone, and it got weird and embarrassing, even when she went over it in her own head. It wasn’t even that she cheated on him, per se, since they had already agreed to take a break before her mission, but she wouldn’t have liked if Irvine turned around and did the same thing to some other girl.

She figured it was time to at least see what the others were up to. She sent a message to the usual girls for another happy hour in Balamb that Wednesday. She barely crossed paths with Quistis lately, and she even missed her serious, albeit friendly, demeanor.  

Squall didn’t really ask about the mission, and didn’t ask for clarification on anything she wrote up in her brief. The money came in from Esthar, and he received the standard form message of gratitude from the office of the president. She hadn’t even mentioned what Laguna said to her before he departed on his airship, but she saved it for Rinoa, who would feel appropriately happy to hear it.

When working hours came to an end (or at least what they pretended was something resembling an end, since it never really did) Selphie, Quistis, Xu, and the other two office ladies piled into a SeeD vehicle to drove into town. They chattered about the day and various superficial happenings at Garden without the curious ears of the commander or students.

Selphie bounded out of the car first, eager to see Rinoa, who met them at their usual place.  

They sat together, and a waiter took their orders, all shouting at once, excited and giddy with themselves. When he finally ran off to get their drinks, Selphie pulled the newspaper out and smoothed it on the table before the drinks would appear and wet rings would ruin it.

The girls leaned in, and when they noticed the SeeD uniform in the background, made the appropriate fussing and flattery she should expect from her friends.

“Look at you!”

“Tough and cute, only you could pull that off”

“I think we should put this on the Garden Accomplishment Board, even if Squall doesn’t want to put SeeD stuff there.”

“You must’ve had a ball with Laguna, you guys are both on the same wavelength.”

Selphie gave Rinoa a weird look from her comment. It was sort of something she wanted to hear, but not. “Yeah, he’s really cool. He wanted me to say ‘hi’ to you and Squall.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah, I know it’s been a bit since then, but I wanted to tell you personally.”

“What’d Squall say?” Rinoa asked.

“Oh, I hadn’t thought to tell him… You know how he gets. He’d be better off hearing second hand from you, since if I told him first, you’d probably never hear it.”

“Hmph, I don’t like it, but you’re probably right.”

“He sends his love. His actual words.” Selphie put her hands over her cheeks. The other girls gushed and awwed. Rinoa touched a hand to her heart.

“He’s so lovely, right?” Rinoa smiled around the table, “I’m glad he’s my dad. Well, dad-in-law. I wish we could all be closer, but… Well, you understand. It’s like Selphie and Irvine. How’s he doing by the way?”

Selphie readied herself for this question, practicing in the mirror almost daily, “Ah, busy, same old same old.”

But unlike Zell, none of them bought her act.

“Busy with what?”

“What about that whole thing about trying to make you quit Garden?”

“Isn’t he gonna ask you to marry him already?”

But drinks came in the nick of time and created a distraction, and Selphie made a small smile of relief. Rinoa eyed her though, knowingly suspicious. Selphie might totally spill her guts if she was alone with her. Not sure if she was ready for that tonight.

Or ever.

Thankfully, no one asked for details about her time with Laguna. It wasn’t really a secret that Selphie was crazy about his stories in the old Timber Maniacs. They probably expected she would just delve into a mess of incoherent gushing that wouldn’t end until she was back home in bed. The others weren’t really interested in Timber Maniacs: Behind-the-Scenes, so they let it go.

Actually, summer was coming to a close, and it was getting closer to a new actual-school year, which Garden sought to emulate as much as possible, to create a safe environment not totally isolated from the outside world. Garden used to be a military school, padded with orphans that aged out of normal adoption, but now war orphans made up the majority of their student body. The goal was to support or rehabilitate kids so they didn’t have to feel like animals cornered by the world. Completely eliminating battles made it worse, but Selphie and her friends wanted these kids to grow up to at least be able to talk about their childhood like it had something normal going for it. Like a new school year.

The ladies talked about the usual prep, class schedules, teacher breaks, new uniforms for the students. Selphie did get to gush about her Festival Committee; the kids this year were great, all very cute and eager to serve. It was a silly thing to the others, but Selphie knew her committee work was where they could pull the students who had real leadership potential. She introduced one student as a kind of mentor for a new kid once, and as the months passed, she felt like the new kid made a complete 360 change in attitude, from sullen and withdrawn, and usually defiant toward authority, into a responsible, charming kid. She could never had gotten that kind of result on her own accord.

They talked about creating a formal mentor program, and Selphie nodded enthusiastically, but she felt it was dependent on the matching being organic and not forced or obligatory. She spent a lot of time just hanging out with the kids. It was hard otherwise for her to describe what made it work when it did.

“You should see Sir Laguna with this people stuff, I wish he was at Garden.” Oops. Well, okay, that could have been worse.

Rinoa agreed, “Well, he has twenty years of leadership experience! He’s a pro… if not a little weird sometimes”

“Haha,” one lady piped in, “Like Selphie.”

Selphie felt her face getting hot and tried to channel herself prior to two weeks ago. “Ha, yeah, that’s what I love about him. Totally weird. Heh heh.”

“So what did you guys talk about? You had him all to yourself for 24 hours after all”

Shit shit shit.

“Well, it was really fun watching him surprise all the passengers-”

“I bet she tried to hold his hand.”

“Xu!”

“What? I don’t care if you have a boyfriend, you meet your idol, you never know what could happen…” Xu said.

They all looked at Selphie who was already getting red in the face.

Rinoa interjected, “You guys are appalling. That’s my father-in-law you are talking about. He even still wears his wedding band. Selphie, you’re not like that anyway” She mock-glared over at Xu.

“Nothing wrong with it as long as everyone can act like grown-ups,” Xu shrugged.

“Can all parties be considered ‘grown-ups’ if the age difference were that extreme?” Quistis wondered aloud, “I may never have met my father, but I know for sure Laguna would be old enough.”

“The perfect sugar daddy” one of the office ladies added.

“My father-in-law!” Rinoa huffed.

Selphie covered her face with her arms and groaned.

 

-

 

Toward the end of September, the weather was starting to cool and Selphie was really beginning to miss her excuses to leave Garden and see Irvine. Even if she requested time off just to hang around her room, she would be wrangled into helping someone or get caught up in student drama. Irvine didn’t really keep in touch with the others, so she never had to explicitly announce their separation, but they stopped asking her about him just the same.

She had cut out her little newspaper photo finally and tucked it in a drawer containing various other bits of nostalgia. Most of it was for Irvine, so she figured if she had sort of used Laguna to take out her feelings for Irvine, maybe his photo would be like a talisman for all the other stuff she had that reminded her of her ex-boyfriend.

It was Sunday morning and things were actually quiet in Garden, so she was glad to get up early for once. She was wearing a baggy yellow sweater, tight blue jeans, and her favorite old boots that had been repaired countless times. She knew her Seed uniform issue black boots looked good, but she preferred the unassuming silence of her own boots to the harsh clicks of her work attire.

She used to like that she could sneak around better. But since she was now an authority figure, she was supposed to give kids a fair warning before they actually got in trouble, as if she was unaware of all the shenanigans she herself had gotten into back in the day.

She was the Sneak Queen of Trabia.

She closed her memorabilia drawer gently, and hitched her sweater back on her shoulder when she heard a knock at her door. She stepped through the small bedroom and peeked through the peep-hole.

“Squall?” she said as she opened the door, “it’s early, what’s up?”

He was leaning against the doorway entrance, arms crossed. He could have seemedmad at her, but Selphie knew him quite well. This was a different kind of gesture.

“Interested in a trip to Dollet?” 

She gauged him, maybe he knew she was getting a little stir crazy, but he didn’t make any indication regarding her relationship status.

“Well, sure, for fun? Or is this a mission?”

He shrugged. “I can’t honestly tell.”

Selphie screwed up her face trying to figure out what he meant by that until it dawned on her, “Oh, is it your dad?” Her stomach did a little flip.

Squall sighed and looked away, “It’s a conference on natural resources and he can’t have Esthar soldiers at his side for a few of the events. It’s three days…” He looked back at Selphie who was just boring through him with an intense look. Honestly, he was bracing for Hurricane Selphie, but this was disconcerting.

“If you don’t want to-” he started.

“No, no. It’s cool. Just send me the specs.”

Squall blinked. “Um, sure.”

“But, tell me Squally-poo, really, Sunday morning? Why are you even here?” Selphie grabbed a small purse and exited her dorm, standing next to Squall as she pulled the door shut. He pushed off from the wall, standing next to her, arms still in their protective fold.

“I got the request late on Friday, and I happened to mention it to Rinoa this morning.”

“So she made you come ask me personally?”

He shrugged. She motioned him to follow and made a gesture with her hand that looked like a coffee.

He took a communication device out of his pocket and flicked through a few messages. He handed it to Selphie as they walked to the cafeteria.

The message was a typical formal request as they all were, but at the bottom, explicitly named was preference for SeeD Tilmitt, with her permission.

“Gosh, It’s this week! Why did they wait so last minute for such a big event?”

Squall ignored her question as she found a paper cup to serve herself at the canteen. Blistering hot Garden coffee made its way into her cup and she felt her heart beating a little fast. It could be the caffeine.

This time it was Squall looking at her and she couldn’t return the look. She busied herself with cream and sugar and finding the right lid…

He handed a proper fitting lid to her. She took it and pressed it into her cup. 

“Look,” he started as she took a sip, “you know we don’t usually take requests for particular personnel. And we, you know, us, have a more complicated history with President Loire…”

“Understatement of the forever” she managed to murmur between sips.

“I accept his requests, not as a commander, but as… as… ” he looked at the floor, brows furrowed, “a benficiary. He’s good to Garden.”

“He’s trying to be good to you, Squall. What are you getting at here?”

“I’m afraid that he’s trying to use you to get information.” 

Selphie snorted, “About you?” 

“It’s a possibility.” She had to roll her eyes at him, but he continued, “But also I worry about you.”

She choked a little, “Whadd’ya mean?" 

“If he tries anything unprofessional…”

Oh, Squall…. Oh, Squally-Squall-Squall…

“Ordinarily, I assign the appropriate gender to these types of requests. Last time was a bit of a fluke because of available SeeDs. It’s no secret the president doesn’t have a lot of need for us; he has an incredible army at his disposal. So if he’s asking for you, it makes me suspicious.”

Her heart sank a little at his words, but she wasn’t entirely sure why.

“I don’t want your reputation as a SeeD to be damaged.”

Or the reputation of Garden.

“You’re not the president’s escort, and I don’t want to start seeing those types of requests. Ever. The kinds of kids we have here… I’m just saying, people might misinterpret you and… us.” 

She understood. She could imagine what he was describing. She also could refuse this mission, the request said as much. 

She really wanted it, though. Really bad. But not how Squall wanted it, and that give her a bad feeling. 

“Can I let you know tomorrow?” she stalled.

He let out a sigh, it wasn’t the most comfortable subject, nor was it exactly kind to tell Selphie she might come across as a call-girl in the wrong circles. She was like a sister to him, and it mostly fueled his irritation with Laguna, that his father hadn’t even have considered appearances of his staff.

He was also planning on rejecting his special request flat-out until he mentioned it to Rinoa.

 

-

 

She was in bed that night, the coolness of the night meant she could really bundle up in her bed, a pleasure wrought from her Trabian upbringing. But she also had that sinking, lonely feeling. Like, she was only doing okay because she could just pretend Irvine was back in Deling City, only waiting for her next visit. Later he’d come home and sneak in with her, and his body heat would be enough for anything the Balamb winter could throw at them. 

Even though, y’know, he wasn’t.

But then this morning’s mission request was a bit unexpected. It wasn’t like she didn’t welcome it, but her feelings about Laguna were strange, too. Complicated? 

She closed her eyes and tried to imagine herself on her best behavior. Being the exemplary SeeD guardian. Standing back while he mingles in a crowd, blending into the wall as some debutante tries to get him to dance, handing his calling card to some bimbo-

What the heeeck!?

That wasn’t even her job and he wouldn’t make her do any of that stuff, would he? Not likely.

Okay, how about doing all the things on the naughty list. She could wear a pretty dress instead of the SeeD uniform and they could drink all the champagne and dance in the middle of the floor like in some movie. Then go back to the stupidly enormous suite at the top floor and she could see if he could kiss better than Irvine and take off his clothes…  

She bit into her fist and rolled in her bed until she was a cigar of bed sheets.

He would most definitely not call her “Babe.”

She could watch him while he slept.

Dammit.

 

-

 

“Look Squall, I gotta do it.”

He looked up from the terminal. Selphie had just stepped into the office and Squall just gave her a quick nod.

“It’s okay?”

“I trust you Selphie. I’ll send them a confirmation message in a minute, then we’ll have our meeting.”

She gave a firm nod in response. It was a few days away.

Chapter Text

 

The next days were a blur for Selphie, and it only hit her as she boarded the ferry bound for Dollet what she was getting herself into. She gripped her bag; only negligibly bigger than her overnight bag. Her nun-chaku strapped to the side, clearly demonstrating a confidence that she did not really possess at this time.

It was a public ferry, unlike the serious-business ship that Garden had used all those years ago on her SeeD exam. She sighed, save for a few cars and the Ragnarok, Garden had shrunk to minuscule proportions since its heyday. But it’s purpose was completed and it was Squall’s labor of love now, his purpose. What else did he have? He said as much.

She found her seat and a man came and checked her ticket, giving her a smile and nod. She shrugged a shoulder and winked back. Totally a Balamb guy. The Dollet folks gave her tons of attitude when she was in dress uniform.

Glancing at her schedule from Squall, she would have to really hustle to get from the ferry to the airport to meet Laguna on time. She wondered if he would be with the same soldiers as before. Were they a regular group or did they get cycled through? Maybe she should get to know them better; their masks were not just intimidating, but would allow almost anyone unobstructed access of the president.

Tonight would be the opening ceremony, a posh soiree, and the Dollet commission would not allow threatening military guards to ruin the ambiance. She planned to switch her formal boots out for patent black pumps and wear lipstick for that. The SeeD uniform would be enough to earn her at least a few unsavory sneers, but she got used to it. She got even better at giving her Garden is for the good of the victims of war spiel in the loudest voice considered appropriate for indoors.

The boat chugged along, no where near as fast as the military hydro-ferries that whipped over the water carrying soldiers and SeeD. This one hunkered along, her eyes squinting through the high-morning sun that reflected off the water. It could be pretty, I suppose. If boats were your thing.

Selphie was just glad she didn’t get seasick. She closed her eyes and slouched in her seat, willing herself to get some rest while it was still possible.

 

-

 

Laguna held his hand over his eyes and scanned the arrivals for Selphie. He knew Squall had accepted his request, but he was still nervous. The ship he had this time was a much smaller craft, and would be kept in a hangar at the Dollet Airfield for the duration of his stay. That way, in the case of an emergency, he could evacuate at short notice. Or whatever Kiros said about it.

It took ages before he could work up the nerve to even make the request to Garden, and he agonized over how to see if she’d accompany him again. It was blatant favoritism, Kiros warned him, but if it’s what he wanted, he better just spit it out and quit stalling.

“What’s the deal, anyway, man?” Kiros had asked him at the time.

“With what?”

“You know. With Selphie”

He couldn’t possibly get away with lying to Kiros after so many years and  he mumbled, “She’s nice.”

Kiros’ eyes narrowed and he accused, “You are sweet on her.”

He scratched the back of his neck, and looked away, “Maybe. But maybe she has a boyfriend and I just like her company. So what?”

So what, indeed. Kiros wasn’t dumb. Publicly, Laguna cut an impressive figure, but socially, personally, things were a bit more difficult. It felt like they always were. Kiros was elated that perhaps his best pal had something stirring in his love life, but also apprehensive. Maybe he was just enjoying the flattery that Selphie dished out on him en masse. If that was all it was, so be it. He deserves someone who is thrilled with him, and not just all about status and wealth. He just hoped that it wasn’t due to crash and burn, because there was that whole mess after Raine…

So he sent the request to Garden and made a little prayer to anyone listening.

And so, less than a week later, Selphie was running across the terminal, waving frantically at the Estharians as her bag bounced off her hip.

“I… am… so… sorry!” She breathed and leaned over, hands on her knees, elongating her torso to suck in as much air as possible. She straightened out and saluted.

“Selphie Tilmitt, SeeD First Class!” She made her formal introduction. She looked at the soldiers.

“It’s the same guys as last time” Laguna tilted his head towards the four men. “They’re cool.”

“Hmph. Can’t tell with those bug eyes they wear… Y’know, if they took ‘em off, I’m sure they could go to the party instead of me.”

Laguna offered his arm and she took it as they made their way to the rented limousine.

“And miss the chance to flail in your presence? Not a chance.”

 

-

 

The ride to the boutique hotel in downtown Dollet was quiet. Not really an awkward quiet, but a relieved kind of quiet. Selphie smiled at Laguna, and tucked her hair behind her ear after it had been set out of place from her panicked dash for the pick-up site. Laguna looked at her, pleased, with his hands on his knees keeping his body grounded while his mind floated off somewhere else.

“You guys had a good flight?” She looked around at the soldiers. After a moment of small twitches, they all made some nodding.  

There was some silence, then the smallest one lifted his hand and made a little open-close-open-close with his fingers like a duck. They all turned their head to look at the president.

“Wh- Hey! Th-That’s not…!” Laguna sputtered. Selphie got lost in a fit of giggles, leaning her forehead against one of the other soldiers flanking her. Laguna huffed, his bangs rising from the exertion, and landing over his face. He crossed his arms in mock-irritation and smirked.

“You guys are all against me, I knew it. It’s a coup to replace me with someone cuter.”

Regaining some composure, Selphie’s face became warm at his half-complement. She hid her pleased smirk in the shoulder of the armed guard. He reached up and gave her a pat on the head, much to her surprise. These guys even have personalities. Who knew?

When they pulled up to the hotel, Selphie hopped out quickly and held the door for Laguna.

“Aww, really, you don’t hafta’…”

“It’s my job… kinda… and I want to.”

Selphie spoke with the front desk staff who immediately set about to blubbering formalities with their important guest. The head of staff dramatically led them to an opulent elevator cage and they all squeezed in. She used a special key for the top floor and the elevator opened into a hallway decorated in pre-war paintings of city life and gilt hardware. She opened the door with another key that led to the president’s room and gave a brief tour of the amenities. Selphie and the soldiers stayed at the entrance, giving her a second to regain her composure. She didn’t need to see or do much thinking about a marble tub that was built for more than one person. Two of the soldiers were carrying luggage and they set it down on the bed before lining back up.

Since she was the only female in the group, Selphie was assigned the head attendant’s room again, and the men were put in the room at the opposite side. It wasn’t as vast at the Galbadia hotel, but it made up for size in opulence. Gold filigrees adorned the doors and the crown molding was patterned in designs that were complicated enough to be in a gallery of their own. She set down her bag and returned to the entrance to the suite, requesting a light lunch for the retinue to be sent up and taking responsibility for the generous tip for the staff.

Lunch arrived on two carts, in what was considered an informal spread of sandwiches, cakes, fruit, and some carafes of probably tea or coffee. Everything was cute and meticulously decorated, with small toothpicks holding together animals of carved fresh vegetables. Selphie made a small squeal when she found a pickle mock-up of a cactuar guarding an egg salad.

“Look! Look how unbelievably cute this is, Sir Laguna! I couldn’t possibly eat it!”

He scratched the back of his neck and looked down. She was really cute when she was excited. He smirked a little and looked back up.

“Well, I’m pretty hungry, so I hope you don’t mind if-”

And without a second thought, she took the sandwich out from the cart and plucked the cactuar from it by the toothpick and held it up for him. He looked at it a little cross-eyed, trying to focus on the details.

Selphie opened her mouth and pushed it towards him with a little ah-ah sound.

His eyes lingered over her lips, and the pink wetness of her tongue, but he snapped back and figured out she was trying to feed it to him. It was becoming a bit of a spectacle, since they were holding up lunch for the other soldiers, but he closed one eye and opened his mouth to her offering, thoughtful as it was.

She reached up and placed it right between his lips, her pinky grazing against his chin, and she was suddenly alert with a need to make contact with him. He responded by taking her hand with his before biting down and pulling the morsel off the toothpick she held. His mouth closed over it, and she blinked, remembering again that she had to breathe.

He chewed, and she took in a small, shuddering breath. His hand clenched hers and when she looked at him again, she saw a confused look barely concealed by his silver streaked hair.

Then he swallowed and let go.

She bit her lip.

She could feel the interested gaze of the soldiers, waiting for food, but probably also grossly aware that something was going on between her and the president. Her heart was also beating at an unhealthy rate, so she shakily grabbed a plate and just took whatever was near.

Beside her, Laguna did so as well, but he forgot all about his appetite for food.

 

-

 

She was back in her room, under the shower on full-blast. She was still bothered from her small exchange with Sir Laguna, and they had all eaten in relative peace, save for the heart-palpitations she was having the entire time.

Now she was chewing on her lip and having doubts about this mission. The right thing to do would be to just call up Squall, confess that she was having unprofessional feelings towards their client, get a replacement SeeD, and just go home. And then burn out a vibrating toy.

But it was never about the “mission” with Sir Laguna. It was about the relationship. Not with her. Or not with her, exactly, but with Squall. But trying to help the commander, and not damage his ego, was an insurmountable task. Accepting help from anyone set him easily on a self-destructive course. Though Sir Laguna meant well, she knew it hadn’t been the best course for them to… be… what? A family? Civil?

And then she got herself caught in this mess. Or better yet, threw herself in the mess head-first. Squall did figure something, but hadn’t quite been able to articulate it. Squall was ready to bare his teeth though, and if she went home crying to Garden, blubbering about the bad touch, she couldn’t even possibly imagine what the heck could happen.

But that was basically the opposite of what was going on. She started it! Selphie was like that. She was a little shit-starter. “Here’s a dumb idea guys… let’s do it!” should be her middle name. Unfortunately, the only person she knew who relatively had the right supportive attitude was Xu.

Selphie groaned and rolled her eyes. Not exactly a confess your deepest darkest secrets to best friend forever. But hey, at least she didn’t have to feel like a total sleaze.

Thanks for that, Xu-girlfriend!

This time, though, she was here because of what Kiros had mentioned a few months ago. She never made good on her promise to visit Esthar… who could? Garden was an all-encompassing and never-ending task, and to traipse on up to the Presidential Palace, and basically flaunt her highly inappropriate May-December crush on Squally-poo’s (He hated when she called him that, or anything really, but she didn’t care) father.

It was something about sleep. Kiros said Laguna had trouble sleeping. Bad memories or something.

That was just… Selphie felt a little twist in her gut. He was so cool, but she was seeing him in a little bit different context than she used to. How he could flip-flop his behavior lightning fast so he was happy just when he needed to be. And he made jokes about himself, funny sometimes, but at his own expense. How much did he actually believe his own self-deprecation?  

She wasn’t sure exactly what she could do, but with people, smashing buttons doesn’t usually save the day.

She made one final rinse and stopped mulling. She had a couple hours still to dress back in her uniform, review the security maps Squall provided, and see if Laguna needed help getting into his suit. Too bad he didn’t still have that blue jacket from her dreams. It was so cool, of course, like everything he ever did, in her opinion. But still, everyone liked a sharp-dressed man!

 

-

 

He wore the exact same over-sized blazer as at Squall and Rinoa’s wedding.

Well!

Selphie walked through his open door as he was smoothing the inner elbows of his sleeves. He looked up at her and smiled, but then paused a bit. She was dressed the same as before, but she wore heeled shoes that slowed down her gait. Her hips swung more suggestively, more adult, and suddenly he needed water. He crossed her quickly and grabbed a glass sitting at the bed stand next to his video communication device.

“You said you wanted an early start, right?”

“Uh huh,” he managed between gulps. She stood a little straighter, more mature. Her lips looked… really…

She rubbed her elbows and looked down. “Ha ha, that must be your favorite jacket.”

“This old thing? It’s the best these people get. I look like a complete tool in a suit.”

“Nah…” She was next to him anyway, and tucked a finger under the collar. It snagged right at the pin he wore. “You wore this at the wedding. Squall and Rinny’s.”

He stared at her, “Well, yeah, probably, I’ve had it for a while. You remember that?”

“I have a photo.” She grimaced, “A really bad one.”

“I think that was a rough night.”

“What? Why’s that?”

He squinted a bit, “Because everyone was hammered at the reception.”

“Oh geez, yeah, it was awful the next day. Zell was still hungover by the time he had to teach classes on Monday-”

He was all too aware of her hand running along his lapel, and he had to just get it out.

“Selphie.”

“Yeah?” Her eyes were focused on his pin.

“Are you… that guy… ”

She looked up at him. He looked like he was one of her students playing an intense game of Triple Triad. Was this about Irvine? Confessing to him that they had broken up months ago was the last time she had to speak about him. With all honesty, at least. She actually didn’t want to say it out loud. It kept her sanity in check through all the stress at work and gave her some kind of comfort to maintain the fantasy of being loved and adored by someone, but this was not her well-meaning girlfriends asking about her relationship status…

“I don’t have a boyfriend, if that’s what you’re askin’.”

He let out a breath and his face softened back to a more normal expression. He took a huge risk inviting her, not that her presence wasn’t appreciated more than most, but it was one less burden to bear.

She had her hand pressed flat over his chest, and being a few inches closer to his face was making the room warmer than it had been. Did she just tilt her head? He suddenly became highly aware that he had lips and she had those things too, and if they touch-

There was a soft knock at the door and one of the soldiers tapped at his wrist making the gesture to get moving. They were here to escort them to the conference reception down the road. Laguna had begged them to just walk there, but pretty much everyone shut him down and insisted on covered transport. Looks like the transport was ready.

Great timing, thanks guys.

They piled back into the limousine, same seating arrangement as when they arrived from the Dollet Airfield. They were driving half a block. Laguna was more than irritable from having Selphie let go of him up in his room and fuss over his security detail, then get into a stupid car, and now his mind was worked up over how much he wanted to have her sitting next to him and not across from him. He had his leg crossed over his knee, his foot bouncing nervously. One arm over the back of the seat. Couldn’t even drive it himself. Fifty was just around the corner, and being a cranky old man was suiting him just fine.

But she gave him a smile from across the seats, a bit bemused and a bit… something like coy, but kind of sneaky? He couldn’t really read it. He was not good at that stuff. But whatever it was, he figured that he liked it. He gave her a conciliatory wink.

Fifty going on fifteen. Maybe he could just forget everything that happened in between. He unconsciously rubbed at the silver ring he wore.

Maybe not.

 

-

 

The soldiers lined up and gave a very showy formal salute as they left their leader at the threshold of the very pretentious reception hall. He gave his own salute back, sharp as it ever was, much to his own dismay, but some things never change. They would stay on the premises, but out of sight in accordance with the wishes of the organizers. It was a highly formal affair with a fake sense of casualness.

Selphie was checked for weapons, and while he wouldn’t be surprised if she hid various sharps in secret places, he just didn’t like someone else looking.

The maitre’d checked him off a list, and he was well at the top, ordered by importance. The man whispered to another attendant, who nodded and hurried off to who knows where. Laguna didn’t care for fuss unless it was fun. He himself was known to over-complicate things if it were already pretty good.

If he held on to come at a more fashionable time, they would have surely made an impressive announcement on his arrival. Then everyone would look up and converge on him like marlboros on carrion. Yeah, no thanks, man. I’ll take every status ailment over that.

But what these people didn’t understand was that Esthar was enormous, and largely run through a variety of committees, votes, and stuff Kiros relished the handling of. He was here with about as much power as an ambassador, yet a lot of these small city-state cronies wanted favors and wheelie-dealie stuff he could never agree to. He would have to spend the night deflecting them while in the presence of Selphie.

He made a beeline to a bar and had the bartender fix a cocktail. He gestured to Selphie who shook her head.

“Duty calls.”

Laguna took the glass from the stoic bartender, and raised it slightly in her direction.

“Yeah, duty calls."

Laguna made an effort to greet the other leaders he recognized and chatted briefly with some of the more slimy and ingratiating representatives of various interests. Selphie hung back the best she could, sometimes to the wall, and scanned the crowd. She wasn’t his date and didn’t exactly have anything to contribute to his conversations, though she really wished she did. She was young, probably closer to the age of the staff rather than the guests, but she wasn’t a total stranger to events that required schmoozing for the benefit of Garden. She was pretty sure that even if Squall would appreciate her devotion, going into that was against the contract for this particular situation.

The crowd began to thicken, and she was having trouble keeping a clear view of Laguna from her vantage point so she deigned to keep closer to her client.

Laguna was in the middle of telling a story and he nearly lost the ice in his drink from his wild gesturing. He didn’t seem to mind since it was his third drink and he was getting into the swing of things. He caught Selphie approaching him, and suddenly his focus went entirely on her.

“You guys, this is the famous SeeD, Selphie Tilmitt,” he nearly gushed. A few polite nods from the group. A grunt. A gasp. Selphie groaned inwardly.

Here we go.

“A mercenary, at a party like this, how dreadful.”

“Actually, since the end of the last Sorceress War, Garden has been a committed facility to the rehabilitation and support of minors and young adults affected by war-” she defended.

“Oh, they just need jobs. I was in the war, I saw it. Trouble waiting to happen-”

“They still send kids out to fight-”

“Children with weapons, absolutely appalling.”

“I met a Garden kid once, it was terrifying.”

Selphie felt her bones stiffen into something fueled by rage. Not that she wasn’t constantly having to defend Garden, but as she was on a mission, she wasn’t really able to.

“What exactly do you do for Garden, Miss Tilmitt?” asked one of the least presumptive men in the party.

“I’m in administration and morale. I manage student organizations.” She was relieved to be able to answer a question that didn’t make her want to strangle anyone.

“Interesting. So why exactly are you in attendance here?”

“Oh, an easy one,” Laguna interjected with an easy wave of his hand, “She’s with me.”

Noooo, Sir Laguna, Noooooooo.

A few eyebrows shot up, and a couple of the more snarky commentators on Garden issues wilted a bit, knowing that might’ve impacted their favor with the president of Esthar.

One of the crowd spoke up, “As your da-”

“Security detail,” she said immediately. She straightened her back and squared her jaw. She picked it up from being around Squall, but it made her about as intimidating as a moogle.

Laguna cut in, “Yeah, I hate flying solo, and she’s-”

“A highly trained security operative. ” she finished, tersely. Laguna was either drunk or not catching on that this wasn’t the time or place for socializing. She wasn’t sure if any of them believed it, but now she was getting mad and that was bound to be worse than whatever assumptions a crowd of posh Dollet figureheads could come up with.

She had to step away without stomping off like an angry girlfriend. (She hated to admit how familiar that felt) So she smiled to the group and smoothly took the glass from Laguna’s hand.

“I would be happy to bring you another, Mister President,” she offered without waiting for his reply.

Laguna felt a bit hurt. Selphie was mad. He didn’t know why exactly, other than these people being kind of jerks when he wasn’t expecting it. He was really proud of her and was almost giddy to have this amazing girl to show off to these losers, and she was so much hotter than any other lady in the room (they were totally jealous, had to be it), but now she was calling him Mister President like he was in big trouble. If she called him President Loire, then he was sleeping on the couch.  

Ohh, he didn’t want to sleep on the couch, metaphorical as it was.

Things were going so well.   

"Lemme come with you, I want something really fancy this time. I can’t remember what it was called and I know the guy can make it for me if I tell him-”

She nodded at him, then at the rest of the group and they both headed to the bar again, with a length of space between them. At the bar, she handed the glass to the bartender and just about as he was about to ask for something, she interrupt him with a really angry look.

Couch, couch, couch.

“A glass of water for the president, please.”

The bartender handed her a fresh glass with a classy sprig of basil and a lemon slice curled up into a rose. She was a little taller wearing the pumps now, so she just leaned into Laguna ever so slightly and hissed at him.

“We need to talk. Privately.”

Augh, this is so hard, he thought to himself.

She knew the layout of the hall, and when reviewing the security information made a note of a stairwell to the north side of the building. It wasn’t for emergencies and it wasn’t used for service as much since a proper service elevator had been built more recently.

She needed to make sure he understood her, more so Squall’s, position here. That’s all. No need to make things more difficult, right?

“Go to the back corner over there by the plant with those huge leaves and enter the service stairwell. Wait for me at the third floor.”

He looked at her, trying to apologize with his eyes, but still totally confused.

“If anyone asks, you got lost looking for the bathroom.”

 

-

 

She went the back way, up the elevator and around some of the offices on the top floor until she got to the right stairwell. Her shoes clicked her arrival as she descended the stairs and Laguna was staring at her as she came down, still clutching the water glass.

“Did you see anyone?” she asked.

“Nah… Selphie, look, I’m sorry-”

She grabbed his shirt forcefully, with all the humiliation and anger from before. She suddenly had a new appreciation for Squall’s frustration with his father.

“Understand this-” Oh, Shiva, she was so mad, “The reputation of Garden is right here.” She pointed at her own shoulder with her free hand. His eyes widened.

“If I am here to be your guardian, then that is what I am here for and there should be no word coming out of your mouth at these… these…”

“Idiots?”

Idiots, that would say or imply otherwise.”

She had him backed against the wall, as small as she was, and he felt so stupid. She was right. He knew he was getting himself worked up over her. She wasn’t going to be his date, she was an employee. He was paying for her company and the realization stung him something fierce. Here they were, finally alone and she was chewing him out for being happier than was acceptable in her presence.

He slumped into the wall. His head hung to the left, covering most of his face with his defiant bangs that he could never get to stay back behind his ear. She ripped the glass from his hand and crouched down, and he heard the glass make contact with the floor as she set it aside, scooting it out of the way from his feet. She straightened back up and pulled him upright by his belt loops.

She was furious, and that made him vulnerable, and when he looked like that… there it was again. Whatever dragon lurked in her heart flapped its wings and put words in her mouth she didn’t quite understand. She unclasped his belt buckle and undid the pants button and when she got to the zipper, Laguna spoke up.

“S-Selphie, what is this?”

“Don’t you dare make a sound” she whispered.

His lips tightened, but he felt his blood rushing down to where her hands were. He felt the latent desire to kiss her from before, but he stayed still, choking back a moan when her hands ran over the front of his pants. His breath became heavy and he didn’t know what to do with his hands.

Their breathing was the only sound echoing in the stairwell until it was broken by the sound of his zipper being pulled down. Laguna licked his lips and rubbed his face with both hands, trying to scrub away the haze of alcohol to make sure this was really happening.

She had gotten down on her knees and pulled his pants down to his ankles. His underwear followed quickly, and he was standing at half mast, with Selphie’s hands on the top of his thighs.

He gulped, looking down into her chestnut brown hair, and those crazy hair flips, so charming and innocent, but also so close to his dick, like she was…

She looked up at him, narrowed jade-colored eyes repeating the same threat as before. He sucked in a ragged breath. Keeping quiet was not his forte. His leg twitched and he focused on not tapping his toes. She gripped his legs and he suddenly felt a delicious warm breath before an encompassing wetness came over his member. His head shot back and he grit his teeth, wishing for a Silence.

She went to work, one part demanding his silence and the other part willing him to demonstrate his gratitude. After five years with Irvine and having the luxury of his apartment, she forgot what it was like having a rushed, desperate affair in utter silence. Her hands moved around his hips, and she cupped his rear, making a small smile he couldn’t see. One of his hands covered his mouth, and the other was on his forehead, holding his hair back. She opened her mouth wide and ran her tongue up along the length. He took a peek at her, and their eyes locked. She felt a little jolt up her sides, and he snapped his eyes shut.

She let go for a breath, and snuck a sip of the water she tucked away behind him. She felt his balls and leaned back in, pressing her lips into the base of his shaft. She gently nipped her way to the tip, and enveloped him again with her mouth. His hands never left his own head, and she wondered if he had ever even had this done to him before. He shuddered and she tasted the saltiness of his body clearing out for the real show.

His body wasn’t the tight, glossiness of youth she had experienced with Irvine, but she wasn’t messing around with any old guy in Dollet either. Sir Laguna was still fit, and age just gave him a softness that she hadn’t expected. He deserved better than this, of course, but his body made such flattering responses to her touch, it was hard to want him to finish so soon.

But then… She squeezed him a little more now, working harder with her mouth to suck and make him come. She tortured him enough for his earlier faux pas, and all she was doing now was proving herself wrong; there was, in fact, something going on well beyond what was professional. Her tongue flicked all around the tip of his penis and she was tempted to really go all out, the way she knew Irvine really liked. But she was just this paid SeeD escort, getting hung up on a guy twice her age.

“Come already.”

He couldn’t look, but when she told him what to do, it was like that switch got flipped and a shudder ran straight through his heart, down his spine and into his entire crotch. His hands were on the top of his head like he was a prisoner. If he could manage to hold his breath long enough, he could hear the wet sounds of her mouth making contact with his dick. His breathing came out in small erratic gasps and he allowed himself to look down again.

He was disappearing into her mouth and that cutesy hair was swaying around, flicking by his legs as she went up and down. She must’ve been uncomfortable on her knees, held together by that tight pencil skirt. He remembered having his hands up her legs, and wanted to know if she was wet like back when…

The feeling of her wet, hot-

He came almost instantly and Selphie hadn’t really been ready, but she was resolute. She had to push him hard to keep him from ramming into the back of her throat as his cum filled her mouth. She wanted to keep it under control since she really couldn’t handle dribbling any on her uniform. It was more than she expected, but she swallowed and immediately threw back the last melted contents of the water glass.

She looked up at him, and he looked about to fall over. His breathing was returning to normal and his eyes were struggling to stay open. He’d surely want to go to the bathroom, but for now she pulled his pants back up, and slowly brought herself back to a standing position. He regained a bit of composure and hiked up his pants a bit and brought his hands to the zipper, taking over from her assistance.

He finished with the belt buckles and found her hands that were still hovering around his waist. He took them in his and held them for a moment. He closed his eyes and thanked God that they hadn’t been interrupted like before.

He wanted to say… stuff… but maybe it wasn’t the right time. Or the right words.

She looked down at her hands, “I think we gotta get going back to the party, Sir Laguna.”

“Yeah.” Nooooooooo.

“Like, really soon.”

“Got it.” He didn’t move.

Now.” she ordered.

He let her hands go, and stuffed his in his pockets. She ran a finger over the corner of her lips and he smirked at her, then she turned tail and led him down the stairs, opening the doorway to the main hall.

They stepped through the threshold and she said loudly, “Seriously, Mister President, how do you get that lost looking for the bathroom?”

 

-

 

It was a bit harder for her to watch the crowd thoroughly for the rest of the night. Thankfully, Sir Laguna wasn’t interested in staying particularly late. He was casting a few too many looks in her direction, and it was wearing her out. She wanted his attention, but she was also determined to maintain composure.

This was only the first night of this assignment. She watched him making a few more rounds to put on a good show, shaking hands and trying to test his ability to remember names. He laughed and the creases stretched across his face. A hearty clap on the shoulder, a rough hand shake, and he looked directly at her and tilted his head towards the door.

Selphie set the new glass of fancy water she had been nursing on a passing server’s tray. She wove through the crowd and tapped his elbow, alerting him of her presence and also letting him lead to the front entrance. The maitre’d looked disappointed at the departure of a guest of Laguna’s status, but made the appropriate arrangements for his rented limousine to pick them up at the front.  

Once in the vehicle, and situated between the Estharian soldiers, Laguna pulled at his collar, flicking a few buttons to open the neckline. He leaned over, elbows on his knees, and clasped his hands together, looking tired and contemplative.

Selphie was sitting up straight, still in SeeD-mode, and feeling a bit guilty. She didn’t really have the right to be so impatient over Sir Laguna, and she was letting the worst kind of emotions cloud her judgment. Angry and stupid. One hundred and ten percent, Timitt! 

Once they returned to the hotel, the soldiers stood back at their posts; two on night watch for now, the others in their room.

Tired from the sheer boredom of waiting, Selphie figured. Laguna had ambled back into his suite and she went back to her own room to figure out… anything.

She removed her uniform and kicked off her shoes, leaving her in standard-issue underwear and pantyhose. The hosiery had to go, so she peeled it off with a happy sigh. She preferred her cuteness to be a natural extension of her personality rather than a costume she wore, but the SeeD uniform didn’t do a whole lot to give her the maturity and respect she needed for so much of her life.  

She crossed her arms and caught herself in the mirror. What the heck was she even doing here anyway? She was so confident coming in, upon accepting this mission, and brushing aside Squall’s concerns like it wasn’t totally something she royally screwed up.

Rolling her eyes at herself, she looked in her bag. Just a few spare, clean-pressed uniforms, and one casual outfit to wear on the ride home.

She hadn’t really thought this out.

Not at all.

She glanced around the room and saw a bathrobe in the small wardrobe. She went over and yanked it off the hangar and covered herself. She had to go get this over with now.

Patience wasn’t really her strong suit, so there she was, tapping on the door to the presidential suite, ignoring the soldiers looking at her, and just trying to keep it together.

Laguna opened the door a crack and when he saw her, the door flew open and he ushered her inside. He hadn’t changed his clothes yet, but the jacket was hung up and his shirt was untucked. Shoes and socks in a corner.

He fiddled with the button on his sleeve and acknowledged her, “Hey, can’t sleep?”

She was holding her arms and feeling like she should go back to her own room.

“I’m good. But… ” She absentmindedly scratched her arm. “I was hoping just to have a chance to talk.”

“Sure. I guess we haven’t really had much of that.” His face made a little wince. Girls like that talking stuff. It’s important. I just hope she doesn’t want to tell me to get lost.  

“I’m sorry.”

“Eh?” Laguna stiffened and he fretted to himself, Oh God, it was a joke after all and now she’s gonna tell me-

“I really like being around you… But sometimes… ” She let out a sigh. It was really hard to explain what she wanted to say. “Just... don’t think I’m mad at you or anything.”

He undid the other sleeve button and was about to undo the front until she stepped forward and unbuttoned it herself.

“Oh. Okay, Selphie.” He liked this. He didn’t need to know exactly what she meant, but her delicate hands were whispering along his chest and she was so petite and gentle out of her uniform.

She made it to the final button and he didn’t really know what else to do with himself so he took her face in his hands. She blinked up at him. He scrunched one eye closed as if looking at her through a scope.

Target acquired.

Eyes closed.

One-two-three-GO!

He landed a little to the right. He adjusted and pressed his lips properly against Selphie’s. 

She closed her eyes and slid her hands inside his dress shirt. Her lips parted and his breath mingled slowly with hers before she felt just the tip of his tongue make its way to meet her mouth. His thumbs stroked her cheeks and she was nearly on the tips of her toes as her mouth demanded more.

Pretty soon they were on his bed, emitting soft moans into each others mouths, her hands running over his chest and neck, his left hand propping himself up over her, the other making its way though her hair, toying with the flipped-up ends.

When was the last time he really relished the company of a woman? He didn’t want to think about it, and it had even been such a long time it might actually be just pure animal instinct that moved him along. He pulled away from her, and she opened her eyes. He ran his hand over her bangs and over the top of her head. He wanted to burn this moment into his head, something to override all the nightmares.

Her parted lips, wet and flush with action, calling to him to return. Her eyes, at once playful and threatening, giving away her feelings so easily and giving him reassurance that she was fully invested in the moment as he was.

Her hand thrust past his collar and she pulled his hair tie from the base of his neck resulting in a cascade of hair falling into his peripheral vision. She smiled deviously at him and combed her fingers through his graying mop. He groaned, and hopelessly tucked what he could behind his ear.

“What’s all that fuss about?” Selphie asked, flicking at his loose strands.

“Half of it’s gonna get stuck in my mouth and-” he started to complain, but she cut him off by opening her own robe underneath him.

“It looks really sexy, Laguna.”

He never heard her refer to him without her cutesy honorific and the way she writhed her way out of her robe was just unreal. Who was this girl, really? Siren, must be.

He traced along the band of her bra, then straight down her stomach, skipping over her belly button and stopping right at the top of her underwear. Her back arched and she cried out quite dramatically.

“Wooow, I think you’ve got me beat” he said, and he kissed her neck as he slid his hand under the fabric with new found confidence.

He felt like a kid in a flower shop; getting to touch everything. It made up for the rough evening. Especially when his fingers made it to the valleys of her sex. Her breathing got shaky as his middle finger slid along the wet opening. She was still toying with his hair and he felt her grip tighten.

“Ow, Selphie. Hey… gimme back my hair tie,” he demanded.

She made a sheepish apology and held up a finger that had the band hanging from it. He removed his hand from her underwear, and after  briefly examining it, brought it to his mouth and licked off her slick arousal. Smacking his lips, he snagged the hair tie from her finger and sat back, putting his hair back in place.

“You’re… not done, are ya?” she bit her lip, feeling even more remorseful that maybe she got too excited and he wasn’t in the mood for it.

He cocked an eyebrow at her and removed the white shirt he was still wearing and laid it to the side.

“No, ” he started, “I wanna… you know.” He eyed her between the legs, then looked away with a coy smile, “Kinda like what you did earlier, but like, y’know… not like on a guy-

She kind of wanted to hear how ridiculous his description of cunnilingus could get, but she also wasn’t about to waste time getting to it. She hooked her thumbs into the sides of her panties and wiggled her butt a little.

“I must be a lucky girl then because I get it from a cool-gun-toting, sexy-long-haired, sorceress-defeating guy…”

Laguna coughed, “Are you talking about me?”

Selphie made a sour face. Oops, it did seem like she could’ve said the same about her ex-boyfriend.

I guess I have a type

He made a light snort and hooked his fingers next to hers and tugged her panties down her legs. He could be her rebound, he didn’t really care that much. At his age, that’s all it seems anyone is. Divorces and affairs were as common in Esthar as they ever were in Galbadia. Don’t get them started on it, though, Estharians would find a way to rationalize it so that they were the ones doing it properly.

“Maybe that’s why I wasted all that time on Irvine.”

A bit strange for pillow talk, considering her underwear was down at her ankles. She sighed and he paused.

“Whadd’ya mean?”

“Ellone’s dreams happened around the same time I met him.” She felt a wave of nostalgia, “Those were some crazy times, huh?”

He didn’t really understand. The dream thing Elle told him about was a one-way thing too, other than getting some extra sweet power-boosts, he had little idea that there had been a person witnessing his life through it all. He felt a little embarrassed. It was awkward enough back when she had mentioned that Squall was one of those crazy fairies, but it didn’t really occur to him if he was alone…

“What did you see, exactly?” His face felt hot, but he put his hand on her knee.

“Umm, your bad sense of directions and that thing with Julia…” she bit her lip. Maybe he didn’t want to hear about ancient history.

He covered his face with his free hand and moaned. He was not doing well. This was not the place or person he wanted to talk about this stuff with.

“Oh, hush, it’s fine.” She tried to reassure him by putting her hand over his. “I just meant to say that back then I thought you were just really awesome and romantic, so maybe by the time I met Irvine, who was mostly annoying and stupid, I was trying to-”

She lost her train of thought when Laguna had his hands on the insides of her thighs and looking entirely ready to change the subject. He climbed forward and kissed her stomach, sending a whole mess of stupid to her brain. She grit her teeth and pressed on.

“It was fun to see what kind of adventures you got into. If I didn’t get to see it, I made whoever else did spill their guts...”

He was willing her to stop this mortifying reverie. He didn’t want to remember any of it nor did he want to hear it from a hot, mostly naked Selphie, so he acted fast and ran his tongue desperately through her labia. She moaned and he was especially pleased with himself. He wanted to keep her distracted enough, so he ran his hands all around her legs and wove his tongue all through her private places.

Letting out a series of sighs, Selphie didn’t need to dwell anymore. Past was past. That cool Laguna from the dreams wasn’t even real, or at least not until Ellone confessed what she was sending them back to the past of an actual person. That Laguna was like a character in a play, or a movie. But the real guy was here with her, and for all his quirks, was much more interesting than she could’ve expected. For instance, every time his tongue ran past her clit, she saw Ultima behind her eyes.

 

-

 

Her eyes fluttered open and she tried to determine where she was. She didn’t remember her bed being particularly comfy as she felt now, and she sensed someone sleeping next to her.

Irvine was sleep-talking next to her, which he didn’t do usually. It was her that was usually caught muttering all kinds of mysterious languages from her unconscious.

But it wasn’t Irvine. It was Sir Laguna, and he was curled up, facing away from her and whispering some conversation with himself. His hair was mostly falling out of its tie, and when she slowly moved over him, she saw his eyes were screwed so tight she had to wonder what visions were passing through his mind.

Well, this is what she needed to be here for anyway. She had entered his room hoping to convince him to just let her stay the night, but things went a different direction and she ended up falling asleep first, naked and in his embrace. Not that she minded that little turn of events.

His whispers became more panicked, and she tried to make sense of what he was saying, but only a few coherent words slipped past his lips. She set herself back down behind him and ran her fingers along his bare back, hitting a few scars from his much more tumultuous younger years.

They all had scars and nightmares, and it bothered her that the damage she sees in her friends and many of the students at Garden now will be carried for so long through life, and even into a relatively good one like Sir Laguna lived currently.

She snuggled into his back, and hoped to transfer a little comfort to him, reaching her arm over his waist when he suddenly convulsed with a sharp yell and backed away from her. She released him with a gasp and her hand went to cover her mouth when he rolled off the bed in a tangle of sheets and blind panic.

“Laguna!” she crawled over to the edge of the bed, turning on the bedside lamp, looking down at him. “Sir Laguna!? Are you okay?”

He looked up at her, uncomprehending and wincing in the light.

“Whuh…? Wha- Selphie? Clothes?”

She grabbed a pillow and covered her bare chest in sudden embarrassment, and he scratched the back of his neck, the nature of their sleeping arrangement slowly coming back into his memory. She thrust a hand out to help pull him back up onto the bed. He rolled onto his back and caught his breath before looking over to Selphie and her concerned expression.

“I had a dream.”

“Yeah, I bet. What happened?”

He looked at her and plucked the pillow from her grip, putting it behind his head with a small grin. She pulled a sheet back up over them, taken from the mess of bedding that had been kicked and twisted in the night.

“I fell on my butt.”

“Yeah, I saw that. I meant the dream.”

His eyes narrowed. He really didn’t want to talk about his nightmares with Selphie. They were horrible, and they reflected a part of himself that he didn’t like.

He reached over and shut off the light. When he settled back, she set a hand on his chest, making him stiffen automatically. She retracted her hand to herself and stared at his profile in the dark.

“Sir Laguna…”

He sucked air through his teeth, trying to shake off the memories of the dream that lingered, “We’ll talk tomorrow, okay? Don’t worry about me. Ha ha, I’m a tough biscuit.”

“Was I in it?” she asked softly.

Taking a beat, he sighed.

“I really don’t want to talk about it. Please?”

The way he responded to her touch made her heart sink. She wanted to comfort him in some way but she also felt somehow responsible. She’ll have to let it go for now and try to get some sleep for the full day of conference tomorrow.

 

-

 

In the morning Selphie collected her garments and put on her robe to do  history’s shortest walk-of-shame back to her own quarters. Laguna was sleeping in relative peace, so she decided to leave him as he was.

She still hung on to a bad feeling about last night, but knew she was pushing too fast. Irvine used to give her a hard time about that, but Irvine always seemed like he was concealing something from her that she had to pry out. But eventually, she let that go. She let a lot more things go as she got older, but definitely not everything. Some habits die hard.

When the door clicked shut to her own room she felt a little more gloomy. Irvine was a natural thing; complete strangers referred to him as her boyfriend before she even did. He never even had to say, “Hey, you wanna be my girlfriend?” And before him, she played around, but never took anyone seriously. If everyone knew you were a flirt, no one had to have their heart broken, right?

But now here she was, sneaking around, unable to tell anyone, and not even really sure what she wanted from it.

Who was she kidding? She was all-in for getting in his pants. Sir Laguna freaking Loire! And they were progressing nicely as far as that goes. Surely, the next step was…

Was…

Y’know…. Actually doin’ it.

She felt incredibly nervous at that.

And guilty.

And… no more thinking.

 

-

 

The rest of the conference in Dollet was a much drier affair, the soldiers were permitted for some of the events, so Selphie had some rest time of her own. She did her best to hang back and blend in with the scenery, and tried to just let Laguna do his thing. By the end of the second night, everyone was too wiped out for much else, so everyone slept in their own beds.

Sunday night was a formal closing ceremony, so after another grueling day of presentations and speeches, guests were encouraged to pull out their finery and fill up their dance cards.

Laguna wore the same jacket.

Selphie cursed at her heels. Not because she had to dance in them, but because she had to just stand in them.

She she stood against the wall with another glass of fancy Dollet water (this time it was spiked with mint and cucumber, carved into a lily) and watched Laguna dance with every female in attendance; first all the wives of leaders out of respect, then all the cut-throat single women because he was just such a high profile catch.

Uuuuugh.

Then she began giving him signals when he caught her eye. She held up three fingers. This lady is a three, you can do so much better.

Eight fingers. Heeey, not bad.

One finger. You can’t say no, can you?

All that SeeD field-communication training filtered into a night of jealous trash-talk. Laguna dipped the One and sent a wink to Selphie from across the room.

That bastard.

He excused himself from his duties as Most Eligible Bachelor and made his way to the balcony door and Selphie followed. The balcony wrapped around three-quarters of the building, so they found a darker and less occupied corner.

She grabbed the railing, then he followed suit, just enough that their hands touched, but looked purely coincidental to any passing guests. He gave her a tired smile and she gave him a gentle punch to the shoulder.

“So no way I could get a dance, eh?” he asked.

“Not a chance, Sir Laguna.”

“Because of Garden,” he figured.

Not what she wanted to hear, but she clarified it anyway, “Because of Squall.”

“Ah, yeah. I need to check those contracts better. Make sure to add more frivolous stuff. Dancing, drinking, Triple Triad… maybe skinny-dipping under a full moon.”

“He’d really appreciate that.”

“I’m sure. But really, how about we dance right here? It’s the last night anyway, and I’ll talk really loud about boring Garden investment returns or whatever.”

“I want to, I really do. But… ”

He held out his hand, “One minute. If anyone comes by, just tell them I over indulged in the fine Dollet wine.”

She sighed and took his hand. Could she possibly refuse him? He was the client, after all.

His other hand slipped around her waist and they moved in a simple back and forth step since it was really all he could handle. She didn’t really need to dance with him, but was happy to be in his embrace again since the night before. He pulled her a little closer and eventually her cheek was gently resting on his chest.

It was nice to hear his heart beating, and she closed her eyes for a moment. His breath was calm and deep, and she wanted to stop moving her feet in their awkward attempt to dance. Not that she didn’t love to dance, but it was supposed to be cut-loose and fun.

“So, ” he interrupted the moment, “I kinda have this plan.”

She looked up at him apprehensively.

He acknowledged her disbelief. “Hey, my plans are awesome.”  

She smiled at him, “Well, yeah, duh.”

Laguna narrowed his eyes at her, “You agree with me?”

“Well, sure. They all work eventually, right?”

He chuckled a little too loudly and wrapped his arms around her, “That’s what I have to tell everyone!”

“Okay, so what’s the plan?”

“Well, I want you to come to my birthday. No guard duty pretenses, okay? Just be my guest.”

Her face got a little hot, “That’s sort of… I’m not sure if-”

“No no no, I will formally invite a Garden representative. Actually, however many want to come. Maybe some students... Maybe even Rinoa and Squall would come! Wow, that’d be neat…”

And not likely to happen. As much as they’d like to, Esthar isn’t exactly a place full of happy memories for the Sorceress known as Rinoa. But he was on the right track. Squall wouldn’t say no to positive publicity of Garden, at least.

She got a little warm feeling in the pit of her stomach and was about to respond when she heard a rustling and quickly straightened. He quickly brought his hands to his sides.

“Let’s go back inside, Sir Laguna.” She took his elbow and led him back to the more occupied area of the balcony. Her nerves were getting well-worked between the idea of another party with Sir Laguna and the tingly bad-feeling on her neck that her closeness to him could get back to Squall and end things before they got good.

 

-

 

He stayed on at the party as long as he could possibly tolerate, offering up more obligatory dances, but when repeat customers started coming along, he started grabbing random waitstaff and hoisting them on the posh brown-nosers in his place. Selphie worried that his actions were made for her benefit, but he looked too well-experienced at this particular mode of deflection. He was already a bit odd, of course, but he could really play up eccentric leader when he needed. People still didn’t know what to expect from Esthar anyway.

When they returned to the hotel finally, his soldiers set a giant brass decorative Dollet City model on the work desk in his room. It was a gift from the Dukedom to the most VIP of visiting guests in memory of this momentous occasion. Laguna, Selphie, and the four men stood around it, in awe of the craftsmanship as much as how totally pretentious it was.

Selphie did a quick scan for any tiny brass spider robots, but the little fake streets were all clear, right down to the peaceful beach. A key chain would have suited Laguna just fine, but now his men would have to find a way to get this metallic monstrosity safely back to Esthar so as to not damage the self-esteem of any visiting Dollet representatives who ever saw it again.

He seriously had a room full of this type of junk. Kiros was insistent that Laguna make some attempt to keep up appearances. It was only going to get worse in a few months when his fiftieth birthday rolled around and Kiros manned the guest list. If he got Selphie to come, then that was as good as it was going to get.

The soldiers looked at each other, then gave Laguna a quick salute and departed from his room. That left him and Selphie alone for a moment and she looked down at his feet shyly.

She spoke up, “Y’know, I think they totally have us figured out.”

His eyes widened and he looked towards the door, “They know something I don’t?!” he grabbed her shoulders, half jokingly, and exclaimed, “I’d kill to have you figured out!”

She threw her arms around his neck and laughed at him. He remembered that the way things were going, it might not be months until they could enjoy this closeness again. It wasn’t really fair. Noticing his shift in demeanor she looked at him, concerned.

“What is it, Sir Laguna?”

He just exhaled and forced a small smile to his mouth as he ran his hand through her bangs and brought it to rest at the back of her head. Tomorrow morning he was back on his ship and she’d be back on her way to Balamb and sometimes bad stuff happened to the people you love when they get that far out of your reach.

It would be nice if she hated him. Just a little bit. Sometimes it felt like she did.

“Sir Laguna?”

He wanted her to spend the night in his room, to enjoy her affection and basically do a lot of touching and panting. But this farewell was too reminiscent of all those other farewells, and the culmination of all those really regretful goodbyes was eating away at his more banal needs to see all the things Selphie could do with his junk.

He kissed her forehead.

“I think I’m going to get some sleep. I’m dead-tired.”

“Oh, okay.” She let go of him, dragging her arms off slowly to draw it out. He turned to the dresser and started to remove his jacket and she started towards his door, turning her head towards him one last time.

“G’night. And sweet dreams.”

“You too.”

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Selphie banged her head on her desk again. Xu finally threw an eraser at Selphie’s stupid head and it suddenly shot up, curled up hair flipping about, looking all directions until she caught Xu’s furious glower.

She put her hands up in defeat and went back to her monitor. It was November, and a month after she got back from the Dollet mission. She kept moderately busy, but sometimes her mind would start in on the business with Sir Laguna and she would be strongly compelled to just talk to him.

She would always start writing some note, and it would come off as something between rabid fan, crazy stalker, or like a status report.

Ugh, I just miss him.

Long distance was fine, but even then she was used to getting calls or messages almost daily from Irvine. It was usually something simple, superficial stuff about their days. She didn’t need to worry about Sir Laguna, or know what he was doing on a day-to-day basis; his actions were published in news sources that the rest of the world newly had access to. But that wasn’t what it was about. She needed to know he was thinking about her.

She deleted the message, since it was really awful. She liked reporting on Garden events and keeping everyone updated on the happenings, but she kept composing these gushy sentimental things that were meant for a (practically!) fifty year old guy running an enormous city-state.

And every time she did it, she would get frustrated and bang her head on the desk and Xu would get pissed.

Later that week, Squall received a formal invitation to the fiftieth birthday of the most honorable president of Esthar. Black tie, RSVP.

And then he received a communication from the office of the president, in which Kiros asked if he would be interested in having some Garden students do a performance or show off some talent.

Squall mulled it over. His Garden was not composed of dancing monkeys for the entertainment of a bunch of stuck up Estharians. This was definitely Selphie’s department. He would just have the top students demonstrate all the ways they knew to take out a human threat. It would be educational.

When he saw her next, he tossed the card on her desk and she grabbed it, almost possessively.

“You know what it is?”

“Yeah! I mean, I think so…”

“Well, Kiros asked me to have some kids put on a show. Can you put together something that won’t offend their sensibilities with less than two months time?”

“Absolutely. How many can we bring?”

“I don’t think it matters. They’ll cover all the transportation and housing… food… Just keep the number manageable in case they don’t have any chaperons.”

She thought about it. “I’ll run it by the committee and see what the kids say!”

He never really understood her approach, but…

“Whatever.”

He left the card with her and she looked at it like it was a treasure. She felt the glossy texture of the iridescent blue paper and looked at the spot above the RSVP information, hand-written and much friendlier in manner compared to the rest of the card was a little addendum;

Bring the whole gang! XO

 

-

 

That night was hard for her to get to sleep. She had actual legitimate work to do to show off her love for Garden in front of a man she maybe wasn’t really supposed to show off love for.

The kids would most certainly do some cute performance in their Garden uniforms. Everyone would watch and clap and give them an awesome memory and some self-esteem. Take some pictures with the president as evidence that Garden kids have a bright future. The thought made Selphie really happy. Exploding-heart happy.

And after, maybe no one would notice her sneak off with Sir Laguna and she could give him a little show and he would clap and then they would get naked and have crazy hot sex!

She giggled. She liked that, too. How would it work exactly, now? Does she have to wear the SeeD uniform again? Maybe she could wear an actual dress and evening gloves and go to that creepy little store in Balamb and buy all those sexy underthings instead of standard issue underwear that the entire complex of Garden is stuck with.

She squirmed under the covers. Irvine just liked her to get naked as soon as possible, so she didn’t bother too much with fancy underthings. She wore a few cute things for him when the holidays rolled around, but since he didn’t really say much about it, they sunk to the bottom of her drawer forgotten.

Oh, what the heck. She crept out of bed and went to her dresser, opening the bottom shelf and pulling out a violet satin bra and a matching bottom. She pulled off her sleep shirt and panties and strapped herself in her secret sexy outfit. Violet wasn’t really her color, but she bought it with Irvine in mind, of course. But Irvine wasn’t on her mind as she sauntered to her bed, practicing her little fantasy scenario.

She sat on the edge of the bed and spread her legs. She bit her knuckle thinking how Sir Laguna might react. Her other hand swept her curled hair behind her shoulder and lingered around her decollete, tracing the top of the bra and dipping down the middle. She didn’t have enough cleavage for the right effect, so she just tugged it down until one breast escaped from over the top of the garment.

She imagined how much he wanted to touch her. But she touched herself instead, her tongue up the corners of her lips, fingers engaging her free nipple. She wanted to hear him beg, to call her name.

She fell back on her bed and slipped both hands under the bra, squirming while she grabbed at herself. Would those be his hands or would she just make him watch?

Oh, he can restrain himself just a little bit, right? He could lean back and pop open his collar, rest his chin on his fist and just give her that look. Eyes narrowed, with a little smirk on his lips. Mm-hm, that one. The one she got right before he was about to do something.

That would be so good right about now, she thought to herself. Was she even on his mind out in Esthar? She had to touch herself, and she was indeed worked up over her little fantasy, evidenced by the wetness clinging to the material over her crotch. She would look at him, looking for an erection pressing into his pants and giving away his mood.

So she would respond. She felt herself, propping one foot up on the bed to give her imaginary audience a better view. She pulled the fabric aside and her other hand joined, whispering fingers through her public hair and touching all the aroused parts of her womanhood. Her finger slid though her wetness, and she tried to remember how his hand felt that one time, months ago on that fancy train. Just barely making it before they were interrupted.

Ah, Sir Laguna, your trigger finger is getting rusty, she mused to herself. Time for some target practice.

 

-

 

“What’s wrong with what I already got, Kiros?” Laguna demanded from his desk as he flipped though an old deck of Triple Triad cards. He looked at one, then tossed it in one of the piles he had been splitting them into.

“Because I have spent half my life trying to help you, and you will wear some proper clothes for once.”

Laguna groaned, “I’m tellin’ ya, it’s fine. Nobody ever complains.”

“Yeah, to your face.”

“Well, maybe it’s important for a leader to set a good example of frugality and un-flashiness”

“Those two words… or one actual word and something you probably just made up… don’t describe you at all. Not accepting appropriate attire for State functions does not make you frugal when you fritter funds away on souvenir key chains for the entire palace staff.”

“Hey, the lady that fixes the broken lights loved it. She said it made her day.

“I am serious here.”

“So’m I.” He flipped another card into the pile.

“What about that little girlfriend of yours… You got her to come, right?”

“Sh-she’s not my girlfriend. Just a nice lady friend with things in common.”

“Right, sure, so she’ll wear a nice fancy dress just for you, and you show up in pajamas and a moth eaten dinner jacket.”

“Aaaaugh!” Laguna threw his hands in the air, cards following suit.

“Look, man. I don’t give a damn about your crappy fashion sense, but my wife is in my ear about it constantly.”

Laguna looked distraught, “But why? Doesn’t she want me to be haaaaappy?”

Kiros rolled his eyes, “Of course she does. She also thinks you need to get laid. She seems to be under the impression that it would involve you getting dressed up for your own damn party.”

“Hey, I can get laid on my own!” Kiros raised an eyebrow and Laguna snapped his mouth closed a bit too fast.

Kiros crossed his arms and leaned back. Laguna looked back at his cards like they were suddenly the most fascinating thing in the room. Kiros’ eyes narrowed and he tapped his fingers on his arms.

My, how far we have come, old friend.

 

-

 

Esthar was in full celebratory mode. Adel was no longer a threat to the lives of its people, and no longer were its soldiers sent to hunt down the young girls who would possibly be her heir. There was no longer fear of a power vacuum by another vile power, since it had been agreed upon by most of the State that the great hero and mastermind of Adel’s entombment would stay and rally Esthar into the future.

People were friendlier to each other. Neighbors smiled at one another. The rich shared their bounty. The intelligent shared their wisdom. Each day was so bright and full of hope. Children looked up to the sky and made songs and rhymes to mock the mad sorceress frozen up in the sky.

But the presidential palace, as opulent and brightly colored as it was, masked the reality of the occupants inside.

Laguna had brazenly succeeded in his haphazard promise to rid Esthar of the sorceress and became some kind of mascot for the country. A bunch of people agreed that he was suitable to inspire the citizens with his kindly ways, but also be just distant enough from the structure of culture to be refreshingly unbiased in his approach to diplomacy. As president, his job wasn’t to suddenly make stuff happen, as one might figure, but to mitigate the internal arguments of the city state and play arbiter to all the conflicting powers. They took whatever his final conclusion was and called it “decision making”.

Little did they know, he just made lucky guesses.

He untangled himself from it all for just enough time to go back to Raine in sleepy little Winhill. He was ecstatic. He loved teasing her, and telling his crazy stories, and pulling cute little pranks with Elle… and this one was going to be a doozy! Oh boy, the look on her face!

He couldn’t wait.

He imagined she’d be pretty pissed at him for all that time away, but he’d make it all up to her when she saw the crazy palace! And she could always come back to Winhill to get flowers, which were way nicer than just the boring ol’ concrete and glass. She’d like that way more than tending to the town drunks. Maybe they could set up a garden on the palace roof. More gardens would make Esthar pretty amazing, actually. He would demand it be written into a charter that Esthar would become Garden-land and it’ll be green as far as the eye could see.

But they told him she was dead and Elle was gone.

“A bad time in his life” would be an understatement. Kiros was eternally grateful for Ward’s bulk, because sometimes Laguna was just physically impossible to handle. And that’s saying something for the little fella.

The beginning was to be expected, a whole lot of shock and anger and needing to physically remove him from Winhill before he killed someone. Then a lot of wrecking stuff in the palace, which wasn’t really a big deal; it was enormous after all, and there was an endless supply and budget of things to break, but the problem was keeping this little problem away from the public eye after two full days of it.

Boy, he had never imagined Laguna to be as angry with him as he was when he finally had him locked in the bathroom. Kiros had no other choice and no help in dealing with his dear friend at his most self-destructive. It was almost a full day later when he asked Ward to go in and try to see what state Laguna was in.

Kiros knew Laguna could be a tough guy when necessary, but he was becoming a demon. Ward tip-toed out of the room and had him slung over his shoulder, sleeping or unconscious, Kiros didn’t know. Kiros prayed hard that his gods would watch over his friend. He had seen the room, the broken mirror fragments strewn about, reflecting light like stars, distracting from the blood droplets that littered the floor.

Whatever he had done in there also wrecked Laguna’s favorite jacket. Torn up in enough places to make it irreparable, Kiros had it removed and put Laguna in some local-style robe. He had meant it to be comfortable, and as it turned out, worked well with the bandages needed on his fists and arms. Kiros was exhausted, talking with all the Estharians about their government operations, convincing them that Laguna was fine and just needed rest, and also being the only one to see the dumb guy, waiting on him hand and foot.

He was tempted to tell him to get over himself. He too, had lost his family. He lost everyone he ever knew before he helplessly abandoned his homeland. He was the last of his culture. But Laguna had loss too, he had spoken highly of his mother before she passed away, and briefly of a father. He surely began building a dream with Raine in his mind, the seed of creating a family to make up for what he lacked and allowed himself to believe it could be something he could make from nothing.

So when it was ripped from him, he was devastated. But somewhere along the way, it wasn’t just that it happened to him as with Kiros, but that he was responsible for it. The assholes in Winhill didn’t help matters either, by keeping their mouths shut and doors locked.

Kiros wanted to tell him it was just the nasty nature of fate. But he was sharp enough to know that wouldn’t convince him otherwise. So he bore through sleepless nights, and traded shifts with Ward, because he knew Laguna would have done it for him in kind.

A week later, when Kiros came into the room, he had an Estharian robe thrown in his face and a very animated half-naked Laguna telling him that even if he had no where else on earth to go, he would never wear the crazy shit these people wear.

So at that point, Laguna got a new shirt and managed to hold it together enough to listen to the Estharians talk about their problems while he smiled a fake smile and cracked a few tired jokes.

He slowly came back to what would be the new-normal, to laugh sincerely, and smile when something was good. But he lost every last ounce of wanderlust and generally kept to the palace compound. It was a huge complex, so that wasn’t as worrisome as it could’ve been. He went to monitor Adel in space out of obligation, as if that were the deal he made with God in exchange for Elle being alive and safe out there somewhere. I can see her from space! he would say, though exactly where, he had no idea.

The consensus of the citizens of Esthar was that clearly Laguna was a hard-working and devoted leader. A little quirky, sure, but after Adel, they could handle anything.

So, years passed smoothly enough for the citizens.

And in that time, Kiros also knew one other subject was off limits; women. Even joking about some such lady being a total babe sent Laguna into some dark little miserable place in his mind. Kiros used to love teasing Laguna about his love life. He hated seeing a fellow red-blooded man shrivel up into this depressed state.

In his time away from her, before Esthar, he had put Raine on this indomitable pedestal, and while he didn’t say much about her outright, Kiros would catch whispers of determination to get Elle, and go back home and make his woman proud. His writing flourished then, and it was no secret, to Kiros at least, that he directed his stories of the world to Raine. If she ever even read them was to be seen, but he wrote and published countless articles with all the heart of a love letter.

But after that, when Laguna ascended to the highest office, they were super stars in a strange land, and in their prime; who could resist the siren call of temptation? Kiros was particularly hounded for his unique look, few had seen such a complexion in their lives. Sure it meant lots of girls just wanted to try him out, but who was he to say no?

So while Laguna wore his widower status like a heavy coat, Kiros enjoyed every dalliance imaginable, and why not? From traveling alongside Ward and Laguna, he knew life was much too short. He had a magnificent penthouse midtown just for overnight guests, then he would travel to the palace in the mornings, where the rest of his life happened.

Kiros affixed the cap of the guard over his head and made his way into the office of the president. Laguna looked up from a screen console where he was examining a report on the Adel project and gave a small wave.

“Mornin’, my man.”

“Back atcha, Laguna. How’s the news?”

“Same. Oh, what to do with a popsicle in the sky.” Laguna sang.

If Loire can’t kill ‘er, the babies will cry.” Kiros finished.

“Man, kids here are so messed up.”

“You totally love having your name in a school yard rhyme.” Kiros crossed his arms, smirking.

“That, I do.” Laguna agreed. It was like having a whole country of tiny fans. He was legendary, and there were all kinds of games and stories featuring the president who used his smarts to save Esthar. Grow up to be just like this guy here! Ellone was the closest he ever had to that, but he was always just "Uncle Laguna" to her. She had real parents once, after all. But he chased after her all over the world and sold his soul to keep the monster Adel from ever going after her again. Sometimes he wondered where “honorary uncle” stopped and “parent” began.

He sighed.

“Do you think I’m good with kids, Kiros?”

Kiros gave him a sideways glance, “Well, yeah, they love you. And you even love it when you have ten climbing all over you when you do those random department of education visits.”

“I don’t mean that… exactly. Like, could I have my own?”

Kiros’ face went from bemused to somber. This was dangerous territory, and was not going to end happy. “Well… were you thinking about getting a few?”

Laguna paused for a second “Oh, man, I could adopt some! That’d be great, give some kids a second chance so they won’t be stuck runnin’ amok downtown and stuck in the military like I was-”

“Or you could have kids the old fashioned way…?” Kiros pried. He couldn’t help it. Maybe Laguna was warming up to the idea of a fresh start.

“I-I couldn’t.”

Mmmmnope.

“Well, we got plenty of time before we have to get serious, so don’t worry, okay man?” Kiros fumbled.

Then Laguna asked, “What about you?”

Kiros swallowed uneasily. He literally left his penthouse this morning with three women in his bed, but never breathed a word of his exploits to Laguna. It seemed kind of cruel.

“I’m doin’ good,” Kiros chose his words carefully, “Just enjoying life.”

“Kiros, I am afraid that the woman I spend the most time with is, well…” he pointed up in the sky. Kiros knew what he meant and just made a grimace. “And the only one I can ever think about is…” his hand went flat on the desk. That was the best he could muster.

“Look, Laguna, if you need help in that department… I’m here for you.”

Laguna gave his friend a wide-eyed look and Kiros suddenly realized what he had said.

“No, Laguna, what the Hell! I mean, I can help arrange something for ya. Introduce you to some nice ladies.” Laguna made an over-dramatic sigh of relief, throwing his head back to thank the heavens.

Kiros rolled his eyes, “You dumb-ass.”

So Kiros had gone to Ward about this little exchange he had. Ward was less than interested in their romantic exploits, but was more than happy to play whatever part necessary if it helped out Laguna, messed up as he was.

They went over the list of available women in their social circles and ended up crossing them all off because they had already been snubbed by the president, were actually Kiros’ sloppy seconds, or just seemed too Estharian. Laguna’s distaste of his own adoptive land was kept as low as possible, but his most trusted friends knew it. He endured Esthar culture, but never embraced it. It was a delicate dance.

So they agreed to look outside. It was a challenge, however, to think of how to get a girl from another land to come to a place that had been hidden behind an invisibility shield for the past few years, cut off from all outside contact, and was famous for harboring the sorceress Adel. And imagine telling anyone that they’d be meeting the president of it! This was way hard. Who’d even be up for that?

“You know what, Ward?” Kiros said to his silent friend, “Forget it. We aren’t playing matchmaker. We are just going to find a hooker who will accept large stacks of cash to deal with our brand of crazy, because this will end badly no matter what we do.”

So they set out to find the most discreet and comforting lady of the night available in all of the Galbadian province. Kiros looked at all the photos and Ward made all the arrangements for payment. Kiros was enjoying this job a little too much, as if it could be helped, but ultimately settled on a young woman with movie star looks who seemed willing, if not a little hesitant, to meet a mysterious foreign benefactor for unreal amounts of money. Her name was Stormy and she had a voluptuous figure in the photos, and pin-curl hair in platinum. Kiros felt she was more his own style than Laguna’s but she had brown eyes that looked like she could convince a man that she was there purely to listen to his worldly woes and not just suck his wallet dry.

Kiros just wasn’t ready to tell Laguna yet.

So he saved the news for a Friday night, after work and prying ears, of course. If he ended up massively offending his best pal, at least Laguna had the weekend to stew over it.

Laguna seemed a little surprised his friend wasn’t running off from work on a Friday night to whatever he was up to in the city. They hung out all the time, and worked together even, but in Esthar, they each cultivated their own hobbies. And Laguna’s was target practice and crying himself to sleep. He was, like, a level 54 pillow-soaker.

Kiros had two bottles of ale from Deling City. Wow, the same stuff they had at Galbadia Hotel, that is so awesome, Laguna thought to himself. Kiros cracked them open and set them down on the small side table in Laguna’s private accommodation.

Kiros cleared his throat. Laguna finished his reverie and gave Kiros his full attention. Kiros swallowed hard. He looked like he was finally ready to say something, but then he looked away and sighed.

“Kiros. If you are going to profess your undying love for me, I already know.”

Kiros gave him such a dirty look and crossed his arms. Laguna laughed heartily, and took a swig from one of the bottles.

“Aw, man, I couldn’t help that one. You’re my best bro. What have you got to be all worked up over, anyway?” Laguna paused, Kiros was still looking incensed. “Oh, shit. You aren’t actually in love with me, are you?”

“No Laguna, that is not it.”

“Oh, thank god, because I have no idea how I’d let you down easy. I might be stuck with you forever. You remember that one time with Ward-”

“Laguna, I found you a girl.” Ale splattered across the table.

“W-what?!” Laguna stammered, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Listen, you can say ‘no’ anytime you want. I know this isn’t your usual thing.” Laguna’s face felt hot, but he listened to Kiros. “We know you’re probably not looking for something serious, and our position here is kind of sensitive. And of course, no one is gonna replace… well, we just want you to have a little fun. She’s a… companion.”

“Oh.”

Kiros took a breath. “There’s no shame in needing some help. Like, baby steps.” Laguna didn’t respond. He looked somewhere between embarrassed and upset. It was hard to believe there had been a time where this subject had come easy between the two of them.

Kiros tried again, “I did it, and it helped me…” He was lying. He never needed to pay for any woman’s attention, but in a sense he was right about just having his needs met to distract himself from other problems. Of course, those problems were right here, sitting across from him.

“You might meet another amazing lady, and end up freaking out. It’s just good to keep your junk busy, s’all I’m saying.” Kiros gave a shrug. He had a date tonight himself, but this was important to him too. Not a lot of women would be thrilled to discover that when the chips were down, Kiros would gladly side with Laguna and Ward. So it was best to keep it light anyway.

“Like I said, I know it’s not your thing, and we can forget this entire conversation ever happened.”

“Except the part with you being in love with me.”

“Right, wait, no! Dammit, Laguna, I’m being serious.”

Laguna’s grin faded and he looked down at the silver band on his finger.

 

-

 

Kiros was relieved, but nervous that Laguna had taken him up on the offer. It was miles of progress, in his opinion. Go back to the way things used to be.

They didn’t tell Stormy who he was. Just that he was high-profile. He didn’t want anything weird. No ropes, no butt-stuff. She would be paid far beyond what she had ever seen from even the most popular consorts, and that was just to travel there. Some of the other girls said it was a bad idea, and it was true. Screwy stuff happened to some of her friends, and the richer the client, the more crazy it got. But it was so much money on the table that she wouldn’t ever have to get in the game again. She could afford to pay off the debts, get into singing, live her dream. Any dream she wanted.

She was accompanied by the dark-skinned man, the attendant to the client, through a building in a style she had never seen in her life. She felt disoriented and confused by the strange location, but did her best to imagine the luxurious home back in Deling she could finally afford.

In front of a door, where she assumed the mystery client awaited, Kiros gave her a final once over.

“So, as we discussed. Nice, calm, no fast movements. Don’t pry for any personal details. You can refuse anything. If you need to restructure the payment, save it for me, don’t talk money with him.”

“Yeah, I got it, sir.” She smiled, even if it was nutty. She was going to grin and bear it for this hideous monster behind the door who was going to furnish her place and make her dreams come true.

He opened the door and she stepped inside.

A man spoke, “Uh… Hi.” He was sitting on the bed, elbows leaning on his knees. Wowie, he wasn’t half-bad.

Stormy sauntered over, and held out her hand, “It’s a pleasure. I’m Stormy. But you can call me whatever you like.”

Laguna took her hand, “Well, nice to mee’cha, Miss ‘Whatever-you-like’.”

She obliged to giggle, but it wasn’t hard. She was met with relief that he hadn’t turned out to be a blobra. Or 130 years old.

“Well, your man said I wasn’t supposed to pry, but you do sound like you’re a Galbadian kinda guy.”

“I’m not supposed to say, but yeah, that’s kinda true.” He smiled. This wasn’t too bad, really.

They talked a bit about Deling City, he asked tons of questions and she felt like she was being interviewed for the paper. It was nice. He made her feel like the superstar she wanted to be. And she was even being paid.

He felt a wave of nostalgia, talking about all those old haunts he used to know. She knew the seedier sides of town too, and told him what was still around since the time he’d been home. It wasn’t bad hearing all this from a pretty girl even, though she had too much makeup and clearly dressed the part of her profession. But then her coat fell open, and a deep line of cleavage captured his line of sight. His words got more convoluted and he repeated the same sentence for the third time when she gently placed a hand on his knee.

He squeaked.

“It’s okay to look, hun. I’m here just for you,” she crooned.

He stood up, but since it was a spare room in the palace, he didn’t have any place to retreat to. He was enjoying the attention, telling stories, but it got to be beyond his comfort level when he felt her touch and the realization of her purpose hit.

He had to sit. But she was on the bed. He was about to fall over. But she was the only one in here who could help him. His mind was whirring and she suddenly stood up and backed towards the door.

“You seem… a bit distressed. I’m so sorry, I forgot myself. It must be because you are so charming.” She placed a hand on her heart and gave a well-rehearsed smile. He looked like he was calming down, and he hobbled back to the bed and fell in it harder than he expected.

She had been warned that he was a bit… sensitive. So this was it. “How about I come back another time? I bet you’d like to hear more about the theater district…”

“Uh, y-yeah, that s-sounds great.”

She wouldn’t have minded more, but really, she was guaranteed money no matter what happened. And she suddenly felt really sad for this crazy rich mystery Galbadian. He had some problems alright.

 

-

 

Stormy came by a few more times after that, and it was quite an undertaking for Kiros, who, while handling affairs of the State and the copious girls in his own life, had the duty of escorting her to the undisclosed location in the North wing of the Presidential Palace of Esthar. He could only manage the long trip once or twice a month, but he felt deeply satisfied that he was doing the right thing for his bro’.

It was unfortunate though, that she always reported to him that Laguna hadn’t made any type of sexual advances, and usually freaked out when she asked him if he wanted to do anything beyond sitting on the bed and holding hands.

Go freaking figure.

This time she wasn’t dressed up though. She got caught up in errands,  actually, setting up her amazing new penthouse in Deling City, and time slipped away before she realized the attendant-man was at the door for her. She was just wearing a sweater and pants, no make-up, and she threw everything desperately in her bag. He promised she could get dolled up at their destination, no problem. Clients would usually have a fit if she looked too real. Wrecked the fantasy.

When she made it to the Galbadian’s room, he gave her a casual wave, familiar enough with her already. She fussed over changing her clothes and putting on her face, when he interrupted her.

“No way. You look… actually, you’re a very pretty guh- lady” he choked on his words a bit. She walked over to him. Not sauntering in high heels, but just moving towards him and taking his hand and smiling so naturally.

She captured his hand with her other, and held it tight. Aha. This guy was weird. She wasn’t brought here to be his fantasy lady.

“Sir,” since she had no other way to address him under secrecy, “You don’t have a wife anymore, do you?”

He became still. She touched his hand near the ring he wore. “It’s not a secret you love someone. And I know how it is when a guy is married, but likes to pretend he’s not. But you… ”

There was a bit of silence. She had to find a door to that wall he was hiding behind.

Finally he spoke, “Yeah, she died.”

“I am sincerely sorry to hear that.”

He made a face, a really nasty grimace, and she heard a sob. She held his hand even though he tried to take it back. His head was between his knees, and he was shaking and weeping against his free arm.

She sat with him as he choked on his own tears, his misery pouring out that he’d kept repressed in front of every other person in his life for a few years now. It was mortifying for him that it was this escort that was the one to comfort him, but she already knew what it was like to be a rock in the face of someone’s insecurities. If she could make any man feel desirable, she could handle giving a guy a chance to grieve.

Okay, it was for large sums of money, but it didn’t make it any less important to her.

Stormy rubbed his back as he began to catch his breath again. She was prepared to stop at any time, but unlike her previous attempts at contact, there was no reaction, just his warmth on her palm through his shuddering. He stopped trying to take his hand back, and clasped hers gratefully.

Putting her arm over his shoulders, she leaned her head onto him. She wanted to ask, to ask about his lost love, who was she, how did she look, why did it hurt him this much when she died. But she wasn’t supposed to ask those kinds of questions. It was the top of the agreement she made with his attendant. He must just be connected to a total hot-shot, since she never saw this guy’s face before. If he was a business man or politician, surely he’d have all kinds of distractions at his disposal. She eventually settled on bastard-child of a really important man. It’s the only way to explain his low-born disposition in such an opulent and wealthy circumstance.

She stopped her musing to use a finger to sweep a lock of hair out of his face and give him a little smile.

“Feels nice to let it out, right?”

He nodded a little. It felt nice being comforted by her when she looked like this. Her eyes looked more innocent and concerned without the extra sultry weight of makeup. Small freckles on her nose that were so happy to be exposed from powder, and lips that were significantly less dramatic, just the right shade of pink…

Stormy knew what was going to happen before he even did; when he cupped her cheek with his free hand and kissed her. He might have had a momentary lapse in judgment, but she did not, and was careful. She let him lead, and only when she felt his tongue begging for entry did she open her mouth to meet hers with his. Her instincts told her to do this and that, but her mind knew the score. Slow, keep it slow. It was a challenging feat. He wasn’t a great kisser, but it was so quaint.

He let go of her hand and wrapped his arm around her waist. Soft and loose material, not the tight party dresses she usually wore. Her arm made it around his neck and he made a small sigh. Ah, she was really making progress now. With confidence, she pushed him to the bed, and he fell back easily, as he clutched her waist with both hands like she was saving him from drowning.

She pulled her lips off, and he was panting, hair everywhere, looking mesmerized.

“Raine…”

She tilted her head, thinking, weather was nice when she arrived, but whatever.

She leaned down to kiss him again, brazenly putting her hand on his stomach and sliding it down along the front of his pants. He was hard and she felt compelled to finish her job. It was only natural. Just something quick and easy.

She unbuttoned his pants and unzipped them quickly. She stroked him through his underwear and gauged the size. He moaned and she felt a twitch, so she pulled the material down. She kissed his cheek, then sat up, moving her legs into a new position. When she had her legs neatly folded, she descended her mouth on his cock.

“N-no…”

Sometimes they like to pretend they don’t want it, she considered. But he was regaining his composure and pulled himself up, sliding away from her mouth, as inviting as it was. It felt amazing and absolutely awful. He covered his face with his hands and mumbled apologies to her.

“It’s okay, hun, I can…”

“No, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry… please go. Please. I can’t do this.”

She got up, feeling a little bit jilted, but it would be unprofessional to show it, and she was pretty famous in DC for knowing her stuff. She moved to re-do his pants, but he shooed her hands away.

She looked at him sadly and grabbed her bags by the door, “Alright hun. I’ll see ya next time, ‘kay?”

Once she left, Laguna spent some time in the room feeling miserable and inadequate. After a while, he pulled himself together and found Kiros to tell him he wasn’t interested in seeing Stormy anymore.

Nice girl, but no, no more of that.

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Selphie met Rinoa with a little squeal in Balamb down by the train station. For living practically next to the town of Balamb, Selphie didn’t seem to get out there as much as she should. Sure, she would go dawdle by the ocean, but didn’t make it as far the the more organized beaches close to town, especially this time of year. Rinoa wasn’t interested in hanging out too much at Garden either, it let Squall have his own life and it wasn’t much her style anyway.

Winter set in to the island, no where near the icy wonderland of Trabia, but warranting a small jacket and warm hats to combat the cool misty fog coming in from the ocean. Selphie was decked out in a vintage bomber jacket that came from Galbadia, but she had customized with the Ragnarok embroidered on the back. When she pulled it out of storage for the winter season, it made her equal parts sad and happy.

Rinoa, the angel she was, handed Selphie a steaming take-away cup of coffee, sweetened for the season.

“I thought you’d want it so we can get straight away to shopping.”

“Did you wait for me long?” 

“I never wait for you long when I live in town, Selph. Now c’mon,” Rinoa said as she took Selphie’s arm, “you need to be the one to tell me ‘No, that dress costs too much’.” 

Selphie could never do that. She didn’t do tons of shopping, but when she did, it was impulse-laden. All the snacks, all the cute doo-dads, all the flashiest accessories!

“So what’s on the menu, Rinny?” 

Rinoa gave her a look, “The big party in Esthar next month, of course. Squall gave me the a-okay to splurge for once.” 

Selphie sort of doubted that was exactly what Squall had meant, but Rinoa had a much more fun approach to life, so she was right anyway. Solidarity

“So what’re you going to wear?” Rinoa asked. 

“Oh, do I need something special for it?” 

“Absolutely! It’s black-tie!” 

“I guess I figured I’d be in uniform with the kids. You know they’re doing a small concert so I’ll be conducting…sort of… and mainly chaperoning.” 

“We’re guests, Selphie! That sounds an awful lot like work. I’m having some words with Squall-” 

“Oh, no no no, I loooove it. They’re so cute and excited for it. It actually means a lot to me that we can show off what great kids we have. Remember that concert ages ago? The one in FH?” 

“Oh wow, that was a total mess.”

“What!?” Selphie sputtered coffee. 

“Oh my gosh, Selphie! I was joking! It was the best thing ever!”

Selphie wiped up coffee that had dribbled down her chin from the outburst and licked her finger “Rinny, that was a terrible joke, I literally almost died from it.”

Rinoa wagged her finger at her friend, “You did not, and as a matter of fact, it was the best concert I have ever been to in my life and how you managed to pull it off back then still blows my mind. I’m sure you’ve got your kids making something that will put tears in Dad’s eyes.”

“Yeah, Laguna’s gonna be impressed.” Was she correcting Rinoa? Dad? Selphie thought to herself, Eugh. Of course she’d call him that, it’s who he is; her father-in-law.

They walked to the little cluster of garment shops of Balamb, though just a few carried garments for fancy occasions.

“This is gonna be so easy, I bet we’ll find something good in less than an hour” Rinoa exclaimed happily.

“Oh?” Selphie automatically touched the sparkles of a dress by the door, “Why’s that?”

“Black is the only acceptable color for the fiftieth birthday, and it’s super formal”

“Wow, I didn’t know that” she stepped away from the glittery stuff; she couldn’t help that it drew her attention right away. “I hope when I’m fifty, I can have a costume party.”

“Oh Selphie, you will be the most excellent grandma ever. How about this dress?” Rinoa pulled one off the rack and held it up.

“Black suits you so well, I’m sure it’ll look good.” Grandma, sheesh.

“How about you try on this one at the same time, then we’ll compare?”

Selphie grabbed another dress from Rinoa, “Good plan”

When they each came out of the dressing room, Selphie was not far off. Rinoa looked sophisticated and mysterious in a long, satin dress with shoulder straps. It made her look long and lean and when Selphie caught her own reflection she made a gasp.

“Rinny, I look like I’m going to a funeral! I am a granny going to a funeral! Noooooo!” she wailed at Rinoa, who was giggling at Selphie’s expense. She really hadn’t expected it to be so bad, but perhaps the size was off and the sleeves weren’t as flattering as she had expected.

“Sir Laguna was a good man…” Rinoa teased. “He lived a long life full of sorceresses and-hey! Owwwww!”

Selphie didn’t mean to hit Rinoa quite that hard, but she didn’t really want to hear the rest.

“Selphie…” Rinoa looked at her friend, rubbing her arm. She’d upset her somehow and she had a pretty serious pout on her usually cheerful face. Ah, probably because she didn’t like other people calling him Sir Laguna.

“I’m sorry, it was a bad joke. I know how you feel about him.”

“Y-you know?” Selphie knew she was usually pretty transparent, but she thought she was doing so well about this!

“Yeah, um, Selphie you had a website about him. But, I promise you we have never called him ‘Sir Laguna’ once.”

Selphie suddenly felt really… dumb. “Rinny, I’m s-s-” She threw her arms around her friend, blubbering. She wanted to confess the whole stupid thing; the breakup with Irvine, the sort-of affair with Laguna, her concern over her entire future, but she just couldn’t do it. They expected her and Irvine to be stuck like glue and it was mostly her fault. And Sir Laguna was Squall’s dad and a whole lot older than was was acceptable, not to mention they were getting acquainted during SeeD missions, and-

“I said, it’s okay. Don’t worry. It’s just my arm. If I tell Squall what it was for, he’d probably get my other one.”

Rinoa settled on the first dress, a bit guilty to set off Selphie’s little fuss in the store, and set to help get Selphie in something nicer than the SeeD uniform. Selphie was right about looking like a funeral attendee; even though that was the joke of the over-the-hill theme, it just didn’t suit her at all. Rinoa had to bend the rule, so she branched out to grey. Then silver. She found an interesting asymmetrical dress with one strap and a little drape over the bosom. It looked nice. She held Selphie’s hair back in a mock chignon and gave a nod.

“How ‘bout that? You look like a grown up.”

“I look like a grown-up in my uniform.”

“You look like a secretary in that thing.” She considered, “Well, Quistis has you beat, but this looks much nicer. Just imagine what Irvine would say!”

Irvine would call me a shitty girlfriend, she thought sadly.

“Quistis is definitely a sexy secretary.” Selphie said as she took a hold of her hair and held it up herself. Maybe tuck some little flowers in there, could be nice. “Okay, I’ll do this dress. But when I’m fifty, it’s a costume party or… a slumber party.”

“Deal. I’ll bring Dad in this wheelchair.”

“Rinny, that’s swell of ya, but I think I’ll just get him myself.”

 

-

 

In the Commander’s office Squall looked up at Selphie as she came in.

“Did you tell Irvine about the party?”

“Huh?” Selphie’s heart stopped beating and she used all her willpower to stop her face from scrunching up in discomfort.

“Were you afraid he wasn’t invited since he’s not affiliated with Garden anymore?”

“Oh. Maybe? And I got so caught up with the student performance, I doubt I’ll do much partying while keeping the kids in check.” Haha, she prepared that one for Squall. Uncomfortable question about Irvine or Sir Laguna? Deflect with response about Garden student concert.

“Look, that’s not going to be a problem, he is our…”

Squall considered the relationship he had with Irvine. Amicable, but distant. Perfect, as far as he was concerned.

“He’s our brother.”

And she had to agree on that one. Save for Seifer, who was trouble from the get-go, she didn’t have anyone else in the world she would consider as close to siblings as these guys. Staying on at Garden, despite the formidable change in purpose, reinforced that, making up for the gap of years when they were no longer in an orphanage together.

Selphie was stalling though, and Squall expected her to jump up right away and call Irvine and practically drag him through the phone.

I guess I’m not as hip to relationships as I though I was. Rinoa’s going to be so disappointed in me, Squall mused.

“Okay, so I’ll call him up then. Let him know?” Squall asked, eyebrow raised.

Practiced smile. “Aww, that’d be great, Commander. I gotta get going now, lemme know what he says.”

Selphie slipped back out the door, even though she had originally came in to talk to Squall about other student issues. She really didn’t want to stand by and listen to him talking to Irvine.

He asked if they could be friends, and she totally could, but she hadn’t even truly severed the ties of their relationship. It was kind of fading off the way a sticker bandage does before it finally goes missing and reappears blocking the drain hole in the shower. Friends stopped asking how he was doing a while back now, but she still had gifts and mementos of their relationship in her daily life that parting with would mean throwing away half of her worldly possessions.

Since they parted in Deling City, she got a few messages. One was right at the start of the new school year, wishing her luck. She kept it, as a nice sentiment from a person dear to her. The rest were probably drunk texts, based on the time stamp.

If he didn’t even remember writing them, she would honor it. Even though a two in the morning “I mss u” made her cry in the privacy of her room, she deleted it.

When she was back in her room that night, the new dress she had bought with Rinoa was peeking out from hanging on the inside of the closet door. It was sort of pretty, and maybe she could make it work.

Maybe she could work the silver into the kid’s uniforms somehow. Girls at Garden were better known for throwing punches than getting dressed up, but some of them might like the change. Boutonnieres for the boys, and the girls can have their hair pinned up with flowers and they could all match!

Selphie was getting giddy on her planning-high, and fell on her bed happily. They were a sub-division of her Festival Committee, and they practiced with fervor. Actually Quistis had to tell her to calm them down because the performing students were disrupting other classes over their excitement. Selphie gave a few half-hearted apologies and secretly enjoyed the jealousy of the other faculty. Sure, she got to do the fun stuff and they didn’t, but the fun-stuff was so important! That was going to be their memories and bragging rights as an adult! The score they get on a test in geography class might seem important for something, getting a job, blah blah blah... But when they think back of how it felt to put together a composition, working together with different talents, practicing obsessively, then performing it in front of her Sir Laguna, who happens to be, like, the most important guy in the world…

She rolled in her bed, gushing about her students. Pride was bursting through her pajamas, and worrying about Irvine wasn’t going to wreck her anticipation. It’ll be fine.

 

-

 

January rolled around with the obligatory New Year’s Eve party for celebrating the end of another calendar. Selphie and Zell arranged a midnight movie party for the students and it was a major deal to have the strict curfew lifted for the night. Squall had the training center cleared of students and locked up from every angle by noon, and Selphie chastised him for being so uptight.

Zell was a trooper and brought it tons of snacks and food. He knew how to do it right, after all. A lot had changed for Garden, but hot dogs never seemed to go away as a staple of the juvenile diet. He brought them plain for the students, but as the gang got older, he was the one stacking them high with the weirdest toppings Selphie could imagine.

“Makes ‘em healthier” he said in between bites. “Y’know, fiber.”

Selphie held her knees and laughed at good ol’ Zell. He was a fantastic fighter and was a lot smarter than he got credit for, especially as his job at Garden was more akin to a lowly janitor save for the handful of classes he taught. He was actually meant to be the school’s mechanic, but with only two proper vehicles, and fewer missions utilizing them, he spent his time just keeping the moving parts clean. He didn’t even have much to do with the basement level since the Garden was slated to be immobile at the request of various military stakeholders.

Selphie picked at some chips as she watched the students from the back of the quad. Squall was there for about half the movie, barking orders for the boys to stay at least six inches away from the girls, and stop throwing popcorn at each other. When he left, everyone visibly relaxed and half the food was gone anyway. Selphie thought the little crushes were cute and thought to give Squall a hard time about it later, considering how he was no stranger to romance in Garden himself.

“So you’re excited for the big party?” Zell asked.

Selphie examined the chip she held, “Oh, the kids’re so excited. There’s a couple I’m worried about, but I know they’ve got their friends keeping an eye out for them and-”

“Yeah that’s great, I’ve heard every detail, like, twenty times. I mean, the other stuff.”

“Other stuff?” she echoed, “I doubt I’ll even have time to think about-”

“Fancy Estharian food?”

“You are mistaking me for yourself.

“Well, I haven’t seen Irvine in ages. It’ll be good to catch up, since you keep him all to yourself.”

She finally popped the chip in her mouth and smiled at Zell. Can’t talk, mouth full. She shrugged at him, noncommittal.

“You’ve got some plans with him, I assume? Holding hands out on the balcony?” He nudged her, teasingly. She rolled her eyes.

Zell balled up the wrapper that had contained the hot dog he’d eaten. He looked forward to the trip to Esthar, and even though it was a little fancy for his taste, it made his Ma cluck with pride all throughout Balamb that her boy rubbed elbows with the elite. His Ma acted like she was everybody’s Ma, feeding them, hugging them, and even dishing out the occasional whupping, but when she gushed over him, he felt really happy. Like it didn’t matter one bit that they weren’t connected by blood. She raised him right, and out of everyone, he felt like he really did have it best.

He chucked the wrapper ball at the back of some kid’s head. It made impact and a few snickers emitted from the crowd.

“Yeah, I saw that” Zell grumbled, “Cut it out, or I’ll call the Commander.”

Selphie held in a chuckle. Kids watching kids.

“Don’t you miss having a Disciplinary Committee to do that stuff for you?” she asked him.

Zell snorted, “No chance in Hell.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Carrying her pack and a garment bag, Selphie did the millionth head count of the morning. Twelve lucky students chosen as her prime distraction from what was a very posh party. They were chattering and jovial when the pickup from Esthar came. The Garden had a break from regular attendance hours, but since so few of their students had outside family, there was really no holiday for staff. During Summer it was easier to establish home-stays and internships for the older ones to get out and experience the world, but winter was harder when families wanted more time to themselves and outdoor activities had increased expense. Trabia Garden was made for winter fun, and she had great adventures skiing, sledding, and even actually fighting monsters in snow-shoes (no small feat, and sort of why nun-chaku were the best weapon of all, forget that running-around hitting-stuff business.) But Trabia Garden was rebuilt and sold off, operating as a headquarters to a mining company.

“Ow, Miss Tilmitt, your hand.” 

“Oops, sorry, I was just worried about you.” She let go of her student’s shoulder. She desperately wanted to keep Balamb Garden running. 

As they climbed into the Estharian transport vehicle generously provided by the presidential office, she glanced back at the Garden. She hated that Trabia was where she was raised, but not really her home. She occasionally visited her adoptive family, but it got harder with the loss of her Garden compatriots after the missile attack, then the loss of the Garden altogether. She wanted none of that for these guys. 

They were ushered to a passenger area and she did her million-and-one head count of the day. 

“Everyone hold up your weapon!” 

The students held up their instrument cases. One kid held up a pair of cymbals. 

“Percussion need to be in the case! No practicing in the ship! It may interfere with on-board equipment.” She ordered cheerily. The student slunk down and slipped the shiny brass plates into their case and held them back up. 

“Armor check!” 

They all held up the hooks to their garment bags. They had their uniforms pressed and neat. Wearing casual civilian clothes in route kept them from wrecking anything before the performance.

A familiar face came into view and Selphie gasped. 

“Kiros! Oh my God!” 

She gave a hasty thumbs-up to the students and ran over to the man, giving him a hug around the waist. He towered over her and the kids looked over to the scene. 

“Well, well, look who’s finally coming to visit.” 

She beamed at him. She had such strong feelings for a man that she had really little face time with. But feelings were more important than time, anyway. 

He gave her a little pat. Visits being few and far between, her hugs were always the same. Happy and slightly overwhelming. 

“I am so excited Mister Kiros, really, I can’t even believe it, oh, wow this is going to be so good-” she didn’t even breathe. 

The students went back to talking with each other and the others were boarding and packing away their bags. Rinoa sat with Squall, Quistis and Zell hovered around the students, and Selphie hung back with Kiros, peppering him with questions. 

“So your wife is going to be there? And your kids?” 

“Yup, maybe they’d be interested in hanging out with some of your younger ones” he gestured to her students, “they only know about Garden from you guys being in it.” 

“That’d be great. A lot of folks have a really negative view on Garden, so it makes it hard to introduce them to other kids their age.”

“Well, we know what you’re trying to do and how important it is for Squall… and you.” She blushed a bit. “Laguna would write you guys a blank check if he would accept it.”

“Trust me, he’s grateful for what you guys offer already. He doesn’t want Garden to be an extension of Esthar since it would bother Balamb district governance.” She sighed. These politics were never a concern when she was young. Getting older was so tedious! Imagine how Sir Laguna felt! 

“He’ll be happy to see you. He’s been absolutely unbearable all week.” 

Selphie crossed her arms and smiled a little to herself, not able to look over at Kiros. “Really?” 

“Yeah, fifty is a pretty big milestone to hit, the palace is fussing all over him. But me and Ward have been waiting for ages for this.” 

“For Laguna’s birthday?” 

Kiros smirked, “Well, yeah, now when we call him ‘Old man’ it’s not just an inside joke.” 

“But you’re all a bunch of oldsters, Mister Kiros!” exclaimed Selphie. 

“He’s got a couple of years on us, y’know. We’ve been milking that one since he was granted officer status back in the military because of his age.” 

She was loving this, getting all this delicious dirt on Sir Laguna. “You know he’ll just get you back, right?” 

“Oh, Selphie, I’m married. He can’t do any worse than my wife and kids. They already make me feel three times older when I hear their footsteps. Anyway, just wait til we get back home and you see Ward’s performance. He does a great impersonation of Laguna with a walker. He could do the whole roast by himself.”

 

-

 

It was a short journey since they were in one of the newer crafts made in Esthar. It was unfortunate though that it was not quite long enough to get any proper rest in. Selphie loved the long, meditative journeys that trains afforded, and quite honestly would have even preferred it even in the attendance of twelve kids. Or it was the fact that a much longer trip would have delayed them from meeting Irvine at the Esthar landing port. 

He waved at everyone, but looked right at Selphie. He smiled a little, though tight-lipped. She returned it with a grin that was a little strained and she could feel her neck muscles tighten. 

And in shiny modern Esthar, Irvine looked old fashioned and more charming than usual. He came along side her and took her luggage and it kept her from having to fuss over him. They looked pretty normal, at least normal for any other couple. As they walked, Zell and Quistis led the students and Irvine leaned into Selphie and gave her a kiss on the cheek. 

“Nice t’ see ya.”

 “You too, Irvine. How’s DC?”

“Doin’ pretty good. Let’s do some catching up later, alright?” He bumped her hip with his fist, a slightly casual, slightly possessive gesture, then he went off to let the Garden people do their thing. He returned her luggage and she clutched it helplessly. 

When Laguna and Ward came out to greet them, it was like a family reunion. Lots of hugs, embarrassing questions, and feeling wound tighter than a yo-yo. 

Or maybe that was just Selphie.

A couple of her students were taller than her even, so when it was her turn to hug Ward, she was totally eclipsed by him. The Estharian robes made him seem even bigger, considering the amount of material billowing around him. 

When she was lined up to greet Laguna, she felt time stop. Not literally like someone cast Stop, because that really sucked, but like all the talking and excitement around her got muffled and her skin warmed up beyond what was usual in the dry winter air of Esthar. He grinned at her, and opened his arms wide. He was much better at this that she was. Arms around his waist? Over his neck? Where would her face go? What about her hands? How close is too close

It was really hard. 

He stepped forward and put his arms around her, stopping her thought process. He squeezed gently, and that warm feeling went down past her stomach. 

“Hey there, stranger,” he said softly into her ear. 

Gosh, there were so many people watching, this was awful, “H-hey. Happy birthday, Sir Laguna. I really hope you like what we came up with for your party.” 

Zell came up behind her. Laguna let go, and Selphie stepped back from him, biting her lip. 

“Yeah, man, she’s been obsessing over it non-stop for two months straight. You better like it!” Zell thrust his hand in front of her and Laguna took it for a firm shake and gave the congenial blonde a familiar pat on the shoulder. 

“Ha!” Laguna replied, a little too loud and a little too pleased.

 

-

 

The evening was blocked off for dinner rehearsals and the students had a chance to review their seating arrangement and get a feel for the space. They were still buzzing over the familiarity their teachers had with the President of Esthar. They were sheltered from the displeased government dealings of the local officers of Balamb, and Squall absorbed most of the vitriol from abroad, but it was amazing to be bowed to by the palace staff and be treated to a big fancy suite in a city faaar cooler than Balamb or even Dollet.

Selphie was pleased with how things were going, even the most ornery of students being wowed by the setting. She wanted to go see Laguna one last time before the party, but no one else was available to play chaperon. She felt weirdly lonely, being in his home but unable to see him, so she distracted herself with the students, setting up a couple card games until Squall came in to give the lights out.

And then Selphie pulled out a little flashlight and she stuck her tongue out at the door after he left. The kids loved it, but she wasn’t doing it for their sake.

 

-

 

The next day was a whirlwind of nerves, and not just Selphie’s. Two of the girls got in a fight in the morning and one had a black eye, a senior class-man had a panic attack in the middle of the night because he forgot where he was, at least five things were broken, and the youngest boy threw up in the bathtub after they returned from a short tour of the palace grounds. 

She had honestly expected much worse. She let Zell chew them out and dabbed makeup as gently as possible on the bruised up girl, who was blubbering about ruining the picture. Selphie insisted it made her look bad-ass, but the crying continued and was making the cover-up run.

Rinoa saved her butt by coming in with the good stuff, and took over make-up artist duties. 

Next, Selphie went to the bathroom and yanked the shower head down and hosed down the entire room. Then the did it again and dumped a bunch of fancy bath bubbles down the drain until it smelled less of sick and more of… kind of like Laguna. She did a little shiver. Not the time for this, she thought to herself. 

She yelled out to the kids that the bathroom was ready for the next person and three students started shoving each other for dibs. She commanded they go in order of shortest to tallest and did another headcount. Someone was missing so she asked one of the older girls to to double check. She grabbed another boy who was probably itching to make trouble himself and assigned him to do an instrument check. She sweetened the deal by letting him give noogies to anyone not in possession of their ‘weapon’. The students within ear shot of their little bargain clutched their instrument cases. 

Her head was spinning from the finely managed chaos when Quistis popped her head in the room, looked at Selphie with panic and said “Why aren’t you in your dress?!” 

Selphie just groaned. 

“It’s been a rough morn…” she looked at the clock, “Day.” 

Actually, the little trouble-maker relished in his duty, and somehow managed to get the pack together with less fuss than any of the teachers could have. She was exhausted, but it was time for them to be escorted to the grand ballroom and hopefully they could maintain themselves there. 

Zell and Quistis obliged Selphie’s request to take the students there so she could have a few moments to herself to get ready. Just throw on the dress and take a few deep-breaths, that’s all she wanted. 

The room felt completely sucked of life when the quiet descended on her. She sighed. 

Finally. Wow. Big girl time

She started unbuttoning herself out of the SeeD uniform and unzipped the garment bag. She hung the uniform in the place of the dress and pulled out her one sexy underwear set. She unhooked the right-side  strap of the violet number and exchanged it with her rather plain bra. She swapped out her underwear and snapped at the sides. 

She really, really hoped he’d get to see it. And she wiggled her butt happily at the thought. 

The dress was put on and smoothed over her body, and she took out some hairpins before stuffing her belongings back into the case and slipping it on the top of the boudoir, just out of easy reach.   

In the bathroom, she pulled her errant curls to the base of her neck and did her best to smooth everything out with hairspray borrowed from Rinoa. Her hair was as naturally weird as she was, so she had to just deal with the result. She shook her head and it mostly stayed put, but a few strands whispered around her face. It was kind of cute. 

Whatever

Augh, too Squall

What-eveeer!

She did her lipstick, used Rinoa’s blush, then she left the room, pattering in her dress heels down to the moving transportation benches. She chose her final destination from the terminal and it whisked her off to the grand ballroom. 

The kids must have freaked out when they rode this thing

The formal ceremony was about to start when she came around the back to the waiting room with her students and Zell.

“Oh, thank God, Selph.” 

She did a little nod and did her obligatory head count. “Nothing too crazy happened in fifteen minutes, right?” 

Zell rolled his eyes, “I’ll spare ya the gory details. They’re good to go.” 

She stepped out of the room and approached the wings peeked to the stage that was magnificently decorated with black and white chandeliers and other various blue-tinged lights as was common in Esthar. 

Kiros was giving a welcoming speech and relating an old story of how Laguna had chucked him off a cliff, thus saving his life from on coming soldiers. He omitted the fact that the enemy soldiers looked just like the ones flanking the building, but otherwise he didn’t embellish much. Selphie couldn’t find an angle where she could see the crowd without giving herself away. Her students were slated to perform in less than fifteen minutes, so it would be time to usher them to the stage soon, hopefully without too much disturbance. 

She went back to the waiting room. 

“Hey guys, it’s time. Step quietly behind the stage, okay? We are Garden students not T-rexaurs. You too, Zell.” 

“Hey!” 

The troupe made it to the stage and an attendant formally bowed to her before showing her his digital clipboard with the name of the song and the time of their performance. She scanned it and nodded to him and he tapped the screen and it turned blue. He cued them to go onstage. 

The students filed out and found their seats already arranged on the stage for their arrival just like in the rehearsal. They took out their instruments and Selphie stepped out, blinking under the lights, a bit nervous from this crowd. She still looked for Laguna, but her eyes only focused on her feet in front of her and the podium she needed to get to. 

Let’s get this show on the road, booyaka! 

She found a small microphone spot and situated herself in front of it, glad for the heels she wore, otherwise she’d be reaching across like a little kid playing pretend speech. The audience was larger than she expected, tables full of visiting dignitaries and Estharians in their ivory robes. Squall really should have been the one to introduce the Garden students, but he begged off the responsibility. He gave her a few words to add to her speech, but otherwise she was on her own. 

“Um, thank you Esthar for having us here tonight. My name is Selphie Tilmitt and I am one of the lead administrators and head of student morale at Balamb Garden.” 

She took a breath and clasped her hands together, “We are here to honor President Loire on his birthday and show our appreciation for his support of Garden. We are so grateful to have this chance to show you a side of Garden that many folks don’t even believe exists. For so many of us, it’s our first real home, and it isn’t just a training school for mercenaries, but where we grow up and learn how to be adults in a world that maybe didn’t want us in the first place.” she gave a little shrug. Maybe some of them didn’t want to hear it, but it was truth. 

“These students worked tirelessly to compose, on their own, an arrangement for President Loire, who was a complete stranger to them, but very close to some of us. History books are neat, but… well…” she gave a nervous little laugh. 

“Anyway, together we read his old writing, and we looked at maps and put together a story of music inspired by his journey coming to Esthar. So without further ado, I present to you ‘Home Away from Home’” 

The audience erupted into applause and when the silence returned, she went to her students, gave them a big wink and a nod was their cue to begin. 

Her rag tag group of orphans suddenly looked like the most sophisticated, mature young people she had ever seen. They performed with their all, blocking out all the morning’s drama and struggles from their lives to prove Miss Tilmitt right, that they were capable of doing anything when someone would just believe in them. 

They went through their well-rehearsed parts, each student given a chance to shine, and the less-brave given parts that fully supported their peers. Their eyes focused on their little sheet music, fingers and arms tensed with the pressure that was usually reserved for the real weapons they donned during heavy physical training. 

They needed weapons to feel safe, to feel like they had control over lives that had been overridden with war and tragedy. Selphie did everything she could to give them options, so they could hold a keyboard, or a marker pen, or an instrument that would give them the power they longed for. 

She was worried at the too-serious looks on their faces, quite a bit unlike their expressions when they rehearsed. She hoped they were still having fun, because that’s what life is all about, but she was listening to each note for any imperfection and realized her own face was tense with stress and determination. 

The song progressed into a fervor of sound, noisy and brash. It was Adel. She was dying. That’s what the kids said it was supposed to sound like. Selphie figured they just wanted to make a racket because composing music was tough and kind of boring to them. She turned to look into the crowd and finally spotted Sir Laguna. She made a small bow, too subtle for anyone not paying attention, but she she caught his eye, she had to react. He looked… spooked. Stunned? She felt so much more nervous than before. 

The song wrapped up into a finale, the kid with the cymbals hearkening the end with a burst and a cheeky, recently-lost tooth grin. 

It was rough, but heartfelt, and the applause was deafening. She caught Sir Laguna giving a standing ovation, and of course since the president was doing it, the entire ballroom followed suit. You’d have thought the whole shindig was just for her. 

Her heart was fluttering, her students were grinning bigger than she had ever seen in their entire attendance in Garden, and she had to be prodded by the stage manager to initiate the bow and move off the stage for the next act. She waved at the kids to stand up and they all bowed to the audience, then to the president, then they bowed to Selphie and she felt like she was going to burst with joy. 

She was so happy as she and her small orchestra left the stage and Squall was waiting there, arms crossed and leaning against the wall. Zell took the kids back around to the waiting room and Selphie was about to follow when Squall held her back. 

“Thanks for doing that, Selphie. The kids did great, and so did you.” 

She was still high on too much happiness that she nearly jumped on him. “I-I-I’m… baaaaaaaaaaa” She was bawling into his Seed uniform and Rinoa came by and gave him a look. Squall shrugged back at his wife and she responded by covering her mouth to keep from laughing. Squall was patting Selphie’s back and looking uncomfortable, but he would have rather gone another round with Ultimecia than attempted a speech in front of these people. Selphie did all the work anyway, she deserved the praise. 

Squall and Rinoa each took one of Selphie’s arms as she blubbered her way back to her students. She broke from them and gave the kids all hugs and smothered them with complements. They all started in on making Zell take photos, but they were all blurry and terrible, so Selphie took over and took quick snaps of them with their instruments, with each other, and tons of goofy shots with tongues sticking out and fingers in V-shapes behind each others’ heads.

An attendant came finally to usher them to their seats for the dinner. Squall was ready to lead the pack, glad to have the duty of sitting with the Garden students instead of at the head table as Laguna had requested. They all moved quickly along the halls flanking the ballroom, trays of beautifully arranged food in racks giving off fantastic smells and everyone was suddenly overcome with hunger.

“Touch it, and you’re dead meat.” Zell said from the back.

Squall looked back and added, “I don’t need a gunblade to make anyone’s life miserable.”

Selphie gave the fellow SeeDs a glare and grabbed the suspect student defensively by the shoulders. “Bad guys! Baaaad! They’re my babies, don’t you hurt my precious babies!” 

The student rolled his eyes and wasn’t sure which threat was worse.  

 

-

 

They were seated just as the first course was going around, Irvine was already at the table and he waved Selphie over. She was stuck, she wanted to avoid him as much as possible, but as long as he was present, it was inevitable to be pushed into his company. 

He pulled out the chair for her and as she sat down hissed toward her students, “You don’t have to eat anything that looks weird, but if you don’t want it, give it to Mr. Dincht.” Zell did a little fist pump. 

Irvine looked at her, smirking. Some entertainment continued, mostly traditional Estharian performances with a professional orchestra, but people were chatting and eating and the formality of the event began to slip. Irvine moved closer to her, his arm on the table taking up her space.

“Babe.” 

“Yes?”

“I’m proud of ya." 

She smiled. Well, duh, he should be. 

An appetizer plate came down for them, and he removed his arm so a basket of bread could be set between them. The bread was flat and cut into dainty little triangles. She was starved, but being near Irvine after so many months made her stomach feel off. Another server came by offering wine (from Galbadia, no less) and she accepted gratefully through Squall’s disapproving stares.

They enjoyed a few more courses of opulent and exotic fare. Everything here has some crazy sauce, I can’t even manage it, she bemoaned. 

Finally, attendees were getting up to mingle and the tables were being removed. It would be near impossible to manage the students in the crowd, so Kiros had them corralled to a wing that was fully equipped with various high tech games and video consoles and his sons were delegated the all-important task of introducing the technology to the visiting kids. There was palace staff to manage them, but the SeeDs all promised to take shifts so everyone could enjoy the party without worrying about a security breach.

Zell took first shift out of sheer curiosity to what entertainment entailed in Esthar.

“Oughta be pretty good, y’know?” he speculated. 

Selphie was super grateful and once again owed Zell a steak. She slipped away as quietly as possible and made her way to the front where she found Laguna in conversation with a few gray haired visitors. He interrupted their conversation when he caught her eye and beckoned her over. 

She made a small smile and went over to him, and he gave her an apologetic look. 

“You can’t kill me, it’s my birthday, ” he muttered to her under his breath then spoke up to the rest of the crowd when she raised an eyebrow at him. 

“So this is Selphie Tilmitt, you guys loved that performance, right?” The older gentlemen nodded and gave polite affirmations. 

He continued, his grin taking over his face, “She is my guest, totally not even paid to be here. That whole thing was just because Garden is that great. Absolutely great.” 

He looked so pleased with himself, that brat.

Not like she could be mad. After she was so pissed at him the last time he introduced her to the cronies of his social standing, he was making a concerted effort to make it proper. He was painfully sincere. The men all shook her hand and he set a hand on her back. 

He addressed the men, “Hey, I’ll come back around and let you all suck up to me a little bit later, but I’ve got some really important Garden business to attend to with Miss Tilmitt. Totally top-secret Garden stuff.” He gave her a wink and without giving her much of a chance to argue, took her hand and made his way to an empty space by the orchestra stage.

She was whisked along until suddenly he took her hand and pulled her into a dancing position.

“L-laguna, this is… maybe…” 

“Aww, c’mon, this way I can talk to you without folks thinking it would be appropriate to butt in and add their three-gil.” 

He had a point. 

“I just wanted you to know how impressed I was with what you did up there. I mean, I really don’t even know what you do with my money at that place… and it was… Well, I was touched.”

“I promise they did it all by themselves.”

“And that’s what made it so great.” 

She was silent for a little bit, and she had a lot of feelings mushing together and she was going through a laundry list of things in her head she wanted to say.

“I missed you, Sir Laguna.”

She felt his hand clench, and he pulled her just a tiny bit closer.

He sighed. “I’m so happy to hear that.” 

She felt warm and giddy, but people were looking because he was just too important, and she couldn’t really do anything she wanted. He leaned into her and his hair brushed her cheek. 

“I thought about you every single day,” he barely breathed into her ear, “I didn’t really know how to say it. And now I feel really stupid for not… yanno… saying it.” 

How he managed words at all was a miracle sometimes. 

“But you came.” He looked down at her and when their eyes met, she had to seal the deal. 

“Sir Laguna, maybe not right now, but later… after the party, can we-” 

Suddenly a figure approached them. Laguna was right about being able to deflect interruptions on the most part, but he hadn’t accounted for the more familiar guests.

“Well, who could be the luckier one, the girl who gets to dance with the guest of honor, or the man who gets the prettiest girl in the whole room,” Irvine drawled. 

Laguna seemed a bit startled, but laughed anyway, “Guilty, ha ha.” 

Selphie hoped that no one heard the stream of profanity in her head. It was really rude. 

“Can’t blame you, man” Irvine looked at Selphie, then back to address the older man “But, you mind if I cut in?” 

She felt him release her slowly at the request.

No, Sir Laguna, please, tell him no. That you get to dance with whoever you want on your birthday. That nobody tells the president of Esthar what to do. That you want to be the only man that can lay a hand on me…

“Well, how can I say no to a fellow Galbadian, huh?”

Irvine moved his hands around her waist as soon as Laguna let go. 

Laguna put his hands up in mock defeat and backed away. “Gonna go find the other kids. They sat Squall all the way in the back and I was hoping to see him tonight. Catch you on the flip side.” He slunk off into the crowd, with random people vying for his attention and he was immediately assailed with more smiles and handshakes. 

She could hear him making nervous small talk as he got sucked into the crowd until she could no longer make out his voice in the din. 

“Well, Selphie, look what’chu done to me now.” 

“What, Irvine.” 

“You had me all jealous and worked up over a dance with Squall’s dad. Nicest guy, really, but can you imagine? Poor ol’ guy.”

“Irvine, what would you have to get jealous over. We have been broke up for months now,” she stated, flatly.

He looked at her seriously as they swayed along, “Well, I figured that as well, until I realized you didn’t tell anyone about it. I thought it was suspicious when they asked why I haven’t really come by much to Balamb, but when Rinoa tried getting me to hint at a date… well, Miss Tilmitt, I am not that stupid.”

“I’m sorry. I am. It just…. never felt right.”

“That’s just it, babe. After we split, nothing felt right.”

“Yeah, it was really hard for me, too-” 

“Sooo I looked into some properties in Balamb and did a little market research in the area.” 

Selphie felt guilt sink in her stomach like a stone. The whole problem they had… 

“Babe, I was going through a tough time last Summer. Trying to establish myself, my business, and without you by my side, it was like,” he sighed, “I wanted you on my terms, no questions asked. But I thought about it, and well, I want to try to make it work again.” 

She stared. Get back together? Like before? 

“I can start a satellite office in Balamb. It’d be a few more months I think, but we can do it. What do you think?” 

“I… Can I have a drink for a sec?” 

She moved away from him quickly and made a beeline to one of the servers with a tray of champagne for the evening reception. She smiled and took two. Irvine followed close behind and tipped his hat, taking one more. 

She rushed out a side exit into the hall that she had been previously ushered through with her students. When the door closed and she knew no one was around, she drank one flute immediately and set it down, still clutching the second glass. 

She straightened up and faced him head on. Taking a deep breath, she spoke, “Okay, Irvine: No, it’s a terrible idea.”

“What? Why?”

“Breaking up with you was awful, but maybe it was okay.”

“Says the girl who doesn’t even tell her best friends about it”

Selphie puts her hand on her hip, “You didn’t either, obviously.”

“Hey, I don’t have to report everything to the Commander.”

“Augh, see, it always comes down to this! I am a part of Garden and Garden is a part of me and it’s just not something you can deal with!” 

“It’s not about Garden! We have the same damn history, Selphie! You keep making me the bad guy over this, but I have to hear the talk! Nobody respects Garden! People think your Commander is a nutcase harboring a sorceress! I want folks to respect you the way I respect you!”

Selphie shrieked, “How is this respect!? Is this how you support the dreams of someone you’re supposed to love? Sitting back and spitting in their face?!”

Tears were flooding her eyes and her chest was heaving, “You think I don’t know how people hate Garden? You think I don’t constantly stick myself out in your so-called real world hoping that I can change the minds of people so burnt out from war and magic that they can’t even breathe a word that isn’t hateful and nasty and-” 

He grabbed the shaking drink from her hand and put his arms around her tight. She was angry and quivering, but he knew her well. You don’t date a bomb for five years and not learn a few diffusion techniques, after all. 

At least she stopped yelling in his face. 

“Shh, I’m sorry, babe. Don’t be mad, okay?” 

She felt a strong wave of longing to be physical with a man. Maybe he wasn’t the last one she remembered, but Irvine’s body was re-wiring her own to autopilot mode. So when he nuzzled in her ear, her mouth opened slightly by reflex, and he took that as an invitation to bring his mouth to hers. 

It had been so long, and she closed her eyes. It was too delicious, too nostalgic. But he was too big, too forceful, ugh, why did it feel- 

Then there was a cough at the door and her eyelids flew open, and over Irvine’s shoulder she saw Laguna standing at the doorway. 

“I, ah, well, thought I heard some yelling.” His face was a complete blank, and he held up a hand, “Sorry.”  

And he ducked out and Irvine had his hands running up her sides, vying to get in her mouth again and Selphie clutched his forearms and very slowly, pushed them to his sides. 

“Selphie, what?” 

She moved away from his space, backing up slowly.

“Babe, c’mon, please, I want you so bad.” 

Her eyes were focused on some imaginary spot in the middle of them, and she got out from his reach and turned around, briskly walking away from him. 

He dashed after her, grabbing after her hands, but she pulled them into her chest. She started jogging away, and when she found the transportation bench she sat on it and mashed the buttons, willing it to go anywhere. Irvine approached it, but it started humming and giving off warning beeps. Much too slowly for her taste, it lifted off and took her away.

Somehow it managed to get her all the way to the office of the president. She covered her mouth with her hand and blinked hard. He was probably still at his own party, but she felt worse than ever being there. She wanted to explain, but didn’t really know what she could say anyway. Irvine wasn’t her boyfriend, but neither was Sir Laguna. Looking at the control panel, she tried to remember where Zell said the kids would be. She could give him a break and quarantine herself from the drama she was creating.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Kiros, I need to get out of here with a bottle of whiskey. Bro emergency.”

Kiros looked at his wife apologetically, and mouthed I’ll handle this ASAP. He let go of her hands from the dance they shared and stepped aside to figure out what the heck Laguna got himself into this time. 

“Help me find Ward, then maybe we can cordon off the roof and-” 

“Laguna, what is this about? I am scoring major points with my wife here and you know the expression; Happy wife-”

Laguna grabbed Kiros’ shoulders and looked him dead in the eye. He had a slightly crazed look and Kiros stopped.

“Hard liquor. Now.”

Kiros started to lead his friend to a more private place. People would be looking. It was his goddamned party. “Laguna, I need some helpful words here. What happened?”

His friend looked around nervously. If he spilled his guts here, it was going to become a big ol’ mess. Because that’s what happens when guts spill.

Oh fun, the “Guess what the Hell is wrong with Laguna” Game, my favorite, Kiros thought to himself.

“Okay…” Kiros said calmly, “Did someone die?”

“What? No!” 

“Sometimes people need to drink that off, but okay, let’s try again,” Kiros made it a little quieter this time, “Is it a lady problem?” 

Laguna’s silence was easy enough for Kiros to read. Kiros really hated to have to be as condescending to his friend when he was clearly having some crisis, but he just made shit harder for himself than it needed to be.  His limit break should have been called “Whoops, Shot Myself in the Leg” 

“So I can safely assume the lady is not dead. That’s good.” He continued slowly. Trying to mask the sarcastic tone. “Did she say she hates you and never wants to see you again?” 

“No, but-” 

Kiros made a breakthrough and waited for Laguna to finish. Please get to the point, I have three kids and the mood is so right to have a little nooky if I play it right. He glanced over to his wife and sent her a wink.

“Her old boyfriend. Kissing.” 

Dammit. Dammit dammit dammit. Kiros made a fist. He calmed himself down because punching the president in the face for being irrational about women is probably a criminal offense.

“Okay,” still with the slow talking, “Are you one hundred percent sure that’s what you saw?”

Laguna nodded his head.

“Well, I don’t know what to tell you. Did you say something to her? Did you tell her to go play with friends her age, perhaps?” 

Hoo boy, that earned Kiros a dirty glare. 

His irritation with Kiros gave him a little more motivation to continue, “I don’t know, Kiros, I had her for like a second, then he came and…” 

“What? Who came?” 

Laguna explained, “I was with her, dancin’, yanno, and he came up like it was his turn and so I had to-” 

Kiros pinched his brow. His ten year old could woo girls better than Laguna. He’d honestly have to watch his kid if he was anything like himself, at least back in his prime, but this was pathetic. 

“Listen to me, pal,” he put a hand on Laguna’s shoulder, “I will tell you what to do. But you have to put on your brave-Laguna-face for two more hours and remind these people that you are the leader of a nation and not a thirteen year old girl. Go give your happily married son a hug and thank him for coming. Then, I’ll give you the next very obvious step.”

 

-

 

Laguna did what Kiros told him to do. He didn’t like it, but Kiros was no dummy, and well, sometimes Laguna was. He finally made his way to the back where Squall and some of his friends had continued to linger even after their table was removed to make space available for mingling and dancing. He saw Squall and he reached back to rub his neck, feeling embarrassed for being so easily distracted from seeing his own flesh and blood. So many people wanted his attention, and Selphie distracted him, and all that made him feel really young and important, but Squall and Rinoa firmly planted him up at the half a century he deserved. 

“Dad!” Rinoa cried and scampered over to him happily. She gave him a gentle hug and he patted her shoulder. She stepped back and looked at him “My goodness, you look so good!” 

Squall stepped over and draped an arm over her shoulders. She smiled up at her husband and poked him on the shoulder guard of his SeeD uniform, “I think you should talk to your dad’s tailor. Time for a new look.”

Laguna laughed. If only she knew how much he had to endure to get squeezed into this thing, so tight and too fancy 

“Squall,” he said mock seriousness, “Run. There’s an emergency ship out back.” 

Squall looked down at where Rinoa’s finger met his shoulder, “What’s wrong with my SeeD uniform?” 

She rolled her eyes dramatically, “Oh you guys are impossible. For all the effort us ladies put into our looks, could it be so hard to just go with it?” 

“She had to buy a new dress just for your party,” Squall mentioned, “No more birthdays, please” 

“You’re telling me, I had Kiros’ wife pitting him against me. It’s a conspiracy,” he took Squall by the arm and looking him in the eye whispered, “Raine, rest her soul, was just happy if I took a shower.” 

Squall looked down, feeling uncomfortable hearing about a mother he never knew. 

His father, picking up on it, also looked away. 

Laguna changed the subject before the discomfort could settle any longer, “Hah, so where’d the rest of your friends go?” 

Rinoa answered, “Quistis went to watch the kids, Zell didn’t come back here, but maybe he got tired from first watch and went to bed,” she shrugged. “Haven’t seen Selphie in a bit, probably with Irvine.” 

Laguna pried on purpose, but wished he didn’t. He wasn’t doing so good listening to Kiros’ advice.

“Wasn’t the concert so amazing?” Rinoa continued, “Squall told me about how hard they were practicing, but I hadn’t imagined they would be so talented. Based on the craziness of this morning, they came together like magic.” She waves her fingers in the air and clasped them together to illustrate her point. 

“Selphie just believed in them so hard. She complains about the admin work all the time, but she always talks about her little student groups. She poured so much love into this for you, Dad,” Rinoa smiled at him, but he still had that image of Selphie and that Irvine in the hallway. 

“So, yeah, what’s with her and that guy?”

“Irvine? Hm, I don’t know, but I suspect they’re gonna get engaged at some point.” 

Squall looked at Rinoa strangely. 

Rinoa tilted her head at her husband. “What?” 

“I thought they broke up or something.” 

Squall was suddenly under intense stares from his wife and father and he was completely over this party stuff. Whatever

Squall had to clarify for them, “She stopped asking me about trips to Deling City months ago. She probably felt bad about it since everyone assumes they’re gonna get married and that’s a lot of pressure. Remember before we got married, Rin? I was the one who had to invite him here, anyway. I thought it was pretty clear.” 

Rinoa stared at Squall, “I can’t believe you! Don’t you believe in the power of love? I swear, she’s been talking about making it work for… ” she trailed off. 

Her hand hit her cheek. “Squall, I think you’re maybe… right.”

The happy couple turned to Laguna. He braced. Squall narrowed his eyes. Rinoa looked at Squall, then back at Laguna, then back at Squall again.

“What? What!?” Rinoa cried.

He took a menacing step towards his father, “I like to treat my staff like they are responsible adults.” 

Laguna looked a little scared. Squall took another step and continued, “Everyone has their little issues…” 

Rinoa tried to take his arm, but he brushed it off as gently as he could through a growing rage, “But when my friends are asked for by name by a powerful benefactor…”

“Sweetheart, what is-”

Squall had his fists clutching Laguna’s sharp black lapels and was sneering him down before concluding, “It becomes my business.”

“Squall, let him go! What is wrong with you?! We are in his home and we are getting stared at!”

Squall let Laguna go with a shove.

“This is bullshit, Rinoa.” 

“What the Hell do you mean by that?” Laguna finally found some words, they weren’t really good, but he was confused by everything going on around him. 

“I hate your pity money, Laguna. It’s like you’re buying off my childhood. But the worst thing is I can’t say no. I throw my staff at your stupid fake missions and when you get the one girl” he held up a finger, glaring, “The one girl who cast Curaga on us enough times to become Carbuncle herself, you take advantage of her!” 

Laguna’s mouth hung open. This was ludicrous. Here he was, blindly throwing Esthar’s assets at his son, because he would do anything to just… 

“I did absolutely no such thing!” he roared back, “You have no idea! Why are you twisting my intentions into the worst possible-” 

Irvine sidled up to Rinoa who looked totally mortified and tried asking her if she saw Selphie. 

“Actually,” he gestured at the angry fit happening before them “what is wrong with these guys?” Irvine seemed a little drunk. 

Rinoa was relieved to see a familiar face, though not her favorite at the moment. “Please take Squall. Please calm him down, I am begging you.” 

Once they had separated the father and son ego-battle, Kiros was with Rinoa in trying to figure out what to do with Laguna. 

“Oh, Dad, I have no idea where he was getting these ideas. I know he is still always seeing the worst in people. You’ve just been supporting him the only way he’d ever let you and you’d never take advantage of Selphie. That was totally out of bounds.” She crossed her arms. 

Laguna tugged at the stupid fancy suit he was wearing to straighten it out from Squall’s mini-assault. Kiros sighed, annoyed to be in this again. Laguna was not a listener. Thankfully by this point in the evening, most guests had retired, and the ones most determined to tough it out until the end were drunk. 

“Quite honestly, he wouldn’t be able to take advantage of her if he tried. And I doubt he tried properly.” 

Laguna glared at Kiros. Kiros shrugged. 

“Look, Rinoa, he doesn’t like to confess to stuff like this, but-” Kiros looked at Laguna and Laguna made a big frown and an X with his arms, so he continued spitefully, “I think he really likes Selphie and maybe they have something going on that we aren’t privy to.” 

Rinoa gasped and Laguna put his head between his legs like they tell you to do on the airships when in case of an emergency.

 

-

 

Squall was pissed. Pissed. 

He’ll admit, the couple of glasses of champagne before his father arrived maybe weren’t the best idea, but the man was. So. Freaking. Dumb.

And Irvine was hammered and was in drunk confessional mode. They were just lucky Kiros and Ward didn’t join in the festivities. 

“Squall, You know how, like, you regret losing that girl…” 

“Like when I let Rinoa agree to be sent to space to be frozen?” Being in Esthar did not pull up his most happy memories.

“Yeah, kinda. But hear me out. After Selphie, I tried. I thought all the hot girls in Deling City could distract me, easy-peasy.” 

Squall felt like Irvine was from a totally different planet. He needed another few glasses of champagne, but he was still pissed over Laguna’s money and the champagne was Laguna’s money. So he crossed his arms and interrogated him for details. “What about Selphie, what happened tonight?” 

“I tol’ her, ‘I wan’cha back’. Then we kinda had a fight.”

“That’s it?” 

“Well, your dad caught us.” 

“He caught you having a fight?” 

“Nah, he caught us trying to make up. Then she ran off.” 

Squall clapped his palm to his forehead. This was becoming the same  bullshit of his wedding. Willing sobriety, he decided to apologize to everyone and go straight to bed.

 

-

 

There was a knock on the castle gate. The captain of the guard yelled out, “Who goes there?“ 

“His most honorable President of Esthar.” 

The guards looked at each other, uncertain. The captain relented and opened the gate and a beleaguered Laguna stepped into the game room.  

“Hey guys, where’s Selphie?” he asked, looking worse for wear. 

The kids playing guard looked at each other again and simultaneously yelled “We need back up!”

A swarm of kids ran in, and a few teenagers in the very back with arms crossed and very defiant looking smirks that would even impress a certain Almasy character. 

Laguna faltered in the face of these new adversaries, “Aww, c’mon guys. I need to talk to her.” 

The same little guy that hit the cymbals at the end ran up and stuck a plastic table leg into Laguna’s stomach menacingly. Laguna grimaced a bit, wondering if kids were always this tough. 

“Her royal majesty Selphina the Magnificent has given explicit orders to vanquish all dragons. Have at thee!” 

He held up the table leg as if to strike until another boy about the same age but wearing formal Estharian attire broke through the crowd and held his arms open in front of Laguna. 

“This’s Uncle Laguna! He’s not a dragon! He’s a good guy!” 

Another one dressed similarly popped out and added, “Yeah, he fought a dragon once.” 

Cymbal kid raised an eyebrow. He was conflicted, as heroes are prone to, between following orders and letting the cool dragon-slayer president guy go talk to his teacher who spent an hour crying while playing the fancy Esthar console games. She died first in every game. For real, who is that bad? 

He puffed up his chest and stepped aside. Adults were weird. Whatever. 

Laguna stepped over the disaster area that had once been a pretty sweet game room. He loved this part of the palace, but was still stuck on  good old-fashioned Triple Triad. 

He found Selphie curled up in a Ragnarok Flight Simulator, her hand on the joystick as the monitor showed visuals of crashing into some snowy mountain of Trabia.

It was nothing if not realistic. 

Selphie looked really upset, but Kiros told him to talk to her and make sense of whatever. 

“Selphie.” 

She jumped a bit in her seat and rubbed an eye. “S-sir Laguna?”

“Can we go talk somewhere? I think your kids are great, but they also terrify me.”

 

-

 

“I promise someone is on their way to check on them,” Laguna was leading Selphie by the hand to somewhere they could just be alone for a minute. She was still feeling bad from the whole mess with Irvine earlier, but she felt a little better that Laguna was talking to her and holding her hand. 

“I’m sorry, Sir Laguna, I really really didn’t mean for… It wasn’t really…” 

“Shh, hold on. Gimme a minute, okay?” They sat on the mobile transporter and he put his arms over her shoulders as it hovered straight up. Once they got off, he continued to lead her through dimmed hallways to a sliding door that opened into a balcony. 

It wasn’t completely open to the outside since the winter night air would be unbearable, but the clear glass bubble let in some of the chill. It was enough to give a sobering shock to Selphie and she ready for some more rational talking. 

They spoke at once; 

“I should’ve-” 

“I don’t know what I was-”

Selphie took the pause as an opening, “I never meant to make you like, a side thing,” she twisted her dress, “I meant it when I told you Irvine and I were through, but I couldn’t let it go. Having a boyfriend and all. Stuff… is hard sometimes, and it’s just nice to think someone out there loves me. Does that make sense?” 

“Yeah. It does.” He reflexively touched his wedding ring. He knew that kind of comfort. But he also felt that it cut both ways. 

“He came and told me he wanted to get back together,” she took a breath, “and we kind of fought about it, then, well, he was my boyfriend for like, five years. He knows how to get under my skin.”

She shrugged, “But I didn’t like it.” 

Laguna was slightly placated. 

“I was thinking about you. 

He was more placated. 

“I mean it. I wanted to just be with you the moment I got here, but, kinda hard, right?” 

He nodded. He had his eyes closed and hands rubbing her bare shoulders. 

Then she asked, “Why did you even let him dance with me?” 

His eyes opened and he looked at her sadly.

“Sir Laguna, tell me,” she started breathing hard, “you were the only one who knew. Why didn’t you tell him no? Why didn’t you fight for me?” 

He dropped his hands from her shoulders and closed his eyes again. 

Raine’s voice thundered in his head.

Why didn’t you fight for me

He scraped his fingers over his hair. Tonight sucked. 

Why didn’t you tell them no

His hand came over his face and rested on his mouth. 

You never knew, you never knew your own son.

What could he even say?

Her slap busted through his mind like a bullet. Too much silence had passed and all the emotions of the evening flooded into her. She was messed up, and he was messed up and she was going to have a damn good reason to leave and never see him again. And she meant to give him the same reason.

But then he proved that they were both equally messed up by taking her by the collar and kissing her hard. His fingers gripped into her shoulder and after he figured that he didn’t have to stop, his other hand made it up to her neck. 

Her right hand still stung from the strike and now her heart was getting another burst of adrenaline. Her body was paralyzed from feeling his lips again. She never got her answer and she just didn’t know what to make of his reaction, so she gave in and her mouth pushed back, her tongue prodding him, testing his boundaries and then forcing herself upon him anyway. 

He was running his hands all along her exposed decollete, and his hand slipped under the one strap of the silvery dress she wore. She desperately ran her hands over his stomach, feeling this unfamiliar garment that he wore, searching out his belt. Her lips slid past his cheek, and she lapped at his ear, catching the small hoop that he wore with her tongue. Her breath was driving from his ear right down into his cock. His hands dug deeper down beyond the barrier of her dress, underneath her fancy bra that he didn’t even get to see yet. She moaned and he grunted in satisfaction when there was a sharp cough at the doorway.

Squall was there, looking less than impressed, although who was to say it wasn’t his usual look.

He gave a long, much more drawn out sigh than he usually did and rubbed an eye with his hand.

“LagunaI’msorryhappybirthdaythanks. And Selphie- seriously?”

Two pairs of green eyes, wide as dinner plates, stared at the SeeD Commander.

Squall’s other hand met the other eye and then his hands moved to his temples which he rubbed with full strength.

“You know, the party is over and Kiros cleared everyone out. Why don’t you, y’know, get a room? You have a million, I’d expected better.”

He turned tail and stomped off muttering to himself, “…the balcony like disgusting teenagers… I need to talk to Kadowaki in the morning, crazy… morons, both of them…”

Laguna looked at Selphie after Squall had made his way out of sight.

“Hey, listen, I know we gotta work some stuff out, but wanna see my room? I’ve got a bed that can take six barrel rolls before you fall off.”  

 

-

 

It was like angry sex, make-up sex, right-before-the-apocalypse sex, and first-time sex all rolled up in one. Maybe that was a gross exaggeration, but that was what was going through his brain as he had Selphie grabbing his loose hair-

(goddamnit, what is wrong with her, it’s getting in everyone’s mouths, again

-moaning, panting, and screaming his name, while she plowed into him at varying angles. 

Was that the appeal of having a younger woman? It didn’t make sense. Did it feel amazing because fifty was the magic age where anything is mind-blowing? Or, or, oh, was it that it’s been over twenty years since he’s done it? Well, that explains him, but not Selphie. She was a beast

When she was finally on top, she felt that first shudder. She had to let go of his hair and she had her hands on his bare chest, leaning against him for balance. Doing her best to hoist herself up and down was taxing, but she didn’t care. He was taking a long time, but she didn’t know his body the same way she knew… well, it was just a whole new thing to used to. His breath hitched, and he moaned. 

Soon, she figured. But she was still exerting herself and she felt herself giving in when he groped for her hips that kept leaping away from his grasp. It was going to be too hard to keep up the pace afterward if she finished first.

There hadn’t been any talking from the moment they left the balcony deck, and once the door to his room slid closed, it was a predictable mess of clothes and sucking sounds. But Selphie leaned over him, the big stupid mess that he was and commanded him.

“Do it. Come for me.”

He was almost there. Her hair dangled over him, bouncing around happily, contrasting with her face that was furrowed and intense. Her earthy, jade-green eyes were dim in the barely-lit room, and he couldn’t tell if she was looking at him or not. He could barely keep his own eyes open.

“Laguna. Pay attention.”

He opened his eyes. He still saw his room, but a memory flashed behind his eyes of being back in Winhill. He always told himself that Raine loved him, that they shared tenderness and affection that he never knew better in his whole life. He insisted on it. He would have died without her. That was the perfectly tragic story. But he had so many bad memories, so many nightmares where her ghost came and reminded him that he was a stupid, worthless, coward that maybe it all blended together. It was so long ago and in another life, what was even true anymore?

When he talked about his dreams to become a journalist, did she smile? Was she impressed and fascinated? Or was she quiet and sad because he’d inevitably leave to chase his passion? Or did she really just throw a vase at his head because she was sick of listening to his drivel?

He couldn’t even remember. 

“Laguna? Sir Laguna?” 

He snapped back to attention and Selphie was giving him a concerned look. 

She had removed herself from his dick, the friction no longer heating where they were joined and a cold settled back in to his crotch. The intensity that filled the room had vanished. Soft panting echoed in the vast suite. 

Slightly disoriented, he mumbled, “W-what?” 

She put the tips of her fingers to his chin. “I came.” 

“Oh. Th-that’s good.” 

“You?”

His hand instinctively went to the back of his neck, “Well… ” He felt something like it. His dick felt spent. “The entire week was kind of crazy and my mind-”

Her shoulder connected to his and she kissed him on the lips gently. She hovered for a moment and her face looked a little tired, happy, and remorseful at once. 

“Okay Sir Laguna, I think I’ve kinda figured something out.” 

He raised an eye brow at her, and she set herself beside him.

“I think I get too angry around you…” He snorted, then grinned at her sheepishly. She touched his jaw by where she had hit him earlier. 

“And the rest of the time, I’m really really really happy. Which is weird. And sort of crazy.”

He leaned his head back on the headboard that prominently displayed the emblem of Esthar. “No, it’s me, it’s the effect I have on-”

This time her hand covered his mouth and she continued, “No. No it’s not. Maybe you think it is, so it happens that way, but that’s totally wrong. 

“I think I tried to apologize about it before, but people just say sorry so they can make the same mistake again. And I didn’t really get it. But… it’s when my mind starts telling me that I’m not supposed to want to be with you and that the feelings I have are wrong…” she ran a hand over the bed and suddenly felt too naked for the words she was using. 

“For better or worse, I speak my mind. Some love me for it, some hate me for it, and the rest think it’s nuts. But it’s actually more nuts if I’m always trying to feel the way others expect me to.”

Laguna nodded, pulling her a little closer.

“You get it, right?”

Still nodding, his hand covered the top of her head. She touched his chest right on the sternum, to make her point clear.

“That’s what I’ve always liked about you.”

“Aww, geez…” he responded, it was beyond corny, but she could pull it off.

He leaned down to kiss her when a curtain fell over his eyes and he cursed.

“Selphie, I love you, but please gimme back my hair tie.”

She pushed his hair aside with one finger and craned her neck to look him in the eye.

“Mmm… love ya too, but mmmnope!” She pulled down a cover and snuck inside, until only little curled up ends of her hair peeked out.

“Aww, geez, it’s my birthday, you’re supposed to be nice to me on my birthday.”

It was muffled, but he knew what she was saying, “’s ‘fter min’ite. ‘t yer birfday ‘nymore”

“Well, then ya gotta respect your elders.”

Her head popped out. “You haven’t become a Moomba yet, but nice try.” 

“Hey, I happen to be a super-star in Moomba-land. They love me. They would craft hair ties from their young if I asked them to.” 

She looked at him with such shock that he almost felt like he went too far with that joke. 

“Oh my God, Sir Laguna, they totally would! It would be adorable!”

He wasn’t exactly sure which part was more weird, her enthusiasm for the idea or that a Shumi could be made into something adorable.

He shook his head and laughed at her, flipping up the sheets and upending pillows to search for his missing hair tie. She watched him, a goofy, naked, twice-her-age guy climbing around the bed like he wasn’t the actual full-time resident of the master suite in the presidential palace of Esthar.

She cocooned in his sheets and closed her eyes.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Squall was still rubbing his temples on the transport aircraft back to Balamb. He was slightly hungover, but had the unfortunate ability to maintain all memories from when he drank. Which is why it never appealed to him. Why did people love to deliberately become stupider versions of themselves? 

Rinoa was next to him, holding his arm and offering a bottle of water. She used to love parties. Dressing up and fancy foods and forgetting the rest of the world were all so appealing once. She was beginning to hate them. 

Zell was slumped over snoring, and looked wrecked. He had a great time at the dinner; half the kids found the food too weird and he had a mountain of protein all to himself. But he had chaperon duty longer than the rest of them. Champagne was but a sparkle in his eye. 

The only drama Quistis witnessed was when Selphie came into the game room bawling. She pretty much blamed Irvine right off the bat, but was secretly grateful to him for doing whatever to Selphie that got her out of chaperon duty after only ten minutes. She was patient when it came to gossip, but Selphie looked fine this morning, so everything must’ve worked out. Quistis opened up her magazine with grace and nonchalance. 

The cymbal-kid was standing up in his seat, yelling at Selphie who was situated in the rear. 

“So you’re cool with the President guy, right Miss Tilmitt? He didn’t make you cry no more, right? ‘Cause, I’ll go back and beat him up. I can take him.” 

She slumped in her chair, turning red. Students were giggling.   

“Nope, it’s good. He was very nice. Please don’t make threats against a head of state though, you might get in trouble. Bigger than Commander Leonhart trouble.” 

Students “Ooh”ed at the cymbal-kid and he slunk back in his chair, although he was satisfied he didn’t have to jump out of the airship and fight his way back into the palace. It was really big and he might get lost again. 

Selphie had managed to avoid everyone until the very last minute they boarded the airship, some of which was just to have some precious time alone with Laguna before going back to Balamb. She had hoped opening up to him would encourage him to do the same, but when he would get really quiet like something bothered him, and as soon as she pointed it out, he was ready with a joke or doing something distracting. 

And she didn’t like that she’d been so rough with him since the get-go, but that every time she did, he became…

But whatever, we talked, we’re good

That morning, they both agreed. They had a thing. They didn’t want to be with other people. They weren’t ready for a label. They didn’t want to become an international incident. They didn’t want to upset Squall. 

More than they already done, at least. 

She was a little freaked out when Sir Laguna had told her about his little skirmish with Squall. She felt like “home-wrecker” and “unemployed” were some new potential titles after “SeeD”. Squall was one of the sharpest, most rational people she knew. She didn’t look at him when she ran onto the craft and hid in the back row. 

The most important thing was that she made Laguna promise, with every single fiber of his being on the sun, the moon, the stars, on every guardian force, and the graves of all his ancestors, (with a cherry on top), that he would actually send her a message once in a while. 

He may be a widower with an adult son, but she knew how to have a boyfriend from years more experience than he had. 

It really leveled the playing field.

 

-

 

The rest of the week was a red week for the students, although curfews and disciplinary actions still took place. Selphie had her regular student group duties, since they were a relief to the boredom of winter days and she never made them work really hard unless they felt like it. They were back to Garden Festival planning after the concert and the students who didn’t go were regaled with tales of how awesome Esthar was. It was the talk of the school. The older students from the concert were quietly proud of their experience, but were also more quick to pick up that Miss Tilmitt was a bit more than just a professional fan with a stack of magazines when it came to the President.

“I saw it with my own eyes, he took her hand

“Ahh! No way! Like a movie!” 

“No way, he’s so old, she’s like, 18.” 

“What are you stupid? She’s like, twenty-something.” 

“I think he fell in love after hearing our concert.” 

“Guys, we made the President of Esthar fall in love with Miss Tilmitt!” 

“Holy crap! What if she marries him!” 

“Would she leave like algebra teacher did last year?” 

When rumors that Selphie was pregnant with a dragon baby and was moving to Esthar to become a sorceress reached Squall, he twitched. 

Selphie didn’t need to avoid Quistis, since she was kind and rational enough. Zell was also pretty chill about everything, but she felt the need to lavish him with free hot dogs for the effort he gave in his chaperon duties. She got a message from Rinoa, and responded with a half-screen filled with sad faces and a “Tell ya later, promise.”

When an announcement requested SeeD Tilmitt at the Commander’s office, she strongly considered a transfer to White SeeD- if it still operated. 

She opened the door and put on her most piteous sad face. Squall directed her to take a seat. 

She sat, fear radiating from her chest. Her own hair would have floated away if it could. 

“Selphie.” He looked serious. 

“Squaaaaa- Commander.” Her mouth snapped shut and she chewed her lip.

“Time to-”

Then she burst, arms flailing, “Please don’t fire me! Please! I’m sorry everything got weird and then you had to see-” 

He held a hand up. He did not want details. Details-free-zone

“I respect your personal life. I understand that discussing the nature of your relationship concerning Irvine would have been… uncomfortable.” He considered, “But you have stuck yourself into my personal life, and actually, I’m pretty grateful after all was said and done.” 

She was confused, why was he happy about this? 

Squall elaborated, “I’m just really glad to have Rinoa in my life. And since all of you supported us, it’s made us what we are today. I couldn’t imagine my life without her.” 

Ah, that’s what he meant

“I think everyone tried to do the same for you and Irvine, and it wasn’t… the ideal arrangement. I should have said something to let you know it was okay to… just feel like you could be honest.” 

Aww, Commander… 

“But, I also turned a blind eye to potentially less-appropriate situations.”

She interrupted him, “It was my fault! He didn’t do anything-” 

He held up his hand again; he wasn’t done and still not interested in details. 

Squall continued, “I’m not blaming him. I’m not blaming you. It was never a secret that you regarded him much higher than appropriate for a client of Garden. I worried that would put you in a bad position. But he was always the one offering jobs. I am the one responsible for accepting them.” 

He took a deep breath, “So, It goes without saying that you will no longer be assigned to any SeeD missions relating to Esthar.”

She let out an exhale, but she kind of expected that one. 

“And I need to know that you’ll still be with Garden.”

“What? Are you firing me? How…?”

“You misheard. I have been aware of some talk, and there’s some consensus that you’re planning on leaving us.”

“N-no way! Total bunk! Where is this coming from?” she stammered. 

“Kids, mostly. But... kids aren’t totally oblivious.” 

“Garden is my home, Squall. I’m not leaving.” Selphie held up her fists and tightened her face in determination.

He looked smug. Or relieved. 

“I’m really glad to hear it, Sefie. That’s all I wanted to really talk about, for the record.” 

She almost glowed when he used her old nickname. He was always a bit serious, but she could see through his tough demeanor enough. 

“But off the record…” he had his face in his hands, “I never call him dad. Don’t you dare ever try to get me to call you anything different.” 

“Like wha-a-a-a-a-aaaaaaaaaaaah!”

She hopped out of the seat, covering her face, and ran to the door before Squall could give her a proper dismissal. She didn't want to think about it. She especially didn't want Squall to think about it. Sir Laguna was a great big cutie pie and that was it! Nothing else!

When she was back in her room, she tried to restrain herself from freaking out. She pulled out her communication device and checked the message she had received a few days ago from Laguna. 

It read: “wish u were here”. 

Well, it was mandatory. Probably cramped his style. She was already being a pushy girlfriend non-girlfriend. She didn’t respond yet, but figured she should.

She typed: “no more esthar missions for me :( but squall didn’t fire me so I consider it a win”.

 

-

 

After talking with Squall, she felt like it was time to talk to Rinoa. She sent her a message to see about having a little bit of girls’ time.

Rinoa sent a response to just have a one on one, instead of their group happy hour. Selphie was a little nervous because maybe that meant Rinoa had some special words just for her, and they might be less than easy-going. 

Either way, she had to clear the air, because for all they went through together, Rinoa was still her dear friend. Also, she missed having her to talk out the Garden drama and she needed to have someone to laugh about all the gossip going on about her. It was hilarious! 

They met up at their usual cafe in Balamb on Sunday, before the regular classes were to start back up after the short break. It was always a real treat to get out and have something other than the coffee from the tank in the cafeteria. Selphie was clutching a steaming ceramic mug emblazoned with the giant fish mascot used by the cafe, and typical of the Balamb mom and pop shops. 

Setting down her mug, Rinoa started in, “Selphie, I have to admit, the whole thing with Irvine and Laguna…” 

Selphie braced herself. Just let her get it out. Be the good friend

“I’m kind of hurt that you didn’t feel like you could tell me what was going on, but… I do kind of understand why you couldn’t. If I had to tell you that I wasn’t happy with Squall and we were breaking up, it would be… ” 

“It would break my heart! Don’t even say that!” Selphie admonished. She hissed at Rinoa, lowering her chin to the table, “Gosh, you might even jinx yourself!” 

“Well, there you go.” Rinoa shrugged, “So, I get it. Now, as for Dad…”

Selphie gulped. Rinoa loved him dearly. She made up for all the affection Squall couldn’t muster for him. But it was an unimaginably different love than what Selphie had going on. Obviously.

“I have to say it. Don’t take it badly. It’s just… ” 

“Rinny, please,” Selphie looked totally distraught. She was getting used to predicting how people were judging her just from her Garden affiliation alone and it wasn’t getting any easier. 

“Just don’t ever try to replace Raine.” 

Selphie stared. “I couldn’t! I couldn’t ever do that! That’s not what I’m trying to do-” 

“I mean- that sounded really bad, right? I mean, don’t feel like you have to be Raine.” 

Rinoa continued, “I’m already stuck in the middle of these guys, and I love them both, but they both have major hang ups over her… loss… So I worry. I don’t want Squall to resent you for replacing her even when he claims to reject any attachment to Laguna. As for Laguna, anyone who knows him for more than two minutes, in a personal way, mind you, not like politics-stuff… know he’s still broken up about it after all this time. That’s a loooong time, Selph.” 

“Yeah, I can tell.” Selphie took a sip of coffee, “He doesn’t like to talk about it.” 

“Just wait until he spills the closest container on himself just to divert the conversation.” 

Selphie smiled. He didn’t need to do that. “Well, I have yet to see that one.” 

“Squall would kill me, but… Selphie, how serious are you about him?” 

“We talked a bit and decided that we’d just see how it goes…” 

“Selph, you’ve obviously spent too much time with him, don’t dodge the question.” 

She puffed up. It was different gushing over him before the whole thing with the train. And Rinoa was happily married and was basically given free reign to share embarrassing details of her love life; Squall couldn’t do much more than give an exasperated grunt. Selphie even used to be able to confess more about Irvine, but things changed. 

Rinoa spoke a little quieter, “Is it rebound-type fun? ‘Cause while I can understand…” 

Selphie chewed her lip. “C’mon Rinoa, that’s not fair.” 

“Well, maybe I care about his feelings too. You haven’t told me anything about it, so maybe-” 

“I didn’t tell you anything because I didn’t have anything to say, Rinny. Things happened. It was a little intense, but it was like a good intense. Just… I don’t like hurting him.”

That came out weird

“Alright,” Rinoa took a sip thoughtfully, “I guess I can’t really imagine you finally getting the chance to get your hands on your idol and then running off and breaking his heart.” 

Selphie stared intensely into the coffee mug and felt a flush. Hands everywhere, smooching, in that freaking ginormous bed… 

“Selphie… oh geez… Selphie!” 

She looked up at Rinoa. Rinoa’s mouth was open and her eyes were about to jump out of their sockets.

“Ahh! Yeah! Breaking his heart, no way!” Selphie stammered. 

Rinoa clutched her mug, “You didn’t! oh my gosh, you already fooled around with him, didn’t you?” 

Selphie was covering her face. Why was it so hard to not give it away? Stupid Rinoa. “Yeeeeaah,” she stalled, “Squall told you what happened, huh?” 

“What? What was he supposed to tell me?” 

Selphie nearly knocked over the coffee when her head hit the table,  arms covering herself for the impact of Rinoa’s questioning.

“Alright,” Rinoa put her hands up, “you can cut back on the dramatics, because I don’t even think I’m ready for the details. There are just some things in don’t need in my head.” 

Selphie looked up at Rinoa piteously, lip quivering. She received an eye-roll in return. 

“I might change my mind when we swap coffees for cocktails, so prepare yourself, girl!” 

She would have giggled under other circumstances, but Selphie reached across and grabbed her friend’s hands, mouthing “Have mercy.” 

“Okay, okay. But anyway, I got what I needed from you, you little sneak. Now I want to ask you for a favor.” 

Selphie looked up at Rinoa, her cheek on the table. 

“Well, I wanted you to come with me to Esthar.” 

“To Esthar? For what?” 

“Well, I want to know if there’s something wrong with… I told ya me and Squall talked about having children…”

“Oh, yeah.” 

“Now, I know we have time, we’re young, he’s busy, I totally get that. But it’s no secret that Sorceresses pass on their powers to girls who are… unrelated. There’s no historical record of them having offspring of their own.” 

Rinoa sighed, and Selphie’s face when from pitiful to distraught. Rinoa expected as much from her friend, but she also trusted her for this. Quistis would no doubt support her fully, but she wanted the empathy of someone also in some kind of relationship… or at least that was her line of thinking when Selphie was in a long-term relationship with Irvine. Now the circumstances changed, but somehow got more… what was this supposed to be, now? 

“I just want to be… sure.” She put her arms on the table and rested her chin on them, meeting Selphie eye to eye. 

“Me and my husband have been less than cautious over the past year, if you catch my meaning. We just… wanted to test that theory, right?” She sighed, “And, well… nothing.” 

Selphie made a little gulp. She had taken precautions with Irvine, out of respect for the fact that they were in a long-distance relationship most of the time. She had a few little scares herself, but things resolved themselves quickly enough. They didn’t have a formal agreement, but she was confident that Irvine would have done the proper thing. 

Probably. 

“So I talked to Kadowaki and she recommended I talk to a specialist of pregnancy, and at the very least someone with a background in the health of sorceresses. Like it or not, those both coincide in Esthar. Though Odine’s lab is the last place I want to be in stirrups.” 

They both cringed.

“Why don’t you take Squall? He’ll be certain to protect you from any funny business. He’s an expert in intimidation!”

“That’s what I’m afraid of. I want answers about my own body. And while I love him for it, he’s just so protective; he might have a bad reaction if something’s amiss.”

Selphie reached out and pat Rinoa’s head. Boys just didn’t understand sometimes. 

“He’s even protective over you,” Rinoa added. 

“That’s hard to believe.” 

“You missed it, at the party. Somehow he got in his head that Laguna was actually trying to take advantage of your… admiration.”

“Oh Squall, I am twenty- two.” 

“And Laguna is fifty. That’s really something, Selph. Sure, he’s in good shape for his age and a major goofball, but it looks… Well, he got this idea in his head and caused a bit of a scene.”

“I thought it was over the Garden money…” 

“Well, yeah… Oh, that gets him so worked up, you can’t even imagine. But when you came up, that’s when I thought Squall might do something really stupid.” 

Selphie gave a snort, “Yeah, he doesn’t want me to make Garden look like an escort service.” 

“Selphie, he loves you and carries the most unrealistic expectations of the people he loves. You’re his perfect… albeit crazy, little sister.” 

“I am older than him, yanno.”  

“I don’t mean literally. He isn’t actually your brother anyway! It’s just his feeling. It’s how he talks about you. ” 

A lot sure changed since she first bumped into that surly kid in the hallway, ages ago. She shamelessly teased him, but as they went through so much together, things grew into a really strong familial affection. Continuing to work along side him to maintain Balamb Garden built up the respect, and even though some staff resented Selphie’s seemingly useless participation, Squall supported her.

Selphie put her chin in her hand. Poor Squall. They were already like family, so she probably traumatized him. Imagine catching your sort-of father with your sort-of sister… groping each other on the balcony. 

Double poor Squall! 

“Well, Rinny, whatever you want, I’ll hold your hand the whole way. We’ll figure out how to make some babies for Squally-poo, and everything will be just hunky-dory. I am so totally here for you! I mean, you’re like my sister too!” 

Rinoa gave Selphie a flat look. 

Selphie cocked her head to the side. 

Rinoa narrowed her eyes.

“What? Whaaat?” 

“When someone is in a relationship with my dad, or I mean my husband’s father…. So… maybe not like a sister, exactly”
Selphie’s mortification grew, in part because it was just weirdly gross to actually put these words to their relationships. And also a little bit from liking the idea of being more serious with Laguna that she cared to admit.

 

-

 

Later that week, Selphie claimed the commander’s office to use the secure connection after Squall and all the staff had left. She slunk into the office and locked the door behind her, and tip-toed across the darkened room to the big desk that was in front of the wide view across the island. It was a peaceful panorama in the day time; sweeping fields that dipped down into the sea and a peek of Balamb town. At night, it was just a few tiny flecks of light from the town that broke up the inky blackness of the sea.

She turned on the desk lamp and booted up the terminal. It ran through a variety of programming; last of which was a protected signal direct and impenetrable to the Presidential Palace of Esthar. She had helped install it and come now to regret not authorizing an extra line for herself. But, that was a different time, sort-of different Selphie. 

She propped an elbow on the heavy wooden desk that Squall would use to intimidate as many visitors as possible. Sitting behind it commanded respect and a little awe. She leaned her cheek into her palm, waiting for the connection chirps and watching the notification that begged her to please wait. 

The desk was kept tidy, Squall kept his official desk free of the little mementos that the other staffers had, most notably Selphie , who had quite a collection. She drummed her fingers on the desk impatiently and looked at the one personal effect he had there; a simple framed photo of him and Rinoa exchanging their vows. It was a really lovely ceremony. Selphie worked really hard helping to arrange and set up the wedding, so she let herself really indulge by the time the reception had started up. She had a little twinge of guilt remembering the consensus over Laguna at the time. 

Poor Laguna, how come he never remarried? Such a nice man. I hope that lady sitting next to him had a lot of tissues to offer him, such a sad mess. 

When a bare chest donning a chain and dog tags came up on her screen, a small reflex hit to try an minimize the screen so no one saw.

“Sir Laguna?” 

The image blurred and resettled, showing what was either a wall or the ceiling. 

“Hang on, m’kay? I didn’t expect you right then; I just got back from training.” 

“What’re you training in?” she asked. 

“Ah, a little self-defense stuff. They have this weird thing here where they just try to trip me over and over.” The screen showed him moving around from a low angle, then a sound like a soft landing. “They call it some Estharian name I can’t pronounce, but I just think the trainer likes seeing me eat the floor for an hour.” 

“Aww, that’s tough. I didn’t know you practiced anything like that.” 

“Yeah, couple times a week. But you can come see me on the Friday session. That’s when they let me handle a weapon and I get them back. Hitting people isn’t nice. But I guess the butt of my rifle has different ideas” He winked at her and grinned. “It’s fun!”

Ah, he’s so cool, Selphie mused and scrunched her shoulders. 

“Are you in Squall’s room?” 

“What? Ah, no, this is the Garden office. He lives off-site.” 

“Ah,” Laguna replied, feeling like he should have known. All of his fancy Esthar technology gave him proprietary access from anywhere in the palace, so he lounged comfortably in his bed, propping the device against a pillow. And Selphie was stuck in the office. 

“I wanted to say ‘Hi’ even though I’ll see ya in a couple weeks with Rinoa.” 

“She’s doing okay, though, right?” 

“Huh? I guess so. Not really any other way to go about it.” 

Laguna looked confused, “About what?” 

“She… didn’t say why we’re going?” 

“Nah, she said it was to just check her health and monitor her magical stuff ‘n sorceress powers.” 

“Oh.” Selphie held her chin in both hands. It wasn’t his business exactly, but he would probably want to know. She kicked off her uniform boots and mulled over it. “That’s right. Just a check-up.”

“Well, I’m actually glad to have her come. After all the commotion over Odine’s stupid scheme and whatnot, I’m surprised she suddenly seems willing to approach him, but I’d hate to be happy if it were over something bad.” 

“Nah, Sir Laguna, I think you can just enjoy the visit. I’m really glad she asked me to come so I can see you too, of course.” 

He rubbed his nose thoughtfully, looking away from the screen. 

“Aww, geez… Selphie…” 

“Doncha want to?”

He sat up a bit, “Yeah! Just, not used to… ” He trailed off, trying to shake off the sinking feeling. 

Selphie tucked her legs under herself in the leather chair and leaned into the desk, making an adjustment to the volume. He was hard to read; did he not like the idea of her visiting? The party ended nearly two weeks ago, and she was not eager to have to wait months in between seeing him again. 

Interrupting the small silence, Selphie pointed out, “You look comfortable.” 

“Do I? I supposed I do… I guess you look like you’re going to give me a mission briefing.” 

She huffed, “Hey, I took off my shoes. Hello, Comfort City.” 

“Well, you got on your little neck tie and look all professional to me. But in the dark.” He squinted into the screen, his focus a little off, “Maybe it’s a super-secret mission briefing.” 

She held up the ends of her tie and wiggled them, “For your eyes only, Mister President.” 

He rolled over onto his back, laughing at her, and Selphie examined his profile. All the little creases making their way across a face vaguely resembling Squall, but a lot more lively. She was grateful for the difference though since that face was above a much more familiar neck and chest that she got little chills recalling a few more intimate moments with.

“Hey, are you even wearing any pants?” 

He stopped and looked back at the camera, “Of course I am!” 

She gave a little nonchalant shrug and observed, “How can I even tell?” 

The video moved again and she saw a sweep over from the top of his head to his toes, loose sweatpants covering his legs. He wiggled his toes then brought it back to his face as if he rested the device in his lap.

“See? I’m civilized.” He smirked and put his hands behind his head. “I’ve proved myself. Your turn.”

“To do what?” She suddenly felt too excited.

“Lemme see your boots.” He wiggled his eyebrows at her and she rolled her eyes. 

“Sir Laguna, that is seriously lame. Of all the things…

“What? I like to see my girl cut loose.”

“I always take off my boots at work! I hate ‘em!” 

“Ahh… too bad.” He pushed his bangs behind his ear and settled back, a little dejected. 

“You’re supposed to ask to see… y’know, my underthings or whatever.” 

“Well, I’m working up the nerve to ask that when I see you again.” He made a little smile, casting a glance down.

She blinked. Well, duh, foregone conclusion, pal. “Why would you even worry about it?” 

“I dunno. You just never know when your good luck will run out.” 

“Wow, That is not a very Laguna Loire thing to say.” 

“Huhn. Alright, Miss Expert, what was I supposed to say?” he dared. 

“Ah, something like, ‘Pants off, questions later’ or ‘The power of love is going to make sure I get naked when I’m alone with you.’ Hmm, maybe those aren’t that good…” 

His eyes were closed and he was nodding, “Yes, yes, naked. Hm Hmm…” 

“Well?” she asked. 

“What?” 

“Am I right?” she pressed. 

“About what?”

Sir Laguna!” 

He laughed again, “Sorry! Thinkin’ is hard when I’m talking to you like this! I usually just use this stupid thing to get complaints from Kiros!” 

Her face felt hot. He always needed a little push, so she shuffled her skirt up to her waist and pulled her panties down and off her legs, holding them up to the camera.

“Blah blah blah, here’s a report on the economic situation of Centra.” She waved her garment at him teasingly. “We need your input on how to handle commodity prices.”

He squinted into the video and looked flustered “Selphie! Is tha- Hey!”

She tossed her panties on the desk. He was paying attention at least. She caught sight of Squall’s wedding photo and quickly set it face-down. No way she could have the happy couple looking at her now. She looked into the camera coyly and brought her fingertip to her mouth.

“C’mon. You know I wanna be with you… let’s pretend.”

“P-pretend?" 

She ran her finger around her lips languidly, “Yeah.” Her lips enveloped her digit down to the second knuckle, then she pulled out with a pop. 

He took a deep breath, “Oh…”

“You wanna be with me too, right?" 

His eyelids moved in slow motion as he bit his lip. The video moved a bit like he shifted. 

She untied her dress tie and began unbuttoning the uniform top, “It’d be super fun… C’mon.” 

“Selphie… d-don’t do that…” 

She stopped, her shirt half open. He looked like he might be pretty turned on, but she wasn’t sure. “Somethin’ wrong?” 

“I-I’m… I gotta…” 

“Are you…. y’know, excited?” 

He nodded. 

She touched the exposed bare skin inside her shirt, “Well… do what you need to do… I’m just here…”

The video shifted back to where he was on his side, one arm propping up his chin, the other down off-screen, probably around his abdomen. 

She smirked and resumed unbuttoning her dress shirt with one hand, making it slower and deliberately taunting him. It was funny seeing a mature guy get shy like this; the hardest thing was not being able to comfort him physically, kissing away any of those doubts he had. She would trace her finger along his dog tag chain instead of herself, but she had to be patient. Of course, patience was one of her lowest stats. 

“Geez, Selphie” he breathed. 

Laguna tucked his fingers into the waistband of his pants. Watching her touching herself and talk about being with him in that way had gotten him worked up and his hard on pressed against the material. He hadn’t really expected this to get him hard, but he was happy to be alone in bed to enjoy her attention, though digitized. 

She moved her camera angle down a little bit and he could see her dip her fingers between her legs. She hiked her skirt up to her waist and clearly her hand covered her unclothed crotch. 

He licked his lip and took his dick in his hand. She was such a sexy thing. So full of confidence and brazen adoration for him. Back in the day, when he was just some chump, he watched that pianist, Julia, from the sidelines; he was a groupie for the one woman brave enough to sit in front of a bunch of half-drunk soldiers and show them what real class looked like. At fifty, widowed too soon, and now in a position of such power, was it that he finally wanted a cute little thing for his own entertainment?

But, man oh, man. She saved the world. She stared the end of time in the face and came back around to give him these big doe eyes and tell him how much she wanted him. 

Her face was cut off from the video, but she was touching herself just for him and making such pleasant little sighs. Her body would hitch and he watched the video feed intently, gripping himself firmly and pulling his stiff dick out of his pants. It’d be nice to feel himself in her again, hopefully not getting caught up in the unfortunate reverie of guilt over Raine. 

They were just touching themselves, he convinced himself. He’d probably be doing it anyway, getting off before slipping off to uneasy dreams.

He was pumping harder now, watching Selphie’s half-exposed breasts quiver along with her little aroused shudders. He could suck on a cute, pink nipple and she would probably steal his hair tie again like the little imp she was, but he wouldn’t mind. He smacked his lips unconsciously.

He couldn’t see her eyes, and it made him nervous.

“Selphie… I want to see your face…” 

She paused and adjusted the camera with her free hand, the other keeping her fingers occupied in the depths of her vagina. 

“Sorry, I guess I was just paying attention to you.” 

He sighed softly. Not like she could see anything either, really. His device was propped near his head so he could watch her, but it cut off not far past his shoulders. It was a little embarrassing that she was just seeing the weird faces he was going through as he tugged on his dick. What the heck is it with girls wanting me to look at them

He ran a hand over his forehead and held his hair out of his face. Selphie looked so good, effortlessly holding his attention like Siren. She looked right into the camera and he could almost convince himself the video screen was just a little window. Her eyes always had a little mischievous look to them, like she was looking for trouble. It suited her. 

“Sir Laguna…” she nearly gasped his name. He closed his eyes and it was almost enough to blast off. He reached over to his bedside table to grab a tissue before he sent himself into orbit, or at least had to change his pants. 

“Oh, you’re really hard.”

He felt a wave of heat on his face. She must have caught a glimpse of his package as he moved from the camera.

“Yeah… ”

She cast a gaze into the camera, lashes low and dark, then her head tilted back, her breath uneven. The curls of her hair dancing around her shoulders and bouncing along with the shudders of her self-induced orgasm. 

He peeked at the video with one eye, his focus dancing between the feeling of his dick and the sounds and pictures coming from the little device. 

“Selphie… Gosh…” he muttered a good cuss under his breath. 

She held herself back from making the scene he saw last time, biting down gently on her tongue to hold back the moans and cries of ecstasy she wanted to give him. Her eyes fluttered and she came back to her senses, lightly flushed. 

Just two adults… doing what adults sometimes gotta do… She just likes showing off… wouldn’t be nice to make her think she wasn’t attractive… 

Laguna rationalized his way through the thoughts threatening to edge out his arousal; he was so close. He leaned the side of his face into his pillow and let his body sink into the bed, the only muscles working on their own being in his arm. 

“Stop holding back. Let go.” She sounded resolute despite her disheveled appearance. She wiped her hand on a handkerchief, smearing her glossy wetness into it. 

He was close. Really close now, but something was off again. He was enjoying himself too much. She adored him too much. And he had been hiding from her feelings under so many pretenses already. 

“Tell me you hate me.” 

“Laguna… I don’t hate you.” She frowned at him. 

“Just… please… ” 

“What is wrong with you?” Maybe her tone was a bit sharp. But she was concerned. She’d get pissed off if anyone hated Sir Laguna. 

He came anyway. He thrust into his hand and cum spurted into the balled up tissue he had waiting. He laid back with his eyes closed, a memory creeping up on him that he willed away with all his body. 

She buttoned her top back up, “Why would you want me to say that, Sir Laguna? You are so far off-base, I mean we talked about it before I left Esthar, I thought that we were both…” 

He let her fret a little bit, but he had to do something to shut up that little voice in the back of his mind. Maybe he could fool it into complacency. Of course she should hate you, it said, she would eventually.

He gave her a forced chuckle. How could he even put it to words? 

“Oh Selphie, I’m just messing with you. I love ya.” 

“That’s not what I mean.” 

“I’m sorta tired, maybe just saying weird stuff. They don’t mess around with training here, gotta be in tip top shape. Not easy for an old guy like me!” 

She crossed her arms. She was mad and sad and totally in love all at the same time and it was weird. Irvine was much more showy with his self-esteem, but he also had a streak of gloom that all of them needed to survive in their crazy world. Cynicism, she could understand.

But did he want her to hate him? Was it because she was too young? Her friendship with Squall? She huffed. 

“Okay, you’re probably ready to sleep. It’s late here too.” And gotta make sure Squall has no idea what I was doing in his chair tonight. 

He gave her a little smile. 

“Sir Laguna?”

“Yeah?” 

“Maybe… you’re scared of something. And I don’t know if I could say anything that would make you really believe me, but… I’m stronger than I look.”

“I know you are,” he said, “I really do.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

He floated along, with a feeling of being disembodied like he was there, but also watching. There was so much pain, but he didn’t feel it.

It made him uncomfortable to remember this. 

Why was he remembering this anyway? He was totally unconscious at this point, wasn’t he? Sloshing against rocks that pressed angrily against his weak limbs. The shore was near. He knew where it was. He didn’t know how it looked from this angle though, it was only long after the fact when she had taken him down to show him where he was found. 

His clothes were weighing him down, pulling back into the water and his body welcomed the fluid into his mouth as if it were air. It was easier to inhale water than to try and fight it. He couldn’t feel it anyway. 

Raine was at the shore waiting for him. That wasn’t really how the story went, but she had her arms crossed. Why was she waiting? She didn’t know he was coming, this was before she even knew his name. 

She walked into the water, and she was waist-deep before his body made it to her. He was tangled up in various branches and detritus collected from the aquatic journey since he fell from that stupid cliff. She took his face in his hands, and the touch was so tender though her face was empty. The only time he had seen such a face was after Elle had been taken. But this was long before that. It was weird. 

Suddenly, she leaned in and kissed him. He was no longer looking at himself from above, but back in his body, feeling her mouth over his. He couldn’t react, he was paralyzed and numb, sensations dulled other than something pressing into his face. Water splashed over his vision, but he could make out her familiar silhouette. 

“So you don’t love me anymore, is that it?” she questioned. 

He couldn’t respond. He was unable to move his lips 

“I gave you a son.” 

He wanted to grab her, to beg for forgiveness and trade a thousand Esthars to stay right here. To let her drag him back to shore again, to have that second chance, but he just stared, unblinking. 

“I waited months.” 

I waited years! he lamented. I’m still waiting! 

But there was no way to defend himself against the truth. And no way to defend himself when she firmly took his shoulders and plunged his head below water. He looked up towards the surface, lungs burning and hair floating around like a panic. He felt it now, the raw physical memory of drowning. The terror filled his stomach as he tried to fight his way through the water and Raine’s voice came through as if there was nothing but air separating them. 

“You sonova bitch, Laguna! What the Hell!?” 

Raine? 

His eyes opened to a mess of sheets and Kiros standing over him, holding his chin and looking somewhat pissed. 

“You know what? I should have just let you wake up too late to meet Rinoa and your little girlfriend.”

“Oh” Laguna replied lamely, still reeling from the dream and trying to remember that today was the day the girls were coming in from Balamb to talk to some doctors or whatever. He promised to take them out to a fancy lunch. Girls love a fancy lunch. Actually, he used to love a fancy lunch too, where he could sip coffee for the remaining afternoon in a posh cafe and feel like a hip, worldly journalist, but these days it just meant a big fuss and absolutely no privacy. He was beginning to miss anonymity more and more. 

He tossed aside some sheets and hopped out of bed. Two attendants rushed in from behind Kiros and began fussing with the sheets, putting the bed back into the pristine condition it always was before he was back in it for the night.

Laguna ignored the bustle and stretched. “You sure they wouldn’t rather just have a bite in the palace?” 

“I do believe it was your idea, Laguna. Either way, chop-chop. You got twenty minutes before I’m putting you in the laundry basket and wheeling you out the door.”

 

-

 

The girls were arm in arm as they descended from the Ragnarok. It was brisk and sunny, and Rinoa wore a light blue coat and Selphie looked comfortable enough in tan pants and a baggy sweater. She was fueled and giddy from having her turn at the controls for a few hours and Rinoa looked relieved to be off the aeronautic monstrosity.

Selphie saw Kiros coming with a small push cart and started to wave until she saw two arms waving frantically from the inside of the cart. 

“It’s Sir Laguna!” She left Rinoa and rushed excitedly to meet him. Kiros smirked and Laguna crossed his arms as Selphie came up and leaned into the edge of the cart.

“What are you doing in here? Are you okay?” she asked. 

“My hair’s still wet.” 

Kiros added, “He was having a difficult morning. But I made sure he was coming to meet you properly.”

Selphie beamed at Kiros. 

“Never threaten Laguna with something that could potentially be fun,” Kiros mumbled dryly to himself. 

Laguna started to climb out of the laundry cart and added, “He thinks I am irresponsible and unmature. Well, I’ll show him unmature.”    

“Immature, Laguna.” 

“Oh Kiros,” Selphie quipped, “he’s just being fun.” She took his arm and smiled up at him. He smirked a bit and leaned down closer to her face as Rinoa caught up with them. They looked over at Rinoa, both straightening up suddenly. He scratched the back of his neck.

“Hey Dad, oh-” Rinoa felt a little like she interrupted something, then she smiled a little conspiratorially. “Saving the first hug for me, so thoughtful.”

Rinoa opened her arms and Laguna smiled guiltily. Selphie detached herself from his arm and he wrapped his arms around Rinoa giving her a firm squeeze and a kiss on the cheek. Selphie was bouncing foot to foot and clutching her arms to her chest. 

“C’mon, guys, I’m super hungry! Sir Laguna promised a special surprise lunch!” 

He let go of Rinoa and she gave him a little smile and gestured towards Selphie. Selphie immediately took the invitation to jump in front of him and wrap her arms around his neck. 

Rinoa and Kiros were looking at them, Rinoa curious and Kiros bemused. Selphie felt her face warm and she was frozen in place with bashfulness, yet anxiously anticipating contact with Sir Laguna. He looked similarly conflicted. She broke first, leaning up on her toes to plant a small, chaste kiss on his lips before her face buried into his chest. 

Rinoa heard the nervous muffled giggling and laughed. This who situation was weird, and Selphie and Laguna were already weird enough when they put their minds to it. 

“Push me back to the palace, Sir Laguna!” Selphie said as she jumped into the cart and landed on his used bed sheets. 

“Alrighty!” He saluted, then bumped Kiros out of the way, grabbing the cart handles from him and charged forward, pushing it full speed back into the palace from the landing port. Rinoa and Kiros started walking back in, following the manic hurricane of their dear friends.

 

-

 

Rinoa was so relieved she convinced Kiros to join them at lunch, since it would have been unbearable to handle watching Selphie pawing at her father-in-law while he knocks nearly everything off the table in pretend shock when he was clearly loving it. They were probably even playing footsie under the dining table the entire time. 

Squall was totally nothing like this.   

She engaged Kiros with a little small talk about the research Odine was doing and Kiros was savvy enough to give her lots of encouragement to ease her mind. She would never have come to Esthar if she didn’t need answers from the O-Lab.

Actually, Selphie’s little thing happening across from the table was a welcome distraction from what answers she might get from the laboratory. 

Finally towards the end of the meal, they all had teas and coffees and a plate of meticulously carved fruit to share. Rinoa was having a nice time, but every second that passed was one second closer to her appointment with Odine’s retinue. She had made certain to get the most senior female assistant on staff to meet with her, even if she wasn’t able to explicitly share her concerns at the time of making the appointment. 

She wondered if it would even be possible to peel Selphie away from Laguna long enough to make the visit. Selphie was leaning against him, their arms touching and hands making the barest contact. This must have been an incredible amount of restraint for her, since she was infamous for every manner of PDA when she was with Irvine. 

Rinoa remembered back when they used to get together more often, they had a few double-dates before she and Squall had gotten married. Selphie and Irvine looked pretty dysfunctional, between the groping and the bickering. They were both huge flirts-  especially Selphie with her harmless flirting and teasing. But Irvine always needed some kind of reinforcement that he was attractive to the opposite sex, and usually did it to get Selphie wound up. It was tiring to watch, but it made her relationship with Squall seem more… Normal. Mature. Successful. 

She supposed that was still true. But now here was a situation where if the four of them were in a room together, her friend might be a lot happier, though her husband might try giving his father a matching scar. 

Rinoa spoke up, “So… guys… You’re what? What is this?” She pointed at them and drew a little circle in the air with her finger. She had to know. She had to have the dirt first after it was revealed that Squall had guessed what was happening before she did. 

Laguna was about to deny the charge, but Kiros interrupted him and said, “They are clearly dating. And we have been stuck as witnesses” 

“Oh God, we are on their date?” 

Selphie butted in, “No Rinny! I’m here to support you! I am in best-friend mode!” She held up two thumbs for added emphasis. 

“A convenient enough excuse for Laguna to bother me all week about it. For each time I heard him say ‘Rinoa’, I heard him say ‘Selphie’ about twelve more.” 

Laguna blanched and made some incoherent sputtering, finally saying “This isn’t a date!” then, looking at Selphie, “Unless, I mean, you want it to be one… I mean, it’s okay with me… whatever you want… unless you don’t want it… and then it’s okay, too… but maybe-” 

Kiros rolled his eyes. 

Selphie’s eyes became huge and she grabbed at his hand with both of hers, stammering, “You want a d-date?” 

She knew what he looked like naked. They used the L word. They already knew the family. 

But spilling her private relationship with him into the public realm was totally inconceivable. 

Kiros addressed Rinoa, “I might guess that if this were the case, then we’ve had the misfortune of being stuck as the wing-men on their first date. ” 

“Well, Mr. Kiros, I don’t know about you, but I have a much bigger wing-woman debt to pay her, but I doubt I can pull off a concert half as good- even if the tap-dancing was a little odd.”

 

-

 

Selphie finally accompanied Rinoa to the O-Lab, leaving Kiros to take care of Laguna who had nearly choked after nervously gulping down an entire cup of coffee. Rinoa was cringing at his near meltdown and glad to avoid the fountain of coffee erupting from him, but Selphie just rubbed his back and fawned over him, cooing and blotting his shirt like she was happy to have the excuse. 

The girls borrowed a private vehicle from the president’s collection and arrived on time to be whisked up to the observation room. As they made their way along the halls, Rinoa felt her skin prickle and all the bad feelings from that time, years ago, when she agreed to the desperate attempt to rid the world of the sorceress inside of her. 

They sat in a moderately comfortable consultation room. For how Odine may have come off as a bit of a mad scientist in years past, now his inventions were world-famous and as more consumer-grade Odine goods entered the market, descriptions of him rarely used the word ‘insane’ in favor of nicer expressions such as ‘quirky.’ Actually, he was seeing success in such measure that he had a veritable avalanche of projects and was more than happy to let a cohort do the boring listening-to-clients bit. 

The assistant was flattered to be given a high-profile appointment with the sorceress. She was given the request direct from the office of the president and knew it was important. She listened to the raven-haired woman summarize the events of the war that she was already well-acquainted with and pushed her glasses back up her nose. 

“And well, Doctor, we got married a few years ago and wanted to see our chances for starting a family. I mean, we are in no rush, but…” 

Grabbing her clipboard tightly, the assistant gaped. A sorceress! Bearing young! Unheard of! The challenge of a lifetime!

“Miss Leonhart, ” the assistant cried, “I will need every detail down to the second! Or… position!” 

Selphie made a little face and looked over to her friend. She knew this wasn’t meant to be a one-time thing. She was pretty familiar with the time and extent to which some women went to have kids. She was adopted herself, after all; a final resort. 

“Hey, Rinny, did you ever talk to Edea about this stuff?” 

“Well, honestly, I’m just afraid she’ll tell me it’ll never happen.” She folded her hands in her lap. She looked at her hands, examining her ring from Squall. Selphie covered Rinoa’s hand with her own as the assistant grilled Rinoa on the most intimate details of her personal life.

Hours passed and Rinoa left completely drained, as well as with a planner meant for taking down notes about menstruation, HP levels, proximity to draw points, cycles of the moon, and a plethora of others. The assistant was kind and understanding enough, but a little too excited to proceed in a research project on sorceress wombs. It was somewhat uncharted territory, but for Rinoa it was going to get harder.

I’m still young, lots of time.  

Squall’s supportive of whatever I choose.  

I’m not broken, just challenged.  

He won’t resent me for this….  

Right? 

She had another appointment with a normal expert in pregnancy in Esthar City tomorrow. There’s no way she fully trusted the maniacs in O-Lab to understand from her perspective; imagine Adel demanding Odine to provide fertility treatments! Adel in stirrups… 

“Are you okay? You look like you’re getting sick. You’re skin’s looking kind of pasty.” Selphie poked Rinoa’s arm a few times. 

“No Selphie, I’m fine. Just been a long day. I really appreciate you being with me. You’ve been just the right friend for the job.” 

Selphie gave a proud little nod, bunching her lips together.

 

-

 

They made it back to the palace, and Rinoa led the way to the room Kiros had prepared for her. Rinoa didn’t need to make up an excuse for a little privacy to think and give Squall a call. As soon as Laguna came around to meet them at her door, Selphie was almost vibrating at his arrival. 

“Did you girls have a good trip?” 

Selphie looked at Rinoa, unsure how to describe the situation. Rinoa put on a small smile and replied, “Well, as good as I could hope. You can have a little food sent to my room, right? I’d really like some rest.”

Selphie nodded and let go of her friend’s arm that she had been clinging to nearly since leaving the Lab. Laguna eyed the armload of papers and notebooks she was carrying. Rinoa excused herself quickly and nudged Selphie with a knowing look.

“Goodnight you two, I gotta check in with the lion before he kills someone…” she gave them a peck on the cheek, first Laguna, then Selphie and whispered, “Appointment is early tomorrow, so don’t… stay up too late.” She gave them a wink then slipped into the room. 

Selphie waved until she heard the door mechanism click to indicate that it had closed, then she turned at looked at Laguna, who was wearing a concerned look. 

“Hey, the lunch date was really fun, but we can do something simple for dinner, right?”

 

-

 

“This is not simple at all, Sir Laguna!” 

Selphie was seated at a modest dining table in the presidential suite, looking over the food brought in by the attendant. As soon as the covers were lifted, she looked at everything in utter confusion. So many dishes. And the sauces! This is insane! 

“How do I eat this?” she lamented. He laughed.

“Heck if I know. They’ll never tell me I’m doing it wrong, anyway. But I promise it tastes good. Here, I’ll show ya.” He grabbed a piece of bread and used it to scoop up something that looked like a vegetable stew. He held a hand under her chin and she took the cue to open her mouth. Taking a bite, her brows furrowed. 

“Okay, that wasn’t bad. But what’s that one?” 

“That’s a soup,” he replied. 

“Where’s the spoon?” 

“You drink it from the bowl.” 

“I don’t remember Esthar food being this complicated…” 

Laguna smiled at her, feeling like the worldly, mature man he always hoped to be. “This is the food meant for royalty, y’know. It’s super traditional… They act appalled when I just want a sandwich.” He shrugged. “Ah, here’s a good one-” 

Grabbing a little fried ball, he held it up. “It’s usually vegetable, but when it’s meat it’s really, really good. Open up!” 

Selphie opened her mouth and closed her eyes. He tossed the ball, but it bounced off her chin and landed on the floor, “Whoops!” 

She laughed at him and picked up another one and aimed it at Laguna. He opened his mouth this time and it bounced off his forehead. 

“Oh geez, we’re wasting all this food. What happened to my aim?” she cried. 

“You’re telling me. I think I just get distracted when you open your mouth like that.” He blushed a little, realizing the implication of what he said. 

She smirked and lowered her voice. “Why would that be?” 

“W-well, because it looks like… like.. when… when… ahh, like…” 

She giggled, and tapped his toe with her own. “I know, Sir Laguna. I just wanted to tease you a little.” She picked up the soup and took a sip. 

“Ah, Selphie. Sometimes I can’t really figure you out.” 

“C’mon now, what do you still need to know?” She tried to copy his lesson of Estharian food and she took a piece of the bread and hovered over one of the dishes. He motioned to the right one and she dipped it in, and then offered it back to him. He opened his mouth and took a bite.

He chewed and considered, “Well, I can’t tell if you’re serious or just messing around.”

“Maybe I’m seriously messing around. I’m very sincere when I tease you, though. I don’t tease anyone else like I tease you.”

“Well, way to make a guy feel special.” 

“Well, I don’t think I’m hard to understand at all.” she huffed. “Everyone knows when I’m happy. Everyone knows that I like you.

He paused for a moment and asked, “Does everyone know when you’re sad?” 

She looked down. “Who has time to be sad?” 

“You seemed a little down with Rinoa today.” 

She stiffened. She couldn’t tell him Rinoa’s problem, and her actual intentions of having children, that could be his grandchildren. She wanted to tell him so bad, but it was up to Rinoa. 

She smiled wryly, “Why, see? You’re pretty good. Mister Expert.” 

“Don’t wanna talk about it?” he inquired. 

“It’s… not my place.” 

“I see.” He put his fist to his chin, clearly thinking about it. 

Selphie dabbed her mouth with a cloth napkin and noticed a carafe of wine. She poured one glass and stood up, taking the glass over to Laguna and standing in front of him. She traced his face with her eyes, taking in all the little details, those twitches and textures that were absent in photos. 

“It’s hard waiting for you.” She took a sip of wine and touched his cheek with her other hand.

He licked his lip, and put a hand on her waist.

“You want to see me, right?” she asked. 

He nodded, and she took another sip while running her fingers through his hair. She tilted her head to the side, “But there’s something holding you back, isn’t there?” 

The little smile he had melted away and he stared at her. 

“You have a lot of gall to tell me I hide my sadness from others.” She pinched his chin and he let go of her body. She set the half-finished wine glass on the table then pulled his chin up to face her. “I need to know why you’re pushing me away.” 

“What are you talking about? Selphie, I-I…” his hands were on his knees, gripping nervously. 

“I tol’ja I’m strong, and I meant it. If you’ve got any kind of problem, I promise I will just stop bothering you.”

“N-no! I need you, please Selphie. What is this about?” 

“Why do you want me to hate you?”

He gulped.

“I don’t want that.”

“Then you better tell me what that was all about. What… what’s going on in your head.” 

He panicked, “It’s just stress, hard to be normal… you know-” 

She cut in, “what about your nightmares?”      

He stood up. Suddenly he towered over her. She found it harder to look firm when he went so quickly from blubbering and piteous to a statue. 

She came wanting to be with him, thinking about all the things they could do, and all the naughty pleasures in his huge bed. But she was even more bothered with his continual stream of self-immolation. She spent too much time away from him, just thinking about him and trying to wrap her head around his life. 

“Maybe we shouldn’t do this anymore,” he said. 

“Laguna! Everyone has baggage! Please, just get it out! I can help you… It doesn’t matter what it is, I love you.” 

His face broke into a sad expression, “Well… that’s pretty bad luck.” 

“W-what do you mean?” 

He stepped to the side and she blocked him.

“You may have used me to get over your boyfriend, Selphie, but to me,” he glared over her shoulder, “you’ll always come in second.” 

She stared at him in shock and he stepped around her again making his way to one of the rooms in the suite. She heard a door latch locking sound and she rubbed her face with her hands. 

She totally accepted that Laguna was a good amount older than her, and usually the assumption was that the physical things were the most difficult part to deal with. The wrinkles, the hair growing out of the ears, that kind of thing. But he had twenty years of heartaches on top of her, and all that time to let it settle on his mind. If she was driving herself crazy over him in a matter of weeks, then what was going on with him

She felt a well of self-pity rise in her chest and she sniffed. 

I can’t be upset. There’s something wrong with him. It’s not about me. Nothing’s wrong with me. 

A large gasp escaped her chest. She looked around, trying to find comfort in the unfamiliar place.

I mean well. I did the right thing. 

Her breaths became ragged and she figured out that Laguna had sequestered himself away in some other office, so she could still enter the master bedroom. Maybe he did it on purpose, so she could sleep on the bed, but it wasn’t a lot of consolation. 

When she fell on his bed, the crying started on full blast and she covered her head with a pillow. 

Love and friendship, c’mon,! Didn’t you say that to us? Was I the only one who believed it?

 

-

 

She woke up to someone giving her arm a gentle shake. It was Rinoa. 

“Selphie? Are you okay? Kiros said you were still sleeping.” 

Her eyes felt puffy and her vision was clearing up slowly. Not a good night.

“Oh, hey Rinoa, yeah. Morning appointment. Lemme just-” she sat up and put her feet to the floor. She remembered her fight with Laguna and frowned, “Where’s Sir Laguna?” 

“I didn’t see him yet, I thought he’d be with you.” Rinoa gave Selphie a once over, “Did you… sleep in your clothes?” 

Selphie sighed, “Well, me and Sir Laguna… kind of… ” 

They heard a cough from the doorway. 

“Ladies, the transportation will be ready in about twenty minutes.” It was the voice of Kiros. Rinoa looked at her friend. 

“Are you gonna be able to-” 

“Rinny, this trip is all about you. We are gonna get you some babies, right? And you are gonna let me name the first one, because I am that good of a friend.” 

Rinoa highly doubted she could bestow that honor on Selphie, but she nodded anyway. 

“Can I just run into the bathroom for a sec before we go?” 

“Sure, Selph. I’ll wait outside.” 

Rinoa left the bedroom and met back with Kiros. She gave him a questioning look and he shrugged. 

“He said he had to be alone for a bit.” 

“I see.” Rinoa made a tight face. 

“What about you? Your appointments here going well?” Kiros asked. 

“Well… I guess. I’ll probably have to come a little bit more often.” 

Kiros examined her closely, “Laguna was pretty worried about you. He thinks maybe you’re dying or something.”

She shook her head, “No, it’s nothing like that. Who knows, I might be around forever!” 

“Well,” Kiros started, “Laguna had a son almost entirely by accident, so he is a bit clueless about these things.” 

Rinoa looked at Kiros. “W-what?” 

“Why must I remind people that I am the real genius here?” he joked. “Seriously, though, these things aren’t that hard to figure out. Even if I wasn’t married myself, I could have guessed.” 

“Did you tell him?” 

“Rinoa, if I mentioned the very idea, he would crap his pants. Sorry to be crude, but he’s a handful as it is. He’s barely keeping it together over having a fling with your friend there.” 

“Well, it doesn’t look like that’s going well either.” 

Kiros shrugged and he rolled up the sleeves of his Estharian robe. “As long as I’ve known him, Laguna is a one-step-forward, two-steps-back kind of guy. I’ll get him on the right track, don’t you worry.” 

He clapped a hand on her shoulder and she smiled up at him gratefully. Selphie came out, smoothing down her sweater and giving Kiros a weak smile.

“Car should be here soon, I hope things go well.” He looked at Selphie, “Things usually work themselves out somehow.”

 

-

 

Laguna sat on the ground of the rooftop balcony of the palace, cross-legged and hunched over. He fiddled with a small trinket in his hands, a little ceramic house with white shutters and little intricately painted ivy climbing up the walls. Sometimes, he liked to look at it and build a little dream life, a fantasy away from the palace life that chaffed him constantly. He used to have so many worlds to escape to, but they mostly dimmed with age, leaving him this one, where he and Raine and Elle lived happily ever after and had kids and dogs and chocobos. This one stuck with him, especially since this particular one sort of came true. 

He let politics and service sweep him up and fully absorb his thoughts after he sort-of recovered from the loss of Raine, letting all of his passion be pointed directly at the recovery of Elle and the suppression of Adel. He was doing it for Raine, in her honor, in her memory. 

That soothed his mind somewhat. That he could still do good by her.

He got to his forties comfortable with the idea that he was World’s Best Uncle, and that was that. Esthar didn’t deserve a successor from his own bloodline, it would be too cruel. When inquiries came, he hopelessly tried to explain to them again what the definition of president was. He was a one-man dynasty. 

But then Elle returned, and told him he had a kid. A kid he never knew. 

A son who never even knew him.

He almost felt at peace with the separation of time and space to Winhill, but Squall changed his mindset. There was a living breathing person in the world that represented his short-comings as a man. 

Not like that, obviously he was doing okay as far as reproduction was concerned. 

But that he just failed being a good person. He couldn’t listen. He couldn’t understand advice. The feelings of others didn’t make enough sense. He just followed some broken instinct that helped him survive and yet totally wrecked the relationships he was supposed to treasure. 

Squall was this… intense person. How was he supposed to even act around him?

Laguna’s musing was broken when the door opened and Kiros stepped out onto the balcony.

“So. I came up here to let you know the girls left for Balamb… ”

“‘Kay.” 

“Rinoa said to thank you for the hospitality and sends her love,” Kiros said, “And…” 

Laguna continued staring at the little house in his hands. 

“And… Well, I won’t try to push you into anything you’re not comfortable with.” 

Laguna sighed and Kiros continued, “Except work, because I am not doing everything for you.” 

“I love her. Selphie’s some kind of girl… But I just love Raine more. I can’t make it stop.” 

“Hey man, sometimes I think of other ladies when I’m with my wife, too. It’s not the end of the world.” Why was he always lying to Laguna about his own love-life? His wife was a total babe, if his mind wandered, it was strictly by accident. And if there was other ladies on his mind, he still included his wife. No harm, no foul. 

“I told her... I told her she’d never be above Raine.” 

“Oh wow. Laguna, that’s…” His friend really had it coming, “That’s so dumb. Did you really say it like that?” 

Laguna nodded and Kiros gave him a good kick to the side. Laguna fell over and stayed on the ground still clutching the little figurine. It hurt a little, but he didn’t care. 

“You know what? Stormy’s gonna be so pissed and I’m going to have to hear all about it. She really liked the idea of you being in love. With a girl. A breathing one.”

“Hmph.”

“She’s tired of boys’ night all the time. And she loves Ward’s little pals, but she wants a girl to talk to about girl-stuff.” 

“I got Esthar to put women in the military with all kinds ‘a guns and knives, your wife can suck it up and gossip with a guy,” Laguna grumbled. 

“I forget how weird you are. I sometimes don’t even believe you came from a place like Galbadia- Look, Selphie didn’t need to hear you say dumb shit. You’re supposed to say stuff like… ‘Your eyes are pretty’ and ‘Can I carry your books home?’ and try keeping your hands off each other in front of your friends during lunch.” 

“But it was true.”

“Does it even matter?” 

“Raine matters. She always matters.”

“Dammit, Laguna. Of course she does, but does it matter that you love your dead wife and Selphie?” 

“Yes.” 

Kiros threw his hands in the air, “Yanno, alright. Sit here all alone. I’ll be downstairs pretending you are not a Grade A stubborn old bastard.”

 

-

 

That night Kiros was in his sons’ bedroom having their goodnight routine. He sat on the edge of the eldest who was bestowed with mostly his mother’s looks, but all the snark of his father and too much responsibility for those around him. 

“Daddy?” 

Kiros looked up from the book he was reading out loud. “Yeah, kiddo?” 

“Am I in trouble?" 

“What?” Kiros raised an eyebrow, “No, why would you say that now?” 

“Well, ‘cause mom said we aren’t going to hang out with Uncle Laguna next week.” he pouted a little. “We wanted to go ride the chocobos and he said he was gonna let us ride a gold one!” 

“Oh geez. She’s not mad at you. Mommy is mad at Uncle Laguna” he said, matter-of-fact. 

“Again?” 

“Again.” He sighed and closed the book, “I’ll see what we can do about Mommy. But just get some sleep for now.” He got up and gave his eldest a little fist bump, then rustled the hair of the little ones.

“Night, boys.” He tapped a panel and the lights softly dimmed and he exited the room, the door sliding shut gently behind him. He padded his way into his bedroom where Stormy was in bed with a book of her own and a scowl for him when he arrived. He held back his exasperation the best he could, since he had enough to deal with today. 

“How is the most beautiful woman in all of Esthar doing tonight?” he started to remove the robe, looking down at his hands as he did so. 

“Oh, just thinking that next week’s family dinner would have been nice with an extra guest.”

He hung up the long cream-colored garment and lifted the comforter to their bed and slipped under the sheets “I’d stand under the Lunar Cry for you, but some things just have to be left up to fate” 

She closed the book and folded up the reading glasses she had on her nose and set them at the bedside table next to her. Kiros moved closer to her, his arm slinking around her leg as he planted a heavy kiss on her cheek. 

She huffed and folded her arms.

“You’re so thoughtful to worry about Laguna’s love-life. I’m sure he appreciates it,” he hated talking about work in bed, but his whole life was work. His sons were tiny representatives of himself and it was delicate raising them in such a privileged life. His wife loved the lavish lifestyle, maybe more than she loved him, but she was well-suited to it. 

He suspected that even though Laguna had desperately wanted to be with Raine, Raine was not an Esthar-type.

“Lovie,” she said, “I was just so excited when he talked about her. I’d love to have a little friend to go shopping with so someone else would feel my pain when the attendant brings me a pair of 32 wide instead of a 32 narrow.” 

“Oh, geez…” 

“I know. Those barbarians.” 

He ignored her complaints and slipped a hand up her satin chemise. He ran a finger along the under crease of her breasts. 

“I promise I tried really hard, darling.” He cooed as he fondled her under her expensive lingerie. “Don’t be mad at him, that’s my job.”

 

-

 

Rinoa was glad she managed to make it home that day. Selphie was an excellent pilot, but she was just barely there during the grueling doctor’s appointment. It had been a tough couple of days for Rinoa, but she wished better for Selphie. Rinoa understood the need to have love in her life, and couldn’t even remember the time in her life where she didn’t have a boyfriend. But now she had Squall, and they made it work.

When Rinoa asked her about what happened, Selphie just said that she’d made a mistake. “He isn’t my boyfriend anyway. She could be hot and cold like that, but Rinoa felt bad nonetheless. 

Back home, Selphie stayed over andn helped her organize the journals and materials into neat binders. Selphie had tons of stickers and colored pens and tried to make the whole process as fun and cute as possible. They spent an afternoon drawing hearts in a calendar and Rinoa noticed a bit more sighing from Selphie than usual. 

Paying attention to the doctor’s notes, Rinoa learned probably way too much about when she might be more fertile. How is a schedule romantic? Spontaneity was more her style, and Squall was much more receptive when he wasn’t ready for it. She’d just jump in his lap and say “Do me, handsome!” and bam- Fireworks! 

Selphie was either being supportive or actually disagreeing with her, claiming that planning was over fifty percent of the fun. The other fifty was anticipation. Rinoa wasn’t sure where that left the actual event happening, but since they weren’t talking about something involving explosives, she figured it may actually be speaking truth. Selphie managed a long-term relationship for years, and probably had her orgasms timed to the minute. 

Rinoa wasn’t excited to talk to Squall about it, even though anytime she fretted over the possibility of not being able to have children he instantly told her he’d love her no matter what and he’d be happy with whatever she wanted. It still left her feeling a little guilty. She was probably the one ending his family line. That her own was possibly at an end was too much to bear. 

They lived in a small cottage at the edge of Balamb, and it gave her the privacy she needed, but she wasn’t chock full of the skills that could keep her busy as well as safe from public persecution. She did a little bit at home to help Squall, typing up letters or speeches, but it wasn’t satisfying. And they didn’t have tons of money either; she had the access through either her father or Squall’s, but they were meant for dire need only. She couldn’t acquiesce herself to her own father just for shopping money. So they lived modestly as newlyweds. 

And since they were married, they agreed that children would be a pretty good idea. At least two. It could be tough, but they had all the facilities of Garden, and a supportive collection of staff and friends to help. Their children would have a warm and adoring extensive family. They both agreed upon anything that was completely different from their own upbringing; Rinoa’s highly sheltered and privileged one, and Squall’s lonely and isolated one.   

They had already forgotten about using protection a number of times. She expressed her concern with him that perhaps there was something to where sorceresses couldn’t have kids. Look at the history. Squall insisted, bless him, nothing was wrong with her, and from that point on they just had sex to try and prove the theory wrong. It was all for fun, tempting fate like that. Seeing how many different positions they could manage. They weren’t particularly interested in having kids at that very moment, but it was the challenge. And it was more fun to try than to start considering the alternative.

But a year passed, and while her libido was on point, she needed definitive answers. Squall was going to take the Lionhart out of it’s locked case, equip Bahamut, wear his nastiest sneer, and demand answers from Odine himself. Rinoa begged him off and said she was going to talk to a female doctor and would prefer a girlfriend to come with her. They might lie to keep you from killing someone, you wouldn’t want that

She didn’t get a yes or no from her appointments in Esthar this time, but she got a lot of homework. They took a little blood and asked a mountain of questions. It took a few days before she had the nerve to become intimate with her husband after her sex life had been under the microscope like that. 

After a few weeks, things returned to normal, and she was writhing under him, legs around his waist, business as usual.

He came with a grunt and kissed her. She returned the kiss and smiled. He was a simple guy, and she loved him dearly. If they had a daughter, he would threaten all her boyfriends. 

Nah, he’d train any of his kids to be able to threaten their own love interests. 

“Squall… I love you so much.” 

“Mm, you too.” He fell on his back, tired from the exertion, but he gave her a small smile and patted her hand. “Don’t forget to mark the journal.” 

She yawned, “Sure, in a sec. I’m gonna ace the test when I get back to the doctor’s office. I’ve been studying so hard.”

He smirked. “Next week?”

“Yeah. But I haven’t asked Selphie to come with me yet.” 

“Oh” he replied. He really wasn’t interested in hearing about Selphie’s love life. First it was Sir Laguna this, Sir Laguna that, then it was all those crazy rumors from the kids, now it was like he died and she was moping about. Quistis was trying to perk her up by reminding her all the things a strong independent woman could do without a boyfriend, but it was like explaining to Rinoa the finer points of gunblade maintenance. 

“I think she’ll come if we go straight to the O-lab and just skip the Presidential Palace altogether.” 

“Fine by me.” 

Rinoa shot him a look. “He’s a very nice man.” 

“He causes me headaches.” 

“Except when the GP hits the account” Rinoa pointed out dryly. “I still haven’t told him why I’m going out there for doctor visits.”

“Good.” 

She smacked his shoulder, “Hey! He’s family, y’know.” 

“So’s General Carroway.” 

She got up in a huff and made her way to the bathroom. Squall put his hands behind his head. He could handle all her bickering tendencies. It’s how he knew she loved him. Also nice that she couldn’t keep her hands off, though he wouldn’t dare to admit that. 

She returned from the bathroom, and he got up to use it himself. By the time he went through his nightly routine and was drying his hands with a towel he considered the day’s events. 

“Speaking of family matters, I overheard some news at the Balamb City council. Irvine’s applying for some business license.” 

“Irvine? Kinneas?”

“Just giving you my report. Use that information as you see fit.”

She was about to speak, but when he talked like he was in SeeD mode, it meant he was probably too tired for much else. Quite a little piece of news to mull over right before bed. She put a hand on his chest, prompting a good night kiss and she reached to the bedside lamp and turned off the light.

 

-

 

It was nearing Valentine’s Day and while it wasn’t regarded as anything special at Garden, Selphie busied herself with smothering attention on her friends and Garden Festival Committee students. 

Rinoa had sent her a message about going to Esthar on the weekend and during the morning meeting Squall ever-so-casually mentioned a particular business opening in Balamb offering marksman training. He looked at Selphie a few times trying to gauge her reaction. 

Oh Squall, It’s fine! I’m fine! Everything’s fine!   

So she was in the small committee room folding three hundred pop-up heart valentines cards. She’d write to every person who was ever nice to her in her life to tell them how much she appreciated them! 

Kill ‘em with kindness!

She even made a list. Squall, Rinoa, Zell, Quistis, Xu, Edea, Cid, Nida, the new cafeteria lady, the old cafeteria lady, the janitor, Ma Dincht, Elle, Kiros, Ward, Seifer (if they ever saw him again), Fujin, Raijin, Chocobo-kid, the barista at the Fish Cafe…

…That old man who looked at the party funny back in Dollet, that lady with the limp and the glass eye, Flo , NORD…  

“Seifer is on your list,” Zell was hovering behind her after the students had left.

“Yeah?” Selphie didn’t look up, she was folding like a woman on a mission. 

“You rank Seifer higher than… you know what, you wanna get a beer and just let it out?” 

Selphie sighed and put down the papers. “I am fine, Zell. And see, you are number three!” She held the name-list document up and waved it. “That means you are super-duper-mega important to me!” 

He snatched it to stop her from smacking him in the face.

“So, you also heard that Irvine’s stopping by on Wednesday?” 

“What!?” she wailed, “That’s Valentine’s Day! I don’t want to see him any day, but definitely not then!” 

“Well, I think since he’s got a company specializing in training, he’s willing to bury the hatchet and try to become aligned with Garden somehow. He might be around a bit more than you’d like.” 

She groaned. 

“It could be good for Garden. He’s got lots of friends in Deling City. We could get some of the older kids in some law enforcement training, give them some skills outside of being mercs. Get them jobs out of Garden.”

Zell caught her little pout, “C’mon Selphie. I know it’s the same old song that you hate, but some of them will benefit. Just like some benefit from your stuff.” 

“My stuff is being able incapacitate enemies with high trajectory blunt objects, manage satellite communication infrastructures, and pilot nearly everything under the sun!”

He put a hand on her shoulder, “And you clean up the crayons just for fun.” He sighed, “We’re in a post-SeeD world, Sefie. Some of us fit into it better. I didn’t mean to imply that you aren’t a terrifying force of nature.” 

“Sorry Zelly, I guess I’m just not into getting more bad news tonight. But, it’s really nice of you to come help me make Valentines cards for everyone.” 

“Well, I lost a bet and- W-what?!”

By midnight, Zell had delicately convinced Selphie to cut the list down to people she could hand-deliver to in a walking distance from Garden. He also demonstrated how useless he was at folding paper and she got mad at him and made him just sit and watch. He feigned disappointment. 

Zell excused himself and wished her luck on her project. He was careful to omit the word “futile” but gave her a little half hug and scooped up a little trash to dump in the waste bin by the door. 

When she was alone she paused for a second. No one has to know. She took the card at the top of the stack. It was solid pink with a few simple cuts that when folded right made a 3D heart stick out when it was opened. She grabbed a pen and tapped it on her chin before writing;

 

Dear Irvine,

Thank you for being my friend (for a million years)

Being a pretty okay boyfriend, even though we broke up.

And killing lots of monsters so they wouldn’t kill, maim, or otherwise get gross crap on that awesome dress I used to wear. And not calling me fat when I couldn’t fit my butt in said dress.

 

XOXO

Selphie

 

She sat back and sighed. So much for getting her feelings out on paper. “Let’s do the other one I really don’t want to do.”

 

Dear Sir Laguna,

Thank you for-

 

She put her head in her arms. This is hard. She had time to get over Irvine, but she was still freshly sort-of broken up from a man she was never really together with. So she tried again.

 

Dear Sir Laguna,

Thank you for being Squall’s dad. I’m glad he was born, even though he’s a jerk sometimes.

Also, for letting Garden keep the Ragnarok, ‘cause it is a sexy beast.

And thanks for giving me a chance. It was fun while it lasted. Thanks for being patient when I was being a jerk and for trying really hard to make me happy-

 

She put her chin in her hand and looked it over. She liked the first two, but the last one… she felt like she messed it all up. She pushed him too hard. Part of her knew it was a bad idea, but another part knew that pushing was what a relationship was all about.

Two people, pushing each other to be their best selves. Pushing onward through bad times. It wasn’t just about bending over backwards to make someone happy, but pushing herself to show the ones she loved that they were important.

Also pushing on to three in the morning to make Valentines cards! Time for bed! 

Selphie hopped up and left the room, locking it on her way out. She needed sleep- that’s why her mind was getting unreasonable. No point in thinking about him anymore.

 

-

 

The next day was a blur of writing her Friendship Appreciation Cards for Not-Just-For-Lovers Valentine’s Day. 

When Wednesday rolled in, Selphie crept through the Garden well before class time to deliver her cards, trying to avoid any chance of meeting Irvine on his visit. She approached a few students from her committee, and gave them her standard uncomfortably tight hugs and cards. 

“Aww, thanks Miss Tilmitt!”

“What’re these for?” the younger student asked. 

The big one replied, “Doncha know? It’s Saint Vincent de Valetine’s, where we exchange cards so we don’t turn into demons-” 

The younger student wailed, “But I didn’t make any cards!” 

“Oh yeah, there’s this legend…” 

Selphie rolls her eyes, “Gotta find Squall, try not to scare the little guys with the stories, okay?” 

She was sneaking around so well, hurriedly distributing her cards, and half way through her stack, when she started relaxing a bit. 

Encouraging herself, she said to herself, “Alright, too early anyway, the Commander’s office should be safe.” She went to the elevator and looked around for her identification card. She had forgotten to clip it on her lapel as usual and must have stuffed it in a pocket before carrying the cards. 

She was making little fussy half-turns when she felt a shadow approach, and she stopped and scrunched her face. 

“Mornin’” 

Taking a deep breath, the plastered on a smile and looked up at Irvine. He looked a little amused with her. Always up to her Selphie-style antics. 

“Whatcha doin’ so early?” 

“Well, I’m delivering Valentines cards and I can’t get my key card-” 

“It’s in your pocket. Oh, look at your hands full, you can’t reach that there, can ya?” He reached at her hip and pulled it out slowly, then held it up to the elevator until it made the standard ping and a green light for the top floor. He smirked. They stepped on the elevator and he leaned to return the card to her pocket, but she huffed and turned before he could reach. 

“Just put it on top of the cards.” He set it where she asked and turned to face the elevator doors, grin tightening. 

The doors opened and they entered the commander’s office, Selphie anxious to deliver her cards and go. Squall was at his desk already, ready for a morning meeting with Irvine, and glanced at Selphie. She came up to the desk and set the card stack down to shake out her arms. She ran her fingers along the pile and found one with Squall’s name written with glitter. She set the card in front of him and smiled, then went back to find another one. She handed Irvine an envelope, his name neatly printed in black. She handed another one to Squall and he raised an eyebrow. 

“It’s for Rinoa, you’ll give it to her tonight, right? No peeking!” She picked her stack back up from the desk to continue her task. 

“Selphie,” Irvine called to her, “I’ll see ya later, right?” 

“Umm…” she was back in the elevator with her key card back on her lapel. “Maybe?”

When the door closed, she took a huge breath. He could get her worked up without even doing much. But she gave herself credit for having a card for him. She could hold a grudge, but not handle the guilt of leaving someone out. Nobody should be left out! Her cards were also a practice in humility, to be grateful for friends and their love and support and not at all to simply distract herself from the most romantic holiday of the year without a boyfriend. 

She passed out a few more before classes started then made her way to the administrative offices to take a look at her messages. Another office lady made some little heart cookies to share and Selphie gushed and praised her coworker’s cooking skills.

“They even taste like love, they are so amazing! Can I have another?” 

“Oh honey, take the rest. I made a batch at home for my husband already.”

“Ah, he’s a lucky guy” she said between bites. When she made it to her terminal, she set down the cookies, humming about the goodness in her life and not about pretending to eat the hearts of her enemies.

She spent the morning dealing with messages when around lunch time there was a tap at the door. It was Irvine.

“Hey, ladies, mind if I steal away with a certain little SeeD?” He leaned against the door, looking casual and charming. Selphie sunk in her chair a bit when the other office ladies looked at her, the only SeeD in the room. She could sense a few twitters from them, enjoying the display of a handsome young man coming to woo their office mate. They didn’t really know him, since he never made much of a point to come to Balamb.

She got up and he made a little bow and tipped his hat to the others. 

“Most appreciated,” he said and set a hand on Selphie’s lower back as she neared and she cringed over the excited whispers coming from the office behind her. They were loving this more than her cards! Damn him

“I thought we’d take my car back down to town for lunch.” 

“I dunno, Irvine, I have a lot of work so-” 

“Squall said it was fine if you wanted to.”

Selphie shut her mouth, she was not in the mood to make a scene for him. He led her to the parking garage where a sturdy all-terrain vehicle waited in the guest spot. She let him open her door and tried to be gracious about it. He knew he was good at playing romantic hero. She knew it was an act, but humored it anyway. Just friends, Selphie, she thought to herself. 

Once the door on his side closed and he snapped his seat belt on, he said, “So, nuthin’, eh?” 

She looked at him, “What do you mean?”

He started the engine and looked behind him, “Not wanting to get your hands on this body.” He smirked and backed out of the lot.

“Irvine Kinneas, you’re insufferable!” 

“Babe, I am just yanking your chain.” 

Well, I can’t tell if you’re serious or just messing around.

She looked out the window and gave herself a second of self-pity. Then asked, “Well, if lunch is on you, yank all you want.”

They went to one of the nicer cafes that was usually frequented by the ritzier tourists from Dollet or Deling City. They both agreed on trying the special and when the waitress came around, Selphie cut him off and ordered for the both of them. She smiled at him with a touch of playfulness as they handed in their menus. 

“So, you ended up doing it anyway,” she said.

“Hm? Coming here?" 

“Yeah.”

“Well,” he leaned back and put a hand on his chin. “I did some research and it didn’t end up being too bad of an idea. Expanding my services and getting more contracts without a lot of overhead since I already have a base in D.C…. If it doesn’t work out, it’s not a huge loss at this point.” 

“You and Squall must both have had a blast talking shop all morning.” 

“That we did. He’s a good guy alright,” he said and gave a nod. 

“Hm!” Selphie agreed. 

“Apple don’t fall far from the tree, as they say.” 

She crossed her arms, “No, no it doesn’t. So how about you?” she was quick to turn this conversation away from Squall, “Having fun in the city? Meeting girls all over the place?” 

He knew she was baiting him, but he couldn’t resist, “I’ve had a few offers I couldn’t refuse. But nothing serious.” 

“I can’t even imagine what kinds of offers you could mean, Irvy.” 

“Nothing I could talk about in polite company, babe.” 

“Well!” she retorted primly, unfolding a napkin and giving it a little shake before setting it over her lap. Irvine gave her a little smirk. 

“I seem to keep getting caught up with the kinda gals that like to make things explode.” 

“Hmph.” 

“I suppose you’ve moved on to bigger things? I’d say ‘and better’, but we all know I’m a pretty great catch.” 

A waitress came by and dropped off some glasses of water, which Selphie picked up immediately for distraction when Irvine said, “Yanno, I’d been a little worried that maybe I wasn’t good enough for you. And well, I was a little surprised at some of the rumors I heard.” 

She squirmed in her seat and little and he narrowed in for the kill, “So, something to it, huh. You actually hooked up with your hero. The fucking president of Esthar.”

“That is so totally rude, Irvine.” 

He gave a shrug. “I love ya, but boy, makes me feel a little silly for supporting your little infatuation while you were my girl.” He played it nonchalant, but she felt his words had a sting. 

“It wasn’t like that then, Irvine.” 

“But you would have, given the chance,” he accused. 

“Irv, please. I wanted a nice lunch. Is this really what you wanted to talk about? It was a totally stupid thing that happened, and mostly because we had broken up in the first place.” 

“So you’re not seeing anyone now?”

Their food came and she put on her best smile for the waitress. Irvine prodded again, “Well?” 

“No…” 

“Well, I’m taking the red-eye train back to D.C., so how about entertaining me tonight before then. Drinks and dance, for old times. Cute lady like you shouldn’t be alone on Valentines.” 

“Fine.” 

“Good. And so you know, I woulda defended that cute little yellow dress of yours with my life. Legs for miles. So easy just to take a little peek-”

Selphie threw her napkin in his face.

 

-

 

Selphie spent the rest of the workday totally regretting the promise to go out with Irvine. She always wanted to be the good friend, but it was so messy, what with the way he teased and flirted, and their history. They could just pick up where they left off, he would move into Balamb and suddenly become a serious thing again. No more long-distance, no more arguments about Garden ruining her life, at least most certainly not if he had some sort of business relationship with it. 

She just had a bad feeling she was going to give in. She wasn’t really sure what he wanted from her. She had already compartmentalized their relationship to a part of her life that she was no longer in. But maybe she was just having a knee-jerk reaction to the loss of someone so important to her. 

Maybe Sir Laguna really was just a rebound. A placeholder until she got her stuff together, or waited for Irvine to get his stuff together. It’s not like Laguna was a great choice either; he was almost a chronic bachelor, sworn to celibacy for Squall’s late mother. She edged her way into his life, and hit a brick wall. And all that weird stuff they did! Geez! Irvine was just a nice, normal, meat and potatoes man. 

Looking through her closet, Selphie was conflicted when she saw the silver dress from the party. She needed to donate that one to charity. The men wore their SeeD uniforms to everything. So would she. 

She scanned the rest of her outfits. If it was too revealing, Irvine would take it the wrong way. Actually, just being with him at a dive bar in Balamb on Valentines was ‘the wrong way’ enough. 

Jeans, boots, flannel top, knit hat. Most casual! Not sexy! 

When she met Irvine in Balamb, he was standing with Rinoa and Squall, like old times. She was relieved, and felt a little guilty to have assumed he was going to make it just them two. 

She waved at them and ran straight away to Rinoa, giving her a hug. 

“Thanks for the card! It was so sweet!” Rinoa said. 

“Aww, couldn’t have been better than what Squall gotcha!” 

“Squall doesn’t do holiday stuff, Selphie.” Rinoa narrowed her eyes over at Squall as he engaged Irvine in some talk about installing ranges for various weapon-types. 

“Everyday is Valentines, right?” Selphie nudged and winked her friend. She just knew too much now- had to rub it in. 

They all headed into one of the bigger pubs in Balamb and a band played some local music and had a good crowd of youngsters and couples. Red paper hearts hung from giant fake fish, and a few fish had paper hearts affixed to their eyes. Selphie giggled and puffed her cheeks, making fishy kiss faces at Rinoa. The guys watched, Squall expressionless and Irvine wiggling his eyebrows to egg them on. Selphie fell into old habits and gave Irvine a playful smack on the shoulder. The four of them went to a table that had just been abandoned and Squall barely caught the attention of a passing waiter to get a round of beers.

“It really is like old times!” Rinoa said, “It’s been ages!” She caught herself from the nostalgia from a look by Selphie. Squall also had a twinge of discomfort. It had been ages since they all met and hung out, but also with a lot of drama in between.

“It’s more quaint than the places in Deling, those are huge, right Babe?”

Selphie agreed, “Yeah, I like it here, but that one place near your house… remember the one, bird theme?”

“Oh! Yeah, Fenix! You used to drag me there right before they’d close because of that fireworks thing they’d have for the finale.” 

Selphie continued, “Yeah, guys, it was awesome. They used the red oxides and the sparkly ones and it was, like, right in front of your face! I felt like my eyebrows were going to melt off!” She was bouncing so much, beer was sloshing from the mug and dribbling down her hand. She switched hands and wiped the beer on her jeans. 

Irvine leaned close and asked if she wanted to dance a bit. Selphie was getting jubilant and squinted at him, poking him in the chest. 

“Alright, but no touchy touchy, got it?” 

He put his hands up, then they walked off toward the band and the others dancing around. The music was upbeat and fun, and most of the crowd was watching the band while moving to the beat. 

Rinoa looked at Squall and put her hand over his. He looked uncomfortable, but he took a swig of beer before humoring his wife with a little grin.

“What is it, Squall?” 

“I was gonna kill Laguna for talking to Selphie, but now I’m getting that same feeling with Irvine.” 

Rinoa raised an eyebrow, “She is an adult and can make her own choices.” 

“Can I help it if I hate all her boyfriends?” 

“You don’t hate Irvine! And I won’t let you hate your father!” 

He sighed and smiled at her, “I know, I’m just practicing.” 

“For what?” 

He nuzzled into her ear, murmuring, “You know what I mean.” She shivered. She liked how confident he was on her behalf, but also when he got close to her, she relished in his affection. She would jump through all sorts of hoops to get his attention, but when he wanted to get a rise out of her, he just lowered his voice and… 

“Hey, Rin, whoa, there’s tons of people here.” 

She stopped her hands inches from the inseam of his pants and smiled. It’ll be so good tonight. She toyed with his thick chain necklace and drew hearts with her finger around the heavy Griever charm. 

The music slowed down and couples started forming on the dance floor.

Selphie started to head back towards the table with Squall and Rinoa, but Irvine took her hand.

“You know this is more my style. None of that fancy stuff here.”

She looked at him, tall and relaxed amid the smoky crowd. He could’ve easily gotten the attention of most of the girls here, and probably left with a few already by this point, but the way he looked just at her gave  a little flutter to her chest. She knew this would happen. His eyes narrowed and he gave her hand a squeeze.

“C’mon, babe.” 

She looked desperately over to the table, but Rinoa and Squall were sharing their own little romantic moment. Selphie would wreck it if she went over there, so she relented and let Irvine pull her in to a slow-dance embrace. 

“You owe me one whole song,” he murmured into her ear. 

She just looked away, her eyes over his shoulder. “Whatever.” 

“I guess it was pretty tough to compete with a man in his own house. If I had a palace-” 

“Dammit, Irvine, let’s not talk about it okay?” 

He looked at her, a little surprised at her tone. He wanted to snap back, but he took her closer instead. She leaned on him and he sighed.

“I figured you didn’t believe me last time,” he said. 

“About what?” 

“That I’d come to Balamb.” 

“Oh.”

“So, now that it’s becoming real… feel any different?”

“I don’t know what I’m feeling right now, Irv. I think I feel like I’m messing stuff up.” 

“You’re not talking about us, are ya?” 

She stopped moving but he pulled her along, telling her “C’mon, finish the song. I’m not lettin’ go.” 

Relenting, she moved with him. Sir Laguna let her go. That was enough. Irvine let her go, but tried to get her back. That had to count for something. She pulled him tightly, and he put a hand on the back of her neck, rubbing gently. 

“Boy did I screw up, Selphie. Letting you go for even two seconds… I shoulda known better. Now you don’t even miss me one bit.” 

“You made me choose between you and family.” 

“But hey, I’m back. I’m making good, right?” 

She had to concede, “Yeah, I guess you’re trying.” She looked back over to the table as the song was winding down and didn’t see Squall or Rinoa. 

Crap, they left me? 

“What time’s your train?” 

“Depends.” 

“Depends on what?”

 

-

 

Stupid stupid stupid, she mentally yelled at herself as she let Irvine lead her to the Balamb Hotel to take the very last room available. He handed over his credit card and signed the receipt from the desk clerk. Taking the keys, he rubbed Selphie’s back with anticipation, looking forward to the feeling without a whole mess of cold winter gear blocking the way.

They made it to the front door, and he put the key in the knob. He leaned down and kissed her neck, his hand sliding down to slip inside her back pocket. When they made it inside, his hands were everywhere, heavy breathing in her ear sending electric signals down her body. He tossed aside his hat and coat. Her face was firm, making sure she couldn’t be too happy or satisfied. She was smart enough to know this was a bad idea, but not enough to stay away from this whole thing.

“Oh shit, you’re not even wearing a bra,” his hands groped her chest, thumbs flicking around her nipples, and she rolled her eyes. She had her face in his shoulder to avoid eye contact. She didn’t want to think hard about Irvine, and his intentions. It was hard not to be flattered that he had spent the whole night focused on her and not on any waitresses or pretty girls dancing around them. Maybe he was really ready for the next thing, growing up and making an honest woman out of her.

Honest woman, feh. She was the one letting him undress her and set all her skin on fire while totally uncertain about how she felt about him otherwise. 

His tongue was hot and wet behind her earlobe and he had her sitting on the bed topless while he bent over to knead her thighs. 

“Hey, help me outta this, will ya?” he said. 

She obliged, unbuttoning his pants. He moaned and she just followed her usual habits with him, but not really trying to delve into her emotional side. She definitely felt aroused, but… 

His dick came into her view, hard and ready. He had his hand at the back of her head, his fingers anxiously weaving in her hair. She knew what he wanted. Once her face was about arms length to his dick it was like the only thing on his mind. She held in a sigh. Whatever, it was easy and fast and she could get it out of her system.

She leaned in without much more encouragement and licked the entire head and elicited another, louder moan from him. His hand clenched in her hair reflexively. She took the tip completely in her mouth and she tasted him and all those years with him; it was a bit predictable. 

How unfair of her. Irvine knew quite specifically who she had been with since they broke up, but what did she know about him? How many other girls sucked him off the very same way? He could have learned a few new tricks.

She sucked gently, then pulled up and let go with a pop. Grabbing his shaft with her hand she looked up at him. 

“Irvy, let’s do it together, okay?” 

He opened his eyes and looked down at her, “Huh?” 

“You know what I mean… like… I’ll do you and you do me.”

He smirked, “M’kay.” She pulled him down to the bed and got closer to his face. 

He rolled his eyes and laughed at her, “Damn babe, you just had your mouth on my dick.” He pulled up onto the bed and pulled his pants down and off the whole way. She yanked off her boots and peeled her jeans down, and left them inside-out on the floor. She climbed over him and he gripped her legs. 

The angle was weird, and even though they had been together for so long, the occasions when they did have sex was just right to the point. Dirty text messages, regular stuff, him on top. He was pretty sexy, but maybe not as exciting and experienced as she felt before. She licked the length of his dick from tip until she made it down to his testicles. She didn’t have her hands readily available to touch him, but went down to her left elbow so she could try to play around a little.

She heard him moan again, and looked back, “Irvy, you’re supposed to touch me too.”

“Sorry, your mouth feels so good and your sexy ass is in my face.” 

Did she really have to explain this to him? Didn’t he say he had some ladies back in D.C.? She sighed, and wiggled her butt. 

“I’m sooo wet for you,” she gave her best impression of a trashy film star. 

This is so dumb. 

“Touch me and see…”   

Finally he ran his hands along her crotch, and she gasped. “Oh yeah, there we go…”

“Wow, yeah.” He rubbed a little more, “Now back to my dick, okay?”

She crossed her eyes in irritation and twisted her neck to capture his dick again with her mouth. The angle was terrible, and there’s no way he could crane his neck to get his tongue where she wanted it. This was so annoying. She wanted to command him like Laguna. She sucked on Irvine and thought about how deliciously pliant the older man was. He was a mess, though, always got fired up when she was mad at him. Kinda acted like he wanted to be smacked around. 

“Irv, why’d you stop?”

“Huh?” 

She sighed, then sat up and turned around, facing him. 

“Okay, this sounds weird, but would you like it if I… like, hit you or something?” 

Irvine gave her a look like she was losing her mind. He almost flinched at the idea. 

“I mean this… in the most hypothetical way,” she added. 

“Those’re awful big words for being in the middle of a fuck.”

“That’s what I’m getting at. Like… you have a fight, and then have sex.” 

“Oh, geez, the make-up sex we’ve had…” his eyes nearly glazed over. 

“Not that. Like, still angry,” she made a little fist for emphasis. 

He raised an eyebrow. “You wanna spank me or something? I didn’t think you were still that mad.” 

“I’m just askin’ if that’s something you’ve thought about.” 

“Well, heck, I guess that’s some folk’s cup of tea, but right now, I really want you to suck my dick.”

Fair enough.

She went back down on him, but forgot about the whole business of having him follow along. She was back down between his legs and his hands were on her head making annoying little pushes each time he shuddered. She focused all her energy on getting him to come into her mouth without gagging.

Just like old times!

 

-

 

Selphie didn’t have to do the walk of shame since Irvine was gentleman enough to drive her back to Garden before catching the early morning train back to Deling City. All the old familiarity with Irvine felt like it didn’t fit her anymore and she felt like she may have led him to believe there would be more to come.

She gave him a little wave as he drove off, leaving plenty of dust as she crept through the Garden entrance gate. She didn’t get tons of sleep, but she wanted a shower to wash her arousal away with her stupid ideas about Laguna. She needed a coffee and to give Squall a talking to about running off without some kind of secret signal to prevent stupidity.

Selphie Tilmitt does not just do stupid, she does it one-hundred and ten percent!

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Selphie was stuck on another trip to Esthar that weekend, Rinoa begging for her company with promises to completely avoid her father-in-law this time. It was a huge city, no way she’d have to worry.

“But it’s no big deal anyway, since you’re back with Irvine.”

Selphie sighed, “I am not back with Irvine. I am just clearly losing my mind.”

“Well, don’t lose your mind now, because landing safely is priority number one!

“Hey, your Squall impersonation is pretty good.”

Rinoa grinned, “It’s one of my favorite hobbies.”

“I’ll bet he loves it,” Selphie grinned, “that big grumpster.”

They landed at the air strip outside of the city limits and took the intra city transport that whooshed them in a blur past shiny metallic and blue-neon buildings. They were in coats, but a bubble of glass sheltered them from the elements as they raced parallel along personal crafts hovering on raised roads.

Rinoa didn’t have to go to the O-lab this time, but had a monthly consultation with the clinic in the city. They arrived and Rinoa readied her note books for the chat with the doctor.

They did an array of tests on her blood since her last visit, and a few were still due to come in by her next appointment. She looked relieved when they told her she had nothing so far that indicated trouble having children. At least they seemed optimistic that her health was pretty good, and if she did become pregnant, her body was in prime condition.

They did a simple pregnancy test at every visit, but she never got a positive result. No surprise there.

“I hate to admit, those make me so nervous, Rinny.”

“Hah, imagine switching bodies with me and being disappointed each time.”

Selphie frowned, “I’m sorry. I know it’s hard. But you’ve been in that situation before right? The ‘Crap, I’m late!’ freak-out?”

Rinoa gave her friend a little look.

“No way, Rinoa, you are making me feel like a tramp.”

“Selphie, you are not a tramp. You’re just unnecessarily sexy.”

She glared back at Rinoa. “It’s not like I get it all the time, and I’ve seen your journal. You’re a beast.”

Rinoa laughed, “Well, why don’t you take a test here? Just for laughs. It can be physical evidence that you aren’t a tramp.”

She leaned to the nurse’s station and asked if she could do an extra one really quick for her friend. Selphie groaned and rubbed her cheeks.

“You’re the one leaving me with my ex-boyfriend on Valentine’s night. Awful friend. Awful-awful. And after my heartfelt card!” Selphie whined.

“Oh, stop, you wouldn’t listen to me anyway.” She was laughing as took Selphie’s shoulders and spun her around in the direction of the ladies’ room and handed her a cup.

 

-

 

Rinoa stopped laughing when the nurse congratulated her friend on a positive test.

Selphie turned white and sat down really hard on one of the chairs of the waiting room. “Buh-buh-buhhh…”

The nurse took that as a cue that she was not supposed to use her chipper confirmation voice, but the somber one. Not really typical at this particular office, but it happened sometimes.

Rinoa fanned Selphie, exclaiming, “Really! It was a joke! You weren’t supposed to get pregnant! But Irvine will be a great dad…”

Selphie was sprawled out on a chair gasping, “Rinny… Rinny… Irvine… Not possible…”

“What? You said…” 

Whispering frantically, “We didn’t do it, Rinny. It was just…” she pointed to her mouth, turning red. 

Rinoa, talking at normal volume, responded “Well, you don’t have to lie to me at this point, Selphie. We are friends aren’t we?” 

She hissed back, “I haven’t had sex with him in months! But I did in Esthar! You know…!” Rinoa’s eyes widened and her hands covered her mouth. 

“When??” 

“After the birthday party…”

"You didn’t use anything to prevent-”

Selphie shook her head, grimacing. They were both turning unhealthy shades of crimson and whisper-screaming to each other in the office. A few people were looking at them, very obviously irate, but blissfully unaware of the scandalous revelation regarding their esteemed leader.

Rinoa was shaking her friend by the shoulders, “I try so hard to give my husband a family, and you- you-”

Shake.

“You’ve!” 

Shake. 

“Beaten!” 

Shake. 

Me!

Shake-shake-shake.

“Excuse me, miss?” the nurse interrupted. “I see you’re a little distressed, but we can do a more accurate test if you’ll give us a minute to set it up okay? These things have a pretty high inaccuracy rate, anyway.”

“How high?” Selphie panted. 

“One or two percent.” 

She gaped, but said she’d wait. For sure. 

It went from clutching Rinoa’s hand for support to Rinoa clutching Selphie’s hand out of stunned disbelief.

“I am not allowing Squall to ever let you leave Garden, I can’t even believe we drank beers this week, Irvine isn’t allowed near you either, gonna use this to make Squall talk to Dad, and you and Dad, oh my god, Selphie! Selphiiiie!”

Selphie stared dazed as Rinoa rambled and grabbed her arm.

She didn’t feel weird. Her cycle was a little late, but that happened sometimes. What does it mean about Sir Laguna? He’s going to freak out. Would she hand over a baby to Kiros and just let them handle everything? What if Esthar erupts into mutiny and bans her for sleeping with him and kicks Laguna out of office? What if they make her marry him… 

She took a deep breath. She was strong. She can handle this. She had Garden, and Rinoa, and Zell, and- 

“Oh, you’re not pregnant, Ma’am,” the nurse returned, “Looks like it was just a blip. So… no worries! Since… you… looked worried.” The nurse smiled nervously. 

The girls both inhaled and hugged each other, nearly crying over how hysterical they had become in a matter of minutes over practically nothing. 

“Rinny! Can you imagine!” she shrieked. They were ushered back into the office for the rest of Rinoa’s consultation, much to the relief of the rest of the patients stuck enduring the noisy fiasco in the small waiting area.

They sat in the office to talk about medication options and Rinoa pat Selphie’s hand, “It’s like you do everything possible to distract me from myself. It’s unreal. You’re either the best friend a girl could ask for, or a magnet for trouble.” The Tear’s Point of trouble. 

Selphie smiled, not sure if it was an insult or she should be honored, but she stuck with the latter. 

“And Selph,” she started. 

“Yeah?”    

“You’re a tramp.” 

Selphie stuck her tongue out at Rinoa.

 

-

 

They left the office, Selphie with her hands over her heart like she was having arrhythmia, and Rinoa with a new stack of reading material and options for pills and shots to discuss with Squall. Not for right now, but for the future, she thought. 

“You know, I think your little crazy episode made me really want to see Dad.” 

Selphie’s eyes grew and she stopped walking leaving Rinoa to turn around to look at her. 

“Oh please no, I can’t face him after that. And you…” 

“But that’s just it, Selph, I love him.” She added hastily, “Not like you, of course, but he’s so full of the kind of love I wish I could share with my own father. Me and Squall are dealing with this, and yes, it’s all my choice, but… ” 

Selphie held her elbows and looked at her friend.

“I don’t want people’s judgment, but I do want support. Support from people who love me. Like you, and Squall, our friends, and Laguna. And I won’t get it if I don’t talk about it. I’ll just have to sit and smile like things are totally normal and perfect. And you know a lot of people view me and Squall just like that… Like we are impossibly perfect. We aren’t a fairy tale, we’re just people. And… ” she took a deep breath, “Please?” 

Selphie was looking down, shamed for being selfish about her own stupid feelings in light of Rinoa’s words. 

“O-okay Rinny. But… if I just sit in the lobby, that’s okay too, right?”

 

-

 

They made their way to the Presidential Palace, not even sure if the president was available for a social call. Rinoa just wanted a hug, as weird and childish as it sounded. Some of the front guards didn’t recognize them, but the ones that did ushered them through with a flourish, alerting the palace staff of an important arrival.

Ward was the first to meet them, his eyes widening in surprise, looking between the two young ladies. He smiled with uncertainty, making a gesture that Selphie figured was something along the lines of “What the Hell are you doing here?” and “Did someone die?” 

Rinoa spoke up, “I just wanted to see Dad, since we were in Esthar for an appointment. Is he around?” 

Ward scratched his forehead, a bit embarrassed, and wiped his brow looking relieved. He motioned them to follow and they each took an arm of the huge man. He accompanied them to the President’s office, and he entered first. They waited politely for permission to enter, and used the time to take off their winter coats. 

They heard a little struggle inside, and the voices of Kiros and Laguna. There was some muffled arguing and then Laguna’s voice making a shrill whine and then some deeper, guttural moan, probably from Kiros… 

Kiros’ face came to the door and he ushered them in, asking, “Rinoa, Selphie? Is everything alright? Come on in and…” he whispered somewhat, “please ignore the tantrum in the back.” 

Selphie hung back behind Rinoa, feeling like the cause of the fuss. If it was only Rinoa, no doubt they would have been in there already with a cup of tea. But Rinoa wasn’t about to traipse all over Esthar alone while Selphie sat in the Ragnarok. 

They followed Kiros and saw Laguna in the back, facing the wall. His arms were crossed. Kiros rolled his eyes and led them to a smaller room with white leather sofas edged in silver and a large, smooth coffee table laden with a bouquet of lilies. The room was empty of other furniture or electronics until Selphie noticed the coffee table was also acting like a computer screen, displaying a variety of up-to-the-minute information and keys to control a myriad of settings.

An attendant came and set a tray of tall glasses and small biscuits right over a digital report on the status of the city shields. Selphie cringed a bit, but this was Esthar. She lived in the stone age where coffee spills rendered four days of computer work to Doom. 

They sat down and Rinoa poured tea from a tall pitcher and took a long happy sip. She offered to pour one for Selphie, but she shook her head. Kiros sat down across from them and took up Rinoa on her offer and smiled when she passed the glass over to him. Ward stood behind Kiros’ sofa, hands gripping the trim.

Kiros spoke up, “So, a social call, is it? What a surprise.” 

Rinoa set her hands in her lap, one hand on top of the other. “Oh, I really hope we aren’t a bother, Mr. Kiros,” she said, “I know you you all must be busy. It’s really all just for me, and I’m sorry to be so demanding on your schedules.” 

Selphie was always a little surprised that her friend could come off so sophisticated. Rinoa’s upbringing demanded she be capable of social niceties that were never important in Trabia. The best she could manage was bringing a roast to the neighbors down the road. Or moonshine. 

Kiros smiled, “Well, I assure you, we are living the life of leisure today. You’re no bother. We just aren’t used to random visits. We got a bit worried.” 

Selphie didn’t miss the glance in her direction and she gave him an awkward smile. She kept her gaze down when she felt eyes peeking in from the doorway. 

“Well, actually, I was hoping to talk with Dad about some personal stuff. Well, family stuff. You guys are family too, so don’t feel like you have to leave us.” 

Kiros looked up at Ward and they exchanged a bit of a concerned glance. 

“Well, I had an appointment in the city today,” she started, “and well… It’s related to what I came for last month.” 

Laguna crept into the room finally, sliding along the back wall as if there was a possibility that he had become invisible. Rinoa caught his eye and gave him a smile. He relaxed a bit and made his way around Ward to sit next to Kiros, facing Rinoa. 

“Me and Squall have talked about having children, and while I know there’s no rush, we’re a little… concerned.” 

Selphie’s heart sunk for her friend to have to tell such personal stuff so many times. First to her, then witnessing all the doctor’s appointments, and probably also Kadowaki and any busybodies in Balamb that Rinoa saw on the regular. Selphie couldn’t even manage telling anyone she and Irvine had broken up, and that felt so inconsequential by comparison. 

“We’ve been sort of trying… but there’s concern over the impact of becoming a sorceress that has me a little… y’know, challenged.” gave a little shrug. Kiros was nodding, totally clear on what she was saying. Laguna was leaning his forearms on his legs, fingers clasped as he listened intently, staring at the floor. 

She continued, “Squall has been supportive, but I worry that he’d be a little… over-protective, so Selphie’s been coming with me to talk to some of the specialists in Esthar.” Laguna glanced up at Selphie and she caught his eye and looked away quickly.

He looked back at Rinoa and said firmly, “I’ll do absolutely anything you need, Rinoa. You name it.”

“The O-Lab already agreed to consult with me for their research purposes, and I’m also going to a very well-respected normal clinic, but it’s just testing and tracking personal stuff, y’know. It could get expensive, but we also aren’t trying to rush it yet. We just need to know. I want to know.”

“We came because… I just wanted you to know what was happening. Squall’s your son, and I just want to…” she sighed. “You’re family.”

Laguna gripped his hands together tighter. Family. He royally screwed up, and here’s Rinoa to tell him… Wowwie. He felt incredibly happy and sad. Happy and sad times a million. Million gajillion.

“I want… I just really want…” Rinoa sniffed. Selphie put a hand on her friend’s back and rubbed little circles. Rinoa covered her face with her hands and Laguna stood up instantly, going over to her. Rinoa stood up, not needing a prompt for his embrace and he wrapped his arms around her. She shook and tears flowed, finally sharing her sorrow with someone other than her husband.

She wept into Laguna’s collar, a heart full of want for something that might just not ever happen. Feeling a little like death already had part of her at such a young age.

Some time had passed and Selphie was hugging herself from her seat on the couch. Tears streamed down her cheeks at the words her friend spoke, and it was just so much for her heart to handle on top of that crazy appointment. She could admit to herself she envied Rinoa being close to Sir Laguna, but that was it. No way would she forgive Rinoa If she told him what prompted their visit.

Rinoa let go and wiped her face. Even after all those tears, she glowed a kind of angelic light and her eyes shone like crystals with adoration for her father-in-law. Not that it was hard for him, he’d give Rinoa as much loyalty as he does with Ellone. She sniffed and held Laguna’s arms as he grabbed her shoulders protectively. He put a kiss to her temple.

“I mean it, don’t be afraid to ask me for anything. I couldn’t have possibly dreamed of having a better daughter-in-law. I-I still don’t really believe it,” he gave her his best grin and squeezed her shoulders.

“Um,” Kiros spoke, “If you’re up to it, we were about to have the family dinner. Laguna, what do you think, bring the girls?”

“Oh, um, yeah.” He looked at Rinoa, and glanced at Selphie tentatively. “Stormy always gets enough for an army.”

Kiros added, “Stormy will probably talk to you again if you get them to come.”

Rinoa brought her hand to her mouth, smiling with a sniff and looked over at Selphie. “Selph, family dinner. You don’t mind a late flight, do ya?” Selphie responded with a thin smile and two thumbs up.

“You are welcome to stay the night… if you want. Just… whatever! Ha…” Laguna let go of Rinoa and stuffed his hands in his pockets. “We’re kinda late already, so why don’t we head up?”  

Laguna led the way out of the office and toward a transportation bench. Kiros and Ward followed behind, their long strides still barely enough to match Laguna’s nervous energy propelling him along the extensive hallways. The girls, arm in arm, followed.

“Hey, Laguna, why don’t you wait behind with the girls and give us the head start, you can make an entrance that way since we can’t cram all five of us on one lift.”

Laguna scratched the back of his head, but agreed, “Alright.”

Catching up with them, Rinoa asked, “You mind if I get on first? I would love to just wash my face after all that. It’s been a long day, you don’t even know.” She didn’t wait for permission and just sat, leaving Selphie and Laguna to stand awkwardly as Ward sat, inputting the destination at the far West wing to the living quarters . Kiros gave a little shrug to his friend. It hummed to life and rose up, carrying them quickly away.

Daaang it, Laguna thought. It’ll be a long ride across the compound, then a long return from the residence, then another long ride alone with Selphie. He wanted to sit, but the only seat had left them, carrying his friends.

“Are you okay?” she asked him.

“Ahh, yeah.” He was trying to lessen the weight on his legs and ended up doing a little chocobo hop back and forth. She was holding her coat, and watching him doing his silly movements that made her smile ever so slightly.

“Hey, I can hold your coat if you’d like.” It’d give him something to grab on to for dear life and distract him from the waves of dizziness coming over him.

“Sure, thanks, Sir Laguna.” She handed it over. He got a little peek at the embroidery on the coat then suddenly held it up, recognizing it instantly. 

“I-it’s the Ragnarok!” he exclaimed. 

She smiled a bit more, “Yeah, pretty awesome right? I had it custom-made in Deling ages ago.” 

“Wow,” he was a bit breathless. “That’s really awesome.” He couldn’t resist putting it on. 

She bit her lip. It wasn’t a bad fit. It was supposed to look like the kind of jacket a girl would steal from her boyfriend, but it was just like that from the shop. “I’ve outranked all of Garden in flight hours, so it’s nice to show off.” 

“Man, is that so?” he looked at her a little surprised. 

“Yeah. He flies like a dream. Right?” 

Laguna felt a little pang, that weird feeling that he had that the particularly young and spunky gal in front of him was really the kind of bad-ass woman he liked having around. He took off the jacket and handed it back. 

“I thought you were holding it for me.” 

“Oh y-yeah.” He clutched it back to his chest. 

A beep indicated the impending return of the transport. Suddenly, a thought occurred to her. She felt her heart beating faster in her chest, and her brain was alerting her to the consequences of certain poorly implemented behaviors.

She sucked in a breath. “Sir Laguna?”

He looked at her, looking tired from a long day of the burdens of a reluctant leader and the emotional toll of Rinoa, not to mention seeing Selphie again.

Selphie stepped toward him, her face streaky with half-dried tears, but she held it firm. And like a flash, she struck him across the face with her open palm. 

He stepped back, his face turned to the side and burning from her hit.

He exhaled sharply, then turned to look at her. She didn’t have any expression on her face. No smile, no frown. But her eyes were narrowed in confusion, her mind whirring to unravel a puzzle. 

“Laguna… I… I hate you. You’re a stupid jerk.”

There were probably cameras everywhere alerting security to a threat to the president. She was being incredibly, inexcusably stupid. But it was too late to back out. She straightened up and crossed her arms. 

“Kiss me. Now.” 

With her coat hung over one arm, both of his hands swept up under her hair, grabbing the base of her head, right behind her ears. He was suddenly over her face, pressing his lips into hers a lot harder than she was expecting. 

She was caught so much by surprise that her nose was filling with air desperately as their mouths collided and tongues made angry contact. She didn’t even know what her hands could do at this point. She pushed her hand into his chest, his chain dangling around her fingers. She pushed harder until he took his cue to release her and step back. 

His lips were wet, and his mouth parted, panting softly. His lips twitched like he wanted to speak, but he just stood there, holding her coat to his body like it was a crutch, a sad substitute.

She tilted her head, gesturing at the transport that had returned, awaiting the next riders. They sat quickly, and he very unconsciously tapped in the destination as Selphie tried keeping herself calm. Selphie crossed her leg and set her chin in her palm, looking straight ahead, away from Laguna. They sat nearly back to back, and he looked down at her coat, bringing his breath down to a reasonable pace.

The halls and chambers flew past, and Selphie let the speed smooth out her emotions. It was perfect actually, like riding a train and letting the rhythm be all the meditation she needed. She felt a bit uncomfortable with the ways things turned out with Sir Laguna, it wasn’t romantic in the classic sense of the word. She couldn’t really figure out what it was he really wanted. Or why. He was amazing, what was his problem?

He had some major damage though. She tried to break through it, but that backfired. She also thought he didn’t want her when he so easily gave her up. But… he wanted her anyway? And was she going to be able to handle this with Irvine being in Balamb? She sighed.

She looked over her shoulder at him, his ponytail whipping around and she tapped his shoulder. He turned and saw her hand and looked at her face. She tried smiling at him, but it was still a bit weird. He gave her a similarly beleaguered smile, and took her hand, pressing it to his lips for a moment before releasing it as the transport began slowing down for its final destination. 

When they arrived, Rinoa was standing and waiting, giving Selphie an apologetic wave. 

Then she mouthed something. Selphie squinted and raised an eyebrow. Huh?

Rinoa did it again.

She called me a tramp!

Selphie cast her a glare as she and Laguna stepped off the transport. He was back in his element, being goofy and giving Kiros’ kids high-fives and horsey rides. Rinoa gave Selphie a look and took her arm to make the delayed introductions.

Swooshing around in Estharian clothes, Kiros’ wife rushed up to Selphie, giving her big kisses on the cheek and gushing over her. She held Selphie by the arms, pinning her down and Rinoa took a step back. 

“You are much cuter up close than how I imagined. I think he has actually destroyed all evidence to keep you to himself, but the way he describes you is like… some insane goddess of death.” 

Rinoa made a twisted grimace. It was totally fake though, because her eyes were crinkled up in the same way they get when she laughs. 

Selphie tried smiling for the vaguely familiar woman, “You’re Missus Kiros, right?” 

Stormy gave her flashiest smile and brought them in her home, “Just call me Stormy, dear. Actually the boys are excited to see you again. They mostly just talked about your cute little students though. They hoped you’d have them with you.”

Despite the traditional garb, family dinner with the Seagill house was a more familiar Galbadian affair. Rinoa handled it like a champ, and chatted with all the charm and grace of someone well-versed in State dinner functions. Selphie was totally distracted and starving. She was seated next to Sir Laguna, but not quite certain where she fit on the spectrum of just-friends to soul-mate. She inhaled the food and tried not to impersonate Zell. Laguna could pull off Zell much better than she. He was just as distracted, but he moved slower and took his time. The kids probably wore him out after the manic ride he shared with her. She was a bit self-conscious of sitting together with him, but it was much better than trying to get to know him better when in a public setting. But the little approving glances coming from around the table made her want to roll her eyes.

Once the meal was over, Kiros offered some small cakes and asked if anyone wanted coffee. Ward and his companion declined and opted to head home early. Ward admitted to Kiros that he was just interested in sticking around to see if there was some truth to Laguna’s interest in Rinoa’s friend and he seemed satisfied. He gave Rinoa and Selphie the smallest hugs he could manage for an enormous guy and escorted his boyfriend to his own quarters.

Rinoa chatted with Stormy about her experiences with having the boys, and just managing the household in general. Coffee mugs in hand, the others all packed into the living room, and the boys showed off their abilities playing fighting games that were reflected along the walls. Selphie watched, somewhat awed, at how realistic it looked; the image was so dimensional and it actually looked like some superhuman beings were duking it out on the slick walls, slipping past curtains, and darting through the window. Laguna had one hand holding coffee and somehow worked up the nerve to put the other arm over her shoulder, and she leaned in, bringing her knees up.

Kiros was pretending to watch the kids, but sipped from his mug and felt glad for his good friend just touching a girl. It was a planet away from the scene of Winhill, the old-fashioned town of wood and bricks, sitting on a dusty divan beat up with age, watching Elle act out a recreation of some story they read to her at bedtime, his arm affectionately over Raine. It was like comparing an atomic clock to a sundial. Just because no one used it to tell time any more didn’t mean the sun didn’t burn.

Rinoa came in and made a little gasp, then smiled.

“I really don’t think we’re going to have the energy to fly back to Balamb tonight. I’m barely keeping my eyes open and I drank two of these,” she held up her mug.

Stormy came in after her, “I can’t believe how lucky I am tonight, can we keep her?” She gave the younger woman a squeeze. “She takes the edge off the testosterone and knows how to handle the cutlery!”

“Believe me, I know what you mean. Gunblade off the table, dear.” She laughed, then said to Selphie, “I think I’m going to go to bed and Stormy said she’d set me up a bed here, so…”

Selphie immediately stood up, “Ah, we can share a room right? I’d hate to make more trouble… more bedding, all that.” She hoped she didn’t sound panicky. Rinoa shrugged. The hostess clasped her hands together and showed them through the apartment to their guest bedroom.

Kiros hit the button on the video game projector to shut it off, receiving a collection of tiny groans.

“Brush teeth and bed clothes!” He barked. The kids got up and hustled out of the living room.

Laguna put his feet up on the coffee table and gave his friend a dramatic sigh, “You’re no fun, Dad.”

“Yeah, well, it’s already an hour after bedtime because Mom was blissfully distracted by your lovely Rinoa,” Kiros said, “And as for you…” 

Laguna looked away guiltily, planting his feet back on the floor.

Kiros pointed at him accusingly, “I know you pretty well, and it’s not unrealistic to expect I could ask for her side of the situation, but when I get security notifications…”

Laguna’s head whipped back toward his friend and Kiros held up a smaller communication device showing a video feed from the palace security. 

“Crap.” Laguna stood up, holding his hands up, “I-it’s not what it looks like.” 

“It’s not to say I don’t think you deserve it once in a while… Lord knows, the shit you do sometimes is…” he sighed. “So you reconciled? I mean, what is this?” he gestured at the small video. 

“It’s fine, Kiros. Everything’s fine.”

“Well, she’s not your wife, and you’re a very important guy around here, so even if you tell her to go die, if she hit you-”

“I said it’s fine,” he spoke through gritted teeth.

“It’s not fine if this kind of crap starts circulating around,” Kiros stepped forward and held his ground. “It’s international-incident not-fine. She is a representative of Garden. You are-”

“I liked it, okay?” Laguna interrupted, and waved his hands in the air by Kiros’ face. “Just playing around! Get it out of my system! I was a total jerk to her last time, and you told me as much right? I deserved it…”

Kiros crossed his arms.

Laguna’s voice dropped and he spoke softly, “Don’t you ever feel like things go well… like too well… and like, the only way to keep bad luck from coming around and kicking your butt is to just take it head-on?” 

Kiros made to say something, but Laguna held up a hand, “I’ve been off the hook for so much crap. But I know that I’m to blame, and yet, it’s always okay. And sometimes it’s just not.” 

“Laguna, it’s called forgiveness. You piss me off constantly, but I’ll always forgive you for it. Obviously looking at you on the couch tonight made it look like you forgave Selphie… or she forgave you. Let’s just leave it at that. Go to sleep. Just get up early enough to say ‘bye’ this time.”

 

-

 

In the guest bedroom, Rinoa and Selphie shared a bed big enough to fit seven more. Rinoa laid on her back, head turned to Selphie.

“Fine, you are being very un-tramp-like tonight.”

“And you are being a witchy-witch worst-friend-ever,” Selphie pouted. Selphie was under the covers, on her stomach with her cheek resting over her arms. Her brown hair splayed over the pillow, making her face look like it rested in a little basket. “I came just for you, I am totally best at friending.”

Rinoa rolled her eyes, “Doesn’t look like you made any friend-sacrifice to me. I saw cuddling.”

“It was a rough day and we were being mutual pillows.”

“Uh huh.”

“Rinoa,” Selphie whined, “You think it’s gross anyway."

“Yes, out of principle. But, I want you to be happy. I want him to be happy…”

“Well, I don’t think he wants to be happy.”

“What do you mean?” Rinoa asked, concerned.

“Remember when you told me not to try and replace Raine?” 

“I meant like, don’t be burdened with trying to make him forget all that.” 

Selphie felt defensive, “I’m not! After the GF business, I am not about to insist that anyone forget anything. Remember it! Remember the people… But Laguna… he holds it. And he suffers.” she frowned. “Rinny, it’s like he can’t handle that I have any kind of love for him.” 

“I… can kind of understand… that” Rinoa pointed out, “… you love… very… dramatically.” 

Selphie rolled her eyes, “That’s not really what I mean. Ugh, I can’t really explain it, ‘cause I don’t get it either.” 

The next morning, Kiros contacted the air strip where they left the Ragnarok and had it piloted out to the Palace’s landing port. As expected, Kiros was banging on Laguna’s door in a futile attempt at decency. 

“You have ten seconds to get up and put your pants on or I’m coming in!” 

The door clicked and slid open with a whoosh. Laguna wasn’t looking happy. His hair was a mess as he ran a hand through it, clearing it out of his face to squint up at Kiros. His other hand tugged up his pants. The girls had offered to stop by, but Kiros was relieved in his choice to just go get Laguna himself.

“Jus’…just tell ‘em to get home safe, ‘kay? Give ‘em hugs for me. Biggest ones.”

“Put on a shirt and tell them yourself.”

“I…I can’t.”

“I can’t believe this” Kiros nearly yelled, “You were fine yesterday! If you’re still upset over Selphie, then think of it like this: it’s goodbye-

“S’not that.” Laguna looked down. He looked really tired. He could do his farewells and come back to bed for the rest of the weekend to be fresh as a tulip for the office come Monday, but it wasn’t just the sleep. 

Kiros barged into the room, walking past Laguna and went to a closet. It swung open and he grabbed a tunic from a hanger. Stomping up to Laguna he thrust it into the president’s chest.

“Not this time. Suck it up. They want to see you before they go.”

 

-

 

Laguna shuffled down the hall, half in pajamas, shaking out his hair and re-tying It back. Kiros was behind him, stomping like a guard moving a prisoner along to the gallows.

He thought about stuffing him in the Ragnarok with the girls and having a drama-free afternoon. He also thought about simply kicking him off the platform, but that wouldn’t be in the spirit of forgiveness he had been talking about the night before. At least his wife was thrilled to have guests and was passionate in her appreciation. He anticipated a very very good week ahead of him, at least until she expected him to get them to join more frequently.

Kiros was almost humming and Laguna looked back at him. 

“What’s got you so cheerful, man? Almost creeping me out.”

Kiros grinned, “Stormy really liked seeing the girls. She was verrry thankful.”

“What? She bring you breakfast in bed or somethin’?” 

Kiros gave him a look. Stormy didn’t cook, they had staff prepare everything. She liked it that way and Kiros wasn’t too picky about it. 

“Laguna…” he smacked his forehead. 

“I’m joking! Sheesh, you think I’m so naive. And about your wife, of all people.” 

“Hmph.” Kiros could have been insulted, but he knew what his friend meant. He came up alongside him before coming to the foyer to the landing port, and pressed the panel to open the door for him.

Rinoa and Selphie stood up, holding their coats and Rinoa smiled graciously. Laguna rubbed his neck and got bombarded with a hug from Rinoa. Having her over was so nice and normal, like such a family thing. The whole “family dinner” thing they all did was more out of Stormy’s wishes for something like the home she left behind years ago to be with Kiros. But it felt so surreal. She left some kind of life behind in Deling City. Laguna left nothing. 

“So look, if you can bring out Squall… that’d be cool, right?” he tried to ask as casually as possible. 

She giggled, “I’ll try." 

Rinoa let go to put on her coat and Selphie handed her back the arm load of documents from the clinic. Selphie put on her coat to prepare to step outside as well. Laguna was looking at Selphie and Rinoa gave her friend a little nudge. Selphie cast a glare over at Rinoa. 

If I touch him, I gotta hug him. If I hug him, I’m gonna wanna kiss him. And if I kiss him…

He stepped up to her and took the corners of her jacket, bringing the unzipped ends together. His sight focused on the zipper tag, intense as aiming a gun. When his hand got to the top, his fingers brushed the underside of her chin. Her heart rate was increasing and he stepped back. 

Tramp tramp tramp tramp.

“Sir Laguna… th-thanks.”

“Yeah, It looks good on you. Maybe, ah, you’ll give me a ride sometime,” he smiled.

She relented and gave him a hug. As if he had to ask. Not like he would, but she liked hearing him say so.

Stepping back from Laguna, she joined Rinoa and they headed back to the cherry red aircraft. She couldn’t look back. Boarding the aircraft she let Rinoa do all the waving from the windows as she slipped into the seat for the pilot check.

As they took off, Rinoa said, “Thanks Selph, I feel so happy now. I know you didn’t want to come, but it seemed like things went okay.”

“Yeah, it wasn’t… bad.” She shrugged with all the nonchalance she could muster as the engines began to roar.



 

Chapter Text

 

 

The winter began to fade in Balamb, and Irvine was coming around the Garden more, a little bit for work and a little bit because he’d began enjoying socializing with Squall, Zell, and Quistis. He’d hated to admit it, but Selphie had a point about them all being family, and maybe he’d been trying too hard to prove something. That he was the most Galbadian out of them all, or that sharp-shooters were loners by nature, or just trying to get away from the chaos and danger they all faced when they were just teenagers.

Selphie tried avoiding him and did a much better job about it than before. The Garden Festival was up in May and she realized that the little crew she took to Esthar would be more than capable of putting something amazing together instead of just doing enough bake sales to pay a local band to come and do entertainment. 

She loved that music could be the highlight of the festival this year. She experienced a few too many in which the brawls that broke out were the talk of the Garden for weeks. 

With a taste of success, the kids started to talk about opening the Festival to the public. Selphie was really nervous and desperately tried to veer them away from the idea. It was meant to lift the spirits of the student body, and any shenanigans would be just a part of the school experience. Selphie could fill a notebook with all of her own stories. She would have gotten into some big trouble back in Trabia if she wasn’t so darn cute! 

She had only limited success with convincing a room full of head-strong independent kids to do anything safe, so she cut them a deal; she’d support them, but they had to make a fifteen minute presentation on how to manage the whole thing to Commander Leonhart. It was a pretty big dare, but if they could conceive it and pitch it to him by March, she’d sell tickets in front of the Shopping Mall of Esthar. 

So March came along and a very pleased Squall told Selphie her kids this year were some of the best Garden had the pleasure of teaching. 

He leaned on his elbows over his desk and his face showed her the trace of a smile, like he was trying to play bad-cop and failing miserably. Garden meant a lot to him, and he had so much to prove. If he didn’t stick with it, it’d have been gone long ago. 

Selphie shifted and pulled her skirt down a bit. 

“Well, I made a promise to them… and you gotta help me, okay?” 

“What’s that, Selphie?” he asked. 

“Wellllllllll…” she drew it out. She might ruin all the kids’ hard work with this, but it was a part of the deal; “I said we’d sell tickets in Esthar. And maybe your dad-” 

Squall’s face became instantly stony and she could swear there was a twitch from one eye. 

“Look, it’s better than a pity mission, right? He just says a few nice things and gets the ball rolling. The people who hate Garden, hate Garden because no one likes us! I think the concert in Esthar changed a lot of minds about what we do, and it would be…” 

Squall sighed, a long drawn out one. 

“It would be nice to see… family? Right?” 

He rolled his eyes. Great, getting it from Rinoa at home and getting it here at work

And he wasn’t kidding, because as soon as he mentioned Selphie’s plan to Rinoa, Rinoa seemed to forget his position in all of this and decided it was best to ask the president directly, and at dinner. 

“How are we supposed to invite the President of anything to our home?” 

“Let me remind you, darling husband, that your father bestowed the kindness on your beautiful wife. I think we ought to return the favor.” 

He rubbed his temples, “How? Eat Garden cafeteria food leftovers on the floor?”

She snapped her fingers. “A date! A double date!” 

Squall balked at her. She grabbed his wrists and gave him a shake, “Just you and me and your dad and Selphie can tell him all about it!” 

He rubbed his face. The things he does for Garden… the things he does for his wife… And his friends? His friends were insane. Except maybe Quistis. At least she kept her crazy off the clock. 

“Look, I’ll ask Selphie to do it tomorrow.” 

“Hmm,” Rinoa tapped her chin thoughtfully. “Let me arrange dinner, and I’ll talk to Dad, okay? I am much more persuasive.” She winked and he couldn’t really argue.

  

-

 

Selphie had her communication device on speaker as she looked through her closet. 

“I can’t believe we are having the exact same conversation, Selph” Rinoa’s voice came over the phone, “You are not wearing your SeeD uniform on a date.” 

“When was it a date!? You said I was going to talk to the Balamb people tonight about the permits for the Festival.” 

“Yeah, I know, but… just wear something nice. Dinner nice.” 

“Jeans are fine for dinner in Balamb.” 

“Wow, you are worse than Squall. I can wear my leather jacket anywhere, no one cares anyway. Whatever.” 

She giggled, “Okay, Rinny, how about the green thing? And the long jacket?”

“The green dress with the long-sleeves? Won’t your legs get cold?” 

Selphie heard a knock at the door. Squall was there, in his SeeD uniform. He’d already told Selphie he’d drive them to town for the dinner then she could drive the car herself back home.

“Rinny, you’re a liar, Squall’s in his uniform!”

Squall just leaned against the door frame watching Selphie pace around. 

Rinoa responded, “Well, he doesn’t own another dress outfit.” 

He snorted. Always saved by the uniform. 

Selphie held up the green thing and he gave a nod. He would have approved anything. She flew into the bathroom with the dress and Squall picked up the phone. 

“Hey.” 

“Honey?” Rinoa said, “I might’ve heard the airship coming, so I’ll meet you at the restaurant okay?”

“Okay. See you soon.” 

Selphie came out in the dress, long-sleeved and well-draped over her lanky shoulders, cutting off far above her uniform skirt. She hastily pinned her hair back and just swiped on something for her lips, but it managed to make her maturity stat increase fifty percent. Squall thrust a thumb toward the door and she grabbed the Festival file, slipped on her pumps, and followed him out. 

In the car, Selphie reviewed her plans based on what the students gave her. She was surprised Squall told her that he’d gotten an appointment in a matter of days. And on a Friday night? She barely got her documents together. 

“You don’t have to stress out a whole lot over this, Sefie.” 

She looked up at him, as if he turned into a Shumi. 

“Of course I do, it’s the Garden Festival, they’re my babies. It’s my baby.” She was getting shriek-y and Squall backpedaled. 

“Look, this is all Rinoa’s doing. I want you to know that right now.” 

“What is…? Squaaaaaaall…” she accused.

“Just a heads up, it’s not the Balamb Town people.” 

“Well! That’s not a very nice thing to-” 

“It’s still about your Festival…” 

“About the festival? Rinoa’s idea? Date?” Selphie’s eyes grew and she started flailing. Squall cringed and took a few hits, bracing for her typical excited reaction in the tight confine of a passenger vehicle. So much for safety. 

A small airship was parked on the edge of the city, and she caught the distinctive reflection of the Esthar armed forces. 

“Oh God! Oh God!” she exclaimed. 

“Sefie, just act cool, alright?” he almost begged. 

As soon as the car came to a stop, she thrust the door open and looked around frantically. Squall calmly got out and locked the vehicle making his way in the dark toward the quiet streets of the town. Selphie chased after him, peppering his arms with tiny fists of relentless energy. He strode along the sidewalk with hands in pockets, ignoring her flurry.

They came up to a small cafe decorated with colored paper lanterns and fairy lights. It looked romantic, but maybe not ‘SeeD uniform’ formal. Squall looked unfazed, but generally went along with anything for Rinoa. 

Squall opened the door for Selphie and she could hear Rinoa laughing toward the back. He did a little wave and pointed to the table for the waitress to know they’d be joining. When they arrived, Rinoa made a little finger wave at Selphie.

“Oh my, look at that, we just brought Selphie to come tell you all about it.” 

Laguna looked at Selphie, pleased, but a little surprised. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and blushed a little. She caught his eye travel down her legs before looking away with a nervous laugh. 

Squall took his seat next to his wife and Laguna moved over to the next seat to make room for Selphie. Rinoa was looking pleased with herself, while wishing they each had someone a little more age-appropriate to grope, she savored in having an excuse to bring Laguna into Squall’s life. 

It was a mixed bag of feelings for Squall; to admit he didn’t like his father cavorting with his friends was to admit having familial inclinations towards the man. 

“Rin, why are you wringing your hands, are you cold?” Squall asked. 

“Whoops, sorry, why don’t I pour the wine? White, of course.” She examined the label and poured for her father-in-law first. 

“Half for me, thanks” Laguna asked. 

“Sure.” Rinoa finished pouring for the table and set the bottle down. Selphie clutched her file folder anxiously. She glanced over to Laguna, dressed up enough in the sharp suit he had tailored for his birthday, but no tie and the top buttons undone in his casually defiant way.    

She set the folder in her lap and came out of her jacket, letting it hang over the chair. Rinoa leaned in to her husband and pursed her lips until he took the hint to turn and give her a small kiss. Selphie caught Rinoa give her a wink and Selphie blushed. She sensed Laguna’s arm behind her and his hand held the back of her chair. So much for Garden Festival tonight… 

Rinoa did the ordering and demanded they have a toast.

Selphie bust in with “To the Garden Festival!” and everyone agreed. They raised their glasses and took a drink. Selphie didn’t even need wine, she was just high on celebrating her precious Festival. She swooned at the praise. Everything felt so good. Sir Laguna would be handsome until he died, her friends were near and not sucked into a giant vortex of time, and she was at the crux of the Best. Garden Festival. Ever. 

Hors d’oeuvres came out and it was Rinoa’s turn to catch someone with their head in the clouds. She snapped her fingers in Selphie’s direction.

Selphie popped to attention, “What? Geez, I was just enjoying life!” 

“You were going cross-eyed.”

She responded by sticking her tongue out at Rinoa, and got a few laughs from her friends. 

“Well, Selphie, I already told Laguna what you wanted to do for your Festival and-” 

“How do you know, Rinny? I mean, Squall couldn’t have told you everything, did he?” 

He responded, “Oh, she got everything out of me. Trust me.” His voice didn’t give much away, but Rinoa’s smirk was enough. 

Laguna addressed Selphie, “Yeah, I’m impressed to hear those kids came up with a whole plan-of-attack to get a major high-profile crowd. Sounds like a total blast. I’m totally game for hyping it up; probably send Kiros and the brood. Those kids have to get out, man.” He smiled at her and she felt his hand on her back. He gave a few strokes with his thumb before turning back to face the table. 

They made small talk about Garden, eating at the dishes that came out and drinking wine when Selphie hooked her leg behind Laguna’s and gave him a little smile. She was glad to see him, and even if they were tense, she couldn’t help flirting with him. He was so dreamy! She wondered if Squall and Rinoa were going to disappear on her again, and worried about it a bit. 

A whole fish came out, seared and spiked with savory herbs, along with dishes of noodles and vegetables that were seasoned as such it took the waitress two minutes to describe. It was all very fancy and they ordered another bottle of wine and another round of cheers, this time to the defeat of Ultimecia, still a common toast for all the years that passed.

“I keep forgetting you all went through that,” Laguna said, “and so young. I mean, I remember it, I was there kinda… ” 

“You handled Adel, trapping her on your own.” Rinoa said. 

He waved a hand, dismissing her “Puh-lease, I was still, like, ten years older than you are now. I played the bait and had a whole swarm of help.” He added, “plus I got the idea from a comic book.” Selphie was clinging to his arm as he related the experience, eyes wide as if he recounted a much more dramatic tale. 

“Sir Laguna,” she sighed.

Squall rolled his eyes. He couldn’t help it. 

Laguna looked across at Rinoa, “Maybe if I’d figured out how to really get rid of her back then… you’d be… in a better situation now.” 

Squall bristled and Rinoa set a hand over his, “While that is a kind thought, Dad, I doubt that was ever even possible. There was so much that had to happen to get where we are today, right guys?” 

Squall made a grunt and took a long drag from his wine glass. Selphie nodded agreeably. 

“Being a… sorceress… Had nothing to do with you. It was Adel. Ultimecia. And I still don’t know yet. Things might work out just fine.” She made a tight smile.

Laguna looked down at his fork, twirling it about then stabbing at a piece of fish. Maybe if he figured out how to get rid of her sooner… All the genius in his head didn’t amount to nearly enough…

Selphie extracted herself from Laguna’s arm and took a few bites from her plate. He seemed to get a bit down talking about the past, and she gave his leg a little pat. Rinoa nudged Squall and he coughed.

“Laguna.” Squall spoke carefully, “We’re glad you came.”

He perked up and grinned, his hand suddenly going on top of Selphie’s.

“Well, it was a real surprise that Rinoa invited me out here. I don’t get out much, hah hah.”

“I am grateful for you taking care of Rinoa out in Esthar, too.” Squall sounded a bit rehearsed, but it probably was. It mattered a lot. “And we agreed… if we get… if Rinoa gets…” 

Rinoa cut in, “You could name the baby. If it happens!” She held up her fingers crossed. 

Selphie felt her hand getting crushed in Laguna’s so she had to elbow him. He looked upset. His other hand covered his eyes and she heard his breath hitch. 

He sniffed, “Okay, that’s enough guys.” He ran his hand over his head, bangs pulled up then dropping back over his face. “Maybe I can… Selphie, can I get up?” 

She scooted her chair in and Laguna got up and walked out of the small restaurant, holding his hands over his face.

Selphie bit her lip, looking towards the door. “Guys? Squall?”

“Let’s give him a minute, Selphie,” Squall said. He crossed his arms and the waitress came by to clear some of the dishes. Rinoa asked for a few coffees and their best dessert. After a minute of watching Selphie make furtive glances toward the door and probably imagine every possible way Laguna could be sad and alone, Squall made a little flick with his hand. 

Selphie tried not to trip over herself running out the door after him, tugging on her jacket as she did so. She looked around and saw him leaning against the building next to the restaurant. He was holding his ring, flipping it through his fingers and looking up at the sky. 

She didn’t have to think too hard to figure what was on his mind. 

He looked up when he saw her coming. She slipped in next to him and took his arm. 

“I don’t deserve it,” he said. The small amount of light outside reflected wetness on his face. “Never. Never ever.”

Selphie had no idea what to tell him. She felt that he was completely wrong, but she’d pointed that out to him before, and it didn’t get her anywhere. 

“Okay,” she said softly. It wasn’t agreement. Just acknowledgment. But he didn’t have to know that. She leaned her head against his arm. “I’ll give you a name and you can tell it to them like it was your idea.” 

He smirked at her. She rubbed his arm and looked at his ring. He noticed her attention and sighed. 

“Sorry.” He slipped it back on his finger. 

“Don’t be. She was awesome.”

Laguna looked at her, sad and a little confused. 

“Oh yeah. At first it was like who is this lady, and then that article about the bar that was so obviously in Winhill…” She looked at him, nearly forgetting she was talking to this actual person like he was a character in a story. “Fairies, right?” She pointed at her forehead.

“Selphie, I’m sorry about what I said. Y’know… before.” 

“Hm?” 

“I can’t stop feeling like I failed her. And if I love you too, then I’ve really done it.” 

“It’s okay… I mean, not like ‘woo-hoo great!’ okay, but I’m not trying to make you love me more, or the even same way. That’s Squall’s mom. I don’t want to be that either.” She gave him a pat. “But mainly I want you to give me some support for the kids, okay?” 

He made a little laugh. “I’ll do it.”

“But if you want me to smack you around and call you garbage…” she raised an eyebrow at him.

“Oh, stop it,” he mumbled into her hair. She heard his words, but had a feeling he didn’t mean it. Especially that he had a hand on her waist and his lips behind her ear. She took a breath. Have to finish dinner. Have to. 

“C’mon, let’s go back-” but he tilted her chin up and covered her mouth with his and was exploring her mouth with his tongue. 

He broke off for a breath and whispered, “Say it again,” but she was already dragging him back to the restaurant, wiping her mouth on the back of her hand.  

When they got inside, Squall and Rinoa looked up. 

“Oh look, dessert!” Selphie nearly shrieked as she shoved Laguna back into the seat by the wall. Laguna had a dopey grin and looked at the other pair a bit guiltily. Selphie picked up a dessert spoon and Laguna busied himself with figuring out the difference between the sugar and salt so he could add the right one to the small cup of coffee waiting for him on the table.

Squall had his face in his palm and Rinoa was laughing into his shoulder. 

Selphie saved Laguna by showing him the little indented inscription for sugar, and she took a little bit of dessert on her spoon and held it up for him. He opened his mouth and took it, and she smiled and touched his cheek.

Squall was trying to suppress his exasperation, but promised Rinoa to be friendly tonight. But if they were trying to make babies, and if she really wanted it, then he had nothing to fear! Watching those two were beyond nauseating, and Rinoa knew he was no romantic.

“Alrighty Rin, it’s getting late for us. We’re going to get going.” He stood up and thrust a stiff hand in front of Laguna. 

“Sir.”

Laguna looked up and gave a few blinks. He quickly followed suit, standing up and taking the hand of his son, giving it a vigorous shake. Rinoa looked up at her husband, a little miffed, but she had to admit, he did a very good job tonight and did not try to kill his father, though she’d have to hear all about it when they got home. She thought it was hysterical though, now that Squall had to witness the madness that was those two sitting across from her. 

Squall and Rinoa made their way around the table and handed a card to the waitress. Paying for the meal made him feel better about his crazy father; it was a tiny victory in a sea of Laguna’s fortunes and power. 

Rinoa waved to Selphie. That girl is so weird. She loved her, but… wow. 

After Squall and Rinoa left, Laguna was sipping the coffee and Selphie was scraping the last bits of cream from the dessert plate. She licked the spoon.

“Yanno, it’s weird seeing you here, in Balamb” she said. 

He smirked, “Oh, I guarantee it’s much weirder being here. But I like it. I like being with you.” 

She blushed at that, and sucked off the sweetness on the neck of the spoon. “So. You’re going back tonight?” 

He shrugged. His eyes were on her mouth. 

Her mind was already spinning. Home was out, Hotel; no, Outside? Yeeech.

His hand was on her neck, fondling all the little hairs sticking out in crazy directions. 

“Sir Laguna… we gotta get out of here. I dunno where, but…” 

“There’s a hotel downtown, right? I think I’ve seen it once, but it was a long time ago-”

She grimaced, “Something else… Not Garden, Squall would kill me and I’d need authorization for guest entry… I just gotta get the car back- Hey, how about a drive?”

 

-

 

Wow, talk about throw-back to Trabia Garden shenanigans.

Parked over-looking the sea, Selphie had her hands over Laguna’s chest, straddling him as he lay across the backseat of the car. It didn’t take long for them to make their exit and drive to the first remote spot in order to dive into the backseat to fool around like the kids do.

She leaned down to kiss his face, tormenting him as he kept trying to capture her lips. Forehead, cheek, eyelid. She smiled as he moaned with desire, his arms trapped behind his back. He moved his hips with futility and she held him fast with her legs. She kissed him again, and started unbuttoning what remained of his shirt. It was fun! She ran her hands up his bare chest and he arched his back into her touch. Her fingers ran up his collar and caught up with the chain he wore around his neck. She tugged it with one crooked finger until it was taut. 

“I’ve always wondered about this.” She sat up, grinding into his growing erection. 

He barely understood the question and managed a “Whuh?” 

“You’ve never fought in Esthar’s army have you?” He shook his head. “How come you wear this still?” 

He bit his lip. She pressed into him a bit more and he gasped, “For if I die…” 

She tapped her chin, “Wow, depressing.” 

“Hngh… I might… get lost.” She raised an eyebrow. 

“Seriously?” She pulled it until he made a whine. 

“Ow, Selphie…”

“Huh? Oh.” She gave another tug and sat up on her knees. “Take a hint, dummy.”

His eyes almost rolled into the back of his head. Scooting towards his feet, he wiggled himself down between her legs, until she was almost sitting on his chest. She let go of the dog tags and one of his hands escaped to caress the back of her thigh, eliciting a moan of her own. She flicked his forehead with her finger.

“Bad, Sir Laguna!” 

He flinched, but his face showed no trace of displeasure. She moved forward and positioned herself over his head. Her dress was scrunched up around her waist and her underwear was in his face. She straightened out the errant silvery bangs and swept them up and away from his eyes. She could feel his breath between her legs and was suddenly grabbing the backseat for balance.  

“What are you waiting for?”

His tongue pressed against her underwear helplessly, and she sucked in a gasp of air. His finger traced around her butt cheeks, diving down and pulling aside the crotch of her panties from behind. Suddenly the warm wetness of his tongue made direct contact with her and she moaned. She closed her eyes and leaned against the car’s window, putting all of her focus into staying upright.

Oh, it was so much better than with Irvine. She was well past done thinking anything about this was wrong, at least not with the older man working his mouth to exhaustion to lick every corner of her while he languished in obvious discomfort. His eyes were closed, but his emerald green eyes flickered open occasionally to look up from his position between her legs. His finger probed for the opening of her sex, and she gasped as he made his way in, hesitant but eager. Not like the random prodding of a horny teenager, but the desperation of someone looking to only please. 

She was thinking of how she should return the favor. Probably return in kind, because the whole freak out with Rinoa at the clinic was still too fresh. A gasp cut through her thoughts and his tongue had just recaptured her attention as it flicked at her clitoris. Oh, good boy. Yesss… 

He had another finger pressing into her, pushing in and out and when his tongue kept moving all over and his lips suddenly sucked at just the right time, she felt the strong shuddering power of orgasm hit her. She cried out and braced herself to avoid smothering him. 

“Oh God, oh… stop… stop… you did good,” she cooed down at him and she moved away to let herself come down from the high in a more comfortable kneel. He swung his legs around and sat upright in the seat, his legs spread wide with a stiff dick still pressing against well-tailored black slacks while his head leaned all the way back, lavishly cleaning his fingers with loud sucking sounds. 

He shook his other hand that had been trapped behind his back and he gave his shoulder a few good rolls, emitting a nice crack due to age and countless injuries. 

“Mmm… ” he sighed, giving her a dirty look.

She bit down on her own knuckle watching him. When the heck did he become this sexy? Is this what Rinoa goes home to every night? She reached out and took his shirt collar and gave it a little tug. She tilted her head and tugged again, and he got the message and gave her a little kiss. She knew where he’d been, but she didn’t care at this point and demanded more, yanking until his tongue was dancing around her mouth. Her hand moved back to his bare chest, clawing down to his belt. He moaned, and she tucked her fingers in the waistband, feeling around for his dick. 

“Mm… hngh… Selphie…” he moved back from her and was breathing heavily.

“What?” she licked her lips and toyed with his collar.

“Gimme a sec, okay? I need to breathe…” 

The outside air was brisk in the early March night, and the windows dripped condensation. Selphie let go of him and rubbed her elbows that had already bumped into the windows and other various hard surfaces inside the vehicle. She watched his chest rise and fall, letting her mind mull over the surreal-ness of fooling around in a Garden car with a man who had too many titles to process. Even if he wasn’t the top VIP of Esthar, he was Squall’s dad, who was the boss of Garden. Kind of her boss, but she was deferential out of respect, and he was more comfortable with maintaining relationships on a professional level.

Selphie could get the job done. She’d even sent tons of people and beasts to their maker. But doing it with the utmost professionalism was… ehh. She was no stranger to a drop in SeeD rank.

But the SeeD system had been retired, and she was one of the few in her generation who still held the title by maintaining her affiliation with Garden instead of dipping into obscurity.

She climbed over Laguna, stradding his lap and facing him. He grinned up at her, too broad and a bit boyish. It would have been fun to meet him when he was younger, just to see what he was like. She recalled the memory of Julia and reconsidered the notion. He never made the first move. He was even worse in his younger days.

It was his fatal flaw.

So that was just the way he was, and she responded by cupping the bulge between his legs to get a reaction. He squirmed and bit his lip, but she saw his eyes begging. With Irvine, she would have expected that look to be begging for a blow-job or to stop stalling and ride his dick already. But now a little sad voice, quivering and needy, but still tangled up in arousal, came through her mind. 

Please, hurt me.  

But I love you, how could I? 

She wanted to cheer people up. She wanted to have fun. But, boy, she knew she could be a bitch. Working with sensitive kids and becoming older and wiser made her bite back the instinct to lash out, but she dug for it. 

She grabbed his bangs, and gave a little jerk, his head following like a puppet. 

“Laguna Loire,” she drawled, “You’re totally pathetic. You have no idea what you’re doing, do ya?” 

His face scrunched up like in pain, but his shuddering breath told her what she needed to know. His hand moved up to touch her, hesitant. She slapped it away.

“Hands to yourself, Mister.” 

She felt so greedy, wanting to enjoy his body and another orgasm, but this had been so spur of the moment and she knew this car would be clean of any sexual paraphernalia. 

She looked down at his hard-on and sighed angrily. 

“Gimme, y’know… some cover.”

“What?” his trigger finger twitched at the words. 

Ahh, so it was just SeeD slang. Bunch of horny teenagers with weapons, go figure. “Protection,” she elaborated, stroking the front of his pants. His eyes grew wide.

“Oh crap, I-I didn’t even… You’re not…?” he scratched his neck. They’d already done a lot of stuff. It never came up, although nothing they did really warranted it… except that one time… 

Maybe it was the worst time for it, but she had to confess. Secret holding was the worst. Her hands went over his chest, resting on the lapels of his jacket. 

“Y’know… I went with Rinoa to all those doctor visits right?” 

He gulped. 

“Well, I took a test… it was a joke, really.” She noticed him stiffening and added quickly, “I’m not…. I’m not, so don’t worry.” She shook her head, and he relaxed, but maybe she caught a little bit of disappointment. 

“But, Laguna, they gave me quite a scare,” she admitted. 

“I’m sorry,” he said quietly. 

“I didn’t know what I’d do. Or what you’d do.” They became quiet and the stillness of the car made her shiver.

“I think I’d have to marry ya.” He looked out the window quickly. 

She gave him a look of mild shock. He shrugged.

“That’s what it was like back when I saw it happen. Seems like it happened all the time in the army. Guys gettin’ lonely and careless. Sometimes they did it so they could think they’d have someone to go back home to! That was a really dumb idea, because, lemme tell ya, that doesn’t mean it was a good match. I would know! You shoulda seen my folks… But you’re a different generation. And you wouldn’t even imagine the stuff Esthar’s got. I just never bothered to figure it out. Kiros tried to tell me about it once…”

She cut him off, “Well, you can keep talking about it, but my butt’s getting cold.” She picked up his sleeves and pulled his hands around her sides until she felt him smoothing his hands along her backside. She hummed and rubbed her hands up to his shoulders. 

“So, what were you saying?’ 

“I… ahh, I forgot. Maybe somethin’ kind of dumb.”

She purred into his ear, “Yeah, pretty dumb. But maybe my kind of dumb”

“Heeey. Don’t insult yourself like that. Only the best for Miss Tilmitt.” 

She ignored him and was just trying to memorize the shape of his ear with her tongue, catching his small earring between her lips. His hands were halfway up her back, dragging the hem of her dress up higher. 

“No, Selphie. No. Bad.” The tables were turned as he felt the tug in his hair. She grinned and brazenly pulled the hair tie from his hair, letting it settle onto the back of the seat. She pulled the tie onto her wrist, and then combed her fingers through the ends of his mane. 

He whined, “Now you can really see how gray it is… Ugh, I look so old. Like I need to practice magic by myself in the mountains.”

She couldn’t really imagine it, but it sounded kind of cool. At the very worst she could imagine him playing Triple Triad all afternoon with Mayor Doan back in Fisherman’s Horizon. Selphie didn’t think she was quite ready for gossip with Flo and exchanging herbal gout remedies, but even if she wasn’t involved with him the way she was now, she would like to take care of Laguna as an old-timer. She once joked to Squall that she’d be more than happy to spoon-feed his father and push his wheel chair when the time came. His boring response was that it was Kiros’ job. Lame! That was years off, anyway. She reached down to pull off her underwear while he busied his mouth in her neck.

His breath was hot and his hands were sending signals back down to between her legs. When she lifted her knees to remove the panties, he caught sight of her totally exposed lower half and choked a little, pulling back and pressing himself against the seat. She ran her hand down over her own front, feeling just a touch of the wetness that had easily returned to her before unclasping his belt and finally releasing his cock that had been restrained throughout this particular tryst.

“S-selphie… y-you said… no…”

She touched the head of his dick, smearing the wetness that leaked out. The part of her that was annoyed that neither of them were prepared for an evening of fucking in a car was overridden with all the feelings and lust she had for him. Being with him was so ephemeral, like she wondered if anytime could be the last. She lumbered around so she faced away from him, sitting her bare lap into his dick and he gave a loud husky moan that set her ears on fire.

She reached down and touched his dick with her fingertips, trying to determine the angle and stiffness.

“W-we can’t… I didn’t…” he continued, his hands planted firmly in the seat like he was a part of the upholstery.

She leaned her face against the headrest of the front seat, and commanded him, “Let’s just do it, I don’t want to stop.”

“I can’t… I’ll ruin everything…”

She firmly had his dick and was sliding it around her, getting him lined up with her opening. She heard him gasp and he continued his protest. She felt bad for telling him about the clinic incident, and she still wasn’t sure if Rinoa’s trouble was something she also could be experiencing. Actually what scared her the most was being pregnant thinking that Laguna hated her. She didn’t want to use it to force him to love her.

Oh, and Rinoa cursing her with bitterly jealous sorceress powers. That was also pretty scary.

He wrapped his arms over her, capturing her arms and forcing her to sit in his lap, his dick sliding up the crack and resting there.

“No Selphie.” He held her down with an unexpected amount of force. She had been making too many contrasts between him and Irvine, Irvine being bigger, younger, and more dominant, but never mind the fact that Laguna was exceptionally strong. Any passivity he demonstrated was purely mental. She squirmed, her mind rifling through a variety of moves that would disable an attacker and guarantee release, but none were meant for an assailant she wanted left unhurt. She liked his face. She liked his dick. She also sort of liked how he was holding her.

She moaned dramatically, still fighting him, but changing tactics. She pressed firmly where she still felt his dick against her rear.

“Laguna… please… I want you…”

He laughed.

Wow, he clearly wasn’t buying that. And I meant it too, that jerk!

“Selphie, if I had a gil… for all the worst seduction tactics…”

“That was not the worst! I am so sexy!” she sputtered, “You are rock-hard!”

He laughed again, “I never said you weren’t… sexy… but let’s just do somethin’ else, okay?”

She pouted, “I want to do something for you.”

“Selphie… you’re young. And I was young before too, yanno. I know that feeling. How strong the impulse is to just do that one stupid thing.” He let go and slipped his arms back around her waist. “I want you. I want you really bad! Gosh! But I never want you make you scared like that again. I don’t want you to be alone with… baby-stuff.”

And there was that bad feeling. He was right and she felt totally lame. He resisted a little, but finally released her enough to sit next to him. She adored him, and if he so much as wanted kids, she would dutifully go with it. She wanted his body enough, it wasn’t a stretch to the imagination to envision things that come along with intimacy, like marriage and babies.

But… they never talked about it. They didn’t make agreements on anything. He’d already missed out on the whole process involved in the creation of his son and the guilt was heavy.

She put her hand on his leg, and whispered, “I love you” before leaning to kiss him gently. He kissed her back and his hand settled on her bare thigh. Even though things got more somber than she expected, they were both painfully aroused, and she was back to grabbing his dick and getting small amounts of ejaculate weaving through her fingers. His hand closest to her found it’s way back between her legs and was working hard to get her to release more of her own. Their kiss deepened, and breathing became labored as their hands groped at each other, his other hand joining hers to lead her along his dick the way he liked.

She broke from his mouth, panting “Let me suck you off, okay?”

He grinned and scoot back in the seat, anticipating her vivacious tongue on his dick. He brought his fingers to his mouth again, excited by the scent of her sex and the prospect of another blow-job.

She tucked her hair back behind her ears and leaned down when suddenly a loud knocking on the side of the vehicle and a light flashing through the fogged up windows shocked the two into a frenzy.

She yanked down her skirt and frantically rubbed clear the window to see a Balamb town watchman making a motion to get out of the car.

Laguna was doing up a few buttons as she rolled down the window, leaning over him to do so. He had already stuffed himself back into his pants and they both plastered fake smiles for the watchman. 

“I’m gonna have to see your ID,” he said. “Garden curfew passed and there are no outstanding missions for the city.” 

“I’m just visiting” Laguna piped up. 

“Yeah, well, I’m gonna have to see your papers then.”

Selphie pulled her purse from the front seat and handed her Garden ID. The man took a look at it, then back at her. 

“You’re faculty?” 

She balked at him, “I’m a SeeD.” This was mortifying. 

The man turned to Laguna, “And you… sir?” 

“Umm, ah, I didn’t carry my wallet with me, and it’s in my ship and I thought if I forgot it then my son would pay for dinner and not feel bad ‘cause I’ve got all kinds of money and he’d been really hurting lately but he left first anyway and…” he rambled. 

“I think you’re going to have to come with me…” 

“Lemme just have one of my men bring it up!” he stuck his hand in his jacket and the watchman loaded his rifle with a loud ch-chk

“Why don’t we all just keep our hands on our heads and go down to the station. Get this whole thing straightened out.” 

Selphie gaped, “H-he’s the President of Esthar!”

 

-

 

“And he replied, ‘Yeah, yeah, and I’m the Queen of Cards’!” 

Kiros and Ward stood around laughing as Laguna retold the story. 

“And I’ll tell ya, when the guys came running in with my wallet, the watchmen were as red as Selphie! And she wasn’t as mad about being caught steaming up the windows with yours truly… she was more mad he thought she was a student!”

More laughs.

Laguna chuckled, “We had to wake up Squall so he would confirm that she was, in fact, a Garden administrator and didn’t steal someone’s ID! Imagine how they looked when he started in on me, like I dragged him into this! They were like, ‘Why’s this guy yelling at the President of Esthar’! Ha ha! And they start questioning him for trying to start a fight with a head of state, and I’m just sitting there trying to explain that he’s my son, but they’re already dragging him away.” 

Kiros was banging his fists on the table, nearly crying. 

“Yeah, Balamb is seriously fun. I got them to do all of Selphie’s Festival permits right on the spot, because I was miffed they insinuated that I was fooling around with a student. Way gross, right?”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

As it was, Quistis was objective enough to handle publicity requests for Garden, since Squall was the Commander he had enough on his plate. He was decent at making the big decisions, being firm and resolute, but when he found himself unable to commit to a choice, he trusted his tight crew. Selphie was a great face for a lot of things, having a bubbly and cheerful external persona, but too much attention freaked her out and she was likely to over-extend herself in micro-managing. Selphie spoke her mind, but Zell was even worse. Someone’s being a problem? Punch ‘em in the face! He was a great guy when folks were easy going, but he couldn’t muster the finesse of diplomacy when Garden had to deal with genuine jerks.

So it was a bit of a surprise when Quistis had a message box full of requests for information about Selphie’s Festival coming up next month. But that wasn’t the weirdest part; a variety of media were looking for interviews with Selphie herself to validate rumors that she was dating the President of Esthar. There were also a lot of parties suddenly interested in Garden, wanting information on enrollment, operations, testimonials, charitable giving, employment opportunities…

She pushed her glasses up her nose. Was it a blessing? It was a lot more to read through than she usually had and she was mostly dealing with curriculum stuff.

“Okay, let’s see,” she muttered to herself. “Priorities… Investment possibilites down to Gossip Mill. And on the other axis, let’s separate into Festival, General, and Personal.” 

She stretched her arms behind her then above her head. This is going to be a long day.

 

-

 

Laguna was no stranger to the gossip mills of Esthar. He ignored it mostly, and found a fair amount to be hysterical. Kiros ran a tight ship as far as Laguna’s personal life went, and kept his dear friend from actively encouraging drama the best he could.

Sometimes it was Laguna’s darkest times that were covered. Anything concerning his late wife was kept completely off the table for discussion. 

She existed, she was human, she passed away. Full stop. 

The blackout of information also blocked inquiries on the expenditures on recovering the mysterious Ellone. 

The revelation that he had a son was also kept mum. Not a problem considering Squall had no interest in being part of a foreign media circus. They were all already connected due to the battles with Adel and Ultimecia. When he married Rinoa, and obligingly invited the Esthar retinue, there were remarks on his striking similarities. It eventually became unconfirmed fact. Calls to make official statements on the matter went unanswered. 

But no high profile person could ever be free from talk. Laguna was an outsider with a past that was biased, undocumented, or limited to reports from his time in the Galbadian military in confidential files. 

Any gossip was good gossip.

The most insulting was that the president froze the Sorceress Adel because he was in love with her. People paid for that one because the artist’s rendition used a body from a dirty magazine for Adel. 

Those hacks. 

There were a plethora of very creatively written guesses on the identity of his beloved late wife. He read those for fun. Whenever they described something that was close enough, Laguna would have to cry himself to sleep though.

As time went on, in the course of an over-twenty year period in office, not having a partner fueled various trends of rumor. He was no stranger to all the accusations of what would deem a guy at that level to avoid any romantic relationships.

A lot of it was really really unkind. But he would never work if he held press conferences on each and every minute detail of his life. He was talking to important folks making important decisions too. What did he care if someone, just trying to make a buck as a journalist, said he had a dick shaped like a cactuar?

It was average, people. Average. Sheesh.

But there were a lot of rumors that painted him as attracted to men. To those, he was conflicted between being insulted and finding it hilarious. He played it serious when it came up in public, but in private he started making jokes about it to Kiros and Ward. Ward was irritated because sometimes he actually had boyfriends get suspicious and mad over it, and Kiros was finely honing a very active, very women-centric sex life which rumors of being close with Laguna, in that way, was beginning to erode at.

It wasn’t any wonder that Kiros ended up getting married around that time, and Laguna felt a bit guilty for it. But Kiros had ended up marrying the escort that he had initially hired for his friend.

They shared a lot of stuff, but that one was always a bit weird. A sacred code of bro honor was bent to manage it. Kiros found it quite ironic. Stormy didn’t care and knew how to be discreet.

But now, after publicly approving the Garden festival and the small-town talk from Balamb about being caught with the manager of the festival in a provocative position, the media circus was experiencing a phoenix down over his love life. A lot of stuff they came up with was total bunk, but now they were hitting close to home, and the worst part was how bad he actually wanted to talk about her.

Sure they latched on to the fact that Selphie was just so young. The smarmy cronies in his circles all sent regards for landing such a young, impressionable, succulent- ugh.

Stories circulated about how they met and fell in love before the end of the sorceress war, but had to wait for her to come of age.

He didn’t even remember her name back then! At the time, Laguna was honed in on the face of that sullen Garden teenager of whom a shocking revelation had been brought to his attention.

Here’s some magazines, kids! Don’t hurt yourselves! Love! Friendship! All very platonic stuff!

Blah, blah, blah. They couldn’t say anything that his nightmare Raine didn’t already torture him with.

The hard part was that dating rumors made Selphie seem… unladylike. And that could damage her festival. He made sure the publicity machine reminded everyone that it was a good cause and helped kids affected by war… but the unfortunate reality was that her passion for that was of the least interest to anybody.

So, he talked about it with Kiros. And Kiros talked about it with Stormy. And Stormy declared herself maid-of-honor. And Kiros told Laguna. And Laguna passed out right before a conference call with the Duke of Dollet.

“My sincerest apologies, sir, but President Loire was examining the gorgeous brass replica of Dollet and worked himself up to the point of exhaustion over the exquisite details. We should have him ready in a matter of minutes.”

Kiros ultimately decided that a press conference would not do. It was time to make The Appointment.

“I will arrange it with Garden, let Stormy take her shopping, get you into the center table at The Point, let some assholes take super secret photos of you together smiling with cocktails for fifteen minutes, then we’ll cart you guys back to the palace.”

“No Kiros, ” Laguna responded, “No, no, no. I hate that place. They’re stuck up and fake and the food is awful.”

“And you have to do it because you made such an impression with your antics in Balamb.”

“I am a cool President, living an edgy lifestyle. Babes galore.”

“Night watch catching you engaged in heavy petting with a younger woman sounds like a slimy old dude having extra-marital affairs. You need to legitimize it.”

“I’m not having an affair!” Laguna paused, Kiros looked at him. Laguna looked down.

“I’m not…”

“Laguna… buddy… ” Kiros said, thinking quickly, “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s nothing like that. Just do it to help Selphie get through her Festival, okay? Like a business dinner.”

Laguna put his hand over his forehead and nodded.

“Just like all those business dinners you do there. With all the boring men.”

“Uh huh.”

Kiros rubbed his chin, “It’s a dinner showing everyone that you support Garden. Your son’s Garden. Okay?”

“For Squall’s Garden…” Laguna mumbled wearily.

 

-

 

He was in bed, but couldn’t move. Everything hurt. He ached right down to his bones. What did he do last night? His eyes fluttered open and he saw a water-stained ceiling. Bullet holes.

Oh, this is going to be really horri-

Raine came in, smiling at him with a steaming pot on her hip.

“Time to get you cleaned up, stranger.” She waved a washcloth at him like a damsel in a romance story.

Okay, this is okay. I like where this is going

He heard the pot hit the floor beside the bed he was in. He looked at her face as she tended to him. She looked happy, content. The way she did when she worked hard at something. Knowing satisfaction was at the end of all the effort.

He felt a tug, like something being removed from his legs, a brace? A cast? A tightness he was experiencing was alleviating, perhaps the removal of bandages. Then a warm mass met his toes and he twitched. It felt so good, and he calmed quickly, relishing the feeling of warmth and cleanliness. She hummed as she worked, her eyes darting around his body, giving him the occasional glance. He felt the tight sensation returning, the re-wrapping of bandages, the careful placement in their braces.

She went through the same motions with his arms, her eyes and expressions giving more away. Her serious demeanor dropping was away and she was warming up to him. Was she flirting? She went between his legs, and he was doing all he could to keep his body under control. The release from constricting braces, then the warm cloth, and even her expressions. She looked at him, licked her lips and he shuddered. Oh, by all means, go ahead. She ignored his mental wishes, however, and just gave him a final tender wipe with the cloth, then re-bandaged him and moved up to his chest.

He may have felt that his moment had passed, but she was looking more aroused as she progressed. She tugged at the constricting turtleneck collar like she was overheating and her tongue was darting in and out of her lips.

His eyes bogged out from his skull when she pulled her sweater over her head, leaving a thin chemise underneath. She was leaning across to remove the bandages from his chest, and his eyes met the shape of her breast as it peeked out the loose top. She must have noticed his eye because she gave him another naughty smirk and she pulled it right off, over her head.

Her breasts, as if he could forget how they looked, were nearly in his face. He couldn’t move his neck, but if he could… just a bit…

Then she removed her pants, he could hear the zip and the rustling. They landed with a plop on the floor and he felt a weight on the bed at two sides like she was climbing over him. She pulled off her hairband and shook it out, long soft brown hair, waving and blocking the light behind her.

He was enraptured, she was slow and sexy, the way it should be. But he felt this twinge, like trying to remember if it was this really this good. Didn’t she just clean him up and leave Elle to chat with him so he wasn’t lonely while she dealt with more important chores? Maybe he was just getting horny from being stuck in bed for so long. He was grateful to have any semblance of care during this time. But he was more grateful to see this erotic vixen before him, touching herself where he could not.

“Your tags say your name is Laguna…” she emphasized his name, drawing out each syllable with her tongue. “La… gu… naaa… Loh… ayur…” He remembered that part.

“Th-that’s not really how it’s pronounced, it’s like-”

Her hand covered his mouth, shushing him. “Let’s see, just one more part left…” He felt his chest expand from the extra freedom as she removed the coverings. It seemed like a lot of stuff being removed. She looked really hot doing it though, with each scrap she tugged off, her breasts bounced, just a little.

Bloodied bandages cast aside, she looked down at his chest, her eyes focused through him, giving him a sick feeling. He probably broke some ribs, but he was still able to breathe, right? What was with all the blood, didn’t everything scab up by now?

She reached in him, her wrists shadowed from the cavity. He couldn’t move his head or close his eyes as she pulled up a raw lump of meat, convulsing, spewing blood everywhere.

And she just gave him a peaceful smile.

 

-

 

He felt the sudden urge to vomit. Scrambling to the bathroom, hitting the lights to blind away the vision, he leaned over the sink, coughing desperately. He rubbed his hands over his face then across his chest, rubbing with the heel of his palm until he was certain that it felt solid.

Drawing in a breath, he willed himself not to scream and startle the palace staff. He’d done that before. They’d be concerned and he’d have to come up with a good excuse to get rid of them, but they’d linger and give him those looks. Like, the president shouldn’t have a care in the world! He’s always happy-go-lucky, so what is this?

Then the next day he’d buy them off with some fabulous gift and it was like nothing ever happened! No harm, he had tons of fancy junk laying around!

He rubbed his eyes and coughed again. It was still dark and he was repeating what Kiros said to him last week like a mantra;

“For your son’s Garden. For Squall. Helping Squall. Helping Squall… c’mon…” Could she tell he didn’t really believe it? That he was selfishly looking forward to seeing the young woman because she was the best possible replacement to Raine?

He held his head in his hands. Her memory was so strong, he was the only one in Esthar who knew her. How could he let her disappear?

 

-

 

Selphie made an early flight into Esthar, bringing Rinoa along out of sheer soul-crushing fear. Kiros had explained that there was a particular way political celebrity could wreck her precious festival plans, and it was imperative that she make some kind of gesture with Sir Laguna, to show that they were a pair of consenting adults with good intentions.

“They think I’m trying to sleep with him for the Garden Festival?” she had asked him. That was totally the craziest thing. She was insulted just hearing it out loud, but he knew, like, everything about Sir Laguna. She’d never thought of having to seduce anyone for material gain. She could totally beat up someone for stuff, but flirting was just for attention; to remind herself of how cute she was! Or to get out of trouble…

“Well, you aren’t, are you?” he had the nerve to ask.

She had a website! The accusation was beyond belief in her mind. But it was different when only her friends knew about her and Sir Laguna. Kiros was right, but she also knew pushing him about feelings-type stuff was risky.

Rinoa was looking out the window at the sprawl that was Esthar. She’d do a good job as wing-woman for the day. She’d be coming back in a few weeks for her appointments, but it was nice to come for something else. And it was a shopping spree from her wonderful husband's lovely father. Who could say no?

She looked over at Selphie, “So, are you excited?”

Selphie’s knuckles were white. She was focused on the landing process, but her smile was too broad and too intense.

“Yeees?”

Rinoa wiggled her fingers, “Kiros’ wife promised manicures, too. I like her, nice lady.”

"She pinches my cheeks. Does she pinch yours? I feel like a baby.”

“No, but you are a baby, Selph.”

“Am not!” Selphie huffed as she looked over various dials. “We’re like, the same age.”

“I am a mature and married young lady. I talk about bills and making babies. You still collect stickers and make-out in cars… Gosh, you and Laguna. Two pretend grown-ups.”

The engine working to control the landing gave off a burst of noise and Selphie took the opportunity to yell.

“Rinny, you’re a wiiiiitch!”

 

-

 

Rinoa enjoyed the field trip, and Selphie got dragged along to stores that were more fancy than fun. Stormy was having a good time with Rinoa- the girl had genuine Deling City class afterall, but Selphie seemed a bit out of her element. She perked up when they looked at shiny stuff, but Selphie only ever got as fancy as a small silver chain she wore with everything. Stormy mischievously directed her to engagement rings and tried to gauge her reaction.

“Darling, just tell me which one you like best,” she took Selphie’s finger and was squeezing her ring finger for size, “And I will use that information when it becomes pertinent.”

Selphie looked up at the woman, gulping “W-what?”

Rinoa took Selphie’s other arm and playing along said, “Join us, Selph. You know you want to.”

“C’mon, it’s not like th-that.” She waved her hand in front of the display, “I don’t need s-something like this.”

“Oh,” Stormy admonished, “she’s one of those modern brides. Very practical.” Rinoa was smiling in agreement, joining in on the scheming.

Selphie was turning red. “H-hey look over there, a sweater with a chocobo made of rhinestones! How cool is that?” She escaped the two others and started nervously flipping through a rack of luxury sweaters.

“You know, it would be Laguna’s second marriage. Isn’t there some different tradition concerning that?” Rinoa asked Stormy.

Stormy flicked her Estharian head covering back as if it were actual hair, “Yeah, lawyers instead of best-men.” She knew a few girls that landed mega rich widowed older men and considered herself lucky to be with someone like Kiros. Smart and sexy, he had tall, dark, and handsome down pat- but his friends were total weirdos.

“We’ll get her in the most expensive dress ever made,” Stormy was nearly frothing at the mouth over the thought, eyeing Selphie. Pure white, yellow trim... Rinoa took a step back. Time to diffuse this.

“Hey Selphie, how about we take a shopping break for ice cream?”

Her head shot back and her arms flew over her head, “Oh, Rinny, I thought you’d never ask!”

After having break, Selphie was re-energized. Rinoa distracted Stormy with mom-talk, and Selphie looked through more racks of fancy dresses. Thankfully they didn’t convince her to wear Estharian clothes, because then she would be looking in way more stores, but she was able to limit the shopping to a small area of town that was famous for foreign styles from upscale boutiques. SeeDs spent their hard earned gil on weapon upgrades and junk food. She liked to dream about the fancy-life, as did most of the Garden girls she knew, but when confronted with all the choices and the added pressure of being expected to wear something nice for Sir Laguna, she was stalling.

“Rinny, stop giving me dresses that would look good on you.”

“But we’re the same size. I’m being helpful.”

“You’re not even coming to the stupid thing. I wish I could hang out with you guys and the boys and drink coffee and try their weird video games.”

Rinoa smacked Selphie’s shoulder, “You are a liar. You know you’d like to see Laguna looking dressed up and pretending to be a classy guy. I saw it at dinner. Once you’re in the same room, nothing else matters… Unfortunately.”

Selphie sighed loudly. She wanted to wear her SeeD uniform. She didn’t even like it that much, but she didn’t have to make a fuss. She tried on so many dresses already, and all the ones she liked couldn’t even make it to the dressing room stage before getting gagging faces from the others.

“Honey, it’s not a Family Day picnic.”

“I think my mom had a dress like that.”

“Wow! Maybe that one’s a little too short! It is Esthar, afterall.”

“Selphie, that colorMy eyes.”

She was getting so frustrated, she didn’t fit into this scenario at all! No wonder she was with Irvine for so long, he was just jeans and flannel and boots! Effortless!  

She snagged the most boring, overpriced piece of material she could from the rack, “Well how about this then? No sparkles.” She glared at Rinoa.

Sparkles were fun, unlike five hours of shopping with these two Deling City princesses.

When she came out, they shrugged. Obviously unimpressed, but they bit their lips. It was just a halter top of blue satin that went to the floor with a substantial slit up the center. It was nice enough. The material was obviously luxurious, but the design wasn’t pretentious. It was expensive enough and that should impress somebody.

“Good enough? Good enough! We’re done! Let’s celebrate! More ice cream!” She spun around and did a little hop.

 

-

 

Laguna had Kiros helping him with his tie. He hated ties.

“You know what’s nice?” Kiros said, “Having a woman doing this for you instead.”

“Hey man, that’s so old fashioned. Granny always told me 'men can do anything women can'. Pilot airships, do ballet, control time.”

Kiros rolled his eyes, “I mean, like, having someone you love help you get dressed for stuff. It’s an intimate thing. Like kissing.”

Laguna coughed, “Haha, like that one time-”

“Don’t finish that sentence.” Kiros gave a light tug on the knot and punched Laguna in the stomach.

“Oww!”

Kiros treasured his position as the second in command as well as being the only one with a free pass to trade blows with Laguna without being imprisoned for mutiny.

Laguna rubbed his stomach and grumbled. He was nervous. He had to play it totally cool, but his heart got a little overactive when he considered what he’d be up to soon.

“My fellow Estharians… please meet the lady who let me touch her hoo-haa…” he joked and wiggled his fingers, doing his best to lighten the mood.

Kiros cringed and shook his head. He was trying to be happy for his friend, but when he spoke… “I don’t want to imagine your pillow-talk.”

Laguna grinned, eyes glazing, “Hey, it’s good stuff. I don’t share that with nobody.”

Anybody. And please don’t.” There was a knock at the door. “Showtime, Laguna, break a leg.”

“What? It’s supposed to be just ‘smiling with cocktails!’”

Kiros was pushing him out of the bedroom to the apartment foyer just as his wife burst through the door, with Rinoa shoving Selphie in a similar manner into the apartment. Selphie smiled at Laguna and made a little finger wave.

Laguna tried not to focus on her smooth body held in the slinky blue dress and the slit that was basically the dress designer giving a concession for all those dates wishing for the dress to come off.

He wanted just a minute alone. He grabbed her hand and nearly yanked her out the door, leaving Kiros in his dust. Kiros was momentarily stunned, but rolled his eyes. The ladies just twittered and watched Selphie get dragged away in a fit of passion.

“Woah! Sir Laguna, what’re you-”

He looked back and grinned. She increased her stride to run with him best she could in her shoes, and when they sat on the transport bench and it began to hover, he spoke.

“I’m so scared, I might wet myself. You’ll still like me, right?”

He had such a way with words, and her giggle gave him some consolation. She put a hand over his, resting on his knee.

“I was so stressed out today, that I ate too much ice cream and now I’m not hungry and people are going to ask if I’m pregnant.” She poked herself in the belly.

He looked down and poked her as well. “Wow, that’s a lot of ice cream. Hm… ” Wiggling his fingers and tickling her right at the spot, “Cootchie-”

“Hey!” she shrieked.

He smiled, clearly teasing her. “How ‘bout you wet yourself and I’ll tell everyone I’m pregnant. They won’t even know what hit ‘em.”

"Gross, Sir Laguna!" She laughed and leaned in to kiss his cheek as they whooshed along, nearing the carport to take them onward into the city.

 

-

 

The limo was a small bit of peace before the reality outside of the palace hit them. She tucked herself into the crook of his arm, and Laguna looked at Selphie’s little hair bun that the girls insisted looked sophisticated and mature. He poked it suspiciously.

“Ya got something in there, Selphie?”

“I wish. If I was on a mission, bet I could tuck away a few smoke bombs. I think it’s just hair spray.” She looked up at him, adding her own commentary, “I see they got you in a tie. Amaaazing.”

His hand reached behind his neck, “Aw, it’s really lame. I hate these things. Useless scrap of material.”

“Aww, I don’t know…” she gave it a little tug. “It can be used to choke or restrain an enemy. Good to have handy.”

He made a nervous laugh, “Hey, so, you’re staying over tonight, right?”

She blushed and let go of his tie, smoothing it back out. “Well, I hoped so.”

He made a little fist pump and gripped her shoulder closer. She imagined from the outside she did look like a girl trying to claw her way to the top, landing a man twice her age just to be lavished in expensive gifts and opportunities that could only be granted by a powerful benefactor. But she didn’t want that, even though she really appreciated that he supported her Garden Festival, she just liked being in his presence. Spending time with him pulled up a range of emotions that she couldn’t have shared with Irvine.   

“Are you still scared?” she asked him quietly.

He shook his head in affirmation.

Not of the press. Not of the talk, or the opinions. Who cared about that stuff? He was scared that things would end. And when things end for him, they end badly.  

The car came up to a stop and a valet opened the door, making a salute as the president got out and there was an extra build up of attention when Selphie came out and took his arm. Escorting her in quickly, they avoided making eye contact with any curious onlookers. The Point was the type of restaurant that catered to clientele looking for the utmost experience of lavish exclusivity. They did not allow ruffians to bother their guests, but it was also meant for people to see and be seen. Various celebrities were welcomed with open arms, as long as their career was at it’s peak. As for being president of Esthar, Laguna could stop by anytime he felt like it.

But he never came just for the heck of it. He could tell how ingratiating they were as they led him to a small table by a window giving the best night view of the city. The waiter held the chair for Selphie and she sat down.

She fidgeted with a napkin and held her legs together stiffly. She sensed a few looks and pretended not to notice. Laguna ordered the specials of the night with casual indifference. Some drink thingies, food stuff, whatever, man!

He sensed her discomfort and took her hand in his. He leaned into her ear and whispered, “Twenty minutes of this. Tops.”

“The menu doesn’t have prices” she hissed back.

“I know. I think they did it ‘cause I’m bad with numbers.”

The waiter came back and set drinks down at their table. Another dish joined them with small things to nibble on with cocktails.  

Selphie took a sip and made a little cringe, “So, we just sit here? Talk?”

“Well,” he answered, “Yeah. That’s what Kiros told me to do. ‘Don’t pull the Balamb stunt and don’t have a fight’. I think those were his exact words.”

“His wife told me a bunch of stuff too, but I can’t remember it all.”

“She tell ya anything interesting?” he prodded.

“Nah. But Rinoa has a new best friend. They’re both so fancy.”

“You look pretty fancy now. Really nice.” He grinned.

“Thanks.” She leaned back in again and whispered, “I just wanna… ahh… ”

“Leave?” he finished. “Fool around?” She nodded. Her expression was so cute. Embarrassed and frustrated. He knew better. He knew what she was capable of. It was this place. It had that effect on people.

He whispered back, “These people smell fear. They fear me because I faced down Adel. Also because I knocked over a few candles. I am personally responsible for this carpet color.”

She clutched his hand, “You’re a funny guy, Sir Laguna.”

He looked away, “Nah, I’m just-”

“Funny. And nice. And sometimes really brave.” she gushed. Then she grasped his tie from across the table and lowered her voice back down as low as she could, saying “And when we get back, you’re dead meat.”

He sputtered, growing red in the face, “W-why?!”

“You tickled me on the way here. I can hold a grudge.” she winked.

They stuck around to the best of their patience, but the night view of Esthar didn’t do anything different from one minute to the next, and acting out their more impulsive romantic behaviors was squelched by the uneasy attention from strangers. Selphie felt fortunate that they hadn’t been caught in any compromising positions earlier on in their relationship. Except Squall; that was mega ick. He’d caught her and Irvine a good number of times, the poor boy. But she wasn’t thinking about Squall looking at her butt right now, she was angling just to show Sir Laguna.

They were back in the limo, his hand up the slit of her dress and hers gripping his shoulders, mouths meeting in a boozy embrace. Their last time was cut painfully short, and he felt ready to make up for lost time. Or at least his hormones wanted vengeance for being locked up for so long. It was exacerbated by the fact that Kiros kept giving him little congratulatory looks after he had shamefully asked him about how not to get Selphie knocked up.

Kiros usually walked egg-shells around the subject, not wanting to be the asshole who ruined it by freaking Laguna out, but he handed him a box yesterday and just said, “Have fun.”

Back in the palace, he pulled a little strand of hair from Selphie’s updo and toyed with it, kissing her face while the transport smoothly whipped along, moving them back to his suite. She sighed pleasantly, a warm feeling pooling between her legs. She let her hand meander along his belt, slipping it under his jacket and just barely tucking inside. She already felt him shift, and she remembered how hard he was in the car in Balamb and never got to help him out with it. She was determined to rectify the balance. A little bit.

The whole evening show was forgotten in a matter of seconds when his door softly slid closed. He started to loosen his tie, but Selphie gave him a playful slap on the leg.

“No, Sir Laguna. I toldja… I must have my revenge…” she tried to sound intimidating, but her maniacal grin came off as ridiculous. He smirked a reply.

“Well, first, I gotta tell ya, I got some stuff from Kiros. It’s on the dresser. Not really sure what’s inside, but I asked about-”

She cut him off by grabbing his tie and pulling him to his bedroom. He flushed a bit at her audacity, yanking him around. She found the box and rifled through it curiously.

“Wow, Sir Laguna! This is some hot stuff! I don’t even know how to turn this on!” she held up a long metallic object indented with grooves and a slight curve.

He cringed. “I just asked for stuff that keeps you from makin’ babies.”

She turned it around in her hands, eyeing the design, looking for a clue. He had let go of his necktie so he took the opportunity to remove his jacket and toss it on a chair. Standing behind her, he started to unbutton his shirt cuffs and roll them up, and looked over her shoulder to peek into the box.

She huffed, “You gotta ask Kiros how to make it work.” She gave it a shake, held it up to her ear, then shrugged.

“Oh, maybe- ah, nevermind.”

“Hm? You know what it is?” she turned around.

He held his hands up, “Meet helper one and helper two. That’s as dirty as I get” He gestured at the object and added, “I have no idea what that is, but a lot of stuff in Esthar is automatic. Things just work sometimes. Often very cool, sometimes… not.”

She put it back for the time being.

“Rubber bands? I’m beginning to seriously question that man, Sir Laguna, I think I’m glad Elle didn’t send us to any weird memories or I couldn’t look him in the eye.” She stretched a small black circle and peeked an eye through the middle. He shrugged again.

“He always loved being able to teach me a thing or two. Smug little twerp, he is.”

“About what?”

“Well, ah, girls.”

“Oh yeah?” she implored.

“Well, how to talk to ‘em.”

She crossed her arms. “Then what kind of stuff?”

“Um, well, that was ages ago. He was always gettin’ laid and Ward was off doin’ his thing. The only girls that messed around with me were the types trying to fill their bedposts with notches. I was in their dust before I’d even have the chance to ask Kiros what to do.”

“Oh, you poor baby!”

“Yeah. I’d just write them a love letter afterwards.”

Selphie made a grimace, “Really?”

“Well, yeah, sure. That’s what it looked like in the movies. Real romance! Feelings on paper. Pretty lame when a girl asks ‘and who are you exactly?’ and hands it back. They were all interested in the cadets with paychecks.”

“Must be nice when you’re here now. Ha ha, I live in a palace and have a gajillion cars.” She wiggled her fingers to indicate sparkly opulence.

“Nah, I wrote them stuff and they laughed. I feel sorry for people who can’t see the world outside of money or power… stuff like that.”

“Hm, yeah, I definitely know what you mean.”

“But that stuff is such ancient history.”

Selphie made a little sound of agreement and suddenly turned her back to him.

“Help me out of this, will ya?” She swiped a hand up her neck reflexively even though her hair was already swept up.

Laguna remembered Kiros’ comment from earlier, and bit his lip. He hadn’t put the stock into it before, because as long as clothes were coming off, things were probably going pretty good. He sucked in a breath and mustered the confidence of someone capable of nearly burning down a restaurant and yet having the gall to show his face back there again.

He stepped close against her, wrapping his arms around her and letting his hands slide up her front in a long caress. His hands cupped her sheathed breasts, fingers trying to make sense of her topography. Her figure was small and her petite breasts gave the illusion of youth until his mouth breathed into her ear and her moan reminded him she probably had more sex in her short life than he did. Her butt rubbed up against his legs and he had just about enough of her dress.

Fumbling with the zipper in the collar, she closed her eyes and tried to soften her impatience by focusing on the feelings of his hands. His touch had become more familiar, and their intimacy didn’t carry the same frantic urgency as it had in the past. They were something alright. By this time tomorrow, she would have to turn back on her communication device for a wave of shocked personal messages about the status of her love-life.

The dress fell away and pooled at her feet. His hands traced the complex straps that had been crisscrossed to smooth her breasts into something suitable for a satiny material. He whined.

“What… Selphie… what is going on with this?”

She sighed.

“Can you… give me a hint?” he begged.

She leaned down and picked up the dress, slinging it over his jacket on the chair. She turned to face him, smiling at his little frustrated pout. He touched the front straps of her bra pitifully. He was so cute when he was frustrated. Maybe she liked seeing him squirm just a little.

She reached up and thrust a finger into the knot of his tie and he settled his hands around the band of her bra fingering around for a snap or zipper. She loosened the knot and pulled it out from the collar of his dress shirt. He continued fussing with the brassier, running his hands up and over, not for her sake now, but just frustrating himself further.

She stretched up on her toes and pursed her lips. He leaned over her, looking down her backside.

“Hey!” she squeaked.

He straightened up, and she gave him a little thwack over the chest with his tie. That earned her a look of confusion and he moved his hands back around front to try and reach for her face so he could draw her into a kiss…

…When she forced his wrists together and made a nice little knot with his very own necktie.

Stupid scrap of material… working against me this whole time… I knew it.

She hooked a finger over the new knot she made for his wrists and put her other hand on her hip.

“Get on the bed, Laguna.”

He immediately backed up, long strides not moving fast enough until he felt the edge of his bed and he sat obediently. She walked to him, standing between his legs and smirking down at him. He felt a flare of lust and he drew in a breath when she pushed him back into the mattress.

“First, I have a little unfinished business, okay?” she straddled him at his knees, reaching up to feel his stomach and the front panel of his pants. He gave a nod and clasped his fingers together and held them over his head so he could see her hands as they released his dick from his trousers. She folded her arms over his thighs, her lips just a breath away from his balls.

“Your wrists don’t hurt like that, do they?”

“Unghn… No…” He could be crucified and not feel anything with the sensation of her mouth so close to his erection. She raised an eyebrow.

“You doing okay?”

“Yup, yup, doing great.” He gave a smile, just barest trace of a grimace showing through.

She looked at him for another moment, drawing it out. His hip twitched.

“You know, I was thinking… ” she stalled and idly traced along the ridge of his hips. “Well, I was just a bit surprised how cute you are.”

“C-cute? You’re the cute one, S-selphie,” he struggled to reply.

She sat up again, “Yeah, I know that.” She set a hand on her chest, “I’m way cute. It’s a curse. Tough for people to take me serious sometimes, ‘specially for my job. But, I’d never want to be un-cute.” She tilted her head to the side. “But you’re cute, too.”

Her finger touched the head of his dick and he let out a soft moan.

“It’s actually pretty cute when you make a face like that.” Her finger traced around the perineum and followed the patterns of veins on his dick. It was almost fully erect and it throbbed in anticipation. The way he held up his bound hands looked like he was praying for what comes next. 

She had to oblige.

When her mouth hit his dick, his eyes squeezed shut in pure bliss, her legs holding him down on the bed. He couldn’t deny how many times his brain ran through this scenario, especially after the false start a few weeks earlier. He wanted it pretty bad and it was miraculous that she had him in mind. He peeked down at her half-naked form taking him into her mouth and tried to regulate his breathing before he hyperventilated.

“Sir Laguna?”

“Yeah?” he coughed.

“You’re not really a bit fan of being… in control, are ya?”

“W-w-what?” he stammered. Not a question he wanted to contemplate with his wrists bound while her lips hovered around his dick. Oh.

“Don’t take this the wrong way… I’m just trying to figure it out… ” she tapped her chin, searching for the words. “Do you wish you were… a lady?”

“No!” he shouted, eyes bulging as he sat up, bringing his hands in front of him. “Oh, geez. Selphie, no. Th-that’s not… no way.”

She set her hands over his shirt, smoothing it gently. “Okay, okay, I’m just askin’. I’m just not sure why you do certain things.”

He looked away, his face getting hot. He didn’t think he was so messed up. He thought he had himself under control… for the most part.

She felt bad for asking him something so direct, but she wasn’t used to having sex with someone as… not-demanding as he was. He didn’t seem to have anything to prove when they got intimate.

It was the most extreme she could come up with, but may as well knock out certain things from the checklist.

“What if I were a guy?” she asked, her hands sliding over her own chest, “I know I’m not busting out the seams, but…”

Laguna tried to roll over and smother himself in his own comforter. This is awful, the words coming out of her mouth. Oh God, please kill me now. He groaned. She wasn’t kidding when she said she’d kill him. Kill him with embarrassing sex-talk.

“Sir Laguna?”

She actually sounded slightly worried.

He rolled back and faced her again, “No, Selphie, no. You are fine just as you are. You’re really fine. I don’t wish you were anyone else… or had any different… parts.”

“Oh, okay. Whew. I mean, I guess I wasn’t that worried, but still.” She patted the side of his leg. If he preferred men, could he really do what he’s done? With nearly as much enthusiasm? None of those fairy-dreams showed any evidence to the contrary either.

She still straddled his leg, and his erection was weakening. She felt a bit guilty, but it was better to know while she had him in a position to talk and not dodge questions. Things were already more serious than she’d intended, even though she fancied him quite a bit. But she had a good feeling about the next question.

She sat up. “Well, Mister President,” she played it up for drama by dropping her voice as low as she could muster, “have you been bad?”

He grew still and stared at her, so she continued.

“Do you need to be punished?” It was really hard to control her face saying the kind of drivel she’d seen on those junky movies when the evil sorceress taunts the trapped hero. She wanted to laugh, but Laguna looked like he was cast in the wrong movie. He didn’t show a shred of defiance as he scrunched his eyes closed and writhed a bit under her.

He opened his eyes halfway. “Selphie…”

“I asked you a question.”

“Yeah” he answered.

She crawled up on him, pressing a hand over his and pushing them into his stomach, capturing them under her weight. He groaned slightly, and he fell back, her face hovering over his.

“You don’t deserve nice stuff, huh?” she prodded. Boy, his head was a weird place, but it seemed she was always game to play along.

His expression was so sad as he shook his head at her. She suddenly had a pang of wanting to comfort him and to beat up anyone causing him grief. But… hadn’t she already beaten up Adel?

“Stop looking at me like that.” She set her other hand on his cheek and pushed it down, slowly forcing his left cheek into the bed. He gave off a breath, slightly shaky.

“I think you’re pretty good at pretending to be a nice guy, but you don’t want to confess your sins. Such a selfish little man.” She pressed a little harder. It was so difficult. She didn’t like it, but she couldn’t just say mean things to him. So she had to throw the truth in his face.

“You’ve been trying to hide your shriveled up little heart. You think it gives you an excuse to be a jerk to me.” He winced. “I think you just want to make me mad.”

Suddenly, she had him turned onto his stomach, his hands stuck down at his crotch, his face looking the opposite direction. 

“I tol’ja not to underestimate me.” She ran a finger from the back of his neck along his spine, then when she reached the hem of his pants, gave his rear a little smack. His shoulders hitched and he mumbled her name into the bed.

She got little shivers from hearing his reaction. Maybe it wasn’t the situation she was expecting, but it was an intense rush of power. She gave his butt a little squeeze and put her fingers between his legs, feeling him through his pants. She felt the heat eliminating from his body, but she was hot too, and she knew her body was ready for more. Feeling around his clothed balls, he gave off a small moan, and she smacked him again. 

“Not fair of you enjoy this so much…” she mumbled. What else could she do? His hands were tied in front of him. His face was too far away. She gave him another whack just out of frustration.

“Hmph!”   

She peeked over at his face, and he looked like he was about to pass out. 

“Sir Laguna, really, are you sure you’re okay?” 

His mouth hung open, and she watched his tongue make its way slowly over his teeth as he nodded at her. 

She bit her lip and straightened back up, hooking her fingers into his waistband and pulling his pants halfway down since they’d already been loosened from the front. She swore to God that she’d make him come first to make up for last time, and if this is what it took to get his rocks off, then she’d do it. 

“Fine. Freakin’ weird” she huffed.

She looked down as his bare ass, wondering if there was a trick to it. Here was a grown man with his butt hanging out in a way that reminded her of the streaking shenanigans like back in Trabia. But he wasn’t a Garden student pulling a stunt in the quad, he was shifting and panting under her.

“What kind of guy tells the girl he’s messing with that she’s no good, right?”

Smack.

“With a half-assed apology.”

“-Mm s’rry” 

Smack

“What was that, Laguna?” 

“-Mm sorry!” 

Smack! 

“Ugh, you suck sooo much Laguna Loire!” 

He moaned loudly and his back arched sharply. He bucked between her legs and she was certain he just made a mess of his comforter. She didn’t even have to do anything and just left a bunch of red marks on his rear. 

He was breathing hard and she turned him on to his back, catching his shame with a handful of his ejaculate. She urged him to scoot back until his back was propped up by pillows and she lifted his bound wrists until she could sneak under them, getting close and letting him settle his arms over her shoulders. 

She shared a few breaths with him, sweeping the side of her nose against his and brushing her lips against the corner of his mouth.

“I’m… gonna get goop in your hair…”

“S’okay, I’ll take a shower.” She ran her lips over his, missing the feeling of intimacy and taking all the satisfaction she could while he was in a state of blissful stupor. He could kiss and fuck like any regular guy, but he just wanted it to get weird sometimes. She could manage. She felt his tongue enter her mouth and she opened hers to take him in, greeting his with little swipes of her own. She closed her eyes and enjoyed the slow wet kisses, feeling little jolts of arousal shoot to her private places. 

She broke the kiss and slipped back under his arms, bringing them back down and untying the knot she’d made before. Casting the soiled necktie aside, she took one of his hands as he rolled his wrists around his other. She opened his hand and faced his palm, licking it for traces of cum and eyeing him through his fingers.

“I thought you’d take a shower” he said, trying to maintain focus as she cleaned his fingers, reminding him what her mouth felt like.

“Yuh-huh” she answered between long strokes of her tongue. She was really hot, and wanted him to know it. Ultima Weapon could crash into the room and he still wasn’t leaving until she got hers. When she wanted something, she wasn’t good at keeping it secret.

He smirked, “Just let me catch my breath, then we’ll go together, okay?”

“Your shower looked pretty amazing,” she said, lips dawdling at the crook of his thumb, “Too bad I kept missing the chance to use it.”

“Yeah, it fits seven. Feel free to come use it anytime.” He wiggled his eyebrow at her, “As long as I get to watch.”

“How do you know it fits seven? Why not eight?” she asked.

He shrugged and answered, “I dunno, that’s what one of the maintenance guys told me. I’m the only one ever in it.”

“I’m sure we can rustle up six more volunteers.”

“Hey now. The numbers are just for safety reasons. I don’t want anyone else looking at your butt.”

“What about the butt doctor!?” she teased.

He cringed, “Selphie, this is not the mood to talk about the butt doctor.”

She laughed at him and tapped him on the nose, “Oh yeah, I forgot you’re kinda old.” 

“Hey!” 

She giggled and crawled her way off the bed, wriggling out of her underwear and unhooking her brassiere from the straps that eluded Laguna earlier. He got off the bed as well, folding up the top layer of bedding and tossing it on the floor. 

He stepped the rest of the way out of his pants and unbuttoned his shirt, following Selphie into his bathroom. She was already naked and examining the wall for how to operate the large shower. Tossing his shirt aside and pulling off the under layer, he opened the door and tilted his head back. 

“C’mon, it just does its thing.”

He pulled his hair tie out and shook out his hair as a spray of water suddenly started in his surroundings. She jumped as water unexpectedly hit her as well, and she looked at him, slightly panicked.   

He shrugged. “I would’ve explained it to you before you got in, but you called me old.” 

“But a really hot old!”

He snorted and rubbed shampoo into his head. She looked around for the shampoo he used, and he handed her a bottle. When she squeezed it out into her hand, she was hit with the strong memory-scent of Laguna himself, as well as the smell of the bath stuff back from when the kids came to perform for the concert. She smiled a bit at the thought and went about trying to wet her hair and lather it up. 

“You have conditioner, ri- what?” She caught him giving her a quizzical look. 

“Wow, your hair. It’s so… ” 

“Flat?” she offered. 

He stepped in, close enough for her nipples to brush his bare wet skin. The jets adjusted to spray behind him, and a mist was weaving around the space between them. He reached to her head and stroked her water-laden hair, no longer featuring its distinctive flip, just going straight down past her shoulders, past her collar bone, and his thumb met down where it ended at the top of her breast. 

She felt her heart do a little flip, and as soon as she looked up and made eye contact, he leaned in and captured her mouth again. His hands both cupped and fondled her chest as they kissed under the constant spray. 

When she had a second for air, she gasped, “Oh God, Laguna, I’m really wet.”

He looked at her for a moment. Yeah, duh, it’s a shower

She licked her lip and he got the picture.

Looking around, he tried to make it work in his head. Sure, seven people could fit in here, but even when he beat off in the shower, his brain was someplace more… horizontal. 

Her arms wrapped around his neck, killing his thoughts. “Think you can lift me up?” 

“You trust me not to slip and die?” 

“There’s worse ways to go, Sir Laguna.” 

He made a little shrug and picked her up by her butt and hoisted her up to rest just above his hips. Her arms held him tight and he liked the feeling of her body pressed up against him, slick and hot. The hair that covered her sex brushed against him and she commanded him to get closer to the wall. 

He was grateful she was small, even if it did nothing but reinforce the age gap between them. When he had her propped against the surface, she slid down over his dick and he felt like it had been hit with Life3. Angels singing their sweet songs of fucking. Or was that just Selphie gasping in his ear? It was hypnotic; she was glistening and calling his name while complete and utter Rapture over his stif-

“Ah shit, the stuff!”

He hoisted her back up and her legs dropped from where they had been wrapping around him. Seeing her slightly miffed, he had to explain.

“Y’know. The protection. I can’t believe I forgot.”

She swallowed and blinked. It wasn’t like she wanted to get pregnant or anything, or was spending so much time with baby-crazed Rinoa getting to her? Getting some hot action just once or twice a month while she knew Rinny and her man were doing it four times a day or whatever…

Okay, it wasn’t that much exactly, but she knew too much.

She was still standing in the threshold of the shower when Laguna put a towel over her head.

“Selphie, this relationship is doomed if there are two space cadets.”

She pulled it off her head and started toweling herself off. She scrunched her eyes and gave a sigh.

“Gil for your thoughts?” he asked as he rubbed his own towel over his body.

She gave him a look. Oh, just thinking about how much your son is doin’ it. No big deal.

She walked around him and tentatively hung her towel on a rack. Who knows what the racks in this place were capable of. She caught a look at his bare ass and the little pink traces left behind.

“It doesn’t hurt, does it?” she asked.

“Huh?”

She pointed at his behind and he twisted his waist, but was unsuccessful and grunted. He stepped into his room and stood by the full-length mirror by the dressing area next to the large cabinet. She came up to stand in front of him while he peered back to his reflection.

“Sheesh, it’s not that bad-” he turned to look at her. Her face was serious and arms crossed as she looked at him. “I… uhh…” 

She turned her head away, wet tendrils of her hair spitting out small droplets as she vented, “I know you don’t like it when I say anything about it, but I love you and and I don’t like making you hurt.”

He went back to the box from Kiros and started rustling through the contents. Pulling out a small packet, he moved back to Selphie and rubbed her upper arms, looking at her face. When she brought her gaze back to him, he spoke. 

“I think I have a confession,” he started. “C’mere, let’s just get comfortable, okay? Nothing dramatic. Nothing scary.” 

He got into the bed, opening up the sheet and slipping in. It was getting weirdly vulnerable wandering around naked with another person in the room. He didn’t mind seeing Selphie naked, but usually it was just being naked with Kiros barking at him to get moving and go do this or that. 

Selphie still held her pout, but followed him into the bed. 

“It doesn’t hurt, really. I mean it. I’ve had to deal with worse, right? It probably just looks red after coming out of the shower…” He poked her foot with his under the sheets. 

“Hey, don’t make that face!” he begged. He gave her a broad grin, and she pursed her lips. 

“Fine, Sir Laguna. Confess.” She leaned her chin into his shoulder. 

“I don’t want you to hate me… but… I’m really freaked out that someday you might. ‘Cause I’m… unlucky or something, I guess.” He fiddled with the little plastic package, like debating if he should actually open it or not. 

He continued, “And well, it’s just that I really trust that you like me enough to deal with it. After… y’know. All that other stuff we did.” He made a nervous chuckle and she took the packet from his hands and opened it herself with a roll of her eyes. He mumbled, “I still sorta wonder why you did that back then.”

“Hey now, we’re not talking about me, this is Sir Laguna Confession Time. Move that sheet, will ya? Time to get you strapped in and give you a test drive.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Contrary to how people might imagine a luxurious master bedroom of the president of Esthar, it wasn’t a room that had huge sweeping windows overlooking the city. Sure, some of the other rooms had that feature, but it was a safety precaution for sleeping leaders not to be so easily visible from the outside at their most vulnerable. So daylight was not a disruption to the most venerated sleep of their most exalted, but that particular job was left to his trusted advisers and attendants.

Lucky Kiros. Woo-hoo

Kiros knew the score; after doing publicity duty, good ol’ Laguna and Selphie wasted no time escaping to his private chambers. Kiros had shooed off the remaining retinue of housekeeping and had a congratulatory breakfast ready back at the apartment with his family and Rinoa. 

Kiros sighed and looked at his small digital device displaying shots of the restaurant. Photos of the pair seemed flattering enough. The media was ravenous over having Laguna in any relationship, so they hadn’t quite made it to the point of meticulously carving up each little telling detail of how it was doomed to fail. 

Heck, they looked pretty happy in their own company. He probably said a bunch of dumb things and she gushed a bunch at him. Seemed good. It would have been a more diplomatic choice if he went out with an Estharian, but if they wanted a foreigner to be their captain, far be it from them being so snobbish. He had his fair share of local girls, but eventually settled on another outsider. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that she hailed from the same region as his brother-in-arms. 

He knocked on the door. “Laguna, are you civilized!?” 

“Yeah, yeah, come on in.” 

Kiros stared at the door for a moment and opened it to find Selphie dressed in her casual attire, sitting on a divan and flicking through her communication device, and Laguna tucking in his shirt by the dresser. 

It was just so good. So calm. So normal. Kiros took a deep breath. 

“Man, Laguna, you’re… up. There’s, uh, breakfast back at my place. Rinoa wants to make sure Selphie’s okay.” 

Selphie smiled, “Rinny… she just wants to worry about me for a change. I’m ready whenever you guys are.” She gave Kiros a light salute and hopped up, winking to Laguna and heading towards the door. 

Laguna made a movement to leave the bedroom, but Kiros captured him in a half-hug. 

“What the heck!” Laguna exclaimed, but Kiros was shaking. The guy was laughing! Laguna didn’t even tell him a good joke. 

“I’m just glad. I know it’s kind of sappy of me. This is usually the wife’s job, but I’m… just glad.” Kiros grinned, hopeful for a new start. After all the years knowing Laguna, it was worth it for these moments. “And you are awake and dressed before nine, it’s a small miracle.” He bit his fist in mock emotion and looked down, “A tucked shirt…” 

Laguna tucked his chin down and leaned into his old pal conspiratorially, whispering, “Is wake-up sex a thing these days? ‘Cause I think it’s a thing.” 

That earned him a hearty clap on the back from Kiros and they all made their way out to the transportation bench to Kiros’ apartment.

 

-

 

“Uncle Laguna, Uncle Laguna! Come check it out!” 

Laguna was dragged into the living room straight away by a small hoard of offspring as Selphie deftly made her way into the kitchen where Rinoa had made a little chat space with Stormy. Breakfast was arranged with a variety of foods familiar to Galbadians; hot cakes, sweet rolls, sausages, fruits, coffee. The occupants had already picked at their favorites and Selphie eyed the array, feeling spoiled for choice compared to her standard fare at Garden. 

“Good morning, Selphie” Rinoa started, a tiny smirk showing through her genuine smile of greeting. “So how was it last ni-” 

“They’re shaped like Moogles! Moogles, Rinny!” Selphie was getting shrieky and immediately took a plate and started bouncing in front of the buffet, looking back and forth between the other women. 

Stormy waved a hand dismissively, “The kitchen loves making them for the boys, but they’re on this all-meat kick. Sausages only. They’re all yours.” 

Giddy with the prospect of such a cute breakfast, Selphie took nearly the whole stack of Moogle hot cakes, leaving one so the buffet still would look at least a little cute. After adding a few more things to her plate, she did a little dance in appreciation of meal. She gave Rinny a peck on the cheek and snagged a fork from the side of her before bounding off to the dining area. 

Finally free of his fans, Laguna crept into the kitchen, and shielded his eyes with his hand from the very pointed looks he was receiving from Rinoa and Stormy. 

“So…” the older woman asked, “things are goin’ good?” 

He just laughed nervously as he poured himself coffee. Looking up at the ceiling at the same time was hard, but he tried anyway, getting coffee all over the counter in the process. Rinoa came up to him and bat her eyes at him. He avoided her gaze. She tugged on his sleeve, putting on her best coy act. 

“Daaaaaaaaa-” 

“Hey, how come there’s only one Moogle cake left?” he begrudgingly took the one and popped a sausage in his mouth. He gave the ladies and shrug and pointed to his mouth. 

“Canf taak, mouf foo!” He rushed out of the interrogation-kitchen and sat next to Selphie, setting his plate and coffee down. 

“I see a certain someone ran off with all my little breakfast friends,” Laguna gestured at Selphie’s plate. She gave him a little smile and cut off the foot of one of hers and held it up to him. He leaned in, but she swiped it away and popped it in her own mouth, chewing through a more devious grin. 

“I’m still a growin’ girl. I earned my breakfast if you’ll recall.” She took the little bobble from the top of the hotcake creature and held it out as a peace-offering. He gave her a squint and grabbed her hand, leading the fork to his mouth and biting down deliberately before she could trick him again. 

He wasn’t letting her get away with it and leaned into her tousled morning hair and whispered bravely, “I thought you already had a mouthful before we left the room. That’s gotta be enough for a tiny lady like yourself.”

She squealed and punched his arm. 

“Gross! Sir Laguna!”

Laguna snickered to himself as Rinoa and Stormy came in, nursing mugs of coffee and keeping an eye on the pair, Rinoa mostly in curious fascination and Stormy with the trained acuity of a seasoned gossip. It was the oil that smoothed out a life of non-stop boys. She communicated with a variety of winks and eyebrow wiggles to Rinoa; the message was clear enough. 

Selphie got red in the face noticing the other girls behind her as they were clearly interested in what had her and Laguna poking each other and fighting over hotcakes. She reached over and took his coffee, swiping a sip before he took it out of her hands for himself.

Rinoa returned the looks from Stormy with a collection of gagging faces and eye rolls. 

“So the boys are off to a sleepover tonight, and Ward said he’d come over with a bottle for some grown up time.” Stormy loved her kids, but clearly she loved the prospect of a house full of the sounds of clinking glasses over the blaring video games and the stomping and the jumping. 

“Yeah Selphie, grown up time. So you aren’t invited.” Rinoa gave Selphie a pat on the head and Selphie reacted by flailing her arms above her head. 

“Four months! Four months older! That’s hardly fair!” 

“And you’re tinier too,” she added mercilessly, pinching Selphie’s cheeks from behind. 

“Hellllp, Sir Lagunaaa,” Selphie whined, “Use your president powers or something!” 

He gave a shrug. “I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about. Must be another president. You’ll have to address the Lady of the house.” 

“Well, I’m telling Squall you’re both being meanies.”

Rinoa leaned over Selphie’s shoulders and narrowed her eyes at her friend, “Oh, he knows. I torture him regularly.” 

Laguna coughed. 

Selphie made a nervous laugh. She had to be joking, right? 

“Hey! Is that a sorceress crack? He loves me! I am his number one sweetheart!” 

Selphie and Laguna shared a knowing look, with a small cringe. She patted his hand. If they shared anything at least, father and son both had tastes for powerful women… if not totally dangerous ones.

 

-

 

That night was another excuse to get together for dinner, but to the sweet relief of two, was another casual affair at the Seagill’s. It wasn’t even as formal as it had been last time, but was just an assortment of finger foods to accompany drinks. They had already spent an hour talking about the day, and a few arrangements to figure out how to make sure the Seagill family could make it to Balamb for the Garden Festival. Kiros brought out a complex-looking holographic board game that had become quite the rage in Esthar lately, and in appreciation of the guests unfamiliar with the rules set up teams, Selphie stuck with Laguna, Rinoa with Stormy, and Kiros and Ward. Once the game was underway, colorful blocks were moved around a three dimensional grid and Laguna was glad to be on a winning team for once. 

“Selphie, you are pretty good for a beginner,” Kiros said. 

She watched her piece move through the grid and land in it’s final place, “Well, I hang out with kids for a living. You get used to the rules of various games and how to lose them as quickly as possible.” 

“Aww, you let them win? That’s so sweet” Stormy said. 

“Psh, when I lose, that’s when I get to kick back and get work done without worrying about them running amok.” 

“Darling, you are absolutely ready for babies. Isn’t she, Rinoa? Laguna’s not getting any younger, afterall.” 

Rinoa cringed, both statements were just horrible, “Selphie is a giant baby, and Laguna has a kid. The one I married.”

Stormy wasn’t deterred and barreled on, “Second families are all the rage, all very modern. This is Esthar. Imagine the babies! Big green eyes!” 

Kiros cut off his wife, as lovely and fanatical as she was. “I don’t think they’re interested in sharing our pain, love. Let them enjoy uninterrupted love making as long as possible” he lamented. She responded by scrunching her face up. Ward’s shoulders heaved with silent chuckles. 

“If you have babies before me, Selphie…” Rinoa threatened. 

Selphie’s eyes widened and she nearly shouted, “I am being super mega careful, okay!?” 

The table got perfectly quiet at that point and eyes all went to Selphie. Kiros laughed and shared a high five with Ward. Rinoa covered her face. Laguna turned reddish and slumped in his chair. Stormy looked like she was about to pop. Not a lot of secrets here. 

“Darling, you’re bringing your husband to next family dinner, right?” 

Rinoa put on her most gracious smile. “Not a Shiva’s chance in Hell. I mean this most respectfully.” 

After another few bottles of wine went around, and Laguna used Selphie’s win to gloat to the rest of the table, the ladies all listened patiently as Laguna, Kiros, and Ward tried their best to rehash a few good stories from their soldier days. Whenever Laguna and Kiros’ story conflicted, Ward was brought in to determine the most accurate version. Laguna’s were more animated and interesting but had a few more embellishments than necessary. 

“Well, okay, but it was a pigeon and not a chocobo,” Kiros corrected. 

“It was totally a chocobo, it was this big, bright yellow. I swear!” Laguna defended. Ward shrugged and they were stuck at a stalemate. 

“It couldn’t have been that big because it wouldn’t have made it through that fenced in part, remember?” 

“Okay, then maybe it was a baby chocobo.” 

“Aww, a baby chocobo” Selphie quipped, ever the big fan of Laguna’s tales. It was a million bajillion times better than reading them on paper. “But Sir Laguna… are ya sure it wasn’t a pigeon?” 

“Well guys, I’m curious…” Rinoa spoke up, “what was it like when you all first met?” She gestured to the three men, “Love at first sight?” Kiros snorted. 

“What? Is it true, Kiros?” Laguna asked, teasing. 

Kiros rolled his eyes, “Yeah, I saw this shrimpy loser and thought, he’s the man I’m gonna be stuck with until I die, sooner the better.” 

Ward waved his hands in the air, wiggling his fingers frantically. 

“Yeah, he was so noisy, we couldn’t help but find him in a crowd.” Kiros added.

Laguna gave a good pout. “They were so grateful to be assigned with me, I was the coolest leader they could ask for. The Laguna Troop is the Party Troop.” 

That earned snorts from the other men. 

“Well, fine! At least I tried to have some fun in that stupid job.” 

“You did,” Kiros agreed, “but you gotta admit, we were the three big weirdos in the G-army. Bunch of pasty roughnecks from Galbadia kept trying to prove themselves fighting me, and boy I was sick of it. I was trying to fight away the loss of my family, and it was almost addicting having to just wail on these jerks. Then suddenly one day a guy, one of those assholes who really egged me on as much as possible, tripped me in the mess, and Laguna just grabbed a salt shaker and lobbed it at the guy’s head. Actually knocked him out cold with a condiment.” 

“Then I asked if you wanted to eat with me.” Laguna added. “” 

“Then he talked my ear off and I almost regretted it. I was a pretty solitary teenager and it was weird to me back then, but it was the first time in a long while that a man stepped up just for the sake of my pride. A lot of my own culture was lost to me, but a sense of wanting to return a favor was a strong one then.” Kiros crossed his arms, smiling a bit sadly.  

“Those guys were so dumb, Kiros. Army life was full of that crap. I loved just hanging out with you guys, anywhere away from that.” 

“Far as in “Where the Hell are we?” far.” 

“Ward, you hated those jerks too, c’mon. It was a lot better just having adventures and fighting on our own, right?” 

Ward gave a shrug, and a nod of agreement. 

Kiros elaborated, “Ward scared the pants off everyone and he wasn’t the friendliest guy to newcomers.”

“You say it, and I never really believe that” He cupped his chin thoughtfully.

“Laguna, you spent an hour grilling him on the mechanics of using a harpoon as a land weapon. I think you were oblivious.”

“He was the biggest guy in the unit! Why wouldn’t you want to be friends with the biggest guy?” 

Ward nodded, and Kiros continued, “Once the three of us were together, I had an easier time of the army; nobody wanted to mess with us and I actually had some friends for once.” 

“Yeah, I was sick of gettin’ catcalled.” Selphie gave Laguna a look. “Apparently, I look like everyone’s girlfriend from behind.” 

She toyed with his ponytail and asked, “Why didn’t you cut your hair then?” 

“The last thing my dad ever told me was that if I didn’t get a haircut, he’d be ashamed of me forever. They still buzz it all off to fit you in a helmet, but with all the missions we did at the edges of the world map, they can’t keep tabs on your fashion sense.” 

“I threatened to eat the barber’s face if he cut off my braids.” Kiros added flatly. 

“Wow, I never knew you guys had it so rough! I guess when we saw you, it looked like you were always having fun” 

“Oh, we did. We got into so much trouble.” 

Ward made kissy faces directed at Kiros and Laguna. 

“Oh no, you are not telling the girls that one!” Laguna cried. 

“Oh, I already had to tell Stormy, she’s my wife, afterall.” 

“Feh, I never told Raine, she’d never have let me hear the end of it.” 

Selphie felt a little guilty to be privy to something he never shared with his late wife. By this point, though, she had known Laguna years longer than Raine had, but she still left such a strong impression on him. She wondered if that were ever possible for herself. 

“Let’s hear it, Dad.” 

“Can’t an old man have some secrets for the grave?” 

“Oh, they’ll love hearing this one. It’s your fault anyway, man.” 

Laguna had half his face covered with his hand, groaning. 

Kiros cut in before the moment was gone, “He loves joking about it, but he can’t handle the truth. Classic Laguna. So here’s what happened. Me and Ward were the ultimate wing-men, helping this dork get chicks for as awkward as he was, and he covered for me when I was…” he glanced furtively at his wife, “a more deviant and terrible person.” 

“Anyway, Laguna noticed that Ward was sneaking off whenever we were back in Deling City, and he felt compelled to return the favor for him. We kinda had this feeling about Ward, like, there was a reason he didn’t really trust people well. Laguna was just relentless. When he wants to know something, he doesn’t stop, right? Ward broke down finally and asked us then, if we thought about… you know… hooking up with other men.” 

Laguna spoke up, “I thought he was actually accusing me! I’d heard it enough, and here he was trying to tell us he was the one who liked guys.” 

“Yeah, so anyway, after we got that mess out of the way, Laguna begged him. We just wanna know where you’re off to. What if you go missing? What if there are bad guys there? Blah blah, Like, what guy does this? Ward insists he’s okay, and that it’s not cool for guys like us to go to those kinds of places. We might feel uncomfortable. It’s totally different from the places I dragged them around, where going after women was a major hurdle even if it was a room full of them. I tried explaining to Laguna, these guys might try to get touchy. He swore it didn’t bother him and if it was to prove his friendship to Ward, it was different from the hazing that went on in the showers.” 

“God, you get that many men in one place…” 

“Well, some of them needed to be kept away from women, could you imagine?” 

“The army took anyone, and that’s what they got.” 

“Anyway, this guy had the bright idea to pose as a couple, me and him, so Ward didn’t have to worry about us getting hit on and freaking out. When we got there, Laguna got panicked when he saw how… open people were” 

“It was like horny teenagers on the back of the bus, but big ol’ dudes. I think one of them winked at me.” 

“Well, if a pretty girl batting her eyes at him rendered him totally useless,  I figured his brain was short-circuiting. The barkeep who was really friendly with Ward got suspicious, and was asking why he never met us before and he was asking weird questions about our fake relationship. I told him we just started going out and Laguna just learned about himself recently so he was a bit nervous… being so free.” 

Laguna rolled his eyes. 

“He was askin’ what we’d done so far and I think I caught Laguna on the verge of losing consciousness. I said we’d kissed, and then the barkeep insists we show him. Right there! Ward, the bastard, was half terrified and half totally amused to watch his best buds having to fake romantic feelings for each other. I was desperate. So I whispered to him, ‘pretend I’m that piano girl. Close your eyes and think about her face.’” 

Ward stuck his lips out and opened his mouth slightly, while shaking his hands in terror, trying to recreate the scene. 

“I didn’t look like that!” 

“I had to look at you point-blank! And you did!” 

“Oh God, that face! I’ve seen it!” Selphie put her hands over her mouth. Laguna looked at her disapprovingly and she gave him a quick peck to placate his ego. 

“I had no choice but to save face for Ward’s sake, and really sell it to half the bar that a chump like Laguna wanted to have me slobbering all over him.” 

Ward had a sage look and nodded, holding a thumb up. 

“There was no tongue” Laguna insisted. 

“I rubbed my lips against him and Laguna looked so into it, I almost had to hit him.” 

“Hey, it took three days for you to convince me that Julia didn’t just walk in and take over.” 

Kiros clarified, “That was the shock. He was swooning the rest of the night and kept askin’ me to play that song. From then on, the lie switched over from being lovers to being in a band.”

Selphie was desperately trying to stifle her giggles and hand her hands clasped over her mouth, eyes full of tears looking at Laguna. Ward did another impersonation of Laguna’s bad kissing face and Selphie was flailing and trying not to kick everyone under the table. Ward clapped the pouting Laguna on the shoulder. Some friend he was. 

“Selph, can you imagine if Squall and Irvine… or Zell… had to do something like that when we were trying to figure out what to do about Ultimecia?”

“Zell would have fainted. I wish I could see that!” Selphie laughed “I think he would survive these days, though. Everything used to offend him back then!” 

“Squall has told me stories about Garden before the war. But Zell has changed a lot since I met him. A good head on his shoulders.” 

Selphie agreed, “It must be all the time spent with the old dudes in Balamb. He could be on the town committee, I think. It’d help Garden a lot to have a real ally in town.” 

“Always thinking of your Garden Festival, huh?” 

“Well, I am involved in other stuff too. Morale is a big deal. The label sounds super mature, but it’s all about happiness. If Garden can’t get that, what do we have?” Selphie said. 

Laguna gave a little nod, smiling at her. 

“Hey, I’ve been wondering…” Selphie changed the subject before the topic of Irvine could come up again, “how did you meet your wife, Kiros?” 

Rinoa sat up a bit, “Yeah, I’ve been dying to know and we always get sidetracked.” 

The usually over-confident Stormy cast furtive glances around the table. 

“Umm, well, she was actually employed here for a little while,” Laguna said, “and after she finished, Kiros went to tell her thanks for doing such a great job… and ahh…” He couldn’t look Selphie in the eye.

Stormy pushed the story along further, “He came over, and one thing led to another, and he asked if I’d be willing to come back here. This was a big deal, back when the shields were up. Very romantic. Swept me off my feet.” 

“So what were you doing in Esthar in the first place?” Rinoa asked, “Must’ve been really important. Did you work for the O-Lab?” 

Stormy shifted uncomfortably in her seat. “Darling? Darling? Remember when you said I might never see Deling City again?” 

“You weren’t hunting for the successor girls, were you?” Selphie asked tentatively. For all the cool stuff in Esthar, it was still a dark period of history. 

Laguna answered quickly, “That was outlawed completely at the time. There was only one little girl to keep an eye on by then, and she was floating around with The Kramer’s people.” 

The light atmosphere had left the table and Selphie clung onto Laguna’s arm. The older members held their mouths, knowing some stories weren’t as fun as the ones they ordinarily shared. 

Stormy didn’t need to dredge up her more sordid past. She relished in her high status and the forgiveness it afforded her in Esthar. 

Laguna had a nice thing going on next to him. He didn’t imagine the past could bite him in the butt in quite this way. 

Kiros was going to have to take the blame for the whole idea, since Ward had the benefit of silence. 

So he broke the silence first, “Okay, I want to take all responsibility for what happened, alright? Laguna was in a bad place and not really thinking for himself…” 

Laguna choked, “Aww, man, no. Nooo!” 

Kiros held up a hand, “I keep telling you; if you hold back the truth, you’ll regret it. And I think this- ” 

Laguna stood up, stiff and getting frustrated, “Don’t talk about me like I’m a damn child.” 

Kiros was never going to stand down to Laguna, and rising from his chair countered, “Then don’t act like such a baby.” 

Rinoa glanced at Selphie who was twitching nervously, wanting to get in the middle and stop the escalating emotions, but also feeling responsible for it starting in the first place. 

“Is everyone a baby who can’t just magically deal with-” Laguna’s mouth snapped shut and he felt Selphie trying to take his fist into her hands. 

She could feel the dynamic between them, problems getting brushed aside until they burst, and she felt like she was just repeating the same cycle with him as well. “Sit down, please? Please Sir Laguna, whatever it is, it’s okay. It’s okay.” 

Much to her relief, he sat down slowly. Maybe if she cared that much, she could handle it. Maybe. 

“It’s not okay, Selphie. It was never okay,” Laguna spat, glaring over at Kiros. 

Kiros sat back down as well with a nudge from Ward, who was back to playing referee between the two, and Kiros conceded to Laguna, “No, it wasn’t.” 

“Well you got something out of it,” Laguna tried to keep it from sounding like a sneer. It wasn’t fair to Stormy. 

Kiros snorted. “I did everything possible to make you comfortable about it. I could have flaunted it in your face, but I didn’t. But I am not going to be unhappy just for you. You selfish pri-” 

“Kiros! That is enough!” Stormy interrupted. She’d seen a few blow ups before, but she knew her husband could have a real nasty streak when he spoke. She wanted to not scare off the guests. As for Selphie, well…

“I came to Esthar because Kiros thought his friend was going crazy and needed some comfort. That was my job” Stormy said firmly.

Laguna looked away from the table. 

Rinoa made an appropriate gasp. She felt like she just missed another obvious fact. It should have figured the information about Deling City that Stormy was aware of; both a mixture of seedier dealing as well as the high class happenings. Rinoa had no idea of what went on outside of her elite standing of Deling, and the denial of experience drove her deep into Timber, no longer locked up in the golden tower. 

Selphie wasn’t a terribly naive girl, but she had to ask, “Some kind of… therapy? Or like… umm…” 

Rinoa’s eyes widened, but she just couldn’t say the word out loud for her friend to get it. 

“It’s improper to discuss details, darling, but I can say for sure that nothing of consequence happened. It was a dramatic attempt at helping, and it didn’t last long.” Stormy sounded like she was almost pleading the youngest member to understand. 

It was Selphie’s turn to stand up. With a forced smile, she stammered, “Hey, yeah, so… Give me just a second, okay?” and she hurried out of the dining room before she had a chance to hear anything else. 

They were quiet for a moment, Laguna crossed his arms and muttered, “The truth will set you on fire.” 

“That’s not how it goes, Laguna.” 

“It is now.” 

Laguna got up and Rinoa stopped him with a small touch. 

“Maybe I’ll go first, Dad?” 

He gave Rinoa a nod and she followed Selphie’s path, noticing the front door was ajar. Having a moment of fear, Rinoa made a sigh of relief to see Selphie sitting against the wall just in front of the apartment. Her knees were curled up to her chest and she was sniffing. Rinoa sat down next to her and stretched an arm over Selphie’s shoulders.

“Selph, you okay? I can got back and tell them whatever you want.” 

“I’m fine… Rinny,” she sniffed. “I’m just… it’s okay.”

“Okay, well, men are pigs. I think that’s what I’m supposed to say.” Rinoa smiled sweetly, but her eyebrows knit with worry. 

Selphie tried to give her friend a consoling giggle. It came out sounding like a small animal dying. 

“Hey Selph, Laguna’s giving me looks from over by the door like he wants to talk. Are you okay with that?”

Selphie nodded. Rinoa got up and stepped back into the apartment as Laguna came and took her place, sitting against the wall with his legs splayed out on the decorated marble floor. 

She sniffed and he bit his lip. 

She didn’t want him to fret so she warbled out, “Sir Laguna… I’m not mad at you.”

He took a deep breath and sighed. 

She continued, “Don’t be mad at Kiros either. I guess you guys are like brothers having a fight sometimes, but… ” she fell against him and he reacted by automatically putting his arm over her. 

“I think I’m the one being a big baby,” she said, “I’m so immature.” 

“What? No, I don’t know why he wanted to tell you that-” 

“It’s not that… I mean, yeah, no one wants to hear the details of the past loves of their… you know.” She motioned between herself and Laguna. 

She sighed. “It’s just that it made me realize how much life you’ve lived before. I guess it doesn’t hit me when I’m alone with you, but when you’ve got all these experiences… it’s dumb, isn’t it? I’ve even seen it in my own head.” 

“Huh.” He didn’t know how to console her. It was so different from his perspective. A much younger companion was basically the ultimate prize, as crass as it sounded. And as a widower, he was practically praised for ‘getting out there’ again. She could lead her own life and he could do his work and that was it. 

“I guess I get confused. Like the times I saw of the past were like watching a movie about your life. And when I’m with you here, in the present, it’s another version, still totally amazing, but different from how I viewed it before. But there are these gaps in between, and I think, oh yeah, I was in an orphanage back then, or I was running around playing dragon hunter in Trabia then…” 

Laguna tried not to think very hard about it. He brought his hands to his lap. 

“Do ya… regret this?” He made a grimace. He didn’t want to know. 

“No, Sir Laguna, I don’t have time for regrets. I think sometimes I just get in a little too deep… But do you? Regret, I mean?” 

“It’s different for me, Selphie.” 

She looked down.

“I mean, look, I regret everything I did that let my wife down… What was I even doing while she was alone? And she was alone with a baby. That’s what I regret the most… But… that’s not fair to you.” he pounded idly on his legs. 

“Kiros does mean well, and I know he wants to fix the mess that is my life, but even he knows some stuff never gets fixed up. So… please don’t be sad for all that past talk, okay? I’m glad you’re here now. You’re the ‘right now’ girl. I couldn’t ask for better.” 

She rubbed an eye and stood up. It was probably time to go to bed by this point, and she still felt a bit foolish for being so emotional. Maybe it was the wine. Or seeing Laguna upset. She held out a hand to help him up, and he took it for balance.

She hugged him around his waist and laid a cheek on his chest. 

“I hope I can be your ‘right now’ girl for a bit longer, since you’re the old man of my dreams,” she giggled into his chest. 

“Old! What the heck!? Ahh, geez, I can’t say no… cute thing like you.” 

They made up with their hosts, Selphie insisting to Stormy that she wasn’t mad at her or Kiros, since it was ancient history anyway, and just blaming the jet lag and wine. Laguna had to shake Kiros’ hand to make sure no hard feelings would remain overnight. They left Rinoa for another night and agreed to get back in the Ragnarok to fly back to Balamb after breakfast. After quick hugs, Selphie and Laguna went back to his quarters, and set about to brushing teeth and getting ready for bed. 

Once comfortably arranged under the sheets, Selphie huddled into Laguna, willing herself to sleep in the dark master suite. It had been a more emotional day than she expected and she wanted to be near him, but his tiny movements and breath were making her feel that twinge of desire. 

“Sir Laguna?” 

“Huh?” he replied sleepily. She felt bad, but it was too late now if she had woke him up. 

“Are you tired?” 

“Yeah. Why, what’s up?” 

“Too tired… to…?” asked as she rubbed up against him. He heard him give a quiet chuckle. She wiggled her legs around, trying to locate his dick without accidentally giving it a swift kick. She felt a hand sneak around her waist and his voice vibrating around her neck. 

“Selphie… Are you trying to show me your best anacondaur impersonation? ‘Cause I’ll show ya mine.” 

“Ahh, ” she sighed, glad she still could get him to come around to her way of thinking. She felt him through his sleep pants, and she ran the back of her fingers over his bare chest that had rolled over hers. Breathing became labored and she felt him pressing his hips desperately into hers, her light sleep clothes becoming twisted up and tugging against her skin in a slightly painful contrast to the pleasurable throb she felt coming from between her legs. 

“Dang it, Selphie… I feel like some old pervert now.” he panted, groping at her thighs, her butt, and sliding between her legs causing her to gasp.

She smiled to herself, considering she felt more like some pervy teenager rubbing herself all over her dear friend’s dad. She moved her hips to let him know he was doing well, pressing her lips into his jaw and getting even more worked up as she felt his bangs whisper along the side of her face. In the dark, it wasn’t hard for her to imagine him as he was long ago; energetic and always ready to go off on some adventure, but that same keen voice, rasped by age and arousal shook her back to reality. 

“What do you want to do?” he asked in a whisper. 

She didn’t answer him and just went down to his stomach, giving a small kiss and he moaned. She pulled down the sheet and slipped a hand in his pants. 

“Ahh, good…” he mumbled. 

She tugged his waistband down and released his dick, leaning forward again, tucking her hair behind her ear and giving the tip a small taste. It may not always be this easy, so it was worth taking advantage of at any opportunity. He sounded so enraptured and it gave her a little jolt of satisfaction to know this side of him that he shared with so few, those wanton gasps just for her.  

“Do me too, okay?” she asked on a whim.

She started pulling down the small shorts she wore to bed and let them hang on her ankle. She positioned herself over him, crawling on all fours until she could put her mouth back to his cock. Before she even had a chance to open her mouth, she was reintroduced to the bliss of Laguna’s lips making contact with her inner thigh, working its way into the gentle layer of hair surrounding her flesh. She could feel his stomach muscles tense to hold his position as she touched him. 

He held her legs in a position better for accessing her entire slit and she nearly fell over. 

“Th-this is kinda harder than I thought,” she admitted, scrambling for a new balance point. 

“I’m okay if you want me to finish you first…” he replied. 

“Or… Ah, just roll on your side.” 

He followed her command, resting his head on her inner leg as he devoured her. She curled up and used her hand to guide his dick back into her mouth, trying to focus on getting him to come, but being frustratingly distracted by his tongue slipping over her clit, the way it kept popping over the edge and causing her to convulse with each flick. His tongue began making circles, moving faster and slower, then moving all around. Her own tongue lolled around her mouth, hardly functioning. Once upon a time she swore she was good at giving a blow. 

She let herself get lazy as he kept bringing her to the edge and teasing with his mouth, and she let his dick rest on her cheek. She hated to admit to herself the temptation of just having regular old sex was strong; letting him erupt inside her, having that different feeling of being joined and filled up. She wanted to see his face and just not worry about anything else. It was careless, she knew, but she was always so damn careful before.

Her mind was pulled back as her muscles flexed and she felt control slip as he did something down there that felt like magic. She gave him a soft moan, and her core quivered as she came. After a small rest to regain her bearings, she set about to re-positioning herself so she had better access to his cock and resumed her work. She felt his fingers touching the spot his mouth had been, getting wet and slippery around her opening. She sucked at him and he slipped his fingers inside, causing her to moan into his dick. It felt good knowing he was still there and not only a passive participant, his fingers exploring and trying to make sense of what secrets her body kept from him. 

She heard him say her name, but it was so soft she almost didn’t catch it. She wondered if his mind wandered to his late-wife when they did this. How much more focus did he need to remember who he was actually with?  

She tried not to think about Irvine when she was like this, but the comparisons happened by reflex. They weren’t always fair, but they were far fresher in her mind than Laguna should be experiencing. 

It doesn’t matter, she told herself. Hearts and minds can’t be told what to do, and bodies only sometimes. She would be foolish to assume she didn’t bear any responsibility for the blast of semen in her mouth. She made to swallow it rather than make a big production of stumbling in the dark to a vaguely familiar bathroom. Still being penetrated by the fingers of her lover gave her a deliciously deviant feeling that she wasn’t in a rush to remove herself from. 

“You feel so hot…” he murmured lazily. 

She felt the slow pull as he took back his hand. Satisfied, she crawled back around to face him. She drew languid figure eights into his stomach with her finger, nuzzling into his neck. 

“You make me hot, y’know” she eventually replied. “And I might not get to see you until the Garden Festival. I’m gonna miss you.”

She couldn’t make out his expression in the dark. Maybe he looked forward to having some peace again, and a bed all to himself to contemplate his departed love. 

She heard him breathe softly. He was asleep.

She made a small snort and carefully climbed off the bed to clean herself up in the bathroom after all. When she returned, she gently pulled his pants up back over his dick and brought the comforters back over them as well. As he snored, she tried not to think of the future.

 

-

 

She woke up to Laguna’s arm splayed over her abdomen. She rubbed his forearm with her free hand, and heard him sigh. He mumbled something like he hadn’t really put much thought in his words and curled up against her small form. 

“Raine… God, Raine, I’ve missed you…” 

Fuck

She looked over at his face, nearly covered in stray hairs that escaped his ponytail during the night. Closed lids, she could still see movement in the dim night light, a series of twitches, deepening the creases around his eyes. She watched his mouth, slow smacking of lips that could have been anything, but she had a feeling she knew what his mind wanted. His body tensed suddenly, and he clutched his fists over her. 

“No… Mmm no. No-no-no… Rai… ne…”

Not really certain what to do, she started rubbing his arms firmly and talking to him.

“It’s a dream, Laguna. Wake up. Just a dream. I love you, it’s okay. Just wake up.” she pleaded.

She knew a lot of her kids experienced jarring nightmares, and she had plenty of her own in her youth, and they recurred again the year after she experienced time compression. But it was a lot scarier watching someone else suffer the unknown monsters than to be the one actually  experiencing it. 

The sounds of his words still echoed in her head as she watched his eyes flash open and start making sense of the surroundings. 

Giving off a shaky breath, Laguna ran his hand over his face and reached for a panel over his head on the headboard. Blazing light of white and blue burned their retinas and the two winced, and he scrambled to hit the button again until the light dimmed to a lowest setting. 

He asked first, “Are you okay?”

“Sir Laguna, you were having a nightmare.”

“I know.” 

She touched him carefully, hoping he felt her in the current reality and not the one he wished for in his mind. 

“Was it scary?” 

He was quiet for a moment. He settled back into bed, huddling into himself and the familiar bedding. 

“Don’t worry about it.” 

“Sometimes it helps to talk about it, kind of remember how ridiculous it is and remind you that dreams aren’t real…” she tried to sound helpful. 

“...Dreams aren’t real…” he repeated dully. But if not in his nightmares, where would Raine go? He nearly forgot her face in his waking time, the only memento was a tiny blurred photograph. Clinging on to the deepest cavern of his subconscious was good enough. 

Selphie restrained herself to not press him further. Holding in the impulse to harass him with questions and extract information was not easy. She told herself that Laguna is an old guy and needs his sleep. Cid was always taking naps whenever he came around; his feet propped up on his old desk, Squall casting glances over at him in silent protest. She made a grimace to think of Cid as so fatherly when Laguna had him beat in years. 

Great, she thought to herself, distracting away from worrying about Laguna by feeling super creepy about him. His age was a fact, she couldn’t change it even if she wished. And if she could change time as she knew it, she would have bigger problems than a well-aged boyfriend. As it was, there was a mountain of things more important to wish for. World peace, for instance. 

Once she heard the characteristic breathing of slumber, she moved herself back into Laguna’s personal space, she wondered if she was either extremely fortunate; being so intimate with a man who was basically the ultimate fairy tale protagonist, a person who had captured her fascination so wholly, or if she was somehow doomed to always wonder where she could fit in his heart.

 

-

 

The morning arrived with knocking coming from the outside of the bedroom. Kiros was doing his regular Laguna-wrangling, but hit a snag at the twist of having Selphie’s decency at stake. After a few more taps, it was Selphie who finally opened the door, motioning for quiet as she slunk out of the bedroom. 

“He’s still sleeping.” 

“Yeah, I figured. Rinoa’s up and about so if you want to meet up with her-”

“Kiros, how often does he have nightmares?” 

He seemed startled by her question, “He… he had one?” 

“I’ve seen it before… but… he spoke about Raine.” 

Kiros took a breath. “I figure.” Whispering to her he added, “He almost stopped having them for a while when Adel was frozen up in that space station. But when he saw Ellone again, I think all the memories came back in full force.” 

“Since… then?” 

“Sometimes once a month. Sometimes more.” 

“Is there a trigger? Stress?” 

Kiros shrugged. “Good times, bad times. I’ll admit, I’m really sad to hear he’s going through those still when he’s in your company. I was so sure that…” He sighed and put a hand on her shoulder. “Well, Rinoa’s up and ready to go.” 

Selphie gave a hopeful little smile and tilted her head, “Hey, how ‘bout I meet at the Ragnarok? Would it be okay if I take breakfast with me?” 

Kiros gave a small nod and pat her on the head before heading out of the suite. 

Creeping back into the bedroom, she sat on Laguna’s side of the bed, looking at the tangled sheets and splayed limbs. She set a hand on one of his exposed calves and she saw a bit of movement from his eyes. They opened in a flash, but resettled when they focused on her, a small smile forming from his lips. 

“Did I steal all the sheets?” he asked. 

“Only after I let you,” she smiled and pinched at his leg. 

“Is it time to go already?”   

She looked down at herself, fully dressed, pack by the door, “Pretty much, Sir Laguna.”   

He let his head drop back into the pillows and held his arms out, beckoning. 

“Oh no, Sir Laguna, you are getting up and giving me a proper farewell.” 

He brought his arms to his chest and covered his heart, “But bed is so special. So warm. And my back hurts.” He closed his eyes. “I’m not made for all these wacky positions you kids come up with.” 

She stuck out her tongue and and started pinching his sides which resulted in a billowing mess of sheets and limbs. Laguna was howling and Selphie was cackling almost evilly. 

“Y-you’re enjoying this!” he gasped when he managed to grab her hands, preventing her from accosting him further. She was breathing heavy and grinning at him. 

“C’mon… I want you to wave to me while I take off,” she panted and batted her eyes at him. 

He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, “Fine. But I want five more minutes.” 

She grabbed the sheet that had been forced down to the end of the bed and gave it a sharp tug until it loosened from the tucked corners. Tossing it over Laguna, she pinched it right under his neck like a cloak. 

“Look, you’re still in bed, technically. Let’s move it.”

 

-

 

Rinoa looked to the door when Selphie arrived with Laguna in tow, a white cloak billowing behind him. Eyebrow raised, she waved at her friend and father-in-law. 

“I know you’re anxious to get home to Squally-poo,” Selphie greeted, “and doin’ it a whole bunch” she added in a bad whisper. Laguna came up beside them and Rinoa leaned in to give him a hug.

“Dad, you’re not cold? Where’s your shirt?” 

He shrugged. Kiros gave a snort. Selphie made her way into his makeshift cloak and hugged him around the waist, exclaiming, “I’ll keep ya warm, Sir Laguna!” 

Rinoa rolled her eyes, and pulled her friend back out by the hem of her sweater. 

Once back on the aircraft, Selphie settled into the pilot seat and Rinoa next to her with a stack of newspapers and magazines, the Ragnarok started it’s take-off procedure.

“He’s so cute” she gushed as she went over the pilot check, giving her seat belt a tap. 

“They don’t print as much stuff in Esthar anymore, but I saved some good ones of the two of you,” Rinoa commented on the papers in her lap, holding up the biggest fold out in a gossip rag featuring Selphie and Laguna at The Point. 

Glancing over, then doing a double-take, Selphie’s face grew red and she immediately went back to her pilot duties. She focused on the take off as Rinoa busied herself again with the papers. Once a cruising altitude allowed Selphie a bit of leeway for distraction, she groaned.

“That stuff is so embarrassing! I mean, a little fame never killed anyone, but I really didn’t think this is what I’d be dealing with.” 

Rinoa gave Selphie a look, “What? Are you… really really… not smart?” Selphie snorted, and Rinoa added, “I mean, he’s the President of Esthar, Selphie! He’s not just their political leader, but a national hero. Kiros’ kids showed me their school books and it’s freaky! Squall would just about die if I showed him…” 

Fumbling through the stack, Rinoa found another photo that caught a more lascivious look shared between them and held it up for Selphie. 

“He’d kill me if I showed him this too. You look like you’re going to eat each other instead of the hors d’oeuvres.” 

“Hey! I did not make a look like that! They caught me in a half-blink!”

“So he is your boyfriend now?” Rinoa pressed. 

“We are just enjoying each others company. It’s like… Garden Festival publicity” she stated. 

“Oh puh-leez, that was publicity of how much you looove him.” 

Selphie bit her lip and took the page from Rinoa, “You looove him, too.” 

Rinoa scoffed, “Uh, I love him because he is family. I don’t want to ever do what you guys do, okay? And this isn’t about me, nice try. Garden Festival does not need romantic gazes for publicity.” 

“Well, it was Kiros’ idea. Since there was already some rumors going around…” 

“Rumors?” 

“Yanno, like some weird girl messing around with the president…” 

“Yeah, and that’s very true, Selphie, so you just substantiated it. You came out and waved the flag. You can always just ignore rumors anyway.” 

Selphie pouted, “But it makes the Festival seem… like something weird and secret.” 

“Yeah, like you hooking up with my father-in-law, which, by the way is still weird… But secret or no, you aren’t getting ready to announce an engagement or anything, are you? Gosh, I don’t want to be the last person to figure it out again.” 

“No, I’m serious, Rinny, nothing has changed.” 

“And you say Kiros put you up to it?” 

“Yeah?” 

Rinoa tapped her chin, “I think it was a ruse.” 

“What!?”

“It really had nothing to do with the Garden Festival.”

“Whaaat?” 

“His wife is practically obsessed with Laguna finding love. She admitted to me as much, and now I can kind of see why…” Selphie made a little face and Rinoa continued, “She would totally push for that kind of public display; he can’t go back on it that easy.” 

“Oh, well, Kiros is definitely a matchmaker for Laguna,” Selphie responded automatically, considering her knowledge of their past history. “Ah, this is so awkward, I hate thinking about the past.” 

Rinoa nodded. “So you got the kids committed to make another symphony, how’s that going?” 

The rest of the ride Selphie spent filling Rinoa in on every detail of the Festival plans.   

Many hours later, they landed back at Garden, Quistis was awaiting their return. Selphie, more invigorated from piloting the Ragnarok, bounded up to her blonde friend, and stalled when she noticed the look on her face. 

Quistis had her arms folded as usual, but her face was screwed up in irritation.

“Selphie…” she began ominously.

“Heh heh,” Selphie wiggled her fingers and her smile was nervous, “What’s up, Quisty?” 

“Oh, only about three hundred times more work than usual…because… of… you!” she uncharacteristically grabbed Selphie by the shoulders and started shaking her furiously.

“Four! Thousand! Messages!” Quistis yelled. “About your love-life!” 

Selphie cringed and yelped to Rinoa for assistance, but Rinoa just watched as Selphie’s hair bounced around cheerily, despite the minor violence. 

Finally slowing down, Quistis’ arms returned to her sides with a huff. Selphie gave her best pleading look and begged, “Quisty, don’t be mad! I swear I didn’t do anything on purpose!” 

“Because no one ever tries to get involved with the most significant world leader on purpose,” Rinoa added with a finger wave. Selphie gave her a pout. 

“It just happened…” she defended. 

“As if I would be surprised by it, but really,” Quistis admonished. “Squall is too young for ulcers, he has been on a rampage all weekend.”

Rinoa perked up, “Squall! Oh, my poor baby… I have all these four-page spreads to not show him!” 

Quistis grabbed Selphie’s arm again, looking her in the eye, “If you accept the interview request from Girl Next Door, Squall is going to definitely fire you.”

Selphie’s eyes filled with fear, “What would they even ask me?" 

“I could only imagine,” Quistis replied. “I think our next ladies’ night is going to have to be a less public venue from here on out.”

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Consulting with Commander Leonhart was never fun for Selphie, though while she loved him dearly, the mess of feelings between friendship, workplace respect, and intimate involvement with his father all made for awkwardness when she had to have the serious sit-down with him again. 

He gave her an ultimatum; if it gets any more serious, she’s going to have to leave Garden. 

Not wanting to get the Garden dragged into either his personal life or hers was one thing, but the political involvement of Esthar in Balamb Garden was a major no-no. Esthar already was a big asset to Garden, but purely as a customer. Anyone else can hire them for the same purpose. But if Esthar was publicly tied in with Garden, Balamb district would go bananas. It would be an unauthorized threat on their territory. Hence why Squall avoided most of the contact with his father. He lived to prove that blood was nothing to him; he acted independent of his living parent to prove independent as his political ties. 

Romance was messy.

And Selphie was blowing it up. Classic Tilmitt, that little shit-starter. 

Squall paced in his office, stomping about in a private huff. She backed him up in so many ways, a devoted team member when they charged into every battle together- a fearless and willing follower to his command. And more importantly, after the dust settled, she supported his vision for the future of Garden. She almost never questioned his authority, save for the occasional over-exuberance she displayed, and fought to maintain Garden for the students that needed it most, just like he did once, as an unlovable kid out-grown of the orphanage in Centra.

She helped find new faculty to handle the shifting student needs, she fought with Balamb town council threatening their location, she begged off the debt collectors during the low points when they learned the hard way that managing an entire school did not come from good intentions alone, or at least until the president of Esthar started bailing them out with generous guard duty contracts. 

So, he didn’t feel good telling her she had to shape up. He wanted to be impartial as a boss; as a person. I don’t care about Laguna Loire, and I don’t care about his stupid articles, and I don’t care that Sis told me that this guy is my father. And who would I to be suddenly caring that Selphie wants to go on silly little dates with him? 

He sighed, because he couldn’t even accuse her of doing it deliberately to infuriate him. Unless Sis told Selphie way back on their first official SeeD mission. Imagine! 

A pang of loss struck him, and he ran his fingers through his hair anxiously. Sis… Ellone…

 

-

 

Things had been moving along at a lightning pace, this new and improved Garden Festival had grown into a monster. Selphie was glad for it, but found herself exhausted and constantly conflicted. Whenever she usually needed the steady advice, she went to Squall, but since he gave her his ultimatum, she felt unable to ask him for favors anymore, or even simple help. And Irvine was still coming around more than usual, leaving her to hide in crazy places and avoid all contact. She had one instance of being stuck in a maintenance closet while he had a fifteen minute conversation with Zell about girls

She was on edge. 

It was a month away from the Festival and Quistis was given jurisdiction over all communications that usually went directly to Selphie. Quistis looked irritated, but conceded that it was for Selphie’s own good. Quistis and Squall both agreed that there were some unscrupulous folks who could easily rile up their tiny friend into saying the wrong thing. 

And so, Selphie was relegated to simply babysitting her after-class activities, and the students all already had their parts down. She was super duper proud, but also bored. So she didn’t even ask Squall for permission to use the headmaster’s office after hours; she was tired of being sheltered simply because no one believed in the power of love! 

The screen of the monitor was the only thing in the office, and the familiar starry night of Balamb-by-the-sea twinkled into the picture window reflecting off the screen as it booted up. Selphie rested her head on her arms, looking up at the picture, the whir of super-private networks shaking hands and alerting her presence across the ocean. 

“-n you see me now?” 

She tilted her head to her chin and adjusted the camera, waving a little bit. “Yeah, I can see you. Is it too dark in here? I can turn on a desk lamp, I think…” She flicked on the small light and smiled into the camera for Laguna. 

“Well, hi, stranger!” he said as if she had just come into view. 

“Hi, yourself,” she replied. 

He squinted off camera, clearly looking off-focus to view the screen. “How’s it goin’? I guess the festival’s going well? I get lotsa boring documents about it from the Q-Girl.” 

“Quisty? Quistis?” 

“Oh, yeah, her. Nice girl, been ages. The wedding, maybe?”

“Yeah,” she mumbled. There was a pause. 

“Selphie… you’re quiet.” 

“I’m… kinda… ” she looked down and sighed, “Under Garden-arrest, I think. Squall’s a bit… not happy with me?” 

Laguna pressed his lips together in a rare expression of seriousness. She could see the headboard of his bed behind his head, but he was sitting up and holding his camera device properly this time. He rubbed his chin, his line of sight above the screen. 

“Sir Laguna… are you happy with me?” 

“M-me? I… uh… ” 

She twisted a piece of hair in her fingers, “Sorry. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. I guess I just got surprised about the whole thing… going to that restaurant and all those articles. Maybe you’re pretty used to it, but I didn’t really consider how my friends would have to deal with… it.”

“I’m sorry, Selphie, if I had any idea that-” 

“Oh, please don’t apologize, Sir Laguna, it wasn’t you. Heck, I’d go to the ends of the map for you… it just caught me by surprise…” 

“Hah, yeah, well, I know that feeling. That’s Esthar in a nutshell for ya.” 

“But… you don’t regret it right?” 

“Like I said, that’s Esthar. I’m used to it. And… I… don’t regret you… pretty dress… nice pictures…” he gave a small smirk. He’d been dealing with the Esthar brand of drama nearly as long as she’d been alive. That shouldn’t worry her. 

“Geez!” she sighed, “I’m just bored! And I miss you!” 

He looked away and smiled a bit. “I’ll admit, it feels like wartime romance… a lot of waiting, then-- boom!” 

She giggled, “Yeah. Like boom.”

“Hey, you’re from Trabia, right?” 

“Oh Traaa-bi-yaaah… Oh Traaa-biii-yaaah” she sang. 

“Listen, if you wanna make Squall really flip out, you can come with me next week. They’re hosting another resource summit and it’s at the old Garden site… Tri-Fecta Mineral Company is the big sponsor and they’re laying it all out-” 

“Squall flipping out… how about giving him an actual coronary?” 

“He is too young for that! That’s my thing!” 

She couldn’t help but shriek at him “Don’t you dare even say that Sir Laguna Loire, I am so serious!” 

He held a hand up to the screen, “Okay, okay. No heart attacks for anyone. No Creepers. Nada. Zip. Zilch. But I mean it about the summit. If you come, you’re just my date. And there’s free cake and goody bags. And you get to have people sucking up to you this time. And…” he whispered it to her conspiratorially, “fooling around in a resort hotel. With some old guy. But he’s a pretty hip old guy, I hear-” 

She tingled a bit. “Will the old guy give me a foot rub if I’m stuck in a ballroom in my dress shoes for ten hours?” 

“Madame Tilmitt, I can guarantee the most above-mediocre foot rub known to man.” he wiggled his fingers for her to see. 

“Oh, speaking of… If I can go there… Maybe… ah, no. It’s too weird, I think.” 

“What?” he asked. 

“Well, you wanna meet my parents?” 

“Your… parents?” 

“Yeah, the Tilmitts. They adopted me. I don’t really see them all that often, but, I mean… they did their best!” 

Laguna just gaped into the camera, “P-parents…” 

“Oh, don’t be like that. Nothing’s that formal in Trabia, they’ll make a roast… invite the neighbors. Teeny tiny party. They probably don’t even know Esthar isn’t under a sorceress anymore.” 

“P-parents…” 

“Just maybe tell them you’re thirty… but had a really stressful life. Smoking!”

“The Tilmitts…”

“And maybe lets not say we’re together or they’re going to ask about babies and that will get awkward too. I can tell them you’re my intern! I can tell them I’m training you to fly the Ragnarok!” 

“Buh buh buh…” 

“Oh Sir Laguna, I just don’t have any idea how to do it without losing my job!” She threw her head back and gave a long deep sigh.

Laguna paused his blubbering to consider Selphie’s dilemma. They were both in the doghouse when it came to Squall. If Selphie was in trouble, surely Laguna was in it about four times as much. Probably more. Back in his army days, he was threatened countless times to have his rank stripped, but he never cared about the Galbadian military’s threats. In Esthar, he only ever got threatened by Kiros. And back in that short time in Winhill… the townspeople never ceased snubbing him and Raine never dished anything out he couldn’t handle. 

“Alright, well…” Laguna considered, “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to give an acceptance speech. Or something like that. Could Squall really live without you at Garden? Could he do that Garden Festival without that magic Selphie touch?”

 

-

 

Two weeks later, a craft pulled up to the fields in the vicinity of Balamb Garden with Selphie running towards it with her standard-issue bag swinging around furiously. 

The door hissed open and Laguna was waiting with arms open. She pummeled right into him with more force than she got credit for with her short stature, and he stumbled back until he fell right over with Selphie over him, covering his face with hyperactive smooches. 

“Squall!” Kiss kiss.

“Is so!” Kiss kiss kiss. 

Mad!” Kiss kiss kiss kiss kiiiiiiiiss. 

He winced and sat back up, making a futile attempt to match her affection with a quick nuzzle into her ear and a pinch on the cheek. “He’ll forgive you.” 

“I have to be on my best behavior, Sir Laguna, you have to make sure!” 

He nodded firmly and held up his thumbs “Ab-so-lute-ly! We are going to be model citizens!” 

Selphie blanched just a little, “Y-yeah!” 

“The last lady anyone remembers from Esthar was Adel, so really, your bar is totally low.” 

“Sir Laguna, I am in so much trouble right now, don’t make it worse.” 

“Yeesh, sorry!”

Chapter Text

 

 

Selphie felt incredibly strange returning to Trabia after so many years. She was once totally convinced that Trabia Garden was a permanent institution, just as much the mountains behind it. A quick flyby could have momentarily convinced her of a return to its former glory, but it was simply the growing ore industry that took over its original space. It made her angry and sad and more determined than ever for Squall’s sake. Even if Squall kicked her out of Balamb Garden, she’d ignore his command and just jump over the gate. Or at least that was the plan before she jumped into Laguna’s ship all those hours ago.

Laguna came up behind her, groggy from a mid-flight nap, giving her a little arm squeeze. He had some idea of her feelings about being here; he was no stranger to managing the devastation caused by the sorceress war, and more so the difficulty of recovering from it. He wouldn’t wish the Lunar Cry on anyone, but he had an entire city-state of people helping in it’s recovery. Trabia was so sparse and just couldn’t operate in the same way in the face of the missile attack on it’s backwater Garden. 

So they wanted to compete in the resources trade with Galbadia, and Trabia had diverted the labor pool from mercenary training to anything related to land speculation, forestry products, and extracting the more important ores that went into the latest Esthartec and Odine Lab goodies. 

At least that’s what Kiros repeatedly reminded him was the whole point of coming to this place. 

Just tucked behind a grove of trees facing the former Garden, an opulent rural mansion came into view. It was surrounded by a cluster of other transportation vehicles, obviously hosting some important visitors… such as the esteemed president of Esthar and his high-profile heroine companion. 

When they descended from the craft, they were met by one of the Tri-Fecta Mining and Resource Company’s staff who immediately recognized Selphie. 

“Selphie? Holy shit, Selphie Tilmitt?” 

She squinted at the man, and bounded down the steps yelling, “Port? Port is that you?” 

Laguna followed behind as Selphie turned back to him, “Port was in the Tech Squad a year above me.” She took the classmate’s hands in hers beaming. “He taught me everything I know about data manipulation”

Laguna wasn’t expecting a reunion so fast, nor so informal. Not that it was a bad thing, just… seeing Selphie take some strange man’s hands in hers made him feel… something. 

She leaned in and hugged him tight. Laguna was dancing on his toes, gripping his hands. When she broke from the embrace, he darted in with a firm hand and a grin. 

“Hey, hey, man, I’m Laguna Loire. Any friend of Selphie’s is a friend of mine!” 

He got a strange look from the native Trabian and when the realization hit, the man known as Port stumbled over himself. 

“P-president Loire! Sir! I’m so sorry! Let me get you settled in! Welcome to Tri-Fecta Headquarters!” Instead of taking his hand, he was nodding and bowing stiffly, remembering his position and his job. 

Laguna pulled his hand back and scratched his neck awkwardly. Selphie watched as her former classmate became a mess of nerves trying to accommodate their revered guest. She was excited at the possibility of seeing old friends, but wondered how they’d react about her being attached at the hip to the president of Esthar. 

“Port- Port! You don’t have to-”

Laguna looked over at Selphie and gave a shrug. His presidency didn’t do much to change the nature of his most important relationships; Kiros and Ward were along with him every step of the way. As for everyone else… Sycophantic became the norm. Selphie’s mouth screwed up tightly as an entourage of staff began to cluster around the aircraft and formalities were initiated. 

Selphie felt a nudge and looked at Laguna holding out his hand. 

She glanced back at her old friend. It became apparent that no longer was it just her affiliation with SeeD, but her affiliation with Esthar that would mess with her life. 

She sighed, then took in a big breath and clasped Laguna’s hand firmly. She felt a twinge; from spending so much time with him she noticed the tiny stiffness in his bright smile lift. He was greeting the company representatives with his usual cheer and bluster, but the manic veneer smoothed away when she gave his hand a small squeeze. 

Wowwie

“And this here’s my plus one, Miss Tilmitt. I guess I heard she’s kinda famous in these parts. B-but that’s not why I brought her. But, I guess it kinda is, ‘cause maybe that’s why she’d like to come. But I hope she’d like to come with me anyway and-” 

She could feel herself getting red as the gears were turning in the minds of their small audience as the nature of the pair was settling in. Thankfully the head attendant interrupted Laguna’s rambling as politely as possible, beckoning towards the mansion offering a much more comfortable environment for socializing. As they made their way, she caught a small whistle that sounded just like Port.

 

-

 

Mezmerize horn decor, carved pine frames, stone fireplace, pelts everywhere. Far from being the most opulent digs Laguna (as acting President, of course) had ever spent time in, the Tri-Fecta mansion Presidential Suite was huge and full of the type of rural splendor meant to charm the pants off him. 

Or that was just Selphie, anxiously unbuttoning his trousers with fumbling fingers that made him feel like the mature and confident one. It had been a long afternoon, and she had been recognized by half the passers-by who had kept their respectful distance because of Laguna, but there was a clear passing of looks and mumbles directed at her. He made a few good attempts to break the ice, but they just weren’t as keen on getting chummy with that clearly Galbadian president of Esthar. Two piece of shit countries they could care less about. 

And those glances, like they were deliberating on whether or not she was still one of them. 

Good gravy, people.

So there she was, hands sticking their way up his shirt, all grabby-grabby, and directing her annoyance at him. 

Well, if this is how she wants to do it…

The dinner was sooo awkward, too. All those weird pauses. Laguna was more than happy to talk, but sometimes he felt like they were really meant for Selphie. Or about her. While she was sitting right there. 

So, what brings Miss Tilmitt back to Trabia? 

Uhhh, a model 34x EstharTec? How else would we get here so quick? 

“Ouch!” Laguna jumped. 

Selphie looked up at Laguna, frowning.

“Um, I mean… Mmm! That’s really good! Just maybe… a little less teeth.” 

“They hate me.” She looked up at him, her determined face turning into a definite pout. She leaned her cheek into his half-aroused cock, and he felt a wave of relief turn into excitement. 

At least my little guy is safe… for now. 

“Sir Laguna, they think I’m a tramp! The look they gave me when we declined that second room!” 

He blinked at her. This was going into a weird kind of territory he knew he was going to say the wrong thing now and Selphie’s rage blow was going to blow over… 

“Selphie, you are not a tramp” he couldn’t help but say as his dick twitched next to her pursed lips. He tightened his lips into a smile and sweat began to form on his brow. 

“Well, I can’t help it if the son of the Tri-Fecta CEO used to have a crush on me once, like ten years ago!” 

“That jerk!” he echoed her sentiment, but his face gave a little spasm as the air from her huff hit his balls. She pouted at him and her eyes got misty. 

“Oh, Sir Laguna, I really wish I didn’t come out here… ” she turned her face away from him, clutching her fist at her mouth, clearly distressed. 

“You know what?” he scrambled desperately to rectify the situation. “How about that foot rub I promised ya way back? I know we haven’t gotten to that standing-around part yet, but maybe it’d make you feel better?”

“Oh gosh, you’re the best. Really?” 

She kissed the very tip of his dick, bat her eyes a few times, and he sucked in his lips to distract himself from any shred of disappointment. He’d be happy if she’d rough him up a little, but not over some Trabian losers. He hiked up his trousers and sauntered over to the bed, his aroused dick pushing his pants uncomfortably, affecting his gait. She plopped down and he gave her a distracted kiss as he sat down beside her. Moving back, she put her feet up next to him and he pinched her big toe. 

“This little tonberry went to market…” 

Selphie giggled at him.

“This little tonberry went home…” 

“Sir Laguna, I don’t think this is a very good food rub…” 

“This little tonberry had a rusty knife,” 

She squealed at him. “Scary!” 

“This little tonberry had none.” 

“Noooo!” 

“And this little tonberry cried REEE REEE REEE” and Laguna mocked stabbing Selphie as he climbed over her, her shrieking laughs ringing in his ears until he had a hand in between her legs and his hot breath in her ear. 

“Okay, I’ll confess. I am hopeless at giving foot rubs.” 

Selphie made to give him a little scowl, but he was gently moving his fingers over her panties. “You didn’t even try.” 

“Yeah, well, you might kick me out of the room for how bad I am. And I like the bed. I like being with you too. But especially in bed. When you’re old like me, you’ll understand.” 

“Hnngg… bed,” she agreed lamely. His tongue started making sloppy wet shapes in her neck as he continued distracting her with his hands up her skirt. He was the king of distractions. He distracted his fingers past the hem of her underwear and felt her wetness. 

“Yesss…” 

“Sir Laguna, that’s my line.” 

He smirked at her. Maybe Selphie could tease every boy in Trabia into a frenzy, but getting a girl all hot and bothered still felt like a major life accomplishment to him. Physical evidence was like an amazing treasure. And evidence must be tested by all manner of senses; once he sticks his tongue in there, he knows it’s totally for real.

“Better… than… foot…” Selphie panted as he had her skirt hiked up and panties pulled down halfway, his hair tracing along her leg, signaling his approach. Her stomach muscles quivered in anticipation, and once his mouth attached to her throbbing folds, she emitted a large sigh. The wooden bed creaked as he shifted his weight and he went back and repeated the movement to get another nice sharp sound out of it. 

“Boy, that is some woodsy charm right there. This is way better than camping out at the Shumi’s.”

She would have given him a giggle, but the best she could manage was a small dazed grin. 

He did it again and the bed creaked and gave a little pop. 

Laguna wiggled his eyebrows at Selphie. “It sounds like we are doing something really naughty, huh?” He pulled her underwear all the way off and rubbed his palm against her warm inner thigh. She squirmed and moaned a bit. 

“I have wrecked a few hotel beds in my day, I’ll hope you know.” He smirked again, fond memories in his mind. She gaped.

“Sir Laguna, are you serious?” Her face got red imagining him humping some mystery lady in a fancy hotel much like the ones they had been at before. The idea just didn’t occur to her the way he behaved so coyly. Was there more to him than meets the eye? 

He defended himself from her glare, “What? You’ve never jumped on a bed before?” 

She sat up and gave his shoulder a little push. “Sir Laguna, you’re a real bad boy.” He beamed at her, not catching on her hint of sarcasm. 

“Well, let’s really wreck this one, because if they think you’re the biggest tramp in Trabia, then I have some work to do catching up.” 

She gave him an odd look. 

“I don’t want them to think I’m not excitin’ enough for ya,” he added. 

“Laguna! That’s hardly what they’re thinking!” 

“What are they thinking?” 

“That I’m sleeping with you… only because you’re important!”

“They have hardly tolerated me the moment I came here! They think I brought you along just because you’re Trabian! I’m the one holding hands with the hometown hero, and instead of high-fives, as I clearly deserve, I get to field the worst kind of political jibber-jabber that Kiros insists is my job.”

The realization that they were almost arguing while his face was inches from her naked butt set Selphie into a fit of giggles. She covered her mouth with her hands and Laguna started laughing too.
He rolled onto his side, still laughing, his hands clutching his chest. He coughed and tried to calm himself. Selphie began bringing her knees back together, but he grabbed her calf from his position.

“No. I-I like it. That way.” 

Selphie bit her lip and felt a tingle from the way he spoke. It was so sweet and timid and totally dirty. Laguna didn’t do confident sexy swagger like Irvine, he had something else entirely. 

“Well… I’m getting cold here, so get back to work!” She smacked him playfully on the chin. 

He exhaled and his eyelids fell. Rolling back up into her open lap, he kissed her inner thigh and she quivered. He peeked through dark lashes, gratefully busying himself in between her legs. 

She got a strange idea in her head. “Sir Laguna… if I were a man…” 

He gulped, “Oh Selphie, not this again, please? …Embarassin’”

She rolled her eyes “I just mean… I wish we could do stuff where we were… ” she wasn’t sure where the idea came from nor where it was going. 

“Selphie, I’d literally do anything you asked for. What do you want?” He stopped and looked up at her expectantly. 

She still wanted him sucking on her clit, for one thing. What was with all this conversation? 

“Okay, well, um… Don’t stop that. But… I want to see you touch yourself too.”

His gray-streaked bangs bobbled as he twisted himself to where he pulled his dick back out of his pants and his other arm propped his head up. She noticed movement in his other arm and he moaned right into her wet opening. 

Ohhh, this is pretty hot. 

She pulled herself up and combed her fingers into his hairline. His body thrummed with activity, his jaw working to lavish her, his arm pumping his own parts furiously. She was doing practically nothing, save for her body’s occasional shudders, so she gripped his hair, giving it a light tug. 

“Seph… y… Mmmph…” she barely heard him, his lips were well-occupied. He seemed to like it. 

“More?” 

He moaned into her, a high-pitched seal of approval. 

She gave his hair a firm yank and his mouth came up slightly from her and she never heard a more desperate cry in her life. His eyelids heavy, tiny flickers of emerald around wide black circles, his face flushed heavy with lust. His open mouth, wet and thick with activity, surrounded by lips that were as pouted and pink as one could ever find on a man of his age. 

“Ohh!… Selphie… Geez… I…” He gasped and convulsed, then quickly brought his face back into her folds, unable to hold back his own pleasure, but equally unable to go back on a command. Something about her still wearing all her clothes except her panties made it even hotter; more needy, formalities saved for another time. He barely slipped his shoes off by the door when she descended on him as it was. If he had any need to carry things in his pockets, surely the contents would have been strewn all over the bed. 

Well, now he had something else embarrassingly strewn all over the bed, but that would have to be taken care of later. 

Selphie was shaking, and he put every last tiny bit of post-come energy to draw out an orgasm from her. They were both terribly horny, and getting side-tracked to where the time was now for the grand finale. His face almost hurt from the exertion, but it was well worth it. Save those fancy rubbery thingamajigs from Kiros for next time. 

He switched arms and his clean fingers slipped easily into her. Everything was already hot and wet and throbbing. He thought about what she had said moments ago, about switching places. He liked pleasing her. Did she want him to act more like some tough guy and hold her down and thrust into her lady-parts like a gun-blade slicing a cake? 

She convulsed stronger now, and her head thrashed a bit in the hand-embroidered pillows. Her breath was strong and erratic. When she calmed down, she pet his head affectionately. He crawled up to her and landed next to her with a flumph.

“I made a mess, Selphie.” 

She opened one eye and looked at him, “Baaad Sir Laguna.” She kissed his moist cheek and he slung an arm over her.

“Are ya gonna change into something to sleep in?” she asked, but he was already halfway unconscious, so she left him to his rest.

 

-

 

The next morning Selphie woke in a strange bed, crisp air fighting its way through the cracks of the comforter wrapped up to her shoulders.

“Sir Laguna… What are you doing?” 

“I’m… I’m…” He coughed. 

She peeked out from the coverlet. He was rubbing a tissue on the bed, his face between annoyance and embarrassment. 

“This stuff… it’s stuck. Oh wait, there it goes.” 

Selphie tried concealing a small grin, but a giggle burbled over. “Aw, I’m sorry I asked you to… do that…” 

His other hand scratched the side of his neck. He picked off as much of the remnants of their nightly adventure as he could. 

“Hey, don’t apologize. I had a good time… obviously.” He waved his hand over the lightly stained bed. “I just feel like I suddenly forgot how to operate my own ding-a-ling.” 

“Sir Laguna!” 

“Sorry!”

“Well, you are doing fine! Your dick is just fine!” 

He sighed and sat on the bed, tossing the tissue into a nearby bin. He picked at his bed-rumpled clothes and Selphie squirmed her way over to him, draping her arms over his shoulders. She pressed her chest into his back and mumbled into the back of his ear. 

“I could give it a quick inspection before we start the day.” 

“Hm…” 

“Let me take care of tha-” 

A sudden beeping interrupted Selphie and Laguna cringed. 

“Ah, damn. It’s the Kiros alarm. I gotta get that.” 

Selphie pouted and returned back to the warm spot she made in the bed as Laguna dug through a bag for the video communication device he kept. She heard Laguna give his greeting and went back and snuck into the bed reaching an arm around Selphie and pulling her into view with the device camera. 

“Oh, good morning Selphie. I hope Laguna’s not giving you too much trouble.” 

She looked up at Laguna and only slightly suppressed a snort, “Considering that he encouraged me to blow off Squall… ” 

“Yeah, he’s the worst kind of trouble when he gets you to do something you actually want to do but shouldn’t. It’s easier to say ‘no’ when it’s something plain dumb.” 

“Guys. I am right here. Sheesh” 

Kiros did not suppress a snort directed at the president. Fooling around with a girl half his age should be enough to bear, but it seemed that’s what it took to match his maturity level. Raine surely must have taken to him out of the fact that she was already looking after Ellone. Actually, he’d seen Laguna act pretty grown-up around Raine; she’d loved him and scolded him, and he relished it so much that… 

Laguna didn’t notice the slight shift in Kiros’ face over the scratchy network connection. It bounced off satellites that were implemented by the old Adel-resistance technology, but Trabia was still a bit out of the perfect angle. 

“Today Sir Laguna is giving his speech. The Trabia-Esthar relations one. Then a tour of the wider facilities… the forest, the new mine, a few plants… Yesterday we just had a dinner and I tried to help him remember the board member’s names.” 

“Oh? You know them already?” Kiros was pleasantly surprised that Laguna’s social-call had been politically useful. 

“Well, I know their families. It helps that I know a name or two already. So-and-so’s cousin. That guy’s little sister. It gets confusing if someone married, since yanno, I’ve been away for so long. But don’t you worry, Mister Kiros, I already snatched the schedule out of his hands and I’ll make sure his buttons line up!” 

Kiros could have cried. 

“Y’hear that Kiros? She’s fixin’ my clothes. Can we keep her?” 

Kiros tried not to let himself get too excited. He didn’t excite easily, but it was hard not to enjoy the prospect of another person who could be close enough to his dear friend as much as reign him in when necessary. 

And nothing like a lover to reign in an idiot’s baser instincts. 

He looked over his list and recapped his earlier spiel with Laguna. He’d have gone to her directly if he’d thought of it sooner. Laguna, the insufferable bastard, found every excuse to be distracted by something else.

“We’re essentially making a public display of friendship with Trabia. Anything he can be photographed doing that looks Trabian. We don’t negotiate on behalf of Estharian businesses per se, but we do want to hear out any broad concerns. All the documentation and trade agreements on paper are already drafted or will be handled by… well, me and some other guys. Don’t worry yourself too much with that.” 

Selphie tried to imagine the red tape and fancy technology of Esthar in her old home region. Politics here was always ‘He looks like a nice enough fella, sure.’ You could get by if someone knew your brother. But an outsider had far more hurdles to jump. And now they were deciding Selphie Tilmitt had been away long enough to be one of those

She had a determined set to her jaw now. “Whatever you already think you’ve got from these people, Kiros… After I’m done with them, they’ll be begging to give you a better deal”  

 

-

 

After wrapping up their brief conference call with Kiros, Selphie hustled out of bed, dragging Laguna along to get the day moving. When he stalled, she gave him a firm smack on the bottom until she realized that only encouraged him to be extra petulant. So she resorted to pinching his sides because he seemed to dislike those terrible snort-laden giggling fits they set him into. 

“What about you, Selphie?” he asked after she dusted off the imaginary lint from his charcoal gray long coat. She managed to get him ready to leave the room, clean and president-y looking. 

“Me?” 

“Aren’t you cold? Do you have something more than a sweater?”

She looked at him oddly. She was Trabian, duh. She didn’t need a thousand layers like everyone else. Not to mention that the concern sounded weird out of Laguna’s mouth. Like a Matron thing to say. Laguna needed to be reminded to wear pants outside of his home.

“Umm… No?” 

He interrupted her by pulling out another garment bag among the few that contained his nicer outfits. Garment bags thrust upon him by Kiros for the sake of formality. Oh, how he loathed that stuff, but this one was kind of nice. It wasn’t for him to wear, at least. 

He held out the bag to her. She blinked and opened it hesitantly. 

“It was Lady Seagill’s idea” he said quickly. “But I wanted to give you something! She just said that you might not really be interested in an automatic pillow-fluffer.” 

“Oh… gosh….” 

“Hah, I told her you’d like the pillow-fluffer more. Everyone loves fluffed pillows.”

Her hand touched the material that she had just felt over Laguna’s lapel. She struggled with the hanger and pulled the jacket out of the bag. It was the same stuff that made his, but a clearly feminine cut; more detailing, more pleats. No tag-- totally custom. Totally expensive. 

That tiny Esthar pin affixed to the same side she’d seen so many times before. 

It wasn’t even only him, it was Kiros and his wife too. It was so kind. So welcoming. Come be a part of this, Selphie Tilmitt. 

Damn

His smile was fading as she stared at the gift. Did she like it? Did she hate it? Did she hate him? 

“You don’t hafta-” 

“Stormy really likes buying clothes, doesn’t she?”

“Kiros tells me so all the time.”

Selphie swung the jacket over her shoulders. 

“So, uh, what should I tell…” 

“Sir Laguna… I love it. Thank you.” 

He let out a breath as if he had been holding it since he handed her the bag. He couldn’t even take credit for it, but giving it to her made him feel incredibly nervous. He gave people stuff all the time. There were two options; gratitude or weird-look. For some reason, when it came to Selphie he unconsciously added another possible category; I hate it, go to Hell, I am never speaking to you again. 

He shuddered, but relaxed when he felt Selphie take his hand. He did alright this time. 

“Heeey, look at you. You look like-” he stopped himself before he could really bungle the moment. “You look terrific.” 

“Okay, well, now we’re running a little late. Don’t do that kind of thing right before we have to go!” she huffed. 

He ignored her fussing, letting her drag him out of the suite with a dopey grin on his face.

 

-

 

Selphie anticipated a few glares when she and the president of Esthar came out in matching coats. A few were already privy to his not-really bachelor status from the gossip rags, but true Trabians had enough of their own internal gossip, they turned their noses up at foreign tattle. The ones who got out more savored the opportunity to be near the budding romance of one of the world’s most important voices. This was her hometown, after all, they would obviously take the chance to relax and give onlookers some excellent candid shots. 

Selphie was already used to blending in the background, her eyes managing the area in default SeeD mode. But now and again, after lengthy explanations about the ecosystem or opportunity for industry, and Laguna shook hands and smiled for the official shot, Selphie got called in for an extra snap. She would bound over, slight begrudging on her lips, until Laguna would grab her wrist and pull her into a dip. Or make antennas behind her head. Or cross his eyes. Or try to pick her up. 

It was the fourth manufacturing facility visit of the afternoon and he was running out of ideas.

“So, you can just stand next to him… okay, just a little that way…” 

He swept a brown lock of hair behind one of her ears. It’d been a long day with a good amount of walking, standing, waiting, and she even sensed Laguna’s waning enthusiasm. He always grinned and said something positive, but the duration of good cheer was getting shorter and shorter as the trip wore on. She wondered if his habit of ruining any serious photos was finally losing it’s lustre. He looked at her with only the smallest of smiles, and she returned it in kind. He looked… just so tired. His dulled green eyes set deeper, and without his blistering smile the creases around his mouth showed his age. 

There were fifty-year-old men out there enduring worse. Working in these very plants. Bashing in stones for their minerals. Hacking down trees as tall as a dozen T-rexaurs. He’d never complain- he has it so good.

But Laguna was just worn out being himself. Or some kind of version of himself he was supposed to be all-the-time, 24-7. 

Selphie got up on her toes and planted a peck on his cheek. She ignored the sound of a camera shutter; it wasn’t for their sake. She wrapped her arms around his torso and gave a squeeze. Probably picking her up the last five or six times for laughs was a bit much. 

She let him go before they caused too much of a scene. And because she caught a dirty look in passing over his shoulder. She sighed.

 

-

 

They attended dinner briefly as considered polite, which thankfully enough involved less chatty formality as it did in the denser principalities. Laguna held in his yawns, smiled brightly as possible, complemented the food as loudly as possible, then knocked over a bottle of wine and everyone pretended to be sad when he said he was looking to get in an early night’s sleep. 

When he rose, Selphie did so as well, with no excuses of her own. His company still was getting used to that. That his twenty something travelling companion was quite blatantly his lover. Shouldn’t they be hiding that? 

He peeled off his clothes as soon as he passed the threshold. She followed behind, picking them up and hanging things to be worn another day. He slid into the only one-night familiar bed as if he had spent the entire day thinking about it. 

Selphie hung her own coat next to his and mulled over it. Clearly she looked like she was with him. With him, with him. It wasn’t like before when she represented SeeD and Garden and snuck around to capture his most tiny moments of privacy for her own. 

A part of her really liked the idea; Laguna Loire? Oh, he’s my boyfriend. As natural as she was with Irvine. Adoring, respectable. She could correct people when they misinterpret her intentions. Or give her some ammunition if another lady had designs on him. 

But it was weird calling him that. Manfriend maybe? Partner? Did she want more than that? 

She had to secretly admit to herself that long ago-- long, looong ago, when she learned his last name, but before she had ever seen it carved into the stone memorial in Winhill, she wondered at the sound of ‘Loire’. 

Selphie Loire, the big fat- 

No big deal, she played that game with every boy she ever knew. 

Well, except poor Zell. His name was no fun to rhyme. Dincht? No way. Squall had a good one too, but she didn’t even want to go there. 

Selphie Leonhart, made a stinky- 

“Mphhh… Selphie… what’s s’funny?” Laguna interrupted her thoughts.

She stopped gigging over her terrible Garden Quad sing-songs. 

“I’m just getting ready for bed, Sir Laguna, go ahead and sleep.” 

“But I’m waiting for you…” he whined. 

She felt a little throb, “Wanna pick up where we left off this morning?” 

“I-I wasn’t thinking of that. Just… ” 

Selphie folded her clothes and set them on the bench at the foot of the bed. He was watching her, eyes heavy, but holding on to enough consciousness to grab her the moment she slipped between the sheets. She unhooked her bra and set it with the rest, leaving her wearing nothing but her bottoms. She walked around the other side of the bed and lifted the covers. 

“Thank you for the coat.” 

“Y’already said ‘thanks’.” 

“Yeah, well, I’m sayin’ it again.” 

She got within arms reach and he grabbed her, pulling her in and wrapping his arms around her form. He sighed and closed his eyes, looking contented. 

She genuinely thought he wanted to do something in bed, but he was nearly asleep as she wriggled one arm free to stroke his chin. Eventually, she would have to break free from his grasp or he would be snoring in her face. 

It was a part of his charm. She scrunched her nose.

As long as he doesn’t call me Raine in his sleep.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It was still dark when Selphie’s communication device chirped the alarm. She turned off the small racket and leaned waaay over to turn on a bedside lamp. Laguna was sprawled out, as per usual, and his hair tie had barely the most tenuous grasp on his mane, clinging helplessly to one tiny corner. She smirked. It was kind of a mess now, but she couldn’t help adoring it out and free. She could forgive the gray and the lines on his face, but when his hair was long and loose, she felt like she was living that old fantasy.

She reached out and touched his temple, brushing a few strands up and away from his eyes. He flinched and she watched his lips make incoherent sounds. She decided not to touch him again, so she only spoke. 

“Sir Laguna… wake up… ” 

She heard a grunt and more mumbling. Not the kind of mumbling made by someone not wanting to get out of bed, but the secret conversations locked inside his head. 

With a tight mouth, she got out of bed into the dark, cold morning air and padded into the bathroom. Rather than a complicated, though magnificent, shower like in the Presidential Palace, the bathroom boasted a huge private bathtub lined with wood and enough room for all seven people who could fit in Laguna’s shower. She turned the familiar knob and set about giving herself a good scrub as the tub filled up and steam took over the mirrors. She hadn’t bothered to close the door completely, and peeked out the crack to see Laguna’s form in bed. He squirmed a bit and she called out. 

“La-guuuuuu-na.” 

He thrashed a bit. 

“Laaaa-gu-nums. Wake up, okay?” 

He moaned and his chest suddenly rose in a rather shocking convulsion. She moved quickly to the door, concerned. 

“Laguna?” 

He stared right at her, blinking, then shook his head and ran his hands over his face. He was breathing hard and slowly gaining awareness of his surroundings and his company. 

“Selphie” he stated, sounding strangely relieved. “What time is it?” 

“It’s early, but it’s wake-up time. I gotta bath running, wanna join me?” 

“It’s dark. Why are we getting up in the dark?” 

“Because we’re taking a break from Tri-Fecta to drive up to the Tilmitt Farm today, silly.” She couldn’t read his expression in the dark room, “Did you have a bad dream?” 

“Kinda.” 

“Well then today is the perfect distraction from that” she chirped, figuring he didn’t want to divulge his mystery mental case any more than usual. 

It was a weird kind of Squall-ism. When she was little, and had bad dreams, she would cry until someone, anyone, would come and comfort her and she would let it all out. It was almost a compulsion to tell. As for Laguna, her only clue was when he once called out Raine’s name. She could only imagine that was the key reason he never talked about his dreams is that he rarely talked about her. Did he want to? Selphie wasn’t sure if she was ready for that. She wanted to hear his stories, for sure, but there would be a point when he would have to tell her that he wished it was Raine in this luxurious Trabian lodge. That he wished it was her naked form in his bed and not Selphie’s. 

He always wore their ring. 

He stumbled out of bed and grabbed a washcloth as Selphie stepped gingerly into the tub. 

“Ooh-hoo-hoo, Selphie soup!” she exclaimed. He looked back at her with a small smile, peeling off his bed clothes and tossing them at the sink counter. 

“Now which monster would like a taste of that, eh?” 

She smiled, glad he could be aroused for a joke after a nightmare, “Ultima Weapon. No doubt about it. That thing licked me, I swear to God it really happened” she said, her hands waving around for emphasis, then sticking her own tongue out.

“Ultima Weapon has a tongue?” 

“Yuh huh” she said as she twisted her hair up into a bun on the top of her head. The flipped ends stuck out like a little fern. Laguna rinsed himself clean and followed her into the bath. 

She dramatically kept her eyes to the ceiling as he stepped in, but peeked between his legs as soon as he stepped over the ledge. 

“You really oughta stop that, little lady. You’re giving me a big head” 

“Oh?” she leered, smacking her lips at him.

He wasn’t used to basking in the attention of a woman like this. He was glad for the heat of the water bringing on the flush so she wouldn’t sense the one forming from her lewd reaction. Sometimes he had to bear it from shameless well-connected women in his position, but that was easily deflected. Kiros kept a lot of that at bay. 

“Sorry, Sir Laguna, I couldn’t help it.” She looked at her hands, their image waving from the movement of the water. They were lovers after all, but she was still prone to teasing. It wasn’t nice after he had his nightmare… 

“No… I just…” He moved over to sit beside her. “I just sometimes can’t really believe it. That you’d do something like that with me. I’m lucky. I’m so fuckin’ lucky.” 

She startled to hear bad language coming out of his mouth. She was around a lot of foul-mouthed (and foul-tempered) boys, but Laguna was not usually the type. She liked that about him; it distanced him from Irvine at least. But he was saying it to make a point… he probably saw something in his head that told him otherwise before he woke up.

She leaned up and met her lips to his and his hands came up to cup her face, the grip of his fingers firm and possessive. Her submerged hands grabbed his nearest thigh, kneading the muscle with satisfaction. His lips covered hers, and he gnawed on her bottom lip with a different kind of hungry desperation than she was not used to with him. The gap of her mouth allowed entry for his tongue, that ran its course over her teeth, bringing his saliva to hers, lashing into her tongue like a crossing of blades. His hands fumbled their way over her neck and shoulders, warming the cold, exposed flesh as hers went straight to his dick, touching him slowly in this new watery environment.

Pulling back, she swallowed slowly. She had meant to get on the road early, but now she was overridden with lust. Clearly, he was somewhere similar, trying to gain access to her mouth once more and his hands sunk into the water, running over her chest. When he reached her breasts, she moaned. She already knew this was leading to some kind of sex, so she hissed at him.

“Go get the protection. Now.” 

He nearly flew out of the tub and she popped the drain and touched herself in anticipation. Climbing over the lip, she leaned back over it, and Laguna came back in, angrily trying to open the small packet before Selphie spared him and took it from his grasp. 

“My hands’re wet” he pouted. 

She took it from him and sat down on the wooden step that ascended to the tub. She opened it and grabbed the back of his knee to bring him closer. 

“You gotta be… more… up before it goes on, ‘kay?”

He looked down and cringed, but she reached for him smiling like she didn’t have a care in the world or a slightly inadequate nutcase for a lover. He closed his eyes when he felt her hand on his dick. It felt really good, but… just good. He woke up too fast. Arousal rumbled in his gut, but flickers of his dream kept creeping up. Selphie mistook his mental shudders for sexy ones and gave him a big hard lick. 

ARRRG. He couldn’t take it.

“Selphie… I think… I n-need to sit.” 

She paused and looked up at him, then made to give him space next to her on the step. She crossed her arms over her torso guiltily. Pushing, always pushing, Selphie. 

He sat down with a tired thud and propped his elbows over his knees. Laguna blurted a quick “Sorry” and silence took over the room, save for a fan in the bathroom and their soft breathing. She wanted to pry into his mind so bad. The more time she spent with him, the easier she could read things past his blunder and cheer. It broke her heart for the lovely man she had sitting next to her. 

She took a deep breath and kissed his shoulder. “You don’t have to come if you don’t want. If you want to rest… you can play hooky today.” She added a smile, a bit forced. 

His turned and looked at her. “Yeah, maybe that’d be a good idea.”

 

-

 

She didn’t have to hold back her disappointment as she drove alone to her adoptive family’s homestead. She wanted to have Laguna near for every second she could, if not for the fact that they each had involving careers in distant locations. She wanted someone, anyone, to say “Wow, Selphie, you really landed a hunk!” instead of glower or point out that he could be her father. 

She wasn’t sure if she’d get that from her own family, but it was worth a shot. 

If nothing, there was always Xu. That dear, sweet, precious… 

Strict, kind of bitchy… 

The vehicle she borrowed from Tri-Fecta (who she totally lied to, by the way, telling them it was the President’s request) bounced along the unpaved dirt road, jumbling her around and making her hair dance around her shoulders. It was jarring and slightly uncomfortable, but she loved to drive. It was like an obstacle course. She loved those. It’s why she loved SeeD training. Regular schooling would have killed her. Garden exams were like camping trips; booyaka! Singed hair from a botched fire spell? Whoo-hoo! Crawling around in the dark with a backpack full of rocks? Sign me up! 

SeeD was over. Never again. 

Not that she was that sad about it, she knew the implication was that to have SeeD, one must have a sorceress. And if Rinoa was the only sorceress, then she did not want a bunch of kids being trained explicitly for the purpose of destroying one of her best friends. 

Truly, the mercenary business was cooked up by that slimy NORG just as a method of funding. Not the basis of Garden at all. But, she would never turn her nose at it. Can’t change the past! Elle taught us that! 

Being in Trabia dredged up all those bittersweet feelings. Before Ultimecia, Irvine, Laguna, Seifer and his stupid power fetish… 

Selphie gave a good, loud, no-one-can-hear-me-now scream.

The one thing cars had over trains. 

Trees whizzed by and Selphie took the turns a little too sharp, as usual. She wore the coat from Laguna, not because it was cold, but it was nice. She liked being wrapped up and buttoned into something that meant she was wanted somewhere. 

She slowed down to run a finger over the little pin. 

She loved junk, but it was always a gift or a souvenir of good times spent with another. That’s what really made breaking up with Irvine so painful was that he was intertwined in her life on such a practical level. 

She could run away to Esthar. Give up that Irvine-filled Garden life. 

No way. No way was she going to choose between Garden and a boy again

She gripped the steering wheel and suddenly a blue streak obstructed her window and she heard a grotesque thud on the roof. The car skid to a halt and she turned to look out the back window. Turning off the engine and making herself still, she listened for any sounds but the pounding of her heartbeat thundered in her ears. She turned the car back on and slowly drove it off the road. She didn’t bring her weapon and clambered over the seat to look out the back windows. 

Flapping helplessly on the ground was a glacial eye. It’s lavender tinted wings that could have been a kite tugged by the wind, were indicating impending death. 

The most sensible thing to do would be to put it out of its misery. But she had been un-junctioned for years and wasn’t carrying a weapon on this trip. 

Careless

She knew the little thing could still have Stone, and wasn’t interested in that icky feeling of petrification. Being changed into a being of basalt is one thing, being pinned to one position as you wait impatiently for a passing truck to notice and call someone out for a Soft delivery would be mortifying. 

Faster than the wind, the dying creature swooped up and latched onto the back window, spider-like legs creaking their last desperate scratches, it’s thick, shelled tail thundering against the glass. 

Selphie yelped and thrust backward, hitting her head on the roof of the car, and getting herself lodged between the front seats. The ‘Eye was scuttling it’s way up on the roof, finding the highest place to die, she hoped, and she heard the creepy little scratching sounds. 

“This sucks!” she cried.

Twisting her way around and pulling out her arm, she dragged herself back to the front seat and barely had the key turned before she stomped on the gas. 

Back on the road, she resumed her pace, whipping along and trying not to listen for the pounding of the Glacial Eye. It didn’t even make sense that it would still be in this region by early spring, as they were the most compatible with the snowy climate held up in the Vienne Mountains during the warmer seasons. 

Giving a nervous glance up, she also hoped there wasn’t much magic left in it. After the demise of Ultimecia, there wasn’t much of any magic left in the world. Draw points seemed to dry up, along with the function of SeeD. Rinoa seemed to hold on to her abilities to as similar as they had once been, but everyone else’s seemed to get weaker over time. 

Hopefully Lunar Cry a was also going to disappear into the history books. 

Driving on for another hour, Selphie sighed with the familiar sights of mountains, and nostalgic dips in the road that led up to the homestead. It wasn’t quite like the weird feeling of seeing the old orphanage in a state of decay during the Sorceress War, but it was a more shameful kind of sadness, that she had just abandoned this part of her life and that maybe she owed more to the region that she considered herself from. 

Even though she really never knew where that was. 

No matter, she made one final turn down an even more over-grown and rural dirt path, happy for the durable shocks of a company vehicle. She grabbed her pack and opened the car door, hearing the cries of chocobos in the distance. She grinned, then did a quick check of the vehicle, hoping there was no remnant of the nasty bugger that wanted to tag along. 

As she bent over to check the undercarriage, she heard steps coming up.

“Hoooooo boy, if that isn’t Miss Selphie herself, real and in the flesh.” 

She stood up suddenly, “Pap-Pap!” she cried, bounding over to an old man in denim overalls and a bushy white beard. He held two thick, rugged arms open and she latched on to his waist, twisting and squealing happily. 

After a moment of actually enjoying her exuberance, the man took her shoulders and pushed her back, giving her a good squint. 

“Lemme take a look atchu, my my! You look like one of them fancy-pants city folk now,” Mr. Tilmitt said.

“Pap-Pap…” 

“I know, I know, you’ve always loved that noisy, flashy stuff” he ruffled her hair, “Come on in. Mammy’s made some special treats for yer visit, and she already hit me with that spoon three times since this morning to keep my mitts off.” 

Selphie followed the old patriarch into the home, a sizable forest cottage, and the sadness of nostalgia was replaced with a bubbling glee as she looked around at the familiar cozy home and the smell of something delicious hit her hard. She slipped off her boots and and her eyes darted around at the photos on the wall. There was no room for art here; it was family photos, or at least the family that the Tilmitt’s had made for themselves. Mr and Mrs. Tilmitt had been barren, but wanted the large traditional family meant for a self-sufficient homestead out in the wilderness. Selphie wasn’t the only one. Even after her, they brought in countless orphans and the occasional kid who was better off there than with a mean drunk parent or worse. They raised her to be gracious and cheerful, and most of all independent. Kind, good folks. She felt a tinge of guilt over the fact that she viewed her Garden friends as closer kin, but in their defence, the orphanage did come first. 

Nonetheless, when she stepped into Mrs. Tilmitt’s kitchen, she was bouncing. 

“Momsy!” she nearly screamed as she ran into the embrace of the stocky counterpart to Mr. Tilmitt. She wore a brightly colored shift and had an apron with ruffles and a faded cotton print depicting happy cartoon chocobos. The counter space and wooden table in the corner were covered in un-cooked pies. The apron shoulder ruffles tickled Selphie’s nose and she giggled happily. 

“My my my, Selphie-dear, you are a real big grown up now, aren’t ‘cha? How long has it been?” 

Selphie was generous with letters. The Tilmitt’s weren’t as keen on writing themselves, but were happy recipients and even happier hosts. So many children had come and gone through these rooms, it was almost as if they had been equipped GFs themselves. They could hardly keep track. Selphie always made it a point to be extra memorable. Selphie counted on her fingers. 

“Oh, three? Four years maybe? You got my Valentine card, right?” 

“Oh yes, dearie, it’s in my shoebox. It was just so kind. You should know we were always happy with you, even though it was like the blink of an eye before you ran off to that Garden.” 

Selphie made her way to the ancient hulking refrigerator, looking at it with a familiar need to take out a bottle of milk or leave fingerprints in the butter. It was her home, but it also wasn’t. 

“Oh dearie, go ahead and take something if you’re thirsty. Must’ve been quite a ride from the Garden.” 

“Oh Momsy,” she took the milk, “you know that place is a company headquarters now.” 

“Well, it was a Garden as long as you’ve been around, and that’s enough for me to remember.” She wiped her hands on her apron and took some glasses from a cabinet above. “So where’s that little friend you promised? A boy?” 

“Ahh, hahaha” Selphie reddened, “He didn’t feel good and had a busy time yesterday so he’s just resting.” 

Mrs. Tilmitt made a little huff. “You know, Abel had a son already.” 

“Momsy! Abel is waaay older than me!” 

“I am just stating facts,” the older woman said as Selphie reverted to a teenage huff. “I was sincerely hoping you’d meet a nice boy in that Garden, settle down, and come be around here a little more. But I’ve always known you were a bit of an odd bird.” 

She tapped at Selphie’s flipped up curls and pinched her chin with a smile. “And we know birds.” 

Selphie huffed, “Well, I’d rather be a chocobo than a wendigo. Chocobos are cute.” 

“-And smelly and can peck yer eyes out!” interrupted Mr. Tilmitt, entering the kitchen. He gave his wife a quick kiss on the cheek and a swat on the butt. She twittered at him, waving a fist in mock-anger. 

“So’re any other kids stopping by?” Selphie asked. There’s some she probably hadn’t even met yet. 

“Ohhhhh, maybe dearie” Mrs. Tilmitt replied. “The snow’s melted off not to long ago, and folk’s working to get their spring prep done. Why don’t I make some tea and I’ll show you the new photos since you been ‘round?”

 

-

 

Selphie couldn’t help but sneak a peek into her old room, as short-lived as it was. The basic furniture was the same, and it held nothing of personal significance. Others had been through this room, and it comforted many orphans before and after herself. She wasn’t possessive about it, but it reminded her of her tenuous connection with Trabia. 

She wandered back to Mrs. Tilmitt, clasping the cooling tea with both hands. She had been informed on the additional family members since her last visit; also who had gotten married, had kids, bought a house… all those things she had yet to do. She felt younger and smaller here than anywhere else. 

Maybe it was a good idea not to bring Sir Laguna, then, she considered. 

“Supper’s going to be a roast, dearie. Get some meat on your bones. Still skinny as a rail!” 

Selphie sat next to the woman and leaned on her, “Because nothing anywhere in the world is as yummy as your suppers, Momsy!”

Mrs. Tilmitt nearly clucked at the flattery, she pat Selphie’s knee affectionately when there was a knock at the door. Mr. Tilmitt, who’d been dozing in a rocking chair blinked and muttered. 

“Who in the blue blazes could that be?” he bellowed. His chair creaked angrily as he got up to attend to the door. They expected a few folks, but nobody in Trabia knocked! 

The door swung open and from her seat on the couch, Selphie looked up. Clearly a stranger came by and she couldn’t help but wonder….

“Sir Laguna!” She dove for the familar face, and Mr. Tilmitt’s grumpy expression was replaced by mild confusion. 

Mrs. Tilmitt breezed over, “My my, isn’t this a surprise. Please come in.” 

She ushered in the newcomer and Selphie clung on to Laguna’s arm gleefully as he hobbled into the house.

“The only place to land was a field full of chocobos. One of ‘em chased me here.” 

Mr. Tilmitt gave a snort. 

“Momsy, Pap-Pap, this is…” she paused at the introduction and looked up at Laguna. He looked back with a big smile, but complete terror in his eyes. “La… Laguna Loire.” 

The matriarch wrung her hands together expectantly. Mr. Tilmitt gave Laguna a proper stare-down. Laguna hopped on one foot and grinned nervously. 

“I don’t think they know you already” Selphie whispered to him.

“S-sorry I came late! Uh… uh… I…” he looked at Selphie, wide-eyed. He felt like he was back in Winhill; all the horrible country folk that hated him instantly. 

Mrs. Tilmitt cut him off with a hug and helped restore his balance. “Welcome to the homestead, Lala-goona.” 

He choked a laugh and Selphie corrected her adoptive mother. 

“Just Laguna, Momsy.” 

“Well, let’s get you settled in then. We invited a few friends over for a nice supper and I’m sure they’ll get a big ol’ kick from meeting one of Selphie’s little friends.”

 

-

 

Supper turned out to be nearly as big as Squall’s wedding. No wonder Selphie took it to herself to plan every major event in Garden. It must’ve come natural to her. Laguna shook people’s hands where half of them just figured he was some nobody city-slicker. The near anonymity was such a foreign concept. It was like someone turned back the clock twenty years. He wasn’t sure if it was weird or positively delicious. Any woman who was married brought him plates of food and extracted complements on their cooking from this exciting new visitor, and Selphie made a big show of feeding him each bite. 

When some of the old men finally worked up the nerve to talk to him, they tried showing off their manliest stories of their bravest hunts, biggest catch… until Laguna started in on his own exploits. He rolled up his coat sleeves, and shook out his dog-tags for dramatic emphasis. They didn’t take him to be any kind of warrior, but they warmed up to his crazy stories. 

“-It’s true. I spent a month with the Shumis. I was really roughing it around here, you guys. I thought it was tough, but you all live in this like it’s nothing. In Esthar, folks think Trabia is empty.” 

One of the men perked up, “You live in Esthar?” 

“Uh... Yep!” 

“Holy tornado, what do you do in that crazy place?” 

“Well,” he coughed. He was enjoying the anonymity. Lying he couldn’t handle, but twisting the truth… “Government job. Yanno, I got that military leadership background and…” 

Selphie walked in on his conversation and looked away in disbelief. She had to watch. Trabians didn’t give a shit about outsiders, but when they liked you, they’ll pry gossip out of your cold dead body.

“What’s it like living with a sorceress?” one of the asked.

“The sorceress is dead, you dolt” another interrupted. 

“Yeah they got some king now.” 

“King?!” Selphie gasped. Obviously these guys were the neighbors who slept through the Lunar Cry. Hunt-eat-sleep.

Laguna grinned and grabbed his chin thoughtfully, “Yes, the king is pretty awesome. He is known far and wide for his good looks.”

A another bearded man joined in the conversation, “A king? I thought Esthar had a president. Some lady.” 

Laguna stammered, “N-no! No, the president is a man! A guy! Handsome! Tough! Grr!” He made a fist and flexed his forearms. Selphie covered her mouth with her hands.

“Really? I think I saw her on TV once… in a bar somewhere… ten years ago…” he squinted in thought, “Kinda long hair. Pretty lookin'.” 

“GAAAH!” Laguna’s face was slightly flushed. 

“Her name… Loureena… Linnora… something like that.” 

A few more people joined in. A couple wondered why the new guy looked like he was going to pass out. One man explained they were trying to remember anything about the president of Esthar.

“I know, Dib’s kid went to Esthar for some drilling classes. He’d probably know.” 

Another called out “Ranger! Hey Ranger! Did you meet Selphie’s boyfriend yet?” 

A head popped out of the crowd clustered around the roast. “Eh? Not yet. Had to say hi to the Tamerins and see the baby.” 

The young man called Ranger came over to them holding a plate. When one of the old men shouted at him, “Ranger, who’s the president of Esthar? Is she pretty?” 

“Is…? She? What? No, the presi… dent… of…” he took at look at Laguna and looked at the other locals. His head swung back around like a cartoon reaction and his plate dropped. 

“Is this a joke?” Ranger’s mouth hung open. More people were looking and Selphie took it on herself to pick up the dropped food. “Th-that’s him. Or at least the spitting image!” 

Laguna scratched the back of his neck. At least he wasn’t being called a sorceress or a pretty lady. Well, at least he was pretty.

Ranger looked at Selphie then looked back at Laguna. 

“Yeah, so, nice t’meetcha. I’m Laguna. Laguna Loire, King of Esthar.”

 

-

 

“It was a joke Selphie!” Laguna snuck his arms around Selphie’s waist as she washed dishes in a huff. It felt really familiar and nice to do it, and he hated himself for that. 

She tilted her head back and looked up at him. “You don’t know these people, Sir Laguna, they will totally believe you! They don’t even keep radios!” 

Selphie scrubbed a bowl and set it in the second sink for rinsing. Laguna chuckled quietly above her ear. He was banned from helping clean up after Selphie almost lost a finger from a knife he dropped into the suds-filled sink. A small, careless Laguna-thing to do. She sighed. Good thing he had a palace full of staff. He nearly cried and couldn’t put the bandage on straight, but he kissed it better and she dug up some kitchen gloves to finish the rest. She told him he could help by sitting and staying put, but he was a terrible listener. 

Her adoptive parents were in the living room, happy to get off their feet for a night with Selphie’s cheery helpfulness. Alone in the kitchen, Laguna kept his hands on Selphie in an unusually needy way.

“What’s goin’ on, Sir Laguna?” 

“Huh?” 

“You’re… really touchy right now.” 

“I dunno. I like it like this.” His chin sat on her shoulder, and his hands clasped over her ribs. “This feeling…” 

She pried a little, “Feeling?” 

“Washing dishes by a regular sink…” 

“You mean watching me wash dishes…” 

“Yeah…” he said dreamily. 

“Gosh! Sir Laguna, you’re sooo weird!” she rolled her eyes and turned on the water to rinse the last load. 

He didn’t want to explicitly share with her what the feeling was. She was just a smidge smaller than he remembered, a teensy bit too short. She was getting snippy, which he kind of liked, in a perverse kind of way… but her voice was a bit too high, too sing-song. 

But the crown of her head was that perfect chestnut brown… if he squinted and just looked at that… and the sounds of the dishes clinking against one another and the water running… an old creaky house….

The noise stopped suddenly and he was brought out of his reverie by Selphie spinning around in his grip. She was also a bit more spry and agile, and could kill a man in more clever ways than Raine ever could. Big jade green eyes looked at him instead, and he had to take a big lungful of air to remember where he was.

“It was so funny when Pap-Pap heard the President of Esthar was here and he came around and asked us where he was” Selphie said. 

“Yeah, but just… say it one more time for me?” 

She sighed, “The president of Esthar is a totally handsome stud.” 

Laguna chuckled, extremely pleased with himself. “I had a nice time Selphie. Thank you.” 

“Thank you for coming. I’m sorry it got to be sort of weird.”

“Nah. I liked that half the people didn’t have a clue that Esthar had a president, and most folks didn’t even care.” 

“Well, a couple did. But you were nice about it. You always are.” She beamed. 

He beamed in return, rubbing her back and rubbing his nose into her temple.

A cough from the kitchen doorway sent Selphie skidding to the side, and she stammered as she took off her kitchen gloves. “H-hey Pap-Pap! We’re just finishing up in here! Look at all those nice sparkly dishes!” 

Laguna turned around guiltily, feeling like a character in a cheesy Galbadian sitcom rather than appointed leader of a vastly powerful city-state. He put his hands to his sides and stiffened up formally, a throwback to his soldier days, but his half-grin broke the tradition. 

“Well now, if you two are going to spend the night, we’ll have to get the second bedroom ready….” he eyed Laguna, clearly miscalculating him as far younger than he was. 

“Oh no, Pap-Pap,” Selphie explained, “We gotta be back at the Tri-Fecta Headquarters tonight since we have morning meetings.” 

“You gonna drive back, little lady?” 

“Ah well… we haven’t figured it out yet. And Laguna brought the ship, so…”

“The ship can return automatically, as long as no one parked where I took off from” Laguna interrupted 

“The road’ll get dark, so you better decide right real quick.” 

“Take a pie!” Mrs. Tilmitt yelled from the living room where she was fussing with a needle-point. “Or three!”

 

-

 

Pies in the backseat, Laguna begged to take a turn at the wheel, so Selphie obliged. He claimed sitting in an Esthartec ship and pushing a button was hardly considered driving. The roads were rough and he hadn’t actually operated a car in ages, but she wanted him to have a good time in Trabia. 

They bumped along as the sun set and Laguna fumbled for the headlights, going through each setting for window washing, wiping, and  blinking before finally a beam blasted through the settling darkness. When his glee wore off and the monotony of driving wore on, Selphie put a hand on his leg.

“What made you change your mind?” 

“Huh?” he came out of his thoughts. 

“I thought you’d stay in bed. You didn’t have to come.”

“Well, I…” He smiled wistfully, “Everyone around that place talks like you. Then I thought, well, I don’t really… I don’t really know you well’s I should. And you know… me… a lot.” 

He sighed and continued, “I guess I figure I talk to Cid here and there, and he took care of you and… y’know, Squall. But Squall didn’t have anyone else, so I just figured you’d be the same. Some badass mercenary with no family.” 

“Zell had a family, too, y’know. In Balamb.” she pointed out.

“Huh,” Laguna replied. “See, I didn’t even know that. But if someone did adopt Squall… It could’ve been someone like the Tilmitts. He could’ve been in Trabia.” 

Selphie was quiet. 

“Sir Laguna… do you talk to Squall much?” 

Another sigh. “I try. But he never really says much, or doesn’t respond… or sends somebody else… I really don’t know what I can do… Selphie… I’d kill to have some kind of relationship with him, but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.” He looked pained and his knuckled whitened on the steering wheel. 

Probably sleeping with his friends doesn’t help, she thought glumly, but preferred not to consider herself anything less than one-hundred percent supportive.   

“I’ll tell ya what, Sir Laguna, from my experience with the Commander, Squall doesn’t take well to a lot of social gestures.”

Laguna snorted. She snorted back. 

She added, “This is no mystery, but Squall will appreciate you more when you show him loyalty…” 

Laguna nearly drove off the road. “Loyalty!? I would write him a blank check if it didn’t end up in the Garden trash! I’d come to him in an instant if he asked! Loyalty!” His voice went up an octave. 

Selphie cringed. “Sir Laguna… you are so good to Squall… You are…” she soothed. His face dropped somewhat, enough to see the road, but a return to that aged, serious face he held in check. 

“You are so full of love that it’s scary to him.” She took her hand off his leg and put them in her lap. “It’s just that he’d eat his right hand before asking you to help.”

Laguna glowered at the road. 

“Well. I can’t ask him to help me instead. He’s rejected me enough.” 

“He’s scared, Sir Laguna.” 

“Well, so’m I!” he yelled. Not at Selphie, but at the idea. The truth. 

“Selphie, I’m tired of trying! I’m tired of wanting him somehow in my life and being stuck and spinning in circles and going to voice mail and talking to his secretary for an hour because she tells me he’s busy at the moment, but maybe he’d be finished in a minute. He doesn’t want to talk. He doesn’t want to hang out. I see his wife more than I ever saw my own…” 

“...I see my wife in him,” he finished.

There was a desperate sadness in his voice, and he gasped. He bit his lip. 

A soft plea, “I want my son.”

Selphie felt so sad and useless. She wanted to comfort him, but she couldn’t magically make it happen. She couldn’t plan a Squall and Laguna are Best Friends Party. She wiped a tear and sniffed. 

Poor Sir Laguna! 

Laguna looked over her briefly before looking back at the road. 

“I’m sorry Selphie. I didn’t mean to get…"  

“It’s okay. I understand. I do.” 

“Your family was really nice. The pie was the best. 

She wiped her face again and smiled, “I know right? Nothing compares. Moogle cakes come close, but-”

“Mr. Tilmitt scared the pants off of me when he came into the kitchen.”

“Psh, I thought he was going to ground me and make me stack firewood for a week. No more boys for you, little lady!

He laughed and she was happy the tense moment had passed, but he still felt the sadness. 

“My grandma was the best, but I knew my dad only a little. He was a jerk and never around. I swore I’d never be like him. But he was the only dad I ever knew, so…” 

“You’re really not a jerk, Sir Laguna.” 

“Really?” he asked, questioningly. “I just did the same thing with Squall. I liked my dad better when he was gone. He…” 

“But you didn’t even know about Squall. And you’re trying really hard now” she insisted.

“Thanks Selphie. You’re… I love ya. But being a father… is like… teaching a funguar to play piano. Some funguars can pick it up easily. The rest just spit spores into the keys” 

Selphie knit her brows together, trying to make sense of his weird metaphor, but she could understand what he meant. Kinda.

 

-

 

Back in the cozy wooden bed in the Tri-Fecta lodge, Selphie held Laguna’s head in her lap and pet his head gently. He’d had a big day and family stuff for her was almost always happy, but complex. She didn’t talk much about that stuff with Laguna, but when he broke, it was always a bit more intense than she expected. She stroked his hair and wondered to herself as he slept on her. 

Actually, it had come as a surprise to her when Laguna mentioned his own family. He was rarely forthcoming with stories about his childhood, but the last time he brought it up was when he was with Kiros and Ward back during the alcohol-fueled grown-up night. 

Boy, they all had some issues. Selphie knew the gap in her heart over her birth parents had been glossed over with distraction and the blissful memory loss of the GFs. She always wrote home to the Tilmitt’s though, and it was a lucky thing too, because she shared tales with her adoptive mom she had forgotten until she went back for a visit sometime after the Sorceress War and shuffled through her Momsy’s shoebox of correspondence. Stories of her early years in Trabia Garden that triggered more memories and more rage for the attack that essentially ended it’s existence.

For that, she was even more grateful and in love with the Tilmitt family and their enormous hearts.

Their hearts didn’t belong to her alone, though. She understood it; be everyone’s friend and let no one get behind. Laguna was like that too, but something in him wanted to feel differently when it came to Squall. Wanting to feel something was good as feeling it, right?

Selphie felt her leg going numb, so she slid her body down, trying not to wake Laguna. Once she set her head on the pillow, he re-positioned his arm over her.

It felt so darn nice. Too bad tomorrow was the last day.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

Selphie woke up to Laguna gripping her tight and mumbling something about Moogles giving the best hugs. 

“Don’t tell the moooooombas I said that,” he slurred into her ear. She giggled.

“The moombas know! They’re gonna be sooo mad, Sir Laguna” she whispered.

He made a sour face and she touched his nose with her finger. His eyes fluttered open and crossed, trying to focus on what had startled him awake. They uncrossed and he sleepily smiled at her.

“Hey.”

“Hey, yourself, Moogle-Hugger.”

He opened his mouth in disbelief until she explained, “You were talking in your sleep.”

“I did not” he denied automatically.

“Hah!” She reached under the blankets and went to pinch his sides. He rolled over, covering her and pinning her arms down before she could wreak havoc. Blankets wrapped them tighter and she squirmed through all the constraints.

“Say it again”

“You were talking in your sleep.”

“Not that. From yesterday.”

She screwed her face in thought. Oh. “Something about being a big dork and looking like a girl?”

His face dropped into a pout. “Nooo, Selphie. The nice one. The one where I never miss a target and look like the manliest man ever.”

“That’s true!” she insisted with convincing sincerity. For the most part, at least. 

He kissed her nose and sounded satisfied with her answer. She pursed her lips, demanding more. He leaned down and obliged her. Wiggling happily, she kissed him back, hoping for a bit of fun before the day begins.

She mumbled against his lips, “Today’s slated to be kind of boring and full of sit-down meetings before the cocktail party at the end. Wanna have something nice to think about during all that?” 

Laguna tilted his head and she felt his hair tickle the sides of her face. He took a second to consider her offer then gave her forehead a kiss. 

“Maybe later” 

“Aww, Sir Laguna…” She hated to feel so desperate, but their precious time was soon ending and she was being thwarted at every turn. One little orgasm on the night of arrival was far from what she had risked her job for.

“I just feel a little unsettled from yesterday, is all” he explained. 

“The nightmare?”

“Yeah.”

He rolled off and the tightness left her body as the bedding unwound itself from her.

“Those dreams really suck, don’t they?” 

He was silent. She wasn’t sure what that indicated. He was probably not going to divulge anything now. She pat his arm.

“Go take a shower and I’ll help you get all dressed up for the day.”

 

-

 

Selphie was right when she said it was looking to be a dull day. Laguna gripped a mug of coffee desperately trying to maintain focus. He was the guest of honor and had to appear super interested in the charts projected on the wall in the grand ballroom.

As for Laguna, it was a new feeling to be prodded awake by a cute young lady in a matching coat instead of Kiros. If only they dimmed the lights a little more…

But no, he couldn’t think very far ahead. She was all too willing, and while he adored her for it, he didn’t deserve it. 

Once the formal economic analysis was complete and a briefcase of financial documentation was provided for his benefit, (Wow, thanks guys, you’re swell, this looks awesome, gonna totally read this top to bottom) they had a break for lunch and he was urged to give a few words at the podium.

“I am really jazzed to be here, gang. It’s about time Esthar and Trabia really bond over more than just sharin’ the same land-mass, am I right? Eh? Eh?” He waited for a response, but shrugged at the silence, “I always felt like I had the real Trabian experience when I was stuck in the mountains with hypothermia, but boy was I wrong. Together, our region has been devastated by Lunar Cry- back when Adel was trashing the place like a grendel on a rampage. Lemme tell you, I am glad that is over. That sucked. I’d take another round with hypothermia and sacrifice a limb or two to avoid that mess. Selphie, you’d still like me with one foot, right?”

He addressed her and she grew red in the cheeks as eyes went over to her.

“Odine could whip me up a sweet pair of robo-arms and well… I’m getting off topic here, aren’t I? Now, what was I saying… ah, yes. So, we have a lot of differences, but cooperation depends upon us seeing what we have in common, and consider something deeper than just money for resources. Now, I can’t tell ya what Trabia does or doesn’t need, but I can tell ya, a lot of Estharians don’t get out much. I’ve been all over the place and I still don’t really understand it. Instead of being scared, let’s all suck it up and get out more. Meet and greet. ‘Cause it’s a good thing! And um, talk more. And… I’ll just conclude that Trabia’s a terrific place full of great folks. It really is a land of self-reliance. So, um, thanks!”

Laguna stepped down and sat back next to Selphie who looked miffed for being brought to the center of attention, but she squeezed his hand anyway. He regretted not penning a more sensible speech beforehand, but was glad to have Selphie fixing his tie that morning so it was one less thing to fuss over. Nothing like being mid-speech and notice a gaping hole displaying his belly button because he missed a button on his shirt.

He went through another round of formalities with the industrial captains of the region and a slew of introductions with names he could hardly keep track of. Selphie excused herself from the ordeal, giving Laguna a small smile and a fist pump to cheer him on until dinner.

 

-

 

Selphie walked through the headquarters alone with a weird sense of familiarity for how many years she’d run around the compound as a Garden. It wasn’t hers anymore, and she tried not to fear change or progress as a rule, but the desperation to retain memories since learning of the damage done by GFs made her uncomfortable.

Even though Tri-Fecta installed a parking lot over the basketball court and set up the quad stage to be a corporate presentation room (for shame putting on such boring money-stuff, guys!) the structure was rebuilt in the same fashion of the Garden once was. The Sorceress War Garden cemetery was fixed up and given a heavy dose of cement and bronze plaques to replace the heavy stones dredged up from the wreckage to remember those lost.  

She wrapped her arms around herself protectively, not from the cold, but from the horrible feelings of loss. And seeing Port standing there.

Did he follow me here?

“Selphie” he said before even turning to face her. He was looking down at a list of names added later to document those who were never found. They were mostly orphaned to begin with, but if not Garden, then there may have never even been a record.

Selphie walked up beside him and crouched down, touching the ice-cold metal list. After five years, there was still hope that some names could be removed. Perhaps they found refuge in Galbadia. Maybe excessive GF use made them forget where home was. One could remain optimistic.

“Was I wrong not to come back?” she asked.

Port was quiet for a moment. His silence gave her enough answer, but that was just his opinion.

“I struggle in Balamb to keep Garden afloat, y’know,” she explained. “I guess if I had to be loyal to Garden or Trabia, I picked Garden.”

“I figure” came the reply.

“Trabia is Garden, afterall.” Was she really trying to convince him?

“Trabia takes care of itself, Selphie, with or without you.”

She stood up slowly, turning to face him, “You know that’s not how it goes, Port. Balamb took in Trabians. The invitation was sent and many came. There were only enough resources and manpower for one, and it’s gonna go to the first Garden… Not to ours.”

“Well, you got awful practical, Selphie. You coulda been practical here. In Trabia.” he sneered.

“You mean, for Tri-Fecta?”

“That’s not what I mean.”

“Then what do you mean?” her voice was terse.

“Well, look, you got to be chummy with the President of Esthar. Why don’cha get him to do something about it?”

She laughed. A shrill, forced laugh. “Do you have any idea who runs Garden now? And speaking of which, are you also accusing me of trying to become involved with someone just so I can control him for favors?”

“Seems like you wouldn’t shy away from it…”

“Goodness’ sake, Port! We are not children anymore! I do not boss around the leader of a really scary-powerful place like Esthar, okay?! And don’t you think that I’d have more chance keeping up Garden from Balamb than just sitting in the forest hoping for a windfall? It’s a lot harder than it used to be, Port, you should know. You seem a lot more comfortable at Tri-Fecta than you would be dealing with students who can’t decide if they’re scared of you or hate you. You still wanna go risk your head on SeeD missions, anyway? FINE.”

 She stomped off from her litle rant, tired of people, tired of war. He chased after her and took her by the elbow, stopping her. She spun around, an almost cutesy twirl that offset a frustrated face.

“I-I… I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to just… You gotta understand, Selphie- We exchanged our freedom to get away from the violence.”

She looked at him. She knew what he meant.

Port continued, “But we were raised with certain… beliefs. To be prepared for the loss of comrades. To be ready to sacrifice our safety for a SeeD wage.”

“I know that. So?”

“Some of us… lost our… friends. Then get to sit day-in, day-out, in a cushy desk job, fiddling with wires and restarting computers. I saw my girlfriend’s face melt in the blast. My first kiss was wiped off the face of the planet in an instant. I want to die most nights. Sometimes I can see her eye, that shock… that shock.”

He tightened his fist, “So you come here, like we are a fucking vacation-spot with your hotshot boyfriend… And I remember how many kids killed themselves, thinking like me…”

“Port…” her eyes looked down to her toes. What could she even say at this point?

“Selphie… I… I’m fucking glad you’re alive. There’s some kinda hope for the rest of us loser Trabians.”

She looked up. “Of course there is. You’re not a loser, Port. Don’t wake up in the morning for those you’ve lost, do it for the ones still around, okay?”

 

-

 

She made a bit more small-talk with her friend, relating her experience with visiting the old homestead. He seemed surprised that there was less awareness of Esthar out in the Bika area. Just because he was a mining company flunky, didn’t mean he couldn’t really help other Trabians.

“Bad stuff might happen, and plenty of people will turn you down, but I betcha there’s some kid who’d love you to show them how to set up a server. She’s out there.” She pointed to the distance and gave him an affectionate shove. She ran off to the offices as he regained his balance. 

When she found Laguna at the banquet hall, the most formal of dinners was set up and she did her best to look appreciative after the experience of eating at the Tilmitt home. Nothing could truly impress her, but she put on a good show. There was still pie in their suite. 

Laguna leaned over to her, “There’s a pi-”

She cut him off, “I know.”

After dinner was the cocktail time where sadly, the local industry had no fine spirits to offer since mostly homes made their own. The branded stuff was all luxury imports and all the old men coddled Galbadian whiskey while the few ladies in attendance insisted that Balamb produced the finest wines. 

The parlour was woodsy, and a fireplace crackled, reflecting the glow off the musty books lining the walls. He couldn’t confess a word of how much he liked this compared with the metallic sheen of Esthar, but they loved him in his city and sang his praises, and he never could have got Adel out of the place if all they could do was build a wooden rocket.

Laguna and Selphie were each handed the most popular drinks. Each looking at their glass, then the others, and they traded drinks; Laguna taking the wine and Selphie with the stiffer stuff. He didn’t need to fill up on booze, but he could never say no to a drink being offered up. Or say no to just about anything.

It just got old to always be stuck with whiskey when he had to play nice with the other boys.

Like now, trapped in a corner of the room just because he wanted to check out that sweet world map on the far wall and a couple other guys descended like a murder of geezards.

One, a smiling pot-bellied fellow with ruddy cheeks, who must’ve already hit the bottle, spoke up first. 

“Ah hah, President Loire, truly a pleasure. And I must say, most impressed by your… bravery.”

Laguna smiled politely, not remembering telling this particular group any of his signature tales.

“Well, ya look one red dragon in the eye and… everything else seems rather dull!” he said.

“Must be so, Loire. I’d never dare to bring on board such a lovely specimen.”

Oh ho, that’s what he meant.

He smiled, making light of the situation, “Well, guys, when a man and a woman love each other very much…”

He got a wry laugh from the man, “My wife would have a field day.”

Laguna bristled. “She must be a lovely woman.” His drink was gone and another fellow poured him a refill.

“Maybe not so much anymore… but… just between us fellas… some of us must know…”

Laguna felt his face slowly ooze out it’s cheery grin into a grimace.

“...How you landed a nice piece like that.”

He mulled over explaining to them that when you are married and tell ladies that they are ‘pieces’ they tend not to like you. Selphie liked him, he didn’t know why, but she did. She laughed at his jokes sometimes. He liked that. She was brave and made that nice little huff when he bothered her too much...

One of the other men piped up, “Spitfire in the sack, I’ll bet.”

He made a nervous laugh and looked at his glass wondering how it got empty so quick.

“I… um, I think I need a refill fellas, nice chat!” Laguna ducked out and looked for Selphie who must have found some familiar faces. He made his way slowly, listening to their conversation.

“Yeah, when grandpa called me to ask when Esthar kicked out Adel and I told him… like… twenty years ago, he couldn’t believe it. He shook hands with the fella that had been running a place that long. It’ll be good to work on better telecommunications out there.”

Selphie giggled, and the others murmurs approval.

“So, you’re really together? Gonna be the Lady of Esthar?”

She shook her head, slightly tipsy and rosy-cheeked, “Nooo- Sir Laguna!”

The small crowd broke; a younger bunch that had been snubbing her just before but seemed slightly awed by her brazenness. Clearly news spread of her family’s get together, and since everyone knew everyone, the approval of the elders got out that the President of Esthar was a pretty a-okay feller.

He reached for her free hand and apologized to the men for his intrusion.

“Selphie, I gotta show you this map” he lied and she sent a sad look to her chums, waving her farewell as he led her away from the reception room.

He led her out to the main hallway and when he looked both ways twice, he leaned in and kissed her. He tasted the whiskey on her lips and wondered if the wine might possibly has gone to his head, but he wanted to feel her again like at her family’s home.

She dropped her glass into a potted plant and wrapped her arms around his neck, pleased at the sudden wave of passion. He dipped to nip at her neck and she was messing up his ponytail.

“Si-”

“Shh,” he grumbled into her neck. “Just Laguna.”

She ground herself into his knee and moaned. It suddenly jerked him out of his reverie that he was not about to give anyone the pleasure of seeing him acting out his drunk impulse, especially those who could not appreciate ladies as good as this.

“Let’s go back to the room.”

She nodded, eyes flickering with anticipation.

 

-

 

He didn’t even say farewell to the other men; they’d deal with it in the morning. Right now, he didn’t care. He was light-headed. Maybe it was all this other family stuff he’d been experiencing, but he was having a sudden, nearly painful need to get with the young woman who was just about the next best thing he could get. Maybe he still didn’t even understand his own motives, but when he had to listen to the pathetic lusting of another man, he wanted to feel it for himself.

Not having an affair with a much younger woman, mind you. Having a wife who’d get mad about it.

He closed his eyes and just let the vision overcome him. It was Selphie’s hands, her lips, but he didn’t care. He felt Raine. It was glorious. Just like that first time he came to his senses long enough to thank her for his life. He’d give her the rest of it. He struggled to make her believe in him. But when he kissed her the first time, it was that thing. That thing he’d been wanting, crawling over jungles, stomping through rivers, and shooting up enemies for.

He ran his hands over her shoulders, over her back, her sides, all the while his mouth kissing, and whispering meaningless sweet nothings, at a woman he loved long ago into the ear of the one he could make love to right now.

The way she pressed against him was certain and sure. This Raine finally decided what she wanted, not afraid he would fail her and go running off into the wild blue yonder. She gasped as he scooped her up and brought her to bed. Her hands ran over each layer, steadfastly undoing each damn button, giving pause for him to shake off the clothes and go back to touching the woman he’d missed.

She was writhing under him, his fingers sharing the task of removing her own more delicate buttons before he could work up enough frustration to see if the stitches would withstand one furious yank. He calmed when his hand touched her skin. Her undergarments came off, and in a fit moved down to a precious breast. The memory could be gone in an instant. He savored the texture, the bead of nipple on his tongue, the chain of moans and hands in his hair.

He yanked his hair free of the constraint he used for practical purposes and her hands ran freely through his scalp. He sucked in a jagged breath, and remembered the wine. Maybe it was too much. He moved up, undoing his pants and shoving them down, barely releasing his lips from her body to do so. He pressed his eyelids into the crook of her neck, willing to keep the vision in his mind from breaking. He didn’t want to question his own intentions.

Stupid men lucky enough to have wives, selfish enough to demand lovers. Was he not the same? In holding vigil for the mother of his only son long enough for someone to play along?

He led his dick into the gap between her legs and felt the warmth radiating from her core. She was hot, and he almost couldn’t make out her words from the sound of his own laboured breathing. He’d married her and she took him eagerly this time, panting his name. No more nervous fumbling or daring touches. Now it was time to break past that most exalted barrier; press into her, and only her, as long as you two shall live.

She convulsed under him, sucking in his length, until the tip greeted every part of her opening and he hovered at that point. His mind was a mess, like cotton stuffing made up his brain and he only thought about pushing his hard dick onward.

“Sir Laguna” she gasped, and it broke. There was no mistaking it. Raine was gone. He never even got to look into her face. He couldn’t show Selphie his disappointment. It wasn’t her fault. It was his own. She trusted him with her body and he was using her now.

Please be her… just give me one more time…

He propped himself up to look her in the face. His guilt grew as he looked into her lustful gaze, begging him for his body that he could hardly control.

“Laguna…” she cooed as she cupped his cheek in her hand. He knew what she was going to ask.

“...Just do it. It’s okay. Don’t stop.”

He bit his lip. She gave him an out, blame was gone. Desire was flesh and he was supposed to be the good guy. The hero.

She was, too.

But his love for her was morphed so quickly into the old feelings. He cursed. The feelings he was supposed to have this whole time were eroding at the gentle new ones that Selphie desperately etched into his heart.

When he let go and fell over her, he let out a cry, muffled in the pillow to her right.

Selphie lay there stunned. One second he was just ravishing her, acting like trashy romance novel Lothario. The next… he was yowling into the bedding, shaking and clearly troubled.

She thought she knew what he wanted; no holds barred sex. That’s what they all want. Sometimes. Let loose with some animal instinct that precluded all thoughts of anything else.

BUT.

She had to admit, Laguna Loire was just fucked. She should’ve known better. He was gorgeous and funny and, well, he did have the world at his fingertips. But he was totally bat-shit insane.

She hesitantly placed her hands over him, resting on the arc of his back, in a futile attempt at comfort, being trapped under his naked bulk. His fists gripped the sheets as he writhed and cried.

Worrying now, and unable to move, she asked, “Are you okay?”

He quieted down, and she felt a shake. Maybe it was a yes, maybe it was a no. It was obvious he was bothered by something, but she was always denied reasons. It was frustrating to be so close to someone and so closed-off at the same time.

“Was it too much yesterday?” she pried. “I didn’t mean to force you into that when you weren’t ready…” Ready for what, she couldn’t figure.

She heard him sniff. He was too old for her, too nuts, and being with him was giving her sooo many problems. But they all had hang-ups; was this hers? A vain desire to be with someone even more fucked than herself and see if she could fix him right up?

“Raine…” he half choked into the pillow. “I wanted you to be Raine…”

“O-okay,” she paused. Sometimes she thought of Irvine. She wasn’t so keen on going back to him, so if her mind wandered to him, it wasn’t a big deal.

But she remembered the pained look of Port’s face; Selphie couldn’t fix the Garden mess, but she could give him support. How to support Laguna then? She felt sobriety creeping up after burning off the highball of whiskey she had and she pressed her forehead against Laguna’s arm.

“Can I… can I just…” she pushed him a little, “I’ll be right back.”

She slipped out of the bed as soon as he rolled over. She looked around the floor to the clothes they had just tossed aside, then picked up a piece, examined it and tossed it back. She walked around a bit more, then found what she was looking for.

Crawling back into bed, she rubbed Laguna’s arm, coaxing him to turn. He wouldn’t move.

“C’mon…” she said quietly, “It’s… okay…”

He sniffed, looking piteous for revealing his inner demons. Selphie was back beside him, holding his tie and a small packet she grabbed from the nightstand. She set the packet on his bare stomach and covered his eyes with the tie, smoothing over his forehead with her fingertips. He let out a breath, and seemed to calm.

“Selphie, what-”

“Call me Raine.”

“What!?” he made a start to sit up, but her hand suddenly went firm and held him fast.

“Just this once. ‘Kay? Lift your head for me.”

He followed her command and she tied the material to the back of his head. It snagged some hair, and he winced, but didn’t say anything. She stroked the front of his hair, where his bangs were held down and touched the grayest spots with affection.

He would never see Raine become old.

Selphie sighed. Cute little Grannie and Granpa Loire never to be. Just stuck in his head, gone too soon like all the classmates in her own memory, trapped in eternal childhood.

“Raine…” he finally said, just above a whisper. He sniffed again, and Selphie made a little smile, hoping he would feel better if he knew she didn’t begrudge him for still wanting his late wife. She wasn’t sure if she should speak, but she leaned down to kiss him on the tip of his nose. He reached up for her face, slowly enough not to take out an eye when he missed, but she took his hand and led it to her cheek before he tried again.

He ran his hands down and cupped her chin. He gave it a little squeeze, then let his finger trace down her neck. She felt her heartbeat throbbing in her ears, but she waited. Her chest rose and fell gently as he let his mind slip into some memory she didn’t need to be privy to. His hands ran over her collarbone and with a grunt he was back over her, using his hands to guide him around.

She pulled his face back down to kiss, and it was lingering and heavy, despite the issue of aim, his tongue met hers and it was more purposeful than before. He took possession over her mouth, demanding she give up her lips to his sucking, grasping own. Her hands were occupied, keeping the tie affixed to his head, her fingers stuck in his hair.

His hand slipped down to her sides, her hip, gripping her thigh. He was breathing more now and it was making it harder for him to lose himself in her mouth.

“God… Raine… You… f-feel…”

She had no idea how Raine moved. She didn’t know the sound of her voice. She most definitely did not know how she acted in bed. If Laguna had a tough time pretending to be a Sorceress’ knight, then Selphie was going in without a costume, a script, or a gunblade. And probably fighting a red dragon naked. She picked up the packet that had fallen from Laguna when he rolled up and she opened it. She touched his dick gently, then wrapped her fingers around it.

“Mm…” he reacted. “Ahh, I l-love you…”

Her face twitched, but she felt him firm in his hand. Pretty good for an old guy, she wanted to say. They groped each other for a bit, and she felt him getting more and more eager to enter her with his fingers, tracing mysterious shapes around her wetness. He touched her with so much want, not holding back or halting the way he did. Was it permission? Or was it how he moved with Raine all that time ago? Could he even remember it?

Don’t try to replace Raine, eh Rinny?

She finally pressed the protective sheath down the length of his dick, giving a little “Ahh” of satisfaction at a job well-done. She bit her lip, hoping not to wreck the tenuous grip he had on his fantasy, but he just chuckled a bit.

“Guess I don’t remember that bit… Ha ha. Go figure.”

Selphie’s eyes opened wide, since he must’ve meant that comment for her. He leaned down and kissed the side of her face and rubbed his body against hers before pushing into her with a creaky moan.

He suddenly gained speed and was thrusting as he held himself over her, propped up and positioned over her face. She stared up into his blindfold as her hair bobbed around her shoulders. They actually hadn’t done this too many times; he could maybe convince himself of his ghost partner. Maybe it was easy to conjure Raine’s face up from his dreams.

But those dreams always seemed awful, freaking him out and leaving him in bad moods. It must be more than just Raine herself bothering him that much.

His breathing became erratic and he shuddered one final burst into her. She gripped his shoulders and rode out his strength and all the affection for his late wife to the best of her power. After he rolled off, tugged down the blindfold, and pulled off the used protection, he let out one long breath.

He looked over at Selphie, who had been rubbing her eyes.

“Selphie… I’m sorry.”

“N-no, Sir Laguna, it’s okay.”

“Like Heck, it’s okay… I suck.”

“I did it for you. You maybe needed it, so just don’t worry.” She got up and made her way to the bathroom. She heard his footsteps come up behind her and she pushed him back, unable to look him in the eye.

“Um, EXCUSE me! Ladies’ time!”

He sighed dramatically, “Sheesh!” As if she hadn’t just lived out his darkest desire.

The water ran and he leaned his head against the door, only wearing an unbuttoned dress shirt and the sloppily knotted necktie dangling over his chest.

“I’m sorry, Selphie…”

“Why are you still sorry? You don’t hafta be,” she shouted from the other side of the door.

“Well, it’s just somethin’ you shouldn’t hafta do.”

The door swung open and Laguna nearly fell to the floor. Selphie flailed, but moved out of the way before getting knocked upside the head with his. She helped him back to standing and he scratched his neck. Then, he went into the bathroom and she made her way to her pack to find a shirt to sleep in and some bottoms. She got herself tucked back in bed by the time he came out of the bathroom and found his own sleepwear.

Getting into bed, he asked, “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Why’d you do that?”

“Again? Laguna, you’re hurt. And… I’ve lost a lot of people here. If I could pretend Trabia Garden was still around, if I could pretend for a moment that all my old friends were still alive and okay… I would. But my imagination’s not that great, Sir Laguna. And you still go on and smile and…” she finally worked the nerve to turn over and look at him.

“I guess I saw what happens when you hang onto the past, but forgetting it is just as bad right? And you don’t have to feel it alone- Sis already tried to fix it… ‘cause, y’know, she wanted you and Raine to be happy, too.”

“Raine was practically her mom, though.”

“Well, I don’t really have powers like that…” she huffed. “This wasn’t much of anything. So, just don’t worry about it! Wasn’t it fun?”

“Uhh… err… yeah, but-”

She cut him off with a pinch to the cheek and took his arm under the comforter. “Aren’t you so lucky? I’m cute and nice. I like helping people. I like helping my friends if you hadn't noticed. And you are my friend. A super-duper mega-special friend, of course.” She tapped her chin and gave him a wink.

He reached for the light switch and she closed her eyes and snuggled up against him.

“I mean, you’re nuts, but I love ya.” She rubbed her face into his arm, mumbling happily. “Sooo cool…”

“Th-thanks?”