Mar ‘04’

Disclaimer: All the Final Fantasy characters in this fic belong to those talented people at Square. Lucky them. The main pairing will eventually be Irvine and Squall, possibly some others showing up later on…not sure yet.

This is YAOI - boys with boys, caring, desiring, kissing, hugging, groping…um, yeah…but that’s why you’re reading this, yes?

In The Cards - Epilogue
By Garden’s Gnome

Squall smiled as the ragnarok lifted off, it’s red nose pointed in the direction of Dollet. For a moment he’d been worried by the way Seifer had all but dragged his blond boyfriend onto the airship that they would consummate their relationship first and depart afterwards. But Zell’s shout of ‘not while I’m was flying’ over the communications system and the subsequent powering up of the engines told the brunette that his friends would be fine. Making his way back into the Garden, Squall headed for the ballroom and the party that was still in full swing.

It had been a long week.

After the destruction of the Card Club airship, Kiros and the crew of the Estharian submarine had searched the crash site. No bodies were recovered.

Quistis had left Laguna and Kiros to deal with the workers and the CC main headquarters, leading the group into Balamb Garden. Irvine had carried the unconscious Squall, unwilling to leave his lover in his father’s care for even a moment. What they found in the Garden at first was disturbing. It was like nothing had changed.

After finding Doctor Kadowski confined in the infirmary and questioning her to determine if she was under the control of the mind control drugs, they were able to find out what was going on. Indeed, all SeeD and students were under the control of the Card Club, but so far their instructions had been to act like they did normally and await further instructions. Instructions which were yet to be given by Card Club King. The doctor then read through the report written by the researchers in Esthar and was pleased to announce to the headmistress that according to the findings the drugs could not last in the blood stream for more than 48 hours without needing another dosage.

The Garden was moved to Esthar and the students, drug workers and the subdued members of the Card Club were monitored for changes in their actions. Squall awoke within a few hours of their arrival in Esthar and joined Quistis in checking that the Garden was fully functional. Tests done on Squall as he slept showed that his blood contained the original 'dream-maker' drug. Somehow, in all the confusion, the brunette had been given the wrong drug and had ended up very hot under the collar, rather than under control of the Card Club. Sorceress, knight and sniper were all relieved to know that Rinoa's reaction was going to be a 'one of' thing. Rinoa and Selphie were given the task of finding all the drugs and disposing of them while Irvine, Seifer and Zell checked every nook and cranny of the Garden for any surprises that had been left behind.

After the 48 hours had elapsed, everyone was tested by Dr Kadowski and the researchers and reported healthy with no lingering side effects from the drugs.

It was time to deal with the Card Club members.

Locked together in an office for questioning, only Tobias showed any understanding of what they were talking about. Nida was unapproachable, the young pilot staring out the only window in the room, his eyes red and filled with tears. Removing all but Joker and King from the room, Irvine pointed Exeter at Tobias.

Once the Card Club member’s tale was finished, Estharian officials took him into custody to be remanded for trial.

Tobias had been in on the plan from the very beginning. Ace was an old friend of Marius’ father before the drug dealer had taken on the Queen persona. The rest were simply pawns. Including Nida. The young pilot had been easy to get to, Joker had told them smugly, wanting to be recognised just like the others he had graduated with. Tobias had befriended Nida and they’d taken to playing cards and hanging out together. Tobias had introduced Nida to Marius, who in turn had used their drugs on the young man to control him. Nida had become Marius’ lover not by choice but by command. But unlike the rest of the Card Club, Nida had also been commanded to remember everything should he outlive his master.

He would never forget what he tried to do to his friends and his home.

The rest of the week had been spent in Esthar with all students on leave. During this time, Nida underwent rigorous questioning and was offered to remain as Garden pilot should he wish it. He accepted.

Music washed over Squall as he opened the ballroom doors and made his way across the room. Selphie had cornered Nida and together they were tossing cards at Irvine’s hat, which sat on a nearby table, Nida shyly touch the petite brunette’s fingers to correct her grip. Not too far away, Quistis and Xu watched them as they chatted with Kiros about the new submarines that Esthar would be making for the Gardens soon. Rinoa waved as she and Laguna glided past on the dance floor, his father and the young sorceress enjoying the chance to dance to Julia’s song for Laguna.

About to turn and head for the drinks able, Squall gasped quietly as he was grabbed, dragged through the doorway out onto the balcony and soundly kissed.

Coming up for air, Irvine laughed at the dazed look on his lover’s face."Surely it wasn’t that good?" he asked in mock surprise.

"Mmmm," the brunette answered, eyes still a little unfocused as he pulled the cowboy back down for another kiss.

Backing his lover against the balcony, Squall sucked Irvine’s tongue into his mouth as his hands found their way under his duster and vest to lightly trace over warm skin. He smiled an Irvine shivered against him.

"It’s been a very busy week," Irvine said as he panted for breath against wet lips. "What you say we blow this party and go check out how my things look in your room?"

"You got everything moved okay?" Squall asked as he leaned back to look up at his boyfriend.

"Yup," the cowboy said. Then he grinned. "Guess what I found?" he asked as he reached into his coat pocket.

Squall looked at the object in Irvine’s hand. It was a small glass inscribed with swirling colours.

"It really was you," Irvine whispered as he placed the glass in Squall’s hand.

"Yeah, I’d forgotten all about going to a nightclub with Zell. Seifer was being a pain about Zell’s new tattoo so I agreed to go spend a few nights at Ma Dincht’s place with Zell until Seifer got over himself and left us alone again. Ma went to see a friend one night and Zell talked me into going with him to Deling City. Going to a nightclub wasn’t the original plan. It just kinda happened," he finished with a shrug and placed the glass back in Irvine’s coat.

Irvine puled his lover back into his arms and sighed happily when Squall’s arms wrapped around him too. "Do you think either of them remember?" he asked.

"Who knows? You’ll have to wait a month to ask them though," Squall said.

"They took the mission to check out the Card Club base in Dollet?"

"Well, it was a month together doing that mission or a week alone together with the possibility of being separated for other missions when they get back."

Irvine looked down at Squall’s smiling face. "They don’t need us to set them up, ya know."

"I know but I need them out of my hair for what I plan next."

"And that would be?"

"Oh, something along the lines of locking us in my rooms for the next month. Only coming out if there’s an emergency or we’re leaving the Garden for some fun."

Irvine grinned and laced his fingers through Squall’s before leading the brunette back through the ballroom and towards the exit. "I really like the way you think, love."

Squall stopped in the middle of the ballroom and pulled Irvine back towards him. Wrapping his arms around the cowboy’s neck, Squall looked up into surprised eyes. "Say that again."

"Love...I love you, Squall."

It was another five minutes before they parted again for air, Squall looking around at the smiling and stunned faces of his friends, family and students. He turned back to Irvine and smiled.

"I love you too, Irvine," he said softly before dragging his happily grinning lover from the room.

No one saw them for a month.

'In The Cards'

Notes from Gnome: It's over! My first epic is finished!!! Thanks for everyone for reading and reviewing and being patient with my slow lazy butt at updating this fic. Thanks to Suk, Hecate and Cat for occasional beta and encouragement and harassment *laughs* More FF8 ficcage soon!