Apr '03'

Disclaimer: We all should know by now that these beautiful boys and girls belong to Square. I just had asked them to bounce around in my head for a few seconds, you know, doing pretty poses and some smooching. Perhaps next time I can talk them into a strip-tease for me. If they do I’ll be sure to share….honestly!

This is a boys with boys having a bit of fun fiction. Lucky them. Please enjoy.

Squall's Smile
By Garden’s Gnome

Ah, Monday, Squall thought as he headed for the third level with his morning cup of coffee. Stepping into the elevator and hitting the button, he leaned against the rear wall as the doors slid closed. Another Garden festival out of the way, now back to business. Pleased that his morning was starting as quietly as expected, Squall strode from the lift and towards the commander’s office with the confidence that he would achieve lots of work today. A few seconds later he wasn’t so sure.

Upon arriving in his office Squall noticed that his desk wasn’t as empty as he had left it on Friday evening. There was a small statue on it. A statue of the GF Carbuncle, a Tonberry and the little alien PuPu, standing with their arms around each other and looking very cute. While he remained unconcerned about the item possibly being a bomb or such, he was worried as to what it could imply. The artistic design of the statuette was eerily familiar.

Over the past few months in the lead-up to the festival, Selphie had been running weekly polls at the festival committee site on the Garden’s web system. Squall had made sure that he checked the site frequently to discourage inappropriate voting ideas. The topics had ranged from whether to have extra hot dogs or have snow cones and fairy floss available at the festival (the sweet foods won) to voting awards to different people for their contribution to the Garden. Seifer, who had returned a month or so after the war, received an award for most improved SEED and doctor Kadowski had won an award for most respected person in the Garden with Cid and Matron even voting for her. Statuettes made by Zell had been presented to the winners at the festival breakfast on the Sunday morning. Squall knew nothing of himself being a candidate for something and this worried him greatly.

Approaching the desk slowly Squall sat down without looking too closely at the ornament resting on the smooth surface. Do I really want to know? It could be for anything. It might not even be for me. Maybe it’s for Cid and has been left here for me to send to the orphanage. No. That can’t be right, the brunette thought to himself, because both Matron and Cid are still here and will not be going home for another couple of days. Perhaps I should just take a look.

The commander of Balamb Garden picked up the statue and read the neatly printed inscription: Presented to Commander Squall Leonhart, may looking at this help you to find your smile again. What the fuck?

Squall dropped the ornament onto the desk and leaned back in his chair, eyes wide and looking slightly bewildered before they narrowed and he frowned. My smile? When did this become a topic for voting on? Sure he had been busy helping with Selphie’s favourite Garden event but he had still managed to keep abreast of most happenings. The brunette’s stormy blue eyes remained narrowed in thought. Selphie…she’ll be behind this for sure. I thought everyone acted strangely this past week.

With all the time that he had put into assisting Selphie with the festival, Squall had spent a large percentage of the previous week out of his office. And now it had become apparent why he had been chosen to help out so much - he needed the exposure so that the entire student body could vote on his smile or lack thereof.

So openly showing emotions leaves you vulnerable and I have smiled when the occasion truly called for it, although when we were fighting the sorceress and her…knight…there wasn’t much cause for a smile. I smiled the night of the party when we had finally defeated the sorceress and when Seifer returned to us here at the Garden and also when he became a SEED. My god, that was over half a year ago, surely I’ve smiled since then.

Before Squall could ponder this startling realisation further the door to his office flew open and banged against the wall, admitting a smirking Seifer, who was closely followed by the rest of the gang. “Well, we see that you received your little award.”

Squall let his eyes roam over all present before addressing the blond. “And just what was the suggested voting topic?”

“Um, something like does the commander need help remembering how to smile?” Selphie replied evasively in a small voice from where she hid behind Seifer.

“You must realise that when almost everyone said yes we decided to take pity on you and help an old friend get their smile back,” said Irvine while casually walking to one side of the desk. It was now that Squall realised that Zell’s position on the other side mirrored the cowboy’s almost perfectly. What the hell are they up to?

But before Squall could ask his question Seifer spoke again. “Quick, grab him before he has a chance to get away,” at which point Zell and Irvine lunged for the startled brunette.

“Let go of me, what the hell do you think you are doing? I’ll have you all demoted and you’ll have to help in the cafeteria for weeks!” Squall yelled and he struggled to free himself while being dragged towards the open door. “Quistis won’t stand for this and …”

“I’m helping them Squall and I’ve brought some willing reinforcements,” said the smiling blond headmistress as she exited the elevator with Laguna and the others in tow.

“Not you too,” Squall said in disbelief noting that his grinning father was accompanied by Kiros, Ward and Ellone.

Ellone walked over to where Squall stood between his captors and placed a slim hand to his cheek. “We’re here to help you have fun and to remember what it is to be happy and smile because of that.”

“But I …” Squall began saying.

“No buts, when we decide you are happy then you’ll be allowed back into your office and until then we’ll look after you,” interrupted Selphie looking much too happy at having the lion of Balamb at her mercy. But I am happy with how things are now and I have work to do! Squall thought silently while beginning to struggle again.

“I know that look and not to worry Squall, Cid and Matron have promised to look after everything here for the day while we go and reclaim our childhood,” said Zell without the usual air punching salute due to his arms being full of his friend. Squall was sure he heard Seifer pass on the childhood comment.

“Reclaiming of childhoods aside, let’s just have lots and lots of fun!” exclaimed Selphie, bouncing towards the elevator with the group including a reluctant Squall following.

This is going to be a very long day.

*****

It was later on that Squall found out that this little holiday from responsibilities would last another day.

Sure, it had started out innocently enough with Zell following Squall to his private dorm to retrieve some extra clothes. Zell waited in the main living area while his friend got his stuff ready. Squall noticed that the usually energetic blond seemed to have something on his mind but rather than pry, the brunette figured when Zell was ready he’d share his thoughts with him. Then Squall had come out of his bedroom with a small backpack and Lionheart at his side. This is where the problems began.

“You won’t need that,” said Zell, pointing at the sword.

“Says who?”

Zell looked at his best friend. Great, now he decides to be difficult. How will I ever tell him about? The blond shook his head clear of distracting thoughts and sighed.

“We’re not planning on fighting monsters, today is supposed to be fun,” Zell told Squall as he walked towards the brunette.

“Things don’t always go as planned. I had planned on doing lots of work to day but here I am about to be dragged of to Hyne knows where and you expect me to go unarmed. You want me to leave this weapon behind? Make me.”

Slowly approaching his friend, Zell conceded that since the sorceress’ defeat Squall had become more communicative with everyone. However, by burying himself in the role given by Cid, the brunette had effectively shut himself off from the everyday lives of his oldest friends.

Zell stopped when the tip of Lionheart’s blade touched his neck. While he was pretty damn sure Squall normally wouldn’t hurt him, his friend was quickly becoming pissed at him. A pissed off Squall was not something he wanted to deal with at the moment. He took a step backwards, turned and headed towards the door.

“Fine, take it; but at least leave the sword on the Rag when if go into any towns. You’re meant to be having fun, and I doubt that the group will appreciate travelling with the commander today.”

“I’ll be the commander wherever I go Zell, I can’t escape that,” came the quiet reply, Squall saddened that he had upset his blond friend.

Zell abruptly turned from his trek to the door and returned to stand in front of Squall.

“Not today. Today you are just another guy enjoying time with his friends. No more, no less.” The blond scowled at Squall and then smiled as he grabbed an arm, once again heading for the door.

“Let’s go, we’re wasting the day away standing here like this.”

Arriving at the platform especially made for the large red airship, Squall looked at the small groups gathered around Matron and Cid.

Laguna and Kiros chatted quietly with Cid, catching up on the recent events in their lives. Quistis was talking with Xu and Nida, giving last minute instructions for the next few days. Overhearing some of the information exchanged, Squall realized that the Garden would be in Xu’s hands and not ex-headmaster Cid’s. Apparently it had been agreed that Cid and Matron were on holiday too. Selphie, it appeared, was in charge of loading the Ragnarok with extra necessities for the mini vacation. Ellone stood next to the petite brunette, laughing quietly, as Selphie shouted orders and waved arms at Irvine and Ward as they loaded the airship. Seifer and Matron stood next to the slowly disappearing pile of gear. The tall blond was smiling down at the small woman at his side about to say something when he looked up and spotted Squall and Zell.

“Just can’t go anywhere without that sword, can you Leonhart?” questioned Seifer, drawing everyone’s attention to where Squall stood.

The brunette smirked at the blond.

“If you don’t think I should have it your welcome to try and take it from me, Almasy. And I do mean try.”

Seifer looked slightly shocked at the playful animosity coming from Squall, then his head fell back in unleashed laughter. Everyone held their breaths, unsure of what would happen next. The blond stopped laughing and looked at the Squall seriously.

“I’ll keep that in mind for later, commander. Even you have to relax sometime.”

Before Squall could make any kind of reply to the challenge, a blue thing latched onto him. A rather familiar blue thing.

“Looks like I got back just in time. At least I won’t have to unpack… Irvine can you just put my bags on with all the other stuff. You wouldn’t believe how late the trains were running today…Hiya Zell, how are you? Squall where are we going to?”

Rinoa.

The young sorceress had been visiting her father for the past two weeks. It had been a peaceful time, excluding the occasionally hectic preparations for the festival. In his role as commander, Squall knew the whereabouts of all the Garden’s students - including and especially one determined sorceress.

A month or so before Seifer made SEED, Rinoa and Squall had agreed that they were ill suited to be a couple. While the friendship was there, the physical attraction was not. Since then Rinoa had made it her mission to help him find someone to be with. She spent a few hours of each day in the commander’s office watching one of the vid screens that monitored the entire Garden. Every so often a comment about one person or another would be sent in Squall’s direction. Muttering a quiet whatever, Squall progressively buried himself deeper and deeper into his work.

Then around two months ago Rinoa had stopped coming to the office. Squall would occasionally catch sight of her in one of the cameras and almost always she was with Seifer, Zell or Irvine. The brunette reckoned that somehow the wilful young woman had enlisted the guys aid with her self-proclaimed mission. He tried not to worry too much about the small group that now seemed to watch his every move with great interest.

Perhaps she had decided to work on her own love life instead, he had mused at the time. After all, Zell wasn’t seeing that library assistant anymore and Seifer was an old flame. Irvine, Squall believed, was still with Selphie but he hadn’t heard any gossip about the group relationships since Rinoa’s last extended trip to his office. However, the thought of Rinoa with Seifer again didn’t sit comfortably in the back of Squall’s mind, but he paid the thought no heed and had continued to work hard.

And now she was back at the Garden. Squall was unsure as to what the group had planned but he had a feeling that Rinoa had yet to give up her mission. It made him nervous.

“I don’t know Rinoa, I’m not in charge. Just being dragged along for the ride.”

Rinoa looked up at Squall, who shrugged down at her then detached himself to walk over and talk to Cid. Seifer moved to join Rinoa.

“What’s going on, Seifer?”

“Remember when you said that Squall doesn’t smile, well, Selphie decided to ask the rest of the student faculty.”

“She didn’t.”

“Yep. Then we presented him with one of Zell’s handcrafted statues and are kidnapping him for a few days. He’s not allowed to step into his office without showing a real smile. Not one of those teeth-baring grimaces that he uses occasionally but a light-up-the-eyes, happy-to-be-alive smile.”

Seifer looked a little too smug. Yet Rinoa could see in his eyes a small glint of uncertainty.

“What if this backfires and …”

“The worse he can do is send us to another Garden and never talk to any of us again. However, if this does work, he’ll be happy like he was when we were younger.”

Rinoa looked up at the blond. Seifer was looking in Squall‘s direction, a wistful smile on his lips.

“You’re really sure about this? Everyone has agreed?” she asked.

Seifer watched the group board the airship. He smirked when he saw the tight grip Squall still had on his gun blade. I’ll get that off him later. Then he turned his attention back to Rinoa.

“Yes, everyone has agreed that Squall needs help to be happy again. It’s worth the risk, any risk, because we will succeed.”

Then linking arms with the sorceress, and waving goodbye to those staying behind, they strolled up the entry hatch and into the ship.

Only to be grabbed by Zell the moment the hatch closed behind them.

“Oh, hey Rinoa. You don’t mind if I borrow Seifer for a while?” the blond asked as he started to drag the taller blond away.

“Yes, take him please. Otherwise he’ll just be mooning over Squall for the whole trip.”

“I don’t need to be in his presence to do that,” Seifer said with a smirk.

“See! You need to keep them apart until we get Squall loosened up a little. Then we ‘might’ let you near him,” Rinoa told the blonds’ as they stepped into the lift that led up to the flight deck. “Could we stop by dad’s and pick up Angelo? I’m sure he’d love to come with us.”

“Sure, no prob. Now go grab a seat and strap in tight. Seifer’s flying!”

Rinoa giggled at Seifer’s startled look at this announcement, and with a wave made her way to the passenger area, wondering if she should warn everyone else about the new pilot.

Seifer sat in the pilot’s seat, adjusting it to fit his tall frame and turned to watch Zell flip switches in preparation for the flight. “Why am I flying?” he asked.

“It’s time you learnt how and I need some space to think,” Zell said as he sat in the chair next to him.

“Wouldn’t Irvine be better company?”

“Irvine would be a distraction, Selphie gets too excited, Rinoa just got back and is probably a bit tired from the train trip and Quistis is in charge all the time…” Zell told him then sighed.

“You’re avoiding Squall,” Seifer said, watching as the tattooed blond lean back in his seat and close his eyes as he listened to the Ragnarok power up.

“…”

“Don’t give me the silent shit. That’s Squall’s job. Spill! What took you so long when getting his stuff? Did you guys talk?”

“Honestly, I was going to tell him before we left but…I couldn‘t.” Zell shrugged as he tapped some of the gauges on the control panel. “I really don’t know how he’s going to react. He is my best friend and yet sometimes I wonder if I really know him.”

“Well, you are going to have to do it today if that stop over in Esthar is for what I think…If you had simply come clean at the beginning, this wouldn’t be a problem now.”

“Don’t you think I realise that? Dammit Seifer, you are not helping here!” the smaller blond practically growled at his companion.

“Hey, hey, calm down will ya,” Seifer said, holding his hands up in defence. “Just tell him already.”

“Oh, that’s fine advice coming from you, mister ‘it’s worth the risk, any risk’.”

“You heard all that?” the blond asked, his green eyes widening slightly.

“Let’s just say that we’ve both been avoiding telling Squall something that he should know. What have you been waiting for? The commander to throw himself at you?”

“Zell…” Seifer warned in a low voice.

“Okay, look I’m sorry. I know that you have a lot more at risk than Irvine and myself. Hopefully everything will work out for the best. Anyway, everything is ready to go. Let’s get out of here!” Zell said cheerfully, before beginning to explain the uses of the array of switches in front of them as the airship lifted into the air.

*****

Squall watched Balamb Garden get smaller as the Ragnarok lifted off towards destinations unknown. Hoping that someone would tell him where they were going, Squall turned to his father to ask but was interrupted by the ships announcement system crackling to life.

“Is this thing on?” came a familiar voice. It was at this point that Squall realized that Zell and Seifer were not in the passenger compartment.

“Yes, it’s working. Now try to concentrate on where you’re flying,” replied the other voice.

“At least I’m not as erratic as Selphie when she’s in the pilot’s seat.”

“Hey…” came an outburst from the petite brunette, currently seated behind Squall.

Squall looked at his companions in disbelief. “You’re letting him pilot?”

The others just shrugged, while Selphie glared at one of the in-ship monitors.

“Good morning and welcome to Almasy Airways. Today’s scenic joy flight is in aid of helping our dear commander, Squall Leonhart, find his smile.”

Squall put his hands over his ears at the almost deafening cheers of Selphie and Irvine. The pair soon toned down the volume as Seifer continued.

“Now as we are unsure as to where Squall left his smile with all the travelling around that happened in order to save the world, we will be stopping at various locations throughout the day….” There was a pause in Seifer’s ‘air hostess’ spiel in which a thump and muffled giggling could be heard. “ Chickenwuss, get off the floor and stop laughing like a girl. Squall still has his gunblade, ya know.”

Squall smirked at the others in the cabin, who looked slightly horrified at the thought of Squall running up to the cockpit to chastise Zell with Lionheart. The laughing stopped abruptly.

“That’s better. No, don’t even think of hitting me, calling you by that name was just to get your attention…honest.”

Grumbling could be heard clearly through the speakers.

“Oh, and Squally-boy, I saw that smirk.”

Squall glared at the closest monitor and held up a fist. Then slowly he straightened his middle finger and smiled coldly.

“Such eloquent gestures you have there, my boy. Remind me to teach you a few more later.”

Squall slumped back in his seat. Seifer had gotten him to react again. Damn, he thought as he looked over at Quistis who was frowning at him.

“What?!?”

“I just wish you wouldn’t provoke each other. Sometimes you’re like a pair of bickering kids.”

“Thanks so much for the compliment, Quisty,” purred Seifer’s voice through the speakers again.

Now it was Quistis’ turn to glare at the screen, soon turning her eyes to Laguna, who quickly made a point of moving away from the main communications terminal.

“Seifer doesn’t really need to hear our conservations. He should be concentrating on piloting the airship. Don’t you agree, Mister President?” Quistis asked as she moved towards the sheepish looking Laguna. Kiros stepped in between the longhaired blond and equally longhaired brunette.

“Excuse me Quistis, but this is a group outing. It wouldn’t do to leave anyone out of any discussions. And besides, if Seifer has any problems I’m sure Zell will take over control of the Ragnarok before trouble arises.”

Good old Kiros, always coming to Laguna’s defence. Squall watched as Quistis smiled sweetly and returned to her seat next to Ellone.

The comm crackled to life again. Squall groaned quietly. What now.

“Seeing as we managed to leave on time, we should arrive at our final destination sometime mid-afternoon depending on how many stops we make along the way. This will give everyone plenty of time to set up camp…” came Zell’s cheerful voice.

Squall shot out of his seat. “What camp?” he growled out.

Selphie chose to reply.

“We’re staying at the orphanage overnight. We only have a few days free as Laguna barely managed to get two days cleared and some of us have missions coming up. We wanted to have you all to ourselves with no distractions.”

Squall glared at them all. Then recalling that he had no choice in the matter he threw himself back into his seat.

“Fine, we’ll do it your way.”

“That’s the spirit, Squally-boy,” came Seifer’s smug voice through the comm. “I promise you won’t regret it.”

*****

Finally, no more running around, Squall thought to himself as he laid back on one of the large rugs spread in the field near the orphanage. Stretching his legs out, the brunette let his mind wander back over the events of the day.

After agreeing to be at the mercy of his friends, Squall had been dragged all over the place.

First stop was Timber. Here, Laguna had quickly pulled Kiros and Ward off the Ragnarok, calling something about ‘drinks’ over his shoulder. They had returned about half an hour later, loaded with everything from soft drink to wine. Any red coloured drinks were immediately hidden from Selphie, who was hyper enough already.

Second stop was Deling City when Rinoa had decided to pick up her dog Angelo from her father’s mansion. Informing everyone that Angelo would enjoy a few days at the orphanage compared to a visit with the vet, the sorceress had promptly deposited the dog next to Squall, who was then treated to an enthusiastic and very wet tongue bath. It was during the bath that Seifer came down from the cockpit to relieve the commander of his sword. The resulting chase through the airship had ended when Ellone, assisted by Ward, had informed Squall that Seifer was supposed to be piloting the Ragnarok and sent him back to his seat. Squall’s scowl didn’t last long as he was given another bath by Angelo.

Shortly after lifting off again, Laguna asked Squall if he minded a short stop at Winhill. Squall agreed knowing his father’s schedule was usually so tight it rarely allowed him to leave the city and Laguna would want to go see his mother’s grave. While the others visited the town, Laguna and Squall, along with Kiros, went to the old florist shop that Raine once owned to buy a bouquet of her favourite flowers.

Kiros watched the younger brunette as his father walked up to the hilltop where his mother rested.

“Even after all these years he is still devoted to her.” Kiros told the boy quietly.

“But I thought…”

“That your father and I were together?”

Squall nodded.

“Yes, we are. And it is his unwavering loyalty to Raine’s memory that makes me love him more. I am glad that you do not disapprove of our relationship. We are content with our lives together and now wish to see you happy as well.”

Squall nodded at his father’s lover. He had spent the first few weeks after the war with his father and Laguna’s lifelong companions getting to know them all better. As a result Squall was more comfortable with Kiros and Ward and treated them like extended family, taking time each week to call Esthar and chat for a few minutes. He looked up to watch his father’s return. When Laguna presented Kiros with a single flower from the bouquet left on the hilltop, Squall had blushed and allowed a small smile form on his lips. His father was in good hands.

After dragging Seifer and Irvine away form the Winhill pub and it’s cute hostess, the group had gone to Esthar to get food supplies. Selphie, Quistis, Ellone and Rinoa had ordered the ‘men’ to stay onboard. They reasoned that if Laguna was recognized he would be inundated with work and that was simply not allowed.

It had taken the women well over an hour to return. They had found the men gathered in the main hold. Kiros, Seifer, and Ward had found a deck of cards and were playing a semi-serious game of poker. Irvine and Zell were seated on the floor on opposite sides of the room, rolling a ball between them that Angelo happily chased. Laguna was attempting to keep Squall distracted from searching for his gunblade as the father and son duo watched for the return of the girls.

Upon their arrival back, Rinoa had approached Zell with a small package in a bag. Squall’s eyes widened as he watched the blond give the sorceress a blinding smile and a kiss on the cheek. Before he could question anyone about it, Zell and Seifer had raced up to the cockpit and they were soon off to the orphanage.

Remembering the kiss, Squall turned to ask Selphie about it as she joined him on the rug.

“Huh?” came the very intelligent reply from a distracted Selphie as Irvine promptly followed her onto the rug, resting his back on Selphie’s bent knees.

Squall gestured first to Rinoa, who was tickling Angelo’s nose with a flower, then waved a hand in Zell’s direction, to where he and Seifer sparred playfully, while Laguna and Kiros cheered them on.

“Why did Zell kiss Rinoa? Are they together now?” he asked again.

Selphie looked shocked at the idea and quickly thumped on Irvine’s back as the cowboy choked on his drink. Squall waited patiently for an answer.

“When was the last time you had gossip from Rinoa?” she asked Squall.

“About two months ago, why?”

“Then surely you should know…”

“I asked Rinoa not to tell anyone that didn’t already know, Sel,” came a slightly choked whisper from Irvine.

“Tell anybody what, Irvine?” asked Squall.

“You were so busy with the Garden, Squall, that we never really found time to let you know…” Selphie started to explain.

“I’ll be right back,” said Irvine, getting off the rug and approaching the two blonds.

“Tell me what?” he asked again, following Irvine with his eyes.

Selphie observed Squall’s face for any hint of recognition of what Irvine was possibly about to do. She watched as his jaw dropped open and his eyes grew as round as saucers. Looking back over her shoulder at the grinning Seifer, Selphie smiled at the sight of Irvine holding Zell’s face in his hands to deliver a lingering kiss to the startled blond. Zell broke the kiss and blushed while looking in Squall’s direction.

“They hooked up about six months ago when you sent us to oversee some of the repairs to Trabia Garden. They are madly in love and have been waiting for the right moment to tell you. Guess Irvine couldn’t wait any longer.” Selphie smirked at Squall.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“While everyone thought of Irvine as a womanising cowboy, he is actually extremely romantic. He’s been waiting for Zell to propose.”

Propose?!”

“Yes, Squall. He wants to marry Zell but has been waiting for the right question to be asked. We guessed that Zell was waiting for you to find out. Being his best friend, I believe that Zell wanted your approval to the match. Rinoa says that the blond was going to tell you on this little trip so that you could get used to the idea away from the distraction of work. That’s what was in the bag.”

“In the bag?” Squall frowned remembering the small bag Rinoa had given Zell on the Rag. His head began to swim with all the new information.

“Engagement ring,” Selphie supplied Squall’s overloaded mind.

“Excuse me for a minute,” Squall said, leaving Selphie alone on the rug as he approached the couple. Seifer passed Squall along the way and with a wink headed for the rug.

Looking over at the three boys as he got comfortable next to Selphie, Seifer smiled.

“It’s about time.”

“Sure is,” agreed Selphie, then she gasped quietly at the expression on their commander’s face.

“Is that what I think it is?” she asked the blond next to her.

Seifer saw a smiling Squall get pulled into a hug by Zell as he congratulated the pair. Irvine smiled shyly from under the brim of his hat then joined in hugging the now cheerful brunette. Seifer frowned.

“It’s a smile for someone else’s happiness. The stipulation was he had to smile because he was happy, not because his friends are happy.”

Selphie looked at Seifer and placed a hand on his shoulder.

“You’re going to tell him, aren’t you?” she asked quietly.

“I want to make him happy. I can make him happy. He’s been totally buried in his work that he hasn’t had the time to see what been going on around him. You’re seeing Nida, Quistis has been dating a White SeeD, and Rinoa has let Zone into her life. I’ve been waiting a long time for him, Sel, I don‘t want to wait forever.” Seifer stood and smile sadly down at Selphie.

“That was part of the reason I returned to the Garden…for him.”

Selphie watched Seifer walk back to the orphanage and then turned to where Squall was still hugging the happy couple. As she was about to call and tell them it was time for dinner, the petite brunette looked at Squall’s face. He was smiling at something that Zell was telling him but his eyes followed the retreating form of Seifer. Selphie couldn’t read the smoky grey depths but she knew that the blond man was right. Seifer could possibly be the one thing that would make Squall truly smile.

*****

After a pleasant evening meal cooked by Quistis, Ellone and Ward, Seifer went searching for Squall. Copious amounts of laughter poured from the small kitchen area where Kiros and Laguna were engaged in a bubble fight while washing up the dishes as the blond passed the room. Quistis and Rinoa were off preparing sleeping quarters for everyone. Ward had found Cid’s private library and was getting comfortable with a large book, while in the corner Ellone and Selphie had located the laptop that Cid kept and were trying to connect to the Garden. This left Zell and Irvine unaccounted for as well as Squall.

Seifer had a good idea what was happening when he spotted a silhouette of Zell and Irvine on the beach. Zell was holding the cowboy’s hand tightly when he was pulled into a heated embrace. Seifer smiled. Zell had finally done it. Hearing a scrape of heavy boots, the blond turned his head and noticed Squall watching the scene below from the shadowed wall outside the kitchen window.

“I hope you’re not looking for Zell or Irvine, Seifer, because they really won’t appreciate any disturbances at the moment,” Squall said as the blond joined him in the shadows.

“Yeah, I kind of guessed that. What are you doing out here?”

Squall looked up at the stars and took a deep, cleansing breath. “The fresh air helps me to think more clearly. Plus Laguna was lining me up for a armful of bubbles so I thought it best to retreat out here.”

They stood in companionable silence for a few minutes. Squall continued to watch the stars but he could feel Seifer’s green eyes watching in the darkness. The brunette sighed.

“Quite a lot has happened today,” he began. “First I get a prize for not smiling, then kidnapped on a smile finding hunt by my nutcase friends. Next I’m dragged all over the place in order to find the smile I can’t really remember losing as well as getting a bath from a sorceress’ pet along the way. I then get a pep talk from my father’s lover. Finally, I’m told, no shown, that two of my friends are actually lovers and have been awaiting my approval before marrying… Have I missed anything?”

Only that I’ve been watching you all day, Seifer thought to himself. And it was true. While piloting the Rag, the blond had kept one of the cameras focused on the commander, wanting to see any of his reactions first hand. When Angelo had distracted the brunette, Seifer had raced out of the cockpit to grab Lionheart. Running around the airship, laughing and being chased by Squall was a lot of fun and the blond had known that his longer legs would save him from his commander‘s speed. Seifer also learnt that Squall looked very sexy when breathless and was thankful when Ellone had intervened before he decided to grab the brunette and given him another reason to be out of breath. When they had stopped in Winhill and the three men had gone to visit Raine’s grave, Seifer had stood at the window watching for their return and ignoring Selphie’s teasing about Squall only to move away when the brunette had come into sight.

But it was the stop in Esthar when they had been waiting for the girls that had given Seifer time to think again about why he wanted Squall so much. They’d known each other practically their whole lives and the blond was trying to remember when he’d first began to think of Squall as other than a rival and fellow student. It was certainly before the war and he believed that the reason for the feelings had happened before they had entered the Garden. That meant it had begun at the orphanage. Back when they were just children and Sis had left and Squall had begun to close himself off from the others. Seifer had remembered the blue-grey eyes bright with laughter and happiness and had locked away the memories in his mind and cherished them promising to himself to one day bring light back into the brunette‘s life. Over the years the feelings had changed from long-time friendly affection to something deeper but because Seifer wasn’t sure, he’d used teasing and sometimes bullying to get a reaction out of Squall and as a way to be closer to him. But now, after all the years of waiting and wanting, it was time to be honest with the man he had known for so long.

Seifer chuckled quietly.

“Not really. Except for the things you didn’t know about.”

“Like what?” Squall asked.

“Well, Quistis has been dating some White SeeD guy that she met during the war. Selphie’s been getting it on with Nida since my graduation night. Rinoa’s now dating Zone. And…I want to be with you.”

The last few words had been delivered in the softest whisper that Squall wasn’t sure he had heard correctly.

Seifer…one time friend, occasional rival, detested enemy and once again a friend wanted him. Him.

“Squall, I want to be the one who makes you happy. I want to give you back your smile…please say something.”

It was the quiet desperation in Seifer’s voice that broke through Squall’s musings. He turned to the blond in the darkness, shadowed green eyes watching him closely. Squall thought back to his feelings that morning while contemplating the statue left by his friends.

“Before you and everyone else came into the office this morning, I sat at my desk trying to remember when I last smiled. Then I realised that out of the last three smiles that I could recall, you were the cause of two. The first smile was shared with Rinoa the night of the party we held to celebrate the end of the war. The other two were when you first came home to us and then when you finally graduated. Can’t you see that you already make me smile?” Squall resisted the urge to shake Seifer as the brunette began to feel frustrated. The blond just smiled down at him.

“But are you happy, Squall?” Seifer asked softly.

“I’m not sure. Not the way you want me to be, I think.”

Seifer watched Squall’s face in the shadows and was sure he saw a frown. He decided to take a leap of faith. Taking a hold of Squall’s chin, the blond made sure he had the brunette’s full attention.

“Do you trust me, Squall?” he asked the young man in front of him. Squall searched Seifer’s eyes in the dimness and nodded.

“Then don’t think anymore…just feel.”

Then he kissed him softly.

*****

The sun arose the following morning to show that three beds remained unslept in. Zell and Irvine emerged from the direction of the field of flowers next to the orphanage, their clothes slightly rumpled and leaving no question as to how they had passed the night. Of Seifer and Squall there was no sign. While the others prepared breakfast and tidied up any mess made the previous night, Laguna and Kiros went to search for the wayward boys.

Wandering along the beach, they found Seifer asleep with head resting in Squall’s lap. The brunette was wrapped up in one of the large rugs, his arm around the slumbering blond, trailing his fingertips through soft hair as he watched the sunrise. He looked up at the near silent approach of his father and Kiros. Then he smiled.

Kiros’ breath caught at the inner glow shown in the brunette’s usually stormy eyes. He knew that look well because he saw it every morning in the mirror. Contentment. He looked down at Laguna as the man wrapped an arm around him and spoke quietly in his ear.

“It’s time to go home.”

*****

Of course, they didn’t leave until well after lunch.

Squall and Seifer spent the day within touching distance of each other, enduring much good-natured ribbing from their friends. Everyone fussed over the ring that now adorned Irvine’s hand. The cowboy blushed a deep red as he asked Selphie to be his maid-of-honour. The petite brunette’s happy cries echoed off the walls for at least an hour.

On the return to Balamb Garden, a nervous looking Zell pulled Squall away from Seifer for a few minutes.

“I only wanted a really small and private ceremony, you know. Just the gang, Ma, Matron and Cid, Laguna, Kiros and Ward. Selphie wants to invite the whole student faculty of all three Gardens. At this rate she’ll lose her place as head bridesmaid because we’ll elope. What will I do, Squall? She’s gonna drive me crazy with what she’s planning. Um… you’ll be best man, right?” Zell was beginning to freak out.

“Sure, Zell. I’d be honoured. But I’m letting Seifer plan the buck’s night.”

“Yeah, great…hang on. The buck’s night is your job…” Zell called after the retreating back of his best friend. Squall just waved a hand over his shoulder and returned to Seifer’s side with a smile.

Upon arriving at the Garden, the whole group made it’s way up to the commander’s office to inform Cid and Edea of their return. They met firmly locked doors with Matron and her husband standing informal guard. The pair watched Squall carefully.

“Allow me,” Seifer told them, smirking as he pulled Squall into a deep kiss in front of the entire group.

Squall blushed crimson at the sound of catcalls and wolf-whistles from Rinoa and Selphie. When he was finally released from the breathtaking embrace, he smiled shyly at Seifer, then turned and looked at Matron and Cid. His smile deepened along with the blush at their shocked expressions.

Cid cleared his throat. “I guess we’ll be leaving then,” he said grinning at his wife.

Laguna moved to stand beside the ex-headmaster.

“We’re not heading back to Esthar until tomorrow afternoon. Stay another night and catch a ride with us then,” he suggested.

“Yeah, it’ll give Squall the time to move Seifer’s stuff into his quarters and we can celebrate Irvine and Zell’s engagement tonight while we’re all together,” advised Selphie as she ignored both glaring but blushing couples.

Cid and Edea looked shocked all over again. Then they moved to congratulate the newly engaged couple.

“So what are you going to do with that statue, Squall?” Seifer asked as the group moved towards the elevator, remembering the one item that had started it all.

“Well, if Zell starts to panic over his engagement again I’ll probably thump him with it. Otherwise it’s perfectly fine where it is on my desk although it may not fulfil the job it was made for.”

“And why is that?” Seifer asked, vaguely remembering the inscription.

Squall smiled as he pulled Seifer’s confused face down for a light brush of their lips.

“Because you are what makes me smile, you always were even when we didn’t realise it.”

End

Notes from the Gnome: Well, that was fun. A small sorry for those of you who really wanted a SxS lemon, but if I ever do a sequel, the boys will be steaming up your screen in no time. A great, big huggles to Sukunami for listening to my ramblings at all strange hours of the morning. And I just like to thank anyone who takes the time to read this fic….hope you found it entertaining. ^_^ Please read an review…..or flame. Whatever takes your fancy. But flames will be shown to my mum and then we’ll laugh loudly at them.