A Grand-idi Day Out Part 2
by LunarCry

"I'm surprised you haven't asked Rinoa to go fighting malboros with you yet, Squall," Irvine howled, "I can imagine that being your idea of a hot date!"

All three of them were hysterical, rolling around on the grass and laughing their asses off.

Doesn't matter that it's at my expense, I guess, Squall thought irritably, looking everywhere except at Selphie, Rinoa or Irvine. What the hell have I done to deserve so much ridicule? They're supposed to be my friends, for God's sake!

Irvine told another joke while Rinoa was halfway through a glass of wine. The said liquid was sprayed everywhere, and another laughing session ensued.

I wonder how often people talk about me? I'm probably not the easiest guy to get on with, but I never asked for this . . .

Squall sipped at his wine moodily. Should he sit here and be laughed at, or storm off angrily? If he did the latter, they'd probably rip it out of him some more, but it was taking all his willpower not to launch himself at Irvine. He knew the guy meant well . . . maybe he should stop taking everything so seriously. He wouldn't go so far as to laugh along with them, but he'd tolerate it . . . for now.

Selphie leaned back and stretched, yawning widely. "The heat makes you sleepy, doesn't it?" They'd chosen a place near the Ragnarok, on grassy terrain and slap-bang in the path of the sun's intense rays. Squall had already taken off his jacket and gloves, but the heat was nigh on unbearable. Sighing, he laid back on the grass, one hand behind his head and the other fingering his silver Griever necklace thoughtfully.

The heat really did make you sleepy. Within a few minutes of his new position, Squall felt his eyes begin to close, although he could still hear his three friends chattering away amiably. He forced himself to relax, muscle by muscle, working from his neck downwards, until he felt the tension draining out of his body. He was startled when Rinoa closed in on him, snuggling up to his side and pressing her head against his shoulder.

"Hey, guys," Irvine said, and Squall and Rinoa sat up, her arm still snaked around his waist. The sniper was standing, hand-in-hand with Selphie, who was grinning infectiously, her light green eyes positively glowing. "We're, uh, gonna go off to, uh, take care of some stuff, okay?"

"Stuff, huh?" Rinoa jibed. "So this stuff involves taking an entire bottle of wine - and glasses - for just the two of you, does it?"

"Yeah!" Selphie giggled, and ran off, dragging Irvine by the hand. "Bye! See you later!"

As the two faded into the forest background, Rinoa grinned at Squall, nudged him in the ribs, and inclined her head towards the Ragnarok door.

"Haven't we got some 'stuff' of our own to take care of?" she said slyly, wrapping her arms around his neck. He put his hands on her hips, but wasn't entirely comfortable.

"What about Dr. Kadowaki?"

"She said the heat was too much for her. She's asleep in the cockpit. Come on, Squall!" She stood up, releasing him but catching his hand instead and practically dragging him inside.

It was much cooler within the Ragnarok. Rinoa led him from the gangplank to the hangar, and then into a small side room. There she pushed him against a wall, and kissed him.

When she pulled away for breath, Squall hissed: "But what if -"

She put her finger to his lips. "Squall, for once, would you try to act your age?" She crushed her mouth against his, and Squall returned the kiss this time, pushing his body against hers and pulling her as close as possible with his arms. Rinoa had already shrugged out of her long blue coat outside because of the damned heat, and such close contact was bringing Squall to boiling point.

She broke away with a seductive, "Now that's more like it!" and helped pull his shirt up over his head. Before he had a chance to say a word, she was grabbing at his trousers.

She'd just got them loose when the door flew open.

Rinoa shrieked, and Squall hastily caught at his trousers before they fell around his ankles.

Realising what they'd just interrupted, Quistis, Xu and Dr. Kadowaki started stuttering apologies.

"Geez, doesn't anyone respect privacy anymore?!" Squall was yelling, fastening his trousers and reaching for his shirt. Rinoa was staring daggers at Quistis in particular, as though the instructor had contrived to do this deliberately.

"Sorry, Squall," Xu said, flushing bright red. "But we have a slight problem."

Finally get a chance to let go and . . . His mind did a comic double take. A problem?

"What problem?" he asked anxiously.

"Well, you see, Xu and I found a malboro nest and -"

"It's not their breeding season!"

"Yeah, well there's one there and its absolutely heaving with eggs. I think we'd better pull everyone out. I specifically arranged the time so that there wouldn't be too many malboros to deal with, but broody malboros can be even more dangerous if their territory's invaded -"

"Well, shit, Quistis!" Squall charged out of the room, yanking his shirt down over his head almost painfully. "We've gotta find them all now and bring them back! Wait . . . where's my - oh, thanks, Rinoa." He quickly sheathed his upgraded gunblade in his belt, running his fingers agitatedly through his hair, which Rinoa had messed up with her somewhat violent caresses.

"Yes, I figured that out, but the problem is how, Squall. There are nine groups of kids and SeeDs out there, and they might already have run into a few malboros by now! Squall? Squall, come back here!"

Squall sprinted towards the cockpit, running so fast that he slammed himself into the wall when he had to force himself to stop upon reaching the elevator. He took it up to the cockpit, and found the controls for the siren. He set it off, and listened despairingly to the low-pitched wail the ship emitted. Sure, the kids would be able to hear it, but what if they were right now engaged in a battle they had no hope of winning? Even three experienced SeeDs wouldn't be able to take down a malboro in heat.

He turned and dove back onto the lift, meeting the four women downstairs.

"Dr. Kadowaki, I need you to stay here in case anyone returns. Quistis, Xu, Rinoa . . ." He brandished his gunblade menacingly. "We're going malboro hunting."

Rinoa looked around her, and gulped. "Just us four?"

"Just how bad is a broody malboro?" Xu asked anxiously. The look Squall shot her was not reassuring.

"Make sure you have enough Esunas." Squall strode down the gangplank, receiving a supportive glance from Dr. Kadowaki. "God knows we're going to need them."

"You defeated Ultimecia and you're worried about a little malboro?" Quistis asked wryly, a chiding grin on her naturally pale face.

"Well, malboros are different, and you know it. Best check your status defence." He turned back to Dr. Kadowaki, who was waiting at the base of the gangplank stairway. "If everyone returns, switch off the siren and we'll know to come back."

She nodded. Squall had always found the rotund physician's presence strangely comforting, and smiled.

"You're only happy when things are going wrong, aren't you," Quistis muttered unhappily.

Unable to resist, he grinned at her. "Maybe I just like being right all the time. Okay, let's move out!"


Zell woke up.

His head ached and his eyes stung, but at least he could see.

Unfortunately, this did him little good, as he couldn't actually move an inch.

" . . . the hell?" he mumbled, and looked down at his body. A strong, slick, white cocoon was encased around everything below his neck. Zell strained against the thick, glutinous material, but couldn't budge.

Then he realised that the place stank.

Of malboro.

Feeling the first pangs of panic, Zell craned his neck awkwardly. His prone body was lying on the floor, which was kind of springy and steamy. And very green. It was also pretty dark down here, mainly because of the dense forest canopy. There were white cocoons like the one he was trapped in scattered all over the place, filled with other SeeDs and junior classmen, and between them, in various places, were greyish ovoid shapes. It looked like an alien landscape, and he felt like alien lunch, wrapped in its own protective covering for freshness.

His mum was right; his imagination did take over sometimes.

A flash of browny-grey caught his eye. To his right, he could see a cliff face through all the greenery. His heart fell at the sight.

Somehow, he'd been brought down the cliff! By the malboros? But they always killed and ate what they defeated!

A memory tinkered inside Zell's mind, of a book he'd read in Balamb Garden's library once. He'd really just wanted an excuse to be with his girl, but the book had been interesting enough.

"Wildlife of the Eastern Continent," I think it was called. There was a section on malboros . . . Dammit, I know it was important! Think, Zell, think!

He drew in a deep breath.

Okay, I know I never really cared how monsters lived - just how they could be killed . . . but that's why I should remember it because it's not the sorta thing I usually read . . . Breeding habits! That was it! Something about egg-laying . . . oh, no!

His heart sank even further, until it reached the depths of his stomach and sent a fierce chill through his body.

It said . . . broody malboros hunt for food and leave it in the nest, to feed the kids when they hatch!

Zell wasn't about to be any baby malboro's first meal. But how in hell was he going to get out? He strained against the cocoon, but caught sight of a face he recognised all too well amongst the other captives.

"Nida! Nida, wake up!"

The SeeD's face was far too pale for Zell's liking. If those malboros could overcome status defence, then he was quick to assume that Nida might have been poisoned. Goddamn! He'd had loads of antidotes in that carry sack - as well as the flare gun.

"Hold on, Nida!" Zell wriggled around, trying to move, but the cocoon was actually glued to the floor in some way. He couldn't even roll over!

At the sound of his strenuous efforts, Nida was roused, albeit somewhat groggily. He blinked a few times, his usually bright gaze clouded with weariness.

"Zell?" Nida's voice was tired.

" 'S'up, Nida?"

"Ugh . . . think I cracked a few ribs back there . . . and that damn monster hit me with poison."

"Can you move?"

Nida pushed half-heartedly against his prison. "No, I can't." Zell saw the SeeD's face contort with pain soon after he'd relaxed.

"Look, don't move, all right? You'll only aggravate it if you do."

"Enough said . . ."

Zell plastered his most charming grin on his face. "Relax! Everything's under control!"

"I've heard that before . . ."

"Yeah, 'cause everything's always been under control, man!"

Nida smiled. "Sure it has."

Zell chewed his lip, trying to figure out how to escape. A spell? A lashing of Fire would no doubt burn away the cocoon, but probably char him as well. And with all this greenery about, he couldn't risk it.

All right, what did Squall tell me about thinking before doing anything? Okay, first up, what resources do I have?

He looked around, and spotted something that turned his stomach to liquid.

The black bulk of a hexadragon lay against several upturned trees, cocooned to death. Green things the size of dogs were crawling all over it, eating it.

"Oooohhhh shit!" he hissed.

"What?" From his angle, Nida wouldn't be able to see the grotesque answer to the question of where all the hexadragons had got to.

"Uh, nothing. Everything's under -"

"Control, yeah, I know."

They both froze as a great, wet crack resounded somewhere in Zell's vicinity.


" . . . Yeah?"

"What the hell was that?"

Zell swivelled his head around. One of the ovoids he'd seen before was split open like a mouldy old seedpod. Had it been like that before? He couldn't remember, and suddenly wished he had a photographic memory.

"What the -"

It sounded like the laugh of some insane scientist, you know the sort - big glasses, white coats, strange hair formations . . . All malboros laughed like that. But this had been a mini-version, from a mini-malboro no doubt. But where?

"Uh, Zell, now's not the time to panic," Nida said calmly, "but there's A BIG GREEN THING CRAWLING ON YOU!"

Zell shrieked, and was assaulted by a gust of vile breath that was almost as bad as the older malboros'. This baby malboro was identical to them - but much smaller.

Still big, though! Zell thrashed around, trying to throw it off him, but it just crawled its way across the cocoon, heading for his torso, his neck, his goddamn face!

"Hell, no! Hell, no!" Zell screamed, and suddenly his clenched fists burst from the cocoon with a blinding flash of ethereal light, his body following them as they found their mark right on the baby malboro's evil grinning face. It flew through the air, smacked against the cliff wall with a nasty squelch, and died as it slid to the floor.

"Phew!" Zell wiped slime off his gloves, and tried to reassemble his hair quiff. " 'If it weren't for limit breaks', eh?"

Nida blinked. "You actually went to that lecture?"

"Well, no, but I got someone to tell me about it afterwards so I didn't fail the exam." Grinning, Zell dragged the lower half of his body out of the cocoon and brushed himself off. "Okay, sit tight, Nida." He called on his supply of magic, and tried to cast Esuna on the poisoned SeeD. The magic just bounced off the cocoon, a pretty display of light, but no antidote for poison.

"Damn, the stuff must nullify the magic." He tugged at the thick white material, but couldn't get it to split. The stuff was stronger than he'd ever seen! "You'll have to hold on, Nida. I'll be right back with an antidote or something. I promise!"

"Don't take all day about it, will ya?" was Nida's parting shot, as Zell sprinted off to find a way back up the cliff.


There had obviously been a struggle. For a start, the grass was flattened. A heavy, soft leather coat was neatly folded by a splintered tree, along with a dark, old-fashioned cowboy hat. A wine bottle was lying smashed on the ground. Several of the glass shards were dripping with a dark substance. Since the wine had been white, they could only assume that it was blood. A vile stench floated about the area.

Oh . . . no . . .

"But . . . but where are they?" Rinoa asked softly, her eyes wide and her heart heavy. "Where are Selphie and Irvine?"

She looked across at Squall, whose brow was furrowed with anxiety, the scar across his nose and forehead creasing slightly. He'd scooped up his gloves but not his jacket, mentioning something about sweaty palms, and now one of his covered hands was clenched tightly around the handle of his upgraded gunblade.

"I don't know."

"If a . . . malboro had attacked them, would they definitely be . . ."

Quistis' unfinished question just sort of hung in the stagnant air.

"Irvine would never leave those behind," Xu said, chewing her lip and pointing at the pile of clothes resting at the base of the tree. "They must've been attacked!"

"Look, we don't know what happened," Squall interrupted irritably, in his usual careless manner. "We'll have to move on. Hopefully they got away. Perhaps they killed it and are on their way back to the Ragnarok as we speak."

"You don't sound very reassuring," Quistis grumbled.

"I don't mean to. Hope is usually a waste of time."

She flashed an angry look at him. "When we were up against Edea, then Adel, and then Ultimecia, hope was all we had to get us through!"

"We don't have time for a debate," Rinoa said, flustered. Quistis and Squall would argue all day if given half a chance. She stooped by the tree, collecting Irvine's coat and hat, the latter of which she placed on her own head. "Irvine will want me to save these for him."

"Rinoa, it's not worth carrying those around," Squall said, starting to lose his patience. "We don't even know if they -"

"Oh, don't be so callous!" she spat at him. "Come on, let's keep moving!" Tilting the hat the way Irvine often did to charm the ladies, Rinoa stormed off into the dense foliage.

"Do you think we should approach the nest?" Xu asked.

"Just us four?" Squall half-laughed at that notion. "We'd never make it out alive."

"This coming from the guy who defeated the ultimate sorceress . . ."

"Look," Rinoa snapped, whirling around to face her friends. "Just because Squall defeated Ultimecia, it doesn't mean he's invincible. Besides, he hardly did it on his own. All six of us played our part."

If only they knew the truth about what happened that day . . . Rinoa sighed. People just assume we killed Ultimecia and left. They don't realise how hard it was . . . first in the castle, fighting off her 'pets', finally reaching her, eventually killing her . . . and then getting lost as time was distorted. None of them know. Not one of them.

"Let's at least head for the cliff edge, so you can get a look at the nest," Quistis suggested calmly. "There's always a chance that the malboros took Selphie and Irvine down there. It's not far from here."

"But, why would they?" Squall leaned back against a tree, taking a breather. "Malboros always eat what they defeat."

"If that's so, then what do they feed their young?"

Fear rose from the depths of Rinoa's stomach, flooding her body with cold. Xu's theory made frightening sense. "That's assuming Irvine and Selphie didn't get away," she said, though her sentence was more of a question, to which no one offered her an answer.

They turned left sharply from where they were, and walked diagonally. Though they reached the cliff edge must faster than Xu and Quistis had, Rinoa could see that the 'path' was still a long way off, a dark smear on the plain brown horizon. She glanced down into the heavy jungle below, and gulped.

"Come on then. We've got a long way to go and we have to get there fast." Squall put action to his words, and Rinoa had to run to keep up with his long, quick strides. Despite vigorous training regimes, she still wasn't quite on the same level as her fellow SeeD friends, and was panting by the time the crack in the cliff was in the near distance.

"I must be rusty," she breathed, and grinned.

"We haven't done any travelling like this in a long while," Squall agreed, nodding, and then froze suddenly, holding out his hand for everyone to do the same.

Rinoa tried to hold her breath, but her oxygen debt was already too high and the only sound in the forest was her harsh breathing. Her eyes widened.

Her breathing was the only sound in a forest as still as a graveyard. No birds, no wind, not even any of those huge, annoying bugs. The trees seemed to be waiting for something, their tense anticipation palpable in the humid air. Squall's eyes were narrowed in an expression he wore all too often - suspicion. His lips parted, and he started to say something.

"We -"

Then the ground exploded.

Rinoa was showered with dirt and rock, coughing and spluttering wildly. Wiping the dust from her eyes, she looked up to see an absolutely huge malboro, tentacles writhing to pull itself out of the ground it had been hiding in.


The SeeD was prone on his back, propped up on his elbows and staring at the malboro with wide blue eyes. But they contained no trace of fear, just total alertness, a calculating quality, as if he were thinking of a way to defeat the monster even now.

Isn't he ever scared?

The malboro had burst up from where Squall had been standing, so he'd been hit with the worst of the blast. Quistis and Xu had been pretty close, and were on their hands and knees, still dazed from the attack. As the creature crawled out of its hole, Rinoa saw the dark tunnel in the rock that it had been waiting in. Perhaps the monsters had a whole network of tunnels running through the cliff? It would explain how they dragged their prey down to the nest, if they did so at all.

A foul stench swept over her, making her nauseous. She clambered to her feet, feeling less than graceful, as the smell made her head spin. Nevertheless, she flexed her arm, pulling back the catch on her Shooting Star and preparing to fire.

Ear-bursting, inhuman, hysterical laughter told her that more malboros were coming from the outskirts of the forest itself. Squall was on his feet, his Lion Heart drawn.

We could do with Ifrit . . . but Selphie has him! Rinoa looked around at her companions. Xu didn't tend to use Guardian Forces very much, but Quistis did. Which one did she have?

The instructor mouthed "Siren!" at her, and Rinoa felt her confidence slip a little. Her Carbuncle wouldn't be any good against a malboro's Bad Breath attack. Squall's favourite was Shiva . . . Ice! Malboros were weak against Ice!

She started to yell over at him, but he was already closing his eyes and falling into a defensive stance. Rinoa bit her lip, wondering if Squall realised his back was to the cliff edge, but he was too busy concentrating. She, Quistis and Xu started hitting the thing with Blizzaga and Firaga spells. It countered by spitting acid at them. Rinoa dodged a particularly nasty blob of the stuff. It met with the rocky ground and instantly started to sear it away. She thought of the tunnels below the surface, and gasped.

As the other malboros writhed their way onto the cliff edge, she saw the ground near Squall begin to spider web. The SeeD was too busy to notice, and the first malboro was blocking her way to him. Nevertheless, she took a step forward - and the floor at her feet caved in. She shrieked, just managing to catch herself. Her rear hit the ground painfully, and she had to yank her leg out of the hole she'd just created.

Too much weight! We've got to get off this cliff!

Suddenly Squall cried out in surprise, and Rinoa's panicked gaze shot across to him instantly. The SeeD had been knocked out of his trance by the shattering of the ground at his feet. He was back on the floor, and dazed by his abrupt distraction from summoning.

"Squall, get out of there!"

There was a squealing from behind her - Quistis and Xu had taken down one of the malboros, which shrivelled up into an ashy black pile. The other two were still on the rampage, not including the one advancing on Squall, and he was having trouble keeping his balance, his eyes flitting back and forth between the not-so-distant edge of the cliff and the laughing malboro blocking his path.

And then everything was interrupted by the sound of gunfire.


Irvine burst from the undergrowth, ignoring Selphie's anxious cries, and first targeted the malboro closing in on Squall. The SeeD was far too close to the edge for his liking.

Damned things . . .

He hadn't been able to believe Selphie when she'd yelped and dropped the wine bottle in her surprise. In tending her hand, he'd been unable to hear the sound of strange, whispering foliage moving in their direction. Only when he'd seen the overly big, mutated grey malboro had he credited Selphie's hearing. The two had barely made it away with their lives, let alone their weapons, and with Selphie unable to hold her nunchaku with her gashed hand . . . they'd had little choice but to run.

His Exeter was already fully loaded. He held the gun in one hand, pulling the trigger. The heavy rounds thudded into the back of the malboro's head. It turned, laughing maniacally. Irvine continued to pump the rounds into the creature, using his left hand to reload rapidly. The monster was spewing up black blood, the acidic stuff making noxious fumes as it scorched the ground. Fortunately, Irvine was downwind, running sideways as he blasted at the malboro. He fumbled inside his trouser pocket for more ammo, his fast-approaching limit break making his blood burn in his veins. Finding the small capsules he wanted, he jammed two pulse shells into the weapon, using both hands this time to support the gun against the recoil he knew he was going to get.

Irvine pulled the trigger, and the first of the pulse ammo sucked in energy before exploding from the barrel of his gun, throwing him backwards. It did the trick, though. The malboro was practically blown in half, its grinning face pouring acidic blood as it slumped heavily to the ground.

But its weight was too much for the unstable cliff edge, which caved in, taking a startled Squall with it.

Between Rinoa's frantic screaming and his own panic, Irvine thought his feet didn't touch the ground as he dove forward and flung his hand out over the edge, the wind knocked from him as his body thudded to the floor.

Fortunately, Squall's gloved hand found his and Irvine strained against gravity to keep hold of his friend. Squall wasn't heavy, but the elements were apparently against them, and Irvine had his free hand gripping the remainder of the cliff edge.

Squall was looking down, surprisingly calm for a man hanging on for dear life.

"You realise I've gotta go down there now, don't you? I dropped my gunblade, and I'm not leaving it for the malboros to salivate all over."

Irvine almost laughed. "Trust you to worry about your gunblade at a time like this. When I drag you up here, we can go get it together but I'm not letting you fall!"

A cry of sheer desperation rattled around the cliff top.

Squall lifted his head and cocked it to one side. "What the hell's that?"

Irvine threw him a crooked grin. "That's Rinoa, using her limit break to roast all those malboros up there."

"Which one?"

"Angel Wing."

Squall smiled. "I thought as much. Tell her . . ."

"Oh no you don't. You can tell her yourself later on." Irvine tried to get a better grip on the rock to pull himself and Squall up, but the stuff just crumbled away beneath his fingertips. Trying not to look concerned, he changed the subject.

"She saved my hat. I'm glad."

Squall raised an eyebrow at the SeeD. "Irvine, you're talking to Mr. Stoic, here. Don't bother changing the subject, I do it often enough to know when some else is doing it."

Ah, dammit . . . what do I do if he falls? It'll be my fault . . .

"Ah, Squall, I'm sorry, you know?"

He rolled his eyes. "Don't be a dumbass."

"No, really, I never mean any of it, I swear!"

"If you did, do you think you'd still be here today?"

Irvine's grin at that tart reply faded as he felt Squall's fingers begin to slip out of the glove he was holding so tightly.

"Don't you dare! Shit, Squall, don't you dare! Rinoa will flay my ass!"

Squall didn't get the chance to reply. His hand slipped out of the glove, and the SeeD plummeted out of sight.

"Squall! SQUALL!!"

The last of the malboros was going up in a heap of smoke just as Irvine dejectedly staggered away from the cliff edge, feeling slightly unreal. Had that really just happened? Selphie was usually the culprit where falling down cliffs was concerned. Or Rinoa.

Oh, geez, Rinoa!

Recovering from her exhaustive limit break session, Rinoa nevertheless wasted any time in storming up to Irvine. She lunged at him, crying out angrily and thumping his chest with her fists.

"You bastard! You let him go, you let him go! How could you?"

Eventually she collapsed against him, sobbing uncontrollably. Irvine dropped his arms around her, feeling sick to the stomach but determined to believe that Squall was okay.

"Chill, Rinoa," he said, putting on his most charming grin for her. "Squall has a habit of landing on his feet."

* * *

Why do I always seem to land on my ass?

Squall groaned, holding his head in his hands. He was slumped at the base of the cliff. Unbelievably, he was still alive. Miraculously, he was still conscious.

Don't know whether either of those are a godsend or punishment . . . How the hell did I manage to survive this time? He looked up, and sighed. Oh, I remember. I hit a tree before I hit the ground. Bloody hell, this day gets worse every second!

Wincing, Squall tested the boundaries of his movement, flexing his neck and his arms first. He'd scraped his back against the rock in the last few seconds of his dizzying fall, and was glad he hadn't been wearing his favourite jacket.

Skin heals - leather doesn't.

Squall was surprised that a few scratches were the extent of his injuries after such a long fall. Did he bounce or something?

Get chased by a giant mechanical spider . . . and survive . . . get speared with an icicle . . . and survive . . . get electrocuted several dozen times . . . and survive . . . go up against the most powerful sorceress in the past, present and future . . . and survive . . . fall down a cliff . . .

His thoughts wandered as he placed his hands either side of him and pushed. Surprisingly, he lifted from the floor without falling apart at the seams. Using the cliff face to support him, he clambered to his feet. Sharp pain shot up from his right ankle, and Squall fell, landing on his front, arms and legs sprawled most ungraciously.

sprained ankle? He tried to tell himself that it was better than a broken leg, but the obsessive part of his mind nagged at him. Damn . . . never twisted an ankle or wrist in my life. A Cure spell won't help an injury like that . . . It'll take ages to heal . . . really mess up my fitness regime . . .

Squall rolled onto his back, pulling damp leaves from his cheek, trying to catch his breath after that painful reminder of his mortality.

"Goddamn . . ." he breathed, and stood up again, albeit rather shakily, keeping as much pressure as he could on his healthy leg. He looked up, and saw the edge of the cliff he had fallen from.

Holy . . .

All of a sudden, the shock of how far he'd plummeted hit him like a brick wall. Squall fell back against the wall, his breathing sharp and his stomach churning. For a moment, he thought he might throw up. Swallowing, he dropped his head back against the cliff face, closing his eyes and trying to consciously slow down his racing heart.

The placed he'd fallen from was tiny, a mere speck on the vertical horizon.

"Geez . . . why does this stuff always happen to me?"

Squall waited it out, the light-headed feeling and the utter shock to his system eventually leaking out of him. Sighing, he grabbed a nearby fallen branch to help support his weight, and limped off into the undergrowth to find his gunblade.

***End of Part 2***

Part 3 All characters, bar a few of my own, owned by Squaresoft.