Categories > Games > Final Fantasy 8 > Baby Blocks

Day 1 - Monday

by theWallflower 0 Reviews

Squall learns that Selphie and Irvine are about to have a baby. With two weeks before the wedding, how will the 'children of fate' cope with their personal convictions that threaten to break their...

Category: Final Fantasy 8 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Drama, Humor, Romance - Characters: Irvine, Rinoa, Selphie, Squall - Warnings: [!!] - Published: 2006/06/07 - Updated: 2006/06/07 - 5695 words

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This story is in no way intended to infringe on the established copyrights and trademarks of Square-Enix Co., Ltd. It is for entertainment purposes only and is not intended for sale. It may be freely distributed providing that no alterations to the story are made.

The characters and incidents portrayed and the names in this story used herein are fictitious and any similarity to the name, character, or history of any person, living, dead, or otherwise, is purely coincidental and unintentional.


Dedicated to Samantha "Sammy"



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Baby Blocks
By
Eric J. Juneau
E-mail: juneauej@gmail.com


No, I don't know what I'm going to do about it.

I hate to use that word, but it's true.

What about your future plans?

This is a good thing.

Can you imagine what his reaction must have been?

You could wait.

She really only has herself to blame.

How do you tell someone something like that?

Maybe. I was just thinking.

You have to take the consequences for your actions.

We've all been lied to about this.

Life is full of surprises.

People only see what they want to see.

What goes through your mind when you find something like that out?

She's not a little girl.

It's not like either of them wanted this.

Oh my god, I'm so happy for you.

Did you ever think about what this means?

It's never gonna be the same with them. They're not gonna be the same people we knew.

She's making a right decision.

If you mention bad things, they're going to happen.

He's the only thing she really wants.

It's gonna be great.

She says she 'thinks' it's right.

I still don't regret anything.

I don't want to judge.

You can't help but judge. That's what life is, evaluating your situation and surroundings.

I have no opinion.

Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can still remember it happening. I can still remember the emotions I felt. I can still remember the surprise, the shock, the anger, the hatred, the prejudice, and everything else. When you're struggling with just day-to-day ordinaries, those really big bumps in the road can wreak havoc on you, so much that you stop completely before you realize what you'd hit. Those obstacles can't be avoided, because you never see then coming. There's no way you can see them coming.

I never told her afterwards about all this, and I don't think she'll ever know. I can only hope that the mistakes of the past aren't repeated. I can only hope that she's doing a good enough job to make sure this never happens again. Everything had already been set in course by the time I knew about it. It was far deep in the thick of things. I probably couldn't have prevented it even if I had been able to go back in time and do so. I wouldn't have known what to stop, so many little things add up to one big one. It was those two weeks that were the hardest. I can remember exactly what happened during those two weeks, but everything else after that I don't, because it's all insignificant to me.

But it can't amount to one iota of what they were going through.



DAY 1 - MONDAY

Squall scooped up a pile of dry gravely sand in his leather-gloved hand. Tiny grains sparkled in the hot sun against the smooth matted black. He opened his fingers for a quick look at the sandy stars, then tilted his palm to let them fall. The wind blew off the dust into brown smoke and the grains dropped like a waterfall back onto the ground.

The brief interlude of tranquility gently nudged Squall away from the tedium of his location, but only for a second. The parched air of the Nortes Mountains was so unlike the briny scent of his Balamb island continent that sometimes those little slices of serenity were what he needed. They especially kept his mind off the sounds going on behind him.

He turned to check on the progress of his team. Several men in white and blue-trimmed uniforms were unloading packages to the milling SeeD members and other personnel, grumbling and heaving noisily. Despite the grunt work, the mood seemed to be light and enjoyable as the team members took the supplies and ran them to their respective depots with enthusiasm becoming to a SeeD and annoying to their commander.

Squall turned away from the bustling and looked down into the valley. The mobile science camp was currently situated on a level shelf-like table of the mountain, not relatively far from ground level. Half was shaded by the sierra range, the other half left to roast in the dry equatorial sun. Loose dry sand and gray pebbles loaded this mountainside like a landfill. Every once in a while, a small mound of dirt would tumble down into the sloping basin, but that was about the limit for excitement here. Very few animals or monsters existed this high up, only a few sprigs of dry, arid plant life, not even enough for goats to munch on. Essentially a wasteland, albeit a brightly illuminated one, judging by the high sun in the sky.

He noticed a SeeD cadet jogging towards him, a young boy with silky medium brown hair. "Commander Leonhart, sir, we're running out of room in the tent to put the supplies. What should we do?" he gasped, either out of breath from running or heavy lifting.

"Put them outside the tent."

"Oh, ok, thanks," he ran back to the activity at camp.

Squall furrowed his brows with contempt. Quistis had once told him in class how there were no stupid questions in this world. Sure, practical for a teacher, but in the real world where time was never on your side and people weren't always there to answer questions, it was different. These new SeeDs coming up in the program were seeking more adventure and less work. They didn't have any idea of the duress it took, just the glory afterwards. If any of these SeeDs were going to be taking leadership roles in the future, then they had better start taking more initiative. They didn't need to come to him with every single little problem when the answers were obvious. It wasn't hard. All you needed to do was take responsibility when things screw up. That was about fifty percent of his job.

Squall figured the position of Garden Commander was somewhere in between being the headmaster and a SeeD. At Garden he had administrative duties to perform, but he was still called on from time to time to do these mercenary missions. After time compression though, the world quieted down and everything seemed dull. Too many SeeD missions these days dealt with menial security - security for concerts, security for parties, security for cities. They were not the world's bouncers. SeeDs were capable of so much more - covert ops, military training, search and rescue. The worst one was when they were asked to clean up trash after a parade. Such was the life of a mercenary - you didn't get much say in what jobs you could take. This mission he was on right now was so simple and safe they had arranged a group of students to experience real fieldwork firsthand. Sort of on-the-job training. Usually cadets didn't take fieldwork this early, but circumstances had changed.

Since time compression and the defeat of Ultimecia, the world was free from fear of the Sorceress. With the sweet-tempered Rinoa being the only known one in the world at present, conflicts were at an all-time low. Along with that came the notoriety of Balamb Garden being the origin of the fine upstanding heroes that made the peace possible in the first place. So everyone and their mother wanted to become a SeeD. Before, the rigorous training program of Garden translated to fewer students who made the cut and a lack of positions to fill. Now they couldn't keep up with all the submissions and new students. The lack of qualified teachers meant having to do two, sometimes three, jobs at once. And money was stretched tight as ever, with not enough mercenary work for the people who wanted to do it.

So that left him here, practically stranded somewhere in the Nortes Mountains in Esthar with a boatload of rookies and a stuffy research team. Apparently they were mining for some ore here in the bluffs and needed a security team to help protect them from the monsters that roamed the region. Despite their worries, attacks were actually more rare in the mountains than they realized, which resulted in a bored commander. Watching them pick apart rocks was not exciting stuff. This, plus his negative association with Esthar, made it a tiresome chore. He missed his friends, he missed his work, he missed Rinoa.

Squall spun around and trodded back into the research camp to see how progress was being made with unloading supplies. The covered off-road truck was nearly empty of its boxes. Underclassmen were unpacking and storing the food, medical packs, and other necessities in their designated areas. Researchers wearing dirt spackled white jumpsuits with utility belts walked back and forth between the dig site and the camp, interweaving between the white standing tents and a few army green mobile lab units distributed along the cliff top. Squall thought this was the most activity he had seen in quite a while. A testament to the tedium of being posted out here in the middle of nowhere.

"Bolcor, can you come over to the site? I think I've found something!" shouted one of the clients from the sloping elevation above them. This caused quite a stir among the population down there and nearly every geologist not doing something important dropped their business and followed up the incline. Squall followed as well, digging his ankles into the sandy cliffside. There was a sneaking worry in the back of his mind, as the dig site was away from the protected domestic area and a collection of monster snacks were heading towards it.

Squall breached the top of the steep incline, poking his head over the ledge like Carbuncle. The scientists were heading to a point around the corner of a stone steeple, far away from the site and protection of the students. Alarm bells went off in his mind, unnecessary as they might have been. He looked back down to the camp below him and spotted the two closest cadets. "Harper! Elrim! Get up here!"

The students looked at him on the crag, a little stupefied for a moment at being roused out of their daily duties, put down their packages and began the rigorous climb. Squall didn't wait for them, they would find him and follow him. He hoisted himself the rest of the way and hotfooted it to the researcher's location. About three-quarters of them were huddled around a small crack in the cliff face as one of them tried explaining things.

"You see this vein here that looks kind of silvery and sparkly. Right next to that. I tested it for dioxin and there was a point oh-two variance," he explained as he made a circling motion with his finger. Squall crept up behind them and listened in. He wasn't overly concerned that they were beyond a safe boundary - nowhere here was one hundred percent safe. He just wanted to keep an eye on them. The lean-to spire they were under shaded them deeply from the noon sun. The ledge continued somewhere around the bend, back in the sunlight.

"There's not much deviation from the hardline face," said one of the onlookers in amazement.

"Yeah, that's what I thought."

"Is there much refraction when you look at it through the spectro-analyzer?"

"I don't know. I haven't tested that yet. But if there is, gentlemen, I believe we may have found what we're looking for." Murmurs of joy scurried through the crowd.

Through his time there, Squall had gathered they were looking for some sort of metal like adamantine, but that was about it. The geologists now began to talk about back slopes, glaciation, loess, and stratification, all of which Squall tuned out. The babble that he was forced to listen to made him long to be back at Garden.

Thankfully, tonight was troop rotation. This was the last day of Squall's mission here. They would be sending in a fresh load of students and overseers and he would get to go home. Even though his stint here was a week, the fact that he felt like it was a waste of his time made it feel longer. As the only SeeD here, there wasn't anyone to associate with. He had to take on the role of authoritative instructor and nothing else. Being back home would be sweet.

On and on, the scientists droned about what they would have to do in order to move the dig site over to this cliff, about the length of the vein, the type of equipment, crunching numbers out loud. One of them even pulled out a map they had brought up and was looking at it with a couple others. Squall rolled his eyes, figuring he would be up here a lot longer than he wanted.

The way his eyes rolled, they came to rest on the path that curved around the ledge in the sun's light. A small unusual shadow was poking out. Squall grimaced. The shape and movement told him it wasn't a person behind there. A low grunt sounded, confirming his fears.

Before he could react, the red snaking head of a Ruby Dragon snapped around the corner and roared at the group, its sharp tooth-filled mouth gaping wide.

The geologists screamed in terror and chaotically darted in the opposite direction, crawling over each other in the narrow passageway. One of the researchers on the outside began to slip down the cliff face, having been pushed off. Squall instinctively grabbed his hand and used the momentum to swing him up and forward, back on the ledge. He kept going, not even breaking out of his run. As soon as the last one passed by Squall immediately hurried after them, protecting the rear as the Ruby Dragon followed the humans, pounding its claws into the cliff top.

The commander noticed the two cadets he had called for earlier just now approaching and getting nearly run over by the stampeding geologists. They flailed their arms in the air, letting them pass without getting knocked over.

"MOVE!" Squall shouted to them. "Move back!"

The students stood there dumbly in his way until Squall caught up with them and pulled on their uniforms to get them to follow.

"Move back!" he said. "We'll get him into a better position and take him down."

"The dragon?"

"No, the geologists. Of course, the dragon!" Squall snapped. He sprinted down the plains and further into a flat open area of the cliff, bathed in bright sunlight. The Ruby Dragon screeched like piano wire as it pursued, coming out of the shadow of the cliff face, gnashing its ivory serrated teeth. Squall could feel the vibration of its flat clawed limbs hitting the ground as it ran after them. He pulled out his trusted gunblade and turned to face it in one smooth motion.

"Battle formation!" he shouted. These students were first and foremost trained in battle so he knew they could be relied upon. How much was another matter. The scared cadets spaced themselves out, creating a triple-sided barrier between the dragon and access to the camping site. They pulled out their swords - the basic weapon all students were required to learn - and held them ready to duel.

The dragon pounded its forelimbs as it reached the barricade, shaking its gargantuan head violently. Its massive black horns swung dangerously back and forth, threatening to club them. The monster backed up, stomped its feet, and opened its maw. Fiery breath billowed forward.

Squall bounded back out of the range of the familiar scorching waves, bringing his arm to his face for additional protection. The other two, unfamiliar with the attacks of this monster, skittered back and forth, finally getting the sense to duck on the ground as the full brunt of the blow swept over them.

Harper on the right jumped back onto his feet. Figuring he would need to beef himself up with protection if he was going to survive this fight, he began casting a spell. Brandishing his sword in the air, he shouted "Reflect!"

"No! You id-" Squall started to say but stopped himself. It was too late anyway. A shining opaque shield glimmered in front of him and then faded out of visibility.

Immediately, the dragon pounded its fist into the ground, casting its own Reflect spell, just as Squall expected. The same opaque shield came up around it and then washed out.

"Wait for my instructions," Squall shouted. "Ruby Dragons cast Reflect when you cast Reflect."

"Sorry, sir," the offending student said.

Squall sighed. "Does anyone have a dispel?"

No one piped up, as they looked at each other dumbly. Now no one could use magic against it, making the battle doubly difficult. He didn't have any himself, because he stopped using Guardian Forces a long time ago.

"Does anyone have any ice magic?" Squall shouted angrily.

"I do!" the second student shouted above the din.

"I do too," the first said.

Finally, a little luck. "All right, both of you put ice on your blades, and guard against fire attacks. When I say go, both of you flank him on either side and start hammering at him. I'll drive up the middle. Don't try to be a hero. And don't do anything stupid. Understand?"

They nodded. "Yes, sir!"

"All right, go!"

The two students barreled forward towards the dragon, their arms held stiffly in front of them. They began attacking its peripheries, slicing up and down with their swords. The dragon snapped its head back and forth, becoming confused at two targets attacking it on either side, moving its head between the two, slowed down by the bulk of its horns.

Squall dove in and thrust upward into the dragon's chest with his gunblade, just below his turned-away neck, not only further distracting him, but creating more damage. He pulled upward on the handle until the blade was buried deep in the thick hide, almost halfway in, and pulled the trigger. He heard the muffled boom of his exploding round tearing its way through the monster's body - a devastating hit. The dragon reared its head back, roaring with agony as Squall yanked the blade out of its chest. Acting on pure instinct, it slashed Squall away with its massive ebony claws. The commander rolled away on the grass, not fighting against the momentum, coming to a dead stop at the beginning of a sand hill. He shook his head to reorient himself. The blow wasn't that powerful, meaning the dragon wasn't very strong, another bit of good luck. Elrim looked at Squall, distracted for a moment and getting ready to run over to help.

"Keep attacking!" Squall shouted, before he had the chance. "Don't let up! No matter what!"

Without delay, he kept lacerating the Ruby Dragon without missing a beat. Squall adjusted his gunblade and rushed forward, immediately hacking and slashing at the monster with incredible speed. With his skill, the Ruby Dragon suffered through each blow on its tough hide, snapping at its assaulters. But there was no telling if it would be enough before the dragon decided to unleash its full potential.

The dragon, as if realizing what strategy it was being subjected to, focused its attacks on Elrim, swinging its snaking head over and snapping its jaw at him. Elrim narrowly avoided getting his arm scissored off and stumbled to the ground. Squall saw his vulnerable position and ran up to the dragon.

"Hey, hey!" he declared as he sliced thinly along the neckline with the end of his gunblade. The wound was like a papercut, nonlethal but attention getting. The provoked dragon turned away from its prey, looking murderously at the commander. Squall continued poking it like a pincushion.

With animal reflexes the dragon smashed into the puny human with its head, then slashed cross-wise with its claws. Squall took the blow, purposefully standing in reaching distance. He was tossed around like a rag doll, his shirt ripped apart down the front. Sweat flew off the wet hair matting his face. As the dragon turned to its next victim, Squall wobbled back up to fighting stance.

"Get over here! Come after me!"

Sparks surrounded the dragon's head and he cast Fira on Squall. A burst of magic flame enveloped his body, and he stood there and took it, suffering through the heat.

Harper moved forward to help his commander. "What is he doing?" he stammered, incredulous that the commander was purposefully provoking the dragon to take hits meant for his students.

"No, wait," Elrim stopped him. "I think..."

Squall then felt the power, a great emotion building up in him that had to be released in a furious blow.

A circle of light spread out from Squall on the dirt, surrounding him as he held up his gunblade. He rushed forward towards the monster and bounded to the sky, slashing upward with a monstrous blow. He seemed to stay suspended in mid-air for a moment. Then he dived down again, slicing with his blade straight and true into the dragon's neck. In a rage, he peeled off a flurry of slices and strikes, swinging the blade up and down repeatedly, creating an energy trail behind it as he ran around its body. The Ruby Dragon snapped back over and over as he felt each hard blow delivered.

Squall returned to its front and powered up again, this time to perform the Lionheart maneuver. A coil of energy formed out the air and spun down into him, as he held his gunblade to the side, charging up power like the light of the sun. He rushed forward and delivered an unyielding pattern of rapid strikes, almost inhumanly slicing through the Ruby Dragon like a blender. The monster breathed heavily in and out, taking the hits without retaliation. With a mighty final blow Squall channeled his energy and struck forth. The dragon swayed back and forth in place and slumped to the ground, lifeless.

Squall cocked the gunblade back, opening the chamber, and reloaded it with specialized bullets from his belt as the two other students whooped and hollered in excitement, having taken down their first strong monster.

"Oh my god, did you see that? That was awesome!"

"I can't believe we did that! We took down a Ruby Dragon!"

The group of scientists who were watching on the sidelines, scampered up the hill and approached Squall.

"Are you all right?"

Squall nonchalantly resheathed his gunblade. "Fine," he said emotionlessly.

The research team gathered around him, lauding him with praise.

"Thank you so much!"

"Congratulations!"

"That was a Ruby Dragon!"

"I can't believe we're still alive!"

"That was almost single-handedly done."

"SeeD is the greatest!"

"Thank you! Thank you!"

It seemed no matter what these geologists did, Squall was irritated with them. "All right, all right, thank you. It was nothing. Just... go back to work... or something."

The scientists began to disperse, still discussing the great accomplishment, as Squall approached the two students. "And that's why we study monsters. If we know their weaknesses, they can be defeated when we're at a disadvantage."

"Yes, sir," they responded.

"Good work. Get to the medic and get treated if you need it."

Suddenly, Squall felt something in his pocket vibrate. The shock startled the hell out of him, much to his chagrin. It was his PHS phone. He struggled to tug it out of his pocket, flip it open, and get a grasp on the antenna with his leather-clad hand. Without looking at the display, he clicked the green button, and held it up to his ear.

"Hello?"

No answer. He repeated his greeting, but all he could hear was some muffled, excited talking. The sound disconnected to silence after eight seconds. He took it off his ear and read the display to see who was calling. The read-out said 'Recent Calls: (1) RINOA'.

"Problem?" Harper asked.

Squall realized he had made a face, prompting the question. "No, just get going," he commanded.

The students sped off back down to the camp. It was unusual for Rinoa to call when he was on the field unless it was something special or important. On the other hand, it was also possible she had accidentally sat on the call button or something. He had gotten misdirected calls before. These new communication devices were something of an experiment, using defunct satellites to track the signals, so Squall was wary of them working properly. More specifically, he hated the fact that he could easily get interrupted at any time now, even while working. He put the phone back in his pocket and walked back down the hill to the camp.

As soon as he was halfway down he felt his pocket vibrate again. Ready for it this time he pulled it out, flipped it, and hit the receive button. Again, the display ID said it was from Rinoa.

"Hello?"

"...Hello?"

"Rinoa?"

"Hi, are you still on the field?" Active, mumbled voices continued in the background.

"Yes." Of course, he was. The troop rotation wasn't scheduled until later that night and she knew that.

"Guess what?"

"What?"

"It's a surprise."

Squall rolled his eyes, half-watching the camp. He really hated surprises, but he decided to humor her. Rinoa wouldn't have called unless it was something big. He began to rattle off predictable possibilities of 'big news' in a blasé manner.

"All right, um, you found a new job, Cid is stepping down, somebody's moving, they found another Sorceress, somebody's pregnant, somebody died, Zell is getting a promotion-"

"Wait, go back, you were close on the pregnant thing."

"What? Somebody's pregnant?" Squall's heart sank. No matter what, this was going to have a drastic change in life as he knew it. "You're pregnant?" Squall knew this wasn't true, but had no other guesses.

"Nope," she said gleefully.

"Uh, who else do I know that's been married recently?"

"Come on, who do we know?"

Squall tried to think of all the girls he knew. "Uh, Quistis, Xu, you, Selphie, Fujin, Matron-"

"Wait, go back."

Squall repeated his list slower, "Xu, Quistis, Selphie-"

"There."

"Selphie? Selphie's pregnant?"

Oh god.

"And guess what else?"

"What?"

"Guess."

"Just tell me." The guessing game had now lost all its fun.

"No, guess."

"Just tell me."

"Selphie and Irvine got engaged and they're getting married in two weeks!"

"Oh... I see."

"Isn't that exciting?"

"I thought they were broken up."

"Well, they... got back together. I think it happened on the trip down to Galbadia two weeks ago."

"Uh-huh," he said dryly.

"We're going shopping for dresses tomorrow. We kinda gotta hurry, since the wedding's only a week from next Sunday."

"Uh-huh."

Oh, dear god, it's not happened.

"Yeah... so... I thought I'd tell you." Rinoa was sounding like she'd run out of things to say. "I really wanted to tell you now instead of waiting until you got back."

"Right." The conversation hung in the air.

"...Okay, well, I'll let you go now."

"Okay."

"Bye."

"Bye."

Squall closed up the PHS and put it back in his pocket. He glared outwards into space for a while.

Squall waited for something inside him to build up until it broke open and hatched, but it didn't come. He was unsure what he was feeling. There wasn't any pattern to this. Before he knew what he felt, but this... Selphie is pregnant. The news was so mixed he couldn't tell how he was supposed to react, so he simply didn't. Rinoa seemed so happy, so did everyone else in the background on the phone. Marriages were supposed to be happy. Selphie and Irvine were a happy couple now. The last Squall heard they weren't really together anymore. And now this. He had no response, save looking down into the dirt. He remained professional, keeping a proper demeanor. Selphie is pregnant. Those words kept repeating in his head. Selphie is pregnant. Selphie is pregnant. And Selphie and Irvine were getting married. This was not right. How was he supposed to react? These were his two friends, they'd had a relationship, but it never seemed right to him. Why wasn't he as happy as Rinoa?

Squall had a craving to get home, to be amongst his familiars. More than ever, he did not want to be there right now. He was missing out, he needed to be there in the thick of it, for some reason he could not understand. He needed to be there. Not here in this mountainous wasteland surrounded by strangers. He felt like he wasn't fulfilling his role here. The only problem was he had to oversee the troop rotation. That would be in only a few hours. Squall grumbled inwardly. He could have used his power to get on a train, but it made more sense to wait than to tread all the way to the train station and spend a bunch of money on a last-minute ticket. Practically speaking, he might as well stay. He wouldn't save more than two hours. There was nothing he could do about it.

The white tent flap nearby opened and an older SeeD emerged. "Commander," he said. "The transport carrying the troop rotation just radioed in, they say they're a little behind schedule, by a half an hour."

Squall suppressed a frustrating grunt. A half-hour more than what he expected. He just wanted to get out of here.

"Fine, you take care of it. Let me know when its finished and I can go home."

"Sir?" he said confusedly.

"I'll be in my tent until then. Don't bother me."

"Sir-"

"I said don't bother me."

Squall stormed away across the camp, thinking of what to do next, frustrated that he had to stay here in this massive waste of time. He didn't even need to go on this mission, he just volunteered to get out of Balamb for a while. He knew there was nothing more for him to do here. That Ruby Dragon attack was a fluke and the first of its kind. Any other monsters the students could easily handle themselves, and they were few and far between. Squall was just here to supervise, to run the show that didn't need running.

He wished he knew how to deal with this. This sort of thing had never happened before in his life. SeeDs and garden students were too busy with assignments and work and training for this sort of thing to ever come up. Families weren't even a concept for them. They were individuals, working individually, not couples.

"Sir?"

Squall looked up and saw Elrim coming over to him, presumably from the medical tent.

"Did something happen over the phone?"

"Nothing you need to know about," Squall rasped and walked back to his tent. This would be the longest two hours ever.



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The Stealth & Covert Operations class he had taken as a cadet went wasted as Squall opened the door to his room much louder than he would have liked. His teacher would have been very disappointed, but he wasn't really trying. The only goal was to try and not wake Rinoa. She would not have waited up for him, not this late. He walked through the apartment quietly though.

This was a special double room, the largest dorm in Garden, especially for him and Rinoa to live together in. They added on new floors, new rooms, part of a whole new renovation made a year ago. The addition of new dorms included this for the... privileged.

The clock on the coffee machine said 2:30. From the moonlight breathing out from the window blinds he could see there were still dirty dishes everywhere on the sink and counter, waiting to be cleaned. Despite their age and maturity, they still treated the place like a dorm, like a temporary residence. Dishes were always a problem in this house. Squall usually ended up doing them, because he had to in order to make room for more.

He entered his bedroom, sending his feet out ahead to make sure not to step on Angelo, if he was waiting underfoot. He quietly unraveled his clothing, stripping down to his underpants and shirt. Rinoa was already scooched over to her side of the bed, and Squall peeled back the covers and slipped in, moving onto his back stiffly. He adjusted his body to make himself comfortable on the pillow, and breathed deep. Rinoa turned over and put her arm around Squall's chest, scooting over to cuddle with him.

"Mmmm... you smell good," she whispered. Unfortunately, he had roused her from sleep.

"I took a shower on the train," Squall responded.

She kept quiet after that, content to stay next to her boy. Squall stared up at the ceiling, knowing he wouldn't be able to sleep much that night. This position was unusual to him because he usually slept on his side. But now, his eyes were wide open, staring at the textured ceiling, with Rin's arm draped on his chest. The thoughts in his head were spreading like a virus. Wondering about Selphie and Irvine. Wondering. Stuck in some state he couldn't describe. The conflicts were growing by the minute, and the solitude on the train hadn't helped any.

"Are you cold?" Rinoa asked quietly. "You're shivering."

"A little."

Rinoa snuggled in closer, tucking her head on Squall's chest. "You okay?"

"I'm fine."

"You sounded kinda weird over the phone."

Squall said nothing to this.

"Is there anything you want to talk about?" she asked.

"No."

"Are you afraid I'm gonna get the marriage itch too? Don't worry."

"I'm not. Rinoa, sleep."

"Oh, okay. Good night."

"Night."
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