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 ...
"This is the most ludicrous action I've ever heard of. I can't believe you allowed this to happen." Squall angrily threw out his arm as if he were clearing out the air.
Cid remained composed, sitting at his desk and holding out his palm. "Squall, calm down."
"Irvine is about to have a child. You can't send him away on a suicide mission! There's a reason it's called the 'Island Closest to Hell'."
"Squall, if you read the mission report, you'd see that it requires special skills that only Irvine can provide. He's the best of the best SeeDs we've got to offer."
Squall already knew the report. He had read it back and forth innumerable times, searching for a loophole, something to get Irvine out of it, something where they could send someone else. Irvine was to act as scout and sniper for a science team going to the dreaded island to put up radio towers.
Cid said, "The towers would allow entire continents to be able to communicate with each other again, just as when radio was in use. Now that Sorceress Adel is out of orbit and no longer interfering with radio communication, we can finally have global contact again. And the Island Closest to Hell is the best hub for intercontinental communication. Of course, you know the conditions surrounding that island as well as I do. Which is why the best of the best need to go there and protect that team. Irvine's job is to prevent frontal assaults before they happen. If a monster got through..."
"You can't give it to another sniper? Not even one from another Garden?"
"Irvine's the best sharpshooter there is. In the world. You know that as well as I do. I can't let him off. I can't reassign a different person to his position. And I can't make him quit. In fact, per the contract, he couldn't quit even if he wanted to."
"And he doesn't want to? Bullshit."
Cid ignored his cussing and continued. "The only way he could get out of it is to be dishonorably discharged and banned from SeeD forever."
I'd call what he already did pretty fucking dishonorable.
"That would mean throwing his entire life away. Irvine, Selphie, and I have already discussed this at length and we all came to the same mutual decision about what to do. Irvine accepted the mission before he... became engaged."
Then he knew. He knew. He knew he was getting shipped off in a few weeks and he still went and did what he did, with full carnal knowledge.
"We discussed the ramifications of what this meant for him before and after. After he completes this mission, Irvine will have more money for his family, of which he has none. He spent the last of it on Selphie's engagement ring."
Squall didn't know that. The way Selphie was talking and spending money on the wedding, he'd have thought they had enough money to at least get by. A bit of his anger subsided.
"I'm afraid this is simply a matter of unfortunate circumstances in unfortunate times."
Squall had so much to say, but Cid didn't want to hear it. He wanted to say Irvine and Selphie were making a mistake, that the SeeD contract needed to be ripped up regardless, that he was afraid Irvine wasn't going to be coming back, and even if he did, he would be jumping into fatherhood right away, six months after the baby was born, having missed the most crucial moments of its development. And Squall couldn't believe he was the only one who could see something wrong with that, that something needed to be done about it. Yet everyone was throwing up their hands at it all, afraid of getting dirty.
Squall said, "I saved the world from time compression. We saved the world. And yet I still can't make a difference in it."
"Irvine made his own choices. We can't do anything about that. I don't believe any further discussion will yield the results you want. Good day, Squall."
Cid picked up an ink pen and lowered his head to write on a document. Squall stared at him, wondering if Cid felt anything about this, or if he had seen so many missions that protocol was more important than the people he had built this Garden for, and Cid was telling him that was the lesson he should learn from this.
Cid looked up from his paper, knowing Squall was still there. "Dismissed, Commander Leonhart!"
Squall snapped to attention, saluted, and walked out.
Rinoa knocked on Dr. Kadowaki's door. The aging doctor looked up from her desk to see the black-haired girl cutely leaning forward in her doorway.
"Hi, doctor," she said meekly.
"Hello, Rinoa. How are you?" A sudden look of panic. "You're not here to try assisting me again, are you?"
"No, no. I decided not to pursue that line of work. I'm still trying to find my place in Garden, actually. Did you ever get that stain off the wall?" Rinoa asked sweetly, referring to the centrifuge incident.
Dr. Kadowaki turned to the wall in question and pointed. A framed poster of abstract art was hanging there.
"So, what brings you here today?" the doctor said in her professional medical demeanor.
"I was wondering about, um, Squall. He has some cuts on his knuckles, and I was wondering if he came in here for treatment."
"No, never heard if he did. But Squall doesn't always come down here for injuries, much as he should. What did it look like?"
"He said it was from a bite from a funguar."
"And he always uses his gloves to hold his gunblade."
"And, um, I got a call from the Balamb train station about somebody... wrecking the SeeD cabin car... on Monday," she breathed out. Rinoa swished her head back and forth, looking at the floor.
Dr. Kadowaki raised her eyebrow in curiosity. "These cuts. What did they look like?"
"Like blotches, they were thick and rough."
"Do you think they had that curved shape that a bite mark would have or from punching something."
"Punching," she mumbled.
"Uh-huh." Dr. Kadowaki put down her pen and clasped her hands together, looking right at Rinoa. "Tell me more about this cabin car thing."
"Um," Rinoa grabbed hold of her arm and let forth a shaky breath like she was holding back sobs. "I got a call a few days ago from the Balamb train station. They were calling about payment because the 'occupant' broke some of the beds, crushed the wall, the couch, um, some other stuff. But, but they never said that it was Squall. But it was on Monday, after I told him about Selphie and Irvine. And then they said that the phone number was what the occupant gave him... so..."
"Would... would Squall do something like that?"
"Perhaps. I've noticed Squall's behavior sometimes when he is angry, he'll take it out on something else, like going to the training center, or punching a wall."
"Or wrecking a room?"
Dr. Kadowaki sighed and took off her glasses. "Perhaps. This incident happened on Monday right?"
"Well, I don't want to make any guesses, but it certainly seems likely. We all have different ways of coping with something, and this is Squall's way. No, it's not the healthiest way, but it works for someone like him. But in times of extreme emotion, someone taking out their anger on something else supersedes their ability to feel pain. They no longer care about their own well-being, just about getting the emotions out. They need to tire themselves out so their emotions fade out too. What Squall's doing is not about feeling pain, it's about control. People who do that have events or situations in their life that they just can't control. They feel helpless. They can't control their situation, they can't control their rage, but they can control the pain, and they can control themselves. At least that's one theory about why. You haven't noticed any incidents with others? Has he ever raised his hand to strike you?"
She shook her head. "Oh, god," Rinoa exclaimed as she thought of the possibilities. Her eyes became watery.
Dr. Kadowaki held out her hand to relax her. "Calm down. It's okay. I'm sure Squall is not that sort of person. I'm sure that this is just a reaction to the news about Selphie and Irvine. I heard about his blow-up. He might be lashing out. He has a strong, uncomfortable feeling that he can't find a name for. That's why he's been so destructive."
"What should I do?"
"Are these wounds fresh?"
"The only time I saw them was Tuesday."
"If it continues, get him to see me."
"No, I mean, what should I do?"
The doctor understood her mistake and reneged. "Oh, well..." She wasn't a psychologist, so she wasn't quite sure what to say.
"I mean," Rinoa said, "This is really different. Usually, if he's mad, he'll just punch the wall or something, or go to the training center. He won't destroy a room."
"Well, if he starts to lose his temper to that severity again, just get out of the room. I'm sure you know how to handle yourself."
"Is he psychotic? Does he want to kill somebody?"
"No. He's just trying to get some release. This is very unusual behavior for him, and if it were any other circumstances, I'd be worried, but this is a rather unusual situation. Its full of emotions. And if I know Squall, he's just not able to handle them yet. Just try and be there for him. Get him to face his problems. Let out his feelings. Just be there for him, encourage him to talk. You're the best thing in his life right now."
Rinoa nodded. She wasn't sure how she was going to deal with the taciturn Squall, but she had a little more information now and that kept her calm.
"Thank you, doctor."
Zell bounded into the library, purpose furrowing his brow. Standing in the entryway, he cracked his knuckles under his fighting gloves. His hair was styled, his teeth were polished. The flirting tips he had found on the web had all been thoroughly memorized. He just had to remember to be confident. All right, let's make some magic, he thought, putting himself in stud mode.
Zell passed through the doorway. The library was rife with young ladies traipsing between bookcases, whispering in the corner, and studying at chairs. Some were in loose-fitting casual clothes, temperate for the season, others were in SeeD uniforms, looking very formal and professional. It seemed like a smorgasbord to Zell. How could he lose with so much variety?
"All right, which one of these lucky ladies gets a date with the Zellmeister," he whispered to himself, strengthening his resolve.
He strolled up to the library checkout girl. She was a thin, small teenager with short cropped yellow hair and oval-shaped eyes. Her skin was speckled with a few sun-induced beauty marks, but she had a pert smile and nice breasts. Zell propped his beefy arm on the counter as she bent down to put some books in a box.
She stood up and faced him, "Can I help you?"
"You can and will," he said glibly, flashing a toothy smile.
"Uh, do you need to check something out?"
"Are you available for check-out?"
The girl burst out laughing, doubling over, holding her side. She gripped onto the ridge of the counter to steady herself, then gave up and collapsed behind the desk, having hysterics. This was not the reaction Zell was looking for, as he watched her double up and spasm for nearly a minute, not sure what to do next. He was still waiting for an answer.
The girl took some short breaths, wiped the tears from her eyes, and composed herself. "Um, yeah, sorry, I've already been checked out. In fact, I'm a lost item."
"Oh," Zell said dejectedly. He guessed she was trying to say she was taken. He remembered his confidence and his tips. If they said no, it was their loss. "Your loss, baby," he scoffed and left the checkout counter.
Okay, that approach didn't work. No problem. He had a treasure trove of strategies to try. He scanned the panorama for a good successful candidate, listing them off in his head. Too old. Too young. Too mannish. Ick. Not sure if that one's a human or a Shumi.
Then he spotted a nice one at a reading table in the commons area, darting her eyes between her notebook and textbook. She had long brown hair and matching doe eyes. She looked very studious, not someone who could get through life on looks. Of course, that sort of person would not be hanging out in the library anyway. This time he would try for something more personal, to open with a tried-and-tested line, at least according to the website author.
"Hello," he said, trying for a pleasant tone. She immediately looked up. "You look like you're waiting for someone."
"I am!" she gleefully exclaimed. "I'm waiting for my study group. How did you know?"
Zell was about to say 'well, here I am' before she piped up. Now he was thrown off-kilter that she actually was waiting for someone. He had to just go with it, improvise at this point. "Well, um, er, I'm sick- uh, psychic. Do you study here a lot?"
"Every week. We study for Mr. Aki's math test. He gives a test every week, you know."
"Oh, yeah, I had that class," Zell said with genuine enthusiasm, momentarily forgetting his mission. He pulled out a chair and sat down, tired of leaning on it. "If it wasn't for study groups, we wouldn't have made it."
"Yeah, we were thinking of making it like a formal thing. Like if we could have a math tutoring room and students could come in and get help from upperclassmen."
"Hey, that's a good idea. Or like a night class, or-"
The girl looked up and behind Zell at the blonde waving at her from the doorway.
She continued, "We're meeting in the Quad today. Didn't you get the memo?"
"Oh, shoot, I didn't check my mail." She scampered over her books, sliding them in her backpack and ran out, passing by Zell like he wasn't even there. Remembering her manners, she turned back and waved, "It was nice talking to you."
Zell waved back and smiled. Oh, shoot, he forgot. He was trying to pick her up. He got so wound up in the math class. Oh, well, couldn't dwell on that now. He was on a roll, and he was losing momentum by just sitting there. Next he tried diving into the bookcase.
A girl with glasses was in the G-J aisle, perusing the titles at a leisurely pace. She was in no particular hurry, just looking for the book number written on her piece of scratch paper. Thinking she found it, she grabbed by the spine and pulled it out. Zell's large face appeared behind the book, grinning madly. "Hi!"
"Eek!" she said as she jumped back into the other bookshelf.
"Are you checking that one out?" She said nothing as Zell filled in the void with rapid conversation, looking straight into her eyes. "That's a good one. It's hard to find too. I had to wait six months on the waiting list before I got it. I heard they bought more copies because there was so much demand for it."
"Uh-huh." She slowly took up her book and went towards the end of the aisle as Zell followed her parallel.
"That author used to be a Timber Maniacs writer until he got big. He traveled a lot on the Centra continent looking for ruins and such.
"Uh-huh," she said as she walked faster towards the checkout counter, clutching her book to her chest.
"Me and my friends went down to Centra one time when we found Garden was mobile and we found this huge old tower that was full of tonberries. You ever see a tonberry? No, probably not. Well, maybe in a book. They look kinda cute at first, but, man, do they ever pack a wallop when they get close. They kinda remind me of turtles without shells."
She stopped 'uh-huh'-ing and concentrated on the girl checking out her book as he kept on. "Cactuars are sorta the same way. I think he wrote a little about cactuars in that book, which is pretty rare, because they're so skittish, once you see one, it's usually gone. The only place I know where they are is on this island that's kinda east of Centra, where it's all desert, cause you know cactuars are desert creatures, obviously."
Having been checked out, she made a beeline for the door, almost running, while Zell held up his hand to her. "Yeah, he writes some good stuff in there. He... ok, see you later," he called to her as he stopped short of the doorway. That one had potential. He turned back into the library's main area.
He saw Xu happened to be in the library too, and was practically running up to him, gripping a book with her fingertips. "Zell, what are you doing?" she said in a harsh loud whisper.
"I'm trying to get some points for the Zellmeister," he explained confidently. "I'm just getting warmed up now, but I'll start racking up the ladies in no time."
"Zell, I don't think the library is the best place to pick up women."
Because they're smart, Xu thought, but there was no way she could say that nicely. "Well, people who come in here aren't looking for a date, they're looking to study. Their minds aren't into a real social state."
"Ohhh, I see." Man, he was never gonna find a date in time for the wedding.
"Whatever happened to the girl with pigtails? The one who gave us the mega-phoenix in Balamb."
"Oh, she moved to Galbadia Garden."
"Yeah, and I still haven't gotten any responses to my online personal yet either."
Xu hated to cut down Zell's prospects. He meant so well, and his heart was in the right place, just his exuberance outweighed his good judgment and social skills.
"Come on," she said, "I'll buy you a hot dog."
"Really? All right!" he said as he pumped a fist in the air, much too loud for the library. At least he wasn't getting out of this empty-handed. If he couldn't have a girlfriend, he'd take a pity hot dog.
Selphie turned around and found one of her female students and Garden Festival workers accosting her. Always eager to answer questions, she closed the gap. "What's up?"
"The festival stage construction. That shipment of mahogany wood we wanted is on back order, so we won't have it before the festival."
"Ha! At this point we'll have to chop down the trees ourselves," she joked. "Well, that's no problem, we can get another shipment of wood that they do have. And by then we can put everyone on its construction."
"Yep, exactly," the student agreed. "So, I'm wondering what wood we should get. I think the two best candidates are oak or cherry wood."
"Hmm, oak's traditional, but cherry looks so much more refined and cool."
"But it's more expensive."
"Maybe I can get some money scrounged up from donation. I think I know some friends in Timber who might be able to..."
Quistis, from behind the corner of the hallway out of Selphie's range, watched and listened to the exchange from her vantage point, drowning in a lake of worry.
Okay, she thought to herself, breathing deeply. Why am I so nervous? I'm a teacher, I shouldn't be this nervous, I don't get this way. Why am I nervous? Because it feels like I'm betraying a friend. More accurately, I'm stabbing her in the back. But I can't live a lie, I can't pretend to be something I'm not. Those morals superceded her own emotions, their truism was larger than that. I've got do this for my own peace of mind.
Selphie's and the student's tones of voice were indicating they were ending their conversation. They said goodbye to each other and Selphie started walking down the hall toward her. Now was her chance. Quistis turned the corner and walked up to Selphie.
"Oh, hi, Quisty," she started.
"Selphie, I need to talk to you."
"This is really hard for me to say... but I can't be the maid of honor at your wedding. I just can't support this decision. You're making it too fast."
Selphie's eyes widened. "But, Quisty, you can't just quit like that, not with only a week..."
"I'm sure one of the other girls will want to do it. Here," she took Selphie's hand and put the wedding ring that was entrusted to her back in her palm. "I'm sorry, I just couldn't stand up there with you and defend your decision to marry Irvine. Not like this."
"Well, I guess I can't make you be my maid of honor if you don't want. Bummer." She dropped her hand, enclosed around the ring.
"I just don't think you realize what you are doing. You seem so 'not ready for this'. Like, so unhappy."
"I am happy. I've just been kinda... overwhelmed."
"Do you think it's right to be doing this?" Quistis was asking her as an individual, without any prejudice or influences of others. "So fast? You're getting married so fast after just finding out."
"I think it's right." Her tone of voice made it hard to distinguish if she was confident with her thought.
"Selphie? Quistis? What's going on?" Rinoa walked down the hall and ran into the two of them. Each of them looked like they were about to cry.
Quistis said, "I just told Selphie I couldn't be her maid of honor at her wedding because I don't think what she's doing is right. Or at least it's not something I can go along with."
Rinoa shrugged. "Quistis does have a point. We all have some misgivings about it. Not just you, but Irvine too."
"What about Irvine?" Selphie said, "Irvine's very happy, he's positively glowing. Didn't you see him before he went to training? Didn't you see him when we told you?"
Rinoa said, "I think he's more concerned about what other people think of him."
Quistis said, "With this, he'll never be the same."
"You'll never be the same," Rinoa added. "And your decision making hasn't been exactly straight."
"How do you think you're going to come back to SeeD after the baby? After a year? Nobody's come back after six months. And who's going to take care of it? Pay for it? You can't ask Garden to do these things."
Selphie's eyes kept on the floor the whole time. "I'm sure I'll think of something. Look, I've got some things to do. I've got to finish some event planning before Irvine comes back. Bye, guys." She grabbed her stuff and stepped in between them to go down the center of the hall. She wasn't hurrying, she just left as if she had been in friendly conversation and run out of time.
"I didn't mean to make it into an interrogation," Quistis said. "Lord knows she's already had that from Squall. I mean, I meant to do it later, to sit her down. It just came out. I wish I didn't have to do that."
"She needed it," Rinoa said, squeezing her arm reassuringly.
"Yeah, but we shouldn't have been the ones to tell her. I mean, it's hard enough for her as it is. We can't possibly know what she's going through."