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 ...
Amazing, Squall thought, they showed up. They got together shortly after time compression, then fell apart, sort of, and now this.
The Ga rden Commander could barely stand to watch the two. They had been holding hands and making goo-goo eyes at each other since he'd come in. He was half-expecting them to jump on top of the table and start going at it. He was glad he hadn't been waiting long. Perhaps, more accurately, he was glad he had been strategically late, so that everyone would already be in there and the meeting could start immediately.
"Morning, Squall," Quistis said. She was something like Squall's second in command in matters related to Garden, since she was leader of the education committee, and that was such a large part of Garden.
"Morning," Squall nodded lazily and set his coffee and documents down on the table. "Nice to see everyone here," he said as he leaned back in his chair, looking around the room at all of Garden's leaders, mostly consisting of his friends and a few other teachers & faculty who rarely said much during these meetings. He had Selphie and Irvine's full attention, but he knew they were holding hands under the table. "Let's get started." He pulled out his top sheet from the folder and held it up. "First thing is... the fire cavern will be closed a week from today for the next few weeks while we let the monsters respawn. Quistis, can you let the students know this? Especially the ones close to their SeeD test?"
"All right. And-" Squall caught Selphie and Irvine staring straight at him. It was weird, like their gazes were synchronized. It disconcerted him. "And the new infirmary wing construction date is set for the fifteenth. So," Squall put down his notes, "Anything new?"
"The Garden Festival budget was cut. Again," Selphie piped up. There was no hesitation in her voice. It was like running Garden Festival was her one purpose in life.
Squall said, "The festival budget gets cut every year. You'd think you'd be used to it by now."
"This time we can barely do anything. We can't afford the band we want, we have to use cheap wood for the stage, the food is gonna be a little more than cocktail weenies and crackers."
The half-asleep blond fighter became alert. "Cocktail weenies?"
"Calm down, Zell."
Squall said, "Sorry, Selphie, but we need that gil for more pressing issues - like room and board and maintaining the training centers."
"All work and no play makes SeeDs go crazy," she pouted.
"Selphie has a point there," Irvine said. That really caught Squall off-guard. Irvine had never said anything like that before. He'd always supported Squall's points, that work and study came first and play later. Everyone in the room knew it too. It just added more artificiality to the room, to their relationship. Even the way he said it sounded synthetic, like he was just saying it to please Selphie.
"I'll see what I can squeeze out of the budget," Squall said after a pregnant pause. "I'll take it up with Cid. How much do you need?"
"We need enough for the band. We don't need the wood stage, do we?" Selphie looked at Irvine as if they were picking out curtains. "Oh, but I wanted a costume contest. I think the band can do just fine on the floor."
"Maybe we can get some sort of platform for them to stand on," Irvine said.
"Yeah, I'd rather have a costume contest than a band, wouldn't you?"
"Well, that depends on what costume you wear."
Selphie playfully hit Irvine, "Oh, you."
Everyone in the room was frozen, watching this exchange. They hadn't seen anything like it for months. It was like time was wiped clean and started over, without anything happening in-between.
"Anything else?" Squall said, jarring the group back to business.
"The yearly Triple Triad tournament is coming up," Quistis said.
"Right, right," everyone muttered. It was a popular event in Garden, and of course, Quistis the card queen would be the first to mention it.
Quistis said, "I'm thinking three leagues for this year, for novice, amateur, and pro."
"I'll make sure some flyers get printed up," Selphie said. "I'll just need the info."
Apparently, Quistis was feeling the awkwardness too. It shouldn't have struck anyone as such though, Selphie was the chairman of the events committee.
Zell leaned forward, ready to speak. He was head of the library committee, a position he accepted in order to get closer to the pig-tailed library girl. When she moved, he became sort of stuck there. "They're going to be moving the computer servers down to a lower level to make some room. So they might be down for like, a half an hour next Monday. Also, some of the others wanted to me to say there were reports of a man hitting on students in the library. Not sure what that was all about, probably just an isolated incident that won't happen again."
"All right." Squall couldn't stop looking at Selphie and Irvine. They were in their own little world and Squall was watching from a little window. It was like watching a car wreck you couldn't turn away from. He was waiting for something to happen, something explosive. "Does anyone have anything else?"
No one did, apparently.
"All right, meeting adjourned." Squall picked up his papers, as did most everyone else who had them. Others, like Mr. Aki, left to go to their dorms or homes or wherever. But Quistis, Zell, Selphie, Irvine, and himself always went down to the cafeteria, where Rinoa would be waiting for him. Then the real weekly meeting would start.
Squall led the charge, as he was oft to do, his folder neatly tucked under his arm. Usually, the others would chatter behind him, talking about something funny that happened during the meeting. Today, it was dead silence. The five of them crowded into the elevator and hit the button for the first floor. The quiet was as uncomfortable as being so close to each other, hearing only the hum of the motor. Squall noticed Irvine and Selphie were still holding hands, they had apparently been sewn together there now.
The doors opened and the five poured out and walked down the short platform of stairs. When they got to the point where they would turn right, Selphie and Irvine broke away from the group.
"Me and Selphie have some planning to do," Irvine broke the silence. "So we can't join you this time, sorry."
There was no one who didn't definitely think this was a weird time to mention it, at the last second. Squall frowned slightly, not sure if he was disappointed or relieved.
"Okay, we'll see you later," Zell jovially said. Both he and Quistis gave a short wave goodbye. The remaining three circled Garden's central fountain. Once they were out of earshot, Zell said, "Was it just me or was that the most awkward meeting ever?"
"Oh, yeah," Quistis agreed. "It was also the shortest meeting ever."
"Hey, yeah, interesting. Maybe we should have more awkward moments like that. Maybe Xu and Mr. Aki could get married."
Quistis laughed as they entered the cafeteria and spotted Rinoa at a circular table, already holding a steaming cup, Angelo happily panting by her side. Squall waved, letting her know they saw her and approached the cafeteria counter. "The usual," he told the lady. She quickly got a tray of three cups and a donut ready for them. While he waited, all Squall could think about was seeing them together, then realized it was the first time he had seen them acting like a couple in a few months, since they went on their 'cold period'. He just couldn't stop staring at them. It was too weird, like they were trying to convince people that they were really in love, overcompensating like an old, wrinkled woman with too much make-up on.
"All set," the lunch lady said. Squall took the tray and brought it over to the table with Rinoa.
"No Irvine or Selphie today?" his girlfriend asked as Squall set out the cups.
"They had other plans," Squall said. He took his paper cup and sipped the warm, bitter liquid. "You have mine, Quistis," he said with a grimace. They switched cups as Zell drank his orange juice and munched his donut.
Quistis said, "They went somewhere to plan more of the wedding. It was weird at the meeting. We've seen them as separate people for so long, seeing them together is so unusual."
"Yeah," Zell said, "Like artificial. Not that it was bad, just different."
Squall noticed that the initial shock of Selphie and Irvine together, getting married, and having a baby was now wearing off, and people were becoming accustomed to the idea, as if it were a normal happenstance. People were adapting to the news and reacting accordingly, not overly happy or sad, but it was business as usual.
"Yeah, now I'm sort of excited to see them get married," Rinoa said, "It's kind of a new adventure."
"Irvine definitely seems affectionate towards Selphie, I noticed."
"Or maybe it's just part of his natural charm," Rinoa said.
"Right, 'charm'. Where 'charm' equals 'dorkiness'," Zell laughed.
"Oh, you," Quistis lightly punched him on the arm and laughed as well. She said, "I'm going to miss the times he just wanted to come over and hang out. When he watched TV with us. He didn't mind any of our chick flicks."
"You just like being flirted with," Rinoa smiled.
"Can't say I minded it, it's nice to be wanted."
"All the ladies in Balamb are gonna be disappointed," Zell said between bites of donut.
"Remember how Irvine always tipped his hat to a lady when he passed? That was so cute."
"Yeah," Rinoa agreed.
"Geez, was everyone in love with Irvine?" Squall muttered loudly. "You'd think the world's most eligible bachelor just got off the market."
"Well, he was pretty charming," Rinoa said. "Girls love that sort of thing."
Yeah, and some love it too much.
"Uh-oh, I think Squall's getting jealous," Zell said.
Squall gulped down the rest of his coffee. "Whatever. I've got work to do." He left the table with a dark expression.
The next page in the book was the end of the chapter. That always held a relieving sense of accomplishment for Quistis whenever she read, one of the simple pleasures in life. Although this volume on the history of Centra was interesting enough to keep her going, it was always nice to have a small mile marker.
Once again, Selphie passed by the kitchen. This time going to the sink and filling up a vase with water. They were roommates currently, for six months while some dorm construction was going on. They had separate bedrooms on separate sides of the dorm, but shared a living room and kitchen.
She made a little squeal as she passed by the breakfast bar where Quistis was perched on a stool reading.
"Tonight's the night?" Quistis put forth.
"Yep. Gonna get Irvine one way or the other."
Quistis rolled her eyes. They had been casually seeing each other for a month or two now, emphasis on casual, because in the last two or three weeks, Irvine had been sleeping over a lot more. Quistis didn't really care, she wasn't offended, it was what dating couples did. She didn't know if they were doing anything in there, and it wasn't her business anyway. Irvine had said to her that he didn't want a commitment right now, and Selphie said she understood that. Apparently she was finding a way to overcome that now.
"Can I borrow your Jaybirds CD?" she asked.
"Yeah, it's on my tower," Quistis replied.
Selphie entered her roommate's room on the other side of the dorm while Quistis returned to her book. Five minutes later, Selphie called out, "I can't find it."
Quistis, mildly irritated, put down her book, splayed out to keep her place and went into her room. Selphie was looking up and down her black CD tower. Quistis, knowing where it was, took it from its top position and handed it to her. Selphie smiled her thanks.
"Do you really think this will work?" Quistis said as Selphie eagerly walked past her out of the room.
"I've got everything. I've got candles, music, hot oil, Winhill champagne. This is going to be the perfect night, I know it."
"I don't know. If you're trying to make Irvine fall for you this way..."
"I'm not trying to make him fall for me. I just want this to be a special night. I really wanna go out with him. I want to make it official."
Quistis followed her to her room and took a peek inside. Long-stem candles were arranged around the now clean room to give a dim atmosphere once the lights were turned off. A bouquet of roses was sitting at the windowsill above the head of the bed. Quistis was just surprised the bed was made, a first for her. A bottle of massage oil was sitting next to the boom box Selphie was putting the CD into. Quiet, ambient, easy listening music began to play.
"Guess you went to a lot of effort for this," Quistis commented.
"He's the first guy I liked since I started training for SeeD. That was like, three years ago."
Quistis agreed that was a long time. She couldn't remember the last time she went on a date herself, she was always busy with studying and teaching.
"You still think it's a bad idea?" Selphie asked.
"It's just that I know guys like Irvine and, not that I'm saying anything bad about him, but they flirt with girls all the time, but just aren't mature enough to have one. They think they can get away with casual dating. It doesn't mean as much to them as it does to a girl. They don't really think about the other person's feelings." Selphie didn't respond as she arranged her stuffed animals. Quistis gave up and left the room to go back to her book.
Just as she passed by, a knock sounded at the door. She opened it and found Zell standing there with a big tub of ice.
"Oh, hey, Quis," he grunted. "Selph here? Got her ice."
Selphie came into the room as Quistis irritably turned to her. "You sent Zell out to get your ice?"
"I passed him in the hallway. He said he'd get it for me" Quistis looked disapprovingly at her. "It's heavy," she whined. Selphie gestured for Zell to come into her room. "Just put it in this cooler."
Quistis sat down and picked her book back up and tried reading again, but couldn't find the will to concentrate with all the noises going on in the other room. "You can put the rest in the freezer," she heard Selphie say. Zell came back out with a half bag and proceeded to shove it into the top compartment of the refrigerator.
"Zell, do you think this is going to work?" Quistis asked.
"Oh, I think if I squeeze really hard," he said as he put his shoulder into it.
"No, I mean with Selphie. Did she tell you what she was doing?"
"Yeah, I know," he said as he closed the freezer door and came over.
"If you were dating a girl, would this work on you?"
"Hmm," he put a finger to his chin and looked up as if in deep thought. "Well, I don't know. A massage is nice, but I'm not really into roses or candles."
Selphie said, "I'm trying to make it as romantic as I can."
"Oh, it's plenty romantic," Zell said.
"Quistis thinks I'm trying to ensnare him."
"That's not what I said," Quistis replied. "You two have been seeing each other for a while, but he hasn't said anything about you to anyone. He hasn't dropped any hints to any of us about how he wants to be more than friends. Don't you think he'd do that if he wanted to? And we'd be the first to tell you." Quistis knew what big gossips the girls in their clique were, herself included.
"Yeah, not to me, either," Zell said. "He's been acting like the same old loverboy Irvine."
"Look, I don't care what you say. If he can put the moves on me, I can put the moves on him."
"All right," Quistis sighed and picked her book back up. "Good luck."
"Yeah, good luck, Selphie. See ya," the oblivious Zell said and exited the dorm.
"I didn't know you were also supposed to get a card with the wedding present," Squall said.
The commander scanned the surroundings in the gift shoppe, the first thing he did in any new environment.
"Well, we don't want to seem cheap, do we?" Rinoa answered.
"Guess not," he replied. They went past shelves of teddy bears holding hearts, candles, artificial flowerpots, and other lovey-dovey crap. Squall thought they should have called this the 'I screwed up, honey' store. Rinoa led him to the card rack that encircled the entire establishment.
The selection was slim, at best. The commander noticed a sign above the card rack that read 'Due to inventory problems, we apologize for the lack of selection. Look for supplies to go up the 11th.' Well, fat lotta good that did them, that was three weeks after the wedding.
"Pretty slim pickings," Rinoa said, looking at the empty slots in the rack.
"Yeah." At least this meant they wouldn't be spending eight hours looking at cards, trying to find the 'right' one. There were some somber and serious, some funny. Rinoa squatted to the bottom of the rack, already scouting for a good one. Squall picked the one closest to him and started reading. It had a long poem written in illegible cursive. He put it back.
"Here, this one's good," Rinoa handed up a card she found. Squall looked at it, it was another love soliloquy with an autumn motif.
"Uh-huh," he said as he handed it back to her.
The next three he chose had a similar theme, some lacy love sonnet inscribed in gold embossed lettering. None of these were working for him. None seemed appropriate. He just couldn't feel the love between them. And thus couldn't find a card to communicate his appreciation for that love. This wedding wasn't about love, it was about time. He decided to try the funny ones.
The thing about these was there wasn't any special message about a long life together, just a cheap laugh. The first one he took said something about how everything at the wedding was special, but the only thing anyone's going to be paying attention to is the bride's dress. Not that funny. And this seemed like something more suitable for sending in the mail. They would have been reading it after they had the wedding. Another joked about tripping on the bride's train. Selphie's dress probably didn't have a train. He needed something for a less elaborate wedding. Another one had two wedding rings holding each other's hands. Squall thought they looked like pasta rings.
Squall began to think about how useless this was, trying to find an appropriate card for an inappropriate wedding, especially when he could count the selection of cards on two hands. Too bad no one made a 'congratulations on getting knocked up and married in a hurry' card. Maybe they should have taken a funeral card and written in 'condolences on your getting married'.
Nonetheless, Squall kept looking, a bit quicker this time, not really hopeful. One was something stupid about 'feathering the nest'. Rinoa on occasion handed him one to look at, which he usually dismissed with an 'uh-huh'.
"I feel like I've gone through them all already," Squall said.
He spotted one down in the corner with a blue background and two moombas with their tails intertwined. On the inside it said 'have a nice life together' - perfectly non-committal.
"How's this?" Squall said and handed her the card. She looked at it.
"That's pretty good. You wanna go with this?"
"Okay, grab the envelope." Squall took the envelope behind the card. "We also need to get wrapping paper."
They searched over the store, trying to find some wrapping paper for the knife set. Everything they saw was for something other than weddings - birthdays, solstice festival, graduation. Rinoa walked up to the clerk.
"Do you have any wedding present wrapping paper?"
"Um, everything we've got is out there, I think."
Squall overheard the question as he perused the rolls sticking out of the end of a card rack. There was some purple pattern with red hearts. It was meant for a birthday, but it could work in theory. There was also some yellow birthday wrap that didn't seem too improper to be used for a wedding. What was with this store and their lack of things to buy? Finally, he saw a half-roll deep in the trough, nearly unnoticeable. It was egg white with the phrase 'two hearts, two lives, one dream' watermarked on it. That seemed good enough for him. Squall picked it out and showed it to Rinoa who had just approached. She nodded and they took it to the counter. Squall began to wonder if anyone even had weddings in this town.
Undergraduate Tilkan stepped into the foresty training center - a strange amalgamation of coniferous forest and tropical jungle. A robed member of the Garden Faculty shuffled close behind him.
"It's been here for a few days, I think," he said to the Shumi. "I think the Grats have started going after it now. It's just past here."
They continued walking, avoiding encounters with the monsters, until they found a nearly fallen palm tree, tilted over the ground. It looked precariously balanced, ready to snap off and roll onto the walkway, possibly impeding an escape route. The faculty member bent down to examine the root of the tree.
"Looks like it's broken off at the base. Interesting."
The student put his hands on his knees and hovered over the faculty, inspecting the tree as well.
"See here, it's pulling up a wire." He pointed to an exposed wire, yanked up by the roots. "Looks like someone's been chewing on it. Mice... or the Grats, possibly."
"The only wires here are for the lights," he looked to the ceiling for any outages. "We'll get this fixed right away. Don't want anyone to get electrocuted." The Shumi stood up and dusted off his broad hands.
Suddenly, they both heard an odd noise, like a mouse squeak. The student held up his hand to stifle the faculty member and opened his ears. The squeak was actually more like a whimper. He followed the muted noise down the path. It only took a few steps until they heard it clearly behind a collection of foliage. The student gently pushed the leaves out of the way.
"Selphie? I mean, Instructor Tilmitt?" Tilkan said.
Selphie was curled up, leaning against a palm tree trunk with her knees under her, clutching her nunchaku like a teddy bear. She quickly wiped her eyes.
"Oh, yes," she said clearly. "I'm fine." She sniffled. "I tripped, got some dirt in my eye."
"Uh," Tilkan and the faculty were dumbfounded. "Do you need any help?"
"No," she said as she bent down and picked her nunchaku off the ground. Her knees buckled. The two quickly went to help her by holding her arms. "No, really, I'm fine. I have to go." She gently brushed off their arms and walked quickly out of the bushes as she cleared her throat.