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 ...
Squall inserted his key into the weapons locker. Locker was a bit of a misnomer, since this was one of their largest storage rooms outside of the garage. They'd set it adjacent to the physical training rooms way in the back, and kept all the swords, staffs, guns, and countless other exotic weapons there. With a turn of his key, the lock clicked open and let him into the dark room.
The dry musty smell of a closet greeted him as he walked in between the metal grated shelves and hanging racks of blades. Besides weapons, the room also stored all the weapon cleaning supplies, which were what Squall was after now. The gunblade was a precision instrument and needed to be cleaned often for it to work properly. Otherwise it was just as likely to blow up in the user's face as the monster's. Cleaning it was Squall's favorite thing to do with his gunblade, next to swinging it.
He went way into the back, into an area smelling strongly of chemical solvents, and picked up some plastic bottles filled with dark liquid. Rinoa wouldn't let him clean his gunblade in their room. It was too much black powdery mess, even if he put a towel under it, and the ammonia scent would stay in the living room for days. He took the blade out of his hip holster, and knelt down to the floor. Making sure it was unloaded, he began disassembling it, starting by pulling out the barrel. He grabbed a small black wiry brush from the shelf, poured a little oil on it, and poked it into each hole to clean out the chambers. He tried to make each stroke, each push, as smooth and purposeful as possible.
A quiet noise at the front of the room alerted Squall, but he paid it little attention. People were coming in and out of here all the time. As the footfalls moved toward him, he knew this person was also coming towards the cleaning supplies.
"Hey, Squall," Irvine said. Squall flinched at the sound of the voice and politely looked up. He was strolling in with a long gun over his shoulder, wearing his full cowboy clothing and a big smile on his face. "Just getting some stuff for practice." Irvine patted him on the shoulder, to which Squall had to resist recoiling, and reached up to the top shelf. Squall had no desire to interact with him today, especially after being interrupted out of what was supposed to be a tranquil, solitary cleaning session. He tried to mentally project a Protect shield around him, trying to get him to go away.
"Got to get some ammo for the training center," he said. "Warming up my sniping skills for the mission."
"Uh-huh," Squall responded. He tried not to look at him, he just focused on his own cleaning procedure and nothing else. He tried to keep him out of his peripheral vision, if possible, just looking at his equipment. This was more awkward than words. Just focus on cleaning and get out of there.
"Yeah, I can take out a grat all the way at the other end of the training center with this thing. Take a look at this gun." He held out his long sniper rifle on both his hands. Squall took a cursory glance at it and went back to his business. "It's custom made. They sent it all the way from the Galbadian junk shop. It's got a 3,000 meter scope, titanium hammer and pin, 46 inch length, five round detachable box magazine, 3300 feet per second muzzle velocity, polished trigger, feels just like snapping a glass rod."
Squall barely nodded his head. Why wouldn't he just get his damn ammo and leave? There was nothing he wanted to talk to him about, and there was nothing he could say that Irvine wanted to hear. Was he completely oblivious to everything else that was going on? Did he forget he was gonna have a kid in a few months? It was like the only thing that existed for him now was his stupid fancy gun. His blood was boiling at his ignorant, flippant tone.
Irvine held it up vertically and took an admiring gaze himself. "Yeah, it's pretty spiffy. Only weighs twenty-two pounds. That's why they sent it to me early, so I could practice with it. Pretty soon, I'm gonna need to go outside to hunt monsters, I'll be so good." He grabbed a pack of high caliber rounds from the top shelf. "Yeah, these science team guys are pretty on the ball. I met a few of them when I was over there. It's all being led by this really old professor. And they have this science officer that's really cute."
Squall growled loudly in his mind, stopping his work for a moment to hate this a little more. Irvine just kept going, "This mission is going to be pretty cool, they're going to be erecting a big command station somewhere. They're not quite sure yet, because they need to scout around for a place that doesn't have too many monsters and some good draw points. They're making it an unmanned station, but they're building it out of this super-tight material. And these HD cables they invented are amazing. They have this special coating sealant they got from Esthar that wards off the monsters from chewing on them."
"Uh-huh," Squall said when Irvine paused to make sure he was paying attention. "That's great." Right now he wished he had an Irvine-warding-off sealant. Maybe the fewer words he spoke, the more he would get the hint to leave.
"So how are you doing?" he finally asked, peering into his scope from the opposite end.
"Fine," Squall said.
"Getting excited about the wedding?"
"Sure," Squall said. He was rather surprised Irvine had actually remembered he was getting married, the way he was talking about the mission.
"I'm getting married in a few days, I can't believe it. It's gonna be wild. Selphie's a great girl."
Irvine just kept talking and talking, and about absolutely nothing. Squall just continued wiping the excess solvent off his gun parts. He couldn't believe Irvine was so unmindful that he was trying to give him the cold shoulder. He just kept talking about his marriage, like he was forgetting the circumstances. Squall was so mad at him for not acting the way he thought he should have. Irvine was way too happy for the situation. He wasn't even doing anything anymore, he was standing there talking to him. He'd finished getting his ammo, he didn't need to be there anymore. Squall had no desire to interact with him, he didn't want to talk about what he was doing, he didn't want to talk about the wedding, he didn't want to talk about Selphie, he didn't want to talk about the baby-
"Can I have the brush?"
Squall staggered out of his reverie long enough to grope around for the wire brush and hand it to him.
"So that's how I thought we should do the cake," Irvine concluded. "Which I really don't think is too big of a deal to do, you know?"
Squall snapped the final two main pieces of his gunblade back together, and locked in the barrel. Thank god, he was done. He hoisted his gunblade over his shoulder, the griever key chain whipping back and forth, and passed Irvine by.
"Hey, are you going to the training center?" he called out after him.
Not anymore. "No, I'm going to sharpen my blade," he responded as he continued walking as fast as possible without seeming like he was rushing. Obviously, Irvine wanted to see if they could go in together, and that was the last thing he wanted.
"Oh, ok, see you later then. I'll be in the training center... all right?"
Squall walked out of the supply room, pretending the doorway had an invisible boundary that blocked off the sounds of ignorant people.
Xu tapped her foot as she waited for the elevator. Her legs were stiff from sitting in a chair all day today, coupled with having spent all day yesterday in the training center. She arched her back, hearing a few small snaps. Hopefully she wasn't going to get arthritis in the future. Back pain was the worst kind of pain she could imagine because it was so chronic and numbing. Her upturned eyes caught the elevator coming down. She pulled herself back upright and waited for the doors to open.
Selphie exited the elevator quickly, holding a stack of papers and a sandwich.
"Hi, Selphie," Xu said.
"Hi, Xu," she said with a partially full mouth as she walked by.
"Great Hyne, Selphie, what is that!?" Xu said as she spun around as Selphie passed her.
Selphie stopped and turned back around. "What? This?" she said as she held up her sandwich. "It's a hoagie. I haven't had one for a while so I had the cafeteria make me one up special. It's got black olives, mushrooms, Reagan greens, Mimett greens, gysahl pickles, ham, tomato, chicken, turkey..."
Xu started turning green as she went on and on with each new ingredient. She couldn't handle eating that much food in two days let alone all in a sandwich.
"Jeez, Selphie, are you insane? You know you're eating for two now."
"Oh, come on, it's been only four weeks, it's not much more than a couple of cells now. Besides we're supposed to have strange cravings."
"Not until later, Selphie. Have you even been to a gynecologist yet?"
Selphie shrugged and looked down. "Should I? Already?"
"Yes!" Xu replied enthusiastically. "You should have as soon as you were pregnant. I'm sure Dr. Kadowaki can refer you."
"Refer me? You mean Dr. Kadowaki wouldn't be my doctor?"
"Well, I don't think she's licensed to practice OB/GYN stuff, she's general."
"But I've never been to a gynecologist before," Selphie whined. "Don't they stick cold metal things in there?"
Xu was stunned at her lack of information, but she kept her rationality. "It's just like a regular doctor appointment. I go to see one regularly, just for a check-up. They do some lab work and some blood work, a pap smear. She'll go over with you about exercise, nutrition, activities, travel, and any complaints and questions you have. It's basically the medical introduction to being pregnant. You might even get to hear the baby's heartbeat. And Irvine should be there too."
"I don't think I want to," Selphie said.
"You need to. You're certainly not going to deliver without help, are you?" Xu knew that Selphie would see reason eventually, and overcome her hesitation at sharing her body with professionals, especially because it was for the greater good. "Selphie, you got to start taking better care of yourself, and the baby. No more hanging from the rafters doing painting. I mean, your eating, for example. You gotta start eating things with lots of folic acid."
"Where in the world do I find that?"
"Well, uh, whole grain bread, leafy vegetables, cereal, liver," Xu counted off.
"Yuck, I'm not eating liver."
Xu tried to ignore her childish indignation. "Selphie, can you come with me?"
Xu led Selphie around the hub of Garden and back to her room. She went to her drawer and pulled out a white book with six baby pictures on the cover. "This is a baby book," Xu said. "I was going to give it to you as a wedding present, but apparently you need it now. It was my mom's, she had two kids when I was a teenager."
"I guess that's why you know so much about this."
Xu nodded as she opened the oversize book and turned it to the chapter titled 'What's Happening With Your Baby'. "Here we go. This is a week-by-week timeline." She handed the book over to Selphie. It showed a summarized breakdown of the baby's development period in an easy list format. She looked at her place in the line - four weeks. It was the first listed entry. Right now the baby was implanted into the uterus and was called a blastocyst. It would split into two parts, one of which would become the fetus, the other the placenta.
"Wow, I didn't realize how far along I was."
"The first trimester has a lot of rapid growth," Xu replied.
"Wow, thanks, Xu, you're a true friend," Selphie said as she pulled the book towards her.
"No problem. I'll always be here for you, no matter what."
Selphie smiled. "I have a feeling Auntie Xu is gonna be her favorite."
Xu smiled back.
Selphie closed the book and picked up her things. "OK, I gotta go now. Thanks for the book. Uh, you can have this sandwich." She handed her the multi-colored six-inch loaf and skittered out of the room. "Bye!"
"Uh, bye," Xu said, looking strangely at the sandwich. Compelled by curiosity, she took a bite. "Ewwyuck," she said. "You're going in the fridge. I can only imagine what the baby's gonna eat."
Squall leaned against the wall under the boat shop awning, comfortably shaded from the pounding afternoon sun. The air was quite cool from the ocean, but the huge yellow light in the sky seemed to be bombarding him with white hot heat. From here, he could see the entire boat dock anyway. Two steamers were berthing, but that was way over on the left. Straight ahead was a clear, blue plain. He could see fastitocalons jumping out of the rough, choppy water. Far away, the white SeeD ship began pulling over the horizon, soon to dock.
He wasn't really thinking about anything at the moment, just waiting for her. He'd been sent down here to greet her and accepted the task happily. Seeing Matron was always nice. Her and Cid's relationship was a strange one. The time she was a sorceress must have been a pretty chaotic one for those two. Before then, he couldn't really remember if Cid had been there at the orphanage with her or not. But after she had been purged of the evil Ultimecia wrought, they still lived separately, Cid at Garden, Edea at the lighthouse. Both still appeared to love each other like a husband and wife. But they both had work to do, so they lived separately. Squall could never imagine doing that with Rinoa. He thought he would be sick with loneliness if he'd done that, as he waited patiently for the boat to finish docking.
He walked down to the end of the pier where the white SeeDs were unloading boxes and crates for supplies. They were all teenagers hand-picked by Edea to protect her and Ellone, traveling from place to place in their specialized ship. They paid him no mind as Squall walked by them and looked up at the walkway ramp. Edea was standing up there, cautiously walking down. Squall couldn't help but smile as he looked at her. She was wearing a plain black sundress that matched her long black hair, holding an egg-white umbrella to protect her from the sun.
"Squall," she sang. "It's good to see you."
"It's good to see you too, Matron."
"You're getting so big now."
Squall cocked his head and smiled at her in a sarcastic manner. "I'm the same size as the last time you saw me. I stopped growing a while ago."
"I know, I just like to tell you that," she smirked as she closed her umbrella. "How is Rinoa?"
"I suppose you two will probably be thinking about your future together after all this."
Squall's tongue was immediately tipped with the ring he had gotten for her. "I think it's been put on the backburner for now."
"Jistin," she called to one of the SeeDs. "Can you fetch my things from the cabin?"
"Yes, Matron," he said and sped up the ramp to her room. Squall was somewhat surprised, and a little jealous, that they called her Matron too. They slowly started walking down the end of the dock.
"Is Selphie all right?" she asked Squall.
"She's a little overstressed, but fine."
Squall started to speak, then realized he really didn't know how Irvine was doing, as far as his reaction. He was gone for half of last week, and the only time he'd seen him after was in the meeting and at the weapons locker. Anything he could say about Irvine was nothing Matron wanted to hear. He couldn't even bear to look at him anymore, he was not the same person he remembered. He couldn't say his name without feeling a pang of disgust in his stomach.
"He's fine, too."
"Good. I think they'll be a good match together."
Under normal circumstances, maybe, Squall thought. Why is this so weird, talking to Matron like this.
"Has commanding been all right?" she asked.
"Sometimes. I've been getting used to the load of paperwork, but I still get sent out on missions every once in a while. I just came back from one in Esthar a week ago."
"Oh, did you see your-"
"No, I didn't. We were in the mountains, outside the city."
The white SeeD Edea had called to earlier came up to the two of them, holding an open cardboard box with items sticking out. "All done," he said.
"Oh, thank you, just set it down."
Jistin set the box down and ran back to help the others with unloading. Edea bent down and started digging through the box, checking the inventory.
"I brought some of the old toys from the lighthouse along for Selphie. I thought she could use them. Help me carry them?"
Squall looked down into the box. It was like a tidal wave of memories wiped out his adult thought process.
There was so much power in those toys. As a child, an orphan, without many friends except your fellow orphans, you put all your focus and energy into toys. They became just as real as the living things around you. They were like the weapons they used today, you put everything you could behind them. Squall reached into the box and pulled out a rag doll, one that he remembered Quistis liked. Its bottom half was caked in mud, probably from being trampled, and it had lost one of its button eyes. He put it back and took out a stuffed moomba that had most of its fuzz worn off. The tuft of fur on the top of its head was shorn off when somebody tried to give it a haircut. The biggest item was a rocking-horse chocobo that would let you travel anywhere in the world, even to space. Next to that was a choo-choo train. Selphie loved that choo-choo train. She made it go as fast as she could. She'd watch it roll down the hill out back by the ocean, then run down and get it, then run back up and start over. She always wore denim overalls over a shirt. Matron made her wear them after she got sick of washing her nice clothes over and over again. Selphie loved playing on the beach cliffs behind the lighthouse, jumping around them, innocent of what she was going to become. Now she was who she was. She had that done to her.
"Oh god," he uttered.
"Squall, what's wrong?"
He wiped his hand down his face, clearing his expression, his mistake, his regret. He collected himself and refocused on the box. "Nothing." He picked it up and followed Edea down the wharf.
Quistis was marking some tests, listening to the orchestra piping into her headphones. She had heard the door outside open and close this morning, and hadn't come out at all because she was afraid of what she'd see. She was introverted, and didn't want the awkwardness of seeing Irvine and Selphie there, together, officially a couple, trying to make conversation as the residential third wheel. Mostly, though, she wanted to let them have their moment. She'd have to get used to it now. Irvine would be coming over quite a bit, but not to see them. To see her.
"Quisty? I need to talk." Selphie rapped on her door. Quistis thought she heard a noise and grasped around as if in the dark to find her CD player and fumble for the pause button. She wasn't quite sure if she was right though and waited. Selphie knocked again and voiced, "Quisty? I need someone to talk to, please? I feel like I might explode."
Quistis opened the door. "Sorry, I had headphones on." She let her in and Selphie sat on her bed. She looked distraught.
"You were right. You were right all along." She looked up at her friend. Sadness marred her face, but she wasn't crying.
"You were right all along," Selphie just kept saying. "He just wants to... He didn't want-"
"Hey, hey, slow down, tell me what happened." Quistis held out her hand.
"He came in and he saw all the stuff and at first he seemed really surprised, then he got into it. I didn't even get to pour the wine. He saw right through me. He knew what I was going to say. He said he didn't want to be tied down. Cause if a mission came up, he didn't want to have something here holding him back if he went off. I mean, I can understand that and we're still friends. I'm not really upset. I'm just disappointed. Really, really disappointed. I thought this was going to work, but you were right." She was staring at the back of her hand resting on her knee.
Quistis wasn't sure what to say. She felt both bad and good that it didn't work out. Nor was she very experienced in counseling, despite her years of teaching.
"Wait," the blonde said, "After all that, he still stayed the night? That was him I heard leave this morning, wasn't it?"
"Well, yeah, I said we're still friends. He doesn't want anything to change between us." She hugged her stomach. "I really don't want things to change either."
"Selphie, if you think staying with him like this is going to change his mind-"
"No, no, I know, but it's still good to have someone by your side when you wake up." Quistis wasn't nearly convinced by this argument, and communicated this by glaring at her. "We've been... intimate together."
What? Oh, god, I didn't want to know that, Selphie. She thought they were just sleeping together. That's what Rinoa and Squall did at first. It was what she did with the last boyfriend she had.
"Oh god," Selphie cried, "I shouldn't have said that. Now you probably think I'm a slut."
"No, I don't think you're a slut. I've had a lot of young students, and having sex before marriage does not make you a slut." Although, it did make her look differently at her. Quistis knew that was something wrong, but it was how she felt.
"It's not like he's using me for it," Selphie said, "He's real attentive to what I want and he's always so gallant."
Quistis realized she was getting into territory she didn't want to get into. "Look, I trust that you know what you're doing. I can't tell you how to run your life."
"But you disagree with it."
"No, I don't. Honestly, there've been times I might do the same thing, with another guy."
"No, you wouldn't."
To be honest, there were a few times Quistis would've been led around with a leash by a boy she liked. Some she was good friends with now. Some were commander now. But those were in the past and she matured out of that.
"I admit, I am worried that Irvine is using you. But we're all watching him, we're all friends with him. He wouldn't do anything that would bring on our wrath, right?"
"Yeah, I guess. He's not like that really."
Rinoa was happy to help these people out. It didn't take much intelligence or skill to carry boxes around. She lifted the heavy crate until it was nearly over her head and hauled it from one end of the cargo bay to the other. The inertial dampeners on the Ragnarok kept her from feeling even the slightest turn as they drifted through space on their short mission. Her fellow workers lugged boxes back and forth like ants, dressed in their light blue overalls and caps. She was still wearing her sky blue cashmere dress-robe that fluttered behind her. The outfit clashed with the olive green walls of the cargo bay, and especially with the uniform crates as high as her head.
More boxes to carry. One of the workers came up to her. "Tell the captain we need to speed up."
Rinoa nodded and put down the container. She walked towards the back of the bay, dodging the drone-like workers. Weaving up the stairs, past the passenger room and into the cockpit she found the solo captain staring straight ahead, vacantly staring out into the black vast space. Rinoa put her hand on his shoulder. "The cargo bay man says we need to speed up."
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Rinoa nodded and left the cockpit. Again she followed the maze-like hallways of the flying ship back down to the bowels of the cargo bay. She opened the door and was all ready to tell the cargo bay manager what the pilot had said. When she stepped in, the bay was empty. She walked further into the hangar, thinking it quite curious the entire crew had left.
"Hello?" she called out as she walked down the compartment's length, looking left and right for anyone hiding behind boxes. Her words echoed against the metal. She turned around and saw a dark purple smoke rolling onto the floor, black mist expanded upwards from the vapor, obscuring the view into the bay. Rinoa thought it might have been a gas leak or something.
A pair of red alien eyes blinked open, peering clearly from the end of the door. Rinoa gasped and stepped back. Her eyes widened and she put a hand to her mouth to stifle the silent gasp. The red eyes stepped forward from the blackness, revealing Squall. He pulled out his gunblade and tore it into the nearest cargo box. The container practically exploded as he sliced it in two. He walked forward, slashing his gunblade back and forth, breaking crates left and right, knocking great stacks down behind him, rustling up the smoke.
Rinoa backed away as Squall moved forward, eyes glowing red with rage. He kicked one stack out that fell behind him into a loud crash. He tore his gunblade downward, breaking another crate into wooden splinters. Rinoa backed up to the hangar door and slumped down in fright, her legs giving out. Squall walked up to her faster than humanly possibly, his shadow encompassing her. His blood-red eyes shone brighter as he raised his gunblade above his head. Rinoa cowered away, holding out her hand feebly in front of her as Squall pulled the blade down.
Then she woke up.
Her eyes shot open, her heart beating like a butterfly. She found herself whimpering like a dog, uncontrollably. But it was just a dream, not reality. The thought of Squall attacking her so brutally replayed over and over in her mind like an echo. And those eyes. Those burning red eyes, dead-set on attacking her.
She turned over and hugged Squall who was sleeping on his side, despite him having attacked her in her dream. She knew that could not be reality. Squall grimaced as his sleep was disturbed. He didn't like being held, and he didn't like his sleep being roused. He turned over and Rinoa did too. She spooned up against him as he draped his hand over her.