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 ...
Dr. Kadowaki yanked the tape around Squall's side and pulled it over to the other. Squall held up his arms to let her through, wincing a bit from the rough treatment. He thought she was going awful fast for a caretaker. The tape wasn't exactly going neatly around his torso. Plus she looked rather cross. She yanked the roll one more time and snapped off the tape.
"Ow, careful," Squall said.
"Careful? Squall Leonhart, I have better things to do in this infirmary then to tape up your self-destructive body. Getting into a fight with Irvine, right before his wedding. If you had bloodied Irvine's face at all I would have never forgiven you."
"Look, I'm the commander of this Garden. What I do is not-"
"Oh, listen to yourself. Stop acting like a soldier and start acting like a human being. If you were a soldier, you wouldn't have any friends. A soldier's job is to battle and you're damned more lucky than that. I'm surprised Irvine's still invited you to the wedding at all. Someone up there favors you, I imagine. Far more than me."
Squall shut up. For all the teetering on the edge of duty and friendship he had been doing, it had caused him nothing but strife. His friends were angry with him. He was angry with his friends. And there was no way he wanted to lose what he had already gained.
"Here." The doctor handed him a bottle of pills. "Now get out of my office." Dr. Kadowaki turned around and sat at her desk, working on papers, pretending Squall was no longer there. Squall was heated at being disregarded like this. He looked at the bottle of painkillers that rattled in his hand, dumbfounded at being practically thrown out. Every stupid thing he had done just alienated people further from him. I haven't felt like myself since this whole thing started. It's just been a big conflict this whole time. I had to pay for a train car I trashed. Rinoa was worried about me. I yelled at Selphie. Irvine and I beat the crap out of each other. I asked for advice from Seifer, what was I thinking?
"I'm sorry," Squall said.
The doctor turned her head to him. "I'm not the one you should be apologizing to."
"I know. It's just been a rough couple of days. Not that I'm making excuses. And I know I haven't had it the roughest out of any of us." He held up his pills to the light. "But of all my time here at Garden, this has probably been my biggest challenge - just knowing how to act."
"Well, SeeDs are all about meeting challenges head-on."
"Yeah, and I haven't been doing that."
"You know, Irvine thought about making you his best man."
The doctor nodded. "But he was afraid to ask you, seeing as you two weren't that close."
Squall thought about that. "Guess I see why now. After what I said about him being my friend. Or lack thereof."
"Squall, I'm not the one you should be talking to. I'm not your counselor. I don't have a degree in psychology."
"Yeah... maybe we should get one. A Garden counselor."
"You're the commander, Commander. I'd certainly like it, it'd keep people from yammering on about their problems. Just don't take it out of my pay."
Squall smiled, the first time for a while. "Wedding's tomorrow," he sighed. "I think I got some work to do."
"You certainly do, Squall."
Squall tossed up the pill bottle and caught it playfully, jumped down from the bed and walked out. The doctor watched him leave out of the corner of her eye.
"Of all the times I've patched up that boy, now he finally decides to make peace."
"Did I pack my hairbrush?"
"Get that box lifted on there. No, there!"
"All you all right, headmaster?"
"Ow, my foot."
"Hurry now, the train's about to leave."
"Has anyone seen my dress? I just want to make sure it got packed away."
"When are we supposed to get there?"
"Put all the presents into this trunk."
"Mine's too big."
"It's supposed to be overnight non-stop."
"Quick, I'm trying to find out if the flowers are here yet."
The train station was bustling like Winter Festival. People both known and unknown were whizzing by him, trying to get everything found and on the train in a timely manner. Squall stood at the center of this tornado, waiting patiently to get on the train. He had no supplies to carry, save what he had in his bag. It was everyone else's show. He had no real desire to plan the wedding, and everyone else did, so why not let them have their fun. Cid and Edea were also together in the middle of the flurry, looking like wizened grandparents, trying to help out when they could, making sure all the belongings were on the train. The younger generation was doing most of the work though. If they weren't SeeDs, they probably wouldn't have been able to make these exceptions - this hurried train ride, the reservations in Galbadia. But saving the world has its perks.
Squall watched his friends lift a large trunk into the car. Despite everything that they went through they were still remarkably normal people. They weren't uplifted onto pedestals by the people for destroying the threat of the Sorceress, they weren't corrupted by fame and fortune. A lot of people who did the same thing would be carrying that around like a ton of bricks, using it to get more than they deserved.
Quistis came up beside him. "Penny for your thoughts," she said.
"I was just thinking how much we've managed to stay the same through all we've been through."
"I need to pee! Hurry up!" Selphie shouted in the melee.
"The same... for us," Squall amended.
"Shouldn't you be helping?" Quistis asked.
"I just helped Zell load a big box of something onto the train, taking a rest." He said as he rubbed his arms.
"Are you staying in Galbadia?" she asked.
"No. Leaving the next day. Rinoa's coming with me."
"Ah, commander duties?"
"Something like that."
Another voice pierced their conversation. "Careful! Those are the presents."
"Oh yeah, I wanted to ask, what did you get for a present?" Quistis asked.
"It was Rinoa's idea."
"Really? I would have expected that from you."
"What? Me? Why? Oh." Squall looked absent-mindedly at the gunblade on his belt. "Rin thought of it before I did." He shrugged. "What did you get her?"
"A crystal bowl."
"Hm, she's gonna have a lot of kitchen supplies."
"Quistis! We need you now!" Selphie shouted.
"Coming!" Quistis ran off to what was probably something unimportant.
Quistis used to have a crush on him, about a year ago, right before he graduated and she was decommissioned as a teacher. He rejected her advances harshly, more harshly than was necessary, and she stepped back. Now there was no awkwardness whatsoever. She didn't even feel the need to say goodbye, because she knew they'd be seeing each other again. It was pretty good of Quistis to realize they could only be friends. Other people would always have something like that at the back of their minds.
Squall looked up to the conductor who had gotten his attention.
"If you're ready to board I can take your ticket now."
Good, Squall was sick of standing here. He stepped up on the train and handed him his ticket. The man punched the piece of paper and looked at it.
"Okay, you're in the second car down from the left." The conductor stepped back to let Squall through.
"Thanks." The commander stepped onto the metal stairs and turned left. He and Rinoa were sharing a car, but she was still getting stuff on. She had her ticket. It wasn't like they were attached at the hip or anything. Besides he hadn't really seen her since she found out about his fight with Irvine last night. She was giving him quite the cold shoulder, didn't even say anything last night, only giving one word answers. She didn't seem like she wanted to talk or be around him right now. God, was this the straw that broke the camel's back? He really messed up. This wasn't one where he could wait for them to come to him, he was going to have to take initiative.
He found the SeeD cabin and opened up the door with the ticket. The nice carpeted interior of the cabin contrasted with the industrial foyer he was just in. This one even had a double bed for him and Rinoa. The nightstand lamp was the only light in the room, but it was the only one needed, giving a boudoir feel. SeeDs definitely had it good on the train, thanks to that deal between Garden and the railroad system.
On the bed there was a suitcase. Rinoa must have already been here and dropped off their stuff. Squall took off his feathered jacket, revealing his white undershirt, and hung it on a coat hanger in the closet.
Zell barged into the room without knocking. Upon seeing Squall without his traditional jacket he looked away as if he were naked. "Oh, hey, Squall, I didn't know you were in here already." He held up a suit by its coat hanger, wrapped in clear plastic. "Rin wanted to put this in here. You left it in your room." Squall took it from him. It was his SeeD uniform. He had forgotten to take this with him.
"Okay," Zell said, "If anybody needs me I'll be in the dining car. I'm so hungry, all I've had to eat today was a sandwich Xu gave me." Zell left and shut the door behind him.
Squall took his dark blue and gold suit and held it up. All the graduated SeeDs had to wear their uniforms for the ceremony, Garden regulation. Squall never liked that uniform. It was too formal for his taste, and itchy and hot, probably made from some wool out of Winhill. And it made him look like he was ready to attend a meeting of the world council. He put it on the bed, then thought better of it and put it in the closet. They'd probably want to sleep there soon, and Rinoa would yell at him for needing to move it.
Squall lied down on the bed and put his hands behind his head. Well, with that done, there wasn't much for him right now, but wait until the commotion had settled and then he could do what he needed to do. One time-killer he thought of was to check his e-mail, always a surefire way to waste time at work.
He got up off the bed and approached the Victorian desk next to the closet. He pulled up a panel in the desk's top and a bright screen lit up. He pulled out the keyboard drawer and sat down, waiting for it to start-up and get connected. After that, he logged onto the remote Garden network and navigated through to his e-mail program. There was only one letter for him since he last checked - from Laguna.
Squall hadn't expected him to respond really, at least not so fast. He dreaded opening personal letters like this - responses to bad news, he never knew how to answer. At first he wondered if he should open it at all, he probably wouldn't have much to say, and there would be nothing to say if he did. No, that was cowardly. He dismissed that thought and opened the letter. Squall was surprised that the reply was remarkably short for what he had said. Especially compared to what he usually wrote, and him being a former journalist. And long-winded buffoon.
Is this for real? You're not playing a trick on your old man, are ya? Ha ha. If it is, that's great. Sorry I can't be there for the wedding. You'll have to tell me how it was. Ward might be getting a replacement voicebox pretty soon, so that'll be pretty cool. Only Kiros can understand his mumbles. Be sure and write back, I wanna hear all the details. Ellone says hi.
He didn't believe me? He didn't have anything else to say? He didn't say anything about how she was awful young? Or that it was so sudden? Or her being pregnant?
Squall sat back in his chair, dumbfounded. He had written just as much about Ward's voicebox as he did about the wedding. Squall practically gave him a Selphie Newsletter and this was all he responded with. Seifer was right, people really did react differently to things. The more he thought about it, the more he realized he should have expected it. Laguna was not one to take things seriously. And all his friends were taking it in stride. Maybe Squall was the only one who hadn't let go of it yet. No one else was taking it as seriously as he was. Maybe he just needed to lighten up. Maybe he had a few things to say to some people.
The sight of two beautiful girls, sitting at the corner edge of the bar together, would have turned many men on, if there had been any there. As it was, there was just the bartender, who was down on the other end, washing glasses, giving them enough privacy to talk without feeling like he was eavesdropping, and a creepy man in a brown jacket sitting in the back drinking a bourbon. Quistis and Rinoa paid him no mind though. They could take care of themselves, and they were too tired to worry about it. There was just the gentle hum of the engine and the rushing wind from the windows behind them.
Rinoa took a sip from her fuzzy navel at the same time Quistis tried her lemon daiquiri. The train was chugging along at full speed, creating a slight vibration in their stools that felt good.
"It's been a long day," Rinoa said.
"Yeah, I need this," Quistis said.
"Isn't that awful sour?"
"No, I like it." Quistis took another sip. "So who did Selphie choose for her maid of honor?"
"Xu, I think. She was pretty much the last candidate left."
"That's kinda sad."
"Yeah, it must suck to have all your friends in Trabia, not able to come down for the wedding." Rinoa took a sip. "If she asked you now, do you think you would do it?"
Quistis sighed. "I don't know. Now that I've had time to reflect on it all... I don't know." Quistis secretly hoped Selphie wouldn't re-ask. She didn't want to be trapped in that awkward situation of defending what she said, because now she wanted to be her maid of honor. She kind of regretted confusing her, but she was still of the same opinion. "I was too hard on Selphie."
"No, you weren't," Rinoa said. "We weren't. It's just been hard on us all."
"Well, I shouldn't have jumped on her like that. I felt really bad afterwards. I feel like I'm so distant from her now. I hope we haven't caused a rift in our friendship."
Rinoa put her arm on Quistis' slumped shoulder. "I don't think so, you two are too close for that. You did what you had to do, just like she's doing what she has to do."
"Has to do? That's a terrible way of saying it," Quistis muttered.
Rinoa looked away, a little ashamed. She tried to change the subject and sighed. "My arms are killing me."
Quistis took another drink of her fruity concoction. "What time are you getting up tomorrow?"
"I don't know. Squall usually wakes up before me, so whenever that happens..."
"Did you talk to him about... you know."
"No, I actually haven't much talked to him since then, with the train and all. But I've got plenty to say that I'm going to next time."
"Good. They both really could've hurt each other. They're both trained in killing arts," Quistis said.
"Stupid manly ritual, trying to prove himself."
"Hey, I've broken up plenty of girl fights in my time. They end up being more vicious then boy fights cause when they fight, they mean it. There's no stupid posturing."
"He's just so damn thick-headed."
"No, he's not thick-headed, just stoic. Once he has a feeling, he'll stand by it till the end. Even if he doesn't know he had it."
"That's the problem. He's been so out of his emotions. He's just so different lately. Starting fights with his friends, yelling at Selphie, the train car."
"Oh, never mind. Sorry, I wasn't supposed to talk about that." Rinoa bit her lip. Quistis decided to respect her friend's mistake and not ask any more questions about that. She tipped back her lemon drink as Rinoa continued. "I thought he was making improvements until that fight with Irvine. Now I don't even know who he is anymore. I don't know how I can deal with him anymore. Do you think he regrets his life at all? Do you think he regrets everything that happened?"
Quistis grew a small smile at such a stupid question. "Meeting you? Falling in love? Saving the world? I don't think so."
"I mean, do you think, if he had all his life to do over again, would he? Would he change anything? Would he change one thing even if he knew everything else was going to end up different?"
Quistis breathed out as she finished her cold gulp. "You know what Squall's worst subject in school was?"
Quistis shook her head. "No."
"Nope, history. You know why?"
"Cause he hates the past. Cause you can't change it. You have no control over it and you can't do anything about it. Everything's there, laid out, all the bad, all the good, and you can't erase it. It's immutable. Even after we went through time compression and Ellone, we saw that. He could never understand why we had to learn about all the terrible things that have happened when we can't do anything about them. I tried to tell him, when he was still a student, that the reason we learn history is so we don't repeat the mistakes of the past. But he said he never learned about the mistakes of the past, only about what happened, that it was inevitable that humans would keep repeating their mistakes. Maybe he has got a point to that, I don't know. I'm not in the history department." She again sipped the lemon daiquiri. "Anyway, the point is, Squall likes to have control. Even despite his reluctance to become commander, he likes it. This kind of change scares him because he can't control it. He wishes he did. It probably reaches back to when Sis left. Not that he's wrong, change scares most people. But your life is always changing and Squall doesn't really see that."
"Yeah, he always did have kind of a problem seeing the bigger picture. You and the lunch lady would have a lot to talk about."
"The lunch lady?"
The door to the bar car slid open and Squall chose that moment to enter. Quistis and Rinoa looked to him and looked away, not really sure why, for some reason embarrassed. Squall approached Rinoa, who turned to him.
"Hey," he said.
Rinoa looked right at him and blurted, "Squall, you need to talk to Irvine. You need to apologize to him."
"I already did. Just now." He thumbed behind him, indicating that was where he'd just come from. "Selphie too. Not something I'd like to do again. That's why I'm here." He walked around to the first open stool on Quistis' right.
"Ah, pride is a bitter pill to swallow," Rinoa said.
Squall waved his finger to get the bartender's attention. "Sylkis," he said.
"Where is he now?" Rinoa asked.
"The boys are throwing him an impromptu bachelor party."
"And you're not there?"
"Do I look like a partier? It wasn't really my thing." The bartender handed him a yellow-labeled beer. Squall took a drink of the bitter liquid. "I thought you'd be having one for Selphie."
"We thought about it. Then we realized, really the last thing she wants is to go out and party when she can't even drink. Plus I think she was sick from the motion of the train."
"Heh," Squall snickered and drank. "So what were you talking about before I came in?" he said, penetrating the silence between those two that he had brought in with him.
"About you actually."
"Like how you've been acting since the beginning of all this."
Quistis sensed a fight beginning, started getting worried, and got up to leave. "Uh, I think I'll go to bed. Night, guys."
"Night," Rinoa said.
"Night," Squall said. Squall took Quistis' seat to get closer to Rinoa, pushing the empty lemon cooler aside. "What do you mean?"
"I think it's pretty obvious. The silence, the outbursts, the fighting-"
"-And you just want the old Squall back... or the new Squall... or whatever."
"Ahem," Rinoa purposely cleared her throat.
"S'all right, I know you didn't mean it."
"No, I did. I meant everything I ever did. I don't lie and I don't dance around delicate subjects."
Rinoa imagined if Quistis were here she'd be saying 'you got that right!'.
Squall continued, "I know I haven't been acting like myself lately. I think with that fight with Irvine, I got a lot of crap out. I feel better after it. Something cathartic. I'm gonna try to be more open with stuff like this. If this didn't come as such a shock I probably would've done better than I did, but I just panicked and kept it all inside. So, I'm sorry for all that. I'm surprised you put up with me at all."
"Well, you're fun to keep around... sometimes," she smirked. "Getting all your apologies out in one night?"
"You were the last one. You know how I like to get things done in one fell swoop."
"Yes, that's why you eat one part of your meal, then the next, then the next."
Squall rolled his eyes back and groaned.
Rinoa giggled, "Tee-hee, I told you it was fun." She put a hand on Squall's shoulder. "Thanks, though."
Squall put his hand on her hand's soft skin, thinking about all the clashes and conflicts and fighting they'd been through. All the arguments and problems they had to work through, and somehow they were still together today. Squall knew he wouldn't be where he was today if it wasn't for Rinoa and her gentle counsel.
"Say," Squall said, "Are you still looking for a job?"