Breakfast in Bed
It was the smell - dark roast, fresh, hot and steaming - that finally worked its way through the sleep soaked depths of my mind to push me into waking.
There are few things as pleasant to wake up to as the smell of just brewed coffee. Assuming you drink it, of course - personally, I can't see how anyone survives without it. They could just feed it intravenously straight into my veins, I wouldn't mind.
Better than waking up to coffee was waking up to him bringing me coffee in bed; he had one steaming mug in each hand as his weight dipped the mattress at my side. I peeled my eyes open and yawned, rolling onto my back to stretch. Morning sunlight was streaming through the windows to pool warm across the floor and glimmer sapphire blue off of raw silk - my robe, loosely belted and sliding off of his shoulders as he leaned over me. Just the fact that he had borrowed it made me smile. "Mmmm. Morning."
When Squall smiles - really smiles, not just a curt gesture to placate the public - it's with his eyes. His lips may or may not be involved but his eyes light up, little sky blue flickers in cloudy grey and the faintest upward curve at the edges of thick dark lashes. It's beautiful and I don't think I'll ever grow tired of it. "Here," was all he said, short and curt as he pressed a mug into my eager hands, but his eyes were warm and happy.
I had all but dragged him, kicking and screaming... alright, silent, sullen and stubborn was a better description... on vacation. Now, a week and a half later, he still made a point of complaining about it at least once a day. But even he had to admit it was good for him. The quiet smiles alone were worth it.
"Cream," he informed me bluntly as he settled back against the pillows at the head of the bed, his own mug cradled between his fingers. "Two sugars."
I blinked. I was in the middle of trying to extricate myself from the knot the covers had somehow gotten into and struggle up enough to manage to drink without either scalding or drowning myself. Sure enough, when I looked, the contents of the mug I was holding were a warm tan color with a sweet smell to it. I had been expecting black; it's how he drinks it, and the niceties of cream or sugar or the idea that anyone would want them diluting the strongest brew he can get his hands on tends to escape him.
Squall met my gaze with a wry look, which told me the expression on my face must be amusing as all hells. "That's how you take it, isn't it?"
It's difficult to collect any amount of dignity when you're tangled up in blankets and trying not to spill your coffee. I gave up in favor of getting one shoulder braced against the head of the bed and taking a long drink. Hot without being burning, smooth with just a touch of sweet, and I could feel the kick of it as it cleared away the cobwebs draped around my mind. "You're a saint," I sighed gratefully. "Thank you."
He made a scoffing sound. A long armed reach off the side of the bed produced a plate, which he set on the covers between us. "Got you these too."
Puff pastries, lightly golden brown and dusted with powdered sugar, warm chocolate creme oozing out the corners. Obviously I had died in my sleep and this was heaven. Not a shabby job of it either.
I had one of the things halfway to my mouth, my fingers sticky with chocolate and sugar, when rational thought caught up to me. "But... You hate these," I blurted out, half accusing. How anyone could not like chocolate was completely beyond me, but he claimed it gave him hives.
Squall had his face bent over his mug, loose hair trailing into his eyes. "You like them," he told me, as though that was supposed to clear it all up.
The thoughts weren't quite connecting right in my head. Coffee. And breakfast. He'd brought me coffee and breakfast in bed, and not just anything but specifically the things I liked. When his usual morning routine was to be up, showered, dressed, eaten and some obscene amount of exercise, hours before I ever opened my eyes.
And instead here it was, indulgently late in the morning by his standards, him still slumming about in my robe, bringing me coffee and breakfast.
Either something was very very wrong and he was going to try to break it to me gently, or there was some anniversary of something that I had completely forgotten. I methodically ate the pastry I was holding while I hurriedly wracked my mind to figure out what I was missing.
He waited until I was licking my fingers clean before shifting to fumble around in the pocket of the robe. I had no idea what to expect but the last thing I would have guessed was a box - tiny, fitting easily into his palm, wrapped neatly in bright silver paper with a little cream colored bow set on top. He held it out to me without a word, waiting for me to take it.
Whatever expression I had woken up with, it was nothing compared to the one on my face now. Squall's own expression was a mask, not an emotion flickering across it, but his eyes wouldn't quite meet mine. When I didn't move he pressed the box into my hand, closing my fingers around it.
"It's for you," he told me, a touch exasperated.
Which left me utterly bemused and staring at the thing. "Breakfast," I uttered aloud, giving voice to the first thought in my head, "and presents? Squall, it's not my birthday."
He took the mostly empty mug from my other hand and busied himself with putting the cups on the bedside table, out of the way. I couldn't see his face at all. "I know that."
I turned the box over in my hands. "But..."
When he turned back around the mask had slipped. He wouldn't meet my eyes and the faintest of pink flushes was high on his cheekbones. "I..." but he broke off, clearing his throat. He reached out, his fingertips warm on my cheek, then leaned forward. His mouth brushed mine, lightly, then harder, with the taste of dark coffee and sweet sugar between our tongues.
His voice was embarrassed and breathless, whispered against my lips. "Happy Father's day."
When he drew away my mouth was hanging open and my mind had gone perfectly blank. The subconscious calendar in my head informed me, accurately, of the day of the week and month but by the Esthar calendar there was nothing particularly special about it beyond it being the one day out of the week when I didn't have work to do. The holiday he had named was a Galbadian custom and not one I'd thought about since... well, since I was younger than he was.
But Balamb uses the Galbadian calendar for the most part, and he had remembered. He had actually remembered.
And the man who didn't like to celebrate even his own birthday had brought me breakfast and presents.
When I didn't say anything he started to turn away, the flush darkening. I hastily pulled myself back together and reached out, grabbing his sleeve. When I sat up it dumped powdered sugar and chocolate all over the pillows but I couldn't have cared less; he was tense in my arms and he smelled of soap and coffee, the underside of the hair at the nape of his neck still damp from where he must have showered earlier. I pulled him close and buried my face in the scent of him, feeling the sting of giddy tears in my eyes. "Love you," I told him, as breathless as he had been, holding him tight.
It took three heartbeats, thundering through my chest, before he relaxed. His hands came up to tangle in my hair and he leaned into the embrace, his voice breathed against my neck as he rolled the word across his tongue, tasting it, trying it out. "Father."
I had to close my eyes and try to breathe around the sudden lump in my throat. He hadn't ever said it. Not once, not to me. The sound of it, on his lips, in his voice, brought a pang to my chest that ached. "Squall," I whispered. And then, small and pleading, "Again? Please?"
Squall stiffened some, drawing away. His hands were warm and dry against my cheeks, holding me there. His eyes, when I opened my own, were dark and unreadable, the flush still lingering on his skin. His lips brushed my forehead, trailing lightly down the bridge of my nose. His eyes never left mine and when he drew breath I found I couldn't make my lungs work for the life of me. "Father," he said softly, deliberately, each distinct sound brushed against my mouth.
I was trembling. His thumb stroked across my cheek, brushing away tears I hadn't even been aware of. "Does it mean so much to you, to hear it?" he asked quietly.
I managed to draw a shuddering breath. "I don't know," I admitted. "You've never... we..."
"Shh." He pulled me close again, one firm hand tucking my head against his shoulder. "Laguna..." Squall sighed, the sound ruffling my hair. "It's just a word."
"I know," I muttered, my lips pressed to warm silk and hard muscle beneath it. "I know." Just a word, and a DNA test that he had insisted upon, and a few pieces of legal paper stored securely away in the event anything happened to either of us. Just that, nothing more. I hadn't ever even seen any childhood photos of him and my imagination failed miserably at trying to imagine the sober faced young man that he was as a bright eyed boy. Just a word. Just a silly holiday. "I'm sorry."
He didn't say anything but his arms tightened around me. I leaned into it, letting the familiarity of it ease the ache in my chest. Silly, I told myself firmly. Stupid and silly.
Squall's chin was resting against the top of my head, his voice a rumble that I could feel as well as hear. "Father." Lightly, just testing the sound again, like a new taste that he wasn't sure if he liked or not. And then, letting me hear the grin in his voice, "Dad."
If I was being truly honest I would admit that on some level, it just made me cringe. It didn't sound real. I wasn't cut from the right material to be anyone's 'dad'. Uncle, maybe. But... father?
I was going to start either crying or laughing hysterically. Trying to stave off both, I went for a tone of joking disbelief. "'Dad'? Don't. That sounds so... so..." I faltered, groping for the right word.
"Don't bother saying 'undignified'," he told me dryly. "You've never had any dignity."
"...kinky," I finished challengingly, latching onto the first word that came to mind. "I mean, all things considered."
It was a feeble joke and I thought he would let it slide; our senses of humor don't match very often and the best thing we can both do is just ignore the other's occasional quips. But then he drew a breath and I knew - I just knew - that I had well and truly set myself up for it.
It was low and just a little husky, breathed warm against my skin like a promise. "Daddy."
"Squall!" I got us untangled faster then I would have thought possible, clapping the hand that wasn't still clutching the little box over his mouth. "Don't you dare," I told him firmly. "Don't. Just... just don't." One of his brows was arched up in a blatant challenge and I kept my hand pressed hard over his mouth. "Absolutely not."
Squall caught my wrist and pushed my hand away, the amused smile in both his eyes and lips now. "A little too kinky?"
"Definitely," I avowed. "The less said, the better."
"Not a fantasy you ever wanted to try?" he inquired a little too lightly. My heart was somewhere up in my throat and down in the pit of my stomach simultaneously.
He didn't say anything. Catching my other wrist, he took the present from my hand, carefully straightening the crumpled bow before putting it back in my palm. "You're supposed to open it, you know," he told me pointedly.
I blinked at him, then down at the box. "Oh! Right..." that was certainly safer ground. I let myself breathe and tried to collect myself back together. Tucking my feet under my knees, I pulled the covers up across my lap and set to work at the seams of the paper.
He watched me for a minute, bemused. "I would have thought you'd just rip it."
"You went to all the trouble of wrapping it," I told him seriously. "I'm not going to just rip it open." Tape gave way under my fingernails and a small white box slid out from the wrapping paper. I hesitated a moment before lifting the top off. What were father's supposed to get on father's day? Cufflinks? Tie tacks? You could even fit a whole tie in the box if it was silk and you folded it up neat - and Squall was nothing if not neat.
Hells, it didn't matter. He'd gotten it for me and that was more then enough. I lifted up the cover and folded back a thin layer of tissue to bare the contents.
For a moment I thought it just might be a tie tack. Small against the white tissue, it winked up at me, about the size of my thumbnail. It took a heartbeat to realize that I had seen it before, or its twin, gleaming silver against the dark collar of Squall's formal SeeD uniform.
He was waiting for my reaction, looking rather pleased with himself. When I glanced up he smiled slightly. "Honorary," he explained, pointing to the little pin. "I cleared it with the Headmaster. There's no rank attached to it, but your name is in the roster."
I blinked again. "Honorary?" I repeated. The tiny insignia was heavier then I had guessed, solid to the touch, with a straight stud and fastener at the back. "You mean... you made me an honorary SeeD?"
Squall was flushing again, embarrassed. "It's just a formality." He reached out, taking the pin from me and turning it over to show me the black back of it. "Look, it works just like all of them. You're cleared for the whole Garden... well, you'll have to get voice coding to get to the bridge, but we can record that the next time you come visit."
His words weren't making alot of sense but I managed to grasp the gist of it. "It's a key!"
He rolled his eyes. "It's a transponder. Limited range, just within the Garden itself. They're keyed for different security clearance - cadets aren't allowed on the administrative level without special admission and non-essential personnel aren't allowed on the bridge." I was just looking at him, a rather silly grin on my face, and he sighed and gave the pin back to me. "Yes. It's a key. And this way I don't have to clear you for the elevators every damn time. Just don't lose it and remember to wear it."
The sheer tickled delight of it all was bubbling up inside me. "Yes, sir!"
Squall, looking pained, caught my wrist before I could attempt an admittedly very sloppy salute. "Don't bother. You outrank me."
"I do?" Startled, I stopped examining the little insignia for a moment. "But I thought you said it was honorary."
"It is," he said, mock exasperated. "But in case you've forgotten, you're the President of Esthar. I'm a military commander. You outrank me."
"Oh. Well, when you put it like that..." I put the pin back in the box and stretched across the mess of sugar and pastries and pillows to put it on the bedside table. "Then I suppose you're just supposed to follow orders if I mention we're going to need to strip the bedding."
"You've also got a cleaning staff," Squall pointed out.
I grinned at him. "So you want the staff wondering what we were doing that got chocolate and sugar all over the bed?"
The sigh was more heartfelt that time. "Next year, we're skipping the entire breakfast part."
"Next year..." That was actually a rather sobering thought. I hesitated, then finally gestured around at all of it, the bed and us and the box and the mugs. "Why?"
He looked away for a long moment. "Because," he said at last, quieter, "you are. My father." He paused, the next word coming slowly. "Family. Maybe we should remember it, just for one day."
"Squall..." I was starting to tear up again. He reached out, one fingertip pressing gently against my lips in a light caress.
"Say it," he suggested softly.
Three letters. One syllable. Who knew they were so hard to say? I had to swallow twice before I could get the word off my tongue, my voice cracking. "Son."
His expression didn't change but his eyes looked thoughtful. Squall leaned forward and we were in each others arms again, his cheek pressed against mine. "Father." It felt like a kind of closure, a still moment of glimpsing something we wouldn't ever really have.
Squall's voice was light and amused against my ear. "A psychologist could retire off of us, you know."
"Don't remind me," I told him, and the moment was gone, whisked away into the past where it belonged, and it was only Squall, warm and solid in my arms, his calloused fingertips sliding against my bare back. "I do quite well not thinking about it too seriously."
He made a soft noise, pressing a lingering kiss against my throat. "No pet names? No screaming 'daddy' in the middle of..."
"You don't scream," I interrupted hastily, giving his side a hard pinch. "And if you did that... you'd be sleeping on the couch."
I could feel the curve of Squall's smile against my shoulder. "The couch in your office is pretty comfortable."
"Of course it is. Why do you think it's in there?" I pulled back far enough to look into his face. "Squall... all of it aside... I do love you."
The teasing smile faded, leaving only the one that glimmered, deep and happy, in his eyes. "Love you," he echoed softly and when our lips touched I swear I could taste the words, there on his tongue, like the sweetest thing I had ever known.
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