Ground Control

By Almasy

I sit by the cold window of my lonely hotel room, heart as cold as the glass on which I rest my head. I miss you. Barely nine months old and without either of your parents; and why? Selfish, stupid Squall. I chased your mother off with my pathetic attempts to reconcile our flagging relationship, and now I am suffering the same fate because of my father. Ironic thing, life. How will I tell you, when you are growing up, that you were born out of my stubborn refusal to accept the fact that I didn't love your mother? I can't even begin to think about the damage I have caused your life already, let alone some ten years into it. I thought I'd given up destroying people after the War ended but clearly old habits are hard to rid yourself of. I miss you, so much.

Despite Rinoa's understandable irritance, I'm not sure we spent too many nights apart, did we? I suffered badly from chronic insomnia and often I sat by your crib, watching you sleep when I could not. So beautiful, my only child. Rinoa hated that; that I did not love her and yet, when you arrived, I was instantly infatuated. She did not see the difference between her and you; both unexpected, both in awe of me, you taken directly from her body. You were her by-product, a small, pretty version of her and Hyne damn me if I loved you more. Maybe it was a paternal instinct that made me give over to you so quickly, lying asleep hours after birth as if nothing had happened. Perhaps it was that finally something beautiful had come out of the wretched partnership I never had the courage to break off. It was no longer just Rinoa and me holding together by loose threads against a painful world; it was me and my son, my only son, the child to whom I was going to give the best possible life. The chance that was stolen from me. And what happened to that, little one? Where on earth did that promise go? I have done nothing but ruin your prospects. Your mother is gone and you are left with a father out-of-control and unworthy of you.

But then, I suppose you've got your grandfather, haven't you?

More than I have, I retort grudgingly. I'm still resentful about his taking you away from me, even if he insists that it's for my own good. No separation from you could ever feel like a positive thing, that I'm sure of. He wants me to rest, but what father can easily relax knowing that his son is not in his own hands? There's not a minute of the day where I fail to wonder just what's happening over there, but I don't know if I can find it in myself to go and find out. Is that wrong? That my problems with Laguna should prevent me from looking after you, as a father should? It's not your fault that our situation became difficult and that we no longer speak, Hyne, you don't even know the reasons behind the family rift. It's not fair that you should be subjected to them and yet, I remain still against the glass pane, unable to move myself to leave. I suppose it's pathetic fear, just as it always was. Not strong enough to leave Rinoa, not strong enough to return to Laguna. Again and again the same patterns, spiralling me around and around in the same old circles. One day I most certainly will have to face him, but it's the proximity of that day that makes my heart race and my stomach churn. I wish I could put it off forever. I wish for so many things that it's difficult to see what in my life I've actually achieved. Anything past the age of seventeen really feels like a contribution to an overall picture of failure, save for your creation and birth. The part I had in that was insignificant, and I feel more than blessed that I alone hold the precious reward.

Hyne, I miss you.

I could talk to you, couldn't I? Not about anything in particular, but if I needed someone, you were always there. You weren't like the others; you wouldn't reprimand me or tell me what path I should take, or frown and sigh and roll your eyes. You would just lie back and listen, perhaps doze if my tone became monotone enough or the pauses in my speech dragged on. That silence gave me the confidence to open up; knowing that you could not form words enough to hurt me or discourage me. Silly, perhaps, to converse with a small child rather than a peer of my own age, but it's easier for me. Who else could I talk to? Rinoa is absolutely out after her discovery of my pretence and unwillingness to commit to her. As girls tend to stick together, Quistis has become frostier with me and I rarely feel comfortable speaking my mind in her presence anyway. Selphie seems as enthusiastic to assist as ever, but I always feel guilty for bestowing such morbid concerns upon a girl so carefree and relaxed with life. My father is absent from my life, and probably will be until we can find some sort of renewed connection amongst this fear and hurt, and Seifer...well. After the War, we started growing out of the rivalry that had plagued our teenage years. It seemed somehow pointless after all that we went through in the War; we'd hurt and struck one another enough and besides, it would have felt like a step down after our bloody, exhausting trials with Ultimecia. Sure, our relationship is somewhat chaotic; we spend an unhealthy proportion of our time arguing and sulking about it, but he's a good friend. He listens to me, sometimes, and passes bluntly honest comments that often sting but he has been useful when I've really needed to be forced back on track. Still, that was before he got together with Laguna.

My father thinks I'm not aware of that, that my silence means I'm also ignorant. I know what he's has been up to since he tossed me to the curb, not least because Seifer thought to make it known to me. He rarely lies, does Seifer, and though he knew I wouldn't be overly cheered about the situation, he thought it best I know. I don't think I even care any more. I used to; at first I was the very epitome of jealousy over it. I hadn't got over Laguna and more than anything, I wanted to be back in his arms. I didn't care about genetics or blood and something as meaningless as a family tie. All I wanted to do was spend my life with the man I loved, a privilege now bestowed upon Seifer. That hurt a lot, if I'm being honest, and it was a while before I was able to speak to Seifer in our usual, straight-forward manner. Now, I guess my life has become so utterly useless that I don't care about things that I don't have. I'm relieved to be released from the bonds of pretence; acting to Rinoa that I loved her to stop myself from falling into a wide, deserted abyss of loneliness. Beyond you, my child, I have nothing and want for nothing. Give me this hollowness, and see whether I care.

It doesn't mean that Seifer and I no longer speak, though. I suppose if anyone truly knows me, it would have to be him; the advantage of spending over a decade around me has seen to that. His was the only presence out of the gang that I couldn't avoid, no matter how many icy walls I brought up or how many painful silences I allowed to drag on. He was always there, whether I wanted it or not. I don't know if we're friends, to be honest. I'm not sure if I really understand the word. I thought I was Laguna's friend, after all, and look what became of that. No; friends might be the wrong word. We're companions, maybe. I feel I can talk to him, and that means a lot. There's not many people alive to whom I can confide in, and I suppose that it must be a torturous privilege, but he doesn't complain. It's crossed my mind before that it's because he feels guilty about dating my ex-boyfriend and father all in one, but then, Seifer's not the type to disguise his guilt. He admits when he's wrong, places all his cards on the table and accepts his punishment. He wouldn't pander to me through feeling bad over what's happened, he's not that type of person. The alternative, though, is that he cares for me or that Laguna's put him up to it. Neither are particular appealing considerations. I can't allow myself to believe the first, and I have my doubts about the second. Hyne, kiddo, some father I'm going to make.

Thing is, people just don't love Squall Leonhart. I make it far too difficult for them to do so, and my reward is this kind of void, painful existence. I can't say I wasn't warned, I guess. A cold heart wins you no friends, but then, what benefits does warmth grant you? Falling in love lost me Laguna, didn't it? Everything time I thaw out for someone, they run away and I'm forced to freeze over again. Is that my fault? Warmth never got me anywhere, that's for certain. Maybe I'm just doomed; my passion might have kicked me in the teeth when Laguna rejected me but then, my acidic, icy nature won me Rinoa. I can't win either way; I'm destined to attract people and then drive them away, hurting us both in the process. Why in Hell would Laguna give a toss about me, after all that I'd done or not done, to win him back? Even putting hot, wicked Seifer aside, why would he want to bother with moody, battered little Squall? Tell me he's my father if you like, but when merely remembering that fact is like a kick in the gut, why would he want to save me? I know how much the reminder of our blood tie hurts Laguna, and he couldn't come to me as a father. He'd come as a friend, an ex, or as nothing at all, before he arrived as my dad. It's just too painful for him and I can't say that I don't understand. It's just that I no longer care what kind of relationship we have, whereas it means everything to him. He cannot be my father, so he won't even try to know me on any other level.

Daddy's unlovable, kid.

Let me tell you a story. Probably best that you can't really hear it, I've harmed you enough as it is. I just need to get it out of me, flush my system of its toxins. Rinoa used to tell you fairy tales, little one, and it figured that her waking life was just such a fantasy. This life you were born into is just as much an illusion as any of those stories she used to tell you, and that's mainly my fault. When you get old enough, I'll give you the truth, the full story. If I can find courage within myself not to hide away through fear, if I can do that for anyone, it's you. I guess the story started just after the relationship thawed between Laguna and me; after he went cold and refused to touch me, refused to love me on any plane because it was unbearable for him. I left pretty soon after that, humiliated and hurt, and sought solace in solitude. I never intended for it to turn into a kind of twisted fairy story, even though I love you; the product of it. It wasn't my intention for her to hunt me down, buzzing on the gossip that my mysterious relationship had fizzled out and died. I know now that her compassionate gestures, those little touches to my hand and gazes deep into my eyes were not in the name of encouraging me to recover. It's clear to me that, crude as it is, all her efforts were in aid of lying flat on her back with her Knight inside her. That was all she wanted; the pretty boy she'd never completely understood, the token doll by her side. I was too gentle to hurt her and too soft to be a threat, but pliable enough so that she could mould me into whatever she wanted me to be. It's true that I almost didn't realise that I was sleeping with her. All I'd wanted was affection, a lasting touch all around me, someone to disappear in. I didn't really care what I had to give her in return.

My Hyne, I was the biggest idiot. How will you ever be able to forgive this, little one? You're just a child, an innocent, everything that I was before Sis left me in the falling rain. I can't envisage myself sitting you down and explaining to you that you arrived into the world because Daddy wasn't clever enough to stop sleeping with Mommy, whom he never really loved. It makes a lump rise to my throat just thinking about it. You're going to leave me. You're not stupid, you're going to take one look at me and your heels are going to fly. I can't lose you, but I can't lie to you. I've taken responsibility for never telling Rinoa the truth, but I can't repeat that with you. It was my fault for not explaining to her that I needed time before diving into a new relationship, my fault for not using protection, my fault, all my fault. You deserve more than that. No, I didn't love her. Not in the way the Prince is supposed to love his Princess. She told you about that, huh? The classy ballroom, the waltzing sway of music, the Princess is a beautiful gown and her handsome Prince looking on. I suppose all of that happened, to some extent. I stood in uniform, trying to hide myself within a crowd of similarly dressed men but your mother spotted me nonetheless. She did look beautiful that night, in a twinkling dress of ivory. She stalked across the dance floor like a trekking lioness through the plains, and I suppose she fancied herself as the lion's mate even then. She introduced herself in the blunt, forward way that's truly her own; and for the first time in my life, I found myself dancing with a woman. Voluntarily. I'll need to teach you to dance, kiddo, because stepping on other people's toes never won fair maiden.

The Prince in the stories always knew how to dance.

Then again, he wasn't just using the Princess for a bit of a cuddle.

After that, there was the War. Again, not very typical of your average fairy story, so we'll bypass it. It's sufficed to say, kiddo, that your mother worked quite a spell over me. I didn't love her in a sexual way, but by Hyne, I adored her as a person. She was like a long lost sister to me, a figure of comfort and protection, and someone I could feel safe with. I saved her ass and she saved mine, and it was fine that way. I didn't mind her intruding into my private thoughts as much as I resented others doing so, because I thought she really cared about me. Even if I couldn't understand why the hell she bothered, she made me feel safe and special and I enjoyed being around her. It's a shame this all fell apart, to be honest. I miss the friendship we used to have. I'm getting lost though, kiddo, aren't I? Back to the proper story, I know you'd be falling asleep by now. After the conflict ended, we shared a kiss on the balcony at the reunion party. Whether that was relief on my part, that I didn't have to fight anymore, I don't know. What I am certain of is that it was the trigger in her mind of the false beliefs about my feelings for her. That was all my fault too, sweetheart. I should have, could have, said then that it had gone too far. I could have said that it was a mistake. Sure, it would have hurt her feelings, but then, I ended up destroying her. In what world is that acceptable? In what existence could I sleep at night, knowing that I'd done such a thing?

Not mine.

After that little romantic moment, I think she believed I was a sure thing. Selphie's behaviour for days later reeked of girly gossiping sessions about me, or at least, the paranoid side of me thought so. To get away from it all, I travelled to a city far away from Balamb, from the others, from anyone who could pester me about my new girlfriend. It was wrong of me, I know, but she knew that I was being buried under the stress and waved me away willingly, perhaps thinking that I would soon be back to sweep her off her feet. Once in Esthar, I knew that my absence from her was going to be lengthier than she'd thought. The streets were alive, the city was wild, and I didn't want to go back. I just wanted time, peace and anonymity, lost in a neon city where I was unknown. Aside from the inevitable glances in my direction from bemused passers by, I was left relatively alone and I enjoyed the silence, the emptiness of my life. It was just how I'd wanted it for the entire eighteen years I'd been alive, and I was happy. It was then that I met Laguna, and for a time, I was the happiest I've ever been. Our relationship was amazing in that he seemed to understand me in a way that nobody ever had before, not even Seifer. His gestures, thought processes and way of speaking matched mine so perfectly sometimes that it made some of the minions who worked in his government feel nauseous. So duped by the love between us, we never though to worry about the similarities between us.

I don't know how I'm going to tell you about that, either. That I was in a relationship with your grandfather? How does a man tell his son something like that, with all sanity and connection remaining intact? Hell, if my tale of Rinoa and I doesn't frighten you off, the incest that's preceded your birth is sure to disgust you away from me. It's not as if I can just come out and explain to you how much I loved him, not knowing of our blood tie, being blissfully ignorant as I was. It wouldn't work. I loved him just as much when I found out that I was his son; I'm no innocent party. I was sick and twisted, quite content to persevere with our union whether we were related or not. At least he had the morality to call things to a halt, whatever else you might hear of him. I know he's got a reputation as a senseless goofball, but remember, kiddo, that when I wanted to keep things going between us, he said no. He had the guts and the strength to distinguish right and wrong and sever our ties. It was more than I had.

Not long afterwards, I was in her arms. I'm not even really sure how that happened, to be honest. One moment, I was sitting in my little house in Balamb town, a pot of coffee brewing in the kitchen, rain falling outside the window. Normality. The next, everything was upside down and inside out. The coffee had gone cold, the rain had ceased and I was lying, arms shaking, over a contented, peaceful Sorceress. And fuck, but I was terrified. I knew the moment I entered her that it was wrong, even in that glorious flash of pleasure, the inklings of doubt and stupidity leaked back into my mind. I never told her. I could kick myself, kid, and I could kill myself over it all. So many opportunities to put things right were offered to me and I let every one of them fall through my fingertips like dust. I don't know where I was, why I didn't just *say* something. Anything. A simple, "this isn't working out" would have done, but no. Just as always, I allowed the chance to slip through my fingers, closed my eyes and fell asleep; head against her heart.

It was months later before I realised that she had essentially moved in with me, the pattern of sex and denial repeating itself tonelessly over and over again. There were parties, private celebrations, public outings; all in the name of cameras and headlines and the Goddess showing off her pretty new trinket, her little toy. I was slowly losing the will to carry on, overwhelmed by the pretences of a relationship that I wanted no part of. I was drowning in romance, sickened by love and wishing for an escape. I don't think she even noticed. The only time she ever took a platonic interest in my lips is when she realised that my heart had gone cold to her. I rebuffed her insistence of marriage, finally finding the courage within me to explain to her my true feelings. Then, there was a rush of fiery fury and afterwards, sudden darkness; the scene changed to a icy wasteland with nothing in sight but despair and devastation. She had left the one person I loved the most in my unsteady, completely incapable hands. She had left you behind, deprived you of a loving mother; all because of me. It was her punishment to me to leave you with me, knowing that I would destroy your life and thus, destroy my own. She knew that every blow that I managed to give you would be inflicted back upon me with ten times the strength. She knew all too well.

For a time, though, the Princess had her Prince, and the child on the way had sealed the partnership in stone. By that time, it was too late for words and excuses. I was terrified of becoming a father; so afraid that I would be unable to love you or care for you. I shouldn't have worried about the former; I love you more than I'm capable of coping with right now. The latter I will uphold, if it kills me to do so. It's what you deserve and I'll be damned before you end up like me.

I sometimes wonder if that's what he believes. Laguna, your grandfather. Does he think that he can win some kind of battle by taking away my son, just as I was wrenched from him so many years ago? I don't want to lose you in the same way that he lost me and I think it's only now that I can truly understand the father's guilt that comes with neglect and abandonment. He never knew about me, but that doesn't mean he is untouched by the remorse of never having been there for me. I understand that now, the same endless cycle of misery at not having you in my sight, the thought that I'm a bad father, the guilt and the numbing pain of it. All the same, I can't hate him for taking you. You need to be apart from you lunatic father right now, kiddo, for your own good. That's the least I can do for you as I try to get better and to be the father that you deserve. Still, I don't want you to grow up without a grandfather. It's not like you have much other family and I'd like for you to know the man who made me, the man who loved me and maybe, in his heart, still does. Still can. I don't want to take you away from him. He lost me; I don't want him to lose you too. What can I do, though? Tell me you have the answers, because I certainly don't. Maybe I just want for too much; to be a good father, for you to be happy, reconciliation with Rinoa and Laguna; the whole fairytale ending. I took that dream away from Rinoa. What right do I have to claim it now, especially in your name? Can you ever forgive me? Can he?

Can I?

I just don't know anymore.

Breaking suddenly into my thoughts, the intimidating whine of the telephone screeches through the quiet, desolate house. I cannot succeed in ignoring it, no matter how many times I screw my eyes up and force the noise out of my ears. It reminds me of Rinoa; a persistent and intrusive sound which cannot be blocked out and must be adhered to every waking hour of the day. Both exhausting and depressing. Unhappily, I tread across the cold floors to reach it, pulling it from its cradle and almost barking,


"Squall?" It's Seifer. Those rich, sharp tones I'd recognise anywhere. Leaning against the table slightly, I turn around to gaze out of the open window, tracing with my eyes a pattern amongst the stars. To the 'phone I offer an affirmative grunt and he responds so softly,

"I've got a father here who'd like to speak to his son."


Return to Archive