By Alexis Logain
His usual attire had altered again. He stuck to the same monochromatic black, but dressed a bit more along the edge. Smooth black leather pants clung in all the right places, as did a clingy black knit shirt. Along with his Griever pendant – which he had picked up wearing again – there was a black and silver beaded choker; he had two silver rings on his hands and a wide-banded watch on his left wrist. A long black trench coat covered his body and fluttered with his strides while heavy black combat boots thudded loudly on the smooth linoleum. Lionheart hung at his side.
As Squall walked down the halls of the Presidential Palace, he made a very imposing visual. People scurried out of his path and his slate eyes caught every detail, even if they were hidden behind a pair of black sunglasses. His pale mouth was set in a frown – he really did not want to be there. But Kiros demanded that he at least reject the position in a press conference so that there would be no rumors. Ignoring the guards posted at the door to what used to be Laguna’s office, Squall shoved the door open and started in. He gave himself credit for not freezing in mid-step, but glared mentally at his heart, which thumped and thudded louder and harder in his chest than it had just mere seconds before.
"There you are, Squall," Kiros greeted. He raised an eyebrow and turned to close the door behind him. The guards at that damned place were already nosey enough – they didn’t need to hear whatever went on in that room.
"What is this, Kiros? Some sort of task force to make me change my mind?" Squall demanded, gesturing to the people in the room. Quistis sat in one of the comfortable green chairs, Zell standing near her side. Cid and Matron were imitating their pose in another set of chairs across the room. Selphie appeared to be frozen in half pounce and she looked nervously between Squall and the others in the room. Out of the corner of his eye, Squall could see Irvine resting against the wall while Seifer sat on the wide desk. He appeared to have been chatting with Kiros – which was no surprise; the two of them had grown pretty close.
"Of course not, Squall," Kiros replied smoothly. "You’ve made your decision and I told you that I would honor that choice. They were here for the press conference and I thought it’d be nice if we all – "
"Whatever," Squall interrupted coldly. "When is this thing – I just want to get it over with."
"You always did hate the press…" Seifer murmured quietly. The room was quiet and Squall decided that even a blind man would be able to see the tension.
"Yes I did. And I still do. You, however, always handled them fine," he replied cryptically. "You all didn’t have to come. There are going to be reporters and cameras and microphones everywhere. They’ve already invaded my building and the school. It’s only a matter of time before they accost you guys too.""We wante
d to be here," Selphie grinned, bouncing slightly. "This is a bid deal, Squall."
"Selphie’s right," Quistis agreed. "And we wanted you to know that we support your decision." She stood and made her way towards him. He looked at her warily for a moment before she folded him in a hug. "And don’t go running off after – I need to talk to you," she whispered in his ear. He made no indication that he had heard her, but clasped a hand on her arm.
"Well if I’m not needed right this second," he told everyone. "Then I’m going to go for a walk. Care to join me, Quistis?"
"Love to," she smiled serenely. Confusion hung in the air as Squall hurried from the room; he felt like he was suffocating in there. Especially under Seifer’s scrutiny. He couldn’t bear it. "Squall – wait up." Slowing enough to let Quistis catch up, Squall struggled to control his breathing. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Just a little tired. Haven’t been sleeping well. You wanted to talk to me?" He knew that the raised eyebrow over Quisty’s baby blue eyes was in observation of how quickly he changed the topic, but couldn’t find it in himself to really care.
"Yes." She was silent for a little while and they wandered around the palace a little, ending up in a small courtyard. Squall looked around at the moderately sized fountain and at all of the rose bushes; it was his favorite place in the palace. Quistis sat on the edge of the fountain and, after a few moments, Squall joined her. "Zell and I wanted to wait to tell everyone, but I wanted to tell you first." Squall frowned – tell him what? "And there’s a reason why I wanted to tell you first. I…I’m pregnant." Squall blinked. This pertained to him…how? "We have a name picked out and well…"
"Oh gods – you aren’t naming it ‘Squall’ are you?" he demanded. Her cheeks pinkened slightly.
"Not…exactly. Alexander or Alexandria. For a first name. And ‘Squall’ for a middle name. If it’s alright with you." He blinked. They wanted to make part of their child’s name…his name. It was a very touching gesture and he smiled for the first time in weeks.
"Of course. Congratulations, Quisty," he grinned and hugged her. "I just had the most horrifying thought of miniature Zell’s running around with bossy attitudes and whips." The blonde flat out laughed at him and Squall chuckled with her.
"I would think you’d be more horrified at the thought of them running around going ‘Unka Squaw! Unka SQUAW!!" Squall blinked as she doubled over, laughing.
"Dear Hyne," he mocked. "How long before I’m in hell?"
"Just about six months," she teased.
"I’m going to spoil them rotten. Your children will always want to come out here to visit me." Squall had always had a soft spot for children and was a little sad he’d never have any of his own. The look on Quisty’s face told him she felt the same way.
"You should take the job, you know," Quistis said instead. Squall’s eyes narrowed.
"I don’t want anything he can offer me."
"He’s dead, Squall. He can’t offer you anything – not anymore." She paused, frowning. "Is that why you were so adamant about pushing Seifer away?" Squall turned his lethal glare on her.
"Quistis, I both love and respect you. Please refrain from saying anything that will jeopardize that," he said curtly.
"I understand why you’re hurt, Squall – but I just don’t get why you won’t forgive him!"
"Who? Seifer or Laguna."
"Seifer. I don’t know – both! But mainly Seifer… He hurt you, yes. But he didn’t do anything wrong. No, he never refused Laguna’s offer, but he never took him up on it either. It took you two long enough to get where you were – I don’t know why you’re willing to just write it all off."
"It was a fling, Quistis," Squall murmured. "Lasted a little while. Nothing more to it."
"It was more than a ‘fling,’" she tossed back. "It was something that took more than twenty years to happen – do you really want all that time spent waiting to be fore nothing?"
"I don’t love him. Why should I be with him?" Lie. All lies. Squall scowled at how easily he could scorn himself.
"I don’t believe you."
"Let’s come up with an analogy, shall we?" Squall asked in a fakery pleasant voice. "Say six months from now, when you’re all fat and pregnant, Zell goes out and meets this beautiful woman. She says that if he leaves you and goes with him, he’ll get power, prestige, money, lots and lots of hot sex, and anything else he ever wanted." Quistis scowled at him.
"That isn’t anything like what happened."
"It’s exactly what happened!" Squall exploded. "‘You make my son love me and open up, and I’ll open doors for you that you’ve only dreamt about.’ That’s exactly what Laguna told him! He told me himself."
"He was using the both of you to get what he wanted."
"What did he want?"
"For you to love him."
"What kind of man leaves a baby on the doorstep of a stranger because that baby has his mother’s eyes? What kind of man ignores the baby for eighteen years, claiming to have never been married, to never have had children? And what kind of man then owns up to his life and tries to act like those things never happened." Squall’s eyes burned. He shut them to keep them from welling up with tears. He was not going to fucking cry. Not then… "He didn’t love me, Quistis. He loved my name, the kind of image it gave him. ‘Squall Leonhart – the Lion of Balamb – is Laguna Loire’s only son. The very same Laguna Loire who saved the world from the evil sorceress Adel in the First Sorceress War.’"
"He loved you. In his own, twisted way…he just wanted what was best for you. What soldier knows how to take care of a baby?" Squall looked at her with pain in his eyes.
"If you died after your child was born, Zell would do everything in his power to be the best father on this planet. Because he’s a good man. He would get help from Matron and Selphie and…Hyne, even Cid and Seifer and…me. Because he loves you. And because no matter what happened, he wouldn’t blame your child for your death." A slight breeze carried the scent of roses through the courtyard.
"He…Laguna was a very troubled young man. And I’m sorry he hurt you." Quistis put an arm around his shoulders and Squall let himself relax into her embrace.
"Ellone won’t talk to me anymore. She refused to after I cut off communication with Laguna. When he died, she moved back to Winhill. She was really pissed at what Seifer did…claimed that we deserved each other. Said that she hoped we both rotted in hell for being gay." It was weird to him, having someone to talk to. But it seemed so…easy.
"That’s awful." Quistis drew him in for a hug then gasped loudly. Squall pulled back, a puzzled frown on his face, as she sunk to the ground.
"Quisty?!" There was a sharp pain in his shoulder and he reached back, pulling some sort of dart from his flesh. A brief flash of a figure dressed in black was all he saw before falling unconscious.
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