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He had her eyes. Laguna had almost hoped... but he wasn't even really sure what his half formed hopes were. And it didn't matter. The eyes, clear and bright and the deepest blue, didn't lie.
It was something surreal, something out of a dream. It didn't seem possible. But there they were, framed beneath dark lashes. And he'd bet good money that the smile on those lips would be hers as well, a perfect match in sweet laughing curves.
Assuming the boy ever smiled, which Laguna was seriously starting to doubt. Serious and somber, an expression like ice, and those eyes raking critically over him and keeping their judgement to themselves. A boy playing at being a general. He was too young for the responsibility they'd heaped on him.
And too old for this to be real. God, where had the years gone? How could this self possessed young man be standing there looking at him with Raine's eyes?
It was like stepping into a fairy tale. A changeling child, and the years passing in a rush when he thought he had only blinked.
The door had hissed shut behind the boy's companions as the younger man turned back, hesitating. Laguna swallowed back a nervous tightness that leapt into his throat and offered a smile, an expression that went unanswered.
The boy had a clear voice in a low tenor, his words as crisp as everything else he seemed to do. Military. Laguna had never been a good soldier, he was too unconventional for it, but this boy exuded it on every breathe. A natural leader, however reluctant and taciturn.
"Love and friendship and courage." He quoted Laguna's own words back at him, but he spoke them like something foreign, those impossible eyes looking askance at the older man. "It sounds corny." Blunt and frankspoken. At least they hadn't trained that out of him and Laguna prayed they never would. It gave personality to the otherwise withdrawn countenance.
The boy cocked his head slightly, loose strands of hair falling into his eyes and across the scar that sliced, ragged, between them. It was easier to focus on that livid streak then on the eyes themselves. "The others seemed to be up for it," he added, the words a little softer. Apology or admission, Laguna couldn't tell.
Did he see the others as friends? Or just fellow soldiers? Did he know they followed his lead not only for skill and strength, but because they cared for him? He was too damn young to bear scars like that one arcing across his brow. So young, beneath the black leather and the gleaming gunblade. All of them were too young, and he was sending them back out into battle and asking them to risk lives barely started.
Anger wasn't an emotion that anyone who knew Laguna would claim he did well, but he was finding himself increasingly angry at the entire unfair situation.
"Do you think it'll succeed?" His own voice was rougher than he liked; Kiros would have laughed and told him never to gamble - he was a terrible bluffer.
"We'll try." Barely a moment of hesitation, the word clipped out sharply. No false hopes there, and those eyes weren't giving away anything. Raine's had been open windows, looking into a laughing soul. This boy had made them the windows of a closed fortress, barricaded and shuttered against the world.
Familiar stranger, and the more Laguna looked the more he fancied he could see it, there in the line of the jaw and the texture of the disarrayed hair that had a mind of its own, just like his own. Maybe it was a fairy tale. And if it was, wouldn't they all get a happily ever after at the end?
But happily ever afters weren't supposed to leave scars. Happily ever afters didn't leave grooves marred into skin and shadows in what should have been innocent young eyes. Laguna found his hands were clenched, his fingernails digging crescents into his palms. He wanted to find whoever had carved that red line between those clear eyes and beat them to a pulp. He wanted to keep any other scars from being cut into that fair skin.
He'd taken two steps forward without meaning to. It was the closest they'd ever stood and the boy had to tilt his head up to meet Laguna's eyes - God, Raine had been such a small thing. He'd forgotten.
He wanted a loaded machine gun, with the grip curved into his palm and the trigger cool beneath his finger. He wanted to tell the boy to stay put, that he'd take care of the mission himself. He wanted to reach out and brush back those long strands of hair, to touch the smooth surface of that scar with his fingertips, as though some spell of his or maybe wish alone might fade it away.
He wanted a moment - a whole string of moments - that wasn't snatched in the breathe before battle to really get to know this stranger in front of him. This impossible young man.
Laguna had never been religious, but it was enough to make a man start praying.
There wasn't time. Not now, not in this scavanged moment, not when the boy was going to walk out of the room and into war. Laguna swallowed again, hiding a wince as the first nervous cramp shivered down the muscles of his leg. "Bring Ellone back." It wasn't at all what he wanted to say, but it was the only thing he could voice safely.
The boy shrugged slightly, slender shoulders shifting beneath the fringe of his heavy jacket. "We're SeeD," he said, as though that were answer enough. Maybe, to him, it was. SeeD. Professional soldier with a mission to be carried out.
He had already turned away without another word, and those eyes hadn't spoken at all. Nothing about him did, not from the solid line of his shoulder to the firm ring of his boot heels against the deckplates. What he felt, whatever it was, he kept firmly to himself.
The door hissed once more, leaving Laguna alone in the briefing room. The older man let out a breath he hadn't been aware of holding. "SeeD." Impersonal, a label; it left a bitter taste on his tongue, like a pill he didn't want to be forced to swallow. "Squall." An unfamiliar name for an unfamiliar young man.
The cramps were worse, arcing from hip to knee in knifing spasms. He hissed as he limped to one of the chairs and dropped heavily into it. Leaning his head back against the chair, Laguna wearily raked the loose fall of his hair from his eyes. When had he gotten so old? A young man, full grown and old beyond his years - impossible, but real.
"Son," Laguna whispered soundlessly, testing the shape of the word against his lips, but it rested there no easier than the other two. Sighing, he beat a closed fist against the betraying muscles of his leg and waited for the spasms to end.
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