Waiting by the Phone

By BlackRose

It never really occured to me, when I was younger, just how hard it must be for the family left behind. It's one thing when you're the one going off to war - there's so much to do, you're so focused on your mission, you don't really stop to think. You just do it. And of course you're going to come back. That's how it works.

But if you're the one left behind, watching someone else go... there's nothing to do but think. Sit and think and imagine everything that could go wrong. Every worry turns into a towering mountain of anxiety and when I know he's out in the field, out there on a mission... there isn't a single hour I don't think of it and wonder if the next time the phone rings it's going to be the call I don't want to take. If it's going to be the one where they tell me I might want to be sitting down because they have some bad news for me.

I don't know what the life expectancy of a SeeD is - I'm not sure they know - but I'm pretty damn sure it's less than the life expectancy of someone doing a nice comfortable office job, even if I do have twice his years on me.

It's his life. It's what he's trained for, what he does, as natural as he breaths air. I can't tell him to stop; I don't have that right. And he's good at it, there's no denying that. Maybe he'll live to retire.

Or maybe that damn phone will ring and it'll be Quistis or Selphie or Zell or one of his other friends, a little choked up but all business-like because to them this is just the facts of their young lives. And I'll have to listen to those words, all the ones I don't want to ever hear.

Every time he leaves on a mission, I have to face the fact that in all likelihood, someday I will be burying my own son.

What the hell am I supposed to do then?

Kiros cheerfully tells me that it's far more likely I'm going to keel over from a heart attack while sitting at my desk one of these days. It's a nice thought.

I try to tell myself I'm being silly. I've already seen him go up against the worst threat any of us could imagine, and he came through that alright. But that's the problem, you see. He's damn near a hero. And real heroes don't get the fairy tale happily ever afters in the sunset - real heroes leave a legacy behind them and go out with a blaze before the history books can record them having to retire from old age. Real heroes just keep going until they run into something and can't go any more, and by then it's too late.

He sure as hell didn't inherit it from me.

He called me two days ago. I've never told him I worry - it'd just make him uncomfortable - but he's dutiful about telling me when he's leaving and when he gets back so I know not to try to call in the interim. So he called, just to tell me shortly that he would be out, some routine sort of terrorist action in Galbadia to clean up. He'd call again when he got back. He sounded completely unconcerned, almost bored, but I know he was itching to go - too much administrative desk work makes him restless until he's climbing the walls.

All told, it was a five sentance conversation. No long, tearful goodbyes. No loving wishes. No concern. Just business-like, telling me the facts and signing off. I wonder sometimes if, in his own way, he's trying to tell me not to worry... like, if he's not worried, then I shouldn't be either.

Which is all well and good for him. He's out there doing something. I'm stuck behind a desk, staring at a report on a screen that I've been paging through without reading a single word of for hours, and nothing but all those worrisome anxious little thoughts careening full tilt through my head. What if he gets hurt? No, that's not even a 'what if'. That should be 'how badly is he going to get hurt'? Something he can just shrug off? Or something that might keep him from active duty for awhile? Or worse? How many are they up against? What's happening out there?

I counted nine new white hairs in the mirror this morning. The boy is going to make me old.

When the phone does sound it takes me a ring before I can make myself move. It's my private line - probably Kiros wanting to know if I'm ready to take lunch, or if the report is done and what's taking me so long. Outside of him and Ward there's only a handful of people with access to that line.

Nonetheless, I reach over and toggle the ID with one finger, feeling my stomach knotted up somewhere under my ribs.

::INCOMING CALL:: the little screen flashes at me. ::BALAMB G SECURITY ENCODING::

And now my heart is up in my throat and it's not beating right and the tightness in my chest is painful. Maybe Kiros is right. Maybe I am just going to have a heart attack, and wouldn't that be ironic?

I swallow it down and make myself pick up the receiver, my voice as steady as I can force it to be. "Laguna here."

"Hi Laguna!" It's Selphie's voice, and she doesn't sound at all upset. If anything was wrong she would, wouldn't she?

There's a commotion in the background on her end of the line, the only words of which I catch are something which sounds like "goddamn phone" in a male voice. Selphie's voice in reply is a little more distant as she turns away from the pickup, but she's yelling and I can make it out clearly. She sounds almost frighteningly authoritative, for her. "Put that down or I'm telling Kadowaki!"

Kadowaki. That's Balamb Garden's head physician, a blunt spoken older woman. Which means something is wrong and I'm gripping the receiver so tight my fingers hurt. "Selphie? What's going on?"

"Would you just give me the damn phone?" It's Squall's voice, irritated and angry sounding, but alive. I could cry. There's more background noise and the sharp sound of the receiver being dropped and then Squall's voice returns. "Laguna? Still there?"

"Yes!" He sounds gruff and disgusted and it's the most wonderful sound I've ever heard. I blink hard, trying to keep from sounding too breathless. "You're back?"

"Yeah." He sounds angry about it. "Irvine and Quistis are taking care of the rest of it."

Which means whatever they were doing wasn't actually done with yet, and what in gods' name could make Squall come back before then? "What's wrong?" I blurt out, the hard cold knot in my stomach trying to reform itself.

"Nothing. Everything's fine," Squall says.

"But Selphie said something about the doctor... are you hurt?" I'm babbling but I can't seem to help it. I need to hear him keep talking. I need to know he's alright.

Squall made an exasperated noise. "I'm fine," he says firmly.


He sighs, annoyed. "Selphie talks too much. I'm fine." There's a pause as I bite my tongue to try to keep from saying any more and when he speaks again his tone is disgusted. "Fucking land mine. I took a piece of shrapnel through the hand. We couldn't use curaga, some of the bones were shattered. I had to come back to Garden to get it set."

I let out the breath I hadn't been aware of holding. "But you're alright now?"

"Yes, I'm fine. We just didn't have the equipment on the field to do it right." There was another commotion on his end and Squall's voice was muffled. "I know. She was talking about using a gunblade, Selphie, not about picking up the fucking phone!"

He hates being fussed over. I'm almost giddy with relief. His voice comes back to the line and I can easily imagine the look on his face. "I've gotta go. Just wanted you to know I was back."

"Thank you," I say. My voice is a little choked and I'm sure he can hear it. "I'm glad you're alright."

There's a small pause but I can hear his breath against the receiver. "Thanks," he says at last, a little awkward.

"Squall..." I hesitate, unsure of what to say or what he'll put up with me saying. So many things, but it's easier to leave them unsaid, where we both know it but don't have to talk about it. I swallow, closing my eyes, the phone receiver cradled cool and smooth against my cheek. "Love you."

There's a longer pause then, until I start to draw breath to tell him he doesn't need to say anything, I don't expect it. But his voice interrupts me and now he doesn't sound entirely steady, a little rougher and shakier than before. "Yeah," he says softly. "I'll talk to you later." There's a click as he hangs up and the hum of the empty line.

He's alive. He's alright. I can breath a sigh of relief, the anxiety fading away once more. Right now, he's alright.

And as I reach to hang up the phone I have to wonder what, at the end, he might have said if Selphie hadn't been there listening. The thought makes me smile.


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