Squall walked tiredly through the Garden, heading for the Training Centre to workout. He was hoping it would help wake him up, plus he just needed to get out of his office. He'd nearly fallen asleep at his desk, not something a Commander should do. 'They're just dreams, they'll go away eventually.' he assured himself as he passed a few cadets who saluted him as he walked by. He half-heartedly saluted back, wishing that they could forget he was their Commander for just once.
"Commander Leonhart, please come to my office at once," he heard Cid's voice echo throughout the building when he was just steps from his destination.
"Great, what now?" he muttered, and changed direction to see what the Headmaster wanted. He stifled a yawn as he made his way to the elevator, mentally cursing for his lack of sleep. He just couldn't function this way. There had to be something that he could do to stop the repeated nightmare. 'Maybe I need a vacation,' he thought, then pushed it away. 'That isn't going to happen.' He was perfectly happy with being ridiculously busy, much to Rinoa's annoyance at times.
He stepped on the elevator, pushing the button for Cid's floor with a deep sigh, relaxing his back against the wall as his eyes slid closed. "Damn, I'm so tired.' Alone in the elevator, he let himself relax without worrying about any cadets seeing him in such a state. He couldn't let himself appear exhausted and weak, even though that's the way he felt at the moment. The motion of the ride up wasn't helping, and he stumbled slightly when he started to fall asleep. "Shit," he hissed, straightening up and rubbing his eyes with the palms of his hands. "I have to get some sleep," he mumbled as he reached his floor, the door sliding opening to reveal Cid's outer office, and his aging secretary sitting at her desk with the phone to her ear.
"He's expecting you," she said, covering the mouthpiece of the phone as she spoke. "Go on in, Commander," she said in a motherly way, and he gave her a nod in thanks before going to the door and stepping inside.
"Squall, come and sit," Cid offered when he closed the door behind him. He took the plush chair if front of the Headmaster's desk, ignoring his bodies desire to sit back and relax into the comfortable seat. "I have a special assignment for you. In two weeks you'll be leaving for Deling City," Cid said, handing Squall a file folder with the information that he needed.
Squall didn't speak, but opened the folder instead, glancing over the contents of the first page, feeling a trace of disappointed annoyance. 'Bodyguard duty? He's got to be kidding me.' Since becoming Commander, he had led many cadets on important missions, and it was always something of a large caliber, nothing so mediocre as being a simple bodyguard. Apparently the client was a rich young socialite who had recently inherited her parent's successful corporation and wealth. The reason for her needing protection was likely buried further in the report, but he didn't bother looking, putting his attention back on Cid.
"Why not send a capable SeeD on this assignment. I'm a Commander, not a babysitter of spoiled rich girls," he said with cold contempt. Cid flinched slightly with his bold, pointblank manner, but collected himself just as quickly.
"Squall, you've never questioned a mission before. Are we going to have a problem with this?"
"No, Sir, but I think I deserve an explanation as to why I'm being sent on this frivolous job."
"In all honesty, I would send someone else, but you were requested specifically. A woman of her standing deserves the best protection that she can get, and I can see why she'd want you to be the one to provide it.
"Whatever," Squall sighed, closing the folder with a snap.
The Headmaster chuckled. "Squall, like it or not, you're very well known, and will continue to get attention for the service you've given to the world. If not for you, Ultimecia would have succeeded in her twisted plans for us all."
"I didn't do it alone, and no, I don't like the attention." A yawn snuck up on him after he spoke, and he couldn't suppress it this time.
"Squall, are you alright? You don't look very rested." As much as Squall had been trying to cover his problem, the dark circles under his eyes were becoming more obvious with every passing day, never mind the fact that he couldn't seem to stop yawning.
"I'm fine," he lied, blowing it off as nothing. Cid didn't look convinced, and shook his head with a soft smile.
"You need to be at your best for this assignment, Squall. Starting right now, you're on vacation until you leave for Deling."
"No buts. That's an order Squall, and I expect you to follow it. In the past two years I don't think you've taken any time for yourself, and I think it's time that you do."
"Fine," the brunette snapped, then looked at Cid with only a glimmer of sheepishness. "I'm sorry, Sir. I've been snapping at everyone lately it seems." Squall covered his mouth when another yawn took him, and he wanted nothing more than to just climb in his bed and sleep for days if possible. Yet he knew as soon as his tired mind drifted, he'd be back in the darkness, trying only to wake again.
"No apology necessary. Just get some rest. You're dismissed for now," Cid said, getting up from his desk. Squall stood as well, returning the crisp salute that Cid gave him, and he gratefully left the office to go to the apartment that he shared with Rinoa.
While he rode the elevator back down, he wondered how Rinoa would take the news about his new assignment. She got upset when he had to leave Garden for any long stretch of time. She hid her worry from him, she was strong that way, but he saw it anyway. They always seemed to make love most the night before a mission, maybe in the fear that it would be the last time. Funny, he had to go play bodyguard to a woman he didn't even know, when Rinoa was the only one he wanted to protect. His beautiful, raven haired sorceress. Right now he didn't feel like he could protect anyone. 'Maybe I should see Dr. Kadowaki.'
He turned down the hallway that led to his apartment when he collided with Selphie who had been running full speed. "Dammit, Selphie!" he shot, grabbing her to steady them both before they could tumbled to the floor.
"I'm sorry, Squall," she panted excitedly. "I was just coming to find you. I have a surprise," she bounced on the heels of her feet with a big grin plastered on her face.
"I don't like surprises. How many times do I have to tell you that?" he said, trying to suppress the urge to push past his friend to get away from her. When he told Cid about his mood, he hadn't been kidding. He was snapping at everyone, even those that were closest to him. Everyone in his small circle of friends had definitely noticed that he was acting colder, even more than before Rinoa had come into his life.
"You'll like this one. Come on," she said, grabbing his hand that wasn't grasping the file folder to pull him down the hallway. She ignored his foul mood as her small body tugged his bigger one along, giggling when he grunted with annoyance. He let her lead him, too tired to do anything else.
His friends were gathered in his apartment along with someone he wasn't expecting to see. His father stood from the couch, giving him a hesitate smile. The tension in the room was thick enough for him to notice, and he looked at everyone in turn to see worry on all their faces.
"It's good to see you, son," Laguna said, breaking the silence.
"You too," he answered, not really sure if he meant it. He had no hate for the man, but was confused as to why he was here, and why everyone was acting so strangely. Laguna looked paler than usual, and the exhausted look on his face matched his own. "You look tired," he said, walking across the room to put the file away on the bookshelf until he could look over it later.
"I could say the same about you," Laguna answered back.
"What's wrong with everybody? I usually can't shut any of you up," Squall snapped, looking around at the small group of people that were in the room.
"Squall, are you alright?" Laguna asked.
"Of course I'm alright! Why wouldn't I be?!" He felt his nerves fraying, and wanted nothing more than to be left alone. 'What is wrong with everyone?' Rinoa looked to be on the verge of tears, and he felt a twinge guilt for being so harsh. He put his arms out to her, and she came over to be embraced. He didn't want to hurt any of them, especially his love.
"I told them," she whispered, tears spilling from her eyes, and he didn't have to ask what she meant. "Are you mad at me?"
"No, I'm not mad at you." He held her close, trying to sooth her as she sobbed quietly against his chest.
"Please, Squall. Tell us what you've been dreaming about. We want to help you," Rinoa urged him once she had control over herself. He sighed with resignation, accepting what he had to do. He couldn't keep this problem to himself any longer. They just weren't going to let him.
He spoke without any emotion, telling his friends and father about his nagging problem. He started with when the dreams started, telling them every bit of what he could remember, and it was everything. As hard as he tried, he was unable to make the memories of the nightmares fade. It was as if they were permanently etched into his consciousness, that cold darkness always at the back of his mind.
"Dreams can't hurt people!" he said with irritation when he was finished, seeing the worry on every one's faces. His father was physically trembling, sitting on the couch with a shaky sigh. "What's wrong?"
"I've been dreaming too. That's why I'm here, Squall," he answered. "I think we have a serious problem, and we need to take care of it as soon as possible."
"The bitch is dead! We killed her!" Squall yelled suddenly, making everyone in the room flinch with his fierceness. Rinoa's arms held him tighter, and he calmed with her warmth, closing his eyes so he wouldn't have to look at his friends that he seemed to keep hurting lately. "We killed her," he said softly this time, sounding less sure of the fact.
"I'm beginning to wonder if that's the case," Laguna said, risking another outburst from his son. Squall didn't shout this time, but stared at him with a look of utter defeat and grim acceptance.