Quistis sat at the table in the cafeteria, drinking coffee with Irvine and Selphie. They waited for the others to arrive to discuss the situation at hand. That situation being Squall. Like everyone else, she was worried. The possibility that Ultimecia was still alive was a terrifying thought, but knowing that she was after Squall made it ten times worse.
She had wanted to wrap her arms around him when he told them all about his nightmares, feeling a desperate need to comfort the man she was still in love with. Squall belonged to Rinoa, and nothing was going to change that. She kept her true feeling for her long time friend to herself, keeping it all inside until her heart ached with it. She had tried to fight her feelings, but it was a losing battle.
"Hey," Zell said as he sat down to join them. "Any ideas about what we should do?" he asked hopefully.
"No, not yet," Irvine answered, picking glumly at his breakfast. He dropped his fork with a sigh. None of them seemed to have an appetite this morning.
"Do you guys think that she might actually be alive?" Zell asked. No one wanted to respond, and an uneasy silence settled over the small group of friends.
"Hello," Edea said, walking up to the table with Laguna at her side. They sat to join the group, and she looked at each of them in turn before speaking. "Laguna has informed me about what is happening, and I want to help in any way I can. If Ultimecia is still alive, then she is truly more powerful than we thought."
"I think that's what scares us the most, Matron. It took everything we had to fight her last time," Quistis said, to the somber agreement of the others.
"You've all become stronger as well, and I know in my heart that you could defeat her again if came to that," Edea said.
"We have to do all we can for Squall's sake," Laguna continued for her. He looked better rested than he had yesterday, and Selphie was the first to take notice.
"How did you sleep, Laguna?" she asked.
"Very good actually. I didn't have any nightmares for the first time since this began."
"Maybe it was being here closer to Squall," Quistis suggested.
"Maybe," he agreed. "It's a good sign I suppose, but I'm still uneasy. Have any of you seen Squall this morning?"
"I'm right here," they heard him say as he walked to the table with his arm around Rinoa. The dark circles that had been under his eyes were now gone, and he had a rare smile that brightened his face that was usually severe and serious. "You can all rest easy. I didn't have any dreams last night," he said as the two of them sat at the table.
"Son, I'm not so sure.."
"Look, it's over. I was probably working too hard and it caught up with me. Cid just gave me a few weeks off, so maybe that was all I needed." Not one of them looked reassured, not even Rinoa, but only time would tell. Until then, they would just have to wait and see.
Laguna took a swipe at the Blobra with the gunblade that Squall had given him as a present. The creature made a high pitched squeal of angry pain when the blade sliced open it fleshy mass. Squall finished the creature off with a powerful stab and pull of the trigger, cutting off it's piercing cries as it dissolved in it's death throes.
"You ready to take a break?" Squall asked, wiping his blade clean with a cloth as he scanned the area for anymore creatures. He was impressed to see Laguna keeping up with him, and it appeared that he stayed in shape. He had figured the man would have gone soft after being stuck in the Presidential office of Esthar.
"Probably a good idea. We've been at this for a few hours now," Laguna said, sheathing his blade after wiping the last of the greenish blood off of it. He brushed his shirt sleeve across his sweaty brow as they walked toward the exit of the Training Centre together.
A week and a half had gone by without anymore nightmares for either of them, and everything had gone back to normal. It seemed Squall had been right, and everyone began to relax, sure that it had just been a case of their Commander and friend being overworked. Laguna still didn't understand why he had somehow been connected to his son's dreams, but he didn't bother Squall with his small worry. He was just glad to be spending so much time with him, and he was going to make the best of it.
"I have something to tell you..., dad," Squall said, looking uncomfortable. Laguna knew, even now, that Squall still struggled with calling him 'dad', but he could understand his son's reluctance. He had not been in his life until just a few years ago, so he let Squall take his time with it.
"I'm listening," Laguna said as they left the Centre, leaving it's roaming creatures behind.
"Well, I've been thinking about this for a while now, and I think the time is right. When I get back from this new assignment, I plan on asking Rinoa to marry me," he said, smiling softly for only a moment before it disappeared again.
"That's great," Laguna said, stopping in his tracks to pull his son into a tight hug.
"Uh, Laguna....Dad, that's enough, you can let go now," Squall said, squirming from the man's arms, looking around to make sure no one saw them. Laguna laughed lightly, not feeling discouraged by Squall's reluctance to showing any affection toward him. He knew the young man was not one to let his emotions out with others around, except for Rinoa of course. She seemed to be the only one to change his demeanor when it came to that.
"Sorry, son. I'm just proud you've made this decision. Rinoa is a lucky woman to have you."
"I'm lucky to have her," he said as they continued to walk through the Garden. "I'm going to get the ring while I'm in Deling."
"She is a special woman, just like your mother was," Laguna said with a smile. It faded from his face when he saw the look of sadness in Squall's eyes.
"I wish I had been able to know her."
"I know, son."
"It's my fault she's dead," he said, and Laguna stopped again, grabbing Squall's arm to keep him in place.
"Don't say that, don't even think it." Laguna said angrily, forcing Squall to look him in the eyes.
"She never recovered after giving birth to me. I know it's my fault."
"Squall, you can't blame yourself for that. Your mother wouldn't want you to." His voice softened as he saw the deep sadness within his son's eyes. "You think I don't have guilt of my own for not being there for her, or you? I think about it every day."
"Your mother loved you. Don't dishonor her memory by blaming yourself for her death." He hadn't know that Squall felt this way, and it broke his heart to know that his son had been carrying this burden with him. He searched Squall's face as he thought in his quiet, intense way. "I don't want you thinking about this anymore...alright?" he said, getting his son's attention.
"Alright," Squall agreed quietly after a moment. They fell into a semi comfortable silence as they continued to walk, and Laguna was glad to see Squall's mood go back to normal after a time.
"Where are you thinking of having the wedding?" Laguna asked to pick up their conversation from where it had left off before.
"Probably here, but I'll discuss it with Rinoa. She may want to be married in a church. One step at a time though, I haven't even asked her to marry me yet." he said with another soft smile.
"I'm sure she'll say yes," Laguna assured him.
"I can only hope," he said, but Laguna could tell he was just as confident that she would accept as he was. "Since I'm leaving in a few days, why don't you come out to dinner with me and Rinoa tonight?"
"I'd like that."
"Good. Why don't you invite Edea to come. I'm sure she would like to go," Squall hinted openly, and Laguna chuckled, looking nervous as a slight blush rose on his face. Squall had noticed all the time his father had been spending with her since arriving at the Garden, all of them had for that matter.
"Alright, I'll go do that," he said, giving Squall a quick wave as he started to leave in search of Edea.
"Come to my place around 6:30 tonight. We'll leave from there," Squall yelled after him, and Laguna gave him a thumbs up as he walked away. Squall shook his head slightly, with a half smile. For someone who hated smiling, he seemed to be doing a lot of it lately. It was hard not to when everything around him seemed to be falling into perfect place.