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The Lies I Never Told
Laguna had no idea why he just couldn't stop pacing.
Really, he had nothing to worry about. Either Squall would understand, or he wouldn't. That was all there really was to it.
So why couldn't he quit worrying?
Dammit, Laguna, get a grip on yourself. Squall's just going to think even less of you than he already does if all you can do when he arrives is stammer like an idiot. The idiot he's always perceived you as.
Laguna groaned and sank into his chair, resting his head in his hands.
"Damn it all," he muttered. "I have to do this. I have to tell him this time. If I don't, I'll never forgive myself."
Moreover, if he didn't tell him now, but somehow found the courage to later, he worried that Squall would be even less receptive to the news. Or that Ellone would have to tell him after Laguna himself had already passed away.
A shot of pain ran through his left leg, and Laguna glared down at it. "Don't you start now, or I swear to God I'll amputate you," he said. Unfortunately, his leg cramps were not well-known for listening to reason, so the pain persisted.
"Damn it all to hell," Laguna repeated. He knew Squall would be here at any moment, that the commander would be knocking on the door at any time, but he really didn't want to think about that. He still had no idea what he was going to say to Squall. Nor did he have any clue how Squall would take the news.
And despite how much he had tried to prepare himself to tell him, he was still scared witless.
"You said you had some things to tell me."
"I—I did? When did I say that?" Laguna could tell that he was choking on his own words.
Squall, on the other end of the phone, let out a breath. "Always the clown, aren't you, President? Remember? Back on the Ragnarok before time was compressed, you told me that you had a lot to talk to me about."
Laguna forced a laugh. "Oh, yes, that's right! I almost forgot, silly me. So, when would you like to come for a visit?"
He heard Squall briefly turn away from the phone and tell someone else, most likely Rinoa, that the whole ordeal was stupid. There was a reply, which Laguna couldn't hear, and Squall returned his attention to the phone. "Is Tuesday all right?"
"Tuesday it is, then!" Laguna found himself forcing another laugh. "Bring the whole crew on up with you! We can go out for lunch or something."
There was a pause.
"I'll be coming alone," Squall said.
Laguna drew in a breath. "Oh?"
"Everyone else is busy." Now Squall sounded like he was trying to make excuses. "Quistis is making some arrangements for new faculty at Garden, Rinoa's got to talk to her father about something, and Zell, Selphie, and Irvine are helping to rebuild Trabia."
"Sounds like it's just you and me then."
Squall sighed, and Laguna could picture him rolling his eyes. "Yeah, whatever."
There was a click, and the line went dead.
That had been just less than a week ago. Today was Tuesday, and Squall had left a message with Laguna's secretary that he'd be arriving at one o' clock PM.
It was twelve fifty-five now, and Laguna was experiencing the worst—and longest—five minutes of his life.
He couldn't remember ever being so panicked about something. Not about meeting Julia, not about saying goodbye to Raine, not ever. It wasn't normal for him to get panicky or worried—he was more of the type who always looked on the bright side, hoping for the best.
He didn't dare hope for the best in this situation. Squall had never been much of one for simple acceptance, never one to smile and nod, and certainly not the kind who would simply forgive and forget.
Why wouldn't time ever speed up when he wanted it to? At this rate it would take four more years instead of four more minutes for Squall to finally arrive.
Laguna knew that even were time to fly for him, he would lose years of his life simply from fretting over what to say and how to say it. He'd never been a man of the spoken word. Writing, now, that was different. Writing could tell things, show things, that speech could never possibly express.
But what was he supposed to do with that knowledge? Write a kind and gentle note, and add in the postscript, "By the way, Squall, I thought you might like to know that I'm your father." Squall would only hate him more then, and think him a coward for being unable to say the words to his face.
Laguna decided to try approaching the situation logically. If he were Squall, what would he need to hear to keep him from overreacting?
He tried to put himself in Squall's shoes: an orphan for as long as he could remember, having just undergone a major crisis in order to save the world from a great enemy, and being forced to talk to a man he very much disliked.
The problem with this approach was that Laguna was not and could not ever become Squall. He had no idea how Squall might react, only how he himself would. And Laguna knew that Squall was a very, very different person from he.
It's hopeless, Laguna thought.
Damn! Two more minutes. Two more stinking minutes and Squall would arrive—Laguna had no doubt that he'd be on time. He had always been like that. Punctual, no matter what. Just like his mother.
His mother. Maybe that was what Laguna needed to think about. What would Raine say to her son, lost for seventeen years, feeling utterly abandoned in the cold, cold world?
Ugh, that sounded melodramatic even to Laguna himself. Squall certainly didn't think of himself as being scarred by the world, and, now that Rinoa was there, couldn't possibly think of it as cold and lonely. Laguna decided not to do Squall the dishonor of thinking of him that way.
One minute left, and Laguna still didn't have a clue where to begin. Squall might not want to hear any of it. He certainly didn't seem too excited on the phone. But that didn't change the fact that he was coming, and would be standing in Laguna's office, looking for answers, at any minute.
But what answers was Laguna supposed to give him? And how? Should he just spit it out—"Squall, I'm your father, sorry I never told you, let's go have lunch"? What in Hyne's name was Laguna supposed to do?
He stared at the digital clock on his desk, but the numbers were apparently not afraid of his eyes, as they refused to change.
Damn it all, damn it all, damn it all.
Laguna wiped a few beads of sweat off his forehead and wondered when it had gotten so very hot in the office. He vaguely remembered thinking it a bit chilly when he first came in this morning.
He wanted to busy himself with paperwork or anything of the sort, but there was unfortunately no paperwork requiring his signature at the moment.
He looked at the clock again.
One o' clock sharp.
There was a knock on the door. "Mr. President, sir, Balamb Garden Commander Squall Leonhart is here to see you," the voice of the secretary said through the door.
"Send him in," Laguna called. He looked at his hands to see that they were shaky and sweating, so he hid them underneath his desk.
Squall walked in, dressed in his typical black jacket trimmed with white fur. Almost everything he wore was black, with the exception of his shirt and the fur.
"Commander, have a seat, won't you?" Laguna risked raising one shaking hand to gesture to a chair. Squall sat and rested his arms on his lap, slouched. He looked at Laguna from underneath his eyebrows.
"If you don't want to hear any of this, I understand."
Squall looked up when Laguna said that, and rolled his blue eyes. "You said that on the Ragnarok as well. Believe me, I really don't want to hear any of this, but Rinoa thinks it's for the best."
"You have no idea what I'm about to tell you, and you still don't want to hear it," Laguna said. "But Rinoa has no idea either, and she thinks this is for the best?"
"Yeah. You heard me before. What's wrong with that?"
Laguna narrowly avoided chewing on his pen—something he did on occasion when he was nervous. "Nothing at all," he said. "I just wonder if Rinoa will be right. I sure hope so."
He leaned forward. "Squall, this is very difficult for me to tell you. I've spent hours just sitting here, trying to figure out the best way to say it. So please, try to understand what a hard time I've had trying to think of how to tell you."
"Just say it and quit mincing words," Squall said.
Squall never was one to mince words, Laguna decided, so it only made sense that he would tell Laguna to stop doing that very thing.
"Well, I guess the best place to start would be Raine's story," Laguna said. "You know that she lived in Winhill, and raised Elle after her parents were killed. You know that she saved me after I fell from the cliff in Centra. Well . . ."
"You loved her."
Squall really isn't one to mince words, Laguna noted. "Yes, that's right."
"Well then, why the hell did you leave her behind?"
"I didn't really have a choice, Squall. Elle got abducted, and both of us missed her very much. So I decided to quit wasting time sulking and find a way into Esthar to save Elle. Just before I left, Squall, I told Raine how much I loved her. We had a very small ceremony the next day. Our honeymoon was for a night. And then I left.
"I told Raine, 'Don't you worry about me. You know I'm too bullheaded to die out there. I'll come back.' And she nodded, looking at me with tears in her big blue eyes, and said, 'Bring Ellone home safely.' And I left."
"That was your first mistake," Squall said.
Laguna felt a small burst of anger swelling in his mind, but the anger soon turned to grief. "Believe me, Commander Leonhart, I know."
It hurt to say Raine's last name so casually, hurt to know that her son—his son—was sitting right in front of him, waiting idly for whatever Laguna's next words would be.
"I traveled everywhere looking for a way into Esthar. Shumi Village, Trabia Canyon, everywhere. Well, I found a way in, and I got Elle out. I sent her back to Winhill bearing a message that I was fine, but I still had something to finish up in Esthar. I had sworn to help the Anti-Adel campaign, and I couldn't just leave them high and dry. But when I was all set to go back home, they appointed me President, and, well, I couldn't get away. And here I am today."
"And Raine?" Squall asked. He still looked rather disinterested with the conversation.
"Well, as it turns out, Raine was pregnant," Laguna said. "I . . . I had no idea. I was under lock and key so tight here that I didn't receive any news from the outside world. All of Esthar shut itself off from the world, and since I was stuck in Esthar . . ." Laguna shrugged.
"She had a baby," Squall said softly. "Sis told me that when using her power on me. She had a baby boy, and she wanted you to be able to see him."
"And I wasn't there." Laguna clenched his fists. "All she wanted was to show me her newborn baby boy, and I wasn't there."
"Well, that's your own damn fault, isn't it?" Squall said. "You made your own grave. Why shouldn't you have to lie in it?"
"I couldn't get away. I didn't know."
"Quit making your damn excuses and finish your damn story."
Squall was getting more hostile by the minute, and Laguna wondered if he had begun to guess. "Well, Squall, Raine died in childbirth. She bled to death, but her last word was the baby's name."
"Which was?" Squall drummed his fingers against his knee.
Laguna tried to say it, but found that the word wouldn't reach his mouth. Instead, he said, "Squall, have you ever been told how much you look like your mother?"
Squall sat bolt upright in his chair. "Once, by Kiros," he said. "On the Ragnarok. Before fighting Ultimecia."
"You do look very much like her," Laguna whispered. He couldn't find the courage to say much more; tears welled in the back of his eyes and spilled onto his cheeks.
"What the hell does that have to do with this?" Squall demanded. "How do you know my mother? What exactly is it that you're trying to say?"
"Squall, please, calm down," Laguna said. He wiped his tears. "I'm sorry for getting emotional like this. It's just that seeing you reminds me so much of her that I can't think straight."
"Laguna, if you don't tell me what the hell you're talking about, I'll kill you! I swear it!" Squall stood, stepping back.
Laguna looked up. "It's very, very hard for me to say, Squall. But the best way to say it is that . . . well, Raine's maiden name was Leonhart."
Squall's shoulders drooped, and he stared at Laguna for a moment.
"Liar," he whispered at last.
"I'm afraid not," Laguna said. "That would make you Raine's son, Squall, and since I was married to Raine . . ."
"You filthy liar!" Squall screamed, launching himself forward and lashing out at Laguna. He landed a punch on Laguna's cheek and stepped back, panting.
"I understand if you don't want to believe it, Squall," Laguna said. "But the fact remains that it's true."
"Damn you," Squall whispered. "Damn you, Laguna Loire, for keeping this from me."
"Squall, I'm sorry. I know I can't possibly understand—"
"You're right, you bastard, you can't understand! What the hell would you possibly know about what it feels like? Living alone for all your life, having all the people that mattered most ripped away from you before your very eyes? Being told over and over that you're different, that you're lower, that you don't have a mommy and daddy like all the nice, normal children! How in the hell are you supposed to know what that feels like?"
"Squall, please . . ."
"Shut the hell up!" He lashed out again, hitting Laguna in the nose. Trails of blood leaked from Laguna's nostrils.
Laguna coughed, doubling over and covering his nose with one hand. "Damn," he muttered. "I knew you'd be mad at me, but not this mad."
Squall's shoulders shook, and he was clearly holding back urges to hit Laguna again. "Just shut up," he whispered.
"Squall, that's all I wanted to talk to you about," Laguna said. "It's been eating me up ever since Ellone told me about you. I never knew Raine was pregnant, Squall." Laguna fished around in one drawer, then pulled out a tissue and pressed it to his bleeding nose.
"You're a dirty liar," Squall said. "I can't believe Rinoa wanted me to talk to you. She knows I hate you." He turned away, his shoulders stiff.
"Well, I imagine you hate me even more now, don't you?" Laguna asked.
"Damn straight I do." Something was wrong with Squall's voice.
Laguna stood up, limping slightly—his leg was still cramped. "Squall? Are you all right?"
His voice was very quiet when he spoke again. "Leave me the hell alone." His voice kept breaking, trembling as he tried to speak. "You're not my father, you're just a—"
Laguna was startled to hear Squall let out a sob.
"Squall? Are you all right?" He walked over to Squall—to his son—and put a hand on his shoulder. Squall whirled to face him.
Laguna stepped back when he saw that Squall's face was streaked with tears, and that more were pouring down his cheeks.
"I didn't want to think it was true," Squall whispered. "I started to guess when Kiros mentioned that I looked like my mother. How the hell would someone like Kiros know my mother? And every time you looked at me, you got this distant look, like remembering someone—" Squall turned away, trying to wipe away the tears that wouldn't stop coming.
You never came back.
I waited and waited for you, but you never came back.
Raine's voice seemed to be cutting into Squall's sobs, breaking through the voice of her son and speaking to Laguna.
Laguna did the only thing he thought would help—he put his arms around Squall.
Squall kept his back turned, still trying to suppress his sobs. "I'm not supposed to cry," he said. "I haven't cried like this since Ellone left the orphanage. I cried a little during time compression, but that was just a tear or two. Now I'm bawling like some damn baby."
"I'm sorry," Laguna repeated.
The words broke Squall, and he began sobbing again. Laguna let go of him momentarily, then walked around to look Squall in the eye.
"Don't look at me," Squall whispered. "No one's supposed to see me like this."
Laguna pulled Squall into his arms again and pressed his son's face into his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he said again. "Can you ever forgive me, Squall?"
Laguna was shocked yet again when Squall wrapped his own arms around Laguna, as if seeking some form of support.
"Not yet," Squall said, soaking Laguna's shirt with his tears. "But I can try to a little."
Laguna tightened his embrace, and the two stayed like that for a long time.