His Second Childhood
Summary: When Squall returned from Time Compression, he wasn't himself anymore. Now he must grow up again, but would having his father in his life the second time make any difference? Squall doubts it, but time has never been on his side.
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII. I am not making any profit off this piece of fiction.
When he first opened his eyes, he was assaulted by tiredness. With such a gloomy sky above him, all Squall could do was agree that a little more rest wouldn't be bad for him. The grass under him started to become wet with morning dew and loud voices rising above the field of flowers woke him the second time with a start. He was still tired, but not as much as before.
Pushing himself up, the teenager ran his fist over his face to push sleep from his eyes before stretching. It was nice to be back in his own time, and the few hours of shut eye was much appreciated, but he couldn't hide there forever. Monsters from the Lunar Cry still lingered in the area and he had to be ready for anything. Besides, now that he was more awake, he could tell that the voices were those of his companions searching the fields he'd promised to meet Rinoa in.
With a grunt, Squall rose to his feet. Overgrowth tickled his nose, causing him to snifflfe. He didn't recall the field being so tall, but he had been lost in time compression for awhile; it shouldn't have been that surprising. That was until he realized that his shirt felt looser than usual, his bomber jacket heavier, and his trousers non-existent as they slid off his slender waist. After looking down at his form, only a sharp breath stopped him from screaming. His body!
His nice, adult-like form had been replaced with an unfamiliar childish one which looked to be no older than two-years-old; it explained why his clothes no longer fit. He was left swimming in his white tunic while his hands fought through his jacket to get loose. His leather pants were a lost cause, pooled at his feet along with shoes far too large for. Pulling himself out of his boots, a throaty noise escaped from his lips as he fell back into mud. In the distance, he could hear the talkative Selphie fall silent. They were waiting for a monster to come out of hiding and Squall didn't know if he wanted to run away in shame or jump to get their attention to avoid being killed by them. Opting that he had a better chance of survival with them, a small hand raised up above the flowers, the sleeves pooling down as he waved fast.
"Something is there!" Ever the curious one, Selphie made her way over first, pushing through the overgrowth until she came upon Squall. "Eh! A child! How," she fought for the right word before clutching the child to her chest, "cute!"
"What's a kid doing here?" Irvine stepped over, bending to a knee in front of Squall. The man looked over the boy, his curious look fading into a smirk. "Well I'll be damned, more than just lost weren't you!"
"Not in front of the child! Ignore him, you can come home with Auntie Selphie and we'll have lots of fun!" Again the boy was pressed into soft breasts, causing him to blush darkly.
Zell was now approaching with Quistis and Rinoa, surrounding Squall. Getting too close to his bubble. Without meaning to, his hands tightened on Selphie's sleeve, a reminder of his instinctive insecurities. With a glare from the bubbly teen, the others stepped back to let her calm the boy down again. Irvine was still laughing, pulling Squall away from Selphie. "Hun, I think Squall would like his own personal space."
"What in the world?"
Cowboy hat tilted back, Irvine's grin only widened. "Yep, that's definitely Squall like I remember. Well, kind of. I mean, the Squall I remember was about four, but he hadn't changed that much. I think he was caught a little too hard by time compression. You feel all right there?"
"…" Squall grabbed the bottom of his shirt, pulling it down to cover himself. It was long enough to be a dress already, but the teenager in him was embarrassed that his friends – his female friend! – were seeing him in this state. He had never even let his roommate see him without sweats and a shirt. Now he was standing in front of everyone in just his white t-shirt because his underwear couldn't fit. Running to live with the monsters was starting to look better with each passing minute that his companions stood around sizing him up, trying to figure out what had happened.
After an agonizing ten minutes of his friends running around without a clue, Squall's clothes and gunblade were in Zell's hands and Squall was being led out of the thicket by Selphie to the Ragnarok near the orphanage. Edea and Cid were standing outside the old orphanage, waiting for them. It was Edea who stepped forward first, dropping to her knee in front of Squall. Without question, the boy tucked himself under her shoulder, allowing the woman he considered his mother to pick him up.
"Only one Squall," she whispered, "is allowed here."
It was exactly the comfort he needed as she bounced him soothingly. The others stood around, watching, but Squall didn't care as the soft sounds of Edea's breathing lured him back into a fitful sleep he needed so much.
The second time he awoke, he was on a soft, unfamiliar bed in Esthar with Odine centimeters from his face. With reflex that would make anyone jealous, the boy swung his arm out, pushing the strange scientist away as he scurried to the floor where he felt it would be safe. The cold metal shook his body awake. Biting back the cry that wanted to escape (he'd always been an over-emotional child), Squall pushed himself on his knees and took off towards the door, but the scientist had already grabbed him by the collar to put him back on the bed. With a wail only a child could make, Squall watched with sick pleasure as Edea stormed into the room to grab him. This followed by Laguna, who swore at Odine for overstepping his boundaries – again.
Comfortable in the former Sorceress' arms, Squall glared over her shoulder as his companions stepped into the room with Ellone. The girl bent down next to Edea, her sickening sweet smile grating on what little nerves Squall had left. "I'm sorry about this." She brushed his hair back behind his ear. "I don't have the power to put you back in your original body without compression again and…without a sorceress trying to combine powers with one in the future there's not enough magic to fix this."
"You mean I'm stuck like this?" The boy hissed.
"Ze good news iz that though you body iz that of a two year old, your mind iz zat of an eighteen-year-old!" Odine proclaimed happily, ignoring the glares shot his way.
Fist clenching on Edea's blouse, Squall glanced up at the woman. She and Cid were finally going to retire and live happily, with each other and without another thought of the sorceresses. He'd talked it over with Cid before the all out war. He was going to remain commander of the dorms, taking the work load off the headmaster, who was probably going to be either Xu or Quistis. Now he felt like his life was going to be pulled out from under him. No one would listen to a two year old, even if it was Squall. He wanted to ask where he was going to go, to know that he would be safe because, as Commander, he'd made enemies during the war.
"You'll be staying here, in Esthar!" Selphie clapped excitedly. "After all the people asking us about our kid, we decided it was best to be with someone more likely to have a kid then a bunch of teenagers. I'm too young to be a mommy."
Squall would have rather killed himself than have Selphie or Irvine as parents. Any of his friends would be too embarrassing. An orphanage in Esthar wouldn't be that surprising. He'd be safe, for the most part, in a recluse city under Balamb protection sure to be promised by President Laguna.
Ever knowing of his thoughts, Quistis crossed her arms over her stomach, leaning in. "We're not putting you up for adoption. You've been an orphan too long."
This made a fine brow become raised again, but Ellone was already up, walking towards Laguna. "Remember how I said I had something to tell you but there was never a good time?"
"Mm, yes?" The president nodded.
"Well now's good as any! Uncle Laguna, before Auntie Raine died, she had a baby."
"What the--! Why the hell didn't anyone tell me! I would have--!" Laguna turned around, towards Kiros, who was wringing his hands nervously. "You went back to Winhill to bring Ellone and Raine back why didn't you tell me! I thought we were friends!"
"She was already dead when I got to Winhill. I traveled to the orphanage where Mrs. Kramer here told me about the baby. Ellone was safer at the orphanage than in Esthar, so I left her there and…the baby. We asked the orphanage to take care of both children, that they'd be safer there. Esthar was still going through its revolution and without a mother …" Kiros grunted when a fist connected with his chin. Before Laguna could take another swing, Zell had grabbed him, nodding his head toward Ellone to continue.
The girl took a deep breath. "Squall is that child." The words shook Squall from the urge to sleep against Edea. Turning, he looked past Ellone to Laguna.
It was impossible for that idiot to be his father.
The timeline didn't add up.
An idiot was his father.
It made sense though. He couldn't see it personally, any resemblance, but he could faintly hear the moombas screeching in his ear 'Laguna!' over and over. All humans looked the same to them, he'd always figured since he couldn't tell them apart, but maybe they'd seen a resemblance that he'd been unable to.
Laguna wasn't fairing as well either, looking up and down at Squall. It was harder to tell in the toddler any resemblance to Raine except. "I always liked his eyes," the President whispered, "they reminded me of her, that's why I wanted to tag along. I thought…I just felt safe with him but…" That said, the president was stepping back with a stubbornly stiff leg dragging behind him, taking a seat on the hospital bed. Long hair swept his face, hiding him from the reality sitting across from him. "Is this why you wanted me to adopt him? A second chance to being a father I never had to chance to be?"
I'd rather be with Selphie than with that buffoon. He's no father of mine!
Faintly he could hear Kiros explaining himself to Laguna but his focus remained on Edea, humming softly while tapping his back like she used to. It was a blurry memory, but it remained with her holding him like this, telling him that he was always going to be her little boy. "…I want to go with you, Matron." He whispered.
"I'm in no shape to raise children again, Squall. I think you should stay here with Mr. Loire and Ellone and grow up as a child and not a trained mercenary. If not for yourself then do it for me?"
With a side glance at his new father, Squall tightened his hold on Edea with a nod.
"Yay! I knew Squall would go along with it! Oh! I almost forgot!" Selphie rushed out the door, returning with a bag. "Rinoa and I went shopping for you. It's not your usual wear, but we tried for a close second. Rinoa even made the jacket look like a bomber one, just 'cause you'd like it that way." Opening the bag cautiously, because with Selphie anything was possible, Squall nodded in thanks. A plain white shirt in his new size, a hand-tailored "bomber jacket" with thick faux fur, dark blue jeans, plain tennis shoes (he was afraid the shoes would have some cartoon character), and plenty of underwear. Closing the bag tightly, Squall slid from Edea's lap to go into the bathroom to change. Door shut behind him, Squall grunted as hell broke loose on the other side; Laguna finally started fighting about his forced role of biological-adoptive father and his friend's, and Matron, arguing that it was his paternal duty. He could already tell this was a bad idea, especially since he was likely to be dead in a week under the president's childish care. But, he'd taken care of himself well enough on his own thus far. A few more years wouldn't make the world of difference.
Besides, a second childhood was just what he needed. He couldn't face the obvious fame that would come upon him by his friends and peers. And Rinoa – he liked the girl, she was sweet, but he wasn't really good boyfriend material. He couldn't give her the time and attention she'd obviously wanted. Now he could avoid her for another fifteen years. Luckily, by then, she'd likely find herself a husband and settle down and finally be happy.
This also gave him a time to just relax. He was already at the top of his game. Now he could re-train himself with the gunblade. It seemed like a pain, after all the time he'd already put in with it, but it was better than just letting the Lionheart sit in its case and gather dust.
Tugging the long white shirt over his head, Squall fumbled with his new white shirt, trying to wiggle his little arms into it. The task of dressing became even harder when he found he couldn't simply stand on one foot to tuck his legs into the trousers. In the end, he found himself forced to lie on his bottom and tug them up with several perches until he finally stood dressed in everything but his shoes. He had socks on, Selphie didn't deprive him of those (however he could have done without the little soccer balls on them), but his shoes had thrown him for a loop.
They'd never affected him before but this time he couldn't get his fingers to work. Fumble as he might, the only thing he accomplished was knotting them when his stubby digits tugged at the thick laces. After awhile, he discarded the shoes in a bag; he'd ask Ward to buy him Velcro ones so he wouldn't have to face anyone else with his problem.
Fumbling with the doorknob, Squall stepped into the room as all fell silent again. Kiros sat up on the bed, breaking the headlock he'd been in. "Are you okay with all this, Squall? It's all rather sudden."
Hasn't really set in. "…" Squall dropped his things next to Edea, giving Rinoa his old shirt with an uncomfortable glance. She'd put it with all his other things after washing it. She was trustworthy in his room, unlike a certain brunette.
"I'll make sure Zell and Selphie stay out of your important things as we put them in storage. Is there…anything you want immediately brought here? Your Griever case or…the Lionheart?"
"Both. And my personal possessions… everything else can…" Squall didn't want to admit it, his life was going to be put (likely) in a basement at the president's palace for him to look at when he was feeling nostalgic. His throat tightened and he closed his mouth, promising not to say anymore until he felt better about the situation.
A hand touched his shoulder, but Squall shrugged it off. He didn't want to be reminded again about the situation he was left in because of Time Compression. With one glance at Laguna, the child stormed out of the hospital room.
Laguna followed after.
It was awkward, standing beside the man he had just realized was his father. His…sire almost eighteen years ago. When he didn't know the man, he'd always faintly resented his parents for leaving him in the orphanage. Often he would sleep, dreaming about what he could have been like had he been raised in a loving atmosphere by parents and not teachers. Discovering that his being put up for adoption was a mistake only fed the flames of hate. "You could have looked for me."
"I didn't know." Laguna crossed his arms, leaning against the wall.
"You could have looked for Elle. Isn't that why you sent Kiros to bring her and Raine – my mother – to Esthar?"
The man's brow twitched, a sign of disproval. "I'm going to be pissed with Kiros for awhile, but he meant well. He told me Elle's folks had come back from the war – her daddy I mean. There was no more reason for me to be there then. The truth is Elle would have been safe anywhere but Esthar at the time and Edea did more than I could have to protect her. I mean, creating a whole SeeD group just for my girl? That's saying a lot. I wasn't worried. Raine had died, I couldn't face her grave site. I still can't. I feel like I abandoned her when she needed me most, but I can't change the past no matter how much I wanted to do it. Ellone wanted to change the past just as badly but it's all set in stone."
Glaring up at the man, Squall crossed his arms across his chest. "I might be stuck like this for awhile."
"That's if they can fix this." Laguna scowled.
"I'm not looking for a father, I've never needed one and I don't need you."
"As much as I'd love nothing more than to win Father of the Year, that boat has sailed. I'll raise you, this time. I feel obligated since we suggested time compression. I'm only here as financial support and a signature wherever you may go." The words were listless, reminding the toddler of something he would say – not Laguna. Somehow, he knew Laguna wanted nothing more than their history to disappear and them to have a loving father-son relationship but the man was right, that boat had long since sailed. Child or not, Squall was more independent than any person his age should be. The two could be nothing more than business men around each other. No favors, no love lost. Their relationship would continue how it started – empty. "Gee, when the council suggested I get more of a family image I don't think they meant this…"
"I won't be known as Leonheart." Squall clenched his elbows.
"Nope, the papers to change your name to Squall Loire are on my desk. Squall Leonheart is the Commander of Balamb Garden who went missing during the Second Sorceress War."
A new name, a new home. It was all starting to become too much. Suffocating almost. "…Matron…" Leaving the hall again, Squall returned to his only safety blanket until she too would finally leave him, his loving Matron.
A week later, his friends left him in Esthar. Squall had never felt more alone.