I don't own these characters, they are property of Square-Enix. I'm simply borrowing them for my own, creatively nefarious purposes. No infringement or profit is intended.
Chapter 1: Storm Warning
Red sky in morning, Sailors take warning. –Maritime proverb
It started in the middle of the central ocean. A swirl of wind and water, it stalked northward, gathering strength as it cruised through the warm equatorial waters near the northern coast of Esthar. Eventually, it became large enough for the satellites launched and tracked by the Esthar Airstation crew, to detect and watch. When it became large enough to pose a threat, a warning was issued.
"Good morning Deling City, this is Dawn Sweet with Channel Six news Morning Edition. We have weather alert this morning as the International Weather Service has reported tracking a hurricane that is still currently swirling around off the eastern coast of Centra. The estimated wind speed and central pressure, according to satellite readings, put it at about a category one. Currently no populated areas are in its direct path. We'll keep you posted on its estimated direction and landfall…"
Squall sipped his coffee as he watched the news, hoping that the storm being tracked would bear east away from Balamb. It was still too far out to sea to predict its actual course yet, and Balamb had been lucky so far this season, having only a category one storm make landfall on the extreme northeast edge of the island, well away from any populated areas.
It had fared better than Dollet, which had unfortunately been slammed by a category three storm at the beginning of the hurricane season and was still struggling to recover from it. Squall had dispatched several SeeD teams to assist Dollet's army in search and rescue, cleanup, and to maintain order.
Afterward, he had suggested to Cid that they meet with the Balamb's city council and mayor to go over disaster scenarios and see what kind of plan they had for evacuation should it become necessary. That meeting had yet to take place, and Squall for one was getting frustrated with the lackadaisical attitude of the city's government.
Just because Balamb hadn't been hit by a really bad hurricane in a hundred years didn't mean that it wouldn't be in the next month or two. It was currently early November; there was still a month left in the season, and late season storms tended to be the strongest.
"Anything good on the news this morning?" Rinoa padded into the kitchen, wrinkling her nose at the smell of the coffee Squall had brewed and pouring herself a glass of orange juice. She'd already showered and dressed in her work scrubs, her face washed clean of makeup and hair pulled back into a ponytail. Now heavily pregnant, she looked, to Squall anyway, completely adorable.
At six and a half months along and carrying twins, she looked closer to eight months pregnant, and was starting to get a little awkward. Still, she managed to move far more gracefully than Squall had thought possible. How she managed to carry the added burden around while working with Galbadia Garden's doctor all day Squall didn't understand, and it left him in awe of her strength.
The whole process of watching the changes his wife underwent as their babies developed was completely fascinating to Squall. Her pale skin was luminous, her dark hair thicker and glossier than before she'd gotten pregnant, and her ripening body…. well, he found it just about irresistible.
"Not really," he answered, "They're tracking a hurricane off Centra."
Rinoa left the kitchen of the house they'd rented and approached the table where Squall sat. He reached his hand out and took hers, drawing her close, then releasing her hand and wrapping his arm around her waist, he laid his face against her swollen abdomen.
"They're not awake yet," Rinoa sent, giving in to temptation and running her fingers through his hair. As promised, he'd allowed it to grow out over the last five or so months, and it was nearly as long as it had been before he'd cut it off.
"Are you sure?" He asked, placing his coffee down onto the table so he could caress her gravid belly. He was rewarded with a strong kick and he laughed softly as he felt the tiny foot kick against his cheek. Closing his eyes, he deepened his contact with Rinoa to see which of the babies had kicked him. The tiny, unformed mind he gently brushed was distinctly feminine.
"Good morning Julia," he greeted her softly.
"It's daddy sweetheart." He said. She responded by pushing against his cheek this time. A hard kick against his hand where it rested on the other side of Rinoa's belly told him that his son had also awakened and Squall smiled.
"Hello Saber." He said, focusing on the more masculine mind of his son.
This mind, as unformed as his sister's, still held the potential for great strength of will. Squall could sense that strength each time he touched his son's mind. His boy would likely be as strong-willed as he himself was.
Squall, his eyes still closed, sent a flood of love to both of his children and to Rinoa. Opening his eyes, he pulled her onto his lap and hugged her close.
"How'd you sleep?" he asked her, kissing her softly.
"Pretty well, all things considered. This gets in the way sometimes." She replied, rubbing her abdomen. Angelo came up and leaned against Squall's leg, resting his head against Rinoa's thigh. They both reached down and petted him.
Sighing, Rinoa stood up, "Well, I'm going to grab some breakfast. Have you eaten already?"
"Yeah," Squall nodded, then picked up his coffee and finished it. After Rinoa had finished eating and getting ready for work, Squall drove her out to Galbadia Garden.
They had been living in Deling City now for three months, moving out there in September, about a month after Selphie and Irvine had transferred down for his instructor's training. After much discussion they had rented a house on the outskirts, rather than moving in with Rinoa's father. While their relationship was improving, the thought of living with him was still not something Rinoa was willing to entertain.
They had found a good OB/GYN, recommended by Dr. Kadowaki, and thus far, the pregnancy was progressing normally. In spite of its initial hiccup and much to Squall's relief.
They had settled into a routine, with Squall driving Rinoa to Galbadia Garden, leaving their car there and flying the Ragnarok, currently stationed outside Galbadia Garden, to Balamb. Coming back, they reversed the process, with Squall landing the Ragnarok outside Galbadia Garden and driving them both home.
"You know, I still don't get why you decided to call our son Saber. A sword Squall? Really?" Rinoa asked with a slight laugh.
"Couldn't think of anything that didn't sound stupid. It is unique, you have to admit." Squall said as they drove toward Galbadia Garden.
"What about a middle name? Laguna?" she asked smiling.
"No." He answered.
"Fury?" She suggested.
"Nope." He responded.
"Squall?" she smiled.
"Hell no. No middle name. Just Saber." He said firmly.
Rinoa sighed, and then asked, "Do you have a middle name?"
"You should know by now. As far as I know, I don't." He answered.
"What do you think about our girl's name? Julia Raine?" She asked. Squall fell silent for a moment as he maneuvered their car into the parking area at Galbadia Garden and found a space. After parking, they got out and Squall walked with Rinoa toward the main gate, fingers laced with hers.
"So?" Rinoa prompted as they walked, "Julia Raine?"
Squall looked over at her and smiled gently, "I love it."
Upon reaching the main gate, they stopped and Squall slid his arms around Rinoa's expanding waist. He sensed her disquiet about the fact that her increasing size made it difficult for her to lean into a hug, and he sent her his reassurance that it made no difference to him.
Yes, the pregnancy changed a great many things about their lives together, and yes, lovemaking was getting awkward, and he acknowledged her silent concern about that.
Then he sent her his feelings of complete awe at the miracle in the making that Rinoa carried with her day by day.
"Stop, you're making me cry. You know I get weepy nowadays." Rinoa sent, sniffling and burying her face into his chest.
"Sorry." Squall said softly, brushing tears from her cheeks gently as she looked up at him. Then he leaned down and gave her a soft, lingering kiss.
"Have a good day at work today." He smiled at her, giving her another kiss.
"You too." she responded, and they parted company, with Squall walking toward the Ragnarok while Rinoa entered Galbadia Garden.
"Balamb Garden, this is Ragnarok. I'll be landing soon, anything to report?" Squall hailed, banking the airship and throttling back in preparation for landing.
"Negative Ragnarok. We'll see you when you come in Squall." Nida responded. The dragonship settled on the plain next to Balamb Garden's current location and Squall shut down the engines and left, heading directly for his office.
As he did, he checked his watch. He had a meeting with Cid in about an hour, and then hopefully, they would have that thrice-damned meeting with the community leaders of Balamb. He hoped Cid could convince them to work up an evacuation plan, because hero or not, Squall didn't think he would have the verbal skills to do it.
Entering his office, he immediately took off his uniform tunic and loosened his tie. He could always straighten it out before the meeting, and he wanted to be comfortable for the few minutes he had before it started.
Laying the tunic over the back of his chair, he sat down and logged into his computer, checking his email. One from Zell, using a code they'd both agreed on, alerted Squall that he had something interesting to report from their underground contact in FH. He made a note to contact Zell as soon as possible.
By the time he'd finished with reading and answering his emails, it was time for him to go to his meeting with Cid. Straightening his tie, he put the tunic back on and smoothed it down. He grimaced as he checked the medals on display over his left breast. He felt ridiculous wearing them, but Cid had suggested it, telling him that it would impress the mayor and city council. Picking up the briefcase that he'd stowed beneath his desk, Squall unlocked it and double-checked its contents, finding them as he'd left them the previous day. Leaving his office, he locked it behind him and headed toward Cid's office.
Upon reaching it, Xu ushered him in, and Cid shook his hand in greeting.
"How's everything going Squall? Rinoa doing okay?" he asked. He and Edea had both been astounded when Squall had informed them of Rinoa's pregnancy. Edea's reasoning of how that was even possible had to do with the fact that Rinoa was already physically mature when she'd received her powers. She then had offered Rinoa whatever help and support that the younger woman needed.
"Rinoa's doing fine, getting bigger by the day." Squall answered. Cid laughed softly at that observation.
Cid still persisted as headmaster of Balamb Garden, not having had much luck finding a replacement as yet. He had asked Squall if he wanted the job, but Squall had firmly refused, explaining that he was more comfortable commanding the active SeeDs in Garden than overseeing the education of the cadets. It was a job more suited to a senior instructor, someone used to teaching. While Squall did assist with training senior level gunbladers, he only did so part time, and he already knew teaching wasn't his strength. What was needed was someone with familiarity with both administration and education. Squall's skills lay in a different direction.
Interestingly enough, it was Seifer that was a better gunblade instructor than Squall himself was, and after a good deal of convincing, had applied for his instructor's license. He was scheduled for training in the class after Irvine's.
The point of this meeting with Cid was mainly to map out their strategy to get the civic leaders of Balamb moving on a disaster plan. Essentially, they would tag-team them. Cid, as the headmaster and administrator of Garden carried more weight with the government leaders of Balamb, while Squall would present Balamb Garden's plan. He didn't like to think that his presentation would have more of an impact than Cid's, but he couldn't deny the fact that in many people's eyes, he was a bona fide hero.
He didn't like it, but if it got the results he wanted, he wouldn't complain too much. He'd worked too hard on this disaster plan for it to go ignored.
"Is everything ready?" Cid asked him.
"Yes. I just got the final drafts printed off yesterday. I've got so many damned graphs and schematics and statistics that I would be very surprised if anyone was conscious after I'm done with this presentation." Squall said with a grimace.
"Well, let's see…" Cid said, looking over the plans they'd all worked on. Squall had been given the task of creating the plan, but he hadn't worked on it alone. He'd enlisted help from everyone; from Cid himself to the cafeteria staff, in order to get as comprehensive a picture as possible of what might go into an emergency evacuation of Balamb.
"Good job, Squall," Cid acknowledged finishing his review. "Very thorough. Of course, I expected nothing less from you." He handed the sheaf of papers and other materials back to Squall, who promptly put it back into his briefcase.
Squall nodded. Of course.
Cid glanced at his watch and said, "We'd better get going. Chances are at least half of the council members will be late, but of course, we have to be on time regardless." Squall nodded in agreement and followed Cid out of his office.
They arrived at Balamb's city council chambers exactly on time, with Squall doing the driving duties. This being an official meeting, they had decided to take a Garden car.
Upon entering the chambers, there was the usual round of polite greetings before they were shown to their seats. For a wonder, the mayor and all of the council members had arrived almost on time.
Both Squall and Cid waited patiently while the council discussed various community issues until finally, it was their turn.
"And now, we have the headmaster and administrator of Balamb Garden, Cid Kramer and the SeeD Commander, Squall Leonhart here to speak with us about disaster preparedness and to present their recommendations on that subject. Mr. Kramer?" The mayor said, yielding the floor to Cid.
He approached the podium, put on his reading glasses and organized his notes, then began, "Thank you mayor. You all know what we're here for, so I'll just get to it. As you may recall, Dollet was just recently hit with a category three hurricane that caused a great deal of property damage. They're still calculating the cost but it's already run into millions, and they've only scratched the surface. Fortunately, there was no loss of life and injuries were minimal, mainly due to the fact that they had enough advance warning to prepare and evacuate areas that were the most vulnerable. Not everyone listened however, and we had to dispatch SeeD teams to assist the army in rescue and recovery efforts."
Cid then activated the slide projector, showing photos of the damage that Dollet's seaport and beachfront area had sustained. Another photo showed EMS and SeeDs working together cleaning up and rescuing trapped people.
"Now, I understand that Balamb has not been hit by a storm of this magnitude for over a hundred years. And I'm sure that there are those of you who think that it won't happen. This year, next year, or ever. To us, at Balamb Garden, that simply means that we're due for one. And to minimize the property damage, avoid injury and loss of life, we need a plan." Cid went on, then indicating Squall, he continued, "To present that plan is Balamb Garden's SeeD commander, Squall Leonhart."
Cid yielded the floor to Squall and he approached the podium, sheaf of papers in hand. Arranging them on the podium in front of him, Squall gazed steadily out at the councilmen, studying them and their expressions. Bracing his hands on either side of the podium, Squall leaned forward and focused upon the mayor.
Then, like a raptor on the attack, he began, "A week after the hurricane struck Dollet, I contacted you all, asking about your emergency plan. I did not receive a response. Subsequent queries from me were put off. By that I construed that you either did not have a disaster plan or did not feel it enough of a priority to devote any time or thought to it." Spearing each council member in turn with his cool gaze, Squall continued, "In helping Dollet to recover from the hurricane it has occurred to me that we here in Balamb have been inordinately lucky in the last hundred years or so. I personally do not want to trust to luck any further. As we speak, a hurricane has formed in the central ocean; it is currently off the eastern coast of Centra and is even now gathering strength. Will it land here? It's too early to tell yet, but if it did, would we be ready for it? I don't think so. Thus far, I have heard nothing from you to assure me that you would be prepared for it if it did."
Straightening, he turned to his papers briefly, and then went on, "Since we needed to have some kind of plan, some kind of framework to work from in the event of an emergency, we at Balamb Garden took it upon ourselves to draw up this plan. I was assigned this task. So, without further introduction, I present to you the Balamb Disaster and Recovery plan."
Cid watched, impressed as Squall outlined the plan to the council. Contrary to the younger man's assertion that the councilmen would fall asleep due to the tediousness of the presentation, upon looking around at the men, Cid saw quite the opposite. Yes, it was thorough; Squall had gone into exacting detail in certain areas. But rather than appearing bored by it, the council instead seemed fascinated. It didn't hurt, Cid reflected, that Squall had effectively ended the siege of Balamb by the Galbadians nearly four years ago.
That alone afforded the young commander far more respect than he was aware of. His track record in the years since had been similarly stellar; proving that despite his youth, Squall Leonhart was someone who if given a mission, accomplished it.
Afterward, the council put it to a vote and they unanimously decided to accept the plan as outlined by Squall. Now all that remained is putting the plan into action, which meant establishing a notification system and coordinating EMS, local police and rescue services.
As Squall was packing up his briefcase, preparing to leave, the mayor commented to Cid, "He doesn't mince words does he?"
Recalling how Squall had essentially called out the council, Cid smiled slightly and answered, "No. He never has. Diplomacy is not his strength."
The mayor snorted, "I suppose not. At least he's not deliberately insulting."
Cid chuckled slightly, "He's done pretty well in overcoming that flaw."
"He has flaws?" the mayor asked with a slight laugh.
Just then Squall joined them then and catching the mayor's remark, said, "Plenty. Fortunately, I'm smart enough not to believe my own press."
He glanced over at Cid inquiringly, but before he could respond, the mayor said, "To hear them tell it, you're greatest hero that ever lived."
"Which is why I fired my press agent. I just did my job and tried not to die in the process. Nothing more, nothing less." Squall said, and then added, "I'll be out in the car whenever you're ready to leave, Headmaster." Nodding to them both, he left.
Shaking his head, the mayor repeated, "He just did his job. And he ended up saving the world…at seventeen. How do you live up to that?"
Cid shrugged, "You don't. You just move on and live your life."
Squall strapped himself into the pilot's chair of the Ragnarok and started powering up the engines. He felt a tired satisfaction at what had been accomplished that day, and he hoped that the council would follow through on their vote and implement the plan as soon as possible.
Squall knew that getting the council to agree to the plan that he'd outlined was only the beginning, and he also knew that governing bodies, be they city, state or national, rarely moved quickly. Indeed, in some cases, he'd seen glaciers move faster.
But while Squall couldn't claim any talent for prescience, he had an uncomfortable feeling that Balamb's luck with regards to dodging the really bad storms that sometimes occurred at this time of year, would not hold for much longer.
As he lifted the Ragnarok up from the Acauld plains where he'd landed, he fired the thrusters and slowly banked to the right. Flying over the small city of Balamb, Squall studied the boats crowding the harbor, the small shops and homes that butted right up against the quay, and shuddered at the amount of damage even a category one storm would do.
Even a relatively minor storm such as that would require the entire city to be evacuated. Too many homes were too close to the harbor itself; the storm surge would flood the entire city. Dollet had escaped loss of life due to its seawall, and the fact that most of it was built on a cliff above the beach. Balamb wasn't that fortunate.
It also, Squall discovered as he directed the Ragnarok toward Galbadia and Deling City, did not have the luxury of time. As the ship climbed higher, Squall saw the building storm, still a gray smudge, far off in the distance. When he checked his radar, he confirmed that it was still swirling off the coast of Centra, but it had moved slightly north. And it was getting bigger.
He frowned at that. He would be paying very close attention to the weather reports over the next few days. If the storm made a clear change in direction that put it anywhere near Balamb, Squall had to be ready to mobilize the SeeDs to help Balamb's citizens prepare their homes and businesses and be ready to leave at a moment's notice.
In no time at all, he was flying toward Galbadia Garden and banking the airship in preparation for landing. As he did, Squall sent out a questing thought to Rinoa.
"How was your day today?" Squall asked her as the airship landed.
"Exhausting. And yours?" She responded.
"Productive. The council voted to adopt the plan as I outlined it; no modifications." Squall answered, opening the doors and extending the ramp.
"That's great! I know how hard you worked on this. Hopefully, they'll never need it, but if they do, I know it'll save a lot of lives and property." Rinoa sent proudly. Squall smiled slightly at her staunch faith in him. When he'd voiced his concerns about Balamb's vulnerability, he hadn't expected anyone to take them seriously. He also hadn't expected to be assigned the task of making sure that Balamb was prepared to handle a disaster if one should strike.
He unbuckled his restraints and left the airship, palming the doors shut behind him. He walked toward Galbadia Garden and Rinoa, who awaited him at the main gate where he'd left her.
He gave her a gentle hug and sighed in sympathy at the waves of fatigue and pain that he could feel from Rinoa. Strong and resilient she may be but after eight hours on her feet coupled with the added weight of the babies; the only thing she craved was sleep.
She sighed and relaxed in the passenger seat of their car and closed her eyes. Squall reached over and stroked her cheek, then gently squeezed her hand before starting the car.
"Why don't I cook dinner tonight?" He offered, putting the car into gear and backing out of the parking space.
"Throw in a foot rub and you can have anything you want." Rinoa sighed tiredly. Fatigue overlaid her obvious desire, but the fact that she was willing to at least make an effort warmed Squall.
Squall chuckled, and sent, "ANYTHING?"
"Yes, you brat. ANYTHING. Although, I'm so tired that may be all you get tonight." Rinoa replied, sending him a visual of what she meant. Squall's response was a happy acceptance of that compromise.
"Hey, I'm the meanie, remember? YOU'RE the brat!" Squall corrected her.
Rinoa snorted, "Whatever."
"Okay, now that's just scary. If you start taking up the gunblade, we're going to have to seek professional help." Squall smirked.
"No fear of that. I can barely lift the damn thing. I'd only end up shooting myself in the foot or cutting my leg off anyway." Rinoa sent. Squall laughed softly.
"You'd look damn hot in leather though." Squall commented.
Rinoa snorted, "I'd look like I was trying to steal a watermelon." Her dissatisfaction with her currently distorted figure came through plainly in that statement. Squall responded with adamant disagreement to that, showing her what he thought of her current shape and the reason for it.
They arrived home shortly after that, with Rinoa sinking into the couch with a tired sigh. Angelo immediately hopped onto the couch with her and cuddled up close.
Taking off his coat, Squall draped it over the back of a chair and headed into the kitchen, asking Rinoa, "What are you and the kids in the mood for, dinner-wise?" He opened the refrigerator, pondering the contents while waiting for her to reply.
"Pizza. Pepperoni and pineapple." She responded. Okay, so much for cooking dinner then. That faintly disappointed Squall, as he rather liked showing off his culinary skills.
"Okay, I guess I'm ordering out then. Anything else you want?" He asked her.
Rinoa shrugged, "salad?" Squall nodded, feeling better. He could do salad, easily.
"Coming right up then." He said, calling in the pizza order and starting to construct the salad. If asked, he wouldn't actually admit it, but he did enjoy cooking, particularly the part that required the use of a knife; Squall's skill with the blade was not limited to just gunblades.
They had just finished eating the salad when the pizza arrived, and Squall checked the pistol at the small of his back before answering the door. After verifying that it was indeed the pizza delivery person, one he was familiar with, Squall opened the door.
"Hello Joey. What do I owe you?" Squall said, pulling out his wallet.
"Fifteen and a half. How's Rinoa?" the kid asked.
Squall shrugged, handing over the money plus a generous tip, "doing fine. How's school?"
"It's a pain, as always. But I'm graduating in May, so I can hang in there." The boy replied, putting the money away and handing Squall a receipt.
"Good. What's next then, University?" Squall asked, taking the pizza. The boy nodded.
" I kind of wish it wasn't too late for me to enroll in Galbadia Garden. I asked and asked my parents, but they couldn't afford the tuition when I was younger, and now its too late, isn't it, if I want to become a SeeD?" the boy asked wistfully.
"How old are you?" Squall asked him.
"Sixteen. I'm seventeen in March." The boy sighed.
Squall nodded, "yeah, its too late, unfortunately. I was enrolled in Balamb Garden at seven. Usually SeeD candidates aren't even accepted if they're older than ten."
The boy nodded, crestfallen, "oh, well… I guess there's always the army, if I want to go that route."
Squall shrugged, "you could do that. My father was a soldier. There are worse things you could be doing, certainly."
The boy nodded, "Yeah…Well, I gotta go. You guys have a good night."
"You too," Squall said, and then closed the door, carrying the pizza over to the dining room table and getting plates and napkins out.
"Was that Joey again?" Rinoa asked as she came to the table and sat down.
Squall nodded as he sat down and took a piece of pizza, studying it for a moment.
"Pepperoni and pineapple. Well, I guess it's better than ice cream and anchovies." He commented, taking a bite.
"Don't knock it 'til you try it." Rinoa said, taking a bite of her own slice.
Squall, swallowing the bite he'd just taken, said, "Well, this isn't bad anyway. I can't see the appeal of salty fish and ice cream, personally, but then again, I'm not pregnant."
"Seems like every time we order pizza though, its Joey who delivers. Wonder why?" Rinoa asked.
"Because I ask for him." Squall said.
"Why?" Rinoa frowned, puzzled.
"I know him. He's a good kid. And he's… safe. I checked him out." Squall answered.
"Squall, aren't you being just a little paranoid? What are you afraid of? Nobody's threatened us or bothered us the entire time we've lived here." Rinoa reasoned.
"No, Rinoa, I'm not." Squall answered, continuing to eat his pizza. He didn't want to frighten her, but the information he'd gotten from Zell earlier that day had frightened him.
Odine was now aware of Rinoa's pregnancy, had been for some time, and had been ominously silent. Even Laguna couldn't tell Squall what the man was up to, and that worried Squall. To him, that meant that Odine had gone underground with his plans. Whatever they were. Squall wasn't fool enough to think that Odine would leave them in peace. He'd already proved that he wasn't above kidnapping to get what he wanted.
But…money had changed hands in FH. Certain elements had been hired. Odine was cunning, and smart, and nothing could be linked directly to him, but to Squall, it looked as though he was finally making his move. Unfortunately, Squall had been unable to obtain a description of the individuals who had been hired.
It put Squall on his guard though, and made him rethink his entire routine. And that was in itself a problem…it was a routine. They left to go to work the same time every day, took the same route to get there, drove the same car…anyone who paid attention knew exactly when Squall would be home and when he wouldn't be, and where Rinoa would be in the meantime.
Even with Rinoa safely ensconced in Galbadia Garden for the duration of her shift, it would be ridiculously easy to get at her. Explaining that to his wife however, was not something Squall wanted to do.
"Squall? What's wrong?" Rinoa asked, worried. His sudden silence at her mention of his paranoia had given her a chill. Squall wasn't a habitual worrier. He was cautious, always had been, but in general, he wouldn't worry unless he had good reason to. And despite her gentle jab at him, he wasn't actually paranoid.
Something had given him a reason to worry. He was shielding, much to Rinoa's frustration, but she could tell he definitely had something on his mind.
Taking her hand gently, Squall said, "I got some information today that's worried me. We need to be more careful, more alert."
"What is it? Squall, please tell me?" Rinoa asked.
"We think someone, possibly Odine, though we can't confirm it, is making a move. They may be intending to move on us, or it may simply be a coincidence, but I don't want to take any chances with you and the twins. You're well into the third trimester now, Rin. You could potentially deliver at any time. If Odine wants you while you're still pregnant, he has to move now." Squall said.
"What do we do then? I'm not going to live my life in a cage. You know that. My father tried it and you saw how well that worked for him." Rinoa said.
"I know. And that's no way to live anyway." Squall sighed, setting down his half-eaten slice of pizza. Studying her intently, Squall brought her hand to his lips, kissing her fingertips.
"I think our only choice is to stay alert. I want you to keep Angelo with you at all times, and…and I'm going to have Irvine work with you on your shooting skills. I want you to keep a gun on you. It's easier to conceal than your Shooting Star." Squall said.
Rinoa nodded, "Okay."
"And Rin?" Squall added, opening his connection to her to let her know how much this part bothered him, "If… if someone grabs you, please don't fight. Don't give them a reason to hurt you."
"This isn't just about you and me Rin, this is also about our babies. If anything happened to you…" Squall couldn't finish the thought.
Rinoa laid her hand against his cheek, caressing it. He closed his eyes and leaned into it, letting her feel his worry and fear for her. It was very unlike him to be so worried, so fearful. But then, he'd never had so much to lose before.
"You can't let it eat at you honey, it'll destroy you if you do. We'll be careful, vary our routines, and let all of our friends know. If everyone knows what to look out for, we'll have a better chance of catching them if and when they do make a move." Rinoa sent.
Squall nodded. That was their best, and likely only chance. But it didn't do anything to calm his deepest, darkest fear.
As both her Knight and her husband, it was Squall's duty to protect Rinoa. But his job as Commander was now coming into direct conflict with that duty, forcing him to leave her side for hours every day. Leaving her vulnerable, open to attack.
Squall couldn't anticipate everything, every potential threat, it just wasn't possible and it was a good way to go insane from trying.
But...it also left him absolutely terrified that he'd fail her.
After dinner, Squall cleared up and told Rinoa to go back to the couch, put her feet up and wait for him there.
"You know, you don't HAVE to rub my feet, dinner was good enough." Rinoa sent.
"Your feet are killing you. I can feel it. Just relax and I'll be there in a minute." Squall responded.
When he joined her moments later, he turned on the CD player. It already had one of Rinoa's favorite CDs in it. A soft piano concerto provided a soothing background as Squall sat down on the couch with her.
"Don't you want to watch the news?" she asked as he lifted her feet onto his lap and reached for the bottle of lotion he'd brought.
"No. Not tonight. We've got enough to worry about right now." Squall said, putting a dollop of lotion in the palm of his hand and spreading it onto the bottom of one of her feet.
Rinoa hissed in pain at first as his strong hands ran his thumbs up and down her aching arch, then tugged at her toes and kneaded at the ball of her foot. Then she relaxed and closed her eyes as his warm hands worked the soreness out of her feet.
Squall worked his way up over her ankles, noting how swollen they appeared as he rubbed his hands up her calf.
Frowning in concern as he moved on to her other foot, Squall asked, "Should your ankles be this swollen?"
"I'm on my feet a lot. It kind of comes with the territory. I should be fine as long as my blood pressure doesn't spike." She said, eyes still closed.
"How are you going to know? It's not like we have a way to check it at home..." Squall said.
"I work in the infirmary, remember? The doctor there can check it if necessary. Plus, I have a doctor's appointment in a couple of days." Rinoa replied.
"Do you want me to come with you? I can arrange for the time off." Squall asked.
"I would like you there, yeah. It's just a routine checkup, but if you have any questions or anything, that'd be a good time to talk to the doctor about them." She sighed, yawning.
"What time is the appointment?" he asked her.
"Two-thirty." She answered.
"I'll talk to Cid about taking the day off then." Squall said.
"You don't have to do that…" Rinoa protested.
"I want to." He said.
"Alright. I won't argue with that. It'll be nice to be able to spend the day with you." Rinoa smiled, yawning again.
Squall smiled slightly as he continued working on her other leg, feeling her relaxing to the edge of sleep. Even when he shielded, their bond was so deep it wasn't possible for Squall not to be affected by what Rinoa felt. When she relaxed, he relaxed as well.
It wasn't long before her deep, even breaths told him that she'd fallen asleep.
He studied her for a moment, smiling slightly, running his hand lightly up her smooth leg. She still wore her pale blue workday scrubs, her hair still in a tousled ponytail. Her face was turned slightly toward the back of the couch, one arm draped limply over her stomach. Squall's heart squeezed as he watched her sleep.
There were those who feared that 'Sorceress Rinoa' had enchanted him and made him her slave. But what he felt for her had been inside of him from the very beginning, when the only power she had wielded then had been that of her own heart's ability to draw it out of him.
And later, when he'd learned that she was a sorceress, a sworn enemy to SeeD and all that it stood for? He'd chosen her. Clear-eyed and conscious, he followed his heart for the first time in his life. There had been no sorcery, no enchantments involved in that decision.
But in the years since, as they'd both matured together and their relationship developed, it had blossomed until now, when they were together…it truly was magic.
Moving slowly, Squall lifted Rinoa's feet off of his lap and got up. Heading toward the linen closet, he pulled out a blanket and returned to the living room, draping it over her. The night was cool, but not nearly as cold as it would have been in Balamb's more northern clime.
He supposed he should wake her and tell her to go to bed, but she looked so…cute…he decided to let her sleep for a little while. Pulling the blanket up over her shoulders, Squall let the back of his hand trail up and softly brush her cheek. Then he bent down and lightly kissed her forehead.
The soft notes of the piano music dropped like raindrops as Squall left Rinoa alone to sleep.