Squall would never admit that he jumped straight out of an essentially dead sleep when he heard the familiar, cheery 'ping' coming from his computer. Never. Not to anyone. Especially not the girl who he knew was on the other end.

"Hey!" came Rinoa's cheerful voice once he'd stumbled from bed, caught himself against the desk, and clicked on the blinking communication tab. Her pixilated image waved daintily at him, giggling. "Hiya, Squall! How're ya doing?"

Squall blinked, his eyes so impossibly dry that he could've probably sanded something down with them, and gave her his most impassive look. "It's two in the morning, Rin." Clearly, knowledge of the time difference between Balamb and Esthar—even after nearly two months of her stay in the latter—had managed to evade her.

Laughing sheepishly, she rubbed the back of her head and gave him what, thanks to the pixels, he could just barely recognize as an apologetic look. Watching her, he could feel a smile tugging at the corner of his lips, and quickly got it under control; being cute couldn't get her out of everything.

"Sorry, Squall," she said. "I just got done working with Kiros, and I had to talk to you at least a little, right?"

"How is your training going?" he asked, finally sliding into his desk chair and getting comfortable. Knowing Rinoa, it could be three in the afternoon or three in the morning and she'd still be able to talk for hours on end.

"Pretty good. I've gotten a lot more control over my powers thanks to Kiros. He's been teaching me meditation techniques that really help me get a handle on it, you know?"

Meditation, huh? Quistis would love that. Zell, too, if it was of the martial arts variety. Suddenly, the mental image of Rinoa and Zell attempting to do interpretative martial arts made that pesky smile of his that much harder to fight back.

"Ward's been really helpful, too," she added. "He's really great for practical work."

Practical work. That poor, poor man.

"Oh,"—she let out a wicked little giggle, and Squall promptly became too suspicious to worry about not smiling anymore—"and Laguna's been telling me a bunch of great stories about you."

After a few seconds of mandatory, wide-eyed horror, Squall came to his senses, narrowed his eyes, and huffed, sitting up in his chair. "He doesn't know any stories about me."

"That's what he said, actually," Rinoa answered, impassively scratching at one of her nails like she wasn't dying to let the whole story come spilling out. "And he was sad about it. I mean, he's your father—"

"He sure seems to think so."

"iHe's your father/i, so he felt bad about not knowing any embarrassing stories from when you were a kid. So, he's been getting them from Edea."

If he hadn't spent the majority of his life training specifically so that he would not go this particular route, Squall felt it would've been the greatest of mercies if he could've just fallen down and died right there. But instead, he was left to stare, dumbstruck and appalled, at his now hysterically laughing girlfriend. Clearly, there was no God.

"I've been getting a lot of good ones," she said between bouts of giggles. "Like, Squall, I've always said you had a big head, but I never knew you got it stuck in a bucket!"

Promptly, Squall buried his face in his hands, shaking his head and resisting the urge to mobilize Garden against the President of Esthar. Undoubtedly, it would not play out well on the world stage, but the idea was just iso/i tempting. "Neither did I."

There was pause on Rinoa's end, and Squall was just starting to formulating hypothetical battle plans (istrictly/i hypothetical) before she spoke again: "I miss you."

He granted her a view of his still narrowed eyes (just because she didn't carry as much guilt as Laguna didn't mean she was completely free from scorn), got a look at the melancholy expression behind her smile, and had to fight valiantly to keep from forgiving her on the spot.

"Sorry, Squally," she said, a yawn interrupting her halfway through, "but I've got to go. Laguna says Odine's going to show up as early as possible tomorrow. I guess he wouldn't take noon for an answer."

"Hmm," Squall answered, sitting up again and stretching minutely. Probably a good idea for the both of them. He had a Garden to run, after all. That paperwork wasn't going to fill itself out. "Right."

"Goodnight. Don't let the Bite Bugs bite!" Kissing the tips of her fingers, she touched them to the lens of her camera in one of the most sickeningly sweet gestures Squall was sure he'd ever seen. However, before his more dignified self could intervene, he reached out and touched the screen in kind, brushing his fingers across the image of hers (what a sap she'd made him into).

Glancing off to the side, he spotted his calendar, marked with some very distinct red lines to check off the days. Only two more weeks before she came back for a visit.

"Squall?" Rinoa said, another giggle trickling into her voice. "Oh my gosh, you're smiling! You are! Oh, now hold on, I don't even want to go to sleep anymore! Just—"

"Goodnight, Rinoa. See you soon."