Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VIII or its characters and settings, but this fanfiction story… I'll buy the rights from Square-Enix eventually. -shot-

A/N: Ha! This was originally suppose to be my Father's Day gift to Laguna, but I got a little busy…with many things. XD I think this is my first actual Laguna/Raine one-shot and I'm quite happy with it. :) Maybe I'll do more Laguna/Raine stuff in the future because, in all honesty, this pairing needs more love. They're Squall's parents for crying out loud! xD LOL Nah, my opinion, but I could always use moar Laguna anyways. :)

I hope you enjoy and I'd greatly appreciated feedback. Thanks!

"Uncle Laguna! Wake up!" Ellone shouted in his ear.

Laguna had to cringe, hastily sitting up from his bed before looking at the little girl with a hand to his ear. He loved the little girl dearly, but sometimes he wished she wouldn't shout so much just to wake him. Smiling, Laguna greeted sluggishly, "Mornin' Elle."

Ellone giggled. "Goo' morning! Sleep well?"

"Of course! How else would I sleep?" Laguna replied, rubbing the back of his neck. Truth be told, Laguna slept uncomfortably. The bed he was borrowing was a little stiff, but Laguna wouldn't complain; he was thankful for what he got. Besides, Laguna was pretty sure little Ellone would be upset that he was unhappy with what was supposedly her old home.

Suddenly he realized something crucial…

"Ellone!" Laguna cried out. "Did you run here from Raine's again?"

The little girl blinked up innocently with a smile, imitating Laguna's choice of words, "Of course! How else would I wake yoo?"

Laguna scolded, running a hand through his hair in an attempt to rub away any sleepiness left within him, "Little missy, didn't I tell you monsters on the streets will snatch cute little girls like you? You really do wanna make your Uncle Laguna cry."

"But I asked Mr. Kiros to go with me to wake yoo." Ellone looked down at the ground sadly, digging her shoe into the wooden floorboards with hands behind her back. She lifted her chocolate brown eyes in a puppy-like fashion and asked, "Did I do bad?"

Laguna thought for a moment, emphasizing his point with a finger to his chin. If Kiros had agreed, then no, she wasn't in any real trouble; at least she didn't roam the streets by herself. Shaking his head, Laguna grinned and ruffled the top of Ellone's head affectionately. "Nope! Elle did good! You got an adult to go with you, so Uncle Laguna is proud! Good job!"

Ellone giggled in receiving praise and Laguna couldn't help but chuckle with her. He really liked it when Ellone smiled. She was so adorable when she was happy!

Getting up from his cramped bed, Laguna stretched out his arms to the ceiling before grabbing his blue jacket off a nearby chair. Putting it on, Laguna asked, "Hey Elle? Where is Kiros anyways?"

"Downstairs! He said yoo'd sleep 'til lunch!" Ellone warned with that child-like attempt in acting grown up. She turned and ran downstairs, missing Laguna call her name.

He was left alone in the room for a moment. Sighing, Laguna proceeded to put on his fingerless gloves while walking out of the family bedroom. Shallow murmuring was heard as he walked down the stairs and – sure enough – Kiros was nodding in agreement to something Ellone was saying.

The dark-skinned man noticed Laguna's entrance and greeted him, "Morning sleepy head."

"Hey! What were you and Elle talking about?" Laguna curiously asked, finally reaching the bottom of the stairs.

"I told Mr. Kiros yoo snore in yoor sleep and he says yoo do it all the time Uncle Laguna!" The little girl giggled.

Laguna flabbergasted and shot Kiros a glare. "What? No I don't! Don't listen to him, Elle!"

Kiros simply shrugged. "You know me, Laguna; I only tell the truth."

"Lies! Lies! Lies!" Laguna childishly retorted, causing Ellone to giggle even more.

She looked up at the two grown men and informed, "Yoo're funny! I'm going to tell Raine that yoo snore, Uncle Laguna!" Without a moment's hesitation, Ellone ran towards the front door and left the house.

"W-Wait! Ellone!"

"She'll be fine, Laguna," Kiros reassured with a smile. "I think you worry too much. Raine's place is only next door. It takes less than a minute for Ellone to get there by herself."

Laguna sighed. "I know, I know, but still! If something happens to little Ellone, I'm going to blame myself for not watching her properly."

Kiros chuckled in understanding. He walked past Laguna and commented while observing his settings. "You mean if something happens to Ellone, you'll blame yourself for disappointing Raine."

The self-proclaimed 'monster hunter of Winhill' stiffened at the insinuation Kiros was making. Sure, Raine was Ellone's guardian, but that didn't mean Laguna wouldn't protect Ellone otherwise! He cared for the little girl in his own way; not just for Raine's sake… Right? Ever since he and Kiros eavesdropped on the girls' conversation the other day, Laguna was suddenly paranoid for reasons he didn't quite understand.

Pouting, Laguna answered, "You talk too much, Kiros. If Ward was here, I think he'd be shocked you were spouting nonsense."

"You're right. That's your duty not mine." Kiros grinned with a cross of his arms. "And on the contrary, Laguna; I only tell the truth, remember?"

"C'mon! I wanna make sure Elle made it back alright!" Laguna uttered, ignoring Kiros's claim. Kiros let out another chuckle as Laguna zoomed past him to the door. Laguna was hoping his embarrassment died down by the time he reached Raine's pub because he really didn't want to walk in with his face as red as a tomato.

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"Tsk, Ellone! Don't start making a mess when you eat," Raine scolded, grabbing a clean cloth and wiping Ellone's sauce covered face.

Ellone fidgeted a little. "Aww, but Raine!"

Raine shook her head disapprovingly. "No 'buts' little lady. Eat properly please… Laguna!"

"What?" Laguna looked up in question and spoke with his mouth full. The corners of his mouth were covered with bits of food and the same sauce that previously decorated Ellone's face.

"…Unbelievable." Raine sighed in an unimpressed manner. She closed her eyes for a moment before throwing a while cloth towards Laguna, who fumbled in catching it. Raine frowned. "You know Ellone's impressionable and you just happen to be her favorite subject. Set a good example for her."

"Ah! Sorry, sorry!" Laguna chuckled sheepishly, wiping his mouth with the cloth. "I can't help it though. Your cooking is always so delicious! I'd ask you for the recipe, but I doubt I'd be able to make this as good as you!"

Raine stared blankly before she smirked, going back to eating from her plate. "Even if you did ask, I wouldn't give you the recipe; it's a family secret."

"Which is why I gotta savor the flavor of Chef Raine's delicious meals!" Laguna declared, a surge of excitement running through him. He pumped a fist in the air before turning to Ellone, eyes twinkling. "Right Elle?"

"Right!" Ellone joined in chorus, shooting her spoon up in the air.

Kiros chuckled at the exchange whereas Raine was clearly rolling her eyes. "Settle down you two." Laguna and Ellone laughed before going back to eating.

The emerald-eyed man smiled throughout the entire time he was eating. Raine was strict, but she could be fun when she let herself have it. Plus he was learning something new about Raine. Her cooking was always superb and knowing that it ran in her family was pretty cool.

She hardly ever talked about herself besides the fact that she was the only remaining person of her lineage. Laguna felt it too personal to up and ask her what her family was like so he never did. Lately however, he got more and more curious about her. He still stood by his vow to not pester Raine about her family, but when she offered little tidbits of her life here and there, he automatically updated his memory banks.

"…Laguna, will you go out with me?"

Suddenly, his hand was at his throat while his other one frantically searched for his glass of water. Kiros was slapping his back and Ellone, as innocent as she was, started laughing. She was unaware that Laguna was really choking and not making a funny face.

"Laguna!" Raine cried out with wide eyes. She hurriedly handed him the glass of water. Laguna gratefully chugged it down as Raine furrowed her eyebrows. "What in Hyne's name is wrong?"

He let out a relieved exhale before taking in the sweet, sweet taste of air. Laguna looked at Raine confused and unsure. "Y-You and…and me? Go out?" Raine suddenly asking that was surprising in itself! In fact, he didn't think she would ever, ever ask him! …Leg cramp! LEG CRAMP!

Raine answered, feeling slightly annoyed, "Yes! To the shop!"

Shop? Oh… Laguna rewinded, now feeling rather stupid.

His stupefied look wasn't missed by Raine. At all.

She leered at him. "Exactly what were you thinking I'd ask? You weren't paying attention to what I was saying again weren't you?"

"Uh…" Laguna turned away from her heated glare. He would rather face a horde of monsters then suffer Raine's wrath.

The brunette sighed, rubbing at her temples. "You know what? Nevermind."

"N-No, no! I can go. Sorry! I was, uh, thinking about the monster hunt for today…" Laguna explained, trying his best to cover up his original thought. He hoped for once that she wouldn't see through his lie… Not that he lied to her all the time! He looked up at her hesitantly, seeing some of her annoyance dying down. He offered her a sheepishly grin. "Groceries?"

"Yes. Groceries," Raine confirmed with a cross of her arms, "I need to pick up a few items to replenish the refrigerator now that I'm feeding four mouths."

Laguna understood, feeling guilty. "Sorry, Raine…"

Suddenly, she smiled and softened her gaze. Laguna could've sworn his heart stopped beating. Shaking her head, Raine replied, "It's fine. I don't mind cooking for a lot of people. I'll admit, it's nice to have company."

His face felt hot, but he nodded, grateful Raine went back to helping Ellone eat properly. Laguna let out a quiet sigh and went back to his own plate. Looking to his right, Laguna could've sworn Kiros was laughing at him. Narrowing his eyes, Laguna whispered, "What?"

"Should I mention this little mishap to Ward? I'm sure he'll want to put this on the manliness scale somewhere…" Kiros teased.

Laguna frowned. "…Whatever."

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"Alright…I think this is all we need." Raine nodded, looking at her shopping list.

Laguna followed closely behind her, a plastic bag in each hand. They were small, but the bags were heavy! No wonder the strong-willed brunette needed a hand… She herself was holding a bag, but if she were to do the grocery shopping by herself, she would've been carrying three very heavy bags. He sighed tiredly. "Why'd you buy so much?"

Raine looked her shoulder. "What do you mean? It's called efficiency. This way, I don't have to go out so much just to buy necessities."

"Raine, I get it, but it's still, I dunno…tough! Wouldn't it be fine to just go every once in a while instead of doing one big trip?" Laguna asked.

He caught up with her pace when she answered, "I can't do that Laguna."



And then it made sense to him. Of course there was Ellone! How could Laguna forget about little Elle? She was so small, fragile…vulnerable. If she was left by herself, Ellone was bound to get hurt either by monsters or even Estharian soldiers if they planned on invading the town like they had two years ago.

"Oh…" Laguna responded, "You got a point."

Raine sighed with a small smile. "You see now? I don't plan just for myself, but for two. If anything were to happen to Ellone, I wouldn't know how to face her parents—"

"Nothing'll happen to her, Raine." Laguna comforted with a smile.

This surprised her and she asked with a tilt of her head, "Excuse me?"

Laguna grinned at her and lifted one hand and pointed to himself with his thumb. "You got me! I'll protect Ellone too so you won't have to worry half as much!"

She stared blankly before shaking her head. "I can't have you do that."

"Huh?" Laguna was surprised by her claim. He was so sure she would've thought him impressive to some extent, but to reject his entire proposal? He asked, "Why not?"

Raine sighed before looking at him again. "Laguna, how long do you plan on staying here? I don't mean to say anything offensive, but you told me you wanted to be a journalist and that means you'll have to leave eventually."

"Well yes, but—"

"Therefore," Raine interrupted, walking forward, "I don't think it's smart of you to get too attached to this place. I'm grateful that you're willing to protect Ellone, but you shouldn't have to sacrifice your aspirations—"

"Stop. Just…stop." Laguna sighed and felt a sense of frustration bubbling inside him. For the first time since he took residence in Winhill, Laguna actually looked mad; and he was especially mad at Raine. He never went against her wishes or her rules, but he hated how 'informed' she was being. "What makes you think you really understand that, Raine?"

"What…What are you talking about? I'm being realistic here," Raine fumbled to say, caught off-caught that the easy-going Laguna was looking at her with a hardened expression, "It only makes sense that you'll leave one day."

"But to up and leave you and Ellone alone so quickly? Do you see me as so irresponsible that you came to that conclusion?" Laguna retorted, towering Raine and matching her glare. He didn't like arguing with her, because she usually had valid points (and because she always won), but this time he wouldn't sit down and take it. "Have a little more faith in me, Raine. I still want to be with you and Ellone even if I do become a journalist!"

Raine scoffed and walked forward again in haste. "Don't be such a hypocrite, Laguna! You say that now, but one day, you'll end up not coming back at all! I don't want to be the one to tell Ellone that her 'Uncle Laguna' is never coming back. Ellone shouldn't have to go through something like that again."

"Which is why I'm saying it won't happen!" Laguna tried again. He coordinated his hands so that he held both bags in one hand and used the other to pull Raine to a stop. Laguna took hold of her wrist and quickly turned her around to face him. He pleaded, his anger simmering down to sadness. "Please, Raine? Trust me."

The look in her eyes was unreadable and Laguna hoped to hear an answer from her soon. He felt another leg cramp coming up as he continued to look into her cerulean blue eyes to the point where he could make out his reflection in them. She finally looked away, muttering, "…Don't say I didn't warn you."

Overjoyed, Laguna unconsciously trapped Raine into a hug. "Aw Raine! You're the best! You won't regret it! I'll make sure of that!"

"O…kay…?" Raine flabbergasted, tensing immensely against the hug. Her cheeks flared red immediately, but that went unnoticed by Laguna.

Laguna pulled away, holding Raine at arms' length and grinned. "I promise I'll work extra hard! I'll even try and get the townsfolk to like me!"

At this, Raine let out a giggle and smiled up at him smugly. "Like at the shop? I'm sure Rufus wasn't happy you started touching everything like a little kid."

"T-That! He had so many new things in stock, I couldn't help it!" Laguna stuttered, immediately remembering the grumpy store clerk giving him a mighty death glare. If the ex-soldier wasn't with Raine, Laguna was pretty sure the grump would've jumped at the chance to wring Laguna's neck.

Raine cleared her throat and looked at Laguna seriously. "Honestly? Grow up."

Laguna pouted, looking down. "Yes, Mom…"

They suddenly broke out into fits of laughter, Raine clutching her sides from laughing so hard. Laguna never knew how much he liked the sound of Raine laughing. It suited her along with that smile on her face…

"My oh my. This is quite a surprise."

Both Laguna and Raine looked to their right to see an elderly woman holding a basket of flowers in her hands. She smiled tersely, examining Laguna before turning to Raine with a hand to her mouth. "I knew you were taking care of that soldier, Raine, but I never expected you to act so…close."

Laguna had to think for a moment before realizing what the elderly lady meant. During their fits of laughter, both he and Raine had unconsciously moved closer together to the point where personal space was negligible. He could practically see the individual lashes of Raine's long eyelashes when they exchanged looks. Laguna finally had that leg cramp and quickly excused himself to the side, Raine taking two large steps back while clearing her throat and swallowing down a blush.

Coolly, Raine pushed her brown locks to the side of her face. "Believe me. We're only friends, Rosa."

Rosa, the widower who ran the only flower shop in town, smiled forcefully. "I wasn't aware the definition of 'friends' had changed over the years, Raine. Do be careful how you showcase your acts of 'friendship.' People just might get the wrong idea."

"I'll keep that in mind, Rosa. Thank you," Raine replied, waving the elderly woman off down the dusty path.

Laguna was very thankful that the woman had left. She was but one of many who certainly didn't like his type. Well…'the ex-soldier' part of his background anyway. He was leaning forward against the fence post in an attempt to unwind his leg from his darned leg cramp. Why oh why had Hyne granted him this 'gift' whenever he was extremely embarrassed?

He let out a slow, exhaling sigh before feeling a hand touching his back. Laguna didn't have to think twice to know that it was Raine. She was the only one (well, besides Ellone) in this town who didn't feel negative about coming in contact with an outsider. Laguna turned his green eyes to look at her, seeing Raine furrowing her eyebrows a little in concern.

"Are you alright?" she asked, unconsciously rubbing circles on his back. "I hope Rosa didn't offend you with anything she said."

"Ah, it's fine. Besides, she's just looking out for you," Laguna replied. He tested out his leg, tapping it on the ground and regaining some feeling back. Standing up straight, Laguna properly faced Raine and grinned. "Don't worry about me! It takes a lot more than silly gossip to stop Laguna Loire!"

Raine blinked a little before shaking her head with a smile. Poking Laguna in the chest, Raine joked, "Right. I almost forgot who I'm talking to, but Rosa wasn't 'gossiping.' How in the world was that gossiping at all?"

"Hey, you'd be surprised. In Deling City, I hear all kinds of gossip being spoken in many ways. It's unbearable really. Good thing I want to report the truth when I become a journalist," Laguna said with a shrug. He went to pick up the grocery bags that he had unfortunately dropped to the ground. "Anyways! Shall we continue?"

"I suppose. I don't want to leave Mr. Kiros with Ellone for too long," Raine explained, walking side-by-side with Laguna down the dirt road.

"Don't worry. Kiros is dependable. Trust me!" Laguna looked at Raine in full confidence, watching how her eyes studied his face in contemplation.

She let out another hum before sighing in defeat. Holding her bag with both hands, Raine resigned, "Typical Laguna…"

"Huh? What's that suppose to mean?"

Raine only smiled brightly at him, something shining in her eyes that Laguna hadn't seen before. He felt his heart jumping in his rib cage and Laguna moved his gaze from Raine's face to the sky. Her laughter could be heard beside him and Laguna only realized that Raine was lightly brushing shoulders with him. She whispered loud enough so only Laguna could hear her, even though there was no one else around, "It means that I can relax around you."

He regarded her statement, feeling heat reaching his cheeks. However, Laguna didn't mind it; he was…happy to say the least. He supposed acting like usual wasn't so bad if it got Raine to smile, but somehow, maybe their routine could change just a little. This small bonding moment made him realize just what it was he truly felt towards Raine. That conversation he overheard the other day – though he felt bad for listening in – gave him a little confidence boast.

Maybe one day, being 'typical' could hold a different meaning for the both of them.