A Bad Day Golfing…
"Hey, Kiros, can you check my to-do list for me? I want to clear a day next week to go golfing." Laguna said, smoothing down his suit jacket and adjusting his tie.
"Five minutes, Mr. President." An aide stuck his head into Laguna's office, reminding him of his impending press conference.
Kiros obligingly stuck on his reading glasses and checked Laguna's schedule, saying, "There's nothing really important going on next Wednesday. I could clear that morning until noon for you."
"Great! Squall's going to be up next week and I want to see if I can finally convince him to try playing golf." Laguna grinned at Kiros as they headed toward the room in the palace that was used for press conferences and the like.
Kiros started laughing, "Squall? Golf? Those are two words I'd never thought I'd hear in the same sentence. Mind if I join you two? I'd dearly love to see it if he actually shows up."
"No, I don't mind at all. If he declines the invite just you, Ward and I could play, so either way we'd still get some time in." Laguna said with a grin as they made their way to the front of the room. He took his place at the podium, adjusted the microphone to his height and waited as his press secretary held up the fingers of his hand, silently counting down. When he reached zero, he pointed at Laguna, signaling that the cameras were live and rolling.
Grinning brilliantly, Laguna began, "Good evening citizens of Esthar, and thank you for tuning in tonight. The time has come again for us to check ourselves as a nation and a government to see how we're doing and address those things that may need attention. So without further ado, I present to you the current state of our nation of Esthar…"
Rinoa paused in her packing as she heard a bubbling baby's laugh coming from the other side of the room. She looked up smiling, to see Squall holding Saber up high, prompting the baby to laugh uproariously.
"What are you doing?" she asked on a laugh.
"Saber wants to fly. Don't you kiddo?" Squall said, gently swooping the baby into his arms, grinning at his infectious laughter. Rinoa suddenly doubled over in laughter as Saber reached up and grabbed the end of Squall's nose.
"Hey! That's my nose!" Squall said, wrinkling it. The baby laughed again as Squall gently detached Saber's hand from his nose and poked his little button nose in turn.
"He really likes your nose, doesn't he honey?" Rinoa laughed.
"I guess. The only thing he seems to like grabbing more is my hair. I'm going to have to shave it off if this keeps up. I won't have any left otherwise. Ow! Jeez, give your daddy a break, will ya kid?" Squall protested, head tilted to one side as the infant tangled his hand into his longish hair and tugged at it.
He'd let his hair grow out until it fell to his shoulders, keeping the promise he'd made to Rinoa over a year ago. It was hard to believe that much time had passed, but with twin babies keeping them busy, it had passed in a blur.
Now both children were six months old, and Squall's hair had grown out from the close-cropped style he'd adopted just before the SeeD games to a flowing, vibrant, coppery brown mane. Rinoa hoped he wouldn't cut it again, because the long hair looked sexy as hell on him.
"You could always pull it back into a pony tail." Rinoa suggested.
Squall grimaced, "I tried. I look stupid in a pony tail." He gently unwound the baby's hand from his hair, carefully pulling the hairs out of his fingers as he placed Saber back into his crib.
"I feel your pain. Both babies love pulling my hair out every time I pick them up." Rinoa said, resuming her packing.
"Maybe we should give them something else to play with so they won't do that so much." Squall said, checking around and getting their bags together.
"Well, I can't say that I'll be unhappy to let Ellone deal with them for a little bit. It'll be nice to see her again. And I know she and Laguna are dying to see what the babies look like now." Rinoa said.
Squall laughed softly, "As if they weren't up here just a month ago. I can't believe how much stuff we have to pack. Do we really need all of this?" He looked around at the bags and bags of clothes, diapers, various hygiene related items and other paraphernalia that babies seem to require and shook his head. Then he got the babies' carriers out and picked up Julia, who babbled happily and smiled at him as he strapped her into her carrier.
Her hair was still red, though it had started to darken a bit. It was still a bright coppery hue however. Her eyes, once a neutral gray, had gradually deepened to a warm brown, like Rinoa's. Saber's hair was still deep black, and his eyes had lightened to an arresting blue-green, just like his father's.
Both children were absolutely gorgeous, and Squall loved them both nearly as much as he loved their mother.
"You know we do Squall." Rinoa smiled as she watched him getting the babies ready to travel.
"At the rate we're going, it's going to take two trips to get out to the Ragnarok." He groused.
"That's why I called Zell. Not even you can carry all of that plus a baby carrier." Rinoa said.
"Knock, knock guys!" Zell's voice sounded from the living room as he stuck his head through the door, looking for them.
"In here Zell!" Rinoa called out.
Zell appeared in the doorway to their bedroom moments later, grinning at Squall's put-upon expression as he finished strapping Saber into his seat.
"Wow. I can see why you called me Rin. You both look like you have your hands full." Zell said, coming into the bedroom and bending down to amuse Saber by making funny faces at him. Zell grinned as the baby let loose with a belly laugh.
"I swear you guys have the happiest babies. How does that happen, coming from you?" Zell asked with a smirk.
"Hey, I'm a happy guy. Now grab a bag, chocobo head." Squall ordered, shouldering a duffel bag and picking up Saber's carrier. Rinoa did likewise, taking charge of Julia.
"You should talk. That mane of yours gets any longer, people are gonna start mistaking you for Ifrit. Or Griever." Zell observed as he picked up the two remaining bags, shouldering one and grabbing Squall's gunblade case.
"He is starting to bear a marked resemblance to a lion these days, isn't he?" Rinoa asked Zell, and Squall rolled his eyes.
"Keep that up Rin, and I will shave my head. It's starting to be a pain keeping it this long anyway." Squall said, frowning as they walked through Balamb Garden and out toward the Ragnarok.
"Please don't. I was just teasing you sweetheart. I really do love it." Rinoa told him in a conciliatory tone.
"All right then, it stays. For now, anyway." Squall relented.
Upon reaching the Ragnarok he had to put the bag down he was carrying to palm the door open, then they all trooped up the access ramp and onto the ship. Zell helpfully stowed their baggage for them while Squall and Rinoa both buckled the babies into the seats.
Coming back to the cockpit, Zell said, "Well, I hope you guys have a fun vacation. Don't get sunburned. And say 'hi' to Laguna and Ellone for me, willya?"
"Okay. Thanks for helping out with the loading. See you in two weeks." Squall said, shaking Zell's hand and giving him a quick fist-bump as he left.
They arrived in Esthar two hours later; with both babies fortunately sound asleep. Laguna had sent a car to collect them, with the driver obligingly dealing with the luggage while Squall and Rinoa installed the twins and their carriers into the back seat. They took the seat opposite in the limo. Squall had thought it was a bit much to send out a limousine, but then figured Laguna didn't have anything else that was large enough to handle both twins, their carriers, all of the baggage and things that went with them, and Squall and Rinoa. While a little ostentatious, it was at least big enough.
Laguna and Ellone met them at the Presidential Palace, with Ellone calmly walking up to Squall and giving him a soft kiss on the cheek, and a gentle hug and kiss for Rinoa. Squall smiled down at her, feeling the joy she projected to them both at seeing them again.
"How was your trip son?" Laguna asked as they were transported to the floor that Squall's apartments were on. Upon reaching it, he helpfully picked up a bag and followed them to their apartment.
"Good. The babies conk right out, as soon as we go anywhere. They slept the whole way here." Squall answered, unlocking the door and holding it for Rinoa, Laguna and Ellone to troop into the main room.
"Well, I know you'll want to get settled in tonight, so I'll leave you to that, but I'd like it if we could get together tomorrow morning." Laguna said, then he smiled. "Elle and Rinoa could catch up without us getting in the way."
"Sure, we could do that. What did you have in mind? Coffee?" Squall asked, attention caught by Saber yawning and starting to wake. He gently set the carrier down and extricated himself from the duffel bag he'd slung over one shoulder. He frowned as he surveyed all the baggage they'd brought in. Had they forgotten anything? He had a momentary stab of panic before he saw his gunblade case and heaved a sigh of relief.
"Well, yeah, that too. And a round of golf." Laguna said.
Squall stopped and frowned, "Golf? You want me to play golf with you?"
It was on the tip of his tongue to refuse and suggest something else when Rinoa gently reminded him, "Don't even think it honey, you already agreed. You never know, it could be fun!"
"Fun? It's pointless and silly. You're right though, I did agree. Crap. I hope he doesn't expect me to wear those stupid clothes. Can you imagine me in that getup? Ugh!" Squall sent, providing a visual of the aforementioned "stupid clothing" and prompting Rinoa to bite her lip to avoid collapsing into uncontrollable laughter. Ellone caught it too and giggled softly, smiling at Squall with her eyes sparkling.
But you would look SO cute in pastels, Ellone sent teasingly.
NO. Squall glared at her, prompting her to laugh harder.
"Yes. Kiros and Ward are coming too. It'll be fun!" Laguna said enthusiastically, oblivious to the silent interchange between Squall and the girls.
Squall sighed and rolled his eyes, saying, "Okay, fine. What time do you want to do this tomorrow morning?"
"Well, it gets pretty hot during the day here, so how about we start early, say around six?" Laguna asked.
"Six is fine. Meet at your place then?" Squall responded.
"Yes. Coffee will be ready, and I'll provide the gear." Laguna said, grinning happily.
"Okay. One thing though… I'm not wearing anything but what I show up in, got it?" Squall said firmly.
"Got it. See ya in the morning son!" Laguna said, clapping Squall on the back, and then giving Rinoa a quick kiss on the cheek and a wink before leaving them to unpack.
Six A.M. exactly, Squall knocked on the door to his father's apartment, dressed for the climate in a lightweight, white shirt and jeans. As always, Lionheart was strapped to his back. Fortunately, Laguna's security guys knew Squall and didn't give him any grief for carrying it, one of them even commenting that having Squall around made their jobs easier.
The door was opened by one of Laguna's assistants, and Squall asked her, "Where's Laguna?"
"Oh, he's in the dining room arguing with Ward and Kiros." She answered, laughing slightly and gesturing him to enter.
Squall shook his head and headed toward the dining room, wondering what his father and his two friends were arguing about.
"Kiros, I'm telling you I do not need a handicap, and I don't think Squall will either!" Laguna was protesting, prompting Squall to roll his eyes and stop in the kitchen to appropriate a coffee mug, filling it from the pot on the counter. He wasn't about to deal with Laguna without at least one cup of strong coffee. It was fortunate that by either happenstance or some weird genetic quirk, both he and Laguna preferred their coffee on the strong side.
Properly fortified, he pushed open the door, interrupting the argument and asked, "What's this about a handicap?"
Then he stopped and stared, not quite believing what he was looking at. What little he knew of the game golf mostly involved the absolutely ridiculous clothing that people who played it seemed obligated to wear. He knew that wasn't always the case, some people who played wore normal clothing such as what Squall was currently wearing.
Then there were folks that took their outfits completely over the top…and well outside the realm of even bad taste. Squall didn't even know how to describe it. It was…. horrifying.
"What. The. Hell…" he started, still staring. He blinked a couple of times, hoping he'd just stumbled into a Technicolor nightmare, but nothing changed.
Ward, massive Ward, was wearing a lime green collared pullover shirt with green and black plaid…knickers? Whatever they were they stopped at the knee and the rest of his lower legs from the knee down to his white shoes were black and green argyle patterned socks. The whole outfit was topped off by a white cap.
Kiros, who normally epitomized style and class, was somehow persuaded to wear a screaming, bright red sweater vest ensemble, along with a matching pair of slacks, supported by a white belt. A sweater vest? Here? It boggled the mind.
And then there was Laguna's outfit, which Squall had difficulty even looking at directly. It was a regular button up shirt and slacks, but in such a wild combination of colors and patterns that it literally gave Squall a headache.
Finally Kiros, grinning at Squall's dumbfounded expression, answered him, " A handicap is basically a measure of a golfer's ability based upon his previous scores. You've never played, so you don't have one. The higher it is, the worse of a player you are. Laguna's is fifteen."
"I'm guessing this is bad?" Squall asked.
"Twenty is considered the worst." Kiros answered him.
Laguna rolled his eyes at that, saying, "You know, I have improved, Kiros."
Kiros snorted, "Yeah, but you still can't putt worth a damn."
Laguna growled under his breath and finally said, "Well, enough of the insults already, let's just go and play."
Squall began to have a very bad feeling about this.
Those feelings were validated when he turned to leave the dining room and the door swung inward, hitting him and knocking his half-drunk cup of still hot coffee all over his white shirt.
"Ow! Shit!" He exclaimed as the hot liquid burned him. He pulled his shirt away from his skin to lessen the contact and prevent further injury.
"OH! Oh, my! I'm so, so sorry Commander Leonhart! Here…" The young assistant that had let him in quickly ducked back out of the dining room and grabbed a dishtowel from the kitchen, wetting it.
Squall meanwhile was busily undoing the straps that held the gunblade to his back so that he could remove his shirt. The gunblade slid to the ground with a quiet thud and he quickly unbuttoned and removed the shirt, thus providing the returning assistant with a full view of his bared chest. The girl froze, staring, and Squall rolled his eyes and snatched the wet cloth away from her, making her jump.
Dabbing at his chest and examining the burns with a slight frown, Squall said, "Dad, I'm gonna have to run home and get another shirt. Can you give me a few minutes?"
"I'm sorry Squall, but we tee off in less than thirty minutes. We need to leave now if we're going to get there in time. But I do have a solution to this dilemma." Laguna said.
Squall looked up after deciding that the burns weren't serious. Really, the skin had only been reddened (roughly the same shade as the pink-cheeked assistant that kept staring annoyingly at his chest). He groaned in dismay at the shirt that Laguna was holding up, flanked on either side by a grinning Kiros and a slightly more sympathetic Ward.
"Are you kidding me? Pink?" Squall stared at the offending garment and wondered if he could simply call the whole thing off.
"Actually, its fuchsia." Kiros corrected him.
"Whatever. I'd rather play naked than wear that." Squall said, folding his arms firmly across his chest. A quiet sigh and a thump from behind him prompted him to turn and frown at the young woman who had somehow inexplicably fallen to the floor. She slowly climbed to her feet, giving him an embarrassed smile.
"Ah, ah, ah, Squall, you're obviously not taking into consideration one minor detail," Laguna said, wagging his finger at him.
"Several, actually," Kiros interjected, earning himself a glare from Squall.
"Right. First off, there will be a lot of other people present. With cameras." Laguna said, and Squall groaned.
"There are going to be people taking pictures? And you're going to make me wear that?" Squall protested.
"You know there always are, son. Anyway, the second thing is this: even if you're okay with giving the paparazzi photogs the money shot of their lives, there is one thing I know you can't stand." Laguna grinned at him.
Squall dropped his head with a sigh, remembering. He wasn't acclimated to Esthar's climate, and despite the fact that he spent a good deal of time outdoors, he wasn't tanned enough to withstand the Estharian sun. He would burn. Badly.
There was nothing that Squall hated more than sunburn. And he didn't have any sunscreen with him.
Finally he sighed and reached out toward Laguna, saying, "Fine, give me the damn shirt."
Twenty minutes later, they were on the golf course, getting ready to tee off. Kiros had explained the basics of the game to Squall, who still thought it was pointless but at least the scenery appeared to be nice.
Kiros, Ward and then Laguna all took turns whacking their little golf balls to hell and gone, and to Squall at least, it seemed that the point to the tee off was to smack the ball as far as possible.
Before Squall lined up to take his shot though, Kiros pointed out the green with the little flag in the middle, several hundred meters away, telling him, "the closer you get to that flag on your first drive, the better."
Then Laguna began telling Squall to address the ball properly, make sure his feet were shoulder width apart (forcing Squall to look down at the godawful shoes he had to wear. Well, at least they weren't pink..). Bend at the waist; grip the driver properly, blah, blah, blah, to the point that Squall was seriously considering using the club for something other than bashing a tiny white ball.
The final straw came when Laguna put his arms around Squall to correct his grip.
"Would you stop? Just let me do this!" Squall growled in exasperation. Laguna backed off with a sheepish grin and Kiros and Ward both chuckled.
Squall adjusted his posture, lined up the driver, took a mighty swing…and missed. He frowned, and then took a deep breath, forcing himself to relax. The second swing connected successfully with a mighty thwack!
Squall squinted, shading his eyes from the sun as he watched his ball sail prettily though the air to bounce once, twice on the green, rolling past the flag to the other side of it.
Laguna, Ward, and Kiros all stared at him with jaws agape as Squall rested the driver on his shoulder in satisfaction and asked them, "Okay, now what?"
"Well, we uh.. Play our balls as they lie. So we're going to go down to where they are." Kiros said, shouldering his golf bag. Laguna and Ward did the same, though Laguna had a little difficulty with his, owing to the machine gun he'd slung over his shoulder.
"Why'd you bring that dad? I thought you had enough security and this place was fenced off?" Squall asked him.
"Same reason you're wearing the gunblade." Laguna answered.
"Oh. Well, try the other shoulder then." Squall advised him, slinging the golf bag easily over his shoulder, despite the huge weapon on his back.
"I'm surprised that thing doesn't mess with your balance," Kiros commented as they walked down the fairway.
Squall shrugged, "its not as heavy as it looks, and strapping it on my back makes it easier for me to do anything athletic without it getting in the way." Then he added under his breath, "not that this qualifies as athletic."
Kiros chuckled, having caught the comment, and said, "carry that bag for seventeen more holes and then tell me if its athletic or not."
Squall considered that, then conceded that yes, if one were carrying the heavy golf bag as far as they were having to walk, for seventeen more holes, then yes, it could be considered athletic. Or at the very least, physically taxing.
They reached the first of the balls, which turned out to belong to Kiros. He set his bag down and selected a club, took his stance and swung. The ball lofted up and sailed through the air, landing onto the green about midway between the edge and the flag. Kiros grunted in satisfaction as he put his club back into the bag and stepped away to let Ward play his ball next.
Ward pulled out a club nearly as long as Squall was tall and hit his ball onto the green with it, grinning silently as it rolled to a position mere centimeters from the flag in the center.
Then it was Laguna's turn. Squall adjusted his sunglasses and watched, though he still had a difficult time looking at his father in the swirling mess of day-glo greens, pinks, oranges and blues that made up his outfit.
Laguna pondered over the club he would use, then once he finally selected said club, walked over to where his ball rested on the fairway. It was actually farther toward the green than the other two balls had been, and Squall, along with Kiros and Ward, followed Laguna to where it lay.
Once there, Laguna set his feet, shifting his weight and making his backside wiggle, did an odd little shimmy with his arms, set the club down and carefully lined up the shot. Paused, then went through the whole butt-wiggle, arm shimmy thing all over again, causing Squall to drop his face into his hand, thinking, Really dad? Are you kidding?
Finally, Laguna settled down and brought his club back, catching Squall's eye as he did and giving him a conspiratorial wink. Then he swung, hitting the ball firmly and sending it flying up, out, and over…bouncing once, hard, on the green and ending up in the grass on the other side.
Squall glanced over at him, expecting to see disappointment, but instead he saw…satisfaction? That confused him, but he refrained from commenting, figuring the whole thing would become clearer to him as they continued their play.
They all shouldered their bags and walked toward the green.
"So, how many holes is this?" Squall asked, wondering what a hole was and why it was so important.
"This is one hole. Right there on the green where the flag is. Each fairway is set up with a green and a hole kind of like this. And a golf round usually is eighteen holes." Kiros explained.
"Oh." Squall knew the rest. The little ball was supposed to go into the hole in as few strokes as possible. Simple enough.
For Squall it was. The putting part was a little bit tricky, but after watching Kiros and Ward do it, it wasn't that difficult to figure out. The difficult part was judging how hard to hit the ball to send it into the cup.
He managed it okay on his first attempt, lining the putter up, judging the angle to hit the ball then giving it a firm tap to send it rolling into the cup. Laguna however…. Squall shook his head, unsure if his father was clowning around or if he really was that bad.
He wondered, but then, Laguna was able to hit the ball out of the long, rough grass it had landed into and onto the green quite handily. It was when it came down to the putting that he seemed to have problems. Seemed to.
The way he lined up the shot and hit the ball, it appeared as though the miss was deliberate. Squall narrowed his eyes and decided he'd pay closer attention to his father's playing strategy.
After playing through four holes, Squall decided that yes, Laguna was in fact deliberately goofing off. The reason he came to that conclusion was the fact that however many strokes Kiros and Ward took to sink a putt Laguna always hit one more.
As they walked toward the next fairway to set up for the next hole, Squall asked Laguna under his breath, "What are you doing? Are you deliberately flubbing putts?"
"What makes you say that son?" Laguna asked him casually.
"Because…I don't know, maybe because it looks calculated?" Squall said.
Laguna studied him for a moment, then laughed softly, "I keep forgetting how sharp you are son. Yes, I am throwing the game."
"Why?" Squall asked him bluntly, curious about Laguna's reasons for doing so.
"If you must know, its part of my image as president. We'll have dignitaries, heads of states, bigwigs of every stripe come out and play a round of golf with me, and we'll discuss things casually with no pressure. See, they all know I really suck at it, so they get to laugh at me while beating the pants off me, and I get to charm them into…. pretty much whatever." Laguna answered, then added, "It makes 'em feel good to win, and when they're feeling good, they're easier to work with."
Nodding toward Kiros and Ward, Squall asked, "them too, huh?"
"Especially them." Laguna answered.
Squall chuckled, "pretty slick dad."
Laguna clapped Squall on the shoulder and grinned at him. "Thank you, son."
They continued their playing, with Squall getting the hang of the game pretty well. Kiros in fact commented about how odd it was that Squall was a natural at the game while Laguna was so bad at it. Squall bit back a smile at the twinkle in Laguna's eyes at Kiros' comment. He realized then that his father didn't mind his friend's sharp, barbed comments and witty insults; in fact he deliberately gave the man ammunition to use against him. Just for fun.
They were midway through their game, walking toward hole nine when Laguna told Squall, "The Parliamentary Council's taking a very important vote tomorrow."
Squall glanced over at him, asking, "What about?"
Laguna frowned, ducking his head and rubbing his hand on the back of his neck, before answering, "My presidency."
Squall studied him a moment as they walked, then asked, "Is this a vote that you want?"
"Yes, very much so. It's what I've been working toward for over two decades. This is a good thing, Squall." Laguna answered him. "If it goes the way I hope it does, then in two years time, Esthar will have it's first Presidential Election ever, and I'll finally get to retire."
Squall paused then, and asked him, "What will you do then? Go back to writing?"
Laguna sighed, and smiled wistfully into the distance, saying, "I think I'll move back to Winhill. And yeah, maybe start writing again." Then he grinned over at Squall, adding, "I also plan on spoiling my grandchildren silly. Just giving you fair warning."
Squall laughed softly, then sobered. "Winhill dad? Are you sure?" He worried about that. Would Laguna be going back to a place where he wasn't necessarily welcomed simply because of his sentimental attachment to his memories of that place and of Raine?
"Yeah. I still own the house and the pub…" he began, when Squall gently interrupted him. "Dad, an artist lives there now."
Laguna grinned over at him, a clearly male glint in his eyes as he said, "Auria. She's lovely, isn't she? Who do you think rented the house to her?"
Squall's jaw dropped open in shock.
Laguna laughed at Squall's expression and said, "Don't look so surprised son. I'm far from dead. I'm not even fifty yet! Now come on and let's get back into the game. Kiros and Ward are getting impatient."
Laguna started walking down the fairway where his friends awaited them, leaving Squall staring after him, dumbfounded.
Shaking off his shock, he jogged after his father, catching up in a few strides and asking breathlessly, "How long have you known her?"
"About ten years, give or take." Laguna answered.
"Ten years? And you've been carrying on this affair with her the whole time?" Squall asked incredulously.
"Not the whole time, no. Just for the past oh, eight years or so. Obviously, we've kept it very discreet. Mainly for her sake and the sake of the other residents of Winhill. Wouldn't do to have the press and the paparazzi swarming the town and staking out her home, they'd never forgive me. I've thought more than once of telling you about her, but just never seemed to find the right time for it." Laguna told him, eyes begging for understanding.
Squall walked alongside him in silence for a moment before asking softly, "Do you love her?"
"Then I'm happy for you." Squall said sincerely.
Laguna's eyes filled with tears then and he stopped, pulling Squall into a tight hug and whispering, "Thank you son. You don't know how much that means to me. I was so worried about how you'd take it that I kept putting off telling you."
"It's fine dad. I'm okay with it, honestly." Squall reassured him, and they broke apart, continuing their walk.
"She is lovely, by the way." Squall added with a smile. Laguna grinned back at him.
At length they caught up with Ward and Kiros, who were already setting up for their drives. The fairway was backed against a thick stand of woods that extended out to the edge of the course itself, and Squall eyed them uneasily, not trusting Laguna's assurance that no monsters roamed the course.
Laguna's security detail was with them of course, but at a discreet distance, which Squall appreciated. It got irritating sometimes, having to deal with his father's entourage. Necessary of course, due to his position as president, but irritating nonetheless. Fortunately, they were all very competent at their jobs, as well as easy to get along with (and just when that had become a concern for Squall, he didn't know). It didn't hurt that they respected Squall as one of their own, owing to the number of times that he'd saved his father's life.
Indeed, the head of the detail himself had said that if Squall ever decided to quit SeeD and take a private sector job, they'd be happy to have him. Of course, there'd be little point to that if the upcoming vote went the way that Laguna hoped it would. If it did, he'd be out of office in two years, and Squall didn't have any plans of quitting SeeD any time soon anyway.
Squall stood off to the side watching as Kiros, and then Ward did their drives, when he heard something making its way through the nearby forest. He slowly, casually, edged closer to the trees, listening hard as Laguna set his ball on the tee and drove it. And cursed pungently as it sliced badly into the woods several hundred meters down the fairway.
Then it was Squall's turn to drive and he returned to the group to take his shot. It sailed through the air much as the others had done, landing upon the green and rolling to just a club's length away from the flag. Squall nodded in satisfaction.
He was getting the hang of the game quite handily, and rather liked the driving part. It was very satisfying to watch the ball flying through the air as far as Squall could hit it. The putting was a bit of a pain though. He still thought the whole activity rather pointless and somewhat boring…but the walk was nice.
They all moved off down the grassy sward and Squall followed them, keeping a wary eye on the forest as he did. It might simply have been a rabbit or a squirrel; there were more than enough trees to harbor a few. But it didn't hurt to be cautious.
They came to Kiros and Ward's balls, and waited as they played them, then Laguna ruefully walked off the course and into the thick woods with Squall following close behind.
"Was that intended?" Squall asked as they made their way through the thick underbrush, looking for Laguna's ball.
Laguna snorted, "No. That was a big, fat mistake. I think my grip slipped, to be honest."
"What happens if you don't find your ball?" Squall asked him.
"I take a drop back onto the fairway with a two stroke penalty. Basically, I get another ball but I pay for it." Laguna told him.
"You may want to just go ahead and do that, because I don't think you're going to find it in this brush." Squall said.
Laguna frowned, scanning the ground intently, "it's got to be in here somewhere…"
"Dad, we're halfway to the fence and I know it didn't go in this far." Squall said reasonably, looking around and seeing the fence from where they stood.
Then he frowned, walking toward it a few steps to get a better look at it. A whole section of it was down, the supports flattened as though something large had rolled over it. Walking over to the fence, he knelt down, finding a set of tracks that he really didn't want to see. Icy thrills traced down his spine as he stood and looked wildly around, wondering how old those tracks were and where the creature that had made them was.
Squall hurried back to where Laguna was still poking through the brush, frowning, and grabbed him unceremoniously by the shoulder, literally dragging him along with him.
"Take the drop dad. We need to get out of here. Now." Squall said urgently.
"What are you talking about Squall? I'm sure we'll find it…" Laguna protested.
"Not before something else finds us first." Squall said, still urging Laguna toward the fairway and his waiting security detail. He knew Laguna's men were more than adequately equipped to deal with pretty much anything, and he wanted to get out of the brush where he could maneuver better.
"What do you mean Squall?" Laguna asked, frowning worriedly.
" An entire ten meter section of the perimeter fence is down and I saw behemoth tracks leading from it. I have no idea how old they are or where the thing is, but it's definitely in here, somewhere, so I strongly suggest we get our asses out of here as soon as possible." Squall said, releasing his grip on Laguna so he could pull out his gunblade.
"Oh, shit!" Laguna said, eyes wide, and pulled his machine gun off his shoulder, thumbing the safety off and cocking it.
They were just meters from the edge of the forest when they suddenly heard a deafening roar and crashing underbrush.
Shit. "Dad? I think we'd better run." Squall said, increasing his pace.
"Squall, if it's a behemoth then running won't work. It'll just chase us down, and I know neither of us can outrun a behemoth." Laguna said.
"Okay, then you run and I'll hold it off." Squall said, stopping and taking a ready stance, facing the direction he'd heard the monster approaching from.
"Not a chance." Laguna said firmly, standing shoulder to shoulder with Squall. Squall gave him an exasperated look but remained silent.
The crashing and the roaring got louder, and Squall tightened his grip on Lionheart, glancing over at Laguna who calmly held his machine gun pointed toward the noise. Then he quietly cast a protect spell on Laguna.
That was all he had time to do as the monster burst through a wall of thick brush and charged at them. Squall immediately dodged to the side and flung a blind spell at it, hoping that would slow it down. Laguna meanwhile unloaded his machine gun on the monster, hitting it several times. The creature bellowed in pain and stumbled, then whirled with frightening speed and came at them again.
"We need to get out of the woods dad! There's no room to move here!" Squall shouted, dodging the creature's second charge and slashing it several times with his gunblade, wounding it further.
"Right!" Laguna said, backing toward the edge of the woods while shooting at the monster.
Squall paused to call his GF, Shiva, to finish off the monster. He thought they'd weakened it enough that she'd be able to take care of it handily, and he was right. The monster fell with a cry and did not rise again.
Laguna sighed with relief, "Good job son! Whew! That was fun, eh?"
Squall shook his head and chuckled, "You're insane. But yeah, it was fun." More crashes and more roars prompted Squall to tell Laguna, "I don't think the fun's over yet. Dad? This time, I really think we should run."
Checking the chamber of his machine gun and finding it empty, Laguna slung it over his shoulder with a quiet curse and said, "I think you're right."
They both turned and bolted for the fairway, and were nearly there when Laguna tripped over something and went sprawling. Squall skidded to a stop with a quiet curse and summoned Shiva again as the monsters…two of them this time, charged.
"Dad? Are you okay?" Squall flung back over his shoulder as Laguna climbed to his feet.
"Yeah. Hey! I found my nine iron! Oh, and there's my ball too! Great!" Laguna exclaimed, picking both up and pocketing the ball while slinging the club over his shoulder.
"That's nice dad, now can you concentrate on getting your ass out of here?" Squall said, dodging the charging behemoths.
"But Squall..." Laguna protested, unwilling to leave his son behind to fight the monsters alone.
"RUN Goddammit! I'll be right behind you!" Squall yelled. Not having any other choice, Laguna did as Squall had told him.
Glancing back quickly when he heard Laguna crashing through the brush, Squall was satisfied when he saw his father's departing back. He quickly cast blind at one of the charging monsters, causing it to miss him when he stepped out of its way, and slashed at the second, beating it back for several strides. Then he summoned Shiva again, knocking one of the monsters out and weakening the other enough that Squall could finally make his escape.
Then he took to his heels and ran for all he was worth out of the forest and onto the green grass of the fairway. The blinded monster however, still intent upon having Squall for lunch, chased after him, its ears and nose making up for its current lack of vision and keeping it unerringly on Squall's heels.
He could feel its hot breath on his neck and knew it would have him in moments if it came down to a straight footrace. Squall was a good runner, and was very fast if junctioned with the right GF, but even junctioned he couldn't outrun a behemoth. Not in the stupid golfing shoes he was wearing at any rate.
So instead, he flung himself to the side in a diving roll, using his momentum to regain his feet and bring his gunblade up to guard. The monster, larger, heavier, and blind, was slower to correct its course and galloped on for a few strides before finally skidding to a stop and whirling to home in on Squall once again.
This time however, it was in the open and Laguna's security force was more than ready for it. Several shots rang out as it charged again, and Squall simply waited for it, gunblade ready. Just before it hit him, Squall stepped out of the way again and slashed it across the face, then followed through and whirled as the monster did, bringing his gunblade up and down upon the creature's thick neck, biting deeply into the flesh and pulling the trigger on his gunblade at the same time. The beast fell dead at his feet instantly.
He flicked the monster's blood off of his gunblade and rested it on his shoulder, panting with exertion but feeling exhilarated and energized.
Laguna, followed by Ward and Kiros, ran up to him, exclaiming, "Squall! Are you all right son? You're a mess!"
Glancing down at the blood spattering his shirt (and considering it an improvement over the hideous fuchsia color), Squall reassured him, "I'm fine, a little winded but that's all."
Laguna sighed in relief, "Good. Look, I think we're going to have to call it a day. With the fence down like that, there's no telling what else may have gotten in, and we've already dealt with three behemoths."
"The size that gap was, it could have been an entire herd that got in, and Hyne only knows what else. Yeah, until they clear it up and fix the fence, nobody's going to be golfing here for awhile unless they're equipped with automatic weapons and plenty of ammo." Squall said, agreeing with Laguna.
"Hey, guys?" Kiros said urgently. When both looked up they heard the snap of a shutter as he took a picture of the two of them.
"I'm sorry, but I couldn't resist. That image was just priceless. I think it's going to appear on the cover of Estharian Golf Digest as the photo of the year." Kiros grinned at them.
Squall groaned and Laguna laughed, "Quick thinking Kiros. Send me a copy will ya?"
Then Squall chuckled and said, "Me too."
"Well, I don't know about you guys but I could do with a beer or two." Laguna declared, walking toward the golf cart that his security team had been driving around in.
"Beer? Dad, its not even noon yet." Squall protested.
"Besides that Laguna, you have a meeting with the budget committee after lunch." Kiros said.
Laguna groaned, "Damn. I forgot about that." Then he turned to Squall and asked, "How about you bring Rinoa and the babies by for dinner tonight? We'll have our beers then."
"All right." Squall said, getting into the golf cart with Laguna. As he did, he noticed the young assistant he had encountered earlier, passed out cold in one of the other golf carts.
Frowning, he asked Laguna, "What's the deal with your assistant?"
Laguna looked around, saw the girl and grimaced, "Oh. She's my new intern."
"How's she working out?" Squall asked curiously.
Laguna shrugged, "okay so far, but she does seem to be a little…I dunno, excitable?"
Kiros chuckled, "I did warn her that working for you wasn't a job for the faint of heart."
"Shut up Kiros." Laguna said mildly as he put the golf cart into gear. Squall exchanged an amused look with Kiros and they both laughed.
"So, how was your golfing adventure?" Rinoa asked, frowning at the blood spattered pink shirt Squall was inexplicably wearing.
"Its fuchsia Rin." Squall corrected her mentally, prompting her to laugh softly.
"It was okay." Squall shrugged noncommittally as he removed the offending shirt and replaced it with a clean white t-shirt.
"Okay? Am I to believe the bloodstains are part of the shirt's design then?" Rinoa asked.
Squall snorted, "Of course not. Some behemoths broke down the fence to the golf course and attacked us. Laguna and I took care of them."
Rinoa laughed at that, saying, "So you managed to have fun after all."
Squall shrugged, considering that, and said, "Yeah, I guess so. I still think it's a pointless pursuit. So far, it seems to me that the only point to the game is to wear the ugliest clothes ever created and smack a little white ball into a hole while carrying a huge bag full of clubs designed for that purpose through a park. Maybe I should suggest that they not fix the fence and add random monster attacks to the game. Might liven it up a bit."
Rinoa laughed harder, "I can see that too. Maybe they'll create a new sports show with you as the host and call it 'Squall's extreme golfing adventures' or something like that."
Squall's laughter echoed hers and he pulled her into his arms, saying, "Right. Golfing in Esthar, where the birdies fight back and a trek into the rough might just kill you."
"That reminds me of a saying about golf my father told me: A bad day golfing is better than a good day at work." Rinoa said.
Squall considered that, thinking about the paperwork he constantly had to shuffle along with the other less appealing aspects of his job and remembered that when his job got exciting it also got dangerous. A good day at work was dead boring. A bad one was potentially deadly. On second thought, a pointless walk through a park smacking little white balls around, with the potential of a satisfying monster attack to boot, actually was better than a good day at work.
"You know, I actually get that." Squall said.
"So, are you going to do it again?" Rinoa asked him.
"Yeah, I think I will. Be kind of cool to hit a birdie, whatever that is... or another behemoth." He grinned down at her when she poked him in the side and bent down and gave her a kiss.
"So what was your score anyway?" She asked him when they came up for air.
"I have no idea. But we killed three behemoths." He answered.
Rinoa laughed softly, "Well then, that should at least be par."
He laughed softly and kissed her again.
Author's Note: Inspiration for this story was provided by a slideshow I watched detailing some of the ugliest outfits ever worn on the PGA tour. Special consideration goes to John Daly, who is the all time worst dressed golfer EVER. Look up John Daly and Payne Stewart specifically if you want references to the outfits mentioned in this story. Yes. They really ARE that bad (the site is called the bleacher report dot com).