Author's Notes:  Well, here it is, my first Final Fantasy fanfic.  First off, I should explain something.  This is VERY IMPORTANT, so you know where I'm coming from.  I am well aware that Laguna Loire is Squall Leonhart's father (which I think is funny, as the phrase, "like father, like son," does not apply here in the slightest).  However, I have not played very far into the game—I'm still on the second disc—and I try to avoid spoilers unless I actively seek them out.  So, I don't know many details between Laguna and Squall, such as why Squall ended up in the orphanage if one of his parents is still alive, when and why Raine either died or gave Squall up for adoption, who Ellone is, and other things.  Needless to say, this fic is most likely going to have a lot of inconsistencies with the game.  Ignore that.  I'd rather you enjoyed it for the story itself, and not how it measures up to the game, thank you very much.  If you wish to correct me on something(s), I ask you to PLEASE READ THE NOTE at the end of the fic.  If you don't (or even if you do) and you do what it asks you not to do, I will be very upset, and most likely will let you know rather irately.  Believe me, I value being polite, but not if someone does something I specifically warn them against.  I can be very mean if the mood seizes me.

Final Fantasy VIII and the characters herein do not belong to me, but to their respective copyright holders.  Don't think I wouldn't jump at the chance to make them my own if I saw it.

Hidden Feelings, Hidden Fears

By Annie-chan

Chapter One:  Run-in

Squall Leonhart still couldn't believe he had been suckered into this.  Trust Selphie Tilmitt and Zell Dincht to set him up like this.  He was willing to bet money they had done this on purpose.

He wished for what had to be the hundredth time in the last hour alone—and who knows how many times he had wished it since they got here—that he hadn't come here, that he hadn't been so oblivious to what the feisty martial artist and bouncy Festival Committee chairwoman had gotten him into.  If only he hadn't responded so quickly, if only he had thought it through for at least one second…

He kept his eyes on the pavement in front of him as he walked through the back streets of Esthar.  He hadn't come here on purpose.  Three days ago, Selphie had come to him back at Balamb Garden, saying that she and Zell had accepted a mission together, and they were looking for a third person.  Irvine Kinneas was her first choice, she had said, but he had already scheduled a return to his old Garden in Galbadia to be a guest speaker in a sniper class, so wasn't available the day the mission was supposed to start.  In any case, Selphie wanted to know if Squall wanted to join them.  He hadn't been out on a field mission in quite some time, being SeeD Commander, and she thought he might like to get out some.

Squall had been considering taking at least a small break from his duties as SeeD Commander.  Quistis Trepe had recently told him he looked like he needed to get away from his work for a while, after all, and it didn't sound like a bad idea.  He had agreed to Selphie's offer, and had soon after called Quistis and asked if she could take his place while he was gone, which shouldn't be for too long.  However, being preoccupied with reading a rather incomprehensible letter from a potential client explaining their need for SeeDs to act as guards at a public event that was being planned, he had neglected to ask where they were going and why.

Man, did he ever regret that.

He hadn't discovered they were going to Esthar until he had finally gotten it into his head to ask about the mission as they waited for the Ragnarok to warm up (Selphie had insisted they take it, as she had mentioned they had a ways to go).  He had immediately raised his hackles when Selphie told him they were going to one of the places he least wanted to find himself, but there was no deterring the flip-haired girl.  She had literally grabbed his sleeve and tried to drag him on the airship, though not without a fair amount of protest from Squall.  Selphie couldn't handle him herself, as he was substantially bigger and stronger than her, but Zell suddenly decided to lend a hand, much to Squall's dismay and mortification.  Squall had never liked being picked up completely off the ground, and felt about ready to kill and to die when Zell did just that.  The fact that Zell's compact frame held almost unnerving strength, and could no doubt pick up anyone under six feet tall with little difficulty, did nothing to cushion Squall's embarrassment.

Squall had spent the entire trip there and two-day-long mission—which had been to guard some rich guy's mansion while he held a "priceless family heirloom that drew thieves like mice to cheese" for his daughter for a few days before she came from another city to pick it up after receiving it in the will of her recently deceased aunt—relapsing into his former, ice-cold self, especially when dealing with his "teammates."  Since the Second Sorceress War, Squall had been a more sociable person, though still rather reserved, but he had taken his old attitude back since this rather unwelcome surprise.  Zell and Selphie seemed to ignore this, as if they knew the exact reason for Squall's return to his old self.  This annoyed Squall to no end.

"Teammates", huh? Squall thought testily.  "Backstabbers" is more like it.

He knew that the chances of running into President Laguna Loire—the man Squall had only reluctantly acknowledged as his father—were quite slim.  After all, it was a big city, and he and Laguna were only two men among hundreds of thousands.  Besides, a president would not just be strolling down the street.  He'd have some kind of accompaniment, whether he wanted it or not.  Squall would most likely see it coming.

Even so, Squall found himself rubbernecking every step of the way.  Almost every man seemed to look like Laguna out of the corner of his eyes.  Every man about his height, every man with dark hair, every man with pale skin, every man with a laughing tone to his voice…it was going to drive him loony, he was sure.

It wasn't that he was scared of his father.  Hyne forbid.  No, it's just that he didn't want to run into him at all.

Yeah, that's it, Squall told himself.  He'd probably embarrass the hell out of me if we did meet.  It's not like he's conscious that other people are around.

He was at the moment walking toward a library near the hotel he, Zell, and Selphie were staying at.  He wanted to be alone, and with Selphie's hyperactive demeanor and Zell's near-constant shadowboxing and whatnot, the hotel room was not a good place.

When he got there, he found himself looking up.  The library was huge.  It was three stories tall, and was at least as long as a quarter of the block.  He had never seen a library so big.  He was willing to bet there were thousands of books in there, some probably generations old.

He walked inside and found his musings correct.  It was very quiet, save for the scuffling of feet and the tapping of keys coming from a corner with several computers in it.  Along the walls and in several rows out on the floor were bookshelves upon bookshelves, each packed with books of all shapes, sizes, and ages.  This was only the ground floor, too.  He could only guess about the other two floors until he got up there.

Squall walked up to the directory near the front door and scanned over it.  His gaze landed on the section labeled "Historical Novels".  He had always found those interesting, as long as they weren't too far-fetched and belonged in the fantasy section more than the historical novels section.  He might as well browse for one he could check out, as he hadn't read one in a while.  He could always return it by mail.

He went over to the staircase at the back of the room and climbed up to the second floor, as the section was noted to be on "2F".

The second floor was basically more books and no computers.  There was bound to be a reading area somewhere, but Squall didn't notice right off.  He'd look for it later if he decided to stay for a time.  He quickly scanned the section labels on the ends of the bookshelves until he came to "Historical Novels".  It was four five-tiered bookcases big, front and back, and historical encyclopedias and dictionaries lined the top of the bookcases.  In one look, Squall saw books that had to be brand-new as well as books that looked like they could have been considered brand-new a century ago.  He found himself wishing Balamb had a library this extensive.  He'd read more, probably, if he had a better selection.  Garden's library wasn't that bad, but much of it was reference and study materials, leaving a relatively small choice in the fiction department.

There were, of course, ladders on each side of each bookshelf for reaching the books on top, as well as for assisting shorter people with getting the higher-up books.  On the ladder on the first side of the first bookshelf Squall came to in the section stood a man, apparently perusing a set of historical encyclopedias on the top of the bookshelf.  Squall paid him no mind and randomly picked out a book, searching for one that may interest him.

After about two minutes of reading the back and flipping through the pages, Squall decided that particular book taking place in an early warrior society looked like hackwork.  He had barely put it back on the shelf when his ears perked up at the sound of the voice of the man on the ladder.

"Whoa…!" the man exclaimed in surprise.  Apparently, the encyclopedia volume he had pulled off the shelf was heavier than anticipated, and had dropped his arm as soon as its weight left the shelf.  The man had managed to keep a hold of it, but had been thrown off-balance, and was doubtlessly going to tumble to the hardwood floor.

Reflexively, Squall jumped the five paces between them in a single stride, and caught the man just as he was about to hit.  The large book he was holding hit the floor with a loud thud, followed quickly by the lighter sound of the soles of the man's shoes smacking soundly into the floorboards.  His torso had been saved from being bashed against the floor, though his feet had hit.  He was now being held partially up by Squall as if he had keeled over backwards while standing on the floor with Squall behind him.

"Are you all right…!" Squall asked as he looked down at the man, his voice cutting off completely as he realized who he had caught.  He could only see the man's hair, none of his face, but he knew immediately who it was.

"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks," Laguna Loire said, pulling himself into a standing position.  He turned around to face the young man who had saved him from being sore for a week and froze just as quickly as Squall had.

DamnitdamnitdamnitdamnitDAMNIT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Squall's mind was screaming as he looked into his father's face.  Running suddenly seemed like a very attractive reaction, but he didn't want to embarrass himself, plus he'd probably be reprimanded for running in the library by the staff.

"Squall," Laguna said, his voice soft.  He was not looking directly at his son, his eyes falling instead on what looked like just beyond his elbow.  "I never expected to find you here.  I didn't even know you were in Esthar."

"Just finished a mission," Squall said, almost stiffly.

Laguna seemed to either ignore or miss the slightly forced tone in Squall's voice.  "So," he said, just as quietly, "you like historical novels?  If you're having trouble finding one, you should read this one."  He turned to the shelf, scanned the spines for half a second, pulled out a medium-sized book, and handed it to Squall.  "It's about several fictional people involved in the escalation of the Northern War five centuries ago.  It's got a very detailed story, and it seems pretty realistic, according to my limited knowledge of the era."

Squall took the book from his father, glancing up into Laguna's eyes for a fraction of a second.  He turned his attention to the novel in his hand.  It was titled Once Upon a September Evening.  Apparently, an important part of the novel took place on an evening in September, if the title told anything about the story.  He scanned the back and flipped through the pages.  Yes, it looked like it might be good to read.  He looked back up to Laguna, who had picked up the encyclopedia off the floor, and was watching his son's reaction to the book.  "Thanks," Squall said.

"No problem," Laguna replied.  "I liked the book a lot, so I thought you might like it, too."

"Mm," Squall muttered.

Laguna turned away from Squall, though was still looking over his shoulder at him.  "Come on over here.  There's a nice little reading nook next to the north wall."

Squall hesitated.  He would really rather exit the library than sit in a reading nook with his father.  But, something stopped him from his desired retreat.  He didn't know if it was the faint pleading look in his father's eyes or what, but he found himself nodding and following Laguna to the north wall.

"Where are Seagill and Zabac?" Squall asked.  "Aren't they with you?"

"Nah," Laguna shook his head.  "Kiros and Ward are taking a rest at home.  They've been stressed out lately because of some consecutive bad days."

"Then, what are you doing here?" Squall asked.  "Don't you have your presidential duties?  And, doesn't the president always have some kind of escort?  I mean, in case someone wants to attack you for one reason or another."

"Nope," Laguna almost grinned.  "Well, usually, I do.  Policy and all.  But, every once in a while, like today, I manage to sneak out to be by myself.  Not sneak in the normal sense, but just maneuver my way around things so I don't have some secret service guys following me everywhere."

"That can be dangerous," Squall warned, then wondered why he was warning Laguna about this.  The President of Esthar probably got that told to him every time he went out.

"Yeah, yeah, I know, I know," Laguna said, waving his hand absently.  "But, I like to be away from all that sometimes.  Besides, what's life without a little risk, huh?"

Squall shrugged minutely.  Laguna was right.  He wouldn't like people tailing him everywhere just to keep him "safe".  Besides, if a sniper wanted to shoot Laguna from a rooftop or something, Squall doubted having guards walking along behind him would make any difference.

They conversed a while, mostly Laguna speaking and Squall listening.  It had been full daylight when Squall entered the library, but now the sun was just starting to touch the horizon.

"Come back with me," Laguna suddenly said, breaking a short silence that had fallen between them.

"Excuse me?!" Squall exclaimed, though it came out sounding more shocked than he meant it to.

"Come back with me," Laguna repeated, looking straight into Squall's startled gray eyes.  "I'd…I'd like you to stay with me for a few days."

"I…" Squall managed, fumbling for the right words.  He wasn't happy with the fact that Laguna was his father, but he didn't want to intentionally hurt Laguna's feelings.  Squall could be cold, but he wasn't cruel.  "I…I can't.  I have my SeeD duties."

Hurt flashed through soft blue eyes, but was quickly replaced with tenacity.  "Oh, don't be so responsible.  You look like you need a rest.  I'll bet you haven't taken a real break in months.  What did you do for your birthday last month, huh?  Nothing special, I suppose.  You should stay here for a few days to refresh your system."

Squall floundered for a moment.  His father was right.  He hadn't taken a real break in months.  Still, he turned his eyes away and spoke softly.  "A SeeD Commander should put his duties above his own wants."

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Laguna's shoulders drop and his head bow forward slightly.  "Squall…my son…I want you to stay with me for a few days, that's all.  Just…just do this because I'd like you to…please…?  Just give me this one request?  I…I want you near me for a while, at least.  I need to know you don't hate me."

Squall turned back to his father, and looked into his face again.  "And?  What if I do hate you?  I certainly wouldn't stay with you if I did."  He kept his voice perfectly flat.

Laguna blinked rapidly a few times, his eyes stinging.  "There's nothing I can do, then," he almost whispered, his voice sounding painfully tight.  He looked straight into Squall's eyes.  "But, you wouldn't have spent the last hour here with me if you hated me, though, am I right?"

Squall mentally hit his fist on the coffee table in front of him.  Damn it.  Laguna had called his bluff.  Not that it was very hard, but still…

Laguna scratched the back of his neck.  "We could go to that new weapons museum downtown tomorrow.  They have a big section dedicated to the history and development of gunblades.  I know how you love those things."

Squall's fancy was suddenly piqued.  Yes, he did love the gunblade.  It was the sole reason he picked it as his weapon of choice.  He didn't pick it for ease of handling, that's for sure.  It took him years just to find his own style.

"Well…" Squall began.  Wait a second! the voice in the back of his head suddenly screamed.  "…I guess…"  No, stop!  "…it wouldn't hurt…"  Hold it!  "…to stay for a few days."  YOU IDIOT!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laguna's head popped up.  "Really?!  Oh, thank you, Squall!  You don't know what this means to me!"

"…………" Squall replied.  He couldn't ignore the voice in the back of his head berating him for being such a pushover just because his father mentioned an exhibit on gunblades.  Oh, shut up, he ordered it.  It's only for a few days.  It's not as if I'll manage to screw myself over somehow.

Keep your fingers crossed, the voice said, clearly not happy that cold-and-distant Squall was suddenly accepting his idiot father's invitation to stay a few days.


Zell got up from sitting on his bed in the hotel room, put the magazine he was reading down, and went to the door to answer a polite but firm knock.  A messenger was on the other side, who delivered a small note to him, tipped his hat, and left.

The note said "Zell and Selphie" on the outside in Squall's handwriting.  He unfolded the small piece of paper and read an equally small note.

"Zell and Selphie,

"I met up with my father, and am staying a few days.  Take the Ragnarok back to Garden tomorrow as we originally planned.  Tell Quistis I'll be a few days longer.  I'll take public transportation back.


"Hey, Selphie!" Zell called to his diminutive partner, who was drying her hair in the bathroom after washing it in the sink.  "Your plan worked!"

"What?!  Really?!?!" an ecstatic voice practically shouted a split second before she came bursting through the bathroom door, a towel still draped over her tousled and damp hair.  She snatched the note from him, read it, and squealed.  "It worked! It worked!  It was a one-in-a-million shot, but it worked!  Yes, yes, yes!"

She threw her arms around Zell, squeezing him so tightly he felt like his ribs would break.  When she let him go, he staggered, grabbing hold of the bedpost to keep his balance, gasping for breath.  For such a small girl, she had a death-grip to rival most professional wrestlers, he was sure.

To be continued…

Author's Notes:  Well, there's chapter one.  This may be a two-parter or three-parter…I haven't decided.  Now, here's the note I mentioned at the beginning:  if you wish to correct me on something I got wrong due to my limited knowledge of this subject, please don't.  If you do, you're bound to give me some kind of spoiler, and I don't like spoilers unless I'm actively seeking them out.  Getting them in an email or a fic review is not actively seeking them out.  If you give me a spoiler, expect a rather pissed-off email right back.  So, now that I've said that, I should say something else:  please tell me how you like this!  I'll even accept criticism as long as it's not mean (in other words, make it constructive, not destructive)!  Let me know either in a review or at, onegai shimasu!