Retribution Part 5

Epilogue #1 Six months later…

“Okay, Seifer,” Squall asked, as Seifer and him, along with three Garden security guards, made their way into the training centre. “You said you wanted to show me something. What is it?” Seifer simply smiled, and continued walking through the training centre’s artificial foliage.

“You’ll see soon enough,” Seifer said, with a smirk. “I’ve been working on this ever since my leg fully healed.”

“Well,” Squall replied, “need I remind you that my wife could go into labour at any time, so whatever it is, it had better be good. Not to mention brief.”

“Don’t worry, it won’t take a second,” Seifer said, “once I find a frigging T-Rexaur, that is…” As if on cue, the two gunblade-wielding men heard a loud roar behind them, and they immediately turned to face the giant lizard that had made the noise. The T-Rexaur was over twenty feet tall, and gave Squall a slight feeling of apprehension.

“Er, Seifer,” Squall started, “are you sure about this?” Seifer simply grinned.

“Piece of cake,” he replied. While Squall unsheathed his gunblade, ready to attack the monster, Seifer simply stood stock-still, arms folded, his weapon still holstered on his back.

“What are you doing, man?” Squall asked, as Seifer remained motionless. Squall was about to scan Seifer to check whether or not he’d been petrified, when, suddenly, Seifer sprang into action, casting an Aura spell on himself. Squall stepped back, in anticipation of what Seifer was about to do next.

With his adrenaline levels flying high due to the Aura spell, Seifer sank to his knees, and, with both hands, gripped the handle of his gunblade. Then, with a primal roar, Seifer unsheathed his gunblade, and, in a move that came as a complete surprise to Squall, pulled the weapon apart lengthways. What the young commander had assumed to be one weapon was, in fact, two thinner, lighter weapons. Seifer and the T-Rexaur stared at each other for a few brief moments, before Seifer pounced, hacking and slashing at the lizard with both weapons, and moving far too fast for the giant beast to retaliate. Eventually, Seifer leapt high into the air, and drove his weapons deep into the T-Rexaur’s side, pulling the gunblades’ triggers as he did. With it’s life force spent, the lizard simply let out a final, weak roar, and slumped down onto its side, dead. Grinning smugly, Seifer walked over to the beast and retrieved his weapons, before turning to a gob smacked Squall.

“Well?” Seifer asked, smiling. “How’d you like that?”

“Holy crap, Seifer,” Squall replied, walking slowly toward his friend, “how long did you spend cooking that one up? And where’d you get those weapons?”

“I had the idea while I was in prison,” Seifer replied, attaching his weapons to each other and re-holstering them. “And the new blades? I designed those too, but it was the Garden’s forge that actually had them built. Jealous?”

“I think I’ll stick with my limit break, thank you,” Squall said, turning around and heading out of the training centre. “Now if you don’t mind, my wife needs me.” Seifer simply shrugged.

“My business here is done,” he conceded, as he followed Squall out of the artificial jungle.

Meanwhile, Rinoa laid awake in her bed in hers and Squall’s new house, which was located in the recently constructed Goldenrod village, four miles south of Balamb Garden. The Garden committee built Goldenrod village when it was realised that many of the SeeDs were rapidly growing up, and would soon have families of their own. Squall and Rinoa were the first, but it was almost certain that they wouldn’t be the last.

Rinoa had been bedridden for almost a month, due to her pregnancy. The bullet wound she sustained in her knee had healed fully, but still it often caused her a lot of pain, especially when she was carrying extra weight, such as two unborn babies. Eventually, Dr Kadowaki had ordered that she limit her movement, at least until the babies were born, and Rinoa had agreed. Dr Kadowaki had originally planned for Rinoa to spend the rest of her pregnancy in the infirmary, but Rinoa had insisted on staying at her home. This meant that she needed someone to help her out around the home, when Squall wasn’t there, but fortunately for her, she didn’t have to look far.

“Hi!” Ellone enthusiastically said, popping her head around Rinoa’s door. “Is there anything I can get you, at all?” Ellone had been only too happy to help out when she learned of Rinoa’s plight, so she quickly moved in with her brother and sister-in-law, and was acting as a cross between a maid and a nurse to Rinoa. The pregnant woman, hearing her sister-in-law’s request, opened her eyes, and smiled.

“Yeah,” she replied, “I need the loo again.” Ellone simply smiled, suppressing the urge to giggle.

“Again? That must be the sixth time today, and it’s not even two yet!” She went over to the bedridden woman, and helped her to stand up.

“Yeah,” Rinoa answered, “well you try carrying two babies at the same time. It ain’t exactly a walk in the park, believe me.” Rinoa then put her hand on Ellone’s shoulder and slowly started to stand up. Once she was upright, however, a sudden pain gripped her in her pelvic region.

“Ow!” Rinoa said, her legs buckling slightly under the unexpected pain.

“What is it?” Ellone asked, taking Rinoa’s hand and helping her back to her feet. “What’s up?”

“I-I think,” Rinoa said, between gasped breaths, “I think I just had a contraction!” Ellone simply gasped.

“Are you sure?” She asked, excitedly. Just then, however, Rinoa grimaced again, her legs also buckling. To relieve the pain, Rinoa clenched her hands into fists- including the hand that was holding Ellone’s. Grimacing herself, Ellone wiggled her fingers free of Rinoa’s vice-like grip.

“Yeah,” Ellone said, cradling her hand, “you’re sure.”

“I want Squall,” Rinoa said, as she tried to walk to the door. “Get Squall!”

“Okay!” Ellone shouted back, panicking slightly. She ran toward the telephone, and dialled the number for Squall’s mobile phone. It rang several times, before he finally answered.

“Hello?” Squall’s voice asked in a neutral tone.

“Squally?” Ellone squeaked, barely able to contain her excitement. “You gotta get here quick! Rinoa’a gone into labour!” There was a brief pause, before Squall’s voice was heard again.

“Holy shit!” He shouted, also starting to panic slightly. “Okay, um, don’t let her leave the house. I’ll grab Dr. Kadowaki and I’ll be there as soon as possible!”

“Right!” Ellone shouted, turning round just in time to see Rinoa put on her coat and open the front door of the house.

“Hey!” Ellone shouted. “Where d’you think you’re going?”

“Where d’you think I’m going?” An irritable Rinoa yelled back. “I’m going to the infirmary!”

“Oh no you’re not,” Ellone said, grabbing Rinoa by the arms and taking her into the lounge, where she sat her on the floor. “Squally told me to keep you here, and that’s what I’m gonna do. Now just wait right there, I’m gonna get some towels and some hot water, okay?” Conceding defeat, Rinoa nodded, as Ellone ran off in the direction of the bathroom.

Meanwhile, Squall was racing down the highway on his motorbike, with Dr. Kadowaki sat on the pillion, clinging onto Squall with one arm, and onto her medical bag with another.

“Are you sure we couldn’t have just taken a car?” The medic yelled, fearing for her life.

“Faster this way,” Squall yelled back, pulling the throttle on his bike a little harder. Dr. Kadowaki ducked her head down, for fear that she might get blown off the back of the motorbike, such was the speed that Squall was travelling at.

In Squall and Rinoa’s lounge, a red-faced Rinoa was laid down on the towels that Ellone had retrieved from the bathroom, and was breathing heavily.

“It’s okay, Rinn,” Ellone said, barely able to disguise the panic in her voice. “Squally will be here with the doctor any second! You mark my words!” Ellone then had to suppress a grimace, as Rinoa grabbed her arm and squeezed it, trying to endure the pain of yet another contraction. The contractions were starting to come at very short intervals, and Rinoa was in almost constant pain. She squeezed Ellone’s arm again, as another contraction gripped her, but as she did so, she heard the front door of her house opening, and sighed with relief as she heard the welcome voice of Dr. Kadowaki.

“I’m here, Rinoa,” the doctor said, kneeling on the floor in front of the pregnant woman. “How far apart are the contractions?”

“There’s no time between them,” Rinoa answered. “Where’s Squall?” As if by magic, Squall suddenly appeared beside her, kneeling down and taking her hand in his.

“I’m here, Angel,” he said, giving her hand a little squeeze. Rinoa then returned the favour, squeezing Squall’s hand as hard as she could, as she was gripped by another contraction. Squall grimaced- he never knew that Rinoa was capable of a grip that tight.

“I’m going to give you an injection,” Dr. Kadowaki said, “that will numb the pain somewhat. Rinoa, listen to me. When you feel a contraction, I want you to push, no matter how much it hurts, you have to push. If you do this, we’ll get those babies born in no time. Okay?” Rinoa nodded, as the doctor pushed a hypodermic into her arm, and depressed the plunger. Almost instantly, the pain in Rinoa’s pelvis started to subside, but it was just a few seconds before it was back, and the young woman grimaced as the pain grabbed her.

“Push!” Dr. Kadowaki ordered. Rinoa yelled, using her hips to push with all the force she could muster. Once she had finished pushing, Rinoa laid back down on the towels, already exhausted. However, she was quickly gripped by yet another contraction.

“Push!” The doctor again ordered, this time, more authoritatively. Rinoa again complied, pushing with all her might, but to no avail. The contractions continued for almost an hour, until, eventually, Rinoa felt something in her groin start to give. As each contraction came, Rinoa pushed a little bit more, until, eventually, the pain in her groin gave way completely, subsiding to just a dull ache. Rinoa gave one final push, and, along with her husband and her sister-in-law, looked between her legs, at the newborn infant that was laid, squirming, on the towels.

“I’m cutting the umbilical cord now,” Dr. Kadowaki said, as she cut the said cord, and gave the baby a gentle slap on the backside. Instantaneously, the baby’s chest expanded, and it started crying. The doctor wrapped the infant up in an unused towel, and handed it to the proud mother, who was grinning due a combination of the painkillers she had taken, and awe at the new life that had just begun.

“Congratulations,” she said. “You have a perfectly healthy son.” Rinoa and Squall stared down into their offspring’s face- it looked just like any other baby, with a bald head and chubby cheeks, but to his parents, he was the most beautiful thing in the world.

“Hiya, Squall junior,” Rinoa said quietly to the baby. “I’m your mommy!”

“I don’t mean to interrupt you,” the doctor said, “but we have another baby in there that wants to join her brother.” Rinoa nodded, and handed the baby to Squall. Almost instinctively, the baby reached up toward his father’s face, smiling.

“Hello there, champ,” Squall said, smiling. “Do you know who I am? I’m your daddy!” The baby gurgled, and, despite himself, Squall giggled. He sat down on the sofa with his new son, as Dr. Kadowaki gave Rinoa another injection.

“Are you ready?” The doctor asked the still-pregnant woman. Rinoa nodded, as she felt another contraction start to take hold of her. She laid down on the towels again, ready to go through the process of childbirth once more.

Rinoa may have known what was going to happen in the second birth, but that didn’t stop it from hurting as much as it had done before. After just forty-five minutes, though, Rinoa gave the final push for a second time, and after Dr. Kadowaki cut the umbilical cord, another set of lungs were heard taking their first breaths. Rinoa, her energy all but spent, collapsed down onto the towels, the sweat dripping off her forehead.

“Here’s your daughter,” Dr. Kadowaki said, handing the crying infant to Rinoa, who sat up again, cradling the baby girl in her arms.

“Hi, little Julia Raine,” Rinoa said. Ellone, upon hearing the baby’s name, had to blink back tears.

“You called her Raine,” she said, her voice breaking slightly.

“Yeah,” Squall said, sitting down on the towel, with his namesake still in his arms. “We thought we should name her after both of her grandmothers.” Ellone sat down on the towels too, and gave her brother a quick hug.

“You can be really thoughtful when you want to be,” Ellone said, kissing Squall on the cheek.

“Well,” Dr. Kadowaki said, standing up, “my work here is done. We should get mother and children to the infirmary as quick as we can. For observation, of course.”

“Just a minute,” Squall said, reaching into his pocket. “There is one more thing you can do for us.”

“What’s that, Squall?” Dr. Kadowaki asked. In response, Squall produced a camera from his pocket, and handed it to the medic.

“The first family portrait,” he said. Dr. Kadowaki simply smiled, and kneeled down in front of the new family.

“Okay,” she said, “say ‘cheese’!” Dr. Kadowaki pushed the button, and the babies’ first photograph was taken there and then.

Rinoa and the babies were released from hospital a few days later, and they returned to their house in Goldenrod village, where the proud father was waiting for them, with a little surprise. As she stepped out of the car, Rinoa, along with the twins, was greeted by the sight of all of her friends.

“What’s this?” Rinoa asked, excitedly.

“I wanted a photo of everyone,” Squall stated. “So I invited everyone here. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Don’t mind?” Rinoa asked. “It’s perfect!” She scanned the throng of people who were there- all of her SeeD friends were present, including Seifer, as were the twins’ two grandfathers, Ward and Kiros, Cid and Edea, even Fujin and Raijin had showed up. In total, there were almost fifty people sitting or standing in front of the Leonhearts’ house. Rinoa took her seat in between Squall and Laguna, the latter of whom was smiling broadly at the sight of his new grandchildren.

“Say ‘hi’ to your granddad, kids!” Rinoa said, handing the two children to Laguna.

“Hiya, you two!” Laguna said to the twins, excitedly. “Over the next eighteen or so years, I am going to spoil you rotten!” The cameraman, whom Squall had hired specially for the photograph, then gestured that he was ready, so the grinning grandfather handed the twins back to their parents, who huddled in close to each other.

“This was such a sweet idea, Squall,” Rinoa whispered in her husband’s ear. “I only wish Zell could have been here.”

“I know,” Squall replied, “I do too. That’s why we gotta take this photo now- so that our memories never die.” Rinoa simply smiled.

“I love you, Squall,” she said.

“I love you too,” Squall replied, also smiling.

“Big smiles, folks!” The cameraman shouted unnecessarily, as everyone, even the usually stoic Fujin, already sported huge grins. The photograph was duly taken, and the smiles of the people gathered in that place and at that time were preserved forever.

Epilogue #2

4 months later…

The day began just as any other day did for Squall Leonheart. He awoke at half past six, ate breakfast, showered and dressed, leaving his house at half past seven, after having kissed his wife and children goodbye. Travelling to Balamb Garden on his motorbike, he arrived at eight o’clock, same as always, and went straight to his office to check his e-mails.

He usually stayed in his office until half past eleven, reviewing mission reports and assigning new missions to SeeDs, but, that day, he was interrupted at ten o’clock by a telephone call… that was just the start of what would turn out to be, by miles, the most nightmarish day of Squall’s life.

“Hello?” Squall asked, answering the telephone after the third ring.

“Squall?” Rinoa asked anxiously over the telephone line. Squall smiled- Rinoa hardly ever rang him at work, so when she did, it was a moment to enjoy.

“Hi, Angel,” Squall said, happily. “What’s up?”

“It’s Squall junior,” Rinoa responded, with the same tone of anxiety she had used when she spoke before. The anxiety finally got to Squall as well.

“What’s wrong?” Squall hastily asked. “Is he sick?”

“I-I think so,” Rinoa responded. “He won’t keep his food down, and he’s got a temperature. I was going to bring him to the infirmary, but I can’t find anyone to mind Jules. Can you pick him up and take him in?”

“Not a problem,” Squall replied, “I’m on my way right now. I love you.”

“I love you too,” Rinoa responded, ending the conversation the same way she and Squall ended every telephone conversation. Within a few minutes, Squall had explained the situation to Cid, and he was heading down the highway toward Goldenrod village, driving one of the Garden’s staff cars. Once he arrived, he wasted no time in picking up Squall junior, and soon enough, he was heading back up the highway, his son safely strapped into the back seat.

Squall was pushing his namesake toward the infirmary in a pram, when his nightmare began. He had just entered the corridor linking the medical facility to the main hub of the Garden when, suddenly, the doors on both ends of the corridor slammed shut, and locked themselves, trapping both father and child.

“What the hell?” Squall thought out loud. There was no circumstance that Squall could think of that would make doors automatically lock like that. He and his son were alone in the corridor, leaving the young commander with very little options. He reached into his pocket for his mobile phone, and had begun to dial the number of the Garden’s janitor, when his phone was unexpectedly shot out of his hands. Squall turned around to face the gunman, and found himself staring into the face of a man he thought to be long dead…

“Duncan?” Squall asked, incredulously. “You’re dead! You died ten months ago!” Chris simply smiled, and walked toward Squall, all the while keeping his handgun firmly pointed at the young commander’s heart.

“Not exactly,” Chris replied, as he approached Squall. “You thought I’d died, but you were wrong. You can’t kill me, Squall, not until my work is completed, anyway.” Chris walked forward until he was stood directly in front of the Garden commander. Grinning, evilly, he drove his handgun into Squall’s chest.

“So is this it, Duncan?” Squall asked, trying to out-psyche his adversary. “You’re just going to kill me in cold blood?”

“Hardly cold blood,” Chris responded, his temper worsening as Squall played his mind games. “I still haven’t forgotten the role you played in the death of my sister.”

“Duncan,” Squall said, in a softer tone of voice. “Chris, just think about this. Is murder really the answer? Is my death the only thing that will give you satisfaction?” With his gun still firmly pushed into Squall’s ribs, Chris pretended to mull Squall’s question over.

“Yes,” he finally answered, tensing his hand muscles. As he was about to pull the trigger, though, Squall acted quickly, and slapped the gun out of Chris’s hand, sending it skidding toward Squall junior’s pram. The infant, having woken up due to the sudden jolt, started crying, as Squall punched Chris in the jaw as hard as he could, before muscling him to the ground. The two men wrestled with each other for a brief while, before Chris managed to turn Squall around, and place him in a chokehold. Instinctively, Squall threw Chris over his shoulder, breaking the hold, but once he had done so, he realised that he’d made a possibly fatal error, as Chris landed inches from where the pram was parked. Easily grabbing the discarded handgun, Chris stood up, the weapon once again pointed at Squall’s heart.

“Nice try,” Chris said, with genuine admiration in his voice, “but you just keep on falling into my traps.” Chris was then aware of the crying infant to his right and, after thinking a thought of pure evil, altered his aim so that the gun was pointed squarely at the baby boy’s head.

“Are you feeling lucky, Squall?” Chris asked, grinning smugly. “One false move and junior here gets it.” Squall froze. No, Squall thought, no, not even he could be so evil…

“Don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m bluffing, Squall,” Chris said, tensing his hand muscles a little tighter.

“What do you want from me?” Squall asked, standing as perfectly still as he could.

“Good question,” Chris said, again pretending to think. “Piss yourself, Squall.” Squall blinked, and a scowl appeared on his face.

“What?” He asked, confused. Chris sighed.

“I said,” the gunman answered, “piss yourself. As in ‘empty your bladder in your pants’.”

“You’re joking.”

“Try me.” Chris re-checked his aim on the crying infant’s head. Squall, gulping, simply nodded. I’ve got no choice, he thought to himself, as his cheeks turned red. This is for my son’s life… A few seconds later, a wet patch appeared on the front of Squall’s trousers, and gradually spread outwards. Chris started laughing.

“What a pathetic baby,” Chris said, as Squall’s cheeks turned a deeper shade of red. “Wetting himself at the first sign of trouble! Maybe you’re the one who needs the diaper!”

“I did what you wanted,” Squall said, humiliated. “Now point the gun at me, not Squall junior.” Chris simply shook his head.

“I’m not done yet,” he said, looking around the corridor. “There’s no PA system in here… damn. Ah well, I’m sure I can think of something.” A few seconds later, another evil grin appeared on his face. “I want you to pull your hair out, Squall. Just a patch of it, mind you, it’s not like I’ve got all day.” Nodding, Squall grabbed a lock of his eight-inch long hair, and pulled it as hard as he could. He let out a small grimace as it came away from his head, and he dropped it to the ground.

“There,” Squall said, angrily. “I pissed myself. I pulled out my damned hair! Now point that gun away from my boy!” Chris simply shook his head. His anger getting the better of him, Squall inadvertently took a step toward the gunman. Without even blinking, Chris simply fired the gun into the pram, and Squall junior’s cries fell silent. In a state of absolute shock, Squall collapsed to his knees, his hands shaking uncontrollably. He didn’t just do that… he thought to himself. He couldn’t have just done that…

“Didn’t I warn you about that?” Chris asked, spitefully. “Now that’s one Squall Leonheart down.” Chris aimed the gun at Squall’s head. “Which leaves just one more to go.” Chris tensed the muscles in his hand, and was about to fire, when suddenly, the window on his left-hand side shattered, and Chris felt a bullet enter his right hand, which was holding the gun. Despite himself, the gunman let go of his weapon, and dropped to his knees, clutching his injured hand. Jumping through the window, Irvine, who had fired the shot that disarmed Chris, kicked the three-time murderer squarely in the jaw, and kept his shotgun trained firmly on Chris’s head.

“Master Kinneas,” Chris said, between gasped breaths, “nice to see you again.” Suddenly, he kicked Irvine’s legs out from underneath him, and retrieved his gun, aiming it at the cowboy with his left hand. “Too bad you didn’t take out my legs while you were at it.”

Irvine swiftly recovered from Chris’s sudden attack however, and aimed his rifle at his one-time protégé. The two gunmen found themselves in a deadlock, each one both pointing a gun, and having a gun pointed at them.

“Who’s gonna blink first, then?” Chris asked, his aim not wavering, not even slightly.

“You are,” Irvine said, confidently. Chris simply cocked his head at the cowboy, and sneered, but was surprised when, suddenly, his left hand was stung by the crack of a whip, sending his gun flying out of his hand. Chris turned around, and saw Quistis staring at him, brandishing her chain whip. She cracked it again, catching Chris on the left eye. Temporarily blinded, Chris bent over slightly, at which point he received a hard blow to the back of the neck, harder than any whip could ever produce. Temporarily paralysed from the blow, Chris fell to the ground in a slump.

“Booyaka!” Selphie shouted, as her shinobou attack put Chris firmly on the deck. “Let me ‘cuff him!” Pulling a pair of handcuffs out of a pocket, Selphie leaned down, and placed the handcuffs on Chris’s wrists, restraining his hands behind his back. Knowing that he had been defeated, Chris simply sighed, and laid his head on the ground. However, he smiled at the sight that greeted him.

Squall had not moved from his position, kneeling on the floor of the corridor, for the whole time that Irvine, Quistis and Selphie were fighting with Chris.

“Now you know, you little bastard,” Chris quietly said to the young commander. “Now you know.” Hearing Chris’s remark, the three SeeDs all turned around, and looked at their commander, who was gently rocking back and forth, and was as white as a sheet.

“Squall?” Selphie asked, quietly.

“Oh my god,” Irvine said, shocked, as he caught a glimpse of the contents of the pram. Cautiously, Selphie turned around, and looked for herself. Almost immediately, she turned away, and ran back to her husband, crying.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” the petite SeeD wailed, as she buried her head into Irvine’s chest. Quistis then looked into the pram, and almost vomited there and then.

“Squall,” Quistis said, quietly, kneeling down beside her distraught friend.

“How?” Squall asked, hoarsely. “How could he do that?”

“I don’t know, Squall,” Quistis replied, “I don’t know. But he’s in custody now, he can’t hurt any of us anymore.”

“But that won’t bring my boy back,” Squall wailed, tears falling uncontrollably from his eyes. Quistis held her friend’s head on her shoulder, comforting him, as Squall cried, and cried, and showed no sign of stopping.

In his quarters, Seifer, having finished his work for the day, was putting the final touches to his latest book.

“Yes,” Seifer thought out loud, as he read his manuscript, “Memoirs of a Free Prisoner looks like it’ll be my best one yet.” Seifer stood up, and walked across to his closet to fetch a folder to put his manuscript on, when he suddenly found himself breaking down in tears. Bending double, as if someone had kicked him in the stomach, Seifer dropped his manuscript to the floor.

“Wh-what’s happening?” Seifer asked himself, as he staggered to the bed and laid down on it. Suddenly, feelings of anguish and despair filled his head. Seifer knew that it meant one thing, and one thing only.

“Squall…” Seifer said, mournfully, “What happened?”

Later, Squall was sat in his office with Selphie and Quistis. His hands, still shaking, were clasped around a mug of hot, sweet tea. None of them had said a word ever since they reached Squall’s office. Instead, they sat around, silent, hoping that the right words would eventually come to them. Selphie was the first to attempt to cheer the commander up.

“Squall,” she said quietly, almost whispering, “you know- you know we’re always here for you, right?” Squall nodded, but in reality, he had barely heard what Selphie had said. Selphie then fell silent again, not knowing what else she could say. Just then, there was a nearly inaudible knock at the door, which Quistis got up and answered.

“Miss Trepe,” the security guard, who had knocked on the door, said, “Mr. Almasy is here to see you.” Quistis nodded- she had arranged to meet with Seifer for lunch, but Squall’s tragedy had meant that her plans for the day had gone straight out of the window.

“Send him away,” Quistis said, quietly.

“He says it’s urgent,” the guard retorted. Nodding, Quistis stepped outside, and walked over to where Seifer was sat, on one of the benches outside her office.

“What do you want, Seifer?” Quistis asked, trying no to sound too impatient as she reminded herself that there was no way Seifer could have known about the tragedy. No way she knew of, anyway…

“What’s happened with Squall?” Seifer asked, anxiously. Quistis gasped. He knows, the blonde instructor thought to herself. Somehow, he knows…

“How did you know?” Quistis asked, incredulously.

“How did I know what?” Seifer asked in return, a little impatience of his own creeping into his voice.

“Squall, he-“ Quistis replied, trying to find the right words. “Chris reappeared, and he- he shot Squall’s son.” The news visibly stunned Seifer.

“What!?” He asked, not believing what he had heard. “I thought he was dead?” Quistis shook her head. “How’s Squall taking it?”

“How do you think he’s taking it?” Quistis asked, rhetorically. Seifer simply nodded in agreement.

“Has anyone told Rinn yet?” Seifer asked, at which Quistis sighed. As if Squall hasn’t got enough on his plate, she thought to herself, now he’s got to tell his wife that their only son is dead…

“Not yet,” she answered, “she’s-“ Suddenly, as if on cue, Rinoa appeared, carrying hers and Squall’s daughter in her arms. Her face sported a look of apprehension. I’m sorry, Rinn, Quistis thought to herself, as she made eye contact with the young mother, in an attempt to comfort her, even before Rinoa had been told the bad news. Rinoa knocked on the door, and entered Squall’s office, just as Selphie was leaving it. Selphie deliberately avoided eye contact with Rinoa, which only made her more curious as to why she was summoned all the way to the Garden. Bad news, they said, Rinoa thought to herself. What type of bad news can it be? Holding her daughter even closer to herself, she entered Squall’s office, only to find her husband huddled over his desk, his violently shaking hands barely holding a cup of tea. Rinoa placed Jules down on the sofa Squall had in his office, and then sat herself down in front of his desk.

“Squall?” Rinoa asked, hesitantly. “What happened?” Squall looked up, and Rinoa gasped as she saw the tear streaks, and the look of anguish, on his normally strong face.

“Ch-Chris, he reappeared,” Squall said, his teeth chattering slightly. Rinoa simply gasped.

“I thought he was dead?” Rinoa asked, her hands also starting to shake.

“No,” Squall said, shaking his head, “he’s alive. He ambushed me in the corridor… Angel, our son… he…” Squall simply couldn’t say the words, but he didn’t need to. Shaking her head, Rinoa tried to stand up, but to her, the room was spinning, uncontrollably. Eventually, the shock overcame her, and she pitched sideways, hitting the ground with a dull ‘thump’.

“Quistis!” Squall shouted, as he watched his wife pass out. “Selphie!” Almost immediately, the two women, accompanied by Seifer, entered the office, and tended to the unconscious Rinoa. Seifer took the opportunity to speak to the man whose pain he had, somehow, been aware of.

“Squall,” the tall writer said, “I know how angry you must feel right now. But I beg you, Squall, don’t stoop to his level. He isn’t worth it.” Squall simply looked up into Seifer’s eyes. Anger, Squall thought to himself. That’s exactly what I should be feeling. That bastard killed my baby boy in cold blood, just to send me a message… I am angry. Keeping his eyes locked with Seifer’s, Squall rose from his chair, and headed toward the door. Despite the protestations of Selphie, Quistis and Seifer, Squall headed straight out of his office, and down the hallway to the detention black, where Irvine was interrogating Chris.

Squall arrived at his destination, and found Irvine sat outside the interrogation room, reading through his notes of the session.

“Why aren’t you interrogating him?” Squall asked, incredulously. Irvine stood up, and tried to calm Squall down.

“I already have,” Irvine said, slowly and deliberately. “I have the notes right here. If you want to read them, be my guest.” Squall simply shook his head.

“I want to talk to him myself,” the young commander said, as his anger started to consume him.

“Man,” Irvine replied, “you know that ain’t a good idea. Not so soon after- well, you know.” Squall turned, and shot a stare at Irvine that frightened the usually unflappable cowboy.

“I said,” Squall uttered in a threatening tone, “I want to talk to him myself. Are you going to let me in or shall I make my own entry?” Irvine nodded, and opened the cell door. He had never seen Squall so filled with hate, and he knew that Squall had the potential to be a dangerous man, if provoked. Irvine had no intention of provoking Squall.

The young commander entered the interrogation room, where Chris was sat on a chair, wearing a straitjacket in case he tried to escape. Chris looked up, upon hearing someone enter the room, and he locked eyes with Squall. Slowly, Chris started to smile. And laugh. Very soon, Chris was laughing so hard, his chair was rocking back and forth. Squall was beside himself with rage. He’s laughing, Squall thought, angrily. The bastard’s actually laughing at my loss…

“How’s the family, Squall?” Chris asked, roaring with laughter at the sight of the distraught man. “What’s left of it, that is.” Chris then tilted his head upward, and spat in the young commander’s face. Squall felt himself start to shake again- only this time, it was not out of anguish, or grief, but out of pure, unadulterated hatred.

“You evil, pathetic, little prick,” Squall said, with fire burning in his normally ice-cold eyes.

“Pissed yourself lately, Squall?” Chris asked, spitefully. For Squall, it was the last straw. With a primal scream, the young commander dived over the interrogation table and pinned Chris to the floor, clamping his hands tightly around the murderer’s throat and squeezing with all of his might. Chris, with his hands securely restrained behind his back, was unable to do anything to defend himself. He tried shaking his head from side to side, in an attempt to shake loose Squall’s hands, but the commander’s grip was simply too tight. Chris felt his lungs start to burn, and his vision fading. In a last, vain attempt to cling on to his life, he thrust his tongue out, desperately trying to draw in some air, any air, but it was no use. Chris let out a final rattle, and died, his head flopping to one side.

However, Squall did not stop choking Chris, even though his body was clearly lifeless. He kept his hands firmly clamped around the deceased gunman’s throat, and bounced his skull off the floor. Irvine, who had been monitoring Chris’s life signs via a radio-controlled heart monitor, rushed into the interrogation room, and was greeted by the unexpected sight of his outraged commander yelling at and violently shaking the gunman’s corpse. Irvine quickly rushed over to Squall, and pulled him off of Chris’s body.

“Squall!” Irvine shouted, grabbing the commander’s arms in a vice-like grip. “He’s dead!” Squall, however, was not to be convinced, and tried to struggle out of Irvine’s hold.

“I’m gonna kill him!” Squall yelled, his blood still boiling.

“Look at him, Squall!” Irvine shouted into Squall’s ear. “You already have!” Squall looked down at Chris’s dead face, and calmed down.

“Good,” Squall said, quietly. “See you in hell, Duncan. I hope you’re rotting down there right now.” Squall walked out of the room heavily, as the adrenaline thinned out in his bloodstream.

Ten hours later, Squall returned home to his house in Goldenrod village, and crashed out on his sofa, having yet to fully gather his thoughts on what had turned out to be the worst day of his life. He’s really dead, Squall thought to himself. Ever since the moment of his son’s birth, Squall had felt that his life was complete. Squall went out of his way to be a good father for both his children, but with his son, he felt a special bond. Now that bond was shattered, never to return, and it felt to Squall as if he’d been told that he’d never be able to walk again.

Squall’s thoughts then turned to the murderer of his child- the man whom he’d killed with his bare hands. Nobody, not even Cid, had blamed Squall one bit for Chris’s death. Indeed, everyone he saw had said that they’d have probably done the same thing, but to Squall, it wasn’t good enough. How am I supposed to set a good example when I let my rage get the better of me? Squall thought to himself, sighing. He’d even offered to resign as Garden commander, an offer Cid had flatly refused. He had, however, granted Squall 2 weeks compassionate leave. Two weeks, Squall thought to himself. How am I supposed to get over the death of my baby boy in two weeks? Just then, he heard his front door open, and he looked up as Rinoa walked in the door, still pale, and in shock. Dr. Kadowaki had treated her after she’d fainted, and had obviously only just deemed her fit to return home. Hanging her head, Rinoa simply laid down on the sofa with her husband, holding him as tightly as she could. He held her in return, squeezing her body gently. Eventually, a tearful Rinoa spoke up.

“What are we going to do, Squall?” She asked, crying. Squall wasn’t aware that they were actually the first words Rinoa had said since she’d fainted. She’d refused to talk to anyone except for Squall, only answering questions with nods or shakes of the head. Now that she was home, though, and in the arms of the man she loved, she felt comfortable asking the question she’d dreaded asking.

“We do what we have to, Angel,” Squall answered, quietly. “We get on with our lives. It’s the only thing we can do.” The couple fell asleep on the sofa that night, wrapped in each others’ arms…

Meanwhile, Irvine and Selphie were already in bed, and Irvine was watching the clock as it ticked over to midnight.

“Well,” he started, unenthusiastically, “Happy 22nd birthday, Sefie.” Selphie, who, as usual, had her arms wrapped around her husband, simply sighed, and leaned her head against Irvine’s chest.

“Not exactly happy,” Selphie said, her voice without any of its usual bounce. “Not when Squall and Rinn-“ Irvine placed a comforting hand on Selphie’s head, and held her closer to him.

“Ssh,” Irvine said, silencing Selphie. However, Selphie then started to cry.

“How am I supposed to arrange the funeral of a four-month old baby?” She asked, as tears welled up. “Burying Zell was bad enough, but I- I just can’t do this, Irvy!”

“Oh, Sefie,” Irvine said, comfortingly. “You’re gonna do it like you always do it. Perfectly. Squall and Rinn wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to arrange the funeral, Sefie, and I’m sure that whatever you give them, they’ll be pleased.” Selphie closed her eyes, and snuggled closer to her husband.

“Thank you,” Selphie said, as she started to drift off to sleep. She’d heard Irvine’s words before, but, as always, they worked, and she was once again filled with confidence. The task was no less morbid than it had been five minutes earlier, but Selphie knew that Irvine would be there for her… always.

In Seifer’s quarters, the young author was doing some typing at his desk, putting the final finishing touches on his book. Quistis, who had started co-habiting with Seifer, laid in their double bed with a solemn expression on her face.

“I still can’t believe it,” she uttered, quietly. Seifer stopped typing for a moment, nodding at what his girlfriend had said.

“Neither can I,” he replied. “I guess our little announcement will have to be made another time, eh?” Quistis nodded, fingering the engagement ring that Seifer had placed on her finger not thirty-six hours previously.

“I don’t know how Squall and Rinn can cope with something like this,” Quistis said. After Squall junior’s murder, she, as Squall’s oldest friend, had been the pillar of strength for the young commander to lean on, but in reality, she was just as distraught as Selphie and Irvine had been. Fortunately for her, she had Seifer, who seemed as though he was never weak, even though Quistis knew differently.

“They’ll get through it eventually,” Seifer said, reassuringly, as he resumed his typing. “It may take months, but they’ll adapt.”

“How can you be so sure?” Quistis asked.

“They have no other choice,” the tall, blond man replied, as he finished typing his page.

“Is that Memoirs finished, then?” Quistis asked, changing the subject. Seifer simply nodded, and read Quistis the last few lines of the book.

“A tragedy on this scale, a wound this deep, can never fully heal. But I am sure that my friend will somehow, and someway, find the strength to carry on, despite the sorrow. He will do it, as long as we all have faith in him, and in each other. Have faith- it’s the only thing you can do, but it’s enough. It’s always enough.”