Julia awoke to the light shining in from one of the windows in her bedroom. Raising a hand in front of her eyes to try and block out the annoying rays, she tried desperately to go back to sleep. She groaned when she realized that her plan wasn't going to work, and that she had already woken all the way up. She looked over to the clock on her nightstand, which read that it was just barely seven in the morning. She sighed, for she knew she would have to leave for 'work' in an hour.
Zion's arms were still around her from the nightmare she had hours before. Not content with waking him up, she simply rested her head back against his shoulder and shut her eyes. As her thoughts took over her mind, the reverie was shattered when something moved behind her, and kicked her softly in the back.
She bolted up on instinct, Zion falling backwards and nearly out of the bed. She averted her gaze to where her back had been moments before. A small figure was underneath her cover, a cascade of long black hair coming out from the mess of blankets. Julia groaned, and checked to see if her husband was all right.
He sat there, very tense with a terribly confused glance plastered on his face. The grenadier snickered at him, and pointed to the bundle that was next to Julia moments before. He relaxed, and climbed back into the bed. Flinging the covers over himself again, he tried to go back to sleep.
Julia went over to the edge of the bed, and gently tapped the bundle. It let off a small groan, and flipped over. Julia sighed, and flung off the covers. "Rinoa, time to get up."
The small girl grumbled something, and looked up at her mother with a half-asleep gaze. "...Aww, come on, Mom!"
"Nope. Up." Julia replied in a gentle manner, while still keeping a somewhat stern tone to her voice. "It's my room. Not yours. Yours is down the hall."
"But I like it here better!" Three year old Rinoa Caraway protested, putting on a fake smile.
"And why is that?" Julia asked, curious. She sat back down in the bed next to Zion, who was still saying nothing under the covers.
"Because..." Rinoa began to say, then paused. She searched her mind for a plausible reply. She smiled broadly. "...you're here?"
Julia nodded, and smiled. "Uh-huh. That's why. I wasn't born yesterday kid, and I know all the excuses in the book. It's not nice to try and fool with your elders. Unless of course you have a really good lie planned out. Otherwise it backfires. Now get going! I'll come help you in a few minutes."
Rinoa pouted and looked up at her mother one more time. She slid out from their bed, and slowly made her way to the door in front of her. Before she got to far, Julia threw an arm around her, planting a loud kiss on against Rinoa's hair. The girl squealed in protest, and escaped to the other side of the room. Going to her tiptoes, she open the door and sulked out. When she shut it, Julia shook her head and laughed slightly. Rinoa, named after the Mysidian word for 'faith', could tend to be a full of surprises, yet had a good heart.
She sat in bed for a few minutes, then looked to her silent husband. Still under the covers, not saying a word, he was acting just as Rinoa was moments before.
She poked him in the shoulder, groaning. "Oh, come on! I'm not gonna do this with you too! Get up, we have work to do!"
Zion groaned, in the same fashion as his daughter had earlier. He stuck a hand out from the covers, and grabbed her hand to get her to stop. He grabbed her wrist, and drug her back down into a lying position beside him. She sighed, resting her head against his covered shoulder again.
"Come on..." Julia whined. "I know its Monday, and I hate being the good one who obeys the rules. If I'm getting up, then it should be a clue that this is important. I don't get up unless I have to."
Zion yawned, "You're a slave to the system, dear."
Julia, not seeing any other alternative, yanked the covers off, and kicked her husband square in the chest. He slid backwards and off of the bed. He landed with a thump on the ground, bewildered at what had just happened. She sat up in the bed, snickering at him again. He got up, limping slightly from his impact. Julia followed him, sliding out from under the covers and standing up. Walking over to her dresser, she pulled out the clothes she planned to wear for the day.
Zion disappeared into the bathroom, leaving Julia to get dressed. Exchanging her nightdress as clothing, she picked up something she was forced to wear today, but absolutely loathed. Her army uniform. Not that she hated the army, but the feeling of that annoying and itchy black skirt and jacket combination.
She pulled on the skirt and white dress shirt, and slid on the finely tailored jacket decorated with all of her status symbols and certain war medals. She put on the red tie that accompanied the get-up, and finally the calf-high black boots that were extremely uncomfortable. As a requirement in the army, when in formal dress, a person's hair could not reach the bottom of their neck. Julia, having dark hair that went down slightly past her shoulders, had to place her hair into a loose bun. She then at last placed the army hat on her head, a sign of being a unit leader.
She groaned as she saw her reflection. This person she looked at, who was happy to wear leather jackets and torn jeans, was now stuck in the suit from hell. She certainly didn't look like the singer who stood on stage wearing formal dresses or elaborate costumes (which, in truth, she hated just as bad).
"Now, see, here's the benefit of having a general as a husband." She called to the bathroom. "I know about my missions before they're assigned. What's on the agenda today, sir? And furthermore, will you be joining the Pack on this little adventure?"
Zion was quiet for a moment. He replied after an elongated silence, in a fairly withdrawn voice. "It can't be good. Only the five-star generals know about it. Corin's father, and all of them. I'm a four-star, so if they won't tell me, I'd say it's a pretty serious mission. If it is, then hell yes I'm going with you."
Julia sighed. A note of sarcasm filled her voice. "Crap-tacular. A five-star security level. We haven't had one of those since the end of the Sorceress War, right?"
"I don't think so." Zion replied, and he stepped out of the bathroom. Going over to the closet, he picked out his own uniform. It was much like Julia's except his jacket was trench coat, and he had grey pants followed by smaller army combat boots. He began to dress.
"Something serious." Julia said to herself quietly, then voiced a guess. "Do you think it could be Timber? Rebellions are forming there after all. Think they got their hands on something dangerous?"
He finished buttoning his coat, and tilted his head back as Julia began to fix his tie. "I don't think so. We took out most of Timber's arsenal. They wouldn't have anything left over. The rebellions are too small to do any major damage. The regular army would handle that, not special ops."
Julia sighed, and tapped him on the shoulder when she finished with his tie. She gave him a peck on the cheek, standing up on her tiptoes to do so. "You go get Rinoa ready to stay with my folks. I'll start calling in the gang. Once I'm done, I'll meet you downstairs."
He nodded, leaving Julia alone in the room while he dashed off to his daughter's. Once he was absent, Julia began to walk towards their working desk. She stopped once she reached her nightstand, however. Pulling off her army dog tags, she set them down. Opening the door, she took out another almost identical pair. The only difference was that hers were newer and recently updated to her current rank of major. The other difference wasn't the rank, but the name.
"Major Raine Leonhart -- serial number: 1930496." Julia read to herself. She moved her thumb over the letters engraved on the thin piece of metal and sighed. A tear was threatening to form again, but she didn't let it. "They all respected you, Raine. They loved you. They still do. I'll never be as good, will I? No one could compare. Things just aren't the same without you. I miss you. I just hope you'll be with me like you said, giving me luck."
With that, she undid the clasps to both dog tag sets, and pulled one of the two identical tags off of each set. Sliding one of Raine's tags onto her set, she redid her clasp. Now, Raine's name and hers were side by side. Julia only hoped it would bring good luck. She slid the set of tags back over her head, leaving the other pair in the drawer.
She got back up, and went over to the desk. She reached for the phone, and began to dial numbers she knew by heart.
Andraia and Aaron Tilmitt, along with Epsilon and Jun Kinneas and Celeste Trepe with Lancer close behind her, all looked at the horror unfolding before them. It was a screaming chaotic mass that simply would not cease movement no matter what happened. They had tried everything in their power to stop it, but to no avail. The next best option was for Andraia to summon Tritoch, but that may have been an extreme.
Selphie Tilmitt, Quistis Trepe, and Irvine Kinneas continued to scream and fight before their parents. The girls' voices had gone from war cry into a full banshee screech, and Irvine, who had started the fight, was now almost screaming in fear as the two girls began to double-team him. The poor parents, unable to break them up, stood back and watched as the fight unfolded.
Andraia shook her head. "It's not healthy for them to be this rowdy is it?"
"Oh..." Jun groaned, "...I think it's safe to say that it's time to stop it. I've never seen them this bad!"
Lancer agreed. "Yes. I don't think Edea or Julia get this bad when they fight. And that's saying a lot!"
The shrieking mass of children before them grew even louder. Aaron and Epsilon both placed their hands on their ears and closed their eyes, praying for it to stop. Once and a while, one would look up at their parents, and smile. It apparently been a plan to get their parents on edge, and it was working.
"Stop it!!" Celeste screamed at the top of her lungs, mirroring Quistis' war screech when she fought.
The three children stopped fighting, looking up with fearful and intrigued eyes at Celeste. The blonde whip user shook slightly with anxiety, the effects of having a toddler starting to get the best of her. The three let go of each others clothing, and walking over to their respective parents.
Selphie tugged on Andraia's skirt, looking up at her mother with an almost identical but younger face. "Momma?"
"Yes, Selphie honey?"
"Is Auntie Celeste all right?" Selphie asked with complete innocence.
Andraia shot a look to the taller and older blonde woman to her side. Celeste had stopped shaking, though she had a feeling she only did that for dramatic flair (as was common in the whip user), and was now calmly inspecting her own daughter for cuts or bruises. Celeste turned to Andraia when she felt the brunette's eyes on, and raised a golden eyebrow.
"Yeah. She's good." Andraia replied, "She's just being her usual self."
Selphie looked up at her mother, and shrugged, not knowing what Andraia meant by that. The latter shrugged as well, and bent down to pick up Selphie. She hoisted the young three year old onto her shoulder, and Aaron began to make faces at her. As he stuck out his tongue, his daughter grabbed it, squealing with laughter. He suddenly found himself in a predicament, unable to bring his tongue back into his mouth. He struggled, but was unable to break free.
Andraia began to howl in laughter as she saw her husband trapped in the mighty clutches of a three year old. He narrowed his eyes at both Selphie and Andraia, who in turn began to laugh even harder. Selphie eventually let go when her father began to flail his arms wildly in panic.
Andraia giggled at Aaron, "Well, that will teach you to stick out your tongue at her."
"That'll teach anyone not to stick their tongue out in general!" Aaron whined. "Ow! That really hurt!"
"Sorry, Daddy!" Selphie said with an ashamed look.
Aaron shook his head and messed up his daughter's hair. She whined much in the same fashion he had. "Don't worry about it, squirt. Just don't do it again! Well, maybe to Mommy or something, just not me!"
Meanwhile, Epsilon laughed at his son, receiving a somewhat cold stare from his wife, Jun. "That 'a boy! You sure showed them good, didn't ya?"
"Yep!" Irvine chimed back happily. "Those girls didn't know what hit 'em!"
Epsilon chuckled, and smiled. "You know, though, you won't be able to beat up the girls forever. Some day, you just might like 'em as much as I do!"
"Eww!" Irvine wailed, his fire red hair falling in his eyes. "No way! Never! I'll never like girls! They have cooties!"
Epsilon laughed heartily at that. The sniper shook his head. "We'll see how you feel about that once you turn thirteen or so! I bet you anything, boy, that you're opinion will change."
Jun rolled her eyes at her husband and son. "All right you two, that's enough. Girls are nice people, and I don't think you should be beating them up. You should be nice to them."
"Yes, mother." Irvine nodded. When it came to humor and fighting, he listened to his father. When it came to morals, his mother taught Irvine everything he needed to know.
Celeste looked at her daughter, making sure that she was all right after the fight. From the hallway of Celeste and Lancer's fairly large home, they had been afraid something would have fallen off a shelf and into a child if they knocked over something. Before she could mention anything about the fight to Quistis, their phone rang.
Both Lancer and Celeste started out for it, but the man decided to let his wife get it, and he picked up his only daughter. Smiling at each other, they watched as Celeste picked up the phone.
"Hello. Trepe residence." Celeste said, frowning slightly as Quistis imitated her, but only by moving her lips.
"Julia! Hey, you should bring Rinoa over here. We've got Irvine and Selphie over right now, we could use another girl to over-power Irvine!" Celeste replied happily, having not heard from her friend in over a week.
"I would love to, but..." Julia replied, and let her voice fade away.
"Oh, no. The Pack is active, isn't it?" Celeste whispered, not letting the children hear her.
"....Yes." Julia said remorsefully. "I need all of you to assemble and get to Zeta, ASAP. Tell Aaron and Jun to stay alert, Excalibur might get called in, too. This might be a big one. I need everyone there."
Celeste nodded quickly. "I understand. We'll be there."
With that, Julia hung up the phone on the other end, not saying another word. Celeste followed the action, replacing her own phone back to the receiver. She looked at the other adults, not minding the oblivious kids. They hadn't heard who was on the phone, but a worried glance came over all of them.
Lancer spoke first. "Is it...?"
Celeste nodded, and went over to the children talking happily in front of her. She picked up Quistis, smiling at her, or at least trying to. "Quistis, honey, how would you like to spend time at your Aunt Bianca's?"
"Aunt Bianca?" Quistis asked, confused. "We never go over there. What's wrong?"
Celeste shook her head at the girl who was too smart for her own good. "Nothing. Don't you worry about it. But, come on, we got stuff to pack."
Andraia and Epsilon both bent down to their own children, saying that they would be visiting their grandparents very soon. The pouted their lips in disapproval, but with pleading from their parents, they agreed.
Celeste shook her head as she saw Quistis going into her room with Lancer. We should quit. I have a very bad feeling. These children should grow up without fear of us leaving them. I'll quit active fighting. I'll go into an officer's position like Zion, after this is over."
"Come on, Celeste. We have to get ready." Lancer said with a downtrodden tone.
Celeste nodded, and followed her husband to get her things together.
"All right, Zell! Here we go now!" Corin yelled excitedly. "It's the final round of the world's martial arts competition, and you can win with one punch!"
Corin demonstrated with his own power. He brought his fist all the way back, and hit the punching back in front of him with great force. The bag flew back, and nearly ripped off of the ceiling of the combat studio attached to the Dincht home in Timber.
"Cool! I can do that too!" Zell said with a smirk.
Zell raised his own tiny fist back, and hit the bag with all his might. To his dismay, unlike his father's punch, the bag only went about an inch back. "Dang it!"
Zell kicked it in anger, and it did the same thing with the punch, only going back an inch. Corin laughed as he saw his son try in vain to do some serious damage.
"Don't worry, short-stuff." Corin explained. "Strength comes in time. At your age, you just gotta get the moves down! As you get older, you get stronger!"
Lilliana walked into the room, somewhat sad she had interrupted 'male bonding time'. "Yes, but strength is only one factor. Your mind has to be powerful as well. You have to know justice and liberty. Otherwise you are nothing. Understand?"
Zell nodded wildly. "Uh huh! No worries, ma! I got it!"
Lilliana laughed, and looked to Corin. She waved him into the next room, receiving a frown from her husband. "What is it, Lily?"
"Julia just called in." Lilliana replied. Corin groaned at that. "Yeah, we have to go in. Your brother in Balamb will watch Zell right? Heartilly said this mission was important. Only five star generals know about it."
"Great, my old man being one of them." Corin sighed. "Well, I guess we got no choice. My brothers good, he'll watch Zell."
Lilliana nodded. "Zell, you're gonna visit Uncle Zeke for a while, okay? I'm sure you'll have fun!"
Zell was quiet for a moment. "Well, Dad was gonna teach me roundhouse kicks... but okay. I guess I can learn later."
"That's my boy." Corin said smiling. "Let's go get ready."
Edea watched as Squall and Ellone colored in front of the television set. It was summer, so Edea and her husband were living in Deling at the time. Thus, Raine's children went with her. Edea had kept a very watchful eye on the two youths, fulfilling Raine's wish that they be kept safe. Edea couldn't deny it, Squall had definitely begun to feel like her own son over the past three years. Yet, she knew better. He looked so much like his mother, there was no way she could forget.
She continued to read her book, but was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone. She flipped open the cover and pressed the talk button.
"It's me. Mission time, let's go." Julia replied, bored with telling all the details by this time.
"I don't really feel like..." Edea began, but was cut off by her commanding officer.
"I know I usually let you choose, since you hate fighting. But, this is serious. Five-star security level. There hasn't been one of those since the war. I really need everyone for this mission. Please."
Edea groaned, and looked to Ellone and Squall. "Very well. I will come."
"Thanks, Edea. It means a lot to me." Julia said, then hung up to phone.
Edea sighed, and hung up her own phone. She looked to the two children, now looking up at her. Edea felt a pang of regret as she saw Squall's hurt blue eyes. She went over to him.
"Are you leaving us, Matron?" He asked, guessing from her looks.
"Only for a bit. I'll be back soon. Cid will take care of you until I return." Edea replied, frowning.
He nodded slowly. Edea hated leaving him alone. He had felt so alone since the loss of Raine and her husband, even though he was a mere infant when she died. A thought struck her, and she got up to a cupboard nearby. She opened it, and pulled out a small metallic object. She placed it Squall's hands.
"You can keep this. It's rightfully yours." Edea said softly. "It's a necklace of a lion. It belonged to your mother. Your family is closely related to the lions. They are all brave, and very powerful. Here."
Squall took it, his eyes lighting up slightly. "My mother?"
"Yes." Edea replied. "Take it, as I must now leave."
Edea stood up, angry due to her having to go off to war again. She hoped that nothing terrible lay before her, yet a deep feeling in her soul told her otherwise. What lie ahead could be more than she bargained for. After this, she would quit. He days of just fighting had been all but eradicated.