Author's Notes: Still don’t own the characters. Still making no profit.
Many thanks to XIneko for beta-ing, wisdom and ego massage and to Pixie518 and Acid Rain for putting up with my whining.
Warnings: um… talking heads?
Chapter Two - Tomorrow Might Be Good
By Race Ulfson
Squall twisted and writhed mentally but could not get off the hook of Zell’s logic. He had to acknowledge that his best friend was the group’s expert at parental relations; that was the reason Squall had sought his advice in the first place. It would be stupidity not to follow that advice now that Squall had it.
Didn’t mean he had to like it.
Zell watched his friend and commander struggle with his inner demons and chuckled. "Face it, Squall, you screwed the pooch for sure and this is going to take major ass kissing." He ticked the transgressions off as Squall face palmed, one of the few normal teenaged gestures he allowed himself. "First, you totaled the car; ‘rents just love that. Then you broke into a restricted area of the hospital and jacked their security. Next, you killed two guys –" Zell held up his hand to forestall Squall’s comments "- not that they didn’t deserve it, but - you killed them on camera. And then finally, after you –wisely- called your dad to come fix, you ran like a spooked Chicabo back here instead of staying to face the music."
That earned a glare. "I’m not a coward."
"Nobody knows that better than me, Baby." Zell stretched and leaned over into an easy handstand as he waited patiently for the explanation knew Squall would get around to… eventually.
Squall sighed and sheathed Lionheart. They had been warming up to a little sparring and he thought longingly of the Training Center and it’s new batch of monsters from the Lunar Cry. He should have known better than to ask Zell’s advice before they fought.
"It was Seifer. I thought they were torturing him to get even for the war. I had to get him out of there, but he couldn’t walk. He was so drugged up he could barely think." Squall wondered if that was a good thing, if Seifer was even aware of…
Zell tilted slightly and held out one hand, balancing entirely on the other. "Sneaking him out wasn’t an option anyway, as you had already rerouted the camera feed into Central Security and proceeded to kill 2 hospital employees in, I must say, a spectacular manner."
"I’d cast curaga before and there was no reason for my limit break to go off, that’s the odd thing." Squall ran his fingers absently over the heavy links of Griever’s necklace, his version of fidgeting. "Kadowaki couldn’t find anything wrong, so…"
"That’s good to hear, Baby." Zell switched hands.
"I knew it would take Laguna time to get there and that I’d end up killing a few more people if I waited." Like the supervisors, security who had to know what was going on, he mentally added.
"Point is, you gotta go back and you gotta suck up. Big time."
Squall leaned back, not at all distracted by counsel dispensed upside down. He sighed and admitted, "Sucking up has never been my forte."
Zell folded into a back bend and then snapped himself upright. "What you do is, go back, take the ass chewing like a man, and thank Daddy for getting your nuts out of the fire."
"That will prove Laguna’s point exactly. I’ll never hear the end of it." Squall could hear Zell’s amusement in the way he breathed, trying not to laugh, and he flashed him a wry look. "I know, suck it up."
He was rewarded with Zell’s 1,000 candle watt smile. "Think of it as payment for services rendered, Baby."
Waiting in the hall a good 45 minutes, Squall wondered idly if Kiros would try to talk Laguna into punishing him and if so, how. Restricting his privileges and freedoms? ‘Sorry, no SeeD activity for 2 weeks, the Commander in Chief is grounded and can’t leave the Palace.’
Finally ushered in, Squall stood at attention before Laguna’s wide messy desk. The President of Esther dismissed his secretary with a smile and a nod. He leaned back in his chair, gritting his teeth against the squeak, and regarded his son carefully. Squall’s game face gave nothing away, but Laguna was an old poker player, himself, and long seconds ticked by with neither of them saying anything. It gradually occurred to Laguna that Squall was waiting for him to speak first, possibly the most respect his son had ever shown him.
Laguna ran his fingers over one of several folders on his desk. "I’m surprised my hair didn’t turn snow white when I saw the images from the wreck."
"Sorry about the car, Sir."
The dismissive wave of Laguna’s hand was very much like the one Squall would use. He knew his son wouldn’t understand but he tried explaining anyway. "I don’t give a shit about the car, it’s you I can’t replace."
His father was young enough to have more children, but Squall didn’t mention it. He suspected it wouldn’t go over well.
"Not that it mattered what color my hair was… I damn near pulled it out when I saw this…" Laguna waved a thick envelope; Squall could only assume the rectangular lump was the security video. "We’re lucky the hospital decided to cooperate in return for staying our warrant."
"You dropped the charges? Why? That place was a hellhole and those men –"
"We had to make some concessions. Do you have any idea how hard this was to keep away from the media?"
"Why bother? They deserved what they got."
"Squall. You can’t just go around killing people!"
"Point of fact, I can."
"That’s because you’re a psychopath," Laguna snapped. He face palmed. "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that out loud." But it’s true, he thought, saddened by the utter lack of concern Squall had over casually administering justice with a gunblade.
Completely unoffended, Squall said, "That’s why I’m in charge of SeeD. You didn’t agree to give up the entire investigation, did you?" It would be just like Laguna to abandon something once it had proved too much trouble.
"Officially, yes. Have a seat, you need to sign some of this stuff." Laguna passed Squall a file from the folder, not missing the stubborn glint in his son’s eyes. He summarized as Squall read it over. "One of the patients on that ward is a niece of one of our Senators, here. There was some suspected illegal activity transcending typical malpractice and SeeD intervention was requested. You infiltrated, determined the level of infraction required immediate retaliation, and… sign right there as mission accepted; don’t forget to backdate it to the 12th. I’ll have the contract monies transferred retroactively to SeeD and by the way, that’s coming out of your allowance."
Squall signed. "You covered it all up so neatly." He made it sound slightly accusatory.
"Welcome to the World of Politics. Anyway, there is a civil investigation pending on behalf of the victims; that keeps both SeeD and Ultimecia’s Knight – who was listed as John Doe, by the way – out of it."
"Seifer," Squall said. "His name is Seifer Almasy."
"Yeah, he told me." Laguna hesitated, smoothing the last folder like he was petting a cat. "You want to read this nightmare or have me give you the low points?"
"I’ll read it… later."
"All right. Almasy was originally committed based on the opinions of a observing psychiatrist and an admitting physician. He was brought to a small community clinic suffering from severe blood loss and self inflicted wounds."
Squall blinked. "Seifer tried to kill himself?" He could not believe it.
"Not exactly," Laguna said. "He was already severely anemic… this looks more like a pattern of self mutilation that go out of hand. The village had been hard hit by a typhoon and there was some loss of life. The doctors thought Almasy was suffering from survivor’s guilt or some other traumatic stress."
"They didn’t know who he was."
"Guess not. The couple who brought him in didn’t stick around, so once Almasy was diagnosed as needing extended care, he was shipped off to Galbadia General as a charity case."
"Do we know that?"
Laguna blinked, suddenly finding himself playing ‘Guess the Conversation’.
Fortunately, Squall saved him from having to ask by continuing. "It’s an old trick to hide political prisoners in insane asylums and ‘help’ them with torture." Squall folded his arms across his chest. "Was he tortured?"
"No, except for, ah…" Laguna waved in the general direction of his own security cameras and hoped Squall would catch the drift. "Um. The doctors said he was in fairly good health, considering."
"That doesn’t tell me much." Squall reached for the file but Laguna beat him to it. Puzzled, he looked up into his father’s sympathetic green eyes.
"He didn’t exactly get quality care. They medicated him and over medicated him and when that didn’t work – Almasy seems to be highly resistant - they restrained him. After the last time he escaped, the doctor signed off on an experimental drug therapy that amounted to a chemical lobotomy."
Squall was making a mental list of more people to kill. "What are the long term effects?"
"Hard to say. The drugs were designed to change the chemicals in the brain and literally realign brain waves. We don’t know how crazy Almasy was before but a few weeks of those drugs and…"
"Seifer is not crazy!"
Laguna leaned back in his chair and winced at the squeak it made. "Squall… he cuts himself. He’s covered with scars. Almasy gets his hands on anything sharp and he’s covered in blood in a matter of seconds." He watched Squall fade into himself and quit talking, knowing he wouldn’t be heard.
Laguna ached for his son. It was unfair that on top of everything else Squall had had to endure, Seifer was seriously ill. Squall didn’t seem to have many friends but he was sincerely, evenly violently concerned for the Knight’s welfare; that made it a priority for Laguna as well.
It helped that he liked the kid, too. Seifer had a shrewd mind when it wasn’t clouded by medication. He was slightly ashamed that it was kind of fun trying to thwart Almasy’s devious attempts to obtain edges with which to injure himself. Laguna wondered how much of it was compulsive behavior and how much was simple boredom on Seifer’s part.
Not that the kid didn’t need looking after. Laguna shuddered, remembering a frantic code transmit from security just a few days ago. Somehow, Seifer had dismantled the showerhead to find a rough edged washer and he had wasted no time putting it to good use. Kiros had to wake Ward up to donate blood; the Palace Infirmary was low on units and there wasn’t time to wait for delivery from the hospital. Good thing Almasy wasn’t a rare blood type like Squall.
What had chilled Laguna the most was the air of satisfaction and contentment Seifer bore when they were strapping him down.
Like a job well done.
Squall attempted to force his mind to accept what Laguna was telling him. Seifer was sick: preposterous. Seifer was insane: ridiculous. Seifer was wracked with guilt and was suicidal?
"Impossible." This, Squall voiced aloud, shaking his head.
"At the very least he’s going to need some long term care and therapy."
"Where is he now?"
"Here, of course." Laguna blinked at Squall. "What, you think I’d throw the kid back to those white-coated sharks? Sheesh, the first three I talked to all thought the zombie drugs and high security mental ward were great ideas. I’m in the process of remodeling the west wing for him. Right now he’s in one of the guest suites."
Squall’s lips quirked, it might have been a smile. "You don’t do anything half ways. Did you find a more reasonable doctor?"
"Er, yes and no." Laguna looked sheepish. "She wasn’t very highly recommended; some of her ideas are a little… offbeat. Kiros purely hates her. He thinks she’s incompetent because Almasy can talk circles around her and manipulate her pretty easily."
"And you hired her because…?"
"Almasy can talk circles around her and manipulate her pretty easily."
Squall considered that and nodded, agreeing with his father’s analysis. "The feeling of control is good for him."
"That and she’s dead against the drug therapy. Although he’s still on them – the dosage and tolerance was too high to just cut him off so we’re tapering them down."
"And her unorthodox ideas?"
Laguna grinned impishly. "She doesn’t believe in magic."
Squall stared at him.
"It’s true! She has some wild hairy theory about psionics and undetectable waves and some trash. I’m sure she’ll tell you all about it if you ask." The President laughed, "She’s the Anti-Odine. I can’t help it, I adore her."
"When can I see Seifer?"
"You can go on up now, I think. His session with the doctor should be just finishing up. She gives him his meds before she leaves but that way you can talk to her a bit and at least say hi before Seifer falls asleep. He’ll nap until late afternoon; I usually go up and have dinner with him if I don’t have some state thing going on."
Squall nodded and stood. Laguna didn’t offer the file a second time and he decided not to ask for it. Yet.
Without looking back, Squall paused by the door. "Thanks… Dad."
Behind him, Laguna’s chair squeaked as he rocked back in shock.
Thank you so much for kind words hopemia, Kursed SeeD, loopy and myeerah. I’m sorry I’ve taken so long to update… I promise things will start to move soon and the next post will be faster.
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