Innocent Bliss: Little Things
"Squall!" Selphie, for all her slight stature, could put an astonishing amount of volume into a rising tone. "You have to!"
"No," Squall repeated firmly. His irritation came out on the hapless paper he was signing, pen tip digging firm lines into the sharp letters of his signature. "I don't."
Selphie, however, was not to be so easily deterred. "Oh, come on," she wheedled. "It's your first lover's day. You've gotta get him something!"
"We already talked about it," Squall said shortly. The paper was flipped to the bottom of the stack in front of him and a bite of sandwich was grabbed and inhaled before he turned his attention to the next report. "No presents."
"Then get him a card," Selphie argued. "Just a little card. There's nothing wrong with that."
"No," was the response, flat and simple.
Selphie turned to the rest of the table for support. "Just a card! Or a little something... you've gotta get something... and," she added rather sharply, "you could try not working while you're having lunch with us!"
Squall's mouth was already forming the negative reply when he realized what Selphie had actually said. Snapping his mouth shut again, he looked up from the reports with a sour glare.
"She's got a point, Squall," Irvine drawled. Reaching over, he twitched the top report off of the stack at Squall's elbow, glancing through it. "'...the flash and fire point test method, in field practice, depends on definite rates of impact to control the precision...' what the fuck is this?"
"You think I'm reading it word for word?" Squall asked dryly, grabbing the report back. "And yes I need to work right now - have you seen my desk lately?"
"Didn't get much work done on that 'working vacation', did you?" Nida asked, grinning. "Told you to leave it to Xu and me." Squall shot the other man a dark look and slapped the report back down with the others.
"People," Selphie interrupted, "stop trying to change the subject! Lover's day is end of the week. Squall..."
"Oh, fine, be that way," Selphie sulked. "Quistis? What are you getting?"
"I haven't decided," Quistis replied calmly. "Besides, I don't have time to go shopping."
"Liar," Nida scolded, grinning. He grabbed a french fry from Quistis' plate, avoiding her slap. "If you haven't decided then what's in that locked drawer in your desk?"
"None of your business," Quistis told him, exasperated. "And you wouldn't have even known it was locked if you hadn't been snooping around where you shouldn't."
"Hey, at least I didn't pick it," Nida protested. He stole another fry, only to offer it back to Quistis. "You don't even know where I hid mine."
"Willing to bet on that?" Quistis asked, smirking.
"Alright, you two got something," Selphie interjected. "Zell? Irvine? What about you?"
"What is it about you and this holiday, Sephie?" Irvine sighed, leaning back in his chair. "Besides, I can't very well tell you what I got if he's sitting right here."
Zell hooked a foot around the leg of Irvine's chair, giving it a push that forced the taller man to grab for the table with a yelp in fear of tipping all the way back onto the floor. "Now who's the liar?" Zell said, grinning. "Isn't that kind of thing, Selphie. Give it a rest."
"Ooooh!" Selphie shoved her plate away, crossing her arms over her chest with a scowl. "Hyne, you're all as romantic as rocks, I swear! Who am I supposed to go shopping with?"
"Is that what this is all about?" Irvine asked. "Selphie..."
"We've seen you shopping," Squall interrupted dryly. "Even if I was getting something for Laguna - which I'm not - I guarantee I wouldn't be stepping foot in a shopping mall with you."
That resulted in a small tussle which drew the eyes of curious cadets all around the dining hall, intent on watching one of their field instructors pelt their Commander with icecubes, much to the amusement of the other instructors gathered around the table.
"Why," Squall asked sourly, two days later, "am I fucking doing this?"
"Same reason I am," Zell answered, passing the can of soda they had been sharing to the other man. "Because you're a sucker for a pair of puppy dog eyes."
Squall glared at Zell, at the soda can, and then at Selphie, who had darted ahead of both men to enthusiastically window shop her way through the Balamb dockside mall. She was several shops down, waving to them to hurry up and pointing at something in one of the window displays that was an alarming shade of pink and cream. "Wrong," he growled. "I'm doing it because if I don't I won't hear the end of it until next year." He took a swallow of the soda and handed it back. "And I'm still not getting anything."
Zell held his hands up in a placating gesture. "I believe you."
"Fuck," Squall sighed. "She's starting to bounce. If we don't go look at whatever that monstrosity is, she'll explode." He didn't, however, noticeably pick up his rather slow pace and Zell steadfastedly matched him stride for stride. "What about you? Thought you weren't shopping either. 'Not that sort of thing'."
The smaller man coughed slightly, ducking his head. "It's not," he said firmly. "But... well, hell. I happen to know Irvine's got a couple of bottles of Timber honey winter draft stashed away in the bottom of his closet, and he doesn't drink the stuff. So, y'know... I thought..."
"It might be for you?" Squall finished dryly.
"Yeah," Zell sighed. "Don't know if it's for this weekend or my birthday or if he's just forgotten they're there or what, but I figure I'd better get something just in case."
"You guys!" Selphie barreled between them, making Zell protest as the soda can was jostled and nearly upended. Bright eyed and beaming, Selphie hooked a hand around each of their arms, tugging them after her. "What's taking so long? Come on! You've got to see this... it's so cute!"
Squall exchanged a long suffering look with Zell. "Who are you shopping for, anyways?" he asked as Selphie hauled them back the way she had come.
"Yeah, Sephie," Zell added. "Anybody we know?"
Selphie, caught in mid gush about whatever she had found, flushed a bright shade of pink beneath the scattering of freckles on her cheeks. "None of your business!" she pronounced firmly. "Besides, maybe I'm just shopping for me."
"Or maybe," Zell told Squall in a loud stage whisper, "she's shopping for pink trimmed lace panties in the hopes that someone will notice..."
"Ow! Fuck, Selphie, you've got a hard hand!"
"Not as hard as your head," Selphie huffed. "That was just mean."
"Aw, come on, Sephie, I didn't mean it," Zell told her, cajoling. "Come on, don't sulk... hey, look! Puppies!"
"Where?" was the immediate response, all pretext at sulking completely forgotten as Selphie turned to look. "Oooooh! Look! Aren't they cute? Oh, and they've got kittens too! Come on, we've gotta go look!"
"Zell," Squall groaned as Selphie took off, "a pet store? Hyne, she's going to be in there squeaking for hours!"
"Never fear, Commander," Zell told him with a cheeky grin, "I have a plan. Hey, Selphie! No, you go look - we can't come in. No food, see?" He pointed to the sign posted by the door of the pet shop, and then to the soda can he was still holding. "Go on, we'll wait out here!"
Squall waited until Selphie had ducked back into the shop, then heaved a sigh and leaned back against the window. Inside, a collection of multi-colored fuzzy kittens were tumbling around over a stuffed ball. "Zell," he said feverently, "remind me to promote you a pay rank when we get back to Garden."
"Can do," Zell said, settling down onto the pavement in front of the shop. "And don't think for a minute I'll forget you said that."
"I don't believe you," Selphie said in exasperation as they unloaded various bags out of the car. "That whole mall and you didn't see anything to get him? Even Zell got something!"
"Zell knows when to play dumb," Zell whispered, deadpan, as he rescued his own bag from Selphie's collection. Squall shot him an irritated look.
"I said I wasn't getting anything," he said firmly, "and I meant it."
"You're just impossible," Selphie huffed. "I'll bet he got you something."
"Not if he knows what's good for him," Squall sighed. "Are we done now?"
"You're hopeless," Selphie told him primly. "I'll bet he got you a little something, you just wait and see!"
"Xu," Squall said, pushing open the door of the small office to lean inside, "have you seen the progress report from Trabia yet? I can't find... what the fuck is that?"
"Flowers," Xu replied, unperterbed. "Here's the report."
Squall blinked at the profusion of bright blossoms set in a vase on the corner of Xu's desk, belatedly stepping forward to take the printouts. "Flowers?" he repeated.
"They grow on bushes," Xu replied dryly. "Outside. You might have noticed."
"I know what they are," Squall said irritably. "Why redecorate?"
"I didn't," Xu said. "They're a present." At Squall's blank look she sighed. "Lover's day?" she prompted.
"Oh." Squall sounded less than impressed. "Forgot about that..." He trailed off, shoving back one sleeve to glare at his watch. "Wait, did..."
"Yes," Xu answered smoothly, "so you can stop panicing. President Loire's pilot radioed, his plane should be setting down in three hours. Did you want to go over this report now?"
It was, Xu thought, a rather amusing look - somewhere between indecision and outright panic, and not at all at home on Squall's normally taciturn expression. She watched as his eyes flickered from the report to the flowers, to the chronometer on the wall and then back to the flowers before some sort of concensus was reached. "Can you handle the reports this morning?" he asked, looking as though the words left an ashen taste in his mouth.
"Yes, and Daris can handle them this afternoon," Xu responded easily, firmly squelching the grin that wanted to escape. "Will we see you tomorrow, Commander?"
Squall gave her a look that could have instilled fear in a lesser soul and dumped the report back on her desk, turning on his heel and stomping out.
"Caraway's been kicking up a damn fit about the arms contract," Squall growled as he thumbed the call button. "I keep telling him if he thinks his engineers can outdesign Esthar's he's welcome to take a shot at it."
"That'll be a cold day in hell," Laguna said, grinning. The older man was mussed but bright eyed, evidence of scraps of sleep caught on the flight. "Galbadia manufacturing is shit, it always has been. Don't even get me started about their artillery..."
The lift chimed softly as it arrived, the doors sliding open. Squall curtly gestured the other man to go first, stepping in after him and pressing for the third floor. He sighed as the doors slid shut once more, some of the rigid stiffness draining from his shoulders. "That enough about politics?" he asked, glancing sidelong at Laguna.
"Damn right," Laguna answered. Leaning forward, he claimed a quick kiss. "Mmm," he murmured, breath brushing warm over Squall's cheek. "Missed you."
"Yeah," Squall answered softly, the ghost of a smile twitching at his lips. "Straighten up. Xu's probably laying in wait outside my door with a stack of reports." The lift chimed again, signaling its destination, and the doors slid open.
Xu, contrary to Squall's dour prediction, was nowhere in sight. The administrative offices were quiet and they made it to Squall's own office without incident. Laguna shut the door with his hip, flicking the lock into place, and reached for Squall with a smile.
Squall returned the kiss with an uncharacteristic tension. Laguna settled his hands around the younger man's waist, frowning. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Squall said hastily. Catching Laguna's frown, he sighed. "No, really... there's nothing wrong. I just... ah..." he ducked his head and Laguna realized, startled, that there was a dull flush creeping across Squall's cheeks. "I... got you something," he finished, the low words rather rushed.
"Squall!" Delighted, Laguna dropped a kiss across the other man's forehead, grinning. "You got me something? But we weren't going to..." the grin faltered. "Oh Hyne, I didn't get you anything..."
"Don't!" Squall said hastily, his fingers digging sharply into Laguna's shoulders. "Really, you don't need to, just don't..." he sighed, dropping his head to Laguna's neck, his voice muffled. "Fuck, I don't even know why I did, but everybody's been after me and you said you thought you'd like one and if you don't want it just say so, I can take it back..."
"Don't be silly," Laguna told him. "You got it for me. Of course I'll like it." He smiled, pulling the other man's head up long enough to press another kiss to Squall's flushed cheek. "Can I have it now?" he asked, grinning. "Do I get to unwrap it?"
"No," Squall sighed. "It's not wrapped. It's... Hyne. It's over in my coat."
Laguna snuck one more kiss before letting Squall go and heading to investigate. Squall's heavy leather coat was dumped on the desk rather than hung in its normal place across the back of the chair, as though Squall had been in a bit of a hurry when he left it there.
"Look, Laguna," Squall was saying behind him, his tone painfully embarassed, "if you don't want it I can take it back, or find someone else to take it, or..."
There was something under a fold of the coat. Something nestled in amidst the softer lining - something no bigger than his palm, small and round and splotched in grey and cream fur.
"...didn't you say Michi wanted one? We could give it to her, or Selphie would love it, or..."
The tiny ball of fur opened large pale green eyes and blinked at Laguna before yawning in a micro display of sharp white teeth and curled, rough pink tongue.
"Squall," Laguna interrupted, his voice quietly delighted, "Hyne, she's adorable!"
I had been laying in the dark, eyes turned blind to the ceiling, for the better part of an hour when the chirping beep of the alarm finally sounded softly. Given time it would escalate into an insistent blaring wake up call but I reached out, fumbling with my free arm, and slapped it off before it could ring more than twice.
The heavy weight across my other arm moved with a sullen sleepy sound, hands reaching for me. I turned towards them but put a hand on his shoulder to stop him before he rolled over. "Careful."
"I know," Squall growled quietly. He shifted again and a hand dipped between us, seeking out the small ball of warmth that was curled against my ribs. The rumble of a purr echoed in the dark, followed by a surprised squeak as the kitten was ousted from her nest and lifted to Squall's other side. Free of obstruction, Squall slid into my arms, body fitting neatly against my own. "Cats aren't chaperones," he mumbled, tucking his head against my shoulder. "And I had you first."
"No arguement," I agreed, dropping a kiss onto his hair. His arms tightened around me and I slid my hands over the warm skin of his shoulders and back, following the smooth slope of his spine. "How did you sleep?"
He made an indistinct sound. "Alright," he allowed grudgingly after a bit of thought. "Of course," he added wryly, "I might just be dead tired."
"Poor baby," I mock sympathized. Kissing him again, I gathered him close. "Good you slept."
An affirmative sound answered me, mumbled somewhere near my collarbone. We lay for awhile in the darkness, just curled together, until Squall's low voice broke the silence. "Laguna?"
"Mmmm?" I answered.
He sighed, his breath gusting warm across my skin in an irritated puff. "Laguna, there's a cat on my hip."
"I know," I said, grinning.
"You're not helping," he growled.
"She likes you," I protested. A reach through the dark brought warm fur in contact with my fingers and the exuberant rumbling purr burst forth once more.
"And her claws are sharp!" Squall yelped, tensing. "Laguna..."
"But she's just a little thing..."
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