He loved storms.
He loved to watch the leaden clouds boiling upon the back of the wind. Loved the energized feel of the atmosphere, the way it prickled across his skin. He loved the slightly damp, musty smell that presaged rain, and he loved the way the lightning snaked across the sky, the way the thunder made the earth tremble. The way the winds drove the surf into frothing fury.
He would stand there and watch them as often as he could, even when Matron chided him for his fascination with the rain and drew him away from the window.
In Balamb, there were as many different types of storms as there were seasons. There were the warm, gentle rains of spring and early summer; rains that soaked and nourished, riding upon sweet, light winds. There was the occasional nor'easter that brought needle-like sleet to the town amid moaning winds, and snow to the mountains and highlands. Then there was the storm season itself, in late summer into fall; storms that oftentimes flirted close to hurricane strength, only rarely surpassing it, with winds and rain that threatened to scour the island clean of all life (but that had only happened once in recent memory…).
Squall loved them all (well, maybe excepting the hurricanes, at any rate), and if he cared to wonder about it, would simply put it down to some odd cosmic connection to his name. Perhaps his mother had branded him with that fascination by giving him such a name. Perhaps it was her name that had done it: Raine, (rain).
He stood upon the beach, watching the storm approach, thrilling to the wind that tore at his chestnut mane. Waiting eagerly for the power to be unleashed upon him. He wanted to feel the buffeting of the wind, the sting of the icy rain. Wanted to feel the hair-raising prickle that heralded a jagged flash of heaven's fire…wanted to hear the boom and feel the rumble in his gut of the thunder of its passing.
The surf boomed and the wind picked up, whipping salty spray into his face, wetting his white tee shirt and black running shorts. It was just past dawn but he couldn't tell from the boiling, slate-colored clouds. Clouds that had obscured the blood-red dawn; smothering the warning of a bad blow.
He waited, excitement mounting, like a sprinter on the blocks. The entire beach suddenly seemed to hold its breath, then…
Lightning snaked across a suddenly black sky and thunder exploded in its wake. The waiting SeeD also exploded into action, the roll of the thunder standing in for a starter's gun.
The wind picked up and blew sea spray into his face as he bolted down the beach in a full out sprint. The thunder rumbled again, and another crack of lightning unleashed a torrent of wind driven rain. And he ran, right into the teeth of the storm, icy raindrops pelting him like wet stones.
Something elemental took hold of him, urging him on, the violence of the storm echoing the violence of his physical effort. Urging him to race the wind down the beach, even though he knew that it would win. It always did.
He emptied his mind of nothing but the wind, the rain, the speed of his strides, the pounding of his heart, and the echoing boom of thunder that followed upon the heels of the periodic white flashes of Hyne's Spear.
He welcomed the icy pelt of rain battering him, and picked up his feet until he felt like he was flying down the beach. The wind pushed at him and he ducked his head and fought it, pushing himself to push back.
All too soon, he reached the end of the beach and stopped, breathing heavily, and turned to face the sea and the storm. Eyes closed, arms spread wide, he let the wind and the rain pummel him, buffet him, scour him clean, leaving him soaked to the skin but exhilarated.
It was his moment of Zen. His tiny bit of insanity to keep himself sane. Like fighting in the Training Center, like his daily runs along this same beach, challenging the storm was just another outlet. It helped him clear his mind, work off pent-up aggressions and frustrations…plus, it was just plain fun.
Quistis would chide him for the cold drenching, he was sure; mother-henning him worse than Ellone or Matron did about the possibility of his catching his death. This in spite of the fact that as a nearly thirty-year-old SeeD, the odds were ranking higher and higher that his death would not be caused by a rainstorm, strong though it might be. His Commander's rank would not save him, when the odds fell against him.
Zell would laugh at the craziness of it and want to join him, but that wasn't why Squall ran in the early mornings. He liked his solitude, and running for the most part was a singularly solitary pursuit.
Selphie would just think it funny. But Rinoa…and here Squall smiled gently. He'd like to think that while she might not exactly get it, she would understand anyway.
The storm raged harder and Squall suddenly began to feel chilled. It was time to go home. Turning back to the road, he started back to Balamb Garden at an easy lope.
Squall entered their apartment quietly, leaving his soaked shoes by the door in order to avoid tracking muck onto the pristine, cream colored carpet. After considering for a moment, he removed his sodden socks as well, and cast a rueful look back at his abused running shoes that were well on the way to enforced retirement. He paused for a moment, listening to the silence, and smiled as he padded into the bedroom, glancing at the black-haired, motionless form buried under the blankets.
Then he walked into the bathroom and shut the door quietly behind him, turning on the shower and stripping before stepping under the hot spray. He stood under it for a moment, letting the water warm him up before getting down to the mundane business of getting clean.
He finished showering and shaving quickly, quietly exiting the bathroom with a towel around his waist, his hair towel-dried, but still damp and trailing past his shoulders. Then he checked his watch while listening for any sounds that might originate from one of the kids' bedrooms. It was still quiet, and…. there was plenty of time before they needed to be up and about.
A wicked smile graced his lips then, and he dropped his towel and crawled back into bed with Rinoa, snuggling close and wrapping his arms around her. She sighed and appeared to relax further into sleep, but that wasn't Squall's intent.
His blood was up; the storm and the run had energized and invigorated him, the kids were still asleep, and they had an hour and to spare before the world made its demands upon them. Squall did not intend to waste that time.
Nuzzling the back of her neck, he inhaled the scent of her hair and began with trailing soft kisses from her nape to just below her ear. At the same time, he caressed the silky, soft skin of her still taut stomach. She took a deep breath and shifted, pressing closer and sighing softly.
Leaning his lips close, he whispered, "Good morning."
Facing away from him, she smiled but kept her eyes closed, feigning sleep. Undaunted by her lack of response, Squall resumed kissing her, trailing his lips down her neck to her shoulder. Rinoa snuggled into his warmth and finally gasped softly as one of his hands roamed slowly from her waist and abdomen up to palm and then caress one of her breasts. A low moan whispered from her throat, and she gave up on any thought of resistance.
Not that she intended to resist. A sexy, randy husband like Squall was nearly impossible to ignore.
Turning to face him, she smiled up at him, bringing her hand up to caress his smoothly shaven cheeks. She didn't need to open their mindlink to know his intent; it was obvious what he wanted. It was also obvious what had brought him there. She could hear the rumbling thunder, the hiss of rain. She could see the storm's wildness still reflected in the eyes of her lion; still smell the tang of brine upon him, despite his having showered. She could still taste the wind on his lips when she kissed him.
In the gray light of a stormy dawn, she welcomed him to her. She welcomed the flavor and texture of his kiss, the feel of his lips as they roamed her body and kissed and suckled at her breasts and nipples. She welcomed the solid weight and warmth of his body as he moved over her and settled himself against her.
"Good morning," She whispered up at him then, loving the way time had chiseled away the last of his boyish softness. Loving the way his smiles had started to crinkle the corners of his eyes. She even loved the hint of silver that was beginning to show at his temples. Not even thirty yet, and starting to go gray already. She knew why, and didn't want to think about it. Not now, not right at this moment.
"Almost," he breathed, then branded her lips with his as he slid home.
They finally opened up their mindlink and it drowned them both in a swirl of emotion and sensation. When he began to move, Rinoa heard the echo of pounding, storm driven surf, and storm winds moaned through her mind as their breaths both quickened. And she gave herself up to the sweet, rich passion that was always there between them.
Minds and bodies entwined, they moved together, each touch, each kiss, and each caress stoking the fire and increasing the tension. Hearts pounding and breaths coming short, they strove together until the tension was released in a flood of pleasure, leaving both gasping in its wake.
Rinoa wrapped her arms around Squall in the aftermath, hugging him fiercely to her, prompting him to kiss her gently on the side of her neck, and then transfer his lips to hers. She reached up and threaded her fingers through his drying hair, fascinated as always by the thick, silky texture. He'd let it grow until it was impressively long, falling past his shoulders. It nearly rivaled Irvine's for length, and was long enough now that Squall could pull it back into a pony tail and not feel as though it looked stupid.
He gazed down at her now, expression serene, eyes full of love, stroking her hair back from her face. She smiled at him, but said nothing, letting the moment be.
He'd just bent to kiss her, in fact his lips had just touched hers when they both heard a sound they'd been dreading: "DADDY!" "MOMMEEE!"
Rinoa had to laugh at the sense of shock and chagrin that she got from Squall, along with the rueful thought of, "crap. I forgot to lock the door."
He quickly moved off of her, much to their mutual regret, and they braced themselves for the twin hurricanes that burst through their bedroom door just moments later. Those twin hurricanes, also known as their twin children, proceeded to cannonball onto the bed and into their hapless parents.
"OOF!" Squall exclaimed as his son, Saber, landed squarely on his stomach and then proceeded to strangle him with an enthusiastic hug. "Whoa! Little early for tussle-time kiddo. Settle down."
In spite of his son's precipitous arrival, Squall wrapped his arms around the small body and hugged him. Saber responded by giving his father a kiss on the cheek. Squall smiled up at his son's bright turquoise colored eyes, his inky blue-black hair, and thought to Rinoa, "He's going to be a heartbreaker in a few years."
"Julie too. Face it honey, you throw gorgeous babies. You'd make a killing if you rented yourself out for stud service." Rinoa sent in amusement, and burst out laughing at the outraged look and scandalized feelings he sent her.
"You know, half of that comes from their mother. But if you really want me to I'll keep that option open if we run short of cash." Squall sent to her, managing to sound serious even in a mental sending.
Rinoa recanted, "On second thought, I think I'll keep you all to myself."
"Thought so." Squall sent smugly.
"Good morning daddy!" Saber said, tapping Squall's nose to get his attention. Squall wrinkled it in response, prompting the little boy to giggle. Julia giggled softly too. She had apparently inherited Squall's quieter personality, and was cuddled in Rinoa's arms, watching Saber and Squall.
Squall looked over at them both and smiled, "Good morning Julie. How did you and your brother sleep?"
"The storm waked us. Saber said he had a funny dream about you playing in the rain daddy." She answered him softly.
Squall laughed softly, "Well, that would be a silly thing for me to do, wouldn't it?" Both children nodded.
Glancing quickly at his watch, Squall said, "Why don't you two go back to your rooms and get dressed? Mommy and I will get breakfast going in a little bit. Okay?"
"Okay!" Saber said, jumping off the bed.
"Okay," Julia echoed, giving Rinoa a final hug before leaning over to kiss Squall on the cheek before crawling off and following her brother out of the room.
"Hey, don't forget to close the…" Squall's reminder was cut off as the door clicked shut and he breathed a sigh of relief.
Then he sighed and looked over at Rinoa, "Time to get up."
"Yeah." Rinoa sighed as well, but stayed put.
Squall pulled her into his arms again and gave her another kiss, this one sweet and loving, and suggested, "Why don't you go get your shower now and I'll take care of breakfast for us."
"All right," she responded, reluctantly leaving his warmth. He smiled gently at her and got out of bed as well.
There were times, Squall reflected as he donned his Commander's uniform, that the bond that he shared with Rinoa, the band he wore on his finger, felt like both a burden and a noose, choking the life from him. They'd hit a bad patch a few years after the twins were born when Rinoa had wanted another baby and Squall had adamantly refused.
It had taken awhile to work through it and Squall had finally realized (though it had taken nearly losing Rinoa to wake him up) that his fear of losing her to childbirth was poisoning the love they shared and the bond itself. It had been a hard thing for him to do, facing and conquering that fear. But Rinoa had not quickened again and after four years of nothing happening, they both figured that she wouldn't. That the damage she had suffered in giving birth to the twins had somehow prevented any future pregnancies.
Or, even more likely, that the maturation of her sorceress powers had something to do with it.
But that trouble was behind them, and if Squall sometimes did feel burdened, he had to acknowledge that Rinoa sometimes felt the same way. And fortunately, even when things got truly difficult, there was always the bond, the core of what and who they were as sorceress and knight, as well as husband and wife. And the foundation of that bond, no matter at what angle it was examined, was love.
Squall smoothed his hair back into a band at the nape of his neck and considered cutting it short again, then glanced toward the bathroom as he sensed Rinoa's opinion countering his thought. He snorted softly at that, brushed at the lapel of his uniform and left the bedroom to fix breakfast.
The kids getting up early had given them all the rare treat of eating breakfast together. All too soon however, Squall had to kiss Rinoa and the twins good bye before leaving for work. Rinoa's schedule had her leaving an hour after he did to get the children off to school before she started work in Balamb Garden's infirmary.
It was while she was preparing to usher the twins out that she happened to glance at the glassed doors to their patio to see that the rain had nearly stopped. Indeed, what she saw was mostly just gray mist.
Mist… Dawn… she paused at that thought. It wasn't dawn, in fact had the skies been clear; the sun would have been well up by that point. But still, the misty gray morning did look as though the sun had just started to rise. But those two words seemed to echo in her mind. Mist. Dawn.
Rinoa had a sudden premonition and she closed her eyes, then focused her senses inward to confirm if the possibility existed that it might come true. Slowly, her hand came up to rest upon her lower abdomen, and she began to smile softly.
Misty Dawn was a name. And it would belong to the daughter that would be born in about nine months.
She would wait of course to confirm it before she told Squall. She wondered what he would think. She had a feeling that this time, he would be happy.
"Mommy? Why are you smiling? Did you see something pretty?" Julia asked her.
Rinoa snapped out of her reverie and smiled down at her little girl answering, "Yes I did." She took the child's hand and led her toward the door, picking up her purse and calling back to Saber, "We need to go honey, are you ready?"
"Yeah," he answered, picking up his book bag and following them out the door.