"My God Rinny, you're going to have to lock her inside the apartment at this rate!"
That had been Selphie.
A giggle escaped my throat and I replied, "I could say the same to you too, you know. Then again, maybe Irvine would have more fun using that shotgun of his..."
My best friend snorted. "I would totally say 'nuh-uh,' but the sad thing is that you're probably right. He would probably have some kind of twisted fun in scaring the poor kid straight."
In spite of myself and after another small chuckle passed through my lips, I retorted, "Do I dare ask if it'll be the other kid or yours that he'll scare straight?"
"Ha. Ha. Very funny Rinoa." she said, sticking her tongue out at me afterwards for added effect when I started to crack myself up on with my own thoughts alone.
We so knew there was really no doubt here regardless of how much Selph wanted to deny it; she and Irvine were natural attention seekers, the odds were definitely stacked against them to end up with a quiet wallflower or, if I wanted to be brutally honest in my description, a quiet and responsible wallflower, as a child.
"Anyway..." Selph began, "how about we show each other what we've got, ok?"
At my dining room table, full of papers, whole and cut-up, scissors, markers, glue sticks, cups of espresso and the like, we culled through the refuse and materials to pile up our creations, ready to show each other what we'd been only hinting at before; the subject of our merciless teasing moments prior.
"Ready?" she asked. I nodded once more.
With the enthusiasm of a preschool child, Selphie showed me her first paper doll. I smiled. For a paper doll, she was beautiful; Irvine's auburn hair — similar ponytail to boot, Selph's bright and wide emerald-green eyes and a cute orange jumper for an outfit.
"Aw. She's really cute Selphie. What name did you give her?"
"Jessica, so we can call her Jessie." she proudly declared. Irrational hormones be damned, I aww'd again; Selphie smirked. "Ok, your turn now. Show me yours."
Funny how my nerves finally caught up to me now after being fully aware and compliant when I signed up for this crazy and completely age-inappropriate activity over an hour ago when Selph had me rummage through my cupboards for all the supplies needed. Oh well, it was just a paper doll. It didn't need to mean anything, really. So, without a word, I picked up my doll by its paper hands for Selphie to see.
When she smiled, I internally breathed a sigh of relief, secretly thanking Hyne that my artistic skills had improved somewhat over the past five years to save myself from dire embarrassment right now.
"Very cute. He looks like a mini-you Rin." she told me. "I thought you were drawing a girl before though."
I smirked. "Oh no, this paper doll is definitely a boy. In paper or in real life, I don't think I want to even begin imagining Squall around a little girl. I swear to God he'd commit sex-based genocide just as a pre-emptive measure before our would-be daughter would be old enough to even start looking at boys."
Instead of laughing like I thought she would, Selphie just quizzically tilted her head; totally not the reaction I was looking for.
"You still don't hold out much hope for him, do you?" she semi-rhetorically asked, "I mean, that's why you only made the one boy doll, right?"
"Selph, you know how slow I am at arts and crafts. Be thankful this paper doll even has clothes, never mind brothers or sisters." I replied. "And no, as sad as it sounds, I still don't hold a shred of hope for Squall."
...I really wasn't lying about that. Hell, we've both got enough parental issues between the both of us that we really shouldn't risk having sex in the first place. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how I wanted to look at that, neither of us has that much willpower.
Interrupting my mind's one-way trip to the gutter, Selphie lamented, "Aw. That's too bad. You two would make really cute kids."
...God, she really wasn't lying about that either. Still, as well-meaning as I knew she could be, I also knew that sometimes, it was just plain ol' projecting. I couldn't really blame her here though; it was typical 'want what you can't have' behaviour mixed in with trying to live vicariously. A kid could get her kicked out of SeeD, me being, well, me, I really had nothing to get kicked out of. Sure, Squall would get heckled out of his gourd, but there really nothing in the code of conduct that said he couldn't be a father and a SeeD at the same time. Though...I'm pretty sure if multiple female SeeDs said that they had a kid by him then...but no, I'm not gonna go there. That's just wrong.
"Nope, I think my little paper boy here is the closest I'll get."
"...Paper boy?" a third and male voice echoed in the background to my left.
I blinked. I must have been still daydreaming when the door opened. But shit, why did he have to come how now of all times? Ohh, this is gonna be sooo friggin' awkward, I thought to myself before I subsequently thought that if I played this off humorously, maybe I'll get off easy and he'll roll his eyes at me and just leave.
With the dining room table more or less on the opposite wall and my chair exactly lined up with the door and him, just sideways instead of facing it, I swivelled my sorry butt to the left and turned on my mega-watt smile, holding up junior for him to see.
"Paper boy." I repeated to him. Unsurprisingly enough, he eyed the doll rather confusedly.
"Yes...paper boy." I reiterated for the second time. Out of the corner of my eye, I could tell that this oh-so-deep exchange was threatening to make Selph have a giggle fit any second now; it was the perfect time to amp it up. "Well, paper son, really. Selph and I were making paper children earlier because we were reeeally, reeeally bored. I made our paper child a son because I knew you'd commit male genocide if it was a paper daughter and I didn't wanna think about that since this is supposed to be fun and not depressing. Anyway, I've taken the liberty of naming him Alex. Ain't he cute?"
And yep, he was still standing there, hopelessly confused. For a second there, I thought he'd gone catatonic because he wasn't moving or saying anything. Luckily, I was proven wrong about a couple seconds later.
"Can I...talk to you in private for a second?"
He was pointing to the bathroom — the proven to be completely soundproof bathroom to be exact. Uh-oh. I guess I couldn't brush off or even downplay this crazy idea of Selphie's by trying to be cute. I looked at Selph at the other end of the table and she just nodded; the look in her eyes seemed to say, 'oops.'
...Yeah, oops indeed.
Setting Alex down beside Jessie after I'd gotten up but before I'd passed the table to get to the bathroom door behind Selphie, I followed Squall in there. The second the doors shut, I hopped on up to sit myself on the counter space to our right. Just around the same time, Squall's confused look morphed into his serious face. I was so screwed. It was apology time for sure.
"I'm really sorry about that Squall. It was Selphie's crazy idea and I just went along with it because I was too tired to—"
"...Rinoa, stop." he interrupted in what had to be the calmest tone of voice I'd ever heard him speak to me in, the kind he usually reserved to lull people into a false sense of security before he ripped them a new one while doing his disiplinary duties as Commander. Dammit, I was so screwed. Even still, I shut up like he'd asked. He continued shortly after I did. I crossed my legs. "All I want to know right now is if you two have been drinking this afternoon."
"...Huh?" I blurted, "Why are you asking me that? You know it's just the only craziness that is Selph and her ideas that you know I always can't say no to. No alcohol necessary, I promise."
Well, other than the time she tried daring me to flash Zell. I did say no to that one.
Before I could add that I was actually keeping up with my vow never to drink in the afternoon after the Chocobo incident, again, another time I couldn't say no to Selphie, he breathed a huge sigh of relief. I didn't really know what for though. All I know is that he looked like the wind was knocked out of him instead. Now it was my turn to look dazed and confused.
"Alright...what's going on?" I asked, "Is there some sort of event you're dragging me to at the very last minute?"
I scrunched up my face. "Sort of?"
"On second thought, never mind."
"Alright, then what is...whatever this is?"
Without another word, he stepped forward and, leaning against the counter beside me, he whispered in my ear, "...She's pregnant."
My eyes widened and I gasped. Looking at him square in the eyes, I whisper-shouted, "So that's why she wanted to make paper doll kids this afternoon? Like a way to tell me? Hyne, I never caught on!"
"No," he began at normal volume, "that must have only been a coincidence."
"Actually...she doesn't know yet. Dr. Kadowaki happened to find out by routine inspection from the blood work for the quarterly physicals."
My spirits dipped a little, especially when I remembered the awesome time we all had a few days ago after I'd finished helping Dr. Kadowaki perform the blood draws for those. "Oh. So...she must have passed that information to you because you're the one who has to decide what happens to them?"
"No, I'm not the one deciding. Not this time." he quietly told her, dipping his head slightly. "I just happened to hear her chastise Irvine in the infirmary."
I blinked. "...So she told Irvine but not Selphie too? That makes no sense."
"It...was a rather informal tongue lashing, actually." he tried to explain. "She must have gotten the print-out results just as we'd entered through the doors for our make-up physicals and blood work and lost it."
Now that I thought of it, I hadn't seen either of them on the day we tackled K to L last Tuesday. Okay...this is starting to get to coherent, story-wise.
Pulling away from my thoughts about coherence, I said, "...I'm not really surprised. The last few weeks leading up to the physicals have been tough on her with all the shipping mishaps and whatnot. So...are you not the one passing judgement on Irvine and Selph because of the obvious conflict of interest?"
"More or less." he casually answered before culling all of the seriousness in his body and leaned in once more to whisper, "He wasn't the only one who was yelled at."
I would have fallen off the counter if he hadn't placed a hand to my stomach to catch me in time.
"Please tell me this isn't some evil prank for teasing you with the paper doll."
"It's not, trust me." he told me with that patented silent but intense look in his eyes. "Between getting yelled at to Irvine's lewd excuse for a joke after we both left, I wouldn't dare to be anything but serious about this."
"So...the paper baby is eventually getting a real life counterpart?"
He nodded. "Yeah, seems like you both will."
"Uh...I think she made three of those Squall. You might not want to wish that upon them."
Before we could talk about this any further, there was some loud knocking on the door. Without a doubt, I knew it had to be Selphie.
"Squall...open up! The paper dolls were all my idea, don't you be getting mad at Rin!"
Oh yeah, this room was definitely soundproof.
Moving his hand from where he had it on my stomach, Squall walked towards the door to open it, but I was faster and did it for him instead, leaving him a little out of place right behind me.
"No need for alarm Selph, he just needed to talk about something else for a sec. We're all done now."
She stepped aside from the door to let us go back through. Walking back to the table, I had to stop near Selph's end of the table just to eye the dolls I hadn't seen before. There were indeed two others, both dolls were boys who she'd made to look like Irvine, though one had her hair colour instead, from what I could discern from where I was; there was no mistaking the violet eyes that were just staring back at me. Irrational hormones be damned, I started to tear up a little when I also noticed that she had my doll and hers all linked together by their paper doll hands, making them look as if all four of them were the best of friends.
Yeah, irrational hormones be damned, for sure. The smiles we both gave our paper kids were definitely getting to me. Okay...so maybe I was still reeling from the news in my head and I was overreacting. Horribly.
"...Are you alright?"I heard Selphie and Squall say. Damn, I must have been sobbing at this point.
Looking to Squall on my left, Selphie to my right and back to Squall again for a second, who gave me the okay by nodding at me, I turned to face Selph for good, taking a good deep breath. I was usually a really good secret-keeper, but today was definitely not one of my most shining secret-keeper-ish moments.
"I'm pregnant and you're pregnant. Squall and Irvine just found out now when Dr. Kadowaki flipped out at the both of them when they went to their make-up physical today."
Yep, definitely not.
Selphie warmly smiled at me. "Irvy and I already knew before Rin. It's why I wanted to make the paper dolls today, so I could get around to telling you. Guess Dr. K found a way to beat me to the punch."
"...That would explain why he had the nerve to say what he did after the fact." I heard Squall muse aloud but near-silently to himself. Aw, poor guy.
"But in any case," Selph continued, "congrats you two."
"Same to you guys." I said before turning to Squall for a moment, ready to let my morbid sense of curiosity show. "Any idea on who conceived first?"
"Don't know." he shrugged. "She was too busy yelling about how we ought have known better and that we're both disappointments to Garden and so forth. Not to mention, I tuned Irvine out when he was going on about the sordid details from the plethora of possible conception dates."
"Yep, that sounds like Irvine." Selphie laughed. "Sorry you had to hear about that Squall."
With an exceptionally exasperated sigh, he said, "...Tell me about it."
In spite of how sorry I felt for him, and I really was sorry, I smirked - not only for that, but for the day as a whole. I mean, when I agreed to making the dolls, I didn't ever think that it would go from that to what had unfolded. I really didn't. Obviously this is not an ideal situation for either Squall and I or Selph and Irvine, but, at least there could be something to be said about having to go through it all together, from paper kids to real ones.
It would be infinitely more complicated than dreaming about physical and personal traits, names and hoping that our would-be kids would have the particular combinations as we scribbled them onto the paper, but if there was one thing I knew, at least for what could said about us, Squall has always grown with responsibility and, over the years, I've learned to do the same.
Even if I'd have to stop him from committing gender-selective genocide in the future, I'm sure we'll still find a way. I'll frame my paper creation as a testament to that.