To Protect the Pride

DISCLAIMER: No, I don't own FF8, dammit! How many times to I gotta tell ya?!? Square owns them!!!

AUTHOR'S NOTE: This takes place just before the Leonhart children have gone to Angel's Orphanage. To be able to understand this more clearly, read Angels first. Well...ya don't have ta really, but well...oh, nevermind.


"Daddy! Daddy!"

Squall smiled as two girls ran towards him. They were identical twins around six and a half years old; one had violet streaks in her hair while the other had none.

"Hey," Squall greeted, embracing the girls in a hug and lifting them effortlessly upon his shoulders. They giggled simultaneously, wrapping their arms around their father's neck as they headed towards the small home in front of them.

"Have you two been good to Mommy?" he asked the girls.

"Uh-huh, we got to help her! I did the dishes!" the one with violet streaks said proudly.

"No, I did the dishes, Luna!" the other corrected. "You played with Sakura and helped pick stuff up for Mommy!"

"Did not, Phoenix!" Luna replied.

"Did too!"

"Hey, hey, hey, no arguing, you two," Squall interrupted, grinning. "Or else I'm going to have to toss you two at the dock and let Leviathan eat you!"

"Ahhh!! Don't do that, Daddy!!" the twins screamed.

Squall laughed as they entered the home. His daughters looked so much like his wife, although Phoenix was more like him personality wise. Ever since they arrived in Winhill, Squall had relaxed, free from all of the duties of being Commander of Garden. The locals didn't actually accept his family at first due to the fact that Squall was the son of Raine Leonhart and Laguna Loire and also a former SeeD. So, Squall and Rinoa built a house on the outskirts of Winhill by Raine's memorial. The locals slowly began to accept them to be part of the community so as long as they lived outside of town. Squall found a job as a weapon specialist and helped out at the item shop while Rinoa stayed at home to take care of their children. Once in a while, when she was free, she'd help out at Raine's bar which was now reopened and refurnished after so many years. This was how it was like for the past eight years.

Squall set the twins down on the couch, and they immediately ran to the kitchen.

"Mommy! Mommy! Daddy's home!!" they shouted.

Rinoa plodded out of the kitchen along with a little girl clinging onto the edge of her skirt.

The little girl was much different from the twins. Her hair wasn't jet black like Phoenix and Luna. It was more of a dark brown; so dark that it was almost black. Her hair was cut short, and she had Rinoa's eyes.

Those same eyes brightened, and the little girl stretched her arms up towards her father as if asking to be picked up.

"Daddy!!" she said, smiling.

"So, how's my Sakura?" Squall asked the little girl, picking her up. They rubbed noses.

"Mommy said dat she got a sur....sur...." Sakura tried to think of the new word she just learned.

"A surprise, Sakura," Rinoa finished, giggling.

"Uh-huh! Mommy got a surpwrise for yoo," Sakura said.

"A surprise, huh?" Squall said and looked at the twins, setting Sakura down. "Do you two know what the surprise is?"

"Squall!" Rinoa protested.

"Oh, it's---" Luna was about to say, but was muffled by Phoenix's hand.

"It's nothing, Daddy!" Phoenix smiled innocently.

"See? Phoenix's a good girl," Rinoa said, embracing her husband. "She's not going to tell. I'M suppossed to tell you."

"Oh, okay, okay," Squall replied, staring into her eyes.

Their romantic moment was disrupted by two little voices.

"Oooooh, Daddy's gonna kiss Mommy!" Luna squealed.

"No, he's not!" Phoenix argued. "Mommy's gonna kiss Daddy!"

"Hey, what'd I say about you two arguing?" Squall asked, raising his arms like claws and approaching them slowly.

Luna and Phoenix squealed, took Sakura with them, and ran as their father chased after them. Rinoa stood there for a moment, laughing, and eventually joined in the chase.

<a couple of months later...>

Squall looked out of the window, staring at the stars. It had been three months after Rinoa gave birth to his only son, Alex. Three months since the doctor warned them if Rinoa gave birth to another child, it would be hazardous to her well-being. Three months since Irvine came to visit them, warning them of another sorceress's appearance and notifying them of their friend's deaths.

How long had it been since he left Garden? Eight years? Or was it nine now? He left his only home to protect Rinoa and now his family. But ever since he left, more trouble stirred within Garden.

Quistis had disappeared soon after Squall had left. She hadn't been heard from since then. Rumors had it that she was carrying Seifer's child, and ran away to live with him. Selphie had died during a mission in Trabia. Her body was never found, but traces of her belongings were. Zell was killed in combat while protecting Laguna during Esthar's annual parade. Irvine was the only one of the orphanage gang who was still in Garden, but he was also in danger of being killed.

Nobody had known of Seifer's, Squall's, or Rinoa's whereabouts. That is, until now.

Hyne, another sorceress? Squall thought. And she's after SeeD....the SeeD who had beaten Ultimecia during Time Compression. Us.

"You're worried about our safety, aren't you?" Rinoa asked from behind.

"...We might have to leave here," Squall answered.

She sighed and walked towards her husband, cradling their sleeping baby son in her arms.

"And we were so happy for so long..." Rinoa murmured. "I thought it was for good."

"..........They're all asleep?"

"Uh-huh. Fast asleep."


Husband and wife silently stared at the stars together. This would be their last time.

Rinoa broke the silence. "You know, I should've told you this sooner, but..."

Squall looked at her strangely, waiting for her to continue. Rinoa looked down at their son for a moment then at her husband.

"I passed on my powers to the children," she said.

This news startled him. "W-what?"

"Each of them have some of my powers," she continued, gazing up at the stars again. "I think that's why the doctor said that I can't bear anymore children. I'm...."

Squall closed his eyes and nodded. "Don't worry, I understand."

The sky suddenly glowed a dark red. That color came from the direction of the small town that they had been with for eight years: Winhill was in flames. Squall narrowed his eyes as he saw black figures coming towards their home. Rinoa held their son closer to her.

"It's them, isn't it?" she asked.

"Take the children and get as far away as you can," Squall ordered quietly.

"But Squall---"

"Just go." He gave her possibly one last kiss and smiled. "I'll be fine."

As Rinoa went to wake up the girls, Squall entered in the room that nobody was permitted to enter. He looked over all the weapons displayed. All the weapons that he thought he'd never use again.

He took the Lionheart, looking it over. Its blue ember had never faded, the blade still sharp, the bullets still loaded.

Although he had left Garden, Squall could never get rid of the instinct to fight. He could never part with the gunblade.

"Looks like we'll be fighting one last time," he murmured, "old friend."

To protect his love, he had abandoned all that he had. To protect his family, he remained hidden from view. To protect the pride....this was the only life he had. Even if he died fighting, he would at least see them one last time....

<close to Raine's memorial>

"Mommy, where're we going?" Luna asked.

"How come Daddy's not wit us?" Sakura asked.

"Daddy's going to come soon," Rinoa tried to explain to her daughters as they walked through the tall grass. "He just needs to get soem stuff. You know, like the picture album? And the pictures that you drew for us? He's getting them."

For some odd reason, while she carried her baby brother, Phoenix sensed that her mother was hiding something from them. Why's Mommy so sad?

"Hahahaha, trying to get away?" a voice said above them. "It's no use."

Rinoa skidded to a stop, instinctively guarding her children. A figure appeared in front of them, just not far off from Raine's memorial. His crimson eyes glowed in the darkness, a mop of white blowing gently with the breeze.

"Who are you?" Rinoa demanded.

The man wore all black, making his eyes glow more brightly. He smiled cruelly at her. "If you must know, my name is Alta, Sorceress Rinoa. Or should I say, Rinoa Leonhart since you are no longer a sorceress."

The girls glared at Alta. They didn't fear him; they never knew fear. There just was something about the man that they didn't like.

Rinoa continued to guard her children. "How do you know who I am?"

"It's rather easy since you shar my mistress's blood," Alta explained rather simply. His sword began to move as if alive.

"Your...mistress?" Rinoa asked as she eyed the sword nervously.

"Yes," Alta smiled evilly again. "Sorceress Ultimecia."

A shock ran through her body as the name of her former nemesis was mentioned. couldn't be....How??

Giving no other explaination, Alta disappeared, coming in for the kill. Rinoa braced for impact. She wouldn't let any of her children die. Not right now, not like this. Squall...

Metal met metal in a loud roar. Squall and Alta gave each other a staredown as each tried to get the advantage of the struggle.

"Squall!!" Rinoa gasped.

"Daddy, Daddy!" the girls shouted.

The noise of uncertaintly and screams began to make baby Alex cry.

"You're still alive?!?" Alta asked incredulously as he started back into Squall's blazing sapphire eyes.

Despite losing a lot of blood due to his heavy wounds, Squall wouldn't let Alta defeat him.

He gritted his teeth in anger, glaring into Alta's eyes. "Don't you DARE go near them!"

They continued to fight each other, leaving Rinoa and company left to watch. She knew that he was giving them time to get away, but she knew that even if they ran, it wasn't fast enough. There were too many shadows surrounding them, too many for them to dodge. She wanted to help him, but without her powers nor her weapon, she couldn't.

So all she could do was look on.

As Alta made the final blow, Rinoa covered her children in order for them not to see. But they saw, she knew that they saw their father get slaughtered. Blood splattered on her back and onto Phoenix's face, staining her hair. They were horrified, she knew, but she had to calm them down. She had to explain.

"You guys, listen to me, okay?" Rinoa began. "Don't be sad. Don't you EVER be sad. Me and Daddy are going to someplace else, okay? No matter what happens, we'll always watch over you." Tears began to well up in her eyes. "Me and Daddy are going to visit Grandma Raine! We'll tell you all about her when you visit. don't ever give up life. Live for Mommy and Daddy, okay? Got it? Got it?"

Before she could say anything else to her children, Rina was pulled back by her hair, Alta's bloody sword ready to strike. She knew that this was it. This would be the last time she would see her children, to comfort them, to talk to them, until they would come to Griever. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she saw the helpless faces of her children.

"Protect the pride," were her last words.

Alta's sword sliced through her throat. Her children saw their mother's eyes changed to catlike amber, cold and hard catlike amber eyes. Rinoa's lifeless body fell back to the blood-stained earth, but her lips still moved, staring lifeless back at her children with the same catlike amber eyes. Her words echoed back in their minds.

Live for us. Protect the pride......

They knew what she had meant. Their parents told them about the legend of Griever, how the rings worked, how they would return to it when they died.

Alta wiped the blood off his sword in one swipe. He started intently at the children.

"Since they're gone, I can easily get rid of you," Alta raised his sword.

Luna and Phoenix stepped in front of Sakura and baby Alex, willing to lose their young lives to protect their younger siblings.

But a cry from a shadow disrupted Alta's focus and took his eyes off the children. He faced a man with a similar scar to Squall's, light blond hair whipping against his face. Catlike emerald eyes glared at Atla, Hyperion gunblade dripping with blue blood.

"Who are you?!?" Alta demanded.

"What's the use of telling you my name when you killed the people I came for?" the man asked back.

Alta stepped back, eyes widening at the sound of the man's voice. "Almasy..."

"Now, I have to take Puberty Boy's bet on, thanks to you," Seifer said dangerously. "To protect the pride, that's the bet and promise I made to both of them."


AUTHOR'S NOTES: Hahahahaha.....uh.....don't kill me!! ^_^ This explains how Luna and Phoenix came to be, remember?? It was kinda hard writing this. I hate writing sad stuff, but love reading it!! R&R!