It wasn’t as bad as he thought it might be. He was expecting much worse and far more fussiness after a few days. It was actually kind of pleasant having the kids all to himself, an experience in just how much he could take at the very least. It wasn’t all fun with the occasional mess here and there but a complete responsibility.
Strife held onto Sarah’s small hands as he leaned over his youngest child as she smiled goofily up at him. He was helping her to walk, much to the delight of Sarah whose attempts were awkward at best. She at least tried to move her legs with each of his own small steps, and he let her feel accomplished by taking things at her pace rather than his own often eager one.
This was the longest time he had ever spent alone with his children. Julia was delighted and followed at his heels wherever he went, and she had already won many hearts among his gang by smiling, drawing and singing. She was still daddy’s girl and the moment he left the room, she was up and trotting after him like an over-enthusiastic puppy. She demanded in her small that he sleep with her because of the strange environment, and he had been forced to draw pictures and read her stories.
Sarah was a bit of a different story, having made a few complaints about Garnet not being around. When she cried for mommy, the only way he had found to calm her was to lay down and stroke her back while singing her a lullaby. Thankfully, her fits of need for Garnet had decreased over the last few days, making things much less stressful on him trying to please her needs.
“How did I know that I would find you with your kids again,” a female voice called nearby.
Strife looked up to regard one of his closer comrades approaching. He lifted Sarah up suddenly, making his daughter squeal in happiness before he set her on his shoulders. Her little fingers began pulling at his red hair as she leaned heavily on his head while bubbling happily.
“I hope you have good news for me,” he replied as he walked over to the brunette. “I wouldn’t want bad news right now.”
“Well… it might be good and it might be bad. It really depends on how you look at it.” She flashed him a toothy grin, one that emphasized her need for dental work. Thank goodness he was never too drunk to resort to ever kissing her in his younger days. “First thing, Mattas says Morgan has some info for you. She will give it only to you though, but I’m sure you suspected that.”
Strife held off of calling Morgan any uncouth names out loud for the sake of his children. He had to watch his language around them, since Julia was at that impressionable age. He instead bounced a little on his feet so that Sarah giggled and grasped his hair more tightly. “I’ll arrange a meeting with her by phone later on.” By later on, he meant when the kids were down for a nap, since he would be able to use bad words then.
His eyes shifted up as Sarah made the attempt to drool in his hair. It worked, but he was more afraid of how the dye would affect her sleeping habits. He would hate to have an insomniac child on his hands. “Any other news that I should be aware of?”
“Yeah, that inquiry you had us make in Kalm… more officers than usual,” she said, offering a few pictures. “Family can’t do public things except work, shop and have a strict curfew of eleven o’ clock.” There was a pause as smoothed some of Sarah’s growing hair. “And phone calls indicate that a lot of phone calls are made to your favourite man nightly.”
“Rufus…” he filled in and smirked. The gig was up and soon enough he would have his woman back because there was no strings attached. It had been odd that she handed him the kids almost desperately, and now the family. She stayed because of some silly obligation to her family, but that was easily cut out with nabbing her family and dragging them all to Midgar. “Definite house-arrest, if I had to be a judge. I knew it had to be something like this…”
“Cops playing dirty,” she said with a scoff.
“No… cop bending the rules to satisfy ego,” Strife replied. It sounded just like Rufus. The bastard kept Garnet as a way to get to him, but that could only be done for so long as Garnet agreed to stay. “Tell the boys in Kalm the acquire two vans to transport people back to Midgar. Make sure the trail can’t be tracked.”
Watching her leave, Strife reached up and stroked the side of Sarah’s face before drawing his younger daughter from his shoulders to be cradled in his arms. He received a smile from her and offered one in return as he moved to seat himself down.
Bouncing Sarah upon his knee gently, he considered his options. He needed to get her extended family out of Kalm and under his control, but that meant having to accommodate a group of people who were technically innocent. Not only that, but he would have to keep them entertained and have to deal with Paul from time-to-time. Did he really want Garnet back that much?
He shuddered and realized he would need to get used to Garnet’s father eventually. It may as well be on his terms.
Flipping open his phone, he inputted the number to Nash… a number he had stolen because it seemed like fun at the time. Now it seemed that it would come in handy and he could make sure that they were ready and packed when the time came to get them under his thumb. Nash wasn’t an innocent school boy and had a reputation in Costa del Sol.
“Yo?” Such a chipper voice for someone on house-arrest after hours.
“Make sure you and the rest of Garnet’s family are ready to travel within five days. Two vans will come and pick you up. Don’t resist and don’t alert the police,” he said coolly into the phone. “Midgar is nice this time of year.”
“Got it, almost brother-in-law. Paul misses you,” Nash chirped into the phone. “Talks about you everyday.”
Strife had to grit his teeth to not say something that he would come to regret later on. “Good-bye, Nash.”