Disclaimer: I do not own FF8 or any of the characters. They belong to Squaresoft. However, this story does belong to me.

(A/N: As you have probably already guessed, this IS a Christmas story, but there is one thing wrong with a Final Fantasy Christmas story. The characters are not religious, therefore are not catholic, therefore do not celebrate the birth of Jesus. Please just ignore this fact, so that you can enjoy the story freely.



Mistletoe



"Irvine!" Selphie ran down the halls of Balamb Garden in search of the mega- flirt sharpshooter. "Irvine, where are you?"





As she neared the classroom on the second floor, a stifled groan could be heard from inside it. Stepping inside, Selphie discovered Irvine propped up against the wall. One eye was closed and the other looked as if it was seeing the world for the first time.





"What are you doing there Irvine?!" asked Selphie crossly. "We have work to do!"





" . . . Sorry Selphie," said Irvine sleepily. "Guess I worked so hard, I fell asleep."





Selphie rolled her eyes and sighed. "Oh Irvey, you haven't done ANY work yet! Christmas is in a week and we have to get garden ready!" exclaimed Selphie. When Irvine groaned, Selphie pouted and said, "Come on Irvey! I can't do it all by myself, can I?"





Irvine looked at her hopefully. Selphie stomped her foot. "No! Now come and help me with the decorations!"





"Oh alright, I'll help . . ." mumbled Irvine, as he made an effort to stand up.





"Yay!" said Selphie. She helped him up and the two made their way to the elevator.





Christmas at Garden was always one of the busiest times of the year, except perhaps the Garden Festival. A lot of work and preparation went into the day, and when it finally arrived, everyone agreed that all their hard work had paid off. Christmas was also the day when SeeD could relax and take the day off. Although, ever since Sorceress Ultimecia's defeat, everyone was almost always relaxed.

Everyone that is, except Squall Leonhart. Of course everyone knew who Squall was. The cold-hearted lone wolf who hated socialising. But he was quite different now, and all thanks to one spirited girl.

Rinoa Heartilly.

Rinoa had done much for Squall, but he still didn't like to participate in these festive occasions. She had a lot of work to do still . . .

~ ~ ~

"Please Squall?" begged Rinoa, clinging to his arm. They were situated just outside Squall's dormitory.

"I don't like shopping," was the brief answer.

"I know, but I do," said Rinoa. "So please?"

Squall looked at Rinoa, expressionless.

Rinoa sighed. "It can't be that bad, can it?"

"Yes," was the answer.

Rinoa stared up at Squall's eyes irresistibly. Rolling his eyes, he said, "Fine but no more than an hour."

Rinoa grinned and hugged Squall playfully. They walked down the corridor together, with Rinoa still attached to Squall's left arm. He thought to himself, as they walked, "I guess it won't be that bad . . . will it? In fact, I've conquered much bigger foes than shopping. This'll be easy, and it'll be over before I know it."

How wrong he was . . .

~ ~ ~

Quistis sat in her room, busy writing Christmas cards. She had decided to write to all the instructors as well, even though she no longer worked with them. She felt it was still her duty to do so.

She sometimes wondered what her future would hold, but was still happy that she had lots of caring friends. Although she would never share anything more than friendship with Squall, she was happy that he was finally happy.

Checking her watch, Quistis saw it was already half past 12 in the afternoon. Dropping her pen, she started to make her way towards the cafeteria to have lunch.

~ ~ ~

"Oh, YEEAAHH!!!" A young blonde boy, (also known as Zell Dincht) punched the air excitedly, before carrying a large plate full of "mouth-watering hotdogs" to a nearby table in the cafeteria. Today was one of the days when hotdogs were in stock, and Zell's prayers were finally answered. Sitting at a table with Quistis, Selphie and Irvine, the spiky-haired boy scoffed down two at a time.

"Careful there hot-doggy boy," said Selphie. "You might end up chucking those up instead of the other way round!"

Zell grinned shook his head. "Well maybe YOU might, but me? Nah . . ."

Quistis rolled her eyes and Irvine shook his head. Seeing the looks on his friends' faces, Zell said, ". . . What? Can't you see I'm a growing boy and I need my protein?"

". . . Um, Zell you're 17 years old," said Quistis, very soberly.

At this remark, Irvine and Selphie burst out laughing. Zell looked a bit offended, but was soon gobbling down more hotdogs happily in about a minute.

"You'll never learn to eat hotdogs properly will you Zell?" said Irvine.

Zell just shrugged and continued to scoff down his lunch.

~ ~ ~

In Balamb, Squall and Rinoa had been shopping for the last half hour or so. Squall never realised what he had gotten himself into when he agreed to take Rinoa out. He was soon carrying about 7 boxes piled on top of each other and Rinoa was walking in front of him happily.

Squall's face was completely hidden by all of Rinoa's shopping, but he still managed to see where he was going by looking to the side. "How did I get myself into this predicament . . .?" thought Squall. "It's probably worse than fighting Ultimecia!"

Just then, Rinoa stopped and said to Squall, "Let's stop for a bite to eat now. Knowing you Squall, you're probably dying of starvation!"

A sigh of relief could be heard from behind the mountain of boxes, as the couple stepped into a little restaurant. Squall put all the boxes down under the table that Rinoa had chosen, as she ordered their lunch.

Squall collapsed into the chair, and Rinoa giggled at him. "Sorry Squall," she said in between laughs. "Guess I never noticed how many boxes you were carrying."

"Guess not," said Squall.

Rinoa rested her chin on her hand and said thoughtfully, "But it WAS really nice of you to take me out Squall."

"Forget it," said Squall. Rinoa smiled sweetly at him, which made his heart start to melt.

After they had both eaten their lunch, Squall's "impossible" mission began again. The last 15 minutes of it went very slowly to him, but were over in a flash for Rinoa. They drove back to Garden in a car from Balamb, so Squall wouldn't have to carry the load.

While Squall drove, Rinoa said, "You probably don't even know what I bought, right Squall?"

Squall answered, "How do you know?"

Rinoa laughed and said, "Well all you did was stand outside the shops waiting for me to come out. Don't pressure me like that OK?"

"I wasn't," said Squall.

Rinoa leaned back in her seat. "Oh yeah, if you call gesturing for me to come and telling me to hurry up non-pressurising, well then call me a fool!"

"You're a fool," said Squall.

"Squall!" Rinoa looked at him crossly, before playfully hitting him on the shoulder. "Meanie . . ."

"Whatever," was the reply.

Rinoa looked at Squall's firm expression as he concentrated on driving the car. She sometimes found his anti-social behaviour amusing, yet frustrating at times. Nevertheless, she could still see the change in him, and wondered why she had such a big impact on him. Whenever she was around him, Squall's eyes softened, and his irrepressible frown calmed a little. He acted less cold and uncaring when Rinoa was there.

On thinking these thoughts, Rinoa rested her head on Squall's broad shoulder, just to see how he would react. If it had been someone else, Squall would've pushed them away. But it was Rinoa. She was different, so he just let her be. "Looks like I'm not a meanie anymore . . ." thought Squall. He also found her carefree attitude fascinating. Perhaps that's why the two attracted.

Soon, Squall pulled into Balamb Garden's carpark. Rinoa sat up and got out of the car, as did Squall. He took out all the bags and boxes and silently offered to carry them to Rinoa's dormitory. On the way, the couple saw Selphie running around with a large box, Irvine following closely.

"I think Selphie's preparing Garden for Christmas," said Rinoa. "She always does a great job with those sorts of things."

"Yeah . . ." said Squall. "That's because Irvine will do anything for her."

Rinoa giggled.

"What's so funny?" demanded Squall.

"Oh nothing . . ." said Rinoa. Squall looked puzzled. She knew that he would do anything for her as well, although he'd probably never admit it.

They arrived at Rinoa's dorm room, and she opened the door to let Squall put all her Christmas shopping down. He did this thankfully and Rinoa bounded up to him, gave him a quick hug, and said, "Thanks so much for taking me out shopping Squall. Oh and for carrying everything."

Squall folded his arms and said, "Don't worry about it."

"So . . ." said Rinoa. "I guess you probably have to go now, huh?"

Squall nodded.

"Well, see you later then," said Rinoa, smiling.

". . . Yeah," said Squall, as he left without another word. Rinoa thought about the way he acted. Cold and blunt at times, yet caring and kind towards her . . . sometimes.

As Squall made his way back to his own dorm, he thought more about Rinoa. She seemed to be on his mind a lot lately. But he felt that he couldn't offer her much, even though she cared deeply for him. He wanted to do something special for her for Christmas. But what?

Seeing that he was already at his dormitory, Squall decided to give it more thought later. Right now, he needed rest . . .

~ ~ ~

"There!" Selphie put the finishing touches on the mistletoe in the ballroom that she, Irvine and some other SeeDs had put up. There were now only 3 days until Christmas, and luckily almost everyone was prepared.

"Great job Sephie!" said Irvine, who was holding the bottom of the ladder Selphie had been standing on.

"Aww, thanks Irvey, but I couldn't' have done it without you and the others' help," said Selphie modestly.

Irvine smiled and tipped his cowboy hat forward. "Hey no prob!"

Every year, there was a Christmas party at Balamb Garden. It was held in the ballroom, and lots of people from neighbouring towns and cities came to view the spectacle.

Selphie stepped down from the ladder and stood there admiring the work she and the others had contributed to. She had put the mistletoe up on the balcony ceiling. "Yup, I reckon it looks really great there!" she said.

~ ~ ~

Rinoa lay on her bed in her dormitory, wondering if Squall would like the present she had gotten him. It was a medium sized lion ornament with wings. Some would say it looked a bit like a griffin, but not quite. It had been painted gold, and sparkled in the sunlight.

Rinoa wrapped it with pretty Christmas paper, and was trying to imagine Squall's face when he received the gift. Without even trying, she fell asleep without a sound and dreamt of a lion with Squall's face, which was able to fly. . .

~ ~ ~

On the morning of Christmas Eve, Squall awoke feeling as if he had forgotten something very important. And indeed he had. Rinoa's Christmas present still hadn't been bought!

Quick as a flash, Squall jumped out of bed and dressed quickly. It was still quite early but that didn't matter. He ran down the dormitory hall, all the way to Balamb garden's entry/exit zone, before running as fast as he could down the road that led to Balamb. Not even bothering to worry about breakfast, Squall checked how much money he had.

2500gil. Not enough for a train ticket. He cursed to himself and was just about to run back to Garden, when he received his daily income. "It seems as though luck's on my side," thought Squall happily, as he approached the station-master, paid his 3000gil and went to board the train that led to Deling City.

Squall HAD been thinking about where he'd go to buy Rinoa's ideal gift. He decided that Deling City was the place to go, since it had many expensive shops. As he sat aboard the train, he thought, "Lucky for me, SeeDs get this whole week off because it's Christmas . . ."

Again, Squall's mind began to drift along the lines of Rinoa again. He wanted to buy her something exquisite. Something divine. Something that would remind her of him somehow. But still, nothing came to mind. "I guess when I actually see it, I'll know," thought Squall. He felt that Rinoa deserved the best, but he knew that nothing money can buy would be good enough for this angel of a girl.

The train eventually stopped after a while. Squall looked out the window and saw that he was in Deling. He got up and stepped off the train, to find himself standing in the huge city. Running down to the shopping area, Squall looked in the windows of many classy-looking shops, before deciding to buy Rinoa some jewellery.

He noticed that not as many people were around, as it was still quite early. But it was late enough for the shops to be open.

One particular store caught Squall's eye. It was called "Rings n' Things." There was also a little sign on the door that said,

"ENGRAVINGS ON JEWELLERY - EXTRA 100GIL. ADDED ORNAMENTS - EXTRA 200GIL."

He opened the door and saw an old man sitting at the counter. There was no one else in the whole shop, and the man at the counter looked quite wise and knowledgeable.

Squall didn't bother to say anything to the man; instead he just looked around the shop, in search of the perfect Christmas present for Rinoa. But nothing seemed to rouse his attention, except for a pretty gold bracelet, which Squall thought needed things added to it. He picked up the box it was in and approached the man.

"Err . . . could you engrave something onto this?" asked Squall, looking as if he wasn't supposed to be there, and showing the bracelet to the man.

"Certainly," said the man. "Is there anything you want me to add?"

Squall thought for a minute, and then silently removed his Griever ring. " . . . Is it possible for you to copy this ring and add miniature versions to the bracelet?" asked Squall, rather reluctantly.

The man nodded. "Yes I can do that. Now what did you want me to engrave onto it?"

Squall thought to himself again, before saying, rather quietly, "Dear Rinoa, with love from Squall."

The man smiled. He definitely recognized that name. Then he said, "I'd best write that down." And taking a pen and notepad, he wrote the message quickly.

" . . . When do you think it should be ready by?" asked Squall hastily.

"Hmm . . . I should think by this afternoon, if I work hard," said the jeweller. "Is it to be a Christmas present?"

Squall nodded.

"Well then I'll do it as quickly and as carefully as I can," said the man. "Come back at about 3:30 - 4pm today."

Squall nodded again and said, "Thankyou."

The old man smiled, as Squall left the store without a word, leaving Griever behind for him to copy.

Squall didn't really want to wait for the bracelet to be altered. He was quite impatient in these sorts of situations. Wondering what to do to kill the time, he decided that breakfast was probably the best option for him right now.

~ ~ ~

"Would Selphie Tilmitt and Irvine Kinneas please report to my office on the [third floor] immediately!

I repeat:

"Would Selphie Tilmitt and Irvine Kinneas please report to my office on the [third floor] immediately! Thankyou." Headmaster Cid's voice boomed over the loud speaker as Selphie and Irvine stopped whatever they had been doing, (which was who knows what) and made their way to the elevator.

As they stepped in, Selphie innocently inquired, "Hmm . . . I wonder what headmaster Cid wants?"

Irvine shrugged. "Guess we'll find out."

The elevator stopped and the two walked up to where Cid was standing, his back turned.

"Sir?" piped up Selphie.

"You wanted to see us?" added Irvine.

Cid turned to face them and said, "Ah yes, thankyou for coming. Now I just wanted to say, I've been around garden and I must say it looks absolutely wonderful. Thankyou for all your hard work and dedication toward the preparation of Christmas."

Selphie grinned. "Well, I love Christmas so I guess it was only right for me to help out a bit, right Irvine?"

Irvine nodded. "Sure, whatever you say Seph."

Headmaster Cid smiled and added, "Well anyway, I'm sure tonight's party will be a great success. Oh and I couldn't help but wonder if anyone else helped you with the decorations, because I only saw you two running around."

"Well actually," said Selphie. "There WERE two other SeeDs that helped us. I'm not sure who they were though; they didn't tell us there names or anything."

". . . Yeah," said Irvine, feeling as if he was quite useless.

"Hmm, that's odd," said the Headmaster. "But we can't stand here worrying about it, can we? Dismissed!"

Selphie and Irvine saluted, before hurrying back to the elevator. Once inside, Selphie exclaimed, "That was real nice of Cid to thank us like that!"

"Yeah I guess it was," replied Irvine. "Anyway, I can't wait 'til tonight!"

~ ~ ~

If anyone had been walking around Balamb Garden repetitively, they would have noticed Zell practising his martial arts moves enthusiastically. Quistis was just one of the observers, as she made her way to the infirmary to discuss some test results with Dr. Kadowaki.

"Zell, why are you practising right now?" she asked.

Zell stopped punching the air to answer Quistis' question. "Ah . . . you see, I'm trying to work up an appetite for tonight . . ." he said.

Quistis shook her head in disbelief, and continued on to her destination.

~ ~ ~

Later that day, a young man stepped into the jewellery shop he had visited earlier that day. The man at the counter saw him and beckoned for him to come. Squall did so, and the man proudly presented to him a small, blue velvet box.

"Here's your gift sir," said the jeweller. "Finely engraved with tiny little lions all around it, just like you requested."

Squall opened the box and knew from the moment he laid eyes on it, that this was the perfect gift for Rinoa. His mouth curved into a faint smile as he ran his eyes over the tiny little Grievers.

"How much?" asked Squall.

"The bracelet is 2000gil - engravings extra 100, added ornaments extra 200 so that comes to 2300gil altogether please," said the jeweller.

Squall produced the money and paid the man.

"Thankyou kindly sir," he said. "And I'm sure she will love it."

Squall nodded and gestured his thanks as he left the shop, with a Christmas gift for Rinoa finally in his possession.

The jeweller watched him go, and then said to himself, "So, it looks as though the General's daughter has found happiness with that young man . . ."

~ ~ ~

That night, Christmas Eve, the ballroom was packed with people from Balamb and other towns. It looked wonderful, from all Selphie, Irvine and co.'s hard work and preparation.

Everyone was there - Headmaster Cid, Edea, and all the SeeDs, instructors, cadets and others who worked at Garden, Squall, Rinoa, Quistis, Selphie, Irvine, Zell and lots of guests.

An enormous Christmas tree stood tall in the centre of the ballroom. It was decorated with many ornaments and lights. Everyone who saw it agreed that it looked stunning. Lots of tinsel had been arranged across the walls and ceiling of the gigantic room. Green, red, blue, gold and silver colours covered the walls, underneath the tinsel.

"You guys did a great job with the decorations," complimented Rinoa to Selphie. She grinned happily. Rinoa was wearing her short, cream-coloured dress that she always wore for special occasions. The others were wearing their SeeD uniforms.

Zell and Irvine were pigging out at the food table, Quistis was talking with Xu, Selphie was being altogether hyper-active as usual, and Rinoa was happily observing Squall, who was sipping wine from a goblet.

Just then, Waltz for the Moon started to play, but this time it sounded a bit Christmassy. Bells were ringing in time with the other instruments. Soon almost everyone was one the dance floor. The pairings were: Cid and Edea, Xu and Nida, (.........?) Selphie and Irvine and Zell and the girl with a pigtail.

Rinoa tugged at Squall's arm. "Squall, I know you can dance . . ." she whispered. "Please?"

Squall shifted uneasily, but then let Rinoa drag him onto the dance floor. This pairing was by far the best, for the two had had practice at the SeeD Graduation Ball. Squall followed Rinoa's lead for a time, but eventually he was dancing like a pro, and Rinoa couldn't help but follow his lead. This time, they didn't' bump into anyone. The dance was absolutely perfect. Squall didn't think he'd be reluctant to stop, but he was when the sequence finally ended.

"Thanks Squall," smiled Rinoa. "You did great."

Squall gave a small smile.

Afterwards, Cid made a long speech about how successful a year it had been, and how everyone had improved immensely, both physically and mentally. "And lastly," he said, ready to conclude the speech. "I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. Enjoy the rest of the night!"

The listeners cheered and applauded loudly, as Cid walked back to Edea. Then someone started to sing some Christmas carols and everyone joined in. Squall took this opportunity to give Rinoa her gift. Beckoning for her to follow him, he led her out onto the balcony. He always felt that this was the best place to talk to Rinoa in private.

"Rinoa," he said. "There's something I want to give you and -" Rinoa shushed him by putting a finger to his lips.

"Wait Squall, me first please." At this, she produced the neatly wrapped Christmas present. Squall took it, thanked her, and opened it, to reveal the golden lion.

" . . . Do you like it?" asked Rinoa hopefully.

Squall smiled. A smile rarely seen. "Of course I do Rinoa. Thankyou."

Rinoa grinned and was delighted when Squall presented the blue velvet box. She opened it and gasped when she saw the gold bracelet. "Oh Squall . . ." she half-whispered. "It's so beautiful. Thankyou so much." She threw her arms around his neck and hugged him tightly.

Letting go of Squall, Rinoa fingered the tiny little Grievers and read the short, but affectionate message. She smiled up at him as Squall said, "Merry Christmas Rinoa."

"And Merry Christmas to you too Squall," laughed Rinoa.

"Well I guess we'd better go back inside then . . ." said Squall.

Rinoa nodded but then grabbed his arm before he could even take one step. "Wait a minute Squall," she said. "Look above you."

Squall looked, but just saw the ceiling that was next to the balcony, and a bit of mistletoe. The mistletoe Selphie had put up. "What?" he asked.

Rinoa giggled. "Don't you get it? We're standing under mistletoe. That means . . ."

Just then it hit him. "There's no getting out of this one . . ." thought Squall.

"Come here Mr. Leonhart," said Rinoa playfully, as Squall slowly walked over to her. She smiled warmly, draped her arms around his neck, and they kissed softly on the lips. It was a quick kiss, but then Squall placed his arms around Rinoa's waist and kissed her again, this time more passionately and for longer.

~ ~ ~

On Christmas morning, Rinoa woke up in a different dormitory. To her, this had been the best Christmas ever. And not only had she found herself in a different room, she also found herself in someone's arms. In the arms of the lion, on Christmas Day . . .

THE END



(A/N: Thankyou for reading this one-chaptered, FF8 Christmas fic. If you liked it, I'd be much obliged if you reviewed. I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!)

~~~Rinoa Leonhart73~~~