Chapter Ten: The Treasure
*All Standard Disclaimers Apply - I do not own Final Fantasy or it's characters.
"Laguna, don't leave me!"
"Just hold on, Julia!" The man's arms held on to the woman's frail body with all his might as the dark ocean waves crashed into the body of the ship. "It'll be all right!"
Thunder sounded in the distance as lightning illuminated the storm cloud filled sky. "Watch out!" a voice shouted. The man's eyes flew up to witness the ship's massive mast falling as the sound of it's splintering wood filled his ears.
Without a second thought, he pushed the slim young woman with the dark hair to the side. "Laguna!" her wails reached his ears as the ship's mast crashed into the planks of the deck.
"We have serious water damage, Captain Cid!" someone yelled in the back ground. "The mast broke through several levels!"
The brown haired man at the wheel closed his eyes as his gripped the wooden wheel tightly in his leather gloved hands. "Prepare the life boats!" he shouted as his eyes flew open. "Immediately!! Save as many as you can!"
"Yes, captain!" Dozens of crew members scampered on to the life boats that lined the edge of the ship. Immediately, the sound of ropes being lowered and pulleys being used after years of neglect sounded through the crashing waves.
The young woman's eyes filled with terror as the ship began to split from the force of the water. "LAGUNA!!" she cried out tearfully. She searched for him through the thick rain as she crawled higher and higher on to the ship.
"JULIA!" Laguna shouted. Suddenly, her side of the ship was ripped away from his, bringing her with it. "Get on a life boat!!" The side she was starting to sink. Frozen in fear, she sat there, tears in her eyes.
He struggled to go forward, but felt hands restraining him. "Don't be stupid!" a voice growled in his ear. "You'll drown if you try to swim to her!
"Someone has to!" he snapped, trying to push the dark skinned man who was holding him back away. He looked forward. "JULIA!" he yelled in vain.
Her thick dress was soaked with sea water as she whirled around. Her hair was matted to her head as she turned. Her beautiful brown eyes went wide as she saw the gigantic swell approaching. Her heart stopped as lightning made her terrified face visible.
Tears slipped down his face as he watched her turn to face him. She smiled slowly and closed her eyes. It seemed that all he could see through the lashing winds and the thick rain and endless darkness was Julia Heartilly. She sat there, a serene look on her face as she lifted her head to look up at him once more. Her rosy lips parted. "Good-bye."
His eyes shot open as he screamed. "JULIA!!" Thunder drowned at his cries as his face was pounded with salt water. He watched helplessly as he was dragged into a life boat as the wave crashed against her part of the boat, sending broken pieces of wood into galling winds of the storm while it consumed the remains of the boat and the people on the boat.
He squinted through the blinding storm as he watched the remains of the ship sink beneath the violent waves. He swallowed hard and fell to his knees on the life boat he was taken in. She was gone. In that brief moment, she was ripped away from him. It was all decided with one simple squall.
Laguna looked down at his cup of coffee as Ellone wiped a tear form the corner of her eye. Irvine looked absolutely shocked as Zell sniffled. Kiros and Ward stood the corner, silently watching their friend.
"So many years of trying to bring peace between the two families..." Laguna whispered quietly as he shook his head. "Down the drain...So you'll understand, Squall..." Laguna said, looking up at his son from where he was sitting on his desk, pale and suddenly frail looking. "You'll understand why I didn't want you to go on that ship."
Squall was silent. All he could do was look at the inch by inch big picture in his hand. "It's still doesn't answer the question..." Irvine said suddenly. Everyone looked over at him as he looked over at Squall. "Are you SURE that's the same woman?"
Squall nodded. "Even if I didn't see the picture on Rinoa's desk, the assumption wouldn't be difficult to believe. Look at the resemblance."
"But I don't understand..." Laguna said, shaking his head slowly. "If Julia was alive...why didn't she come forward?"
"Julia was never one to keep things from Laguna," Kiros added. "I also find it strange that she wouldn't come forward. If she did, that would ease a lot of tension between the families. Hyne knows how she hated that feud."
Laguna suddenly looked heart broken as tears slipped down from the corners of his eyes. "Why...?" he whispered. "I just...I just don't understand. I thought we loved each other...and..."
"It's been a tiring night," Kiros said as he looked at the four younger people in the room. "Why don't you kids get some rest...especially you boys. You've traveled all day."
Irvine and Zell nodded and stood up. Zell tapped Squall's shoulder as he passed and Squall nodded slowly, his eyes still on the picture. "Squall...?" Ellone said softly as she stood over him. "Honey, aren't you going to bed?"
"I'm not tired yet, sis." he mumbled.
Ellone nodded. "Good night, then." She patted his shoulder softly as she left the room. The door closed behind her.
Squall shook his head. "Why didn't she tell me?" he mumbled quietly. "Why didn't she tell me she was a Heartilly? She never mentioned it once."
"What would you have done, Squall?" Kiros asked wisely. "If she had told you?"
"I don't know..." the young man whispered. His hands wrapped around the picture and he stood up. "I...I'm going for a walk..." he mumbled.
The other men nodded understandingly as he walked to the door and closed it behind him. "It seems that the Heartilly women have quite an effect on the Loire men, don't they, Ward?" Kiros asked. Ward nodded.
"What should we do?" Laguna asked quietly as he stared at the door his son had just exited from.
Kiros looked at him. "Do for what?"
"Squall is in love," Laguna explained emotionally. "It was one thing when he didn't have someone he was attached to, but now he has Rinoa. I can't, in good conscience, let him marry Kadowaki's daughter when he's in love with another woman. I couldn't do that... it would betray Julia. It would betray Raine."
Kiros smirked. "You know the family elders won't forgive you for this..."
"They haven't forgiven me for many things," Laguna said, suddenly determined. "They're always saying how I have to do things for the family. Well, I'll do something FOR my family this time."
"Shall I call the Kadowakis?" Kiros asked as next to him Ward grinned.
"The treasure will be here in a week," Laguna said, having been sent the schedule of the treasure's shipment ahead of time. "When it arrives, have the Kadowaki family join us for dinner."
"What's going through that little brain of yours this time, Laguna?" Kiros asked as he shook his head.
"The welfare of my son."
Four days had passed and Laguna anxiously looked up at his calendar. He looked down at the endless papers that laid on his desk and frowned miserably. It seemed that every day the pile just grew larger and larger despite the fact that he had gone through stacks every day.
Suddenly his phone rang. "Ah!" Laguna jumped and stared at the black phone on his desk where it's lights were blinking, signaling him. Cautiously, he picked up the phone. "Hello?"
"President Loire?" a voice said. It was his secretary. "You have a phone call."
"A Miss Almasy, sir." Laguna tilted his head to the side. He didn't know anyone with that name.
"All right, wire them through," Laguna said. He heard a click. "Hello?"
"President Loire?" a female voice asked. "My name is...uh...Quisty Almasy." He heard someone behind 'Quisty' saying something like 'That's the most horrible name I've ever heard!'.
"Miss Almasy, how can I help you?" Laguna asked, somewhat suspicious.
"We seem have to have the same interests at heart," 'Quisty Almasy' said. "Regarding your son and one Miss Rinoa Heartilly-Caraway."
Laguna nearly dropped the phone. "How do you know about them!?" he gasped.
"Sir, please," the usually carefree voice said. "I'm a...friend."
"Selphie! Give me the phone!" a voice barked behind the girl.
"No! I can handle this!" 'Quisty' said. Laguna looked at the phone strangely. He heard struggling. "No!"
"Give me the phone!"
"No! I can do this!"
"No, you can't!" the other female voice explained. "Seifer, hold her down!"
"Hey!! No fair!!"
"Hello, President Loire?" the second female voice sighed. "My name is Quistis Trepe. I was asked to contact you by Rinoa. I'm one of her friends."
"Quistis Trepe..." Laguna mumbled. "Where have I heard that name before?"
"My father owns Trepe Technologies."
"No...I've never heard of it..."
"My mother runs a hotel chain named after me?"
"I'm sorry, then, sir, I don't know how else you would know my name-"
"Oh! I know! Zell was talking about you girls the other day. That other girl on the phone must've been Selphie!" Laguna beamed proudly.
On the other line, Quistis looked at the phone strangely. *Can this be for real? Is this really Squall's father?* "This is President Laguna Loire, father of Squall Leonheart, right?"
Laguna chuckled. "Yes, I am...I get that a lot."
*Yeah, no kidding...* Quistis thought to herself. "Anyway, sir, Rinoa told us a story the other night that she asked us to relay to you-" In the background, he heard a door opening and someone apologizing for being late. "What took you so long...what? Okay fine...here."
"Hello?" an out of breath female voice gasped. "President Loire?"
*Hyne, she sounds just like her!* "This must be Rinoa?" Laguna whispered, unsurely.
Despite the fact that they were on the phone, Rinoa nodded. "Yes...I'm glad I was able to get a hold of you. You were mentioned many times in my mother's diary."
"So it's true then?" Laguna gasped out. "You really are Julia's daughter?"
"Yes, sir," she said. "I can't be long on the phone, but I'd like to read you an excerpt from her diary...it was in the later pages...I think it'll answer any questions you might have. May I?"
"Of course, go ahead!" Laguna gasped.
Rinoa took a deep breath as she opened up one of the last pages of her mother's diary. She put the phone on speaker and began to read.
Rinoa turned five today. Just by watching her, I know she's going to be a sorceress. I'm very proud of her. Tonight, when I tucked her into bed and told her favorite story, The Thief's Treasure, she asked me what if there was no treasure worthy of the princess? Does that mean that the thief's treasure is worthless?
And I told her that even if she found nothing worthy of the princess, the treasure was far from worthless. Laguna told me those exact words and when I said them, I began to cry. It's been years since I have mentioned him.
I feel that I must tell the truth sometime and after being asked that question by my precious daughter, I feel that I have to tell the truth because I am deeply reminded of him.
I don't remember much about the storm, that's the truth. All I know was that the last thing I saw was Laguna, looking horrified as I was swallowed by the ocean. I didn't die...somehow, my dress caught a piece of timber that was part of the boat and I was kept afloat.
When I woke up, I was being dragged on a military ship of Galbadia's military. Without a clue as to who I was. That's when I met General Caraway. Actually, then he was just Major Caraway. He recognized me and called me by my name, Julia Heartilly and escorted me back to my family.
Not a word was mentioned about Laguna while they were telling me who I was. They did it on purpose, I know it. I found myself being kept from the public eye and hidden away at my private estate where I live with Rinoa while the General is away. For years, I didn't remember who I was. I was only told who I was supposed to be. It wasn't until I gave birth to Rinoa that I suddenly remembered.
And when she was born, I was crying for more than one reason. I was told that Laguna had married and that his wife had just had a son. I was bitter and angry at him, but I realized that he had to get on with his life, though it still pains me to think about that. I told my family and chided them for not telling me my whole past. I was beyond furious and had it not been for Rinoa, I would've run to Laguna.
I couldn't abandon my daughter. I love her. And I find myself loving the General as well. He had been kind to me when I needed it the most. I feel that I had hurt him the most when I told him I remembered Laguna. Now he distances himself from me.
As I watch Rinoa sleep, I pray that Laguna forgives me. I truly do still love him and regret not being able to tell him that I am still alive. I hope that as he watches his son sleep, he feels the joy I feel. Laguna, I'm sorry. Please forgive me.
- Julia Heartilly"
Laguna was in tears. He ran his hand down his face and tried to wipe his eyes as he played the words over and over on his head. "My mother died a year after this was written," Rinoa whispered. "I'm sorry to bring up old memories, President Loire...but when I read this, I had to tell you. I want my mother's spirit to be at rest now."
The President of Esthar closed his eyes and nodded. "I...I understand..." he whispered behind sniffles. "Thank you, Rinoa...You have no idea how much that means to me. If your mother could hear me now...I hope she knows that I do forgive her. But there was never anything to forgive."
"I have to go now, sir," Rinoa said. "Please...don't tell Squall about this."
"Of course, Rinoa," Laguna agreed. "Thank you."
She hung up and Laguna slowly put the phone back in it's place. He closed his eyes tightly and covered his face with his hands. So Julia never meant to hurt him. She had lost her memory and lived with the guilt of feeling she abandoned him for years after.
He looked up at the pictures on his desk. Right next to a picture of Raine was a picture of Julia. Somehow, it didn't seem a bad thing for him to have both pictures there, watching him. "This is your way of telling me I should do something, isn't it?" he asked the pictures as tears rimmed his eyes. He looked down at the wedding ring he still wore. Julia had been happy and that put his mind at ease. Raine had loved him and had Squall upon the realization that he loved her. And that put his mind at ease as well.
There was a knock on the door. "The date is set!" Kiros said behind the door. "The Kadowakis will be here!"
Laguna looked up and nodded. "Thank you, Kiros," he said. "I'm prepared this time."
Squall looked at himself in the mirror. He was wearing a suit, which he hated. He narrowed his eyes. He really didn't want to have to actually face Dr. Kadowaki. The woman was scary. Someone knocked at his door.
"Squall, you ready?" Irvine said. Squall had reluctantly asked both him and Zell to join him and his family there that evening. For support.
"I'll be right down," Squall said. He looked at the little framed picture of him and Rinoa on his dresser. He took a deep breath and turned around. He opened the door and found his two friends standing there encouragingly. "Is everything ready?"
"Everything is set." Irvine said with a nod of his head.
"Good luck, Squall!" Zell smiled, trying to be supportive. Squall merely nodded, knowing deep down that Zell didn't want this marriage to happen as much as he did.
The trio walked down the hall and then down the stairs. As they walked down the hall to the dining room, they could hear the soft piano music being played as entertainment for the guests. They entered the dining room to find a long table, draped with a white table cloth and candles. Expensive plates lined the table as everyone in the room turned to the double doors where the trio stood.
Immediately, Squall headed over to greet Dr. Kadowaki. He bowed his head as he took her hand and kissed the back of it. "Good evening, doctor," he stated rigidly. He looked past her. Sure enough, there was the girl who worked at the library. Her brown hair was in clipped back from her face and wavy, probably from the pig tails she usually wore. "And this must be your lovely daughter."
"Yes, Squall," Kadowaki said. She turned, dressed in a black evening gown, to her daughter, dressed in navy blue. "Dear, this is Squall Loire. Your fiancée."
"A pleasure to meet you..." she said quietly, her eyes downcast.
"Same to you," Squall said. He shook her hand slowly and glanced over at Zell, who had a pained look on his face. He took a deep breath. "Shall we begin dinner?"
"I would like to discuss the issue of the dowry first, Squall," Dr. Kadowaki stated. "Your father said you have returned successful."
Squall looked over at his father, who stood quietly to one side. Several family elders were near by, watching them both like hawks. "Of course, doctor," Squall said. "Now that everyone is here, I'd like to present you with samples from the dowry itself."
Kadowaki raised an eyebrow as Squall signaled Irvine. Irvine nodded and stepped out into the hall. "Bring them in!" he shouted.
A dozen golden serving carts were rolled into the room. There was a large silver tray with a cover over it on each one. As they were lined up in behind Squall, Kadowaki and the elders watched with interest. Squall raised his hand and the servants lifted the covers at once.
Murmurs went through the room as four plates contained gold bricks, four other plates contained silver bars, and the last four plates contained mounds of precious stone. "These are merely a sample," Squall said. "Two barges containing more have already docked at the Estharian military base to be transported to wherever you please."
"What do you think, doctor?" one of the elders asked nervously.
Kadowaki looked over the trays of gold, silver, and jewels. She brought her hand to her chin and rubbed it thoughtfully. She nodded and extended her hand towards Squall. "Excellent work, Squall. You certainly have proven yourself. I approve."
The entire room began to clap as Squall shook Kadowaki's hand. Laguna decided to was time to step it. "Dr. Kadowaki-" he began, Squall cut him off.
"Dr. Kadowaki, I present this dowry to your daughter on behalf of Zell Dincht, heir to Dincht Enterprises." Squall stated.
"WHAT!?" an elder gasped in shock.
"Pardon me?" Kadowaki asked, looking confused as she pulled her hand away. Her daughter turned to the spiky haired blond who was looking immensely shocked in the corner.
"Zell!" she gasped. She picked up the skirt of her dress and began to run towards him.
"My dear!" Kadowaki gasped, horrified as her daughter ran across the room and threw her arms around the blond man.
"I have not proven myself to anyone," Squall explained. "It was ZELL who has. He helped me attain the treasure."
"But...but the alliance!" Kadowaki gasped.
"I'm sure you'll find that an alliance with the Dincht family is just as iron clad as the alliance with my family," Squall said smugly. "He is a close friend and like a brother to me."
"Squall..." Laguna smiled proudly. Irvine was leaning against the door way, grinning from ear to ear as Ellone stood by him, confused, but pleased.
"I don't understand..." Kadowaki mumbled. "You went through all that trouble for a dowry for my daughter from ANOTHER man?"
"No, Dr. Kadowaki," Squall said. "I went through all that trouble for a dowry for her from me. However, I'm afraid that I fell in love with someone else while searching for it."
"Fell in love!?" the elders growled. They immediately turned to Laguna with scornful looks. "Laguna! This is all your fault! Like father like son-"
"I am NOTHING like my father!" Squall growled, attracting their attention. "Dr. Kadowaki," he said, addressing the woman in a powerful tone. "With an alliance to the Dincht, you have an alliance with the Loire and Leonheart. I can assure you that."
"But...my daughter..." Kadowaki began.
"She's been in love with Zell since we went to school at the Garden," Irvine laughed behind them. "And Zell's had this huge crush on her since then, too."
Zell was now in the cornering, holding Dr. Kadowaki's daughter's hands and blushing as he admitting his feelings. She blushed and threw her arms around him, giving him a hug as he blushed even more. "Laguna-" the elders began as they advanced on the president.
He shook his head. "No! If my son doesn't want to marry someone, he shouldn't have to! He should marry the person he's in love with!"
"You married someone who you were arranged to marry, YOU have no room to talk-"
"I loved Raine!" Laguna growled. "I may have loved Julia as well, but I loved Raine with my heart and soul, Hyne rest her soul! Don't you EVER question how I felt about her!" His eyes were lit with emotion as he glared at the elders.
The elders took a step back and Squall looked at his father in surprise. He sounded so serious. Not like the whiny moron who nearly cried when his cat got stuck in a tree. "Uncle..." Ellone said with admiration.
"Laguna," a voice said from the door way. Laguna looked over to the doorway where Kiros was standing. "You have a telephone call."
"Not know, Kiros-" Laguna began tiredly.
"It's from a Heartilly elder." Kiros cut him off. The entire room went silent and all eyes were on Laguna. He swallowed hard.
His last talk with a Heartilly family elder had ended in death threats and escalation of the feud's status. It had been over twenty years since he had last talked to one. "What...what do they want?"
Kiros looked around the room at the eyes that were on him. "Amazingly enough...they want to talk about peace."
Laguna had been working round the clock for two months. He, Kiros, and Ward had been traveling to meetings in Deling City, Galbadia for days at a time. The whole issue of peace had been kept quiet. The elders had wanted to deal with it, but Laguna refused their request.
The Heartilly had chosen to talk to him specifically for a reason and demanded only to speak to Laguna on the issues of peace for those unsaid reasons. Squall had stood in the shadows, more concerned with whether or not his sister would actually get engaged now that he had refused an arranged marriage.
So far, the elders had not stepped forward to make good on their threat and Ellone was still single. She was busying herself with helping with the preparations for Zell's upcoming wedding.
Zell himself was on cloud nine most of the time. He spent much of his time getting to know his future wife better. He had been incredibly happy when she was impressed with his ability to eat hot dogs at record times. Luckily for Zell, his mother had approved of the marriage and openly welcomed Dr. Kadowaki's daughter into her family.
Irvine was working at his uncle's business - a law firm. Unknown to many people, Irvine, the play boy and gun slinger, came from a long line of lawyers. When he wasn't at the firm, he was on the phone with Selphie. She filled him in on the rest of the group but Irvine never relayed the news to Squall.
Squall had started to keep to himself even more. One night, Laguna called him into his office. As the young man entered, he looked over at his father. Kiros and Ward, who were his father's constant shadows, were not there.
"I received the final clause to the peace treaty today," Laguna said as Squall sat down in front of him. "It involves you once again."
Squall mentally swore. "What now?"
"One of the Heartilly heiresses..." Laguna began. He leaned forward, unsure of how to say it. "I don't know her name...is pregnant."
Squall raised an eyebrow. "So?"
Laguna looked at his son. "You know how bad it seems when a daughter of a family like the Heartillys has a child out of wedlock," Laguna explained. "They need her married fast and to a son of a respectable family-"
"So they want me to marry the pregnant heiress?" Squall concluded. He shook his head. "No."
"I knew you were going to say that-"
"Then tell them no." Squall insisted with narrowed eyes.
"This isn't as easy as Kadowaki-"
"You called that EASY!?" Squall gasped. "That was the hardest thing I've ever had to do!"
"Squall, this could make or break the feud!" Laguna insisted.
"That could be her cousin!" Squall yelled as he stood up. "I don't know who that woman is! For all I know, she's Rinoa's cousin! I'm in LOVE with Rinoa! I could NEVER do that to her!"
"Squall..." Laguna whispered as he squinted his eyes. "Rinoa's the one who's been arranging all of this..."
The young man froze in his spot. "What...?"
"When they left the port, they headed back to Galbadia," Laguna explained softly. "Rinoa said she would return to her family if they established peace with ours. She's been pleading and negotiating with her family's elders for the past two months."
"But why?" Squall whispered. "She knows I love her, why would you have me marry someone else?"
"It wasn't Rinoa's idea!" Laguna sighed. "It's insane to think that she would every suggest such a thing. But it's her family's idea."
"I can't do that!"
"She's already given the blessing," Laguna admitted. Squall's face paled of all color. "The document she sent over stated that she would agree to it provided that the peace was solidified."
"No..." Squall said in denial. He shook his head. "No, she wouldn't..."
"No!" he gasped. He took a step back. "I REFUSE to marry someone I don't love! Even if Rinoa did give her blessing, it means NOTHING to me unless she's the one I'm marrying!"
Laguna diverted his eyes. "It's all already been agreed," the president said painfully. "She'll be here tomorrow to meet you."
"You bastard..." Squall said, shaking his head. "After everything...you'd still pull this..."
Squall merely shook his head and turned around. Laguna called after him, but Squall continued to walk and threw open the door. In a swift motion, he slammed it closed. "That's not quite the reaction I was going for..." a voice trailed off with a heavy sigh. Laguna looked down on at the phone, which had been on speaker.
"I'm sorry you had to hear that." he sighed.
"It's all right," the voice said. "The peace is as good as here."
"Squall!" Irvine pounded on Squall's door. It was early in the morning. Squall looked over at his clock on his night stand and mentally swore. He hadn't gotten any sleep the night before. "Squall, open up!!"
He knew that Irvine would not stop until he got his way. So Squall gave in and threw his blankets off his boxer clad body and headed for the door. He unlocked it and tore it open, glaring at Irvine as he opened it. "WHAT!?"
"Selphie and the others are in town!" Irvine exclaimed. "They arrived last night!"
"What!?" Squall gasped. "Why didn't you tell me this earlier!?"
"I just got a call this morning!" Irvine said with a beaming smile. "Hurry up and get dressed! Selphie's waiting!"
Within a few minutes, Squall and Irvine were rushing down the stairs. Ellone was walking towards the stairs. "Squall!" she gasped in surprise. "Squall, where are you going!?"
"Out!" Squall shouted up the stairs.
"Wait!" Ellone gasped. "Squall, you can't go!" The door slammed closed and Ellone was left half way down the stairs, staring at the door. "She'll be here any minute..."
"Where is Squall?" a voice asked behind her. She turned and saw Laguna walking down in khakis and a buttoned up shirt, smiling brightly.
"He just left, uncle." Ellone sighed.
Laguna's eyes went large. "Left? Left where? When will he be back?" he gasped.
"I don't know, he didn't say..." Ellone admitted. She ran her hand through her hair. "Hyne...Squall..."
Outside, Squall jumped into Irvine's car as the cowboy started it. He revved the engine and turned up the music. "You didn't have anything important to do today, did you?"
Squall merely shook his head. "No. Nothing."
"Good!" Irvine said. He grinned as he put his hand on the steering wheel and stepped on the gas. "Selphie, here I come!"
As they peeled out of the drive way and headed for the gates, they passed by a long black limo that was entering. It had tinted windows and Irvine let out a whistle. *That must be her...* Squall thought to himself.
"You SURE you had nothing to do today?" Irvine insisted. Squall nodded.
"Let's just go."
Selphie hadn't changed in the few months that they hadn't seen her. As Irvine drove up to the hotel they were staying, a blur of yellow topped with upturned brown hair flew out of it's doors and into Irvine's awaiting arms.
"IRVY!!" Selphie shouted with joy as she threw her arms around his neck and showered him with kisses.
"Selphie!" he sighed as he held on to her tightly. "I missed you so much!"
"I missed you, too, Irvy!"
"Look who I dragged along with me!" Irvine said with a grin. Selphie looked over his shoulder at Squall, who was casually walking up behind.
Selphie smiled brightly. "Squall!" she gasped cheerfully. "How are you doing!?"
"I'm fine," he mumbled. He looked around, unsure of what to do. "How are you?"
"I'm great!" Selphie piped. "Oh! The whole gang is here!" she said happily. "They're inside, in the lobby! Follow me!"
She grabbed on to Irvine's hand and dragged him into the hotel. Squall followed slowly behind him, wondering if Rinoa would be there. As they entered, they spotted several familiar looking people sitting around the couches in the lobby of the expensive hotel.
"Hey!" Irvine laughed as he saw all of them.
They turned around and one by one stood up, smiling. Quistis was the first to greet them, smiling happily. "How are you both doing?" Quistis asked.
"Doing great now!" Irvine said as he put his arm around Selphie's waist and pulled her against him. "So the whole gang's here, huh?"
"Where's Zell?" Fujin asked. "With girlfriend?"
"Like always," Irvine said, rolling his eyes. "He's never around any more...but hey, that's they way of a married man."
"It's good to see you two, ya know!" Raijin said. He waved from where he was sitting.
"Yeah...right..." Seifer grumbled. "I didn't want to come."
"We didn't want you to come either," Selphie stuck her tongue out at him. "But you didn't want to let your wife come alone."
"Oh, yeah! How as the ceremony, anyway?" Irvine said. "Sorry we couldn't make it."
"You weren't invited." Seifer snapped.
Quistis rolled her eyes. "It was just a small little ceremony, Irvine," she assured him. "You didn't miss much."
"You two were already married?" Squall asked, looking at them curiously.
"Didn't you tell him?" Quistis said, looking at Irvine. She chuckled softly and smiled at Squall. "We got married a month ago in Winhill."
"We just got back from our honeymoon and Selphie dragged us HERE." Seifer grumbled as he raised his hands in the air.
Squall looked at all of them. He had already noticed who was missing the moment he stepped through the doors. Selphie and Quistis both noticed the way his eyes looked around the room.
"Irvine," Selphie sighed. "Didn't you tell Squall?"
"Tell him what, darlin'?" Irvine asked as he smiled intently at her.
"About Rinoa," Selphie said. Irvine's mouth made a little 'o' and Selphie shook her head. She turned to Squall. "Sorry, Squall...we kind of parted ways with Rinoa."
"She went back to her family, didn't she?" Squall asked. *Of course she wouldn't be here. She's in Galbadia trying to forge peace treaties. That's more important that this...*
"Yeah," Selphie nodded. "She's doing good though! She's really getting somewhere with the peace between the families."
Squall nodded. Sensing the tension in the air, Quistis cut in. "So why don't we all go out to breakfast and then you two can give us a tour of Esthar?" she suggested "It's the most technologically advanced city in the world, we'd love to get a look around."
"I'd like to go back to bed." Seifer countered. Quistis shot him a glare.
"You're here already, you might as well enjoy it!" she hissed threateningly.
He merely shrugged. Irvine grinned and nodded. "Sure thing!" he agreed. "Afterwards, we can go clubbing!"
"Yay! Clubbing!" Selphie piped.
Squall sighed. "Do you guys like the hotel?" he asked.
"The price is a little steep," Quistis sighed. "But it's a good quality hotel."
"Hey! Why don't we all stay at the palace?" Irvine exclaimed. "Hey, Squall is that okay?"
*I could use some people there to get my mind off of that Heartilly heiress...* Squall thought to himself. He nodded. "Give me your room numbers," he stated. "I'll have your things brought over to the palace."
"Whoo!" Selphie shouted as she jumped out of Irvine's car. Behind them, the rental that Quistis had brought parked on the drive way of the palace. "We HAVE to go to that club again!"
"Glad you liked it, darlin," Irvine winked as he got out of his car. Squall came out of the back seat, where he had been sitting and forced to listen to Selphie's constant 'train song'. "Here we are!"
"It's huge!" Selphie gasped excitedly as she looked up at the structure. "There's got to be like a bazillion rooms in there!"
"One hundred fifty," Squall shrugged. "Let's go."
"Are you sure this is all right, Squall?" Quistis asked as they followed him up the stairs. "Your father won't mind?"
"Whatever." Squall shrugged once more. He unlocked the door and stepped in.
"Where were you!?" a voice gasped from the foyer. Yellow hall lights flooded his senses as he blinked rapidly.
Behind him the people also blinked and took a step back. "Sis?" Squall said.
"We've been waiting all day!" Laguna's voice cut through. Squall narrowed his eyes and focused them on the two people waiting for them.
"All day?" Irvine said. He turned to look at Squall. "You said you had nothing to do today!"
"Nothing to do!?" Laguna gasped. He ran his hand through his hair. "She's been waiting here since this morning, right after you left! Your cellular phone was turned off and we couldn't reach you!"
"I was out with some friends." Squall said, motioning to the company.
"Uh..." Selphie said, surely. "Hello?"
Ellone let out a heavy sigh. "You must be the people whose things were sent over earlier today..."
"We're sorry to trouble you," Quistis began with a frown. "We can take our things back and-"
"Quistis Trepe?" Laguna suddenly asked, recognizing her voice.
The blond looked at him. "It's now Quistis Almasy, Mr. President."
He nodded and extended his hand. She took his and shook it. "And this must be Selphie..." he said, looking at the petite brunette. He shook her hand as well.
"Nice to meet you, sir!" Selphie piped cheerfully. "This Seifer Almasy, Quisty's husband, and our friends Raijin and Fujin."
"Hello." Fujin said with a nod of her head.
"Nice to meet you, sir, ya know!" Raijin said with a smile.
"Sir." Seifer said, merely nodding his head to acknowledge the man.
"Irvine," Ellone said. "Can you please take them to their rooms? On the west wing of the second floor. We'd like to talk to Squall privately for just a moment."
Irvine nodded. "Sure thing," he said. With his arm draped around Selphie's shoulder, he waved his hand. "Follow me, guys!"
The group followed Irvine up the stairs and turned the corner. As soon as they were out of sight, Ellone and Laguna turned back to Squall. "The girl is pregnant, Squall!" Ellone gasped. "She shouldn't be forced to wait up for you until all hours of the night!"
Squall merely turned his head away indifferently. "I told you, I'm not marrying her. She's gone now and there's nothing you can do to change that."
"She's not gone, Squall," Ellone sighed. "She was tired and so retired early."
Squall's eyes went wide before they narrowed angrily. "She's still HERE?"
"She's asleep in your room." Laguna replied. Squall's eyes grew even angrier.
"WHY?" he hissed in a low and calculated voice.
"It's where she requested to go," Laguna said. Squall shut them out of his mind as he walked past them and headed up the stairs. "Squall!"
Ellone put her hand on her uncle's shoulder and shook her head. "He has to deal with it sometime, uncle." she said. Laguna let out a heavy breath and nodded. Squall reached the top of the stairs and turned to the east wing, where is room was located.
Angrily, he walked down the long corridor. *How DARE she? Who does she think she is, waltzing into my life and taking over! I don't care if she IS related to Rinoa and pregnant!* He reached his door and put his hand on the knob. Throwing it open, he looked into the darkened room.
The windows on the eastern wall were open, allowing a cool breeze to flow into the room. As it swept past him, he was suddenly, once again, reminded of Rinoa. He froze in his spot. He had just been so angry earlier and now, after a split second memory of HER, he lost all his anger.
Something brushed against his leg and he looked down. "Angelo!?" he gasped. The door looked up at him, panting and looking as if he were smiling. "What are you...?" He looked towards his bed. The large bed was richly furnished with dark blue sheets and blankets. To the side closest to the door was a bump in it's flat surface.
Squall felt his heart pounding as he closed the door behind him. Slowly, he walked over to the bed. He swallowed hard as he saw the body move under the sheets. As he came closer, he began to make out the features of the person on the bed.
He stopped a few feet from the side as the young woman on the bed turned over to her back. She turned her head towards him and he felt his heart stop. Her brown eyes blinked as she woke up and smiled softly.
"Hey," she said softly. "You're late."
Squall's eyes went wide as he ran towards the bed. She sat up and smiled widely as she held her arms open. He fell on the bed next to her and wrapped his arms around her body as he pulled her against him.
He closed his eyes tightly as he pressed his head against her and caressed her hair over and over. "Tell me I'm not dreaming..." he whispered quietly as he felt her arms go around his body. "Tell me you're really here..."
"I'm really here..." she whispered back. She closed her eyes as tears went down her face.
He pulled away from her and studied her face intently. His hands cupped her pale features as his thumbs rubbed her tears away. "I missed you..." he gasped out. A smile caressed his face as he lowered his head to meet hers.
She closed her eyes and clung on to him. He parted from her and pressed his forehead against hers. His eyes were closed as he prayed that he wasn't dreaming. Rinoa smiled and lifted her hands to touch his face. Her left hand cupped his face and he noticed the glistening diamonds on her finger.
He looked at them and then back at her. "Your promised..." she reminded him with a timid smile. "Always..."
He nodded slowly and embraced her once more. Entangled in each other's arms, Squall lost himself in her once more. Long moments later, he looked over at her as she leaned her head against her shoulder. "I am marrying YOU, right?" he asked.
Rinoa rolled her eyes. "Yes, meany!" she exclaimed tiredly. "No one else in my family is two months pregnant without a husband."
"Two months..." he gasped. *Two months ago we...oh Hyne! That baby's MINE!* His eyes went wide. "I'm going to be a...?"
He pulled her closer and held her. "Hyne, I love you..."
Squall closed his eyes as Rinoa laid against him. The cool breeze went over their bodies. "When I was little and I asked my mom what the Thief's Treasure was, she said she wasn't sure..." he heard Rinoa whisper as she drifted on into sleep. She clung on to him as their fingers entangled in each other. "But I figured it out for myself..."
"What was it?" Squall whispered.
"The Thief's Treasure wasn't material. It never was. The material goods were just to coax the searcher to search. It was a treasure that you had to go through heaven and through hell for first," she sighed. She closed her eyes and smiled. "The Thief's Treasure is love."
Squall slowly let her words sink in and nodded. "Then we never had to leave the dock...I found the treasure the moment I saw you."
Several of you asked about the age thing. Here is my train of thought (I hope it makes sense) It's
Laguna and Julia's ages at certain points and a list of years later...:
Laguna (20) & Julia (20) - Shipwreck at sea, Julia is presumed dead Laguna (24) & Raine (about the same age) - Arranged to be married Laguna (25) & Raine (about the same age) - Married Julia (23) & Caraway (older than her) - Married Julia (27) - Has Rinoa Laguna (27) - Has Squall Twenty Years Later - Squall (20) & Rinoa (20) meet for the first time on the Siren.
Yes, Squall and Rinoa are twenty years old, but I'm assuming that Laguna and Julia had them when they were in their late twenties. After all, Laguna was in mourning over her supposed death and Julia was confused and lost her memory. So that's why I wrote that it was just under three decades (30 years) since Julia died. I hope that clears things up a bit. ^_^
Further Explanations In Case I Wasn't Clear
Julia did not die. She survived the sinking ship and was pulled on to a military vessel where she met Caraway. She lost her memory and knew only what they told her (that she was Julia Heartilly and she was part of their family, but not that she was in love with Laguna). She regained her memory during the moment of Rinoa's birth, but decided not to come forward because she wanted to be their for her daughter. Up until Rinoa's birth, Julia was kept hidden away from the public in order to keep her being alive a secret and prevent Laguna from coming after her.
Rinoa was not really raped. She woke up and Guado was about to rape her, but she killed him before he actually could do the deed. Therefore, she lost her virginity to Squall. Also, in this chapter where Laguna talks to Squall about marrying the Heartilly heir and Squall storms out, the person on the speaker phone was Rinoa. She's the one that's two months pregnant, which is the reason she gave her blessing to Squall's marriage. Did you really think I'd make them marry other people after all of that? Hehehe... (wink).
Thanks & Credits
I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has given their time to read over
this story. I really appreciate it and hope that you all enjoyed it. I'm sorry if it was
too long. I know it's about 16 or more pages if you print it out. At any rate, I'd
like to give all the reviewers a big thanks for reading the story up to this point. I
hope you enjoyed it! If you guys have any questions about the story or are confused
at one point, feel free to email me or leave a review with a question. I'm always happy
to answer. ^_^