Chapter One: We Need Money
Author's Note: My first PG-13 story on FF.net. I appologize in advance if it sucks and because it's really long.
* All Standard Disclaimers Apply: I do not own Final Fantasy or it's characters.
Cid looked over the papers scattered across his desk and frowned heavily. Gas bills, electricity bills, water bills, heating bills, food, trash, supply bills. So Edea hadn't been pulling his chain. They really were in the red this month. As they had been the month before.
Without any big threats lately, the mercenary business had hit an economic down turn and as a result, there were numerous cut backs. Until further notice, the pool would no longer be heated. Squall had also been forbidden from entering the training room just to 'let off steam'.
He had nearly wiped out an entire population of T-Rexsaurs after a little misunderstanding between him and Rinoa at Seifer and his posse's welcome back party. The headmaster tossed the last of the bills on to the pile and pressed the button on his phone.
"Get me Squall."
Five minutes had passed when Squall Leonheart knocked at Cid's office door. "Come in," the older man said as he poured himself some whiskey. He looked up at Squall. "I need to speak to you."
Squall entered and looked down sheepishly. "I'm sorry about beheading all those gnats this morning. I was just really frustrated-"
"Gnats? What gnats?" Cid asked. He let put his drink down and let out a heavy sigh. "Forget it...I'll let it slide this time," He looked Squall seriously. "We have a serious problem on our hands."
"Sir, I was completely against Seifer returning-"
"Squall, WHAT are you talking about?" Cid sighed. "Let me finish!" The brunette's mouth snapped closed and Cid took a drink. "We're in the red again."
Squall didn't look as surprised, but more concerned than anything else. "I thought that we would've broken even after the cut backs?"
"We're still spending more than we're making," Cid admitted. "After Ultimecia and Adel... we've only been doing minor work. Which is good and I'm not saying that we should wreak havoc on Gaia to earn more money. I'm just concerned that we do not have enough revenue."
"What about private funding?" Squall asked.
"It's all going to rebuilding Trabia Garden and building the new Esthar Garden," Cid said. Squall opened his mouth and Cid held up his hand to stop him. "I know you were against that, too..."
"We already have several gardens, sir, I don't see why we need one in Esthar," Squall stated. *The moron that governs it doesn't need it.*
"We felt that another branch was necessary so the citizens of Esthar have a Garden of their own," Cid explained. "But that is not the issue at hand. The issue is that until Trabia and Esthar are built, we will be in debt. In short, Squall, we need money."
"But how?" Squall asked. "We've already taken up to renting out facilities, there were numerous cut backs on supplies, as well as faculty and staff pay cuts."
"We need something that will earn us some money quickly," Cid told him. "This is a serious matter, Squall."
"What about at the upcoming Garden Open House?" Squall suggested. "Selphie and her committee said that they were now charging a small entry fee in order to fund it."
Cid thought for a moment and nodded. "I see..." he let out a heavy breath and turned to look at Squall once more. "Squall, I'm going to but you in charge of finding a new source of revenue for the Garden."
"But, sir, my work-"
"I'll take care of it," Cid stated simply. "I'll cut down on the paper work you are assigned providing that you take care of this matter. Find something that can generate some income for the Garden. The faculty and staff won't tolerate another pay cut and we can't afford them going on strike."
Squall sighed. He nodded. "I'll look into it."
"Good," Cid said. "You are dismissed."
"Selphie!" Squall entered the ball room where Selphie and her squad of Open House Committee members had congregated to help organize the annual Garden Open House. It's purpose was to open the doors to the public and encourage new cadents to join.
"Hey, Squall! Change your mind and want to help?" Selphie piped cheerfully as she approached him.
He shook his head. "Hardly," he mumbled. "How much are you charging for the entry fee?"
"Just a little bit," Selphie explained. "I'm basing it off of last year's attendence and charging just a little bit extra. We're just trying to break even."
Squall let out a heavy breath. "Do you think you can charge more?"
"Nope, no can do!" Selphie told him with a shake of her head. "I've already talked to students and they've said that if it keeps going up, they just won't show up."
*Damn cheap bastards...* Squall thought to himself.
Selphie tilted her head. "Why? What's the problem?"
Squall looked around and pulled Selphie aside. "We're in debt," he mumbled. "We need a new source of income until the other Gardens are completed."
Selphie looked surprised. "What about the tuition costs and stuff?" Selphie asked.
"Barely getting us by," Squall said. "Private funding is all being directed to the other Gardens' contructions."
"Well, we're already also charging them for the food Squall, but we're barely going to break even as it is," Selphie explained. "The only other idea I can think of is to put on some sort of other event to raise money. Like a benefit concert or play or something like that."
Squall's eyes went wide at the thought. "A benefit concert...that's a good idea."
"Yeah, you can get some of the SeeDs to play or sing or perform," Selphie said. "Hey, you can even ask Irvine and Zell!"
"Thanks, Selphie," Squall nodded. "That might just work."
"What do you mean 'no'?" Squall asked with narrowed eyes as he glared at Irvine.
The cowboy was laying comfortably on the grass, on his back, as his head gently went over his face. He had been taking a nap out in the sunshine when Squall approached him.
"I mean 'no' as in I'm not going to perform in front of a live audience like that," Irvine stated. "Why are you asking anyway? You want to start a band?"
"No!" Squall growled. "I need to throw a benefit concert."
"To increase the income of the Garden," Squall sighed, as if it were so obvious. "We're indebt and unless you want another pay cut-"
"Listen, Squall," Irvine said as he looked up at the brunette. "As much as I would LOVE to help, there is no way I'm going to sing in front of a bunch of strangers in a large scale setting. A small group is fine, but that many people... count me out."
"Fine," Squall hissed. "I'm sure there are other people who are willing to help out."
"Call me if you need a stage hand!" Irvine waved his hat in the air to say good-bye.
"Whatever..." Squall grumbled as he trudged back into the building. *Zell... Zell won't let me down.*
"Uh...sorry, Squall, no can do."
*I hate you,* Squall glared at him with icy blue eyes. "Explain."
"Uh..." Zell swallowed nervously as his eyes darted around the room. "See... there is this girl, right? And I finally asked if she wanted to hang out that day...so...uh...um...I can't. Sorry?"
*I will kill you in your sleep,* Squall's mind said as he narrowed his eyes. "Whatever..."
With that, Squall turned around and headed out of the cafeteria. His eyes were narrowed and his face set in a dangerous look that the crowds in the halls seemed to part for him. He was seething and contemplated going to the training room and killing a few things.
He mentally swore. He had been locked out of the room until further notice, he remembered. All due to lack of funds. He needed to take out his aggressions on something. ANYTHING.
"Commander Puberty, what's wrong? Drowning in paper work?"
*Why, Hyne? Why are you punishing me so?* Squall silently prayed as he stopped and looked up at the ceiling. Slowly he turned and saw Seifer standing there, grinning from ear to ear as Fujin and Raijin stood behind him.
"You feeling okay, Squall?" Raijin asked. "There's a flu going around, ya know."
"I am fine," Squall stated. His eyes brightened as a light bulb went on his his head. "I was wondering-"
"Already heard," Seifer said, holding up his hand. "No way, we're performing."
*Cocky little...* "I wasn't going to ask you," Squall twitched. "Fujin, Raijin-"
"Negative." Fujin cut him off.
"We can't sing or play an instrument, ya know," Raijin chuckled, slightly embaressed. "Sorry we can't help, ya know."
"Fine," Squall growled. His eyes narrowed once more as he glared at Seifer. "You busy?"
"I'm not going out on a date with you, Squall," Seifer sighed. "I don't swing that way."
"You want to spar or not?"
"Oh...why, didn't you say so?" Seifer shrugged. "You want and 'x' between your eyes now?"
*You want an 'x' across your body?* Squall thought to himself. "Just bring your gun blade to the cliffs in thirty minutes." He turned around and walked away.
"Stressed." Fujin said as she watched the commander walk away.
"Yeah, he has to start eating healthier, ya know..." Raijin agreed.
"Well, I'll see you guys later," Seifer said. "I have to go beat the crap out of Commander Puberty."
He waved and headed down the opposite way. "Seifer, where are you going, ya know!?" Raijin said. "Your dorm is that way, ya know!"
Seifer paused in his step as the he realized that the other man was right. He was heading towards the cafeteria. *Dammit...this is the fifth time today...*
Fujin struggled to hold back her snickering as Seifer walkted past them and shot them a glare. "Lost?" she asked.
Squall stumbled into his room and went straight for his bed. He barely had time to put his gun blade down before falling across the mattress and closing his eyes. As he laid there, the sound of someone typing suddenly reached his ears. Slowly, he suspiciously opened his blue eyes and looked across the room.
The lights were on. The laptop on his desk was on. He was certain he had turned them both off before he left that morning. Finally, he came to the realization that he wasn't alone in his bedroom.
Rinoa sat at his desk, completely engrossed in typing as she listened to music on her portable CD player, which rested next to his laptop. He raised an eyebrow and sat up. "Rin...what are you doing here?" No answer. The music seemed to be pounding through her head phones as her mouth silently made out the words. "Rin!" he shouted, a little louder. "RINOA!"
"What!?" She whirled around, pulling off her head phones. "Oh...hey, Squall." She immediately turned back to her typing, as if Squall wasn't there, and Squall narrowed her eyes.
"Rinoa," he said. "That's it? You don't even tell me what you're doing in my room?"
"You never tell me what you're doing when you're in MY room," Rinoa stated as she continued to type quickly. *Of course, I ALWAYS know why you're in my room.*
"Rin, I'm just too tired right now...you're welcomed to stay, but..." his voice trailed off as she turned and looked at him, with a raised eyebrow. "Okay, you're right. I'm being selfish. Let's go."
Squall began to take off his jacket and Rinoa rolled her eyes. "I'm not HERE for that!" she sighed. *Damn pervert...* "My computer is broken, remember?" she sighed. "I needed a computer to type up my work and you said I could use yours."
*Oh yeah...* He sighed and took off his jacket, tossing it over his dresser. "How long are you going to need it?" he asked as fell back on his bed tiredly.
"I'm almost done," she said. "Then I'll leave you to your sleep."
"Although, I suggest taking a shower first," she said as she continued typing. "You reek."
"Thank you, Rin..."
"You're welcome, Squall."
Silence settled between them as Rinoa reviewed what seemed to be quite a long paper. Ever since they had returned, Rinoa had been living with them at the Garden. She wasn't a SeeD, but she did pay for her own room and board. For the last three years, she had made her living writing novels.
Twice, she had made the Estharian Times Best Seller's List and she had made the Galbadian Chronicles' Best Seller's List half a dozen times. Squall never technically read any of her work. She published it under a pen name and never told Squall what it was.
However, he suspected that both Selphie and Quistis knew and that even Fujin and Xu knew since he had caught them at the library with Zell's girlfriend several times discussing something about 'Rinoa's Latest'. Everytime he entered, they would go quiet.
After that happened, he began debating whether or not he really wanted to find out what Rinoa's pen name was. After all, what if it was about him? What if she wrote romance novels about beautiful sorceresses who fell in love with cold hearted knights? What if she described what happened privately in them!?
The sound of a disk being used was heard and he looked over. Rinoa was closing up her files and shutting down his lap top. "Done?" he asked.
"Yep, thank you," she said. She got off her chair and sat at the edge of his bed and frowned. "What's wrong? You looked stressed."
*I am stressed.* "Nothing." he mumbled. She sighed and laid down next to him, putting her head against his chest.
"Is it about the Garden's income?"
Squall raised an eyebrow and looked down at her. "How'd you know?"
"Selphie, Irvine, and Zell all told me," she said. "You missed dinner, you know."
He merely shrugged. "I'll figure out something."
"I'm sure you will." she said. She kissed him softly and looked at him with large brown eyes. Squall leaned down and kissed her a little deeper this time. She moaned slightly.
His hand ran up the side of her body, when suddenly her eyes flashed open and she shoved him away. "Ah! Rinoa!" he gasped as he was thrown back and hit his hand on the wall.
"Sorry!" she gasped. "I forgot to feed Angelo! Oh...the poor baby's probably starving!" Rinoa was up and heading towards the door. "Bye, Squall!" The door closed.
Squall stared after her. *What about THIS baby?* he thought to himself with a frown. He groaned and removed his shirt. Bringing it past his nose, he took a sniff of it. *Oh, damn...* Grumbling, he tossed it into the hamper and headed for the bathroom. *Rin must really love me if she's willing to put her head on my chest when I smell this disgusting...*
He took off his pants and boxers, throwing them into the hamper along with his shirt just before he removed his heavy necklace and gently placed it on his dresser.
The steaming water was a blessing as he took a long, well deserved shower. He came out, wearing a fresh pair of boxers as he rubbed his hair was a white towel. As he walked out of the bathroom, he saw the lump on his bed and smiled slightly.
Rinoa was already sleeping, dressed in an over sized white shirt with a large puppy on the front. He sighed and walked over to the bed and paused when he saw Angelo sleeping at the foot of the bed.
*So she brang her, too...great...* he sighed. Just as he passed the computer, he noticed something sticking out of the floppy drive. *Her disk...* He looked over at Rinoa. She was sleeping soundly enough. Quietly, he sat down at his desk and turned on his laptop.
He mentally swore as it made a little sound and checked to make sure Rinoa was still asleep. She turned slightly, but was other wise still sleeping. He let out a sigh of relief. Squall opened up the last program that had been open, a word processor, and opened up the last file that had been opened.
"My Knight...a play by Rinoa Heartilly..." Squall smiled. *So she wrote a play this time...* He glanced over at the bed. She was still sleeping and had her back turned to him. *I guess it wouldn't hurt...*
Rinoa woke up and found Squall sleeping next to her, his arms tightly around her waist as his head rested in the valley between her breasts. *Why does he like sleeping there?* she thought to herself. She sighed and gently pushed him away.
She had a meeting with her editor today in Balamb and, looking at the clock, she would be late if she didn't get up soon. Slowly, she crawled over the young Commander and got off the bed. She looked over at the computer and raised an eyebrow.
It was still on. She looked back at the bed, where Squall was sleeping. Apparently, his computer had froze around two a.m. that morning. And it was still opened up to HER play. *So...he read 'My Knight'...* she glanced back over at him as she pressed the restart button on his computer. *I hope he realizes that it's not about him...*
Rinoa grabbed the floppy disk out of the lap top and reached for her clothes. She gently kissed him on the head as she put her pajama pants on and quietly whistled for Angelo to get up. The dog stood up and followed Rinoa out the door to their room, which was just across the hall.
At the sound of the closing door, Squall stirred. He opened his blue eyes and looked around his bed. Rinoa had vanished. *Probably had a meeting or something...* he yawned and sat up. *Oh, crap, the play!* He shot up and turned around to his desk. The computer was on, but her play wasn't on the screen. He let out a heavy sigh.
He fell back on his bed and closed his eyes. *Is that how she really feels? I guess...after going out this long, she figures it's time...* Squall took a deep breath and reached over to the drawer on his desk. He moved aside some papers and pulled out a small velvet black box and opened it.
The main reason he had been so hesitant to take a pay cut was because of the box's contents. He had picked it out three months ago when he decided that he would ask her. The glimmering diamond looked back at him as it stood out on a platinum band. He was still paying for it, but found it worth every gil.
His biggest problem so far was that he didn't know HOW to ask her. Dinner was much to cliched. It was inappropriate to just burst it on her while in the middle of...IT. And every time he seemed to catch her alone, she was busy working or on her way to something.
He snapped the box closed with a groan and shoved it back into the desk drawer. Squall looked at the laptop. Rinoa's play...it was about a princess and her knight and how she had fallen in love with her knight. But more importantly...how the knight proposed to her.
*So that's they way she wants me to propose.*
"What is everyone doing here?" Selphie asked as she arrived in the waiting room before Squall's office. "Squall said he had something to say about the Open House events so he asked me to come up here."
"He told us that it had something to do about pay cuts." Irvine said. Zell nodded.
"I can't afford another pay cut!" the blond agreed feverishly. "I just bought a mini fridge!"
"All I received was a message that said he wanted to see me," Quistis said casually as she sat on one of hard plastic chairs in the waiting room. "Now that it's about pay cuts...I'm a bit worried."
"Well at least you teach," Zell said. "You still have that to fall back on. The rest of us just go out on missions."
"Regardless, my salary's been cut already," Quistis replied. "I really can't afford another pay cut."
"Sorry I'm late!" a voice gasped. They looked towards the open door way where an out of breath brunette leaned heavily against the door. Rinoa clutched a small leather brief case to her side and was wearing a light blue blazer and knee high skirt over a black, buttoned up blouse and shoes. Her hair was swept up in a bun with stray dark brown locks falling over her face. "I just got back from a meeting with my editor."
"We haven't started yet," Selphie assured her. "I just got here, too."
"Good!" Rinoa sighed heavily.
"Commandar Leonheart says you can all go in now," the secretary at the front desk said. "He's waiting for you inside."
"Great!" Zell sighed. Irvine opened the door to Squall's office and stood aside, letting the ladies and Zell walk in first before entering the cramped office.
Sitting on a heavy chair in front of a wooden desk stacked with papers was a Squall. Rinoa and Quistis took the two chairs that were in front of the desk as Selphie stood between Irvine and Zell behind them. "Hi, honey, why did you call?" Rinoa asked, a worried frown over her pretty face.
"As you all know, the Garden is in need of funds. The cut backs haven't worked," Squall told them seriously. "Cid put me in charge of finding another source of income. It's not perminant, we just need something to supply enough money while the other gardens are being built."
"We're not taking another pay cut!" Quistis stated, flat out.
"And I'm not raising the charge for food and drinks at the Open House!" Selphie added.
Squall rolled his eyes. "Am I done?" he asked casually. Selphie and Quistis drew back a little. "Selphie suggested a benefit concert, but as no one is willing to play, that was out of the question. So rather than a benefit CONCERT, we'll be doing a benefit PLAY."
"A play?" Irvine asked, leaning forward. He raised an eyebrow. "Squall, are you talking about a theatrical play? As in people on a stage?"
"What OTHER kind of play is there?" Squall grumbled.
"I'm just saying..." Irvine shrugged. "When is this play going to be put on?"
"We're going to miss the Open House, but we can use the Open House to promote it," Squall said. "That's why you're here, Selphie."
"I'm all for it!" Selphie said. "What do I have to do?"
"Make the signs, post up notices, what you usually do to promote things," Squall said. "I'm looking at three months from now. That'll be enough time for casting, rehersals, and building the stage. That's why you two, Zell and Irvine, are here."
"Cool!" Zell said with lit up blue eyes. "Does that mean we can't be part of the play?"
"You'll be in a play, but won't sing on stage?" Squall asked.
"I meant as in I could be like a tree or something." Zell elaborated. Squall narrowed his eyes and shook his head.
"Fine, whatever..." he sighed tiredly.
"What about me?" Quistis asked. "What do I do?"
"You invite all the big wigs and ask for their support. As an instructor, they'll respect that," Squall said.
Quistis squinted. "But you're the commander, why can't you do it?"
"I...don't want to deal with them." Squall admitted simply. Quistis let out a sigh.
Irvine was leaning against the wall and shook his head. "That's all well and good, but the biggest piece is still missing. The play?" he asked, looking straight at Squall. "Where are you going to get a play?"
"I've already thought of that," Squall explained. "We don't have any money to actually commission a play..." he trailed off, but his eyes slowly fell on Rinoa. The brown eyed brunette drew her head back lightly as her eyes widened.
"You're kidding me..." she mumbled.
"You are one of the best writers in the world, Rin," Squall said, smiling intently. If he was sincere or not in his looks, Rinoa couldn't tell. "You must have a play on you ready..."
*You little...* She narrowed her eyes. *YOU KNOW I DO!!!* She mentally growled. She took a deep breath and smiled back brightly. "As a matter of fact I do!"
*Whew...I was cutting it a little close...* Squall thought to himself, relieved. *I thought she'd say no...*
"Really?" Quistis asked. "You're working on something new?"
"It's kind of my pet project," Rinoa said happily. She placed her brief case on her lap and rumaged through it's contents. "I was just running the idea by my editor. We changed a few things and decided on a new title."
"Oh!!" Selphie said. She looked over Rinoa's shoulder as the brunette pulled out a transparent blue, plastic folder with a thick stack of paper inside of it. "What's it about?"
Rinoa smiled from ear to ear as she placed the folder gracefully on Squall's desk. "Oh...it's a secret!" she giggled. "I'll tell you later."
Squall looked over the folder. The old title had been blacked out with a thick black marker and a new title was scribbled over it in pencil. "'Dark Knight'..." he mumbled. He read the name at the bottom. "By..." he paused and narrowed his eyes. "Julia Loire?"
"Hehehe..." Rinoa blushed slightly and rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "I was kind of asked if I wanted a pen name on the spot and those names kind of entered my mind..." She trailed off.
*Great...* Squall thought to himself.
"Why don't you read it first?" Rinoa suggested. "Tell me what you think. I can make new revisions and stuff to have it fit better on stage."
Squall nodded. "I'll read it then," he said. *But it's good, I already know...* "That's about it. You're all dismissed until I finish reading this. Selphie, expect a call from me about the promotion of this." he said as he tapped the play with his hand.
Selphie nodded. "I always wanted to be in one of Rin's stories!" she piped happily as Rinoa and Quistis got up.
"You should've told me earlier," Rinoa said brightly. She walked over to Squall and kissed his cheek. "I'll see you at dinner?"
He merely nodded as he brought the play closer to him and opened it up to the first type written page of the play. Rinoa grinned as she walked out behind the rest of the group. She closed the door.
"Hey, Rinoa," Zell said. She turned and saw him smiling sheepishly at her. "Are you REALLY Julia Loire?"
"That's my pen name," Rinoa said with a nod as she walked along side him with Selphie, Quistis, and Irvine in front of her. "Why?"
"I LOVE your books!" he exploded suddenly. Rinoa stepped back and giggled as Zell began to gush about his story. "I loved Ruby Tears! Hyne, that was the best book ever!"
"Whose your favorite character?" Selphie asked as she looked over her shoulder. "Mine's Stephanie Timlit!"
"Oh, please," Quistis sighed. "Stephanie is nothing but an hyper active air head."
"She is not!" Selphie gasped, as if burned. "She's cheerful and good natured with a big heart! Unlike Casey Epret! She's a know it all with jealous tendancies!"
"No, she's not!" Quistis replied, frowning as she looked over at her shorter friend. "She's intelligent and is in no need of a man."
"I think that Casey and Stephanie are okay," Zell shrugged. "But my favorite character as to be Dall Wainer."
"Dall WHINER?" Irvine said. He turned around and looked at Zell. "Do you even REALIZE who those characters are probably based after?"
All three of them shook their heads as Rinoa turned her head away and giggled slightly. "I don't know," Zell said. "But Dall's really cool! He's into martial arts and likes-"
"Hot dogs?" Irvine guessed carelessly.
Zell paused and shook his head. "No," he said. "Sandwiches."
"Oh, Hyne..." Irvine sighed. He ran his hand down his face and Rinoa walked up to him, putting her hand on his shoulder.
"The character I think you'll like is Maverick Loadem," Rinoa said. "He's a free lance mercenary with a love them and leave them style life style. A gambler, but a force to be reckoned with."
"He's so hot," Selphie grinned. "Loved the descriptions, by the way."
Rinoa smiled as Irvine looked away suddenly. "Um...what did you say...the...um... book was called again?"
"Why?" Zell grinned. "I thought you didn't want to read Rin's books. You said they were nothing but romance novels for middle aged house wives."
"Romance novels?" Quistis asked. She raised an eyebrow and laughed. "Irvine, you've never read Rinoa's novels, have you?"
The cowboy shook his head. Selphie smiled devilishly and grabbed his hand. "Come with me! We have her whole series at the library!" Selphie announced. "But you have to go in order or you'll never get it!"
"Hyne, no one better mention this to anyone," Irvine threatened. "If any one found out I was reading romance novels, my reputation would be down the drain..." He sighed as Selphie dragged him down one hall.
"Hey, Rinoa, are you going to be at dinner?" Zell asked.
"Yeah, won't miss it." Rinoa assured him. Zell nodded energetically.
"Can you sign my book?" he asked, slightly embaressed.
"You bought my book, Zell?" Rinoa asked, smiling warmly.
He nodded. "Of course! It's only the best book ever! I have the entire series!"
"You should've told me!" Rinoa said. "Or mentioned it to your girlfriend. I could've gotten you a free copy."
Zell was already running down another hall. "I'll bring it to dinner!!" he shouted as he ran. Rinoa shook her head as she grinned.
"Rinoa," Quistis said. Now it was just the two of them walking down the halls, towards the elevators. "Are you really going to put a play based on your underworld horror-romance novels?"
Rinoa snickered and shook her head. She grinned evilly. "Of course not...that would be way to hard to re-create," Rinoa assured her. "I actually wrote a small, dramatic romance for a play."
"They why did you hand Squall 'Dark Knight'?" Quistis asked. "I thought that was going to be your next book."
"It is," Rinoa smirked. "I gave him the rough draft of that novel. He already read the real play."
Quistis tilted her head to the side as her eyebrows furrowed. "So why did you hand him a novel about vampires and magic and the gothic underworld?"
"Because he won't admit to reading my files," Rinoa said. "I woke up this morning and found that his lap top froze while he was reading my play."
Quistis raised an eyebrow and smiled. "You know...the first time I read one of your stories, I couldn't sleep for three nights. If they weren't so grossly addicting, I wouldn't have continued with the series."
"Well..." Rinoa sighed. "That's what he gets for going behind my back! No one looks through Rinoa Heartilly's things and gets away with it!"
Around late afternoon, dark storm clouds had gathered around Balamb. An unanticipated storm off the coast had caused the strange weather. By dinner time, the storm was in full swing. Rain was pounding against the Garden, much to Selphie's displeasure as she had to figure out how to deal with the puddles and mud in the quad afterwards.
The group was around their usual table, typically reserved for faculty and staff. But with Quistis sitting there, chatting amongst them, and Squall about to join them once he got off of work, no one questioned the presence of three SeeDs and a sorceress.
"And I said to Laguna," Rinoa was saying. "It's not the size of bird, it's the motion of the chocobo!"
The group erupted into laughter, except for Irvine, who had returned from the library slightly paler and was now picking at his food. "Irvy, what's wrong?" Selphie asked sweetly, already knowing what was wrong. "You usually love jokes like that."
"I...I'm sorry, guys," Irvine smiled weakly. "I just don't feel like eating right now..."
"What's wrong?" Rinoa asked. "You look like you've seen a ghost!" she laughed.
Irvine dropped his fork and paled even more. Quistis raised an eyebrow. "Irvine, are you all right?"
"Yes! Yes! I'm fine!" Irvine piped nervously. "I'm just..."
"Scared?" Zell asked, grinning.
"I'm not scared!" Irvine shouted loudly. Suddenly the cafeteria went silent as they all looked over at the table. Students stopped on their way to get food or on their way to their tables as those already sitting looked up.
"There's nothing to be ashamed of," Zell assured him. "I was pretty scared after I read those novels, too." Slowly, the students returned to what they were doing, as if nothing had happened. Irvine shook his head.
"I was not scared!" Irvine asserted. It was too late, the others already didn't believe him.
"So what go you the most?" Selphie asked as she began to eat once more.
Irvine let his head drop. "The face in the mirror..."
"Oh...that was good, too," Selphie smiled. "My favorite was the image in the fog."
"How can YOU," Irvine said, pointing his fork at Rinoa. "Write all that? Is there something about you that we don't know about?"
Rinoa merely smiled. "Sorry, Irvine, that's my secret."
"So if that's what you write," Irvine mumbled. "What did you give Squall to read? I don't want any part in your play if that's what it's going to be about."
"Scared?" Zell grinned.
"I gave him the rought draft to my new novel," Rinoa said. "It's about how the main character finally meets her love interest."
"Really?" Zell asked, looking extremely interested. "I always thought it was weird. I mean...Stephanie has Maverick and Casey has Zephir..."
"Even that loser Dall has that one girl..." Irvine added quietly. Zell frowned.
"She just had to find the right...vampire first," Rinoa grinned. She looked up and saw Squall walking towards their table slowly. He looked pale, shaken, and was gripping the play in his hands. "Hehehe...looks like he read it."
"He looks terrified." Quistis grinned.
"Hey, Squall!" Selphie greeted him.
"Join us for dinner!" Zell added happily. "You can get TWO hot dogs at a time tonight!"
"I don't feel like eating..." he mumbled. Rinoa raised an eyebrow and frowned slightly.
"Why not?" Rinoa asked softly. He sat down next to her, dropping the stack of paper in the blue folder on the table. He ran his hand through his hair as Rinoa put her hand on his shoulder.
He jumped at her touch and looked over at her, a slight look of fear in his eyes. "This play..." he whispered quietly. "Um...I...I don't think we can use it?"
"Why not?" Rinoa asked sweetly. "I thought you wanted to use one of my stories."
"I did...but..." Squall looked at her, pale and shaken. He shook his head and gave her a look of disbelief as he pointed at the pile of paper. "I can't use this! It's a horror story!"
"But all the main characters live," Rinoa pointed out. "Squall...are you scared?"
"No, of course not-"
"It's all right, man," Irvine assured him. "I just read the first one and half novels of her series."
"Rinoa...is there something I should know?" Squall asked quietly. "Your stories are a bit...dark."
"What did you expect?" Rinoa asked, raising an eyebrow. "A fluffy love story?"
"Well...YES." Squall admitted. "It just seemed like..."
"Seemed like what?" Rinoa asked, her voice challenging. "Did you think I was going to write a girly love story? About a princess and her knight in shining armor?" she asked, her tone just urging him to answer. Squall looked into her brown eyes, seeing the amusement in them. He narrowed his own as he realized that she was enjoying his situation.
"Rinoa..." he said in a low voice. "Did you give me a different play?"
"Why do you say that? Why do you think I have another play?" Rinoa asked.
*Crap! She knows!* His mind screamed.
"Yes, Squall," she nodded with narrowed, knowing eyes. "...I know."
"If you KNEW, why did you give me this!?" he gasped as he pointed to the play on the table.
"Oh, you KNOW why." Rinoa replied. Squall opened his mouth to argue, but stopped. His mouth closed and his eyes dropped.
"Caught..." Selphie coughed as she lifted her hand to her mouth.
"Busted..." Zell coughed as well.
Rinoa lifted up the cloth bag that was under her chair and opened it. She pulled out a smaller stack of paper in a white folder. "This is the play you read last night..." Rinoa said. "I just finished editing and revising it."
Squall nodded as Rinoa took back her first novel. "Umm..." Irvine mumbled as she was about to put it in her bag. "Can I...?"
Selphie giggled and Rinoa smiled. She handed him the rought draft.
"So what's the real play about?" Zell asked as Irvine flipped through the first few pages.
"It's a dramatic romance," Rinoa said with a proud smile. "About a princess and her knight."
"A dramatic...romance?" Zell frowned. "Uh..."
Rinoa nodded. "Selphie! Prepare the signs for the casting! We're going to need a princess and a knight!"
"Gotcha!" Selphie said, getting caught up in Rinoa's excitement. She grabbed Irvine's hand. "Let's go, Irvy! Zell, you come too! Get your girlfriend! We'll need lots of signs!!"
"Right!" Zell shouted. Selphie ran out of the cafeteria, dragging Irvine behind her. Zell was running after them.
"So who do you have in mind for the princess," Quistis grinned. "I wonder..."
Rinoa merely smirked as Squall leaned against her tiredly. "Show up next week and find out!"
"What about the knight?" Quistis smirked, eyeing Squall knowingly.
Rinoa grinned as she looked past Quistis and towards the cafeteria door, where another tall blond walked in accompanied by two other students. "I already know exactly who the knight will be, Quisty," Rinoa smiled as she looked at the instructor. "I think you'll be quite pleased."
Casting Call! Rinoa holds auditions and starts rehersals for her play as she and Selphie launch their 'project' into plan. Will Squall be happy with the outcome? Will Quistis? Will SEIFER? -_-;;