Beginning Notes:  Wow!  Nine reviews on my first chapter!  Thank you so much for taking the time to read the summary on my biography and then actually reading my story.  I really appreciate it.  Shout outs and thank yous are at the end.  Here is chapter two!  Enjoy.

Disclaimer:  I do not own Final Fantasy VIII.  If I did, I wouldn't be writing a Fanfiction about it now, would I?  I would be focused on making the sequel to the game itself.

And now, onwards to the story.

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Chapter Two - And The Story Unfolds

            Crossing my legs underneath the café table, I stirred the cup of lukewarm coffee sitting in front of me with a silver spoon lazily, watching the liquid slosh gently against the sides of its confinement.  Light from the ceiling lamps splayed across the dark solution, refracted by the miniature waves created by the movement of the spoon.  Soft music hung in the air, coming from the stereo near the counter where a middle aged woman sat.

            I leaned backwards in my leather-cushioned seat, stretching my arms out with a soft sigh.  My table was all of the way in the back of the café, having selected it just so I could be away from the attention of everyone else.  I yawned, staring down at my watch.  Fifteen minutes pass noon.  Lunch hour.  I should be receiving a phone call any time now...

            As if on cue, my cell phone rang.  Shoving my hand into my jacket pocket, I retrieved the flashing silver electronic, flipping the cover up.  "Hello?"

            "Rinoa, I do not have the details of your mission yet."

            "What?"  I lowered my voice a notch, remembering that I am sitting in a public area.  "Why not, Sherry?  I have been here for a week already!"  The female on the other end was the secretary of the Superior.

            "How would I know?  The Superior just told you to search for the Carrier of the Power."

            "The what?"  I felt my calm and collected exterior slip away and quickly, tried to regain my composure.  "What is that?"

            "Supposedly, it's a mystical object that when obtained, will be able to bring an end to this war.  According to the Superior, it currently lies in the hands of the Loire family."

            "And how exactly is what you're saying going to help me?  What is it called?"

            "Not sure.  She didn't tell me."  Was the reply.

            "Goddammit, how am I going to search for something when I don't even know what it is named?  Do you know how it looks like then?"

            "Not that either.  It's a family heirloom, I believe."

            "This is impossible."

            "I am sure that you will manage."

            "Go to hell."  I hung up, seething with anger.  I cannot believe this.  How did they expect me to find something with that little information?  The Loire family has descended through hundreds of years.  There could be thousands of 'mystical objects' just lying in the living room alone!  This is ridiculous and very annoying, to say the least.

            Taking a sip of my coffee, I winced in disgust as the liquid touched my tongue.  It was warm, quickly approaching the stage in which it will be considered cool.  Putting it down on its saucer, I grabbed my black jacket, slipping it on as I stood up.  Tossing some gil down on the table, most likely more than the price of the nearly untouched coffee itself, I walked to the door and pushed it open, meeting the Esthar climate.  The wind was brisk against my face, causing me to shiver slightly.  It was practically winter, signaling the beginning of holidays that I never really cared about.

            Pushing a lock of hair behind my ear, I sighed and made my way over to where my car was parked.  Might as well start on my assignment since it wasn't as if I had a choice if I wanted to or not.

                                                                        ***

            "Boring... boring..."

            Half sitting up, half lying down, Squall Leonhart had positioned himself on his bed, blue eyes trained on the television screen across the room.  A practically empty bowl of popcorn sat next to him, visited time after time by his hand.  A book lay by his side, which he has been reading until the moment he decided that he couldn't take it anymore, and set it down with a growl of frustration.  He reached over to the dresser and wrapped his fingers around the remote control, directing it to flip through the channels in utter boredom.

            "Soap opera... soap opera... news... cooking show... soap opera- hey, this looks good, wait- no, that's just a commercial... Soap opera..."

            He sighed, rather disappointed in the choices (or lack of choices) that the television gave him.  Frowning, he checked his popcorn bowl, and realized that there was none left.  Deciding that he has avoided walking around the house and seeing his father for long enough, he got off his king-sized bed, and shut off the blinking idiot box that he has been worshipping for most of the day in his room.  Crossing the distance from the bed to the door, he opened it, and walked down the hallway.  His room was the furthest away from any of the other ones, chosen just so he could be left alone.  It was on the third floor in the back of the house where the noise from the city cannot bother him at night.

            Descending the stairs, he reached the second landing where his father's study and the library were.  Normally, he tended to walk as fast as he could away from this floor, but not today.  Raising an eyebrow quizzically, he glanced down the corridor that led to his father's office.  Taking a sniff of the air, he frowned.  There was somebody in there.  He was used to people being in that room, but this time, the presence was alone, and most definitely foreign.  Why would Laguna let somebody in his study when he wasn't there?

            His enhanced sense of smell brought him to oak double doors and was about to go in when they swung open, startling him.  His eyes stared into the surprised hazel ones of the intruder as his mind went blank for the moment's being.  The eyes belonged to a dark haired female, his temporarily stunned brain moving sluggishly to place the face to the same young woman that he saw a week ago on the balcony.

            "You?"  He managed to sputter.  Way to impress, Leonhart, his mind snapped.  "Uh, I mean, what the hell are you doing in there?!"  He covered up quickly.

            She took a step away from him.  "I heard something in here and I went inside to see what it was!"  She blurted out.

            Squall raised an eyebrow.  "Oh?  So what was it?"

            "I don't know!  I didn't see anything wrong so I was about to leave," she said and tried to get around his frame.  He refused to let her through though.

            "I don't believe you.  Who are you in the first place and what are you doing in my house?"  He demanded, blocking her many advances to get past him easily with his body.

            She snarled softly, her eyes taking on an angry tone.  Even like this, her eyes still look nice... wait a second, what am I thinking?!  He mentally slapped himself.

            "Let me go," she said slowly, empathizing each word heavily.

            "Not until you have answered my questions."

            "I don't owe you anything."

            "That is what you think."

            "Too bad that you think that way then," she responded haughtily, and suddenly, she stepped forward, shoving right past of him.  Dazed for a moment, he turned around sharply, and grabbed her wrist, twisting it at an awkward angle.

            "I have firm suspicions that you weren't doing what you are allowed to inside my father's private study."  He watched her face closely, waiting for a grimace of pain from the torment that her hand should be at this moment.  What the hell, does she have extremely high pain tolerance or something?  He took in her scent, and frowned faintly.  Doesn't smell like a vampire...

            Her indifferent expression not wavering a bit, she lifted an eyebrow calmly.  "Are you done now?  I will like for you to let go of my hand now."

            "What is going on?"  A voice exclaimed as high heels clicked over to them.  It was Edea.  She looked at their hands with a raised eyebrow.  "Rinoa?"

            Squall quickly released her wrist whereas the fire that was blazing in Rinoa's eyes extinguished immediately, freezing them back into a solid chocolate shade.  "Nothing was going on," Rinoa answered.  "Just a slight misunderstanding."

            "Yeah," Squall followed up, not missing a single beat.  "It has been solved now."  He slid his gaze over to the tranquil female standing beside him, masking his confusion at his own actions expertly.  Why am I helping herThis makes no sense.

            Edea studied the two of them for a moment and nodded inconvincibly.  "Alright then.  Rinoa, come on.  We have something to discuss."  The tall woman beckoned for the younger one to follow and began making her way down the stairs.  Rinoa nodded and walked after her, not even turning around once.

            Squall watched their exit, a millions thoughts surging through his head.  He had assisted a complete stranger in a lie... a very cute stranger but a stranger nevertheless.  Doesn't she know who he is?  And she still talked to him in that manner?

            However, his brain discarded those musings practically immediately after they surfaced.  Rinoa.  So that was her name.  A slight twinge pulled at his heart, an unfamiliar feeling building up in his stomach.  I don't know who you are, Rinoa... but I can tell that my life is about to change... because of you.

                                                                        ***

            "You insulted him?!"

            "Rinoa, are you crazy?!"

            I sighed, plopping down on my bed.  "I didn't know that it was him!"  I groaned.  "Who knew that he is the clan heir?!"

            Quistis shook her head.  "Couldn't you tell?  I mean, you can just SMELL it off of him, can't you?"

            I glared at the blonde.  "I am not a blood hound, you know," I told her stiffly.

            Selphie rocked back and forth on her seat, her eyes staring out into space.  "Insulted him... insulted him..."  She repeated over and over.  She was beginning to sound like a broken record.  Quistis continued to shake her head and finally, I sat up, looking at them like they were crazy.

            "Okay, now I have to be the asshole and ask you two why you are acting like I've insulted Hyne himself."  I hugged a nearby pillow to my chest.  After meeting with Edea, who had a bit more information than the secretary earlier today, I returned to my room to find Quistis and Selphie lodged in it.  I updated them on our mission and as good friends should tell each other things that happened, I informed them about my little encounter with a certain vampire prince.  I realized now that it was a mistake to say anything about it... how stupid of me.

            "You insulted Squall Leonhart!"  Selphie exclaimed as if it was the worst crime in the world.

            "Tell me something that I don't know already," I said, annoyed at this conversation.

            "Okay, let's look at it mission-wise," Quistis began.  "You need to get this artifact, right?  And you don't know how to get it, where to get it, or even what it looks like.  Edea said that you need to get close to somebody that knows a lot about this family's history.  Besides Laguna, who would this person be?"  She didn't wait for me to answer.  "Squall, of course.  She means that you need to get all the information from Squall.  And since you two got off on such bad circumstances, you just basically kicked yourself in the ass, missy."

            I fell backwards onto my bed again, placing the pillow over my face in hopes of suffocating myself.  "Somebody up there really hates me..." I moaned.

            "It can't be that horrible, Rinny!"  Selphie said.  "Listen up.  There's going to be a dinner party tomorrow evening.  All of the major clan leaders are going to be there.  I found that out from Laguna himself.  He has been talking about it all day.  He wouldn't let his son skip THIS dinner party."

            "And?"  I looked up at the brunette.

            Selphie rolled her eyes.  "Go and smooth things over with him or something!  You know, talk to him and make him feel friendlier towards you."

            I sat up and looked thoughtful for a moment.  "I see what you mean..."  I murmured.

            Selphie grinned brightly.  "Yes!  We are going to a party!"  She cheered happily.

            Quistis smiled slightly and then gave me a serious look.  "Rinoa, I have been meaning to ask you something..."  She said slowly.

            "What?"

            "... Is he as cute as the rumors say?"

            Silence engulfed the room in a heavy blanket until it was broken by the startled scream of a blonde being pelted with a pillow.  "STOP IT!"  Quistis yelled and laughing, leaped off her chair and ran to the other side of the room.

            "You... you traitor!"  I shrieked, grabbing another pillow and took off after her.  Selphie fell off her chair and rolled on the ground, laughing insanely as I assaulted Quistis with the pillow again.

            "Admit that he is attractive!"

            "He is not!"

            "Admit it!"

            "HE IS NOT!"

            "Liar!  Why are you being so defensive, huh?"  Quistis retorted, blocking another one of my attacks.  I stopped for a moment as if formulating a justified answer in my head... and suddenly, caught the blonde by surprise by whacking her in the stomach with the pillow.

            "CHEATER!"

                                                                        ***

            "Hey, can you change the light bulbs in the chandeliers?  No no no!  That plant does not belong there!  Move it over to the other side!"

            Laguna was running around the massive ballroom when Squall, Irvine, and Zell entered it the next day.  The vampire leader himself had decided to supervise the decorations for the upcoming celebration, not risking the chances of something going wrong in any way possible.  He was currently speaking to a frantic cook, pouring over what seemed to be a lengthy menu of the different courses served later on.  Snippets of conversation drifted over the voices of the workers setting up the music stage where the band or orchestral will be and the elongated buffet table set up all around the room.  The maids, who had been taking down the drapes from the arching crystal windows and putting fresh ones up, stopped working as soon as the three young men strolled into the room, giggling profusely behind their hands and whispering in hushed tones.  The trio paid them no attention, used to the chatter everywhere they went, and instead, watched everything that was happening.

            "Your father seemed very into this, Squall," Zell commented, gesturing at the active brunette across the room.

            "Some dinner party crap," Squall replied without any emotion in his voice.  He hated these parties ever since he could remember.  He was literally forced to attend one and not being the social person everybody would preferred him to be, all he did during the time was stand by a window and pretend to the best of his ability to be invisible... not that it worked, mind you.  Nobody could blame him for trying though.  For some reason, his death glares never seemed to scare away the hordes of giggling women that swung his way, wanting to dance or some fake conversation about nothing in particular.  He... wasn't into those things.

            "Heard that all the clan leaders was supposed to be here- why hello, ladies," Irvine said, flashing a trademark smile and tipping his cowboy hat to a group of maids that "coincidentally wandered pass".  Immediately, they burst into more insane giggling and hurried away, throwing coy looks back at them.

            Zell rolled his eyes at his friend's antics.  "Don't you ever get tired of flirting?"

            "Do you ever get tired of eating hot dogs?"

            "Well, eh, no..."

            "Exactly."

            "Squall!"

            Squall looked up, seeing his father waving at him at the other side of the room.  The older man hurried over to him and smiled brightly at his son and his friends.  "Squall, you have somebody here from school!"

            "Who?"  In truth, he didn't really want to know but...

            "Seifer Almasy."  His usual spark seemed to have faded from his voice at the mention of Seifer but quickly, the older man hid it.

            "Sir Laguna!"  One of the servants called from the windows at the other side of the room.  "The Cook said there is something wrong with the list of servings!"

            "AGAIN?!"  Laguna slapped his forehead.  "Oh Hyne.  Please excuse me."  With that, the brunette hurried off, leaving the group silent for a moment... but not for long.

            "WHAT?!"  Zell exploded, causing most of the people in the room to look up for the source of the thunder-like shout.  "What is that bastard doing here?!"  He lowered his voice, seeing the scene that he was making.

            "Probably received an invitation to the party," Irvine mumbled.  Nobody in the group really liked the blonde.  Seifer is the son of the only other vampire clan out there that is large enough to be somewhat of a rival in power to Laguna's.  Squall and Seifer has been arch-enemies politically ever since the Underworld realized about their birth and when they've both been accepted into the world famous Balamb Garden Military School, the tension between the two sky-rocketed, as if it was even possible.  Seifer, having never been deprived of anything throughout his entire life, used his power as the heir to the Almasy "kingdom," if you wish to call it that, to his gain.  Not many people in the world dared to stand up to him, in fear that the price for challenging him will be death.  That is, except for Squall.

            Squall never cared much about power.  In fact, he would much rather be a regular person (as far as regular would go) than to be the vampire prince.  However, that wasn't the case at all to Seifer.  Seifer loathed Squall, seeing them to be his competition.  When Squall was asked to train with the gunblade at Balamb Garden, Seifer forced the headmaster, Cid Kramer, to also let him use one.  The gunblade was a hard weapon to construct and an even more difficult one to master, but Cid, knowing all of this, finally gave up and handed Seifer a gunblade.  The scars upon their foreheads were the results of a training session gone too far.

            Yeah right, a training session.

            Perhaps another reason why Seifer detested Squall so much was because Squall's lack of respect for the blonde.  Seifer has always gotten his way since birth and upon meeting Squall, who cared less about who he is, Seifer was infuriated that somebody out there had the courage to turn his back upon him.

            "No one even like the Almasys," Zell growled.  "Why invite them?"

            "To prevent a war between the clans."  Squall leaned against a pillar.  "If my father didn't invite them, the Almasys will just seize this chance to attack us.  They have been waiting for this chance for a while."

            Zell nodded his comprehension but the blonde's anger had not settled yet.  "That's still some bullshit.  I hate Seifer Almasy," he declared.

            "Did I hear my name being mentioned?"  A cool voice rang out from behind them, causing them to turn around to see who it was.  Seifer himself.  The vampire still wore his arrogant smirk proudly, the rebellious streak in his green eyes never seeming to fade away.  His trademark grey trench coat bellowed behind him, the red cross on his arm a mark of mockery and satire.

            "Just in passing," Irvine answered smoothly.  "We don't usually waste our time on pitiful creatures such as you."

            Seifer glared at the cowboy and then equally casual, he replied, "Maybe we do have something common, Kinneas.  I don't waste my time on underlings such as yourself either.  Squall," he dismissed the other two's presence as easily as he dismisses his servants, focusing his attention on the stoic brunette next to a marble pillar.  "Been training lately?  Think that you will finally be able to beat me?"  He sneered.

            Squall lifted his blue eyes to meet green ones.  "What makes you think that the only reason that I train would be so I could beat you in something, Seifer?"  He said, managing to keep his voice leveled and calm.

            "What other reason do you have?"  Seifer answered, a wide smirk upon his face.

            "Do you train just for the sole purpose of beating me?"  The brunette replied, not letting his annoyance creep into his tone.

            Seifer looked speechless for a moment and finally snapped with a snarl, "Why do you care?  You don't care about anything."

            How do you know?  "Whatever."

            "Mister High-and-Mighty Squall Leonhart," Seifer mocked, ignoring the growls that came from Zell.  "Gunblade master, Squall Leonhart.  Prince Squall Leonhart.  KING Squall Leonhart."

            Squall just stared at him without any type of expression in his eyes.  "Are you done yet?"  He said finally.

            Seifer fumed for moment and then covered it up quickly behind his usual look of superiority.  "Suit yourself, Leonhart."  Suddenly, his attention was snarled by something or SOMEBODY across the room.  He let out a low whistle.  "Wow, look at HER."  He gestured at the trio who just entered the ballroom.

            Irvine was the first one to respond.  "Which one?"

            "The one with the dark hair.  The copper highlights.  HOT."

            Copper highlights?  Squall looked up and realized who Seifer was talking about.  Her.  The young woman from yesterday.  Rinoa... that's her name.  As much as he hated Seifer, he has to admit that for once, the blonde was correct.  She IS attractive, nearly in a way that it practically hurts to stare for too long.  It was hard to put it.  He has seen a lot of beautiful women in his time but this one... she's different.  Her beauty isn't like the superficial ones that surrounded him from all sides.  Hers was... ethereal in a sense... almost as if she was some sort of... angel that came to walk the Earth.

            I'm amazed at the corny dialects that make room in my head.

            Irvine whistled appreciatively.  "She's hot... but so is that brunette next to her."  He gestured at a really cheerful girl who wore a yellow dress.

            Seifer snorted.  "I knew that you were tasteless, Kinneas."

            Irvine was about to snap something back when Seifer whirled around to face Squall, a somewhat sadistic smile upon his face.  "Squall, I propose a game," he announced.  "You and me."

            "Why should I be interested in this... game?"  For some reason, the blonde had a truly evil gleam in his green eyes, one that made him look more demonic than usual.

            "Because you have more to gain than to lose."  Seifer smirked.  "How about it, Leonhart?  Afraid?  If you lose, you have to face me in a real duel, one on one."

            Squall thought about this for a moment and answered fluidly, "And what if I win?"

            "I would do anything that you want," Seifer replied readily.  "Anything, as long as it doesn't involve giving up my life."

            Zell scoffed.  "Don't listen to him, Squall!"  He glared at the blonde.  "Bastard.  Why should we make deals with you?"

            "Deal."

            Seifer smirked and extended a hand to the brunette, who took it without emotion and shook it.  "Glad that you saw things my way."

            "WHAT?!"  Zell turned to Squall, an astounded expression upon his face.  "ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND?!"

            Squall ignored his friend's outburst.  "What are the conditions of this... game?"

            "SQUALL!  HAVE YOU GONE DAFT?!"

            "You have to make this person fall in love with you."  Seifer grinned again, watching as Squall lifted an eyebrow in surprise.  "Your target... her."  With that, he pointed across the room, Squall's eyes following the finger, and mentally prayed, please don't let it be her, please don't let it be her, please don't let it be her...

            But of course, as some Deity up there really hates him, Seifer's finger landed in the direction of the raven-haired female.  Rinoa.  Great.  Just fucking great.

            "Why her?"

            "Because I say so."  Seifer sneered.  "What?  Want to back out now?  Scared?  Always knew that you were a coward, Leonhart."

            Squall forced an expressionless look upon his face and pushed himself off the marble pillar he has been leaning upon.  "So what exactly are the circumstances?"

            "You get her to fall in love with you and you seal it.  By sealing it, I mean that you will have to get something important from her... something that is worth a lot of sentimental value.  Show it to me and then you win.  If you steal something from her, it doesn't count.  In that case, you automatically forfeit the game."  The grin that had embedded itself on Seifer's face seemed to be as permanent as his scar at this point.  "Do you still want to do this?  You could always give up."

            Squall looked across the room where Rinoa was helping Laguna set up the stage.  Almost as if she could sense that somebody was watching her, she stopped and turned around, glancing in his direction.  For the briefest of moments, their eyes met and he could read the recognition register in them.  He could bet the thoughts that ran through her head must be, "Oh... it's that stupid guy from yesterday."

            Suddenly, something in the back of his mind whispered, "Prove to her wrong, Squall.  Do it.  PROVE HER WRONG."

            "You're on."

            He ignored the disgusted groans that Zell released and the triumphant look on Seifer's face.  Wordlessly, he walked away from the group, not noticing the pair of brown eyes that fell on him and followed him out of the room.

                                                                        ***

            Strolling into the ballroom, I was rather bewildered by the unbelievable changes that it had undergone since earlier that very day to now.  All of the curtains were replaced with dark plush red ones that seemed to be fluttering gently by a mysterious wind.  The stage, which was only about half done when I finally left a panicking Laguna after he told me about a million times that everything was going to be fine at about mid-afternoon, was complete now, an orchestral in its place accompanied by a gleaming black grand piano.  A long buffet table stretched several feet away from the stage, laden with delicious food and drink.  People gathered in close clutters, chatting politely with one another, some of them giving me questioning looks when I entered.  Used to the attention, I waved away their curiosity and resumed my once-over of my surroundings.  Many couples had already made their way on the dance floor, moving in rhythm with the music.  My mind placed the piece that was playing to be a waltz that I remembered from a while ago.  The name of it was... oh yes, Dance of the Balamb Fish.  It was a rather funny name to such a light-hearted composition, but I supposed the title was somewhat correct.  The key word is somewhat.

            My eyes traveled to the gold-gilded grandfather clock that sat in the corner, mentally cursing the time.  9:30 already.  No wonder there was so many people here already!  The party started an hour ago!  Selphie just HAD to spend all that time looking for an "appropriate" outfit for me, talking about how important first impressions are... yada yada yada.  Okay, maybe I am being a bit too harsh.  After all, she DID do a number on me.  I glanced down at my cream-colored dress, thanking the gods that I thought ahead and brought a fancy dress to Esthar, "just in case some special occasion comes up".  The dress was a favorite of mine.  It falls just a bit above my knees, held up by a piece of cloth that looped around my neck.  It had a simple and modest neckline, not that I want to reveal a lot.  My mother's ring clanged lightly against the silver chain it was on and instinctively, I touched it lightly with a hand where a thin bracelet resides.  My hair was down in its usual fashion, but Selphie had taken the time to brush it a lot so my raven locks were giving off a shine.  But however, I still felt somewhat out of fashion compared to the fancy gowns of the women around me...

            Not wanting to dwell on those thoughts, I quickly shoved them aside and spied Laguna.  High heels clicking against the marble floor, I made my way over to him where he was laughing with a man about his age.  Upon nearing, I could tell that Laguna's smile was a forced one and his laughter was tensed.

            "Laguna, what a marvelous party that you have put together," I interrupted, accepting a flute of wine from a passing waiter.  Laguna gave me a grateful look and smiled genuinely at me.

            "I'm glad!"  The vampire lord turned to his companion.  "Mister Almasy, meet Miss Heartilly.  She's staying with us for a while."

            Mister Almasy... "It is a pleasure to meet you."  I extended my hand politely and he took it, shaking it.  He was a rather imposing looking man with slightly graying hair and a stern posture.

            "The pleasure is all mine," he responded, meeting my eyes.  For a second, I saw his pupils flashed red but when I blinked, it was gone.  Maybe it was a trick of the light...

            I pulled my hand away and laughed softly.  "Well, please excuse me.  I'm going to get something to eat," I lied casually and tried to make a graceful exit away from Mister Almasy.  Laguna looked so disappointed when I left.

            Sorry, Laguna.  You're going to have to face this one by yourself.

            Putting my untouched drink on the plate of a passing waiter, I stood in the middle of the room and on impulse, looked upwards.  For the first time, I noticed that the ceiling wasn't a regular one; it was completely made of glass.  It was a glass dome that opened up the roof into the heavens, the stars twinkling down at me.  And then, I saw something streaked across the sky in a blaze of gold, creating a trail of fire behind it.  It happened so quickly that it disappeared as suddenly as it came, leaving the ones who were lucky enough to see it feeling as if they've seen something that only comes once in a lifetime.  I've seen shooting stars many times but they never ceased to mystify me with their beauty.

            Pulling my eyes away from the skies, I looked around to see if anybody else has caught the star and then... I saw him.  Squall Leonhart.  He was standing next to a large plant as if he wishes to be hidden from the view of all of the other people in the room.  His eyes were on the heavens also, no doubt having seen the shooting star and slowly, he dropped his gaze... and met mine.

            Do something, Rinoa... DAMMIT, DO SOMETHING.

            Throwing all caution to the wind, I smiled at him and pointed at the ceiling as if to say, "Did you see that?"

            He tilted his head slightly, looking quite confused at what I was trying to do.  Nice going, Heartilly.  VERY smooth.

            Swallowing my pride, I dropped my hand and on an impulse, marched purposely over to him.  Stopping in front of him, I noted his clothes with a slight smirk.  He was wearing black boots, black pants, and a button-up shirt.  He has an obsession with black... interestingly enough, so do I.

            Maybe we do have something in common.

            "You're the best looking guy here," I began, watching a slight flicker of surprise washed over his face.  Did he think that I was going to apologize?  Wrong.  "Dance with me?"

            He just continued to stare at me like I was speaking in a different language or something.  Feeling a bit frustrated, I bit it back and continued trying.  After all, I don't want to fail my mission now, do I?

            "Oh... I get it... You only dance with people you like..."

            I wanted to smack myself.  Where the hell did I get such a stupid line?  Too late now... just GO WITH IT.

            Standing up taller, I leaned in closer to him and waved my fingers in front of him in no particular pattern whatsoever.  "You're going to like me, you're going to like me, you're going to like me..."  I chanted, and smiling to cover up my stupidity, put my hand down.  "Did it work?"  Please say something...

            "... I can't dance."

            BINGO.

            "It doesn't matter.  I can't be on the dance floor alone."  I grabbed his hand, a sense of deja-vu brushing over me, and pushing it away, began to drag him with me to the dance floor where the other couples were.  At that moment, the music changed to another piece that I liked... Waltz for the Moon.  My mother used to sing it to me all the time when I was young and to this day, I still have the melody and words memorized, her voice forever recorded in my heart.

            Double bingo.

            Taking a place in the center of the dance floor, I seized his hand and placed it on my waist, noticing that he was fumbling because he had no idea what was going on.  I resisted the urge to giggle.  It was kind of... cute.  My hand landed on his shoulder and my right one intertwined with his, lowering my head a bit to hide the smile that was on my face.  And then, the dance began.

            Remembering that he told me that he couldn't dance, I had to lead and I pulled us both into the music, moving in time with the different beats.  Squall kept on staring down at our feet, trying to predict what his next step need to be and occasionally, looking back up at me as if for further instructions.  And then, I retreated backwards a little too fast and he bumped into me, causing me to be knocked off balance for a moment and our hands to be disconnected.

            Giving him a tiny smile for encouragement, I replaced his hand on my waist, resumed our original positions... and tried again.  This time, it was going well for a moment until the part in which I pulled away and he tried to catch up to me, only succeeding in knocking into me instead.  I wasn't injured, of course, but by the look on his face, I knew that he was done with the dance.  He began walking away and promptly, I went after him, snatching his hand and leading him back to the dance floor.

            I am not going to give up so easily.

            A few moves later, we managed to crash into another couple on the dance floor somehow and innocently, I stuck my tongue out at them, laughing inside as their eyes widen at my lack of apology.  Whatever.

            Turning back to my dance partner, who was equally shock as the couple, I smiled again, hearing the music pick up in the background.  What happened next has GOT to be a miracle.  For some reason, he managed to dance the rest of the waltz as if he had been dancing since he was born.  He didn't mess up on all of the side changes, not even the two parts in which I have to spin into him and come back out the same way without letting go of one another's hand.  When we came together as the last note in the stanza passed away, fireworks exploded above us in the sky, raining across the darkness like stars themselves.  A perfect ending to a perfect dance.  Okay, near perfect dance.

            Together, we looked up and a sort of smile passed over his features.  Did he enjoy the dance?  Before I had the chance to voice my question, I saw something horribly familiar across the room from over Squall's shoulder.  Apparently, he saw me also and silently, he raised a glass of swirling dark liquid at me, as if to propose a mock toast.

            A cloud passed across my eyes momentarily and carefully, I concealed it.  Realizing that Squall was watching me, I smiled again but this time in an apologetic fashion and winked at him, pulling out of the slight embrace that we were in.  With that, I walked off the dance floor and in the direction of the man that caught my attention from before.  He acknowledged the fact that I was coming his way and discreetly, he dropped his wine flute off and exited the room.

            Making a show of feigning a tired yawn and stretching, I followed him, forcing my gait into a slow one so it wouldn't look as if I was trailing after him to the casual observer.  Minutes later, I stepped into the hallway, barely noticing the darkness that immediately swarmed around me, eating my entire body up so I was utterly enveloped in it.

                                                                        ***

            "Squall!"

            Turning around, the vampire prince saw that it was his sister who was calling him.  "Ellone?"  He looked surprised.  He haven't seen her ever since he got home a few days ago when she ran out the front door and hugged him.  Ever since he began attending Balamb Garden, they barely have enough time to talk to one another.  An occasional phone call or letter was all there was; both was just far too busy.  Ellone was occupied with working with Laguna, keeping the clans in order and smoothing over any rough bumps that might have risen.  And Squall... well, we all know HIS story.  Sometimes, the brunette thinks that his sister would make a better clan leader than he would... After all, Ellone has all the skills that he lacked...

            ... especially his skills in dancing.

            As if she could read his mind, Ellone smiled and said, "That was a beautiful dance."

            "You were watching?"  Oh no... that means that everybody else must have seen me trip all over the dance floor also...

            "Yes."  Ellone laughed, seeing the horrified look that flinted over her brother's face.  "You looked like you were really enjoying it also.  So... where's your partner?"

            Squall glanced around quickly and found no sign of Rinoa.  "I... think she left," he said quietly.

            "Really?"  Ellone gazed at the clock and frowned slightly.  "Why, it's only ten o'clock... Maybe she's just tired."  She shrugged, the fabric of her forest green gown moving with each action she makes.

            "Maybe."

                                                                        ***

            The shadows surrounded around my limbs, which I shook off as nothing but an attempt to scare me.  My footsteps steady, I moved deeper into the abyss that appeared out of thin air, feeling the coolness of the void upon my skin.

            "What are you trying to do?"  My voice echoed through the emptiness, bouncing back to me.  "I have enough of your games."

            As if on cue, a pair of red eyes shown out of the darkness, its owner strolling out from between the curtains of the unknown and stopped several feet away from me.  "I'm not playing a game..."  The shadow rumbled.

            "If you aren't, what are you doing then?"  I watched as the eyes faded away and suddenly, felt something that resembled arms wrapping around me from behind.  I stiffened automatically, my body freezing on instinct.

            "I just missed you, that's all."  Lips fell upon my shoulder and moved upwards slowly, causing me to will myself not to breathe.  As soon as they brushed against my neck, I quickly pulled myself out of its embrace, whirling around and taking several steps backwards.

            "Rinoa, what's the matter?"  The voice sounded hurt and its master took a step towards me and I retreated in respect to it.

            "I told you before, it is over," I said firmly and the eyes narrowed, no doubt angered by my response.  "So just... stop."

            It didn't reply so I went on.  "I don't even see why you want to be with me.  Don't I repulse you at all?"

            "Rinoa..."

            "It's over.  I'm sorry."

            Silence spread once again until a low chuckle came from it.  Truth to be told, I was rather shocked by this change in attitude.  I expected screaming, yelling, cursing, whatever... but definitely not mirth.

            "What about... the Leonhart kid?"

            Squall?  "I think that you know me better than that."

            "Rinoa, Rinoa, Rinoa... you treacherous little thing... always using people like tools."

            "If it cleanses the world, I don't care.  Besides, I am rather devoted to my job."  I was somewhat furious at the choice of words.  Treacherous?  Maybe the truth hurts more than I first thought.

            "How generous of you, damning your own soul for the sake of others."  Sarcasm dripped heavily like honey from a bee hive.

            "Why, thank you."  I returned it with the same amount, amazing myself at the strict control I have of my own temper.

            It chuckled again.  "In that case, remember this... everything that I do... is for you, Rinoa.  Everything."  The eyes vanished and at the same time, so did the mist that flooded about me.  With a bright burst of light, I was returned to the empty hallway before the entrance to the ballroom.  The light laughter, music, and clinking of glasses from the party told me that nothing was amiss while I was away.

            My mind spinning from the previous confrontation, I shook my head, trying to clear it.  For some reason, the words seemed ominous and it cast an uneasy feeling upon me... as if it was foretelling the coming of something terrible.  And knowing the speaking as well as I do, it might as well just be the case.

            Realizing that my legs has taken me to the grand staircase, I ascended it, passing the stone Griever along the way.  Suddenly, I felt compelled to turn around and stare at the stone lion, frowning at it.  Something... wasn't right, but I just couldn't put my finger on it...

            Perhaps I am just tired.

            Deciding that it has to be the answer, I continued up the stairs, knowing that Selphie and Quistis would probably be awake, waiting for my return.

            Unbeknownst to me, a single feather drifted from the wings of the Griever, pure white, and landed lightly on the plush red carpet...

___________

Ending Notes:  Oh God.  I am sorry that it took me more than a month to update!  I am so sorry!  *apologizes a million times and more*  I was just so busy and then I got stuck in a writer's block with this Fanfiction.  I don't know HOW.  I just had the shortage of ideas of what to write about.  I am still reeling from the effects of the damned writer's block *shoots it*, which is pretty much the reason why this chapter is kind of choppy and boring, but I will make it up to you.  The dance from above was a beautiful thing in the game but somehow, when put to paper, it lost some of its... magic... or maybe my writing just sucks.  Hahahahaha.  I am not good at all at writing fluff or romantic scenes, hence that rather forced part up there with Rinoa and the shadow.  Angst is more of my style.  Anybody want to guess who or what the shadow is?  A Squall plushie will arrive promptly to your modem if you guessed correctly.

I hope that everybody had a wonderful Christmas (a bit late, I know) and a good beginning to a new year.  I received the Griever ring for Christmas (I already have the chain) as a replacement for not getting SquareSoft instead.  Oh well.  Maybe next year.

Dark Angels:  I want to thank you for taking the time to e-mail me with help on breaking through my writer's block and ideas for this story.  I really appreciate your assistance and I am glad that you like my story so far!  I feel like I've done something extremely important.  Thanks again!

Baby Rose:  The tense changes?  I know!  My friend Supremia (perhaps you've read her stories) always tell me that my tense changes are really crazy.  I am trying to change them to the best of my ability.  Thanks for reviewing and please continue to read!

remote mine:  I agree with you - AUs do leave a lot of questions.  And don't get me started on Squall's eyes... lol... I am such a Squall fan girl.  Anyways, thanks for the review and the compliments!  Keep on reading!

Ma/eRiCk:  I'm glad that you like my writing thus far.  And the thing about the perspective changes... you have to learn that I am pretty impulsive when it comes to my writing and I twist things around a lot.  I never let my characters feel content for too long.  I just don't want my readers to start getting bored because everything is peaches and cream all the time because we know that life isn't like that.  Thank you for reading and reviewing!

FF9 Zidane:  The perfect beginning?  lol, I feel flattered that you think that way.  I guess updating soon didn't work out that well seeing that a month isn't really... SOON... but I promise that the next update will be up in less than two weeks.  As soon as I get through my finals, I have an entire week off.  I would be doing a lot of writing in that time so please don't hate me for not updating earlier!  Thank you for reviewing!  Please keep on reading.

trekken46:  I will check out your vampire story.  In fact, I've read the prologue and it was simply alluring.  Thanks for the review and continue reading!

Cusp of a Butterfly:  I know what you mean!  Even before the movie, I had this obsession with vampires so I thought, "Why not combine my obsessions together (Squall and FFVIII being my other obsession - among others)?"  Hence this fic is born.

Thank you for those encouraging comments and reviews!  I really appreciate it.  I promised that the next update will be faster... MUCH faster.  By the way, do you think that I should upgrade the rating of my story from a PG-13 to an R?  Thanks again and please continue to read and review!