"Am I the only one who thought that wedding class was with the lame-xx0rz?"
She waited for her silent companion to answer and receiving none, she scowled darkly. He'd been spacey all day and she was beginning to wonder if it was just one of his many moods or if he was just pretending to be oblivious to annoy her.
It had been seven years since the defeat of Ultimecia and sometimes he still mystified her. Sometimes...sometimes he was just beyond her reach. His interior world seemed more interesting to him than the real world...or at least that's the way she felt. He'd changed so much since the day she'd met him but that one thing about him. That distance he put between himself and others. He clung to that, though not as often as before. It still disturbed her when he'd sink into himself. With that weird blank look on his face, like he was far, far away. He sat behind her, his grey blue eyes looking so distant, even as close to him as she was. So far away.
Since that day seven years ago, Squall and Rinoa had been living together. They were virtually inseparable. Quistis often joked that they weren't individuals anymore, that they were one entity in separate bodies. Squinoa. She called them Squinoa. Rinoa shook her head; sometimes she just didn't get Quistis's sense of humor. There were those who didn't understand how they'd stayed together so long. You don't meet your true love at seventeen. That was the line anyway. Rinoa saw the truth in that, all the same, they loved each other. Perhaps it was because what they'd been through together. There was really no one else she could dream up that would understand as he did. For some, she supposed it was odd that two young people were so devoted to each other. When you were young you were supposed to experiment, sow your wild oats. To not do that seemed...unnatural, to some people. Made no sense to Rinoa. She'd found someone who made her happy. Why in the world would she want to look for someone else? Not like a knight like him came around every day. She knew she was lucky. Damn lucky. And she knew he felt the same way.
But the questions always came up. Are you two suuuuure you want to settle down so quickly? Don't you think you ought to look around a bit? Those two questions were only beat out by a far more obnoxious question, which oddly always followed the other two. When ARE you two getting married?
Rinoa once got frustrated enough that she'd threatened to live in sin with Squall for the rest of her life. The look on Cid and Edea's face when she'd said that was priceless. As much as she loved the two of them, those questions were nothing sort of aggravating. Especially coming from those they cared about. It bugged her so much that she'd decided that every time she was asked those question, she'd add another mental year on, which would set their wedding date sometime in the very distant future. When they'd be too old to do much of anything.
After a bit, people finally shut up about it, which made her damn happy. Then things started up again about three years ago, when they moved in with each other. It was enough to make her want to bang her head against the wall until it bled. Despite all the obnoxious behavior on other people's parts, they did well for themselves. They'd settled into a comfortable routine, an everyday dance that was slow and reassuring. Sometimes it was hard but what relationship wasn't occasionally hard? Hell, anything worth doing ended up requiring hard work. She'd learned a lot. About herself, about him. She'd grown, and he'd been a big part of that, and vice-versa. Rinoa smiled warmly, thinking about the day he proposed to her.
It had been a quiet Saturday morning in June, the first free morning they'd both had in a long time. Summer vacation just started and they'd just woken up, the golden rays of morning spilling into their little bedroom. She'd leaned over to kiss him and he made a joke about her having bad breath. A light laugh escaped her lips as she recalled the memory. She'd been so mad that she hauled back and punched him in the arm as hard as she could. It hadn't hurt him, she knew that. Her punches were pathetically weak, but his reaction to it was what she remembered most.
He'd affected a falsetto, pitching his voice as high as it'd go and crying, "Help! Help! Spousal abuse! Spousal abuse! You vicious woman!"
Rinoa had rolled her eyes and scoffed, "Can't be spousal abuse! We're not spouses..esesesss..." she stammered and he stifled a laugh. Rinoa's eyes narrowed.
"Oh, that's just you're excuse for beating me. Ya mean 'ol bitch."
"Oh, whatever.." she replied, using his once favorite phrase to prod him, "Whiny 'ol bastard."
And then he smiled, wiggling his eyebrows just to tease her. He'd thrown down the towel. She'd pounced on him, tickling his sides...his only weakness. She was merciless, her fingers finding their mark with insane cruelty. By the time she was done, he was breathless and red faced from laughing so hard. Without warning, he flipped her on her back and straddled her, using that catlike grace of his against her. Damn his SeeD training. She'd tried to retaliate, her hands searching out his sides but she found no opening. He'd grabbed her wrists and held them, though he had to try three or four times before he got it right. Rinoa had pouted, but it was really more for show. She'd always been a bit of a sore loser. Her dark eyes had twinkled with playful mirth...and something else. Squall smiled at her, his light brown hair framing his face, highlighted by the soft morning light. She looked so beautiful beneath him like that. Her raven hair tousled and wild, spread around her like the photonegative of a halo. He'd kissed her then and with such passion that she was afraid her heart might stop. Releasing her hands, he gave her a quizzical look before flopping down next to her. They turned to meet each other's gaze and then he asked her.
"Wanna get married?"
The way he'd asked was so nonchalant. You asked someone to go to the store like that. Another woman would have been offended. Expecting a grand romantic gesture, but that just wasn't Squall. Rinoa didn't mind...she wasn't half as fussy as people thought she was. It was actually kind of a cute way of asking, when you thought about it.
Nonplussed, she'd answered him back without thought, "Sure. When d'ya want to do it?"
"Dunno. Next October sound good?"
It was now March, just after her birthday. They had seven months before the wedding. She'd already secured a hall and the church, as they were the hardest to get. Next came the photographer. She didn't have to worry about catering, as it was provided by the hall. They didn't have to worry about a DJ either, Zell had volunteered. She'd heard it was a bad idea to hire friends, but she trusted him. Very soon she'd have to complete the thing that all women looked forward to when getting married. Even someone as laid back as her. The dress.
That's what they'd been doing that day. Rather, that's what she'd been doing while lying in Squall's lap for the last hour. He'd taken the whole work part of the wedding with a grain of salt. Pretty much leaving it up to her, which made her kind of mad...but he wasn't much help anyway. No man was. Weddings, no matter what anyone says, are really more for the brides than the grooms. She did occasionally like to bug him with wedding details, just to listen to his whining.
They'd developed a relationship based on mutual teasing. A relaxed kind of love that she felt not many understood. They fought sometimes...what couple didn't? But it was never serious. It was always funny the way other people would take it when they'd start going at each other. Their fights were fast and vicious, and then promptly forgotten ten minutes later. It had occurred to her on more than one occasion that they were a very odd couple. Most unlike any other couple she knew.
Selphie and Irvine came to mind. They were the typical model for a male/female relationship, whatever that was. Irvine was from Mars. Selphie was from Venus. Ascribing to that bullshit idea that men and women were so different that they had a hard time understanding each other. It was crap, total and complete crap. Squall and Rinoa came from the same place and they most definitely understood each other. They never argued over the toilet seat...or who put their socks where. They didn't really argue about much. It was usually just petty sniping when one of them was in a bad mood.
Learning to accept someone else and dealing with their differences wasn't a matter of gender. It was a matter of making changes for the betterment of the total relationship. A relationship required give and take. They'd figured that out and were insulted when everyone else thought them weird for getting along so eerily well. The worst part was when people assumed that she had some sort of magical hold over Squall that allowed her to make him do things. He did things for her because he loved her. That was what people in love DO. If he didn't want to do it, he wouldn't and she didn't expect him to.
Speaking of him not speaking. She had gotten so lost in her own thought; she'd forgotten he hadn't answered her question. Rinoa poked his arm.
"Hey. Answer my question!"
"The wedding class?"
"Oh...That?" He asked, confusion evident in his voice, "Yeah. It was pretty lame. That lady disturbed me."
"No kidding. She was a freak-show! What was with her pants? And those problems she listed...sucked."
He laughed, "I know. If toilet seats are the worst of her problems..."
"She needs new problems."
They fell into comfortable silence again. She wondered if this was the way it'd always be. Sitting here on the couch in his lap, enjoying a quiet afternoon together with a good book...she hoped so. Well, the wedding magazine she was reading wasn't exactly a good book...Rinoa frowned and flipped a page.
"So...how's the Dial-A-Song thing going?" He asked, quite out of the blue.
Dial-A-Song was something she and Zell had set up. During their adventure seven years ago, she'd discovered that she and Zell shared a love of music. She shared it with Squall as well, but...well...he wasn't a musician. Zell was. They'd got to talking about the state of music today and how terrible it was. Nothing but boy bands and girl groups and wannabes pretending they were punks. That was when the idea for Dial-A-Song was born. They had this idea to set up a phone number that you could call anytime of the day and listen to a new song. Of course, you'd have to have a band to do that, which was what sort of came next, though Rinoa and Zell didn't really consider themselves a band...more like, an experiment in music gone wrong.
After the Ultimecia affair, they'd discussed it and started recording. Sure, with the money and fame they'd received for saving the world, any recording studio in the world would gladly sign them. But they didn't play by the rules of the man. A major label would expect certain things of them. Selling records would be one of those things...and they didn't particularly want to worry about selling records. It wasn't about the money. It was about the music. Dial-A-Song was a way for them to make their kind of music independently. It was a creative outlet, an enterprise that they engaged in for the love of music. They advertised in the back of the Balamb Voice. A simple little blurb that said Dial-A-Song with the number listed after it.
Most boyfriends would have been jealous of Zell. He would be spending lots of time alone with Rinoa. Any normal man would worry about what might happen. Not Squall. He trusted her, as she trusted him. Plus, he was kind of their silent partner in all this. He'd never admit it to anyone, but several of their songs had been written by Squall himself. Rinoa was sure if anyone knew who ran Dial-A-Song, it'd be a lot more popular than any of them wanted. At least, in the first couple of years it would have.
The fame they'd garnered from saving the world faded and they'd thankfully been relegated to the shadows again. Within a year of the event itself, no one could remember their names, much less care who they were. Everyone had moved on to the next celebrity scandal or world event that took precedence over a band of teenagers who sort of kept all of existence from collapsing. Besides, their lives were boring, not even fit for the last page on the newspaper. The President's daughter getting drunk and mooning some guy on tape...that was news. Squall Leonhart going to the store with his fiancée? Very much lacking in the news department, barely worth mentioning at all.
It suited Rinoa and Squall just fine. Suited Zell even finer, he really liked the idea of being an obscure indy group, struggling to get by. Rinoa felt it was mostly so he could pretend to be more punk rock than the other boys, but she'd never tell him that. Their music experiment was dubbed 'Indestructible Object' and was an underground success. They mostly worked on songs during the weekends or vacations. Whenever they had time, really. Not much money was made but that was alright. Money wasn't everything.
Rinoa sighed and leaned against him, "Dial-A-Song's good. We've gotten a lot more calls lately. I think the new song is a big hit."
"The one I wrote?"
"Yup. OH! And Maude called again."
Maude was a regular caller. An older woman, who for reasons that were unfathomable called the number all of the time. She'd leave bizarrely long messages on the answering machine, which never failed to make them all laugh.
"DUDE! Are you serious? Why didn't you tell me?"
Rinoa giggled at his use of the word dude. It was as a result of hanging out with her and Zell. Squall had always been a bit of a grammar whore and had disliked using that word. Over the years, his reluctance waned and it began to slip into his regular vocabulary. Much to his chagrin and her amusement.
Zell was really the only one of the old orphanage gang they saw anymore, as he still lived in Balamb. Irvine and Selphie had transferred over to Trabia, setting up a joint demolitions/gun range at the smaller Garden. Quistis had moved on as the Ambassador for Balamb in Esthar. They'd be lucky to get a call from the tall blonde, much less a visit.
As for the martial artist himself, Zell had quit Garden altogether. He'd started up his own small martial arts school to supplement his income. Not that any of them really needed to worry much about money.
"Forgot. We can call Zell tomorrow and go over and listen."
"Good. Can't believe you were holding out on me."
Rinoa chuckled softly, tapping her head against his chest lightly and humming. It was a blatant attempt to irritate him and it worked. He put a hand on her forehead, his wordless way of saying...knock it off. She did reluctantly, switching gears to reflect on the past and the now and everything to come as she paged through her wedding magazine.
The happy couple had done very well for themselves. Perhaps it was a testament to their bond with each other, ...maybe it was something else...not to even mentioning the fact that, though they'd both deny it, Rinoa and Squall were incredible people to begin with. Both highly motivated, driven to complete whatever goal was set in front of them. No matter the odds.
Rinoa had set about single-handedly solving Garden's money problems. Garden had been in a downward spiral for many years. Not enough students, not enough tuition, not enough money coming in from Garden's various clients. All three schools were on the verge of shutting their doors. Rinoa swept in like some kind of divine angel, and made the problems go away. Being a general's daughter had some privileges. Said privileges being, her intimate knowledge of who would give what kind of donations. Whose arms she'd have to twist for funding, legal advice, notary services, government paperwork...whatever. She was the go-to-gal. The one in the know and she'd pushed forward to fight for Garden's future. Squall was unsure, to this day, why she'd done it. Probably for him, for all her friends, she understood how much this place had meant to them.
With the help of Garden's administration, she'd overseen the complete conversion of all three schools. Garden had changed from a private military academy, to a publicly funded, multi-discipline educational facility. The elementary and high school programs had been consolidated and were taught in the same building. Not much changed about it, other than adding a few classes.
The big change was in the university part of the program. SeeD as a concept still existed, as did the military side of its function, but Rinoa had expanded it. SeeD was now more than just a word for a program that spat out perfect little mercenaries. Once you graduated from the high school program, you were faced with a choice. You could go on to another university or continue on at Garden and become a SeeD, which was now separated into two graduate degree programs. You could get a military grade degree, the old definition for SeeD, or you could go for a strict educational degree, the new definition for SeeD. All the old military requirements stayed the same as they've always been.
For the educational degree, you had to submit a written essay and an admission form, followed by the completion of a three day hell test, which you had to pass to move on. This, of course, was only the start of your real work as a student. This new program made Garden into a more regular university. A place for children to grow into teenagers, who grew into young adults, who grew up into actual adulthood...and once that was done, they'd be ready for the world.
Rinoa had seen to it that the curriculum that was set up would be the very best. Garden had always had that reputation, and she wouldn't be the one to tarnish it. She'd worked her ass off, finding the right financiers to back the project and scouring the world for the extra the faculty and regular employees that'd be needed to run the additional departments. It had been rather amazing to watch the transformation. To see how responsible she could really be. When he'd met her, she'd been such an idealistic little girl who had plans within plans. Now it seemed she finally knew what to do with all those plans. He'd always known on some level that she'd figure it out eventually. Squall had always admired her almost uncanny ability to organize things. She was better at it than Selphie and that was saying a lot.
After a bit, her part of this grand project had been reduced, split up between the various departments. Once finally freed from her duties as lord high coordinator of stuff, she was able to move on to things she actually liked. The biggest thing she'd pushed was setting up a liberal arts program at Garden and it was coincidentally, the thing the administration at Garden was dead set against. Rinoa had proposed a broad spectrum liberal arts program that included writing classes, foreign languages, and the Fine Arts. Garden administration wanted a more general program. That only included that which would help students write better equipment manuals or perhaps classes that'd show the prospective general how to type up a nicely worded letter. It was ridiculous, and she fought tooth and nail against it. Squall had supported her fully. Using the weight his name carried to put pressure on the administration. He was still commander at that time and his words resonated. The administration buckled and they got their liberal arts program just as they wanted it. For the last few years, they'd put the final touches on it and Squall could say with certainty, that it was perfect.
She now served as the liberal arts department head, juggling all the cares and concerns of all the departments underneath her. It suited her well, no matter how much she complained about it. He'd accepted a position underneath her as a faculty member, though a department head in his own right. Squall was no longer the commander in chief of Balamb Garden, having long ago stepped down, handing over that set of worries to Xu. No, now he was the head of the Language department and very happy in his work. He only taught a few classes, mostly those at the three hundred or four hundred level. Even he wasn't exempt from teaching the basic composition and grammar classes that all teachers hate. Being the boss had its benefits however. He left the younger students to the faculty underneath him, only deigning to teach seniors and juniors who were serious about creative writing. He'd also picked up two literature classes and one three hundred level poetry class.
In the back of his mind, he knew that most men in his position would be less than happy, threatened by the fact that their girlfriend or wife held a superior position to them. So many men bought into the macho bullshit that he'd long ago discarded. He had no reason to compete with his lover and her success did not threaten his masculinity in any way. The fact was, he couldn't be prouder of her, just as she was proud of him.
This joined the list of other reasons that pointed to them being a rather unusual couple. Unlike any couple in the vast course of history. Squall often pondered this fact when he had nothing better to do. Why were things so simple for them and yet so complicated for everyone else? Did it even really matter? Well, obviously it didn't because it didn't really worry him so much. Just made him wonder what the hell was wrong with everyone else.
Perhaps it was something about the sorceress/knight bond thing. Maybe that was some kind of supernatural epoxy that bonded them together more tightly than other people. That took too much away from them as individuals and he didn't want to believe that was the reason for their closeness, their oneness. No, he'd long ago decided that whatever they had, they'd made themselves. They were what they were and nothing could change that. Sorceress bond or real love. It didn't matter which it was or what surreal combination of the two it might be. It just was and that was all that mattered to him, therefore he was free from worry...and if other people thought it was weird. Well, that was their problem. It wasn't his fault they were severely screwed up. He smiled softly and kissed the top of her head, feeling warm inside when she hummed contentedly and snuggled up against him.
His smile remained, a fact that would have amazed most anyone who knew him seven years ago. Squall Leonhart did not smile, ever...he longed for the death of joy and actively sought out its destruction. Which was utter bullshit and he was glad that she'd given him the strength to see that. It wasn't a crime to smile, he wouldn't burst into flames when the merest flicker of emotions touched his face. He smiled now. All the damn time and it was her fault and her gift to him. Sighing with satisfaction, he turned the channel on the television set. The military history program he was watching had gotten progressively more boring as time went on. There had to be something better on. He flipped through the channels rapidly and if Rinoa had been paying any sort of attention, she'd be mad at him. Gleefully, he continued to do it because he could, half wanting her to look up and catch him at it. Her playful irritation with him would be worth it.
He stopped abruptly on his favorite commercial and he grinned wickedly. An older man appeared on the screen, speaking passionately about abusing drugs and how it led to an inevitably nasty death. He didn't particularly care for the subject matter, nor did the commercial itself excite him visually. What made it his favorite commercial was at the end, where he'd exclaim in a haggard voice, "IT KILLED HER!". Squall knew it was wrong and sick, and he was probably going to hell for it, but the way that old man said it amused him. IT KILLED HER! He couldn't help it...he laughed every time he saw it. As he watched and waited for his favorite part, he idly stroked Rinoa's hand. Gently caressing her knuckles, his eyes glued to the screen.
"IT KILLED HER!!"
He chortled, a goofy grin spread across his face, "Is it wrong that I find that funny?"
Rinoa glanced up, stopping to think a moment before responding, "Yes." She smiled after a brief, pointed pause, "No. It's frigging hilarious." Rinoa then proceeded to do a passable imitation of the man, "It killed her! IT KILLED HER!"
Rinoa looked up at him quizzically before bursting into wild laughter that bubbled upwards and out into open air, clear and very bell-like. He lived for moments like this. Just being with her on a quiet afternoon like this, listening to her ringing laughter echo through the silence of his mind. He lived to make her laugh like that, to see her smile. The two together could light the world with their brilliance. It was more than any man could ask and it was his. She hadn't stopped laughing at his non sequitur. Her chest was still heaving and her face had gone a breathless red. She began to cough as she tried to rein it in.
He ruffled her hair, shaking his head, "It wasn't that funny."
"The hell you say!" She replied, her voice still raspy and choked as she tried to regain her composure. "You almost made me choke."
He didn't reply and it irritated her, so she gave him a gentle poke with her finger. His eyes were locked on the television. That irritated her more. Was he doing it on purpose? She poked him again and he grunted. She poked him three times in rapid succession. Nothing. She poked him four times, each one slower than the last. No reaction. Pouting, she poked him repeatedly. An extreme amount of silence followed.
"HEY! Pay attention to me! I gave you demon death pokey! Be afraid." Rinoa demanded, poking his side to punctuate her ire.
He squirmed away from the poke, replying as colorlessly as he could manage, "Oooooooh! I am afraid! Look how I shake in my boots! Oh, the terror you induce!"
She swatted his arm playfully.
"What?" he asked, with a slight mocking grin, "See, this is my afraid face!" His grin widened, wiggling his fingers as he spoke, "See, I's afraid of yoo. Oh! How very spooky you are!"
She hit him. Hard.
"Ow! You're so abusive." He complained, looking down at her to see that she was barely concealing her amusement with him, "If I'd known you were such a violent girl..."
She pointed a warning finger at him, "Watch yourself, buster. I don't take no sass talk from my fillies."
"Yeah, I know. I have the bruises to prove it..." He complained good-naturedly.
Rinoa turned back to her magazine, thumping the back of her hand against his chest, "Whiner."
The room went pleasantly quiet again but for the birds outside, the occasional rustle of Rinoa's magazine and the muffled hum of the television. She had no idea what kind of dress she wanted. This magazine was supposed to be helping her decide and it was plainly not doing its job. Not one dress in it seemed to be appealing. Most were too expensive or too cheap. Too couture or too antique. Too...much of things she didn't like. Well, she certainly knew now what she didn't want. Rinoa gave a frustrated grunt, glowering at the page as if it could change its contents to suit her. She flipped the pages, coming to an abrupt and horrified stop on the most hideous dress she'd ever laid eyes on. It was a parody of a wedding dress. An eyesore, that was made to mock the one foolish enough to wear it. It...it had to be someone's idea of a sick joke. Either that or it was designed by a six year old girl, whose idea of pretty included lots of ruffles, sparkles, rainbows and ponies.
There were approximately four thousand layers of tulle on the dress alone. The sleeves were so large that most likely an entire homeless shelter could fit inside just one. She didn't even want to mention the very large, very ugly bow stuck to the back of it. But the worst part...the most god awful part of the dress....It was covered from top to bottom in overlarge rhinestones and tons of crinkled, antique-looking lace. A little sparkle in a dress was nice and the tasteful placement of delicate lace complimented any ensemble...but this. This was wrong. Very, very, truly, deeply wrong. This...was evil in its purest form. Rinoa shivered. It looked like someone ripped off some poor, old lady's craft supply drawer and stapled it to this dress. The bastards.
Rinoa shook her head and prepared to flip to the next page, "Goodbye, Galbadian Peach Queen, 1989..."
Struggling with it, she grumbled under her breath a bit as she attempted to unstick the pages.
Squall hadn't noticed her distress or what caused it, absently answering her half mumbled quip, "Aw! I think you'd make a cute Peach Queen."
Rinoa swiveled her head slowly, to gaze directly at him, horrified.
"Yeah, so would you...but I don't see you stuffin' your ass into that dress..." She retorted in her most sarcastic tone, holding up the page for him to see.
It blocked his view of the television and he huffed, annoyed that he had to stop vegging out for...."DEAR GOD!" He exclaimed, taking a good look at THE dress. After a moment his normal cool came back as he gazed amusedly at it, "I think that exceeds the legal limit of tulle any one person should wear."
Rinoa giggled, "Like the tulle factory exploded on her..." She paused and giggled again, "A tulle-splosion."
"Like someone ate a fabric store and puked all over her..." Squall countered, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"She's drowning in tulle!" She said, the laughter in her voice becoming more evident, "Death by tulle! God, that'd be a horrible way to die."
"Not really." Came the almost coldly blunt answer.
Rinoa scowled at him, he was being Old Squall again, "Why not? I think suffocating in a vat of tulle would be horrible."
"No, suffocating in a vat of rancid horseshit would be horrible. Suffocating in a vat of tulle is just stupid."
Rinoa stared at him, a look of sickened disgust on her face, "Rancid horseshit? EW!...JUST EW!" She complained, turning back to her magazine to flip through the pages languidly, "Bleccch....You're so gross sometimes."
"Now who's the whiner?"
She could hear the derisive condescension in his almost see the ghost of an arrogant smile. It was on now. She pursed her lips, and in her sweetest voice, said, "So, what kind of flowers do you want at the wedding...roses or daisies?"
"Kay, that's a no to daisies. Roses or orchids?"
"Orchids or carnations?"
"Roses." He said it firmly. 'Why was she asking all these...?!'
His eyes narrowed imperceptibly. Now he saw the game. So, it would come to this then...the game was well and truly afoot.
"Orchids or lilies?"
"Paper or plastic?"
"Orchids and orchids?"
"Ketchup and mustard?"
"Daisies and mums?"
"Roses and I don't care?"
"Mums or daffodils?"
"Rinoa's a reetee."
She hit him again, "Squall's a spaz...who enjoys pain."
"Meanie." he replied, rubbing his arm, his eyes twinkling as he waited for her to respond.
He'd used her favorite phrase from so long ago, just to tease her. Rinoa's lips curled into a nostalgic smile. Seven years ago a conversation like this would have never happened. For a moment, she basked in its glow. It was so easy to forget how hard it was to get things to this point, a place where they were both comfortable...where trust wasn't a foreign thing, much less an issue. She sighed, very happy that those struggles were over and that they were here now. With no regrets.
"Of the cocoa-beanie variety?"
"Course." He said, as if there were no other answer in the world for that question.
She laughed lightly, kissing his palm before setting it down and gazing back at her magazine. Rinoa frowned as she looked at the heaping pile of glossy pages. She grunted and stared at it discontentedly. The damned thing wasn't helping at all. It was just a two ton collection of paper that was of no use, except to fill that all important spot in a landfill somewhere.
"Stupid magazine." She huffed, pouting as she threw it on the floor.
Squall arched an eyebrow, "Pillows not making you happy again?"
"No...no they're not."
"Want me to beat 'em up?"
"No." She said with a cutely disconsolate squeak, looking up at him and patting his cheek, "But thanks for offering. You're such a good fiancée."
"Good enough for a cookie?"
He rested his cheek on the top of her head, taking a moment to stare at the magazine she'd just thrown. What a funny little woman he'd fallen in love with.
"What did that magazine do to you to deserve your wrath?"
"Mmmmm....It was being a bastard."
He grunted, "That magazine killed a man."
"Sure did. Bastard magazine....And to add insult to injury, there's no dresses I like in it...and THAT makes me angry."
"Yes, like steam. I think I'm just gonna hafta go to a store or something."
Squall nodded, grunting in agreement with her while he desperately tried to find something worth watching. He still hadn't found anything. Rinoa had often accused him of being a television junky, watching any crap that was on, regardless of content. He used to be so picky. But...over the last seven years, he got a taste for pop culture. It was really Rinoa and Zell's fault to begin with and their insistence on having a ritual date every Friday to watch cheesy movies. Movie night. One of his favorite nights. He really did look forward to it. There was the search for the perfect movie, followed by the watching and the riffing, and then came the laughing part. It was a comfortable little ritual. Sharpening the wit as the movie tried to dull the senses with its horribleness. He'd always kind of enjoyed making fun of things anyway. This was just a natural outlet for his sharp tongue. One that didn't involve hurting those he cared for.
"Wanna come with?"
He'd been ignoring her for the last few minutes and that question brought him back to reality. Dear god...what did she mean by that? He really hoped it didn't mean what he thought it did, though he plainly knew better.
"No." He replied coolly, clearly offended that she'd even think to ask.
She turned to face him, poking his neck, "Awwwwwwwww! Why noooooooot?"
He grabbed her finger and looked straight into her eyes, hoping to reason with the unreasonable, "Think about that for a minute. Me, going into a bastion of unrestrained femininity is NEVER a good idea. I hate those places...and while you go look at all the pretty dresses, I'd be abandoned in the corner with your purse. Thanks, but no thanks."
"Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaase??" She begged, opening her eyes as wide as they'd go.
"No." He replied more firmly, knowing his resolve was weakening, "Why are you asking me anyway...isn't this a girl thing?"
"Mmmmm. Because. I wants to go with you. And yes, it's a girl thing, but you're more fun to do stuff with. Plus, you get to see me look pretty! It'll be fun!"
"You're pretty all the time...and it won't be fun for me...at all. What about Quistis...or Selphie...why don't you ask them?" He queried, trying his best to sound helpful and not desperate.
"Quistis is too busy. And Selphie'd get one good look at all the wedding dresses, freak out, start squealing, have a massive aneurysm, and then her head would explode all over the dresses and I'd have to buy them all and it'd suck." She explained, not hiding the pleading tone in her voice, "You're so calm and you're awful cute and ya love me and stuff. I won't even make you hold my purse. Promise!"
Squall rolled his eyes and sighed with resignation, "Fine."
"YAY! I win!" Rinoa chirped, a little satisfied smile on her face.
He grumbled quietly under his breath and Rinoa giggled. She knew he wasn't actually angry, only putting on the appearance being reluctant to save face. If it bothered him half as much as he pretended, he would have put up more of a fight. Once Squall made up his mind, there was very little on this earth that could unmake it. Even Rinoa. She was sure the prospect of going to a bridal shop wasn't on the top of his list of things to do. But he'd go, for her. She knew he'd never admit it, but she thought he kind of liked watching her put on pretty things. Sure, he'd complain, but she'd caught the look in his eye before when she was looking for a dress for one of the many formal gatherings Garden held. She smiled sweetly, laying her head back on his chest and looking up at him with wide, dark eyes. He didn't move his head, giving her a sideways glance before turning back to the television program he'd settled on.
Rinoa scowled. He was doing it again. Purposefully ignoring her...he knew she hated that. It was what he used to do so long ago when he didn't want to deal with her. That was part of the old Squall. She hated it when he'd go quiet like that because it reminded her of those times and the hardships they had to go through to get here. It made her nervous and afraid that he'd pull away from her again. She'd never say anything, because she didn't really want to acknowledge it herself but she was terrified of him leaving. He wouldn't, deep down she knew that but she couldn't help it. As strong as they both were, they shared that weakness. The strange worry that they'd end up alone again.
She made a distressed little hum, shifting her position in his lap so that she could look at him better. He sensed her attention and turned to look at her, a small smile on his face. Rinoa smiled back shyly as she was so very glad he wasn't mad or upset at her for forcing him to endure bridal shop torture, she threw her arms around his neck and gave him a little kiss as a thank you. He rested a hand on the back of her head, lightly stroking her hair.
Pure, blissful peace settled over the little house. She closed her eyes and nestled her head in the crook of his neck. Dark eyes gleaming as she gazed at their comfortable little living room, filled to brimming with movies and books, plants and odd little figures, pictures and warm memories that filtered over the small space and covered it in a wash of contented joy. She'd always dreamed of a home like this. Her own had been so cold and without comfort. She could remember in the back of her mind what her home was like before her mother died. It was like this...then after...she shook her head. Rinoa didn't like to remember after. Squall looked at her then and a quiet look of concern flickered across his face. She was thinking about the past.
"Hey. What's up tiger lily?"
"Nothing. Just thinking."
"Squall, what if you knew you were supposed to do something, but you didn't really want to but you knew you'd regret it if you didn't?"
He paused, "Well, I'm not partial to regret."
She scowled at this, apparently dissatisfied with his answer.
"What is it? Come on, out with it. What's bothering you?"
"Do I have to invite him to the wedding?"
"No." Squall answered with a sigh, realizing she was really not going to like his answer to this one, "But he is your only family...and you would regret it someday if you didn't invite him." She opened her mouth to object and he silenced it with a finger, "Hear me out. The past is the past, Rinoa. You have to let it go sometime. This day...the wedding isn't just for us. It's for everyone. Even your father. We're asking them all to share in our joy...it'd be unfair to not include him."
Rinoa pouted, damning him for being so reasonable, "Yeah, but that would involve calling him." She sighed heavily, reflecting on his words for a moment, "Okay, I'll do it. But not for him. For my Mom, she'd want him to be there. Besides, who else is gonna walk me down the isle?"
Rinoa giggled at that image. He always knew exactly when to interject humor to pull her out of dark moods like these.
"You gonna invite your Dad?" Rinoa queried, with a veneer of innocence.
"He's not my father." He said tersely, clearly not amused by her joke...if it was indeed a joke at all.
"I beg to differ..."
"Yeah...Okay, he's my father...by technicality of biology but I hardly call a man who leaves his son in an orphanage for the better half of his life a father."
"The past is the past, isn't that what you said? He didn't know...and Ellone would be happy if you did." She pointed out, using his own logic against him.
His face hardened and Rinoa could tell that he was angry...or at the very least, irritated with her for pointing out something he didn't want to admit.
"You know I'm right."
"...Whatever." He answered, his voice taking on that familiar cold tone that she hated and feared to this day.
Rinoa frowned, placing her hands on his face, forcing him to look at her, "Squall Leonhart, you are an ass. You tell me I have to invite my Dad...and then you're all whatever when it comes to inviting your own. You are a hypocrite."
"No, you are a hypocrite and an ass and if I have to call Caraway, you have to call Laguna. Fair is fair."
"Fine, I'll call my father...I guess." He said, with reluctance that was half real, half joking.
"And you better call him Dad...and not Laguna."
"Because it's nice...and it'd make him happy." She retorted, adding as an afterthought, "Ass."
"So, what do I get as compensation for my pain?" He asked sullenly, looking at her through his hair.
Rinoa smiled softly, pushing back his hair from his forehead and looking at him as if considering something. She kissed his forehead, then his nose and finally his lips. It was a quick kiss, nothing more than a brief touch of the lips. He made a noise that sounded like a low growl, a dissatisfied sound. She kissed him again, this time she lingered a bit longer, pressed a bit harder. He returned the kiss, holding her closer when she tried to wriggle away. Her struggle didn't last long as she fell back against him, enjoying the visceral feel of his lips over hers. A burning warmth rose in her, finding its way to her cheeks. They bloomed a bright and effervescent pink. Her heart pounded and the world spun, roiling in splendid turmoil as she felt nothing but him. Breaking away, she felt slightly like a child getting up on a cold winter's morning. Not wanting to leave the warmth and comfort of their bed for the cool comfort of a dreary school day morning. She made a slight hum of disappointment as she opened her eyes. Squall just smiled at her, satisfied that he could have such an effect...though he knew she had the same on him.
"Tease." She said, touching her forehead to his, "I'm bored, what d'ya want to do?"
A slow smile spread across his face, "I can think of a few things."
Rinoa bit her lip, rocking back and forth playfully as she gazed at him. Running her hands through his hair, she hummed softly before kissing him again. It was a light and airy, not substantive, nor as in substantive as a peck on the cheek. A gesture of pure affection, with no underlying tones to it that would deceive the recipient into believing it was more than it was meant to be.
"Wanna play cards?" She asked with a innocent grin, knowing very well this wasn't what he expected.
"B-wha?" He replied, incoherently.
"Cards...do you want to play?"
"No. Do you?"
"I asked, didn't I?"
"Why do you want to play cards?"
"Because I don't want to play chess."
"Now you're being evasive." He pointed out, with a look of slight irritation, "Seriously, why do you want to play? You know I'll just beat your ass again."
"Is that a challenge?"
"Well, we could do more fun things...but if you're intent upon playing cards...then, yes."
"Fun things come later...and only if you're nice. I still owe you big from the last time we played."
"Nice? I'm never nice....If you're that excited about losing... We'll play your little game. Just don't get all weepy on me when I wipe the floor with you."
"Oh, that does it! Get the damn cards, your ass is mine!"
He smirked then, "Brave words from a six time loser."
"Get the 'effing cards...." she said, in a slowly goofy yet oddly menacing tone.
He gestured to indicate that she'd have to get up for him to do that and she complied. Her eyes narrowing at the teasing grin plastered on his face. He came back moments later with cards in hand, the same sideways smile on his face. She tried to put on a imperiously cool expression. One that would still the heart and turn blood to ice...it didn't work. Squall shook his head and chuckled, his gaze full of amusement tinged with affection. She stuck out her tongue and flipped him off, which just made him laugh harder. He sat down by the coffee table, waiting while Rinoa made herself comfortable on the other side.
"You sure about this? Not too late for you to back out....and pursue other...activities...."
"Oh, we'll get to that...but not before I whup your ass good. You're going DOWN, Mister. Your ass...equals MINE!" His eyebrows rose at that and he laughed again, still shuffling the cards, "Yeah, you better shuffle those cards good...cus I'm taking you out."
"Whatever you say...." He replied with a head shake before dealing out the cards.
"Laugh all you want now, beeyatch. I'm SO gonna win!"
As it was, she didn't win. In fact, she lost four times to him, finally winning the fifth round by pure luck only. She wasn't quite sure, but she thought he might have purposefully thrown that last game because he was tired. Okay, not tired but bored. Either way, she wasn't altogether sure that she'd actually won or he'd let her win. In the end, she supposed it didn't really matter. And as he hovered above her, she smiled...stroking his sweat slicked cheek before drawing him down for a lingering kiss.
The moonlight drew over the intertwined figures, their attention focused solely on each other, wrapped up in the light of their dreams and the eternal hope that this fragile thing called love would last. And as their passion play came to a tremulous end, the lovers looked deeply into each other's eyes and found just what they were looking for. It wasn't the real thing, it was much, much better than that.
Rinoa sighed contentedly, her hand lingering on his chest as he rolled off of her and onto his side. Looking at him through darkly fringed eyes, punctuated by the streaming silver of moonlight, she smiled so very softly. He turned to look at her, still exhausted by the night's efforts and returned her gift...that tender affection which seemed to be present in every movement. She looked at him with a thoughtful expression, regarding him with wandering eyes.
"I kinda, sorta love you and stuff..."
He chuckled, brushing away a strand of dark hair that fell over her eyes, "I kinda, sorta love you and stuff too..."