Chapter Fifteen: Sweet (Epilogue)
A.N. I - Here is the original ending. For those who were fine with how the story ended in Chapter 14, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. For those convinced that there was something more (closure) and want a happy ending, then please read ahead. Do not complain to me if you liked the ending in Chapter 14 better. (I liked that one better.) I told you not to read further if you were satisfied! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!
All Standard Disclaimers Apply: I do not own Final Fantasy or anything associated with it.
Rinoa walked across the grassy field, smiling happily to herself as she clutched her gil in her hand. 'Funnel cake... funnel cake...funnel cake...' her mind chanted blissfully.
She lifted her head and saw the sphere spiraling towards her. Her eyes widened and she screamed.
Brown eyes flew open as Rinoa's body stiffened in her bed. Her heart was racing in her chest as the sound of her alarm echoed from the small shelf on the head board. Beep, beep, beep. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to try to calm her raging heart.
Her hand rose and she slammed her hand on the digital clock to shut it up. For a few moments, she laid in bed and stared at the blank, white ceiling, trying to remember what had her waking up screaming. "A soccer ball...?"
Sighing, she looked at her clock. 6:50 AM. 'What a start for a birthday...' She pushed her covers off of the queen sized bed of her two bedroom condo in the heart of one of Deling City's premier luxury condominiums and slipped her feet into her worn fuzzy slippers.
As she passed her television she turned it on to the morning news. "Good morning, Deling City! This is Zidane for channel 9 morning news." the blond television personality said. Rinoa yawned and walked into her closet.
She shifted through the neatly hung articles of clothing and finally pulled out a white blouse and a pair of black slacks. She tossed them across her unmade bed, along with some underwear, before heading into her bathroom. The stripped off her clothes as she reached into the shower and turned on the water. She stuck her hand into the stall to feel the temperature before she got in.
The sound of the water echoing off the bathroom walls all but drowned out the television outside as Rinoa got in and proceeded with her morning routines.
"And in entertainment news, Estharian rock band, SCARS has released their long awaited final album. The group has been around for several years and had officially announced their retirement from music earlier this year," Zidane was saying. "It will be finalized by the release of their album Sweet Sweet Music. Rumor has it that their retirement was prompted by the engagement of lead singer and guitarist, Seifer Almasy, to long time girlfriend and CEO of the Garden Corporation, Quistis Kramer. Now on to Beatrice with today's weather."
The water shut off and Rinoa reached for her robe and a towel as she stepped out of the shower. She glanced at the television and sighed. At least it was a Friday and the weather woman announced that the weekend was looking good. The brunette quickly changed her clothes and headed out to the kitchen. She quickly prepared a bagel for breakfast and grabbed a small brief case and some books before darting out the door.
As she got into her car, her phone rang and she dug it out of her pocket before starting up her beamer. "Hello?"
"Are you coming home today?" a deep voice asked.
"Yes, Rude, I'm coming home today," Rinoa sighed. "I'll be late, though. I have some parent-teacher meetings tonight."
"Don't stop for dinner. We're cooking a big meal tonight." Rude told her. Rinoa chuckled.
"Sure thing," Rinoa said. "I have to get going. I'm going to be late." She bid him good-bye and hung up the phone. She pulled out of the underground garage and on to the streets of the city that she practically held in the palm of her hand.
She had spent five years rebuilding her father's crumbling empire while earning her teaching license and starting a career as history teacher at a local high school. She stopped at a stop light and watched as people crossed in front of her. Rinoa smiled to herself. All those people had no idea how much power she carried. And they never would find out, if she had her way. Being the leader of an underground organization meant just that.
The light turned green and she continued on her way. She mentally made a note to eat a small lunch. Knowing Rude, he would cook an entire feast even though it was only going to be her and the Turks that evening. Just a small little get together to celebrate her birthday. She was sick of all the lavish parties thrown at every little event when she was younger. Besides, she didn't want to look wasteful and showy in front of the other crime lords.
Within twenty minutes, she parked in the parking lot of Deling High School and stepped out of her car. As soon as she did, one her students called out to her and waved. Rinoa beamed a smile and waved back. She had a few trouble makers, as most teachers did, but she felt that if she could handle being shot at and control a crime syndicate, she could handle a few kids.
She sighed as she locked her car. Through the back roads, it was still a long drive to work. She lived in the center of the city during the work week and then retired to her family's estate in the outskirts of the city on the weekends and during vacations. With her family's organization now back on track and her finally reaching her goal of becoming a teacher, everything seemed to be working out. Except for one thing...
As she walked into the main office to check in and was stopped. "Rinoa! You got something," the brunette at the front desk smiled. Rinoa tilted her head to the side and walked away from her mail box. "You're so lucky...you always get flowers."
"Flowers...?" Rinoa asked. The girl lifted up a beautiful blue crystal vase holding a bouquet of red and white roses. Rinoa felt her cheeks burning as other teachers and faculty members glanced over enviously. Every birthday and Valentine's day since Rinoa started, she had received flowers, all from an unknown sender. "Did it come with a card?" She asked. A bright smile was practically glued on to her face as she fingered the beautiful blooms.
"Sure did..." the secretary smiled. She handed Rinoa the small card that came with the flowers and looked over Rinoa's shoulder. "So who are they from?"
"I don't know," Rinoa chuckled as she read the card. It was a simple message. Happy Birthday "It NEVER says..."
"Do you have a secret admirer or some secret boyfriend you haven't been telling us about?" The white haired female physical education teacher asked with amusement. Rinoa shook her head.
"No, Paine," Rinoa blushed. "I haven't been in a relationship in...years..." She paused and she stared at the card. Her smile slowly left her face as HE suddenly came to mind. 'No...no, we cut those ties years ago when I was concentrating on rebuilding the syndicate...'
"Rinoa?" Paine said. The brunette looked up, questioningly. "You dazed off for a second. Didn't you hear the bell?"
Rinoa's eyes widened. "Oh! The bell!" She gasped and grabbed her things before running out the door. A second later, she ran back in. "Heh...forgot the flowers." She blushed. She grabbed the vase and it's contents and headed back out.
"Oh, Rinoa!" the secretary said just as she stood at the door way. Rinoa looked over her shoulder. "Happy birthday!"
Rinoa sang along to the music on the radio as she drove, grinning to herself as her off key voice and her sheer movements inside the car probably caused other drivers to stare. Regardless, she didn't care and kept singing.
"Who has to know? Who has to know...?" she sang along as the song died down. She giggled as she took the off ramp and entered the back streets that lead into the main Caraway estate in the outskirts of the city.
"And now the newest song from SCARS' final album - Sweet Sweet Music. This song was released today and you're hearing it first from 108 KFF8. Here's I'm Still Here." Rinoa stiffened in her seat as she heard the song. To add insult to injury, rather than hearing Seifer's voice belt out the song, it was a completely different, but familiar voice.
"Squall..." she whispered. Her hands tightened on the steering wheel as the song blared from the cars speakers. Even though she didn't want to hear it and be reminded of HIM, she couldn't bring herself to turn off the radio. By the time, Rinoa pulled into the drive way of the estate, she was on the verge of crying as she could distinctly hear Squall's low, melodious voice singing in her head.
She reached out and turned off the radio before she stopped the car. She pulled her keys from the ignition and leaned forward against the steering wheel to collect her thoughts before walking into the mansion. Rinoa reached over and drank some water from a bottle in her cup holder before leaning back against her seat and taking a deep breath.
The last thing she wanted was to walk in and have Rude grow worried about her red eyes. On HER birthday, non-the-less.
"AH!" Rinoa jumped in her seat and looked at the passenger's side window and grabbed her chest. "Reno! What the heck are you doing?"
"Waiting for you to come in!" Reno snorted. He put his hands on his waist and tilted his head to the side. "Well, are you coming in, birthday girl, or not?"
Rinoa cracked a smile and shook her head. "I'll be right in!"
"Okay, and this is from me!" Elena said with a wide smile on her face. They sat around the living room of the house. Aside from the few guards that were on watch, they were the only ones home.
Rude had spent the entire day cooking a massive feast for her birthday and even baked a cake. He had brought it out, two big candles saying '28' were sparkling at the top. After she blew it out, they dug into the sweet, layered cake before Rinoa announced that she wanted her presents. The big Turk was now grinning as Rinoa sat between him and Elena, unwrapping her birthday presents.
Rinoa opened up the box and let out a laugh as she lifted up the thin black night gown that Elena got her. She hugged her cousin and thanked her. Rude didn't look too happy with it, however.
"Okay, whose next?" Rinoa said as she placed her night gown to the side, along with Rude's present - a Kevlar vest and some mace. She rubbed her hands together eagerly as she looked at her cousins.
"Here you go, taisho," Reno said with a grin as he handed Rinoa a box. "Hope you like it!"
Rinoa ripped open the box with glee. Her smile faltered and she frowned. "Reno, how come some of the chocolates are missing?"
"What?" Elena looked into the box and sure enough, half of the candy pieces were gone. They all turned to the red head to grinned.
"I did you a favor! You know how you're always saying that you think your butt is too big-"
"Rude!" Rinoa piped and snapped her finger. The Turk stood up and walked over to Reno.
"Hey, wait! I'm not done!" Reno was hoisted over Rude's shoulder and taken outside. "I'm only looking out for you...!"
"I can't believe he ate half my present!" Rinoa grumbled. She sighed and looked over at Tseng and Rufus. "Well?"
"We bring you tidings of good news," Tseng told her. "We've struck an agreement with Braska, the Trabian crime lord. He's agreed to back off our Northern borders and submitted to our demands." Rinoa smiled from ear to ear.
"Excellent, with our southern borders and now our northern ones secure, we're finally stabilized..." Rinoa sighed. "And it only took us five years."
"It's been a long five years," Rufus assured her. "You've done very well for someone who hasn't been in the game that long."
Rinoa raised an eyebrow. "Who are you guys kidding? Rufus, you do all the work. I just sign the papers."
Rufus chuckled. "You give me too much credit. You're the one who united the separatists, Rinoa. Don't forget." Rinoa leaned back against the soft couch and let out a content sigh.
"Oh yeah, I'm a super hero. High school teacher by day, organized crime leader by night," Rinoa grinned. "Should I start wearing a cape?"
The door slammed and they looked at as Rude walked back in. "Where's Reno?" Tseng asked.
"Taking a bath in the fountain," Rude said with a slight grin. "Did you give her the envelope?"
"Hmm?" Rinoa turned her head to the side and looked at her other two cousins. "What envelope?"
"I almost forgot," Rufus said. He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a folded yellow, legal paper sized envelope along with a smaller white, square shaped one. "Quistis send them."
Rinoa's eyes widened. "Quistis?" She reached across the table and took the envelopes from her cousin's hand. The larger envelope was marked 'Classified' and she made a mental note to look it over later. She looked at the small one and realized it said 'Seifer Almasy & Quistis Trepe-Kramer'. She sat up in her seat and ripped it open. Rinoa pulled out a card as her eyes dilated.
"What is it?" Tseng asked curiously.
Rinoa swallowed as she held a hand to her heart. She read the card once more before looking at her cousins, an unreadable expression on her face. "It's an invitation..." she gasped out. She took a deep breath and looked back down at the card. "Quistis and Seifer are getting married..."
Esthar City, Esthar
"You're sure she's coming?" Selphie asked as she looked across the table at Quistis. The blond bride looked up from the papers she was reading and up at Selphie, who was working on the seating arrangements for the wedding reception.
"I sent her an invitation."
"Did she RSVP yet?" Selphie asked, trying to contain the hope in her voice. Quistis looked back down at her papers.
"No..." she said with a slight shake of her head. "She hasn't," Selphie let out a sigh of disappointment. "But she'll come."
"It's been five years," Selphie said in a worried voice. "What if she doesn't want to come?"
"She'll come," Quistis said. "If not because we're friends, because we're also allies in the underground. She'll have to come."
"What if she sends someone else?" Selphie asked.
"I...I don't know..." Quistis admitted. She looked up at Selphie. "But she'll come...I know she will."
The door to the pent house opened and both women looked up. "We're home!" Seifer's voice boomed. He walked into the living area of the apartment and smiled as he laid eyes on his soon to be wife. Quistis smiled back as he walked over and gave her a quick kiss.
"How as the fitting?" Quistis asked calmly. "Did all the tuxedos fit?"
"They fit fine," Irvine assured her as he kissed Selphie. "Hey, darling, you miss me?"
Selphie giggled. "Of course."
"Where's Squall?" Quistis asked as she looked from the brunette to the blond. The blue eyed guitarist wasn't there. "I thought he was joining us for dinner tonight."
"Yeah, well, you know Puberty Boy...moody as ever," Seifer snorted. "He cancelled and said he was going out for a drive."
The car came to a stop and Squall pulled the keys out of the ignition. He closed his eyes as he took a deep breath of the cool night desert air. He exhaled and opened his eyes as he tilted his head back. The top of his convertible was down and as soon as he opened his eyes, millions of brilliant stars looked down at him from the heavens.
"It's beautiful, Squall...I love it."
He looked down at the car and put the keys back into the ignition, turning it slightly so he could turn on the radio. He randomly picked the station. "And here is the newest single from SCARS..." Squall raised an eyebrow and sighed. Looks like he couldn't escape his band after all.
Squall slammed the door of his car as he stepped out, holding an old sleeping bag under one arm. He walked a few feet from his car and spread out the blanket on the ground. He looked down at the square area. For a split second, he could almost see her sitting there, contently waiting for him to finish whatever it was he was doing.
He let out a gruff grunt as he fell back against the blanket and looked up at the dark sky above him. The stars sparkled in the ebony darkness, just as brightly as they did all those years ago. Her eyes... her eyes reflected the night sky when he had looked into them. He saw those brilliant gems twinkling back at him from a pair of brown eyes.
He saw his entire universe in her eyes...
He reached into his pocket and pulled out a worn white invitation. In five days, Seifer and Quistis were going to be married in a small, private ceremony, in Balamb with her adopted parents. He, the happy couple, Zell, his girlfriend, Selphie, and Irvine were all flying there the next day to prepare.
As he looked up at the invitation, he wondered if Quistis had sent one to Rinoa.
He hadn't seen Rinoa since that rainy day in Deling City, when he and the others attended her father's funeral. After that day, Rinoa all but cut herself off from her life in Esthar. While Selphie and Zell were broken hearted that she began to reject all their invitations to come, it was Quistis who told them why.
"Rinoa has just become the leader of national crime syndicate. She's trying to learn to handle the organization without prior knowledge. Try to understand what she's going through...When she's ready...then she'll come back to us. But for now..."
Squall closed his eyes. 'When is she going to come back?'
For five years, Rinoa had stayed in Deling City, slowly but surely regaining the strength and power of her organization under the watchful eye of the Turks. She never contacted them, except for Quistis, on occasion for legal matters or his father, for guidance.
Squall had lost track of the many times that his father had told him Rinoa called or the times when he had asked if he'd called Rinoa, spoken to her or even saw her. After a while with Squall never answering, Laguna had stopped asking. It became painfully clear that the man who had risked his life to save the one he loved from a lifetime of unhappiness was no longer in contact with her.
But what hadn't changed was how he felt. Five years apart only made his heartache five times more painful. Squall shook his head. He wouldn't kid himself. Rinoa had been right...it wouldn't have worked out. Only now, not because of her father, but because of her mother.
Julia's will would make Rinoa illegitimate and deny her the rights of her organization if she got involved with someone tied to another group. Someone like Squall.
There were times when the heir to the Loire Organization wondered if he made the right choice. If taking up the role as his father's right hand in the syndicate was a good choice. He knew when he took on the job what it meant between him and Rinoa, but at the time, he had just realized the importance of knowing where he came from.
He never wanted what happened to Rinoa to happen again. To anyone. So he joined his father's group. But as the years went by, the dull ache for Rinoa, for her smile, for her embrace, for the sound of her voice, grew painful. He missed her so much.
Not a year had gone by that he didn't send her flowers on her birthday and on Valentine's day. Not a month went by when he didn't secretly call Rude and ask about her - just to make sure she was okay. And not a minute went by where he didn't think about her. Every waking moment was haunted by memories and a deep seated longing for someone he couldn't have.
Squall whispered her name into the chill night air. She was an entire ocean away...doing Hyne knew what. Squall looked up at the sky and watched as the meteors flew across the sky in a shower. He smiled as he remembered the look on her face when she first saw it happen there with him.
"Happy Birthday, Rinoa..."
Deling City, Galbadia
Rinoa looked at the CD in her hands. She looked down at the cover. It was all black with the simple words Sweet Sweet Music were written out in someone's hand writing. She had bought it earlier that week. She still hadn't opened it. 'This is ridiculous...It's not going to bite you. Just put it in the stereo...'
The night gown clad teacher and crime lord finally opened the CD and pressed the eject button on her stereo. The tray slipped out and she placed the CD into it before pushing it back in. Rinoa stepped back as the first song - their newest single came out.
His voice filled her estate bedroom and with it, memories of him. Rinoa closed her eyes and turned away. She grabbed the fleece blanket at the edge of her bed and wrapped it around her shoulders. She walked across the room and opened the French doors that lead out into her balcony.
Rinoa walked outside, not minding the cool cement beneath her bare feet as she walked out against the stone railing and leaned against it. She looked up at dark sky.
"Just close your eyes and lay back and relax."
Rinoa looked down at the balcony floor. She narrowed her eyes and walked back into her room. She turned off the lights and spread her blanket out on the floor. She closed her eyes and laid down.
"Go ahead...open your eyes."
Rinoa's eyes slowly fluttered open and marveled at the sky. She let herself relax and lose herself in glittering dark abyss above her. She saw the faint and quickly disappearing streaks of light that flew across the sky. There must've been a meteor shower that night.
A small smile settled across her face. Her hand rose to her chest and clasped the rings dangling from her necklace. She closed her eyes relished the feeling of the cool night breeze around her, not bothering her in the least. Rinoa laid there, her mind drifting in an out of conscious thought as she rested in a moment of blissful serenity.
She hadn't even realized she had drifted off until she heard her door open. Footsteps echoed on the wood flooring of her room and stopped over her head. "Don't fall asleep outside again," a deep voice said. She opened her eyes and saw Rude standing over her, his eye brow lifted in a questioning look. "I'm not going to carry you inside if you fall asleep out here."
Rinoa smiled slightly and chuckled. "Hi, Rude. What is it?"
"I noticed that you still haven't opened this," Rude said. He lifted up an yellow envelope that had come from Quistis days ago. "Don't you think you should look at it."
Rinoa's smile left her face and she let out a heavy sigh. "I'll open it..."
"Now. It might have dated legal material," he insisted. He bent down and placed it next to her on the blanket. "I'm going to go to bed now. Don't fall asleep out here again," He warned. He turned around and Rinoa barely heard him mumble. "I don't know what's so fascinating about staring up at night..."
Rinoa grinned slightly as she watched him leave. The door closed behind him and her eyes lowered to the envelope. Knowing it was from Quistis reminded her that she still hadn't responded to her old friend's wedding invitation. In truth, she wasn't sure if she still wanted to go.
'He'll be there...and I don't know if I can stand being so close and not being able to do anything about it...' Rinoa took a deep breath and pushed herself up into a sitting position. In the light of the moon, she opened the envelope and pulled out a small stack of papers.
It was her mother's will. Rinoa let out a mental groan. Of all the things for Quistis to send her...on her birthday, no less, it had be her mother's will. A testament to the barrier that held her away from HIM.
She looked at the post it note Quistis had put on the top. "You should know by now to read all documents before you sign or oblige them." Quistis had written. Rinoa raised an eyebrow and looked through the will. She had a copy tucked away somewhere in her office, but never bothered reading through it. She had figured that aside from her mother's requirements of her, everything had already been previously carried out.
She casually flipped through the copy and stopped as a paragraph high lighted in yellow came into view. Her eyes scanned the paragraph and widened as she re-read it. She dropped the will on to her blanket as she scrambled up. She nearly tripped over her own feet as she ran into her room and dove for the phone across her bed.
She picked up the receiver. "Elena?" she gasped as someone answered the phone. "Get my jet ready for flight to Balamb Friday night!"
"Where did Squall go?" Quistis looked around the hall of her family's mansion in Esthar. Selphie was standing in the center of the room with a clip board in her hands, yelling out orders to numerous maids, butlers, random guards, Seifer, Irvine, Zell and whoever else she could get to help her decorate for the reception the next day.
"Hmm? I don't know, I haven't seen him since we arrived," Selphie shrugged. "Maybe he went out for a walk?"
"Hmm..." Quistis frowned and rubbed her chin. "I wanted to talk to him about tomorrow. Oh, well... he'll turn up."
"Hey, Quistis," Selphie said as the blond was about to turn and walk away. "Umm...has she...?"
Quistis looked down and a small frown settled on her face. She shook her head. "Sorry, Selphie... she hasn't contacted me at all. I tried to call Deling City, but the Turks said that she never said anything about it."
"I guess she isn't coming..." Selphie mumbled, obviously disappointed. She looked up at Quistis with a sad smile. "I haven't see her for years...I miss her."
"She'll come back when she's ready..." Quistis sighed. "You know how busy she is."
"But WHEN, Quistis?" Selphie whimpered. "You were able to balance your organization, your job, a relationship with SEIFER, and us..."
"I was slowly eased into everything," Quistis reminded her. "Everything was dropped on to Rinoa's lap at once. Her father's empire was falling apart, she had to really concentrate to keep it together. Not to mention that she did become a teacher...It must've been hard for her to balance everything."
"She could've at least called..." Selphie mumbled. "A simple Christmas card doesn't exactly cut in my book."
Quistis chuckled slightly and sighed. "I'll keep hoping that she'll show until the very moment my reception ends."
Squall sat across from his father at a restaurant in Balamb town. The sun had long since set and the father and son were having a meal. "Have you contacted the Al Bhed regarding the businesses just south of the Trabia border yet?" Laguna asked as he slurped up some spaghetti.
Squall nodded. "They've already sent in the paper work and I've signed off on them." he replied. He took a drink of wine from his glass and stared out at the window at the view of the flower fields at the edge of town.
"Good, good," Laguna said. "So what did you get Quistis and Seifer for their wedding? I had such a hard time finding something for them. I mean, honestly, what do you get a couple that has EVERYTHING?"
The corner's of Squalls mouth tugged up in a slight smile. "I had the same problem," he admitted. "Selphie suggested we stick to the standard, so I go them a set of dishes from Trabia."
"What do you want when you're married?" Laguna asked all of a sudden. Squall's eyes widened and he nearly chocked on his wine.
He looked at his father as if Laguna had gone even more insane. "What? What are you talking about?"
"You and Rinoa," Laguna said, ignorant to the pain that shot through Squall at the mere mention of her name. "I mean, it's been five years...and I heard her organization is stronger than ever. I figured that by now you two would be...you know...together."
Squall let out a growl and ran a hand through his hair. "You know we can't. Quistis made it clear that in Rinoa's mother's will, she can't marry into another group or else she'll be disowned."
"Yeah, until her father dies and she is running the organization smoothly without question," Laguna piped. He tilted his head to the side, a piece of sauce on the corner of his lip. "Didn't you read the will?"
Blue eyes narrowed across from him and Laguna shrunk back in his seat. "It had provisions?"
Laguna nodded warily. "The only reason that clause was there was so that Rinoa wouldn't be forced into a marriage. But if you keep reading, you'll find that Julia said that those could be ignored once General Caraway died and/or Rinoa proved that she was a capable leader of her group. If Rinoa could prove that and there was no contesting her leadership by other members of the group, then she could marry anyone she wants."
Squall openly stared at his father with a shocked expression. "How did you know about this?"
"I read the will," Laguna told him. "I figured that the only reason that you and Rinoa weren't together was because she was still trying to prove her control over the organization. Isn't that why you joined my organization in the first place? I would think that if you only knew what Quistis told us that time, you wouldn't have joined."
Suddenly, Squall let out a small laugh. His arms dropped to his side and he tilted his head back as he laughed. Laguna raised an eyebrow. "All this time..."
"Squall? Are you okay?"
Squall shook his head and ran his hand down his face. "I have to go..." Squall said as he stood up. Laguna gasped.
"What about dinner?"
"I'll see you tomorrow at the wedding!" Squall said as he headed out the door. Laguna let out a heavy sigh and looked across the table at Squall's half eaten sea food alfredo.
"Well...more for me."
"Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband? In sickness and in health? Through richer or poorer? So long as you both shall live?" the priest asked.
Quistis smiled as she held Seifer's hands in hers and looked up at his glorious emerald eyes through her thin, gauzy white veil. "I do."
"By the powers vested in me by the powers that be, I now pronounce you," He looked down at the card in his hand, which had been prepared. "Mr. Seifer Almasy and Mrs. Quistis Kramer-Almasy," He looked at Seifer and smiled. "You may now kiss the bride."
"Finally." Seifer said, to the amusement of the small wedding party around them. He lifted up Quistis' veil and lifted up her chin. A wide smile graced his face as he leaned and placed a soft, sweet kiss on her lips.
Quistis couldn't help but let out a little giggle as he pulled away and blushed. She threw her arms around his neck and pulled him down for a stronger kiss as the guests let out hoots and yells of encouragement. They parted and Selphie yelled. "Let's START THIS PARTY!"
Quistis laughed as she and Seifer walked back up the aisle, towards the reception hall inside the mansion. As they entered, music was already playing and they began to greet their guests. Selphie was working behind the scenes with her maid of honor duty as Irvine wandered around the hall in his best man garb. Zell proceeded to get some hor'de vours.
"There you are," Quistis said as Squall reached them and offered them a smile. "Where we you all day?" She asked as she gave him a smile. Squall placed a chaste kiss on her cheek before parting and shaking Seifer's hand.
"Just thinking," Squall said. "Congratulations. Keep him in check or he'll destroy the world."
Seifer glared at Squall. "Shut up, Puberty Boy..."
"Squall, can I speak to you later?" Quistis said. "I wanted to speak to you yesterday but you were missing."
"Sure." Squall nodded. He walked towards the table where Zell was already sitting and Quistis sighed.
"He doesn't look too happy..." Quistis mused.
Seifer snorted. "WHEN does he EVER look happy?" She punched his shoulder and rolled her eyes. Seifer smiled and kissed her quickly. "So...have you seen her?" Quistis shook her head.
"I didn't see her at the ceremony. Did you?" she asked, hopefully. Seifer shook his head and Quistis sighed. "She has to come...has to."
"Oh, Hyne, I'm LATE!" Rinoa groaned. Of course her jet just HAD to be under maintenance the day she needed it. She was forced to book a plane flight that would barely get her there in time. However, it was delayed and because the flight was delayed, so was she.
Grumbling, she ran up the stairs to the mansion. Just as she was about to enter, a guard stopped her. "Name?"
"Rinoa Caraway." she stated simply. The guard's eyes widened and he let the woman, who was holding a big white present, topped with a big silver bow, in.
She brushed through the halls and tried to remember where the main hall was. She had already missed the ceremony and was two hours late for the reception. Rinoa heard music floating in the corridor and quickly followed it into the main hall. She let out a sigh of relief to see that things were still going on. As a matter of fact, Quistis and Seifer were dancing in the center of the room amongst a sea of other couples.
"Rinoa!" a voice nearly yelled over the loud music and the shouts of the guests. The brunette turned around and smiled widely as she saw Selphie running up to her. She picked up her the skirt of her pink bride's maid out fit and was dashing across the marble floor barefooted.
"Selphie!" Before she had a chance to say another word, Selphie rammed into Rinoa, nearly knocking the woman down.
"It's been so long? Where were you? Why haven't you called? What took you so long? Oh, what'd you get them? I got them a silver ware set-" Selphie began chattering immediately and Rinoa chuckled. She felt the present being lifted from her hands as Irvine threw her a wink.
"Selphie, honey, calm down," Irvine said. "Let the girl breath," he chuckled. He looked back at Rinoa. "Just in time, Rinoa."
"I'm sorry I'm late," Rinoa gasped out as she straightened her short light blue dress. Her hair layered down around her face. "My plane was delayed-"
"I thought you weren't going to come," a stern female voice said behind her. Rinoa whirled around and smiled thoughtfully at the two blondes in white walking towards her. "You know, you could've set in that RSVP card."
"I'm sorry, Quistis," Rinoa said as she was engulfed in a big hug. "I was so busy, I didn't even think about the card. Congratulations, I'm sorry I'm late."
"So long as you came," Quistis said. She pulled back as Seifer gave Rinoa a brief hug. "Did you get the other package?"
"The will?" Rinoa asked. She nodded. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I THOUGHT you would read it for yourself," Quistis sighed. "I should've known. You probably put it away somewhere and never looked at it again." Rinoa blushed with guilt and nodded.
"Anyway, Squall is here!" Selphie piped excitedly. "Let's see..." She looked across the room and frowned.
"He said he wanted to go out to think," Zell said as he came by. "Welcome back!" He said as he hugged Rinoa. Rinoa giggled. Zell was holding a hot dog in one hand. "I think he's out back."
"Then, we'll see you in a little bit," Quistis said. "We saved you a seat at our table. When you come back inside, bring Squall."
"But..." Rinoa trailed off, a flood of nervousness sudden rose and swept through her body. Worried eyes looked over at Quistis. "What if-"
"Laguna said he already knows," Quistis told her. "I think he's been waiting for you all day...but you were late." Rinoa's eyes dropped to the ground, down at her white heeled feet.
"We can catch up later," Selphie assured her. "You really should go talk to him." Rinoa sighed tiredly and nodded. She didn't come all this way in such a rush just to avoid him the entire time. It was now or never.
"Save me some cake." she resolved. She smiled at her friends as they gave her a few more hugs and let her slip back out into the hallway. Her hand dropped to her stomach as it churned with fear and worry. What if didn't feel the same way any more? If he knew...why hadn't he called her? A thousand scenarios flew through her mind and she closed her eyes and took a deep breath to calm herself.
Slowly, Rinoa walked down the marble lined halls, her feet making soft noises as she reached the door that lead to the veranda. She looked out the glass panels and bit her lip.
His black dress coat was thrown on the ground, along with his tie. From where she stood, she could see the cuffs of his white dress shirt rolled up to his elbows. The top button of his shirt was undone. He was barefooted on the grass and she smiled. He was kicking around a soccer ball with half a dozen children, who were probably the children of some of the guests.
Rinoa silently slipped out the door and walked down the steps. His back was to her and she could hear the children cheering him on as he kicked up the ball and balanced it on his knee. "How high can you kick it?" she heard a little boy asked.
"Pretty high," Squall replied. Rinoa felt a shiver run down her spine. His voice still made her feel tingly. "Want to see?" The children all yelled and Rinoa giggled quietly. She stopped at the edge of the cement walk way, by the edge of the grass and watched. Squall kicked up the ball and it flew high into the air.
"Wow..." the children gasped as they craned their necks to the sky to watch it.
Rinoa watched the ball fly into the sky and then frowned. A soccer ball...flying towards her head... childhood memories flooded back. A boy with brown hair and blue eyes. Her quest for funnel cake. A soft kiss as a little boy proclaimed that it would make her pain go away.
My mother used to say that a kiss would make it better.
Squall kept his eye on the ball as it was kicked into the air. He smiled slightly. 'Guess I haven't lost it...' He turned, eyes still focused to the sky as he walked forward to get it where it landed. As the ball came barreling towards the ground, Squall saw the figure standing at the edge of the garden and froze in his tracks.
A figure in a dress stood at the edge of the cement, looking up at the sky as layered brown hair fell around her heart shaped face. She was watching the ball come down, a thoughtful smile on her lips. She held her arms out as she caught the ball with ease before it hit to the ground. She tossed it around in her hands as she stepped out on to the lawn.
A lazy smile crossed his lips as she smiled back at him. "Did I ever tell you?" Rinoa said as she tossed the ball in the air. She lifted her leg and allowed it to bounce from one knee to the other before grasping it in her hands once more. "I hate soccer," The ball dropped to the ground and she kicked it towards him, hard. Squall's eyes widened as he caught it before it hit his face. "But I have a really mean kick."
He glanced at the children and tossed the ball their way. "You almost hit my face." he stated numbly as the figure crossed the expanse of green.
"What are you doing to do about it?" he asked as she stopped directly in front of him. She smiled as she placed her hands on his face and brought him down to kiss lips softly. Slowly, she pulled back, feeling him almost follow her as she moved away. His eyes opened and looked down at her thoughtfully.
Rinoa lowered her head and gently rested it against his. "You know, when I was five, a little boy told me that a kiss would make it better."
She heard a small, warm chuckle and lifted her head up. Strong arms wrapped around her body and pulled her closer against him as blue eyes looked down at her intently. A hand rose and stroked the outline of her face slowly as he studied her features, memorizing her once again.
"Rinoa..." he whispered as he lowered his head. "As long as you're there to kiss him... that's all that matters."
A.N. II- And there we have the uber sweet ending. Rinoa got to be a teacher, she's taken control of her father's organization, and Squall is learning how to take over his. Seifer and Quistis got married. Quistis found another loop hole that will now enable Rinoa and Squall to be together. Which brings me to the very end of this story. Thank you everyone for reading and I hope you all enjoyed it. THANK YOU SO MUCH! Much love, always!