Posture Perfect

"Squall!"

Rinoa's reprimand was filled with helpless, laughing exasperation, and the dark-haired commander lifted his steady, deep cobalt eyes to her face, his own expression one of mournful resignation. "What is it this time?"

"You're doing it again!" Rinoa jabbed a fingers at his shoulders as if in indication. Of what, Squall just wasn't sure.

He cast an almost longing glance at the stacks of reports still to go through before the afternoon session of meetings with Mayor Dobe of Fisherman's Horizon. The man was more demanding than a territorial male Adamantoise during breeding session—and nearly as frightening with his one-minded determination—and Balamb Garden had agreed to assist the peace-loving city with their second annual Hot Dog Festival, much to the delight of Squall's good friend and martial arts master Zell Dincht. But how much precedence should they really be giving, Squall thought with a sigh, to a hot dog festival over Garden priorities?

And, instead of planning Garden's next course, instead of reviewing those work permits for the junior SeeD for the construction of the ten-foot hot dog float, instead of burying his head in the sand and pretending that Squall Leonhart had never been, here he was, trapped in his room, with his girlfriend glaring down at him, fists planted on hips and dark eyes flashing with impatience.

"It's not like I'm purposely trying to prolong our torture," Squall replied mildly to her comment, and received another jab in the shoulder from her finger. The woman had fingers of steel, and Squall winced as he imagined the bruise she would leave, but nonetheless straightened the delinquent shoulders in question. He lifted his eyebrows at her. "Better?"

There was nothing mocking about Squall's deadpan tone of voice, but there was still something…sarcastic about the way he asked, and Rinoa scowled fiercely, just in case he was making fun of her. "No. That's not better at all. You're still letting your shoulders fall forward, and your sort of droops forward when you sit. What kind of awe-inspiring and fearless SeeD commander do you think you look like, slouching through meetings all the time? You look half-asleep!"

This time, there was a mischievous twinkle in Squall's eyes as he shot a sly glance up at Rinoa. "Hmm, maybe the reason I look half-asleep is because I am. My girlfriend, you know, has the sex drive of a Chimera in heat and kept me up half the night…Ow!" He didn't dodge fast enough, and Rinoa's hand smacked him hard upside the head. Rubbing the back of his skull to dull the sting, Squall smirked. "Don't deny it, you know it's true."

Pouting, trying not to let him see how embarrassed she was, Rinoa dropped her gaze and muttered, "Hey, maybe I was just happy to see you back. I was worried about you, you know. Esthar might be high-tech on the inside, but the surrounding country is really dangerous."

Squall kept a bland look on his face and drawled, "Funny, I don't remember any mention of Red Imps going after a guy's dick, but thanks all the same for your enthusiasm in checking to make sure I was all in one piece. Ha!" He leapt out of the chair quick enough to avoid Rinoa's first attempt to hit him—this time she was aiming for his face, Squall noticed with both amusement and alarm—but not fast enough to avoid the full-body tackle from her partner in crime.

Grunting as the furry body caught him just under the rib cage, Squall let the bed cushion his fall, gasping for air as Angelo crushed the breath out of his lungs. "Stupid…counterattack," Squall managed as he fought to breathe again. Rinoa sneered at him in a manner that was surprisingly almost ladylike and moved to stand before him, Angelo ranged at her side for backup.

"That's what we call quid pro quo on the battlefield, Commander," she informed him tartly. "Now if you would please stop your childishness and return to your seat, we need to finish this lesson before you make me late for lunch. I have a date I can't afford to be late for."

Jealousy—an emotion Squall wasn't entirely comfortable feeling but had long experience dealing with regarding Rinoa—crowded into Squall's eyes, and he sat up on the mattress, frowning at her. "Date? Why? With whom?" He flipped through his mental calendar but couldn't come up with an acceptable excuse for her to be going out with anyone else, but kept a tight leash on his jealousy. It wasn't beyond Rinoa to refer to one of her 'outings' with Selphie or Quistis as a 'date' just for the sake of heckling him.

It was probably sinful to purposely do and say such things to goad Squall, but it was so sweet to see that possessive, moody shadow hone the edge of his eyes, his voice, and it was always a thrill to see him watch her through those dangerous eyes. Rinoa didn't know what was wrong with her, to gain such perverse pleasure from seeing her boyfriend watch her like that, and didn't try to think too hard about what it said about their relationship.

But it was still really, really fun.

"Oh, just an old friend," she replied, just flippantly enough to have those eyes narrowing to hard sapphire slits on her face, and Rinoa had to stifle a giggle as Squall crossed his arms over his chest—'Commander Interrogator' mode, she privately called it, and settled down to enjoy one of their rare fights. "A really close guy friend."

Squall had the sneaking suspicion Rinoa enjoyed provoking him but kept that thought to himself. There was a sort of excited gleam in her eyes—not unlike the same that had greeted him the night before when he'd returned from his weeklong mission. And he wasn't stubborn enough not to admit that these infrequent little bouts of theirs were sort of entertaining, and certainly more enjoyable than those meetings he'd have to suffer through that afternoon.

Which brought them back to the whole lunch situation.

"You're avoiding my question."

"You're stalling so you don't have to practice sitting up straight." Rinoa's retort came instantly, and she lifted an eyebrow at him. "Just because you can outwit the entire Galbadian army doesn't mean you can't blind me with your sneaky little tactics, Leonhart." It was a personal pet peeve of Squall's when she referred to him by his last name, and, delighted, Rinoa watched his mouth tighten with annoyance.

"You just don't want to admit that you're too lazy to practice proper posture for a few minutes every day until you get the idea that your work partners don't appreciate you looking like a dying corpse during strategy meetings and discussions and contract agreements and the like—not that those aren't stimulating enough to put one in a coma, but—" she waved that away. "That's entirely beside the point."

"And I know just what you're doing, Princess." Squall could give as good as he got and had to struggle to keep the laughter from spilling out as Rinoa fought for self-control as he taunted her with the nickname her friends from the resistance movement had given her before they'd first met. "—By the way, corpses aren't 'dying', they're already 'dead'.—But what you're doing is trying to shift the blame on me so that I'll conveniently forget all about this 'lunch date' of yours with this mysterious 'old friend'. Seriously thought, I can't think of anyone that might fit the profile. You're so irritating, I can't imagine anyone sticking around you for more than absolutely necessary, unless maybe they were threatened with a slow death at the merciless hands of a boogie-dancing Moomba…"

Rinoa lost all composure as Squall chuckled at the memory. She threw her hands into the air, then pointed accusingly at him. "That was all Selphie's idea, and you know it! It is no fair bringing that incident up. It is completely irrelevant, and you're only doing it to make me so flustered I can't—I won't—remember what we were—" Rinoa glared at him, hoping desperately that changing the subject might help her save face. "You're slouching."

The devil took over, and Squall blinked innocently at Rinoa. The change in his demeanor was enough to have Rinoa staring at him in confusion, and Squall said, "Okay, okay, I give in. You're right, I'm slouching. But you know, this is the way I've been sitting for years. I don't think I can get just what you're trying to tell me what to do just by you describing it for me." His smile got the better of him, and Rinoa couldn't scramble out of the way fast enough as he leaned forward. "Maybe you should come here and give me a proper demonstration."

Before she could think to evade the movement, Squall reached out to close one gloved hand over her slender wrist, toppling her off balance and onto his lap. Startled, Rinoa squeaked, then gave a breathless half-laugh as Squall snuggled her back against his chest, his arms wrapping around her waist and trapping her hands in his to hold her against him.

"Squall…Cut it out." Her protest was half-hearted as Squall bent his head to bite at her ear, and she shivered in reaction as his teeth scraped over her skin. "Who was talking about Chimeras?"

He smiled, the movement of his lips brushing over her throat sending another tremor through her slim frame, and Squall threaded their fingers together, holding her hands against her stomach as he pressed a soft kiss to her neck. "Hmm?" Her scent swirled through his brain, fogging his senses, as he pressed his face against her hair. It just wasn't fair how she, without even trying, without even knowing, could make him need her with the simplest of smiles, of words. "Remind me, who was that?"

There was something absolutely devious, and altogether unfair about the way he could work her up into a playful sort of full-blown rage, then channel all that energy down a completely different path, with seemingly no effort at all. Rinoa felt her breath hitch as Squall's mouth cruised along her shoulder, bare save the thin straps of the summer-weight top she wore. "Um…" She had to swallow as his tongue darted teasingly against her skin. "Um, that would have been…you. I think." She arched instinctively, helplessly, against him as his hands moved lower over her abdomen, and let out a breath—half sigh, half moan—and flexed her fingers in his. "Hey, let go. That's cheating."

"You're going to be late for lunch," Squall murmured, a statement, maybe a warning, as his mouth cruising back along her skin to hover over her lips. "Very late."

Rinoa twisted one hand free to reach up and bury her fingers in the long, unruly bangs hanging in front of his eyes. "That's all right," she replied, tilting her face to his. "I don't think my date will mind much. He's usually an agreeable fellow."

"Is he, now?" Irritation flared briefly through Squall as Rinoa's hand slid seductively through his hair, urging him closer. "That's…nice."

She laughed, and the sound was like smoke, low and husky, and wrapped Squall deeper into her. "He's patient, and sweet, and responsible, and he gets jealous when I tell him I have dates with other men. I'd be so lonely without him." She sucked in a breath as Squall released her other hand, his fingers drifting lower, touch light as the air. "He's my very own personal knight…Aren't I lucky?"

Realization dawned on Squall, but he couldn't find it in him to be annoyed with her for her sneaky ruse. Everything inside him was hot and tangled and needy, and he closed his mouth over hers in a hard, hungry kiss full of restless lust. "You going to take me out to lunch today, Rinoa?"

Rinoa looked over her shoulder at him, her eyes sparkling as she lifted both arms to wrap around his neck and pull him back to her. "No, you're taking me, Leonhart." And she was laughing as Squall tumbled them both backwards onto the bed.

"As long as you promise to sit up straight."


7.24.05

It seems I can't write anything but one-shots. I was replaying FF8 and noticed that Squall has this annoying habit of slouching when he sits…FH's hot dog festival is a personal running gag.