Disclaimer: I do not own FF8
The night sky was cloudless, the air just cool enough to mingle pleasantly with the last of the day's warmth radiating from the earth where it had soaked through the long, late spring afternoon. On the balcony of Balamb Garden, overlooking the surrounding plains and the mountains, snow-capped and silvery-purple, rising to the north, Commander Squall Leonhart leaned against the stone railing and inhaled deeply, feeling a second sort of warmth nestling comfortably against his heart as he relaxed, the sounds of the party behind him drifting out the open doors to the ballroom.
The source of that warmth, of the peaceful, blissful happiness that had pervaded his life for the past year, stood beside him, her head resting on his shoulder and her hands placed lightly—daintily, one could have said, if that one were not Squall—on the balcony railing. She looked gentle and beautiful in her knee-length dress of shimmering jade silk, her black hair shining in shocking contrast to the pale color that accentuated her smooth, creamy skin and laughing forest-brown eyes.
Even as he tilted his face to watch her, she turned, meeting his sapphire gaze with her own, and her lips curved into a smile. "Why do you always watch me like that?" she asked, her voice teasing as she lifted one hand to twine her fingers through his. The simple joy of her touch, the ease with which she reached for him—and the complacency of his own reaction at the obvious, public display—infused a sense of almost terrifying love in Squall, and he could feel his throat tighten as his girlfriend snuggled up against his chest, running her free hand over his shoulder. Her fingers were gentle, almost ticklish, through the material of his dress shirt, and Squall breathed softly as she softly traced the hard line of the scar that ran down his shoulder blade.
"Because I can?" he ventured, knowing it would tease a smile to her sweet face, and Squall, wrapping one arm around her waist to draw her closer against him, tipped her face to his for a soft, lingering kiss. "Rinoa…"
She smiled, her eyes sleepy as she drew back far enough to lift one finger into the air, her eyebrow quirking in wordless invitation, and Squall, grinning, fitted her back against him in proper dance position. "You were the first person who'd ever asked me to dance," Squall murmured, his head bent so he could rest his cheek against the soft silk of her hair, so he could inhale the sweet scent of her—vanilla and strawberries and dog shampoo. He couldn't begin to explain why that particular combination was so alluring, and yet it was.
Rinoa let Squall cradle her against him, enjoying the sensation of being cuddled as if she were something precious—and indeed she was. Her lips curved into a smile as she remembered that first fateful dance, and she replied, her voice as soft, "You were the first person to resist my invitation."
He laughed at that, a low rumble of amusement deep in his chest, and Rinoa relaxed against him. "You were also the first person to promise to take care of me," she continued, letting the music from the musicians in the ballroom wash over her. "You were the first to look at me, to really look at me, and to see me for who I was—all seventeen years of spoiled, impulsive, obstinate me. You were the first person I ever truly loved." Her cheeks flamed as she anticipated his reaction, and she added in a mumble Squall had to strain to hear, "You were the first person to kiss me."
Squall had to lean forward, trying to catch her words; when his brain finally deciphered the whispered sounds, it took another few moments for him to register their meaning. With a muffled yelp of surprise, Squall jerked back to stare her in the face. "What? What? You've got to be kidding me. Then…The balcony…That was your first? What about Seifer?" All this time, he'd just sort of assumed he hadn't been her first kiss. Well, he'd soon found out that Seifer hadn't been her first lover, but loving and kissing were…they were different.
Rinoa ducked her head, embarrassed, as Squall continued to stare at her, his hands on her hips—either to hold her still or because he'd forgotten he was holding her at all, Rinoa wasn't sure. She cleared her throat and nodded. "It was my first. You were my first. I didn't say anything earlier, because…it's embarrassing." Her blush was evidence enough of that, and Rinoa hesitated, not quite sure how he would react. "I'm sorry, Squall. It wasn't like I was lying to you, but I just wasn't sure how to mention it." He didn't seem angry by her lack of truthfulness before, but Rinoa knew better than anyone that Squall was a master at masking what he truly felt.
To her surprise and utter shock, Squall began to laugh.
"Hey!" Insulted, fighting her embarrassment, Rinoa gave Squall a none-too-friendly punch to the shoulder. "This isn't something to laugh about!" Although she was glad he was laughing; it was still rare to hear, coming from him, and Rinoa couldn't help but grin as he struggled to contain his chuckles, his cobalt eyes dancing into hers as he gazed down at her.
"It isn't?" Mirth infused Squall's voice as he questioned with feigned innocence, "Then what is, Rinoa?" Though a small part of him was sort of chagrined that he hadn't given her that first kiss with a little more, he wasn't sure, style, instead of just grabbing her into it. Well, it wasn't really 'grabbing' Squall mused to himself. But still, it was sort of lacking in the grace-and-charm arena.
Her cheeks were still treacherously hot, and Rinoa looked away, muttering, "If this is how you were going to react, I'd never have mentioned it."
"Is that why you haven't until now?" There was something close to amusement lingering in Squall's voice, and Rinoa frowned up at him.
"How else should I have brought it up?" Mortification made her edgy, and she snapped a little harder than she'd intended. " 'Oh, Squall, by the way, do you remember how I said I thought I was in love with Seifer? Well, he never kissed me, you know, and I never kissed him.' " She scowled. "You always get all touchy and disgruntled when Seifer's name comes up—especially if it comes up with connection to me—so I thought maybe I'd just let it go. It's not important."
Rinoa started to tug away, wanting a little privacy so she could sort out her emotions—right now, irritation with Squall for laughing at her was foremost in her mind—but Squall wouldn't let her, tightening his grip on her and tugging her back. "Let me go," she muttered rebelliously, knowing her efforts were futile. "I don't want to talk to you."
"Rinoa." Squall was still laughing—he couldn't help it; she was always so adorable when she sulked—and brought her mouth against his in a firm kiss. "Rinoa, don't go." His words had her stopping to stare at him in shock. Squall had never said those words to her, and he smiled ironically at her, lifting one hand to smooth over her hair. "It is important. First kisses are very important. I always assumed Seifer had kissed you first, before I ever met you. If I'd known, maybe I'd have done things differently."
Suspicious, not at all convinced, Rinoa slanted her boyfriend a glance. "Differently? Like how? With roses and candlelight and a private jet?"
Mischief sparkled in Squall's eyes. "Not quite, I suppose, but if that's what you want, I could always arrange it for, let's say, our hundredth kiss." Rinoa's eyes widened at the promise, and he winked. "But I guess I would have liked it to have been a little more elegant, if you will, than me just kissing you." That's sort of what it had been, he remembered; spur of the moment, acting without thinking. It was one of the best memories of his life, her body against his, his hands on her waist, hers wrapping around his neck to bury her fingers in his hair, her mouth on his, soft and sweet and warm.
Squall sighed, and Rinoa, remembering the same, smiled. "It was fine, just the way it was," she assured him, and laughter danced in her own eyes as she added, "Though I wouldn't protest if you tried to reenact the scene to try to make it better."
"Don't worry," Squall assured her as he resumed their dance. "I'll have Ragnarok cleaned out, and then we'll take that private flight with candles and music and flowers and all that, okay?" Rinoa nodded solemnly, then rested her head against his shoulder again with a sigh.
They danced in peaceful quiet for another few minutes, and then Rinoa, finally seeing the humor in the situation, began to smile. "I can't believe I've been so afraid to tell you this all this time. It seems so silly now. And it's sort of cute, isn't it, how we both had our first kiss on this balcony together. I think it's fitting." There was a long, almost awkward silence, and Rinoa looked up at Squall. "Squall?" Her eyes widened, and she reached up one hand to poke at his cheek as if she could touch the blush she thought she saw. "Are you…are you blushing?"
"No, I'm not." He muttered it defiantly, and Rinoa stopped dancing to stare at him in shock as he looked away, hunching his shoulders defensively. "All right, maybe I am. Look, uh, I have my own little secret that I thought I could forget about, but…I've kissed before."
Rinoa goggled. "You've what!"
Squall shook his head, almost regretfully. "Well, let me amend that. I've been kissed before. But it was the first time I've ever kissed someone."
Staring at her boyfriend, Rinoa could only think that there were still things about him she would have never guessed. She was too shocked to even feel jealousy or resentment towards whatever mysterious female figure had been her predecessor in Squall's affections, and she could only gape as, unprompted, he elaborated.
"I was, uh, about eleven or twelve, I guess, at the time. There was this girl in my battle tactics class. All the guys liked her, because she was cute and shy and really smart. She always knew all the answers, and we—they—used to fight over who got to sit next to her at lunchtime. She always had really great stuff to eat, and she'd share it with whoever got to be next to her.
"Anyway, she set the whole thing up, I guess. I don't really know how she did it, or if she had help, but looking back, it was pretty sneaky. She told me she wanted to restock on her Sleep spells and asked if I would accompany her to the Training Center one day. I didn't want to, at first, because all the other guys would be jealous, and then they'd be mad at me. And," he added as jealousy began to creep into Rinoa's eyes, "because I knew I couldn't betray my future true love."
Unimpressed, Rinoa snorted. "Hmph. Just keep going."
Squall flashed her that bright, beautiful smile before continuing. "Anyway, she was really persistent, so I agreed to go. Since we were junior classmen, it was Garden protocol that we were supposed to be accompanied by an upperclassman or a fully trained SeeD. But when I got to the Training Center—she was waiting by the door—she was the only one around. We waited around for a while, but nobody else came, so I said we should just go back. She could always get Sleep the next day, but she was really insistent on needing to get them now, so I gave in.
"She took me around to that lake—you know how they have that pond in the Center, only it looks really big when you're small—and she pulled me behind some bushes. I think I must have told her something really intelligent, like, 'You can't catch Grats hiding behind trees'. And then she…This part is sort of jumbled, I think because I was scared of what she was doing. She took my hands and was just staring at me, and then she told me she really, really liked me and she wanted to sit next to me at lunch every day. Then she…Are you laughing at me?" he demanded.
Rinoa was shaking from the effort of holding back her giggles, and she shook her head frantically as Squall narrowed his eyes at her, scowling fiercely. "I'm not going to tell you the rest of it if you're going to laugh at me." Rinoa grabbed his shirt in her hands as he released her and made as if to leave, and Squall looked back at her, trying not to let his own smile get the better of him. "Pleading isn't going to save you. I think I'm going to go back and join Zell at the hot dog table. At least his girlfriend has the decency not to mock me while I'm sharing embarrassing moments of my past."
"No, no," the giggles slipped out, and Rinoa wrapped her arms around Squall's waist to hold him there. "I'm sorry. Please finish the story." Then her eyes narrowed, and she gave him a sharp jab in the stomach he couldn't duck away from fast enough. "Hey. And you laughed at me, so don't be getting all huffy."
"I don't get 'huffy'," Squall muttered, but ran a hand over her hair before starting the tale again. "Um, where was I? Oh yeah. So she was telling me she wanted to sit with me at lunch every day, and I think I was trying—desperately—to get my hands free. And then she said she really, really liked me, and she kissed me! I was really shocked, I think. And then she was just standing there, looking at me, and I turned and started to walk away. Then—"
"Squall!" Rinoa's shocked exclamation had him stopping, and Rinoa slapped him on the arm in punishment for his atrocious behavior years before. "How could you? You just…up and left?"
"I tried," Squall said, "and I'd tell you if I succeeded if you'd stop interrupting and just let me finish."
Rinoa took the hint but muttered, "I can't believe you did that to her. Poor girl, she's probably scarred for life and will never have a serious relationship. Just up and leave after she says something like that…"
"Anyway," Squall stressed before Rinoa could start making him feel guilty for his actions as a child, "I guess I wasn't watching where I was going, and I walked straight into the back of a giant T-Rexaur. He was a pretty grumpy old thing, too, and wasn't too pleased about me bumping into him while he was…I don't know what he was doing, standing around doing T-Rexaurish things, I suppose. I was terrified. Those things are enormous, and I was all alone and not quite ready to fight him—I didn't get Shiva for years, and T-Rexaurs are notoriously weak against ice attacks. All I had junctioned were a couple of what we call 'training GFs', used to accustom young children to GFs later. They aren't very strong, nor particularly brave, and most of them ran when I tried to summon them. They weren't really used to full-blown battles, and a lot of them had never seen an enemy larger or fiercer than an angry Funguar.
"Since running away wasn't an option—isn't an option, and never was, never will be—I had to fight it, on my own, with this terrified, crying girl hiding behind me. She was sobbing, probably because I'd tried to run away after she'd told me she liked me, and I was pretty unhappy that she was too useless to help me fight.
"Anyway, long story short, we got out of there—alive—and I defeated my first T-Rexaur. Of course, we were both in big trouble for going into the Training Center without a proper escort, and I don't think Headmaster Cid ever bought my excuses for what we were doing—Rinoa, don't get that look as if you're thinking about asking him now if he remembers that incident. You don't want me going on the announcement system with your first attempt at skinny dipping with your so-called 'friends', do you?"
Rinoa turned scarlet, and she glanced around them furtively to check for others in hearing range. They were, of course, alone, but she glared fiercely at Squall. "You promised you'd never mention that!" she hissed furiously.
Squall grinned. "Of course I did. That's what makes blackmail so much fun." Rinoa smacked him, and he winced.
"I hope you got trash duty for a year," Rinoa muttered, returning to Squall's story—and deflecting the attention away from her.
"Worse. He made the two of us work together on organizing his filing cabinets for a month, every day after class. It was torture. Not only are his filing cabinets the most frighteningly disorganized on the planet, but it was painful to be in the same room as her, much less have to work with her." Squall shrugged. "It's sort of funny, now, to think about me running away from her in such a hurry I bashed my head on a T-Rexaur's rear end, but…"
Rinoa giggled at the mental image of Squall 'running into' a T-Rexaur doing 'T-Rexaurish things'. Her giggles intensified as she thought of the only thing a T-Rexaur might have been doing, standing around aimlessly, and the second image, on the heels of the first, popped unbidden into Rinoa's head of a little Squall—she imagined him as Squall-of-the-present just squished into the body of a little boy with Squall's head—with T-Rexaur poop on his head.
"It's not that funny," Squall informed her as she clapped both hands over her mouth to hold in her laughter. "So, what I'm saying is I'm sorry I didn't tell you before. I just didn't want to make you mad about not saying so earlier. And I didn't want you to be jealous of some little girl."
Rinoa narrowed her eyes. "Are you implying you think I'd be petty enough to be jealous of some girl you met when you were little?" Squall shrugged, and Rinoa struggled for a minute before giving in. "All right, you win. What was her name?" She was jealous, and there was no need to deny it. Someone had taken Squall's first kiss, and if that someone were still a SeeD at Garden—if she'd lived down the humiliation to face Squall after that—she was in for a big surprise.
"I don't know." Squall frowned. "I've tried to remember her name, but I'm not even sure I ever knew it. I mean, thinking back, I can't even remember what color her eyes were, and it sure felt like she was staring at me for a long, long time in the Training Center, holding my hands. All I can remember is that she was really cute and sort of short—we all were at that age—and had brown hair, I think. She was always reading, too. Yeah, the guys used to talk about always knowing where to find her, because she was always in the library." Squall's brows drew together as he tried to extract from his foggy memories the pertinent information. "There's something else…What was it? Oh, yeah. We all knew what she looked like from the back, because she always had her hair pulled into a, what do you call it…" Squall waved his hands at the back of his head as if in explanation. "A pigtail, yeah. She was the girl with the pigtail."
Rinoa stared at Squall, then burst into laughter as he watched her. Could it really be? Rinoa shook her head at his questioning look, unable to voice her thoughts. Wouldn't it just be too great if it were true?
Gasping for breath, Rinoa managed to suck in only enough air to say, "You know, Squall, maybe you should go sit with Zell and eat hot dogs. But, if I were you, I'd refrain from mentioning old memories around his girlfriend. You never know, she might just give you a reaction worse than mine.
I wrote this one a long time ago; I don't know why I didn't put it up before. I stumbled across it in my files as I was cleaning some of my old miscellaneous stuff out and starting laughing in the airport. Wow, the lady across the aisle from me must have really thought I was whacked. By the time I got to the part about T-Rexaurs doing 'T-Rexaurish things', I must have been red in the face. I'm glad I got a good laugh out of it, at least…