At my deathbed, there were two thoughts that kept running through my head: Will my husband return in time to take care of our little one? And, if not, what will happen to my baby boy? Unfortunately, before I could ponder any longer, I fell into an eternal sleep, the last sound I heard being the cries of my newborn son.
Instead of being graced with the blissful darkness I had subconsciously associated with death, a pearly-white light lit my path. I walked forward, although there wasn't an end in sight. At some point in time—walking on an endless path kinda whacks your sense of time, you know—the light completely surrounded me, and then I was in a large field of flowers. The first thing I noticed was, well, the flowers. It was kind of hard not to, considering they were everywhere. The second thing I noticed, however, was a young woman in a skimpy pink dress in a loving embrace with a young man whose black hair resembled the spines of a porcupine. Long braid swinging with the motion, Ms. I'm-Drowning-In-Pink turned to face me with a pretty smile on her face.
"Hello, welcome to the Promised Land. I'm Aeris, and this is my soul mate, Zack."
Soul mate. What an interesting way to introduce someone. It made me wonder: would I have ever referred to Laguna in such a manner? Nevertheless, I smiled back at Aeris, Princess of Pink.
"I'm Raine. It's nice to meet the both of you. I'm assuming this 'Promised Land' of which you speak is something akin to Heaven?"
She nodded, pleased that I understood. Zack spoke for the first time, and I was surprised to hear how young he sounded. "Have you ever heard of the Greek word Karios? It means to be outside you time itself. That's the way we are here. If you want, you can view events on Earth chronologically or hop around randomly through time. However, you first have to pass my safety test." Pink Quee—I'm sorry, Aeris rolled her eyes at him, obviously used to this test of his.
"I'll do it." Anything to see my son again.
"Why?" He seemed confused. Maybe nobody had agreed to participate in his challenge before?
"I want to guide my son. I may not be there with him in body, but I want to be there with him in spirit."
"Even if you can't interfere?" He searched my face for any sign of doubt or fear.
"Yes," I responded, not hesitating for even a second. "Now, what tests must I undergo?"
Zack nodded, pleased. The Mistress of Magenta, Matron of Mulberry, Rouge Royal, Sultan of Scarlet, Countess of Carnation, Baroness of Burgundy, Viscountess of Violet, Lady of Lavender—you get the picture—raised an eyebrow, and he mouthed something to her before refocusing on me. "Actually, you just took it—and passed with flying colors, might I add."
"What? That's it?" I had honestly expected something more…I don't know…difficult, maybe?
"I had to check your motives," he said simply, as if it had been obvious. He whistled, and I gave him a puzzled look. "I'm calling a couple of friends of mine. They'll show you where to go so you can see your loved ones again."
A beautiful brunette, seemingly coming from out of nowhere, jumped on Zack's back, laughing heartily. A blond man with even more intense spikes than Zack walked up to them and pried the still-laughing girl off his friend's back and into his strong arms.
"I'm Cloud Strife," the blonde announced, "and the angel in my arms is Tifa Lockhart. I'm assuming that Zack called us here to go to the Visionary Pond." Zack nodded to him, confirming the truth in his statement. "All right. If you'll follow us…" He started off, girlfriend safely nestled in his arms. I followed behind the pair, curious as to where this 'pond' was.
As I soon found out, Visionary Pond was, quite literally, a pond. You could bathe in it (although they'd rather you refrain yourself) or drink it like regular water. However, it also had that one special quality: being the link between the living world and the dead. Basically, you take a small (stress the small) sip of water, and you will be able to access any point in time you want. At the moment, I am witnessing the wedding of my son, Squall Leonhart (I wish he'd change it to Loire, his legal last name), to his beloved, Rinoa Heartilly.
Personally, I approve of their marriage. They will indeed have difficulties—they are Sorceress and Knight, after all. However, they love each other enough to make it work. Rinoa's the one who taught Squall that it was okay to care for others, and it's obvious that he'll never be able to go back to the pre-Rinoa Squall. Her presence is enough to calm him down even when he's in the foulest mood, and he gives her a sense of security—both physically and emotionally. He keeps people from attacking her, and prevents gossip of any sort to be spread about her. Knight in shining armor indeed.
Plus, they complete each other in a way nobody else could. It takes a special person to deal with Squall's on-and-off coldness, and the same to deal with Rinoa's demanding personality. They will fight—don't we all?—but it's just their nature. Honestly, I don't think I could have chosen a more perfect woman for him. They share a bond beyond your wildest dreams—a bond strong enough to keep them both alive through time compression.
Squall, unfortunately, seems to have forgotten all this at the moment. He's treating this like a military mission—going over the worst-case scenarios—while Zell and Irvine are trying to simultaneously reassure him and finish their personal preparations for the wedding.
"…What if she doesn't want to go through with it after all?" Squall collapses into a nearby chair in the area the groom and the groomsmen were given to change and prep in.
Zell sighs. Although my son is the commander of Balamb Garden—not to mention the whole saving-the-world thing—, he actually has very poor self-confidence. "She agreed to be engaged, right? Plus, she, Selphie, and Quistis have worked so hard on this—why would she not go through with it?"
"She might have just pitied me," Squall mutters sullenly. "And what if she found…someone else?" The thought is enough to lower his walls, and his worry, fear, and love are evident on his face.
Seifer, his third groomsman, had previously preferred to stay out of the argument, but Squall had just taken it too far. He walks over to his long time rival and puts his hands on his shoulders, causing the younger boy to look up at him. "Squall! You two just saw each other yesterday, and unless I missed anything, you two seemed very happy together. Besides, she's been busy all morning with getting herself ready for the ceremony. When could she have met someone else? God, Squall—she loves you!"
Irvine and Zell nod in agreement. "As much as I hate to admit it," the cowboy drawls, "Seifer's right. And, if everyone's ready, we should be heading to the chapel and be taking our places."
As the three men exit, I decide to pop in the bride's chambers. Inside, Rinoa and her three bridesmaids—Selphie, Quistis, and her cousin Lyssa—are making last-minute preparations for the big ceremony.
"Nervous, Miss Caraway?" Selphie winks at Rinoa, mirth in her eyes. However, the black-haired woman shakes her head.
"More excited, really. This is the day I've been waiting for. I'm getting married to a guy who loves me and whom I love dearly." She smiles widely, happiness radiating from her in waves. "I don't have any reason to be nervous." Rinoa soon-to-be-Leonhart looks radiant in her light blue dress, which has a train so long that two of Edea's new orphans have to work together to carry it. The gown is both sleeveless and strapless, and is accessorized with elbow-high white gloves on both of her arms. She wears beautiful diamond earrings loaned to her by her cousin Lyssa, and she has gorgeous sapphire clips in her hair. Her hair is half pulled into an elegant bun, and the loose hair is curled to accentuate her features. Her light make-up, done by the same professional who did her hair, brings out the young woman's natural beauty. She is, unsurprisingly, wearing her two-ring necklace, but then nobody expected otherwise. It's not hard to see why my son fell for her.
"You remember the rhyme, right Rinny?" Lyssa asks, grinning. "Do you have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue?"
"Yep," Rinoa announces matter-of-factly. "My necklace and the rings on it are old, my dress is new, I borrowed these earrings from you, and my hairclips are blue. Don't worry; I've gone over everything. Nothing can go wrong."
"You sure?" Lyssa idly fidgets with her hands. Rinny's favorite cousin is a bit of a control freak/perfectionist (she prefers the latter; it's more flattering), so she wants to make sure that her cousin's wedding is indeed perfect.
"Yes, Lyss, I'm sure. I know it's your job as Maid of Honor to help make sure everything's going according to plan, but I've got it all under control. Have a little faith in me, pwease?" The baby talk used by her younger cousin is enough to make Lyssa smile.
"Okay, Rinny. I'll stop stressing out—it is your wedding, anyway." The two cousins give each other a high-five. "Alright…are we all ready now?" The three other women nod. "Let's go get Rinny married!" They cheer and exit the room, bouquets in hand.
Outside the chapel, they all line up in order. The Best Man (Zell) and the Maid of Honor (Lyssa) will go first, followed by the rest of the groomsmen (Irvine and Seifer) and bridesmaids (Selphie and Quistis). The flower girl (Raina, one of Edea's little orphans) will go next, and, when the proper music starts, Rinoa and her father will follow, trailed by the two orphans carrying her train (Alli and Kathryn). The ring bearer (Darden, the eldest of the orphans) would come later on, when needed. And, of course, we mustn't forget my little boy/the groom, Squall Leonhart (Loire), who will be waiting in the chapel for everyone to arrive. All in all, the wedding party was filled with the people Squall and Rinoa wanted to share their big day with.
Of course, I haven't even mentioned the guests. Cid, Edea, and the orphans sit in the front row on the groom's side, along with Ellone, Laguna, Kiros, and Ward. General Caraway, Zone, and Watts share the front row on the bride's side with Lyssa's younger sister, Elli, and their parents. Rinoa's youth group (she had been going stir-crazy because she had nothing to do at Garden, so Cid had assigned her to a group of girls who needed peer counseling) is here, along with Library Girl (although she and Zell broke up a little while ago).Xu and Nida are also here, and so is Ma Dincht. Most of Balamb Garden is in attendance, as Rinoa and Squall—but mainly Rinoa—have made many friends over the years. The small Winhill chapel is packed to the brim, but both Rinoa and Squall had agreed that this was the perfect place for their wedding. I have the feeling that Laguna only suggested Winhill so I could be there—in a sense—, and that makes me feel a little tingly inside. Although, of course, that may just be one of those ghostly side effects. Anyways, I may be dead, but at least I am not forgotten.
Squall, even more nervous than when he faced Ultimecia—and that's saying something—, looks up in surprise when Lyssa and Zell enter. He feels extremely nervous, terrified that he will mess this up in some way. When Zell reaches his side, he places a comforting hand on the groom's shoulder.
"Just think…in a couple of hours, you'll be married and making the rest of us throw up with all that lovey-dovey stuff."
Squall nods, muttering a quiet "Thanks" before staring off into space. He is so absorbed in his thoughts that he doesn't even notice Irvine and Seifer's arrivals. All he could think about was how perfect he wanted this to be for Rinoa.
Raina soon comes skipping down the aisle, petals flying everywhere. I knew that they had been handpicked from the famous flower field, which was a special place for both my son and his fiancée. When she reaches the front row, she sprinkles the last of her petals before scampering off to go sit with Cid and Edea.
"Here Comes the Bride" begins to play, and all eyes are glued to the chapel door. The door opens slowly, and, save for the music, the church is silent in awe as the bride and her father carefully make their way down the aisle. Squall watches Rinoa—his Rinoa, the soon to be Rinoa Leonhart, Mrs. Leonhart, Mrs. Squall Leonhart—with such love in his eyes that, if anyone had any doubts about them previously, they had been erased completely. Their eyes meet, and it's as if there is no one else in the whole chapel—only the two of them. Squall is not nervous anymore, soothed by her presence. She reaches the end of the aisle, and her father kisses her cheek and hands her over to my son. They hold each other's hands lovingly and delicately, waiting for further instruction from the zyter.
The old zyter, smiling softly at my son and his wife-to-be, joins them at the alter. "We are gathered today," he proclaims in a voice surprisingly loud for such a feeble young man, "to witness the eternal Joining of Squall Leonhart and Rinoa Caraway in the presence of Holy Hyne. Before the marriage ceremony commences, let us all join in Hyne's prayer."
"The Light of Heaven May Shine on Us
Through the Grace of Hyne on High
Brothers and Sisters, Hand in Hand
Glorifying Our Mother with Every Breath
Holy Hyne, Protect Us, and Keep Us Safe
As We Rejoice at the Sound of Your Name."
The whole chapel recites the prayer in unison, joining their pinkies in prayer as per tradition. The zyter bows and makes a circle on the floor with his hands, and the wedding party and guests bow as well. After the blessing finishes, he places a hand on Squall and Rinoa's intertwined ones.
"Do you, Squall Leonhart, take this woman to be your wife as long as Hyne wills it?"
"I do," Squall whispers, not taking his eyes off of Rinoa.
"Do you, Rinoa Heartilly, take this man to be your husband as long as Hyne wills it?"
"I do," she proclaims, excitement flooding throughout her body.
The zyter smiles, his wrinkles bunching up. "You may recite your vows now."
Squall clears his throat and fiddles nervously with his hands. "Y-you," he falters, but soon gains his voice, "you of all people know how…hard...it is for me to…open up…to others." She smiles at him, gives him the strength to go on.
Squeezing her hand, he proceeds to tell her just that.
"By the power invested in me by Hyne on High, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride." Lovingly, Squall pulls Rinoa into his arms and kisses her soundly. When they pull apart (and the guests stop cheering), the zyter speaks again.
"Introducing the new Mr. and Mrs. Squall Leonhart!" This prompts a new bout of cheering as my son and daughter-in-law make their way back down the aisle. They are both grinning, arms linked at the elbow. The rest of the wedding party follows, the guests trailing behind. Bird seed is thrown as the Leonharts enter the car designated to drive them the short distance to my old bar—now owned by Ellone—where the reception is going to take place. "Just Married" is written on a sign taped to the back of the car, along with cans attached by strings. Everybody else packs into the other cars prepared for this occasion, and they too head off to my old home.
I am shocked at how different the bar looks. The Orphanage Gang (minus Squall) and Lyssa really went all out for their two friends. Banners—including a huge one announcing "CONGRATULATIONS SQUALL AND RINOA!"—are all over the place, along with balloons in a multitude of colors. Long tables had been brought in, and they are covered in beautiful pearly-white tablecloths and set with fine china. The two make their way inside, and gasp at what they see.
"It—wow. They really outdid themselves," Rinoa breathes, leaning back on Squall's chest. Soft lips press against her forehead, and she leans back to grin at her husband. "Mmm. Merry Christmas, Squally."
Soon, everybody else arrives, and the reception kicks into full gear. I can't help but laugh when Rinoa shoves cake into Squall's mouth, and he (unsurprisingly) returns the favor. People tap their forks to their glasses, prompting my son and his new wife to kiss, and they concede and lightly kiss one another. They share their first dance to "Waltz to the Moon", the song during which they first met each other. Rinoa is able to convince Squall to take wedding photos, and Selphie promises to make Christmas cards quickly enough that they could be passed out by the end of the reception.
"Time for the bride and groom to open their presents!" Zell announces, and his announcement is met with cheers and the general agreement from the congregation. "Okay, we'll start with my gift. You two remember the car you rode here in?" Squall and Rinoa nod in confusion. "Well, the car actually isn't a rental car like I told you earlier—it's yours. I even customized your license to read 'SQUINOA'." "Squinoa" is a mesh of Squall and Rinoa's names that the rest of the Orphanage Gang use frequently. For the most part, they just found it annoying.
"Thanks, Zell," Rinoa said honestly. "A car of our own will make transportation much easier."
Other gifts they received were silverware, a large "marital suite" from Cid and Edea, decorations for their new apartment, baby clothes from my Laguna (which made the newlyweds blush in embarrassment; they weren't sure if they were ready for a baby yet), and gift cards to some of the fancier—and thus more expensive—restaurants in Balamb.
Squall and Rinoa hand out the Christmas cards to everyone and thanked them for simply being there to share their special day with. When everybody else has left, my son and daughter-in-law take their things to their new apartment, but decide to arrange everything tomorrow. They climb into bed together, reveling in each other's company.
"Merry Christmas, Rinny," Squall whispered softly into her ear before falling asleep with his wife in his arms. Respectfully, I leave the Earthly scene.
I still remember how it was like to be a newlywed myself.
Author's Note: I am so, so, so sorry about the delay! Things just kept…coming up. Blah. Need to finish my other Christmas one-shot.
Next time (Valentine's Day one-shot): Rinoa gets a surprise and Squall learns that he has enough room in his heart for another person.