"LADY FINGERS"

By Optical Goddess

"Take off your shirt."

"W--what?"

"It's much easier to rub your back without fabric in the way. It feels annoying. Trust me."

Two teenagers stood conversing in the commander's small dorm room. They had arrived there together, deciding to leave the "post-Ultimecia defeat" party that was still in full swing in the ballroom. Squall hesitantly pulled his T-shirt up over his head and threw it in his hamper. Rinoa crossed the red and blue linoleum floor and took a seat on his bed. She patted the camouflage bedspread, motioning him to come over. Slowly he joined her on his mattress and sat down a few feet away. He sat with his shoulders slumped and hands between his knees.

Rinoa giggled, seeing he really had no idea what to expect from her. "Now you lie down on your stomach."

"Oh," he seemed to be gaining a little more understanding of how this was going to be done. He laid on his stomach, resting his head on his pillow. Stretching out, he folded his arms above his shoulders.

Rinoa took off her boots and unbuttoned the last couple buttons on her skirt overlay so that she could straddle him comfortably. She gently placed her fingertips as close to his tailbone, just above the waist of his pants. She used just a tiny bit of pressure as she pushed her hands up his spine. First she wanted him to get used to the foreign feeling on his skin before she concentrated on massaging the muscles.

Squall tensed at her touch, not like he didn't enjoy it. He really did just want to let go and 'relax', but that's easier said than done. He closed his eyes and attempted to process all the amazing things that just transpired within the last hour.

That kiss. Holy crap. That kiss just blew him away. He felt dizzy, as if he was going to stumble right into the huge potted plants in the corner of the balcony deck. After some time, he finally found the courage to end the kiss. Or, rather, the fact that he thought he would pass out from lack of breathing. But when he opened his eyes and pulled away, it looked like she was going to fall into the ficus instead. But, no, no time to faint from that awesome kiss, as they both jumped in alarm to a stern authoritive voice.

"Now, now kids. This is neither the time nor place… especially when one can get it all on tape." Irvine stood in the large wooden doorway, video camera in hand, mimicking one of those scary robed Garden faculty members. Selphie was beside him wearing his hat, jumping up and down in glee.

Squall narrowed his eyes at Irvine and walked towards the balcony doors. Irvine added sheepishly, "Actually, the batteries just ran out prior to your little…um—thing out here, so—"

Rinoa's heart sank, figuring Squall would be so embarrassed that he was leaving. She almost died when instead she saw him kick up the latch holding the balcony door open, waving a little 'see ya' later' gesture at their intruders. He turned back to Rinoa, the two of them in complete privacy this time, save the moon and stars above and swirling waves below.

Then he didn't know what to do.

He wanted to be alone with her, he knew that much. Should he kiss her again? Does she want to be kissed again? So instead he leaned over the stone railing and watched the waves below. Nervous, he scratched his head and rubbed his neck.

She must have noticed because she asked if he felt sore. Not realizing he was doing that, he stuttered, "Y—yeah, I guess. You could say today was a bit stressful and disconcerting." He added with a slight laugh, "—and exhausting." He turned towards her, but still too shy to look directly at her since they first kissed. "I mean, after the battle, when I was searching for… I don't think I ever walked so far in my entire life. But at the same time, did I really walk anywhere? Or was I just stuck in one place?"

He hadn't planned on informing her about any of what had happened to him before she had found him lying on that cold grey ground. But it just sort of came out. She was bound to ask him sooner or later anyhow.

She surprised him by placing her thumbs on his temples and slowly rubbing in circles, forcing him to look at her. She wanted to inquire more about the topic he had brought up. But it had been such a long day, or week. She couldn't tell how long they were gone once time compression began. There was no beginning to a day, no end.

She spoke, "Let's not talk about that anymore tonight." She stopped her circling thumbs and added begging, "Please. The terror I felt when I couldn't find you, and then did—but I thought you were—it's still so fresh in my mind. Don't get me wrong. I usually grab any chance I get to have an actual conversation with you. But please, not right now."

Squall could see the fear in her eyes, sensed it in her voice. He didn't think about how that must have affected her until now. He just thought about his own reactions; despair of not being able to find her, finally giving up and collapsing for good. Then the next time he opened his eyes, there she was teary-eyed holding him, with a bright sky in the background. How long was he out? How long had she tried to revive him? Did she walk for miles and miles just like him? Did she come close to collapsing?

As if he didn't appreciate her enough already, he placed his hands on her waist just like he did before the annoying duo interrupted. If she doesn't want to discuss that now, I can completely relate to that behavior.

He bent down to kiss her a second time. This one was longer, uninterrupted, nice. Rinoa slipped her hands from his temples to his neck and squeezed gently, sliding her thumb and forefinger along his nape. An unintentional moan rose from Squall's throat. Rinoa smiled, ending the kiss, "Would you like more of that?"

Squall hesitated, surprised at her invitation, not knowing how deep her question was supposed to be. He carefully answered, "I hope you're not expecting me to say no…" He felt his cheeks getting warm and moved closer to her lips again. "Yes, I would like to kiss you some more."

She giggled into their third kiss, this one more lighthearted than the previous two. "I meant the—uh…neck rub. Would you like more of that?"

Squall backed off embarrassed. "Oh… I thought you meant—"

"Oh! It's not that I didn't like the other thing—"

"Sorry."

"No! I—I just thought that was funny—"

They continued with a few more awkward statements and ended back in his room to the point they were at now. Rinoa had been doing a few laps by running her thumbs slowly up and down the length of his spine. From there she increased the distance between her thumbs on the upstroke and concentrated on the muscles outward.

Rinoa peaked at his face to see a reaction to his first ever backrub. "You're smiling," she said, trying to embarrass him.

Squall buried his face in his pillow and grunted.

"Are you enjoying it so far?" she asked as she moved to kneading the top of his shoulders.

This time the utterance from his throat was involuntary, already answering her question in a caveman-type manner. "Nnnhhuhh," he groaned into his pillow. "I could have used one of these after I hauled you all the way to find Esthar."

"Hauled me? What are you talking about?"

He craned his neck towards her, finding it a bit more flexible than it was earlier. "You mean, no one told you about that?" He thought at least one of their friends would have. Even right in front of him, just for the sake of embarrassment, which they all loved to seem to do to him.

Squall rested his head sideways on his pillow again as he sought out an explanation in his mind. As embarrassing as it would have been to have one of the others explain it to her, he would have welcomed the humiliation instead of having to do it himself now. "When you were comatose after the battle with Edea, I couldn't think of anything else to do, but to find Ellone so she could take me into the past and change things, at the moment you went into a coma. We went to the white SeeD ship hoping to find her there, but were told she had moved on to Esthar. Zone happened to be on the ship, and he was pissed that I had allowed you to fall into danger." Squall sighed, remembering that he felt guilty enough without Zone cursing at him.

He continued, "The next plan of action was to go to Esthar. Find Ellone. Talk to Ellone." She will bring us together. He kept that old memory to himself. "So I gathered you up and slung you on my back, and started to walk the tracks from Fisherman's Horizon to the Estharian continent."

Silently, Squall wondered if she heard the secret he voiced aloud to her when he stopped for a break on the tracks, about just acting introverted and unfriendly. "…it made it easy for me when people perceived me that way…"

He decided to skip more details, like how hostile he had been towards Odine when he wanted to examine Rinoa once they finally reached Esthar. And again to the med staff when they had landed on the Lunar Base. Hell, I was just trying to protect her.

"Once I finally got to talk to Ellone when all 3 of our party were on the Lunar Base, she said we couldn't change the past. She said you could only find out things about the past you never knew, and from what you learned, you may see some things differently in the present. But I didn't want to believe her. I needed to know myself. I needed to go back into your past. I wanted to find out what happened to you and try to warn you."

Rinoa was forgetting to concentrate on the back rub. Mindlessly, she traced circles on his back. She stared aimlessly while listening, getting lost in his tale. Part of her didn't want to hear what he was going to say next, but she didn't want to interrupt this rare occurrence of his ability to say more than one paragraph at a time. And she was afraid if she stopped him now, he may not be as open about it later. She let him continue.

"That's when you woke up in the med lab. You proceeded to the control room and deactivated Seal level 1, the Lunar Cry started, and you put on a spacesuit and went outside." He didn't know if he should elaborate on that part. Especially about how afraid he was of losing her and all the anger he felt inside. "I tried to go out the airlock after you, but… it was closed up and everyone was trying to evacuate. It was a miracle you didn't get swept up in the flood of monsters. I went in an escape pod with Ellone, and that's when she took me to your past." He felt uncomfortable admitting it, afraid that she might feel intruded upon. He knew he definitely would. "Of course, I couldn't change anything that happened, just like Elle said. I couldn't warn you about what would happen when you fought Edea with us. I couldn't 'force' Ultimecia out of you—any of that… I was with you when you were drifting, when you ran out of air and thought you were going to die… It seemed like so much time passed, before you found the emergency supply." He stopped, noticing he was rambling, not believing he let himself go on and on like that.

"I heard you."

Squall was silent. Yeah, that was strange. Was that like when Laguna "felt the fairies" when I was in his head too? He realized they were talking about another near-death experience again, and wondered if Rinoa wanted to steer away from this subject too, just like the one earlier on the balcony. "Well, you know what happened after that, so I don't have to fill you in anymore."

"I heard you out there, when I was floating…" She snapped back into the present and reminded herself that she was supposed to be giving Squall Leonhart the best damn massage he's ever had. Well, at least the first best damn massage he's ever had… Ok, how about just first massage, period. She was no professional masseuse, but she knew what felt good.

She placed the palms of her hands across his middle back and said, "Consider this payment then for carrying me on your back… and for saving my life… like 50 times.

Squall didn't respond, not like she expected him to. She resumed her stroking movements with the flat of her hand. Wide, circular, and enfolding over his deltoids, keeping the rhythm slow and constant.

Rinoa glanced around his room, glad to be invited this time, unlike before when she just let herself in while he was napping, waiting for him to give her "the tour". The blinds covering the huge window next to the bed were shut. She would have liked to continue to watch the stars from his bed. It would have seemed romantic and all. Just as well, the closed blinds gave them privacy, which gave her a dreamy feeling also.

She scrutinized the long gunblade case leaning against the wall. The silver Griever adornment against the black leather was polished to a high sheen. He must take as much pride in that as he does the weapon inside it. Taking one hand off his back, she fingered the matching ring around her neck. She wished she had one made for her finger already, so she could feel its metal slide along the skin of his back. Maybe soon. Now that it's apparent Squall and I are more than just friends, we can get on Zell's butt to finish it. But the thought of having to give Squall back the original was disheartening. I'm just being selfish.

Next she eyed his computer desk, wondering if he did a lot of his work here, or in his office. "Do you ever play any games on that?"

"Huh?" Squall picked up his head tiredly.

"You know, solitaire, minesweeper, online games?"

He turned his head in the opposite direction and set it back down, trying to stretch out the crick in his neck from laying in the same position for that long. "No."

"Squall, do you ever have any fun?" she scolded.

"No, never," he mumbled with a yawn. He was proud of his sarcastic answer, figuring she expected him to ignore that comment. He thought back to their time on the balcony. Now that was fun. He breathed a laugh into the pillow as he felt himself fall farther into relaxation.

Rinoa switched her hands from their task on his lats to his scalp. She took her time twirling her fingers around his hair, giddy to be touching his mahogany locks. She used her fingertips as if she were washing it, messing it up and maybe even making a couple snarls. She inwardly giggled at an ironic picture conjured up in her mind, of Squall with his messy lion's mane giving her a sexy growl.

Squall had no objection. He once again buried his face in his pillow to allow her to move her magic fingers along his entire scalp. His nose was being squashed into the sealed fabric bag stuffed with feathers, but he could have cared less. Although, after a few minutes it was affecting his ability to breathe. He bent his head lower, so his forehead pressed into the pillow instead of his face. He was fascinated with something and just had to ask, "Why does it never feel like this when I touch my own hair?"

She giggled; he seemed to be appreciating another's touch quite well. "I don't know. Maybe because you don't have to reach back with your own hands to touch it. Or maybe because you can't anticipate how it's going to be touched. Where my hands are going to go, or how much pressure I'll use. When doing it yourself, your hand and brain are connected, so your hand sub-consciously moves where your brain tells it to move. There's no mystery there. Maybe the nerve endings in our skin react differently when touched by another person because of that. One of the things I can tell he missed out on due to his lonely lifestyle.

She let him ponder on that as she resumed massaging his lower back again. She switched from the pads of her fingertips to using her nails. In quick short motions she lightly scratched his back, starting at the shoulder blades.

Squall almost melted. He wanted to express how nice it felt, but couldn't find the right words. The phrases running through his head just didn't seem right out loud. "Mmm, that feels nice," or "This feels a lot better than trying to scratch my back using a corner of a wall or stealing a fork from the cafeteria. Those tines can break skin!" Instead he just arched into her delectable nails as they grazed the surface of his entire back.

Some time had passed and Rinoa's legs were beginning to get achy from being in that position for so long. She resumed her usual stroking with her whole palm when she noticed hundreds of patterned thin red lines all over his back from the prolonged scratching. She was getting tired but didn't want to stop. Stopping would mean having to get up, leave his room, and trudge on over to her own to sleep and put an end to this glorious evening.

She glanced at the clock. The party had to be over by now. I haven't heard anything from Squall for awhile. I mean, not like I expect him to talk my ear off. But I thought he'd at least pipe out an occasional 'whatever' to me. She peered at his pillow to find half his face buried in it, eyes closed and mouth slightly open. Oh my, I think I've rubbed him to sleep!

His breathing was slow and deep. She continued running her hands across his skin for a few more minutes as her eyelids grew heavy. Her head began to droop and she suddenly found herself waking with a start each time she nodded off. Her deprived slumber insisted to keep teasing her like this several times. She tried to fight it off, determined to stay this way for as long as possible.

Finally she realized she had to give in to her nocturnal needs. The overhead light was still on. She contemplated for a second if she could just 'zap' it out with her sorcery, but her experience with her still-fresh powers did not include minor electrical work. Sure, she could cast an Ultima spell on one of the most powerful sorceresses of all time. But this small task could end up taking the whole ceiling out, thereby, waking Squall, which was the whole outcome she was trying to avoid in the first place.

Without trying to disturb Squall below her, she shimmied her body down his hips a little and laid on top of his upper body that she had been relaxing this whole time. She rested her arms at his sides and closed her eyes, quickly joining him in slumber too.

Squall's eyelids fluttered opened as he began to awake. He felt moisture under his mouth and realized he was drooling on his pillow. His neck was also very stiff from sleeping in the same position for his backrub for—How long? When did I fall asleep? It felt like 120 pounds of weight spread on him, distributed across the length of his body. He tried to jerk his neck to see what was going on. His new girlfriend appeared to be laying on top of him, her head resting between his shoulder blades.

Realizing she was still there, he quickly flipped his pillow over to hide the embarrassing puddle. He also realized he really had to go to the bathroom… bad. And the extra weight bearing down on his bladder didn't help. He gently pushed himself up above the bed.

Rinoa was stirred by the movements and lazily picked up her head. Reality came rushing back to her and she quickly scooted off of Squall's body and stood up. "Uh, sorry," she apologized, "I… fell asleep."

Awkwardly, Squall sat up, "I know. So did I." He made a gesture towards the bathroom and went inside.

Rinoa slowly gathered her things and wondered if she had overstayed her welcome. She half thought of leaving before he came out. Then decided she wasn't sure how he would interpret that. Besides, she really wanted to use his bathroom too.

Squall emerged feeling a lot more awake. His companion asked, "Do you mind if I use it too, before I leave?"

"Sure, go ahead." Leave? He thought as she closed the door. The couple times she had been in his room in the past, she was almost a pest, not wanting to leave. He usually had to be the one to kick her out. But now things were different. So much had happened. And now she was offering to leave and he hadn't even brought it up. He didn't know how to take that. Maybe it's nothing to worry about. Maybe she thinks I want her to leave. But if someone were to see her leave at this time of night, the rumors would surely fly. Maybe I should see if she wants to stay… because…

I… I do want her to stay.

Rinoa came out of his small bathroom and walked hesitantly to her boots sprawled near the foot of his bed. "Well, I should probably—"

"Would you like me to return the favor?"

She looked at his clock. Does he mean now? "Are you sure?"

"Yeah."

She fidgeted with her necklace. Oh, come one, Rinoa. He's offering, just take it! What are you waiting for? "I don't want to impose on your personal time or anything like that." Any second now he's going to come to his senses and quote some line from the Garden's Rules and Regulations: Volume 5 about late night guests.

He walked over to her and with his right hand, placed his fingers behind her neck, squeezing his thumb and finger gently. Whoa, I have never done anything like this before. The only thing he could compare it to was forceful combat, like grabbing a foe by his neck to take him down. But this was quite different. It felt strange to offer his touch like this, without being in the midst of some kind of battle.

Rinoa's knees buckled and she swore they melted down a couple inches.

"Would you like more of that?" he teased, mimicking the way she asked the same thing of him earlier on the balcony. She giggled, gave in and tiredly nodded. "Good. Now get on the bed." He nudged her in that direction.

She turned towards him as she took a seat on the mattress. "Squall!" she gasped playfully.

He shrugged and played along, sauntering over, "Hey, you were forceful with me when it was your turn. Now it's mine. At least I'm not making you undress!"

She glanced at his torso. He hadn't bothered to put his shirt back on since they awoke. Looking back to that moment when they first arrived in his room, she worried she may have stepped over a line, maybe it was too soon for that. Nonetheless, he had just asked her to stay and remained half naked. Out loud, she almost wanted to say "Do I have to take my shirt off too?" but decided against it. Instead, she just rolled her eyes like 'whatever' and moved to lie on her stomach.

He went to straddle her hips like she did earlier. Unfortunately, the rubber soles from his boots which he had never taken off got tangled in her long powder blue sweater coat. "Ok, but you gotta remove this blue thing though. It's getting twisted up and annoying me," he complained.

This time she couldn't resist the comment, "Oh, I see how you are. First you need to pin me down, and then take off my clothes." Squall made no reply. She turned her neck to look at him, his face was beet red. Her eyes got big. "I was just kidding, Squall."

He answered back in a meek voice, yet defiant, "I know." He helped her out of her sleeves as she brought both arms behind her so she wouldn't have to get up again.

"But seriously, you ever gonna remove those boots?!"

He had thought about it earlier, but was self-conscious that maybe his feet would stink from all that walking he did during his search for her. After helping her with her coat, he unlaced and set them next to hers on the floor. Oh, well. If they do, then I'm sure she'll speak her mind and tell me to put them back on.

He got comfortable and rubbed his hands together. She laid still underneath him. The pillow was off to the side and her head was cradled in her folded arms. Licking his lips, he rubbed his palms together again. His hands hovered above her back.

Frankly, he didn't know where to start.

Softly, he placed them on her lower back and slowly ran them up to her shoulders. As the cotton from her black tank top shifted under his hand movements, he noticed slight marks on both her shoulder blades. Are those what I think they are?

He tugged the material slightly to check them out more. There were faint red ridges running right along the blades of her shoulders. Not protruding, but he wondered if they were sore.

"Squall?" Rinoa inquired, picking up her head again.

"Is this an after-effect from using your wings?"

"Oh, is the evidence still there?" She set her head back down. "Yes, a few weeks ago Selphie had noticed them when we were cleaning up after a battle. I guess there are residual marks after I use them. I haven't figured out exactly how fast they fade yet."

"Do they hurt?"

"No, not at all. I think it's just a mystical afterglow kind of thing. Guess I better be careful if I want to wear any backless dresses, huh?"

Squall lightly poked the red area, expecting her to flinch, even though she just finished explaining that it didn't hurt. He then ran his fingers along each mark. It reminded him of something very important after he collapsed searching for her in the void. He hadn't known where to go anymore. He didn't know how to reach her, until a connection came floating right into the palm of his glove--

"The feather…" he meant to say to himself.

"Hmm?"

He hesitated, "I'll explain another time."

Tearing himself away from his obsession with her long-gone wings, he rubbed his palms all over her back and shoulders. Her back seemed so tiny for his larger hands. He leaned forward to concentrate on her neck and bottom of her hairline. First he needed to brush her hair out of his way. He gathered it up in one hand and gently smoothed it off to the side. He momentarily got distracted by it shiny thickness. A few stray wisps were left behind so he combed them back with his fingers. He didn't want to get caught playing with her hair too long, so once he was satisfied it wasn't going to fall back into his next working area, he squeezed the nape of her neck with his thumb and finger again like before when he was trying to talk her into staying.

Rinoa whispered into his crisp clean sheets, "Oh Hyne, oh Hyne, oh Hyne…" repeatedly.

"Huh?"

She was practically at a loss for words. "It's just—this feels—"The pleasure his hands brought, culminating with the day's victory, and then the balcony—was overwhelming. She was glad her face was buried in the mattress as she clenched her eyes shut. She was very surprised to be having this reaction. She almost sobbed.

Squall felt her muscles tense up, wondering if he had done something wrong. Then he felt her shudder a couple times. He was almost afraid to ask, "Are…you…crying?"

She swallowed. "No! No, no, no, no, no," she quickly lied. In actuality, she was, but all for positive reasons. She didn't want to worry or upset him. Truth was she was so goddamn happy she was bursting. "I'm just—what your hands are doing… it's—"She almost wanted to say 'better than sex', but there was no possible way she could know that, nor, would it be an appropriate comparison right now in their relationship. "This feels f#&ing incredible. I don't know if you're aware of what you're doing to me right now."

Squall looked at his hands. There was so much blood on them, but they were being used to bring Rinoa such joy. "Yes, I am aware. I was in the same spot you are, remember?" I was the recipient of your magic hands, literally. Maybe I should have expressed more gratitude then. "And, yes, um…" he blurted out quickly, "You did make me feel pretty damn good, which is why I wanted to return the favor." Phew, that wasn't so hard. Ok, things are getting too serious. "And what's with that language, young lady? I've never heard you talk like that."

She smiled. Um…oops. "Well… you just said 'damn'."

Shaking his head, he said, "Yeah, but I didn't say what you said!" But I can't deny I was thinking it, especially when your fingers hit a really good spot.

Rinoa sighed, "I get carried away with my emotions."

Squall leaned next to her ear, "I know."

He thought he would try scratching her back like she did for him. The cotton underneath his fingernails felt funny. She was right, fabric does feel annoying. I wonder if she meant for the receiver or the one giving it. He decided to experiment and moved his fingertips using various methods. One way he went rapidly back and forth using both hands. Next he scraped his nails straight down her spine, deciding that one would hurt if it weren't for her shirt in the way. Then he did an arcing motion, mimicking a pair of windshield wipers.

He could feel her laughing under him. He decided to get silly and drew the alphabet with one finger in the center of her back. By the time he got to "Q" she had calmed down and almost seemed half asleep. He looked over at his alarm clock; he knew he'd better wrap this up since dawn would be here in just a few short hours.

Going back to kneading her shoulders, he thought there was no way he would ever admit that he liked the touch of her bare skin against his palms, rather than massaging her tank top. The only bit of that that was showing was her neck and shoulders. He thought about placing his hands on her waist and innocently massage her skin underneath the shirt, just a couple inches up. He really thought about it. But he couldn't feel that 'innocent' about it if he had to think about it this much. Besides, it looked like she really had fallen asleep by now.

He knew he should go to sleep too. But instead he felt wide awake, almost to the point of being 'giddy'. Damn time compression. Threw off my sleep cycle. He would have enjoyed continuing to massage Rinoa, even if she was sleeping, if only for his own benefit for a viable excuse to stay so close to her. But he couldn't deny the cramps in his own thighs.

It was time to slip off. He slid down and off the bottom of the bed, trying not to disturb his slumbering sorceress. Since she was laying on top of the comforter, he grabbed the spare blanket from his closet and gently draped it across her. Quietly taking some more comfortable clothes out of his dresser, he went inside his bathroom to change.

Rinoa had awoken when she felt him slide off the bottom of the bed onto the floor. Next thing she noticed, she was being covered by a soft thin layer. She felt a warm, fuzzy feeling envelope her, and it wasn't just from the new blanket Squall had just wrapped her in, but the meaning in its gesture. He had 'invited' her to spend what hours were left of the predawn in his bed. Now the question was, what was he going to do?

She pulled the blanket up higher and flipped onto her side. Squall came out of the bathroom wearing more lounge-like clothing, along with a new shirt on finally. Seeing she was awake, he sat down on the edge of the bed next to her.

"You can stay and sleep here if you want."

"What about you?" she asked carefully.

He shrugged. "I'm really not that tired. Guess that nap earlier was all I needed, for now."

Rinoa laughed softly, "I thought you were exhausted!"

"Overtired is more like it. It will probably take a few days to get back on our time schedule." Then it hit him that he didn't know what was expected of them tomorrow. Go back to work? Or did they all just get an obvious vacation?

"Oh," was all she could think of to say. Then suddenly feeling like an ungrateful idiot, she said, "Thanks. For the awesome rubdown—and, for letting me sleep here."

"No problem," he said off-handedly.

She smiled.

"……"

"……"

He remained sitting there, wondering if that was it. It didn't seem like this long night should end yet. There always seemed like there should be something to prolong it, extending it into the next day.

The slow seconds where neither of them moved was becoming very awkward.

Realizing he was the one who needed to move and get up to let her sleep, he cleared his throat and said, "Well, goodnight then."

"Goodnight."

Rinoa's heart was beating fast, wondering if there was going to be some kind of 'goodnight gesture' exchanged, like maybe a hug? Or even a pat on the hand? She pictured his missing childhood; did anyone ever tuck him in at night?

As he started to get up off the mattress, she said, "Squall?"

She immediately had his attention, as if he was waiting for her to say something, anything. She curled her index finger towards her face.

He sat back down and expected her to speak. She made the motion again, indicating 'come here'.

Squall leaned in a little closer, "Yeah?"

Rinoa smiled and rolled her eyes at his lack of comprehending how close he was supposed to get. So with a more urgent 'finger Ferris wheel', she widened her eyes as to say, 'No, closer, silly. Lots closer!'

Slowly, Squall brought his face much nearer to hers, and only then did he realize what she wanted him to do. Goodnight kiss. Of course, I'm so stupid! He set his hand down on the bed on the other side of her head to hold himself up. Stopping just at the point when his lips were an inch away from hers, he decided to tease her now that he caught on to what she wanted and repeated, "Yes?"

Rinoa closed her eyes in mock frustration. Ugh. Now I can tell he's just playing with m—And before she could finish her thought, he had closed in and gently kissed her lips.

The awkwardness from earlier melted away in the tender exchange. Squall was getting used to this. It felt like they had done this loads of times. It reminded him they had just crossed this barrier a few hours ago back by the party.

As they parted, Rinoa touched the his cheek, which by now had a little more than a 5 o'clock shadow, and said, "Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

She gathered the fleece up around her neck and flipped onto her other side to face the wall. Now after receiving the proper closure, she fell back asleep in minutes. Squall sat down at his computer, pondering on maybe playing some games that she had mentioned earlier. But he wasn't a man who wasted his time on mindless card-clicking, placing red queens on black kings, that sort of thing.

Taking a quick look behind him to make sure she was indeed asleep, he went into his document folder and opened up the secret journal he had started, thanks to Selphie. Replaying his favorite scene of the night in his mind, he thought of the sight of her gripping that stone railing, the wind slightly blowing her hair, spying a bright object moving through the sky, and he began typing:

"That kiss. Holy crap. That kiss just blew me away…"

THE END