Author Note: At the risk of calling down your wrath readers, this is the final chapter of 'Music Box Doll'. Of course as you have picked up on, there have been a few hints as to where the story may go and unfinished bits of business to been seen to. Essentially the story I set out tell you has ended. What I didn't expect was it to take on a life of it's own and become so complex. As such, beyond this point it was never meant to go.
Because there is some much more I could write about, I think it only fair that 'Music Box Doll—part one' ends at this point. Thank you all for the support, especially from everyone who reviewed. Also thanks for all the faves and alerts. This fic wouldn't have been half as much fun to write without you all, so thank you so much!!
The Final Chapter
Knocking on the door he stepped back and waited until it was opened. Selphie answered in her SeeD cadet uniform.
"Oh, hey there," she said smiling, before remembering her recent career choice and saluting. "I mean, hello Sir."
Rinoa looked over Selphie's shoulder with a frown on her face, wondering who had called and interrupted them. Her expression softened into a smile when she saw that it was Squall. There was an awkward silence between them all as Selphie wondered what the best way of escaping might be. She didn't want to in the middle of a conversation between them. The last time she had been in the same room as them, they were all strictly friends. She wasn't sure that she knew how to handle this change, not since Squall had become her superior,
"Are you OK?" Rinoa asked after the silence begun to drag. Squall clearly came here for a reason, but he wasn't being very forthright.
"I'll just go…I got stuff to do…" Selphie said slowly shuffling out of the room and backing out down the corridor. "I'll see ya later."
Rinoa wordlessly invited Squall into the room by opening the door wider.
"So," he said dragging the word out as he walked to the window. "I guess you found out about Selphie. She promised me that she was going to tell you herself… Ellone said you went mental…"
Rinoa smirked; she supposed that Squall wouldn't have chosen the word 'mental' on his own.
"Yeah, I guess I did go a little 'mental' but it's all OK now."
Rinoa wrapped her arms around herself, and bit her lip. Although she no longer felt nervous in Squall's presence, it didn't mean that everything was easy. There were still moments where the silence felt awkward, and this was one of those moments. It was like two people at the start of a good friendship, not having known each other long enough to always think of something to say, but having seen each other too often for polite conversation. All the irrelevant information had already been said.
Rinoa looked past Squall and out of the window. She wondered how she was going to tell him what she wanted to, without stumbling over her words. She had a pretty good guess how Squall would react, but she wasn't sure. Either she was worrying over nothing, or they were going to fall out in the same was she had with Selphie.
"You look like you want to say something," Squall observed, leaning against the window ledge and obscuring Rinoa's view.
"No," Rinoa replied quickly, her nerve failing her when put on the spot. "Well…" she amended after seeing Squall frown, but once again lost her nerve.
"I spoke to you father," Squall ventured, sensing that whatever was on Rinoa's mind, she wasn't ready to talk about it.
"Well, he spoke to me."
"Oh yeah, did he phone?" Rinoa asked. She should have tried harder to contact him again after her first try.
"No, he's here," Squall explained.
"Why?" Rinoa asked.
"Stuff about the monster…"
"Oh…right…cool," Rinoa said. She sat on the bed, tucking her feet backwards underneath. "So, um…What did he say?"
"Well, first he said I should have told him that I was taking you out of the country…"
"But I called him!" Rinoa interrupted angrily. She knew he hadn't been listening.
"It's OK. I think he let me off because he wants me to sort out the monster."
"Oh," Rinoa said. "Yay for the monster then."
"And he said that he's happy if you want to stay," Squall added.
He didn't know why, but he had the impression that they were both stalling for time. The way she kept shuffling her feet, and twitching her fingers spoke volumes to him; that she wasn't comfortable. Every time there was a silence, or a slight pause, he had the sense that Rinoa was taking a deep breath in an attempt to pick up her courage.
He couldn't pretend to be clueless about what she might be worried about. The visit here was only meant to be temporary. They both knew she would have to go home soon, and this time Squall wouldn't be going with her. With their relationship steadily changing into something new, he didn't blame Rinoa for being unwilling to bring up the inevitable.
At some point they would have to talk about her going home, and what would happen next.
"Stay?" Rinoa asked slightly puzzled. Surely her father didn't mean he was giving her permission for time off of school? Especially not with exams fast approaching.
"Until the end of the week."
"Oh. Was that all?" Rinoa asked, not bothering to hide her disappointment.
"Isn't that enough? He knows all about… us," Squall replied awkwardly. "I think I might owe Seifer a favour. Your dad seems to be cool with anyone taking you out, providing it's not him."
He smiled, but Rinoa wasn't impressed. Whatever her father had said to Squall, he wasn't about to tell her. Not that she could imagine that her dad would have any objections. He'd never said anything to her after all, and he had been pretty vocal on her choice of friends before. But what dad in their right mind would warn their daughter off of Squall? He was the most responsible person she had ever met.
"He's not stupid," Squall said with a slight smirk. Rinoa blushed. He father knowing about the way things stood between them, made it all the more real.
"Hey, um do you want to go for a walk?" she asked, standing and moving towards the door. Although she had phrased it as a question, it was clear that Squall wasn't being asked for his preference. Rinoa needed a change of scenery in order to clear her head.
They passed Selphie in the corridor, who looked like she had run out of things to do and was immediately grateful to have her room back.
Lost in her own thoughts, Rinoa followed a few steps behind Squall. Content to pay no attention to where they were going. She only looked up when they stopped in front of the elevator.
"Where are we going?"
"My office," Squall answered calling the elevator. "I thought you might want to see it."
It hadn't been on her agenda, but Rinoa was glad that she was being invited. She didn't know anyone else who had ever been in a Garden Commander's office before. It had to be worth something, right?
Squall's office consisted of multiple filing cabinets, with some of the drawers barely closing. One wall was covered with a large map of the world, covered with different coloured drawing pins. His desk was complete with a computer that Rinoa guessed ran a lot faster than her home PC, being very shiny and minimalist.
"I'm getting a strong work vibe here," Rinoa joked walking to the computer. "Does this thing have games?"
"Yeah, but don't tell anyone OK."
Squall was glad that everyone had decided to vacate his office, obviously realising that with his early return they wouldn't be welcome here anymore. Since there was no one to dismiss, Squall took the chair usually reserved for students and allowed Rinoa to sit in his large office chair.
She gave him a smile, running her hands down the dark leather arms of the chair. Squall thought he better get her out of here soon before she started having a power trip.
"Squall, there is something I wanted to tell you…" Rinoa said, her fingers gripping into the leather. "I've been thinking about it for some time now…"
Squall nodded for her to continue. He felt his heart begin to race. He had no idea what she might say. It could be anything from Selphie joined SeeD so I want to too, to I don't want to see you anymore, let's not bother staying friends.
"I want to be a lawyer," Rinoa blurted out before falling into expectant silence.
Squall felt stunned, mainly because of all the things he had been preparing himself for, this was at the bottom of the list. He couldn't believe that he'd worked himself up into a worried state, only for one of Rinoa's random decisions. No, that wasn't fair. If she said she had been considering this for a long time, then he should treat it seriously. It was obviously important to her, even if it seemingly came out of the blue.
"Squall I want to be something I can be proud of. I don't want to get to the end of my life, look back, and think… I wish I'd done something with it."
Squall frowned. This all seemed a little deep. Exactly when had she been contemplating this?
""But why a lawyer? Rinoa, you don't have to do something you think I'll approve of. You can be whatever you want."
Rinoa sighed in exasperation, as if Squall had just said the most obvious thing in the world.
"But Squall, that's just it. I want you to approve. I want everyone to approve. I want people to say, that Rinoa girl, she did all right for herself in the end. Not because I'm my father's daughter, or someone's wife, or a friend of someone famous. But because I worked hard."
Squall leaned back in his chair. Not only had Rinoa been chewing this over in her mind, she'd also been contemplating what his reactions might be. He didn't know if he should be worried or grateful that she was able to predict him so easily. The frown on her face told him that she was thinking again.
"What if they say you had it easy because you're your father's daughter?" he asked. Choosing a career based on what other people thought didn't seem a good idea to him. Not that he'd chosen his career. It had been more a matter of necessity.
Rinoa's foot tapped on the side of the desk as she thought. Squall could see that she was itching to jump out of the chair and begin pacing the room.
"I'll know the truth. That is what is important," she decided resolutely.
Seeing Rinoa restlessly tapping her foot made Squall want to stretch his own legs. He only got halfway across the room before he had a question for her.
"But why a lawyer?" he asked with a little more disbelief that he intended. He regretted his tone. At no point had he thought Rinoa wasn't capable, or that it was a waste of time. He just hadn't seen any of this coming.
"Because Garden is going to need to employ one!" was Rinoa's immediate answer, with her eyes widened as if it was obvious. "I'm surprised you don't have someone in residence already!"
"No. You can't choose a career based on that."
"Because you're not living your life, you're doing something that you think will be beneficial to others."
Rinoa scowled at him. Why did he always have to be so damned sensible? Selphie hadn't been half as hard to convince.
"Isn't that what you do?" she asked scathingly.
"Yes. But you're not in the same position as me. I didn't have a choice. You do."
"And I'm choosing to be a lawyer, and I'm going to work for you."
Squall could see that he wasn't going to win this argument, so he tried a different tack.
"OK, and if it goes wrong?"
"Wrong?" Rinoa asked confused.
"If we break up?" Squall explained, trying to make it sound as hypothetical as possible. The last thing he wanted was another argument.
"Say we do…"
Rinoa huffed and folded her arms.
"Fine, if we do… I shall still be a lawyer. I'll still be me. I'll be able to cope in the world on my own. I know you're just trying to help, but you don't understand. I know that I don't need to work. My dad would give me all the money I want for the rest of my life if I asked him. He'd buy my house, my car, send me on holidays, and fund my shopping sprees. But I don't want to be that girl. I want to be yours!"
Squall stared at her. He still hadn't quite gotten used to the fact that Rinoa wanted to be with him. That all seemed to be some kind of dream that sometimes took over his life. Rinoa misinterpreted his silence for him disagreeing.
"Why would you be interested in me if I had not job, no interests, only spent my daddy's money, and hung around in your life all the time? You wouldn't want that… and I don't want that either. I love you, but it's not your responsibility to look after me. It's mine."
Squall's eyebrows twitched into a puzzled frown. In that sentence, had she just told him that she loved him?
"I just wanted to make sure that you had though about it…" Squall mumbled, his mind still far away, debating whether or not he'd just imagined that.
"I have. It's what I want."
Rinoa wondered why Squall had suddenly just gone very quiet. She was even more confused when he declared that he had to go outside for a moment. Standing up, Rinoa watched him leave the room. As the door shut she realised what she had let slip.
"Oh my God!" she gasped, staring at the door.
Squall felt the door shut behind him and leant against the wall. He didn't know why he had freaked out so much. She might not have even meant it. I could have just been one of those things. Who was he trying to convince? No one had ever said they loved him before, so he wasn't so sure what the protocol was here.
He shook his head. There wasn't a script for this sort of thing. Maybe he could forget about it, pretend he hadn't heard. Would they be moving too fast if he didn't?
Damn it, you'll just have to be honest.
Squall opened the door to find Rinoa on the other side, her hand outstretched as if to open the door also. She looked up at him with a timid expression. Squall's hand seemed frozen on the handle. He had been prepared to find her still in the same position he had left her in, sitting at the desk. Not right here. Not so close.
He stepped closer but Rinoa didn't move.
"Whatever," Squall said before leaning down to kiss her surprised parted lips. "I love you also. Go be a lawyer, see if I care."
"Yes!" Rinoa said excitedly. "You'll visit me all the time OK? And I'll come here every holiday…"
Squall nodded and Rinoa realised that she was wasting time talking, when she should have just been kissing him.
End of Part One… To find Part Two, head over to 'Turnabout is Fairgame' posted now!
End of Part One…
To find Part Two, head over to 'Turnabout is Fairgame' posted now!