Disclaimer: I do not own.

Rating: M for language, violence, sexual content, and drug references.

Author's Note: I must sincerely apologize for the delay. I never take this long to update. I, however, do have an excuse. My computer was seriously infected with viruses and spy ware for the last 3 weeks. I just gave up on it and instead of fixing the computer, I just bought a brand new one. A waste, I know. Lol. But I'm up and running again. Please forgive my lateness. My internet browser wouldn't even open while it was infected. FML. So this is the final chapter to this fan fiction. It's been quite the journey. I've really enjoyed the ride, as I hope you all have as well. Hopefully I will get to hear from you all again in later fan fictions I may write. Have a great holiday season, stay safe, and keep your imaginations goin'. =)

"I'm glad you're here with me, at the end of all things."- Frodo Baggins to Samwise Gamgee, Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King


The ride back to the Garden was longer than it had been on the way down to the Centra Region. The sounds of Squall's labored breathing and lack of communication between those on board the aircraft was enough to make even the most composed individual sweat under the pressure.

"Only a little longer," The aerial watcher would continually remind Laguna and Rinoa, knowing all too well that their worried expressions told of their mental states. They needed to get to the Garden as soon as possible. But what then? Who was to say that they would be able to do anything once they got there?

"I'm sure the doctor can treat bullet wounds like she can the scrape of the knee…right?" Laguna asked softly, more of a rhetorical question than an actual need to have it answered. Of course she could treat bullet wounds. Anyone could treat a bullet wound. It was just whether or not the victim had been reached in time. Time was their enemy now, and there was no ability to win against such a formidable foe. You either triumphed because time let you win, or you failed. Simple as that.

Rinoa shifted in her seat uneasily, continuously glancing in the cargo bay, watching Squall's limp body slide from the turbulence of the aircraft, his face draining of any and all color except for the purple forming on his mouth. The blood that had fallen from his lips upong speaking with her only minutes before had begun to cake onto his face and melted to his features as a temporary part of his identity.

"Balamb Garden in sight."

Laguna and Rinoa jerked their heads upwards, their eyes falling upon the familiar structure of Balamb's Garden. Home.

Kawadoki was rather surprised at Seifer's volunteer effort. He was actually rather helpful. Where he had learned to treat the wounded in such a fashion she was unsure of, nor did it matter. He was actually helping her make a dent in her work. And word had arrived nearly ten minutes before that medical staff from Trabia Garden and Esthar would arrive to help them as well. They were finally able to see the light that was luminously glowing at the end of the proverbial tunnel. This could turn out alright.

"They should be here any moment," Kawadoki informed Seifer, who was busy tending to Quistis.

He gave her a firm nod but said nothing, his brow creased in concentration. While serving as a knight under Edea for longer than he cared to admit, he had become familiar with powerful spells and the remedies necessary for their removal. Selphie had been the easiest to tend to. The saucy woman had suffer the lesser of the wounds inflicted upon the SeeDs. She had received a nasty concussion and a broken leg. Once they had been quite certain that she would not have any more problems from that nasty head trauma, they sent her to the library on a stretcher to recuperate, the library staff to keep a steady eye on her while she was being stationed there.

That left Irvine, Zell, and Quistis.

'What about Rinoa?' His only soft sport. The fighter with black hair that had managed to capture his heart and never release it. Not that she had intended to render him completely and emotionally helpless, but she had. The moment he had taken her into his sights, he had lost.

And even when he had succumbed to the will of Sorceress Edea and Adel and used Rinoa as a sacrifice, he had still loved her then. Stupidity was his only excuse. His pathetic and lonely excuse.

He had been weak. He was always weak. It was more than obvious now. That's what he hated about Squall.

The stupid emo was always strong enough to follow the right and just path. He was always sure of himself enough that as he fell in love with Rinoa, he would not let any harm befall her. He was courageous enough to fight the whole world as Sorceress Rinoa's knight. He was the epitome of a hero that refused to have the limelight shining on his actions. He would rather sulk in the corner and let someone else…anyone else take credit for what he ad done.

When had men's egos become so humble? Even when they had been young Seifer had known Squall to be a different breed of man. Perhaps that's why he had targeted the quiet and emotionally deprived young boy. The young Squall's vibe had been much the same as it was now. Sure, determined, unrequited, loyal, and trustworthy. And now he had the blessing of love to go along with those award-winning morals he lived by. It was sickening but only because he couldn't follow them…he couldn't follow Squall's footsteps eve if he wasn't' insulted by the general idea. There were different types of people in the world and unfortunately, the hero role was not Seifer's. It never was, and it never would be…not to Squall's legendary extent anyways.

This moment, however, belonged to him. He would help save the lives of some of the most honored SeeDs in the history of the world. People would remember him for it. He would be thanked and held in high respect for his time and devotion dedicated to the life threatening situation. This was his moment of glory. Squall could not take it away this time. And for once…he was happy to help.

Kawadoki had moved on to Irvine which had left him to deal with Quistis. Zell remained completely untouched but attached to all kinds of monitoring machinery as they worked vigorously on the other mercenaries. His vitals seemed…decent enough that they were able to work with their minds unhindered by his physical state. As long as his heart rate stayed above 51 rph, then they would have enough time. Bit was getting dangerously low. They needed to work quickly and precisely.

Xu came over the intercom inside the infirmary and informed the two that the last aerial aircraft had docked and that they were rushing more wounded to them.

"More?!" Kawadoki hissed, applying a healing balm to Irvine's arms.

Seifer couldn't help but feel the slight twinge of anger at this announcement. There was no where to put the wounded. They were completely filled to the brim with the three bodies that currently inhabited the ward right now. They had been forced to send Selphie to heal inside the library for SeeD's sake.

After the initial anger of being overcrowded by the injured wore off, Seifer's dark blue eyes widened at the realization that the injured could consist of Rinoa. What had happened to Rinoa?!

"Where are our reinforcements?"

Kawadoki rolled her eyes as she slipped open Irvine's shirt, taking in the full extent of his injuries, "This isn't the battlefield, Commander. Our help should arrive momentarily."

Seifer sighed, applying another potion-like solvent into Quistis' liquid medicine that was being shot through her veins at timed intervals.

He didn't need reminded that this wasn't a battlefield. He was more than aware that he was attempting to save lives instead of end them. He was more than aware the adrenaline pumping through his veins was completely different than the type of adrenaline that would be pumping through him if he were in the midst of clanging weapons and bloodshed.

He didn't need reminded. He didn't want reminded.

It was much harder to navigate through the Garden with a potentially mortally wounded Squall. Every corner that was rounded was another fumbling session for Laguna and the aerial watcher. It wasn't like Squall Leonhart was a small package to be carrying. The man stood fairly tall and his muscle mass outweighed his actual mass. All around he was an awkward object to carry, let alone attempt to keep as steady as possible as they made their frantic run to the infirmary.

"They know that we're coming, don't they?"

The aerial watcher grunted at Laguna's question, trying his best to run backwards, because let's face it: Laguna Loire and backwards running was not a good combination. Ever.

Rinoa had taken up the rear, her worried eyes constantly surveying her lover's condition as he was rushed to the medical staff. He had still to open his eyes again, even with the constant jostling. Not that she really expected him to. Eye contact had not been something that had been established during their trip back to Balamb Garden. Honestly…no response had been made by Squall. The last thing he had said to her was 'I'm sorry'. Just the thought made her stomach lurch and her skin crawl. What was he apologizing for? Certainly not for attempting to kill her against his will…certainly not for going to fight a battle that he couldn't win…certainly not for sending her away to protect her…certainly not for…saying goodbye?

She shook her head angrily, rather annoyed that a thought such as that would cross her mind. This was Squall she was thinking of. He wouldn't ever toss the towel in, not after he had fought so hard to stay in the game. This wasn't over. The book still needed to have an ending, on with Squall alive and happy at the end.

Any other finish would be unacceptable, and she would see to it that such a turn of events was never seen. Squall would live his life. He would be happy. They would be happy. Period. There was no other option. Ever. She was going to help him fight through this…somehow…but how?

Seifer sighed at the response that Quistis was having to his healing balms. She had even grown conscious enough to ridicule him on his technique. She was bound to make a full recovery. He was certain of it.

And Kawadoki had even been able to safely set Irvine on a stretcher and send him to the library to be stationed along with Selphie. Quistis was to be put under the same care and was shipped to the room of knowledge as well.

'She should feel at home there,' The former knight thought grumpily, heading over to Zell's body and lifting him onto the operating table with the help of Kawadoki.

He had received the worst of the injuries from the special ops team. His vitals had been acceptable, no where close to good, but acceptable.

"We need to work quickly."

"Are you sure that there's help comin', old woman?" Seifer grumbled, raising an eyebrow as Kawadoki cut open Zell's shirt and exposed his torso.

She mumbled something under her breath about having to work with a complete dickhead when the doors to the infirmary flew open.

"You can't come in here! We're in the middle of a procedure-!" Kawadoki hissed, immediately regretting her exclamation upon realizing that the interrupting party was none other than the President of Esthar, Laguna Loire, an aerial watcher, Rinoa Heartilly, and a very injured High Commander of all of SeeD and a long personal, although slightly awkward favorite of hers, Squall Leonhart.

"He needs medical help NOW!" Laguna commanded, helping his assisting watcher lift his son's bloodied form onto the other operating table, immediately removing Squall's jacket and wife beater.

Kawadoki's heart fell, "What happened to him?"

"He was shot three times."

Seifer rushed to the table, "By whom?"

Laguna's face burned red as he shook his head gravely, "It's not important. He must be treated immediately."

"Sir, I understand the graveness of the situation but we already have a man that is already under intensive care as well. If we do not begin reconstructive procedures immediately, he could lose his life."

"But Squall will die if you do not act immediately!" Laguna growled, his eyes wind as he tried to point to his son.

Rinoa couldn't take it. Zell was on one table, unresponsive. Squall was on the other, suffering a similar life-threatening condition.

Seifer glanced at the pair as well. Who would have thought…the two best friends of Squall's former unit, both vying for the medical attention, one of them having to forfeit their life for the other…unless their help would arrive in a mere matter of seconds. The question was…who? Who was to be the spare and who was the one to make the decision?

"Why don't we just try to work on them both…Laguna…surely being a specialist in gun tactics you can remove bullets from Squall, freeing up Kawadoki and Seifer to work on Zell?" Rinoa asked hopefully, her anxious face a wide array of emotions.

Laguna swallowed, glancing down at his son. It was enough that he had been the one that had put the bullets in his son to begin with, but now he was to extract them as well?

Rinoa touched Laguna's arm timidly, her large brown eyes conveying her understanding, "Squall needs you to be strong, sir…besides, it shouldn't take as long. Remember? You said two had resurfaced…only one is left inside."

A ray of hope. The president shifted his gaze down to his son and took in the damage. The bullet that remained lodged inside was down towards his stomach, away from any vitals. It had been his first shot, the shot that had been aimed to stun instead of kill.

Seifer threw something into Laguna's palms, his blue eyes cold but sure, "This is what you need. It can reach down into the wound as deep as six inches. If the bullet is still not located within six inches of fishing for it, he must receive an incision and have the bullet removed surgically. If that is the case, I will come assist you, and Rinoa, you will take my place in aiding Kawadoki, understood?"

The newcomers stared at Seifer with unblinking eyes for a moment before they each gave him a dazed nod. The former knight returned the favor and quickly turned back around to help Kawadoki with a fading Zell.

Laguna quickly shred himself of his gloves and sterilized his digits as Rinoa slipped an operating jacket over his battle attire, and a cap to keep his long hair from his line of sight as he attempted to free Squall's body of the enemy that had been lodged inside from the hands of his father.

Rinoa swallowed, her body beginning to feel heavy. The smell of sanitizer and the metallic smell of blood was overpowering in this small infirmary. But she wouldn't let it keep her from being of assistance during this crucial time. If she was to be needed, she was going to act. This was her part…and she was determined to perform her part flawlessly.

The medical staff that had been summoned for aid arrived fifteen minutes later to a room full of shouting and curse words, not to mention a less than pleased president with his hair sprouting off in different directions from underneath a blue medical cap. Had it been under a less serious circumstance, the aid would have found his appearance funny. Instead, they were in fear of his wrathful eyes.

"How far along is this one?" A doctor from Trabia Garden asked, taking a step towards Zell's operating table.

Kawadoki gave him a grave shake of her head but stepped to the side, continuing her efforts as the young doctor joined them in their task, along with a few nurses.

The team from Esthar joined their president in an effort to save his son's life, "Another curaga spell, Rinoa."

Rinoa nodded at the High Commander's father and whispered her incantation, lightly touching Squall's cold hand as a white light enveloped the fighter, replenishing his body to the best of her ability. This was the sixth time she had ben asked to use the spell, along with an esuna spell. A high amount of some unknown toxin had been found to be punishing Squall's already suffering body. Rinoa had suspected that it was the after effects of his possession. With its removal they had been able to focus solely on the recovery effort for SeeD's High Commander.

"Let us take over, sir."

Laguna cast his associates a quick glare before continuing his extraction procedure. They were down to five inches and still no bullet. And at the rate that his vitals kept dropping, they couldn't' afford to keep fishing around for much longer. He needed it out now.

"How many healing spells do you have left. Rinoa?"

Rinoa checked her junction and smiled a bit at her prepared state, something Squall had constantly nagged her about before. She was thankful now, "Eighty-three."

President Loire couldn't help but swell with another round of hope at the level of spells she had in tow, "My boy certainly has some fine taste."

At that thought, Rinoa couldn't help but feel flattered.

"Sir…once the bullet is extracted, what then? Surely you do realize that a mere removal of the bullet will not end this, don't you?"

Laguna stared at his medical staff with confused eyes. Of course he had known…he just hadn't wanted to think about it. He had simply been under the impression that once they were over this mountain that the rest of the journey would be mere hills, hills they could easily overcome. The bullet had been the most important part of the whole process…

Once again, he had been believing a naïve notion. He knew better than to hopelessly believe such things…Squall wasn't out of the woods. A mere removal of a piece of metal wasn't going to free him of his predicament. No.

Then, it happened. The removal tool hit a hard surface. Laguna's eyes immediately fell back down to his son's stomach where the tool had suddenly came to a halt on its journey to locate the bullet.

Laguna pressed down again and felt the hard object again. It could have been only two things: a bone or the bullet. Considering the location of Laguna's exploration, the only possible explanation was the bullet. He had found it.

Bright smiled crossed the faces of everyone around the operating table as the device gripped around the bullet and slowly brought the life-ender to the surface and free of Squall's abdomen.

Rinoa squeezed her beloved's hand and blessed him with another healing spell.

"You've done it sir! Well done. Now let us take it from here."

Laguna stepped back dreamily from his son, his fingers still wrapped around the extraction tool, the bullet still secure between its grips as he held it high for everyone to look at.

They would have relished in the moment a bit longer had it not been for a loud thrashing on the other side of the room, 'Quickly, Rinoa! We need your aid."

Rinoa squeeze Squall's icy hand one more time before rushing to Kawadoki and the others.


"He's had a reaction to our healing balm…I don't know what Squall did to him but-"

Rinoa mentally cursed Seifer's uneducated assumption that Squall had been the one to do this…technically he had been but…it was too long of a story to divulge in the middle of a medical crisis.

"It was some sort of magic."

"How else is better to fight magic than with magic itself?" Kawadoki breathed, wiping her forehead free of sweat.

Rinoa nodded, surveying Zell's mangled form. He had taken this damage in an attempt to protect her from Ultimecia's wrath…he had freely given his life for her. A true friend. They were all true friends, every single one of them. How she could have ever thought differently sickened her at the moment.

"Quickly, you can't delay. He must receive some sort of magic treatment immediately."

The former sorceress grunted her acknowledgement, wracking her brains for any solution.


She couldn't shift her focus, but the shouts from across the room made her heart fall.

"Tie him down."

"Sir, what's happening?!"

"I don't know…just tie him down. I can't have him thrashing about while we're trying to heal him."

"yes sir."

Kawadoki swallowed, staring at Rinoa as she whispered an incantation and Zell's entire body was enveloped in a white light.

"What spell did she use?"

Seifer shook his head gravely. He had been unable to hear her because of the uproar next to them.

The white light enveloping Zell continued to grow. Seifer's eyes rounded, "Rinoa…what are you doing?"

She didn't speak, instead she continued to whisper her spell, her lips moving at an ungodly rate as the light continued to fill the room.

Laguna bit his lower lip as he attempted to restrain his son's mentally unaware body as it continued to convulse. Something was wrong…but what?

Then a white light came over them, blinding them all as a warming sensation filled their bodies. It was-


Where were they? Where was Rinoa? He had to protect Rinoa or else if they ever made it out of this alive, Squall was going to kill him.


He bolted upright, eyes flying open in an effort to quickly take in his surroundings. Where was he?

"Relax…everyone's fine. You're safe. Rinoa is safe. It's alright."

"Where is everyone?" Zell breathed, reclining into his overly large infirmary pillow as he took in the blurry sight of Kawadoki handing him a foam cup filled with ice.

"Quistis, Irvine, and Selphie have been relocated to the library. They have made quite the recovery in the matter of a day and a half. Selphie has even been in the command center helping out Seifer since early this morning."

Zell couldn't help but feel a wave of relief run over him, "And Irvine?"

Kawadoki rolled her eyes, "Don't get me started on him. He's fine. All he's really asked for is a couple of nude magazines and time alone. Selphie smacked him right in his injured arm. The poor guy nearly cried. And then she told him he deserved it, smiled sweetly, and gave him a long kiss. Typical couple."

Zell smirked, "Sounds like Irvine and Selphs."

She shrugged, "Perhaps. I was unlucky enough to be there to witness that event transpire but I suppose I should be thankful, such acts must surely mean they are healed."

The martial artist gave her a wink, "You got it. What about Quisty…how is she? Where is she?"

Kawadoki held her chin up high, staring down at Zell over the ridge of her nose, "The former instructor is fine. She's still in her bed recovering but she's already completing paperwork. She keeps asking for an update on your condition. She has even asked for a personal meeting with you once you are able to meet with her."

Zell blushed and raised an eyebrow, "She did."

The doctor sighed. All these hormones…

"Nothing to worry about. She turned red after she requested the meeting .I have a feeling it has nothing to do at all with the battle."

"And what about Rinoa…how is she feeling? Did she win?" And then it hit him, the sobering thought that made his stomach flip and his heart skip several beats. If Rinoa had won…that meant…Squall had lost.

Kawadoki yawned, sitting down in the chair next to Zell's bed, "She is fine. She's just a little tired. She's the reason you're here, my boy. I don't know what that spell was she used…but it saved and healed everyone in the room."

"Everyone in the room?"

The doctor blew a strand of her hair from her eyes, "Well of course, Dincht. You think you're so special that you get the infirmary to yourself?"

Zell grit his teeth together. This is why he hated coming to the infirmary. The doctor always found a way to insult his intelligence.

"Well who else was here? They're healed you say…who was it?"

Kawadoki couldn't help but smile at him, his nervousness more than evident as he waited for her answer, "Squall Leonhart."

"Are you awake yet? You've been sleeping for a while now…I'm getting lonely."

'Lonely?…where am I? Where is she? Surely I'm dreaming. The last thing I remembered was telling her I was sorry. Have I died? Am I listening to her from my spot in the after life? If this was the after life…why did his body hurt so much?'

"You look so cute when you frown like that."

'CUTE?!' He hated that word.

His eyes instantly flew open and immediately he regretted his forwardness. The bright light stung against his pupils, his teeth grinding together, his air making a hissing noise as he shielded his eyes with his forearm.

A round of laughter followed shortly afterwards, "I knew that would wake you up."

It was Rinoa. She was safe! She was here…she was…laughing.

Slowly he lowered his arm and blinked his eyes into focus. She was sitting beside the bed, leaning her weight on her elbows which she had stationed next to his thigh. She was smiling up at him, her white teeth nearly as bright as the sun from the outside. Where was he?

"Rinoa…w-where are we?"

"Your private quarters."

Finally, he realized she was right. The window was open, contrary to his usual boxed in living space. He liked things dark and secluded. Rinoa had seen to making sure that the room was open and completely invaded with the sun's protruding rays.

"How…did we get here?"

Rinoa giggled again, "It's kind of a long story. But it doesn't matter. We're here. You're safe. I'm safe. Everyone's safe. Everyone, Squall."

Immediately his cloudiness faded and his normal awareness kicked into being as he took in her bright face, "They're all…I didn't…she didn't…"

"I made you stutter? Wow, that's a new one."

He furrowed his brows with irritation. This only caused her to giggle again, "I'm just teasing, Squall. Of course they're alright. The sorceress didn't kill any of them. And you didn't either. Quistis and Selphie are already back to work. Irvine could be working but he's milking this for all its worth."

Squall snorted. Sounded like Irvine.

"What about Zell?"

Rinoa nodded, "Zell is fine too. You two gave us all quite the scare, you know that? We thought we had lost you both there for a while," She added, her eyes filling with fear at the mere memory.

Squall cleared his throat, "But we're fine…I'm fine…just a little-"


He raised an eyebrow, "Definitely."

Rinoa took his hand and squeezed it, "I'll take sore over dead any day."

"How did you…how am I…still here?" He asked her in a whisper, his eyes falling down to busy themselves with her hands.

His angel cleared her throat, "I don't know, to be honest. You were having a deathly reaction to some sort of medical procedure the medics from Esthar were performing on you, and Zell was having a similar problem. You both were…fading. Quickly. I was trying to think of a way to help and then I started saying an incantation."

"What incantation?"

Rinoa shrugged slightly, "I'm not sure," She said, embarrassedly, "I don't even remember what all I said. It's kind of a blank during that time. And then all of a sudden the room went white and when it finally cleared, you and Zell, along with everyone else, was healed."

Squall stared at his beloved for a moment, "You look tired."

She nodded, "I'm pretty tired but I didn't want to leave your side."

"Don't be childish, Rinoa. You need to heal as well. I'm fine. Everyone is fine…you need to sleep."

Rinoa swallowed, trying to fight back her urge to scream. Squall cleared his throat again, "Rin…what is it?"

"I just…I couldn't bring myself to leave. I nearly lost you Squall…I couldn't leave your side. I'm afraid that if I walk away for even a second that the moment I turn my back, you'll be gone. That this is all just a dream and that when I wake, I'll still be on the battlefield and you'll still be face first in the mud. I can't…I can't lose you again."

The High Commander watched her fight back her tears. Her mouth trembling. Those pretty lips fighting against breaking down.


She shifted her eyes so that she could look up at him through heavy lashes. He swallowed and slowly raised his hand, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, "I'm sorry."

Her back went rigid, "You said that too…why did you apologize? It's been killing me!"

Squall blinked at her, rather unsure of what she meant…and then it hit him. The moment he was placed in the cargo bay of the aircraft.

"I…you had asked me to tell you something and I wasn't going to be able to tell you…I didn't know if I was ever going to be ever to tell you again."

Rinoa frowned, "You had…given up?"

Squall tore his attention away from her eyes and instead busied himself with the ceiling, "Rinoa…"

She shook her head angrily, "Squall Leonhart does NOT give up. Ever. You're a fighter. You always look in the face of death and deny it entrance. That time was no different. Had it been anyone else they would have fallen but you…you fought your way through it. You came back to me."

"Only because of you."

The former sorceress stared at him with surprise, "M-me? Don't be silly…I just talked to you. Since when does that save someone's life?" At this she laughed lightly.

Squall swallowed again, "Rinoa…you…you saved me."

She jerked her head upwards, her mouth falling open, "I what?!"

His light blue eyes fell back to her dark brown ones, "I…I heard you call to me. I was lost. But you found me. I couldn't see, but you led me back to this world. You never quit. You saved me."

Rinoa felt her cheeks turn red, "Squall, you give me too much credit."

"I don't give you enough credit, Rinoa."

She smiled softly, "You're embarrassing me."

'You don't even know the half of it.' He thought to himself, his openness beginning to make him feel awkward, "Thank you, Rinoa. You saved my life twice."

She rolled her eyes, nudging his thigh, pushing him towards the other side of the bed. He held back a need to explode at the pain that shot through his body as she joined him in the bed, nestling up next to him, her head on his chest, "Well just consider it a repayment of some of the many times that you've saved me, Squall."

A deep rumble sounded through his chest. It never surfaced its way through his mouth but she knew he had begun to chuckle.

"What do we do now?" She asked, her fingers tracing patterns on the covers of his bed.

Squall leaned back, trying to find a comfortable position, "We reconstruct the damaged Gardens. We help the Magic Military gather their wounded and prepare a mass funeral, including one for their fallen leader, Alec."

"We already informed his brother about Alec's death."

Squall grunted his approval, "Has his body been recovered?"

Rinoa nodded, "We have it frozen down in the lab."

"Good. We will return it this evening."

"Yes sir, High Commander," Rinoa teased, squeezing Squall's midsection, "Do you ever not work? How about you just relax with me? You're still injured…remember?"

"You want me to act like Irvine?" Squall hissed, clearly appalled by the general idea.

The rebel shook her head, "No…Irvine is perfectly fine. You're still hurt. I can tell by the way you move. And I'm tired. There's nothing wrong with one more day of rest."

"Rinoa, I can't just-"

"You're staying in bed today and that's an order!" She snapped, her face more than clear that she meant business.

Squall couldn't help but give her that odd smile that only she knew, "…Yes ma'am."

Rinoa grinned, "That's right. Now…" She said, positioning herself so that she could look at him better, her mouth curving into a sly smile, "Tell me where it hurts the most, sir."

The warrior raised an eyebrow, "Pardon?"

"Oh, your mouth. I see. Well there's really only one kind of treatment for that kind of injury."

"I never said-"

She sealed her lips over his instantly, cutting off his sentence and his thought process. His mouth instantly warmed and returned the gesture eagerly. Those lips had saved his life. With just the whisper of his name she brought him back to the world of the living, and just with the pressure of those pieces of skin against his own had returned him to the point of origin, stirring instincts and needs that even the primal man knew. Love and lust.

He removed his mouth from hers, letting her catch her breath, "Rinoa, I owe you something."

This caused her to blink, "Hrmm?"

He nodded, "You asked me…before I apologized on Centra Region. You asked me for something and I never gave it to you."

Instantly her memory kicked in, "You're going to give it to me?"


She grinned, "Squall-"

He shook his head, instantly silencing her, "One more time you asked to hear it. You deserve it."

She waited patiently, knowing all too well that emotions and Squall never mixed well. Ever. But he seemed determined to give this to her. She had heard him say it before he had gone off to battle. Now that life wasn't in the balance…it would be entirely different to hear. This time it would be breathtaking and core shaking. It wouldn't be a goodbye. It wouldn't be a surrender. This time…it would be everything she had dreamed of.


This time…it would be all theirs. It was always going to be theirs.

"I love you."

At this, those lips that had saved his life, those lips that he had come to love and adore, those lips that held all the world in balance, pressed over his hungrily, returning the notion physically. The world was theirs now. Sure there would be more battles to come and sure there would be times when they felt like killing each other…but it was worth it. Love is never easy.

But the idea and prospect of love was more than enough to venture through life with. Squall was the man she had dreamed of. Maybe not exactly the way she had pictured her prince charming…but dreams weren't always meant to be perfect. He loved her. She loved him. He treated her like royalty. He would protect her with his own life. Anything she wanted he fought to give her. And he danced with her…even if he couldn't dance. He would humiliate himself just to give her a second's happiness. And he was gorgeous to boot. This was her fairy tale come to fruition. This was her happy ending. Her friends were happy and healthy. The planet was safe. And the man she loved was going to be with her forever.

The intercom crackled and a bright and booming voice filled the speakers, "Squall Leonhart. It's your daddy! I'm comin' for a visit. Get your pants on!"

Squall's face whitened and his mouth fell open in surprise, his hand instantly bracing itself against his forehead, his typical gesture of humiliation.

Rinoa smiled.

It couldn't get much happier than that.

………..Fin! I hope you all liked it. I know it delayed but I hope the length and substance made you all happy. I hope to hear from you all in my future fanfics. But until then, stay safe. Keep reading. And keep dreaming.

With all my love,