Wow, it has been well over a month since I have updated this story and I apologise for that. Truth is, I've been so busy with other stuff and for a while BTA took precedence since so many of you favoured that one.
But try as I might, I really did try to make this chapter long, but it just wouldn't. I think that is a benefit, the last chapter is always sweeter when its direct and to the point and with 3000 words, I hope I've done just that.
So without futher delays, I give you the last chapter to The Set Up.
Chapter 23 - The Set Up
After the talk with Laguna, Squall talked to Rinoa about his plan to bring the two nations together. The new bride had excitedly agreed and the two called the General about their idea. Of course, this brought some questions to the sincerity of their marriage, but both had denied ever thinking of the idea before. It was a long shot that either countries would agree, so their marriage based on this idea was all the more futile. After excessively promising that their marriage was for them alone, General Caraway agreed to the Press Conference and apologised for doubting their intentions.
Laguna then took it upon himself to start arranging a Press Conference in the coming week.
Squall had to remain at home, bedbound more or less, due to his injuries. Rinoa on the other hand, had to unpleasantly return to school with out him.
Upon entering school a lot of people had noticed Squall's Griever ring nestled comfortably on the necklace around Rinoa's neck. She herself couldn't help but play around with it, and on the one incident, show it off in her Art lesson in plain view of Lauren, whose face couldn't get any greener. She had admitted that they were seeing one another, withholding their marriage announcement for Squall to make himself. Only Selphie and Irvine were clued in at lunch, both extremely happy for the couple, but regretting their lack of involvement. After promising that there would be a proper reception, and promising Selphie that she'd handle the decorations, Rinoa had the two smiling again.
"Wow, I just can't believe so much happened and we weren't even there!" Selphie exclaimed during lunch.
"Well trust me, you didn't miss anything exciting in Centra." Rinoa sarcastically retorted.
"How's Squall's injuries?" Seifer asked sitting opposite from Selphie.
"Getting better, though he still has to use the crutches to move about."
"It feels weird not having Squall around." Zell commented, causing his friends to lower their gaze to the empty seat next to Rinoa.
Rinoa parked up Squall's Audi at the Loire home and got out of the car dragging her school bag with her. Ellone's car wasn't parked in the driveway so she assumed the older girl must have gone to a lecture.
It felt slightly surreal that the Loire home was now part hers. She never imagined when she got to Balamb that she'd be living in a brand new house, with a new husband and a complete new family. It felt surreal, but it felt nice.
Skipping the rest of the way to the house, she took out the spare key given to her by Laguna and inserted it into the lock. Once she entered the house she kicked off her shoes, putting them into the shoe closet and ran up the stairs to her new bedroom.
Squall was up and on his laptop, writing up his speech for the Press Conference. A mug of coffee sat next to him, cold and untouched.
"You home?" Squall muttered, his hands moving at lighting speed.
"Yeah." Rinoa replied and walked up to him.
Now by his side he turned to her and met her welcoming kiss. She turned to the laptop screen and read his recent update.
"Sounds good." She complimented and patted his back.
"Let's just hope they agree." He replied seriously.
At 6pm the doorbell to the Loire's home was rung repeatedly. Rinoa, being in the kitchen about to get dinner prepared, walked over to the door frowning.
Opening the door she found none other than Selphie and the rest of the gang in tow.
"Hey, what's up?" She asked, moving out of the way and allowing everyone in.
"We've come to have our very own party." Selphie cried holding up bags of shopping.
"What for?" Rinoa questioned as Zell and Seifer made their way in holding more food and drink, and a distinctly square-shaped white box which probably carried a very tasty cake.
"For your wedding, duh!" Selphie cried and shut the door tightly.
After all the food was placed on the living room table and the necessary cutlery and dishes were put out, Squall made his way downstairs to meet the gang. He had heard of their arrival but wanted to finish of his speech before he met them.
Now all seven teens sat in the living room talking and reminiscing on their earlier days. It felt nice to sit without any more worries, not feeling the expectations of some form of danger hiding behind a mask, or the unknown feelings of a loved one. Now everything was out in the open, all the hurt and danger had subsided. Now was a time for ease.
"Well, the winter holidays are coming up, what are our plans?" Selphie asked the group. Everyone thought, everyone apart from Squall and Rinoa.
"We're staying right here in Balamb." Rinoa said with conviction.
"I think we've had enough adventure to last us a life time." Squall followed on.
"Aww, I wanted us all to go to Fisherman's Horizon." Selphie replied sadly.
"What's there?" Seifer asked curiously. It seemed FH was just a small town with hardly anything to do apart from fishing.
"I don't know, I've never been there before." The petite brunette replied.
"We should go Deling City." Zell added quickly.
"Yeah that could be fun, us girls can go shopping and you boys can check out the Gran Prix." Quistis replied, remembering her experiences of Deling City when she visited Rinoa.
"Well, Squall and I were talking about the wedding reception, and we're thinking of having it in Deling City, in the Town Hall district where they hold the parade, so everyone can attend." Rinoa said after some thinking. "We could arrange the wedding during the winter holidays."
"Oh you're going to be a snow bride!" Selphie cried out in excitement.
Rinoa just laughed. She looked over at Squall and caught his longing eyes. She stuck out her tongue at him and continued to munch her food.
"So do you all think everything is settled?" Irvine asked suddenly. "I mean, Ultimecia and all her goons?"
Cautious eyes panned the room looking at each other.
"Why, what have you heard?" Quistis asked, mirroring Rinoa's thoughts.
"Oh no." Irvine smiled. "Nothing. I was just wondering if everything was truly over."
Squall sighed and thought before he decided to speak. They didn't have any guarantee, nor any promise that things were looking rosy, the only thing they could do now was hope and pray that things truly were over.
"I'd like to sit here and say that everything will be fine." Squall finally spoke. "But I'd be deluding myself and you all if I did. I don't know what the future will bring, heck I don't even know if my Press Conference will put things right. The one thing I do know is that I'm not living my life in fear. Whatever tomorrow has, bring it on." He finished.
Looking at his friends he could see the looks of admiration, loyalty and love from each one of them. It was their way of showing him that they'd be right there, side by side, fighting tomorrow along with him.
"Here, here." Rinoa mocked, raising her glass.
"Here, here!" They screamed in unison.
"Ok, who wants cake!" Selphie cried shooting up and running for the fresh cream cake sitting on the kitchen worktop.
The day for the Press Conference had arrived. Rinoa and Squall had made their way with Laguna and General Caraway to the Balamb Town Hall. The main hall was quite large, marble flooring and big sturdy pillars attracted most of the attention that little detail was given to the other décor around the room. Seats were spread across the floor for the guests as well as the photographers and news reporters.
The chatter in the hall was to an astounding level, no one knew what they were about to hear, just that President Laguna and General Caraway were about to shed some light on the recent events leading to the civil riots in Galbadia.
Behind the curtain, Rinoa and Squall stood listening to the loud murmurings of people present. Squall was running his lines over in his head while Rinoa stood next to him, holding his hand for moral support.
"Guys," Laguna called out to them, "it's show time."
Squall took a deep breath and walked out to the front of the stage with Rinoa in tow. The entire hall went silent watching as the two fathers sat down next to the two strangers. Rinoa Heartilly was eventually noticed and the audience were only curious about the young boy's hand she was still clinging to.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, myself and General Caraway thank you for attending this Press Conference in such short notice. We have some news to shed on the recent events that took place in Galbadia and Centra. But firstly, I would like to introduce you to my son Squall Leonhart, who has something to say to you all." Laguna's long introduction finally ended with a lot of hushed remarks of surprise and the immediate flashing of cameras trying to get a shot of Squall.
Squall cleared his throat and bent forward to speak into the microphone.
"Good afternoon. My name is Squall Leonhart, I am the son of Laguna Loire and Raine Leonhart-Loire. I'm seventeen years old and I attend Balamb High School." He started off.
Looking around the room, Squall could see eyes silently watching him, waiting for him to continue.
"About three months ago, Rinoa Heartilly moved to Balamb. She was staying with her cousin who also attends our school. Through these months we have gotten to know each other very well, I was present during the false allegations made against her on numerous occasions, and I was with her when she was attacked in Centra, which you are all aware of." He continued before taking a deep breath.
Rinoa sitting next to him squeezed his hand, reminding him that she was still there.
Smiling Squall once again continued.
"What you have read in the newspapers about Rinoa Heartilly has been lies. I don't need to go into details about what were lies and what weren't, but the only thing I will say is that Rinoa Heartilly has one of the most kindest, caring hearts I've ever seen and she did nothing to deserve the brutal attacks from Ultimecia."
A couple of whispers started from the back, it seemed people still weren't satisfied with Squall's explanation.
"I asked you here Ladies and Gentlemen, to ask for a chance. A chance to see Galbadia and Esthar unite. I am the son of the President of Esthar, I am an Estharian. However, I am also from Galbadian decent, as is the young lady next to me. Please do not let our past generations dictate how we live our lives. Please do not sacrifice our livelihood for the mistakes of others."
Sitting up straight, Squall looked into the eyes of some of the reporters.
"We, the younger generation, want to see a peaceful, united world. We do not want to live in a world with hate, war and violence. If we can accept each other's ethnic background, please join us, celebrate and end this futile feud between our countries."
A hum of agreement was heard amongst the crowd. It seemed the plea of the young boy was finally settling in the hearts of people.
"Please celebrate with us. Myself, and my Galbadian wife, Rinoa Heartilly." Squall finally finished and put his arm around Rinoa.
The camera's couldn't get enough, flashes kept rolling as the reporters started calling out for further verification. One eventually was given priority and Squall answered his dire question.
"You did not hear wrong. Rinoa and I were married in Esthar, both our fathers agreed. We've been in love since the day we met and the only positive things that came out of everything we've been through, is how stronge as a couple we've become and our marriage."
The questions continued and Rinoa soon took it upon herself to answer some and give a detailed explanation.
"Regardless of whether some people like our relationship, we know that it feels right. I was saved by my husband when I was in Centra. I thank him for it, and I love him even more for it. And when he was attacked because of me, I donated blood to him when he was in need, not to pay him back, but because that's what you do when you love someone, that's what you do for family."
The question and answer session took a little longer than expected, but Rinoa and Squall were willing to answer the world's questions if it meant Galbadia and Esthar uniting.
"I thank you all for your time and presence." Caraway soon ended the conference. "We hope to see you all, and the entire Esthar nation, at the wedding reception on the 18th of December held at the Deling City Parade."
Like teenagers' hyper and excited reaction to a high school party, the press reacted just the same. It seemed on the base of all the emotions that things between Esthar and Galbadia were finally looking positive.
The alarm clock sitting on the night-stand table next to the bed turned to 7:00am and within a millisecond an alarm could be heard. The figure lying on the right side of the bed yawned and placed a hand on the alarm's 'stop' button forcing the tune to stop. The figure lying on the bed arched its back; spread its arms and legs, pulled at its muscles crying out slight cries of morning pleasure. Rolling over and facing the raven haired sleeping on the left, it could make out that she still had her eyes closed. A few streaks of hair were covering her face. The figure blew into the raven haired's face trying to remove the hair. A grumble from the girl's mouth at first could be heard. Laughing the figure attempted again to blow into the girl's face. This time she was more receptive.
"Mmm… Squall." She still had her eyes closed but faintly murmured.
The figure laughed and blew again into the raven haired's face getting the same reply. Finally, after becoming bored of the same reply, the figure started tickling the girl. At this the girl shot open her eyes and burst into a series of laughter a second later.
"st… sto…. Stop… please… stop…" The girl attempted through her laughter. The figure kept on tickling at the raven haired's side, all the while laughing.
"please… stop… STOP IT SQUALL!" The girl finally managed to break free still laughing and looked at the brunette haired figure sitting on her bed.
"I knew that would wake you up." Squall said through his smirk. He lay back down on the bed and looked up at the plastered ceiling.
"Squall, I was having such a nice dream!" Rinoa moaned and pulled the covers back up to cover her body.
Turning to her side he held her slender body under the covers and shuffled closer to her.
"You'd rather dream then be here with me?" He teased.
She poked his shirtless abs, causing him to suck his stomach in on instinct.
"No, but the dream did involve you." She said flirtingly.
"Hmm? What was I doing in the dream?" He asked wanting to know more.
"Not telling." She replied and stuck her tongue out at him.
"You keep sticking your tongue out like that, and I'm going to have to bite it off." He jokingly threatened her.
"Eww." She giggled and snuggled closer to him.
The room seemed colder now, so she held on to him using his body to heat her own.
"You're shaking." He commented when he felt her shudder. "Put some proper clothes on and you wont be so cold."
"No." She said defiantly. "And why'd you set your alarm on a weekend?"
"I didn't, it's automatic." He replied.
"Hm." She replied and looked up to him. "You looking forward to the big day?"
"Yes." Squall automatically replied to her question.
"Really?" Rinoa asked slightly in disbelief.
"Yup, I'd keep on marrying you all over again if I had the chance." He replied smirking.
"You, Squall Leonhart, are a smooth talker." She teased, tickling him back.
Squall reacted on instinct and pulled her hands away. Wrapping his arms around her, he pulled her in again and closed his eyes.
The two were quiet again, the silence surrounding them and covering them in a blanket of drowsiness. Rinoa could feel the tug of sleep on her eyes again and allowed it to overcome her.
Squall's light breathing was all that could be heard as he soon followed Rinoa into the warmth of sleep and loosened his grip on her.
"Hey Squall." Rinoa whispered before drifting back to sleep.
"Yeah." Squall hoarsely replied, the tugging of sleep reeling him in.
"Did Anior and Llauqs end up together then?" She couldn't help but ask.
A smiled crept up to Squall's face as he remembered back to the day they met. She had asked him that question and he had replied without a proper answer.
"Yeah, they did." He answered. And though he had his eyes closed he could sense a smile from her.
Finally sleep was dragging Rinoa out of consciousness. But not before she heard Squall's question.
"Hm?" She asked nearly nodding off.
Clearing his throat slightly he kept his eyes closed and asked again.
"You think we'll be together forever?" He asked again.
Smirking she answered back. "Maybe."
Though she had given him an indefinite answer and he could hear the humour in her voice, the tightness of her grasp on his body told him otherwise. He knew from all their experiences and the way she felt about him, her answer was yes.
"Definitely." They both whispered to each other and finally, clinging onto one another, drifted off into a soundless sleep.
Can you believe that today is exactly 7 months since I started this story?
Can you believe that today is exactly 7 months since I started this story?
I want to thank every fan, and every person who has read and reviewed this story, it really does mean a lot to me.
I want to especially thank crepusculo4ever and Trev James for reviewing every chapter on time. I know a lot of other people have done this too, but these two literally review the day I post and never leave an update unreviewed (on all my stories), so thank you for the motivation and encouragement.
Also, a major thank you to my good ol' pal n9neSTAR, who will probably read this in a month or two since she is so busy. But this story was posted for her, and it was continued with her encouragement and motivation and I probably wouldn't have written or continued to stay on this site had I not stumbled upon From Riches To Fame.
I really hope you all enjoyed this story, I'd be happy to answer any questions on the story, or anything you feel wasn't mentioned. The part with Lauren was very small, that being, Rinoa is just too sweet and cool to bother with idiots like her.
So thanks once again, I know I'll read through this and be like "Oh, I should have added this." But, the time has come to finally close this e-book.
But, like Squall said, I dont know what tomorrow will bring, but I hope this isn't the end for me. I have more ideas involving Squinoa and can't wait to share them with you all. ^^