Author's Notes: First and foremost, thank you all for sticking with me for ten years! I can't believe I've been doing this a decade - obviously not on this account, but under the Ashbear name. In case you're wondering why I posted this under my secondary account, it's because I wanted to have all one-shots posted here. This way I could keep "Ashbear" exclusively for multi-chaptered fics.
As far as "Waking Moments" goes – it's a 'scene' from the Dancing in Time/Endless Waltz universe, but I also wanted to be able to look at this as a stand-alone. For those not familiar with the series, don't worry, it's hopefully not necessary.
The story does follow basic canon, but to be safe, I'll give a little background about this particular scene. Rinoa has been living at Garden for around five months, working as an assistant for Cid Kramer. Sorceress and Knight have been taking their relationship at their own pace and, after a long night of talking, Rinoa fell asleep – Squall then moved her to his room, while he took the floor. At this point, he woke her up (by not so kindly pouncing like a lion onto the bed) and she's attempting to drag herself out from under the covers. Squall moved into an 'apartment' a few months prior and, aside from a few random items, he doesn't own furniture – that's been a running joke throughout.
I also wanted to keep this scene as a standalone because it was one of the very first things I ever wrote for the series. It's kind of random... and I won't tell you exactly where I got the inspiration from. I'll only mention two important factors on that matter – mix my (then) seven-year-old son's curiosity and the words 'beep beep!' ;)
July 19th, 6:37am
Dragging herself to the bathroom, Rinoa freshened up as much as possible. She splashed some water on her face and redid her ponytail the best she could. Looking at a small clock, she shook her head in disbelief. Nobody in their right mind should get up this early, on the weekend, on purpose. The sun was just barely up… This was wrong on so many levels.
Leave it to her to fall in love with a morning person.
Even as she stared at her reflection, it was hard to trust her eyes. She had never believed he would allow her to stay overnight. To wake up in his bed, although he was ever-the-gentleman taking the floor, was a step in their relationship that couldn't be denied. She tried not to wonder too much if his actions were more strategic than anything else.
She tried to convince herself that the reasons shouldn't matter – the result was what spoke volumes. The fact he had invited her over the night before for an impromptu 'hotdog picnic' on the floor was something she never would have expected. Of course, he had only done that as an act of surrender after inadvertently upsetting her, but he made the time to listen. Before they knew it, one hour turned into two, and two into more - she had just closed her eyes for a second but a second was all it took.
And for whatever reason, whether tactical or emotional, he allowed her to stay.
Turning off the bathroom light and glancing at the unmade bed, she realized it had been ages since she had slept anywhere that soundly. Then again, that was rudely cut short by his incessant desire to get up at some godforsaken hour. Apparently, because she was there, his unexplainable desire included her by proxy.
In this moment, she had a new objective in this relationship.
Along with the challenges they would face and the hurdles they would have to overcome – she vowed the unthinkable – to get Squall Leonhart to sleep in until at least ten.
It would be a formidable goal, but one she was determined to face head-on.
Making her way into the living room, she flopped down on a few pillows that he now had propped up against the wall. The guy needed furniture, damn it. She made it her mission to drag him to town and into a furniture store. She had faced Ultimecia with him; however, the world of retail sales seemed even more ominous and insurmountable task.
Her thoughts were interpreted as the overwhelming aroma of coffee caught her attention. She turned to see him standing there with a freshly poured cup in hand.
Rinoa gratefully accepted the mug from his hands. "Thank you."
He gave her a compliant nod before turning around and walking off. At that point, she had expected him to go back to into the kitchen, most likely to grab a cup of coffee for himself, but instead, he headed to his bedroom. This was only a small reminder of why it was never good to assume anything in regards to Squall Leonhart – he was predictably unpredictable. He often had this truly unique habit of doing the exact opposite of whatever she expected.
A minute or two later, Rinoa found herself once again surprised by his actions. This time he walked out from the master bedroom - a small, portable television in hand. The thing had been in his closet and, honestly, she sometimes had her doubts to whether it even worked anymore. She figured that he looked at the set as nothing more than very large paperweight or, at the very least, a very irritating annoyance that's sole purpose in life was to gather dust. As he walked by, he managed to bend down and hand her the remote that he had expertly been balancing atop the television.
"Wow, I didn't realize I was staying at a service hotel," Rinoa quipped with coffee in one hand, a remote in the other.
She watched as he placed the television on the floor, messing with it slightly, before plugging it in. When he still hadn't responded to her last comment, she added, "Well, apparently the bellboy has quite the attitude, but at least he's worth looking at."
"Whatever." His one-word reply was accompanied by a tiny hint of a smile.
After he left the area, she turned on the power and mindlessly flipped through channels, looking for nothing in particular. It was then that a bowl of cereal was placed in front of her face, much in the same fashion the coffee had been a few minutes earlier.
"You cooked," she stated sarcastically. "Your awesome culinary skills, show them to me."
He again held his response. Instead, opting to return to the kitchen and retrieve his own coffee and cereal. He waited until taking the seat next to her before finally offering his opinion on the matter.
"I don't think you have room to talk. Remember, I'm the one who can actually cook between us. I'm just the one who doesn't own groceries. So your cooking skills and my shopping skills – pretty much comparable."
She had to admit that she often loved his affinity for sarcasm, even if the timing was sometimes a tad bit off. It was one of those things few outside their group were even aware existed. Still, she wasn't about to concede defeat on her game so easily; she had that façade of being stubborn to uphold after all.
"Well… it appears as if this establishment's head chef and bellboy are equal both in hotness and in attitude. I'm sincerely starting to question the hiring practices around here. I'm afraid I'm going to have to write this hotel a strongly-worded letter. Worse yet, when I leave my online review, it appears as if I'll have to give you only two stars out of a possible five."
"Two stars, huh?" He crooked an eyebrow as he turned to look at her. "See, here I was being chivalrous… I even let you have the one bowl I own for cereal while I settled for using the gravy boat... However, after being informed of your impending two-star rating, I'm strongly reconsidering my stand. Not to mention, I thought your so-called 'hotness' factor would at least be deserving of an automatic three stars."
She looked over at him, mockingly rolling her eyes. "Fine, your point is duly noted. So, reconsidering the hotness of the entire staff, plus the fact I'm not using the gravy boat, I'm officially going with a four-star rating. The last thing I want to do is be banned from the place, I'd kinda like to come back in the future." There was definitely an implied meaning in her comment, but he either didn't catch it or purposely glossed over it. If she had to venture a guess, she would choose the latter.
She smiled. "Well stars, like relationships, both take hard work and dedication to achieve. I just can't hand them out willy-nilly."
"Willy-nilly?" he questioned. "Sometimes I forget you're from Deling until something like that slips out."
"You know, you have some pretty weird sayings here in Balamb too like, um…" Of course, given the ridiculous time of day and lack of caffeine in her system, trying to come up with a specific example seemed impossible.
"Well, sadly, they're all escaping me at the moment, but darn it – they're weird and next time I hear one, I'll be sure to point it out." She sighed overdramatically, conceding her point. "Just, never mind… eat your cereal before it gets cold."
He so badly wanted to interject that, in fact, he was eating cold cereal to begin with but decided it best to let this one go. He had worked hard for that four-star rating and jeopardizing would just be foolish at this point.
So, he opted to go in a different direction. With coffee in hand, he leaned over skillfully, giving her a soft and lingering kiss on her lips. She seemed slightly taken aback, but offered no protest.
Rinoa was shocked to say the least, but at least had the foresight to secure her coffee. The last thing she needed was a scolding burn or, with her luck, stain his carpet. Still, from all their conversations last night, to everything this morning – it was so much to mentally absorb.
Honestly, since the defeat of Ultimecia she felt as if her emotions had been on the proverbial rollercoaster over the last five months. At times, she would find herself joking or kidding around with him but, at other times, she would basically being pouring out her heart and every one of her insecurities.
Of course, there were also times of annoyance and frustration that were shared by both parties; but those feelings, she supposed, were normal in any relationship. Given that they were not 'normal' by most standards, with their bond and his position, there was some odd comfort in that fact. Even after being part of the team that helped stop time-compression and the pasts that both of them had to face - she was glad that something in her life, in their life, could fit into the realm of normalcy.
It might take longer for them than some couples; the intimacy of trusting one with everything you are and ever have been - mistakes, fears, and all didn't come easy for either of them, but the journey was certainly worth the reward.
No matter how big or small, she just wanted him to know her for everything she was - flaws and all.
Still, right now wasn't the time to over think things; she just needed to be thankful for these little moments together. It was obvious they were finding their own pace with the relationship. It might not have been perfect for everyone, but it was perfect for them.
So, instead of endlessly thinking herself in circles, Rinoa focused all of her attention back towards the television. Maybe it wasn't the best solution by far, but at least it would buy them both some time to sort these feelings out – not everything could be sorted out in a night, a week, or even months but, no matter their pace, they were both moving forward and that truly was the bottom line.
After flipping through countless channels, something caught her eye. She happened across an old cartoon program that she remembered from her childhood. Setting the remote down, she kept her attention focused on the screen. In between bites of cereal she asked him a question, although she was already fairly certain of the answer.
"So, I'm going out on a limb here and venturing a wild guess… you probably never watched much television growing up, did you?"
As she ate, she glanced in his direction and was somewhat surprised to find that he appeared to be watching the show.
"No, not really. Maybe, here and there, bits and pieces. Mainly I watched a lot of academic and training videos."
This time, when she rolled her eyes, there was nothing 'mock' about it. "Only you would count that as 'watching television.' So, I'm also pretty safe in assuming that you never watched any cartoons?"
He shrugged indifferently, although his eyes never left the television. "Well, I believe some of the training videos had animations depicting battle diagrams. It was easier to display troop movement and tactical counter-movement with graphics and-"
Squall stopped himself mid-sentence as he realizing just how pathetic this was sounding. Even he had to cringe at the words coming out of his mouth. "I mean no cartoons, not that I can recall."
The next few minutes were spent in complete silence, save for random sound effects coming from the television. Rinoa was last to finish her cereal and as she set the bowl down, she again chanced another look in his direction. To her surprise, and slight horror, he was no longer just casually watching the television, but seemed to be intently hypnotized by it.
Squall Leonhart was watching children's animation. She almost had to laugh, or get a camera, or both but better judgment cautioned against either of those options.
She just sat there and watched him, watching the TV.
"You really did miss out on all the good things in life."
Her statement carried an obvious undertone. It was never meant as a question, she already knew the answer. Whether her words even registered with him or not wasn't clear, but it truthfully didn't matter.
To Rinoa, televisions shows like this reminded her of a time of innocence that had passed - a time when she could run down the hall and jump in bed with her mother. It was also a time when she was willing and excited to get up earlier on a weekend morning; a time when the wonders of television took precedence over a few more minutes of sleep.
To Squall, it was a piece of childhood that he had never experienced. It was something frivolously at best and with no educational merits at worst. It was something fascinating and flippant at the same time; there was no logic or order to its existence, but therein laid the beauty.
It just was.
It was a representation of youth, containing the aspects of a childhood that should have always been but was always just out of reach. He tried to remember if he had seen anything like this back at his days at the orphanage, but even if he had, those memories were so deeply buried that they may never be found.
Still, he doubted that Cid and Edea had the means as there were both financial and physical barriers at play. Back then, their home in Centra was extremely isolated and, given the conflicts with Adel, communication was limited. Restrictions were placed on all types of radio and carrier waves and if you weren't in a metropolitan area, it was nearly impossible to get a signal back then.
So, to fill that void of a childhood never known, he watched…
It was almost a childlike fascination at first, until that more academically-minded side kicked in. Try as he might, it was hard to take the entertainment at face value. Maybe it was his military training, or maybe it was no longer thinking like an adolescent, but whatever it was, he knew one thing was for sure, this show was just horrifying. When it finally broke for a commercial, he could no longer keep his opinion to himself.
"I-I can't believe how violent this is. Networks purposely put this on television for children to watch? What are they teaching kids?"
If Rinoa had a thousand years to guess, she never would have believed those the first words from his mouth. Then again, in a thousand years, she never would have pegged him as watching cartoons for more than a few passing seconds.
"The commander of a military academy is saying this? You're kidding right?" She had to laugh at this reaction. Certainly any comment about 'teaching children violence' seemed the epitome of irony coming from him.
However, his concern laid less with the irony and more with the physics of the program.
"No, Rinoa... seriously... I'm not getting the point. The entire premise is based on some lesser animal trying to hunt a very fast bird? Why would that Triface keep chasing that Gold Chocobo in the first place? It's obviously stealthier, smarter, and has a much better junction to luck than the Triface."
She couldn't even say the words aloud and ended up mouthing them. "Are you kidding me?"
Of course he did not see her, as his focus was still on the television even though it had gone into commercial. Instead, he just continued his tirade against the logistics of the show, rather than the fantasy.
"Plus, how realistic is it that the Chocobo ran through a tunnel that was just painted black? We all saw the Triface paint it on the side of cliff, the laws of physics don't work that way. I tell you - one day a kid will try this and get seriously injured."
He paused as his lips curled into a smile. "Hey, I think I just solved the mystery of Zell."
"Oh you are so incorrigible, Leonhart."
"Hey, at least I'm not the one giving children the idea of tying rockets to their backs while wearing roller-skates. Plus, if one is falling down a large ravine…their first instinct shouldn't be to hold up a sign that states 'help.' If there's enough time to pull poster board and markers out of thin air, there's more than amble time to cast a Float spell. Not to mention, how does that Triface keep ordering from that company that sells him all these gizmos and gadgets? Who would extent him a line of credit? He's a Triface. I doubt he has a steady enough income or collateral…a few screws and Cura spells maybe, but a decent credit history? I doubt that. They're in the middle of a desert, how's it getting delivered in the first place?"
Rinoa sighed in defeat. Any progress that was made seemed to have fallen down the metaphorically ravine along with the hapless Triface.
"Fine, Squall, maybe next year Garden can show this as a training video. Have the junior cadets dissect everything on the most basic level. Formulate the speed differences between a Triface and Gold Chocobo and well…do whatever you SeeDs do."
"That's actually not a bad idea. Although… maybe, just maybe, they could just watch it and forget about life for awhile." As he paused Rinoa could tell there was a change in his voice. It might not have been obvious to others, but was loud as day to her. "Or you're right Rinoa, maybe they could just have a few moments of childhood. I think everyone deserves to have those memories before it's too late."
"It's never too late," Rinoa stated simply.
And again, a nod was his only acknowledgment.
He had decided to let those moments of childhood rest and go forward into another phase of their lives. Moving over, he grabbed her coffee cup and carefully moved it out of the way. Rinoa sat rather dumfounded, until he reached over gently lowering her onto the pillows. She truly loved these 'predictably unpredictable' moments.
As their faces were only inches apart, she looked up noticing his almost taunting smile. Her breath was raspy, but she managed to speak.
"Squall, are you always like this before dawn?"
"It's the best time of the day."
She sighed, looking into his eyes as he fingers threaded through his hair. "Maybe I should seriously rethink this relationship…"
"…Or maybe not." That was the only logical response in his mind.
And as his lips met hers, she knew he was right. Rinoa had found a new reason to get up on Saturday mornings. Sleep would always be there, but waking moments like this would last a lifetime.
End Notes: Thank you again to everyone for supporting me over the last decade! Fanfiction was a hobby I started during my daughter's naptime, next year, that same daughter is going into 7th grade – so naps are few and far between. I couldn't imagine life without the inspiration everyone has given me – I thank each and every one of you so much. I'll avoid trying to be too emotional, but you'll never know the hard times writing has got me through. I truly love you guys!
Kristine (Ashbear, Eternal Tiet)