Author's note: Just a quick shout out to DM Draco Moondragon, whose awesome name provided inspiration for this story.
Moonbeams and Dragon Wings
Obligatory disclaimer: No, I didn't create these characters, they belong to Square-Enix. I'm just borrowing them.
He was watching her again. He did that, whenever he thought she wasn't looking. She wondered what he was thinking, what he felt. She'd gotten hints of it, when he'd held her at the Sorceress Memorial after freeing her. But he'd retreated again as they'd embarked upon their final quest. Still, she'd gotten glimpses now and again of warmth in his eyes that hadn't been there before, warmth that was directed at her.
She lay in the darkness, bathed in moonlight, on a stone ledge of the massive clock tower they had to traverse to finally reach their final confrontation with Ultimecia. They'd battled their way through monster after monster, challenge after challenge. The battle against Tiamat however, had exhausted them all. After defeating the monster, Squall had decided they needed a break, and so they camped out on the ledge, taking a much-needed rest.
But Squall didn't join them. Instead, he volunteered to take first watch. He sat alone on a parapet, gazing into the darkness, watching the moon that never moved on a clock whose hands were frozen in time. From time to time however, she'd feel his eyes on her, and know that he was studying her. Watching her.
Rolling over in her sleeping bag, she faced his direction, watching him. His face was turned away from her, and even though she could only see his silhouette in the moonlight, she could tell he was exhausted. She was tired too, but she couldn't sleep.
Sighing quietly, she got out of her sleeping bag and approached him. She already knew that he'd never initiate anything, if she wanted anything to proceed from the start they'd made in Esthar, she had to take the lead.
"You should be asleep Rinoa." He said quietly.
"I couldn't." She replied.
He turned to face her then, eyes glittering in the dim light. The moonlight was bright, washing everything with silver, but it wasn't bright enough for Rinoa to see the color of his eyes.
"Why?" He asked her.
"I don't know. I can't stop thinking. About Ultimecia, about all of this, about…. about us…" Rinoa answered swallowing and wrapping her arms around herself.
Squall frowned slightly then, and looked away, uncomfortable. He was still working on that last one. He had admitted to himself that he'd fallen in love with her, otherwise he wouldn't have risked his life to save her, then flown in the face of the most powerful country on the planet to defy their judgment of her and free her from their cruel sentence of a living death.
He loved her. But he had no idea what to do about it, or how to go about it. Where did they go from here? Suppose they lost to Ultimecia and everything was destroyed? What then? Would there be any point to even attempting to pursue a relationship with her? Assuming he could even figure out how to do that?
Rinoa watched him, and waited. He sat still as stone, but she could sense the conflicting emotions he was feeling. She'd noticed that lately, and had wondered if it had something to do with her powers as a sorceress. It was stronger, the closer she was to him.
"I know this is new to you," she finally said quietly. "But, no matter how long we may or may not have together, I'm not afraid. Not as long as you're with me. But…. If you're afraid, we'll take it slow."
"I'm not afraid." He said quietly, though deep down, he knew he was lying. He was terrified. What if he failed?
Stepping closer, Rinoa gently took his hand, feeling its warmth beneath the smooth black leather. He didn't resist, but didn't respond. She wondered if he even knew how. Instinctively she knew that she had to be patient with him, a real test for her, since patience was not her strength.
Yes, he was strong, and fierce, a deadly fighter and a good leader. All of those things that made him the only person who could do what was needed to save the world from a threat out of time and space, were just a part of his personality. There was also an innocence to him that was a stark contrast to the tough warrior persona he wore so well. Even if Quistis hadn't been able to confirm it to her, Rinoa would have known that Squall had never been with anyone before on any level, emotional or physical.
But patient or not, what Rinoa really wanted at the moment was to feel his arms around her, feel the warmth of his body against hers, feel and hear his heart pounding as he pressed her gently against his chest. She wanted him to hold her again like he had when he'd freed her from the Sorceress Memorial.
Experimentally, she tugged at his hand. He looked over at her with a puzzled frown. She tugged harder, forcing him to move from his position on the parapet and stand up.
"Well." Rinoa admitted, "I am afraid of one thing. Afraid that this is the last time we'll ever see each other; all of us, not just you and me. I'm afraid I'll never get to feel you holding me again, like you did in Esthar."
She stepped closer, and Squall swallowed, unable to quell the sudden attack of butterflies he was experiencing. He froze as her arms slipped around his waist and she leaned into him. Now what was he supposed to do? Retreat? No, that didn't seem right. Besides, it felt…nice. The warmth of her body, pressed so close to his, seeped into him, thawing something that up till now had been hard and cold within him.
Without thinking, his arms encircled her, holding her lightly. Rinoa smiled to herself and hugged him tighter, burying her face into his chest and listening to his thudding heartbeat. He still stood stiffly, and his heart hammered so hard that Rinoa thought it would leap right out of his chest. She sighed, wondering how she could get him to relax.
Maybe she should talk to him. But about what? Not about what they were both feeling, that wasn't a subject that would relax Squall at all. Not yet. Given time, and yes, patience perhaps… but not yet. Then a question popped into her head that she'd meant to ask him earlier.
"Was Tiamat a GF at one point?" Rinoa asked him.
Squall frowned down at her, confused. Given their current positions, he'd expected a different question. Didn't girls want to talk about their feelings all the time? Given his limited information and even more limited experience, that was what he'd thought. Instead, she asked him a question about a monster.
"Maybe. Why do you ask?" He wondered.
"It looked just like Bahamut, but a different color." She said.
"Oh. Well, I guess I could ask him…" Squall said.
Rinoa looked up at him then, eyes wide, asking, "You can talk to it?"
Squall shrugged, the movement tightening his embrace a little, answering, "He spoke to us in the Deep Sea Research Center, before we challenged him. I can't speak for the others, but most of our GF's will talk to us on occasion."
"Oh. But mine don't." Rinoa said, frowning.
"They probably aren't used to you yet. Besides, not every GF talks." Squall said.
"I see. Well, go ahead and ask Bahamut, see what he says." Rinoa urged him.
"Okay." Squall said. Then he took a deep breath, closed his eyes and let it out slowly. As he did, Rinoa felt the tension drain from his body and he relaxed against her, leaning his cheek lightly on her hair. He was silent for several minutes, and then he slowly opened his eyes, focusing on Rinoa.
"So? What did he say?" Rinoa prompted.
Squall frowned, answering, "She was… his mate. He fought to save her but…Ultimecia's evil was too strong for him. He needed us to free her."
"Free her? But…we killed her..." Rinoa said sadly, voice trailing off.
"That was…the only way she could be freed. Bahamut couldn't give her a clean death without our help." Squall said quietly.
"Oh…" Rinoa said, eyes welling up. She buried her face into Squall's chest again, sniffling. This time, instead of freezing up, he pulled her closer, rubbing his hand down her back. He hoped he was doing the right thing…. he knew she was crying and it left him feeling helpless and out of his depth. But holding her seemed to be the right thing to do, so he continued to do it.
"Promise me…" Rinoa whispered against his chest.
"Promise you what?" Squall asked her.
"Promise me… if… if Ultimecia takes me again, that you'll kill me. Free me from her, like we did Tiamat." Rinoa whispered shakily.
"Rinoa, look at me." Squall said. Wiping her eyes, she did as he asked, and met his gaze. The eternal moonlight had washed all the color out of the world, leached the brilliant blue from his eyes and left them a silvery gray.
He gently touched her face then and wiped the tears away, murmuring, "No. I won't. I can't."
More tears flooded her eyes and she leaned into the smooth leather that covered his hand, wishing that he'd take it off so she could feel his skin against hers. Just once.
"Why?" she asked, feeling despair begin.
"Because we're going to kill her. All of us. Or die trying." Squall said firmly. He remembered what Rinoa had said when he'd spoken with her next to the flower field. He remembered how helpless he'd felt, standing among the ruins of his childhood home as Rinoa had said, Squall's sword will pierce my heart. It's okay if it's you, Squall… Never. Even if he never said it aloud, he'd already made a different promise to her.
He gazed down at her and found his attention caught by her lips. He couldn't help wondering what they'd feel like, how they'd taste, against his. Where had that thought come from? He'd never kissed anyone. Hadn't even tried. Hadn't really wanted to. Not until now, that was.
Should he? They looked soft. Even in the silvery moonlight, their color reminded him of ripe berries.
Shouldn't he? This wasn't the time or the place. It could lead to complications he wasn't ready to deal with, not at this juncture.
Should he? He wanted to. Badly. How hard could it be? Press his lips against hers and….
Rinoa's breath caught as she watched and sensed, his inner debate, hoping that he'd come to the right decision. She waited, in silent anticipation as he came to that decision and slowly bent towards her.
Then… "Squall? Hey man, where are ya?" Squall's head snapped up, swiveling toward the voice. He stepped back, putting distance between himself and Rinoa, a fact that disappointed her mightily. He did not however, attempt to free the hand that Rinoa still gripped.
"I'm here. Anything wrong?" Squall asked as Zell came into view.
"No, I'm just here too…. aw, mannn…I did it again, didn't I?" Zell grimaced, shooting an apologetic glance to Rinoa and mouthing, "I'm sorry" silently to her.
"Did what again?" Squall asked, puzzled.
"Never mind," Zell said. "Why don't you both go get some sleep? I'll take over here."
Squall nodded, saying, "all right. We could both use the rest." Rinoa sighed as he led her to her sleeping bag. She contented herself with a squeeze of his hand before releasing it and crawling into her bed.
"Good night Squall." She said, watching as he started to walk toward his sleeping bag.
He paused and glanced back, replying, "Good night." Then continued toward his bag, shrugging his jacket off and rolling it up to serve as a pillow.
Rinoa sighed, fatigue finally dragging her down into sleep as she listened to the rustling sounds of Squall settling down into his sleeping bag. Her last thought before sleep claimed her was,
First thing tomorrow before we face Ultimecia, I'm kicking Zell right in the shin.