Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy VIII
For the Where I Belong Challenge.
This is a short and very simple one-shot I wrote the night I learned about the challenge. It's nothing complicated or ground breaking. Dare I say, it's fairly unoriginal and quite possibly cliché, but should be enjoyable all the same.
The world knows Squall Leonhart as a hero, as the champion of the world. He was the boy who led an army of SeeDs in the battle for the world. He became the Commander of Balamb Garden at age seventeen and kept everyone together. When all hoped seem lost, with missiles cruising towards the building, he discovered a secret to Garden long forgotten, and saved everyone. When a Sorceress threatened the world as we know it, he never faltered. There are literally statues of him all over the world in every country. People know of his deeds and what he's done for the world. He made speeches, signed autographs, and even rode in parades. He was the image of this generation. He was a living legend that kids all around the world looked up to. His history as an orphan was known by all, which gave those poor kids without families a new hero to follow after. He was the image of SeeD as their recruitment numbers skyrocketed the following months.
Squall single handedly changed the world. Most importantly, he never accepted the praise. It was part of his demeanor that caused everyone to love him. He was a soldier true at heart, his speeches monotone, his autographs far and few between, and he stood stoic in all parades he rode in. This is why people liked him, because they knew he was a real soldier. He was tough-as-nails and fearless. It drew in everyone. Parents told their kids to not be afraid and be brave like
Commander Leonhart. Girls were madly in love with the mysterious brunette that rarely uttered more than three words. It was his persona of toughness that made the world love him. They felt safe with him around. There was confidence in the air that Squall would take care of everyone, because he had the strength to do so.
I certainly believe it because of what he's done for me. There are a few parts left out of the history of Commander Squall Leonhart, mainly the parts involving little ol' me. The world doesn't care about that, they only cared about how he stopped the world from imploding upon itself. But I care, I know how far he had to go for me. He walked – for miles – across the entire railroad connecting Fisherman's Horizon to Esthar…while carrying me on his back. He left the Garden, leaving his friends, leaving everyone, for me! He begged, pleaded, and forced his way into Esthar to have them help me. He went into space...space! After that, he even jumped out into the vast nothingness of space to catch me, fully expecting to die. We didn't know the Ragnorok was there, that was pure luck. He was willing to die for me…admittedly a little too soon in the relationship to be considered normal but he's not a normal guy. He went far out of his comfort zone just to get me back, and even after learning I was a sorceress, the very thing SeeD was trained to destroy, he still didn't leave me. Okay…there was hesitation and it took him a bit to realize, but he came through in the end. I couldn't imagine what would've happened if he was even a few minutes late.
The point is, Squall has a side that I only ever get to see. The world sees a soldier that saved them, a strong and sturdy hero. That's not what I see. I see Squall as who he really is, just a man. He was a boy, quite a shy boy at that. But we've been together for seven years now, so I can't exactly call him a boy anymore. There have been many hard times since we've been together. He isn't exactly the greatest boyfriend since he has never dated anyone before me so he's not exactly sure how to act. He forgot my birthday… a lot. He didn't understand that me saying 'I don't want anything' really meant, 'you better get me something big'. He had no idea that when I said 'I don't wanna talk about it' he was just supposed to hold me. But like all women…I've molded my man into what he should be. Okay, maybe not that much since he still hasn't changed that drastically. He out does himself now and again. The random flowers he brings me during the day or the new treats for Angelo, poor dog is in the last days of life. For someone not liking dogs, he sure has grown attached to the animal.
This is the side of Squall Leonhart that I know. Even I will admit, that tough mysterious guy is still in there somewhere, and it attracts me greatly. Yet, that's not what I've come to love about him. At work, he's tough and stern. People are afraid to talk to him sometimes, and I understand. But it's after work that he becomes the person I know. I love how after a long day of work, he'll come into our apartment and come right towards me with a big hug. If I happen to be lying down on the couch, he collapses on top of me, burying his head into my bosom, and often times falling asleep right after. It doesn't sound like him, but once the world isn't watching him, he completely changes to a big softy. He rarely says 'I love you', in fact, it's incredibly adorable watching him try. I'll stand their patiently waiting for him to muster up the courage to utter those three small quick words which always manage to get caught on the tip of his tongue. Sometimes he can't do it and will pathetically cover it up with something else as in, 'I-I hope you have a good day,' or my favorite, 'I-I…whatever.' Everyone sees a soldier, I see an adorable young man trying to get a hold of his love life. It may sound hard to deal with but I've come to accept that aspect of him.
It's why right now as we sit at dinner with him looking down at his lap nervously, I only smile happily. He's been playing with his food all night and has barely eaten. It's our seven year anniversary and he took me out to the most expensive restaurant in Balamb. It's a wonderful small place that sits right on the sea. Since it's so small, it's always booked, I'm sure Squall pulled many strings to get us a table here. He is learning, I told him I just wanted to stay in and watch a movie. He refused, bought me a dress, and then took me here…oh yes, he's learning. He ordered a very expensive wine for the table and even dressed in his formal SeeD attire. I should stop keeping track of the amount of money being thrown around or I'm going to sound shallow. But it was hard not to, especially with all this going on.
He normally wasn't this nervous at dinner but I knew why. A small smile graced my face thinking back a few weeks ago. I wanted to surprise him by polishing his gunblade. I opened the case and sitting in a little cubby for ammo, was a black box. I told myself not to touch it…like that was actually going to work. I thought it would be earrings or something along those lines, I never thought it would be an engagement ring. Ever since Selphie and Irvine got married, I couldn't help wanting that for myself. I told myself not to rush Squall, it would only freak him out and push him away. So I waited, hoping someday he would get the courage that he was so known for and propose to me. Even though I was waiting for it, I never actually expected it to happen. There was even a small piece of paper, I couldn't stop myself from reading it. It was a checklist! He made an actual checklist! It was so adorable reading it. Reminding himself of the date, to get his suit cleaned, what dress Selphie said I wanted, my sizes which admittedly I didn't like him knowing, reservations at the restaurant, and even down to filling up the car with gas. It had everything and it was hard not to laugh right now thinking back to it. But that's Squall, mister meticulous. The one I know, the hopeless man trying to figure things out.
So I sat here, perfectly content with him being extra nervous because I knew why. If I was a good girlfriend I'd mention how Selphie's wedding was so nice I hope mine would be that nice. That would drop a hint I was looking for marriage but…that's if I was a good girlfriend. Oh no, this was too funny watching him fumble about dinner trying to act normal like I wouldn't notice. He even spilled some wine, not a lot, his reflexes caught the tipping over glass, but I still laughed under my breath watching his antics. I know, I know, I'm torturing him, but this is the one chance I get! I'm not going to say no, I would never do that to him. Even thinking about it excites me where I'm afraid I'll ruin it. I know the moment he asks, I'm going to shout yes and dive over this table at him. What happens after may not be appropriate for the rest of the restaurant to witness. But that's when he gathers his courage.
"So Rinoa." He suddenly said.
Oh he's doing it! I took a sip of my wine to cover the smile that was forming and to act nonchalant. "Yes, Squall?"
"Obviously this is our anniversary." His eyes were glued to his plate.
Obviously. "Yes, our seventh I believe."
"It's not exactly an important one…not like…five or you know…uh-"
"Ten?" I finished for him.
"Yeah exactly," He half laughed. "But, well, tonight is special in its own way."
Oh no stutter, he's gaining courage. "How so dear?" I tipped my head playing the curious part.
"Well…everything has a beginning and an end, but with some ends…come other beginnings." His eyes were still looking down.
That sounds like a fortune cookie I had the other day. "That's beautiful."
"Well you see," for the first time his eyes looked up and met mine. "I have something to tell you, or rather…ask you."
"Is something wrong?" I questioned looking worried, just because, well…this is fun.
"No, nothing," He quickly replied.
"Squall, you're acting weird," I placed my hand on his, trying not to laugh. "You can tell me anything, I won't be mad."
"Nothing's wrong!" He exclaimed loudly causing me to flinch backwards. The rest of the people in the restaurant sent angry looks our way. It was a bad idea on their part since no one can match Squall's glare. With one cold glare back at the rest of the people, their eyes quickly returned back at their own food; to afraid to even glance our way.
"I'm sorry Squall, I didn't mean to make you mad," I put a little whimper in my voice. The look on his face should've made me feel bad but again…this was too much fun.
"No, no, I'm not mad." He hastily assured me, placing his hand on mine. "I just have something to tell you and ask you."
"Okay," I nodded.
He straightened himself in his hair. "Well, you know how I've been in consideration for the Headmaster position at Garden?"
"Yes." Roundabout way Squall, but I'll roll with it.
"And how…well, getting this position will increase our income and allow me to be around more." He scratched his head with his hand before quickly throwing his arm downward. He's done it enough that I know he just realized he was following in Laguna's footsteps, something that was a horrific notion to him.
"I do." I see, he was waiting for more security before asking. Contrary to popular belief, being a Commander doesn't pay as much as one would think. Being Headmaster would certainly increase his paycheck. Not to mention, the Headmaster rarely leaves Garden and that way he wouldn't need to take on missions anymore. He'd always be home at night, so he really was thinking this whole thing through. I was fairly impressed.
"Well, Rinoa." He placed both his hands on mine. Even though I knew it was coming I still was finding my breath shallow. I straightened in my chair as I couldn't even blink feeling so excited. He was looking me in the eye but it seemed like he was having trouble finding the words. Come on Squall! Just say it, I'm dying here. You're too far in now, just say it so we can start our life. I want to walk out of here a fiancée. "Rinoa." He said my name again, I was finding it hard to remain calm.
"Yes." I managed, anymore and I may just ruin the whole thing.
"Just say it!" I cried out. He looked absolutely startled as I felt my cheeks blush slightly. "I'm sorry." I quickly apologized. "You were saying."
"Rinoa," He took a breath. Oh God, this is it. "I got the Headmaster position."
He's leading up to it. "Congratulations," I told him still waiting.
"So I now want to ask you."
Oh come on, come on, I'm losing my mind here. Why are guys so slow!
"Would you mind moving into the east wing of Garden?" He released my hands and let out his breath.
"…excuse me?" I whispered, completely confused.
"I know, I know, you won't be as close to the dining hall anymore and I know how you like your late night snacks," He quickly explained. He sensed my confusion, but oh boy, did he sense it for the wrong reason. "Honestly it won't be so bad, sure the walk may be further, but we'll have a bigger apartment. Our living room won't be connected to the kitchen. Isn't that great. Things are finally starting to come together."
I deflated in my chair. "That's the big news," I deadpanned.
"Yeah, isn't it great?"
"Oh, sure," I started laughing at the irony, I'm sure I would start crying soon, but laughing in bitterness comes first.
"I can't imagine life getting any better."
He did not just say that. I shot to my feet, throwing my cloth napkin on the table.
"Something wrong?" He questioned innocently.
I never thought about murder but tonight may have been a good night to start. The problem was, I couldn't say I saw the ring. For one, it meant I went through his things which he hates. Two, he'll propose eventually, I don't want to ruin that by admitting I know. It could spark a fight that could seriously ruin our relationship about trust and faith in one another. Three, most importantly…I would look like a mad psycho girlfriend that's baby crazy. So I remained calm and clearly articulated my concern as politely as I could. "Screw you and you stupid new apartment!" I screamed louder than anyone should ever scream…ever.
I marched out of the restaurant as fast as I could. I thoroughly embarrassed myself and I couldn't explain to anyone why. I just had to suck it up and deal with it. I could come up with something, but right now I just had to get away. Since the restaurant was right on the beach, I headed down to the sand. I was glad it was empty as I struggled to walk with my high-heels on. I sat down in the sand in my very expensive black dress. I practically ripped off my heels in the sand and held them in my hands. This was horrible, I was so sure…so positive he was going to propose. There was a checklist for hyne's sake! I wanted to go to Selphie first, show her the ring without saying anything and let her go completely berserk with me. Then to Quistis who would hug me with a heart filled congratulations. Hell, I'd show anyone that happened to walk by me. I wanted to be a fiancée, to be off the market. To belong to someone, to be able to look at Squall, the hero of the world and say, 'that's my husband'. But I could say that, I couldn't say any of that.
"Rinoa!" I looked to see Squall coming down to the beach and waving at me. "What's wrong!"
I quickly stood up and began running away from him. I just couldn't see him right now.
"Rinoa, please, what's wrong!" He called out after me.
"It's my time of the month!" I shouted back.
"No it's not, that was two weeks ago!"
I froze in my tracks and whipped around to face him. "How the hell do you know that!"
He caught up to me, not even slightly out of breath because of his SeeD training. "I live with you, it's hard to miss."
"Don't you ever keep track of that!" I yelled jabbing my finger into his chest. "That's personal!"
"I have to deal with it, it's personal to me too."
"Oh it's deal with it, now huh?" I cried out. "That's perfect, didn't know I was just a horror to have around."
I was completely surprised to see him laugh. I thought he would be confused at my actions. He could never keep up with me or anything, and normally I had to explain everything. But the way he was smiling at me knowingly, as if he completely understood everything. That was a first and I wasn't use to it at all. Next thing he did was point upwards at the stars in the sky. It was a signal between us for sure, a reminder of how we first met. Out of habit I followed his finger up to the starry sky. Balamb's sky was always spectacularly clear, to the point where seeing the lines of the galaxy was possible. They swirled around with sprinkles of stars which easily caused anyone staring to shrink into thoughts of existence and worth. I never got tired from staring into the sky and some of my best memories are lying with Squall on our small balcony, just looking up at the sky for hours. It was something that was magical between us, the comfort we shared together. It was even more incredibly tonight since there was a meteor shower. My mouth opened slightly in awe of the massive universe above me coming to life. The sky was sparkling in raining streaks across the blackened night. I realized that even if Squall didn't have the courage to propose to me tonight, he would someday. I just had to be patient and wait. He loved me, I know he did, and I couldn't imagine life without him. Someday, we would be together, like we were tonight, so there was no need for me to ruin it.
I looked down to apologize for how I had been acting but I didn't see him. It took a moment to realize he was lower down…on one knee. This time I was completely speechless as I stared at him with what I could only imagine was a dumb expression plastered on my face.
He held out the small black velvet box. It was a tiny little thing that held something even tinier, yet extremely valuable. Not because of its material worth, I could care less about that. The symbolism that was withheld inside that simple accessory was more than comprehendible. The everlasting love of one person to another that literally until death, they should be together. How one little circle, placed on a finger, could represent an understanding throughout the world. It shouldn't matter because the message is clear without the item itself, but to be able to openly show others a ring that proves how lucky a person is. It's priceless, it's indescribable, and it's something I wanted on my finger more than anything. But not just any ring, I wanted one from Squall, to know that he really did love me as much as I loved him. The flashes of my future passed swiftly through my mind. Holding hands with Squall, both with rings on our hands, so simple but so perfect. All the way until we were winkled and old, sitting on a porch in chairs, staring up at the stars, holding hands until our last breath. This was real, this is what I wanted.
"Rinoa, I have jumped into endless space for you," Squall wasn't stuttering or nervous like usual, he was completely calm and collected. It affected me more than I cared to admit to see him so in control. My hand was fluttering to my chest as my emotions were taking off. "I have traveled the world for you, I have done everything I possibly could for you. That moment you were taken from me was one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced. Even after all that, I feel like I don't deserve a second of your life."
"Of course you do," I whimpered out through tears that were starting to flow, I was trying to hold them back but it wasn't working. This moment was really happening and it's what I really wanted.
Squall was smiling brighter than I've ever seen. "I don't know why you would, but I still have to ask because I couldn't imagine another day without you. Rinoa, would you marry me?"
"Yes, yes, of course, yes!" I cried out. He stood up and I dove into his chest. His strong arms wrapped around me. I was trying not to cry but it was impossible. I stepped back and held out my hand. "Quickly." I urged him, I felt any second longer not having that ring on my finger was the end of the world. He slid it on perfectly and I smiled at him. I stood on my tip toes to place a long kiss on his lips before put my head back into my chest. This moment was perfect.
"You really thought I wouldn't notice you in my gunblade case."
"What?" I muttered stepping back.
He gave me a knowing look. "You honestly thought, me, mister meticulous, wouldn't notice someone in his gunblade case? Honestly Rinoa, I thought you knew me better."
"You knew." I gaped. "Then why-"
"Did I leave the ring in there?" He chuckled. "Well, you see, it starts with me discovering you hiding the gunblade polish. I knew you would try and clean it for me, you're cute like that. I was going to take the ring out to make sure you didn't see it, but then an idea hit me. I'd let you see it, even make a fake checklist so you know everything I wanted you to know. Then, when you thought it was all going your way, thinking you were in charge and all knowing, I'd rip the rug out from underneath you, so to speak."
My eyes narrowed. "You did this on purpose."
"Did you see that dinner we just sat through?" Squall jerked his thumb over his shoulder at the restaurant behind him. "You were trying to make me jump through hoops."
Crap. "I wasn't-no that's not…no that's wrong." I was quickly trying to come up with answers.
"Uh huh." He smirked. "You were trying to play me when this entire time I was playing you. I was stuttering left and right, but did you help me out. No, you made it worse, and I saw you try and hide your smiles." Crap, he really did catch me. "You should've seen your face. All smug like you knew what I was going to say. Then I just had to add at the very end, 'could life get any better'. That one really got you."
"You're…you're…terrible!" I exclaimed.
"I know." He smiled. "Yet, there is the widest grin on your face right now."
I turned around, putting my back to him so he couldn't see my face. It was true, I hadn't stopped grinning yet. "That's not the point."
I felt his arms wrap around me as he placed his chin on my head. "You know I love you."
"I do." I replied happily back, placing my hands on his arms.
"Rinoa Leonhart." He laughed. "I like that."
"Actually, I was thinking Rinoa Loire."
"Oh that was quick."
"But I love daddy Laguna." I whined.
"Stop it, I will take that ring back."
I laughed, "Not a chance." I held it out for both of us to look at. "I admit, you really had me going. But I'm glad we don't have to move, walking that far to the dining hall would be terrible."
I felt Squall tense and I knew what he was about to say would be bad. "Rinoa…everything I said was true. We are moving."
"What!" I exclaimed flipping around. "That's so far away from the food!"
"We have a fridge."
"But…but…food!" I pressed.
"We'll still have food."
"But…what about late night ice cream sundaes." I pouted. "You know about my food addiction. I'm helpless to the cravings."
He laughed openly, which was rare, he was equally as happy tonight which was good. "We can still get them."
"They'll melt on the way back."
"I'll buy you an ice cream machine," Squall told me as he pulled me back into his chest. "I'll get you anything you need Rinoa Leonhart."
"Don't even say it."
I laughed into his chest as I let him hold me. I got everything I wished for and then some. I don't think I could ever be happier and I know this was only the beginning. I could probably be like this the rest of my life. Everyone says Squall's a cold soldier, that's not what I see. Not even close. I only see Squall's Soft Side.
I hope you liked the little one-shot, it's been a while since I wrote something that wasn't serious and dark. Also, no cursing, I think that's a first. This was a nice change of pace to write something simple and pure. Now saying that, I'm currently writing another piece that's much more my style. Dark, violent, bloody, depressing, and vulgar. God's Dirty Work is taking the back seat for the month of August as I try and finish this other piece. So leave a review and see if I have a knack for things that aren't so dark.
Check out the forum 'Where I Belong' to learn more about the challenge. I also highly recommend following the community 'Where I Belong Challenge' as well, since some real great stories are going to be posted there for August. I can feel it.