Author Notes: Hey everyone. Now before you all freak out and get mad at me for not updating my works in progress, no this isn't me starting another one of my stories. This is a oneshot I'm submitting for the Where I Belong challenge. If you are unsure of what that is, I have all the details (with links!) on my profile.
A word about this oneshot. I wrote this over a year ago, it was initially supposed to be part of Horns of a Dilemma, but I couldn't decide between the two scenarios I had for this particular arc. So I guess a year later, seeing the direction the story was headed, it would make more sense for me to pick the other option and have this as a stand alone. So you could sort of see this as a possible scene in Horns, or you can just read it straight off the bat :) Personally, for those of you who are unconvinced of Squall's personality change by the end of the game (even though he pretty much sticks his tongue down Rinoa's throat and that in itself is very OOC) you may find him slightly OOC, so it would be in your best interest to read this with Horns tucked in the back of your mind. ;)
Thank you to my lovely, beautiful and sassy beta Missyluv for managing to beta this for me in such short time. Your efforts are beyond amazing.
Disclaimer: The characters used in this fiction are not mine and belong to their rightful owner SquareEnix.
~:~ Looking For Someone ~:~
Rinoa walked out of the bathroom, her towel wrapped tightly around her body, and her hair hung up in a turban-like fixture. She had endured another long day at the library, stacking books and helping out at the reception desk, as well as clearing the work stations and computer terminals. She liked living in Garden, enjoyed the company of her friends and other SeeDs and cadets, but seriously, did no one ever keep after themselves? The amount of books that were carelessly left on the workstations, the chairs - one was even wedged between the wall and the waste basket. The majority of her working hours were spent hunting books, and when she wasn't doing that, she was collecting heaps of scrunched up papers jammed between radiators and littered around the floor.
Rinoa guessed that it was her inner 'princess' that was appalled at the lazy and carefree attitude of the library users. She had always been taken care of and was not exactly a carer herself. Yet now she found herself running around after people, showing them around the library, looking up books and magazines, and as shocking as it was, having to go through the gruelling process of enforcing rules. However, she now understood that some rules needed to be established, if not to save Balamb from deforestation, then to at least save her from arbitrary errands.
Picking up her sweatpants and long-sleeved shirt from her bed, Rinoa chucked the wet towel to the floor and began dressing herself. Her hair still damp, she plugged in her hairdryer and started drying her hair. While looking into the mirror and fixing her hair line, her eyes fell to the dressing table and noticed that something was missing.
Setting the blow dryer down, the Sorceress rearranged her many lotion bottles and perfumes, trying to find what she was looking for.
"Where is it?" she muttered to herself.
She could have sworn she'd left it on her dresser before taking a shower. It was always left in the same place so it wouldn't discolour.
"Maybe I took it off in the bathroom?" She doubted she did, but for peace of mind tried to reassure herself before panic kicked in.
Walking into the bathroom, Rinoa checked the bath tub, the sink basin and even her cosmetic closet in search of her missing object. Only it was nowhere to be found.
Tutting to herself, she walked back to her room and stood still. She slowly gazed around the entire room, scrutinizing her bed, bedside table, her chair, her dresser and even her working desk. But it was nowhere to be seen.
Rinoa lowered herself onto the floor, crawling on her hands and knees and searched under the bed. She knew there was no way it could have fallen there, certain that she had left it on her dresser as she had left it before many times in the past.
"Damn it!" she grunted, sitting down on the carpet with a frown.
A knock at her door jolted her out of her moment of anguish. A moment later, Selphie hopped in, a wide grin on her face. Rinoa merely nodded to the SeeD, not bothering with any formalities, and continued to search every inch of her room in desperation.
"What'cha doing, Rinny?" Selphie asked with a cheerful tone as she bounced further into the room. Rinoa initially found it insulting, though she was quick to shake herself from the irritation; it wasn't like Selphie knew that she had only gone and lost the most valuable asset in her life.
Selphie watched as her dark-haired friend pulled down shoe boxes from inside her closet and emptied the contents onto the floor.
"Crap," Rinoa huffed, before bestowing the confused Selphie with a coherent answer. "I think I lost my rings." The sorceress wiped her hands across her face and pushed back her half damp hair. She scratched her eyebrow, still looking around her room hoping to suddenly spot them.
Standing up, she placed both hands on her hips and turned around slowly. As her hope slowly dissipated, realisation dawned on her; she couldn't believe she had lost the rings. Squall would not be pleased. He had allowed her to keep his on the condition she keep it safe. She had tried giving it back to him just before leaving for the Sorceress's Memorial, but he'd insisted she keep it for what she assumed was to remember him.
Without a doubt he'd be upset, and most probably think it was invaluable to her if she could carelessly lose them so easily. Of course, it was very significant to her . . . it was Squall's after all. She had guarded it with her life - well except on this occasion.
"You lost Squall's ring? Ooh, he's not going to be happy about that," Selphie warned.
"I know, but not only did I lose his rings, I lost my mother's too!" Rinoa moaned in reply. "Oh man, Selphie what am I going to do? I can't find them anywhere." Her tone became high-pitched as panic began to settle in.
Looking at the SeeD for a solution, Selphie only shrugged. "Where'd you last see it?"
Rinoa pointed her index finger towards her dresser. "I left them right there before I went into the shower. I remember taking the necklace off in here, because I didn't want to get it wet and have the silver tarnish."
"I'm sure you'll find it," Selphie replied, her tone coming off as indifferent. She wasn't too bothered by the situation not likely knowing how much it meant. It wasn't significant to her, but might have been if it was Irvine's prized Stetson hat.
But Rinoa could feel nothing but dread. How on earth was she going to explain this to Squall? Hey Squall, you know that ring that you let me keep during one of the most romantic moments of our lives? The same ring with the engraved lion you have on all your silver accessories? Yeah, l I lost it. But thanks for letting me borrow it. I owe ya one!
"C'mon, I'll help ya look for it later. Squall wanted me to come get you," Selphie said, pulling at the Sorceress's arm.
Rinoa widened her eyes at the brunette. Squall? Seriously? Selphie expected Rinoa to waltz up to Squall devoid of her rings that normally, and so obviously, adorned her neck without a reasonable explanation? Was she seriously freaking kidding?
"I can't meet Squall without our rings!" Rinoa cried out. "What if he asks where they are?"
"I don't think he'll notice. C'mon he's Squall," Selphie answered, rolling her eyes.
"Hey, that's my boyfriend you're talking about. And no! I can't meet him without finding those rings," Rinoa replied, trying to pry her arm out from the SeeD's grip.
"Er okay, but what do I tell him when he asks why you're not coming? I mean, what if he decides to come here and find you looking for your rings?"
Selphie had a point there. Squall walking in on Rinoa with her head under her bed and her butt in the air wouldn't be a pretty sight . . . well not given the circumstances. Biting her bottom lip, Rinoa contemplated the situation.
"Tell ya what," Selphie interrupted her thoughts. "You go meet Squall, and I'll round up the gang and have them search for your rings."
"Okay . . ." Rinoa hesitated for a second, "I think that could work."
"Cool, he's in the Hall," Selphie said, opening the door and ushering Rinoa to follow.
"Why there?" The Sorceress frowned as she paused at the door.
"Dunno, just said to meet him there and to be real quick," Selphie answered, lightly tapping the sorceress on the butt and giving her a cheeky wink.
Rinoa approached the double doors leading into the grand Balamb Hall. Pushing the golden handles and walking in, she was engulfed in bright golden lights. The faint sound of an orchestrated tune rang in her ears, and as she gave it a moment to seep in, she was fairly sure she had heard the tune before.
The entire hall was empty, with not a person in sight. Walking further into the room, she made her way up to the middle of the hall when her senses kicked in and she spun around and looked behind her.
Against one of the marble pillars, Squall Leonhart stood dressed in his SeeD uniform, his arms folded in front of his chest, one leg propped behind him and a thin smile on his face.
She didn't say anything, and he nether graced her with any words. She remained in her spot, eyeing him suspiciously, a confused smirk on her face as she found humour in his mysteriousness.
Squall kicked himself off and took quick, confident strides towards her. His smile never left his face, and when he finally reached her, took a deep breath taking pleasure in Rinoa's amused yet curious expression.
He extended his hand to her and when he opened his mouth to speak, asked something Rinoa had never in her life expected to hear from him. "You're the best looking girl here, dance with me?"
It took her a second for her brain to process what he had asked before she let out a hearty laugh. It was probably the intensive SeeD training that allowed him to memorise every word she had uttered when they had first met. In fact, Rinoa assumed he had some hidden voice recorder taped to his chest and had picked up a lot more of her conversation during their mission a year ago.
"I'm the only girl here," Rinoa playfully challenged.
"Let me guess . . . You'll only dance with someone you like. Ok then . . ." Squall replied, emphatically sighing to himself. Trying his utmost to keep a straight face, he took her chin in his hand, zoomed into her face and circled his hand in front of her eyes. "Look into my eyes . . . You're-going-to-like-me . . . You're-going-to-like-me."
Unable to contain it any longer, the close proximity of their amused faces not helping, the two began to giggle.
"D-did it work?" Squall's face beamed in delight and Rinoa let out a snort before letting another series of giggles escape.
Eventually, the sorceress took a moment to compose herself, though all of the laughing at this point had made her facial muscles lock into place; she was sure she looked like a maniacal laughing jester.
"I . . . I-I can't dance," she quickly blurted out the words, playing along to whatever Squall had planned.
"Sure you can."
Rinoa frowned at Squall; those were not her words from a year ago. But before she could question him further, the sound of Waltz for the Moon blared throughout the room.
Squall took her hand, and waltzed her through the hall. Her grin was permanently plastered on her face throughout their dance, partly due to the sudden behaviour of her boyfriend, and partly in gratitude for her persistence; Squall was quite the dancer.
The frantic thought of losing Squall's ring was all but out of her mind as she swayed to and fro to the music. She felt giddy at this change of behaviour from her Knight. It was strange to think how reserved and introverted he'd been when she'd first met him. But after an entire year together, he had opened up to her and had made the effort to spend as much time with her to further their relationship.
Of course, he was still the same Squall to other Cadets. But to her, he was more talkative, romantic and confided in her. Their first ever kiss came as a shock to her, she hadn't expected it, but had embraced it whole heartedly. Since then, Squall had more or less taken a huge leap in developing their relationship. From childish name calling to sneaky kisses when no one was looking. It would make her feel nervous, but the good nervous. Pretty soon she herself had become accustomed to his need to touch her and be around her. And then she realised it wasn't due to him reaching full stage puberty as she had initially thought. Rather, it was because they had nearly lost each other several times throughout their battle. Squall just couldn't miss a moment of life without her.
The music had ceased leaving only the gentle sound of breathing in the room. Rinoa looked up at the glass domed roof, expecting a display of bright, colourful fireworks, akin to the night of their first meeting. But the sky remained pitch black, with only a few stray stars dotted about. She looked at Squall, her raised eyebrows questioning the missing element of the recreation.
Looking at her sheepishly, Squall shrugged. "Garden doesn't allow fireworks other than stated holidays and celebratory functions."
She couldn't help but let out a chuckle. That little detail didn't matter to her, this night, this experience was enough for her, but she had to ask, "What is this all about?"
Squall had wondered when she would broach the subject, so taking a step back, he put a hand into his pocket and retrieved a small velvet box. He heard a small, sharp gasp and immediately knew where, and who, it came from. Looking away from the small box and into Rinoa's widened eyes and gaping mouth, he didn't have to second guess that she was shocked.
Rinoa's sight didn't leave the box, in fact, she even forgot to blink. Squall almost felt like snapping his fingers in front of her face to break her from her trance. Instead, he merely cleared his throat, but failed to get her eyes back on him.
"Rin, there is nothing I want more in this world than to be with you."
Rinoa looked up to Squall, finally managing to break her eyes away from the velvety box of surprise. This was certainly not what she had expected.
"Before all of this, I never had a family. Now I do, I want things to be perfect. I know it'll be hard," he said, and then continued. "We've come a long way since we first met, and we have many hurdles to overcome. But I want to be with you properly, I want to make every second we spend with each other special."
Rinoa couldn't process any words. Her eyes travelled between Squall's smiling face and the velvet box that still remained closed. Her mind swirled with thoughts; Squall had to be kidding, there was nothing in that box. Or Squall was two hundred and fifty-five per cent serious and nestled in that box was a diamond cluster screaming to be placed on her finger.
"Rinoa?" Squall asked, his eyes narrowing. "Say something . . . you're kind of worrying me, and . . . you're drooling." His face backed away in mild disgust.
That took Rinoa out of her trance; she quickly wiped the back of her sleeve against her mouth and took a number of even breaths.
"Wow," she eventually managed to mumble.
The Commander let out an amused sigh. He hadn't expected that reaction, although considering it was his sorceress, he should have guessed. Watching as her face changed to a smile and her eyes twinkled in delight, he suspected it was a fine time to pop the question, so to speak.
Smirking, he carefully opened the box and turned it to face her.
"Rinoa Heartilly, will you marry me?" It was cheesy and very cliché, but Squall didn't know any other form of asking for a woman's hand in marriage except what he'd seen on TV, and quite honestly, he really couldn't care less. He knew Rinoa wasn't the type of girl to focus on the methods he took to be romantic.
"Yes!" Rinoa gleefully cried through her grin, looking down and eyeing the ring. "Hey!" she cried louder, her face instantly changing to a frown as she grabbed the box out of Squall's hand and took out the griever ring nestled inside. "That's my ring!"
Looking at her Knight accusingly, she recollected a small footnote.
"I mean, that's your ring; I thought I lost it," she explained.
"Sorry, but I had a stealthy martial artist swipe it off your dresser." Squall answered.
Rinoa raised an eyebrow at Squall, a devious smirk creeping at the corners of her face. "Commander Leonhart, are you telling me that you not only encouraged a fellow SeeD to breaking and entering, but also committed theft?"
"Well no," Squall considered playfully, looking up as if thinking of his answer. "He didn't break any rules since you pretty much don't ever lock your door. And technically it's not you're ring, so it's not theft either."
Rinoa smiled, letting out a light chuckle, before wrapping her hands around his neck and leaning in to give him a kiss. She would have been successful if he hadn't pushed her away, scratching his neck and looking down at her in embarrassment.
"I had enough courage to ask you to marry me, since this is one of the most important nights of our life, but as a well trained SeeD, I suspect we're being watched," Squall said, nodding towards the hall doors that Rinoa could have sworn had slammed shut when she entered. "Besides, though Irvine promised to switch the music track over and disappear, I don't doubt for a second he retracted that promise."
Looking up at the audio room on the balcony, Rinoa could make out the top of the Sharpshooter's hat. She smiled regardless of the result, knowing that she'd have plenty of opportunity to kiss him later. Much later.
"Erm, this ring still won't fit into your finger. I only had Zell swipe it because I needed your ring size for the jeweller's so I could get an engagement ring that actually fit." Squall let out a huff and shook his head. "Honestly Rinoa, you guard those rings like Zell guards hotdogs. I almost thought I'd miss out on asking you tonight."
"Why tonight?" Rinoa asked in confusion. While she didn't care about the specifics, Squall decked out in his SeeD uniform while she was wearing a pair of overly-washed grey sweatpants was a sharp contrast too hard to miss. A small part of her had assumed Squall, if ever he were to pop the question, would go down the normal route of asking her during dinner or on her birthday.
"Tonight is my one year anniversary as a SeeD. It's also the same night we met," Squall enlightened her, surprised she hadn't already caught on.
"Oh! That's right, I completely forgot. I've been so busy at work," Rinoa put a hand to her mouth, disappointed that she had failed to remember.
"Doesn't matter. I was more concerned about getting those rings without you noticing. So when you finally went into the shower, I had Zell run the rings to the jeweller's. But should have expected my luck, they were closed by the time he got there." He gave her a lop-sided smile, seeming quite disappointed in his effort.
The sorceress cupped his face into her hands and gazed into his eyes. "Squall, this is most romantic thing you've ever done for me, well save the time you saved me in space . . . and our first kiss, I guess. Regardless, this is one of my top three."
She held up the ring in front of her so they could both see. "Zell was supposed to make a replica that fit, but we both sort of forgot about it. Besides, I don't think you could find a more perfect engagement ring than this one."
They both grinned at each other, taking a moment of silence to bask in the moment. Sadly, it was cut short by the sound of the hall doors slamming against the wall with a loud thud. Rinoa peer over Squall's shoulder to see Selphie, Zell and Quistis hurry into the room.
"I take it you said yes?" Selphie asked, bouncing on her feet as if she was going to explode of sheer excitement.
"Yes!" Rinoa replied, unable to hide her grin.
"Congratulations, I'm very happy for you both," Quistis stated, smiling at the two and enveloping Rinoa into a tight embrace.
"Congrats, Squall," Zell enthusiastically patted the Commander on the back. "To think this day would never have come had I not taken those rings."
"Yes, to think that was your top priority during an impending battle against Galbadia," Squall replied sarcastically. However, he internally thanked Zell for his involvement.
"I know!" Zell concurred, ignorant to Squall's sarcasm. "And to think, you nearly fell off Garden as well!" He pointed a finger in Rinoa's direction.
Shuddering from the memory, Rinoa replied, "Oh, don't remind me about that."
"Haha, and to think, if we hadn't pestered Squall into saving you, you guys would've never happened." Zell chuckled to himself, continuing to pat Squall on the back who merely eyed him with disdain.
"What?" Rinoa asked, frowning at Zell suspiciously.
"Well, when you fell off Garden we went to get Squall's help. I told him you were in trouble and what did he say? 'Yeah! But she's not the only one in danger!' Typical Squall!" Zell explained, solely laughing at the memory.
"Oh really?" Rinoa asked, giving Squall a less than pleasant look as she folded her arms across her chest.
Seeing her friend in trouble, Quistis decided to step in, "Ah, Zell, maybe we better-"
"God, if it hadn't been for Irvine's persistence, I don't think Squall would have caved in. You gotta thank him. . ." Zell continued, completely and utterly oblivious to the sudden change of atmosphere.
"Zell, I think that's enough," Quistis piped up, hoping to mute the Martial Artist.
Finally looking to each of his friends, Zell noticed their change in facial expression. Quistis had her hand on her forehead, an imitation of Squall's normal posture. Selphie looked slightly uncomfortable as she swayed on her feet, shaking her head. Rinoa had her eyes firmly on Squall, her arms folded, lips pursed and one eyebrow cocked.
Right next to the powerful sorceress stood her Knight. Squall's normally expressionless face was now mirroring his girlfriend's, save the cocked eyebrow. It almost looked like Squall had one thought and one thought alone . . . throttle the Martial artist. And amongst all that, between the discreet sound of Selphie's shuffling feet and Squall's raucous breathing, Zell was sure he heard that all familiar sound of his SeeD rank dropping.
"D-did I say something wrong?" he stuttered innocently.
"Not at all, really enlightening to learn about what was happening when I was falling to my doom," Rinoa sarcastically retorted.
"Am I expected to congratulate anyone?" Irvine's voice broke the group of their silence. The Sharpshooter strode into the hall, his hands up in the air, only to stop dead in his tracks and gaze at everyone expectantly. "Whoa, who died in here?"
Quistis and Selphie let out an amused scoff. Rinoa ignored the comment and slid the ring onto her thumb.
"Yes, congratulations are in order," Rinoa replied. She smiled at her friends, refuting them of any thoughts that Zell's small revelation would cause her to change her mind.
Though she had pretended to mind – well honestly, at first she was a bit shocked and disappointed to hear the truth – she couldn't be angry at him. He had saved her sorceress butt more than necessary and she could forgive him for being a bit reluctant and tired of her constant damsel in distress phases.
Looking at Squall's surprised face, she smiled at him and winked. Like she'd ever change her mind about this decision.
"Are you sure?" he whispered to her as the others began scolding Zell, literally cornering him against a back wall.
"Couldn't be more sure in my life," Rinoa replied. She stood on her tip-toes and gave him a light peck on the lips.
"You wanna join them?" Squall asked, as he nodded towards the spectacle behind them of Zell suffering Selphie's pinches as Irvine and Quistis watched on, laughing at the antics.
"Um, no," Rinoa answered. Turning to look back at Squall with determination in her eyes, she took his hand into hers and began leading him towards the doors. "I initially came here looking for someone . . . and I found him."
End Notes: Just want to pop in a quick thank you to Ashbear for starting this challenge. I've had a lot of fun and look forward to more to come.
The pic I have used for this fic is something I actually subconsciously drew. I didn't realise I had put the griever ring (yes, that's griever) on my thumb (yes, that's my hand) and once it was finished, I realised that instead of just submitting it as an art piece, I could also use this for the cover to this fic.
Please do check out the Where I Belong forums and the many links outside FFnet where the competition is being held.