To Be Her Knight
Later that evening, Squall paid a visit to Cid's new apartment. Because Garden had sustained a considerable amount of damage during the war, the Headmaster's quarters had been moved to accommodate a few other residences during the rebuild. When Squall was able to get Cid alone, he'd brought up his concerns about what unforeseen responsibilities he'd end up facing as Rinoa's knight. Realizing the conversation topic was a serious one, Cid sat with Squall on the couch.
"It's going to be hard sometimes. The decision to be a Sorceress Knight is a big one to make. A Sorceress needs her knight to help maintain her humanity and to keep her powers from corrupting her." He offered Squall a drink when Edea brought some out. Squall took it silently but didn't drink from it. "It'll be your job to protect her from not only a world that will want to kill her, but from herself as well," he told him. "Hold tight to your morals and convictions," he told him. "In the toughest of times you will be her moral compass and crutch."
Squall didn't say anything. The thought of that kind of responsibility if he failed her was almost overwhelming; he was used to only looking after himself. It was a lot of responsibility and with the way Cid talked, most of the burden would be on him. Just the thought brought a flutter of nervousness to his chest.
"You've grown up to be a respectable young man," Cid told him with a smile. "I have every faith that so long as your heart is in it, you won't fail her."
"But what if I do?" Squall asked as he looked over at him.
"Just be there for her," Cid told him. "Don't let petty little things tear you apart."
Squall nodded quietly. He could do that.
"It's late," Cid told him. "Get back to your quarters, I'm sure she's waiting there."
Squall put his glass down and nodded as he stood. "Thanks," he said quietly, feeling a little awkward in this situation. "What happens to a knight who fails his sorceress?" He couldn't help it, he had to ask.
Cid paused, looking down for a moment. "The weight of your failure feels like the weight of the entire world is crushing your very soul," he told him. "I thought I'd lost Edea there for a while," he admitted.
Squall was quiet, sparing a glance over at his Matron.
"You should try talking to him," Cid stated.
Squall looked up. "No," he told him.
"You should," he insisted.
"I don't see how that will help anything," Squall told him. "…Thanks again," he said quietly.
Stepping out of their apartment, Squall slid his hands in his pockets as he walked to the elevator. He pressed the button and waited quietly. Him talk to Seifer about what it felt like to lose his sorceress? He was pretty certain that was a very bad idea. There were a handful of ways he could imagine that playing out, and all of them ended very badly.
This level of Garden was very quiet. The elevator chimed as the doors hissed open. It startled him a bit but thankfully there was no one around to see it. Stepping inside, he leaned against the brass handrail and looked down at the Garden levels below. Cid may have been the Headmaster but Squall was the Commander of this base. He grinned to himself. He had to admit, now that the initial shock had worn off, it was pretty cool.
Reaching the first floor, the doors slid open again. Squall pushed himself off the rail and stepped out. Aside from a few cadets, the only other sound in the main circle was the sound of the fountains that lined the walkway. He slid his hands in his pockets again as he started back to the dormitory wing.
When he arrived at his room, Squall was at a loss for words when the door hissed open. Sitting on the edge of his bed was Seifer. His boots were planted firmly on the floor and his back was bowed over so that he could rest with his elbows on his knees. Much to Squall's annoyance and relief, Seifer never spoke to him. He didn't even get so much as a glance. Seifer kept his gaze and his voice down, whatever he was saying to Rinoa was clearly intended to be private. Rinoa nodded as if she understood and reached up from her spot on the floor to offer a light pat on his knee. Seifer then stood abruptly, stepped carefully around Rinoa and Angelo and brushed past Squall.
Squall watched him slip past, and frowned faintly, neither of them exchanging words. While he wanted to hold some kind of grudge, it was hard to when Seifer looked so defeated. He also looked as if he'd lost twenty pounds since returning to Garden. Regardless, he turned his attention from Seifer's retreating form and stepped back into his room.
Rinoa looked up from her place on the floor when he came back to his room. She had clearly settled in, making his place her own. Aside from her travel bag of clothes by the closet, she had all of her pairs of shoes lined up under the edge of his bed and Angelo's food and water bowls by the bathroom door. He paused as he watched her. She had her hair pulled up loosely and had Angelo lying across her lap. On the floor beside her sat a bottle of baby blue nail polish. Was she painting the dog's nails? Rinoa offered him a slightly embarrassed smile. "You caught us."
"…Cute," was all he knew to say as he closed the door behind him.
"She thinks I'm babying her," Rinoa told him.
"You are," he stated.
She smiled faintly as she carefully applied paint to the last nail on Angelo's front paws.
"What was that about?" Squall asked as he spared the door another glance.
"It was nothing," she told him. "He just wanted to apologize. And to talk."
Squall frowned. If Seifer was going to try to win Rinoa back over, he was going to have to put a stop to that and soon.
"Oh don't," Rinoa interrupted his thoughts. Sometimes he felt like she knew his thoughts before he did. "He was just apologizing for …everything. He's not a bad guy," she reminded him.
He cleared his throat and bent down to remove his boots. Clearly they needed a change in discussion; he wasn't ready to just accept that Seifer was a poor victim of circumstance. Seifer had never been that nice of a guy to him. "I spoke with Selphie this morning," he rerouted the conversation. "..Don't worry about Angelo being here." Rinoa looked up.
"She told you about that?"
He nodded. "She slapped me in the arm for letting you worry like you were," he admitted with a shrug.
"I'm sorry," she offered, some of her hair falling loose and hanging beside her face. "I was just on the Garden Computer System over at Quisty's and there was this cadet complaining that I was the only one allowed a pet."
"Don't worry about them," he told her, shrugging off his uniform top and tossing it on his bed. "I'll have Angelo certified as one of our service dogs," he said as he sat on the edge of his bed and watched Rinoa finish Angelo's nails. "Do you two do this often?"
"Not as often as I'd like," she admitted with a smile.
Squall smiled as Rinoa stood and Angelo trotted over to smell his new uniform. He watched the dog quietly. Whatever she smelled she seemed to be really be enjoying. He reached out and rubbed the dog's back. Her tail whipped around, smacking against his legs. He looked up as Rinoa came over to him.
"Hey," she smiled, letting him pull her onto his lap. She slid an arm around his neck. "I hope I didn't complicate things last night," she admitted. "I just got caught up in the moment," she said quietly.
He looked up at her as he slid his arm around her waist. "You didn't do anything to apologize for," he told her, reaching up to tuck the loose strands of her hair behind her ear. "Believe me, I am not complaining."
"Well you looked pretty surprised when you woke up," she admitted.
"Of course I was," he blushed just slightly. "It was my first time, and I realized it wasn't a dream."
She smiled. "So I didn't make things weird for us?" she asked.
"Not at all," he assured her. She smiled, that was a relief. "But you did tell Irvine about what I said," he frowned a bit.
"I did not!" she exclaimed in an exasperated tone. "I told Selphie!"
He gave her a look. "Telling Selphie anything is like telling the entire Garden over the loudspeaker," he informed her with a scowl.
Her shoulders slumped as she looked down at the floor.
He sighed. Great, she was pouting. "Rin…"
She looked up at him with those big beautiful brown eyes and he knew that it didn't matter what she said next because he wouldn't be able to be mad at her for embarrassing him. "You can't tell me something so amazingly sweet and expect me to keep that to myself," she said as she flattened out a wrinkle in his undershirt with her free hand. "I am so proud of you," she told him. "I'm proud to be with you. You are one of the most amazing people I've ever known and nobody else gets you like I do. So when you say or do something like that, I have to brag," she told him. "I want people to know what a closet romantic you are."
Squall smiled just slightly as she leaned in and pressed her forehead against his. "They'll never believe you," he said with just a hint of mischievousness in his voice.
Rinoa chuckled and swatted his chest with her hand. "I know, I know. You have a reputation to uphold." She leaned into him, pushing him back on the bed. She glanced over at him as they both lay their backs. He seemed focused on something above them so she glanced up as well. "That really bothers you doesn't it?" she asked with a grin. She'd often caught him staring up at the mismatched paint job on his ceiling.
"I like it," he admitted after a moment.
"You would," she said with a smile.
"Rinoa?" he said quietly.
"Yes Squall?" she whispered, rolling on her side so that their noses were almost touching.
"I'm one of the most amazing people you've ever known?" he asked her.
She nodded, the movement against the comforter messing her hair up a bit.
"Who beat me then?" he asked with a hint of a grin.
"Who beat you?" she asked, furrowing her brow.
"As the most amazing person you've ever known," he clarified.
She smiled. "Ah. Jealous are we?"
"No," he denied it, going back to staring at the three shades of beige on the ceiling. She admired his profile as his eyes gazed upwards. There might've been some part of him afraid she still liked Seifer.
"Ma Dincht," she admitted. He looked over at her, clearly surprised by her response.
"Ma Dincht?" he asked. "Of all the people you've ever met in the G Army, the resistance groups and all of the Gardens?"
She smiled. "Well ….yeah," she admitted. "She willingly adopted Zell, raised him and still manages to make over him as her darling son even when he is totally strung out on sugar and adrenaline," she stated. "He's hyper, loud and let's face it, not always totally aware of his surroundings," she smiled. "….I'd like to think my father was that devoted to me," she added quietly.
This conversation had taken an awkward turn in an instant. What did he even say to that? He wasn't really sure he even liked her father that much.
"That," she said quietly. "That and I'm pretty sure he's got a baby with the maid," she admitted, her eyes now staring up at the lackluster paint job above them.
Squall looked over at her. Now he was really at a loss. "I… Are you sure?" he asked. "I don't see why that would matter. Lots of people have multiple children," he offered. He was terrible at this. What was he supposed to say to make it better?
"It's a girl," she told him. "Her name's Azalea, after my mother's flowers in the back yard."
Squall wasn't certain, but he was pretty sure he was hearing a bit of resentment in her voice. Rinoa was usually such a friendly, bubbly person, so hearing her talk like this worried him. "Rin," he told her, getting her to look back over at him. "I meant what I said about us. I meant every bit of it."
She smiled broadly, tilting her head a bit and kissing the tip of his nose. "I love you," she whispered.
He scanned her eyes with his before offering her a slight smile. The thought of being in love scared him. She already made him act less rationally than he normally would every time she pouted or pleaded with him. He wasn't sure he wanted to know what else she'd be able to get him to do later on down the road. "I love you too," he told her, moving a hand to tuck her hair behind her ear.
She smiled, scooting closer and resting her head against his chest. He slid an arm around her as he stared at the ceiling. So much had happened over the past few months. So much had changed. While Squall would probably never admit it to anyone, he was still struggling to catch up. He had never asked to become such a pivotal person with such an important role in the world. Between his new role, his new social standing with his new 'friends,' the changes he could see in himself, and the doubts to the way he remembered things in his past, Squall was floundering in a sea of change.
He didn't even want to think about his newly discovered father, or how Sis was trying to get him to come up to Esthar for a few weeks to wind down and relax. How could he relax? Cid was coaching him on how to be a capable sorceress' knight, tossing him to the investors….and worst of all, he was being expected to spearhead the largest PR push Balamb Garden had ever undertaken. Everything was so overwhelming. He felt like fate had plucked him from his quiet stable little world of solitude and thrust him into a world of chaos. Rinoa uttered an unintelligible murmur causing him to glance down at her. She was asleep. He slid his fingers back to her face and brushed her bangs out of her eyes. No matter what happened, she would be the center of his universe. Reaching over with his free arm, he pulled the corner of the comforter over them. He let out a sigh as he closed his eyes, he would worry about all the changes another day.
Notes: Thanks to everyone who read the story, and an even bigger thanks to those of you that review! I hope you've enjoyed yourselves. Also, a big thanks goes to Ashbear and Ronin-ai for encouraging me to participate in the "Where I Belong" challenge. I'm very glad I sat aside my Sims game to start writing again.
Last but certainly not least, I want to give a huge thanks to my muse and sister from another mister, Roarke Stratton! We met here on 9 years ago and she's been criticizing my poorly placed commas ever since. ;) Thank you for the inspiration, the motivation and the editing that this story so desperately needed.