Disclaimer: I do not own the material of Final Fantasy VIII, but the merchandise and this story.

Rating/Warnings: Teen (+15) for a few choice words and mild thoughts.
Squall/Rinoa (surprising right?)
4,748 words
I honestly don't know if I've got this in on time for the last day of the challenge, but hey, another Squinoa one-shot. Why not? -heart- Basically what went through my mind was one thing: Squall's second costume in Duodecim. I swear it was the first costume I bought for Squall when I had enough points to purchase it from the in-game shop. I regret nothing! LOL

Once again, kudos to everyone who partook in the challenge! It's been one heck of an August and you should give yourself a pat on the back. :) Thanks for reading!

.: Dress Code :.

~ There are certain things that can make you look so different ~

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

It was bothersome enough that he didn't have anything appropriate to wear for the weather outside, but really? He didn't have anything that could let him breathe under the scorching heat of the sun?

Squall continued to glumly dig through his dresser before scavenging his drawers for one lousy shirt. The scowl on his face only deepened when his search became fruitless. This is what I get for only wearing black and leather… Hmm?

In the furthest corner of one of his drawers, Squall pulled out a shirt he had never seen before…or at least, he wished he'd never seen before.

…Okay, fine…

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

"He's taking so long. I wonder what's up?" Rinoa whispered to herself as she walked towards the dormitory of Balamb Garden, tucking a lock of a hair behind her left ear.

It wasn't unheard of that Squall developed a habit of being late to just about anything relating to hang-outs, get-togethers, or even the occasional date because of his new career, but Squall had promised her that his schedule was clear today—he would be putting his time and effort for her sake today. A small, giddy smile couldn't help but touch her lips and Rinoa had to contain her excitement. It's been days since it was just him and her. Their time together with their friends didn't count; Rinoa wanted the whole package to herself.

Unconsciously, Rinoa raised a hand to her head and began running her fingers through her hair, smoothing down her long dark locks in an attempt to look 'proper' and 'appealing'. When the young sorceress really thought about it, she hadn't put much effort into her appearance even though it was technically a date she was going on. Then again, Squall didn't really take into account her appearance when she did put effort into it…unfortunately. Rinoa couldn't help but frown at the thought. Squall is such a guy—

Rinoa was a little too late in snapping out of her thoughts when the girl abruptly collided into another walking body at the turn of the corridor. She let out a small squeak of surprise, stumbling backwards when she lost her balance, before a hand took hold of her wrist to prevent her from falling down. To say the least, it was embarrassing of her to space out in the middle of her walk towards her boyfriend's dorm room. Once she regained her balance (with the help of her unintentional savior), Rinoa bowed her head guiltily; moreover to hide her flustered expression. "I'm sorry! I should've watched where I was going…"

"Given that I'm used to you spacing out, I can't say I really care," her company replied smoothly yet teasingly.

Rinoa couldn't help but blink when she replayed the stranger's voice in her head. It was familiar…and rather monotonous. Raising her head, the young sorceress gaped in surprise; chocolate eyes widening and lips parting ever so slowly. The stranger wasn't so much of a 'stranger' since it was Squall standing before her. Now, Rinoa last saw Squall only a week ago and people clearly didn't change that much in the span of seven days…but Rinoa underestimated how different someone could be just by changing their taste in style. The Squall she was used to seeing either wore his SeeD uniform (when he was on duty and she was there to bother—er, visit him) or his trademark attire that Rinoa had grown to love (even though Squall was in desperate need of color). That trademark attire consisted of nothing but a pair of black pants, black gloves, lots of belts, a white shirt, and a fur-collared leather jacket—that was 'Squall' to Rinoa. However, the 'Squall' standing before her at present didn't fill the preset of her taciturn boyfriend. No; this Squall wore black pants, lots of belts, a black sleeveless shirt, and no black bomber jacket. Heck, even the gloves Squall was wearing were different! Fingerless black gloves? Sure he was still covering up his bare palms, but Rinoa could see his fingernails (not that she couldn't see them when he wore his SeeD uniform, but that basically went with the whole 'proper' attire thing so that didn't count).

…For some reason, Rinoa felt underdressed in a simple, off-the-shoulder white crop top with a dark blue tank top underneath. To finish off her look, the raven-haired sorceress wore a pair of denim shorts that reached her thighs and dark blue flat shoes. Rinoa had thought about tying up her hair since the weather in Balamb was hotter than usual, but Rinoa didn't want to appear too different in front of Squall. Nevertheless, it appeared that the brunet didn't share her sentiments now, did he?

"Rinoa." His voice brought her back to reality and Rinoa shook her head a little to come out of her daze. Squall continued to hold her wrist gently as he raised a concerned eyebrow. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing!" she quickly retorted, giving Squall a fast once-over before keeping her eyes on his face. Showcasing a smile to suppress her initial shock, Rinoa relaxed her tone back to normalcy. "I just…didn't think we'd run into each other in the hallway like that."

Squall nodded in agreement, removing his fingers from her wrist to run a hand through his hair absentmindedly. "Yeah, well…I guess I should apologize. I didn't mean to take long in getting ready and make you wait."

She didn't know what was funnier: the fact that he made her wait or Squall was actually 'dolling' himself up for today. Either way, nothing seemed to beat the fact that Squall looked rather…daring for a lack of a better term—not that she was complaining; those arms of his left little to the imagination and made her ever so curious as to know what the rest of Squall's upper body looked like…

Oh! Let's not go there, Rinoa! Pushing down the blush that wanted to cross her face, the raven-haired sorceress hastily made a one-eighty in her spot so her back was facing the brunet. The last thing Rinoa wanted to do was look like one of those girls who ran on hormones just because her boyfriend had incredible pheromones (which was still technically true). Damn you, Squall!

A sigh left the lips of the SeeD Commander and he placed a hand on her shoulder in an attempt to turn her around. "Rinoa—"

"H-Hurry, hurry!" Rinoa jumped away and nervously pointed down the hallway with a crooked smile. She quickly paced herself without looking back to see if Squall was following. "We can't waste a day standing here! You're ready, right? Let's go! I want to try that new drink at that café Selphie suggested to me!"

"Right…" Squall muttered; most likely in confusion.

She was very much aware of how awkward she was making things between them, but Rinoa couldn't help it! Her cheeks filled with heat and if Squall saw her now, Rinoa wouldn't know how to explain it! As she power-walked down the empty corridor – Squall quietly tailing her from behind – Rinoa couldn't help but think back to a few seconds earlier. Squall's fingers… Rinoa knew it wasn't the first time she held his bare fingers, but that was back when they first met. She never realized how warm they were nor how much they sent a tingling sensation to course throughout her body. Rinoa's cheeks only flushed an even deeper shade of red when she imagined what it would be like to be held within Squall's arms now that he wasn't wearing a jacket…

:: :: :: :: :: :: :: ::

If Rinoa had to be honest about anything, then it had to be this date—it was definitely the highlight of her week.

She snorted a little, though refrained from actually laughing out loud when Squall's steely blue eyes landed on her. "Come on, Squall, it's not that bad."

The SeeD Commander only narrowed his eyes as a response while throwing back Rinoa's choice of clothing back on the shelf full of printed t-shirts. The one she had chosen? It was a black shirt with a cute little picture of a cartoon lion, roaring in intimidation yet it did nothing but spur on the occasional 'aww'. It probably didn't help that the shirt had, encrusted in white font, the sentences 'I'm not lion' on the front with 'Maybe I AM a lion!' on the back. Rinoa thought it perfect because she knew how much her boyfriend likened himself to the regal animal, so it was only proper to help his fanaticisms with the beast by letting him wear the 'appropriate' apparel. Though that went without saying: lions could be pretty cute and therefore, Squall could afford to be cute too!

Laughing now that Squall was storming his way out of the shop, Rinoa followed him to the heels and held her stomach in mirth. "I was joking! But you have to admit…that shirt is so you."

"If you take out the lion and that stupid 'joke', then maybe," Squall deadpanned, stopping in his step to glance at her.

Rinoa puffed out her cheeks and stated with hands locked behind her back. "That kinda ruins the purpose of the shirt—it'd just be a plain, ol' black shirt; and I really doubt you need another one since you're already wearing one…just sleeveless."

At this, Squall couldn't help but run a hand through his hair as he stuffed his other hand into his pocket. Looking to the side, he retorted, "If the weather had cooperated with me, I wouldn't have to wear just a shirt."

Mmhmm… Rinoa hummed, secretly eyeing Squall intently. She wasn't against him wearing a simple tee, but it was definitely something she would have to get used to. It was kind of hard keeping her distance since it was a habit for her to lock arms with Squall from time to time too. Rinoa hadn't tried at all today (which bothered her immensely), but something about touching Squall's bare arm…bugged her. Sure, he's worn shirts without wearing his jacket, but all of them were still long-sleeved; Squall was that preventive of having direct skin-on-skin contact apparently. Rolling her eyes, Rinoa dryly asked in mind, So then why, oh great SeeD commander, are you wearing a sleeveless shirt? …Not to say that you aren't yummy at the moment—

"You want a taste?"

"Excuse me? Squall, please!" Rinoa, her mind running at break-neck speed, openly slapped Squall on the shoulder to override the crimson color decorating her cheeks. The brunet recoiled in surprise as a result, flinching opposite to her while Rinoa tightened a fist and glared at him. She wouldn't deny that her thoughts were trending into less-than-innocent territory, but how dare he listen to her inward monologue!

…Oh wait.

Squall rubbed his exposed shoulder while returning the sorceress's (now broken) sneer with one of his own. Scowling, Squall monotonously drawled, "Okay. If you didn't want ice cream, fine—you don't have to hit me."

Hyne should smite her with a bolt of lightning or something at that moment because Rinoa could hardly contain her embarrassment. Her face flared with so much red that it reached the tips of her ears! Of course Squall wasn't a mind-reader (she should've known that very well); of course Squall was oblivious about how much that shirt made him look three times as appealling as before; and of course Squall was talking about ice cream—they were standing in front of an ice cream vendor's stand for crying out loud! Stubbornly turning her eyes away, Rinoa pulled at the hem of her top and attempted to correct her mistake. "I see. I thought you were talking about…about something else. Ahem…"

Squall pulled his no-nonsense facade, raising an eyebrow and placing a hand on his hip. His current expression… He only ever used it when he was expecting a raw answer. "Something else?"

"Yes." Rinoa would play his game and this time, she would not lose! "I mean, sometimes what you say can be taken the wrong way."

"And pray tell, Rinoa," Squall countered. "What exactly did you think I meant?"

"Um, what does that matter? I obviously heard wrong, so there's no need to correct me since I know my fault."

"You've made me curious."

"Curiosity killed the cat, Mr. Lion."

Squall snorted; now crossing his arms as his stared hardened. "I'll take my chances."

Rinoa bit the inside of her cheek and wondered if sorceresses could implant curses on nosy boyfriends (nothing extreme or long-term; maybe just a one-day deal where Squall would have to 'hang out' with Laguna). She returned his bluff with one of her own. "I beg to differ. You do not need to know something personal by my standards."

"Personal? The words 'ice cream' and 'personal' in your mind make me even more curious," Squall blunted challenged; dead serious now.

That was it; she was already fighting a losing battle. "I'll have you know, Squall Leonhart, that I am not under interrogation nor are you properly working as a SeeD at the moment. What is this? Since when did you take an interest in what goes on in other people's heads? If I tell you, it's only fair you tell me something too—"

"Rinoa, you want the ice cream or not?"

"…Yes, please." She proceeded to blush a little when Squall chuckled, having spun the entire situation over her head for his amusement.

Damn him! He was getting rather good at doing that whenever he caught her not paying attention to him. If it was Squall's idea of a 'punishment' game, then he had developed some level of sadism towards her. It didn't help that Squall happened to be good-looking either—who wouldn't follow the bait he dangled on a string? Shaking her head, Rinoa brushed back her hair before fanning herself with both hands when she felt a wave of heat rush over her. Glancing heavenward, Rinoa pouted how there wasn't a single cloud in the sky. She was hoping she wouldn't sweat much since her hair was kept down; that would look so unattractive. She soon felt a nudge to her side; her gaze becoming fixed on her boyfriend who stood to her right holding two bars of ice cream: one chocolate and the other vanilla. Oh Squall… He loved his chocolate.

Smiling happily, Rinoa performed an informal curtsey while taking her ice cream bar; Squall rolling his eyes, though his eyes showed enjoyment. He asked before taking a bite of his ice cream, "So where are we off to next?"

Good question. Thinking to herself, Rinoa ran down a mental checklist for things they could do together. They talked about their day so far, stop by the local café for a bite to eat, did a bit of window shopping… Ah, that's right! Rinoa realized that they haven't held hands yet at all! That was something she totally could do and feel happy doing it, but… Glancing down at his free hand as they walked down the sidewalk – Squall observing each store of the market place – the young sorceress weighed the pros and cons of actually holding Squall's hand. Holding his hand wouldn't be strange in the slightest since they were 'going out', but Rinoa has never held Squall's hand when they weren't covered in gloves for an extended period of time. Those fingerless gloves of his at the moment… If she held his hand right now, that would mean direct physical contact. That was good, right? Rinoa's never truly felt the callous nature of Squall's fingers before. Slowly reaching for his hand, she instinctively raised her eyes only to meet with Squall's questioning face. Needless to say, Rinoa quickly pulled her hand back and held it strictly to her side.



Squall looked at her incredulously; mouth set into a thin line, but he wasn't actually annoyed…just curious. Studying her face – which Rinoa tried to feign innocence – Squall tilted his head before shrugging and returned to eating the chocolate ice cream bar held between his fingers. "Never mind."

Rinoa inwardly let out a sigh of relief before sucking on her own vanilla ice cream bar. Their little date was nothing more than to simply spend time with each other. With Squall being as busy as he was, it was difficult for them to do anything note-worthy, but honestly, Rinoa could care less. Sure, they couldn't go to the other side of the world to have dinner and a show at the most expensive restaurant in Esthar of which Laguna mentioned in passing (to be realistic, Selphie and the President of Esthar should not be chattering on the phone for long periods of time), but Rinoa would rather immerse herself in the little things as long as Squall was right there beside her. He was pretty much an adventure all by himself. Rinoa was still getting to know the parts of his personality that were still hiding behind his mask and, with every accomplishment she made to shine them to light, she would feel proud of him for taking a big step. Squall was still her Squall.

Smiling, Rinoa hopped beside her brunet boyfriend and automatically hooked her arm around his as they walked down the street closest to the ocean. Nuzzling the side of her face against his shoulder, the raven-haired sorceress was very much aware that she may have confused her boyfriend with her random acts of affection.

"What?" Squall asked; his tone taking a subtly approach at amusement.

His question only made Rinoa giggle happily and she hugged Squall's arm tighter. "Oh nothing—I felt like it. Consider it a 'thank you' for taking me out today!" She lifted her head to show her appreciation with a brilliant beam. "Thank you, Squall."

It was rare – so very rare – of him to let his feelings dance on his face. Squall's usual mask of indifference slowly melted and gave way for a small, loving smile to paint his lips as his blue eyes softened just enough for her to see a reflection in his eyes; he was looking at her. Squall replied earnestly, "You're being weird, but…you're welcome."

"I'm not being weird; I'm being my definition of 'normal'," Rinoa playfully answered. Sticking out her tongue, Rinoa hummed before stuffing her ice cream in her mouth; her speech muffled. "You're gonna have to get used to it, Squall. I like hugging you."

As expected, the brunet rolled his eyes, taking small licks of his ice cream bar liberally. "I'll say. You're squeezing the feeling out of my arm."

I know he's joking, but am I really squeezing that hard? Suddenly very aware of her actions, Rinoa decided to play with the fact Squall pointed out; tightening her embrace around his arm before she was smacked with another very significant point. Squall's arm…it was very warm and much defined and it was because Squall wasn't wearing his trademark leather jacket. Rinoa had completely forgotten that Squall wore a sleeveless, black shirt today…without the jacket. This was the first time Rinoa was actually touching Squall's bare arm! Her face flooded with heat, but the young sorceress wasn't sure if it was because the feeling of Squall's arm felt nice or she was entertaining very weird thoughts. She instinctively pulled away as if the brunet was hot to the touch.

However, nothing ever got past Squall. "Rinoa—"

"Oh! We should definitely try that place! Quistis told me that place was absolutely fantastic!" She hurried over to a corner book store in an attempt to flee Squall's impending confrontation, but his reflexes were much faster than hers.

Squall immediately clamped down on her wrist; unaware of how much Rinoa tried to ignore the feeling of his fingers on her skin. "Hold on. What's going on, Rinoa? You're acting strange."

"Strange? I'm not—"

"Look at me," Squall interrupted with a firm tone. Very hesitantly, Rinoa swallowed a lump forming in her throat before doing as asked; coyly turning around and finding a very peeved Squall barely glaring at her. He paid no attention to how Rinoa squirmed under his scrutiny as he analyzed her quietly – stony-faced and all – before letting out a sigh; his gaze lightening up. Looking around, Squall gestured his head towards a small bench by the main plaza, releasing Rinoa's wrist as he walked over to the bench and expected Rinoa to follow. Luckily for him, she did, but not without feeling pressure. Once Squall was seated on one end of the bench, Rinoa was hesitant to sit down, fidgeting from foot to foot. She heard the brunet exhale once more. "Rinoa, your ice cream."

"…Ah!" Taking the hint, the young sorceress quickly licked the melting parts of her forgotten sweet before it got on her hands and clothes. She saw her boyfriend once again motioning for her to sit and – with no other choice – Rinoa finally relented; decidedly keeping her attention on her ice cream while Squall continued to stare at her.

Only the rush of the ocean waves formed by the breeze and the small chatter of the townsfolk filled in the silence between them. Heck, even the seagulls cawing did more talking than they were doing right now! Rinoa didn't know how to act in this situation as she grew anxious before Squall shifted in his seat, leaning forward with his hands locked together between his legs. There was no need for her to even glance at him because she knew he was already fixated at her.

"You know…you haven't been yourself all day. Is something bothering you?" Squall cautiously asked in a mixture of confusion and suspicion.

Rinoa could've laughed had it not been Squall she was talking to. With the corners of her lips twitching, she quickly replied before an awkward smile touched her face. "I… Well, I guess you could say that."

Squall nodded. "Okay. What is it?"

How to proceed? Rinoa sucked on what remained of her ice cream to give herself a moment to think. "…It's silly."

"Try me."

"Hyne, you're being pushy about this." She finally turned to look at him, both eyebrows lifted in surprise.

The brunet's response? He only shrugged without a care; eyes never leaving her. "You're rubbing off on me."

"I'll say."

"Changing the subject, Rinoa," Squall warned, gradually growing impatient. Before she could even speak, the brunet bluntly presented the facts. "You've been staring at me all day; and not in the way you usually stare at me. You're looking at me as if I've changed."

Unable to hold back, Rinoa shot up from her seat and threw her arm to the side in release; the ice cream she held in her hand once again melting. "You havechanged! I mean, it's not a big thing, but you could have warned me? Squall…you don't even look like Squall. Ugh, wait." Putting up a hand, she rubbed her forehead as if to channel a sense of calm before continuing, "I know I tease you about getting a new wardrobe – and yes, you haven't really done that considering you're still wearing black during a hot Balamb summer – but dammit, Squall! When did you ever own a tight-fitting, black sleeveless shirt? The fingerless gloves are one thing, but the shirt? If you were wearing you're jacket, I don't think I ever would've noticed something was different."

Blinking a few times, Squall suddenly examined his attire and, of course, found nothing wrong with it. Rinoa openly slapped her face and readily decided that Squall's fashion sense left him completely ignorant on what it did (or could do) to the female masses. He tugged at his shirt; a slight pout introducing itself on his features. "Why is it a big deal when I wear a shirt without my jacket? It's hot."

"Exactly!" She didn't care anymore; Rinoa was going to speak with her hormones now. "It's not just hot; you're the fricken sun on legs, Squall. You're very attractive; as in 'you are driving me insane and I want to jump you' attractive!" Relieving herself of her pent-up thoughts, Rinoa actually felt a little better despite Squall's blank stare. Clearing her throat, Rinoa plopped down beside Squall on the bench again, gripping the stick of her melting ice cream tightly while pouting with a blush now that her hormones settled down. "Maybe it's because it's been a while since I last saw you, but I swear you've suddenly become that guy who I can't take my eyes off of."

As expected, Squall remained speechless. Rinoa could deal with that since Squall was naturally a quiet person. However, it only took a few seconds before a snort escaped him, followed by a struggle to not chuckle, and then a failed attempt to keep his laughter to himself; it was Rinoa who watched in awe. Squall Leonhart – commander of Balamb Garden; hero in defeating the sorceress bent on Time Compression; her Sorceress Knight – was laughing out loud. She continued to flabbergast with her mouth hanging open and eyes as wide as saucers before Squall shook his head; his shoulders still shaking in mirth. He was soon glancing at her in complete amusement while he caught his breath. "Wait, that's why you've been eyeing me? I thought for sure it was because I was doing something wrong."

"Oi, for the guy who likes wearing all-black every day – in leather no doubt – you shouldn't talk," Rinoa retorted; finally stuffing the last of her ice cream into her mouth while talking with her focus away from Squall. "I've never seen you show so much…skin in one day even if it is hot." She honestly had another word for 'skin', but Rinoa decided she was embarrassed enough as is.

Another chuckle escaped the brunet before he did something entirely new. Pushing her hair to the side, Rinoa shivered (ironically enough) when she felt Squall's warm breath caressing the skin between the side of her neck and shoulder. "Actually, I was hoping for that turn of events to be in vise versa."

"W-What do you mean?" Rinoa struggled to say, though she was unconsciously exposing more of her neck to him when she tilted her head to the other side; her skin now flushed.

She curled her fists on her lap when she felt the brunet ghosting his lips over her bare skin, leaving a warm trail in his wake. "Your clothes are nice, Rinoa, but I was hoping you'd tie up your hair since I've never seen you like that before."

Oh my gosh, this isn't Squall! Rinoa squealed inwardly. Either she was very enticed now or very scared; Rinoa didn't know what emotion she was feeling when Squall was acting so intimate in public. As she was lost in war with her thoughts, the brunet quickly kissed to Rinoa's cheek before standing up and walked away. Utterly confused and definitely left feeling bothered, Rinoa glanced at her boyfriend's back before she jumped to her feet. "Hey! What was that all about, Squall?"

He stopped, looking over his shoulder with his expression back to being stoic and 'Squall-like'. "I was being serious about you tying up your hair; that's all."

Shocked beyond belief, Rinoa marched up to him and slapped his chest lightly. "Tch, you meanie! I can't believe you teased me like that!"

"Consider it payback for only staring at me all day," he joked, throwing his around her and smiling smugly.

She was taken by surprise once again before finally relaxing and snuggling closer into her boyfriend's welcoming embrace. It actually wasn't half-bad being wrapped in Squall's bare arms; in fact, the proximity now was much more enjoyable than ever. Giggling up at him while hugging him back, Rinoa asked after they threw away their ice cream sticks. "So I'm majorly curious now: where and why did you buy a sleeveless shirt?"

Squall let out a breath of air; his tone of voice holding some amount of annoyance. "You remember how Selphie invited Laguna to my 'birthday bash of the century'?" Once Rinoa nodded, Squall continued. "Yeah. Out of all the junk that he bought me as poorly disguised birthday presents, this shirt was probably the only thing that served a functional purpose."

A laugh escaped Rinoa and she praised the Estharian President, tightening her hold around Squall with a grin. "Remind me to thank Laguna the next time I see him!"