Chapter XVIV

Rinoa stood at the bow of Wing Heart, feeling as though she was soaring over the waves as the sloop sailed on the wind. Bracing herself against the railing, she looked down at the hull of the boat cutting through the waves, marveling at how fast they appeared to be moving…. all under wind power.

She gasped as a sleek form suddenly burst from the water, just a few meters from the bow of the boat, leaping up high enough for her to meet its dark eye before it sliced cleanly back into the water. A porpoise. Suddenly it seemed as though a dozen more had joined the first one, making a race of it. Rinoa watched them in fascination, entranced by their antics. More than one leaped up like the first one had, apparently wanting to get a better look at her. Their curiosity and the intelligence that she could see in their eyes charmed her, and she couldn't help smiling as she watched them.

They disappeared as suddenly as they'd appeared however, and Rinoa sighed, turning to make her way aft, where Squall was absorbed in the boat's navigation.

"We're almost there." Squall told her as she approached him. "We just need to round that cape there and you'll see it." He indicated what looked like a mountain jutting out into the sea.

"I saw porpoises just a minute ago. A whole bunch of them." Rinoa said, smiling at the memory. And at Squall. He was wearing the Bears hat she'd given him along with a pair of sunglasses, but aside from a pair of black board shorts and deck shoes, he was wearing little else. Already tanned from living in Esthar, he looked good enough to eat.

She understood why he'd gone shirtless; it was a lovely day, just warm enough to make the sea breeze refreshing by contrast. Rinoa had opted for a halter-topped sundress, in cool, summery white cotton gauze. Squall had obviously approved; he'd had difficulty tearing his gaze away from her, in point of fact.

"It's called a pod, actually," Squall corrected her, smiling at her excitement. "It's apparently hugely entertaining for them to race the boat. They usually split off when we get closer to land. That's kind of a hint for me to watch out for reefs."

Rinoa nodded, watching him in fascination as he focused on the various instruments and controls of the boat. She had no idea what it all did, and was mightily impressed that Squall apparently did. Some were easy to figure out; a lever locking the wheel into place keeping the rudder steady, for example… sort of like an auto-pilot, or so it appeared.

The other toggles, switches, gauges and electronic readouts were more difficult to identify, though Rinoa knew where the radio was at least; Squall had showed her. He'd also instructed her how to radio for help, in case he wasn't able to for some reason. It had scared her a little bit, but it made perfect sense; there was only the two of them on the boat after all, and if Squall were incapacitated at all, Rinoa would have to help.

"Sooo…. I'm guessing reefs are bad?" Rinoa asked.

"Not in themselves, no. But hitting one is definitely a bad thing. Porpoises avoid them to avoid injury; coral is very sharp. So, watching them tells me when we're passing close to a reef. I have a depth gauge here too, and that helps." Squall explained, removing the bar from the wheel and steering slightly to starboard. The bow, tossing on the waves, veered slightly to the right in response. The sails flapped slightly when the boat changed its direction, and Squall made some obscure adjustments to the trim and they bellied out again.

Glancing up at her, he said seriously, "You really should put on that life vest. If it gets rough and you go overboard, I won't be able to get you right away." Rinoa nodded with a quiet sigh, picking it up. She hadn't wanted to put it on when Squall had first handed it to her, thinking it a silly precaution since they were going such a short distance. She was realizing that even a short sail could have disastrous consequences if things went wrong.

He distracted her from sudden, nightmarish thoughts of nautical disaster by directing her attention to just off the port bow.

"The island should be coming into view soon. We'll be around this peninsula before you know it. Should be dead ahead when we round this rock here…" Squall said, carefully steering the boat around the jutting landmass, then adjusting the sails again to quarter the wind and leap forward as the sails luffed out.

And there it was. Not much was discernable at first aside the fact that they were approaching an island with a very large, conical mountain making up a goodly portion of it.

"That's a…" Rinoa began, and Squall finished, "A volcano. Dormant, possibly extinct. Part of what I'm going to have a geological team investigate."

"What if it's not quite as dormant as you hope it'll be?" Rinoa asked, worried.

"Plant seismic monitors all over it, with alerts for any sustained activity." Squall answered calmly. "I'm not a geologist but the surrounding area doesn't show any evidence of any recent volcanic activity. Which at a guess could mean that it's been hundreds if not thousands of years since it's done anything. Still, never hurts to have an escape plan in mind, just in case."

"And? What is your escape plan then?" Rinoa asked, intrigued.

"Well, first thing is building a helipad. After we get the monster population under control, that is. First sign that the mountain's going to blow, we bug out." Squall answered.

"You're not going to do all this by yourself? Right?" Rinoa asked.

"No, I have a couple of partners, friends of mine from when I was a SeeD. They're going to be helping." Squall answered.

"Will I meet these friends?" Rinoa asked, suddenly very curious indeed about Squall's SeeD buddies…whom he'd never mentioned until now.

"If you want. Irvine's decided that we're all going to have a barbecue on my boat next weekend. So, he and Zell are guaranteed to be there…along with their appetites." Squall answered ruefully.

Rinoa laughed, "What, he didn't give you a choice?"

"Not really," Squall replied.

"Sounds like a fun guy." Rinoa commented with a smile.

"Yeah. Fun." Squall snorted, then glanced at Rinoa and added, "and a huge flirt."

Rinoa raised an eyebrow and added archly, "worried?"

"No." Squall answered quickly. Not YET, anyway…

"Good." Rinoa said, moving closer to lean against him, then reach over and kiss him on the cheek. "No reason to be."

Squall smiled over at her briefly, the returned his attention to operating the boat, carefully sailing her closer to the island, watching carefully for shoals. Rinoa stepped away so as not to interfere or get in the way. Her excitement mounted with each moment that drew them closer to the island.

What she could see of it was stunning. The mountain…. or volcano…. Dominated the island's topography. Squall carefully threaded through the reefs, dark patches beneath the otherwise crystal clear turquoise waves, sailing past a gorgeous white-sanded beach. Rinoa watched the water flow through different gradients of blue, growing lighter in color as the depth decreased. As the land mass grew more defined, Rinoa's awe at its beauty increased.

They sailed round the island to the backside of it, almost exactly opposite of the beach, to see a completely different aspect. The mountain, rather than being dead center of the island, was instead toward the back of it, and a portion of it was sheared off into jagged cliffs, dropping straight into the water. The coastline of the island curved inward here, as though something had taken a large bite out of the island, leaving behind a secluded cove. The water was fairly deep here, and Squall steered the boat into the cove, moving to drop anchor, reef the sails and halt their forward progress. Rinoa simply stared at the view.

"Oh…Squall…" she breathed, gazing upward at the majestic peak that reared up from the cove, covered in tropical green and draped in silvery white waterfalls that drifted down into the sea below. She walked toward the portside railing, leaning against it and simply taking everything in. She drank in the fragrance on the breeze, of sea and of the riot of tropical flowers that Rinoa could see in the jungle on the mountain slopes.

Squall joined her at the rail, leaning against it next to her, saying softly, "yeah."

"It's beautiful. I can't believe you actually own this. All of it. It's just….amazing." Rinoa sighed.

"I find it hard to believe myself, sometimes, when I really stop and think about it," he replied.

"I can understand why." Rinoa said, looping her arm through his and leaning into his body, caressing her hand down his forearm to his hand, threading her fingers through his. He responded by kissing her gently on the temple.

They stayed there for a moment in silence; with Rinoa studying the jungle and wondering if she'd be able to see any of the monsters that Squall had told her infested the place.

"I know you told me the island was overrun with monsters, but I wish we could go ashore to see the interior." Rinoa commented.

"Trust me, it's beautiful. But it's too dangerous for us to go ashore right now." Squall replied.

"Do they ever come out where you can see them? From the sea, I mean?" Rinoa wondered.

"Some of them might, depends on the type of monster. I've only seen a few myself, and those were either diurnal or crepuscular. The team that catalogued them couldn't finish their report because one of their men was injured and they had to leave." Squall told her. "I'm sure there's more than a few, watching from the cover of the jungle."

Tilting her head to study Squall's profile (and admire its finely chiseled quality), Rinoa asked him, "I know what 'diurnal' means. It means active in daylight, right?"

"Right." He answered.

"And I know nocturnal means active at night. So, what's 'crepuscular' mean?" Rinoa asked, curious. She'd never heard that term before.

"Active at dusk or dawn. Neither truly nocturnal nor diurnal, but somewhere in between. There are a lot of monsters that fit that pattern. Some of them are very dangerous to deal with because of that." Squall answered her.

"Why?" Rinoa asked.

"Because the light is uncertain, making these creatures more difficult to observe. So it's hard to discern a pattern of behavior. Hard to predict how they'll act when confronted." Squall said.

"And you intend to hunt them all?"

"Yes. But not alone. I'm not stupid. Before I even bought the island I started thinking about what I'd need to do first, before I started making any other plans. So I got back in touch with some fellow SeeDs, Zell and Irvine, and they signed up as partners." Squall said, directing his attention to Rinoa. "Eventually, I want this place to be my home. So yeah, I'll fight and kill whatever I need to in order to make it the safe haven that I want and need it to be."

"For yourself?" Rinoa wondered. It seemed like an awful lot of work, unless….unless he was thinking farther into the future than he was letting on.

"And for anyone else that chooses to live here." He answered, thinking, For myself, yes. And for my friends. But mostly for you.

Rinoa's breath clogged in her throat a moment at that, and she had to take a deep breath before she responded, "don't get yourself killed doing it."

Turning to face her, he disengaged his hand from hers to raise it to her cheek, caressing it gently before dropping it to her waist and pulling her close. Rinoa, wanting to see his eyes, reached up and pulled off his sunglasses, earning a quick smile from him.

"I don't intend to," he murmured softly before dipping his head to gently place his lips over hers.

Rinoa's eyes drifted shut as she gave herself up to his kiss, wrapping both arms around his waist as he had done with hers. Each kiss of his had a different flavor, a different feeling. Sometimes, it was passionate, inflammatory and hungry. Sometimes sweet, gentle, and…. loving. And there was never a moment where she didn't enjoy his kisses, his caresses.

He moved his hands up to cup her face, his long fingers caressing the back of her neck while his thumbs brushed her cheeks. Pulling back a bit, he rested his forehead against hers, turquoise eyes warm as they gazed into hers.

"So, now that we're here, alone, for two whole days…. what did you want to do first?" he asked her softly.

"What is there to do?" Rinoa asked him curiously.

Squall paused for a moment, thinking, and then answered, "Well, there's fishing. I've got all my bait and tackle in the number one cubby down below. Snorkeling, if you're into that, though I'd be rather careful as I'm not entirely certain what lurks in the waters below us, aside from the odd porpoise. We could try out the master cabin…." He smiled briefly at Rinoa's soft laugh, and continued, "Or, as we are entirely alone out here…we could make love on the deck, out in the open air."

"Hmmm…." Rinoa said, smiling at the mischievous sparkle in his eyes. "Tough call. I've always wanted to snorkel, and fishing sounds like fun. And I know we'll both end up in the master cabin at some point…. and making love out on the deck sounds rather nice, and we do have some very inspiring scenery, but the thought of having certain, very sensitive parts of my body sunburned does make me reconsider that. There are only so many places where sunscreen can be safely applied, you know."

Squall chuckled, "now that you mention it, there are a couple of places where I'd hate to be sunburned myself. Fishing then? If we catch anything good, it can be dinner."

"Sounds wonderful. Perhaps we can revisit the 'making love on deck' idea later on. Perhaps around sunset." Rinoa said.

"Fishing it is then. I'll get the gear." Squall said, giving her a quick peck and ducking down into the boat's cabin.

Rinoa really didn't want to fish. Or rather, fishing wasn't what she wanted to do the most, but she wasn't opposed to it either. And hey, she was hanging out with her boyfriend, so as far as she was concerned, fishing…. or anything else for that matter… would be fine as long as it was with him.

Squall on the other hand, obviously enjoyed it, and was more than happy to help her learn, after she'd admitted to never really having done it before. So he gave her his spare rod and set it up for her, even baiting the hook, before showing her how to cast. First two tries were failures, nearly spectacularly so. Fortunately, Rinoa froze immediately when Squall had told her not to move, and he was able to disengage the hook that had somehow caught on her dress. The barbs were only caught upon the cloth, although they could easily have been driven into the skin if Rinoa had attempted another cast.

It took several tries before Rinoa managed a decent cast, flinging the baited hook far out over the water. It splashed home a few meters out from where Squall's cheery yellow float bobbed on the waves. Rinoa gave him a brief, happy smile, settled down onto the folding chair that he had brought up from below deck and sighed.

Squall did the same thing, reaching into a cooler he'd brought up as well and asking her, "Did you want anything to drink?"

"Water, please," she answered.

"Water it is," he said, handing a bottle to her. He reached into the cooler again and selected a beer for himself.

Silence reigned for a few moments, with Rinoa giving herself up to it and listening to the restless lapping of water against the hull of the boat, the surf against the distant shore. Seabirds wheeled far overhead, their shrill cries carried on the fitful breeze that played through the bare lines that festooned the empty mast and boom. The sails were neatly reefed and out of the way until Squall needed them again.

It was a beautiful day, made even better by the drool worthy picture that Squall presented as he leaned back into his chair, beer dangling loosely from his fingers while he gazed out over the water, watching his float. The Bears hat was pulled low to shade his eyes, but he hadn't put his sunglasses back on, so those piercing turquoise eyes of his were on full display. The sun glinted off his silver necklace, as well as his silver stud earring, silver ring and stainless steel wristwatch.

Rinoa sighed as the silence stretched, and Squall glanced over at her, eyebrow raised, lips twitching slightly.

"So. This is fishing," Rinoa finally said.

Manfully hiding his amusement, Squall replied seriously, "Yes. It is." Silence stretched again.

Then… "Its…. boring."

One corner of Squall's lips tilted upward but he otherwise remained silent.

"Do you talk…. ever…. while fishing?" Rinoa finally asked.

"Not usually." Squall answered.

"Oh." She said. Then she asked, "Why?"

"Because I'm usually alone." Squall answered.

"I see. Do you prefer it that way?" Rinoa asked him.

Squall studied her, letting the silence stretch once again. Rinoa tilted her head at the speculative look in his eyes, curious about what was in his mind.

Finally, she couldn't take it any longer and asked, "What are you thinking?"

A half-smile quirked the corner of Squall's mouth as he answered, "I'm thinking about your skirt."

"My skirt? What about it?" Rinoa wondered.

The half-smile slowly broadened into a sexy grin as he replied, "I was just thinking about how it would look hiked above your waist.…with you bent over the stern rail."

That statement, uttered in such a matter of fact tone, just about undid her. She had to swallow several times to moisten her suddenly dry mouth at the image that appeared in her mind. Oh, dear Hyne, she suddenly wanted to give up on the fishing and try the other option!

And damn him, he was laughing at her consternation!

She opened her mouth to say something to him, but couldn't think of anything; his soft laughter was about as distracting as his smile was. Then his fishing pole twitched and quivered and he immediately directed his attention to it.

Eyes narrowed, he watched the line play out, then jerked back sharply on the pole, starting to work the reel. He paused, and the line whirred out from the reel again. Obviously, whatever had grabbed the bait was still hooked, at least for the time being. Squall pulled back on the pole again and began reeling back the line, and the fight was on.

It didn't take long for him to realize that this wasn't going to be an easy, or a short, fight. A strong jerk from the creature on the end of the line nearly ripped the pole out of his hand and he tightened his grip, hauling it back while working the reel. The minute he let go of it though, the line buzzed out as the fish took off with incredible speed.

"Holy Hyne!" He exclaimed, then growled, "come on you bastard, you're not getting away this easily!"

Rinoa watched the fight in fascination, paying scant attention to her own quiescent pole. Edging toward the rail to see if she could get a good look at the fish (if fish it was) that Squall had hooked, she looked down into the water, gasping and jumping back as something leaped clean out and splashed back down.

"Oh my goodness Squall! That thing is huge!" She glanced back at him and forgot what else she was going to say. Instead, she fumbled for her camera. She just had to get a picture of this: Squall, tanned, shirtless, and glistening with sweat from his exertions, lean muscles and tendons fully on display as he fought a very large fish. The fiercely focused, almost scary expression on his face; lips tight, eyes glaring, completed the image. That one picture alone made fishing suddenly sexy.

Fortunately, he didn't notice her snapping away.

"What's it look like?" he asked, sounding strained and a little breathless.

"I don't know. Seemed like it was nearly as big as me!" She answered, returning her attention to the water. The fish breeched again and she added excitedly, "and it has a…long, pointy nose!"

Squall frowned, wondering that kind of fish that might be. Saberfish, maybe. Working the reel again, he stood up and approached the rail, trying to tire the damn thing out so that he could haul it aboard. As hard as it was fighting, if it was anything less than a two-meter gamefish, he'd be severely disappointed.

The fight seemed to go on forever, and the longer it dragged on, the more Squall began to worry about the durability of his rod and reel. They were nearly new; he'd only used them a couple of times, but when he'd purchased them, he hadn't intended anything bigger than a large Balamb fish. Ten pounds, max. Not a thirty to forty pound (or more) saberfish.

Going after a gamefish of that caliber required equipment especially designed for a large, hard-fighting fish like saberfish or fastitocalon; both of which could reach truly monstrous sizes. The largest on record was a saberfish of over 3.5 meters and nearly a thousand pounds.

The fish leaped from the water yet again, rising a truly astounding distance; writhing and fighting the firmly embedded hook and line, giving Squall and Rinoa a good look at it before it splashed back into the water.

It was huge. Not, fortunately, a record breaking size; but large enough that Squall seriously considered cutting the line and letting it go before it broke his rod or even pulled it from his hand. Rinoa had other ideas.

"You need some help with that?" she asked, surprising him.

"Not sure how you'd help but if you're willing to help me land this thing..." he answered in a strained voice. The long fight was beginning to take its toll on him.

"Well…" Rinoa said, pulling in her rod and reel and laying it aside, then coming up to stand with Squall. "I'm not actually sure either but if nothing else I can help you pull or something."

"Okay." Squall wasn't sure it would work, and it was a bit awkward at first, but eventually, between the two of them, they managed to wrestle the still vigorously fighting fish aboard. The effort of pulling it out of the water and into the boat however overbalanced them both and all three of them; Squall, Rinoa and the fish, ended up gasping on the deck of the boat.

"Oh my Gods!" Rinoa exclaimed breathlessly. "That thing is huge!"

Squall, still trying to catch his breath, looked over at the still thrashing fish. It had worked its way a little too close to them for comfort; the sword-like protrusion on the end of its nose was lined with razor-sharp, toothlike scales.

"It's not that big. It's actually kind of small for a saberfish." Squall said, finally getting up and putting an end to the fish's struggles with a sharp blow from the end of his gaffing pole.

"Big enough," Rinoa said, flinching reflexively when she saw Squall kill it with an efficiently wielded gaff. Getting up and peering closer at it, she reached out toward the "sword" on its nose, asking, "Is this sharp?"

"Yes, it is. Razor sharp, in fact, so be careful." Squall warned her.

Grabbing some spare rope, he looped it around the tail end of the fish and flung it over the boom just above his head, pulling it up to suspend the fish from it and get a better look at its dimensions.

"Hope you like saberfish steaks," he commented. "We could both probably eat for a week with that."

"Do you have room in your freezer for it?" she asked. Retrieving her camera, she took a candid shot of Squall standing next to the fish and examining it critically.

Small for its species or not, it was an impressive specimen. With the long blade of a nose included, it was nearly two and a half meters long, and easily fifty pounds or more. Of course, that was just a guess as Squall didn't have a scale on board to weigh the thing with. In any case, it was a big damn fish and it took a good bit of time to clean it and cut it up into steaks.

It was a messy process, and one that Rinoa was very happy to leave in Squall's far more capable hands.

Once that was done, the offal tossed overboard and the deck cleaned, Squall decided to sail the boat the rest of the way round the island so Rinoa could see the rest of it. It was, in a word, gorgeous, and Rinoa couldn't wait to see the interior, once Squall pronounced it safe enough.

By the time they returned to the "harbor", it was just about dinnertime, so Squall started preparing the saberfish steaks to cook. Rinoa watched him work with interest; not only because it was damn sexy to watch a man cook, but also because the galley on the boat was so compact, she found it fun to watch the scaled down appliances work.

She did lend a hand with the wine, surprised that Squall actually had thought to bring a nice, crisp white along.

The dinner was simple; the saberfish steaks, grilled on Squall's tiny propane cooktop, seasoned with sliced lemon, herbs, salt and pepper, along with some frozen asparagus that he'd tossed in the pan after the fish with a bit of butter for flavor.

As the day was lovely and the sunset not to be missed, they had opted to dine alfresco on the deck of the boat. On a blanket. Complete with pillows to soften the hard wooden planks. He'd set it all up in the small triangular space at the bow, just forward of the cabin's cowling. He'd actually leaned some of the cushions from one of the saloon benches below against the side of the cabin to function as a backrest. All in all, it was wonderful. Comfortable and romantic; a feast for all senses.

Squall definitely knew what he was doing in that respect, and Rinoa could only appreciate that his previous incarnation as an escort-for-hire had made this his stock in trade. She felt incredibly lucky that she was the sole beneficiary of the "education" he'd received on the job.

Dinner finished, they relaxed on the deck, leaning cozily into each other, sipping wine. The boat rocked gently at anchor, and Rinoa watched as the light gradually deepened into the honeyed gold of late afternoon.

"When do you plan on starting your monster hunting?" Rinoa asked him.

Squall turned to study her, wondering why she had asked that question, and answered, "Well, sometime next week, I guess. I have to get some specialized gear and supplies first, and that'll take a bit of time, getting everything ready."

"Do you have any idea how long it'll take?"

"No." he answered, adding, "but we won't be out there the whole time. Maybe two or three days at a stretch, at least to start."

"Well," Rinoa sighed. "As long as you come back in one piece."

"I certainly don't plan on anything else," Squall replied seriously.

Noticing Rinoa's empty glass, he asked her, "Would you like more wine?"

"Yes," Rinoa answered. It was a very good vintage, and she was enjoying its subtle blend of flavors. Squall obligingly reached over and poured more into her glass, taking the remainder for himself.

The sky gradually changed colors as the evening progressed, with Squall and Rinoa both simply watching the hues go from gold, to orange, to rose, to crimson, and finally to violet. The breeze that came up over the water caressed Rinoa's skin with a warm, gentle touch, putting her in mind of the man who was sitting next to her. She became very aware of the warmth of his body where it touched her, the quiet sound of his breathing, his sun-soaked scent, and suddenly she wanted him, right there on the deck of his boat.

She drank down the last swallow of her wine and turned to him, heart already starting to thud heavily. Squall likewise finished the wine in his glass, and set it aside, taking Rinoa's glass and moving it out of the way as well. He obviously was in a similar frame of mind as he traced her jawline lightly with his fingers before bending down and giving her a soft, lingering kiss.

"Do you want to go below?" he asked her quietly. He hadn't missed the desire in her eyes, or the pliancy of her body as she'd melted into the kiss.

Rinoa considered that a moment, and then decided against it. Their current location and the way Squall set everything up was too perfect. And as the sun had now dipped low enough that the threat of sunburn was negated, she was more than willing to stay where they were.

"No," she replied, shaking her head. "I think I'm fine right here."

"Yeah?" he asked, shifting his position and pulling Rinoa over onto his lap. Reading his intent perfectly, she straddled him and settled down, feeling his erection pushing against her through their impeding clothing.

"Mmmm-hmmm." She said, leaning forward to kiss him again.

"Me too," he murmured, trailing kisses down her neck while sliding both hands up her smooth thighs and around behind to take a firm grasp of her derriere.

Things got heated very quickly after that. Rinoa couldn't help a moan as he trailed his lips down to her breasts, licking and nipping at her nipples through the fabric of her dress, automatically making her arch against him. Suddenly, she couldn't breathe, and by the sound of it, Squall couldn't either. All she could think about was how badly she wanted the fabric barrier that separated him from becoming a part of her, stripped away.

Trailing her fingers down his chest to his waist, she untied his shorts and, with a little help from him shifting a bit, pulled them down and freed him. She immediately took hold of him and started stroking.

His grip on her rear tightened convulsively and he groaned, "Oh…Gods…" Then it was Rinoa's turn to moan as she felt his hand shift to a much more intimate location, moving her underwear aside and slipping first one, then two fingers inside of her, finding her more than ready.

The ache to have him join with her became almost unbearable, and Rinoa suddenly became hasty in her greed. A shift, a surge and then…a sweet rush of pleasure as he slipped inside of her. She gasped, automatically rolling her hips, taking him in as deep as he could go, loving the way his fingers tightened on her ass as she did. She moved again, slowly, teasing him, and watched his head fall back, heard another moan from him.

Raising her hands to the back of her neck, she unfastened the top of her dress, baring her breasts. Then it was her turn for her head to fall back and her eyes to close in utter ecstasy as Squall sat up and took one into his mouth, suckling and teasing her nipples, nearly making her lose her rhythm. He took control then, both hands still holding her backside as he helped her move, and matched those movements with his.

Tangling her fingers in his hair, she took his mouth with hers and lost herself in the fog of overwhelming sensation. Body, mind and heart all tangled together in the heat of love and sex and desire, all rolled into a white-hot moment of passionate heat. They slammed into each other repeatedly, taking and giving in equal measure, bodies on fire, hearts racing, and lungs starving for air.

Just the right mix of tooth and tongue at a sensitive nipple, just the right angle of thrust, just the right pace…. and Rinoa shattered into a million pieces with a cry, shuddering from the power of her release. Squall tightened his arms around her and followed soon after, nearly crushing her against him and squeezing his eyes shut on a guttural growl, caught up in the throes of his own orgasm.

It was that little pinpoint of time; it may have only been a few seconds, or a few minutes, that seems to last forever. That one moment that is truly timeless, where everything is suspended, and the purity of existence and its potential just is…. it is the brief moment between heartbeats, between one breath and the next, that pause before the plunge…they hovered there for a trembling instant. Then they both breathed again.

Squall gentled his hold on her, and raised his head up from where he'd buried it in the side of her neck, kissing it softly in passing, making his way to her lips again and giving them a soft, lingering kiss as well. Rinoa meanwhile was running her fingers through his hair, combing the disordered locks and generally making him want to lie down and let her do nothing else but that.

Instead he sighed and relaxed back against the side of the cabin, taking Rinoa with him and encouraging her to snuggle into his chest. The shift in their positions caused them to disengage, and Rinoa sighed at the sensation. Every nerve ending was still sensitized by their lovemaking, to the point that further sexual contact was almost painful. Fortunately, both were fully sated by dinner, by wine, and by the lovemaking that they'd already engaged in, and post-coital relaxation left them curled in each other's arms, drowsily content.

They simply lay together, watching the sunset, Squall lightly caressing Rinoa's bare back, while she pillowed her head on his chest and listened to his heartbeat.

Yawning softly, Rinoa said, "This is beautiful. Thank you for bringing me here."

"Thank you for coming," Squall murmured, kissing the top of her head and moving his hand up her back to stroke her hair.

"Your hair is so soft," he said softly. "So shiny, with all these little sparks of blue, and strands of sable, and black…and these little caramel streaks you put in. Beautiful."

Rinoa smiled at that, saying, "You are too, you know."

"Me?" he asked. "Are you saying I'm beautiful?"

"Mmm-hmmm." She confirmed. "Gorgeous. Sexy. And….yummy."

Squall laughed softly, and Rinoa smiled as the vibrations of his mirth shook her. "Yummy, huh?"

"Yes. Makes me want to lick you all over." She said.

"Mmm… well, you won't get any complaint from me, if you decide to indulge yourself." He said.

She yawned softly again, eyes blinking sleepily, and mumbled, "Maybe later. Too comfortable now."

"Yeah, me too." he yawned as well, and added, "it's warm enough out tonight we could just sleep here if you want."

Rinoa considered that, then shook her head. "No. I want to try out your bed."

"Did you want to go below now?" he asked her.

"No, not yet. In a little bit." She answered.

They fell silent for a little bit, then Squall asked her, "Why did you say I was beautiful, rather than handsome, sexy, et-cetera?"

"Because you are. You have the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen on anyone, man or woman. You have great skin too; apart from the scars, it's nearly flawless. And you have gorgeous hair; soft, thick, silky, and this lovely, rich shade of …." her voice trailed off as she searched for just the right word to describe the color of his hair.

"Brown." He supplied, lips quirking in a half-smile.

"Not just brown," she insisted. "But…coppery brown. You've got streaks of gold, copper, bronze, and sable brown all mixed in together. It's truly beautiful in sunlight. And you are simply breathtaking. Like a….a marble statue come to life or something."

"Well, fortunately, I'm human. And I've got more than a few flaws." He told her, starting to feel a little embarrassed by what she was saying.

"I know. So do I." She responded. Then she lifted her head and gazed earnestly into his face, saying, "But you know, I love those flaws, those imperfections. They make you real. Human. Not an impossible, untouchable fantasy but someone with a mind, a heart…a soul….they make you who you are."

Squall swallowed suddenly, at a complete loss for words as he took in what she was saying. The only thing he could think to do was to kiss her again, gently, sweetly, then hold her close as she laid her head back down over his heart.

"I can't see your flaws," he finally said softly. "All I see is….perfection."

"But…I'm not perfect…" Rinoa protested, and Squall shushed her.

"You're perfect for me."

The mood shifted as they got up and cleared off the deck, carting all the dishes, utensils, cushions, blankets and so on back to the boat's cabin. It had grown dark in the meantime, and Squall was obliged to turn the lights on in the cabin while they got everything put back to rights. Dishes washed and put away, bedding returned to the bed at the bow that Squall had appropriated, and teeth brushed and flossed.

The shower was a tiny affair, far too small for them to share, so Squall deferred its use to Rinoa when she expressed the desire to use it. While she was thus occupied, he took the opportunity to straighten out his bed.

Rinoa had commented on it when she had toured the boat with Squall prior to his purchasing it. He had to admit its triangular shape was certainly unique. Finding sheets that would fit it posed a challenge, but given the fact that it was situated in the bow of his boat, there wasn't much to be done about its configuration. It was comfortable though, whatever its shape, and would certainly fit the both of them.

He kissed her in passing as she emerged from the shower, the fresh scent of the shampoo and lotions she'd used enticing him. He only needed a quick shower; the limitations of his boat's water supply and the capacity of its water heater very much in mind as he did. He'd given Rinoa the caveat on showering, but still was pleasantly surprised to find that she'd managed to leave enough hot water for him to shower as well.

Rinoa was already in his bed and blinking sleepily, and he smiled at her as he shut the lights off, dropped the towel he'd wrapped around his hips, and crawled in bed with her. She immediately snuggled close, giving him a soft kiss.

And just like that, he wanted her again, despite the fatigue he could feel dragging at him. He hadn't been lying when he'd told her that he'd never get tired of her or bored with their lovemaking. Not when there was so much still to discover. But he held off from doing much more than idly caressing her back, while she simply lay quietly. Her breathing told him that she wasn't quite asleep yet, however.

"I love this boat," Rinoa finally said quietly. "Today has just been….perfect."

"Yeah, it has," Squall agreed, smiling inwardly. No, not quite asleep.

She shifted and pillowed her head on his chest, tracing random patterns on his skin and playing with his pendant.

"Maybe next time we could bring Angelo? I'd like to see how she handles being on a boat," Rinoa said.

"You'll have to fit her with a life vest. I'd hate to see her drown if she falls overboard. May want to bring her aboard with the vest on while we're still docked to get her used to it." Squall suggested.

"Mind if I bring her to the barbecue next weekend?" she asked.

"Not a bit. Invite a couple of your friends too if you want. It shouldn't just be my friends at this thing," Squall said, blood beginning to stir at the way Rinoa's fingers brushed against his nipples. His loins began to tighten.

"I'll see if Selphie and Quistis can come. I think they'd love it." Rinoa said.

"Well, they'll love the boat at least. Can't speak for the guys." Squall said with a smirk.

Rinoa laughed softly, "such a ringing vote of confidence there. I'm guessing there's going to be adequate amounts of alcohol included?"

"Yes." Squall said, amusement bubbling under the surface and leaving ripples in his voice. His amusement faded as Rinoa placed a soft kiss on his chest, then on his left nipple, while her fingers made tickly little spirals down his stomach. Suddenly, he couldn't breathe.

"I thought you were tired," he managed, drawing in a deep breath.

"The shower restored me. And you smell too sexy to resist." She replied, pressing against him and reaching up to kiss him.

"Mmmmm," He murmured after coming up for air, "I was just thinking the same thing about you."

She laughed softly, "great minds…." And reached down to take him in hand, feeling a thrill deep inside at his hard, throbbing length. His head fell back against his pillow with a moan, and Rinoa smiled at how much power she had over him in that moment as she slowly stroked him.

He could only endure so much of that however, finally rolling over on top of her with a deep growl, "You're killing me woman!" Her laugh ended in a gasp as he entered her in a single thrust, mildly surprised that she was already moist and ready for him.

Rinoa wrapped her arms around him and sighed in utter bliss as he nibbled gently at her neck while rocking slowly within her. He moved his lips to hers and she locked herself around him, moving with him. They fell into synch with each other, each loving the other with their bodies, tongues too busy to release the words that lay in their hearts.

They ended up gasping, clinging to each other as the aftershocks of their interlude echoed in each other's flesh. They came down slowly, the day's activities finally catching up to them and making eyes heavy. Lying face to face with her, Squall reached out and brushed an errant strand of hair away from Rinoa's face, caressing her cheek gently.

He couldn't see much in the close darkness of his bunk, just outlines, but he could feel her warmth, hear her breath deepen as sleep started to claim her.

He smiled as she asked sleepily, "Do you think we'll manage to make it out of bed tomorrow?"

"Only if you want to," he answered softly. "Of course, if you truly want to give Wing Heart a proper christening, we'll have to have sex on deck at least once more. Or, you know, there's always the stern rail…"

Rinoa laughed softly, "Is this a nautical tradition? I thought you christened a boat with champagne."

"Well, funny thing ….I forgot the champagne." Squall replied.

Rinoa laughed again, and said, "I think you forgot it on purpose."

"Mmmmmm," Squall said, gathering her close and nuzzling her hair, making her shiver at the brush of his warm breath against her neck. "I still can't get the image out of my head of your skirt up above your waist at the stern. I really, really want to do that."

"I'll put that on the to-do list for tomorrow." Rinoa said, yawning softly. Squall followed suit, much to his surprise, prompting Rinoa to laugh again.

"You'd better go to sleep if you want the strength to follow through with your plans." Rinoa said.

"I think we'll both be walking funny when we finally get back to Deling City." Squall commented.

"Worth it," Rinoa said, yawning again and settling down to sleep.

"I agree. Good night Rinoa," Squall said, kissing her on the forehead and relaxing as well, falling asleep quickly thereafter.

Author's Note: Finally another chapter! Mostly fluff and sex, but that's not necessarily a BAD thing, right? More stuff'll happen in the next chapter, and at some point there's going to be multiple monster hunts, so there's plenty of potential for mayhem to keep things from getting TOO boring...anyone get the feeling that this story's just one long vacation? I WISH...