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Never Say Goodbye

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Never Say Goodbye

It was an intimate moment she knew she was going to ruin. She could feel his calloused hands tracing the curve of her waist and his pelvic bone gently rubbing against her. His hands without the gloves; his body without the layers of leather. In a way, being Squall Leonhart’s girlfriend was a treasure with hidden perks that no one would ever think because well…it’s Squall.

Antisocial, ‘jerk’ Squall.

Rinoa knew his soft side. She knew how gentle he was; how attentive and loving when he wanted to be. She knew he wanted to make this night special in some way. He cooked her dinner – her favorite chicken with rice and spinach. They sat down and watched a movie. Now the love making has begun and Rinoa felt horrible because all she could think about was watching him leave.

All she could think about was his back towards her with his luggage in tow. She thought about the little stuffed lion dangling from his suitcase swaying to-and-fro. She thought about his hair, his gloved hands….

And her being alone.

Just the idea of him getting on the train to get to the other side of the world made her want to break down and cry but right now, she couldn’t, because he was making love to her and she wanted to enjoy it.

 His lips brushed against the side of her neck, trailing tiny kisses against her collarbone. He held her close to him, his fingertips pressing into her waist. It was a gentle pressure but hard enough.

Squall’s kisses were the best but fuck, Rinoa just couldn’t focus.

All she could feel was the heat behind her eyes and the burning sting in her throat that was ten times worse than any whiskey.  Rinoa was hoping that Squall thought her being silent was just her being courteous to their neighbors but Squall knew that Rinoa was always short of ‘quiet’ in every sense imaginable.

Squall just thought that she was being quiet and enjoying the pleasure. She would not feel him again for four more months so it made sense.

He knew she was upset. He noticed that she had been avoiding any contact with anyone while he was away at work. Sometimes he came back to their room to check on Angelo and she was lying in bed holding her stuffed Chocobo while curled up in their sheets. Most of the time she was sleeping but Squall never failed to notice the tears on her cheeks.

He hated that she held everything in. Sometimes he thought that was his fault – that his attitude was beginning to rub off on her. Squall loved how she showed emotion all the time; whether she was angry, happy, sad – anything. Perhaps she just didn’t want to ruin the time they had left together.

But Rinoa holding things in…simply wasn’t her.

“Rin…” he whispered, coming up from the side of her neck to her face. He ran the top of his fingernails against her cheek. It made her shudder.  Small smile came out of it and he relaxed. “…Are you okay?”

It was something Squall always asked when they made love but this time it hit a different nerve. ‘Are you okay’ was the last thing Rinoa wanted to hear when she was this sad.

The heat was getting worse than the fire cavern and the burning in her throat becoming painful. When he pressed a kiss to her forehead, his palm sliding over her hair, she broke.

Squall sighed. “Rinoa, come here..”

He pulled her against his chest and held her tightly as she cried. Him holding her was the only comfort she could get right now. If she held it in she would have been doomed; the sadness would have just eaten her up from the inside out until everyone knew.

Not like they didn’t already.

“…I-I’m sorry…I didn’t want to ruin…”

“Sssh,” Squall kissed the side of her head, “It’s okay. I know.”

“What do you mean, ‘you know?’” Rinoa replied, pulling away.

She noticed her dress was thrown on the floor beside Squall’s jacket and shirt. She couldn’t help but notice how well her bright colors accented his dark, dreary ones…

She almost wanted to cry more.

“I may not show it, but I am sad that I’m leaving.”

His eyes were staring into hers so she knew he was telling the truth. Squall never lied to her anyways. That was one thing she never had to worry about. Even though he was reserved, Squall had never once lied to her out of spite. Perhaps to protect her, but never out of spite.

Like the time he realized he fell in love with her…but still let her go to the Sorceress Memorial.

 “I know but…” Rinoa sighed deeply, slightly pulling her torso away from Squall. Her eyes roamed his flat chest; her fingertips gently brushing against his shoulders. She saw him tense beneath her touch – his muscles pressing against his skin. “…You probably think I’m a baby. And I don’t mean to come off that way but -.”

“Why would I think you’re being a child?” Squall inquired, raising his eyebrow. “I’m leaving. It’s natural you’re upset.”

Rinoa didn’t answer.

“It’s not like I’m leaving you, Rinoa. I’ll never do that.”

She still didn’t answer.

“I’ll be back in four months.”

Rinoa nodded. “We just…we haven’t been separated since we got back from the war.”

Squall tilted his head to the left and right, “I know.”

He was crawling back into his shell and she felt it. She leant forward and pressed a gentle kiss to his lips. “Don’t shut me out…”

“…I won’t.”

Their foreheads touched and Rinoa smiled softly. In return, Squall sent her back a smile that made Rinoa glow.

It was scary how from one smile all of her sadness could evaporate into thin air.

But that’s what love does to you.

Love makes you forget the sadness and the pain. It has no inhibition.

And his arms wrapped tightly around her lower back, pulling her tightly to him just so he could feel her warm body pressed against his cold one. He felt his insides warm, he almost felt too warm but he didn’t mind. She was his own heater and he loved it no matter how many times he may complain that cuddling at night made him sweat.

She felt his lips against hers, his tongue brushing against her bottom lip like a neighbor knocking at a door and beckoning to be let in. So she let him. They danced, Squall holding her tightly and Rinoa gripping him as hard as she could because she never wanted to let him go.

Even if it was for only four months.

It was four months she would have to live without him beside her at night. Four months of being pretty much alone physically because they went everywhere together with their hands linked. No kisses, hugs, cuddles or love making – it was all going to evaporate into thin air the moment he left for Esthar.

Though there was no use getting upset about it now, because now he was looming over her with his eyes black – staring right into her deep brown eyes. He pulled the baby blue covers over them to hide and protect her more than him. What they were doing was completely their own business – it was private.

No one knew the private side of Squall Leonhart.

Only she did…and she was privileged.

She knew it, too.

And as they moved together Rinoa couldn’t help but feel complete…like their spirits were being totally and completely intertwined at this exact moment. She never felt like this before when they made love. Rinoa knew she loved him and he loved her too, but something was different this time…like she knew that they would spend the rest of their lives together.

With him moving deeper inside of her, Rinoa wrapped her legs around his waist to pull him closer. His hair was flopping over his eyes, his breathing was heavy and she knew he was getting close. Hell, she was too whenever she saw the look in his eyes. He drives her crazy in every sense imaginable and he doesn’t even know it.

She whispered in his ear, “Squall…”

“…Y-yeah..?”

“I love you…”

And he smiled.

“I love you too, Rinoa.”

He picked her up; his hands pressing into her lower back as he moved faster. She cried out in pleasure but quickly slapped her hands over her mouth. In reply, she got a chuckle out of Squall and another smile.

His smile finished her; their foreheads pressed together as he stared deep into her eyes as she hit her climax. She felt his breathing slow, his eyes closing shut as he finished too. Rinoa ran her fingers through his hair. She felt the sweat bead at his roots as his locks glided against her fingers.

“I love you…” he whispered, pressing a kiss to her neck. “I love you.”

…This isn’t like him.

“Are you okay?” Rinoa questioned, pulling away. “Are you on a high or something?”

Squall lifted himself up on his wobbly arms, looking down at his girlfriend. “I do love you. I may not show it a lot but I do.”

All Rinoa could do was smile, “I love you too, Squall.”

As Squall held her minutes later, he felt her breathing deepen as she fell into a deep sleep. It was in that moment he rolled over on his back, not because he was too hot, but because he had to pull a deep blue velvet box out of a drawer. Moving carefully to not wake Rinoa up, he placed the velvet box into his suitcase.

“I can’t let her find you…”

He took one last look at the diamond ring surrounded with two navy studs. “It needs to be a surprise…”

--

 

Two Weeks Later.

Squall was gone and she was now alone. Rinoa didn’t know how to function.

The only thing she knew to do was to cry and mope.

And not leaving her room.

“She needs to get out of that room.”

“We can’t just drag her out, Quistis!”

“Yes, we can.”

The blonde raised her hand to the door, slamming it down a loud three times. “Rinoa! You need to come out!”

No answer.

Rinoa pulled the pillow over her head. Quistis and Selphie had been trying for days to get her out of that room but Rinoa was far too stubborn to let them win.

“Rinoa Elizabeth Heartilly!”

Nothing.

Rinoa just turned onto the other side of her body, cuddling the body pillow like it was Squall.

Selphie crossed her arms, shoving her nose up in the air. “Told you!”

Quistis sighed, crossing her arms in a frustrated manner. “He left two weeks ago. She needs to pull herself out of that rut.”

The sorceress pretended not to hear.

Selphie tapped her index finger to her temple in attempt to think of an idea to pull Rinoa out of that room. Suddenly, she was overcome with such a good idea that she was jumping up and down.

Not like that was any different from typical Selphie behavior.

“I have an ideaaaaaaaa!” She sang.

Quistis didn’t know what to think at that moment but she took the bait, “What is your idea?”

“WE CAN REDO THE ORPHANAGE.”

The blonde scrunched her lips to the side in thought.

That actually is a good idea. Irvine and Zell are still here so we do have some men to do the heavy lifting. That and it’ll get Rinoa out of bed and out of Garden where she’ll always be reminded of Squall…besides, it would be nice to visit there again. Just bring it back to what it used to be…and if not, even better. I’m sure Matron wouldn’t mind.

She smiled, “Let’s go find Matron.”

Selphie punched her fist in the air, “YES!”

--

 

All of them were hoping that the plan would be approved by Cid and Matron. If not, they agreed that they would do it anyway. The idea was a good one and they knew it – not only would it get Rinoa out of that bed and out into some nice, fresh air, but it could bring them back together in the way they used to be during the war.

Time had passed and although they were still all very close, all of them had resumed their duties: Quistis, Zell and Selphie returned to their SeeD shifts, Irvine was beginning training as a SeeD and Squall was, of course, boarded up in his office being overloaded with paperwork as Rinoa paraded around the Garden.

Well, when Squall was here at least that’s how she acted.

Normally she spent her time outside in the rec area or she spent time with Dr. Kadowaki. Now she spent her time in her and Squall’s dormitory watching endless sappy films, crying to herself and Angelo.

All of the friends had their fingers crossed for the safety and well being of their friend.

Cid sat across from them, his chin resting on the palm of his hand with his finger on his opposite hand tapping against the desk. Behind him stood Matron, her hands clasped behind her back.

“Redo the orphanage?” Cid asked for the third time. Zell nodded.

“It would be great to have it back to it’s original self. And it would help Rinoa.”

Matron sighed, “That girl…she needs to pull herself out of that rut. I may not be a sorceress any longer but I can feel her negative energy.”

“Which is why,” Quistis chimed in, “We need to get her out of here. She’s constantly being reminded of Squall every day just laying in their bed.”

“And getting her to help out with the orphanage may take her mind off of Squally!” Selphie cheered.

“Please Sir,” Quistis pleaded, tugging her hands together tightly. “We need this. Rinoa needs this.”

“It’s a good idea, Cid.” Matron said, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “Besides, we could station the Garden in Centra for a bit. It would give the trainee’s some more hands on action.”

Cid gave an apprehensive sigh, “Okay, you can redo the Orphanage.”

Selphie jumped up, “YES!”

“BUT.”

“Awww.”

Cid stood up with his shoulders squared, “You MUST keep an eye on Rinoa at all times. Esthar isn’t far away and we don’t want her running for Squall.”

Quistis sighed, I never thought of that.

But she nodded, “Yes sir.”

Zell and Quistis left their chairs and stood between Selphie and Irvine in a perfect line. As they went to salute, Cid laughed, “You guys never really broke that habit, huh?”

Zell bent forward and looked at his friends – they were all stood straight with their hands raised mid-salute, “Yeah, I guess not.”

“Anything informal, once again,” Cid shook his head, “Does not require a salute. Now, I suggest you find a way to get Rinoa out of that bed.”

--

 

They found the only round table that was free in the cafeteria as Selphie and Zell made a bee-line to the line for some food. Quistis and Irvine took a seat, the blonde pulling out a notebook as Irvine went into ‘cool mode’ for the surrounding ladies. He tilted his cowboy hat forward, kicking his boots up on the table.

Quistis just sighed and waited for the two soldiers to get back with their food.

Why is this place still open? It’s almost midnight…oh, right, it’s a Friday. It’s always open later on Friday’s.

“We could always drug her and put her body in a sleeping bag and then drag her.” Selphie said, placing her tray down on the table. She went to hand Quistis and Irvine each a hot dog but they politely declined.

Zell did look like he wanted to laugh at Selphie’s idea but didn’t because he knew he would receive one large glare from Quistis.

“Selphie, be realistic here.”

The brunette sighed, taking a large bite of her meal, “Okay, a sleep spell!”

Irvine shrugged, “It could work.”

“She needs to want to leave.” Quistis said to herself, leaning forward and looking at the notebook in front of her. They had listed several possibilities of how to get Rinoa out of bed with some notes beside them written in pink ink that she had thought of on her own:

Take by force – too mean. She may use a spell in her condition.

Tell her Squall is here – far too mean.

Trick her by telling her Watts and Zone want to see her –again, too mean.

And the newest idea:

Drug, drag body in sleeping bag – Selphie’s idea. Enough said.

Sleep spell – could work.

“Why don’t we just tell her she’s coming with us?” Zell said, propping his feet up on the cafeteria table. “She’ll have to come out sometime. We can camp outside the room or something.”

“And we can have Cid give us the key to get into the room. Selphie and you can pack her bag or something.”

Quistis nodded, “Noted. That may be the best route to go right now.”

Selphie pouted, “I still like my idea the best…”

“Coming from someone who wanted to blow up President Deiling’s train with a rocket launcher.” Zell grumbled.

“And that would have been great considering the trouble we got into after Rinoa’s idea!”

Quistis just sighed, closing her notebook and pushing it into her bag.

Getting Rinoa out of the bedroom was going to be tough enough but considering how close the orphanage is to Esthar they would all have to be very careful. Rinoa could easily slip out in the middle of the night and somehow get to Esthar. Hell, they all know that she would walk if it meant her seeing Squall.

Perhaps redoing the orphanage isn’t such a good idea…

“Uh-oh,” Zell said, his eyes in Quistis’ direction. “I know that look.”

Quistis’ head perked up, “What look?”

“You’re unsure of the plan.”

Selphie piped up, “The orphanage?”

Quistis nodded, “I’m afraid so. I’m just worried about Rin running off…”

“Esthar is invisible to the naked eye.” Irvine stated, “She wouldn’t be able to find it and even if she did, they wouldn’t let her in because she’s a sorceress.”

“No, they would because Laguna is in charge and Laguna knows Squall is in a relationship with Rinoa.” Zell replied, taking a sip of his soda. “We’re going to do this. I don’t know about you guys but I want the orphanage back to the way it used to be. And we’re disembarking for Esthar tomorrow morning so we need to follow through with this plan.”

“Well said, man.”

And they actually fist-bumped.

Quistis raised an eyebrow.

“…O-Okay…whatever that was I don’t want to see it again.”

Selphie giggled.

“I guess we’re going to get Rinoa now. Let’s go.” The blonde stood up and everyone looked at her oddly. “What?”

“It’s almost midnight.”

“Anyone who is as heartbroken as she is wouldn’t stop sleeping. It helps get rid of the pain.”

--

 

The four friends took the elevator up to the third floor where Squall’s dormitory was. With the door still locked and the halls black, all of them had to find their way by hand.

“Where the hell is this damn door?!”

“Sh.”

“Sorry.”

Selphie began to giggle.

“What the hell is so funny?”

“I feel like we’re breaking out of prision again.”

“Except we’re in GARDEN.”

“Zell, stop being such a buzz-kill.”

“Would you two shut up? I can’t find the door handle…oh…there it is. Irvine do you have the key?”

Quistis felt something cold slip into her hand. She then proceeded to feel out the indents of the doorknob to find where the key entered. As she pushed the key into the hole and turned it, she heard a small ‘click’ and she sighed in relief. “Okay, now be quiet.” She whispered.

The television was the only light on in the room, everything else was completely dark. The blonde saw the outline of Rinoa curled up in her fetal position in bed with Angelo lying beside her – snoring.

The dog, not Rinoa.

It made Selphie giggle to herself.

“Get her stuff.” Quistis ordered quietly. Selphie and Irvine walked to what looked like Rinoa’s dresser that was on her side of the bed. Careful not the wake the girl, Irvine pulled out the top drawer and smirked, pulling out a pair of virginal white lace panties.

“Damn, Squall’s lucky.”

He twirled them around his finger.

Selphie gasped, “I have the same pair, Irvy!!”

“SSSSSHHH.” Quistis hissed, opening Squall’s closet to grab Rinoa’s Pinwheel. “Would you two SHUT –.”

They heard Rinoa whine, tears beginning to stream down her cheeks.

“Squall come back…”

Everyone’s heads shot to the girl who was now tossing and turning in bed. Angelo woke up and began to growl once she noticed people were in the room, but then whimpered and trotted over to Quistis, nudging her hand with her nose.

“Squall…don’t leave…”

Quistis felt her heart break. The poor girl was crying in her sleep, calling out for her boyfriend. She could tell she was trying to scream out.

“What do we do..?” Zell asked, his eyes not leaving the girl. “She’s in so much pain.”

“Selphie…” Quistis sighed, taking Rinoa’s clothes from the girl, “Cast a sleep spell. It’ll get rid of the dreams…”

Selphie nodded as Quistis neatly folded Rinoa’s shirts and shorts into a suitcase. As the brunette casted the spell, the tears were gone from Rinoa’s eyes and she actually began to snore.

“Okay, we can talk normally now. She won’t wake up.”

Irvine bent down to zip up the suitcase. “Is she not dreaming anymore?”

“You can’t dream and snore at the same time.” Quistis stated matter-of-factly, “So we don’t have to worry. And Selphie, it looks like your plan to drag her into Centra will go through.”

“Yay!”

“So we’ll wake her up in the morning or we’ll wake her up once we’re in the Orphanage. Sound good?” Quistis smiled, putting her hands on her hips. Zell smirked.

“Is someone actually excited?”

Quistis nodded, “Kind of…yeah. I am.”

Selphie cheered, “I knew it!”

The blonde just rolled her eyes.

--

 

Esthar.

He wouldn’t admit it but sleeping without Rinoa beside him definitely made the bed much colder. Not like he didn’t like sleeping in the cold but Rinoa gave him that extra warmth and comfort that he wanted.

Laguna was treating him exceedingly well but he still felt like something was missing. He knew that ‘something’ was his girlfriend but he couldn’t exactly go back to Garden, get her, and bring her back to Esthar. Laguna had told him to a million times but he wouldn’t.

He couldn’t put Rinoa through that after saying goodbye two weeks ago.

They said goodbye. They had to stay on that ‘goodbye’ term until he returned in April.

The one thing Squall found solstice in was when he slid on his leather jacket with a fur collar and stepped outside into the cold city. He had to make his moves carefully so he wasn’t caught by his dysfunctional father but once he’s in the city, he felt as if he could take a breather and just…walk.

And think.

I wonder what she’s doing…if she’s feeling any better. I just hope she hasn’t been sulking for the past two weeks...

Hopefully Quistis and Selphie have dragged her out of bed in some way. She needs to pick up the pieces and just do something.

His thoughts shifted.

…Am I doing the right thing by asking her to marry me? People are still picking up the pieces of the war four years later. That’s why I’m here…more than anything I’m worried about the tabloids. ‘SeeD Commander Marries Sorceress.’

Then again, I never did care about what other people thought. Maybe because Rinoa is involved I care just a bit more. I…love her. There is nothing I wouldn’t do to protect her.

He moved his hand down and grabbed the square outline in his pants pocket.

I still don’t know how I’m going to do this…I bought the ring. All I have to do is figure out how to ask her.

Squall sighed.

I’m horrible at these things. I always have been.

He walked around the city aimlessly for about an hour, perhaps more or less, just deep in thought about the future. He wondered where they would live, where they would go…if she would even say ‘yes’ was a question lurking deep inside his mind that he wouldn’t even dare think about. If he did, he would return the ring and never look back.

They had talked about their future together: Rinoa wanted children. Rinoa wanted to live in Balamb where everyone was. Rinoa wanted a small little house somewhere they could both relax.

Squall wasn’t sure about children. He wasn’t sure where he wanted to live or even if he would buy a house for the two of them. He never had a house growing up – he had an orphanage. He had Balamb Garden. Garden was his home after a certain age. Unlike Rinoa, he never really had a childhood so he attributed him to not knowing to that.

I need to figure this out before I ask her…maybe we could buy a house in Deiling or something where we could escape every now and again…no, that’s too close to her father.

Who still doesn’t know I’m going to ask his daughter to marry me.

Rinoa wouldn’t care anyways…

“Squall! My boy!” Squall felt the air knocked out of him from behind as soon as he walked into the palace. Laguna was standing right beside the doors with Kiros and Ward beside him. “Where have you been, son?”

“Out.”

“Nah, really?” Laguna chuckled, reaching up and pinching Squall’s nose. Squall bit back a growl but instead glared at the man. “Your nose is cold! You should go grab some soup before we sit down with the General.”

Squall felt his heart drop. “…General?”

Laguna nodded, standing tall and trying to act like more of a man than he truly is. “We need to discuss some things about Rinoa.”

He didn’t know whether to be scared or angry.

Was he here to discuss his future fiancée or actually clean up the world..?

Either way, Squall stomped his way into the kitchen and grabbed a hot cup of soup. He tried his hardest not to throw it at his father when he saw him sitting beside General Caraway at a long table.

It’s now or never, I guess…

--

 

The Orphanage

Around them the ground was shaking. The sky was twirling in a perfect circle with the clouds turning from a steady blue, to grey, to finally black. Wind was pulling it’s fingers roughly through Rinoa’s hair as it whipped around her face.

The girl was more than angry. She was infuriated.

All she wanted to do was be alone.

And she couldn’t control herself no matter how much a small voice inside of her cried to stop and be calm.

“WHY DID YOU DO THIS TO ME?!”

“Rinoa, calm down!”

“I want to be ALONE.” Rinoa screamed, the ground around her beginning to quake. “How can you not understand that?!”

“Rinoa,” Quistis called, holding her hands up in innocence, “You need something to get your mind off of him. We’re going to have a good time!”

“Like hell! You’re doing this to me against my will! I’m leaving!”

The sky was beginning to turn back to normal as the wind died down. Rinoa had turned on her heels, her heart rate beginning to slow down, her body tearing through wooden door after door, sometimes taking it off of the hinges.

All the friends saw was their hopeless friend hurt – her back was turned on them and they hoped it wasn’t for good. Quistis hoped it was just from the delicate condition Rinoa was in. Selphie was beside the former instructor with tears brimming in her eyes. Zell had his forehead in his hand and Irvine had a firm hand gripped on Selphie’s shoulder in case she needed it.

The sleeping spell had worn off once Irvine casted a dispel on the girl. She woke in her pajamas on a warm cot in the center of the destroyed orphanage. That was when the anger started…she had punched a hole through a wall with her magic in the palm of her hands, casted an earthquake throughout the place which then proceeded to make it crumble even more. She cried and screamed the whole place down, ultimately causing a change in weather.

Rinoa walked down the front steps of the orphanage with her face still red in fury. Matron was standing near the entrance near the flower field. The flowers twirling and dancing in the wind made Rinoa stop and rethink her decision. It was then she felt a soft hand on her shoulder.

 “You’re not going anywhere, sweetheart.”

She felt the tears well up inside of her.

She felt guilty.

She could have killed her friends…

“If you want to cry, cry. Come with me.”

With a warm arm wrapped around her, Rinoa let Matron escort her to the flower field where the two sat down across from one another.

“You need to understand this, Rinoa, you are still new to being a sorceress. You need to keep your emotions under control as long as you are in Centra. Esthar is not too far away and the last thing you want is them picking up a signal of you.”

Rinoa nodded.

“Your friends are trying to help you.”

“I know…”

“So what you’re going to do is you’re going to take this,” Matron pulled out a small diary, handing it to the girl, “Write to Squall like he’s going to read these letters, okay? That’ll help you get your emotions out in a healthy way instead of changing the weather and crumbling the area to bits.

Rinoa nodded, examining the baby blue diary in her hands. “Thank you…”

She didn’t know what else she could have possibly said…

Matron smiled, standing up and looking to the orphanage. “You will have fun here with your friends. Squall may not be here, but he’s thinking of you.”

The girl looked up, “Is he..?”

Edea smiled, “I’m sure he is. He loves you.”

Rinoa smiled back, opening the book and cracking the spine, “Thank you, Matron.”

“Rinoa!!” Selphie screeched, running into the flower field and jumping up and down. She hoped that the girl was feeling better now.

The gang had planned things well: they knew Rinoa would have gotten upset and they had Matron there just in case something happened like it did.

Selphie smiled, leaning down and talking to Rinoa as if nothing happened “Angelo just did the cutest thing! Irvine yelled, ‘BANG’ and she played dead! It was sooooo cute! I asked her if she wanted to show Mommy and she barked!”

That was the best thing about Selphie: if someone was sorry, Selphie never thought about it again. It was always like things were a clean slate.

Rinoa giggled, standing up with shaky hands. “I’ll be right there.” She turned to Matron, “Thanks again.”

Matron nodded, “Go have fun with your friends. If you ever need anything, just let me know, sweetheart.”

Selphie grabbed Rinoa’s hand and pulled her into the orphanage where she proceeded to show her Angelo’s new trick. Rinoa applauded her dog, handing her a small treat and a pat on the head before the collie trotted into the flower field where she remained for the rest of the day with her friends who forgave her with a group hug.

“So here is the plan,” Quistis said moments later as the five of them sat on the sand, “Zell and Irvine can redo the walls. Most of them are still in tact so it shouldn’t take longer than a couple weeks. Us three,” the blonde made a circular motion with her pen to the girls, “We’ll take care of the doors and perhaps the roof with the boys once they’re done.”

“…Can we paint?” Rinoa questioned softly.

The blonde nodded, “I think that would be a great idea. This place could use some color.” She smiled.

“And the floors?” Zell asked. “They’re kind of in bad shape…”

“A good shine should do the trick.”

“And at night we have all agreed that we could have some s’mores or hot dogs.” Irvine said, looking to Rinoa with a smile, “So it won’t be all work and no play.”

The young sorceress nodded, smiling happily, “I’m happy you guys are making me do this…I’m sorry I was so mad earlier.”

“We understand.

“Yeah!” Selphie chimed in, “You’re upset. It’s natural!”

“Just don’t attempt to injure my men next time.” Irvine muttered. Zell just laughed.

“Your ‘men’? You mean your balls?”

“SHE WAS EYEING THEM.”

Rinoa giggled, “Well, at least I know your weakness now!” And she winked, causing Irvine to place his hands between his legs in defense.

“Okay children, shall we begin? There are some bricks near the entrance!”

“YEAH! Orphanage gang reunited!”

Everyone turned around to look at Selphie, shook their heads and walked up the flight of stairs back to the house.

--

 

Esthar: Presidential Palace

“General,” Squall greeted coldly, extending his hand. He placed his hot cup of soup down on the table as General Caraway reached his hand out and shook Squall’s hand.

He shook it a little too tight.

“Leonhart.”

“Well now,” Laguna chimed in, sitting at the head of the table, “Let’s take a seat and discuss your daughter.” He smiled, looking at Caraway kindly.

Squall couldn’t help but hold back a chuckle as hard as he could. All he could think about were the times that Ellone took them back in time to see how in love Laguna was with Julia – Rinoa’s mother.

I hope his leg doesn’t cramp up at the sight of Caraway…

He coughed, “What about Rinoa?”

“Her protection.” Caraway snapped, leaning back in his chair and crossing his arms sternly, “You’re her boyfriend and you haven’t even considered her protection from the rest of the world? Primarily Galbadia Garden and Esthar? She’s in danger especially after this war.”

“Sir, the war ended four years ago and Rinoa is perfectly safe in Balamb Garden. She is with me and my SeeDs who are informed that is most certainly not a threat. Granted there are always people that won’t believe that -.”

“Which is WHY she needs protection!”

“Now, now,” Laguna chimed in, “There is no need for yelling.”

Squall sighed.

We are men, not children.

Laguna spoke once more, “I agree, Rinoa does need protection but from certain places such as Galbadia Garden. They have agreed to separate from the control of higher powers and simply act on their own, but just as Squally said, most people know Miss Heartilly is not a threat.”

Squall groaned, “It’s Squall.”

Laguna smiled, “And I’m Dad to you but you refuse.”

“Can we get on with this please? We need somewhere to take my daughter so she is not harmed.”

“What, like the Sorceress Memorial where she was forced to go four years ago?” Squall snapped, “I won’t have it. She is perfectly safe with me and my Garden. If need be, we have the White SeeD ship to protect her.”

“No Garden is safe, Leonhart.” Caraway retaliated, “Tell me, what is the purpose of Garden? You’re Commander. You should know this.”

I hate this man with a burning passion…why does he suddenly give a fuck about his daughter after all these years?

“The purpose of SeeD is to fight the Sorceress. The evil  Sorceress. Rinoa is not evil. She received these powers not by choice. She did not CHOOSE to be this!”

“But SeeD,” Caraway leant forward, staring deep into Squall’s ice cold eyes, “As you said so well Commander, is to fight the Sorceress. My daughter is a sorceress.”

Squall glared back. He realized there would come a day when he would have to choose between Garden or the love of his life: Garden and Sorceresses simply did not go. He knew what a predicament he was in the moment they sat on the ship in the middle of outer space together. Squall vowed to never leave Rinoa, no matter what.

He was her knight. He would always protect her.

 Laguna shifted uneasily in his seat as Squall’s words spat from his mouth, “You ignored your daughter. You pushed your daughter away from you the moment your wife passed away. Don’t call her your daughter. She hates you.”

For a moment he thought he went too far. He brought up his deceased wife, his daughter hating him, and somewhat hurt Laguna all in one monologue. The room was silent and the tension was so thick you were unable to slice it with a knife.

But Squall couldn’t help it. Caraway still never realized how much he hurt his daughter.

The General straightened in his seat. Laguna looked like he was about to cry. Kiros was shaking his head at Laguna’s emotion and Ward was silent as usual.

And Squall felt horrible.

“Look, I didn’t mean to bring that up…but all I’m trying to say is that she is safe as long as she is with me. I’ll protect her.”

Caraway sighed, “She still needs added protection. At any moment someone could strike her.”

He was silent before he added one more thing.

“She may hate me for how I treated her all those years ago, but she is still my daughter.”

“I understand, Sir.”

I’m going to ask your daughter to marry me and I just hypothetically stabbed you. Good going, Leonhart.

“Should we make a treaty?” Laguna said, startling the two other men at the table. “Made by the three of us since we are all close to Rin?”

“It won’t go through.” Squall stated, sighing, pressing his index and thumb to his temple, “I’ve already tried this. We are too emotionally close to Rinoa. There need to be a political reason behind it.”

General Caraway simply nodded, sighing, “Unless we can get Galbadia on the same terms as us.”

“Well that is most certainly your department, General.” Laguna said, smiling, “If you can strike an agreement with Galbadia Garden and the rest of Galbadia so they don’t view Rinoa as a threat that would be great.”

“It won’t be that easy,” Squall said, “They’ve been through a lot with the Sorceress overthrowing them. If anything they will be resentful of Rinoa…even though she didn’t do anything…”

Squall felt General Caraway’s eyes on him. He knew they were staring deep into the top of his head as he looked down, running his fingers over the outline of the box in his pants.

God, he loved her.

He would do anything for her.

He sighed, “If worst comes to worst…Rinoa and I will relocate.”

“And why do you go with her?” General asked, one eyebrow cocked high. “Why not me?”

Squall took a deep breath, “Because I love her more than anything else in the world. And I would die if it meant saving her…” Another deep breath.

“And I want to ask your permission to spend the rest of my life with her.”

Laguna gasped happily, “My little boy is getting married!!!” He jumped out of his seat, hugging Kiros and Ward tightly.

Meanwhile Squall could see that Caraway was deep in thought. His eyebrows were furrowed, the worry-lines in his forehead were even more prominent as well as the frown lines.

He was going to say no and Squall knew it. But at least now Squall couldn’t say that he didn’t try for the mans approval. Granted it wasn’t the best time in the world to ask for permission but it had to be done sometime.

“I don’t approve of you, Leonhart.” Caraway hissed, “I do not give you permission to marry my princess.”

Squall nodded, “I asked your permission just to be courteous, not because I care for your opinion. I’m going to ask her to marry me because I love her…Perhaps that could calm the world down for a while.”

General glared, “Is that why you’re asking her?”

“No!” Squall shouted in defense. “I’m asking her because I love her. I love her more than anything else in the world.”

And because her love makes me a better person.

Rinoa…I wish you were here with me right now.

--

 

The Orphanage

One Month Later

She was alone again, sitting in the middle of the flower field with nothing but candles and the moon for lighting. With the notebook in her lap and a pen in hand, Rinoa tapped her temple, wondering what to write.

It had been a month since they first arrived at the orphanage. The walls were now taller and sturdy with a roof that was currently under construction above them. There were some rooms that Selphie and Rinoa had begun painting murals on.

One could tell which ones were Selphie’s….they involved suns and happy faces.

The idea of the silly paintings made Rinoa smile. She truly was having a good time with her friends but she did miss him. She thought about Squall every day, every hour and especially every night where sleep could not comfort her. The bed was too large for her even though it was twin size and she was far too cold for her own good.

It was nights like this where she took a large vanilla candle into the flower field and kept to herself while everyone else slept. Recovery was coming slowly; the sadness was still there but it was a lot less prominent.

After receiving the journal from Matron, Rinoa looked at it every time she felt like she had to tell Squall something, but she never picked it up until now. She didn’t know why she took the journal into the field with her.

I’ve been holding way too much in…Squall wouldn’t like this.

So she clicked her pen and began to write:

February 20th

Dear Squall,

                I really don’t know what to write in here. Matron gave this to me as a way to let out my negative emotions so my powers to cause trouble again. I feel like I have so much emotion inside of me that I don’t know what to do…I don’t even know where to begin.

                I could say that I’m hurt – that I’m hurting more like. But I’m sure you know that. I don’t know if you feel the same way: if you miss me, if you want to hold me like I want you to. I never know what’s going on in your head most of the time although most of the time I can decipher it by the look in your eyes. They change colors you know…they’re bright blue when they’re happy. That’s how I know you’re content…

                And when you’re sad or upset, they’re grey. I miss the look in your eyes…I miss it when your face is inches from mine so I can look deep inside of them.

                But I’m just being silly now. I guess that’s what distance does. Everything becomes blurred. What has killed me the most is I’ve forgotten how you feel: your lips, your hands, your fingers, everything. Those are the things I was the most addicted to when we were together but now I have totally and completely forgotten what they feel like. I don’t remember how to kiss, but I somewhat remember how to kiss you…what you like and what you don’t like, I guess.

                And it’s like if I really think about it, like right now I’m really thinking about it, I can feel your arms around me and your warmth even though you say I’m the one with the high body temperature. And when I think of you holding me I can feel my heart beginning to pump faster. It’s almost like you’re here but you’re not.

                 I’m rambling so much…you know how much I miss you and how much it hurts for you not to be here with me. All of us are having so much fun redoing the orphanage and I feel like you should be here too, enjoying this with us. We’ve all been through so much with one another that just having only one person missing can ruin the moment. Irvine was saying that he misses your sarcasm and blunt statements and that it actually makes everything a little more funny – even though you don’t mean to. Everyone else agreed.

                So it’s not just me that’s missing you; it’s everyone else too.

                Irvine and everyone else misses your humor and personality. I miss everything else: your touch, your kiss, how you take up most of the bed when you’re really tired at night and then you turn it on me saying that I sleep odd so you deserved the sleep. I miss making you coffee every morning and waking you up with it even though it takes you a good ten minutes to actually move in bed. I miss how you won’t lean in to kiss me because you refuse to admit you’re a little scared to sometimes.

                It just hurts so much writing all of this but for some reason I can’t feel it…I’m not crying. I do feel this pain in my chest, though. There are no tears, no sobs, nothing. Perhaps I have just pushed it so deep inside of myself that I can’t feel it anymore. And I know that’s the last thing you would ever want me to do but for now it’s how I’m getting by – picking up hints from you.

                You were always so strong and I admire you for that…

                I just hope I get to see you soon. Maybe for some reason Laguna will send you back early or something. I miss you being here with me.

                You complete me.

                You’re my Knight.

Rinoa took a deep breath. She did feel relieved but there was still an empty void inside of her: did she say everything she wanted to say?

Perhaps there are things I’ll just have to show…words can only go so far.

She shut the journal  and blew out the vanilla scented candle. It was time for her to get some rest.

--

 

Esthar

Squall was up at two in the morning and he didn’t know why. He walked to the kitchen in the palace, poured himself a cup of decaf coffee and had been standing in the same spot for nearly half an hour deep in thought.

The ring box was opened and he kept looking at it: the white gold, one karat diamond with a small sapphire on each side. It was perfect for her – for them. And beside that there was a notebook with a pen.

I’m going to figure out what I want in my life with her…so I can tell her when I see her again.

Squall picked up the pen and began to scribble down notes:

Small house with a porch, perhaps by the beach.

That’s all he could think about.

Do I want kids..? If we did have kids, I certainly wouldn’t mind. I would give them a better life than what I had. Rinoa had a loving family until her mother passed away…

Kids…maybe two.

“Squall?”

Squall jumped, some of his black coffee spilling onto the tile. Laguna stood there in his chocobo pajama pants and a white tee shirt. He chuckled as he grabbed a paper towel and helped Squall wipe it up. “What are you doing?” Squall hissed.

He hated it when people disturbed him while deep in thought.

Laguna crossed his arms, “I think the better question is what are you doing? Coffee and a notebook?” The man swiped the notebook faster than Squall could catch it. Squall felt his insides boiling from a mixture of anger and embarrassment.

Laguna looked up at him, “Life plan?”

Squall shrugged. “Maybe.”

“…You and Rinoa haven’t agreed on any of this?”

“It’s none of your -.”

“Business. Squall, I am your father. Do you want to talk about this?”

Yes and No. Just not with you…with Rinoa.

“…I’d rather talk about it with Rinoa.” Squall replied, placing his coffee on the counter and crossing his arms. “It’s between her and me.”

“But as a father, I will man up and listen to you.”

Squall raised an eyebrow, “…Why?”

Laguna shrugged and for a second, Squall thought that he saw a bit of him in his father. The man pulled two chairs as the two sat at the counter. He pressed his index finger to the statement about kids.

“You don’t want kids because you never were one. I know what I did was wrong and I’m sorry.”

“You had no choice. You had to protect Sis. You barely knew me.”

“I know, but I am willing to help you. You and Rinoa could always stay here.”

Squall shook his head.

Ever since the meeting with General Caraway Squall had been thinking that the two of them were right: Rinoa needs protection from the rest of the world that does not require her to go into the memorial. She needs something besides Squall to protect her. Of course Squall has SeeD of Balamb Garden behind him but who says that some of them wouldn’t turn on him?

Generally Balamb is a safe place, so it’s Timber, Winhill and Dollet. Galbadia and Esthar are the worst. At all costs the couple would have to avoid those areas.

“The General is right. Rinoa needs protection. I just don’t know where we would go with me being the head of Garden.  My job is important to me.”

The president looked at his only son, “More important than your future wife?”

He shook his head, “No…”

Why am I even talking to him..? I guess he is being level headed for once.

I’ll give him a chance.

“My advice to you, son, is that you take every second you can with her. You never know what may happen…I took my chances with Julia. I don’t want you to do that with Rinoa.” Laguna sighed, looking at his son before putting a hand on his shoulder, “Time is something that you’ll never get back.”

Squall looked at his father, “But what about where we would go? We can’t stay in Balamb Garden forever.”

As Laguna hopped off of his chair, he shrugged and pulled up his pajama pants. “That’s something you will have to talk to her about. Just decide together. Goodnight, son.”

Squall felt the words slip out of his mouth before he could even think, “Goodnight Dad.”

He didn’t see the happiest smile on Laguna’s face or the tears in his eyes, but Squall felt like Laguna just earned major brownie points for actually not acting like a complete moron for once.

He grabbed the pen once more and wrote in big letters:

Escape Balamb Garden.

--

 

The Orphanage

Selphie was awake first, followed by Irvine and Zell. Quistis and Rinoa were still fast asleep on their cots in the girls’ room. The two of them had been working on the roof the previous day while Selphie painted suns and smiling faces on the stone wall.

She bounced around the orphanage, happy with the way it was going. It almost looked like it did when they were all children, except a little bit better. The doors were more sturdy and the walls didn’t look like they were going to cave in any second. Plus, it had more of a ‘home’ look to it than it ever had.

Irvine was outside cooking some hot dogs over a fire on the beach and Zell was doing some morning running and fighting. So Selphie was all alone.

She decided to go to the flower field and soak in some sun when she noticed a little blue notebook lying in the middle of the field. Her curiosity got the best of her; she picked it up and read what was inside.

With tears in her eyes, she ran down to the beach and showed Irvine. He nodded.

“Let’s send it to him.”