Two Years Without A Question Prologue

By I Am Not Amused

I'm terrified.

Of course I am.

There are so many positions I've been thrust to unwillingly, leader of an elite mercenary group, only hope of the free world, the new title of 'hero,' but I accepted them. They were a product of my actions. I couldn't change them, and I didn't want to, because I never second-guessed the things I had done. But the scariest position I've ever been in is the one I've accepted willingly. The one I've accepted willingly.

Her enthusiasm was contagious from the beginning. From the first time I saw her, she got me to smile. She didn't know me, yet she knew me perfectly. Sometimes I wonder how it happened, but there is no certain moment. When she was unconscious, it became so clear. But when had it happened before that? I don't know. I had always kept any of those emotions carefully guarded, even from myself. But when I saw her lying there, unable to respond, unable to move.

I carried her on my fucking back from Fisherman's Horizon to Esthar. I snuck away, hoping and praying that for once that my friends would leave let me do this alone. I couldn't admit my feelings for her to them. But when I saw them, waiting for me patiently, I realized I didn't have to admit anything. They already knew. Seems I'm always the last to know these things.

I'm terrified.

Of course I am.

I'm terrified things will change suddenly. There is a voice in the back of my head screaming at how stupid this is. How she's going to leave. How she's going to die. How she's just going to disappear one day. It's the same voice that kept those feelings for her carefully guarded. Constructing more and more elaborate barriers around my soul, cliché as that sounds. For the first time in my life, I tell the voice to shut the hell up.

This is the voice that's kept me from any joy in my life. I'm seventeen years old, and with that whole 'being the commander of the most powerful military force on the planet' and 'being the savior of said planet' thing, I've not had a real chance to be that age. When Rinoa told me that I was a teenager, to act like one for a change, I laughed silently at her. But, the more I think about it now; I realize how right she was. I do need to be a teenager, if only for a little while.

Not that I'd know where to begin. I never had a childhood, I never had an adolescence, how the hell am I supposed to be a teenager? But that's old habits dying hard. I have friends who understand, I have friends who are teenagers and who are willing to act like it, but still know when it's time to grow up. I used to look at them having fun and think they were acting like fools, now I realize that I was the stupid one the whole time.

I'm terrified.

Of course I am.

But I have help.

And that's enough to make me smile.


I look at him, and I realize he's off in his own little world.

Not that I mind, because the wistful smile on his face let's me know that wherever he is, it's not that think-tank state where his emotions are bottled up and every scar looks like it's burning a hole on his body. We are both just content in this moment, to stay in each other's silences until something needs to be said. And, right now, nothing needs to be said. Because we're communicating perfectly without words.

'Deja vu.' I think, as the strains of the song of our first and, thus far and unfortunately, our only dance strike up in the background. I don't know if Squall hears it, because his eyes are a million miles away, counting stars. But his entire body seems to relax as it begins and I know his ears are right here.

And then, just to complete this perfect fairy-tale image, a falling star comes out of the sky, burning for a few scant moments across both of our visions. I turn to him, my finger pointed in the air. He understands immediately turning to me, his smile growing wider. My heart almost stops right there, he was always handsome. His brown hair fell in just the right ways around his face; his eyes were always beautiful, always letting me in little by little, no matter how much he fought against it. But that smile, one I had never seen bloom full, simply completes it.

"Kiss me." The words come out of my mouth before I even have any time to think logically about them.

Confusion crosses his features for a second, but only for a second. "Okay," he says in typical dryness and I would start laughing except for the fact that he does kiss me and my mind shuts down. It wasn't a passionate make- out kiss, but his body just fit so well against mine and his taste and smell and feel just made me feel so...home, I couldn't concentrate. He pulls away uncertainly, searching my features. My eyes flutter open gradually.

"Wow," is all I can muster.

I laugh silently to myself. I had so much to say to him. Questions and statements prepared to help him understand how I felt and to help me understand how he felt and all I could come up with after that simple, yet admittedly breathtaking kiss was 'Wow.' He did it without question, without hesitation, and not just because I asked him to, but because he wanted to, too.

"You liked that as much as I did, didn't you?" He asks me, and I laugh. It wasn't that funny, but sometimes something is so...true that you just have to laugh at how right it sounds.

"Maybe a little more, you're still standing under your own power." I smile back at him, still trying to get my legs under me a little better. I hear him chuckle a bit, not in the arrogant way Seifer might have if I had let him kiss me back when I was only sixteen, but just enough to let me know that what just happened was a product of genuine emotion, not hormonal bragging rights.

As I regain my composure, his arms slowly, reluctantly glide off of my body. The warmth of his body leaves mine and, as I put my hands back on the railing, my body shivers suddenly. An involuntary action, but one that catches his immediate attention. He moves behind me, placing his arms over mine until his fingers are entwined with mine over the railing. I feel his breath playing with my hair and sending shuddering reactions through my facial muscles.

"I'm terrified." His words come out gently, but they quiver ever so slightly.


"A million reasons."

His noncommittal answers always drive me insane.

"Give me one, then."


"You're terrified of me?" No. This has to be a nightmare. Squall's scared of me? Is it it because I'm a sorceress? It never seemed to matter before. Was it only just dawning on him and scared him? This can't be true.

"Of course I am."

"Is it because...I'm a sorceress?"

"Oh, Hyne, Rinoa. No."

Confusion. "Then why?"

"Because..." He trails off, and I can feel his fingers tighten around my own, and his face draw closer to my cheek. I can feel the warmth of his breath on my ear. There was fear there, just a second ago, but now in his voice I hear resolve. "Because I love you. You're the only person I've ever loved. And that scares me."

I turn a little bit enough so I can look into his eyes. I remember the last time I saw those eyes look so vulnerable. The night I had asked him to dance. "You never have to be afraid to love me. I love you so much, that when it looked like you didn't love me back it hurt."

He took a deep breath, and I could tell he wanted to avoid the subject. The slight pause made me think he was going to, and I was about to plead with him to tell me what's wrong but, just as I opened my mouth, he spoke. His sense of timing is very often frustrating, but also makes anything he says worth so much more.

"That's not why I'm afraid to love you."

"Then why?"

"I'm afraid one day I'll wake up and you'll have been taken away, or killed, or just up and disappeared. Or, even worse, I'll have left you behind, to deal with the kind of pain that I had to go through when Ellone with, except exponentially worse. I just don't know if I can deal with those thoughts."

I take wiggle my hands out from under his, grabbing his arms and wrapping them around me. There's some surprise to my sudden action apparent on his features, but it passes and is quickly replaced by a smile, as our bodies are pulled closer together.

"I'm right here, Squall."

I can feel his smile grow on my skin.

"I know."

The sounds of the party are like static against our ears. There is nothing in this moment, except for the two of us and the stars. I can feel his every movement and every breath against my skin. The only problem with this picture is that it is merely temporary. Eventually, I will have to let go.



"Can you tell me you love me again?"

"I love you, Rinoa." He says as he kisses my neck, and all I feel is home.

We stay there like that, allowing time to slip by slowly, memorizing every second of this event. But he shifts me in his arms, showing obvious signs of discomfort. I look up at him questioningly, my eyes puzzled. Doesn't he like this?

"They're staring at us." He says lightly.

I chide myself for my paranoia, not bothering to wonder how Squall knows this without looking. It's part of that battle sense, or maybe part of that loner mentality. The ability to know when someone was there, without really knowing someone was there. I want to seem them for myself, though, so I loose myself from his grasp, turning around in his arms, checking on whom 'they' actually were.

I saw the whole of Garden standing behind us. Standing in front were Edea and Cid, flanked on either side by Selphie, Irvine, Zell and Quisty. The six of them were smiling at us, in what I was only now realizing to be content. An emotion we had forgotten about in our journey, but felt so good to let seep back into our bones now. Squall released me reluctantly, turning to face the expectant crowd. He drew a breath in, as if to speak, but then it let out loudly, chuckling. I could tell he was struggling with what he should say. But, somehow, he always chooses the best possible option.

"We...we did it."

Cheers. From the youngest junior class member to Cid all applauded the simple statement that still held so much hope in the idea. Squall, stoic as ever, simply held up a hand and allowed the swelling of applause to die down.

"And I don't just mean the six of us who battled Ultimecia. I mean every person in Garden. Every SeeD who died when Galbadia attacked us. Every person played a role in this, if there was even one person taken out of this equation it most likely would have ended in failure. And that's not just rhetoric. I believe that."

I look sideways at him, noticing how more comfortable he looked speaking like this. He probably had expected it and prepared it in his head, even as he was walking into the party hall. He said to me once that he hardly ever was able to keep up with his own brain. That thoughts went by like a train off its tracks. But now, he looks collected. Like things finally slowed down.

"And..." Here he paused, scratching at the back of his head, uncertain of how or unwilling to continue. "I guess...I'd just like to thank everyone."

Again, cheers. And though Squall didn't exactly soak them up, he accepted them, which was more than he was willing to do even days prior. I grab a hold of his arm, causing him to disengage from scanning the crowd with his eyes. He smiled down at me, causing an entirely different kind of cheering to come from the crowd. His eyes immediately shot up, to the laughter of just about everyone, including my barely stifled giggling.

"Et tu, Rinoa?" He asked in his typical dry voice, which only increased my giggling. There was a sense of humor somewhere in this guy. I knew it.

"Hey!" Selphie's voice cut through the crowd as she rushed up to us, pulling on Squall's other arm, dragging him out into the party hall much the way I had those months ago. "C'mon, you two, we gotta take a picture of the whole gang!"

The whole gang.

Years down the line, Squall and I would look at that picture. Irvine dead center, tipping his cowboy hat with a grin. Zell giving the camera an over- enthusiastic thumbs up. Quisty smiling contently, her arms neatly folded at her sides. Selphie reaching up vainly trying to give Irvine's hat bunny ears. Me looking at the camera smiling, my arms around Squall's left arm, his gaze averted a bit to the left, a wary smile on his face. It always made us laugh, even if it sometimes wasn't real laughter.

But it's right now, and this moment is perfect.

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