Squall and Rinoa and the winter holidays. When everything is dark, still something shines.
Written for Advent 2006.
The leather jacket weighed heavily over Rinoa's shoulders, blocking away the chill. She huddled into it gratefully, pulling the fur collar of it close around her neck; it smelled of leather and gunpowder and ozone and Squall, and the lining of it still held the body-warmth of its owner.
"You should have brought a coat," Squall told her, frowning, grumpy.
"I didn't think it ever got this cold in Balamb." She offered him an apologetic smile, but his frown only deepened.
"We're in the mountains."
She couldn't help but grin. "We sure are," she agreed, and turned away from him to look out across the island. The mountainside dropped sharply away before her, and the blackness of winter night beyond was jeweled with lights - the electric glow of Garden and Balamb town below, and the glimmering of reflected moonlight on the sea beyond, and above and all around the sparkle of countless stars. This high up, with the darkness shrouding the mountain landscape into almost featureless black, Rinoa felt almost like she was suspended among the stars, surrounded by them. "Where else could we get such a fantastic view?"
Wind flowed along the side of the mountain, ruffling the white fur against her cheek and chilling her exposed skin, a reminder which had her turning her face toward him in sudden concern. "You're going to be cold now, aren't you?"
Squall snorted derisively, breath turning to a plume of pale vapor that quickly dissipated as he shook his head in dismissal. When he spoke again, it was only to change the subject: "I thought you'd want to go back to Deling City."
"What?" For a moment she didn't quite manage to follow him. "Why would you think that?"
He glanced away, shoulders twitching in a little shrug. "Everyone who has a family goes home for the winter break."
Garden was full of orphans, Rinoa knew, but all the same his comment conjured a vision of a young and unscarred Squall walking Balamb Garden's deserted halls all by himself. Pulling his jacket a little more snugly around her, she deliberately pushed the thought away.
"I guess we could have gone," she mused instead. "The carnival's going on now, and that's always exciting. Bonfires and street performers and people on every sidewalk selling little toys and gaudy jewelry and bad food and hot spiced wine - I'd love to have some of it right now. And people everywhere. The whole city comes out."
Because she'd known the picture her description painted would bring a grimace to his face, when it did, she only giggled.
"I like this," she said. "Look." Turning again toward the endless view from the side of the mountain, she stretched an arm out in front of her, splaying her fingers against the spangled night sky. "Look at all those stars. Doesn't it seem like you could just reach out and touch them?"
Beside her, Squall looked, eyes tracking her gesture and staring out hard into the darkness, trying to see what she saw. The night was crystal-clear, and away from the lights of Garden they could see even the faintest of stars, the kind of view you usually can only get in space.
"It feels like flying," Rinoa's voice came breathlessly from close beside him.
No, Squall thought, not like flying. Like floating, thrown free of the planet's gravity to drift in the endless star-dusted emptiness of space. Still. Silent. Alone. He found himself reaching in sudden irrational fear to grip Rinoa's arm before she could drift away from him and be lost forever.
She looked toward him with her brows drawing together in a concerned frown. "Squall...?"
"This is stupid," he said flatly. "Let's go back down."
Her hand came up to cover his on her arm; she found his fingers cool to her touch. "You are cold," she said, exasperated. "You big liar. You should have said something. Come here."
She didn't wait for him to move, but turned toward him instead, rising up on her toes to wrap her arms around him and lean in close, willing him to absorb her warmth.
Slowly, eventually, his arms came around her, and he rested his cheek against her hair - hesitantly at first, as he always did, and then with a growing strength of something like desperation.
"Make a wish," Rinoa said, and from her shoulders a white glow shivered into being, spreading outward into wings that folded protectively around them both, surrounding them with light.