You rolled over onto your back with a slight groan, your arm coming up to shield your eyes from the sunlight streaming in through thin curtains. Head feeling heavy, and limbs sore from such little movement these past few days, you had trouble finding the motivation to remove yourself from the comfort of your bed.
Little bits and pieces of memories were playing like movie clips on the back of your eyelids anyway, enrapturing you enough to nearly have you lulling back into another slumber.
“I’m Aerith, it’s nice to meet you!”
“Don’t go wavin’ that staff around all wild n’ shit, alright?”
“Yuffie, you have to go to class. No, don’t-”
“Squall, I’m fine. I’m not s-sick, I swear-”
The sudden memory of him had you reflecting on what transpired last night, heat now rising to your cheeks and hands moving to yank the covers over your head in slight embarrassment.
“You should eat something.”
The gruff, but familiar voice only caused your heart to beat even faster. Slowly, but surely you emerged from your blanket cove, sitting up to nervously glance at the man across the room. He was no longer by your side, instead seated at the small table littered with paperwork. His outerwear was still discarded, his upper half only adorned with his necklace and white t-shirt. Blue eyes stared into your own, barely appearing through his endearingly bedhead-ed locks. If the steaming cup of coffee gripped tightly in one of his hands wasn’t enough, the near blank expression on his face was-
Squall wasn’t a morning person. He wasn’t when he was a teenager, and he surely wasn’t now.
Your lips tilted up into a smirk, eyes shining with mirth at the sight. “I think I’d rather have that coffee.”
“...You like tea.”
You were slightly taken aback by his response, mouth agape for a second before it settled into a soft smile.
What a seemingly little thing, for him to remember such a preference.
Before you even had a chance to retort the door flew open, followed by Yuffie’s squeal of excitement at your awakened state. She immediately wrapped her arms around your upper half, nearly pulling the two of you off the bed with her force.
“M-Morning to you too, Y-Yuffie.”
Realizing she was hugging you a little too tight, the teenager released her hold, stepping back to look at you with a grin. “Man, I didn’t think you were gonna wake up! I thought we’d have to pull a Sleeping Beauty- ya know?”
You tilted your head to the side in confusion. “A what?”
Her grin turned cattish, hands coming up to rest on her hips. “I met this Princess once who told me she got stuck under a sleeping spell, kinda like you did, and the only way to break it was for her true-”
Squall’s annoyed growl cut through the air like ice, causing Yuffie to shoot him a glare.
“It’s not like it was a bad idea! You’re just stubborn, Squall!”
You watched the argument with wide eyes, mouth opening up to squash it before it got too far, before Aerith’s gentle voice washed over the tense room like a much needed balm. “I’m glad to see you all awake, just in time for breakfast too.”
She looked over at you with a knowing smile, before speaking once more-
“Why don’t we give (y/n) some space to wash up?”
Treating her suggestion more like a demand, the both of them began making their way out, Squall making sure to take his coffee along with him. Yuffie glared holes into his back, while Aerith sent you a wink before shutting the door behind her. Letting out a light laugh and shaking your head at their dynamic, you began to get ready.
You stood over the table, hands gently sifting through the blueprints Squall left behind with awe. They were extremely detailed, outlining the entire world’s reconstruction plan from the Outer Gardens to the Fountain Court. You traced your fingers over the lines and notes, the world around you seeming to melt away.
“Squall, put me down!”
The teenager in question only laughed, your shouts of protest and faint-hearted hits to his back doing nothing. He had you slung over his shoulder, your world turned upside down as he walked down the stairs and into the fountain court. The sound of running water had you panicking, fully aware that despite his stone-cold exterior, Squall was not incapable of mischief.
Seemingly satisfied with the destination, he gently placed you back onto your own two feet.
Face red from both embarrassment and flipped blood flow, you gave him the best pointed look you could manage. Before you could even scold him, he spoke in a strangely serious tone-
The tension in your shoulders immediately dissipated, eyes shifting to the ground.
“I know, I know.... I just, we have the festival coming up, and Merlin was telling me about this new spell he wants me to learn, and Yuffie’s dad is ...I-”
Your voice trailed off as he grabbed your hand, pressing a small blue box into it.
“Happy belated birthday.”
You looked from the gift to him, eyebrows scrunched in confusion. “Squall… I- you helped with the party, you didn’t have to get me anything.”
He hummed, expression soft. “Just open it.”
Your heart beat rapidly in your chest, fingers shaking as you complied with his request. There, a silver necklace glinted in the light, the intricate pendant that dangled on the end having you suck in a sharp breath. Staring up at you with an inquisitive eye was the side of a lioness’ head, a half pointed cross stuck out of the bottom, just like...just like his.
You looked up at your childhood friend, the one who you stuck to like glue for years. The one who has seen you in every emotional state imaginable, the one you trained with, the one who you teased, the one who, every once in a while, entangled his fingers with yours if no one was around.
...The one who carried you home when your feet just wouldn’t work, the one who let you drop your head on his shoulder when you just couldn’t keep it up anymore, the one who.... Who you-
You gasped, eyes fluttering open for a second before they closed again. Both of your hands gripped the table now like it was a life-line, and you were shoved back into the memory like a wave roughly pulling you from the shore.
“Thank you, Squall...It’s beautiful.”
Your thumb carefully brushed over the lioness’ head, as if afraid it would crumble in your hands. You looked up at the brunette, “Mind helping me out?”
He nodded, gently taking the jewelry out of your grasp. You turned around and swiped your hair to the side, the feeling of his hands brushing against your neck causing a shiver to run up your spine.
Slowly, so slowly you faced him.
“How does it look?”
Your voice was shaking when you spoke, some unknown nervousness bubbling up within you. But Squall, calm and confident like always, only tilted his lips up into a small smile.
And maybe it was the way that he said it, or the fact that his attention was nowhere near where the necklace rested, but instead on you as a whole, that it had your heart stopping.
As if the space between you wasn’t already barely present, he seemed to step closer, his hand coming up to gently settle on your cheek. You sighed, leaning into the touch without hesitation. His other hand came to fall on your hip, causing your eyes to flutter shut for just a second, before they returned the look of adoration he was giving you.
The two of you basked in a silence cloaked in nothing but yearning, waiting for the other to break the cycle-
And he did, tilting his head just right to brush his lips against yours for the very first time. Eager to return his affections, you moved to do the same.
A sudden shout of your name had the two of you freezing in your actions, as a familiar blur of chaos that went under the guise of non-other than Yuffie bounded down the stairs. You couldn’t help but laugh, your head falling to rest on his chest. Squall let out an annoyed sigh, hand slipping from your waist. “...I guess we’ll finish this later.”
You looked up at him with a gentle smile, “We have all the time in the world, Leonhart.”
Reality came rushing back at you, your hand coming up to cover your mouth in shock. This memory did not feel like a film, you were not a spectator to a past event, you were in it. You felt every single thing you had back then.
That voice had you choking back a sob, tears threatening to spill as you gripped the edge of the table even tighter with your free hand.
...You had loved him.
You had loved him.
You could not deny the pull you felt, the call within your heart that you needed him. He had been important to you, no doubt. A member of a family you cherished but lost, someone who haunted you like a ghost every night in your dreams, who was now real and here.
He was your tie to this plane.
He was your first love.
And, God, how did you not realize it until now?
The creak of the door opening had you looking nervously out the window, your hand shaking as you ran it through your hair.
“...Food’s getting cold.”
Squall’s voice had you taking a deep breath before you turned to face him, looking as composed as you could be. “S-Sorry, I… got distracted.”
The brunette looked as if he was going to comment on your state, but instead held back. Patiently he waited in the threshold, and silently the two of you made your way across the small courtyard to meet the others. Too preoccupied with your own thoughts, you didn’t notice the way his eyes stole glances at you as you walked by his side.
And he didn’t notice the way your hand kept brushing up against his, as if instinctively trying to entangle your fingers with his own.