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His heart a freezer fueled by past misunderstandings, past wrongdoings. Her's naive and filled with hope and determination. That he aids her is but a falsity, for the greatest gift he received was her own: the gift of learning, the gift of love. Such a blade in hand, sharp and true, can shatter the most icy heart with one faithful swing.

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Opposites collide. Squall is objective to the point of brutality, Rinoa emotional and free with her thoughts. Neither respect the other. But the attraction is undeniable: they come together, one seeking out the other in spite of differences, in spite of all of those things that manifest in a divide between them.

For Rinoa, love comes easily. She is free with her heart, sees the best in people, takes what she is given. In this manner of loving she had attached herself to Seifer, despite not knowing how he felt—why worry, when she'd only ever been loved by those she'd reached out to? While others, particularly Quistis and Zell, couldn't understand what good she saw in him, Rinoa was convinced she was in love.

Love held no place in Squall's life. Abandoned as a boy, he became a man who saw no worth in emotions, and indeed saw only pain in allowing himself to fall prey to the experience of them. He became aloof, distant. He became one who prioritised based on objectivity, strategy, rules, conduct—all else followed.

At the Sorceress' parade in Galbadia, Squall and Irvine see Rinoa attacked on the podium. Irvine is appalled, tells Squall they should save her. But Squall, under oath and contract, can't bring himself to disobey orders, which he'd undoubtedly be doing if he were to rush off to save her. He lets any emotional reaction slide from the icy slope of his heart. He focuses on the mission. He would have let her fight on her own, to whatever end. Only an opportunity and Irvine's insistence gives him the capacity to save her. After the fight, Rinoa clings to his arm, professing how scared she was. Squall remains aloof, throwing her arm away each time she grabs hold of him. But Rinoa is built from determination: she doesn't give up until he tells her she'll be safe if she stays by his side.

Little by little, signs of caring on both sides emerge. Squall is the first person Rinoa calls out to when trouble arises. Squall ensures that if not he himself than another is watching over Rinoa—perhaps nothing more than what is required of his contract to her, though one might be inclined to think otherwise given that she is the first one he thinks of in trying times.

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Balamb Garden crashing into Fisherman's Horizon brings about another milestone in their relationship. At seeing his friends safe and sound, Squall sounds and acts unusually happy—and it doesn't go unnoticed by Rinoa. She confronts him afterwards about his unusual display of emotion. Squall is tongue-tied: was he really being that obvious? How embarrassing. Seeing his disgruntlement, Rinoa takes the opportunity to ask him whether or not he'd be equally as happy to see her, had she been in the same situation. He blushes at the thought, much to her amusement.

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Much later, the group is standing in the decimated Trabia Garden, watching snow fall down around them. Rinoa is amazed at everyone's dedication to battle, and admits her fears are preventing her from giving her all in a fight. Squall is shocked and thinks to himself how much she's changed from the determined resistance group leader she used to be...Seeing his expression, she tells him to voice his thoughts, else she'll never know what's on his mind.

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Balamb Garden is attacked by Galbadia Garden on the southernmost continent after the group heads to their old orphanage. Behind Squall's back, Rinoa makes a request of Zell: to make a copy of his ring for her. Zell manages to con Squall into handing over his ring, and he gives it to Rinoa to hold on to until the battle is over. But Rinoa is caught up in the battle and falls over the side of the garden. Zell, frantic with worry, runs to Squall to tell him what's happened.

Squall is worried about Rinoa, but is also aware that there are others in danger. He puts off saving her until the others can't stand it. Irvine, Quistis and Selphie team up with Zell to convince Squall he must be the one to save her.

quote_l Listen... Do me a favor.
YOU...go help Rinoa. quote_r

Irvine
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Not given much of a choice in the matter, Squall uses his wits and whiles to rescue Rinoa from the cliff-side. When she thanks him, he brushes it aside, coming up with any excuse he can to avoid letting his feelings take the blame. Too dangerous, he decides, to let her think their was any emotional involvement in the decision—that would only bring her closer, which was exactly what he couldn't have. Relying on no one, no one relying on him...that was what he'd decided.

Besides, it's obvious to Squall that the others were trying to get he and Rinoa together. And that endangers his pride.

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Rinoa admits that Zell has given her Squall's ring. He asks for it back, but she refuses. He tells her the lion emblazoned on its surface is a symbol of who he'd like to be, that it is very important to him. She tells him that he already has the qualities of the lion—pride and strength—and that she wouldn't mind becoming a bit of a lion herself. She'd asked Zell to make a copy of the ring, and delights in the idea that others might get the wrong impression.

quote_l You sound like you want
everyone to get the wrong
  idea. quote_r

Squall

Rinoa is in a coma. Squall watches her in her chill sleep, wondering what's wrong. He can do nothing, and so when Quistis asks him and the others to meet the newly released Matron at her seaside house, he goes. Even while she speaks of the sorceress and what's to come, Squall can only think of Rinoa, reminisce of when they first met and how they fought and ultimately came to a truce, and then...and then what? Squall wishes he could figure out how to help her. He wants a second chance.

The others notice he's not paying attention to Edea, and Irvine notes they all are worried about Rinoa, but they have to listen to what the Matron says, as they are bigger things to be concerned with. Squall is angry, barely holds back from lashing out at them. Don't they understand? Don't they see that Rinoa is all but dead?

When Squall checks on Rinoa in the infirmary, his frustration gets the best of him, and he seems to fall asleep over her bed. In his dreams, Laguna, Kiros and Ward are there, and he hears Ellone, who's sleeping and has accidentally executed her powers. Squall pleads with her to take him into Rinoa's past, at the moment Edea was defeated, in order to discover what happened to her. But Ellone can only take him into the past of those she's already met...

When he awakens from the dream world, Squall orders the Garden to set course for Edea's house. He's convinced that if Ellone could meet Rinoa, she'd be able to help him help her. There, Edea tells him that she doesn't know where Ellone is. Growing increasingly agitated by the state of things, Squall sends the Garden on a search for the White SeeD ship, Ellone's last known whereabouts.

Squall finds the ship, but Ellone isn't on board. At some point during the battle with Edea and the other Garden, the White SeeD ship was attacked by Galbadian forces and saved by a ship from Esthar. Much to the surprise of the White SeeDs, Ellone had leaped from her vessel to the Esthar ship. They believe she is at Esthar city.

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Squall orders the Garden to head to Esthar, but Nida, the navigator, is sure that the Garden isn't equipped to deal with the formidable terrain of the surrounding area. Squall's desperation reaches its limit. On his own, he heads to the infirmary, takes Rinoa upon his back and leaves Garden.

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On the way to Esthar, Squall stops for a rest. He ponders his current mental state, realising how much he's changed from the person he knew. He feels almost obsessed with Rinoa: he wants to see her smile at him again, like she did so genuinely that time on the balcony, and wants to hear her voice calling his name. He wonders what the others think of him.

quote_l They're probably
laughing at me. Or maybe
  they're angry...? quote_r

Squall

Squall continues his journey to the Esthar continent. It takes him the entire night. There, much to his surprise, he finds the others waiting for him. They're also headed for Esthar as escorts of Edea. Quistis and Selphie tease Squall for being Rinoa's personal hero, much to his aggravation.

quote_l Psst...psst... (Rinoa's so
cute when she's asleep.) quote_r

Selphie

Squall shoots down their humour with a wave of his arm and his trademark phrase, leading the group into the icy passageway that leads to Esthar City. The city is hidden from view, but Squall discovers its entrance as it flickers in the light. In the city, he and the others meet Doctor Odine, who tells them Ellone is not in Esthar, but far above them in space.

Squall has only Rinoa on his mind; he doesn't care what perils he must face, what pathways he must travel in order to bring her to rights. Without hesitation, he agrees to have himself, Rinoa and another sent by capsule into space to the station in orbit around the Earth. Leaving Rinoa in the care of the personnel there, Squall heads to see Ellone. She is pleased to see him again, but is sorry that she cannot help him: as she told him before, she doesn't know Rinoa and can't connect with her. Squall asks her to try anyway, and leads her to where Rinoa lies unconscious.

Unbeknownst to them him, Squall has executed Sorceress Ultimecia's plans with perfection.

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As the Lunatic Pandora reaches Tear's Point, the moon swells and buckles with the flow of the monsters gathered at its Earthward end. Rinoa lifts herself from her bed and heads, in a trance-like state, to the exit of the station. Any who stand in her way are pitched aside like dolls. Even Squall can't get through to her. Heedless of his words, Rinoa zips herself into a spacesuit and leaves the station, floating into the void of space.

Back at the deck, Squall, Ellone and the others watch in horror as Rinoa unleashes the Sorceress Adel, previously locked away in a space tomb within which no magic can be cast. The sorceress Ultimecia moves from Rinoa to Adel as the flow of monsters hurtles from the moon. Rinoa is ejected carelessly into space.

quote_l GOD!!!!! Rinoa is gonna
die! ..I can't take it. Ellone,
please. I've never felt this way
  in my life. quote_r

Squall

In desperation, Squall throws his feelings at Ellone, pleading with her to try to connect with Rinoa. Finally, despite her personal misgivings and subtle lack of self-confidence, she agrees to try.

Rinoa and Irvine are driving away from the sand prison. Rinoa is fighting with him to turn the vehicle around, using her nails to claw her way through to his attention. Irvine is sure the others will be able to figure a way out, but Rinoa isn't positive: what if Squall decides to stay put because he wasn't ordered to leave? Even if she has to force him to turn the truck around, Rinoa isn't about to drive off without her friends.

Zell and Rinoa are at Balamb Garden, talking about Squall's ring. Zell offers to make Rinoa a ring just like it—he's good at those sorts of things—and Rinoa is elated by the suggestion. He tells her they'll borrow the ring from Squall the next time they see him. But Rinoa doesn't like that idea—and Zell is sure he knows why, despite her protestations.

That's not it, says Squall, it's too far back. Ellone tries again.

Seifer is collapsed on the stage where they fought he and Sorceress Edea in the Garden. Rinoa walks like one possessed to his side. A strange image flickers over her body. She bends down, and in a voice not her own, bequeaths Seifer to arise and search out Lunatic Pandora, and then she'll give him his dreams back. Squall calls out to Rinoa. The image flickering over her solidifies and becomes Sorceress Ultimecia. She calls out to Squall, tells him to leave...Rinoa, meekly, tells Squall she's scared...

Ellone collapses, and Squall rushes to her side. She asks if he was able to change the past, and he was not. She decides to take him to the closest past, and Rinoa is tumbling through space in her space suit, alone and free. The life support systems are failing. In her mind, Rinoa says goodbye to the world...to Squall...

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Squall calls out to her, tells her to hold on, even while her breaths become shorter and her eyes begin to close. Moments pass. Rinoa hears a strange, clear sound, and opens her eyes: her ring and Squalls floating and hitting the class of her space suit mask. She realises she's still alive.

Ellone releases Squall from the vision, and he thanks her for all she's done. While the others look on in shock, he heads out of the escape pod and into space. Rinoa is close; he maneuvers his way to her side. They see an abandoned ship in the distance, and with the last of Squall's space suit's fuel, they manage to reach it and get inside.

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Amazingly, the space ship is filled with air, and the two get out of their space suits. Now freed, Rinoa thanks Squall for saving her, and opens her arms wide for an embrace. Squall is embarrassed, now that reality's settled in some small way, and reminds her that they still might not make it. They need to find a way out.

quote_l And not become other
people's memories? quote_r

Rinoa
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Right, agrees Squall. They head throughout the ship defeating the monsters that have infested it, eventually making their way to the cockpit. A radio signal is coming in from Earth. Squall is relieved, but Rinoa stands off to the side, not speaking. He gets into his seat and asks her to do the same. Instead, she floats into his arms and holds him close. He feels awkward, not being used to such closeness, not remembering how his parents used to hold him as a child. Rinoa realises his abandonment had forced him away from people, preventing him from trusting those around him, and that he'd missed out on so much. She tells him she wants to stay here, in this moment, forever.

Another radio signal to the Ragnarok: Earth is asking if the Sorceress Rinoa is aboard.

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Rinoa leaps from Squall's arms, and tells him matter-of-factly that she is indeed a sorceress now, that she can no longer be with him and the others, who she's sure won't want to be around her, either. As she crumples in despair, Squall goes to her side and wraps his arms around her, holding her close.

When the ship lands, Rinoa decides to go with the Esthar officials who meet them there. Squall doesn't know what to do, for the first time in his life. It's Rinoa's decision, isn't it? He has no say. Even if it means he'll never see her again. Even if he loves her. And yet...he can't let her go. He turns back to the Ragnarok and heads to the seating area, crumpling into a chair with his face in his hands.

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Just then, the others arrive. Zell launches into an explanation about the Lunatic Pandora and everything else that's going on, but Squall doesn't care. He can only think of Rinoa and her soon-to-be fate. He explains that she's a sorceress, and by her own leave she'll be encased so as not to allow herself to be Ultimecia's puppet. Quistis knows what's going on in Squall's head, and tells him to make the right decision. Squall thinks to himself: he knows what he wants, believes that Rinoa sacrificing herself is not the way to let things go...

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Decision made, Squall and his friends heads to the Sorceress Memorial, where Rinoa is about to be locked down forever. While the others hold back the scientists there, Squall rushes to the encasement and uses his gunblade to free Rinoa. She falls into his arms, and they embrace.

quote_l Rinoa...Even if you end
up the world's enemy...I'll...
I'll be your knight. quote_r

Squall

Squall, Rinoa and the others head to Edea's house so that Rinoa may rest for a while, and feel safe that she is far from civilisation, where she won't be able to cause harm to others. Squall, Rinoa and Zell head to the back side of the house, where in the distance a field of flowers is in full bloom under the gray sky, burgeoning with clouds. Zell quickly realises they want some alone time and heads out. Rinoa ponders her future, wonders if she should return to the Sorceress Memorial until Squall and the others defeat Ultimecia. Squall won't have it. She should just stay by his side. Rinoa laughs at his words—the words that started it all for her—and though he denies knowing what she means, blaming the guardian forces and their sapping his memories, she knows he knows.

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Rinoa suddenly wants to tell him something: a dream she had that left her in tears when she awoke from it. In the dream, she's dressed up and wearing his ring, knowing she's to meet him somewhere. But she can't remember where. She travels the world but can't find their meeting place. She never finds him in the dream. Squall tells her that he'll prevent the dream from ever happening by promising her he'll meet her here, in the meadow at Edea's house.

quote_l I'll be waiting for you.
If you come here, you'll find me.
I promise. quote_r

Squall

Time compression happens: all time is warped and Squall, Rinoa and the others can only hold on to what places and people they bear in their hearts. They reach Ultimecia and defeat her; they must hold on to the memories of each other in order to survive the trip through time.

Squall wanders, unsure of what he wants or where he should go. His childish instinct rears its head and he finds himself at the doorstep of Edea's orphanage, the place he'd called home, the place of his first most fondest memories. Edea is young and beautiful and unaffected by the curse of the sorceress. She recognises him. As her last act as his mother, the act that will forever separate him from his childish fears, she tells him he doesn't belong there, tells him to find the place where he should be...

The promise comes roaring back into his head, and Squall wanders through the desert of time to find the place he promised he'd go, the place where he'd promised to wait for the one he'd promised himself to. He collapses, and she finds him, and as she embraces him, the field of flowers spirals from their memories. Her seeking him out was the last weapon against his self-perpetuated fear of abandonment and acceptance of others, and the burst of the field from nothingness to sudden realness is the allegory of his newfound and newly accepted heart.

Squall and Rinoa are alone on one of Balamb Garden's many balconies. They watch a shooting star pass overhead, and Rinoa cheekily points it out, as she'd done when they'd first met. Much to her surprise, Squall graces her with a heart-stopping smile—not just because it's a handsome smile, but because he'd never before smiled so freely—and they embrace under the stars.

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epilogue
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