Slooooooowly she updates and drivels out plot. Someday I’ll get to the point, I promise.

Nothing scary except some bad words and Rinoa in this chapter. I know it’s too short. Sorry.

You know they aren’t mine and all that, right?

Once a Knight

Chapter 3

By Race Ulfson

A suspicious servant informed me that Miss Rinoa was not at home. I told her I’d wait, earning a withering look and a hard chair in the foyer.

I showed myself to the small washroom under the stairs. I cleaned up and dug a fresh shirt out of my bag and marveled that until the maid had said “Miss Rinoa” it had never occurred to me she could be involved, married, a mother…

Was I the only one whose life stalled out, derailed, went nowhere? Granted, that was my own fault, as I avoid change. Most of the changes I remember have been very traumatic. Routine is my security blanket, the comfort of some things staying the same. Less to remember that way. Less to forget.

I returned to my chair to wait. I was annoyed that Rinoa wasn’t there, although I acknowledged the fact that I hadn’t let her know I was coming. My original plan was a formless scenario in which I swept in, killed the monster, handed Rin over to her father/lover/best friend/keeper, and was back in Esthar before Seifer burned up another pot trying to cook.

The sense of urgency and danger was still there. I fought the urge to go hunt for Rinoa, knowing from experience that if we were both wandering aimlessly I would be seeking her three times as long.

A soft clicking noise drifted down the hallway, and Angelo came into view. He at looked me and then wagged his tail politely. It’s nice to be remembered.

Angelo walked over stiffly, his nails tapping on the hardwood floors. He had aged; even with my limited dog experience I could see that. His muzzle and around his eyes seemed whiter. Odd that I would remember the dog so well.

I took off my glove and offered my hand. Angelo sniffed and then approved with a lick, his stubby tail wagging harder. I rubbed his ears and he settled down by my feet. We waited for his mistress together.

Angelo awakened me from dark dreams by struggling to his feet. I blinked and heard an over revved sports car shriek into the carport. It needed a ring job, by the sound of it.

Angelo and the maid got to the door at the same time. “Miss Rinoa! There’s someone here to see you…”

I stood slowly, hearing Rinoa’s voice.

“Someone to see me? Who can it be? Hello, Angelo, Darling.” Rinoa peeked around the maid and the door and saw me. “Omigod SQUALL!!” She ran over and bear hugged me. “I can’t believe it! What are you doing here? Look at you! Omigod, look at me! No, don’t, I’m all dirt. I have to change clothes. I won’t be a shake of a lamb’s tail. Hay! Fix Squall a drink. Squall, this is Hay.” She released me and ran up the stairs.

Rinoa looked fine to me. She had always been a pretty girl, now she was a pretty woman. She had changed her hair, I thought, it was softer and more styled looking. She was wearing a little white dress with her trademark wristbands. Tennis, they must have been playing tennis.

She certainly seemed surprised to see me. Did she not even know she was summoning? We needed to talk, soon.

“Absolutely, Darling,” Hay said. It must have been for my benefit as Rinoa, Angelo, and the maid were long gone. “The man looks like he could use a drink.”

I could use a drink, but I didn’t want to waste time making nice with Rinoa’s boyfriend.

Boyfriend? Well, he had called her darling. But in Galbadia, that was as common as rocks. Irvine called his toaster darling.

I considered blowing him off and following Rin up to her room. I looked over at Hay. He looked back with that mocking challenge I’d seen on Seifer’s face far too many times to resist.

I moved over lazily, following Hay into Caraway’s den and leaving my bags in plain sight in the hall way. He headed for the bar, mixing Rinoa’ drink first, showing that he knew the bar and Rinoa’s tastes and questioning my right to be there. I slipped onto the stool and watched.

Hay dropped a sugar cube into the shaker and crushed a lemon wedge over it. He reached for the sloe gin.

“Two,” I said.


“Two, Rin likes 2 cubes. Extra lemon, watch the seeds. And a cherry. She likes it sweet.”

Hay looked me over. He was good looking in a capped teeth, professionally styled way. Expensive cologne, neat pressed shirt. If he’d been playing tennis with Rinoa, he’d made her wait at the club while he showered and changed. His expression made it clear he thought I needed one, too. He was right, I did.

“You don’t know a thing about mixing a good sloe gin fizz.”

“I know Rinoa.”

Hay added the extra sugar and lemon. Score one for me. He arched an eyebrow, asking if I also drank the nasty stuff. I shook my head. “Bourbon for me.” I toyed with ‘please’ and settled on, “Thanks.”

He poured two, neat and generous with Caraway’s liquor. After a silent toast and an appreciative sip, Hay seemed to feel the need for conversation. “So, Squall,” he said, “How do you know Rinoa?”

I resisted the cheap shot out of respect for my hostess. “I did some work for her a few years back.”

Hay glanced around, as if afraid to be seen drinking with the pool boy. “Oh?,” he said, covering badly. “What do you do?”

That’s the million gil question, isn’t it? And I have so many answers for it. I sipped my drink and considered. “I’m a mercenary.”

“A mercenary?” His tone was skeptical. 

Rinoa joined us in a cloud of expensive perfume. “You boys behaving yourselves?” She sipped her drink and smiled. “You just keep getting better and better at bartending, Hay.”

“I can quit my day job.” He looked at me. “Unless mercenaries pay more?”

“Honestly, Hay, one would think you slept thru the Sorceress War. This is Squall Leonhart.” Rinoa laughed. “Squall saved my life dozens of times,"

“Ah. I was in college, then, Pet. My only interest in the War was not getting drafted.”

Why was I not surprised? Not that Galbadia needed any more wieners on their side. Seifer could have gone a lot farther if he hadn’t had to carry the entire Galbadian army.

Hay must have heard me snort, because he added, “I do seem to recall Leonhart was on the other side…”

Only after Edea shot Deling.

“He was on my side, Hay.”

Hay set his empty glass on the bar. “Then I owe you, “ he said to me.

“Then do me a favor and hit the road.” I had played nice as long as I could.

Hay blinked. “I beg your pardon.”

I tried again. “Get out.” I followed the order up with my best send the junior grades scurrying glare.

 Either it worked on all ages, or my name had dredged up some respect. Hay said coldly, “Certainly.”

“No, Hay, you don’t have to…” Rinoa was all politeness. She’d still be offering tea and cakes at Midnight.

“I must run, My Pet, I’m late as it is. I’ll see you tomorrow.” Hay made a fast exit.

I stopped Rinoa from following him by catching her wrist. “Rin,” I said firmly, “We need to talk.”

Rinoa spun on me just as the door shut. “Damn you! To think I was glad to see you! I’d forgotten what a viciously rude prick you can be.”

“I traveled 23 hours to get here, Rin, and I’m not in the mood to talk politics with your gigolo.”

“Hayward Brock is not…”

“Rinoa!” I stood before her and spread out my hands. “I am your Knight. You summoned me.”

Rinoa put both hands to her mouth. “I did?!”





::Hugs:: to reviewers. Thank you! I hope I can make this beast go where I want it.

And this silliness is for Darksquall, who mentioned it in a review… of a story that’s complete. So:

Deling Digest Headlines:

SeeD Slays Sorceress on Slopes!

Squall Leonhart of SeeD fame supposedly slaughtered his long time significant other, Rinoa Heartily Saturday on the Intermediate slope of Mt. Trabia Snowbunny Resort. Ms. Heartily, a sophomoric skier, was speciously lured out in a storm to her demise. Ms. Heartily suffered from scads of stab wounds and sundry bullet holes. Investigators have ruled out suicide.

“It was bound to happen,” explained long time friend and fellow SeeD, Irvine Kinneas. “SeeDs are trained from kindergarten to kill sorceresses. Besides, Rinoa was as annoying as hell.”

Leonhart himself, had this to say: “…”

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