Crimson Lies Chapter 10
"Yes Commander Sir!" Seifer snapped at Squall's orders. "I need to get some
equipment before tonight." Squall agreed as the ex-knight exited Caraway's
study. He looked down as the silvery chain interlaced through his fingers.
After careful securitization, he placed the chain on a side table, directing
his attention to the woman kneeling before him. Almost uncomfortable, he
looked into her deep blue eyes, "Quistis, I was never fair to you."
The warrior was not one for neither apologizes, nor words. Slowly his right hand felt for the familiar pendant that was in his uniform jacket pocket. Squall removed the thick silver chain from its locality. Holding it up to his wife, the familiar large Griever charm swung methodically from his hands. Over the years, he kept it close, just as he had promised another. Although the sight of the lion only reminded him of his missing ring, of his missing life. Yet keeping it close, out of sight, gave him some security. Rinoa had its mate, the only other memento from his younger days. Somehow, the objects bonded them. Sometimes you have to let go, before you can be free. Now, it was Grievers turn to give security to another, to someone else who endured much anguish.
Quistis Leonhart did not say a word, watching him remove his only other childhood possession from dress uniform. To her surprise, he leaned toward her, placing the chain around her neck. The proud lion now adorned her chest, his coarse fingers lingering on the animal's silhouette. "Squall?" she questioned. He did not speak, as he had done so many nights before in their marriage. Yet, this time it was different, they were different. There was an understanding that silently passed between, for the first time she felt his genuine emotion.
She smiled vaguely at the man, reaching for the chain containing the two special bands. Silently she returned the gesture from moments before, placing the platinum chain around his neck. Somehow, a weight lifted from her shoulders, if only in part. They, for the first time, had a common goal, a purpose, and had undertaken the first steps of forgiveness. She gazed into his azure eyes, placing her hand lightly on his chest, "We'll find her." She whispered, "We'll find her."
The train to Timber had been uncharacteristically quiet; any trip with Zell,
usually not classified as tranquil. This instance he was deep in thought,
putting together pieces of a puzzle that would not fit; could not fit. Chance
had decided that he would not get the opportunity to speak with Matron, something
he genuinely desired to do.
Whether daydreaming or ignorance alone, Zell lead Irvine to the station platform, going through the routine motions, never paying attention to what was actually transpiring around him. The trains, the tickets everything was on autopilot.
Irvine, on the other hand, lost deep inside himself. Studying every comprehensible detail of this case, the cowboy spent the last three hours going over files, checking computer records, and making general notes about the Allison Bennett abduction. Never in his life had Irvine put so much effort into a mission, somehow this felt different. No longer searching for armed enemies within a war-torn area, each ready to fight to the death, he found the concept of an innocent child captivating. He was determined to return little girl to the rightful parents, a couple which must be nothing short of hysterical back in Trabia.
The two men sat silently in the SeeD compartment. Unknowingly, each thinking of different events, in reality, trying to figure out the clues to the same enigma. The conductor announced the departure as the train slowly started moving out of the station, then gradually the wheels gaining speed. After going through the mandatory safety protocol, the conductor announced they would be arriving within Dollet's territory in three hours.
"Dollet!" the realization finally sinking in, "What the hell!" Quickly he searched for the rumbled tickets in his jean pockets. Attempting to flatten them out, he looked down at the two train vouchers. "Damn it! I got the wrong tickets, I was supposed to get train #827 to Fisherman's Horizon, but I wrote the wrong train number down on the travel request. This is train #427 to Dollet!"
Irvine rolled his eyes. He was not angry, just perturbed at the normally energetic man. This mistake would cost valuable time. Leads only stayed traceable for so long, and they might miss the best opportunity for information. Now instead of rail transportation it would be more time effective to hire a boat to take them to FH. This did give Irvine time to emerge himself deeper to the case file. Zell, on the other hand, decided to take is anger out in the form of a nap. Sleeping usually alleviated his stress; right now, he was stressed.
The evening air covered the small boat, carrying only four passengers, and
the hired captain. Nonetheless, the boat easily could have accepted more,
but inconspicuously was key. Squall procured fake credentials for Seifer,
something not usually the commander's style. For all practical purposes Seifer
was, Nicolas Jackson, a SeeD candidate originally from Esthar. With any luck,
shaved and dressed in uniform, he could slip by lax Trabian security. It
was not a Galbadian occupied nation. Probably nobody there would know his
real name; time had been kind on some accounts.
He watched as the small waves crashed into the boat. Darkness was fast approaching, its dragon-breath covering everything in sight. Fog made visibility difficult, if not impossible. They would be in Trabia by late morning; a sensation of foreboding filled his body. Had this break not been what he longed for; then why the apprehension, the fear.
Squall closed his eyes allowing the cold breeze to sting his face, noticing subconsciously he was holding the pendant within his hands. Her pendant. She had done this. It was one of Rinoa's little nervous habits, which frankly, drove him mad. Until they were gone. He would give his life now, just to watch her from across a room, fidgeting with the silver rings. Small sounds of metal colliding; it was a sound he wished to hear once again. Closing your eyes, one can hear anything. The ocean, the birds, or allow the mind to recall another noise, another sound, from a far more peaceful time.
"Did you ever hate me?" a gruff voice asked aloud.
Squall was startled out of his memories, not understanding the intention of the question, "Seifer I hated you for what you did to her." He did not turn to face the man behind him.
"Yeah, well, I hated myself for that too. I was talking about before then, for the summer Rinoa and I spent together."
"I don't know. It was easier to hate her for the last two years. I just chalked it up to the person she really was, not the façade she put on for me, for Garden. It was easier to hate her."
"Don't lie to me. You never hated her, you never could." Seifer walked next to Squall leaning on the wooden rail.
"No, I never could. I tried." Squall answered back, ashamed of his comment.
"You know I hated you. I don't know if we would have gone out again, had the circumstances been different, but the idea of Rinoa being with you made me sick. From my earliest memories, it was always a war between us, and I couldn't see you stand to win one battle, even if the battle was over her. I hoped she would see you for the loser you were and leave, I never fully comprehended your relationship until later."
"I never fully comprehended it at all." Squall replied almost in a whisper.
"My dreams led me to destruction; I lost sight of everything around, blinded by the power, by the pretense. I wanted desperately to be the revered knight, I didn't care who was hurt in the process." He paused for a moment, waiting for Squall to answer. He did speak, Seifer turned toward his childhood rival. "You had everything I wanted. Sad thing is you didn't know what you had."
Squall looked at the man, reading his eyes for truthfulness. They had never had a civilized conversation before; neither truly knew how to react. After the brief contact, Squall turned back to the dark chasm of the ocean. "Seifer, did she ever tell you that she was in love with you?"
"I knew you cared," Seifer had a hint of a chuckle in his voice. "She never talked about us much I'm guessing, some memories are easier buried. She was special to me. You know she was my first "
Squall turned angrily toward the man, "I don't want to hear about that. I am aware of what you two did. I just wanted to know "
This time Seifer cut him off, "No, okay. Squall you still don't get it do you? Yes, I may have been with physically, but never mentally. She might have lost her virginity to me, but never once did she tell me that she loved me. I know she cared, but it was never love."
"How did I not know the truth then? If we are supposed to have this wonderful sorceress - knight connection, how the fucking hell didn't I know?" Squall yelled, turning around against the railing.
"Squall I can't give you all the answers you are looking for. Maybe you were scared, maybe confused, maybe something in your perfect life wasn't handed to you on a silver platter. Yes, we all had the same humble beginnings, but that is where the similarities end. Nobody else found out who their parents were that their father was alive and still wanted a relationship. Nobody else was given the responsibility of being commander at the age of seventeen; still that one gets me. Nobody else was given the chance to be her knight, to be the one she loved. Maybe you were scared; maybe you relied on people too much, their truths, or at least their versions of it."
Squall could not help but catch the irony of his comment, "I relied too much on others, and didn't think or believe for myself."
Seifer paused for a moment before stepping away from the wooden support, "Squall its okay to rely on others, don't take it that way. Maybe you found yourself relying too much on Rinoa, yet never telling her. You couldn't commit to her publicly; I heard the rumors around Deling. She wanted to get married didn't she?"
"Yes. I couldn't."
"I would be too depended on the idea of her being there. I would be sharing my home with another. I didn't want to hurt her when something happened."
"Something happened," Seifer remarked. "Something bad. You always looked at the negative; you were expecting the tragic ending to the story. How do you think Rinoa feels about you married to Quistis, somebody you don't even love?"
"She hates me for it. I hate me for it. Both of them deserve a better life then I could ever provide."
"No Squall. Those two had their differences, but each would agree on one thing, you could have made them happy by just being there. I will never have that chance."
He did not answer for a long time, taking note of how much the person in front of him had matured in a five-year span. "Seifer you have changed, if we get out of this I will see what I can do. More then likely it will be nothing; my position at the council will be revoked, as will my command of Garden. The best I can hope for is still having the title of knight, actually that is all I hope for."
"Good," Seifer replied smugly. "At least your priorities are strait Commander Puberty. She might want to kill you if we find her; trust me it's a natural reaction to everybody that meets you. Don't make the same mistakes again; I won't save your sorry ass next time."
The commander nodded, turning to the railing. He listened as steps descended the stairs to the cabin below. Squall once again felt the salt air caress his face, now scarred more then with a physical wound. He thought why he wanted to know about Seifer and Rinoa's relationship. She was one never bring the subject up; yet looking back, it was always for his sake. Rinoa was aware of the deep-rooted hatred between the men, she protected her knight the only way she could, by avoidance. Squall had taught her well.
He would not go below, he needed solitude; it had become the faithful friend over the last years. Walking to a single bench on the deck, he rested his tired body. So little sleep the last two nights, so little time to work. He had never been one to convey emotions easily; past wounds still haunted him. He shut his eyes, calling back a more peaceful time, a more naive time. They day he finally told her his true feelings; no matter how many memories they shared, that day would always be the foremost in his mind. So many nights he recreated the scene, just for a moment to pretend everything was still as it should have been
One year after the defeat of Ultimecia and the start of their lives together.
Every detail, every fact, still fresh never to be forgotten by either.
Garden had been running low on essential supplies; the onslaught of new cadets had far excided supplies and resources. Basic items for refinery where in high demand. The commander had considered several people to run and get stones required to produce certain magic, a prerequisite for every second year cadet. Originally, he was just going to pass down the assignment like everything else, but paperwork had been getting the better of him lately. He was desperate to engage in sort of battle, even if the victims were merely bite bugs. A chance alone, a chance to enjoy solitude
"Do you like the name Allison for a girl and Aaron for a boy," Rinoa calmly stated. She rested her head against the uncomfortable vehicle seat as the emerald lush countryside passed by.
Squall nearly slammed on the breaks. Rinoa had been talking almost the entire trip; he effectively learned to drown out most of her talking, a skill he acquired over the last year. Always listening, still never with his full attention on her. Sometimes Rinoa had a way of well being Rinoa. He admired her for it, yet sometimes it even got to him.
"What!" Squall exclaimed taking his eyes off the road to take a quick look her direction.
"Um well I was just thinking if we I ever had a child what a good name might be," she replied without ever looking toward him. She knew Squall, right now he was squirming uneasily in his seat. Some subjects terrified the commander, marriage and children would top the list.
"Rinoa I don't think about having children, I'm nineteen," responded Squall mentally praying to Hyne she would drop the subject. He knew better.
"Yes, I know Squall but don't you ever think about the future?"
"Sure I do, I'm thinking right now if I don't get enough wizard stones today that cadets won't have anything to practice refining magic on. I'm thinking this trip would have gone a lot faster had I just gone alone, and I'm thinking that I don't trust anyone who is running for office in Galbadia."
"Oh yes we wouldn't want to contemplate anything but work now, would we? It would be a shocking thing if the commander didn't think about something besides work."
"Rinoa even if I was going to think about something besides work, kids definitely would not be it. You shouldn't conceder having children." Squall knew that last statement would be hard for Rinoa to take, but she had to learn to face fact eventually, thinking about a future that would never be.
"What! What do you mean don't consider children, your telling me that you never want to have kids?"
"Rinoa, I'm saying that you shouldn't think about it; there have only been four cases of sorceresses having children over the last five-hundred years. The chances of you bearing a child are remote."
She said nothing, for he was right. The Balamb plains were as monotonous and void, as ever, now they even appeared more barren. Rinoa knew the chances of her having a child were faint, but she always held out hope - even if only a little. Tears started rolling down her cheeks as she watched the grasslands pass by. She shielded her face from Squall; her crying only showed weakness. Squall hated weakness. Trying to hide the sorrow in her voice, "I know Squall I just try to think about things positively."
"Rinoa I'm glad you do, but even if you could have children, I don't really want any," Squall struggled to reply as sensitively as possible.
"Fine, whatever, sorry Squall to ruin yet another of your precious days," she tried to conceal the slight anger in her voice.
They continued in silence until Squall reached the isolated area, recent indications of high bite bug would make this go quickly. Now more then ever, he wanted to return to Garden and have this day over. She sat in the passenger seat as he went to the back of the Garden Vehicle, unsheathing his gunblade from the case. Logic dictated for him just to leave her sit and pout, yet when it came to her, nothing he did was logical.
She had rolled her window down, allowing a gentle breeze into the vehicle. The arid temperatures could be described as unseasonable hot as best. Yet it was a dry heat, humidity was not a factor. "Look Rinoa, you are not ruining another one of my days. I knew this was going to happen, if you came along. That's why I mentioned it would be easier to go by myself."
She snapped her head, looking directly in his eyes, "Yes, Rinoa stay behind. That always seems to be your answer for everything Squall."
"Whatever," he turned away from the vehicle starting to walk into the forest.
She finally moved out of the vehicle, slamming the door to emphasize her anger, "Oh yes, your right that is your answer for everything!"
He stopped. Deliberating what the correct course of action would be. Squall Leonhart was not in any mood to argue, yet if he continued she would just pout the entire time. Damned if I do, damned if I don't. He inhaled deeply before turning to face her, "Rinoa please don't do this now. I have work that has to be done. You're just going to get in the way if this continues."
"Get in the way!" Rinoa looked directly into his eyes, neither willing to back down from their territory. Finally, she squinted in defeat, the afternoon sun too much to cope with, "Hyne why do you have to be such a "
"Meanie," he replied mockingly at her.
"Idiot," she yelled, turning around and heading toward the stationary vehicle.
"Wow a new word, I'm impressed," He still held his ground firmly.
"Jerk," she spat, never turning around.
"Two in one day!" he yelled even louder.
She finally reached the rear doors, and turned back to him. "Try this on for size, you're a bastard"
"I'm leaving," he announced shaking his head at his infuriated girlfriend.
"Yes, you're family has a great history for that ask your dad." Soon as the words left her mouth, she immediately wished them back. That was low, even if she was furious at the man. Squall and Laguna's relationship was nothing she dared mention. His demeanor immediately changed; walking quickly toward her she could see the anger visible in his eyes.
Getting well within her personal space, he looked narrowed his eyes at her, "Don't you ever ever talk about that." Neither spoke, just glared. Finally he continued, "Our relationship is none of your concern. That's my life, not yours. You seem to forget the difference. There is more to my life than you."
Pain stung her. Yes, she did deserve the anger after mentioning Laguna. But he never realized she didn't feel part of his life; his life was work, his life was duty. "More to my life then you, " hell when was she a part of his life? Choking back the tears she demanded, "Go get your precious wizard stones, so you can take them back to your precious Garden, and leave me behind as usual. I'm sorry if I'm in your life."
"Well maybe if you wouldn't always get in the way," he replied.
She did not want to say anything else to hurt him. Childish games had their price; she did not want that to be him. Although, she never really had him to lose. Gazing at the blades of grass under her feet, she whispered "Leave Squall."
The intense heat of the sun was glaring directly upon her. Rinoa had moved into the shadow of the Garden vehicle, sitting on one of the metal steps to the cargo area. Checking her watch, he had only been gone twenty minutes; it seemed an eternity. She played the argument out in her mind, like watching a rerun of a movie. As usual, she felt to blame. Starting the day off talking about children was not the wisest of moves; even she knew this.
Over the last year, she had gotten to know Squall better then anyone else, and she hardly knew the man. He was as much a stranger as that evening at the dance, except now she needed him. It was abundantly clear he did not need her. Today she stepped over a line drawn long ago, now she would have to accept the consequences. Sounds of something approaching drew her out of contemplating. She momentary tensed attempting to see if it was friend or foe. To her surprise it was Squall, she was not sure which he was right now.
She examined his face as he approached; he looked tired. Then she noticed the lack of wizard stones in his possession. Great. This means he had been thinking, not working. She tried to draw attention off her concern, "You're done already?"
He did not reply to that. Rinoa could feel his form standing beside her, still refusing to look up. For once, the mighty lion would have to initiate this conversation. He did. "Rinoa we need to talk."
Words dreaded for generations. Past experience taught her that clichéd line could never be good. Somehow, a defensive barrier went up, she would not make this easy for him. "Let me guess, you're not ready for a relationship, you just want to be friends."
"Rinoa please let me talk first."
"Stand back Squall talks and the whole world goes silent, the oceans part, and small forest animals gather around."
"I don't need this."
"No Squall, you do need this. If you're going to end this this supposed relationship. I have plenty of things to say to you."
"Like what?" he questioned, expression not changing since he arrived back at the temporary base.
"Like " she knew this might be her only chance to say these things. He was a captive audience in the middle of the barren grasslands. "I am not part of your life. You never even showed you cared about my feelings. I might get in the way, but I am trying. That's more then I can say for you. I've been staying at Garden over a year waiting for you to come around, show any emotion! Don't get me wrong, you are a very passionate man when it comes to anything but me."
"My work is important." He simply stated.
"Yes, it all comes back to work doesn't it? Trapped in a job you hate, becoming everything you have fought all your life to avoid. You've been in that job for a year and you are becoming no better the politicians I grew up despising. Your not out there on the front lines anymore you behind your damn desk all hour of the fucking night. When was the last time we ate a meal together?"
"I don't have to answer to you, you're not my wife."
"No, I pity the person who does end up with you. You're right I cannot have children, I know that but I still can dream. It's not impossible; but see, I have hope for the future. What do you hope for Commander Leonhart?"
"That I could say a word in this conversation," he riposted with complete
"Fine, go for it. Tell me what you discovered on your almighty quest for the bite bugs, what earth shattering news you have quit your precious work to come back and tell me," Rinoa turned away dreading to hear the words aloud.
"I love you," he replied calmly.
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