Crimson Lies Chapter 16
In secret we met, in silence I
That thy heart could forget, thy spirit deceive.
If I should meet thee, after long years.
How should I greet thee? With silence and tears.
One represented her childhood, one her latter years. Together they intertwined as the story of her life, tragic as it may be. The rings meant so much to her, the mere sight of a past life brought memories flooding back. Dreams, hopes she had, the rings were gorgeous in her eyes. They represented everything to her, a life that could not be. Never had the bands looked better than they did right now. The way the two rings laid around Squall's neck, for a moment she felt breathless at the sight.
Pawning the rings had been a source of many a nightmare. She felt degraded as if pawning the memories attached to them, for what little money they could bring. Her mother would understand; worldly possessions are nothing compared to those we hold dear. In a brief second, her thought flashed to those of her daughter, and how much she wanted her to have the heirlooms, both of them, of her mother, and of her father.
Rinoa was not aware she silently whispered her inner thought aloud, "Allison."
Squall watched her eyes as she reached for them, to feel the metal between her fingers as she had done so many times prior. In her eyes, he saw the world, his world. The fire reflected the perfection of her eyes, and the hope she still carried in them. For the first time tonight, he saw it. Hope.
He spoke softly as to not upset her; he had done enough of that already.
"Yes, Rinoa Allison can have her Grandmothers ring. I was just holding them for you until you returned. You're back," he said in an optimistic undertone.
"How Squall? When did you find I thought I'd never see them again. I didn't mean to, but I " she couldn't finish. He understood, and she knew that.
"They were left to when the woman who owned the shop passed away there were instructions to return the chain to Garden. She knew, I can't understand how the woman knew how to return them, but she did. One of the SeeD's stationed in Trabia received the chain, and returned it to me. Skipping the authorities. Feeling the metal against my skin made me feel closer to you."
For once, she was at a loss for words.
He never thought of returning them so quickly after receiving the chain from Quistis, but was more than glad to have the chance. He reached around spinning the small clasp to the front. Struggling with the fastener, he finally was able to undo the chain. With it, the two rings slid off, crashing to the ground. His expression was that of an apology and she understood it well.
Searching the floor, Rinoa spotted both rings, her mothers platinum band being the closer of the two. The feel of the metal against her fingers brought back the sensations she recalled as a child. Griever landed closer to him, as she started reaching for it, she abruptly stopped. This was going to kill her, but it had to be done. It wasn't hers anymore; she had no rights.
"Squall," she hesitated. "Your ring landed next to the rug. It's not mine anymore it's yours again."
"I don't want it," he replied attempting to cover any sign of hurt. "I gave it to you. It's yours to do with as you please. I guess after everything think of it as a small fraction of the payment I owe you. A debt that can never be repaid."
Swallowing hard she grabbed the ring, the slight touch send shivers down her spin. How she wanted to keep it, Hyne it meant more to her than he could ever know. She ran her fingers along the smooth edges and over the raised emblem. Griever. Putting her hand in a tight fist, mentally making an imprint on her hand and in her heart, Rinoa reached her hand out to him.
He met it as she gently felt his fingers, and tried not to remember. Tried not to forget.
"Squall only one problem," she choked, "you never gave it to me."
On a technicality, she was correct. He didn't give it to her, but he didn't ask for it back either. For the first time this thought crossed his mind, he had even given Quistis something of him, something of his childhood. But never her. Rinoa scared him, and all she stood for. The commitment his heart made, but never his mind. She had the ring, but it was never truly given to her.
"Rinoa, I will take it back for now. However, someday it will be yours again. This time I will give it you, as I should have done years ago this ring is no longer mine. As I said earlier, I'm just going to continue holding it for you until you return. To me."
Stunned at his words she stood, holding her mothers band. No witty comebacks no enraged outbursts nothing. The sound of him putting on his coat registered, as did the sound of the cabin door closing. Now she was confused in so many ways. She sat on the floor listening to each crackle of the fire, trying dreadfully to remember why she was running from him.
The storm died down outside. It too shall pass. Zell sat on the couch holding the child, playing an intense game of peek-a-boo. The baby would laugh as the older man hid under the quilt, and then mysteriously reappeared. Her wisps of dark brown hair pulled to the side with a barrette, and a smile that could not be compared. When she laughed, it was a tiny giggle, but always from the heart. She was beautiful.
After what had to be a short eternity, Allison finally tired and fell asleep soundly in the martial artists arms. Irvine sat over in the corner reading the newspaper, but somehow finding himself compelled to look at the youngster. He turned his gaze to the doorway as he heard footsteps approaching on the wood linoleum Alex emerged from the bedroom door, holding a leather case under her arm.
"Alex," Zell spoke as she walked to sit next to him. "Hey what's up? What the hell ya been doing?"
"Research," she said pulling a laptop from her bag.
"You never said you had a computer," Zell gave her an unpleasant glare.
"You never asked."
"Touché," he countered. "Seriously what is the plan? I mean what are we going to do next and exactly where are we?"
She opened the computer, sitting forward in the chair, setting the machine on the coffee table.
"Okay first of all, we are in my grandparents old cottage. It's not really a cottage per say, but my grandfather worked as lead technician when Esthar ordered the building of the Dollet communication tower, later it served as the groundskeeper's residence. Eventually somebody might track it down, but right now it's the safest place I can we can be."
"Second of all," she paused for a long time before saying the words, "we have a bigger problem."
"What can be a bigger problem then the situation they we are in right now? The world council can't decide what wine to serve with stuffed chocobo?"
Zell figured the girl had a knack for being overdramatic, at least in his eyes.
"No, I wish. Richard Bennett was murdered this evening," she explained.
Irvine leaned forward, "So is Rinoa being blamed for this death too?"
"Damn it," Alex hastily replied. "Rinoa never killed anyone, not Ellone, and certainly not Richard Bennett. However, they have a suspect and are currently trying to track down Commander Squall Leonhart."
"Oh Hyne," Irvine sighed as he closed his eyes. "Squall couldn't kill someone like that, not unless there were extenuating circumstances."
"Oh trust me, there are circumstances, but I dont think he did this either. Rinoa will try to make it here. I think they'll be together, call it a feeling or intuition. She'll come here," Alex spoke. "If Rinoa is okay she will do everything in her power, and than some, to see her daughter again. It was always a back up plan, if something went wrong. I was supposed to give Allison a normal life I promised."
Zell looked at the infant in his arms, than back to the woman sitting next to him.
"Tell me about Rinoa how is she?" he asked with true concern.
Alex smiled as she covered the child with a blanked, "Rinoa will be okay if Richard is dead. Zell she was lost and I did all I could it just wasn't enough. I wasn't the one she needed; some people can never be replaced. Allison was her only link to sanity, I'm afraid for her if that link is gone. Her spirit has been broken."
"So, if Richard is dead what does this mean? Can't Allison live with her grandparents or something? I mean the little girl should be with her family trust me, I know."
"Her grandparents ah well that's a little more complicated than it sounds," she said softly. Alexandra reached up and felt the golden metallic ring around her neck.
"Hyne forgive me, Rinoa look you guys I need your help. Everything has gone wrong, everything. Irvine you asked me about the Griever ring earlier well I said it was from a friend it was, Rinoa."
"One day I saw her sketching this design. I asked about it and she didn't say anything. Completely froze up. I figured it meant something to her, later she said it was a ring she once had and missed more than anyone could possible know. So I took one of her drawings to jeweler and had them duplicate it, as close as possible. I gave it her on Allison's first birthday. All Rinoa could do was cry. Never had it on her person or anything, never talked about it. The night we met in the stables, before I left, she gave me a small satchel with some gil in it. The ring was at the bottom, with a note attached to give it to Allison.
Unexpectedly to even him, Zell looked at the sleeping baby. A thought flashed through his mind as quickly as the lighting bolts in his visions. All this time he had seen so much of Rinoa in Allison that he never stopped to think
"Alex how old is Allison?"
The woman pulled her light brown hair into a ponytail. She acted as if the question fell on deaf ears, not even acknowledging the statement. After a moment, she reached over and touched the sleeping little girl, wiping some cookie crumbs off her tiny face.
"The birth certificate says she is fourteen months old," she finally stated simply. It was more than a statement; it was a set up for a question that Zell quickly caught on to.
"The birth certificate says she is fourteen months old?" he questioned. "So is the birth certificate right?"
"Zell the birth certificate states her mothers name was Renee Bennett, which we both know isn't correct. I'm pretty sure the only thing right on there is her weight."
"Oh my god," he exclaimed looking down at the child. Touching her warm cheek, he knew who the father was. It was staring him right in the face the entire time. Somehow he already knew, Hyne willing Squall would too.
"Zell I don't care what you think. Rinoa did not kill Ellone, the accounts are wrong. SeeD left her to die in the unforgiving world, pregnant with the commanders child. She ran to save Allison, not to abandon you. Richard was a means to an end, survival, nothing more. Only he was the one in power, he held the control. She was no better off with him than living on the streets but Allison kept her there. We had to take his control away, so I took Allison. Sixteen months Allison is sixteen months."
"How?" Irvine questioned looking completely stumped at the turn of events. "How in the world would Richard Bennett not know how old his daughter was well, I guess not his daughter Rinoa's daughter?"
"Fate. Bennett had been elected to council during the last trimester. He spent three months in Deling after the election. Keeping an apartment there, he would commute back and forth for the first month than he just stopped coming by. So when Renee Rinoa gave birth he wasn't around. I was the only one there, and we hide it from the other two house servants. They never were around Rinoa anyhow, Richard made sure of that."
"I had worked previously in Esthar and still had some connections so we had the false certificate made. Honestly, there is not a real one; there are only two people who know the truth now four. Richard Bennett never had claim to this child, to him she was a pawn. Had he ever once believed it not to be his, he would have most likely killed her. His jealous side was not pretty, neither was his betrayal side. He was nothing short of a demon, a spawn from hell. Part of me wants to mourn his death, but a bigger part of me is rejoicing."
"The only reason I'm telling you is because he is dead, nobody could have known otherwise not you two. Not even Squall. She wouldn't ever tell him, for fear of Allison's safety. I have a feeling we are now facing an even bigger enemy than Bennett... someone who wants the power that he kept locked away in his bedroom. Rinoa and Allison are even more at risk now. Somebody knows; somebody wants them dead."
The blazing fire roared in the cabin. Rinoa scrutinized every flame watching its fluid motions doing almost a dance; the way fire entwined with the searing kindling. The pure motion of the flames started to hypnotize her; anything was better the situation she currently found herself in. Well, at least mentally.
How the hell could the fucking bastard? To turn on her, initiate the hunt on her life, and then literally beg forgiveness at ever doubting her allegiance. Squall Leonhart had fallen to his knees and actually begged. She had gained the capability to move the irresistible force; she broke the mighty fucking lion. For what? Was this the will of sorcerers' power or was the desire deep within her heart? The little game early initiated by her uncontrollable sorceress' side was only meant only to hurt him, show control over his body. This was the spiteful beast she had transformed into over the last two years. This was what Squall Leonhart, Richard Bennett, President Jefferson Mitchell, and Garden had turned her into: their toy, their scapegoat, their whore.
Now the bastard showed genuine concern for her welfare, wanted to know of the life she tried desperately to keep hiding from him and the entire world. Ally, should she even tell him the truth on his daughter? How she turned herself into a common street whore to protect their child; when he was the one hunting her down like common prey. Now he was married, not to her, someone else shared his bed. The man, the lion, who could never truly commit to anything made a lifelong promise to somebody else. Thats exactly what the incident was about earlier; to show she could still had the power to emotionally and physically dominate him. Rinoa Heartilly learned this form of sub servitude, no, Renee Bennett had erudite to it.
Thinking the name of her former persona made bile rise within her throat. Allison would forever bare an emotional scar from Richard Bennett. Her daughter would never know her own mothers given name; only the lies that were engineered about the untimely death of Renee Bennett. Maybe it was for the best, Ally would never be safe knowing the unspeakable truth. It was better to continue living the lie for the little girls sake. What of Squall Leonhart, the unknowing father? Did he give up his parental rights when he ordered the assassination of the vile sorceress and his unborn child? Would the outcome have been different had he known of the pregnancy? No, it would not have. She was still put on trial and abruptly convicted for the murder of Ellone Loire, her physically condition played no factor in the guilty decree.
What was upsetting Rinoa now was that her own body was betraying her. She, whatever form of her was in control, honestly would have gone through with the seduction early had he not stopped it. Power, it was all about the power of control. What Rinoa had to face now was that balance of power had shifted; there wasnt one damn thing she could do about it. Time. Time was her biggest enemy; the longer she remained in his presence the more her thoughts turned to that of obsession, derived from the love she still carried for this man. She wanted him now more than ever; she wanted him to imprison her mind, body, her soul and never let go.
Pulling her knees to her chest, Rinoa started to rock slowly back and forth. Wishing he wouldnt return, more afraid what would happen if he didnt. The harsh wind beat against the small glass-pane window. The curtains were enough to shield the brutal elements from sight, but never enough to keep them out of mind. Why would anybody choose to spend a winter in Trabia; she knew she sure as hell wouldnt if given the freedom of choice. But choice was not in her near future, nor may it ever be again. Her path was chosen not by her but others of this world; all knowing how dangerous it would be allowing a sorceress to roam free.
Squall gathered enough wood to last them throughout the piercing night. It was viciously cold; no feeling remained in any of his outer extremities. Although in the long run, that may be good thing. He did not deserve to feel emotions or physical sensations; he had given up those privileges two years ago. He had doubted her. Rinoa had never given him anything but unconditional love; he took her selfless gift and turned into a cruel joke. No matter how hard he would try to explain his actions to her, one fact shall always remain: He alone ordered the capture and the assassination of the sorceress, of the only person he ever loved.
Every step became harder to take in the drifting snow. The cabin was in sight now; the warm glow of the fire illuminated the otherwise dark, wintry night. How could he face Rinoa after earlier this evening, after the raw passion that almost had transpired between them? Moreover, how he wished to Hyne he hadnt stopped her advances, not even for one second. The desire to feel her skin against his was overwhelming, even in the freezing temperatures. Desire alone kept him going tonight; most men would have given to the harsh elements long ago. He knew of her power, he knew of the situation, he didnt care. Although he was quite aware that he didnt deserve the physical pleasure; he would turn the tables on her tonight, even if it would be their last night together. Squall Leonhart never properly got to say good-bye.
The boat rocked back and forth in the gusty Trabian winds. Quistis lay on what the Captain claimed to be a bunk, staring at the copper pipes above her. Each in an endless maze, circling and going nowhere. She could empathize. The waves crashed into the hull; otherwise, the sounds would be almost nonexistent. She had left Seifer only an hour ago, yet now it seemed more like infinity.
A strange echo resonated throughout the corridor. For a moment, she truly believed in ghost ships, as only something not of this earth could make such a horrendous sound. Quistis got off her bed and went to the small cabin door, as she opened it she could see Seifer propping himself against the wall. The minute the door opened his expression tried to turn from almost dead, to only partially dead. A greenish hint covered his face; he did not hide it well.
"Seifer are you alright?" she asked redundantly, the answer excruciatingly obvious.
"Yeah fine," he fought to say the words with a straight face. "I just wanted to check and see how you were doing really."
Rolling her eyes, she stepped out into the narrow corridor and grabbed his arm. Never articulating a word, she dragged him in and ushered him on one of the small beds. Removing one of the extra pillows from the upper birth, she handed it to him, and then took a seat directly across from him on the other bunks.
"Seifer if you stay on this deck tonight it will help, we are closer to ocean level. The center of gravity is more stabilized, thereby cutting down the motional effects on your equilibrium," she informed, instructor tone noticeable. Taking one look at his bewildered expression, she shook her head, "You won't feel the boat rocking as much, okay?"
That he understood.
"Thanks Quistis didn't think you would be inviting me to stay in your room so soon. It was inevitable but I didn't think it would be this soon."
"Don't flatter yourself," she replied, half teasing. "How come I never remember you being sea-sick before? At Garden you were in plenty of moving boats, and I was under the impression you and your posse fish often?"
He smiled weakly through his condition, "Moving moving being key. If it's going forward it doesn't bother me as much, but have you seen those waves? I can't handle the back and forth motion. As for the fishing, we were always at a dock nice solid ground. Hey I'll tell you something if you can keep a secret."
Now curiosity had the better of her. Moving from the bed she was currently occupying, she sat on the edge of his bunk. Never verbally responding to him, she didn't have to. They understood each other, on a deeper level than either could have imagined. Two people brought together under dire circumstances, two people who needed each other more than either thought possible.
"I can't go on playground swings either they make me sick."
Covering her mouth, she tried to hide her chuckle, but failed miserably. The thought of someone as resilient and self-sufficient as Seifer Almasy unable to handle a simple swing was extremely entertaining. Quistis could tell he was irritated at her laughter, his face now a strange mixture of angry red and baby-puke green. It was enough to make her overlook the worries, and forget the troubles. Somehow, this man had a way of doing easing her conscious, easing her soul. She felt an unexpected need to tend to him; the same she had spend her entire life yearning to do with Squall. As her laughter resided, she grabbed a gray-woolen throw and covered him.
"Sorry Seifer," she pleaded with tears of laughter trying not to escape her eyes. "Thank you. Thank you for making me laugh. It's been so long, I don't remember what it feels like to be happy, to be free anymore."
"Come here," he rejoined gently grabbing her arm and lowering her next to him. "I'm glad you can laugh again just sorry it's at me. I really am sorry everything turned out this way. I promise we will make it through this together."
She laid her head upon his chest as he carefully put his arm around her. "Seifer, what happens to you when this is over? What are you going to do now are you going into hiding again?" she asked, truthfully afraid of the reply.
"I um I don't really know," wavering in his voice, revealed more emotion than he had aspired. "I guess there are only two choices either I go back underground or I turn myself in to Garden, facing the consequences. Maybe the redemption I seek can only be gained after I justly pay for my actions even if that means death. It's not for me to decide."
Closing her eyes, she swallowed. Deep within her stomach she suddenly felt as ill as Seifer, if not more. Five days ago she would have lead the execution, now it was not the case. Fate was cruel once again. She spent all her life in love with someone who didn't want her, now she was falling for someone she couldn't be with.
"Quistis, let's not think about that right now. Nothing we can do will take away the past, facing our future is inevitable. Right now, let's just live in the present. Dont think about tomorrow's press conference, what will become of me, or locating Squall and Rinoa. Those things will work themselves out, even if we don't like the outcome. We can't change our destiny."
"If we can't change destiny, how do you explain everything that has happened the things with Ultimecia and Ellone? If we can't change our destiny why try to do any of this?"
He mustered a small laugh, "Quistis if you can change it, then it was truly never your destiny. Your destiny cannot be changed. But we can control our mistakes, face our crimes, and make that our destiny agrhhh . This is giving me an aneurysm. Let's not talk about it anymore. I don't need to feel anymore stress."
She closed her eyes, impishly murmuring, "I see it's in your destiny to stay with me tonight. Like this. Just us. Not the pressure of being whoever others want us to be, living up to a reputation or image that is not our true persona just being us."
He memorized everything about her, not wanting the moment to end. Never in his life had he experienced this serge of emotion. Before he always felt the need to push away or hide behind masks. He had loved Rinoa, she was his first love, and he still cared for her genuinely. Nevertheless, even when they were together, he knew that she didn't truly love him. They were not soul mates.
The winds seemed to be dying down outside, as the boat slowed its rocking. On the other hand, maybe, it was just in his mind. For the first time in an hour he felt well, better than well, he felt complete.
She heard the sound of the door opening, yet Rinoa made no attempt to get off the soft rug to help. She just sat in front of the fire, not letting her eyes wander around the room. Every footstep made her more nervous, yet refusing to show the outward signs. The dark night transformed one of the forward windows into a make-shirt mirror; she could watch every move Squall made. She tried not to, but that was asking the impossible.
He set the chopped wood down near the doorway. His face seemed red, chapped from the frigid winds. She tried like hell not to stare at him, everything about him seemed so familiar yet so distant at the same time. His hair shorter now, his face matured by more stress than the two years. Still, every feature about him was so perfect. The way she remembered, the way she fantasized, and the nights she spent holding in the tears all over the man who now stood within arms reach.
The entire time she tried not to watch him; he tried not to stop watching her.
When Squall finished bringing in the last of the kindling, he caught sight of the northern window. It was a strange relief to know that she was studying him; the first sign that old feelings still lingered. At least to Hyne, that is what he prayed it meant. But as earlier events proved, nothing was quite as it seemed with Rinoa Heartilly anymore. This small opportunity that presented itself, this might be his only chance to try and talked civilized with her.
He missed that.
"You know that your father punched me in front of the entire World Council the other day."
Squall didn't even know why he was attempting this conversation Him initiating the conversation that was a new one, even to him.
Over the last couple of years, she thought of her father, their relationship. Last time she had seen him too was that fateful day back in Deling. She had some information about him, Alexandra had told her bits and pieces. Rinoa often thought of what his reaction would be, learning he was a grandfather. Caraway never liked Squall, never thought anyone was good enough for his daughter. Maybe she should have listened to his complaints, his warnings about the young, emotionally immature commander.
Shaking the thought from her head no he might have been right about the outcome. Nevertheless, admitting to only herself, she wouldn't ever want to forget the journey they took to get here.
"Well I guess that's the first thing I can be proud of him for in the last ten years."
The words escaped her mouth before she could stop them. However they weren't in anger, more of a sarcastic nature. She was good at that. Sarcasm was a mask easily hid behind.
"Never knew the General had such the right hook, guess I know who taught you."
A diminutive smiled crept upon her face, although she tried in vain to restrain it.
"You had that one coming too "
"As I seem to recall, I specifically said don't punch me yet. I never tried teaching you self-defense again. Guess I wasn't much of an instructor not much of a commander either."
From the reflection, she could see him sitting on the small bed; his coat and gloves still remained on. Whether it was a moment of weakness or of strength, she didn't know, but for some godforsaken reason she had a sense of pity for him. It hadn't been that long ago she had escaped the city in the freezing temperatures.
"Squall look, you went out and chopped the firewood if you're cold look, I don't own this place or anything. If you want to sit by the fire, than I can't stop you."
He was cold. Yes. But, Squall Leonhart, a SeeD, had been in much more dire a circumstances then this. The fire was only an excuse for him to get next to what he really required, her.
Never turning her head to look at him as he sat only feet from her, Rinoa kept her eyes forward.
"Squall how is he doing really? We fought before but nothing like this. Does he think that I "
"No," he cut her off before she could say the words. They still hurt. "Actually he thought the whole thing never seemed right from the beginning. We had to act as if we were on different sides but he misses you Rinoa. It's hard for him. His only daughter wanted by the very government that he spent his entire career working for. He might not have showed it to you but you were everything to him."
She knew that he was no longer speaking of her father. A sound somewhere between a gasp and sigh escaped her lips as she tried to regain her composure. Damn him. He was not going to make this night easy; he never made things easy.
"Caraway knows we are up here. He always believed in you Rin even when I didn't. He's a good man, some day please try and forgive him for his mistakes. We all carry them. Some more than others."
"Do you love her?"
Shit. Rinoa couldn't believe she said that. Thinking about something and blurting it aloud are two completely different things. Now Squall knew that she couldn't get past this, past his marriage. Tears rolled down her face as she pulled her knees tighter to her chest, placing her head on them. She turned her face as far away from him as possible.
"I'm sorry Squall, I didn't mean to ask. It's not any of my business please just forget it."
"No . No, I don't love her now, nor did I ever. Sometimes I wished that I cared a little bit more about her, and than I could have spared us both from this farce. I needed to prove to the World Council and Cid that I was over you I was going to be asked to step down as commander. They wanted me to show that I moved on. If anyone was going to lead the hunt for you, it was damn well going to be me."
It was something between a laugh and a cry, he could not tell. Maybe it was just the pain of hearing it again, the horrible fact sinking into her mind.
"So Squall basically what you are saying is that you didn't want to marry me, but you would marry for me. Was it a nice ceremony?"
"Please don't do this. To you or me. It's hard for me to talk about."
"It's hard for you to talk about, but it's easy for you to still wear your wedding ring if in fact your marriage is over!"
He was the first to look at her, even though she had not acknowledging his presence, her head still turned as he could hear her attempts to stop crying.
"Hyne Rinoa, to be over there would actually have to be a start. Trust me there never was." Taking off his wedding ring, he made a fist around it, "I forgot this fucking thing was on. Don't you get it? It was because oh forget it. You don't want to hear it; I don't want to say it anymore."
With an immense force he threw the band into the fire, as it hit the outer brick wall it angled off the side before finally landing, being consumed in the flames and ash. In reality, the platinum would still remain in the cinders, yet the significance would be scorched in the fire.
When the metal echoed through the chimney, she gambled turning her eyes toward him. Regrettably, he was no longer watching her. For the first time she truthfully started to comprehend his way of thinking. In reality, it paralleled her own situation, her own spurious marriage. She married, per say, to defend her and Allison's life. Would it be that outrageous if Squall had done the same? Even if he thought she was guilty, he made the sacrifice. It was far more difficult for him to marry someone without love, than to marry for love. To him it would be the definitive sacrifice, his principles for her protection. For the first time she understood his position on accepting a spouse.
Wiping her eyes a thought dawned on her, "You said you didn't make a very good commander aren't you "
"I'm quitting," his answer short and brusque.
"Does this have anything to do with me? I didn't mean to ruin your career too."
Squall was aware of her facing him; if he looked straight ahead; he could answer this question the way his mind directed him to. If he looked at her, than his answer would be, the way his heart desired to. He made the choice subconsciously, his mind had been in charge for the last two years, and it was time that his heart won this single battle. He inescapably wanted his heart to win this entire war. As he saw her face, upset and full of sorrow his heart won over his mind.
"Rinoa everything I have always done is because of you. Even before I met you, the paths I chose were all leading to you to us. My career is nothing; I am nothing. If they want to hunt you, they will have to kill me in the process. I know it's of a little consequence now, but you are still everything to me."
Closing her eyes, a million thoughts filled her mind. This wasn't happening; she had to protect herself from him from the pain, he would inevitable cause. Squall had no idea what he was getting himself into, the world wanted her dead there was still time for him to save himself. She recognized that it wasn't his fault, although he wasn't faultless, but society had branded her the traitor before the incident.
From the first day Esthar had imprisoned her, to the last day spent in the cabin; she was a source of trepidation to them. The World Council and all that opposed it. They all needed her; every one of those bastards would sacrifice her mind and body without hesitation. The title of sorceress held more supremacy then even she appreciated. Squall had little or no influence on the events, she decided to fight beside them in Galbadia; she alone would have to undergo the consequences.
No, he was not to blame for the quandary. She accepted the truth that he suffered as much, if not greater then her. Bennett might have physically abused her, but she always held on to a sliver of reality with Allison. Squall was alone, just as he always had been. Alone. Reaching in her pocket, she found the platinum chain she held dear for so long. Her mothers ring was just as she remembered another life that had been stolen by destiny. She balled her hand into a small fist, letting this ring too, imprint onto her palm.
"I know after everything that has happened between us, I have no right making this request. But I must ask you a favor, no questions asked. Please tell me I have earned that much from these fucking years of torment."
He watched intently as she looked at her mothers ring on the chain. A moment of sadness crept into his body, paining him to see that his ring was no longer adorning the chain, next to hers as it had been for five years. As it should be. He intentionally made an attempt to feel through his coat, seeing if the ring was still in pocket; it was. She put her trembling hand on the floor as she leaned over to him.
"Squall please, take this back. If something happens to me, give it Alexandra she will know what to do with it. I know it might be impossible to locate her; my guess is someday you'll understand how to reach her. It's all I ask of you."
He leaned over and took the delicate chain back, strange at the honor the silvery chain provided. His first thought was to place it in is pocket with his Griever. In a moment of almost defiance, he decided to place it back around his neck. The metal offered an unearthly comfort of serenity in his life. He took his coat off placing it in a heap to the side.
She watched in wonderment as he removed his jacket, not sure of what he was doing. Until she saw him attempting to place the chain around his neck. The clasp was small and his coarse hands not used to such delicate procedures. His hands. For an ethereal moment, she studied them, every line, every scar. Remembering when those hands would hold and caress her. After an uncomfortable moment of silence, she realized he had been watching her watching him. Trying the best to cover her momentary weakness she leaned toward him, wordlessly offering her help.
Reaching for the chain, she realized they were closer then they had been this entire time. She avoided his eyes, turning her attention at the difficult fastener. After a couple of failed attempts, she rose to her knee's trying to get a better angle for her vision. Fumbling with it, she brushed the back of her hand on his neck. The feeling of his flesh was electrifying to her it was almost too much to bear. The task almost seemed impossible, her hands now shaking from the nervousness she was failing greatly at concealing.
Finally, she managed to get the clasp. Then accidentally looked at his face, only to realize that during her attempts to do the chain and avoid eye contact, she had accidentally given him the perfect view down her shirt. He quickly darted his eyes back to the fire; a feeble attempt at hiding the fact that he was taking advantage of his viewpoint.
The expression on the normally stern commander's face almost made her want to smile; his cheeks were a combination of cherry hues from both the exposure to the snow and the exposure to her chest. She sat back on her legs, unsure of anything at the moment. For some unknown reason she didn't want to leave the proximity. No, that wasn't true; she damn well knew the reason she didn't want to leave the closeness. His expression changed as she watch his eyes change from embarrassed to uncharacteristically mischievous. Turning his head quickly he looked her directly in the eyes.
"I know after everything that has happened; I have no rights. But I need a favor, no questions asked."
"What?" she questioned apprehensively.
"Kiss me. One last time; I want to remember what it's like."
Fear had now taken full command of her emotions. Never had he been so direct. She couldn't do this; she needed to get away from him. Far away. Where nobody could hurt her or Allison she had to be strong, to stick to her arrangement.
"I kissed you earlier? Doesn't that count?" she answered back, hoping that would be enough.
He quickly placed one of his fingers on her lips, her heart felt as if it stopped beating with the contact.
"I said no questions, remember? Plus, that wasn't you. That was Renee Bennett I don't want her; I want you Rinoa."
Somehow, her vision blurred or she just lost sight of reality, the next thing she knew his lips were centimeters from hers. This is what she fantasized about, she dreamed. This moment, this reunion. Him. Logic told her to get up, leave, and never look back. Have him go back to Garden, his job, and his wife.
She met his lips as tears formed not in the corner of her eyes this time, but in his. He was really there. They were really there. And for Hyne knows what reason, she still was deeply in love with him.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic