Crimson Lies Chapter 19
And sometimes when we touch
The honesty's too much
And I have to close my eyes and hide.
I wanna hold you til I die
Til we both break down and cry
I wanna hold you till the fear in me subsides.
She loathed this. But, at the same time, it was the most unparalleled bliss in the world. Rinoa knew Squall made his decision; they would now be fugitives together. His life at Garden was finished, years of training since childhood now a distant memory. Everything he ever was, no longer mattered. He was like her; he was a criminal.
They reached the vehicle, and thankfully, the SeeD left the keys in the ignition. Trabia was possibly the most disorganized group known to man, even worse than the Forest Owls on a proportioned scale. Quickly both entered the cab, and Squall immediately started the engine.
Silent tears fell from her face, as she watched him prepare to leave. Everything about him still fascinated her. The way his gloved hands gripped the steering wheel. Fingers that could be so dominating, yet so gentle. She knew both sides, something she faithfully believed that was an honor only bestowed upon her. The way he systematical checked and adjusted the mirrors, even in the immense hurry, he still followed safety protocol to a certain degree. The way her knight ran fingers through his hair, some things never changed. Finally, she noticed how his eyes would glance toward her, always making sure that she was still there. Whether he looked in the side or rear view mirrors, or actually had the courage to check from peripheral vision, he needed visual confirmation. But done in a way that he didn't want her to notice. He needed her, needed to know she was still there.
Not a fantasy. Real.
Letting out a deep breath, he put the car into gear, driving away from the wooded bungalow. She turned once more to watch the silhouette of the cabin disappear behind groves of trees. For three days, it was home, and for one wonderful night, it was heaven. Somehow the emptiness of the barren land no longer mattered, her knight returned, and with that color to the landscape.
"Squall," she asked hesitantly.
He desperately wanted to look at her angelic face, but the ice-covered pavement required all his attention. The hills and mountains made the roads treacherous terrain; one could easily go careening down a ravine, and not be discovered until the summer thaw. So, he continued surveying the road, giving nonverbal acknowledgement.
"Squall I I don't understand. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful but everything you ever had, everything you ever wanted out of life it's gone. You just lost it with one action. Squall you betrayed SeeD."
"Rinoa, you still don't understand. Stop thinking about everything I lost; only think about everything I gained. You. Two years ago, I lost you, and only SeeD remained. It was the only life I knew before, but after you it was insignificant. Commander of SeeD is the title I had, Knight was the title I wanted the one I cherished."
This time he dared to look at her, slightly turning his head, meeting the gaze of her rich brown eyes. Smiling lovingly back, she mouthed the same words spoken last night. "Thank you."
For moments, they were silent. Neither speaking only trying to figure out the enormity of the situation. And for a brief moment, they spent in the tranquility of just being there. Together. However the gods of fate never smiled upon them for very long, because at that moment the radio went off.
"Trabia Garden to vehicle 427, please acknowledge your current location."
Squall checked the corresponding identification number etched on the metal plate. Shit, which was undeniably them. How ironic this situation mirrored the Ragnarok five years ago. Drifting out in the endless void of space, their only connection to civilization, the communication radio and the bastards at the other end. They wanted her back then for her powers, powers eventually manipulated against her. Without guilt, without remorse. Now there would be no sealing, only death without trial. Fuck them.
Reaching for the radio, he prepared to respond. However, they would ask his SeeD identification number, which would certainly give them away . He quickly handed the communicator over to Rinoa.
"Rinoa repeat after me word for word. Do not add anything." She nodded in understanding as he continued, "ST-0303-BLM current location 40' longitude, by 65' latitude."
She repeated it letter for letter, word for word.
"Selphie Tilmitt, Balamb Garden," the static voice from the other end rejoined.
Squall nodded once again, mouthing, "Affirmative."
"Affirmative," she spoke with certainty.
"Damn it," the voice came back. "Sorry about that Ms. Tilmitt, we just have the wrong paper work again. Continue on your search."
"Roger," she said pressing the button. Squall's eyes grew wide at her single word. He bit his lip slightly shaking his head, trying to concentrate on the road ahead.
"Excuse me?" the voice questioned back.
Rinoa thought that's how she was supposed to respond. Now she realized, by Squall's demeanor alone, it wasn't.
"Sorry, I just thought that was you Roger. It's been so long." She cursed herself for not shutting up; each second that went by, they would only grow more suspicious from her rambling.
"Oh no, Ms. Tilmitt Roger is off today, but I'll let him know that you asked."
Rinoa said nothing else, quickly setting the mechanism back into the cradle. Turning her head toward Squall tilting her head slightly, as was her trademark. She smiled apologetically, knowing he couldn't see her, but he knew her actions.
"You still dont like to listen to me, do you?" he asked with a playfulness only she could decipher from anger. "We just better be thankful there was a Roger in the communication department."
"Er sorry. I thought that " she quieted down, not wanting to pursue the subject any further. "Hey, why did they think I was Selphie anyhow?"
"It's the only other student number I know. Two years ago, we assigned new numbers hers stuck in my mind. ST, for Selphie Tilmitt and BLM, given to all the SeeD's attending Balamb Garden but the 0303 it's your birthday, March 3. So I remembered it. I could never forget that date."
Looking out the window, a cross between a sigh and laugh escaped her lips. She couldn't help the smile from once again forming. Reaching her hand tentatively, she placed it on his upper thigh. Slowly caressing the fabric of his uniform, feeling every muscle in his leg and the way his body tensed at the touch. The contact sending electricity through both of them. It was a sensation that made Squall realize he was alive, more important he was with the only person he ever loved.
His sorceress, his love, his life. Rinoa Heartilly.
Innocent. They were innocent. Children no more than ten years of age, and the driver who's responsibility it was to care for their safety. One bomb. One explosion. One moment. Taking away all their dreams, and their very heartbeats. One man so cowardly he blamed and executed a homeless man, again another needless death. However, to President Jefferson Mitchell life was nothing, people were nothing, all dispensable all pawns in his game. The only problem was, nobody knew of the game but Quistis, and the rules were all but non-existent.
This would be the deciding point in her life. To turn and run, to hide amid Garden as she had before. Or to stand and face the enemy, relying on her strength and that of those around. Amazingly, she stood with Seifer and Squall two unlikely allies, but the best two associates one could possible hope for. This was their time. She might have not had the courage alone, but together she did.
This time she would not go quietly into the night, she would be the shadow that followed Mitchell always there, always waiting.
Crowds of citizens and reporters alike cheered him as he gave what sounded more like an election campaign than a news conference. Someday they would know the pain he caused. Someday she would be there when he fell, with nobody to catch him. And that someday would be soon.
Gazing over into the alley, she saw Seifer standing in his SeeD uniform. How things would have turned out different had he passed his exam, had he been there that day with Ellone and not her. For a second she found her self caught up in a dream, one that could never be. Them on a mission together, or even walking around Garden together. Nothing special, maybe just as simple as being in the cafeteria as he ate salty fries and she picked at her salad. Simple things. Things that no matter how much wished for, could never be. Their fate was decided a long time ago. Yet, he still gave her strength in just being there. The man was risking his freedom for her, and she knew it. Moreover, she loved him for it.
Entranced in her thoughts, Quistis finally felt a tap on her shoulder. Turning around, she saw Lauren with a confused look, motioning for her to follow. Her turn at the podium would be up soon, but if Lauren was pulling her off the stage in front of hundreds there was a damn good reason. Quietly getting up, she walked down the back stairs as Lauren pulled her behind the curtain.
Speaking as softly as possible Lauren reported, "I was just over at the communication post checking the progress the search for Commander Leonhart. One of the vehicles searching the Trabian woods radioed back with Selphie's identification number. The operators thought they had the wrong staff paperwork. Even asked me if I knew Selphie so, I told them yes, I believed she was coming up here with the latest group of SeeD's. I left and used a direct link to Balamb I was right, Selphie was still there."
That was it. It was the little piece of hope Quistis wished. First, she knew that it was Squall trying to relay a message or conceal their identity. Second, if it was a female voice it was Rinoa. God damned she was really alive and with Squall. The feelings from before leaving the stage, still weighed heavily on her mind. Yet now, their small group of three turned to four. In addition, one of them was a sorceress. That could make all the difference. Thank Hyne.
"Oh," the junior SeeD continued. "You're not going to believe this. Selphie said she'd been in contact with Irvine and Zell they're now on the run with Richard Bennett's assistant Alexandra Williams staying in Dollet. Allison Bennett is with them Renee's er Rinoa's daughter. The child is doing fine. But now they are wanted by the authorities also."
"Damn it," Quistis spat. "You would think I'd have been notified about something like that. I think the council wants me to stay in the dark okay here is what we are going to do. Go to the communication room; tell them it's an order to broadcast my speech. Make something up if you have to about letting SeeD's know that all Gardens are united on this search and we're SeeD's first and friends second or some other crap like that. Just make it believable and tell them it must be broadcast. Use whatever means possible."
Taking a quick glance around the bustling scene the instructor continued, "Then go find Seifer just call for Nicolas or something. He saw me leave from the stage, so there is a good chance he'll find you. Tell him to get on our vessel directly, and then have the captain ready to depart immediately. You go back to Balamb Garden and work with Selphie I can't drag you in any further too many lives are already at stake."
Saluting the older SeeD, Lauren started to leave until Quistis called out. Quickly she walked up to her softly saying, "Lauren, I can never thank you enough. We all owe you so much. Whatever happens, whatever people say about Squall and Rinoa don't believe it. They were just two people who truly loved each other. Please remember them that way. In addition, if you hear anything about Seifer and me, just remember the truth. We were two people lost in our dreams, but finally realized our mistakes. I don't care what others say just promise me you will remember us that way. Promise."
The younger girl noticed the tears in her leaders' eyes, and the sincerity that lay behind it. Holding back her own tears she answered, "I promise." Quistis quickly hugged the girl and headed back toward the stage. As she walked up the stairs Lauren noticed her crumple up her planned speech, tossing it in a near by wastebasket. For some reason, the younger SeeD felt as if Quistis just said goodbye. Not just for today, but forever.
Returning to the hard folding chair, Quistis sat as the cold metal chilled her to the bone. She tried to warm her hands on the heaters set up around the stage, each a futile attempt compared to the bitter temperatures. Finally, the last reporter asked Mitchell a question and he answered in a double-talking way only a politician could. It sounded good, but in reality, he said nothing. Typical.
Feeling the eyes of hell upon her, Quistis looked at the man as he sat beside her. Reaching his hand over, he lay it tenderly on Quistis' leg, never breaking eye contact.
"Hope you had some time to think dear Mrs. Leonhart. I know how much you pray for your husbands safe return must get lonely in bed without him warming you. Now that he is searching for his little bitch again, guess that means you're free."
Pushing his hand of her thigh, she narrowed her eyes at him. This man truthfully was the most hideous, disgusting creature on earth. She wanted to tell him off; she wanted to take her weapon to him without mercy. Nevertheless, in the end the President would get his and she would be there smiling. She just shook her head, not wasting her breath. Grabbing her folder, Quistis took her place at the podium staring out into the vast crowd.
It seemed an eternity, but in actuality, it had only been thirty minutes or so. They were within a twenty-minute drive back to the outskirts of Trabia. Rinoa had somehow managed to move closer to Squall during the trip, but still not as close as she would have liked. His concentration was needed on driving and not on her, yes some things never changed. Still her hand remained on his thigh; she refused to give up complete contact. It gave her strength; it gave her hope.
By nightfall, they would be on the cargo ship. Hidden among the boxes, such as she had done to arrive two years ago. Most of all, by tomorrow morning they would reach Dollet and Allison. For a moment, she felt queasiness in her stomach. By morning, Squall would meet his daughter his daughter. Gods that felt good to say. She had to tell him. Now was not the appropriate time with his concentration on the road, but she was afraid of waiting any longer. The more she contemplated it, the more something was holding her back. But, he proved himself, and his commitment. Although, deep down she denied his entire honesty, as something was holding him back also.
"Squall," she spoke with a wavering unmatched by anything previously. "I have something to tell "
"This is Trabian Garden base command. We are patching all SeeD communication into network feeds. You will be listening to the news conference currently in progress in downtown Trabia with Deling President and World Council Leader Jefferson Mitchell of Galbadia. We have been directed that all SeeD's must listen to the broadcast."
"Hang on Rin," he simply stated, pulling the vehicle to the side of the road. "This is unprecedented, never has anything been broadcast on this frequency."
She sighed, nervously shaking out the courage that had been building up. As they pulled over, Rinoa looked over at him, as he returned the gaze. Drawing her into a quick kiss, he touched the side of her face with his leather gloves. Now regretting the departure from her tender lips.
"Promise Rinoa, when this is over you have my undivided attention."
She could only nod in agreement, leaning on his shoulder as he wrapped his arm around her waist.
Quistis glanced nervously around. Finally, she saw Lauren appear on the opposite side of the stage nodding. This was it. This was their stand, whether Mitchell knew it or not, this is where she turned the tides of fate upon him.
"My fellow SeeD's we are coming together to unite. No longer should we be making the differentiation between our Gardens. Today we stand as one. Balamb is understandably concerned about the accusations and disappearance of the Commander. We would all ask that our leader turn himself into authorities for questioning on the murder of Richard Bennett."
Neither of them could move each in shock at the statement. Squall removed his arm and turned up the radio, praying he had heard the broadcast wrong. Well at least the part of the accused. Rinoa was in shock that Richard was dead; moreover, that Squall was charged
"Squall?" she questioned.
Looking in her eyes, he shook his head in denial. She could see the perplexity within his stare, and the hurt in his eyes. She took his right hand in hers; he squeezed it back in mutual understanding and support.
Quistis' voice continued to echo throughout the vehicle, "We are all friends and comrades, but above all we are SeeD's, and will stand by our principles. I want each of you to reflect upon the day you became SeeD, the day you went on your exam mission. In that experience alone, you earned your rank among us. Now I ask that you all return to that day, and draw from your feelings of why you joined SeeD."
Turning to Rinoa, he brought her hand to his chest. "That's it. It's a code." He actually laughed at the simplicity in the message. "Quistis is giving us a code Rinoa, she knows. We are to return to the Dollet Communication Tower where I took my SeeD exam."
Still in shock, Rinoa moved her head in agreement, as the words didn't truly register in her mind.
" again it is important that everyone one of your parents knows their daughters, or son's are safe. We will not go blindly into this mission "
His eyes still focused on Rinoa, "There she is saying that Allison is protected. Parents' knowing their daughters are safe."
"Again, Balamb Garden is working in full cooperation with local and state authorities in the investigation. Richard Bennett was a valuable member of this community and the World Council. His murder will not be taken lightly. Last night a vile crime was committed as he was murdered within his own home, only a day after his wife passed away. His abducted daughter is still a number one priority with SeeD; we have our best operatives on the case now. However, the murder investigation will not subside until the one responsible is caught. I want who ever that person may be I want him to think about what he has done. I guarantee you right now he will be brought to justice. And SeeD will be there."
She ended her conference with a smile. Looking over in the crowd, she noticed Seifer and Lauren standing together leading the applause. They knew what she had just done. She was now in the game with President Mitchell. In a moment of defiance, she turned back toward the man sitting there, with a look of pure evil on his features. With a smile, the instructor saluted the man, with the formal SeeD salute. It was not a threat; it was a promise, directed solely at him. He knew that.
Quistis looked at him, mouthing the words that had so often haunted her dreams. "Think."
The crowd noise grew quiet from the applause, mainly led by the SeeD's present as reports clamored to ask the instructor questions about the incident.
Rinoa sat in horror. First, the realization that Richard Bennett was dead second, the fact she felt no remorse. Two years with the bastard and not one single emotion of compassion surfaced. There had been many nights she wished for this. Hell, she even mentally planned it, but never could she act out on her abhorrence. That was not her nature, for murder was not in her.
Unless he hurt Allison.
Then she could have killed the bastard, without a second's hesitation. It's remarkable how she could let herself suffer by his hands, Hyne knows she had. Every bruise, every scar, a diagram of her life the last two years. Each represented the private hell she was forced into. But if he touched Allison no force would be greater than her wrath. Now he was dead and she didn't care.
Ironically, she was more distraught upon hearing the voice that was giving the news. Quistis. Never could she think one her friends would betray her. They always had their differences where Squall was concerned but still she would have trusted her life to the instructor. Hindsight is twenty-twenty. Each syllable the instructor spoke dug deeper within her heart. Each word represented time lost with Squall, and Squall with his daughter. The material pain Richard caused failed in comparison to anything that Quistis had done. To be deceived by a friend is worse than to be betrayed by an enemy.
She only could stare off into the distant forest, trying not to let Squall see the anger covering her features.
But then it happened.
Squall was still in shock of news. He was now wanted for murder a murder of Rinoa's forged husband. Had he thought for a moment, had he even surmised the next logical step. Had his mind been on the obvious and not lost within the recesses of his mind he would have known. Hell, he should have known. What the communication radio would say next. the words forever haunting him as so many already had
A reporter innocently asked, "Quistis Leonhart, how do you feel about your husband being accused of murder?"
And then, time stopped.
No words could sting more. No words could cause so much pain. Not even in Deling during the original press conference was she so injured. The words kept repeating in her mind, like a record skipping on a player. Never going forward, never going back, only remaining in the same eternal rut.
He closed his eyes. Looking at her now would be something his heart couldn't take. The look of anguish on her face would be etched in his forever, another of his betrayals causing pain. There were no expressions able to describe how his feelings toward her. Life stopped two years ago, his very breaths only counting down until the time he moved into the afterlife. For no life without her was complete, and death would end his perpetual torment. But in less then a day's time, he had found his salvation, only to have it slip through his fingers again. The torment thrust upon him since birth. How much more torment could Rinoa take, before she broke? He was the one going to break her, in spirit and life.
He inhaled as a tear slid down his battered face, he tried to choke out an explanation, "Rinoa, I..."
However, it didn't matter.
She was already gone.
Turning as the truck door slammed, the vibration echoing through his mind. He did it. Once again, he fucked up. His life story the only story he could ever tell. One that was not meant to be happy, one that was meant to bring pain and suffering to all those it touched. Such as it did his mother, such as it did Ellone, and such as it did Rinoa.
In that moment, his heart called for her, but his voice could not. A battle took place in his mind remembering the loneliness of time-compression. The barren wasteland that represented his life. She found him once now he would do it for her. It was a favor that he wanted to return, had to return. Twenty-two years he spent upon this earth in pain, he would not spend another twenty-two. If she were gone, this time he would be too.
He loved her. He needed her.
And she needed him. Given time she would forgive him, Hyne, she always did. That was her she was the strong one. No not physically, but strength runs so much deeper than that. It's something unknown, something from within and he would return her strength that lay in her trust.
Never bothering to remove the keys from the ignition, he opened his door, and ran into the forest following the fresh footprints carved in the winter's snow.
They would get through this. They had to.
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