Crimson Lies Chapter 24
Authors Forward: Forward? Yes this time I am speaking before the chapter. Not sure you want me to speak after. *hides* First of all, I would like to thank Wayward Tempest there are references to her stories. "Tempo Giusto" in this chapter and three chapters ago to her story "Sorted Laundry." Both have nothing to do with my tale, but could think of nothing better than to incorporate her works. Nicole you are a wonderful person, and a wonderful friend. Thank you.
One last thing I wanted to mention is the timeframe. This chapter takes up to Friday night. The entire story is set within an eight day period beginning on a Sunday evening. Ellone's memorial service was held on Monday. Everything has some meaning, as does the time span of the events one week can change the path of an entire country.
Again, I thank all of you bye for now!
Please feel free to let me know what you think even if I don't want to hear it!!!
We are never deceived;
we deceive ourselves
The road to truth is long,
and lined the entire way with annoying bastards
- Alexander Jablokov
As the afternoon passed, the group went about their lives. Quistis and Seifer had purposely stayed away from the rest of the faction. Yet, never did they venture far; Dollet was by no means safe. Zell, Irvine, and Squall planned in the main room the entirety of the afternoon. Military strategy and related issues were left up to them. Communication with Garden also resumed; Caraway had arrived safely at Balamb Garden. Above all, they had been informed Galbadian troops had entered the vicinity. The only consolation, the fact Ragnarok was currently underway. The craft at top speed should be their within the hours time.
Alex had stayed by the side of Rinoa and her daughter not much had been said. Even between the two girls an awkward silence formed. Part of Rinoa wanted to tell Squall before she changed her mind again but logic told her to wait to a safer time. But then again, what if there were no safer times? With every second, her fear seemed to multiply ten fold in apprehension. His reaction to both having a daughter More importantly, would he understand the reasons of not informing him when they first met up again?
Was it truly for control? For some unseen spite toward him?
Then when she found he was married, to Quistis no less, time grew more precious with every second. As did her need to protect Allison from the pain, she felt that would inevitably come. For his part, Squall had been kind and understanding about the child. Rinoa could tell from their conversation in the bedroom, he could learn to care about the girl. No matter the paternity. She could feel how deeply their bond was growing, deeper than before. In such a short amount of time after all these years.
Was it fate or destiny? Was it the means to an end her end?
Maybe she was just making peace to herself, to him. Allison held her hopes for the future. And even if he didn't know it the girl also held Squall Leonhart's.
She promised Alexandra, today he would discover the truth Rinoa Heartilly decided to keep her promise. Tonight when they were safely on board Ragnarok, she would talk to Squall.
She had to.
"Never," he stated impishly.
"Seriously?" Quistis asked in amazement.
"I just would have thought that "
"No," he cut her off. "It's something I don't like talking about. When would have come in handy? I've never heard of a life or death situation revolving around it."
She stopped along the tree-lined path. Carefully observing that they were still within eyesight of the cabin. Also checking the vicinity for any unwanted intruders. Taking a barrette out of her pocket, she gathered her hair into a make shift ponytail. Clumps of hair still strayed out of the confinements, but it was close enough.
"Here," she held out her hand toward him. "If this is going to be your last day of freedom, let's make it worthwhile."
"Really?" he raised an eyebrow at her.
Rolling her eyes she replied, "You're incorrigible."
"I try," he countered. "I thought we were supposed to be guarding the parameter?"
"We are. We can do this and watch remember I am a trained professional."
"Oh Mrs. Instructor I do think you are beginning to have a personality."
"That hurts Seifer." She winced in the bright sunlight. "Now come on, we don't have all day."
"Um we have no music."
"Yes we do listen."
Seifer gazed into her eyes as he listened to the music of nature all around him. The waves, the birds, and the crickets. Each with a melody. But the loudest sound he heard was the beating of his own heart. The rhythmic sound reverberated within his chest and throughout his body. With a contentious smirk, he took his hand in hers. Intertwining their fingers.
"Really Quistis, I never learned to dance. I suppose if puberty boy can do it, so can I."
"Good, now that we have that settled. Can you hear the music? Can you feel the rhythm?"
"Of your heartbeat?" Almost as soon as he said the words, he felt the redness of embarrassment creep into his face.
"Tempo Giusto," she replied as they started moving across the cobblestone path. She felt him step on her foot, but hid the pain. He quickly tried to correct himself and follow her lead.
"Tempo wha?" he replied looking in her eyes. They continued moving around in a small circle, rather unsuccessfully. She averted her eyes from his, to scan the horizon for intruders as they turned.
"It's a phrase it means 'the right tempo' it's the average beat of the human heart."
"Oh yeah that," he replied knowingly, although oblivious. "I hate to ruin your theory, but I'm sure my heart is racing much faster than that." He stepped on her slim boots once again, this time she closed her eyes pushing back the pain. He froze. "I'm sorry told you I couldn't do this."
Turning toward him, she beamed serenely. "It doesn't really matter. The fact is you tried, and nobody can take that away from you."
"Yeah," he said watching behind her. "There's something else I want to try for the first time so no matter what happens I won't look back with today with regret "
Quistis focused her eyes on him, as her breath shortened. She could feel his tranquil hands still upon hers, but yet he had already taken them away. She could feel his warm touch still upon her skin.
"I just wanted to say," he looked away in discomfiture. "I just wanted to tell you Galbadian Soldiers!"
"What?" For a split second, she was bewildered until the words registered. Hurriedly she turned around to see what he was looking at; down the path, a legion of soldiers was fast approaching. Although the couple had not been spotted as of yet.
"Go and warn the others," Seifer yelled unsheathing his gunblade. "Let's try to avoid an altercation if possible. They would only send for reinforcements." Quistis nodded in agreement, as she ran into the forest, using the trees as stealth covering.
"Hyne be with us all," she whispered into the gentle breeze.
The door flew open; the three men quickly turned their attentions toward the disturbance. Quistis had taken on a disconcerted look; no words were needed to be spoken. Posture and demeanor alone spoke volumes, the three SeeD's quickly moved.
"Galbadian soldiers are coming up the path. Seifer is covering us. We need to get them into the woods."
Zell folded the portable computer, and quickly tossed into the bag Alex brought. Irvine gathered what provisions he could and made sure his weapon was loaded.
Squall's immediate, and only, concern was the welfare of Rinoa and Allison. Hurrying into the bedroom, he reached for the little girl playing on the floor.
"Soldiers on the way. We have to leave. Now!"
Rinoa quickly grabbed the baby bottle and any other items within her sight. Both the women departed the bedroom, into the main area. Squall had not once stopped to think about whom he was carrying. Or his normal unease around children. This was the first time he had physical contact with Ally. But somehow, he felt an innermost desire to protect the girl as he did her mother. No matter what was in their past, a connection had already formed.
A bond. A family.
The six swiftly exited the cottage for the final time. A place over the last few days had become a minor comfort for many. Squall continued holding Ally closely, as they followed Quistis into the dense wooded area. Seifer quickly met their position as they retreated deeper into the woods.
Irrevocably, they reached a stopping point and all lay low amongst the brush. Allison finally began to fidget. All the stimulation around her had been difficult. Her whimper was a soft murmur at first, but growing into a louder cry. The stern commander looked down to his arms and for the first time looked into her open eyes.
His heart skipped a beat; the little girl looked back at him for reassurance.
"It's okay," he whispered softly to her. Placing his head next to Allison's wispy bangs. "It's going to be okay."
Rinoa felt guilt at the moment. But moreover, she felt a sense of euphoria that she couldn't believe could exist. For the first time, she saw father and daughter together for the first time she saw her family. Reaching for her daughter, Squall reluctantly released his grasp.
Earlier in the day, Rinoa had managed to put all the information she recalled into a digital journal. Dates, places, times and feelings everything she would want passed on. The women had been borrowed the computer without telling the others why they would find out soon enough. Rinoa reached into her pocket along with a small pen. Balancing Ally on one hip, she scribbled on something. Reaching her trembling hand out to Squall, their eyes met. Holding her tears at bay, she placed the article into his hands. She allowed herself the luxury of hanging on just one more second, to feel his touch one last moment.
When she retracted her hand, the sullen man looked down. The SeeD Commander now noticed it was a picture of a newborn infant Allison.
"If anything happens to me, make sure Ally reads this."
The thought was a knife in his chest. He could barely maintain his emotions, but he knew there was no choice. He nodded reluctantly at the request, placing the photograph in his pant pocket.
"Thank you." She smiled tenderly. "Thank you."
Outside the soldier's hollers could be heard, as yelling grew louder. It was obvious that their location was blown; the search parties were now gathering in the communication tower area.
Squall turned toward Rinoa, touching her cheek gently with his palm. "I'm here with you."
"I know," was all she replied.
Their thoughts interrupted by abrupt gunfire. Allison no longer was quiet, the explosions scaring her out of whatever peace she had found. They could hear people approaching. The look among the group turned to that of concern. Squall and Seifer looked at each other with a mutual understanding. And for the first time, a mutual respect.
"It's inevitable," Seifer rejoined.
"I know." Squall signaled for everyone to ready for battle. As the brush rustled, they could distinguish a figure approaching rapidly. Squall stood up ready to attack
"Ahhhhhh," screamed the soldier in fear as a gunblade grew nearer to the jugular.
"Shit!" Seifer yelled as Squall narrowly halted his attack.
Selphie gulped as Squall drove his gunblade into the soft earth.
"Hi guys we're here."
The reunion was short but gratifying. The SeeD's on the Ragnarok were easily able to hold of any attack by the few Galbadian troops. The ship had more firepower than a group of a dozen soldiers with only an arsenal of hand weapons. The group quickly boarded and take off was haste. Once aboard, briefing was done and the assembly found themselves in the forward cabin of the spacecraft.
Squall had not spoken any further to Rinoa, since the exchange in the woodland. Nor had he held Allison again yet something kept drawing him to the child. A feeling, an emotion something not explainable. As the little girl tried to walk around the seating area, she kept falling due to sporadic turbulence they would encounter. Out of frustration she began to crawl right over to Zell. Squall watched as the martial artist picked up the girl, he had an unmistakable way with people, especially with children.
When emotions in Squall became too much to bare, he excused himself to the cockpit. Seifer and Quistis had managed to stay there, along with Irvine and Selphie.
Not as if the ex-knight felt welcome aboard anywhere on the ship but he knew exactly where they weren't wanted.
The voyage would be a relatively short one, docking with Garden would be before nights fall. The only sounds in the cabin remained that of Ally. She spoke to Zell in a language completely unique, but he nodded in agreement. With that the little girl seemed satisfied and slowly started to close her eyes against his chest. The two girls exchanged looks Alex then signaled to Rinoa, who quickly pointed to the doorway. Both excused themselves from Zell.
"You think Zell can really handle Ally?" Alexandra walked beside her friend down the desolate metallic hallway.
Rinoa stifled a laugh. "Yes, he has experience with children. Plus we're on a spacecraft how much damage can he do?"
The two girls glanced at each before giggling openly. "Okay, okay," Rinoa admitted, "not the best scenario. I'm sure if there is damage to be done, he'll find it. But honestly, I do trust him with Allison he's been through a lot the last couple years."
The older girl put her hand on Rinoa's shoulder, with a sisterly gaze. "We all have. I don't recall a time that I have ever seen you amused, albeit just a little. I know what ever lies ahead of us, we can get through together as a family."
"Oh Hyne, you sound like Laguna." Rinoa rolled her eyes as they continued down the corridor. "If you get a leg cramp, I'm leaving."
"What?" queried the elder. Rinoa paused for a moment as they reached nearer the maintenance bay doors.
Sighing she pushed strands of brunette hair behind her ears. "Never mind, that was a lifetime ago."
Alex reached the furthest most doors of the Ragnarok. As she was about open the control panel, she noticed a familiar scent. Rinoa was still several meters behind her.
"Hey Rinoa, would it be possible um I just would like some time to think."
The other girl smiled in understanding. "Yeah, no problem, I completely understand. Plus, now you have me a little concerned about Zell and Allison. I'm not sure who would be a worse influence on whom."
Truthfully, Rinoa wasn't worried. She recognized that Alex was going through a complicated transition, just as the others. The two girls looked at one another in mutual understanding, and then Rinoa headed off towards the passenger compartments.
Alex watched as Rinoa disappeared through the far doors. When they had completely sealed, she opened the entrance in front of her.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you smoking was bad for you Mr. Leonhart?"
His stony gaze met hers, but he said nothing.
"You know, Rinoa would have been pissed if she'd found you back here. Trust me; I know how temperamental she can be I had to live with her through her mood swings."
Alex meant the last comment lighthearted, but Squall took it as anything but. Tossing the cigarette onto the floor, he smashed it into oblivion. Never looking up at the person in his line of sight, he brushed passed to the main corridor.
"Whatever." Disgust within his tone.
She could see the hurt in his features, even if others could not. For so long Rinoa had talked about him, whether in anger or love, Alex felt she knew Squall personally. His cold exterior to those around only hid the pain. The constant reminder of his failures could lead him down a self-destructive path only Rinoa could save him.
"Squall look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way. I realize that it hurts to know what she went through. No matter how hard you try, you can't change the past. But you can control the future. Don't throw it away."
Stopping, the commander looked back at the woman before him. The dim lighting in the room gave her a softer look. For the first time he actually noticed the resemblance. Not only in appearance, but also in heart.
"You look like her."
"Rinoa?" she questioned.
"Oh." Her expression changed to one of melancholy, even Squall could tell the complexity of the subject. "I never knew her never even saw a photograph. But I hear her. She's still among us in spirit anyway."
To this, he didn't answer.
Some subjects were still hard to speak of, Ellone being one of them. He resented himself, in that moment, for even introducing the subject. The hurt of all the years still weighted heavily on his heart and mind. Some issues couldn't be put to rest; some goodbyes could never come.
Even now, the subject was too difficult to broach.
"Look Squall, I didn't mean to oh never mind. I'm just worried about Rinoa. Right now, she needs you, more than she will ever know. The next couple of days are going to be more difficult than anyone could possibly imagine. Love and trust will be tested just remember that she loves you."
The words echoed through his head the same words that Ellone spoke. For some reason the attack on Garden flashed through his memories the blood, the chaos, the death.
And Rinoa ran.
For the first time in a couple days, his mind fixated on that one topic. Early it had not bothered him, but now it was at the forethought of his mind.
"Will she put her life first again this time?" he spoke bitterly. Even as the words came out, he couldn't believe he was saying them. Even after the events of the last days, the first link in the chain remained a mystery.
"When was the last time Rinoa ever put her life first?" Alex countered in irritation.
"Excuse me? I seem to recall a time about two years ago when she put her life before anyone else at Garden."
The apprehension was short; Alex had done it self-consciously. A slight look away a moments hesitation. One moment she wished could be taken back. In that instant, a revelation hit Squall. Even though the first thought wasn't correct, it was a path that would bring truth to light.
For the first time, there was something he had not seen. An answer.
"She she wasn't protecting herself was she?"
Immediately the defensive shield went up. "Yes, she was protecting herself."
Squall looked away, scratching the back of his head. "No that actually makes sense Rinoa left to protect someone else. She knew something that we didn't."
Taking a step toward Alex, he looked her directly in the eye. A gaze that so many before had been scared of, and had cowered to, yet Alex held her ground.
"I don't know what she knew," she replied mockingly. "Maybe you should ask her."
"There is something that you're not telling me that she's not telling me." Moving away, he inwardly tried to come up with any logical conclusion.
Leaning against the cargo bay wall, he rubbed the bridge of his nose. Trying to figure what could have possibly been concealed. The piece of the puzzle he had overlooked for so long.
Alex grew tired of the conversation, or lack there of, and started to leave. When she moved, the band around her necklace reflected the iridescent light. Drawing Squall's attention to the chain. Quickly he spun from his position grabbing her arm forcefully.
"Excuse me? What the hell do you think you are doing?"
"That," he pointed to the golden ring around her neck. "Tell me before you leave how you ended up with that ring."
"It was a present from Rinoa." It wasn't a lie, just not the complete truth.
"How did she get it? She sold mine for Gil in Trabia."
"Yes Squall, she did. Really, it's no big deal. When she first arrived in Trabia, she needed food and a place for them to stay. So she sold the ring and her mothers later I found her sketching this lion-type thing but soon as I walked in the room, she hid it. I later found the sketch, had a jeweler recreated it for Rinoa. I never realized the original was platinum, not gold so that's why the difference. When I left, she wanted to give me something to remember her by so she gave me the ring for luck. It was the only thing that Bennett had not given to her, the only thing she could truly call her own. That's it, end of story. She gave me the ring for luck."
Alex took Squalls gloved hand off her arm in disgust. "Now I just want to get back to main area; I need sleep." Her shoes clicking on the metallic grated floor were the only sounds echoing in the bay. Squall continued watching her, as she grew further away; replaying the conversation in his head then something hit him.
He yelled as he strode toward the figure leaving, who refused to acknowledge the man behind her.
"You said them damn it you said 'a place for them to stay.' Who in the hell was them? Who was with Rinoa?"
Alex froze mid-step. Shit. Squall approached her and spun her around face to face.
"Who the hell is them Alex?"
She opened her mouth to speak, if only something would come out. She had not lied up to this point, nor did she ever have that intent Okay omitting and stretching the truth yes. Lying no.
"I misspoke Squall. It was only Rinoa."
"If it was only her, you wouldn't have stopped you realized your mistake."
"I know your type. Years of training, I can tell when someone is lying. You're lying."
"Okay Commander Leonhart, if you're so wonderful tell me what I meant. I'm telling you Rinoa was alone." Self-consciously Alex reached for the ring around her neck, a habit picked up from watching Rinoa so many times prior.
Suddenly Rinoa's words from the cabin rang in his mind, "If something happens to me give the ring to Alex, she will know what to do with it."
At that instant, Squall reached his hand up to the silver band around his neck.
"If something happens to Rinoa what are you to do with this ring?" He gestured to the one between his leathered fingers.
"What?" she questioned, feeling more cornered by the moment.
"What are you going to do with this ring?" his voice raised. The anger in his eyes betrayed his calm exterior.
"I'm just to make sure that Allison gets it when she's older."
"Allison," he replied nodding his head gradually.
"What do you think of Allison for a girl or Aaron for a boy?" Rinoa's voice echoed in his head. As if someone was playing a tape of his life for him to hear.
"A few minutes ago, you said that I should have been with her during her mood swings " Squall looked back at Alex who was acting uncharacteristically nervous.
His mind recalled the words Quistis had spoken about the day of the attack, "Frankly, she had been such a complete bitch the last two weeks; I personally wondered what the problem really was. In fact, I was not alone. Both Selphie and Zell had noticed the dramatic change."
Squall closed his eyes, trying to envision the scene, and that day's eventual outcome. "Rinoa ran. Rinoa ran. Why?" Finally, he muttered under his breath, verbalizing his thoughts. "Ellone warned her of something "
"It was only for around thirty seconds Rinoa lay unconscious; she woke up startled, looking directly at Elle. Sis opened her eyes for the last time and glanced to Rinoa. He loves you and always will."
Something had shocked Rinoa. By Quistis accounts of that day something shocked and confused her she learned something. Something scared her.
"Her own safety was never the issue," he silently mouthed.
Reaching his pocket, he pulled out the photograph Rinoa had scribbled on earlier. Flipping it over, he studied it ARE517 A password?
For once in his life, he was no longer thinking inside. Instead, he was saying aloud, working the puzzle verbally. Maybe it was for his benefit, maybe it was for Alexandra's If he hit on something, her reactions could give him clues. "Rinoa always used her initials as her password, back at Garden. ARE Allison Elizabeth What is the R?"
In that moment, Alex looked down at in defeat. Her few second's hesitation lead him to this point. She would inevitably be responsible. Plus, she was just tired. Tired from the days on the run, and tired of the hiding. Tired of the life she was trying to escape the dreams, the nightmares and right now tired of keeping the truth.
"It's not a what Squall it's a who. Raine the R stands for Raine."
"Raine," he spoke softly looking back at the paper. "5-17 Five five May 17th no, Allison's Birthday was the seventeenth of July."
Alex closed her eyes as she inhaled deeply, before releasing trying to calm her nerves. Finally, she spoke the only words she could.
"Allison was born in May. She is sixteen months old, not fourteen. Elizabeth - Julia's middle name Allison Raine Elizabeth that's her full name."
"Our parent's names," he murmured covering his hand in revelation. With tears forming at the very corner of his eyes and a heart that couldn't stop beating he finally said the word aloud. The words he wished could have been true from the first moment.
"Our daughters name."
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic