Crimson Lies Chapter 26
That's the way things come clear.
All of a sudden. And then you realize
how obvious they've been all along
- Madeleine L'Engle
She wiped her tears, standing in the soft moonlight. Silently she offered her hand. Squall reached out to meet the gesture, both shivering. Trembling in a nervousness neither could explain; maybe it was the moment, maybe it was the emotion, or maybe it was for the first time they could look at each other with honesty. No more secrets between them; no more lies to separate their souls.
Her dark hair tangled and in knots. The years were showing their toll on her features, yet she remained the most beautiful angel in his sight. As slim fingers grabbed his hand, she walked him into the dark recesses of the room. He said nothing, letting her lead. She opened a door that had been ajar, allowing his vision to focus on the sleeping child inside.
Allison lay in a portable crib that Garden had for such occasions. Guests and visitors would often travel with children, thus certain provisions were made. Never in his wildest dreams when he had made the purchase request years ago had he ever thought his daughter would be using it. Her little hands securely wrapped around the blankets edge. Small fingers were slowly moving back and forth letting the satin material sooth her to sleep. Breathing rhythmically, her deep even gasps illustrated the sound sleep she had fallen into. Rinoa carefully reached down, wrapping the blanket around the resting infant.
"Squall Leonhart let me officially introduce you to your daughter Allison Elizabeth Raine."
The commander stood soundless, unsure how of how to express emotion. For so long everything had been buried deep inside and now in such a minuscule period, life had been reborn. Instinctively he reached his arms out as Rinoa placed the sleeping child in his grasp. Ally fidgeted for a moment, opening up one eye she looked at the man holding her, and then quietly returned to slumber.
"Hello," his voice cracked breaking the dark.
Minutes passed as neither wanted to speak, only wanted to enjoy the moments together. A family. For the first time in their lives they were a family.
"Squall, do you ever think back to the old days?"
"Everyday," he whispered never taking his eyes off his daughter.
"Alex said something awhile back that bothered me. At first I thought she was completely wrong, but after thinking about what she truly meant well "
"Well what?" He had not meant to sound harsh, yet he couldn't help the tone in his voice.
"The last two years have been a nightmare for both of us. I can't tell you how many times I wanted to give up, but Allison kept me going. Our daughter " Rinoa reached her hand down to touch the little girl's cheek. At the contact, she snuggled closer to Squall's masculine chest. She wasn't sure how to relate the words she was feeling, but was going to try. Closing her eyes, she inhaled deeply before she asked the next question. A question she herself could barely understand. "Squall, do you ever think that what happened was for the best?"
He instantly froze. His arms tightened slightly around his daughter, she moved at the sudden change of pressure. When Allison settled down again, Squall continued in silence for a moment, trying to keep the anger at bay. For the first time he looked up at the woman next to him. Her eyes pleading for understanding.
Trying to keep his voice from waking Ally, he could not help the anger. "How in the hell can you even say that, Rinoa?"
She chucked slightly, "Yeah that was my first reaction also: too angry to reason." Rinoa continued to laugh inaudibly, not that the situation remotely humorous, but for the fact that she had already gone through every conceivable emotion. Humor seemed to be the only thing left.
Narrowing his eyes at her reaction, he demanded, "What is there to reason?"
She smiled softly at him, her features enhanced by the natural moonlight. There was a peaceful, tranquil aura around her, which even calmed his mood. "Okay Squall think back to two years ago. Not how you are feeling right now, but to the person you were back then. The people we were back then."
"Yeah so your point is?"
"Don't answer me as Squall Leonhart 22-year-old, but as the person just out of their teens. Remember that Squall Leonhart okay say I walked in to your office and told you I was pregnant how would you have reacted?" She raised her eyebrow at him smiling; he couldn't keep his gaze on her. Somehow, she knew he wouldn't have to think hard to remember that person; he had never truly lost him.
Glancing back down at Allison, Squall answered the best he could. "I would have been well shocked."
"Truthfully Squall." Placing a hand on his bare arm, her warm touch reassured him that she was really there. He was going to do his best to understand, even if he didn't like the answer.
"Rinoa I would have been angry. You hinted more times then I care to remember about getting married I guess looking back to myself then, the thought you had done it intentionally would have entered my mind. But I know both of us believed you couldn't conceive. The situation would have been well overwhelming."
"So, Squall what would you have done? Not as Commander, but as my boyfriend."
His mind answered the question before the words came out of his mouth. There was only one thing he would have done. "I would have married you so well it would have been easier in that case if we did marry."
"Right Squall. You would have married me; I have no doubt. But, did you want to get married? Squall don't answer me as you are now truly think back."
There was only one answer. "No, Rinoa I wasn't ready then not even for you to be my wife."
"You still would have done the honorable thing by marrying me. Honestly, I would have been thrilled to be Mrs. Leonhart any way possible. My attitude would be that you would grow to the marriage, but ."
"I would have grown to resent it after time." He answered honestly the same situation he found himself in as a reality today. The resentment toward Quistis
She was right. Had Rinoa been his wife now and not Quistis would the situation have truly changed for the better? Both marriages would have felt forced, a commitment he wasn't ready to make. No matter the spouse, it was he himself whom was not ready for the act. His heart was too young; his mind was too lost. It took time to understand what was important; it took time to admit that to himself. But the pain, the agony the betrayal, how could it have been worth the price?
Finally he spoke, "That doesn't negate everything horrible that happened."
"Squall would you want me to be your wife right now? Answer as the person standing in front of me today."
He looked into her soul. "Yes. I love you with all my heart."
"Squall, I love you too, more than you could possible comprehend. That is why I don't want to be your wife."
"Squall, if given the chance right now I wouldn't want to be Mrs. Leonhart. Because I have learned something it doesn't matter what the hell my name is whether it is Renee Bennett, Rinoa Heartilly, or Rinoa Leonhart. My love for you is beyond marriage, beyond physical bonds. Squall I just want to be the person you love, with all your heart. And I am. We are not bonded by martial contract our souls, our hearts, and our spirits have bonded beyond eternity."
"We will never resent each other. We have learned of loss and betrayal we have grown stronger because of it. It took the evil to strengthen the good," he whispered aloud looking her in the eyes.
She smiled back, knowing for the first time he understood. "The pain you suffered when you lost Ellone two years ago is not in vein. Everything had to happen this way maybe just maybe Ellone knew this too. Maybe she told me to leave save our unborn child not from the soldiers, from a physical death but from the relationship we would have been forced into The one you didn't want, the resentment that she would have been born into. Now our daughter will know how much her parents meant to each other the story that we shared. You can always tell her. And it will be the truth, not the lies she would have heard from others."
Only a few students remained roaming the halls. Recent events caused loitering to be a thing of the past. Now they were actually preparing for an all out conflict and that carried over into leisure time. Off time was concentrated on extra training and spending time with loved ones. The halls almost seemed like the streets of a ghost town, with the exception of the stray tumbleweed or coyote. But every story has its heroes and villains, not all is what it first appears.
She played with strands of flaxen hair; Quistis found herself doing this often lately. As she walked the halls, the clicking of her boot heels reminded her of the westerns that she had been forced to watch with Irvine. Sometimes she would picture herself within one of those films, but the hero was always someone else someone that was never hers. The villains would change, as they had throughout her life. But the one thing she never figured to change was the hero. No longer was the commander the person she pictured on the noble steed, but in a twist of irony it was one she often pictured as the villain Seifer Almasy.
Maybe he didn't fit the profile of the typical hero, maybe there was something rough around the edges, but maybe that is what drew her to him imperfection. Something unknown, unseen, but something that she could no longer deny was there. The emotions she felt had been foreign for so long. She caught her reflection in a darkened glass window. Quistis stopped to check her hair not that she was vain in any sense, but for the first time in years, she actually cared what she looked like.
For an instant, she stopped and stared at the reflection in the mirror, unsure of who was staring back at her. The figure seemed older then she remembered, in her mind she was still eighteen and the world still new. Maybe the thoughts of back then were what kept her going, maybe they helped mask the pain she truly felt. Her eyes locked with the reflection, she felt a paralyzing fear. Where had her life gone? Why was she in her early twenty's and feeling this lost? Had she ever truly been found?
"You know staring at the reflection won't make it change."
"Are you sure Seifer?"
"Yes, I am. Trust me I spent many hours looking at myself, trying to figure out where I went wrong. Thinking that maybe somehow I could turn back time and make it all right again... Then I realized something that if I did that I was no better than Ultimecia."
Both stood staring at their likeness in the window. Together, two people who knew nothing of the world but had forever changed its destiny.
"Do you think Ultimecia felt this way?"
"Yes, I do," he softly replied. "Maybe I did learn something out of my experience with her; it was the pain she felt. The desire to change the past, the chance to live a life that she could never have. But I also learned something that she never did to accept the past, live in the present, and think of the future."
"Seifer, in a million years I never thought I would be hearing something like that from you."
"Believe it, we are going to get through this and then there is only the future."
"What about you? Did you find out anything about the treason charges?"
"Well, I know that I will have to serve some time, the amount is still what is in question. In all honesty, I don't care. I can't worry about that right now we have to worry about Mitchell and Galbadia. I can worry about me later; right now I have other people to worry about."
"For one," he said placing his arm around her waist. "I have other people to worry about also. Now how about that dinner you promised me?"
"Dinner?" she asked watching his mirror image. "I think you were going to buy me dinner." His eyes moved off the reflection and on to her.
"Fine," he replied tenderly. "But I'm still not sure about this you don't know what I have gone through today."
She turned to him. "What?"
"Oh nothing particular just the whispers and the comments. It's funny that I was the one who would have been doing that years ago, hell I would have been the instigator but now "
"You're on the other end."
"Exactly. Somehow I actually felt sorry today for the way I treated Squall and Zell when I was here."
"See, I knew there was hope for you "
Seifer interrupted her, "But mostly I feel sorry for the way I treated you. I never made it easy I was the one whispering and starting rumors about you. What I know now is that I was always jealous of Squall because he seemed to have everything the talent, the respect you."
"I think half of the reason I started the rumors about you guys was that I was jealous there I said it nobody ever saw me for who I was so I made up a persona of who I thought everyone wanted. Turns out nobody did."
Quistis looked at the hallway leading to the cafeteria, then back to Seifer. "I um... was given a room down in the student section. It's a single room; what do you say we get something from the cafeteria and head back there? Then we will be with only people who see us for who we truly are. Us."
"Instructor that sounds like the best idea you have ever had."
The warm water danced around her shoulders. Every drop seemed a welcome relief; the simple pleasures, like a hot shower, were all but forgotten in her life. As the steam engulfed her body, she could finally relax. Squall knew the truth, he knew of his daughter. More than that, he accepted her he would be the father she wasn't sure about months ago.
After their talk, he laid down on the bed, as not to disturb the child. Rinoa slowly dismissed herself to take a shower. The time away almost killed her, but she knew that he needed these moments with Allison. The fact she was asleep was also comforting, his first moments with her would be peaceful ones. He would learn to become more comfortable with the situation.
As she turned the shower knobs, a cold chill ran down her spine. It was a sensation she couldn't comprehend. A fear started taking over and she found herself unable to breathe. Slowly she slid down the shower wall, into a corner. As the last water circled through the drain, she couldn't stop the cold feelings. She didn't cry or call for Squall, but the shivering continued to a point that scared her she no longer felt in control.
Images entered her mind, ones she couldn't comprehend memories that were not hers. Flashes, dreams, visions swirling around. For a moment, she found herself back in Dollet standing on a cliff watching the waters below. She couldn't control the movements of her own body; something else was guiding her. With a solemn leap, she dove into the rock-strewn waters below, waiting for the impact that never came. When Rinoa opened her eyes again, she was standing in Winhill watching a man with a gun to his head. She closed her eyes as the blood splattered all around. Feeling the pain of the host body, she felt the love the person carried for the man
Again the emotion became too much to bear and she found herself trying to hide within the recesses of her mind. Try as she did, she could not run the fear and the images caught up with her. Swirling memories clouded her mind, a childhood that was not hers mixed with memories that were her own. In a darkened room she stood, no windows, no doors. A far off reflection is all that she could see. As her legs struggled through the darkness she found herself guiding toward the mirror. Suddenly she was standing looking at her own reflection. A bright flash appeared and when she could focus her eyes she was no longer staring at her reflection. Ellone stood in the mirror looking back.
"You must be strong, it will be your only defense. He loves you and always will."
She reached out her hand to touch the reflection, struggling at the movements.
"Ellone?" she rasped.
"Rinoa, beware of the dragon."
"Dragon? What dragon? Please tell me what you are talking about, I don't understand!"
"You will in time, just don't let it be too late."
"The memories I just had they were of your childhood? Those where your parents?"
"They were memories of all of us all that came before you. We are bonded by our gifts and cursed by them. You must learn in order to live, you must live in order to learn "
"What, what are you talking about Ellone? What is going to happen?"
"In two days I will move on, what becomes of my soul is up to fate. What becomes of you is up to destiny."
"Don't leave me! Don't leave me!" Rinoa screamed as the image slowly returned to her own reflection. In anger, she raised her fist to the mirror; as the contact was made shards of glass rained down into the room. She continued to scream at the mirror, which was no more than a frame. The room was completely dark; except for the pain in her hand, she felt nothing.
In the dark, she could feel someone grabbing her body. She tried to fight off the attacker, but found she no longer had the strength. Finally she gave in and closed her eyes, before hearing the voice that snapped her out of the trance.
When he had heard the screaming coming from the shower, he quickly lay Allison back into the crib. Before he could make it to the bathroom, Squall could here the sound of glass shattering. He ran hastily; when he arrived, Rinoa sat in the corner of the shower. Her naked body was covered with pieces of the glass shower doors. Her eyes were open yet she wasn't looking at him, more like through him.
Quickly he jumped in and wrapped her in a towel checking for any serious injuries. Thankfully most of the scratches were just superficial, except for several deep cuts on her hand.
"Rinoa look at me," he demanded. "Look at me now!"
Finally, her eyes returned to normal, the glass orbs now replaced with her natural color. She looked confused for a moment, before grabbing him and holding on.
"Ellone Squall, I talked to Ellone."
"What?" he looked not in disbelief, but just the opposite. Nothing in his life surprised him anymore; this was something else he would learn to accept. "Ellone, you talked to Ellone?"
Both were visibly shaken by the events. She held on tightly not wanted to let go. He pushed the wet strands of hair away from her face. Together they stood in the bathroom, neither wanting to let go. He wouldn't push her; she would talk when she was ready. For now, they just found the comfort with each other that had escaped them for so long.
It was something Seifer never thought he would see again, the inside of a SeeD dorm. He walked into the room and recollections came back. The resentment that he had over the years had now turned into a deep form of respect. He watched as the ex-instructor walked silently over to the small storage closet. Quistis emerged with a woolen gray blanket. He watched mesmerized as she spread the blanket onto the floor of the dorm; thereby making a picnic area.
Each movement she made seem to fascinate him more, every breath, every sound. Smoothing the corners of the blanket out, she glanced up at him. Noticing that he was staring directly at her, she found herself becoming nervous. She hadn't felt this way in so long, like the shy schoolgirl being caught staring at the head football player. Their eyes locked and Quistis found herself biting her lower lip, not knowing exactly what to say.
Finally, Seifer broke the stillness. "Do you need any help with that?"
"Um no thanks. I got it," she replied timidly. "Sorry I don't have a table or anything in here. I'm just happy that I have a place to stay right now."
"Quistis, you will always have a place to stay, you just have to know where to look."
"Uh thanks now where is that food we got?"
Seifer held two small brown paper bags in his hand. He lifted them up, in a slight gesture. Walking over Quistis took the sacks from his hands and proceeded to sit down on the blanket.
"Are you waiting for an engraved invitation?"
He eyed her back, raising one eyebrow. "Maybe."
"Well if you want food get down here. That is about as formal as I get at two in the morning."
"It's that late already? Gee the day flies by when you are running from Galbadian soldiers."
"Well, we don't want to forget your time in the infirmary with the doctor."
Seifer got a very serious look on his face, "Oh trust me Quistis, we do."
"That bad hmmm?" She opened her sandwich wrapper tossing to the side.
"Worse," he stated simply. She chuckled slightly. "Hey, it's not funny!" He defended his honor It was a physical after all nothing funny about that.
"I'm not laughing at you really."
"Oh right, you are laughing with me Yeah, I get it." Seifer looked down at his container of cottage cheese, wondering what on earth possessed him to pick it up in the first place. Hell, he hated the stuff but it was between that or strained spinach He went with the lesser of two evils. The cafeteria selection was at a bare minimum that time of night. Slowly he poked his fork around the cottage cheese, pushing it from one side to another.
Looking up Seifer noticed Quistis trying to contain her laughter. Her face was turning a light shade of crimson as she was maintaining her proper demeanor. He put some on his fork with every intention of eating it; but when she broke out into a full-blown laughter, he couldn't help his next action. Without warning, he took the fork and tossed the cottage cheese in her direction. Perfectly it landed on her cheek, as curds rolled down her neck.
He sat in shock at his actions for a moment, as the woman stared at him dumbfounded.
"That wasn't funny," she spoke calmly. Grabbing the cottage cheese from his hand, she took the bucket and poured the contents over his head. White chunks slowly slid down his face and hair. "Now, that is funny," she replied innocently. Without saying a word, he grabbed a napkin and wiped the food out of his eyes. Then in the next motion, he grabbed the small container of chocolate pudding next to him
"Oh no you don't!" Quistis stood up quickly anticipating her former student's next action.
"Do what dear instructor?" He pulled the tab back and smirked at the blonde woman, taking an intimidating step toward her. "I wouldn't do anything to you that you wouldn't do to me."
"Seifer I'm warning you I do not look good with chocolate pudding in my hair."
"I'll be the judge of that," he mischievously said. Seifer took the final step, and then abruptly poured the contents over Quistis' head. She said nothing as pudding clumps fell to the ground. He looked at her with the largest grin she had ever seen. "You are wrong you look great with pudding in your hair."
Both could no longer contain themselves as they began laughing hysterically. Neither had ever remembered a time in their lives when they felt so free, so full of energy. For a moment, they were just them, two kids that had never had the chance at childhood. Two people forced to grow up, and then forced into a life that neither wanted.
When the laughter subsided, Seifer wiped some of the chocolate off her face. As his skin touched hers, both felt a shock of electricity run through them. Suddenly the mood had gone from one of playfulness to one of a very serious nature. He moved his arm around her back and gently pulled her towards him. She did not fight; she moved willingly. At first, their lips touched delicately, but soon it grew into a deeper passion.
He found himself exploring her body more with his hands; in return, she was doing the same. Somehow, they were experiencing life and love for the first time. Although neither was new to this, each could not compare the emotions and sensations to anything else or anyone else. It was as if two people who were always meant to be together fought overwhelming odds to reach this point. One moment in their lives where they were free to be themselves not to be who others wanted.
Slowly he unbuttoned her shirt, never rushing the moment. She allowed him to do this, while their lips never separated for more than a second. When her top finally fell to the floor, he pulled away. Suddenly she felt embarrassed at the way she looked. The chocolate had made its way down her neck and she became self-conscience of her body. He wasn't sure what made him stop; there was just an overwhelming desire to look at her to see her for who she truly was.
Whether it was her half-naked form or the emotion in his heart he wanted her. Not just physically, but in a way he had never wanted another living soul. He wanted all of her her body, her love, her heart. There was something special about Quistis Trepe, something that he had not seen something he had been blinded to by his ego. Now for the first time he saw and knew he loved her.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic