Crimson Lies Chapter 31
Final Fantasy VIII and all the characters belong to Square.
I've tasted love beyond all fear
And you should know it's love that brought you here
And in one perfect night
When the stars burned like new
I knew what I must do
I'll give you a million things I'll never own
I'll give you a world to conquer when you're grown
You will be who you want to be
You can choose whatever heaven grants
As long as you can have your chance
I swear I'd give my life for you.
There is a certain fear that only a parent carries within their heart. It's a part of your persona no matter what. It's always there, this part of you which never feels whole. It's indescribable, something that one cannot vocalize. A feeling, an emotion. Maybe its roots trace back to the soul, the part that determines one's morality and benevolence. When you bear a child, part of one's soul is passed on, along with the part that is unique to only their being. It is on this that generations are passed grandmother, to mother, to daughter.
It's unwavering, and it's undeniable.
There is a part of history within all of us; it is what guarantees our future. But when that fear takes over, controlling every movement you make, it is paralyzing. One never knows whether to scream or cry or just awake from the throes of a nightmare. We wish it could be a dream when our children suffer. The greatest fear is having to bury your child. What Gods could be so cruel, so evil for that to be their plan? Yet it is done every day, in every country.
However, we move on or do we? Does it haunt us to the bitter end, making any remaining relationships a mere gamble? Do we really trust; have we lost all faith? Have the answers that we have searched - always so been simple have we always been that blind?
If we lose our will to live can we go on?
She could feel her feet meeting with the ground, but no longer controlling her actions. Her heart raced; they had to be wrong no one person could sacrifice an innocent child. But Allison was born with the sins of her parents, and for that, she could never be innocent in the eyes of others.
The Commander saw her at that moment when realization sank in, the ghost that was standing where Rinoa should be. The sight tore him to pieces, the guilt of this he would never overcome. If they were right about Lauren, then his own foolishness had brought them down this path. Ultimately, his shortcomings lead to his family's destruction. He had been guilty his entire life of not believing, of doubting, and most of all of failure.
They were running, all of them, but into what they did not know. The same group that defeated Ultimecia years ago, plus two more, were now united against a new enemy. An enemy that was mortal, of this world, but harboring the hatred of a thousand men. One who could get into their heads, more than a sorceress could. Mitchell knew their fears and weaknesses. He relied on more than magic or GF's to battle. He relied on hate, and hate without purpose is the greatest kind.
Not only had Squall failed as a SeeD, but as a Knight and now a father. To someone so innocent, someone that only brought joy into this world. With one act, she could be a memory a memory neither parent could survive with if they lost their child.
The halls grew in distance, with every footstep. There was not enough time; there never was enough for them. Not in this lifetime, not in the one they had lead so many years before. His mind raced back to this exact moment, two years ago, when he ran from his office that day etched in darkness, so too, may this day be.
As they reached the grand atrium, their worst fears came to pass. Squall saw the SeeDs lined up, parting a pathway leading to the front gateway. However, not one dared move break rank or file. President Mitchell stood with a few militias protectively on either side. Yet he was confident, his look arrogant. He smiled slightly to Squall, Rinoa, and the rest as they reached their destination. It was no more than a game to him.
The Commander took in the sight, and his army standing peacefully by. Damn them, they were trained to kill, yet they stood there as if they were offering the sorceress to him. Unsheathing his gunblade, his cerulean eyes glazed into that of metal. It was his minute to end this war, now and here; he would fight until the vicious end until his dying breath. If his troops would not fight, he would fight alone.
"Leonhart, relinquish your weapon," ordered a familiar voice. He turned to see Cid, held captive by a member of the Galbadian Army. His focus distorted between Mitchell and the Headmaster, he could easily slay the President and the nightmare would be over.
"Oh Hyne!" he heard Rinoa gasp, as her limp body fell to the floor. He looked at her with concern vaguely before returning his gaze back to Mitchell. One deep slash through his flesh and it could be over his mind kept telling him to end it. However, something unseen kept him from the confrontation. The other SeeD's they were just standing solemnly there, they could have easily overtaken the small garrison. But they hadn't, what would be causing them to not attack?
And then he saw her Lauren.
And he could have died.
Squall knew what caused Rinoa to collapse, the sight she had already witnessed with her own eyes. The younger female SeeD stood on the balcony, a perfect match in smugness to Mitchell below. Her demeanor and hair only reflected that of the old Rinoa more, now when he looked at her, the lies so obvious. She had been the one in the pictures; she had been the one not Rinoa. The likeness always there, but it only ran skin-deep. Lauren held a small child; Allison did not move nor struggle. She looked like an angel sleeping peacefully. No parent should ever have to see this sight, to wonder if his or her child is still breathing. The image was haunting.
"Don't worry Commander Leonhart you daughter isn't dead, just the affects of a mild sedative. Oh that's right Allison Bennett is your daughter, isn't she? Must be hard having her call someone else daddy, until I had him murdered. Ironic thing, I never wanted your bastard child. Just the Sorceress, Bennett didn't want to give her up either he wasn't stupid, just slow. If I had been screwing Rinoa, all the power would have already been mine. It's all in the timing, any great ruler knows that."
"What do you want!?" Squall yelled, although he knew the answer, everyone did.
"Your girlfriend," he stated vehemently. "And all the fucking power that comes with her."
"NEVER! You can go to Hell with Bennett." He raised his weapon into an offensive position, heart racing and head pounding.
"Lauren, show him I'm serious." The President made a hand gesture to the SeeD standing above.
"Yes, sweetheart, anything for you," her tone was overly seductive. She held the baby over the edge, dangling the child's limp body into mid air. She did it all with a without an ounce of remorse, nor any evidence of morality. Everyone knew she wouldn't hesitate to follow Mitchell's order. She turned grinning vindictively at Squall. "You're a real bastard to work for; I just thought you should know that."
He tossed his gunblade down to the ground, trying to show collaboration of intent. Raising his hands in the air, feeling the overwhelming sensation of defeat. He loathed that feeling. Right now, battle was not an option. If they attacked Lauren, the child would fall onto the concrete below. No matter from what angle came the assault, his only hope was to tap into her decency. "Lauren look, I'm unarmed. I'm not going to hurt you please just God Allison."
"That's better," Mitchell's smirk returned. He gestured to one of his soldiers, standing in the doorway of the library corridor.
Squall hastily bent down to Rinoa during the quick break. Her sobs were barely audible now. She was obviously in a weakened condition; he had growing concerns about her stability. If she did transform into an uncontrollable state, the consequences could be deadly. Tenderly he put a hand on her back, offering her silent support. She looked to him, and he could see a hurt deeper and more desperate than anything he'd ever witnessed.
"Don't Rinoa; you have to control it for Allison."
She didn't reply; her words were unnecessary. She knew exactly what he meant. Their eyes locked before Rinoa could no longer keep hers open. Part of her wanted to look at Lauren, part of her wanted never to see that vision again. Those images were now engraved in her mind, and never to be forgotten neither in years nor lifetimes passed.
They would remain, forever. Scarred.
He tried to help Rinoa to her feet, but she continued to tremble on her knees. Even his touch was not soothing her right now, he was afraid she was going to be too far-gone. The weakness in her body, and the fight between the sorceress within was costing the price of sanity. The last few years had taken their toll on her, and it was all coming to a pinnacle now.
"Now Leonhart," Squall's attention returned to the President, as he kneeled beside Rinoa. "I think we're going to play a little game. It's called which father is the greatest failure."
The soldiers emerged from the library with General Caraway, handcuffs behind his back. They placed him in front of Mitchell. He fell to his knees when one of the guards hit him with a baton on the kneecaps. The cracking noise pierced the room; the scream of his pain echoed throughout. Rinoa wiped the tears from her eyes, as the sound brought her crashing into reality.
"No, no," she whispered. "No " Rinoa gathered what strength she could, standing up. Squall turned helping the fatigued woman to her feet. "No we just we were going to start over. Squall Caraway and I " Squall silently grabbed her hand, as their fingers intertwined. He could feel her nails cutting deep into his flesh, but did not stop her. The slow droplets of blood trickled to the ground.
Mitchell looked at the Commander, "Too bad your old man isn't here. I think he would be the biggest failure; he had you for a son, didn't he? But I have to work with what pathetic material I have in front of me."
"Please," begged Caraway. "Let the child go please kill me just don't harm her." The General looked up to the baby sleeping, being dangled over the railing. His grandchild, he finally saw her. Rinoa was going to stop by before they left she looked like both of them. A mixture of both parents, and a part of Julia lived within her. "God, Rinoa she's beautiful your mother would be so proud."
"Shut up," screamed Mitchell. "This isn't a family reunion. Now Squall, it works like this, you give me the sorceress; I spare your child. Simple."
"I will never choose," he screamed. "You will pay."
"Oh big words from a man not holding a weapon. Now it's Caraway's turn to play " Mitchell walked forward, everyone in the room was silent, Rinoa held her breath. "Now General, if I asked you to choice between your daughter's life or granddaughters who would you choose?"
"Neither," he gasped in pain. "You can kill me first."
The president leaned down whispering loudly, "Deal." And pulled out a 357 Magnum from its holster. Without hesitation, without another word he put it to the side Caraway's head.
And fired. The gunshot echoed like thunder.
"Noooooo!!!" Rinoa screamed as she watched her father executed in front of her. It had to be a dream; she had to wake. The last two years, they couldn't have actually happened. Everything she ever wanted as a child was lost; she was lost. All because of her, all because she didn't turn herself in. Squall grabbed her tightly trying to restrain her, still in shock of what he had just witnessed. "He never got to hold his granddaughter Squall I promised him damn it I promised."
Mitchell placed the gun back into the holder, as blood was splatter was on his uniform. He didnt seem to notice or care. "Leonhart, we have an opening that just came up on the Council if you know anyone interested." Then the bastard laughed. Rinoa couldn't take it any longer and started to move forward. She felt herself being restrained by a second person.
"Squall, Seifer, let me go. I have to kill him." She was losing the battle within, and every part of her was being overtaken with power. Her power.
"Rinoa, stop what are you doing? Allison," the blonde man pleaded.
"I know it hurts like Hell Rinoa, control it We have Allison to worry about; there will be time to mourn later."
"But but " She hated the words, yet they rang true.
"I know." Squall answered calmly. "But you have to live to face tomorrow. You walk out there and both you and Allison are dead he will do it. Without hesitation."
Squall was in his own world, one forced upon by years of training. To look at life as something passing, something trivial. He had to remain cool, or he would lose it. And he had too much to lose.
The others stood in a combination of shock and guilt. Their hearts felt empty; and each took blame upon themselves. Lost in a battle they had not wanted to fight.
Mitchell stepped disgustfully over the body, where pools of crimson blood covered the floor. He regarded the corpse as something thrown out, a human life no more than rubbish. So many visions of two years ago flooded the SeeD's minds; but now they were of Ellone. This time, it was no accident. There would be no mercy. "Well Leonhart, have you thought about it? Which one are you going to save?"
"There is no choice," he answered solemnly. "You don't want Allison but you will kill her. Either way, I lose. They lose."
Rinoa regained her equanimity, turning to Seifer and whispering in his ear. He nodded, with what appeared to be tears in his eyes. She stopped crying, regained her composure, and now was more the sorceress than the shadow of a teenager. Squall felt a hand resting on his arm; he turned toward the pressure. This time when their eyes met, she had a slight smile on her face. She was going to accept the inevitable.
"Squall take care of Allison."
"Hell Rinoa, no you can't," he interposed his voice shaking. His emotions were evident now; there was no hiding them.
She put her hand on his face, remembering the feeling. "I have to, it's my destiny it always has been. I'd give my life for her."
Placing both arms around her, he pulled her into a deep embrace. For a moment, their hearts beat in unison, and they shared that moment. The feel of each other, the warmth. There was nobody else, no wars, no battles, and no death. Just two lovers holding each other until the end of time.
"Damn you!!!" Alex yelled at the man, breaking away from the others. "How can you do this? Allison needs her parents please if you have any decency." Mitchell looked at her, and made his first movements to the group. Positive that not one would dare to harm him, the child meant too much.
"Decency?" he questioned walking the space between them. "You know, I had a whore named Allison once."
"Shut up," demeaned Alexandra. "That was my mother's name."
"I know." He laughed spitefully in her face. "She was my whore .Did you know that you were supposed to be murdered?"
"What?" The look in her eyes said it all. "No My mother was in "
"A prison in Esthar yes I know. It wasn't really a prison now was it? I might have carried the title warden, but we all knew it was a research facility. And she was a pretty good 'research' subject, until she got herself pregnant."
In a flash, everything that Alexandra dreamed, the visions and feelings of her mother, the voices of the past trying to warn her, they all became clear. Portions of the dreams came upon her, like ocean waves to the shore. She could see her mother once again in the delivery room, someone called her name and she turned. The handgun pointed in her face the feeling of the bullet entering her skull. Alex lived with all of it, and now she saw face of the man behind the gun. Until this moment, nothing had been clear.
"It was you you killed her."
"Call it a hobby of mine." His answer smug and callous.
She started to lunge for him, as Zell and Seifer both stopped her. They knew she would be murdered too; this man had no morals. He had no use for her, blood relation or not. "Oh," he turned back, "Remember to buy me a tie on father's day."
The words sank in; it was true. This is what the dreams tried to tell her, yet she didn't understand. The voices of the dead spoke in riddles, and she wasn't able to clarify their warnings. When he learned that the baby did not posses the same powers as Ellone, Jeffery Mitchell ordered her put to death just as he had done for so many others. Countless babies, countless lives this man was beyond words. Her own biological father thought of her as nothing more than human waste, as he did everyone else in his game.
"Hey she's starting to wake up." A voice called through the near silence, making all turn to the balcony. "I'm not going to be able to hold her once she does. Plus this is getting really boring."
Rinoa looked up at Squall, smiling. "I have to go now. Tell her that I love her; tell her the truth about us." Stepping away, she reached her hands up to his face once more. He could no longer control the tears. She wiped each one away with her fingers, delicately. Trying to remain clam. He reached down meeting his lips to hers, this was something never done. A public display of affection neither student nor instructor had ever seen from the Commander.
Their kiss was full of emotions the past, the present, and the future all in one. All the lies, all the betrayals, and finally all the truths went into this one defining moment. For them there was nothing else but each other lost in the feeling, lost in what would be their final memories. His hand reached to her neck, pulling her still closer. Never wanting the second to end.
Breathing wasn't important, only drowning in her.
Rinoa felt a powerful arm pulling her away. Knight and Sorceress never finished their kiss; it was something that would forever haunt them. Mitchell grabbed her from Squall's grasp, pulling her arm forcefully behind her back. He produced a pair of handcuffs, which were noticeably different from the ones that adorned Caraway's wrists. "Odine brand, you work for that bastard long enough, you come to appreciate his work. Now move."
He yanked her away. The restraints were so tight on her wrist, she could feel the metal digging through her skin into the bone. The powers were repressing themselves and for that, she was thankful. One wrong move and her daughter would be gone. In one last moment of clarity she turned back to see Squall standing there.
His heart was breaking yet again. Her short hair clinging to her face, everything about her she looked like someone else. It had to be someone else this couldn't be happening. He finally found the courage to yell, "I love you." Not one person in that room could control their emotions, as all stood on weak legs.
In a strange turn of events, she yelled back, "I trust you." She managed a small smile, no longer crying. She had accepted her fate, now she only hoped he would accept his.
To any other person it wouldn't have meant as much, but he knew it was so much more profound. She had lost her faith in him before, now gained it back. The words cut deep into his heart. She trusted him again after everything. The witch-hunts, the marriage, and the lies and goddamn it she trusted him. Every mistake he had ever made, every one was forgiven with those simple words.
Squall Leonhart had earned his redemption.
Her head spun, the effects of the handcuffs taking over like a drug within her body. But she walked down the corridor, away from her Knight away from her daughter away from all of them. The SeeDs all blended together, dark uniforms blurred. They stood like columns along the passageway. She could make out the shock on their faces, the confusion. The sorceress willingly allowed herself to go with these men and she did it for only one reason, to save her daughter that wasn't supposed to happen.
The one person they were trained to defeat seemed no more an enemy as any of them. They wanted to kill her yesterday, made fun of her only hours before. Now they saw something different, not a sorceress with power. A mother with love who would sacrifice all she held dear, and her life, for that of her daughter.
Rinoa chanced to notice the three SeeD's from early this afternoon. As their faces, she would never forget. Earlier they had belittled her, treated her like a common whore. Now there was a certain understanding in their eyes. Her eyes locked with the middle one of the three girls, the same one who had stood in her path today.
"I bet you're pleased at last," Rinoa thought. "I bet all of Garden is thrilled."
But to her shock, the girl stared back at her and saluted. The other two, one on each side, slowly raised their hands into an official SeeD salute. The three girls stood in front of hundreds giving her what silent support they could. One by one, every SeeD followed slowly raising their hands.
The act so simple yet so meaningful. Hundreds of cadets, instructors, and SeeD's all honoring the one person they were trained to destroy.
Rinoa stopped walking a second just to take in the scene. Though her vision blurred she understood the significance. She was hit immediately in the head with the barrel of gun. The force made her crash to the ground, as she could not use her hands to break the fall.
"Stop it!!!" The yell of the Commander was crystal clear. He tried to run forward, but was grabbed by Irvine and Seifer.
"You have to let her go, there is still time." Seifer's words gave what little hope they offered. "You make one move and they execute Rinoa before you reach her."
"She wants it this way right now, for Allison," encouraged Irvine.
"Let go of me." Squall knocked both men with his arms, freeing himself of the hold. He watched as she was dragged to her feet. Crimson blood ran down her from her lip, going on to her clothing. He couldn't look any more, as he turned his attention back toward the upper balcony and Allison.
He was shocked to see that Lauren had disappeared during this time from her position, and nobody noticed. All too stunned with the scene before them. Immediately he turned running back to the stairway. When he reached the top, Allison was standing alone crying. Lauren was nowhere to be seen. He ran to her quickly, picking his daughter up. He felt a wave of relief he would have never known possible. He hugged her tightly, as her little arms wrapped around his neck for support. He leaned over giving her a solitary kiss to the forehead.
"Don't ever make me feel like that again." The words soft, but true.
Squall looked at the girl with sorrow. How a child was just told today that she no longer had a father, now losing the only mother she ever knew. Somehow maybe he could catch her, before Mitchell took her back to Galbadia. He ran back down the steps, only to see the last traces of Rinoa and the others disappear into a helicopter outside. The Commander stopped when he reached the rest of the group.
The helicopter blades roared as the machine took off into distant skies.
"She's safe Rinoa, you did it, you saved Allison," the Commander whispered as tears fell from his eyes.
The only words heard in the silence was the loud cry of the child also watching
"Ma'ma Ma'ma !!!"
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