I am not quite sure whether I am dreaming or remembering,
whether I have lived my life or dreamed it.
Just as dreams do,
memory makes me profoundly aware of the unreality,
the evanescence of the world,
a fleeting image in the moving water.
She watched helplessly as the chocobo used the blunt part of his beak to thump the young man on the head. There was a sickening crack that reverberated through her ears as the bird made contact with his target. Squall jerked back from the force of the blow. His eyes rolled back in his head before he fell forward, hitting the ground with a thud. It all seemed to happen in slow motion.
Rinoa fell onto her knees when she was within a few feet and scrambled over to his still form. Oh god Lucky you killed him!
Lucky chirped, happily pleased with himself. After years of chasing, he finally managed to nail one of those trespassers. The old woman would be showering him with greens tonight.
The sorceress rolled his limp body over, hoping and praying to find some sign of life. He made no response to the movement, his head lolling to one side. She pressed her hand against the side of his neck and sighed with relief as she felt a slow and threaded pulse against her fingertips. She looked down to see a steady rise and fall of his chest.
Squall can you hear me?
Gently she lifted his head, cradling it in her lap. Behind the worry of her mind there was a feeling of exhilaration. It had been so long since she had seen him, really seen him. Before she could stop herself, she caressed his face with the back of her hand. All of the sudden, it was like an overwhelming feeling of déjà vu.
Images flashed in her mind without warning. Dark sand churned all around her, burning her eyes. Threatening black clouds swirled above them like circling vultures. A flash of lightning suddenly shot down from the heavens, blinding her. Rinoa fell backwards as if she had been struck. She gasped sharply and opened her eyes. The flower petals swirled around her before flying away into the cerulean sky. What the hell was that?
Esperanza walked over and nuzzled her, apprehension clearly visible in her eyes. Lucky tilted his head curiously at the girl and warbled softly. Rinoa shook the daze from her clouded mind. She looked back over at Squall, suddenly realizing she had let his head come into contact with a blunt force yet again.
Oh Hyne, Im so sorry, she said as she returned to his motionless form on hands and knees.
She took his hand in her own. His skin was cool and clammy to the touch. He needed help. She didnt think she would be able to lift him onto the chocobo and she doubted seriously her ability to carry him back to town on her own. Maybe Maude would know what to do.
Rinoa stood and motioned to Esperanza with her hand. Stay, she mouthed before walking over to Lucky. And you, she said, putting her arm around the back of his neck and pulling him forward. You are coming with me.
The dog watched the woman and the giant bird retreat through the field. She sighed and walked over to her new assignment. She gave his hand a tender nudge in the hope that he might wake up and follow her master. When he made no response her instincts told her that he probably needed to be kept warm. With carefulness she positioned herself across his chest and waited with the steadfast patience of a dog for Rinoas return.
Nervously she tapped her fingernails against the desk. This wasnt supposed to happen. That simple. Now the anxiety was gradually building with each empty ring, and if she could have traveled at the speed of light, the headmaster would have done just that.
Please, Rinoa answer the phone.
Her pleas went unanswered as a machine picked up. Great, now how exactly was she supposed to word this? Maybe this was one of the finer details she should have thought out before picking up the phone to call.
Damn. She hadnt meant to curse aloud, it just slipped out between breaths. Quistis slammed the receiver down, placing a hand on her forehead. Sleep deprivation was finally getting to her. Since leaving Winhill, she had done nothing but worry about the ramifications of the bank withdrawal. Hours of trying to convince herself that everything was fine, turned out to be in vain.
This could not be happening; she should have foreseen this right? This was just a nightmare and she would wake up tomorrow with everything back to normal. She just had to. Yet what would she wake up to? What was normal? Another excuse, another lie, and another path she had to block before others started down it.
How long could she keep this up? Rinoa was one of her best friends, and they had only grown closer over the last eight months. The girl represented everything that the others had lost and everything they had fought for But somehow it still seemed worthless.
Quistis had seen Squall, seen him transform in front of her eyes. First when Rinoa chanced upon him, next when her fate was entombed within the frost. She tried to convince herself that Squall was happy with Elise, he had to be right? Then why was there a part of her heart wishing that he and Rinoa would find each other again? She rested her head on the desk, seeking the courage to call Rinoa again and warn her
Hey. A silhouette figure knocked on the doorframe. You all right?
Fine Xu, she answered not even lifting her head.
The Balamb Commander continued in to the room, walking up to the headmasters desk. I think you should get some sleep, you dont look too well.
Quistis stifled a laugh, Im fine, just tired. Somehow she couldnt do this alone anymore and Laguna wasnt always available. She had finally reached the point where she needed support, someone to confide the secrets with. Xu, if I tell you something can you keep it between us?
How long have you known me? I cant believe you even asked that. I kept that Card King thing a secret now didnt I?
Well, this is far more important and so many lives could be affected.
Youre finally going to tell me about your new boyfriend?
No, its not a guy.
Quistis lifted her head off the table giving her one of those dont mess with me looks. Oh Xu, stop that Im serious.
Im sorry go ahead, you know you can tell me anything.
Rinoas awake. Quistis couldnt believe it herself; she had just blurted it out as if it was information for the whole word to share.
W-What? How long?
Going on eight months now, she confessed softly.
Wow well that explains a lot. Xu was still dumbstruck by the comment, letting the meaning fully sink in. What about Squall? Does he know?
No, it was Rinoas decision to let him go on living his life. Its just I dont know if I can do this much longer. And I might have done something I dont think Im going to have to hide the secret from him much longer.
What are you talking about?
I just got off the phone with Elise Squall found out that money has been coming out of Rinoas trust fund As we speak hes either on his way to Winhill, or already there.
I take it that is where Rinoa is?
Yeah shes staying at Lagunas old place. The headmaster sighed hating to admit this fact, but part of her couldnt deny the possibility any longer. I think somehow I wanted Squall to find out I wasnt as careful as I should have been. Maybe some part of me is holding on to the hope that never mind.
Quistis, please dont worry about it. If its going to happen, its going to happen. I know that sounds very cliché, but after all that you have been through you should know that better than anyone.
I know. I know. I just dont like the idea of it being my mistake that led Squall to Winhill. Maybe if it was fate uniting them...but not Balamb Banking and Trust.
Who says that fate doesnt work through the bank?
Quistis raised an eyebrow to her friend. You know, Im tired enough to almost believe that.
Esperanza had nearly fallen asleep when she heard felt a vibration that intensified from the ground beneath her. She turned and looked to the top of the knoll. Barking happily she ran to greet her returning companion.
Lucky squawked irritably at the shrill bark. He was angry enough that he had to pull the stupid cart again.
There, there, Lucky, Maude cooed. When we get home youll have the biggest gyshal buffet this side of the chocobo forest.
How can you reward him for almost killing someone? Rinoa said, exasperated. Scaring off trespassers is one thing but
Trust me honey, Lucky knows what hes doing. If he wanted to kill him he would have used the tip of his beak. There is enough force there to crush through a human skull and go directly into the brain. Hell, if a chocobo is really going for a kill they dont bother with their beaks. One swift kick from their feet can disembowel a man before he even has time to
Maude please! Rinoa paled as she tried to fight the nausea rising to the back of her throat.
The old woman threw her hands up in surrender. Im just saying
I know, I know. I get it okay?
They approached the body lying on the ground. The younger woman swallowed nervously. She didnt know what to do. Despite what Maude said, she was still afraid that Lucky had severely injured him. And what if Maude recognized him? What if she put two and two together and realized who she really was? Her secret would be out and her short time here would be over Plus there was always the other fear that lingered of what would happen when he did wake up.
She watched nervously as Maude looked him over.
Hmm you know Renee, he looks familiar
Rinoas heart was beating so loudly at that point she was sure that even Esperanza could hear it.
You you think so? She hoped against hope that in the isolation of Winhill, Maude would have forgotten a face that was plastered everywhere .basically she was asking for a miracle.
Oh I know!
She shut her eyes tightly. Oh God here it comes.
He came into the shop this morning asking for directions. She smiled triumphantly as if remembering were a big accomplishment.
The sorceress felt she would pass out any second. Re Really? she choked.
Maude looked up at her. Are you alright dear? Youre as pale as a new born mog.
Yeah, Im fine. She managed, trying to sound calm.
He told me his name it was something really different The woman paused in concentration.
A sudden groan caught both of their attentions. Rinoa looked down to see Esperanza licking the young mans face. He was starting to come around his name fell from her lips before she had a chance to stop it.
Maude snapped her fingers. Thats it! Squall! She paused for a moment with an expression of surprise. So you know him then?
Shit way to go Rinoa.
I knew him. I knew him when we were younger. Rinoa hoped it would stop there. It wasnt as if that was a lie. She changed the subject quickly. We need to get him out of here.
Yes, youre right. No sense in him waking up on the hard ground with a worse headache than he is already going to have.
Without any further discussion, the two of them carefully hoisted the young man onto the cart. Maude led the chocobo back up the hill with Rinoa trailing behind the cart, her mind racing and her eyes unable to focus on anything except the carts occupant.
When they reached the flower shop Maude stopped to catch her breath. Wow I cant pull that hill like I used to. She turned back to Rinoa. So where are we taking him?
Her house was definitely out of the question. Ill go see if theres a room available at the inn.
No, Ill go, Maude interjected. If he wakes up a familiar face might keep him still you know so he wont hurt himself any further. Without another word she began walking towards town.
The younger woman began to panic. But Maude
She waved her hand dismissingly without turning around. Ill be back in just a minute.
Rinoa glanced back at Squall who remained motionless in the cart. In this situation the familiar face would certainly do more harm than good. She hoped he would remain unconscious until they could get him somewhere. Maybe he wouldnt remember maybe he would think it was just a dream. She didnt want him to be hurt but at the same time, she wasnt sure how either of them could deal with this.
Minutes passed like small eternities as she kept watch over him. She had all but given up on the older woman when she finally saw her turn the corner of the building. A wave of relief washed over her.
Well, did they have a room? It was more of a statement than anything Winhill wasnt exactly on the list of tourist hotspots.
Maude shook her head as she sat down on the ground to rest. Nope.
That wave of relief from before immediately ebbed itself back into the sea of tranquility.
Its all booked.
Rinoa closed her eyes and rubbed her head wearily. Maude, that cannot be possible!
Sorry dear, theres a quilters convention in town. That place is full of little old ladies carrying threads and needles.
Damn it! Rinoa muttered as she began pacing back and forth. This just couldnt be happening. She wished Quistis was still there. Okay, you have an extra bedroom right?
Oh no, he cant stay at my house.
Its being fumigated. Theres an aphid infestation. Nasty little buggers. Theyre real bad for the flower business you know.
She didnt, but opening that conversation for further discussion was the last thing she wanted to do. Well are you staying there?
Nope. A wide grin spread across her face. Im staying over at Mr. Finnegans house. Were going to play poker.
Rinoa obviously didnt want to know anymore. It was evident by the smile on Maudes face. However, if she was out of the house maybe they could just shut him up in a room. After all he fought a lot of Malboros, how much worse could insecticide be?
Her brain was opting for insanity at that moment rather than facing the inevitable.
There has to be somewhere we can leave him you know plenty of people in town. Surely someone can take him in.
Maude raised an eyebrow at her frantic behavior. Whats wrong with your place? As long as there is a familiar face and a pillow under his head I seriously doubt he will be concerned with any household clutter you have in there.
No its not that Maude he just cant stay with me its complicated okay?
You know if it were any other day, I would be jumping at the chance to have a handsome, young, unconscious man in my bedroom. She gave her a sly wink.
Well that was definitely an image she didnt need right now. Hyne, the woman wasnt making this easy. She ran her fingers through her hair haphazardly in frustration. Surely there is some one here that could take him in just until he wakes up. Cmon you know everyone here, you can pull strings right?
Thats true, I do know everyone here. I also know of their fearful distrust of strangers who just drift into town. Which Im sure your uncle Laguna has told you stories.
The older woman put a hand to her chin as if in deep concentration. You know, so far I have deduced two things in this situation. One, your obvious concern over this man tells me that whoever he is, he isnt a mass murderer out to kill you. And two, as dodgy as you have suddenly become in the last 15 minutes it is doubtful you are going to tell me why this is such a big deal.
Rinoa swallowed hard.
Smiling slightly Maude watched the girls reaction. Now, I will make a bargain with you. You tell me what the hell is going on here or you have a new complicated roommate.
Rinoa closed her eyes for a moment, fighting back tears that threatened to fall. I cant Im sorry I just cant. This was the end of the road she was on, the safe path that led her up to this point. Now it was time to stop running. She was going to have to face this one way or another, no matter how much it was going to hurt.
She sighed heavily. Alright Maude you win you win.
The curtains of the townhouse were drawn, allowing what little natural light there was to cascade into the parlor. The streets of Deling City seemed to be an unnatural shade of brown, as dust-devils formed from debris. The storm clouds seemed foreboding, although not one hint of rain had fallen onto the ground. Every once in a while, the thunder would resonate, yet the soil remained as dry as Cactuar Island.
Her waist length hair, darker than midnight, was placed carefully into a bun. The former sorceress had sensed a change. It was a change, which like the storm, could not be stopped, as obvious in her mind as the warm front covertly hiding behind the thunderheads. This was no small storm; this was a supercell, the clashing of two major systems within the atmosphere. Its effects would be felt throughout the continent for days, slowly moving westward destroying the very life it helped maintain.
She sighed aloud, as the clouds dipped from the heavens, swirling in small eddies. They always threatened to touch their ghostly fingers to earth, but never found the strength. A soft knock on the door caught her off guard, and her attention shifted to the person leaning on its frame. He stood just watching his wife; everything about her still contained an air of mystery, even after all the time that had marched on.
Do you know that lightening doesnt always strike the tallest object? Her voice was firm, yet had a way of soothing even the most apprehensive of listeners. It searches It searches for the best conductor not always taking the easiest path. But it knows what it needs to exist in this world. Its only instinct is survival, and there is nothing that any of us can do to stop it. It will always find its way.
Edea? At times her words appeared elusive, but he knew better.
The storm is always closer than you think. When we are children, we are told to count the seconds between the flash and the thunder. But that is not the true distance. It is actually five times closer but to a child the safety comes with the belief of the distance. To an adult, the safety comes in the truth.
The former headmaster continued into the room, taking a seat on the sofa directly in front of his wife.
Edea. Cids voice seemed a little unsteady, something she hadnt heard in quite a while. Elise called Dr. Kadowaki She asked about Dr. Stevens therapy session, the one that occurred right before his transfer to the Esthar facility. The one with-
Cutting him off, she lifted her hand as if to halt his speaking. Dear, I know what was on it.
Well, what do you think?
Does the council have it?
No, it was one of the few things I managed to get out of Balamb before leaving.
Good. She smiled affectionately at her husband.
Well, what do you think? His tone was serious. If it were a Garden matter, it would be one thing, but this went far beyond the scope of Gardens understanding. No board or council could possibly have the right to determine that many fates by a vote. It had to a mutual decision, on their parts. Cid and Edea were the ones who felt most responsible for the outcome; they were the ones who had sworn no more undue harm would fall upon their children.
She contemplated for a moment, before standing, and walking slowly to the window. You know, Im not a sorceress anymore, but ever since Esthar Ive had this feeling I cant shake.
What kind of feeling? Bad, good, what?
Change. She answered simply, placing her palm on the cold windowpane.
I dont understand.
Neither do I...really. Its something that has to be done; we cant shelter them forever. Before we had reason, now the reason has awoken. Give Elise the tape. She waved her free hand dismissively to the side. He walked to the window, grabbing her outstretched hand, and interlaced their fingers. She looked at him, not smiling, not upset, just very calm in the face of the storm.
Edea, you have that look in your eye. I know youre thinking something tell me.
I dont have to, you already know.
Yeah. His other hand ran nervously through what hair remained on top of his head. They were all older now, but not necessary wiser. This was all new territory, one wrong move could push one of their own over the edge, and they knew it. Cid turned to her again, watching as she still had her palm stretched over the glass. When?
I dont know. She was there, in Esthar.
Did you see her?
I felt her. I felt the powers.
So, who knows?
Im guessing not Squall. It wasnt meant to be skeptical, but somehow thats how her intonation came across. She continued intently gazing outside, as the spring storm slowly claimed the city in darkness. I mentioned something to Laguna about seeing someone run from the party. He flushed and then immediately searched for someone for Quistis. So I can only assume that there are least two who know.
He took a step toward his wife, tenderly placing his arm around her shoulder. Why do you think Elise called?
She rested her head on his shoulder, falling into the comfort that only her knight could provide. Still keeping her right hand on the window, she thought the words very carefully before saying them aloud.
Fate. Fate has a way of answering all questions, even those not yet asked. I know why she would want to hide from the world. I just dont believe the world can hide from her.
I dont want Elise to get hurt. I know we dont know her that well, but
Elise will be fine. Maybe she needs to sort this out, so she can move on if it wasnt meant to be. We all have demons of the past we must face. Edea looked at her fingers, the ones once manipulated by the hate she carried within her body. She felt a sudden chill run down her spine, as the temperature on the glass seemed to fall several degrees. She pulled her hand off, as the strength of the static electricity started sending small tremors throughout her body. Its starting.
What? He whispered, knowing it wasnt meant to be answered.
The storm. It is very close, and its only going to get worse, before it gets better.
It was dark. That was the only thing he was able to determine against the persistent pounding in his head. God what had happened? He couldnt remember. A monster? A car accident? Had he been drinking? He decided he would have had to drink a gallon of jet fuel to get this kind of hangover. Nothing was registering. Faintly he was able to sense someone else in the room with him. There was only one person he knew of that would keep watch over him when he was sick or injured.
Elise? His voice was hoarse and unsteady. Elise what happened? I cant remember a damn thing. Squall tried to open his eyes but the pain was more than he could bear.
The name hit Rinoa like shards of ice through her heart. She bit her lip, trying to control her emotions. She had to find a way to mask them; it was the only way she would be able to get through this. Right now they were not important. Right now she had to take care of him.
He heard a soft rustle to the right of him, but received no other response. Shit what had he done? Elise please answer me.
Im not Elise.
His eyes flew open. In a flash everything returned to him and he was left breathless once again.
He looked over at the blurred silhouette sitting across from the bed and watched as it rose and moved to the other side of the room. He squinted painfully as she switched on a lamp. It was a small, soft light; however his eyes refused to adjust to any amount at that moment and he was forced to shut them again.
The young sorceress wrung the water out of a wash cloth in a nearby bowl. She returned to his bedside, sitting in an old chair beside him. Carefully she wiped his face and neck to clean away the cold sweat that covered his body.
The cool feel of the cloth against his skin helped to soothe some of the pain. Rinoa moved it gently across his eyes, alleviating the straining pressure he felt in them. She began going into the speech she had prepared during the two hours she had paced nervously about the room watching him.
You were hit in the head by a chocobo. He guards the field behind the flower shop and he thought you were stealing flowers. You have some swelling, but the impact didnt break the skin. Youve been out for a few hours now. I dont think you should try to get up; it will probably make you sick. This was Raines house, though I guess you know that already Ive been staying here for a few weeks now. Im not quite finished with cleaning it so youll have to excuse the mess.
Now she was rambling, her voice was quick and anxious. Were he actually listening to her he probably wouldnt have understood much of what she had just said. The young woman fidgeted with the wash cloth, folding it with trembling fingers so that she could lay it across his forehead.
As she did this, Squall suddenly came out of his shock. He grabbed her arm forcefully and she nearly yelped in surprise. Rinoa looked down at him suddenly frightened by the wild look in his eyes and the grip he held on her arm. His breathing was shallow and labored. For a brief moment she thought he might be having some sort of seizure.
He found himself astonished as his hand closed around solid flesh and bone. He was still half expecting another illusion. It its really you youre alive.
Tears formed in Rinoas eyes. She tried to speak but no words would come, all that she was able to do was to give him a soft smile and nod her head.
Squalls eyes were slowly becoming more focused and he could see her more clearly with each passing moment. The pale frozen skin he recalled in his nightmares was now replaced with warm, normal flesh tones. He could hear her sharp and quick breaths; feel her fluttering pulse beneath the grip of his fingers. There was light again in her dark eyes. She looked virtually un-aged from an eight year time span. She was here she was real. The emotions of his heart were to the point of overflowing.
And all he could do was stare.
His touch sent electricity coursing through her entire body. If not for the grip he held on her arm she would have fallen to her knees by now. It was astonishing how this one simple act could cause her to lose all self control. How in the ninth level of hell did she expect to survive this when her heart caved in so easily? Rinoa stared back at him, completely captivated. For the first time she could truly see him, she could see how much he had changed, how much he had aged. His face had become thinner, his hair slightly longer. She began to see the resemblance of his father more and more. He hadnt shaved in a couple of days and the stubble beginnings of a beard shadowed the lower extremities of his face.
The most shocking of all however, were his eyes. Storm colored eyes that looked far beyond their twenty-five years. They looked tired, like those of an old man at the end of his life. They were eyes that had seen the world over, and ultimately eyes that had seen far more than any mortal human being should have to. In them she could see unimaginable hurt and confusion. They were not the eyes she remembered. The confusion, the uncertainty had been there to an extent, but any innocence that had existed there before had vanished completely.
When? His rough voice broke the deafening silence.
This afternoon. She replied, still immersed in the simple feel of his touch. I think its around nine oclock now.
Squall closed his eyes for a moment in frustration and then looked at her expectantly. Thats not what I meant.
She turned her eyes away from his intense gaze. About eight months ago.
It was longer than he was expecting. He was floored as to why she had never told him, never come to him. Why anyone wouldnt tell him. He wasnt sure how many people knew about it at this point. Why would she hide? How could she do that to him?
His voice was trembling with a simmering ire now. Why Rinoa, why didnt you tell me? He had been hurting for so long
The first thing that flashed in her mind was the newspaper article and she responded to his question before she could stop herself. Since when did Garden need to keep tabs on former clientele?
What the hell are you talking about? He snapped. Youre not making any sense!
You know what Squall, she said, trying to stay in control. You have a life now you should go live it. I didnt tell you because I didnt want to ruin that life for you. It was for the best...the best for both of us.
This is for the best. The words echoed in his mind. He remembered them from that day long ago. She was standing inside the sealing chamber. He watched her suffer in agony and tell him it was for the best. He wouldnt accept that as justification this time he couldnt take it again.
The anger flared inside him, he couldnt control it any longer. Squall shot up from his resting position pointing a finger at her. Who the hell are you to decide what is for the best huh? Especially for someone else. His last statement fell short as the room around him began spinning out of control. The headmaster tried to focus his eyes again. His head pounded with an even greater intensity and a wave of nausea overtook him.
Damn. He groaned, breathing heavily.
Rinoa saw his distress as soon as he sat up. His words were hurtful; however she would have to put her emotions away for the moment. I told you not to get up. She walked to the side of the bed and helped to lower his body back down to the mattress. He closed his eyes trying to fight back the sickness rising from his stomach, rolling slowly over on his side. Here, she said handing him a small empty trashcan. Ill be right back. She managed to get passed the doorway before the sound of his gagging echoed into the plastic receptacle. The young woman shook her head wearily. This was going to be a long night.
Squall moaned and leaned onto the outside rim of the wastebasket in exhaustion. In a few moments Rinoa returned, cautiously taking it from him and sitting it on the floor. She then grabbed the pills and the glass of water she had brought from the kitchen.
Take these. She placed the capsules into his hand. Theyll help you sleep.
He shook his head. Im not finished I need to talk to you.
Youre finished tonight. We can talk tomorrow, you need to rest. The statement came across more forceful than she had intended, but she was emotionally and physically drained, she herself was not able to deal with this anymore tonight.
You you will be here when I wake up? He asked hesitantly, still believing she could disappear into thin air as soon as he closed his eyes.
Yes of course. Where else would I go?
Squall looked at her once more before obliging her request. He popped the pills into his mouth and chased them down with the water in the glass.
If you need anything Im in the next room.
Thank you. He said, realizing he hadnt before.
No problem. She said as she walked towards the door.
Rinoa? The young man stopped her.
Yes? She looked back over her shoulder.
Im Im sorry. He knew it would be of no comfort to the unforgivable sin he had committed on her, but for the first time he could say it to her and not some memory or apparition. Somehow the words came out harder now.
The young woman mistook the apology for the events of the day or for the anger he had expressed earlier. She just shrugged it off. Dont worry about it. Squall watched as she disappeared into the dark hallway.
Im sorry for everything.
Authors Notes: We apologize that this chapter took so long in coming. We know it seems weve neglected this story honestly that is not the case. The absence was medical, and one didnt feel right working without the other. This story has always been joint and to change any part of that would take away from all that we had accomplished. It was our friendship that built this idea, and the friendship that got us through some rough times
We are again working regularly on it,
Thank you for all of the support,
Kristine and Nicole
Wayward Tempest's Fanfiction