Fire Petals Chapter 20
Encuentre Su Manera
*Figure it out, Zell. She was never interested. She was just being nice. She'd never want to date ~you~.*
Zell stood at that thought and began to take out his frustrations on his punching bag, as he had always done when he began to think like this. Usually he was able to divert all of his concentration into his fists, but now, the thoughts were just too powerful to avoid.
*And then there's Rinoa. Psh--sayin' I used her when she really used ~me~. Aww, poor her, wants comfort, turns to me, and then . . . runs back to Squall as soon as she gets the chance. If that's what she's doing. I don't know. But hey, what could I expect?*
Zell was aware that his thoughts were basically rambling. He didn't care. It didn't matter if he cared anyways . . . he had no control over them.
"Argh! Shit!" Zell pulled back his hand in pain--while not concentrating on what he was doing, he slipped twisted his wrist the wrong way during a particularly hard blow. It hurt like a bitch. Without really thinking about it, he grabbed his backpack from his bed, opened it, and pulled out the black medical kit.
*Twelve megalixirs, fifteen potions . . . six remedies . . . four softs . . .* He fingered the tiny, multicoloured vials, then finally chose a potion. That should do--he wasn't hurt badly. Just sprained, probably. He laughed as he dabbed some onto the parts of his wrist that hurt. A few seconds later, the pain was gone.
*If only I could use this for my mind . . . make the pain there gone too . . .* Suddenly his eyes lit up . . . maybe he could? He grabbed another vial from the satchel, and held it to his lips. Surely it couldn't hurt him--it was only a little potion. He swallowed the bittersweet liquid quickly, something he was not used to doing. He'd only had to drink medication once: when he had been hit so hard in the stomach by a wendigo that he had received severe internal injuries. He laid back on his bed as the medicine was quickly absorbed into his bloodstream, feeling a little nervous at knowing how his friends would look down at what he was doing. Especially Squall . . . he had admired the student from afar for years, never having really known him, but able to recognize his quiet leadership capabilities and solitude as a state of deep thought rather than just a way to evade his problems.
Zell was beginning to feel pretty good . . . . indifferent, anyways, which was strange, given his nature as an extremist. A welcome change, if you asked him. He relaxed, planning to just enjoy this and hoping that he wouldn't have to leave his room for a while.
Rinoa's steps were light beside Irvine's, as though the white wings printed on her shawl were there to help lift her; to keep her walking. Irvine turned and looked down at her as they turned right down the main hallway. Her features were rather blank, the redness on her face already fading. She looked much too deep in thought for the normal, light-hearted Rinoa, and Irvine decided he should pull her out before she fell to far: "Hey, you okay, kid?"
Rinoa looked up at him, a strange sadness written in new, barely-visible frown lines at the corners of her lips. She took a second to answer, and when she did, her voice was quiet enough that he had to strain to hear her. "Um . . . is Squall in his room right now?"
"Yeah . . . looked like he fell asleep as soon as he opened his door. You plannin' on givin' him a visit?"
"I . . . don't know. I just really need to talk with him . . . explain things, you know?"
"I think he needs his sleep, Rinoa . . . he was awake all of last night, and after what happened . . ."
"I just need to see him. I'll keep that in mind, though."
Irvine nodded slightly. "Alright. I'm gonna go see Selphie. Um . . . take care of yourself. And take care of Squall. Don't push him into saying anything . . . if he wants to be quiet, let him be, okay?"
Rinoa looked away, then back at him. "Would you tell Selphie I'm sorry? I think I really upset her earlier."
"Will do." Irvine replied. With a couple waves, the pair separated.
Tiny grains of sand flittered across leather and seeped through black fingers to be suddenly airborne, landing in calm, bluer-than-sky waves with what sounded a soft hiss. Seifer drew back his hand from the half-hearted toss, and turned squinting eyes to the young woman laying next to him. Despite the bright sun that shone upon her hair, it's silver seemed to have faded to an opaque, neutral grey. Her eyes were closed, silver lashes dusting pale cheeks. She occasionally let out a painful moan in her sleep, each one making Seifer wince.
*I did this.* He turned back to the calm waves, holding one hand up to shield the sun from his eyes while the other buried it's black glove in near-white sand. Nothing. Not a ship, an aeroplane, a monster, only sea and sky joining at a near-invisible horizon, the sand beneath his bottom, and the woman beside him. He turned back again at the sound of another groan. She shifted to her side, her eyes shut tightly. *She needs help. Soon. No, not soon. Now. And ~I~ can't even help her.*
Seifer removed his silver trenchcoat and half-heartedly folded it, placing it gently (as gently as someone like Seifer could manage, anyways) behind Fujin's head. She stirred, and turned to look up at him. "Where?" she asked, her voice having lost it's natural power.
"We're at a coast off the edge of the forest." he replied, doing his best to hide the pained tone in his voice at hearing the weakness in hers.
"I don't . . . Fujin, you can talk to me like a normal person. We're alone here."
"Well, it's pissing me off. You've done it before, and--"
"STOP. I can talk however the hell I want. Don't forget that. Now tell me where we're going."
Seifer was surprised to hear her actually do as he'd asked, but left that part alone. "I don't know where we're going. We're not going anywhere right now, I can tell you that. How'd you get here?"
"We came in a ship. It was too different with you gone, so we came to get you."
"And the ship left?"
Fujin nodded and winced, raising a hand to her stomach. Seifer could plainly see that she was trying to hide the pain she was in--she always had, even three years ago when she'd stumbled from the training centre after a fight with a T-Rexaur, with blood streaming down her face. She'd even acted like she hadn't cared when Dr. Kadowaki told her that she'd lost the eye.
"I'll think of something." Seifer mumbled, almost to himself, as he turned his eyes away from her. Fujin's pride allowed her to get quite defensive when someone saw her in any type of trouble, and he didn't need that right now.
"Your fault." Fujin said quietly. Her breathing was laboured.
"You think I don't know that?!" Seifer almost swung at her. She didn't have to rub it in. "You think if it wasn't my fault I'd be helping you right now? You freakin' abandoned me. I thought we were a posse, and look! You never gave a shit!"
"Why do you think we came back to look for you?" she replied. Seifer grew silent. For a time, anyways. His eyes suddenly widened, then squinted, then widened again. "What the . . ."
" . . . What?" came Fujin's growing-weary reply.
"The Garden!" Seifer jumped up, having to consciously keep himself from trying to run to the tiny speck on the horizon. "Balamb!"
"Seifer. . . all the Gardens hate us . . . we've abandoned them."
"Maybe it's coming here! How do I get it to . . ."
"If I were you, I'd hope they *didn't* come there."
Seifer sat back down, still eyeing the speck that seemed to be growing smaller, "No, they'll--"
"Hang us both."
"Hey!" Seifer stood again as the speck finally disappeared, "Where're you going??"
"Shut up. They can't hear you."
And again, Seifer slumped to the ground in defeat, beginning to play with the tiny ball that hung around his neck. He knew he was being childish, and he didn't really care. He was giving up. If only--
"Hey . . . I know what to do." he whispered. Fujin didn't reply. "I'd like my coat back for a while please." His voice dripped with false politeness.
Scowling, Fujin pulled the jacket from behind her head and handed it to him. To her surprise, Seifer used it as a pillow himself as he lay back on the sand. "What the hell are you doing?" she asked, squinting at him. He only shrugged and closed his eyes as a hand still held that new piece of jewlery at his throat. "What, you're just gonna lay down and die? It that it?"
"No." came a quiet yet adamant reply, "I'll explain this later. Just . . whatever you do, don't try to wake me."
Though she was extremely confused, Fujin nodded in agreement as Seifer drifted out of consciousness.
Squall's door was slightly ajar, Rinoa noticed, as she crept up to it and began to slowly push it open. She had expected him to be tossing and turning as he usually did in his sleep, but she found him lying still--so completely still that she almost thought he might not have been alive. She crept slowly to his bedside, crouching on the floor to look at him at eye level.
Squall lay sprawled on his stomach, his pillow sideways beside him with his arm over it, his face turned to her. He looked like a child, with his hair mussed-up and little lips hanging open to allow his sleepy breaths their passage. Rinoa couldn't believe this was the same body that had hurt her so, less than twenty-four hours earlier. She couldn't believe that she'd ever thought Squall was to blame. He was to . . . *opposite * from anything that would have actually done those horrible things to her.
Rinoa reached forward to brush some hair from Squall's forehead, just as an excuse to touch him. He jumped, startling Rinoa back to a standing position, opened his eyes, and rolled over without a word. *Great Hyne . . . she's here . . . why?*
"Squall, I . . ." Rinoa found herself at a loss for words. What had she come here to say?
"I'm not worth it, Rinoa." Squall replied, staring at the wall, "Don't bother yourself." He folded his arms up to his chest.
"Don't say that." Rinoa was about to sit on the edge of the bed but decided against it and just stood there. She didn't know what would happen if she tried to get close to him. Squall was very fragile right now-- even she could see that. "You're worth so much to me."
Squall was taken aback by this, wondering how she could care about him at all. She wouldn't even sit on the bed . . . how much could she care if she was afraid to be near him? He wouldn't turn around . . . wouldn't look at her. Then he'd have to face his problems, and he didn't feel like it right now. "I'm too tired for this, Rinoa." He closed his eyes to emphasize this point, though he knew she couldn't see it.
"Please . . . understand that I don't blame you." Rinoa noticed Squall shifting closer to the wall. She took the warm spot he left on the bed, sitting stiffly. "I don't blame you for anything." Rinoa knew she was going against Irvine's advice: she was pushing him, and she couldn't help it.
"But . . what I did . . what my body did . . ."
"I don't care about that anymore." Rinoa reached over and touched Squall's back gingerly, like she was half-afraid he'd bite her. "Um . . . Irvine told me about what happened." She winced, wondering if she should have told him at all. "On the . . . on the balcony."
Squall didn't reply. *He did ~what~? How could he . . .*
"Do . . do you actually want to die, Squall?"
"I don't know." Yes, a nicely ambiguous answer to a question he hated. *Yes, I want to die. What I did was evil. It hurt you. And then I continued to hurt you and push you away. What's life without you in it?* Luckily Rinoa left it alone--unfortunately, she decided to do something worse.
She started to cry.
*No, Rinoa, don't do that, please . . .* Squall's shoulders ached to release a desperate shudder. He wanted to turn over, to get up, hold her, comfort her, but . . he couldn't. Why not? What was so hard?
He didn't want to break the ice--to enable her to see the sun. And why would that be so horrible? He'd never depended on anyone. He'd seen people rely on each other, though . . . and they were the happiest. A loud, choked sob found it's way to his ears. *I can't take this!!*
With that thought, Squall gave in to his urges and rolled over, just in time for one of Rinoa's tears to splatter onto his face. She hurriedly wiped it off his cheek, muttering pointless apologies. And he just watched her. He'd never seen such pain written across one person's face . . . ever.
"Why are you crying, Rinoa?"
"You . . . I don't want to lose you. . ." Rinoa began to rub at her eyes furiously, practically begging them to stop watering.
*Me? What is this? What's so special about ~me~?* "But . . I hurt you . ."
"Only by . . . by trying to take your own life. . . . I don't care about anything else. The rest wasn't your fault. Squall . . when Irvine told me what you tried to do . . . I felt like it was my fault. Don't you care about me enough that you want me in your life? I feel so bad . . for not understanding how you feel. I was being to selfish . . ."
"Rinoa, it's not that . . . I don't deserve you in my life . . . I don't deserve a life at all."
"Stop talking like that! Please! I can't stand it!" Squall just looked at her. His infamous poker-face was becoming harder and harder to keep as she continued, "When are you going to see how much you're worth?!"
Squall didn't know what to say to that. Didn't know what to do. So he just leaned on his elbow and found a nice, boring spot on the bedspread to stare at. He was upsetting her again. He couldn't stand it. Once again, he was proving that he didn't deserve to be around her. He was only beginning to understand the vicious cycle that he was caught up in--his sadness was what upset Rinoa, and that upset him more in turn. How would he stop it?
Rinoa was staring at her hands as she sat on the edge of the bed, watching as her tears dripped onto them, occasionally sniffling and afraid to look at Squall. She didn't know what expression she'd find if she looked up and the possibility of something negative scared her enough to keep her relatively still, at least until she felt something warm and soft touch her face. At first, she froze.
Squall was touching her. His hand was bare, as he always took his gloves off to sleep, and Rinoa needed to consciously keep herself from leaning into the new warmth on her cheek. This was so strange--he'd never initiated physical contact with her before unless it was absolutely necessary. When she finally looked up to see him watching her, the movement of her eyes causing another tear to fall and roll over the fingers that caressed her cheek, she found that the sheet of ice had begun to crack. "Please. . . . Rinoa, don't. Be quiet." The words seemed harsh, but she knew he meant no harm. Rinoa bit her lip, knowing he couldn't stand to see her cry. And hearing those words unfortunately made her cry harder. She couldn't help it. Squall's hand tensed up as he begged again, his voice sounding choked, "I . . . please, I can't . . . Just stop!"
And she was suddenly enveloped in an embrace, Squall's bitter cinnamon-cocoa scent faint in the fluff of his jacket collar where her face was now buried. "Please . . . Rinoa stop it, stop it . . ." Squall almost chanted, his voice becoming desperate now as he stroked her back a little too hard, his other hand pressing a little forcefully into the back of her head. It was almost as though he was trying to muffle her quiet sobs. Rinoa leaned into him, almost holding her breath to keep from crying. She didn't want to cry, Hyne knew she didn't. She'd been doing it all damn day. It took a long time for her breaths to finally return to normal, for her shoulders to become still.
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry . . ." Squall's voice made it seem he was no sturdier than a soap bubble, easily destroyed by the wrong touch or carried away in the slightest breeze. He was shaky, weak, tired. Rinoa had hoped he'd already accepted her forgiveness. Oh well, she'd just have to drill it into his head some more.
"You're forgiven, Squall. If you want me to be happy, accept it. Please." *I know that's why she's so sad . . . but I don't think I can bring myself to say it.* It would be tough, but now Squall found that he had to. He sighed. "Okay."
Rinoa jumped back from him, just enough that she could see his tired face while her arms remained around him. She had expected another string of arguments to follow, ending with one of them, most likely her, leaving the room. His answer caused a giant smile to make it's way across her lips, and in her joy she kissed his cheek and hugged him. "Thank you." She knew that one word did not mean Squall was all better and happy now, but it was a giant step for him. She didn't feel perfect either, though she'd just become significantly better.
Squall gasped at her response, more at the smile than at the kiss. *I made her happy. Just with one word?* It took a minute to hug her back, as an ethereal feeling spread through his nerves: relief. It was going to be okay now. Maybe. Hopefully.
If only he actually did accept it. If only what he'd said to her was the truth. Oh well, it couldn't be helped now--a white lie was necessary once in a while, though it had to and did have very good reason.
When Rinoa finally let go of him, her eyes were no longer completely sad. She smiled and her nose crinkled. Squall didn't smile back, of course, seeming to have completely lost the ability the day before, but his expression was . . . *lighter*, like a tremendous weight had been lifted from his eyes.
"I think you should get back to sleep." Rinoa said suddenly, remembering what Irvine had told her. Squall was exhausted. He only nodded and fell back onto his pillow, suddenly realizing just how fatigued he was.
"Are you leaving?" he asked quietly, his eyes now closed.
Rinoa stood up. "Um . . yeah, I have to go talk to Selphie; I was kinda mean to her. Want me to come by later to check up?"
Squall didn't answer; he was already asleep.
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