A Mist Over Winhill Chapter 10

A Moonless Sonata

By Kate Lorraine

" . . ..day. .. nice. . .sea. . Garden." Zell said to Antha as they stood face to face in front of the library.

". . .book. . . reading. . . .yes. . ." she replied.

Zell scratched his head as he suddenly caught sight of Rinoa and Squall walking down the hall.

"Squall! Rinoa! Over here!" he hollered. He saw Squall turn around unwillingly as Rinoa stood a few steps behind him.

Zell took one last look at Antha.

"Go . ..now. . .sorry." he said to Antha who nodded, her pigtails bobbing up and down. Zell ran over to Squall and Rinoa.

"If you are going to Balamb I'm coming with you."

* * * * * *

"The SeeDs are rotten this time of year," Seifer commented sarcastically, glancing out the window.

"Seifer," Raijin began, "are you sure this is a good idea?"

"Burn it down," Seifer muttered. "Burn this goddamn place to the ground if they don't comply."

"With all the people inside?" Raijin asked with uncertainty.

"SILENCE" Fujin said finally in irritation.

"Yeah what she said," Seifer muttered absently.

"Sheesh," Raijin answered and began to walk away. He picked up his fishing pole and left the room.

"Where's he going?" Seifer asked barely moving from his comfortable place by the window.

"FISHING," Fujin said shaking her head.

"Yeah and I'm not coming back," Raijin threatened.

"GOOD," Fujin countered.

Raijin slammed the door to the Galbadian Garden and left. Fujin turned back to Seifer. He was looking out the window remorsefully at the setting sun.

"It's the sorceress Rinoa isn't it?" Fujin asked which surprised him.

"You talk?"

"When I feel like it."

"I'm honored."

"Answer the question."

"No it's not Rinoa," Seifer replied crossing his arms over his chest. "It's her little pussy wuss friend."

"Squall Leonhart," Fujin answered.

"It's just not so fun anymore, this rivalry. It used to be nice, you know, back when I had a posse."


Seifer chuckled sarcastically.

"Back when I was still myself. . .it used to be nice."

"I'll be a part of your posse, if you would like Seifer." Fujin offered. "If it's that important to you."

Seifer shrugged. "You know, Maggie and Roger used to tell me what to do. They used to yell at me when I got led astray. I should have taken her advice and left Rinoa alone. You and Raijin, you can't do this for me. I'll never have another posse."

Seifer got up and left.

* * * * *

"I'm sorry," the guard said at the entrance of Balamb, "no one is allowed in. This town is under Galbadian control."

"But I live here!" Zell exclaimed in fury. Zell punched the air with his fists as though he was preparing to attack the guard but Squall grabbed him and pulled him aside.

"Stop it." Squall snapped. "When the others show up we'll think of a way to get in."

"But Squall!" Zell yelled but glanced nervously at the guard and lowered his voice. "My mother is in there. I'm not going to wait here a minute longer."

"What are you going to do?" Squall asked in exasperation. "Fight the entire Galbadian army?"

Zell sighed in absolute vexation before he suddenly turned to Rinoa.

"Hey can you do something?"

Rinoa frowned and crossed her arms. "What do you mean?"

"Like what you did to Xu, the mind control thing, that was pretty cool." Zell said.

Rinoa looked at Squall. Her eyes were wide in alarm.

Do you think he knows? She asked silently. The unspoken words passed between them understood.

Squall gave her a look of absolute indignation that said something to the effect of,

He doesn't know how to find his gut with both hands.

He seemed to be in a god awful mood. She decided to stay out of his way.

Rinoa looked to Zell.

"Alright, I'll try but I might need you and Squall to back me up a bit."

Rinoa stepped forward and walked up to the guard. She clasped her hands behind her back and gave him a perfect look of innocence. Squall walked up to the guard once more, stepping unobtrusively in front of Rinoa.

"If you turn us away we won't be able to inform your leader about Garden." He said nonchalantly.

"What do you know about-." The guard asked suddenly. But he suddenly grew quiet as Rinoa's eyes flashed yellow. "I see. . " he said. "Garden, yes, our leader would like to know about Garden. You may pass."

As soon as the guard was out of earshot, Zell grew excited.

"Wow, where did you learn that Rinoa?" He asked happily.

"It's a secret," she replied tritely as she continued after Squall, her eyes scanning the strange pastel town. There were Galbadian guards everywhere, patrolling the streets. The sky was growing dark as night loomed on the horizon, ready to pull a blanket of darkness across the heavens.

"Let's go to my house. I want to see if Ma is okay." Zell said as he waved for them to follow.

As the party entered Zell's house Rinoa was suddenly captivated by the room. There was the scent of pastry in the air overhanging a room filled with cozy soft furniture. Everything here was quaint and neat like the setting of a dream world where there were still mothers to guard children against the claws of the famished Dragon called cynicism. With his jaws dripping with bitterness, eyes colored red in virulence, scales hardened by rejection, the monster was trapped on the outside looking in.

"Zell! You brought your friends!" Ma Dincht announced with glee as she hugged her son. She was a large jolly woman with her greying brown hair tied back in a ribbon, her apron greasy from cooking, her cheeks red with joy. Although both Rinoa and Squall watched with frozen expressions on their faces, both felt a share of sadness.

"I've met you before," Ma Dincht said to Squall. "I won your chubby chocobo card" she said with humor in her voice as Squall blushed slightly.

"Now you," Ma Dincht said turning to Rinoa. "You're a pretty one. You're not Zell's girlfriend are you?" She asked happily.

It was Rinoa's turn to grow red. "No I'm afraid not. Still waiting for him to ask me." she said in a humorous tone.

"Ma, what's going on here?" Zell asked. "What's been going on with the Galbadians?"

"Those dogs have been threatening everyone. They've been here asking about the Garden and some SeeDs that supposedly assassinated their tyrant of a president. They've also been looking for a girl called Ellone. They've taken over the Balamb hotel."

"Don't worry Ma," Zell said. "We'll take care of it." Taking charge, Zell looked to Squall. "Come on let's go check out the hotel."

* * * * *

"The captain is currently on patrol," the Galbadian soldier said at the entrance to the hotel. "When he returns you can talk to him."

"When will he be back?" Squall inquired.

"We don't know. He's usually gone indefinitely."

"Yo, Squall," Zell said. "Maybe we should stay over at my house tonight. It's getting dark, we'll never find him at this point. What do you say Rinoa?"

Rinoa paused and then cast her hazel eyes on the small town with a touch of longing.

"I would like that."

"Squall?" Zell asked.

" . . . whatever," Squall said looking in the direction of the dock.

* * * *

"So this is Zell's room," Squall said.

"Is that your grandfather, Zell?" Rinoa asked pointing to the portrait on the wall.

"Yup!" Zell said enthusiastically. "He's the person I look up to the most! He played a big role in the last war. He wasn't just strong. He knew when to attack, when to retreat.. . "

"Is that why you wanted to join SeeD?" Rinoa asked whimsically.

"Yes! I'm going to be just like my grandfather," Zell announced proudly. "He gave me my first set of gloves. Even though my mom told him not to encourage my fighting since I got into so many brawls, my grandfather always trusted that I would make something of myself. He's my idol."

Rinoa nodded as she reached over and held her left arm tightly in her right.

"My father always encouraged me to take up the pinwheel even though he knew I was a . .. He told me that in case one day my powers failed me, I would always have something to back me up but now . .he's gone and I have nothing left to . . . ."

There was a moment of silence in the room as Rinoa looked down sadly at the floor.

It was Squall that finally spoke up.

"Stay here tonight with Zell, Rinoa."

She looked up. "You're leaving?"

* * * * *

"There is this girl," Zell began as they sat in his room two hours later, "named Antha."

"The one with the pigtails?" Rinoa asked as she sat cross-legged on Zell's bed, brushing her hair. He was on the floor where Ma Dincht had placed his sleeping bag. "It's just like the sleep overs you used to have!" Ma Dincht had exclaimed which made Zell turn beet red. "Where's Squall? He shouldn't be wandering around at this hour of the night." Ma Dincht had continued. "I'll make some popcorn for you two, don't stay up all night now."

"She's pretty cute," he continued. "But when I get close to her I get all tongue-tied."

"Well Zell, you have to be firm with her," Rinoa said as she shifted the brush to the other side of her head. "Girls like men with confidence."

"Oh but I was thinking more of like rescuing her when she's in trouble, you know." Zell said. "I can be her hero and all."

"No," Rinoa said. "Rescuing girls is a bad way to get them to like you Zell. When you rescue a girl she will feel like she owes you something. You need to start a relationship on an equal footing or it will fall apart eventually."

"Oh," Zell said as he began to pace about the room. "Can you talk to her for me? Rinoa?"

"Yeah sure." Rinoa said as she picked a few strands of her hair out of the brush.

"Work some of your mind controlling stuff on her," Zell said.

Rinoa chuckled. "I'm sure it won't come to that."

"I've told you who I like now it's your turn. You like Squall don't ya?"

Rinoa made a face at him. "What gives you that idea?"

"Well," Zell said, "That's pretty obvious. You're following him around all the time."

"Well he's pretty cute. He's got nice hair and you know Zell, hair is very important to a girl and he's got that ring. What is that carving on it, a lion? It looks pretty cool."

"Hey if you really like it Rinoa, I can get a friend of mine to make a copy for you. All we have to do is get it from him.'

"No," Rinoa said after a moment's thought. "I want it a different way." She looked away, blushing gently.

"Whoa!" Zell said jumping back. "Wait you want it that way?"

"No no of course not!" Rinoa said shaking her head. "It's just that if I am to have it I want him to give it to me of his own will. It's meaningless any other way."

* * * *

Three hours later, Rinoa was awoken from troubled sleep by Zell.

"Yo Rinoa get up. I think there's some fighting going on outside."

She opened one eye and looked at him. "It's not Squall is it?"

"I don't know. Let's go check it out."

Wearily Rinoa stumbled out of bed. With one hand she reached for her blue frock.

In the distance, Rinoa saw the a eruption of gold as someone cast a thunder spell. She started running then after Zell as they scrambled down the sleeping streets of Balamb.

As they both burst into the front of the hotel, Zell caught sight of Selphie, Irvine, Nida, Squall and Antha, fighting a dark skinned muscular man and a woman with silver hair. Zell was about to rush into battle beside his friends when suddenly the two opponents stepped back in shock.

"It's the sorceress Rinoa!" the young man said his mouth agape.

"The sorceress?!" Selphie asked as she turned her head searching for the cause of Raijin's exclamation.

"You imbecile!" Rinoa said as the air around her began to crackle with energy. The SeeDs stepped back in fear, confusion, and surprise as Rinoa walked slowly towards the two. Her eyes were as yellow as the mid day sun, her hair formed a halo of red around her face as she raised her hand to cast a spell.

Raijin grabbed Fujin, shaking her out of her frozen position as he motioned for her to run. The two of them scrambled away clumsily as Rinoa sent a string of holy spells after them in hot pursuit.

There was complete silence among the SeeDs as Rinoa turned around. Her hair fell back into its natural position and her eyes were those of a normal girl once more. She eyed them for a moment in their silence.

"It's over isn't it, Squall?" she asked.

"She's Rinoa Heartilly?" Selphie asked, drawing her hands to her lips.

Zell stood there with his mouth open. Antha was petrified beside Irvine. Nida looked blank as though he had no idea what was going on.

Squall frowned as he slipped his gunblade away. He took a few steps forward but said nothing. He was at a loss for words.

"I allowed the sorceress Rinoa Heartilly into my house?!" Zell exclaimed suddenly as he jumped back.

"Oh my god, the Angel of Death." Antha whispered as she stared at Rinoa in shock.

Strangely it was Irvine then that stepped forward to defend Rinoa.

"Guys, guys, take it easy on the little lady. She's not evil anymore. Didn't you see it? She just finished the battle for us."

"What she did with Xu . . ." Selphie began. "I can't believe I didn't figure it out."

"Squall, Irvine, both of you knew this all along and you didn't tell anyone? Are you insane?!" Nida said in fury.

"Shut up," Rinoa ordered as she stepped towards Nida. Nida recoiled as though he had seen a snake.

"Stand back witch!" Nida yelled as he pulled his weapon up.

"Stop it!" Irvine said stepping between the two. "This is going too far. Rinoa is not evil. Nida stop being a chicken wuss. God knows what will happen should we have two of them."

Zell glared at Irvine but he didn't counter. "I agree. Rinoa doesn't seem evil. She saved Garden from the missiles and now she saved you guys from the those Galbadians. I stand by Squall and Irvine."

Rinoa nodded at Zell gratefully. Suddenly Antha walked over to Zell.

"If you three choose to keep this secret I have no objections."

"I don't like it," Selphie said. "But I trust Squall, I trust Irvine and Zell up to a point. I don't know that much about sorceresses anyway." She shrugged and looked away from Rinoa in contempt.

"Nida?" Irvine asked. "Will you do this favor for me and for Squall, even though he doesn't have the guts to ask?"

Nida glanced at Squall, who was scowling at Irvine although it lacked malevolence. Nida finally nodded reluctantly.

"Just for a little while."

"Alright," Irvine said, rubbing his hands together, "Let's go back to Garden now. It's late and I need my sleep."

As they turned, Antha suddenly spoke up.

"This might not be the right time but did you guys hear? Xu was just appointed the Commander of Garden."

* * * * *

The unwieldy Garden slowly crossed the ocean to Fisherman's Horizon where Cid hoped to find mechanics to fix the steering. In a day's time, the rusty, lackluster city appeared on the horizon and Garden docked. Reluctantly, the city's people agreed to repair the Garden since years ago they had worked on it before. With a vow of peace, the meek citizens of FH allowed the SeeDs into their midst.

While the mechanics worked on the repairs, Selphie talked a few of them into aiding her in holding a concert to cheer up the students of Balamb Garden as well as herself. On the night of the concert, Squall was no where to be seen. Rinoa had disappeared into thin air. To the relief of Squall's small group of friends, it appeared that the two were drifting apart.

Selphie joyfully supervised the preparation of the concert. It was always something she had a knack for. It was a vision that she already saw in her head. The blue lights casting their eerie glow into the sky of the city in the middle of the ocean. As she completed the concert to all its magnificence she felt a pang for sorrow for the Garden Festival and the fact that now it may never be thanks to the sorceress nonsense. It was a pity that they lived in a world with so much useless war. In the end empires may rise and empires may fall, just don't burn the art and music and everything is okay.

It was when the concert began that she caught sight of Irvine, standing alone at the edge of the stage. She skipped over to him, walking the landscape of her own masterpiece. It was times like these that made being alive worthwhile. That for a moment she welcomed reality into her dream, because during such times the boundary between the two blurred. Irvine, mysterious dreamy Irvine, standing by himself bidding her to make him the hero of her fantasy as he was already the hero of so many women's dreams.

"Look what I found Selfie," Irvine said and presented her with a magazine which he had placed beside him, open, on the edge of the stage. Glancing at it she felt her cheeks grow hot as though she was looking at pornography instead of innocent writing.

"Where did you find that?" she asked curiously as she bent down and gathered it to her bosom.

"A friend of mine showed me your website. I downloaded it, is this your secret Selphie?" he asked kindly, playfully.

She nodded mechanically. "Yes it is. Did you read it?"

"Pretty good Selfie. I never knew you were a writer."

She smiled shamefully at him but felt a surge of ecstacy. So now they truly were close and inseparable. He had come into her world, uninvited yes, but unwelcome never.

"I've always been fascinated with writing Irvine."

"I know it's pretty obvious. You have that shrine to some journalist on your site, I forget his name and that diary which you keep so faithfully."

She smiled. "I want to be just like him one day. I want to write for the Timber Maniacs, I want people to read my diaries, to know all about my life and my story. I'm always so happy because I live in that future Irvine, I live in my fantasy. That's my secret, now will you tell me yours?"

Irvine paused as he placed his arm around her slender shoulders.

"Tomorrow, in Trabia, when everyone is around, you'll know what my secret is."

"Promise?" Selphie asked.

He chuckled and wrestled the magazine back from her arms.

"I would never lie to you, Selfie, now let me finish reading this."

* * * * *

Antha was walking down the hall of the dormitory in dismay when she caught sight of Rinoa standing alone at the window watching the stars with sorrow written on her face. Antha was amazed since no one had seen Rinoa on the entire way to FH. Why did she choose to show herself now? Antha wondered.

Taking advantage of the mysterious encounter, Antha boldly walked up to the fearsome sorceress.

"Excuse me, sorceress Rinoa?" she asked tentatively.

"Yes?" Rinoa asked without turning.

"Umm I just want to apologize for calling you the Angel of Death in Balamb. It just sorta slipped. No hard feelings okay?"

"Don't worry," Rinoa said in a slow weary voice. "I won't turn you into a frog."

"It must be pretty tough to be a sorceress," Antha said. "I'm sorry we were so mean."

Rinoa finally turned her eyes over. "I'm not a child Antha."

"Yeah . .I know . .I" Antha continued.

"Are you going to the concert?" Rinoa asked suddenly.

"Yes," Antha said blushing.

"With Zell?" Rinoa asked disregarding her embarrassment.

"I don't know. He didn't ask me," Antha said nervously, not understanding why the sorceress would want to know such a thing.

"Do you want go with him?" Rinoa asked quietly.

"I . . .guess." Antha said softly, hardly speaking above a whisper.

"I can help you, Antha." Rinoa said whimsically.

"Umm . . do I have to sign over my immortal soul or something?" Antha asked, thinking about what she had heard about making a pact with the devil.

Rinoa laughed, a soft girlish one, not the cackle of a witch. It made Antha relax slightly.

"Come on," Rinoa said. "I'll help you child. Zell won't be able to resist when I'm done with you."

As they walked away Rinoa felt a twinge of nostalgia, for her mother, for Edea.

* * * * *

A few moments later, Antha stood in front of the mirror with her hair out of the pigtails. Rinoa reached over gently and brushed her wavy loose brown locks. The dim light of the dorm cast a ghostly pallor upon her face. Antha was dressed in a short blue dress with small straps around her shoulders. Rinoa had powdered her face, placed jewels in her hair and a emerald necklace around her throat. As Antha curiously studied herself in the mirror she looked over at Rinoa.

"Will he like me now, Rinoa?" she asked.

"You are beautiful," Rinoa said softly. "He won't be able to resist."

Taking the girl gently by hand, Rinoa led her out of the dorm. As they walked down the dormitory hall, Rinoa left her standing alone.

"I'm scared, Rinoa." Antha said. "What if .. "

"No," Rinoa said. "Don't be. Remember what I told you to say. It won't fail you and even if it does, think of it this way, those are my words. If he rejects you, it would be the equivalent of rejecting me. Either way, Antha you have nothing to lose."

Antha nodded vigorously, "okay, I'll remember that and I won't stutter."

"Okay, he's all yours."

Antha waited there in the hallway for a few moments before she heard heavy footsteps approaching. She gulped nervously as she saw Zell walking her way.

"Zell!" she called out suddenly.

A look of tension on his face, Zell approached her.

". .. .night . .. . .pretty.. . .you. . ." he said in broken speech.

"Ok, come on," Antha said, remember what Rinoa told her. "Let's go to the concert."

" . ..wha? . . . .I . . . .am . . ." Zell continued unable to contain his shock.

"We're still teenagers, let's act like it" Antha said.

"Yeah . . . " Zell said, finally choking out a comprehensive word. Antha smiled and took Zell's hand.

"Let's go to the concert."

Zell's face broke into a shy smile.

"Yeah .. .in . .mood. . for. . ."

"C'mon!" Antha said happily with nervous giddiness as she dragged Zell off.

On the stage beside the Mayor's house in FH, Antha and Zell stepped watched the concert in a brief moment of awkward silence. Zell had finally began to collect himself. Somehow her assertiveness was making him less nervous. He wondered how this sudden change in nature came about when suddenly she grabbed his hand.

"Dance with me!" she said.

Zell frowned. "Are ..you feeling .. okay .. Antha?" he asked, his voice clearing up significantly.

"I'm fine." Antha finally said, abandoning Rinoa's script. "But will you please? Dance with me?"

Zell smiled and led her onto the dance floor.

"Ready? One two three!" Antha said as she began to swing Zell about.

He couldn't dance but neither could she. They squealed and giggled to the loud obnoxious concert, as other couples began to join them on the floor. Antha tossed her hair out in a glamours wave as Zell dipped her. He smiled at her boldly as he brought her back into a standing position.

"I've never had this much fun at a dance before," he whispered to her as the dance grew slow.

She was breathing hard from the strenuous activity. Never, even in her SeeD training had she been put through such a emotional and physical roller coaster. Holding onto Zell's muscular shoulder, she leaned close and spoke into his ear.

"Neither have I, Zell " she realized suddenly that she had not stuttered once.

* * * * *

The notes came softly at first, promising to be calm, two noted, blazing and exquisitely distinct that stopped him in his tracks. He turned to leave when a deluge of notes came, in a fervent torrent, racing each other in a crystalline pursuit for the stars. Up and down the notes rang in gorgeous throbbing twists and turns, demanding to be followed as they raced on and on, higher and higher, nobler and more perfect.

It stopped then, stealing from the sky this mysterious miracle. He ached to hear more, as the notes begged him to bear witness and share another's anxious and demanding furor. He could only shut his eyes and wait, wait for the pristine cascade of sounds to return. In beautiful defiance of the haunting silence the song returned, in crispness and directness that he had never heard before in an instrument.

He began to walk then, across the bridge to the mayor's house where the concert had ended an hour ago. He must see from whose fingers came this miraculous song that threatened to the very sanity of the mortal which heard it. On and on he walked, closer and closer to the rolling notes that vibrated with longing and sorrow.

He stepped onto the stage where the cluttered junk laid in piles and crinkled under his feet as he walked. There, on the platform was the grand piano from which these notes poured forth. What a triumph of fervor this instrument was as it colored the darkness with hues of bliss and woe. The full reality of the situation hit him when he realized that it was she who sat on the white gloss bench, her fingers moving violently across the pearly grin of the creamy keys. Her black hair was flying about her shoulders as she pounded out one heated volley of notes after another as though she defied the very future itself. She charged onward, unable to stop as she flung the melody out pulsating through the sky like thunder. And finally she lifted both of her hands from the keyboard and stopped.

Silence as loud as it had ever been, rushed into his ears.

"Keep playing," he whispered.

She opened her eyes and looked up completely startled. Lurching back, she almost fell from the bench.

"I'm sorry," she said with a look of shame across her face as she stumbled up from the bench.

"I'm not supposed to be here. I was uninvited." She said remorsefully.

"Neither was I. What does it matter?" He asked.

She ran her fingers over the ivory keys as though she was stroking a child.

"This is a song called 'eyes on me.'" She whispered.

"I've never heard it played that way before."

"I weave my own variations in." Rinoa replied.

"Play it again," he implored softly.

She sat down on the bench obediently and began to play once more. Gently this time, with the air of placidness which emitted a new satiation as though she had gorged herself on glorious madness to the full. The notes came trembling, in sharp decisive discord. He closed his eyes and listened praying that she would never stop and steal from his darkness the only sun it had ever seen.

"I've only played this song for those who are close to me," she muttered as she went on. "I keep my music close to my heart."

He nodded but said nothing. She stopped then and lifted her fingers from the keys. She looked up reluctantly.

"Squall, sit beside me. Please?"

He walked closer to her, to his pale faced sorceress, watching. At that moment he could have sat down beside her and perhaps he could have even placed his hands upon her. He wanted to, in a way he had never felt before. He wanted to be with her, just her. Be here forever wandering among his thoughts as she played her majestic song. But he couldn't, because he was Squall Leonhart, because he was a SeeD because he was afraid of losing her.

"This is wrong, Rinoa, for us to be together."

"No," she said as she looked up at him. "Do you know what's wrong Squall? For you to work so hard for those ungrateful SeeDs. You don't believe in their mission, they treat you like a dog and in return you get nothing except a pitiful salary. Why do you do this Squall? What personal satisfaction could this miserable lifestyle possibly impart upon you?"

Squall looked away and studied the surrealistic environment about them. It was like a dream, the plates reflecting the empty sky. The flourescent lights had been long turned off and the sky had not one star gracing its black browed face. The music began again more dizzying than the strongest liquor. It drowned out his skepticism and replaced it with a feeling of bittersweet comfort. Then he began to speak of things which he never spoke of before even to himself and once he began the words poured forth from his mouth in a long story of tragedy.

"My mother died when I was young, very young." he began slowly at first "She was delirious as she laid on her death bed. .. .they, her friends, took me and my sister away because the Estharian soldiers were coming. They had pursued us for five long years and we had always gotten away just barely." he paused, and swallowed thickly as though he was silently reliving the times in his mind. He knew that he should stop.

He had already said too much. The music began again, gently, softly, rolling on and on, biding him to please her the way she was trying please him. She deviously played on, prodding him, reminding him that he had asked her to keep playing and that she had asked him for his heart's deepest thoughts. A favor for a favor. That was the exchange that had been silently agreed upon.

Perhaps he had been cheated. He had never agreed to give this story to anyone but on the other hand she had never agreed to play her music in the presence of just anyone either. Perhaps at that moment they were giving each other gifts that had never exchanged hands before or maybe nothing really exchanged hands at all. It did not matter, feeling a strange sense of comfort he continued to speak to her and at the same time to himself.

"It was my sister Ellone they wanted and my mother refused to give her up. My father. . he died trying to prevent them from taking her. . . because he loved her so much, more than he could ever even love a daughter born of his own blood."

You can't give someone something which they already had within themselves, he thought absently. He continued speaking just because he started and could not stop. The story had begun, the same tale which he had told himself like a monstrous fairy tale, night after haunting night. He never forgot his past like he forgot Quistis, his childhood or his own words. It was the only thing he had, the only legacy his parents left behind. And he told her now, the sorceress before him, because she was a part of that story although she did not know it.

His voice was soft then, a thousand times softer than a whisper. He did not want to say anymore. This was so unlike him to say such things. Yet he wanted her to understand because she was the only one capable of understanding. Because she could help him out of this web of darkness. Because in return he would help her. It was what was meant to be.

Raine, beautiful Raine. He saw Raine in her, the girl before him. It was as though she was here to fill the hole Raine left in the world. Or maybe the memories were just jumbled up in his head- what he saw in Winhill, in the mist, what two teenagers had died for. Surely that great tragedy was worth the story he told now, surely a life was a fair price to pay for him to step out of his character and tell this sad story.

"I failed my mother, I couldn't do what my father did, be the man my father was so that's why. . " he trailed off into oblivion as Rinoa nodded her head in understanding.

Whimsically, the music trailed off and evaporated into the night air.

"I understand but I still pity you." She said quietly.

"It doesn't matter," he said gruffly suddenly. "Perhaps you should be getting back to Garden. Dawn might be coming soon and we are going to Trabia or so I've heard."

She nodded. "Squall wait," she implored suddenly. "I'm glad we had this talk. I'm glad you choose to open up to me. I just wish I understood my past as well as you understand yours. Maybe then, I could open up to you as well. . .I've been keeping some things . .. back."

"We all have our secrets," he assured her half gently half impatiently. The music ended and strangely he did not feel so connected to her as he did before. The song was a spell more powerful than any that can be drawn from man or beast.

"But some have more than others," Rinoa whispered back cryptically as she brushed a strand of hair away from her face. "There are things Squall I wish I could tell you but I can't because . . ."

She felt his hand on her shoulder then as she sat there with her pale fingers on the ivory keys, and her voice trembling with the same melody of sadness her song sung of before. She reached over and squeezed his hand, trying to draw out of him every drop of tenderness he was capable of giving.

She sighed sadly.

"Come,"he whisper from behind her. "Let's go."

"I'll stay here a bit longer. There is some business I need to take care of." She replied staring guiltily at her own distorted reflection in the ivory.

He looked her over once more.

"I trust you, Rinoa."

She was shocked into fear but then she quickly nodded.

"Your secret is safe, Squall, with me."

He glanced at her one last time before he left. It chilled her to the bone. His eyes were like two crystal bullets glaring at her from the depths of their dark dwelling. He could look downright monstrous when he chooe to. Yet, trying to appear undaunted, Rinoa walked to the edge of the stage and picked up an abandoned cell phone. Glancing around to make sure no one was watching, she dialed a number she knew by heart.

"Yes?" A voice on the other side said.

"Ellone is not here, Ultimecia," Rinoa said. "It's a waste of time for me to stick to this plan anymore. I think it's time for a change."

Standing there in the cold night wind, Rinoa nodded as Ultimecia explained their new course of action.


Author's Note:Yeah I know I'm overdoing the glowing eyes thing. Sorry. I just had way too much fun with it. You understand don't you? If you don't blame it on my editor! Mwhahah! J/k



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