A Mist Over Winhill Chapter 7

Rose of the Desert

By Kate Lorraine

Squall could hear his mother crying in the distance. She was so close yet he could not find her. The mist, the awful mist, was so thick he could hardly see his hand in front of his face. He felt tears welling up in his eyes as he called out her name once, twice. There was no answer. He tripped over a crevasse in the grassy plain of the Winhill bluff. He clenched his tiny fist and resolved not to cry. Where was she? He was so tiny and so helpless here alone, standing next to his father's tombstone. She had told him to wait here until she came back but he was afraid for her. He had never heard her cry like that before.

He was about to run in the direction of her voice when suddenly the mist lifted and a figure appeared before him. Looking up he was disappointed that it was not his mother. He wanted so badly to go home. It was a lady with dark hair, dressed in blue. She bent down beside him. He saw tears flowing down her cheeks in tiny tributaries. She ran the back of her hand over her eyes to dry her watery sorrow. She reached over and placed her teary hand on his shoulder.

"Squall," she began, forcing a smile onto her pale lips. "You must remember what I am about to tell you. No matter what happens never forget what I say to you now."

He felt sorry for her. She was so sad but at the same time she frightened him. In a gesture of confusion, he nodded.

"Squall, never doubt my love for you. No matter what happens in the future, what others may lead you to believe or even what I lead you to imagine, never give in to misgiving." She reached over with her other hand and held him tight. "Promise me, Squall. Hurry, I don't have much more time."

Squall nodded at her. He was only two, it was hard to understand what exactly she meant but she appeared satisfied with his response. She was beautiful suddenly as she graced him with another bittersweet smile. Finally she reached over and smoothed his fuzzy brown hair away from his face.

"Don't ever forget what I show you now or it will end the same horrible way for you too."

She turned and walked into the mist.

The mist over Winhill.

* * * *

~dreamworld end~

* * * *

Water, it was lukewarm and stale but it was the most delicious thing he had ever tasted as it poured into his cracked lips. He drank swiftly but then in a sudden flicker of his arm, he reached out and caught the hand that was holding it. A soft whimper came as he squeezed the silky wrist in his iron grip. Rinoa. Only then did he slowly open his eyes. He squinted in the dim glare of the single fading light bulb of his cell.

"Ouch, Squall," she complained as she clasped his hand with her other one. "Are you okay?"

He ignored her question as he brought himself up into a sitting position. He felt a dull pain in his chest and remembered the witch's attack. The pain became sharper as he tried to move but he decided to sit still and bear it down.

"What are you doing here?" He asked her.

"Would you believe that I wanted to apologize for lying to you?" She asked.

He shrugged, slightly, trying to move as little as possible. He remembered the dream of Winhill where he had seen her appear from the mist to make him agree that to that ludicrous promise. Yet it was also the faint memory of that promise that had stopped him from attacking her. Would he always be cursed to have his memory come in disjointed snippets, too short in length to be of any consequence, too charged with emotion to be forgotten, too vague in content to be useful.

"Where am I?" He asked as he glanced around the room. It was some sort of a prison cell.

"The D district prison. It's in the center of a desert, made for the imprisonment of Deling's political enemies. Your friends are here too, for the assassination of the president. You were unconscious for a long time. I was checking on you regularly to make sure . . . ."Rinoa trailed off slowly.

Squall rubbed his temples as though he was suffering from a migraine.

The door to the cell opened suddenly and Seifer walked in. He frowned when he caught sight of Rinoa sitting on the bed beside Squall.

"What's this Rinoa? Asking sexual favors of the prisoners again?" he asked.

Rinoa glared at him. "Shouldn't you be practicing with your gunblade Seifer?" she asked.

Feeling her hateful comments digging into his pride, Seifer walked over to Squall and grabbed a handful of his hair.

"How have you been old friend?" he asked in a voice dripping with spite. Squall did not answer and in frustration Seifer yanked a handful of hair from his head. Squall grimaced but made no move to defend himself. Seifer walked to his other side, scattering the short strands on the damp floor of the desert cell.

"You unimaginable bastard," Rinoa whispered under her breath. She placed her hand on Squall's shoulder in a protective gesture as the Moombas scampered in and ushered him out of the cell. Glowering at Seifer one last time, Rinoa turned to followed the Moombas when Seifer grabbed her by the arm.

"You're not pretending anymore are you Rinoa? You really do love him." Seifer said with a sneer on his face.

"I'm always pretending," Rinoa replied. "I'm incapable of love, remember?" she rolled her eyes at him before she left the cell, leaving him in absolute frustration once more.

* * * *

Is this really my dream? Seifer wondered as he watched the guards place the shackles onto the younger boy's wrists. Seifer's jaw hardened as he watched, feeling the stubborn determination well up within his chest. He had felt no pleasure ripping the hair out of his old rival's head. Planning it, he had thought that the action would have been more fulfilling.

But he just felt more empty.

This is everything you've ever wanted, the voice within said.

Was that really still his voice? Perhaps, it was Edea speaking, through his dream. He wanted to be great, to be a knight, saint, hero but now all he was, was a servant.

It was a vicious cycle of promises and hopes which will never bring him to his goal. Life it was not a line, but a circle. A slave he was to garden before, a slave to Edea now.

And so was Rinoa, Seifer realized then. She too had been lured into this trap of paper castles drifting in a far off oblivion. Neither of them could break out of this circle, break out of this pattern of cruelty.

"That cloud looks like a mask," she told him one day as they laid on the grass of the Timber meadows.

"A mask?" he asked suspiciously.

"Yeah, and that over there, is the face of a crying lamb who has lost her mother." She told him softly as she pointed to the sky.

"What a dreary mind you have," he remarked. She smiled and rolled over hugging his side.

"What do you mean, dear?" she asked.

"We can only see, Rinoa, what is already inside our minds."

And the truth was that now as he watched Squall Leonhart being mounted on that wall, he saw only bitter spite written on the boy's hard features.

Will you look down upon me for what I have become? Seifer wondered in angry humiliation. I'll make you pay, Leonhart. I'll make you share my misery.

* * * *

Rinoa stood quietly in the shadows while Seifer paced back and forth like a hungry carnivore.

"What is the true purpose of SeeD?" Seifer demanded as he slashed the air in front of Squall's face. Squall had a blank look on his face, a cross between irritation and confusion. His arms were suspended by thick black chains which kept him pressed against the wall.

Seifer motioned to the guard to administer a small shock just to play with his victim a bit. He smiled then. "I've finally achieved my dream Squall. I want you here to see me in my glory. I'm the sorceress's knight."

Squall lifted his head slightly as he looked at Seifer with pity. "You're just a torturer."

Seifer growled as he pricked Squall in the neck with his gunblade. "Shut up black mercenary" He motioned for the guard to administer another shock just to quiet his opposition.

"This is the part where you confess your undying hatred for me." He ordered.

Seifer slashed his gunblade in the air wildly before he reached over with his gloved hand and took Squall by the jaw. "Give me what I want Squall or I'll make your life a living hell."

Squall's eyes burned with fury as he refused to speak which infuriated Seifer beyond comprehension. Seifer motioned for the guard to administer a series of shocks in quick succession. Rinoa watched quietly as Squall jerked forward from the pain. She reached over to the table by her side and placed her hand over an object covered by a sheet. She was pushed to the brink of her tolerance when Seifer finally motioned for the guard to stop. He reached over and slapped Squall loudly across the face to wake him up.

"Answer my question, what is the true purpose of SeeD?" Seifer asked viciously. Squall was breathing hard but he refused to answer. Seifer smirked at him suddenly. His face bursting into an expression of sadistic joy. "You are on my list of tough nuts to crack."

"I'm honored," Squall responded in a hoarse sarcastic tone.

Seifer glared at him and slapped him once more. "Even if you won't speak your friends will." he motioned for the guard to commence with the shocks. As he stepped back Raijin ran in breathlessly.

"Seifer, Edea wants to see you. Better go ya know."

Seifer glanced over at Rinoa and scowled at her. "This is your doing isn't it?" he asked. "When I get back he won't be here anymore right?"

Rinoa smirked. "I wouldn't test Edea's good graces if I were you."

Seifer walked over to her and grabbed her by her forearm squeezing her so hard his fingers left marks on her skin. "If you do anything at all it will be treason. Help him and that will be the end of you."

Rinoa knitted her brows. "Do you take me for an idiot, Seifer?" she snapped. "I'm not a loved obsessed twit. I'm sorceress. Don't ever talk to me without that in mind!"

Seifer nodded. "Alright, Rinoa. Just remember Edea's good graces only go so far."

Rinoa frowned deeply and chewed on her lower lip.

"Watch him," Seifer ordered Raijin as he left. Raijin turned to Rinoa with a confused look in his eye. "You won't try anything will ya?" he asked with a tad of fear in his eye. He did not want trouble.

"Of course not," Rinoa answered and raised her hand casting Ultima. Raijin was thrown against the wall and he went out of consciousness without making a sound. The guard's eyes widened in fear as Rinoa's eyes flared yellow. She caught him by the skull and shoved him against the wall breaking his head open like a watermelon.

She turned the switch for the shocks off. Seifer had taken the keys with him but that didn't matter. Chains were but paper strings to a sorceress with her power. Rinoa walked over to the thick coils of rusty chains and placed her hands firmly on them. With a sudden forceful yank she ripped the chains apart. Her face formed a grimace as she did the same to the other pair. Her palms were burning as she caught Squall when he fell from his standing position. She laid him down on the ground. His skin was cool and moist as though he had just come in from a spring shower. He was breathing deeply, coming into consciousness again. Rinoa picked up his hand absently checking for burns but unintentionally she also felt his weak rapid pulse.

"It's okay," she whispered gently into his ear, remembering what little advice her father had given her in the event someone she knew was struck by lightening. Speak to the victim calmly, loosen any tight clothing, keep victim lying down, call for medical attention. It made her want to chuckle at how useless it all was. She heard his breath quicken as though he was on the verge of awaking. In a act of nervousness, she reached up and drew a few tendrils of hair away from his face but did not move him from his position in the nook of her arm.

"He's gone, take your time. I'm here. I'll protect you." Rinoa muttered continuing her efforts, wondering if he even heard her. She stroked his darkened cheek with her index finger but drew it back suddenly in embarrassment. He wouldn't want her to be touching his face like that.

But he was so beautiful.

He was coming back, slowly, gradually. She sat there on the filthy rat infested floor of the prison holding him in her lap. Soft and warm, courageous and vulnerable, safe but deadly, he laid in her arms, asleep not from weariness but from pain.

"Wake up, Squall, please," she implored into his ear as she tentatively ran the tip of her fingers over his silky lips, enamored so completely that she forgot all courtesy.

I've spent my entire life waiting for something .. and now I think I see what it was.

Suddenly he jarred her out of her lustful thoughts as his eyes fluttered open. She drew her fingers back in alarm and blushed deeply.

"Are you okay?" She asked rapidly, concealing her embarrassment. "Are you hurt?"

"That was hell," he whispered hoarsely as he sat up and pushed her aside. So much for her whimsical girlish dreams. He got to his knees and began pulling himself back into an unsteady standing position. She reached out and took his arm, trying her best to help him but was promptly swatted away.

"Are you sure you can stand, Squall?" She asked with concern coloring her voice."Maybe you should sit beside me here for a little . .while." Or perhaps forever.

"I'm fine," he growled in embarrassment as much as irritation. It was just his luck to appear so vulnerable in front of her, the sorceress.

"Sheesh, fine have it your way." She said mockingly as she playfully batted his fur collar. "Don't blame me when you fall on your face and crush that fine elegant nose of yours."

She grew serious once more as she watched him weakly lean against the wall as the dull but throbbing pain slowly retreated from his tortured body. She wanted suddenly to hold him in her arms but instead she nodded knowingly at him.

"Wait here," she whispered and turned away. She walked over to the table at which she was standing beside earlier. She pulled aside the sheets she had piled on top and drew out his gunblade. He was leaning feebly against the wall as she handed him his weapon.

"My co conspirators Zone and Watts have set your friends free already. They should be here shortly. Cid is on the fifth floor, the second cell to the right. You need to get him yourself." Rinoa took a few steps closer and eyed him curiously. "Are you sure you are okay?"

"Why are you doing this Rinoa?" He asked her softly, in a honest tone devoid of malice for once. He hesitated before asking the next question but finally he did as hard as it was to do so. "Will you be alright when they find out?"

Rinoa shrugged. "I'm the evil sorceress remember? Just another lap dog. Don't worry about what happens to me. I'm sure whatever it is, it can't be worse than what I deserve."

In a moment of affection Squall reached over and grabbed her arm once more. She looked up at his eyes with his face only inches away from hers. If it had not been iron hearted Squall standing there she would have expected a kiss. He whispered a few words rapidly and softly so that they may enter her ears alone and not that of the meddlesome gossiping mechanical ears of the mounted cameras.

"We'll meet again." His eyes followed her for a moment longer before he tightened his grip on his gunblade, turned around and left.

Rinoa was left standing there staring after him.

Perhaps it would be better for you if we didn't.

* * * *

"Squall!" Selphie exclaimed as she caught sight of him. "You're okay!!! whoopee!" Selphie ran over and hugged him while Xu shrugged and Zell scratched his head.

"Yo, you had us scared, one of the guards said you were being tortured." Zell commented.

' "You are okay aren't you?" Xu asked hastily.

Squall nodded. "The headmaster is on the fifth floor."

"We know," Xu replied immediately. "We just came from there. He's not there but I have a feeling he's okay."

"Why?" Squall asked.

"We found this," Selphie said as she waved the cowboy hat she was wearing on her head. "Looks like he was in a hurry to leave," Zell said. "I knew that coward couldn't be trusted."

"You're just saying that because he called you a chicken wuss," Xu offered helpfully.

"Shut up!" Zell exclaimed. "Stop calling me that."

Selphie chuckled and jumped up and down. "Chicken, bak bak bak." She began to curl her arms up at her side and bob her head like a chicken.

"Stop it!!" Zell yelled and began to chase after Selphie.

Squall caught him and shoved him back.

"Stop this immaturity now," Squall ordered. They listened for some reason.

After a few moments of silence Selphie spoke again but far more remorsefully this time.

"I can't believe he left without us," Selphie said.

Xu spoke up in opposition, "the headmaster is far more important than the rest of us, I think I see why Garden choose to send Irvine to rescue him alone."

Squall frowned wondering what was the root of Xu's intense devotion to Cid but it was none of his business really. He pointed at the way from which he came. "Come on, this is the way out."

Selphie shrugged and followed the rest of them. With one hand she pressed the hat tighter against her head. Irvine. The name was like a fairy that dwelled in the shady forests of lore. So he had broke down in Deling, so he had left the prison without them, so he was being his usual self. Even Selphie, glowing glorious giddy Selphie, was beginning to feel reality nip at her tiny dainty toes. But for her reality never took large bites and before long, she was happily prancing after the gang once more.

She hummed under her breath, his song, the lullaby.

Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me.

After taking out a few Galbadian soldiers, the small party saw daylight once more as they climbed through the opening on the tenth floor. However, they were stopped dead in their tracks as they realized there was someone in the control room. Rinoa was standing there, leaning over the control panel.

"What are you talking about?" She yelled into the speaker. "I had nothing to do with the prisoner's escape. How dare you accuse me of such an insult. I'll gorge your eyes out General Wedge. My father was ten times the man you are!"

In a calm voice to the point of sadism, the man responded. "The prison will self destruct in ten minutes. The sorceress Edea has ordered it. There is no use pleading with me. You have betrayed your superiors for the last time."

There was a click as the line went dead. Rinoa banged on the panel with her fist.

"Don't move." Someone behind her ordered. Rinoa spun around and came face to face with two GIM52As as well as two elite soldiers. Before she could react, the elite soldier shot her and it slammed into her arm. She felt over bleeding into a small puddle. She grimaced, holding the wound with her right hand. She glared at the soldier as he aimed his gun for her head.

Yet suddenly a shadow darkened her crippled form as Squall stepped in front of her. His friends backed him up as well in the fight as they decided to help the wounded girl. The fight was over soon and Squall turned to see Selphie bending down beside Rinoa to heal her arm. Rinoa looked on as Selphie cast curaga on the bullet wound. Squall wondered why she wasn't using her magic but the answer soon came to him. She did not want his friends to know that she was a sorceress.

"We need to get out," she said getting to her feet. "This place is about self destruct." She reached over and grabbed Squall's arm. Pointing at the bridge before them, she nodded. "This way, I know the fastest way out."


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