Will You Love Me In The Morning?
Most of the rules of Garden had stayed the same, and curfew was one of them. At 11pm Garden time, all facilities except the Training Grounds were closed to cadets. SeeDs were exempt, but there were so few SeeDs in comparison to the population of Garden that the effect was always that the Garden appeared deserted.
Rinoa, being neither cadet nor SeeD, generally preferred to just go to bed. But tonight she waited outside the training center, for Squall.
He eventually emerged, wearing just his usual pants and a white T-shirt. The Center was kept at a tropical temperature for the monsters, so there was no need for his jacket. He looked tired, and was covered in sweat, grime, and monster ichor. LionHeart was resting casually on his shoulder. She couldn't see any cuts anywhere. It didn't take him long to notice her.
"Hiya," he said, not unpleasantly. "Waiting for me?"
Rinoa nodded. "I...wanted to talk to you. When the others weren't around."
He sighed, blowing out a heavy breath. "It's late, Rinoa. Can we do this tomorrow?"
"I waited for you," Rinoa said, a little exasperated.
"I didn't ask you to." But as Rinoa started to look annoyed, he capitulated, raising a hand in surrender. "All right, all right. Will you let me get cleaned up first? Give me half an hour, and I'll meet you on the second floor deck, all right?"
Rinoa smiled. "Okay," she said, smiling. She darted up to him and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, and while Squall was still standing in surprise, left the area. When she was gone, he shook his head and sighed. It was very late, and he was tired. At least it didn't take much energy to listen.
Balamb Garden was over the ocean, as usual. When it wasn't needed on land, Squall preferred that it be outside the usual national boundaries. So when after a shower and a change, he came out on the second floor deck, the view was of a starry night over quiet and endless waters. Rinoa was watching the stars, but she turned when she heard his footsteps.
"Half an hour, to the mark," she said, smiling. "You're good."
He crossed over to her, still looking tired. "I'm out of good humor for the day, Rinoa," he said, but without anger. "What's on your mind?"
"This." And she pulled out his ring. He looked at her in puzzlement.
"Do you want to give it back?" he asked, a hint of hurt in his voice. For a moment, he looked vulnerable.
"No, no, nothing like that," she said quickly. "But I wondered if you could tell me about it?"
His scowl returned. "And this couldn't wait until morning?"
"I think it's important, Squall," she said, almost pleading. "Did you know about Ultimecia's GF, Griever?"
"But you had a ring by that name, bearing its likeness? You don't think that's odd?"
Squall shook his head. "I assumed it was a sorceress' trick, a thing pulled from my mind to fight us with - not really real."
"Sorceresses can't imitate the powers of GFs, Squall," Rinoa said. "I have Ultimecia's powers, from Edea. I could not make up a GF like that. It was real."
Now she had his attention, as he focused upon the problem. "I don't remember being taught of a GF like that," he said, slowly.
"Nor do any of the others," replied Rinoa. "Where did you get the ring, and how did you know its name?"
Squall stared down into the blackness of the nighttime sea, thinking. At last he said, "...I don't remember where I got it. I've just...always had it. But it didn't always have a name. I named it myself."
"You did?" said Rinoa, surprised. "Why would you name it that?"
"...I can't tell you," said Squall, pensively.
"I think I need to know, Squall," she said gently.
"I mean I really can't," he replied. "It's tied up in things I've sworn not to talk about."
Rinoa's eyebrows raised in surprise. "Is that so?" she said musingly. "So you won't even tell me?"
Squall turned to face her, his gray eyes snapping in indignation. "And what do I have, Rinoa, if I can't keep my word?"
Rinoa raised her hand in surrender. "All right," she said, "I trust you. Will you think about this promise you've made, though - and find a way around it if you think I really should know? This worries me, Squall. Why would you name your ring after a GF nobody knew existed - and how does your ring bear its image?"
She touched him lightly on the shoulder, a farewell and a good night, and left him on the deck with his thoughts. He stared back into the dark waters below him.
It isn't an issue of trust, he thought. Rinoa's earned that. Instead it was...how would knowing the truth of Garden affect her? He wouldn't admit to it, but he needed to see her smiling as she walked down the hallways or watched the cadets in the cafeteria. Oh, she had a vague idea of how Garden was run, but she'd never seen the full story, never looked past the surface. If he told her...would it affect how she saw him? How she saw Quistis, Zell, and the others?
Would he be able to deal with it, if it changed her?
He'd keep his promise. He wouldn't utter a word on the specifics of Garden's functioning. But Rinoa was probably right; she'd need to know this much, so that they could then focus on what he saw as being a greater problem; the existence (or past/future existence) of a GF called Griever. She'd need to know they weren't the same, to keep herself focused.
He wouldn't tell her - but he could show her, and let her work it out herself.
As he walked wearily back to his quarters, he was thinking, and no way am I going to be doing this just to see if she'll still love me afterwards. She's right, she has a right to know.
So do I.