~ Chapter Twenty: Until I Fall Away ~
Pressed up against the glass
The rest of the meal was eaten in silence, neither of them able to voice the frantic words that raced through each of their minds trying desperately to escape. Rinoa finished first and took her plate into the kitchen, unconcerned about her overly quick steps away from the table. She was just grateful for an excuse to get away before the emotions she held back imploded upon themselves and caused her to break down on the floor in a screaming, sobbing fit.
When she had left the room, Squall dropped the front of wellness he wore through the meal. Slowly he eased his head down to the table, resting it against the polished surface. Someone was hammering anvils inside his head and the eggs were not sitting well with him at all. The emotions, the questions, the surrealism of all this, and her damn indifference…those things alone made him want to throw up. He closed his eyes and sighed heavily, fogging up his reflection in the shining tabletop. Hyne it was hot.
“These are the strongest things I have,” she said placing two aspirin in front of him.
The sound of her voice startled him as he shot up from his resting position. Much too quickly, and he was unable to hide the wince of pain that spread across his features. He wasn't expecting her back so quickly.
“Thanks,” he said taking the tablets.
He looked miserable. Anger or not, she wished she could help him. A part of her wanted nothing more than to take him into her arms and hold him there until his pain subsided. Meanwhile the other half found some sort of morbid satisfaction in his torment.
“Maybe a shower would help?” She offered. “You're welcome to use the one upstairs…I left your bag in the bedroom. I feel in need of one myself. And you will probably want to go before I do because, well, I use up all of the hot water.”
Squall put the pills in his mouth and then glanced down at his disheveled appearance. His shirt was covered in grass stains and dirt. He was afraid to see himself in a mirror, his hair was probably standing all on end. An uncontrollable twinge of embarrassment passed over him. The young man wasn't sure why exactly, she had seen him in far worse shape, covered in blood and monster entrails. This was hardly new. It was however, not how he pictured their first meeting to be…back when he had still hoped for it.
“Yeah…that will probably help.” He said standing. “That is…if you don't mind.”
Rinoa shook her head. “Not at all. Hot water is on the left, cold is on the right.” He nodded and headed up the stairs in a lumbering, drunken fashion. When he had topped the steps and vanished from her sight, she put a hand against her forehead and took a deep breath.
“Keep it together Rinoa.”
She was to the point of a break down. And she would be damned before she fell apart in front of him. A flashing red light suddenly caught her eye and she turned to see the answering machine next to the entranceway of the kitchen. The sorceress gave a sideways glance to the stairs and listened for the sound of running water to make sure he was gone before walking over to the device and pressing the play button.
“You…have…one…new…message.” The robotic voice droned.
At first there was a slight shuffling coming through the speaker as the message played before one word was uttered.
That voice was undoubtedly Quistis, calling to warn her. Unfortunately, she was too late…and apparently she realized it. Again she wished her friend was here to play referee in this mess. Ultimately, Rinoa was scared. She had no idea what was going to happen…what would be come of this. She sighed again and took to busying herself with cleaning the dishes, trying not to think of the name he so blatantly stabbed her with.
The headmaster stood at the top of the steps in shock. He had returned to ask her where she kept the towels when he overheard the message. The realization again fell over him and he was filled with anger and hurt. It was only one word, but he had recognized the voice immediately. Quistis had known…for eight months she had known. The 'sick friend' was Rinoa. She of all people knew him. She knew he would have wanted to know. She knew how much he cared for Rinoa…didn't she? And the part that floored him the most was that she was in on it. She didn't want him to know…she didn't want to be found. She was just going to start a life here as far away as she could get from him and leave him to burn himself alive in his own personal hell.
Why? Why would she do this to him? Did she really hate him that much? Was this his punishment for being too late?
He clenched his fists in an attempt to quell his rage. Squall decided he would not confront her like this…he would need his thoughts collected and his mind calmed. It wouldn't do any good to fly at her in a blind fury. Slowly he turned and headed back towards the shower.
How could something so small contain something so devastating? It made the normally by-the-book Cid Kramer and Dr. Kadowaki break the very rules they helped create. Elise grasped the cassette firmly in her hand, as if it were her last link to sanity. By outward appearances, it seemed just as mundane as any other one in her countless files, but something about this one terrified her.
Maybe it held the truth, the truth she had once sought.
She wondered when she had stopped searching and only began taking his words at face value. Maybe it was easier that way, to live the life that she had created in her mind - the one of normalcy. The one where Rinoa Heartilly was truly dead and someday would be a long forgotten memory to him… This was reality and it scared the hell out of her.
The recorded date was typed on the label, followed by the initials of what she could barely make out as those of Jason Stevens, the therapist overseeing the session. However, what stood out the most was the red ink boldly stamped across the front. Classified. That simple. It was one word with a world of implications. She found herself involuntary trembling as she placed the cassette in the recorder. It was so simple: just press 'play.' How hard could that be? Harder than she could've ever imagined.
She threw the recorder onto the desk, watching it skid across the wooden surface. The feeling of bile rising from the depths of her stomach was the only sensation registering. The rest of her was numb. She tried to dissociate herself, to think of him only as a patient she could possibly treat… No amount of training was helping her distance herself from this case; he was more than a mere file number. She was his goddamned fiancée, and right now, that was all she could be. Choking back the tears, the young woman placed her head on the desk, hoping the moment of sickness would subside.
Her breathing was deep and unsteady, as each attempt became more like clearing a hurdle. She closed her eyes, filling her lungs with the much needed oxygen that seemed to be eluding her grasp.
“Elise, are you sure you're doing this for the right reasons?”
“It's med school all over, you can't save everyone.”
“Jason, it's not the same. I love him.”
The conversation from yesterday kept repeating like a cassette within her own mind. She knew this was different. She would prove her colleague wrong. He had to be. And there remained only one way of doing that…by listening to what she feared. Somehow if she didn't look, kept her eyes closed to the world, the darkness would make the inevitable easier… She moved only one hand, feeling the wooden surface for the player. Somewhere the lines of professionalism and personal had blurred, and she was traveling quickly down the highway during a hailstorm. The mechanism made a small 'click,' followed by a low humming that emanated from the recording itself. The first decipherable sound, she believed, was a chair being dragged across the linoleum.
“Good Morning, headmaster.” There was silence. The doctor was waiting for some type of verbal response. When he got none, he continued, “How are you feeling today?”
“Oh on top of the world, better than life, what do you honestly think?”
“Now Squall, this isn't about me.”
“No, I don't suppose it is. I would've stopped this bullshit way before now.”
There seemed to be a long pause before the doctor ascertained, “Squall, you've been drinking.”
“You're a genius, aren't you? Don't suppose you keep anything useful in those cupboards?”
“You do realize this breaks the terms of the probation set forth by the board of directors? You could face disciplinary actions, up to and including dismissal.”
“Are you my doctor or my attorney?” Squall's voice hissed from the other end.
Elise couldn't help but cringe. It didn't sound at all like the person she knew. He'd had drunken outbursts before, and she had witnessed several eruptions large enough to make a volcano look like a small ember from a campfire. This one was different; he seemed different. She knew one thing about his erratic behavior, the common denominator always seemed to be either alcohol or sleep deprivation. On this date, it sounded like a lethal combination of both. His body and mind would have to be at a near breaking point before he would talk about Rinoa.
Elise silently doubted every decision she'd ever made involving him, never reporting violations as her job so clearly outlined. Maybe she should have years ago, maybe things wouldn't have gotten this far. She had tried so hard to help cover his mistakes, and even now, she couldn't mask them. His demons were too complex, it had always been just a matter of time. It was a miracle he had made it this long. With the impeding trial, the enormity of his problems couldn't be denied. The tears no longer threatened to fall. They freely traced their own course down her cheeks, before landing unceremoniously on the desk.
After awkward moments of silence, Dr. Stevens tried reasoning with his patient. In hindsight, it sounded like a form of emotional blackmail. However, Elise understood. If it had been within her power, she would have chosen the same path.
“Listen Squall, I'll make you a deal. You tell me honestly what's on your mind and today stays between us.”
“Don't you shrinks have some kind of doctor/patient privilege?”
“Normally yes, but your transfer agreement states that-”
“Okay Squall. Can you at least tell me what possessed you to drink?”
“Yeah, I was thirsty, it was there. Mystery solved.”
“Squall…what's happening? You are so bitter today. What has changed?”
“Look, I haven't slept in over thirty-three hours and I've had enough whisky to drown a damn chocobo. What else could it be?”
“You're asking the questions again. Listen, I'm going to make note of this occurrence, but not officially report it to the board. If it happens again, it will be out of my hands. The only condition being, when you are done, you're going directly to your quarters to sleep it off. I can't have you around the students in this state.”
“Whatever. I can't sleep either way, so what's the difference?”
“Is there a reason you can't sleep?”
“Yeah, I should have been there yesterday. But no…I'm too damn weak.”
“Yeah 'there'… in Esthar, okay?”
There was the sound of several papers being shuffled, followed by a light rhythmic tapping. She knew that sound, Squall drumming his fingertips on whatever surface he was nearest to. It was a habit he'd acquired over the years. She had diagnosed it as a nervous condition, only manifesting itself when he felt uncomfortable. Ironically, in the last five years, she had acquired it too…
The doctor spoke after finding the information that he had been searching for. “Yesterday was March 3rd. It would have been Rinoa Heartilly's 20th birthday.”
“Damn it!” Elise outwardly cried. Not once did she think about the date stamped on the tape. It now all seemed abundantly clear, why he was more hostile on this date than in his normal sessions. As someone in love with him, she was supposed to notice key details like that…that was her job.
“She's dead.” He finally snapped. “Dead people don't have birthdays.”
“No Squall, they don't. But that doesn't mean you can't celebrate their life.”
“What life? The one I ended… the one I see every fucking time I sleep? How can I sleep when I all see is her?”
“Can you tell me what she is doing when you see her?”
There seemed to be an extremely long pause, before he finally answered, “Saving me.”
“Shit, she is saving me okay? What don't you understand about that, the word 'saving' or the word 'me'? I can get you a dictionary.”
The man continued to ignore Squall's sarcasm. It was a defense mechanism. Elise knew that fact all too well. “Well, can you tell me why it is so horrible? If she's saving you.”
“I-I don't want to be saved.”
“Why Squall? Why don't you want to be saved?”
“Why!? Because I couldn't save her, and she has no right in hell to save me!” The headmaster's voice rose furiously. All the time Dr. Stevens kept speaking in a calm, reassuring tone.
“Do you want to tell me about this dream?”
“More than one?”
“Glad you understand the plural form of a noun doctor, good for you. Now let me give you a few select adjectives-”
“You do realize I'm here to help you, Squall. Can you tell me how she saves you in the dreams?”
“She saves me only in one dream. The other, I can't save her. The second one is reality… it was her last day alive in Esthar. I see her face through the glass… so cold… I hear her saying--” Squall stopped speaking suddenly.
“I can't. Not that one.”
“Okay what about the other one? The one where she saves you?”
“It's not real.”
“That's okay, tell me about it anyway.”
“So, it's nighttime?”
“Did I say that? Are you going to let me tell you, or do you want to keep interrupting me? I said it was dark, I never said it was night…there is no night. I can't open my eyes. It's hard to breathe. Tired, I'm so tired…I just want to sleep.”
Both voices momentarily quieted down. Elise could hear Squall, winded for air, his breaths hurried and shallow. She had never heard him sound like this… The closest thing was back in the infirmary when she held his hand. But even then, he was calm in his delusions.
“Squall? Lie down and take long steady breaths. Squall, can you hear me?”
“No! Don't say my name. She's saying it, I can barely hear, but I know it's her. Please no, just let me die…I deserve it. The ground…so cold, so hard. I want to die here. I want this earth to be my grave. Don't please Rinoa…don't…she's crying. Damn her. I can feel the tears…so warm, so real, so full of life. I can't help her, I want to help her.”
Elise wanted to die; never had she heard anything like this from him. It wasn't Squall Leonhart, it couldn't be. She wanted to reach through time so badly, to hold him, to comfort him, to tell Jason to shut the hell up. Damn, at that point she wished she could've saved Rinoa. Anything, anything to stop this suffering. Her sanity was quickly becoming as questionable as Squall's, and her breathing soon mirrored his.
“Oh God, it's too bright.” Squall's voice grew more desperate, his mind was reliving the memory that his heart longed to forget.
“Squall, you said it was dark, what changed?”
“She did. I can see light, her light. 'Squall…I'm here. I've got you…don't let go.' Her words, I can hear them. I want to live in that moment…she's holding me. I don't want it to end. Oh god…I can see her. I don't want to see her anymore though, it hurts too much. Damn her, she's smiling at me. I can't…I can't help it… I can't control my own actions… I whisper her name and I'm smiling. I don't do that! I can't…she's dead. No, not this time… Don't die… please don't die Rinoa. I can't love somebody who's dead… I promise this time will be different. Please…please, Rinoa.”
He was begging her to stay. Elise had never heard him beg for anything. He simply didn't beg, until now. His tone changed from pleading to angry within seconds. “She's fading away. I want to go after her…I can't move. All I can see are flowers. So many damn flowers. I'm choking on them; the smell is too strong. I can't… I can't breathe…”
She heard several hasty gasps, louder than the ones before. He was hyperventilating, she knew this much just listening to the tape. The sound of a clipboard being tossed onto a hard surface echoed, as a set of footsteps ran across the linoleum tiles.
“Squall, stop and take a deep breath. Now! Damn it, nurse get in here!”
“Don't let go. Don't let go.”
He repeated the words like a sacred mantra, in between each gasp that exhausted lungs allowed him to steal. The next minutes were slightly hard to make out in the upheaval. There were no direct words, beside a few orders relayed to the nurse.
She could make an educated guess of what happened. The lethal combination of lack of sleep, alcohol, and dementia was setting in, and his body was finally shutting down. He was fighting against himself, with more fortitude and determination than she'd witnessed in almost five years. They were forced to administer some form of tranquilizer to induce his sleep, just as she was forced to do months back. If he kept neglecting his body, and with his habit of substance abuse, he would eventually force himself into cardiac arrest. It was a risk, not knowing the amount of alcohol that he had consumed, but it was a calculated one that the doctor had to take.
Minutes passed as the tape continued to record the events. Finally, Dr. Stevens picked up the telephone, entering a long series of numbers.
“Headmaster Kramer, we had to stabilize him. He's under sedative now. More than likely will be out the rest of the day, and most of the night.”
There was a lengthy amount of silence on the tape. Obviously, Cid was talking to him, sorting out the details.
“No…I'm sorry. I'm not sure.” This time the pause only lasted seconds. “No, he seemed to be reliving it. I know he claims it was only a dream, but the way he described it made me wonder…”
“What? Are you serious? How can… she can do that?” Another pause. Damn, Elise wished she could have heard Cid's end of the exchange. “Yes, I am.”
More silence followed, the unknown part of the conversation was killing her. “Yes, well over thirty hours. And yes, he freely admitted the alcohol consumption.” A final insufferable pause. “Okay, right away sir.”
The telephone receiver was set forcefully into the cradle. The next legible noise was heavy footsteps moving across the floor. A few papers shuffled in the background, before the unexpected sounds of paper being torn in a shredder. The last thing she heard was someone picking up the recorder.
“I'm so sorry, Squall. Forgive us.” The doctor's voice apologized, just softly enough for the microphone to make it out. It was never meant to be heard. Another click…and then a final silent pause.
Elise found the resolve to sit upright in the chair. With the back of her hand, she wiped off the tears staining her face, drying damp fingers on her overcoat. She knew his nightmares were bad, but she never foresaw something so lucid. The cassette was marked 'classified' to protect him, much like she had done for the last several years. Only, this was auditory proof of his failures. One listening by any sitting council member, and Squall would have been another footnote in Garden's history. She now understood that Cid was still concealing something deeper, along with Dr. Stevens. Professional courtesy, not to mention personal welfare, would keep either of them from breaking their oath. It was up to her to follow their clues.
She would save him no matter the cost. No matter the truth.
Straightening up, she inhaled deeply, regaining her professional demeanor. His voice sounded so forlorn, so painfully desperate… Something he had rambled almost incoherently just registered. Even if she didn't want it to. She ran the tape back, replaying his confession one more time.
“I can't…she's dead. No, not this time… Don't die… please don't die Rinoa. I can't love somebody who's dead… I promise this time will be different. Please…please, Rinoa.”
He couldn't 'love somebody who was dead.' Yet he didn't love somebody that was still very much alive. She wanted to throw the recorder across the room, wanted to shatter it into a hundred million pieces. She wanted to do anything, but hear the words that she'd just heard.
It was in that moment Elise knew she could never truly have his heart. Worse yet, she realized that somewhere deep inside, she had known that from the beginning. Jason was right.
She managed to choke out the words between ragged breaths, “I-I can't save everyone.”
For almost five years, she had convinced herself that she was fighting only for Squall's sanity. Now she knew it wasn't only his past demons she was facing, it was also hers.
Squall stared into the dark abyss of the shower drain. The water swirled precariously on the brink before falling to the depths beyond. He sighed as the hot water drummed against his head quelling the fierce ache while washing away the dirt and lathered soap. He tried to focus on the situation, on anything, but his mind kept spinning.
While the water eased his physical pain and his mental exhaustion, his mind screamed for assurance, assurance that she was still there. He cursed himself for leaving her alone. All of the deep and scattered fears welled up to the surface. Fears that had haunted him forever now faced reality once more. The fear that he would turn his back and something would happen to her again…and he would be too late.
He gasped sharply as words and images came flooding through his senses. Quickly he turned the water off and opened the frosted glass door. He stopped in mid stride and took a deep breath. When he regained some of his composure, Squall moved his other foot out of the shower and closed the door behind him. The young man grabbed a nearby towel and pressed it against his face. He was letting his anxieties overtake him again. He had to maintain control. He wouldn't lose it. Not in front of her. She had lived alone and well for the last eight months. The only threat she faced now was from him and his weaknesses. He tried to remind himself this over the thunderous pounding of his heart.
After he had dried off, he wrapped the towel around himself and made his way into the bedroom. Digging through his duffle bag, he discovered that in his rush he had packed winter clothing out of habit. Sighing heavily at his oversight, he slid on a pair of faded blue jeans over his boxers and continued looking at the sweaters and sweatshirts he had laid out onto the bed. He found an undershirt and pulled it over his head and then grabbed a black long sleeved button-up shirt, which seemed to be thinnest thing in the bag. Squall left the shirt open, hoping he wouldn't get too hot, though it was probably inevitable. It already felt like an oven in the house.
The headmaster thought again of the torturous ailment she would have to endure for the rest of her life. Of spending warm spring days in a coat designed for blizzard temperatures. Of only seeing the beauty of snowfall through thick windowpanes and in postcards. Of spending long insufferable winters trapped within four isolated walls. His hands began trembling as the guilt surged through him once more. Naturally it was the explanation of her detachment towards him. She hated him. He had ruined any and all chances for her to have a normal life. Rinoa Heartilly would never forgive him, and he couldn't blame her.
Squall reached into the bag, taking out a small zipped satchel that held his medicine. He sat down on the edge of the bed and began taking the bottles out one by one, placing them on the nightstand. There were five in total. Two were antidepressants, another was for anxiety, and the fourth bottle contained the pain medicine Elise had prescribed for his back after the accident. The fifth held a very mild sedative that was supposed to help him sleep. He found them to be about as useful as eating candy. But he wasn't allowed to have the strong ones anymore…they were addictive.
He left the sedative alone, along with the pain pills because they clouded his mind. The young man wanted to have his wits with him today, pain or no pain. He wanted answers. Taking the other three pills into his hand and the empty glass on the nightstand in the other, he walked back into the bathroom. He poured water from the faucet into the glass and swallowed it along with the pills. Squall splashed a little of the water on his face and glanced into the mirror in front of him. What he saw in the fogged reflection caused a sheet of familiar icy fear to solidify in his chest. It was the same fingered streaks that ran down the length of the sealing chamber. The same ones he saw in his own bathroom mirror all those months ago.
He put a hand to his mouth as he stumbled backwards. Signs. There were signs! The mirror, the training center, the basketball court…all signs he should have paid attention to. Instead he had walked blindly through them like the delusional madman he was. All this time missing their message…she was alive.
Squall Leonhart couldn't have hated time, fate, or most of all himself any more in that moment. Tears of bitter anger stung his eyes as he stared at the trickling condensation, watching gravity pull it to the rim of the mirror. He slammed his fist against the wooden surface with utter resentment and loathing for the man he saw in the mirror. The force of the impact caused the drinking glass to spin. It teetered on the edge before falling off the vanity and shattering on the floor.
The sudden crash broke him from the intense battle roaring within his mind. He cursed under his breath as he bent down to pick up the shards now scattered on the tile. His hand suddenly froze above the broken glass as he saw something that made the remnants of his blood run cold. The pieces fell into a pattern that looked unmistakably like…a hand. The young man tried his automatic response of blinking the apparition away to no avail. It was still there, seemingly lifting itself up from the floor towards him. Squall became entranced with the familiar image and was unable to stop himself as he pressed his own hand against it.
“Are you okay?”
He nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of her voice, spinning around as if he heard a ruby dragon sneaking up behind him. A horrifying image flashed through his mind as he turned towards the door. She was staring at him from behind a wall of glass with dead, hollow eyes, accusing him through ice-covered lips. It took nearly a whole heartbeat for the apparition to fade, but it felt like an eternity. Slowly he began to breathe again as he drifted back to reality. Looking down once more, he saw the hand in the broken glass had vanished; the streaks on the mirror were gone. For a moment he closed his eyes, desperately trying to crawl behind the mask he held for so long, the mask that had been chipped away a little more each day after he had first met her, the one that nearly fell apart after she left him. He did his best to hide the shock and fear in his eyes, in his movements, and hoped desperately she couldn't see the violent quaking of his hands.
“I knocked a glass over. I'm sorry.” He turned away from her and began picking up the pieces.
Rinoa looked at the kneeling man in front of her with concern. What had he been doing? He looked scared to death. She supposed a loud noise could do that to someone in a place like this. The house was always creaking and moaning…not to mention the fact that this was where his mother once lived. She chastised herself for being insensitive to that fact. She thought maybe she should say something to him about it, though she wasn't sure what. The thought quickly evaporated from her mind as she watched him start raking the shards of glass into his hand.
“Don't!” The young woman lunged forward. “Don't pick it up with your bare hands!” Without regard for the apathetic demeanor she was supposed to be portraying, she instinctively grabbed hold of his wrist wrenching the glass out of his hand. Her sudden touch spread through the nerve endings in his system like a wildfire. He turned his head and looked over at her. She lost herself in his eyes for a moment, and then quickly released him, regaining her composure.
“You'll…you'll get cut.” She finished slowly.
Still struck by the alien feel of her touch he let the remaining ruins drop from his hand. He couldn't feel the slight tinge of pain that stung his palm nor the slow trickle of the blood as it welled into tiny rivers in the crevices of his skin. No, he was still reveling in the feel of her fingers around his wrist, even though they had been long since removed. How could a dead person feel so warm? He shook the thought from his head quickly.
Rinoa turned away, opening one of the cabinets and taking out a towel and a washcloth. She held the cloth out to him and nodded towards his open palm. “Here…you're bleeding.”
Squall glanced at the crimson pool in his hand before taking it from her with his other. He pressed the cloth lightly against the wound. “Sorry,” he muttered again with more conviction in his voice. He had been in her presence for a short time, and already he was destroying things because he could not control himself.
“Hey, it's fine.” She said dismissing his apology. “This was a bar…so it's not like there's a shortage of glasses.” It was a joke intended to ease the situation; however her voice didn't manage to carry the lightheartedness through. She opened another cabinet and began looking through it for bandages and antiseptic. Retrieving the items, she returned to where he was kneeling.
“Just don't want you to hurt yourself,” she said softly as she poured some of the disinfectant on a cotton ball. “Is there glass in it?”
He shook his head and removed the washcloth. “I don't think so.”
The sorceress began blotting the abrasion with the soaked cotton. For some reason she could not help but cringe at the stinging pain he had to be feeling from the medicine. Yet when she glanced at his face, she saw no expression at all. Her old habits resurfaced, and she felt the overwhelming urge to get him talking, to get him to open up to her.
“You know I used to do this all the time in the Forest Owls. Everyone was always getting bruised, scraped, and cut up. I have no idea how I got stuck with the job. I certainly never applied for it. But for some reason they came to see me as the resident…doctor.”
The last word from her lips escaped with difficulty. Her mind began to drift back to the painful reality surrounding her. She had tried hard for the remainder of the morning to forget about the truth of the situation. Of the eight years that had passed between them and his love for another woman. Now with just the mention of that one word all she could think of was Elise and how much better she would be doing at tending to his cut…his need. Jealously had never been in her nature, but for some reason, it was becoming increasingly hard to ignore.
Rinoa tore the end of the bandage from the spool with her teeth and began wrapping the adhesive white material around his hand. She tried her best not to make any further contact with him, concentrating on the bandage. When she finished, she quickly got up and moved away from him, wishing for the moment that he would just…get out of her sight. It was hurting too much now to even look at him.
“I'll clean this up, don't worry about it.” She said curtly taking the towel and using it to pick up the broken fragments. “You can go relax downstairs. I'll take a shower be down there shortly. Make yourself at home.”
She hoped that would be enough to get him moving. She didn't really want to tell him the words that were running through her head. “Get the hell out of the bathroom,” was a little harsher than what she intended to be at the moment.
Squall nodded and stood taking the hint. He took a final glance at the dressing on his hand and thanked her with a quiet voice. The dark haired girl stepped out of his way, placing the towel full of glass on the countertop. “No problem.”
When he stepped across the threshold, the door shut behind him with a hurried force. He winced at the sound and at his own moronic behavior. Why was he having so much trouble trying to form coherent sentences in her presence? He had eight years to practice everything he wanted to say. He had it memorized. And now that she was here in front of him…it all went flying out the fucking window.
Sighing he descended the steps, his mind spinning. The way she looked at him…it was like she couldn't stand to be in his presence. He knew he had done a terrible thing to her…but was all that remained…hatred? God, he needed a drink.
The headmaster stepped into the kitchen and began looking through the cupboards, the refrigerator…the utensil drawers. Nothing. He ran his fingers through his hair in a nervous frustration. Surely there was something here…like she said…it was a damn bar! He suddenly stopped in his frantic search and took a deep breath to calm himself.
“No Leonhart…the last thing you need to do right now…is drink.”
After convincing himself inwardly of this and quelling the urge inside him, he stepped out of the kitchen. A small flashing red light caught his eye and he turned to see the black answering machine on the end table by the doorway. Suddenly he remembered Quistis, and the slow boiling anger began rising in his mind once again. A digitized two was displayed in the message screen. The blinking “play” button taunted him idly next to it.
Two messages. His anger moved over for curiosity. He knew he shouldn't…it was an invasion of her privacy and truthfully none of his business. Yet…somehow he felt it was…he deserved to know didn't he? He deserved to know why Quistis and whoever the hell else knew about this had kept it from him. Perhaps he might gain more insight on the situation if he just…pressed a button. His ears picked up the sound of water running through the pipes. She was in the shower. It wasn't like she would ever know.
Like so many times before, Squall Leonhart gave into his temptation. Slowly he reached for the button as if sneaking up on an unsuspecting victim, and pressed it.
“You…have…two…old…messages.” It said mechanically following its statement with a long drawn out beep that echoed through the room.
“Um…Hi Rin! I know you aren't in Winhill yet, I figure you're probably arriving in Timber about now... I had everything I could think of sent over, and if you need anything please call. Day or night. I um…wanted to let you know, that just in case, we're keeping your apartment ready for you. You will always have a home here. See how I like to hold on to old places don't ya?”
The voice laughed nervously, and a sudden fumbling sound was heard as the person dropped the phone or something close to that nature. The man retrieved the handset with a few muttered curses and took a moment to compose himself before continuing.
“Sorry about that…Anyway, it's just that…well, I really miss you. I know everything happened so fast after…that night, and I just never had time to tell you how much I really had grown to care for you. I know it sounds strange under the circumstances, but you are like my daughter and-”
The empty moments of fumbling did not allow the man to finish his statement before the machine cut him off. It didn't matter, however. Squall had stopped hearing anything after the line 'how much I really had grown to care for you.' His breath now came quick and hissed through gritted teeth. He shook with rage, clenching his fists tightly, digging his fingers into his palms. He ignored the pain of his right hand as blood spread through the white cloth surrounding the wound.
Why hadn't he realized this sooner? It explained perfectly why she was living in this place…he had put her here…he was the damn president of Esthar…of course he had to know she was unsealed…he had to initialize it! His mind reeled with anger and hurt as his father's words echoed in his memory upon hearing of his engagement.
“Is that it?”
Of all of the people that could and did know about this, somehow this hurt him the most. In that moment he would have preferred finding out that Seifer had taken care of her. After everything the man had put him through, he decided to pull the wool over his own son's eyes…again. A guttural cry threatened to tear out of his throat as he held a hand to his head and paced about the room frantically.
Why would he keep this from him?
Why would he do this to him?
The son-of-a-bitch owed him!
And what the hell did he mean by 'that night'?
Squall's emotions were to the point of exploding. His head throbbed intensely and a thousand knots constricted in his chest. He found he could no longer see, no longer hear, no longer breathe. He had to get out…he needed air. With urgency he ran to the door and grappled the knob before ripping it open rushing through it. The sound of the door slamming behind him echoed loudly through the empty spaces of the old house.