To Love the Enemy
Chapter 1 The Mission
Disclaimer: I don't own FF8 or any of the characters.
"Will Squall Leonhart, Zell Dincht and Irvine Kinneas report to my office. I repeat, will Squall Leonhart, Zell Dincht and Irvine Kinneas report to my office." Squall sighed as he heard the announcement.
"What does he want now?" He landed a devastating finishing blow on an unlucky T-Rexaur before leaving the training centre and heading for the headmaster's office.
"You asked to see me sir." Squall entered the office and stood, uncomfortably, in front of Headmaster Cid's desk.
"Please, sit." The headmaster motioned towards the only free seat in the office, the other two being occupied by Zell Dincht and Irvine Kinneas. "I hope I didn't interrupt anything Squall."
"Can we drop the pleasantries and get on with this?" asked Squall.
"Geez, man, lighten up," said Zell. Squall shot him a look of disdain and Zell shut up, realising he shouldn't push his luck. Cid merely laughed.
"Business-like as usual." Cid had known Squall for a long time and had grown accustomed to his short, gruff answers and lack of social skills. When Squall had first come to Garden, Cid thought that he had a problem with authority and would be reckless but that wasn't the case. Squall was the best SeeD in Garden by a long way. He was just very difficult to work with. "I ham here to inform you of your new mission."
"Great. I have to work with these two," thought Squall. "That'll be the most difficult part."
"I need you to go to Timber and meet up with Instructor Quistis Trepe and Selphie Tilmitt. Some months ago they were sent to infiltrate a rebel organisation, The Forest Owls. They will give you the schedule of the group's leader. It is your job to kidnap her."
"Cool, she's a chick. Is she hot?"
"Irvine Kinneas, I would appreciate it if you could concentrate on the mission."
"Alright, alright. I was just asking."
"Can we get on with this," sighed Squall.
"Certainly. The leader's name is Rinoa Heartilly. We have been unable to find a photograph of her, so you will have to rely on our agents for that. This file contains all the information we have on her and her group."
"So what's our mission?"
"You are to kidnap Rinoa Heartilly and safely escort her to General Caraway's mansion in Deling City."
"What does Caraway want with her?" asked Zell.
"What does it matter? We have the orders."
"You're not the least bit interested Squall?"
"Why should I be?"
"You really do need to lighten up."
"No, what he needs is a girlfriend," offered Irvine. "If you want I could set you up with someone." Squall clenched his fist tightly, trying to suppress his anger. Cid picked up on this and rescued the situation.
"I haven't finished the briefing. Under no circumstances, is she to be harmed. General Caraway was adamant about this. This means you must be very careful during the kidnapping. However, it is imperative that you do not fail, so I am sending Irvine with you. As a last resort, you will be asked to sniper her." Cid handed over a sniper rifle to Irvine who looked shocked.
"I thought we weren't supposed to even hurt her, never mind kill her."
"It's a specially modified sniper rifle, loaded with tranquilliser darts. It'll just put her to sleep." Irvine breathed a sigh of relief. "Remember, this is only to be used as a last resort, understand?" Squall remained silent as he nodded.
"Yes, sir," the other two SeeDs replied, saluting.
"Here are your tickets to Timber. At Timber, Instructor Trepe and Selphie will lead you to a train that we have specially commissioned for you to take Rinoa Heartilly to Deling. You will be alone on the train, so there is no chance of anybody discovering you. You may leave immediately. Dismissed."
Chapter 2 The Plan
"Yo, Squall. How long till we're there?" Zell was jumping around the carriage 'swatting flies.'
"About five minutes less than the last time you asked." Squall's patience was growing thin.
"Geez, there's no need to be so moody."
"Yes there is, he's Squall," chipped in Irvine. "He has to be moody and grumpy. It's his job or something." Squall shot him a look before returning to staring out of the window.
"That's unfair. I'm sure he's not always this bad." Zell ruffled Squall's hair but found himself swiftly being launched across the room by Squall, who left his seat to sit as far away from Irvine and Zell as he could.
"We'd better be there soon," he thought to himself. "I don't know how much more of these two I can handle."
"When are we going to meet Quistis and Selphie?"
"You're not. I'm going alone," replied Squall.
"Why? That's not fair."
"It's orders. I actually bothered to read the file. I will meet Quistis alone, without you two, to avoid suspicion."
"When are you going?"
"Now. You two had better stay in the hotel, I don't have time to babysit." With that he walked out of the room, not even bothering to say goodbye.
Squall scanned the pub, looking for Quistis. He spotted her, sat at the table in the far corner, half hidden in shadows.
"Do you have the information that I need?" She nodded.
"Selphie and I are now trusted members of the Forest Owls. We've been able to obtain detailed information on her schedule for the next few days. I believe you will have the best opportunity to perform the kidnapping tomorrow."
"After the meeting with Forest Fox?"
"That was exactly what I was thinking." She smiled at him, trying to make eye contact. "Isn't it funny?"
"Never mind." Quistis had secretly liked Squall for years but he just wouldn't speak to her. "It's not like I haven't dropped any hints," she thought. "Why won't he even look at me?"
"Are you listening to me?" he demanded.
"I asked who this Forest Fox was."
"Oh, right. She's the leader of another resistance group. The Forest Owls wish to forge an alliance with them. Do you think that's why Caraway wants Miss Heartilly kidnapped? To stop the merging of resistance group." He shrugged.
"It's not my concern, and it's not any of yours either. All that matters is the mission."
"Do you have a plan?"
"Yes. SeeD have a specially commissioned train in Timber to ensure a quick and speedy escape. As soon as the meeting begins, we'll bring the train into the station, along Miss Heartilly's route back to her base. There is a perfect sniper spot for Irvine on the Timber Maniacs building. I trust you and Selphie will be with her at this time."
"We will. What do you need us to do?"
"Create a distraction. I don't want anyone to see me kidnap her. I should only need a few seconds to drag her aboard the train. We'll leave immediately. There is a rental car parked just outside Timber for Selphie, Irvine and yourself. You'll need to find it and drive it to this location." He handed her a map with a cross marked on it. "We cannot afford to wait for you to board the train inside Timber, the priority is that we escape with Miss Heartilly. That is why you must meet up with us later. Understand?"
"Yes, sir." It killed Quistis to know that Squall outranked her in mission situations due to his higher SeeD rank. She was used to being an instructor, and hated being on missions, especially with Squall. He was the last person she wanted to take orders from.
"Be ready tomorrow." He stood up and strode out of the bar with Quistis staring after him in a daze.
Chapter 3 The Kidnapping
Squall confidently strode into the square, following the raven-haired woman who was some way in front of him. Seeing her enter a nearby house, he took a seat on a bench at the station and proceeded to make a phone call.
"We're ready." He hung up, not waiting for a reply. He knew the message got through when, a few minutes later, a train rolled into the station. Squall recognised the driver as Zell, and nodded to him to signify that the mission was going ahead. Glancing up to the roof above the Timber Maniacs building, he saw Irvine in position, ready for the woman to exit the meeting.
"Now, all we can do is wait," he thought.
The meeting seemed to go on forever. Squall was just about to call the whole thing off, thinking that someone had tipped off the leader of the Forest Owls as to the SeeD's intentions, when the woman he recognised to be Miss Heartilly left the building flanked by Quistis and Selphie. To Squall, she looked very different from her picture. There was something about her which attracted his gaze to her, and he felt himself staring into her eyes, but could do nothing to stop himself. Noticing him, she flashed a quick smile in his direction, causing a jealous look from Quistis which brought Squall back to reality. He shook his head, in an attempt to clear from it all thoughts not relating to their mission. He had just enough time to steady himself before Selphie began to scream.
"That guy stole my bag. Someone, help." All of the street began to stare at the young SeeD who was jumping up and down, and flailing her arms wildly in the air. Nobody noticed when Squall stepped forward to grab his target, who was now only a few feet away. He clasped his hand firmly around her mouth to prevent her from screaming, and dragged her onto the nearby train, closing the door swiftly behind them. He threw her into the nearest room and locked the door, before shouting through the cabin door to Zell.
"Get us out of here. Now."
Chapter 4 Introductions
“Hey. Hey, let me out. Let me out!”
“Yo, Squall. You gonna go shut her up before she bangs that door down?” Squall rose silently and unlocked the door to the cabin. His captive, obviously sensing a chance of escape, ran towards the door, only to find her way blocked by Squall.
“Sit down and shut up.” He commanded, holding on to her shoulders in an attempt to calm her.
“Sit down and shut up? Sit down and shut up? Why the hell should I do that? I demand that you tell me why I’m here. Well, aren’t you going to say anything?”
“Tell me dammit!”
“Orders.” Squall hoped that would satisfy her and keep her quiet. For the time being at least.
“Who’s orders?” she demanded.
“Look, lady. I won’t answer your questions so just go talk to a wall.” Squall was quickly losing patience.
“You really should learn to be more polite to your guests. And I do have a name you know.”
“What a coincidence, so do I,” he drawled. He found himself being swiftly slapped across the face.
“You’d better learn some manners.” She stormed across the room and sat in the corner, arms folded. “Yes, what are you staring at?” Squall wasn’t aware that he had been.
“Nothing. Sorry.” Squall leant back against the wall and ran his gloved hand through his hair, brushing thin wispy strands from out of his eyes. “Look, lady. Do you want some food or something?” Squall was conscious of the fact that if she wasn’t looked after properly, he wouldn’t get paid. She shook her head.
“It’s Rinoa by the way.”
“My name. So you can stop calling me lady.” She slowly got back to her feet and walked towards Squall. “Aren’t you going to introduce yourself?”
“Doesn’t matter who I am.”
“Yes it does. I like to know who takes me hostage,” she joked. For some reason, she wasn’t afraid of the man who stood before her. It wasn’t because of his appearance. He looked every bit the trained fighter, muscled arms, strong build and a scar running down the centre of his face. There was just something about his manner that made Rinoa feel quite at ease with him, as if she knew he wouldn’t harm her. Besides, he was far too aloof to be your average soldier, trained only to kill. He was something different. Rinoa waited for a reply, but none came. He merely raised one eyebrow, quizzically, as if he knew she was joking. “Please?” He sighed, deeply.
“There. That wasn’t so difficult was it?”
“Hmphh.” He turned away.
“So, who are you working for?” she asked hopefully.
”Oh, don’t give me that. I know you’re working for someone, I have lots of enemies. Just tell me who.” He remained silent. She sighed, knowing that she would not get any answers out of him. “Just promise me something okay?” Her voice was tinged with sadness. The sudden change caused Squall to look at her, puzzled. “Promise me you’re not working for General Caraway.” Seeing the hopeful, pleading look in her eyes, Squall quickly turned away. Fighting, he could do, but lying? He hated lying to people. He had been called aloof, uncaring, cold and selfish, but never in his life had anyone accused him of being dishonest. It was one thing that he was proud of. “Look at me.” He couldn’t. “You are working for him. Aren’t you?” He couldn’t answer. “No.” A tear slipped down her cheek and she sniffed slightly. “No.” She slid down the wall and put her head in her hands. Squall didn’t know why, but this hurt him inside. Maybe it reminded him of all the times he had cried in his childhood. He knew how she felt, and it made him feel totally powerless. He didn’t know what to do, how to make her feel better. He felt sorry for her. Everything that he’d been told about her made him think that she was a powerful, ruthless leader but meeting her had made him change his mind. She seemed warm and fragile, not a typical leader. Kneeling down beside her, he said the only thing that he could think of.
Chapter 5 The Past
Squall opened the door to the driver’s cabin, scratching the back of his head, deep in thought.
“Squall. You alright man?” Zell received no reply. “Squall?”
“So you are listening. What’s up with you?”
“Nothing. How far are we from the meeting point?”
“Couple of hours. It’ll take Quistis and the others longer to get there though.”
“How much longer?”
“Four hours, maybe more. I don’t know exactly. It might take them longer to get there coz it’s night, and you know how bad a driver Irvine is.” Squall nodded and stood silently against the wall, staring out of the window. “Yo, go check on Rinoa will you.”
“Why? I only just finished checking on her.”
“I’m trying to concentrate and you’re just creeping me out, standing there and saying nothing.”
“Whatever.” Disappointed with his leader’s reply, Zell began to sing the “Train Song” that Selphie had taught him.
“Train, train, take us away.”
“Alright, alright. I’ll go.” Zell smiled to himself as Squall left the room.
Rinoa was still crying when Squall returned.
“Please don’t take me to him. I don’t wanna see that man.” Squall could see the fright in Rinoa’s eyes, but merely shrugged his shoulders.
“I’ve got orders.”
“So you just follow them? You don’t question them?” He shook his head. “Let me guess, you’re SeeD?” Squall didn’t reply. “I knew it. Only SeeD are naïve enough to do that.”
“Your’e calling SeeD naïve? You’re the one who trusts total strangers you know nothing about. Is it any wonder you were kidnapped if you were that stupid?”
“What…what are you talking about?”
“You mean you still haven’t figured it out?”
“Figured what out?” Squall laughed to himself.
“And to think they told me you were dangerous.”
“I don’t know what you mean. Just tell me,” she screamed.
“Fine. Didn’t you think it was strange Quistis and Selphie didn’t try to help you?”
“You mean…?” He nodded his head.
“How could they do that to me?”
“Orders.” Her crying became worse.
“Well at least I’m not the one who’s working for his enemy,” she spat.
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“No, you wouldn’t. You SeeDs only work for one thing…money. You don’t care who you get your job from as long as they pay you. Fools. Only people too stupid to think for themselves join SeeD. They don’t want anyone with their own beliefs, opinions or morals. The only people who join are would be murderers.”
“That’s not true,” he hissed, trying to control his temper.
“Go on then. Why did you join? Was it because you wanted to kill people or because you wanted to be rich?” she taunted, storming across the room towards him until they were face to face. “Which one is it?”
“Neither.” He spoke with so much venom that she considered backing down. “I had nothing left. I had nobody. SeeD were the only people who would offer me a home. I had no choice.” She broke their gaze and stared at the floor.
“I…I’m sorry,” her voice softened.
“No, I had no idea that it wasn’t your choice.” After a few moments of uncomfortable silence, she decided to push the issue further. “So what happened to your parents?”
“I don’t want to talk about it.” He turned away so that he was facing the wall.
“Please? It’ll help.”
“Leave me alone.” Honouring his wishes, she walked over to the window, staring at the scenery flashing past. Trees, fields, small villages. She must have stood there, lost in thought, for more than an hour. The sound of Squall fidgeting brought her back to reality. She turned to face him.
“What for?” He looked up at her, his deep, stormy blue eyes piercing her to her very soul, making her a shiver run down her spine.
“For asking about your parents. It obviously still hurts you.”
“No it doesn’t, I just don’t like to talk about it.”
“It must hurt you if you don’t like to talk about it.”
“Fine,” he sighed. “I never knew my mother, she died giving birth to me. My father left just before that, not wanting to be with us and I was brought up by my older sister who died when I was about eight. There. You happy?”
“Oh, Squall. I’m sorry.” She sat down next to him and tried to take his hand, but he swiftly brushed her off.
“What for. It’s not your fault.”
“I didn’t say it was. I’m just sorry you’ve had to go through all that.”
“I mean it.”
“No you don’t, you think I’m a cold-blooded murderer, and maybe I am, but that’s still no business of yours.”
“You mean, you’ve actually killed someone?” She sounded frightened.
“What do you think SeeDs do?”
“Well, I don’t know.”
“We fight wars for other people. People rich enough to employ others to die for them. We’re just expendable. Of the cadets who joined at the age of eight, only two of us remain. That’s how expendable we really are.”
“Is that why you’re the way you are?”
“What do you mean?”
“Is that why you’re always so cold?”
“What makes you think I’m cold?”
“The way you talk to me. That, and Quistis told me.”
“Quistis told you?”
“Well, I presume it was you. I overheard her talking to Selphie about a man with a scar down his forehead and dark hair that hangs over his eyes. She said you wouldn’t even talk to her after all the year’s you’ve known her. She was in tears, reminiscing about all the times you shook off her advances.”
“See. You’re too blind to even notice.” She threw up her hands in frustration. “You have the worst people skills of anyone I’ve ever met.”
“It’s ok. I guess you have an excuse.”
“You’ve seen everyone you grew up with die. You must wake up everyday thinking it could be your last. You expect the end to come. It’s no surprise.”
“You don’t even know me and now you’re trying to figure out my whole life?”
“Sorry. You’re just easy to read, the stereotypical, cold-hearted mercenary.” He shook his head. “You know I’m right.”
“Maybe I chose to be cold. Did it ever occur to you that I might like being like that?” he snapped. He was genuinely shaken by this woman sat next to him, everything she had said was true. “What is she, psychic or something?” he thought. “No, she doesn’t know anything about me.”
“Squall?” Rinoa asked, worried about the expression on her captor’s face.
“You don’t know anything about me,” he screamed at her, storming out of the room. “You don’t know anything.”
Chapter 6 The Storm
“Yo Quistis. Where’ve you been? We’ve been waiting hours and there’s a storm building up. Squall’s getting real grumpy.”
“Now there’s a surprise,” remarked Quistis dryly. “I’m sorry it took so long. It’s difficult to drive in stormy weather you know?”
“Was is that bad?”
“Yes, and I think it’s heading this way.” She needed to shout to make herself heard above the wind.
“You think we should travel in this?”
“No way, but I don’t think there’ll be any dissuading Squall.”
“I’ll go talk to him. Go wait inside.” She gladly stepped into the shelter of the train, closely followed by Selphie and Irvine.
“What is it?” he sighed, not wanting any company.
“We really shouldn’t travel in this weather. It isn’t safe.” Zell shifted uncomfortably, waiting for Squall’s reply.
“We have no choice. We can’t just stop here. The sooner we get to Deling, the sooner we get rid of her.” He motioned towards the carriage where Rinoa was.
“Come on Squall. You can’t risk everyone’s life just coz you don’t like some chick we’re with.”
“We’re not stopping.”
“Squall, do you want us all to die or something?” Squall was saved from replying by the sound of the storm outside intensifying. “Squall?” A loud creaking sound could be heard above the raging winds outside, followed by a loud crashing sound that rang in the SeeD’s ears. “Hey, that came from Rinoa’s cabin.”
“Get the others out of here,” Squall ordered calmly.
“You’re going to get Rinoa?” He nodded, opening the door to the carriage. A scene of total carnage met his eyes. One of the older trees from the forest outside had been flattened in the storm, and crashed into the train.
“Rinoa?” No answer. “Damn it.” He started to root through the rubble on the floor, with no success. “Rinoa?” Squall thought he saw something move in the corner.
“Did I imagine that?” A second movement dispelled his doubt. Pulling back the branches from the tree, he found Rinoa. She had been hit hard, her head bleeding slightly.
“Squall?” she mouthed weakly.
“Shh. Don’t say anything. Just rest.”
“Am I dead?”
“No,” he laughed slightly. “You just hit your head.”
“You laughed?” She smiled at him, running her fingers through his hair, making Squall shiver. Strangely, he didn’t pull away. He stared into her deep, brown eyes as if in a trance. A thunderclap brought swiftly him back to reality. He tore off the bottom of his t-shirt and placed it against Rinoa’s head, applying pressure gently to stop the bleeding.
“You’ll be okay. Just relax.” He picked her up effortlessly, holding her close to his chest. “You’ll be okay.”
“Hey, Squall is she okay?”
“Where are the others Zell?”
“I sent them into the forest to find shelter. It should be safer in there, I haven’t seen any lightning.” Squall nodded his approval and headed for the forest. “Do you want me to carry her for you?” Squall held her closer, shaking his head. “And I thought you didn’t like her.”
“She’s a client. Do you think I’d trust a client to you?” Zell quickly shut up, sensing he had hit a nerve.
“I’m sorry Squall, this is the best we could find. I know it’s not much in the way of shelter, but it’s better than nothing.” Quistis just stared as Squall ran past her, cradling Rinoa in his arms. He placed her on the ground, carefully examining the wound on her head. “Might as well be talking to a wall,” she spat. Squall ignored her, taking off his jacket, and putting it under Rinoa’s head.
“Squall. I’ve got a headache.”
“I know. Just try to get some sleep. You’ll be fine.” She smiled when she saw his eyes filled with concern.
“Hey Squall. What do we do now?” asked Zell.
“We’ll have to stay here for the night. Rinoa’s in no state to walk anywhere.”
“And after that?”
“Don’t you remember your Garden Code? We travel to the nearest Garden.”
“Do you know the way?” Squall fell silent.
“I know the way,” Quistis told them.
“Good. Now get some sleep,” Squall ordered. After everybody had settled down, he went to sit by Rinoa. Taking the part of his t-shirt that now served as a bandage off her wound, he saw it was no longer bleeding. She struggled to open her eyes.
“Aren’t you going to sleep?” she asked weakly.
“Someone has to stay awake and keep watch.”
“Always the leader.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Nothing. Nothing.” She shivered. “It’s freezing out here.” Noticing that her head was resting on Squall’s jacket, she groggily sat up. “Here,” she handed it to him.
“I said keep it.” He snatched it from her and placed it over her shoulders. “I don’t get cold.”
“Thank you,” she said, laying her head on his lap. “Goodnight.”
“Night,” came the whispered reply.
Chapter 7 Escape?
Squall hadn’t meant to fall asleep. He had wanted to stay awake, to watch over everyone. After all, you never know what could happen. SeeDs should always be prepared.
But it was so quiet in the forest, there wasn’t so much as a sound, and Squall hadn’t slept properly for a long time. He had been too proud to admit it, but deep down, he knew he wouldn’t be able to stay awake all night.
He managed to keep his head full of thoughts for a few hours, keeping him awake. He also had that nagging feeling of guilt eating away at him inside. This was something he had never felt before…sympathy. If he had a choice, maybe he wouldn’t take Rinoa to Caraway. She didn’t seem dangerous, and he couldn’t think of another reason Caraway would want her brought to him. Sure, he had his doubts, but a mission was a mission, and he was a SeeD. He would do what he had to. That’s what he’d always done.
After a few hours, his mind became free from all thoughts, and he slowly drifted off to sleep, unable to keep his eyes open any longer.
Rinoa picked up on this. She had begun to worry that he wouldn’t fall asleep, that he’d stay awake all night keeping an eye on her. She had been lying there now for hours, and she was finding it difficult to keep up the pretence of sleeping.
Slowly, she lifted her head, being careful not to wake Squall. There was no perceivable change in his breathing and his eyes remained shut. Satisfied that he was still asleep, she stood up as silently as she could, and began to walk away from the group of SeeDs.
There was a cold wind biting at her skin, causing her to shiver. She put Squall’s jacket on and stared back at him, pangs of guilt flowing through her.
“He’s going to get in trouble for this, isn’t he?” she thought. She had heard that SeeD punishments were harsh and didn’t want anything bad to happen to Squall. “After all, he helped me out before. Granted, I wouldn’t be in this situation if it wasn’t for him. No, that’s not true. Some other SeeD would have come for me, so I guess I can’t blame him. Besides, I kind of feel sorry for the guy. No friends, no family. His job is all he has. That’s not a life.” She started to chuckle to herself.
“I bet he’d kill me if he knew I felt sorry for him.” She took one last look at the sleeping figure before turning round and walking deeper into the forest.
“Sorry Squall,” she whispered, “But I can’t go to him.”
It felt like she had been walking for hours, but it could only have been a few minutes. The storm was still raging, and the cold wind had picked up. She leaned forward and bit her lip, determined not to give in to the elements. She was thankful for the jacket Squall had given her. Without it, she might have been tempted to turn back for fear of freezing here. The more she walked, the harder it became to go any further, her feet felt like lead, and it was a struggle to see where she was going, as she had to stare at the floor so that nothing carried by the wind got in her eyes.
Suddenly, she felt a pair of hands grab her from behind. She spun around quickly.
“Squall.” She struggled, trying to free herself from his grasp, but to no avail. “Let me go.” He shook his head and began leading her back to the others. “How did you find me?”
“I heard you wake up. I’ve been following you.” His face was expressionless.
“But I didn’t see you. I didn’t hear you.”
“No, you wouldn’t have.”
“Another part of SeeD training, huh?” He nodded and they continued in silence for some time. “Please don’t take me to him.” He noticed the fear in her eyes and he began to feel guilty once more.
“I have to.” He couldn’t look at her. He didn’t want to see the look on her face as she realised he had to deliver her to Caraway.
“Please, Squall. Look, I’ll double what he’s paying you. Will that help?” He shook his head.
“Caraway’s one of our best customers. The headmaster at Garden would never oppose him. And besides, you don’t even know how much he’s paying us. I doubt you’d be able to get half of it.”
“Surely there’s something I can do.”
“Nothing.” He sighed. “Why don’t you want to go to him anyway? What made him order us to kidnap you?”
“What, you’re interested in your mission now? What happened to not caring?” she muttered sarcastically.
“Fine. I was just trying to be nice,” he spat, marching her back to where the others were sleeping.
“There you are Squall. I was worried.” Quistis had woken up and was keeping watch over everyone else. “What happened?”
“She made a run for it.”
“Good thing you found her. Here.” Quistis tossed a length of rope to Squall. He immediately understood, looping one end around Rinoa’s wrist, and the other around his own.
“You’re not going anywhere now.”
Chapter 8 The Truth
"You ready for a break?" Squall asked.
"I don't care," Rinoa lied. They had been walking since dawn, and it was well past lunchtime by now. She had had to keep pace with Squall and was exhausted.
"Fine." He sat down with his back against the tree, causing the rope on Rinoa's wrist to pull tight. She crashed to the floor.
"Thanks," she muttered dryly, brushing the dirt off her clothes. Squall pretended not to notice. He pulled out some food from the pocket of his jacket and handed it to Rinoa who turned away, ignoring his offer.
"Just take it. We mught not be stopping again for a while."
"Fine." She snatched the food from his outstretched hand.
"Look, I'm sorry."
"What? Am I hearing things? Was that an apology?" She laughed. "Don't tell me you do have feelings?"
"Fine, be like that. I have the decency to apologise and you just go and bite my head off. I won't bother in the future." Rinoa may have been angry but she knew how much courage it had taken Squall to apologise.
"Sorry." Her voice softened. "I know you're just doing your job."
"Why don't you want to go?" Rinoa was puzzled at the interest he was showing her.
"It doesn't matter," she said, a lone tear rolling down her cheek. Squall wiped it away gently.
"It's okay. You don't have to talk about it." She looked up into his eyes and saw that he was genuinely concerned.
"He's my father."
"What? But he's the head of the army and you lead a resistance faction."
"I know. He made my life hell when I was younger. After my mother died, he became a different person. I couldn't stand living in the same house as him so I left for Timber and saw how badly the army was treating the townspeople. I couldn't just stand around and let my father do that."
"Why do you think he asked us to kidnap you?"
"I'm really not sure. I've been thinking about that a lot but I can't come up with an answer. He hasn't come after me before now."
"Look, Rinoa. If I had a choice I wouldn't take you."
"Thanks. And Squall?"
"I should probably tell you this. I think my father wants to destroy SeeD."
"What? Why would you think that?"
"I found a document on his desk just before I left. It didn't say anything explicitly. It just hinted at his intentions."
"You must be mistaken. He's our biggest client. He's been using SeeDs on missions for years."
"Maybe. I just thought I should let you know."
"Thanks." He smiled. "You ready to leave?"
"I guess." She tried to stand up, forgetting that her wrist was bound to Squall's. She fell, onlyto find Squall's arms reaching out for her. Before she knew it, her head was buried in Squall's chest and his arms were wrapped tightly around her, his chin resting on the top of her head. After a few moments, they pulled away from each other awkwardly.
"I...erm. I'm sorry," he muttered, blushing.
"No, no. It's my fault. If I hadn't..." She found herself quietened by Squall, who placed a finger over her mouth, signalling her to be quiet. He loosened the rope around their wrists, allowing him to slip free and draw his gunblade.
"Stay here," he mouthed to her. He had heard a slight noise in the bushes nearby. Not much, but his SeeD instincts had tought him to be extremely wary. In the next instant a soldier dressed in uniform flew at him, sword raised high in the air. He was no match for Squall, who easily brought his gunblade up to block before plunging the tip through the soldier's heart.
Seeing this, four other men emerged from the undergrowth, heading for Rinoa.
"Where are Quistis and the others?" thought Squall, rushing to protect her. Before they could even get near, Squall had placed himself between the attackers and Rinoa.
They didn't even stand a chance.
Three fell swiftly to quick flashes of Squall's blade. The fourth, Squall knocked unconscious with punch to the head. He took the rope that once bound him to Rinoa, and tied he soldier to a nearby tree.
"You alright?" he asked Rinoa. She nodded, looking shaken. Satisfied, he turned his attention back to the soldier, who was now coming around. He pointed the tip of his gunblade to to his throat. "who sent you?" he snarled. the soldier didn't reply. Squall made a swift cut down the side of the man's face.
"Squall!" Rinoa screamed in shock. He ignored her.
"Who sent you?"
"Nobody," stuttered the wounded soldier. "Really, it was nobody." Squall made an identical cut down the opposite side of his face.
"Squall. Stop it"
"Rinoa. Stay out of this."
"But you're hurting him!"
"He's a soldier. They're prepared for pain. They're prepared for death."
"That doesn't matter. It doesn't mean that it's right to hurt him." She turned to the soldier. "Please, just tell him what he wants to know. I swear he won't hurt you if you do."
"You...you mean it?"
"Well, alright. It was General Caraway, but I don't know why he sent us, I swear." Squall was about to bring his gunblade down on the soldier once again when Rinoa stopped him.
"I think he's telling the truth." She out her arm on his, lowering it to his side. "So you can stop with the interrogation."
"What do you know about it?"
"Squall, why did Caaway send you on this mission?"
"I don't know. He didn't tell us."
"Exactly. Why would he tell this soldier then?" Squall fell silent and Rinoa knew she had won. "So you can let him go now."
"Let him go? So he can go and tell Caraway what we've done to his men?"
"The punishment for giving information in the army is execution. If he says he escaped, they'll know that he'd been talking to us. They'd exexecute him. He's not going to tell anyone." Rinoa looked into Squalls eyes, pleading with him.
"Fine." He made sure that he had no weapons before untying the ropes. "Go."
"Thank you," the soldier gushed at Rinoa before running in the direction of Timber.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Squall asked Rinoa.
"A little shaken I guess. I'm not used to all this death. I guess you are."
"How old are you?"
"Yeah, why do you sound so surprised?"
"I guess it's just because you've seen so much death, and you're always so serious. I thought you were much older."
"On the battlefield, you mature or you die."
"Wow, thats realy harsh. Don't you ever get to just act like a teenager?"
"I don't know. To be honest, I'm not really sure how other teenagers act. That must sound really stupid."
"No, its not. I just feel sorry for you. You missed out on so much."
"Whatever." Rinoa started to laugh. "What?"
"It's just funny. You start to open up and talk, and then you go right back to your usual self again. Well as I see I've hit hit a brick wall with this conversation, I think I'll start another. Why would Caraway send out a squadron of soldiers to find you?"
"I don't know. It looked like they were after you though."
"But why? I thought he paid you to kidnap me?"
"So why would he send out soldiers to kidnap me from you?"
"So why would he send out soldiers to kidnap me from you?"
"Have you ever heard Caraway tell anybody else about SeeD contracts?"
"No. I didn't. Why?"
"If this contract was a secret, he could easily make out that we kidnapped you with thw intention to hurt you. Nobody would know any different, and you said he was trying to destroy SeeD right?"
"What better way than for a group of soldiers to find SeeD members kidnapping his own daughter?"
"That makes sense. He wouldn't want me back because he cares."
"We have to find the others and get to Garden quickly. We need to warn them."
Chapter 9 Changes
“Squall, we’ve been walking for hours and we still haven’t seen any sign of them. Shouldn’t we just go on without them?” Squall could see that she was exhausted, she wasn’t used to the SeeD way of life after all, so he wasn’t surprised when she suggested giving up.
“We can’t. I never leave my team behind.” He slowed his pace almost imperceptibly, making it easier for Rinoa to keep up, without making it obvious that he thought she couldn’t handle the pace.
“Never?” she questioned, drawing level with him.
“You sound surprised.”
“You just never struck me as the loyal type, that’s all.” Squall didn’t reply to this, instead he stopped in his tracks and motioned for Rinoa to get down.
“There are people up ahead. It might be the others, or it might be…” He didn’t need to finish this sentence. Rinoa knew what he meant. “Just in case, I want you to stay here and keep down, alright?” She nodded, at the same time mentally admonishing herself for taking orders.
"I’ve always hated taking orders from anybody, and now here I am obeying someone I barely know."
She sighed, shaking her head.
"At least he’s not just anyone. I trust him, right? I mean, everyone else seems to, even though he’s so cold towards them. But, can I really trust a mercenary? He was sent here to kidnap me after all. That’s not something I can just forget. On the other hand, do I have another alternative? Go back to Timber and wait to be kidnapped all over again? Go back to that man and become a pawn in another one of his plans? I guess I’ve got nowhere else to go."
Squall looked back towards her, flicking his hair out of stormy blue eyes, sending a shiver through Rinoa as they bore deep into her soul.
“Are you alright?” he mouthed silently. She nodded in return.
"I guess it could be worse. A lot worse."
Squall skirted through the undergrowth, hardly making a sound. He managed to make out the incessant burbling of a nearby stream, which was where the group of people appeared to me. From this angle, he didn’t have a clear enough view of whether or not it was his team. Sighing, he knew he’d have to take his eye of Rinoa to get a better view. It wasn’t that he was afraid of her trying to escape again. He was confident of catching up to her if she did. The few hours walking they had done had shown him that that shouldn’t be a problem. He was more worried of her getting into danger if he wasn’t there.
"Why? It’s not as if she’s really my responsibility anymore. The headmaster will certainly cancel the contract with Caraway as soon as he hears the truth. Maybe it’s because she helped me to discover the truth. If she hadn’t have mentioned the document concerned with destroying SeeD, I might have thought that the attack was all just a misunderstanding. We could all be in a great deal more danger if it wasn’t for her. I guess we should all be grateful for that."
He looked back at her, making sure that she was still okay. He motioned to her as best as he could that he would have to move to see who it was, but that she should remain. Looking back at her, something stirred deep within his soul.
"It’s definitely not because I feel I owe her something. It’s something else. I just don’t know what."
Moving to get a better view, Squall thought he recognised one of the voices from beside the stream.
“Yo, Quis? Make us some hotdogs will ya?”
It had to be Zell.
“Make them yourself. You’ll never learn otherwise. Anyway, shouldn’t you be busy trying to find Squall?”
Satisfied that the people before him were in fact his team, he emerged from the trees.
“Where the hell were you guys?” he growled.
“Sorry, Squall. We were looking for water, but we couldn’t find any so we ended up right out here.” Selphie hung her head in shame. “We’re all sorry.”
“Why? What happened?” asked Quistis, concerned.
“Some of Caraway’s men ambushed us.”
“Caraway?” everyone exclaimed in unison.
“Yeah. Turns out he wants to destroy SeeD. Painting a picture of us as kidnappers would certainly help him.”
“But couldn’t he have asked us to kidnap anyone? Why the expense to kidnap Rinoa?” Squall shrugged his shoulders. Of course, he knew the truth, but what Rinoa told him was revealed in confidence. He didn’t feel right betraying her trust, even of his comrades had a right to know.
“Hey, guys.” Irvine shouted from some distance away. “Look what I found.” Irvine was dragging Rinoa by the arm so hard, it was clearly hurting her. He dumped her on the floor in the middle of the group. “She was trying to escape again.”
“She wasn’t trying to escape, I told her to stay there,” Squall told them. This was met with many puzzled looks. Rinoa picked herself up from the floor and punched Irvine in the face, causing him to howl in pain.
“Ow. Geez, that hurt. Who let her off her leash?”
“I did,” pointed out Squall, trying hard not to laugh. Rinoa looked at him quizzically, not used to seeing this side of him.
“What the hell for?” screamed Irvine, still smarting from the blow.
“She helped me out. And after all, it was Caraway who ordered her kidnap. We’re not working for him anymore.”
“How do you know this?” asked Zell.
“I had a little talk with one of the soldiers Caraway sent.” Everybody understood exactly what that meant.
“Well. What do we do now?” asked Quistis. “Do we just go back to Garden?”
“We’ll travel to Galbadia Garden and explain our situation to them. They should let us rent a car to Dollet. We’ll have to take the boat seen as the trains are down. We’ll have to hurry, we may not have much time. As soon as Caraway realises his plan’s failed, he may decide on another course of action. He’s bound to have a back up plan.”
“Are we leaving now?” asked Irvine, rubbing his cheek. Squall was about to say yes, but he thought of how tired Rinoa must have been before.
“No, we’ll rest up for now,” he said, glancing at Rinoa, who seemed relieved. “This seems like a good enough place to camp. We’ll leave early tomorrow.”
Squall was sat alone at the edge of the campsite, pondering the days events.
"So much has changed in one day. Yesterday, I knew exactly what to do, who I was fighting for, who I should take orders from. Now…now I don’t know what to think. I don’t know what to do anymore. Maybe that’s what Rinoa meant about me being naïve. Maybe I can’t think for myself. Life’s so much easier when you just have to follow orders. As soon as you begin to think for yourself,that’s when it’s complicated."
Deep in thought, he gazed across the campsite at the others. Quistis and Zell were trying to start a fire with wood that Irvine was collecting for them. His deep crimson cheek made Squall chuckle to himself. Selphie was by the stream, collecting water in bottles for their journey the following day.
"Do any of them know what’s going on? I almost envy them. Here, they just have to follow my orders, they don’t have to think what our plans are, where to go now."
Squall shook his head, trying to clear it of all thoughts. As he did this, he became aware of a presence behind him. He spun around to find Rinoa standing behind him.
“How long have you been standing there?”
“Long enough,” was the only reply he received. “Can I sit down?” He gave a slight nod, and shifted over slightly, making room for her. “I just wanted to thank you.”
“If I wasn’t here, there’s no way you’d have been resting right now. I’m slowing you down.”
“No you’re not.”
“Don’t lie to me. I know you were slowing down this morning so that I could keep up with you.” She smiled, showing him that she was grateful, not angry.
“I was that obvious, huh?” She laughed at his obvious disappointment. “I guess you were right when you said I was easy to read.”
“Actually, I’d like to take that back. You really surprised me today. I didn’t think SeeDs could be compassionate, and well,I was quite shocked to see you laugh.” He guessed she was referring to the Irvine incident.
“That was a nice punch by the way. Where did you learn that?”
“I watched you hit that soldier remember? I just tried to imitate you.” He looked embarrassed.
“Now that’s something you don’t want to do.”
“Are you making a joke Squall Leonhart?” she teased.
“Don’t like being teased I see?” she said, a mischievous smile on her face.
“Whatever.” At this, they both began to laugh, and as their eyes met, they both felt something unique, something they’d never felt before about anyone. He didn’t want to break their gaze, as if doing so would break some magical link between them, but Quistis was shouting him.
“What!” he shouted back impatiently.
“We’ve got the fire going. You want something to eat?” He turned to Rinoa.
“Hey, you two were looking kinda cosy over there,” Irvine said, patting Squall on the back. “You look cute together.”
“Shut up Kinneas.” Squall took another bite out of the food that had been cooked on the campfire.
“Seriously, though, she’s hot. Don’t you think so?”
“You could really go for someone like that. What do you say Squall?” Irvine winked at him.
“Of course, if you don’t want her, I’d be more than happy to show her what a real man’s love’s like, if you know what I mean?”
“You know what Kinneas? I’m glad she hit you.” With that Squall stormed off to the opposite side of the campsite.
“Geez, I was just trying to get a rise out of him,” Irvine protested to the group of onlookers.
“Hey, what were you and Irvine talking about?” Rinoa sat down next to Squall.
“Aah come on, it must have been something for you to get all annoyed about it.”
“You don’t want to know the things that Irvine talks about.” Squall told her. “Believe me.” She screwed up her nose.
“I think I can guess,” she said, trying to stifle a yawn.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I don’t think I’ve ever walked so much in my life.”
“You should get used to it. Tomorrow will be much worse.”
“Great,” she enthused sarcastically.
“You’ll be alright. Most people wouldn’t have made it this far without complaining.” She began to look proud at his compliment.
“Oh, Squall. I still have your jacket,” she suddenly remembered, beginning to take it off.
“Keep it,” he insisted, putting his hand on her shoulder, stopping her from slipping the jacket off.
“Thanks.” They sat in silence for a few minutes, neither of them knowing what to say for a time. “Squall?”
“Can you tell me what it’s like being in SeeD?” He didn’t reply. “Please?”
“Alright,” he sighed, relenting. “Well, most people join SeeD when they’re very young and train in fighting and magic, as well as normal school lessons like history. Most SeeDs are orphans like me, with nowhere else to go.” He looked down to see if she was listening, and found her head settled against his shoulder. She was fast asleep. He smiled at her. She looked so peaceful, shivering in the cold. He put his arm around her, hoping to keep her from the cold, and held her close to him. “Night,” he whispered.
Chapter 10 Travelling
Squall awoke to the bustling sounds of his team clearing away the remains of the fire that had burned out overnight.
"Quistis, do we have to do this?" Zell whined. "I hate cleaning."
"We know. We've all seen the state of your dorm. It looks as though it's been bombed." This last remark provoked a small laugh from Irvine. "And don't you start, Irvine. You're not even helping." She picked up two plastic bottles from the floor, and through them at him roughly, hitting him square in the chest. "Go and make yourself useful. Fetch some water." Zell smirked as Irvine slinked off to do as he was told.
"Yeah, you tell them Quistis," screamed Selphie. Squall cringed. If there had been anyone at all following them, they would certainly have heard that.
"Selphie. Keep it down," he ordered, urgently.
"Why? So we don't wake Rinoa up?" she teased. "Isn't she adorable when she's sleeping? Well, you obviously think so." She winked at him, before returning to help Quistis.
"Don't be ridiculous. I want you to keep quiet in case someone's following us," he insisted.
"Hee, you're blushing," she giggled. "You like her." To his embarassment, his cheeks were feeling warm, and he was sure that he was blushing, although he had no idea why.
"See, see, I'm right. Aren't I right Quistis?" She tugged on the older woman's arm.
"Well, I don't know about that, but I suggest that you drop it, unless you want a very grumpy Commander for the rest of the day."
"Ok, but I know I'm right."
"Whatever," was the only reply he could manage.
He hadn't noticed that Rinoa was asleep until Selphie had begun to tease him. He found watching her strangely compelling, the soft sound of her breathing captivated him.
"To tell the truth, I guess she is kind of adorable when she's sleeping." He smiled as she stirred slightly, before settling back down to sleep. "Wait, what am I thinking? It's not as if I like her or anything. Is it?" He shook his head. "No."
"Squall, we'll need to set out soon," Quistis reminded him. "It's well past dawn." He nodded, taking one last look at the peaceful form of Rinoa.
"It's time to go," he whispered gently into her ear.
"What?" she asked groggily, opening her eyes and rubbing the sleep from them in an effort to wake up.
"I said it's time to go."
"Fine," she said, not wanting to complain about the early start. She stood up slowly, stretching.
"You can bathe in the stream. It slows down behind those trees over there. There's a nice little lake. Don't worry, it's very private," Selphie told her. "You look like you need waking up anyway."
"But I don't want to be any trouble. I'll just be holding you up if I do," said Rinoa.
"No, don't worry about it. We're not going to be ready for a while yet the speed that these two are going." Selphie pointed towards Zell and Irvine, who were trying to sneak away from the campsite.
"Get back to work," ordered Quistis. They both hung their heads and sighed in unison.
"You're sure?" Rinoa asked Squall. He nodded.
"Hey Squall. Don't you think someone should go with her?" asked Irvine. Squall didn't reply, shooting Irvine a deathly glare instead. "Hey, hey, don't look at me like that. I just mean someone should go with her in case she gets attacked or something."
"I hate to say it Squall, but I think Irvine's got a point," said Quistis. "She might be in danger on her own."
"See, someone should go with her. And seen as you obviously don't want to, I think it should be me to go." Irvine gave Rinoa a wink. "I'll take care of you baby."
"I'm not going anywhere with him."
"Fine. I'll go." Squall finally gave in and walked with Rinoa to the small lake beyond the trees. He sat down at the shore, his back turned to Rinoa. The only indication he had that she was bathing was the slight splashing sounds from behind him.
"Thanks for this."
"Being here. I'm quite sure that if Irvine came, he wouldn't be the perfect gentleman like you are." Squall said nothing, his cheeks turning bright red. "Are you blushing?"
"Yes you are," she replied, turning his face to look at her. Instinctively, he shut his eyes. She laughed. "But you really need to lighten up." Suddenly, she tugged his shoulders and he fell backwards into the water. "See?"
"What the hell did you do that for?" he shouted, trying to keep the anger in his voice.
"That's it, just let anything out," she giggled. He thrashed about in the water, still with his eyes shut, trying to find the edge. When he finally did, he dragged himself slowly out of the water and shook his head, trying to get the water out of his hair, the droplets of water hitting Rinoa in the face. "Hey, stop that," she protested. He smirked slightly.
"Hurry up. We have to go soon." Sighing, she reluctantly got out of the water and got dressed. "Want me to stay here and guard you while it's your turn," she joked.
"I think, I can take care of myself," he replied, not knowing that she was only teasing.
"Fine, I'll be back at the campsite," she said, leaving Squall alone.
The moment Squall emerged from behind the trees, everybody was ready to leave.
"Make sure you have everything," reminded Quistis.
"Yes, yes Quistis. This is the third time that you've made us check," groaned Zell. "We have everything. Nobody will find any trace of the campsite, so stop worrying."
"I am not worrying. I am just being careful. It wouldn't do you any harm to be more careful now and again," she admonished.
"Are we all ready," asked Squall, taking charge of the situation. They all nodded in reply. "Let's go then. Quistis, which direction are we heading in."
"That way, I think," she replied, setting off at a fast-paced walk.
Rinoa had fallen in line with Squall, who brought up the rear of the party.
"You know, you should really stay in the middle of everybody. It's safer there."
"I feel safe with you though. Besides, here, I'm further away from Irvine." He laughed.
"You know, he isn't always that bad. Well, some of the time he isn't."
"I'm not sure if I believe that."
"He just tries to act like that to impress Selphie."
"You really think that?"
"No, Quistis and Zell think that." He brushed the hair out of his eyes.
"Sorry. How silly of me to think that you could be bothered about your friends."
"Look, Rinoa. That's the kind of thing that gets in the way of judgement on a mission. You follow the orders exactly, even if that means compromising the safety of one of your friends. Forming close attachments to them is pointless."
"No, it's an important part of being alive. Nobody can live alone. Everybody has to have somebody to rely on."
"Following orders and doing what you're told isn't a life you know. You need to learn to relax. You're way too responsible for someone who's still a teenager."
"This is the path that I chose. It wasn't as if I was forced into it."
"That isn't the point. I mean, have you ever gone out and had fun, or stayed up really late at a party? Have you even had a girlfirend?"
"Never?" He shook his head. "You've missed out on so much of your life."
"I really don't see what I'm missing."
"Right, that's it. When this is all over I'm taking you out. We're going to have fun. You scared?" Her eyes flickered wickedly.
"Do you think it's fun to tease me?" he sighed.
"Maybe a little. It's good for you."
"It is. I've seen you laugh after all. Now how often do you do that?"
"I'm not even sure I did until recently." He smiled at her.
"See. I told you it was good for you."
"And there you go being all moody again."
"Hey will you two keep up back there?" shouted Irvine. Squall looked up, shocked at the distance that had opened up between the head of the party and himself and Rinoa. He had been too intent on listening to her conversation to notice that his pace had dropped and that they were falling behind.
"Sorry, that was probably my fault," Rinoa admitted, beginning to walk faster.
"No, I wasn't paying attention."
"So, how long until we arrive? Not that I'm complaining or anything," she insisted. "I'm just curious."
"It shouldn't be long now," he replied. "And you shouldn't worry about complaining. Have you been listsening to Irvine and Zell for the last couple of hours?" She shook her head. "Listen."
"Quistis, are we nearly there? We've been walking for too long. I want a rest," moaned Irvine.
"Oh, you two are like a pair of kids. Are we nearly there yet? Are we nearly there yet?" she mocked.
"See?" pointed out Squall.
"I don't think any less of you just because you're not a SeeD you know?"
"No. In a way, I envy you. You fight for what you believe in. You make your own choices. Life's more difficult that way." As if he was ashamed at admitting this, he quickened his pace, leaving Rinoa in his wake, staring at him in wonder.
"Everybody. We're here," announced Quistis, rounding the brow of a hill and stopping to take in the view.
"Wow, this place is so much bigger than Balamb," exclaimed Selphie in awe. There seemed to be a great deal of activity all around the Garden, as opposed to the rather sedate atmosphere at their own Garden.
They walked down the hill and into the front gate.
"Wow, this place really is huge," agreed Zell.
"Yes. It is very different from what you're used to, but it has it's own charm," said Quistis as they walked through a further set of gates.
"Do you know the headmaster here?" asked Squall, getting back to business.
"Yes. I've met him on many occasions over the years."
"Go and see him then. It'll be better if he knows you," reasoned Squall. "That, and I don't want to have to talk to him," he thought to himself.
"Yes, sir," she said obediantly, aware that this was a public place and so she tried to convey a sense of discipline. "You should stay in the waiting room until I return. It's up the stairs and straight ahead." Squall simply nodded as Quistis left for the headmaster's office.
"Geez, how long is she gonna be?" complained Selphie.
"These things take time. There's paperwork for everything that will have to be filled in," informed Squall. "Besides, the Commander here will need to be briefed on the current situation. Caraway could come after them too."
"Well, I just hope they hurry up. I hate waiting around."
"Be patient Selphie."
"So, is your Garden not like this?" asked Rinoa, hoping that the conversation would stop the boredom.
"No," said Zell. "Ours is smaller and quieter I guess."
"And much prettier," offered Selphie.
"Galbadian SeeDs have much more in common with the military than we do," explained Squall. "The way they are trained is very different. They concentrate on fighting as a unit, whereas we are encouraged to fight alone. They also have ranks similar to that in the military."
"So everybody in this place is trained like drones? Is that what you're saying?" she asked, curiously.
"I guess." At that moment, Quistis entered the room, halting any further conversation.
"The headmaster says that all communications are down due to the storm, so they can't contact Balamb to warn them. However, they will lend us a car and we can make it there ourself."
"We'll have to take a boat through Dollet I presume?" asked Squall. She nodded.
"The headmaster kindly gave us enough money to pay for the boat trip."
"That's if the sea isn't too rough," Squall pointed out.
"It's a risk we have to take."
"Do we leave now then?" asked Zell, anxious to get home.
"They're preparing the vehicle for us now. We should get something ot eat before we go."
"Alright. Hotdogs," exclaimed Zell, who swiftly found himself being elbowed in the stomach by Selphie.
"Well," said Rinoa brightly, "Let's go."
"Oh, man. Eating properly feels so good," Zell uttered between mouthfulls.
"I wouldn't call six hotdogs a proper meal," Quistis told him.
"Ahh Quistis, let him have some fun for once," said Irvine. "We all need a break."
"What's the matter, Rinoa?" asked Squall. "You haven't touched your food. You've just been picking at it."
"I'm not hungry."
"You really should eat."
"I guess I just don't feel like it because I'm worried. I've got all of you into a lot of trouble. I can't help but feeling guilty. You could all get hurt and it would all be my fault."
"Don't say that. If Caraway really wants to get rid of SeeD, he would have found a way no matter what. So you're not to blame at all."
"You really think that?"
"Yeah. We're all just pawns in his game. We can't blame each other." Rinoa was about to speak, but was interrupted by the PA system.
"Could the students from Balamb please report to the parking lot, your vehicle is ready."
"Alright, let's go," shouted Zell, punching the air. Squall merely shook his head, as he lead the team towards the parking lot.
Chapter 11 Truth or Dare?
“Ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall. Ninety nine bottles of beer.”
“Shut up, shut up, shut up!” thought Squall.
“You take one down, you pass it round. Ninety eight bottles of beer on the wall.”
“Why couldn’t they have given us two cars?” Squall began to bang his head against the back door, trying anything to drown out the sound of Selphie, Zell and Irvine singing. He didn’t understand why Galbadia Garden had decided to lend the SeeDs a van instead of two cars. Quistis had offered to drive and had therefore spared herself the torment of hours and hours of songs. Rinoa sat quietly next to Squall, obviously deep in thought.
“Ninety eight bottles of beer on the wall. Ninety eight bottles of beer.”
“Will you be quiet?” Squall shouted. The three SeeDs stopped singing, shocked at the sudden outburst by their Commander. A stifled laugh came from Rinoa.
“Sorry, Squall. We were just having fun,” replied Selphie, obviously downhearted.
“Yeah, Squall. Let her have her fun,” said Irvine sticking up for her. Squall said nothing, which Selphie interpreted as a cue to resume singing.
“You take one down, you pass it round. Ninety seven bottles of beer on the wall.”
Squall hit his forehead with his hand in frustration, which provoked a laugh from Rinoa.
“What’s so funny?” he growled.
“Nothing,” she laughed. “It’s just that we haven’t been going for five minutes yet, and you lot are already at each other’s throats.”
“Glad you find it funny,” he replied dryly.
“Oh, don’t start getting offended. You know I’m only joking.”
“Saying whatever. You always say it.” They sat in silence for a few minutes, the only sound being the singing of Selphie, Zell and Irvine. “Squall, can I ask you something?”
“What is it?”
“What will happen to me? You know after we reach Balamb Garden?” He shrugged.
“I guess when the Headmaster realises what’s really going on, and that Caraway is the enemy, he’ll let you go home.”
“Is that it? You just send me home?”
“Well, where else do you want to go?”
“I mean, what if they try and get me again? Caraway knows where I live.”
“Well, you could always move house.”
“I know him. That won’t keep him away from me for long. He has spies everywhere.”
“Well, what do want me to do? I don’t even know for sure if the Headmaster will just let you go.”
“I don’t know,” she sighed, resting her head in her hands.
“Look. If you want me too, I guess I could ask if you could stay in Garden for the time being.”
“You’d do that? Thank you,” she gasped, throwing her arms around him. Seeing how uncomfortable he looked, she quickly pulled away. “Sorry.”
“Whatev…” Squall checked himself. “It’s alright.” She smiles at him, at which point he felt his cheeks become warm. He was so sure that he was about to blush, that he turned away from her.
“Hey, everyone,” exclaimed Selphie, obviously bored of her song. “I’ve got a great game.”
“Cool, a game,” enthused Zell. “What is it?”
“I spy.” She jumped up and down, clearly excited.
“Great, that’s all I need,” muttered Squall under his breath. He felt a sharp elbow in his side, and looked up to see Rinoa glaring evilly at him.
“Don’t be so miserable,” she hissed.
“Erm, Selph? How are we going to play I spy if there aren’t any windows?” asked Irvine, confused.
“Silly. We can look out of the windows in the back doors.” Selphie, Zell and Irvine all crowded around the two back windows, near Squall and Rinoa’s seats, squashing them against the door. “I’m starting, I’m starting. Right, I spy with my little eye, something beginning with G”
“Grass,” screamed Zell at the top of his voice, causing Irvine to put his hands over both ears.
“That really hurt!” he screamed.
“Wuss,” replied Zell. Irvine looked as though he was about to hit Zell, but quickly reconsidered when he remembered that Zell was Garden’s martial arts expert.
“Stop it children,” admonished Selphie, trying to mimic Quistis’ instructor tone of voice. “Now, Zell. It’s your turn.”
“Erm, I spy with my little eye, something beginning with S”
“Sky,” drawled Squall, boredom showing through in his voice.
“Aww man, how did you get that?”
“The only thing out there is grass and sky. We’re in the middle of nowhere,” he explained. “Now if you could please move away from the window, I’d like to be able to breath again.”
“I guess we’ll have to think of another game,” sighed Irvine.
“Truth or dare,” announced Selphie, a wicked gleam in her eye.
“Count me out,” Squall insisted.
“No way, Commander. You’re not getting out of this one.”
“Alright, who’s first?” asked Zell.
“Seen as you asked, you can go first. Truth or dare?”
“I’ve got a good one,” announced Irvine. “What did the Headmaster want to speak to you about before we left?”
“No way. I am not answering that.” He folded his arms and turned away, determined not to say anything.
“Aww, Zell,” whined Selphie. “You have to tell. I’ll make you.” She started prodding him in the stomach. “Tell, tell, tell, tell…”
“Ouch. Alright, alright. Just stop that. If you must know, I was using my T-board in the halls and I accidentally ended up the girl’s bathroom okay?” The group burst into fits of laughter. Even Squall managed a slight smirk. “Don’t tell anyone, please?”
“Fine, but for protesting so much, you have to have two turns,” Selphie ordered. “Truth or dare?”
“Seen as you were so mean last time, I’ll take a dare.”
“Fine. In that case, I have a great dare for you Zell. You know our old physics instructor?”
“Ewwww,” shivered Zell in reply.
“You have to ask her out next time we’re in Garden.”
“Selphie, you are evil,” said Irvine proudly. “That was one impressive dare.”
“Selph! I would rather face a thousand T-rexaurs than put up with her,” Zell moaned. “I can’t believe you’d do that.”
“Well, you know me.” Selphie flashed him an innocent smile and turned to Irvine. “You next.”
“Truth,” announced Irvine. “I don’t want you thinking of a dare.”
“I’ve got one for Irvine,” exclaimed Zell. “How do you really feel about Selphie?”
“Zell,” he hissed. “You know I can’t say that?”
“I think you’ll find you have to,” said Zell smugly. Rinoa and Squall watched on in amusement, wondering if Irvine would really say.
“Erm, well. She’s nice?” he offered.
“The truth,” ordered Zell.
“Fine, she’s very nice.”
“Hey, I am here you know?” Selphie shouted indignantly. “I have a name.”
“Okay, then,” he stuttered. “Selphie, I, I really like you. Well, more than like. Much, much more.” Both Irvine and Selphie looked at the floor, embarrassed and not knowing what to say. Selphie quickly snapped out of it, looking for another victim.
“I think it’s the turn of our glorious Commander, don’t you?”
“I’m not playing.”
“Don’t be such a spoil sport. Well, I guess that means we can pick for you, and we pick truth.” Selphie moved closer to Squall so that he could no longer ignore her. “Has anything ever happened between you and Quistis?”
“I told you, I’m not answering anything.”
“That means yes, doesn’t it?”
“It means I’m not answering.”
“It did happen, I know it,” Selphie jumped around, clapping her hands, excited at the prospect of a new piece of gossip.
“What happened between you and Quistis?” asked Rinoa, crestfallen.
“Look, nothing ever happened between me and Quistis, alright?” he shouted. The rest of the group was taken aback by his sudden show of temper.
“Sorry,” Rinoa muttered sheepishly.
“Look, if you don’t believe me, ask Rinoa. She was the one who told me that Quistis liked me.”
“You didn’t know?” asked Selphie, astonished.
“No, how the hell was I to know?”
“It was just so obvious. She’s liked you for years. Even I noticed,” said Zell.
“So, do you like her?” enquired Rinoa.
“She’s a good instructor and that’s all she is to me. Happy?”
“Not really. I was looking for some juicier gossip than you being blind and not being able to see what’s right in front of you,” Selphie said, obviously disappointed.
“Fine we’ll ask him another one,” suggested Irvine. “Do you like Rinoa? You know, like Rinoa?”
“Right, that’s it. I’ve had enough of this.” He banged on the partition separating the driver from the rest of the van. “Quistis, pull over.” The van ground to a halt and Squall leapt out of the back doors.
“What’s wrong, Squall?” Quistis asked, concerned.
“I’m driving,” he announced, getting into the driver’s seat.
“Wait,” shouted Rinoa, who got into the passenger seat next to him. “You think I’m waiting for my turn?”
“I don’t blame you.”
“So you don’t mind me sitting with you?”
“As long as you don’t sing or try to play stupid games.”
“Deal,” she announced, smiling. “Are you alright?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“You just seemed pretty annoyed with everyone.”
“I don’t like childish games.”
“That doesn’t surprise me. Childish games can be fun though. Well, I used to think they were when I was little. Let me guess, you never played them?”
“What’s the point?”
“It’s supposed to be fun.”
“Well, it’s not my idea of fun.”
“What do you do for fun then?”
“I go to the training centre. Either that, or I study.”
“I said for fun Squall. What do you do for fun?”
“I heard you the first time.”
“But, don’t you have a hobby or anything?”
“Everyone needs a hobby. I play the piano and write my own songs. My mother taught me before she passed away, so every time I play it makes me think of the good times I had with her.”
“I guess SeeDs don’t really have hobbies.”
“Sure they do. Zell likes T-boards, Irvine likes women, and I can’t see Selphie studying all day.”
“Fine then, I don’t have a hobby.”
“There must be something.”
“Well, sometimes I draw, but I haven’t done that for a long time.”
“See, everyone has a hobby. Can I see some of your pictures when we get to Garden?”
“I don’t know, they aren’t very good.”
“Fine. I’ll show you them.”
“Thanks.” Silence ensued for a few minutes, before Selphie, Zell and Irvine began to sing once more. Squall and Rinoa looked at each other, both sighing at the laughable rendition of She’ll be Coming ‘Round the Mountain that resounded through the van. “Thank Hyne we’re here,” he muttered.
“Thank Hyne indeed.”