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~* Chapter 13: Midnight *~

*One time, at disclaimer camp…er…yeah still don't own them. However, I did come up with a great corporate idea of restructuring SquareSoft… I thought we could save some money by cutting a side…so they would now be known as Triangle Soft…still waiting to hear back.*

Quistis hurried down the corridor, with each step the hall seemed to grow longer. Curfew was almost upon them, and she needed help right now. Someone who was an expert at sneaking around Garden at night, someone who knew every closet, air duct, and place to hide… Someone who knew the training center like the back of his hand…Irvine.

He would be perfect; he was an expert in espionage along with being a computer genius. The man could do just about anything…except leave Zell alone. She continued down the hall until finally reaching his room. Her heart raced as she quickly knocked on the door, all subtleties where left behind.

"Irvine, are you up? Hurry, I need you!"

Irvine opened the door with a cocky grin on his face, "Doesn't everyone? I knew you would come around sometime, sweetheart."

Quistis looked at him, shaking her head and slapping him disgustedly on the shoulder. "We didn’t go back far enough….the past…Ellone, we didn’t go back far enough."

"What are you talking about? Squall saw Rinoa in the hospital, isn’t that what we wanted? I mean Commander Impossible finally said he loved her," countered Irvine.

"No, I mean to when she left Garden. We should have gone back over a year, not just at the time of the accident. I don’t think there was ever someone else; it was simply a defensive move on her part. Rinoa thought Squall had found someone else."

"Quistis, what in Diablo are you talking about? Our Squall find someone else? I’d be more likely to wear those ballet tights than him find someone else."

"I know that, you know that, the entire population of Galbadia knows that…but she doesn’t know that. Some things she mentioned a few days ago bothered me. First, there was that off-hand remark about bad memories at Garden. When were the only bad memories? The Second Sorceress War or when she left? Then she went out of the way to say she couldn't trust Squall. Why in the world would she not trust someone more loyal to her than a goddamn puppy?"

"Puppy…that’s an understatement. I've never met anyone so interested in only one person all my life. Millions of people in the world, and he could still spot her in a crowded room. He loves her, only ever her."

"Exactly, I know. Lastly, she claimed that 'coming home early changed her life.' I thought she was talking about Caraway, Julia, or something about her past. Except…" Quistis cast her eye to the ground slightly embarrassed of her childish antics. "Well…I was kind of listening to girl talk between Lauren and Selphie…and…"

"You mean the always professional instructor…did something a little unorthodox? Wow that is sign number 427 of the end of the world!" teased Irvine trying to lighten the mood.

"Yes…I was eavesdropping…you happy? Anyway, they'd been drinking a little and Lauren was talking about guys seeing her naked. Irvine, she mentioned Squall."

"Our Squall? I don't think there is a chance in…well in anything. Squall would never cheat on Rinoa. Why would you even believe Lauren about something like that?"

"No, no, no…Lauren said 'Squall freaked out the next morning.' It got me to thinking about everything said. Remember a year ago when the Trabian students came here? Because of the new classes, and the construction, we ended up running short on guest rooms."

"Dear Hyne, I remember that…Selphie was bouncing around here so damn happy. Not like one can possibly tell the difference between her happy, really happy, and damn happy. I had to give up my room and sleep with… Um yeah, I gave up my room in the name of Garden relationships with Trabia. Really."

She had to raise an eyebrow at the comment. Not as if she believed it for one second, he just had this charming-weasel-way about him. The good charming-weasel…not the bad kind. However, she continued on, "Right, Lauren was assigned to Squall's room. He had been away on assignment. But, during this conversation with Selphie a few moments ago, Lauren mentioned she used to sleep naked."

Irvine scratched his head. "Ya know…Lauren and Rinoa have the same dark-colored hair. I guess if given the right circumstances, under the right conditions…one could think…but still? Although, Squall revealed the other day that he had only seen one woman naked, but it 'wasn't like I thought.' So…if he got home late, saw her in bed, was tired..."

"Right!!! Squall thought he was lying next to Rinoa. I remember he had gone over twenty-four hours without sleep, only because Zell was with him. Trust me…I heard more than I ever wanted to know. For arguments sake, what if Rinoa came home early and saw them together..."

"It would look very bad. Naked woman in bed with Squall. Who among us wouldn’t think anything? But, how do we know this for sure? I don’t want to ask Rinoa if she possibly saw her boyfriend in bed naked with another woman. If she didn’t, that certainly wouldn't help her right now."

Quistis just smiled knowingly, "Keycards, every keycard is assigned a number. If Rinoa did have a keycard to his room, we could see when it was used. Lauren would have had one too, but hers would be a temporary card." She could tell the confusion on Irvine's face.

"Okay, okay…now when you came to live here, you were issued two keycards to your room, right?"

"Yeah, they said one was for emergency use."

"Exactly. But, tell me the truth, have you ever given one to Selphie? Or has she ever given you her card to gain entrance to her room." He didn't answer, only smiled very, very brightly. Quistis waved her hand, "Never mind, I don't want to know. Now what if Squall did the same? He gave Rinoa his spare."

"Oh, I get it…so Squall may have never known Rinoa came back."

"Yes! Now, the one Lauren was given was a temporary given to guests. It only worked for that room, so she couldn't use it to gain access to any others. It's like when you go to a hotel and they program the cardkey, it expires after a stated time. But, the hotel staff would still have main keys, just as maintenance, or housekeeping would."

"Now the real cardkeys, the ones issued to Garden students, are coded with their student ID number, along with a prefix of either A or B. That way, one could tell which card was used, which EXACT card was used. Every time Squall, or anybody, opens their door, it is recorded. Nobody ever looks at the report unless there is a question of security. Nevertheless the records are still here, in the computers next to Cid’s office."

"So, which one of us gets to explain this hypothesis to Cid?" The cowboy chuckled aloud at his own comments.

"Hey Cid got a minute? Squall may have broken Garden rules and given his keycard to his *girlfriend*. Then said *girlfriend* came back to find her boyfriend in bed *naked* with another woman. Squall *thought* the naked woman in his bed was his *girlfriend*. Headmaster, we understand that is also against Garden policy, but right now that is irrelevant…"

He took a deep breath before continuing, a very deep breath, "So then Rinoa *made up* a boyfriend and dumped Squall for cheating on her, even though, he *never* did. So for the last year she’s been mad at *him*, and he’s been mad at *her*. See the paradox Cid? What it comes down to is…there never was *another* girlfriend, naked women - yes, not girlfriend. And then…there was never a boyfriend, just a male cousin. See one big happy misunderstanding. Now can we use the Garden computer to verify this story?"

Quistis couldn’t help but to giggle; it sounded ridiculous, even to her, when Irvine said it like that. "Okay, so we don’t *tell* Cid. We just go up tonight and *borrow* his computer. We’re SeeDs, how difficult can this be?"


Squall sat watching every tiny movement Rinoa made. Most of her motions, he had probably already seen a thousand times. Yet, right now, a realization hit him, that he had forsaken every one of them. The way her hair carelessly laid over her shoulders, the simple act of breathing, her slender fingers moving. Everything she did, he felt as if he was witnessing for the first time.

Minutes turned to hours, while they remained with each other. Neither knowing what to say, neither wanting to rupture the moment. The sound of rolling thunder broke him out of the trance he found himself in. A small flash of lightening illuminated the dimly lit room, finally he asked her a simple question, "Rin, what’s it like?"

She moved the velvety box to her left hand, clasping it for support. Hesitating for a moment on whether or not to answer the question, she managed a smile. One that he had grown to love over the last few years. "When I first woke up, it was the worst feeling ever. I wished I had been killed. I couldn’t imagine not seeing things again, living my life in total darkness. I cried, Hyne did I cry. I knew I'd have to make a decision. So, inevitably I went on with life. I had to fight. Sometimes I'd wake up in the middle of the night feeling…alone, always alone. I had to learn to see with more than my eyes."

He didn't move, only listened to every syllable that left her soft lips. "Like I said about the sunset, I learned to see with my heart. Don't think that for a moment it was easy. I had so many bruises from the accident, and then I added several dozen more just trying to walk to the kitchen. I fell more times than I care to remember. Essentially, just like at the dinner last night. Least at home…I wasn’t in front of two hundred people, the president of a powerful country, and... you."

He couldn’t say anything, as the irritation in his stomach was getting the better of him. He had seen too much of her life, now he felt it was an invitation she’d have never approved of. Getting up carefully, he walked over to her. Unsure and shaking, his hand reached down, carefully guiding her body to the head of the bed. He managed to put two pillows on the headboard in a sitting position. Moving onto the bed again, he leaned back onto the cushions. Gradually he moved his arms toward her and placed his hands around her waist, pulling her closer to him.

At first, she resisted his touch, but the moment of resistance was quickly abolished. The sheets of rain beat against the windowpane. It was the only sound within the room, save for the heartbeats and breathing. She fought against better judgment, and leaned against his chest. Her back laid against his upper body, feeling every motion, every muscle. They sat together without another word between them, just enjoying the comfort they shared, but neither would mutually admit.

Squall knew he had to say something quick. Not for the fact the silence wasn’t comforting, but for the fact his emotions were finally getting the better of him. He had told her once earlier today his true feelings. Of course, technically, it was six months ago. Not to mention, there was always the small fact she didn’t remember a word of it right now. For all practical purposes, every second that ticked away was like a knife in his chest; the anticipation was killing him.

For the second time today, he held is pride. By saying what he felt, not hiding behind the masks he created. "Rinoa, I love you. I always have. I was irrational, unable to admit it to even myself."

Feeling her instantly tense up, Squall disliked the uncertainty within her actions. Not being able to read the expression on her face was killing him. The noise of the velvet container being released from her grasp was the only sound that echoed through the barren room. It bounced off his leg and onto the tiled floor below.

Still Rinoa made no sounds, only sat completely still.

"Please say something, anything. I know that the damage is done now. If I had been able to express my feelings a year ago, maybe it wouldn’t have turned out like this."

"Don’t say another damn word, Mr. Leonhart. I waited every day for over a year, just to hear something like that. Now things are different, you feel sorry for me and so you think that will make everything better." She sat up and swung her legs over the bed, trying to stand without loosing her balance.

Squall swiftly followed her lead and rose to his feet. "I don’t feel sorry for you Rinoa."

"Commander, look me in the eyes and tell me there is no pity there. Oh right, you can’t. So let’s just tell the poor, little blind girl that you are in love with her. Maybe then, some of the guilt will go away."

Squall stood unsure of what to say. No matter what he said, it would be taken wrong. "How am I not to feel guilt or pity? It's a natural reaction after all. Had the situation been reversed, you would carry the same human emotions."

"Rinoa, maybe I do feel sorry for you, for me, for us. Not because you’re blind, just at what could have been, what should have been. Yes, I damn well feel guilty. It was my job as knight to protect you and I couldn’t even do that."

"Protect me, Mr. Leonhart? From what…you? You are the only thing I ever needed protection from, my knight in shinning armor. Why didn’t you want me, not only emotionally but also physically? Was it because I was just an annoying kid to you? You could have just told me you felt that way, instead of keeping me at arms length."

"Rin, I admit what I did. Yes, I knew exactly how you felt. Every time you would get to close, I would push you away. If I knew that I pushed too far, I would do something to pull you back and give you hope. I knew that is what you want to hear, damn it. I knew. I have no good explanation or reason for what I did. I was scared of losing you."

"Well, Mr. Leonhart your plan worked wonderfully, but you still lost me, didn’t you? Guess you didn’t check with the precious SeeD manual on this one. Chapter entitled: How to treat someone who cares for you more than anybody in this godforsaken world."

Putting his head in his hands, he tried to calmly breathe in. When his breathing leveled, he ran both hands through his hair. At long last, when he felt unruffled enough, he asked, "Would you please stop calling me Mr. Leonhart!? You’re only doing that to make the situation seem less personal, less intimate. It’s Squall, call me Squall. I know we are just friends now. I had to let you know how I felt, how I always felt. Rinoa, I owed it to you, I apologize that I was a year too late, and a lifetime too short."

"Damn it, Squall. Why…? Why didn’t you want me? I would have done anything for you."

"Does 'anything' include leaving?" He hadn't meant the words, even as they were spoken. Her anger only reflected in her eyes; orbs that still reflected every emotion running through her. For once, he was on the receiving end of silence and that scared him. He had never seen her so upset, and it almost seemed to be something deeper than she let on…and then the first words of her question replayed in his head.

"Rinoa, what do you mean want you? I wanted you."

For too long Rinoa had tried to keep her feelings in check. Somehow, she'd felt less desirable since the day of catching him in bed with the other woman. This other person had stolen a part of Squall she had wanted. Something personal, something emotional, something real…not the façade he would put on around the others.

She needed to feel wanted, in only the way he could make her feel. She smiled, not one of her normal smiles, but one of almost pure wickedness. Taking a step closer to him, she reached out her hand, touching the cottony feel of his shirt. Gently she took her fingertips and rubbed them from his shoulder, down his chest, to his hipbone. She could feel him tense up at her touch. Then slowly she reached up to her own neck and flung her hair back. With that, she let out a mischievous giggle; her hand started to undo he top button on her shirt.

Squall stood completely dumbfounded at her change in attitude. One minute she was biting his head of for telling her how he felt…next she was seductively touching his chest. This is something she definitely wouldn’t have done a year ago. Although Rinoa did her share of trying to cuddle, this was completely different. His biggest concern at the moment wasn’t why she was doing it, but rather if would he be able to control his own desires. If this was some kind of test she was performing, he certainly knew he would fail. He took a step away from her, pinning his back against the cool glass. He could feel every drop resonate against the windowpane.

It took everything he had, "Rinoa, stop."

She undid a second button. He was trying hard not to look at her chest.

"Why Squall, you said you wanted me? Aren’t I good enough for you? Or am I still just a little girl who needs a big strong man to protect me?" She had now undone her third and fourth button, and continued playing her little game.

"Trust me, Rinoa…I don’t think of you as a little girl. I’m just afraid that I won’t be able to control myself. I want you…I love you. But, not like this…"

She finished undoing her last button and slowly let her shirt fall down to the floor. She stood in her Jean shorts and laced bra. He couldn’t look away any longer, curiosity, or was it hormones, was most obviously getting the better of him. Twenty years of trying to control any sexual urges was quickly, but most definitely, coming to an end. She took a step closer, filling in the space. She pressed against his body, placing her palms against the coolness of the window. Leaving only one hand for balance, she started rubbing her fingertips against his back.

"What Squall? You don’t like not being in control of the situation. I thought you wanted me?"

Squall said nothing. He could feel her heartbeat, could feel her breathing, and could feel the condensation from the window trickling down his back. The consciousness of her fingertips rubbing his neck, combined with her chest pressed against him was too much.

"I love you," he restated vehemently, as he grabbed the back of her neck and brought his lips to hers. Every muscle in his body reacted to her touch, the sensation of her kiss. The phenomenon was overwhelming. He lowered his hands to pick her up, and then started carrying her back toward the bed.

Rinoa somehow had not expected him to actually do anything. He never reacted on his emotions. In her mind, she had pictured this scenario a hundred times, but to actually be there, like this, was too much. After he laid her down on the bed, she reached to his waist and grabbed his cotton shirt. Within seconds, it was tossed over his head. His bare flesh was actually touching hers.

This was a primitive response she wouldn’t have expected. For him to actually allow her to touch him like this…. He didn’t resist, in fact, he just encouraged the action by helping with the garments' removal. Moving his hands along her body, he reached down to find the clasp on her bra.

Rinoa continued returning the kissing, which was seemingly becoming more passionate. "He really does think of me as a woman. He actually wants me…" Squall Leonhart was truly showing more fervor in him than Rinoa ever thought possible. She let out a small gasp as he removed her bra and heard the sound of it falling to the floor.

He slowly started kissing her down the neck onto her shoulder, where she actually let out a small laugh at his sweet kisses. He finally found enough courage to explore with his hands. He started at her waist, tracing an invisible line up her sides. Rinoa knew she had to let him know, before their actions went any further. Reaching up with the palm of her hand, she felt for his cheek and gently pushed him away to separate the union of their mouths. "Squall, wait.... I love you, too." She smiled a genuine a look of contentment at his eyes, although she knew he could see into her soul. He couldn’t believe how much hearing the words actually meant.

Nowhere in his life had somebody ever uttered those words to him. Never had he wanted to hear them. He felt complete. No, she would never be his 'girlfriend', for that didn’t cover their relationship. They were soul mates on a spiritual level; they were not whole without each other. Rinoa would never be his girlfriend - his lover, savior, someday his wife, yes.

Never just a girlfriend.

"I love you, Rinoa Heartilly," he echoed once more, holding her securely. She returned the embrace, no longer having the desire to keep the tears from her eyes.

"The past is the past, right? I love you Squall, more than you will ever understand, more than I can understand." Rinoa's thoughts swirled in her head, mixed with the emotions her body was feeling. She honestly believed him, and felt a sanctuary in his arms she could have only dreamed about. No matter what he had done, it was in the past, it was behind him now, she was sure of that. She was his future.

A loud knock sounded at the door, startling the two out of their embrace. Irvine’s commanding tone reverberated through the room. "Hey, Squall we know you're in there. Quistis and I need to talk to you right away. Trust me, it can’t wait."


Squall and Rinoa both sighed at the sound of their friend’s voice outside. "This place better be burning to the ground," angrily retorted the Commander. Rinoa laughed at him; everything about him seemed so new, yet so familiar at the same time.

"Squall, I’m sure it’s important for them to bother you this time at night," Rinoa reasoned from her now slightly awkward position. Squall dropped his head in defeat, resting it between the pillow and her neck.

Pounding on the door again, Irvine continued to harass the inhabitants of the room. This time, his voice was drawing attention from nearby dorms. "Hey man, wake your sleepy large a..." All of a sudden, his voice was cut of in mid sentence.

Squall continued to watch the woman whom lay beneath him, still wrapped in his arms. "You…um…just cast a silence spell on him, didn’t you?" Rinoa smiled brightly in return, biting her lower lip trying to contain the laughter. He gave her a quick kiss on the forehead, before reluctantly getting up, "Hyne, it’s fantastic to have you around again." Her only reply came from the form of a small giggle. Squall stood up and shouted back to the door.

"Just a minute, I’ll be…" He looked back at Rinoa correcting himself, "We'll be right there."

For a second he closed his eyes, and understood he could never be alone again.

Chapter 14

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