~ Chapter Six: A Time to Grow ~
So we open up a quarrel,
Between the present and the past..
We only sacrifice the future,
It’s the bitterness that lasts.
So don’t yield to the fortunes,
You sometimes see as fate.
It may have a new perspective,
On a different day.
--In the Living Years (Mike and the Mechanics)
His hands slowly pushed back the thick overgrowth, and there it stood etched in granite, standing like a spire breaking free from the ground. His fingers softly traced the crevices, as he removed years of earthen buildup. The emblem looked as regal carved on stone as it did forged from the purest of silver. The mausoleum had stood on this hallowed ground for over a century, from almost the birth of the village.
He wiped the sweat off his forehead, as he continued using the machete. With each swift movement, he could see a larger amount of the structure showing from the overgrown foliage. It was slowly being entombed by the passage of time, and he was going to make it his private mission to show the respect that their honor had earned.
The sudden snapping of a twig behind him made stop in mid swing. Without warning he turned around, throwing the knife with a flick of his wrist. It sliced through the air, spinning end-over-end until its tip pierced the ground with phenomenal accuracy.
She screamed while simultaneously feeling someone scooping her off the ground. “Squall, you know you scared the sh--”
Her words cut off when he leaned forward closing her lips with his. Whatever fear she had felt when the weapon had sped by, instantly became a distant memory. When they parted she couldn’t help but to giggle at the situation.
“You think that will get you out of trouble?”
Still cradling her between his arms, he smugly answered, “Yeah…that was the plan.”
“Good plan.” She answered, tapping him on the nose with a finger. “Now can you tell me why I just walked a slight eternity to get here? The note said three tenths of a kilometer…I am sure this is bordering on five times that amount.”
“Never said I was good with distances,” he replied as he placed her feet back on the ground. Glancing down he noticed the shoes she was wearing, “Rinoa I also mentioned in the note to wear tennis shoes. See how well you follow directions…”
“Don’t start with me Leonhart,” she answered turning toward the large stone building, “What is this place? I’m suddenly having vivid flashbacks from the Tomb of the Unknown King.”
“Come here,” he said, grabbing her hand and leading her toward the entrance.
“Yes, it is…Griever.” He placed his hand over the symbol, wiping off even more of the dirt.
She stood beside him, looking at the detailed design that she had grown familiar with over the last year. Carefully she raised her hand, wrapping her fingers over his. She pointed her index finger, placing the tip of her nail on the lion’s eye.
“It’s amazing,” she rasped under her breath.
“No, it’s history.” He turned toward her, watching her dark eyes follow the curvature of the engraved symbol. “It’s who I am.”
“I…I don’t understand.” She smiled though her eyes never left the stone.
A few large insects flew by, distracting her momentarily. Swatting them away from her face, Rinoa lost her balance almost tumbling backwards. A single hand firmly grabbed her lower back, steadying her on the uneven terrain.
“That’s my Rinoa, fighting the world’s greatest enemies in a pair of flip-flops.” He pointed over to a small clearing nearby, “I need to talk to you… Come on, I saw a place over there.”
Leading the way, he found a fallen tree and lifted her onto the trunk. She sat down, steadying herself on either side with her hands. He leaned against it, still keeping his eyes fixed on her. He took a deep breath before exhaling slowly, still tired from his morning’s exertions.
“Squall, everything all right?” She tried not to act too nervous, but hearing the often negative phrase ‘we need to talk’ wasn’t the most comforting sound.
“Fine.” He shook his head slightly, smoothing his hair back with both hands. “It’s just…” Hell, he wasn’t good at this. Give him some thing to fight, give him something to plan; just don’t give him something to say…
“Is it something about Griever?” She only prayed it was along that line. “About why it is on a building in the middle of nowhere.”
“Yes, it is…it’s not in the middle of nowhere. Right here is where the battle was fought.”
“Battle? A battle in Winhill?”
“Well, actually outside of town…as your earlier comment about walking suggested.”
She looked over at him, slightly squinting her eyes at his sarcastic retort. “Ha-ha.”
“Last night I started thinking about one of our early conversations. Well, actually your conversation…as you talked and I listened.” He added with the hint of a smile, before feeling her nudge him with her elbow. “You mentioned your grandparents, the ones who had raised you in Timber after your mother passed away. You know, until recently I didn’t even want to think about my parents, let alone grandparents. The way you spoke of your heritage on your mother’s side…you had so much pride. I mean, you started fighting in a resistance group because of those early ties…the only ties I ever knew were to Garden.”
He looked away as a flock of blackbirds settled into the tops of nearby branches. It seemed that the rays of the sun found their way through the breaks of the clouds. As the heat of the sun began to fill the tree-lined chasm, he took the opportunity to glance toward the sky. He heard an unconscious deep breath from the person sitting patiently beside him. Although she never pressured him to resume speaking, he moved his eyes back to her, slightly shaking his head in apology.
“Anyway, after we went to our rooms, I tried to sleep…as usual too many things were running through my mind. I ended up trying to go for a walk. One thing Laguna had right, they aren’t too keen on outsiders aimlessly wandering around at night. I went back to the inn, and for some reason, just sat in the lobby. The woman who had checked me in came over and started talking about Raine. At first I wanted to run, I really didn’t want to hear any of it. Then she began talking about Raine’s parents…”
“Your grandparents,” added Rinoa, as it dawned on her exactly what the connection to the mausoleum was. “Leonhart, Griever…they’re buried here.”
“I never knew,” he looked back to the building. “I mean, I was told early on that the ring and chain were from my mother’s family. I had a few matching charms made when I was older, but to me it was just a symbol.”
“A cool symbol.” Rinoa reached down almost playfully, grabbing the heavy pendant around his neck. He turned to face her again. This time he allowed himself to move directly in front of her, placing one hand over hers.
“A very cool symbol,” he repeated almost monotone. “But it is more, it is who I am. I guess I’ve always thought it of as a representation of strength. In a way it still is…just in a way I never could have comprehended. It was one of the original four symbols on the crest of our family seal. After the village of Winhill was founded, my grandparents dropped the others.”
“Before the First Sorceress War, and after the destruction of the Centra Empire, a conflict started about a territorial dispute. Although it was never declared a war by the Galbadian regime, an uprising occurred between two factions. Hundreds died in battle, while others refused to wage a war in which they didn’t believe. The latter were persecuted for their beliefs in not wanting to fight. Two men emerged, leading the maltreated on a long journey over the mountains. They arrived here a few months later, settling the Village of Winhill.”
“Thanks for the history lesson, but what exactly does this have to do with you?”
He reached both hands around either side of her waist, gradually lifting her off the tree before setting her back onto the ground.
“Everything…my great-grandfather was one of the men who founded this village. As history tells it, Raine’s father was the first child born in Winhill. Griever was adapted from the original crest from Galbadia; the wings on the back were later added to depict the flight to freedom.”
“Oh my god Squall, that’s amazing…your relatives were the founding fathers… Wait, you said battle, what battle?”
“When the next dictator of Galbadia took office, he wanted to make an example of the settlers. They sent troops over the mountains, along with a few naval ships that helped fortify their position in the surrounding waters. Seems an emissary had been living here unbeknownst to the town, and knew where the weaknesses lay.”
“So they attacked…”
“And it was because they had let in the outsider…the town never fully recovered. Galbadia commissioned a large estate at the edge of town. When Deling started having trouble with Esthar, they withdrew their interest here. Winhill became a free state in theory…but still falls technically under Galbadian rule. Because there was no economic benefit, unlike Timber, it was forgotten. It is only in the last year they have constructed the road through the mountains…the one we arrived on.”
“I think you have just taught me more in five minutes than the entire Galbadian school system did.”
“Thanks,” he laughed under his breath. He grabbed her right hand interlocking their fingers. Slowly he started to lead her back toward the monument. She almost lost her footing a few times, tripping over the exposed roots. When they reached the building, he once again crouched down looking, at the carving on the stone door.
“My grandfather died in battle, they later built this for our family.”
She reached with her free hand and traced the granite carving with her fingertips. Then she moved outward from the design, tracing a second pair of wings around Griever – angel wings just as she wore.
“Maybe I can help protect them.” She added leaning her head on his shoulder.
“Thank you Rinoa…thank you.”
She opened up her duffle bag, looking for something to wear. Rinoa cursed herself for trying to be too practical. Normally, a weekend away would have involved at least a suitcase, but since this was her first trip with Squall…she wanted not to look like one of those women who had to pack everything, including the kitchen sink, to go away.
The young sorceress looked at the two tops she had left, wondering what demonic presence encouraged her to pack at four-thirty in the morning. She glanced over to a small clock on the mantle, wondering how Squall was doing. She had left him to be alone this afternoon, it was his time to uncover his heritage…and she was merely an observer into his discoveries right now.
She placed both tops on the bed, and studied them carefully. When she couldn’t reach a decision, she followed the time-honored tradition of ‘eenie-meenie-miney-mo.’ Finally selecting the ‘winner,’ she made a mental note to rethink her wardrobe when she returned home.
As she buttoned her blouse, a soft knock resonated through the room. She sighed, looking across at a mirror and pulling her long hair from underneath her collar. Opening the door, she noticed he had changed from his normal attire, wearing a dark tee shirt and jeans. He stood speechless, looking directly at her shirt.
Finally his silence was broken, “Nice top.”
She smiled thoughtfully, before noticing that he was still staring at her chest. Looking down she realized that in her haste she had missed the top buttons. More than a normal amount of her skin was showing, and she swiftly turned, embarrassed by her mistake.
Placing his hand on his forehead, Squall couldn’t believe he had said that aloud…and that he’d momentarily lost the ability to avert his eyes from ‘that’ part of her body.
“Crap, crap, crap! Say something intelligent.” He shuffled his feet on the wooden floorboards, before thinking of an appropriate change of topic. “I talked to the owner of the inn. She mentioned a little restaurant down the way specializing in stuffed breast. I…a….mean stuffed chicken breast.”
If he could have hit his head on the wall without drawing more attention to himself, he would have. What he was shocked to witness was Rinoa turning around, absolutely hysterical. She had made no attempt at keeping his mistake to a minimum. Instead she found some kind of humor in his awkward teenage moment. Walking past him, she gave his now red cheek a small kiss whispering, “I’m glad we’re not swimming.”
The eatery was as quaint and pleasant as the woman had mentioned. The high-backed booths allowed all the patrons a certain amount of privacy, adding to the atmosphere. The two sat in a back booth, finishing their dinners. Both Rinoa and Squall mysteriously shied away from the daily house special…marinated Italian chicken breasts.
For the most part he had said very little after he’d returned from the battlefield. She had asked him a few more questions, to which he replied with answers of usually three syllables or less. It was only after the meal was served and almost gone, that he began speaking freely again.
Sometimes Rinoa just didn’t understand. Right when he seemed to be opening up, he would revert back into his former self. It was only with patience and understanding that he had made it this far. Yet it was clear to her tonight, that something else was troubling him since this morning. He had all day to think, and obviously he had thought…and finding out what he had thought about would be the challenge.
“Squall…” She paused, wondering about the best way to voice her concerns. For some reason, she felt that if she worded her comments wrong, he would start to rebuild his walls.
“Hmm?” He splashed his drink around the glass, looking up at her.
“You all right?” Well, maybe sometimes the direct approach was the best.
The sound came out as almost a laugh when he set his cup down. “Yes, fine…just been a long day.” He saw the waitress walking by, and signaled for another drink. He raised an eyebrow at Rinoa, giving her a questioning look. She shook her head no, and he half-smiled at her in return. “Did you know that my grandparents actually had two children? My uncle died when I was about four…he was an engineer for the original Dollet communications tower. Ironic that Raine’s brother helped build the tower that we almost destroyed, huh?”
His eyes were filled with sadness as he talked about his relatives in the past tense. A thought troubled her, and maybe the only way to address it was to face it head on.
“Squall…I have to ask, it seems that you’re accepting your heritage rather fast. You refer to them as your grandparents, and talk about your uncle…but still refer to your mother as ‘Raine.’ I’m not really sure what I’m trying to say…”
“I know.” He answered almost curtly, stabbing a piece of food with his fork. “I guess it’s easier for me to think of being a part of them…than being a part of her. Rinoa, I saw her…and I…Raine, I just had no idea.”
He felt a hand placed on his arm, which was resting on the table. He flinched at the contact, until he relaxed at the feeling of comfort contained within. “Shhh, I’m sorry.” she hushed him understanding his reasoning. “Maybe in time.”
“Don’t be…you have every right to ask, to know.” He set down the fork, finding the courage to replace its metallic texture with the softness of her fingers.
“If we’re being honest Rinoa, can I ask you something?”
“Yes,” she nodded, tightening her fingers around his.
“Why did you come here with me? I never really asked you.”
“Because I wanted to,” she answered as honestly as possible without scaring him off with a bunch of emotional overload. “You don’t always have to ask me; just know I will be here. There is a certain amount of unspoken understanding between us. And to me…that is better than hearing any words right now. Time, Squall…it all takes time.” She paused, hoping she hadn’t said too much. “Um…Squall…now can I ask you something?”
His eyes slowly lifted from where their fingers met to her eyes, giving her silent permission.
“Why did you decide to come back to Winhill all of a sudden? It’s been months since you talked with Laguna, and your decision just seemed kind of out of the blue.”
“It wasn’t.” He confessed, placing her hand back on the side of the booth. Just from his demeanor alone, she knew he was withdrawing into a defensive position. “I had been thinking about it for a while. Something Matron said made me realize it was time.”
“Matron?” She hadn’t meant to repeat the word aloud, but was taken aback that Edea had anything to do with their current trip. It wasn’t as if Rinoa knew everything Squall did during the days, or in the evening for that matter. She tried hard to allow him as much personal space as he needed, but she usually would have heard about anything like this, if not from Squall, then from Cid.
“Yeah…a few weeks ago. She showed up during my training exercises one evening. I just never brought it up; I was still trying to figure things out.”
“I understand.” And she did too. In fact, she was glad that he was able to communicate with someone other than her. Not that Squall always communicated with words; there were other means, if one knew how to read them.
“If I’m going to be a knight…there are things I have to face.”
Rinoa crossed her arms on the table, rubbing her forearms with her hands. There was a sudden chill from hearing those words spoken in a public place. It wasn’t like they talked about that fact often; for the most part she tried to forget she was a sorceress. Hearing him speak the truth brought her back into a reality - one she wasn’t sure she was ready to admit.
“Rinoa…I didn’t mean anything by it. I’m just saying…”
“Yeah, that we’re not normal.” Her voice took a slightly sharper tone than he was expecting.
“What?” He reached across the table, placing his hand on her shoulder, lightly rubbing it with his thumb. “We are normal…we have dysfunctional families just like everyone else.” He tried to lighten her mood with a rare attempt at a joke.
She choked back a stifled laugh, “Why can’t we just be normal? Is it always going to be sorceress and knight? Can’t it just be as boyfriend and girlfriend? Or Squall and Rinoa…just people trying to figure out who they are?”
He understood what she was saying, even if she had never uttered the exact words. Rinoa despised being a sorceress – or despised the label associated with it spanning generations. It was her greatest desire just to fit in with a group, not to distance herself with forced titles.
Squall looked around the restaurant, pulling out his wallet. He left more than enough money to cover the check and gratuity, before standing from the booth and walking over to her. “Come on…” he said, looking into her eyes as he offered his hand. He seemed in a hurry to get away from the livelier part of town, and she had trouble keeping up with his pace. After he led her to where all others were out of sight, he stopped walking and turned around.
“Listen Rinoa, I don’t want to be normal.”
He reached down and grasped both of her hands, holding them in his, raising them near her chest. He outstretched his pointer finger, letting Griever fall down as far as the chain would allow.
“Do you think they were normal? Look what they founded…look at what gave birth to this symbol.”
He let his ring fall back to her chest while he mirrored the gesture with the platinum band, which also adorned the chain.
“Do you think your mother was normal? No, Rinoa they all were different in their own ways…yours is you just happen to be a sorceress…and it makes you special because of that. I’m not going to deny the part of me that is a knight, just like I won’t deny the part of me that is their grandson.”
Letting the second ring fall, he completely released her hands. He took a few steps away, shaking his head.
“Maybe I talked to Matron because of that. Maybe I talked to her because I didn’t want to make the same mistakes as Cid.”
This was it she realized, what had been troubling him. Maybe he had found out about his history, and suddenly felt as if it were predestined that he would somehow fail. Felt as if he was doomed to repeat the mistakes of the other who had come before – whether they were warriors or knights.
“Rinoa, when I go to Trabia in two weeks…what will you think of me as?”
She cringed at the thought of him leaving, for she would feel so empty without him around. Although they didn’t spend that much time together, it was always the comfort knowing that he was there if she needed him. It was the thought of passing him in the halls, or having a quick lunch in the cafeteria that kept her going.
“I’ll think of you as Squall.” She wasn’t sure what type of answer he was looking for, or what kind of explanation to give. “We’re not normal, are we? I guess it isn’t too many eighteen year olds that have apprentice knights around.”
“Yeah, and then there is that…when…how? How am I supposed to know when I’m no longer an apprentice? I tried to ask Matron, but she never really gave me a straightforward answer…and I really don’t want to talk to Cid.”
“I think you’ll just know.” She answered, coming around and linking her arms around his neck. “It’s not something that one can perform a ceremony to make happen, it’s something within us. I think it’s just like you’ll know when it is time to call Raine your mother.”
It was too early for the townsfolk to be awake. The droplets of the first morning dew were just beginning to form on the nearby grass. He carefully closed the door to the inn, making sure it had latched securely. The gravel shuffled with each footstep, and was almost the only sound one could hear, save for the crickets. With one hand, he held his thermos of fresh coffee, while the other he found the car door’s handle.
Sliding in, he looked at his passenger, who had already found a comfortable position and was once again falling into her silent world of slumber. As he shut his door, her body reacted to the vibration of the car. He turned the key, and started searching for a radio station. When he figured his search to be in vain, the only thing coming through being an am broadcast of current chocobo breeding conditions, he slipped a CD into the player.
As he listened to the beginning of the song, he was surprised at how much of his existence had revolved around music…even if he wasn’t aware of it all the time. Now every time a song played, he thought back to a certain point in his life, in a way it was helping him remember what the GF’s had taken away.
Yet the greatest songs where the ones that reminded him of the last year - the black, the white, and all the shades of grey in between. As the melody played in the background, he started to shift his car into gear, but stopped for no explainable reason. It was almost forty-eight hours ago that they had been in these exact positions. Now he felt like he had learned another piece of the puzzle which formed his life. And just like two days ago, he looked at his passenger with her knees curled up beside him. Her skin did not look as pale as the other night, but the shadows of the street lamps were hitting her face slightly differently.
He sighed, reaching up to push the clinging hair from her face. “I’ll never forget this weekend.”
“Me either.” This time it was his turn to jump slightly when she spoke.
“I thought you were asleep.”
“I’m not,” she answered, opening only one eye and looking at him. He could see her smile, and couldn’t help but return the gesture. She reached up, softly touching his hand. “Did you learn what you came here to find out?”
“Yes, and so much more. I had to know who I was, before I knew who we were.”
“And you are?”
Author’s Notes: Hey everyone…how’s life? Hope every one had a good summer; it’s always over too soon. With school starting it seems so quiet around here. My son’s in third grade, I can’t believe it. One more year for Ash starts kindergarten. I’m old : )
We posted the next chapter of Somewhere In Between on the joint account. From now on, I will try to do the updates at the same time. Again, want to thank everyone for all the support, and Nicole, Bob, Vick and Jilleh who are forced to take turns helping me proof. I know it was different of me to give Squall more of a past, but everything will tie in later on. The first part of the story is mainly dealing in history, and filling in some parts the game didn’t. But, hey…I’m making this up as I go along...no one hurt me!
This has been a break from my more dramatic works, and gives me something from working on SIB with Nicole. It isn’t meant to hold the drama of the other stories, but act as hopefully a realistic look into the first year…with all the problems they will face. The drama will lie in the emotions on most, rather than the action of Crimson.
In all honesty, I notice that I have wrote more of my personal life into this, because I met my husband when I was sixteen. (Okay except for Allison in Crimson Lies who was almost 100% based on things my daughter did before she turned two) The first year of going out with him was hard, and parts of my life have been taken to make some scenes from the story. My husband actually had his wisdom teeth pulled, and couldn’t speak…that is where the first chapter idea came from. The only way of communicated was through a board I bought him at the toy store. Ah…to be sixteen again!
The spider thing is strictly me…but I think most of us can relate to that!