~ Chapter 14: Yesterday’s Dream ~

Mirror in the sky - what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin’…ocean tides,
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
I don’t know…I don’t know.

--Stevie Nicks

“Why am I doing this again?”

Elise straightened his collar giving him a reassuring smile, “Because it’s important to your career. The board is watching every move you make, and after your unexplained departure from Esthar, more questions are starting to rise.”

“Why does every move I make have to be on public display? Can’t they just leave me to my own life?”

She sighed brushing off a few pieces of lint from his uniform. “Your life is public, whether you like it or not. Squall, I know you don’t want to do this…but it’s important to me.”

“It’s important to me.”

The very same words she echoed about calling Laguna all those months ago. She had put up with so much, and like always, he wanted her to be happy. Maybe making her happy was all he was capable of doing, or the only reason he found for breathing anymore. Maybe by making her happy, he wouldn’t have time to reflect on his own failures.

“Fine, but I don’t have to like it.”

“No,” she softly answered, reaching down to his gloved hands. “You don’t have to like it…I promise.”

“Don’t promise me anything Elise.” He hadn’t meant for the words to sound that spiteful. “I mean, I can take care of myself. Don’t worry.”

“Squall, I am worried. If I wasn’t I wouldn’t be human.” She gave him a small wink intertwining their fingers. Maybe it came across as a joke, but in all reality, she was deathly serious. She tried not to let his behavior get to her, but slowly – step by step – he was sinking deeper into a dangerous place. She knew it. She saw each sign, and tried to think she could pull him out, or maybe his work could keep his head from drowning under the cruel ocean of self-doubt.

Just as she was about to say something to him, a young woman approached. “Commander Leonhart, Dr. Vandermere we are ready for you…if you could just step this way.”

Elise smiled politely as she followed the woman into a small room. A man walked over, extending his hand toward the couple.

“Hello, I’m Robert Woods from the international press corps. I’m so glad you have decided to go ahead with this interview.”

“It’s our pleasure.” Answered Elise sitting on one of the two chairs placed in front of the man. She looked over to Squall, who seemed almost oblivious to his surroundings. She just hoped that he would make it through this all right. One thing remained true, they were watching his every move…one more mistake, and there would be no return.


He tried not to look at his watch. But every second that ticked away was another lost into oblivion. He hated sitting here, acting like the perfect poster child for – well whatever the hell he was…Commander, Headmaster, Fiancée. The perfect couple, the perfect life, the one that children would dream of becoming…the real life hero – if they only knew the ghosts he saw everyday. The ones that haunted his every thought and the living nightmares that spoke to him.

In his head he heard Elise talking to the reporter, quietly laughing, and being the person that he wasn’t. He felt a slight nudge at his side, and looked over to Elise, her smile brightly returning. She raised an eyebrow to him, “Right dear?”

“Of course.” He answered, not knowing what the question was.

She knew he wasn’t listening before, so looked back laughing at the reporter. “You know, that is one of the things I love most about him…his solid commitment to the job. Always thinking of Garden before his personal life, he is truly an asset to the SeeD program.”

How wrong she was. Now Elise was making the lies for him, where did it stop?

“I would like to ask you a few questions now Headmaster Leonhart. What are your reflections on the Ultimecia affair? Now that a significant amount of time has past, how do you look back on it now?”

“Time is irrelevant. I look back on it now, the same as I did back then. It should have never happened in the first place, the suffering and human tragedy will never be forgotten.”

“Some of the first reports stated that you didn’t return from Time Compression with the others. That it was almost a twenty-four hour period before they found you. Can you tell us what happened in that period?”

“No.” The curt answer wasn’t spoken, instead it was almost yelled to the reporter. Elise turned in shock. She had never heard that before, it certainly wasn’t in any of her reports. Normally she would have written it off as a hearsay, but she knew him…his tone meant he was hiding something. Something that she wasn’t even aware of.


He shook his head denying any such event. But the expression hidden under his azure eyes told another story, she could see the pain beginning to well inside.

“Headmaster Leonhart, early reports had you romantically linked with the Sorceress Heartilly, can you validate any of the rumors?”

His fist balled so tight, he wanted nothing more than to savagely beat the man in front of him, this interview was nothing more than a tabloid newspaper. He felt a hand gently touch his leg, he didn’t have to look at her face, and he could already see the empathy in her eyes. He didn’t want it. Thank Hyne she was there, or this reporter’s injuries would have been the new front-page story.

“No,” he said through gritted teeth. “The sorceress and I were never involved.”

It wasn’t a lie. Really. The most she had ever done was sit on his lap, put her arms around him, and found a place into his heart unmatched by anyone else. But they were never ‘involved.’ Maybe it was to convince himself of that fact, or maybe it was to clear his consciousness to SeeD, to Elise, to every goddamned one of them. Squall Leonhart continued answering questions the reporter had not asked.

“She was my client. My losing her was the same as losing any other paying customer, it doesn’t reflect well on the name of SeeD. Yes, the outcome bothers me. I mourn for the loss of potential revenue due to my mistakes.”

“But when Esthar talked about moving her chamber up into space, you were the most vocal against it.”

“Of course I was. I am a SeeD and our underlying purpose was to rid the world of sorceress.’ Why would we want to squander any opportunity to study them, to learn their weakness? We could use that knowledge to benefit future generations, think of it…to live in a world free from the dominance of the likes of Ultimecia, Adel, or Rinoa.”

Every word killed him, slowly driving him closer to a breaking point that would be inevitable. And it wouldn’t have been the first time. But this time, there may not be any way of saving himself. Every day it grew harder, and every day he wanted the pain to end just a little bit more.

“So it’s all professional then? You have no feelings of regret on a personal level?”

“I’m trained not to feel on a personal level. Again, I only suffer the loss of the revenue for Garden. For those mistakes I ask forgiveness of my peers.”

“So if Esthar ever found a way to safely unseal her, what would be your reaction?”

He closed his eyes momentarily, although he thought about it everyday to hear the words coming from a stranger seemed like blasphemy. Standing up he tried to keep his composer intact, acting with the dignity expected of a headmaster. Another useless label they had thrust upon him at an early age.

“She is a sorceress, there is no safe way. We have all moved on. Let her memory be her legacy, let her legacy be in the freedom of Timber. But let Rinoa Heartilly rest her soul in peace.”

He had to get out of here, he was suffocating in his own words. If he had the courage, he would have run out into the Trabian wilderness until his lungs collapsed under their own weight. He would have let the elements finish off his wretched existence, and maybe those around him wouldn’t have been pulled down into the spiraling black hole that surrounded his heart.

But he had Elise.

She never deserved any of this; she never asked much of him. But she was always silently waiting there, day after day, night after night, holding him…trying to make the demons go away. Yet with each unselfish act, she was being pulled deeper into his void. She never deserved this, she never deserved him…no one needs that much pain. No one needs him.

He stood up, never saying goodbye. He walked outside the room leaning his head against the wall. If only he could feel, if only his heart wasn’t this numb. He hadn’t spoken about her that much to anyone, and it was tearing him apart. They would never understand. They couldn’t.

Elise’s voice grew louder, and her laugh was almost soothing to him right now. She was so polite, so damn courteous…everyone thought she was perfect. She was. So why wasn’t it enough?

“Oh my god Squall, what was that in there?”

“It is what they want me to be. It is what you want me to be.”

“Well sometimes I don’t know who the hell you are!”

“Me either!” He spat back in anger.

“Why now? Why all of a sudden? We were doing so well, you were progressing…what changed? Was it this!?” She tossed her left hand in front of his face, the diamond shined like a thousand dancing crystals in the light. “Is this it? If it is…I can take it off my hand right now, and we can forget the whole thing. I just want things to go back to they were before.”

“Elise, what was I before? Who was I before? You keep thinking it because we are getting married, but it isn’t. Taking off your ring isn’t going to help.”

“What…what is going to help?”

“I don’t know,” he whispered softly. “I don’t know.”


Leaning back in his chair Laguna Loire took a sip of his morning coffee; it had become a ritual over the last twenty-five years. The palace staff was very considerate of his daily habits, knowing it wise not to disturb the man until he had consumed at least two cups of coffee. As per the norm, the morning paper had been tossed on his desk by an intern. The President never knew which one, as they seemed to change more quickly than the weather in Dollet.

He quickly set aside the majority of the paper, heading immediately for the sports section. A few inserted ads trickled down onto the ground, and he mumbled as the papers landed softly on the floor. He continued searching for last night’s score to the Galbadian hockey game, while simultaneously reaching to pick up the stray ads. He cursed under his breath when in perfect unison he hit his head on the edge of his desk and saw that his team was all but humiliated in the semi-finals. Although he had left many decades ago, his devotion to his hometown team never wavered - no matter how badly their season ended.

Placing the sports page down, Laguna was shocked when caught a glimpse of the society section. It was something that he would normally barely take note of, but seeing a picture of his son and Elise on the front was more shocking than the sports score. As he skimmed the article further his heart sank. He could feel the bitter insincerity of his son’s comments, knowing full well the mask that Squall was now trying to hide behind. Laguna knew that those who didn’t know his son would miss the spite in the words…maybe it really wasn’t spite, but a hurt so deep that no one on this plane of existence dare comprehend.

Then he thought of another.

If somehow Laguna could have mustered the courage, he would have called Squall, yelling at him for being an insensitive jerk…but coming from his estranged father may have seemed like the greatest irony known to man. Without ever trailing his eyes from the article, he opened his top drawer running his fingers over the smoothness of the lion-headed ring. He sighed heavily as he finally laid the article down.

“I’m so sorry Raine.” The elder man could barely keep the tears from forming in the folds of his eyes. Part of him ached for his son, while another part ached for the girl, no woman, which he had begun to think of as his own daughter.

He silently felt guilt for holding one of the few articles that his departed wife had left Squall…but returning it to him now would be out of the question. He truly had wished that it had remained with Rinoa, but it wasn’t up to him any more…as far as he was concerned nothing was.

Squall’s greatest wish in life was to have Rinoa happy. Rinoa wanted to remain anonymous, even to Squall – A paradox that Laguna lay squarely in the middle of. The clichéd irresistible force to the immovable object – what the saying never mentioned was which one would finally give…because in theory neither would bend, in reality there was always a weaker foe.

Clenching the ring in his hand, he picked up the receiver, “Get me Balamb Garden, Quistis Trepe.”


Rinoa coughed as she lifted a dingy white sheet off an old rocking chair and was greeted with a face full of dust. She sneezed a couple of times before sitting on the floor in frustration. Looking around the room she sighed at the seemingly minute progress that had been made in a week.

“This place doesn’t need warmth Laguna, it needs renovation.”

The young woman shook her head of the thought immediately. This house had been a gift of kindness she would never be able to repay. Indeed she was very grateful. It would take some time, but she would make it livable again.

She had nothing else to do.

Walking back into the living room, Rinoa stopped when she saw the large bouquet of flowers sitting on the small dining room table. She sat down in front of them carefully removing the wilted leaves and tending them as she had done the last several days. Whether it was because they were the only other living things in the house or the sight of their simple beauty, she wasn’t sure. But she found them intoxicating. She could sit and look at them for hours, breathing in their sweet smell. Never could she recall such an interest in flowers, sure they were pretty, but that was about it. Now it had become difficult to take her eyes off of them. They reminded her of life.

The flowers had been a housewarming gift from Laguna. She had found them sitting on the porch the morning after she arrived. A simple note attached to them read: “To new beginnings.” The site of them nearly took her breath. It was as if someone had taken all the beauty in the world and slipped it into one small container. That had been the only night she had gotten any decent sleep. Gingerly she swept the dried leaves off the table. Their short lived splendor was slowly wilting away like everything else caught in the throes of time. She sighed and dropped the contents of her hands into a nearby waste basket.

A smack against the front door startled her nearly out of her skin. Cautiously, Rinoa approached the door and looked out of the peep hole for any sign of an intruder. Upon seeing no one she opened the door and slowly stepped out into the quiet street. Her feet nearly tripped over something and she looked down to see the noisy culprit. She picked up the newspaper and inwardly cursed her nervous paranoia as she walked back into the house.

It was something she was desperately trying to overcome, this crushing fear of the outside world. Never in her life could she remember being so afraid to step out of the front door. Esthar had been different. At least there she saw familiar faces. Now it was if she was coming out of the unsealing process all over again. Only this time the world was much colder and unaided. The young woman was determined not to spend the rest of her life as a prisoner in her own cell. She would confront this new world and she would merge herself with it.

But not today.

She made her way over to the couch where she ungracefully plopped onto the cushion in exhaustion. Dust surrounded her like a cloud of smoke. She choked as she fanned the debris away from her face. The paper crackled open between her fingers as she stared at the merging pictures and text.

Winhill’s local paper appeared to be even more boring than the one she used to read in Timber. She flipped through the court report that consisted mostly of petty theft and chocobo rustling. Rinoa paused momentarily when she reached the social pages, her eyes caught amidst the happily engaged and married couples holding each other close. A sigh heavily escaped her lips. She couldn’t suppress the thought that if it all hadn’t happened the way it did, perhaps she would be one of those apparently happy people smiling through black and white ink.

The young woman shook the thought from her head. It wasn’t worth thinking about. She couldn’t keep living in the past. It wasn’t healthy…her therapist told her so. As her fingers turned the page she nearly screamed as the past leapt from the pages before her like a jungle cat after its prey.

Squall stared back at her with the same piercing gaze she remembered from so long ago. He wasn’t smiling; however his face wasn’t contorted in the usual scowl. Elise stood by his side, her arms wrapped around him. The words “On Top of the World:” appeared below them in big bold letters followed by a smaller caption that read “Squall Leonhart Dispels Myth and focuses on a promising future.” Everything inside her screamed for her to close the newspaper immediately and not read one sentence more. She honestly tried…but it was like a car wreck on the side of the road…impossible to look away from.

It began much like the perfect fairytale with Elise going into detail about their individual successes and their lives together. A part of her was again happy for him, while the other had to restrain the urge to gag. She laughed inwardly as she read on. Elise was doing most of the interview for him which she found to be very typical Squall.

What little he did speak in the interview however was enough to rip her apart.

Every word hit her like a dagger in the chest. The wounds that were trying so desperately to heal split open again and the context of the words before her eyes blurred into one simple statement.

“Time is irrelevant”.

“The sorceress and I were never involved.”

“She was my client.”

“I mourn for the loss of potential revenue due to my mistakes.”

“I’m trained not to feel on a personal level.”

“We have all moved on.”

“Let Rinoa Heartilly rest her soul in peace.”

A numbing ache enveloped Rinoa’s body as she folded the newspaper and set it aside with slow and heavy movements. She wanted to cry. She wanted to scream at the unfairness of life, anything that would release the pain inside her. She could manage neither however as she just stared mutely at the floor while the words consumed her from the inside out.

Was this how he felt? How they all felt? She was just a lost profit? No…that couldn’t be right. They didn’t have to be friends to her to gain income for Garden. But he had been so hard to read…was that really all she was to him? Images of him from behind the glass entered her mind…his hand against the surface…the look on his face…it was all just a goddamned show to make sure he got paid?

In anger she kicked the coffee table in front of her, knocking it to the ground. The newspaper slid a short distance across the wooden floor before smacking against the wall. She covered her face with her hands, the hot tears sliding through the cracks between her fingers. The last thing Rinoa wanted to do at that moment was cry. She didn’t want to be weak anymore. The tears wouldn’t heed though and the sobs began wracking her body. She pulled her knees up to her chest and began rocking slowly back and forth, something she had done for comfort since she was a child. It was the only solace she had in the empty house, save for the slow and even ticking of the grandfather clock across the room.

The sound of the telephone echoed through the silence nearly causing her to fall to the floor. She glared at the phone on the end table before turning away from it. They would go away eventually.

After the twelfth ring she lost her patience. She cleared her throat in a vain attempt to sound normal before picking up the receiver.

“Hello?” She said hoarsely.

“Rinoa? Hey are you alright?”

“Yeah, just got into some dust while I was cleaning the closet.” She sniffed as if to verify her statement.

“Oh…well I didn’t mean to bother you, just wanted to make sure you were getting along okay.”

“I’m fine.” She tried to contain the sob that was trying to escape her lips. “There’s lots of work to do to the house…so its keeping me really busy.”

On the other end of the phone line, Quistis listened intently…Rinoa sounded different…but it was no reason to assume she had seen the newspaper article. She swore the next time she saw Squall Leonhart she was going to kill him.

“Well that’s good,” she continued on the conversation. “Just don’t work yourself too hard okay?”

“Yes mom,” Rinoa said with a deadpan voice. “And I’ll be in bed by 11.”

“That’s a good girl,” Quistis chuckled. “Listen the reason I was calling is that something has come up that I’m not going to be able to get away from. I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it today…but I promise I’ll see you first thing tomorrow. We can go celebrate in style then.

“Celebrate?” She thought to herself. “What on earth for?”

“It’s no big deal Quistis, honestly I’m doing fine.”

“Now what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t take you out for your birthday?”

She hadn’t even realized, much less given it a lot of thought. Time had become an irrelevant matter after all.

“Sounds like a lot of fun,” she said after a short pause.

“I’ll talk to you soon okay?”

“Yeah, take care.” She said automatically.

“You too.”

The phone slid from her hand back down to the receiver. The young woman stood and carried the newspaper into the kitchen. She made ready to throw the thing into the trashcan. Her hand stopped just short of dropping it as she met his eyes. A wide range of emotions surged through her body. Part of her wanted so much to hate him. . It would have made it so much easier. While the other part hated herself for such selfish desires. Did she really expect him to wait his whole life for her? Furthermore she was making the assumption that he actually cared about her in the first place…maybe it had been her imagination all along. She slammed the newspaper against the counter in frustration. No matter what, Rinoa realized it was impossible to hate him. She sighed in defeat and put the newspaper into one of the empty kitchen drawers next to her.

She returned to the couch and lay down. Thoughts whirled through her mind at a dizzying pace. She pulled her knees up to her chest and curled up into a small ball in a vain attempt to comfort herself. Closing her eyes she realized she turned 25 today. Were she the same person as she used to be, she might have laughed at the irony of the old proverb that flashed before her eyes…now it just came out bitter.

“Time flies.”


Quistis stared at the clock for the hundredth time. She loathed these monthly meetings between the Gardens. It was all a bunch of political jargon in which much was said about nothing at all. Being involved in everything certainly took its toll. Unfortunately she was learning the hard way. Her eyes darted over to the Trabian representative who looked as enthralled about all of this as she did. Squall had the right idea there…perhaps next quarter she could start sending a representative. The thought of Squall made her knuckles turn white with anger. What in hell had he been thinking? She knew nothing of what he said was the truth. The Squall she knew would have pummeled anyone to the ground for saying less than what he did.

She also knew that he wasn’t the kind to be forced into anything. And from what she knew of Elise, she seriously doubted it was any of her influence. She was probably just as shocked and upset as she was. Quistis tried to give him the benefit of the doubt…though in truth she wanted nothing more than to confront him about it. But now was not the time. She would undoubtedly give away someone who had chosen to remain hidden. God how she hoped Rinoa hadn’t seen that article.

“Ahem. Miss Trepe?”

She was startled out of her thoughts by the council’s chairman. “Yes sir?”

“Are you are or are you not in favor of adjourning this meeting? Do you have something to add?” The older man stared at her sternly.

The headmaster looked around the table at the other members with their arms raised, looking at her in a pleading manor to be in favor of getting the hell out of that boardroom with them.

“No sir, I have nothing to add.” She raised her hand and smiled sheepishly.

“Very well, I will see you all again next month.” He pounded the gavel onto the table and stood. “Meeting adjourned.”


Quistis squinted in the blinding sunlight as she stepped into the Galbadian courtyard. “They should really consider holding some of these meetings outside for a change,” she thought to herself. “They’re turning us all into light sensitive vampires.”

She looked around at the beautiful topiaries circled around a large fountain in the middle of the square. The water fell in cascades down into the marble basin. It was so entrancing she nearly yelped when she felt something cold and wet press against her palm.


The dog wagged her nub of a tail furiously and licked the young woman’s hand. She knelt down and scratched her ears. Angelo grunted happily.

“How’s life treating you? I haven’t seen you since Irvine’s birthday party.”

She complied with her answer by flopping over on her back, awaiting a belly rub. Quistis laughed and stroked the dog’s thick fur between her forelegs. “Well I see someone must be spoiling you.”


Upon hearing the shrill standard Selphie war cry, she stood and turned around to greet the girl bounding towards her. She swore that girl had as much energy now as she did when she was five. Someday she would have to ask her what her secret was. The thought was quickly squeezed from her however as she was enveloped in a tight hug.

“It’s so good to see you!” Selphie beamed.

“You too.” She said hoarsely against the choking pressure on her neck.

“Damn Selphie, you’re going to asphyxiate a headmaster. That’s not gonna look good on your record.” A deep voice rose up from behind her.

“Hi Irvine.” Quistis gurgled. “You’re just in time to save me.”

“It’s my purpose in life darlin’.” He said as he tipped his hat. “To save the world from Selphie.”

“Sorry, sorry.” Selphie said as she released the other woman. “It’s just…so long between visits with all of you guys. I miss it so much. We were all together for so long…I feel like we’re still a team.”

“We are Selphie, we are.”

“Yeah! You know, what we need is another world crisis so the six of us can go kick its butt!” She stopped short. “Well…the five of us anyway.” The next few seconds were engulfed in uncomfortable silence.

“So anything new in the wide world of political bull crap?” Irvine broke the silence, trying to change the subject.

Quistis rolled her eyes. “Same old boring bull with the same old pile of boring sh--,” She paused just as the council chairman walked by their little group. “Hello sir,” She waved meekly. He nodded solemnly and continued on.

They all shared a quiet laugh when he was out of hearing distance. The headmaster looked down and for the first time noticed her friend’s red and swollen eyes.

“Selphie? Are you okay? You look like you’ve been crying.”

Irvine walked up behind Selphie shaking his head vigorously and sliding his finger across his neck in the universal sign for ‘stop now if you know what’s good for you.’

As if on cue the cheerful girl twisted her face into an agonizing frown as the tears begin to fill up in her eyes. Her bottom lip quivered while she tried to form words before the dam of emotions broke inside her.

Quistis looked at Irvine perplexed who only shook his head and muttered, “Well, there went my four hours of trying to cheer her up.”

Finally the floodgates opened as she flung herself into the other woman’s arms and wailed loudly. “Oh Quisty, it’s so terrible! You wouldn’t believe what they want me to do!”

Quistis patted her back in an attempt to comfort her. “What on earth are you talking about?”

Selphie mumbled something before breaking down into uninterruptible sobs, her hands clinging tightly to her friend’s jacket.

“We’re having issues with the bigwigs who control the finances about one of the dogs.” Irvine said, adjusting his hat. “They told her that too much money was going into training a dog that would probably never be allowed into the field anyway.”


“She’s deaf.” Selphie said softly and released her friend. “Even though she has been for all two years of her life…but leave it to them to point it out when they start sucking money out of all the Garden programs to put it into some sort of new robotics research!” She was near the octave of screaming.

“Now just relax Selphie…you nearly got us thrown out of here when you threw that tirade in the headmaster’s office.” Irvine wrapped his arm around the trembling girl.

“So she’s been deaf since birth?” Quistis asked.

“Yeah,” the young man replied. “She was one of Angelo’s last puppies. Actually Angelo wasn’t supposed to have anymore puppies at her age. But Jake got out of his kennel one warm spring night and well…one thing lead to another. So it was a really high risk pregnancy for her and her puppies. This one was the only survivor out of the three siblings. Turned out she didn’t come away completely unscathed. She’s always been so special to Selphie though.”

“She’s so smart Quistis,” Selphie said while wiping her eyes. “Smarter than any of them that’s been through the program. But none of the students will give her a chance…they are too damn lazy to do a little extra work!”

That statement gained the glances of a couple of students who quickly hurried past them.

“The SeeD commander told us that she would be too unpredictable in the field. It’d be like taking a gun without sights. Though like Selphie said, that dog has excelled in every single training exercise. She just relies on sight commands rather than whistles. We’ve tried to prove it to them again and again. They just don’t want to listen.”

“I know they aren’t allowed to go to civilian homes, but couldn’t someone from within Garden take her?”

“We’ve tried…but let’s face it Quisty, everyone says they haven’t got the time but in truth, no one wants a deaf dog.”

“What do they expect you to do then?”

“Have her put down…,” Selphie sobbed. “They expect me to have her put down! I won’t do it! I won’t betray her like that! Not for them, not for anyone!”

Irvine wrapped his other arm around her and pulled her into a tight embrace. Her friend looked at her with sympathy, unsure of what to say. Suddenly a light flashed on inside her head. Of course…why didn’t she think of it sooner…it was perfect.

“Selphie…I think I can help you.”

She looked up from Irvine’s jacket. “H…how?”

“I know someone that could really use a friend to stay with them right now. And I know your dog would be well loved and cared for there. It’s a small place out in the country; there would be plenty of room for her to run. What do you think?”

Her eyes welled up with tears again. “Quisty I think I could kiss you!” She wrapped her arms tightly around her friend. “Thank you thank you…thank you so much!”

The headmaster hugged her back. “It’s my pleasure. Now, you go and tell them you will carry out their orders. I will request an overnight stay here and go rent a car in Deling. Tonight we’ll sneak her out and I’ll take her straight to her new home.”

Irvine smirked. “You’ve gotten quite cunning and deceitful in your old age Miss Trepe. I think I like it.”

Quistis rolled her eyes.

“Oh wow!” Selphie chimed in. “This will be just like an episode of Mission Impossible!” She followed her statement by skipping and humming the theme song happily.

“So who exactly is this friend of yours hmm? Would this be that elusive beau you’ve been sneaking off and visiting for days upon end?”

“Beau? You mean boyfriend?”

He gave her a sly wink.

“I d…I mean…well…” She shrugged slightly. Well that wasn’t really a lie…just wasn’t a straight answer.

“You know you can’t keep him locked away forever don’t ya? He’ll have to come out of hiding sooner or later.”

“Whatever Irvine, I’ll see you two tonight. Meet me near the entrance.”

“Alrighty then Squall,” he replied as he removed his hat and bowed. “But seriously, thank you again for this.”

“Glad I could help.”

“Bye Quisty! See you tonig…I mean later!” Selphie began to skip away.

“Bye!...Oh hey Selphie I forgot…what’s her name?”

The younger girl turned and smiled. “Esperanza! It means hope in Spanish!”

Quistis smiled at that. It was perfect.

Rinoa could definitely use some hope right now.

Chapter 15