~* Chapter 14: Tomorrow *~
*Okay they, SquareSoft, once again, rejected my buyout offer. So, no I don't own them… However, I am starting my own company called CircleHard. Watch for my completely new and original idea of an epic romance between Remora and Squid… But as for the others right now, they belong to Square…grrrrr…*
The halls of Garden were desolate; one could almost hear the roars of the T-Rex in the training center, save for the two pounding on the Commander’s door. Outside in the hall, Irvine grabbed his neck, in yet another attempt of overacting. The point he couldn't speak was already quite known by the instructor. Silence is golden, remember? Quistis laughed as she looked over to him, "Silence spell?" He nodded confirming her suspicions. "Rinoa’s in there, have I mentioned how much fun it is to have her back?"
Irvine was not amused.
"I don’t know what’s going on in there, maybe I don't want to know." The instructor raised an eyebrow at the cowboy. The look on his face said it all. Shaking her head Quistis continued, "We’ll just have to make sure. I’m not losing either of them again…either by distance they create or distance of miles."
Maliciously she smiled again at Irvine, "Besides only a sorceress can undo that particular silence spell on you, although, I might be willing to let her wait a couple of days." Irvine only crossed his arms and glared at the young instructor sadistically. "Kidding, Irvine, just kidding. I'm sure that sorceress thing is just a rumor, I bet anyone can fix it…in a couple of days." At that moment, Quistis noticed Lauren walking up to Squall’s room.
Lauren looked at the two older SeeDs very suspiciously before asking, "What's so important that I was summoned up to the Commander Leonhart's room this time of night? I didn't do anything wrong, did I?"
Quistis shook her head. "Lauren, I know this may be difficult to understand, but I think you actually did something very right. I heard what you told Selphie about Squall."
Lauren thoughts raced back to what she said, the secret she had spilled right before the instructor left the room. She tried to play innocent on the subject; Lauren looked at the Instructor confused, "Told Selphie about what? I’m not sure what you mean Instructor Trepe."
"Lauren, please…I overheard what you said, about Squall seeing you well...um…" Quistis paused, flipping her hair behind her back. Eventually she looked at the young girl, unbelieving of the next words… "Naked…Lauren you said that Squall saw you undressed. Believe me, you did nothing wrong; it was just one of those wrong-time-wrong-place things. Unfortunately, I believe, the mistake cost him more than any of us could ever have imagined. We just need to get a few things straight."
"Instructor, you weren’t supposed to hear that. I was sworn to never tell anyone. Commander Leonhart will not forgive me if this is ever mentioned again. I really like it here, please…don't say anything."
"No Lauren, he will never forgive you if you don’t tell us about it. I’ll explain when we get inside."
Lauren Rachel was a very good SeeD, one of the top at Balamb Garden. She'd passed through the ranks quite easily, and was now the elite ‘A’ rank SeeD. Something in her gut told her to trust Quistis, for the instructor’s reputation preceded her. She only ever had her students' best interest in mind. With those thoughts, Lauren agreed to tell them about the incident over a year ago.
Looking at Irvine, Lauren quietly garbled, 'Hello.' He replied with only a small wave. Lauren turned to Quistis, whom was staring intently at the wooden door. A sensation of fear crossed the SeeD.
"Silence spell," rejoined Quistis without ever turning to Lauren.
"…Rinoa?" asked Lauren apprehensively, afraid of what the sorceress might be capable of doing. Especially when provoked…like being naked, in bed, with her knight.
"Yep," replied Quistis still smiling.
Rinoa and Squall rushed to find whatever articles of clothing they shed during the last few minutes. At last, when everything was back in place…hair, shirts, and lacey undergarments…Squall announced he was going to open the door. As he headed toward it, he took one last glance at the bed. He needed reassurance that his mind wasn't playing tricks; she was actually there. Something caught his eye, glancing down he noticed the black ring box on the tiled floor.
He looked once more at the door, and then back to her. They could wait. She could not. Squall reached to the velvety container, he gently placed it back in Rinoa’s hand. She smiled and mouthed the words, "Thank you." Not one word came out of her mouth, but he could hear everything she was saying, if only in spirit. He bent down and gave her a quick kiss on the lips, wishing that their moment had never been interrupted. Sighing, he turned toward the door, and impatiently opened it.
"This place better be on fire," he growled. Those were the only words Squall spoke, as he answered the door.
The two women stood on the other side, trying to ignore what they might have interrupted. Irvine on the other hand, winked at the Commander, which quickly freaked Squall out…as he forgot for a moment about the 'silence spell'. Quistis stood her ground on why they were there, never regretting the intrusion for a moment.
"Squall, we need to talk now, all five of us. We think we've established the real reason why Rinoa left Garden over a year ago. Please…it really can’t wait."
The words hit a nerve, and he could feel the numbness from his toes all the way to his heart. Some things might have been worth the disturbance, although at the moment it was very unlikely. Nevertheless, if for some reason he could stop any heartache they might have felt later on, it would undeniably be worth the few minutes of separation. Nodding in his usual commander-style, he reluctantly opened the door wider to allow his visitors access. The group walked through the doorway, and each felt a certain degree of embarrassment when they saw Rinoa sitting on the bed.
Lauren found one of the beanbags in the corner; the room still had sparse seating arrangements. Irvine, on the other hand, was more than happy to sit in the beanbag, in his opinion this might take a while. He was going to get as comfortable as physically feasible in this room; besides the bed, this was the second best choice. Hell, it was the only other choice.
Quistis stood, leaning against a small mahogany desk for support. She motioned for Squall to sit down, with a single flick of her hand. It was very strange the way she acted, as if she were in charge of a meeting. This was very un-Quistis like, to be acting the superior while Squall was present. By demeanor alone, Squall could tell she was very serious about the issue at hand.
All remained silent, waiting for someone else to break the proverbial ice. When that didn't occur, Quistis jumped in, "Um...Rinoa before I start, as much as I like the new improved Irvine can you possibly use one of your Esuna spells? Trust me when I say it hurts to ask you…" Rinoa nodded in compliance and in a moment, Irvine grabbed his neck in disbelief.
"My voice, my beautiful voice…it's back! How could you do that to your sweet-little, innocent friend Rin? I thought I was special."
Shooting him a look, a wry grin adorned on her face, "You are special Irvine. If you bother me again like that…well…it won’t be your 'voice' that doesn’t work. Get it, lover boy?" The cowboy said not a word, but just crossed his legs, which by the way…not easy sitting on an overstuffed beanbag.
Quistis examined the piece of paper in her hand; her suspicions had definitely been confirmed. The report was so simple, yet it led to the most complex mess she had ever witnessed. The instructor inwardly wanted to scream, all the pain over one misunderstanding that two people were too proud to confront. Each rather holding their dignity and moving on…
She let go of her fears at that moment, confronting Squall on a personal matter. Something she had felt trepidation from the first day of their meeting. She held her breath, trying not to look at Rinoa, who sat on the bed…innocent as she ever had been. And that killed Quistis. What the girl thought, hell, what any normal blooded human being would have felt if put into the same situation. Unsteadily she took a small step toward Squall, handing him the printed report. Looking down on the useless information, it seemed written in a foreign language. This little game was not sitting well with him; he wanted answers, not guessing games. He looked again at the printout, which at first seemed to be of little consequence...
Aug-11 10:37pm 41269X
Aug-12 4:13am 41269A
Aug-12 5:50am 41269B
"Yes, Quistis," Squall snidely commented. "This clears things up for me. How could I have been so ridiculous? This piece of papers negates the entire year of pain. Thanks for your help."
Rinoa sat completely confused about the situation going on around her. She had not heard the conversation outside in the hallway, about 'resolving their relationship'. She only heard Squall’s malicious tones towards Quistis, "Year of pain? What is Squall talking about?"
"Shut up, Squall," Quistis ordered.
Something she would have never done any other time, but the situation called for her to take a more aggressive approach. Squall was certainly going to be in a 'pleasant and jovial' mood for all of this. "It explains everything if you just wait a moment, Commander Leonhart."
Quistis motioned for Lauren to step forward. "Rinoa, this is Lauren Rachel, she is now an elite SeeD here at Balamb. Originally, though, she was at Trabia with Selphie. I think you met her the first night at the ballet."
Walking up to Rinoa, Lauren swallowed in nervousness. Getting anywhere in the general vicinity of the Commander, who was sitting beside the dark-haired girl protectively, didn't seem like the wisest of ideas. "Hello Ms. Heartilly, I’m the one you spoke with the other evening…at the reception hall. I mentioned that I had seen you perform in the past. I was there. Irvine and Squall were the others with me."
Smiling, Rinoa held out her hand, "Nice to meet you again, but why exactly is everyone here?" The slightly irritated girl continued, attempting to forge a smile through the questioning. She thought they shouldn’t bother Squall late at night, for such a trivial thing of introducing Lauren.
For a brief moment, she thought of petrifying the three intruders, if they didn't get to the point soon. Very, very soon.
"Well um..." Lauren wrestled for the right words to continue her story, which wasn’t easy with Squall staring directly at her. His glare could have made an enemy surrender on sight, without ever raising a weapon. He didn't often show emotion, but when he did…it was usually never pleasant. "After they rebuilt Trabia they had us come down to Balamb to attend some meetings." She couldn't take her eyes off Squall, whose every look now shot a dagger into her chest. "Hey Quistis…why am I doing this again?"
"I sure as hell don’t know," snapped Squall. The Commander was just about to start losing his patience with the whole situation.
Quistis only motioned with her hand for Lauren to continue. "Okay, so anyway, we came down here and they were short of rooms. Selphie said that a few of her friends were away on a mission, their rooms would be unoccupied."
Flinging his head up, as if hearing the worst scream imaginable, Squall realized exactly where this was going. "Shut up, now. We don’t talk about this. You were ordered; I'm still your superior. You can spend the next ten years breaking ice for drinks in Trabia, if I say so."
Quistis made a sound, a cross between a scream and a gasp. This was getting nowhere fast. "Squall Leonhart, you will never be able to forgive yourself if you don’t let her speak, trust me."
Standing up, he looked directly into Quistis' eyes. One thing he was sure of, she was not going to back down. He had never seen such determination reflected in her eyes. Rinoa certainly didn’t need this implausibly ridiculous story while they were trying to fix, start, whatever...their relationship. Quistis took another step closer to Squall, emphasizing her position on the matter. He just glared back at her and finally sat back down, avoiding looking at Lauren.
"Whatever," came the faint murmur of his word.
Turning toward him, Rinoa was slightly confused at this whole thing. "What are these people on? Is there something major that I can't see or sense here? Why would Quistis want me to know, yet Squall does not? What would Squall have to hide from me? Oh my God...Lauren. This girl in front of me is the one he had slept with. Quistis must have found out and wants Squall to come clean."
What other reason could there have been?
Rinoa inhaled deeply, and continued to hold the breath. "Great this is how I'm going to officially find out, in front of everybody. This is the other woman. How could they possibly do that to me…in here…with them? Wait, maybe Lauren was still his girlfriend, and everything else just a lie?"
She thought the cruel words, yet could not accept that Squall would lie about his feelings. No, she knew he wouldn’t because Squall did love her. It was a fact that would not be questioned. However, what this could all be about? Did Squall still have feelings toward this other girl? The last thing she wanted to do was get involved in some adolescent love triangle. And even worse, she didn't want to win just out of pity.
Rinoa had to stop this. "No, its fine," she tried to explain to Squall earnestly, although she felt her heart being ripped out once again. "I’ll just let you work out any relationship problems you two may have. Please, Quisty just leave me out of this. I'm not part of this, I don't belong here."
Rinoa tossed the velvet box toward the nightstand. There were no words, as she could hear every one of them quickly breathing. For a moment, she thought of how this other girl might feel. To have your boyfriend bring someone back, to somehow watch your relationship suddenly ending. She knew that feeling all too well. It would be difficult for Lauren too, watching Squall with his old girlfriend…she almost felt sorry for her.
"You’re not leaving, either!" ordered Quistis. "Does anybody around here want to finish this sometime tonight!? Trust me, everybody. Just, for Hyne's sake, trust me." Quistis knew exactly where Rinoa’s mind probably went, which did in fact confirm any doubt that may have lingered. "Lauren, if everyone is done with their outbursts…please continue." The instructor gave both Rinoa and Squall a malevolent glare, these two were impossible.
Lauren began tentatively, "Anyway, Balamb ran out of the normal guest rooms. Since I was a friend of Selphie's, they let me use one of the SeeDs' who was on a mission. I used Squall’s while he was in Esthar. I was given a temporary keycard to only his room and..."
"Oh Hyne," garbled Squall, looking down at the paper. He searched for answers in Quistis eyes, "My ID number, and my keycard…both of them." She said nothing; she didn’t have to. Squall hurled the paper across the room and put his hand on his forehead. "Rinoa saw us together. Rinoa left him. Rinoa had seen me in bed with another woman…she used her key…"
Irvine stood from his beanbag, taking over the conversation, "Rin, this is where I come in. See, we had a party for the Trabian guests. I, myself, was in Selphie’s room. I think most of us had just a little too much to drink. Okay, way too much. Squall called me to let me know that the mission had been canceled. Only I... passed out before I could relay the message."
Lauren only watched the reactions of those around her. She too caught on to what must have transpired. This time, Quistis didn’t have to encourage her to continue with the story. "God Rinoa, when the alarm went off the next morning, Squall was just...there. He pretty much screamed when he saw me next to him. Worst part is I used to sleep naked, not after that night though."
He closed his eyes, every thought that she had, every betrayal. The reason she left, a stupid misunderstanding. Moreover, his pride kept it a secret. When she said nothing, he opened his eyes looking at her. Right now, her expression was one he had undeniably not seen on her. There were no real words to describe the look of shock and confusion; she was almost in a ghost-like state.
"Rinoa, you thought that…Rin? Please….I swear nothing happened. I didn’t know. They just gave me the keycard report showing that my second key was used that morning. Damn it…Rinoa it was yours." Squall reached his hand over to her leg, not knowing how she would react. "I love you more than anything in this world Rinoa Heartilly. If you believe one thing, believe that."
Slowly, Rinoa reached down to the hand that lay upon her thigh. "How? How could this have happened? Such a huge damn mistake." Yet Rinoa never questioned the truth. Squall’s voice was all she needed to know this was true. She looked toward him, "Squall Leonhart, I love you too." Without any further hesitation, she threw her arms around his waist.
"Well um, guys?" Irvine tried to interject, but it was clear neither of them planned to move for a long time. "Well, we’re all going to bed now, new cadets coming in soon. Squall, Cid gave you the day off. Said he would handle the cadet formalities. Actually, he ordered you to take the day off."
Rinoa was the first to break the embrace, "Squall...I’m so sorry."
He gently brushed Rinoa’s hair out of her face, before putting his finger to her lips. "Shhh, we need to talk a little don’t we?" She only nodded without a smile, trying hard to restrain her tears. "Tell you what, give me the key to your guest room. I’ll go get Angelo and her belongings, and you can stay in here tonight if you like. Don’t worry Rin, I’ll take the floor."
Again, she tried to smile, but nothing more than a small line appeared on her face. After getting the card, Squall guided Rinoa out to the small balcony off his room. It was nothing like the grander ones throughout the Garden; this one barely allowed fitting two chairs out there, not as if Squall owned any though.
"I'll be fine Squall." He hadn't asked, but she knew he wanted to hear it.
"I won't be long."
"I know, I know."
She moved her fingers over the smooth metal rail, as she listened to every sound. From the purr of the generators, to the humming sound that resonated out of the lights. In the distance, she could hear the crickets chirping, and an occasion animal calling aloud. She thought of everything, past, present and future.
Future…a word that used to scare her.
Quickly the Commander retrieved the obedient dog, and returned to his room. She was still standing out on the balcony, moonlight reflecting off her hair. Both hands were gripping the railings, as if for dear life. Each finger seemed to find its place on the metal railing. Squall walked to her side noticing the solemn look upon her face. He said nothing, just stood beside her quietly.
"When I was young," started Rinoa, "My mother used to read me books. Every week she would go the bookstore and purchase one for me. It was our special time together…she would read me a chapter every evening. Exactly one week from the day she passed away, personal items were returned from the investigating officials. Her purse, some maps from the car, and a bag from the bookstore. I didn’t know about the bag for a while. Later, for the holidays, my father wrapped the book up and put it under the tree. The tag said it was from my mother. At first, I thought it was some kind of horrific joke, and then I realized what had happened. She had gone to the store that night to pick it up…she was killed coming home from the bookstore." Rinoa could no longer keep the tears at bay, one-by-one they traced a path down her skin.
Squall watched as the light reflected off each one like a crystal. He wanted to hold her, to never let her go…to make every nightmare go away, and every dream come true. But that was not in his power, for he was just a man and could only do his best. He just hoped that whatever he had to offer would be enough. Slowly he moved one of his hands over hers; she willingly allowed the contact. There was a soothing comfort in his touch.
Rubbing her eyes trying to stop the tears, she continued, "My mother died because she went to pick up something for me. I hated that book, I hated everything it cost me. Almost five years later, I had been in one of the normal fights with my father. He sentenced me to a week in my room, no friends, no phone, and no television. For some reason, I looked over to my shelf and saw that book. Five years after she died, I sat down to read my mother’s present, her last present to me…ever."
Rinoa had never told another living soul this story; it was easier just to forget about the entire ordeal. "We don’t know the future, right?" A year ago, she wanted to tell Squall, but he wasn’t ready emotionally to hear such a thing. They each had grown in the last year, and he was now able to give almost freely of himself. Well, this was Squall after all, there still was a limit. Somehow telling him was her way of trying to return the favor. Physically giving herself was easier than giving something she tried desperately to hide.
The tears continued their path down her pale face, the droplets too heavy to bear. The promise she made herself not to cry had been broken. No, it had been amended. There was definitely a difference, for now she cried not out of anger, but out of love. Love for Squall, love for her mother. She was trying to heal both of their suffering with her admissions.
Squall stood silently through her story. The guilt a five year old must have faced, believing they were the cause of their parent’s death. For him, it would be easier thinking they didn’t want you, like his father. Hate is easier to live with than guilt, he knew that. However, to blame oneself for their parent’s death would have been indescribable. He took a step behind and put his arms securely around her waist, she continued to face the night sky.
Feeling Squall’s presence against her, made Rinoa shiver. He gently lowered his head to rest on her silky hair. A feeling she could, and would, absolutely get used to. Rinoa hesitated before continuing, "Castles in the Sky, the name of the book was 'Castles in the Sky.' It told the story of a woman who was always dreaming, never stopping to realize what she had in front of her, too busy reaching for things out of her grasp. Finally, one day, she opened up her heart, finding the fairytale life she dreamed. Ironically, it was right in front of her. She just couldn't see it."
"Squall...I was the one who told you to see with your heart, not your eyes. Yet, I saw what I thought happened between you and Lauren. If I'd only looked with my heart, I would have known better. I was so caught up in a fairytale romance with you, the one I created if only in my mind. I never stopped to appreciate you. Squall Leonhart you were a beautiful person back then, just as you are now. I didn’t ever deserve you."
Turning her around, they were now face-to-face. He held her close, their bodies centimeters apart. "Rin, don’t ever say that. It was I that didn’t deserve you. I can’t believe anybody would put up with me as long as you did. Every time you got close, I’d push you away. Maybe it was some kind of game to me, and losing you might have been the only way for me to see what I had. Maybe I was the one chasing the 'castles in the sky.' The perfect warrior, the perfect hero, that’s what I tried to be. I didn’t see what I had until you left. I regretted it everyday for the last year. Believe me, had the situation been reversed…I would have believed the same thing when I walked in to the room. Except one small difference, I don’t think I would have turned around and walked out. Pretty sure I’d be on trial for murder."
She could feel his heart beating faster; she knew this admission had to be awkward for him. It wasn’t as if he talked about emotions and feelings on a whim. "Squall, there’s something I need to tell you. I don’t want you to hate me for it…I just don’t want any secrets between us anymore. While we were apart there was this guy named Mike and...."
Squall again quickly put his finger up to Rinoa’s lips, "Rin, it’s all right. I know."
Pushing out of his arms, she looked towards him. The expression on her face said it all, 'How?'
Rinoa had said not a single word to Squall, but he could understand her better than anyone else in this world. "Well, no secrets right? I hope you can forgive me for this Rinoa, I don’t think I would do well with someone invading my head like this…"
"Ellone…Ellone sent me back to the past. I’m sorry Rinoa…I never asked her too. I think all our friends just wanted me to see... Well, to say that I needed you, that I love you."
"Ellone sent me back this afternoon. I saw everything, from the party to the hospital."
A look of shock swept over her face. "Hospital…Deling…the hospital? You were there, I remember. Squall, you were the last thing I saw, not the lights. Why didn’t I remember this before?"
"I guess something had to trigger the memory. I was there with you through your subconscious. Rin, I should have been there in person. I’m sorry."
"But to me, you were there. You gave me the strength to go on. Why the Hell didn’t I remember this before? Squall… you told me that you loved me six months ago. Even a few minutes after you saw me with Mike you still told me."
"Mike doesn’t matter, he never did."
"He wasn’t you," her voice softened with the confession. She lifted her face toward him, hoping that maybe he would understand. "I tried to think it was, trick my mind. In the end, it was the worst day in my life. I heard your voice, that’s why I said your name, wasn’t it?"
He smiled almost embarrassedly; glad for once that she couldn't see him. "Well, it wasn’t the easiest thing to watch. I had to say something, to say that I love you. I don’t really care what technically happened, as far as I’m concerned I’m your first. The first one to love you, the first to hold you, and the first who will make love to you…and the last."
Rinoa leaned against his chest and cried again. This man was the best thing in the world, and he was all hers. After a few minutes of holding each other, Squall reached down and tenderly captured her legs. The Commander carried her, from the humid night air to the chilly temperatures of his dorm. He managed to lay her down on the bed, with her head softly against the pillow.
Squall bent down and kissed her on the lips softly, passionately. "Rinoa you take the bed, I’ll sleep on the floor for tonight. We both have had a very long day."
Rolling on her side, she leaned on her elbow. "Mr. Leonhart, do you think after everything that we have gone through in the last year, I’m going to let you sleep on the floor?" She then smiled devilishly, "Unless, of course, you’re worried that your girlfriend will be back in the morning and get the wrong idea."
Squall almost playfully jumped onto the bed next to her. "I think she is still out of town for a while. Only problem is... it probably won’t be the wrong idea and if you call me Mr. Leonhart one more time you’re going to regret it young lady. You make me feel very old."
"Sorry, Mr. Leonhart."
"That’s it!" Squall reached over and pulled her close rolling himself on top, "Now I’m going to have to tickle you. Really, didn’t want to do this, but if the enemy does not listen, one must take drastic measures for national security."
"National security, huh? Well, that’s a different story. For that, I will stop calling you 'the name.' Mainly it’s because I hate being tickled."
"Good choice," he said as he bent down reaching his lips to hers.