Crimson Lies Chapter 13
If ever a circumstance in history was so poignant, so complicated it was the one facing two figures standing within the wooden cabin. Fear, hate, and love entangled in one solitary moment; one so significant, so essential it could not be described in mere words. Two years and a lifetime of pain, leading up to this second; one insignificant grain of sand falling from the hourglass of time.
In a moment, that moment, his heart felt complete an emotion lost so long ago. She was alive; more then alive, she was beautiful. The pain of the open wound was far overshadowed by the feelings emerging from his inner being. So many mistakes, so many lies, and so much they both had lost. Searching her eyes, he realized that he never stopped loving her, no matter what she was accused, no matter what she really did; that love would never diminish.
In a moment, that moment, her heart felt the occasional bittersweet. For so long she dreamed of seeing him, touching him, and of making love to him again. Yet the realization that she could never truly be with him played heavy on her emotions. She would not let herself go through that again; she would not be the weak child that needed saving. She was a mother now, and that simple fact took precedence over her own desires. As strong as they may be, she could not admit her needs.
For moments neither spoke, neither could. The motion of him falling forward disrupted the tense situation, as he grasped his shoulder; the blood was flowing mixing with the white snow that covered the coat.
"Squall," she pleaded not with her voice, but in her eyes. "Oh Hyne what have I done?"
"I'll be fine," he delicately whispered back, the words having more then the obvious relation to the lesion. He continued stumbling until she decisively reached out her arms and gently helped him to the rug-covered floor. Rinoa started taking the coat off him without a word, never looking him in the eyes. Gently she applied pressure to stop the blood flow.
"Squall I I really didn't know it was you."
He didn't answer her, all he could do was study every motion she made; the pain from the cut, the pain from seeing her was still numbing his senses. She looked slightly older, yet more elegant. Her hair was shorter now, no longer flowing freely instead, the look added maturity to her age. The golden streaks were gone, only solid brunette covered her head. Yet she looked despondent, at the same time, she looked frightened. There was something about her that he could not place, something different. Then it hit him; her innocence was lost, stolen by him years ago.
"Do you have any magic on you," she asked tranquilly, avoiding any eye contact.
"Yes " he hesitated, "I have a few spells."
He put his hand to his right shoulder and closed his eyes. Silently he cast the spell on himself; an amethyst ember glowed around the wound. Through his shirt, Rinoa could not make out the actual wound, but thankfully, it had avoided all major organs. She did not kill him. As the aura faded away she turned her head, this was going rip her apart yet.
"Squall, if you're here to kill me, just get it over with. I can't do this any longer but I must ask one thing of you before you do. Please consider it my dying wish."
He found it hard to speak; she truly did believe him capable of murdering her. That is exactly what it would be, murder. Not justice. "I am not here to kill you."
Slowly she regained her composure, pulling herself up into a standing position. She faced away from him walking to the small picture window lined in ice-covered drops. "Then why are you here; it's your job to kill me for what I did."
He stood up not attempting any further contact, "What did you do?"
"I got lost Squall. Lost in a world that is not mine; that's all I ever did, lose myself in a world not meant for me. I never found my place in this world. Squall I can't do this. Please just do what you have to."
"Fine, I have to have some answers," he almost demanded. "I want answers."
"Your right Quistis that man was a complete jerk!" Seifer said stridently enough for the owner of the little shop to hear as he slammed the door. The two, now colleagues, walked down the streets as fresh snow concealed all indications of the pedestrians that walked before them.
"Unfortunately some things haven't changed over the last two years; he is just a big of an asshole as he was back when I lived here."
"Yes, an uncooperative asshole at that. I speak from experience."
Some things could displease Quistis, even in the current situation. She stopped walking as delicate clusters of snow united with her uncovered face. She didn't care as the flakes melted upon contact with the warmth of her skin. Seifer had a lifelong ability to put himself down, an attribute drawn out at a very young age. Although with him, it was more the defense only those searching for could perceive those who only wished to rival him, look at him as the enemy, would never note such insignificant phrases. Yet she had. Over the course of her life, she had noticed his behavior; his little habits even if she cared not admit that, not even to herself. Now circumstances were different; somehow, she found strength through him. Something that had been abandoned for such so many seasons.
"Seifer, Please don't do that."
"Do what?" he inquired at the woman's suddenly change in demeanor. Somehow, she looked more like the instructor he remembered from his teen-age years, ready to lecture or reprimand one of the students, usually him. It was a look that had not transformed itself in the last several days.
"You always find a way of managing to put your self down. You are not an asshole you might have had some issues in the past, okay some major issues, but people change even you. I don't think of you as an asshole, moreover I don't like to hear you say it for some reason it bothers me. We are in this together; we are in this to help."
Someone cared. For one time in his fucking existence someone truly showed affection toward him, genuine feeling. He could tell. He wanted to express his gratitude, yet the simple words escaped him. Ironic how similar he and Squall could be on the ability to show ones true self to others. Seifer reached out his gloved hand to her; she looked up to him, confusion evident in her blue eyes. After a moment, she glanced back to his hand and hesitantly reached to meet the leather glove. As their hands contacted, she could feel a sudden rush capture her entire body; Seifer carefully laced their fingers and pulled her tenderly toward him. Encircling his other arm around her back, he pulled her into a complete embrace. Her warm check lay upon his chest and she could feel the dampness of the snowflakes mixing with the heat rising off his body. Even in the sub-zero temperatures, she felt warmer then in all her life.
"I'm sorry." Seifer murmured as she could hear the vibration of his chest when he spoke.
"I guess I did have some major issues back then, but what about that guy in the shop?"
"No Seifer, he is an asshole."
Chuckling he continued to hold Quistis in his arms. "Tell me again what happened with his mother and how she knew of you two years ago?"
Closing her eyes, the snow turned to small ice pellets as she recalled the events mentally. "Mrs. McCay was the sweetest lady you could ever imagine, she would always be outside watering the flowers or just wishing people well always willing to help. I remember stopping to talk with her about various things: weather, the growing volume of the city, trivial matters like that, nothing special."
"Did you ever have any conversations that would explain why her son would dislike you so much? Even after one of his mothers dying requests was to give you Rinoa's necklace."
"No really I don't think we talked about anything or anybody." Quistis opened her eyes as the sleet stopped in that precise moment of time. As her eyes regained focus, she glanced up at a small bulletin board affixed to the antique shop. She silently read the billboard and a memory immediately came back to her. "Oh once we talked about him." She broke the security of his touch, raising her arm to point at the election propaganda hanging on the brick surface.
Seifer turned around. "Re-Elect Richard Bennett for the World Council - A vote for Bennett is a vote for the future. Well the guy sure is not very original; guess Squall was his campaign manager in his spare time. That guy creeps me out anyhow, sorry his wife and child, but he is a creep."
"Yeah that is what Maude I mean Mrs. McCay and I talked about. He had just got married about a month before I got here; she said that nobody even knew that he was dating. Thought the whole thing was very scandalous, but then it came out that she was extremely ill. I guess the universal consensus was Bennett did out of loyalty or something."
"Or something " Seifer snide bitterly, "That man never did an honorable deed in his insignificant life. All that power is wasted on such a fool. I'm sure that man only married someone who was dying to get his grubby little hands on her large trust fund, or for the publicity that would come from his unselfish deeds."
"Well there never was a picture of Renee Bennett, so I'm sure it wasn't for the publicity. I'm guessing your right about the trust fund and boundless supply of money to subsidize his extensive campaigns. It's truthfully sad that she passed away before SeeD found her daughter."
Seifer stood immobile. He recalled the words spoken earlier in the debriefing on the Trabian dock. "The search has doubled in Trabia," he finally verbalized aloud.
Looking at the man that stand in front of her, his eyes filled with what appeared to be the smallest of tears and a glimmer of optimism, almost a look of contentment. "What are you saying Seifer?"
The light snow continued to fall in his hair; Seifer smoothed it back with his hand and let out a veritable laugh. "It's too easy it's too damn easy. Lowering himself to the ground the ex-knight may have found the path to redemption, holding his side as the laughter continued to fill his body. No the situation was not that of a humorous variety, but emotions manifest themselves differently among humans. Seifer was never mainstream, neither was his exhibiting of emotion.
Quistis paced to him, bewildered at the events unfolding in her presence. "Seifer are you okay? Do you need um need a doctor or something?" Bending down she placed a hand on his back, smoothing out imaginary wrinkles in his trench coat.
"For once in my life Instructor Trepe-Leonhart, I'm fine. Quistis that's it you just found the misplaced piece to this entire horrific puzzle."
"Richard Bennett's dead wife?" she asked uncertain.
"His wife is no more dead then you or I. That's why Bennett doubled the search, not for the child for his missing wife. A secret that now may come to light. Something a deceased shop owner knew, and hid, from the unjust world until the timing was right, a clue that you held all along. The shop owner's son wasn't an asshole; he was scared there is a difference. I understand now. The key was the woman married to Richard Bennett. A woman by your own admission never had been photographed due to her illness or supposed illness, a well-known politician suddenly marries without so much as public date, there wasn't a trust fund it was always for power. Power in the eminent form known "
As if being hit by a sword from iron giant, the realization dawned on her. Quistis too fell to her knees, as if asking for forgiveness to the deities above, a voice decreased to that of a whisper left her lips, "a sorceress."
The cabin was deathly quiet, a sound that can be remarkably deafening. For a moment, she stood dismayed, allowing the gusting motions of the snow hypnotize her into a false sense of strength. She found courage to confront the man who swore to the world, her demise. Hitting the wall with her hand before returning her gaze to him, the one standing in front, "Answers, you want answers from from me!"
Rinoa dared to take a few steps toward him; it was no longer the calm meeting they had encountered only minutes before. She was no longer the clichéd deer stuck in the headlights. Now years of emotions were conflicting in her very psyche, years of trying to repress memories now seemed in vain. This man, in five minutes time, had taken every venture of disregarding those feelings ineffective.
Squall refused to show sign of outer weakness, internal was another story. There was so much that needed to be rectified, so many answers to questions he had not dared to ask himself for the eternity she was gone. Squall Leonhart would not back down; he wanted answers, and by god, he would get answers.
"Yes, I want answers," he challenged, taking a step closer as a counter measure to her previous advance. "Why the hell did you ever leave Garden leave me?"
"Leave you? Maybe because you were going to slaughter me, I can't think of anything better. Can you?"
"I was chosen to lead the hunt for the sorceress; you would have been taken back to Deling to sort out the details."
"The Sorceress!? That's what I am to you, the sorceress. You cannot even utter my name not once since you barged in on me have you even addressed me by name. Does it upset you that much to say. I know why stay detached so it does not hurt as much to execute your adversaries. Do not think of them as people, only as potential threats. Isn't that strait from the SeeD manual, Squall Leonhart?"
"Fine, Rinoa, well play it your way. I would have helped if you allowed it. We could have gone through this together."
"Don't you say that don't you fucking say that," she screamed at him. "I saw you in Deling, I saw your expression. Tell me that you didn't believe I killed your sister in cold blood. Look me in the eyes and tell me that you thought I was innocent."
She approached him, daring to get within a meter. For the first time since the initial meeting, she made the conscious decision to look at him directly. Their eyes locked, she refused to be made the fool of, not after all this. It could have never been so simple, or goddamn it, she would have tried. His eyes looked exhausted, looked in anguish she could read them so well, even after all this time.
No longer could he take the intense guilt, as he broke the contact... silently leaving her with the answer she already knew. "I thought so." She walked over to look the fire, feeling the sanctuary of the heat. "It was an accident," Rinoa spoke gently to the flames. "Why did nobody clear me? Others knew the truth."
Squall dreaded this question. How do you tell somebody that his decision was based on a falsehood of somebody they both had trusted? The hell Rinoa must have endured, but it needed to be asked, it needed to be answered. Squall slowly walked behind her; she could feel him, feel his presence growing stronger. God could she feel him, but nothing would be worth the torture not even him; she tried wordlessly to convince herself of that fact.
"Others should have cleared you, but they didn't. It isn't as simple as black and white; everyone made mistakes, everyone suffered."
"The only mistake I made was loving you." Rinoa could feel her body tighten at the sound as her heart betrayed her words. "Quistis was with me " Turning to face him, a sudden look of horror covered her face, "Oh Hyne something happened to Quistis Squall is she still alive? Tell me she is alright!"
This was tearing his soul, how could he tell her the truth. It would kill her. However, for the first time in two years, he wasn't under anybody's control. He had the free will to do what was right even though it felt so wrong.
"Quistis is alive. After you ran after you ran some Galbadian soldiers approached her and asked if the sorceress had killed Ellone and she said yes."
"Yes! Quistis said that? That bitch, why she knew the truth, she watched Ellone die with me. I held her hand as she died and Quistis ."
"Quistis tried to fix it later, it just wasn't possible. Rinoa, she was upset that you ran, without an explanation."
"I I was taken to a dream world. Ellone told me to leave, that the troops were at Garden to kill me; had I stayed they would have murdered me. She begged me to leave, not say one word to anyone. I couldn't. I wanted to I wanted to see you but "
"But you ran; you didn't help us fight. Nobody knew why Quistis just took it personal. We all had so much to lose."
"I had much to lose too, you could never understand! So Quistis lied? Why would she " Memories of the argument between the two played in her mind. That day they had argued about Squall with her out of the picture it would it all became crystal clear. "You she wanted you. With me out of the way "
"After the attack she went up to Trabia Garden." The statement had not intended to sound that way, yet Rinoa read something else into it. He looked at the shaking figure in front of him, right now was not the time to divulge the marriage. Rinoa needed time to absorb this information, "I'm not defending her actions. Rinoa, Hyne knows the hardest thing I ever had to endure was losing you. I spent the last two years doing everything in my power to locate you."
Shaking her head, she walked away from him, collapsing in a rocking chair that angled the fireplace. Again, she found herself watching the flames as she had done so times in the last couple of days.
Not in anger, not in hate, just in a detached voice she asked, "How did you end up here?"
"Would you believe a stubborn chocobo? I ended up lost in the forest and stumbled upon a chocobo who was supposed to take me back to Trabia but decided to take a detour to this cabin. Then just sat there and went to sleep outside. I needed shelter and this was the only place in sight."
"Remember to thank the chocobo for me," she replied sarcastically. "What were you doing in Trabia anyhow? I mean it's not like the tourist capitol of the world, just on important Garden business?"
"Well, technically business but only as a cover to check up on a lead on you. One of the members of the world council had his child kidnapped, so four of us came up here. I was using it as a cover story to check the lead, and then his wife died so they doubled the search efforts."
Rinoa gasped aloud, a mixture of emotions ran through her. Yet all she could do was try and contain laughter. No, the situation wasn't in the least bit humorous, yet the irony itself was hysterical.
Squall was very mystified. "Excuse me Rinoa? You seem a little incentive."
"Pardon the expression Squall, but they sent you on a wild chocobo chase. Please humor me and tell me more on your precious case."
"What in the hell are you doing? This isn't funny." Squall walked directly in front, crossing his arms with an expression that only made Rinoa laugh harder.
Standing up she was far closer to him now then any other moment. Gathering her composer she began speaking, "Okay Commander Leonhart let's try to figure this out. It's all a game a fucking game. Its three sides, all equal in immorality. First, we have SeeD, which includes you as commander and all your ostentatious personnel. Once a great force now at the beck and call of only one organization, no longer hired mercenaries but disposable soldiers for Deling's President. By all rights, Garden is a division of the Galbadian government even if you dare not admit it."
"That leads us to the malicious World Council who is lead by none other then Deling's own dear President Jefferson Mitchell. A group that has so many hidden agendas nobody is even sure, if they have a legitimate front anymore. Oh that's right nobody cares. As long as they show up every month and say they are going to kill the sorceress and wear impressive dress uniforms doing it. Much more official that way men in uniforms never could lie to the public right? Oh, don't you still sit there at the right hand of the Council dear? That's where you were two years ago, see how far sleeping with a sorceress gets you which leads us to the last of this triad "
Squall found himself not sure of where this was heading, so far he had understood her little outburst. Yet, he could not even think of a third player in the game.
"The man who actually had both the World Council and SeeD looking like fools for two years Richard Bennett. A man who sits like a snake watching its prey on the world council, subsequently watching the almighty SeeD and their honored commander. Waiting in the dark to make its move when the enemy is weak. An animal so heinous it doesn't care who it hurts in the process we were just pawns to him. Unfortunate for the snake, even he has his foes, that fucking snake was attacked by the mongoose and now he finds himself dependent upon the other two sides of the triangle."
"Yes Squall sleeping with a sorceress could get you a seat at the council but what could have Richard Bennett got by controlling one. By controlling me."
"You're right about one thing Squall, Renee Bennett died, not from an illness, but because I finally got the courage to leave. I would rather die then spend another day with that monster. They doubled the search not to look for Allison but to look for me Richard Bennett would have never called you in a million years. You scare him, you always have."
His mouth was dry. For two years he sat at meetings with this man, the whole time they spoke of attempts to find the sorceress he held her the entire time. What a perfect cover hide among them. Mr. Bennett had made the fools out of them, especially of Squall. Then a realization hit him, looking into Rinoa's eyes he asked the question she had dreaded.
Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic