Crimson Lies Chapter 30


By Ashbear

In the attitude of silence the soul
Finds the path in an clearer light,
And what is elusive and deceptive
Resolves itself into crystal clearness.
Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.

--Mahatma Gandhi

From the beginning of recorded history, it has always been a fight between good and evil.  Each holding their own.  If one power grows too strong, a chaos will erupt that no mortal, nor God, could ever save us from.  It is a balance like dark and light, the sun and moon, or love and hate.  There is always a fine line, which one dare not cross.  However, if one being or entity dare defy it, then the universe would be forever lost.

 A descendent of Hyne was unique.  The embodiment of a sorceress meant so much more than the history books ever told, more than they could ever know.  Not only did they keep balance in this life, they kept balance in the hereafter.  Serving Hyne, or forever being banished into another realm.  The one of either mortal souls, or those condemned to eternal damnation.  For in the realm, it was a triad of power.  A balance equal between three.  Unlike most religious beliefs, that only focused on two…the power of good and evil.  But for Hyne, there was a kingdom separate for her descendants.  One where they could govern and rule.  The mortal realm was just that…a place for the rest of society to lay at rest. 

 Or eternal damnation…there is always an evil.  Always.

 Sometimes the evil is obvious, comes riding in cloaked on a dark horse, with sickle in hand.  Other times, it lays in wait, finding our weakness, learning…watching every moment.  And that is the worst evil, the one that stays hidden, not among the shadows, but in the light of day.


 The room was quiet, save for the toddler pretending to fly.  Allison twirled around, arms widespread.  Spinning in circles, her wings reached the imaginary clouds that covered the room.  Rinoa sat quietly on the couch, taking in every moment of the performance.  She heard a sound coming out of the bedroom, but never looked back.  She felt a hand on her shoulder, as the figure sat.  But, still she did not look.  She only closed her eyes, and rested her head against his chest.

 "She has your imagination."

 "Squall, I don't think you ever had one."  It was sarcastic; they both knew it.

 "Maybe, maybe not."  He pushed her short hair behind her ears.  Watching the way it cascaded against her face.  Her ear so perfect; so many things he never stopped to enjoy. 

 "She has your eyes."

 "She has your heart," he whispered faintly back.  Rinoa smiled.

 Trying not to let the tears come again, she turned.  Looking at him one more time.  Every feature, every fault.  With a single finger, she traced over his scar, eventually letting it trace down to his mouth.  She kept it over her lips, as he closed his eyes on the sensation of the contact.

 "Remember me."

 His eyes flew open, and his mouth suddenly fell agape.  No words came.  It was too much of a shock.  He started to speak, but she once again put slight pressure on his lips with her finger, scolding with her eyes.

 "Squall…please…just remember me.  Remember the last few days.  Hold on to them in your heart.  She will need that.  If something happens, go on.  Don't ever look back."

 He pushed her finger aside with his hand, a little more forceful then he had meant.  "Rinoa, don't talk like that."  His eyes almost seemed metallic, like steel.  He was so serious, so passionate.  "We are leaving for Esthar tonight…there we will be safe."

 "Safe," she echoed softly.  "Squall, they won't stop until they find me.  I can never have a normal life."

 "Yes you can.  We can…damn it.  I never cared about your powers, it was you."

 "You might not care about power, but others do.  They always will, for that, I will never be at rest.  You and Allison do not deserve this, to run like rats in a maze.  You deserve to be free, run along the ocean shores.  Back at the cabin, you promised to take us to the waters edge.  I beg of you Squall…please, please do that if something happens."

 He turned away from her.  Only to watch his daughter still flying around the living area.  So innocent, so young…just like they had been once before fate had been cruel.  He watched every movement the girl made, the way her hair flowed as the air swept through it, just like her mothers had so many seasons ago.  Running his hand through his locks, although it was short, it still was a nervous habit from many years before. 

 "Rinoa, why are you so sure something is going to happen?  Within two hours, we will be on transport to Esthar, yet you act as if it's not going to happen.  Or if it does, you won't make it.  Why…why do you keep doing this?  From the moment, I saw you again; you have acted as if these are your final days?  Goddamn it Rinoa, stop talking like that."

 "Squall," she could no longer forge a smile.  "I just know…I can't explain it.  All of this had lead up to this one thing, them finding me.  They will not rest, they will not stop, and they shall continue to hunt me until I am found.  I am the animal, they are the hunters…I am nothing more than prey.  I could have never dreamed that I would be given the opportunity to see you again…that is more than I could ever ask.  I…love…you.  I had the chance to say the words again."

 "Come on," he stood up, almost angrily.  Offering his hand, he pulled her up with him.  "We are getting our things, and leaving now.  They can have their battles, I will not lose mine."

 "Squall they need you."

 "Damn it, no they don't.  They never did.  I have been gone from here for two years.  My only obsession was finding you and the truth.  I've done both.  My job is done.  Garden is a memory."

 Their eyes met, neither seeming to back down in their resolve.  His so serious, yet so scared, even she could see it.  He wasn't hiding it well anymore…or she could just read him better.  Which ever it was, she couldn't compete with his decision.

 "Fine Squall, just give me about twenty minutes here."

 "I'm not leaving until…"  A knock at the door made them both turn.  Allison stopped being an airplane, and ran toward the sound.

 "Ma'ma…door…  Da da?"

 "No…no its not," she couldn't even look at Squall.  Her guilt consumed her every time she heard Allison call that man, Richard Bennett, da da.

 "I'll get it."  Rinoa could hear the hurt in his voice.

 "No, wait a second Squall."  Bending down on her knees, Rinoa stared at her daughter eye-level looking into the same steel blue eyes she had early seen in her true father.

 "Ally…Mommy needs to tell you something.  I know you won't understand, but I need to be the one to tell you.  Squall…this man right here."  Rinoa reached up grabbing him by the uniform sleeve, pulling him down to their level.  "This is your…Dad.  We won't call him daddy or da da, we will call him Dad.  Can you say that for me?"

 "No…that Skall."

 "Yes, Ally it is…but he is also your real father.  He is your Dad."  She pointed to herself and then to Squall, "Mom and Dad."

 The sound of the door echoed once more through the room.  Allison seemed more concerned about the door, than what her mother was trying to tell her.  "Ma'ma door, Dud Skall door." 

 Rinoa stood up, along with Squall.  "I think she is getting closer there Dud Skall.  Now go open the door before she gets mad."

 He looked down at the girl, who was no feverishly pointing to the door.  "Come here," Squall reached down grabbing Ally in his arms.  "Let's see who it is, okay?" 

 Watching, them carefully Rinoa couldn't believe how well he was handling this.  She wasn't sure what she thought would happen, but this wasn't it.  This is far better than any dream.  This was her reality. 

 "Alix…" the little girl cried.  "Ma, Ant Alix!  And Yell!"

 "Oh Aunt Alex and Zell?  That's great Allison," she answered to the child. 

 Squall opened the door, with Ally still resting on his hip.  Both Alex and Zell seemed a little taken back to see Squall holding Allison, as if he were a natural at child rearing.  The last thing either thought was he would, or could, be good with kids. 

 "Hey Squall…um the others really need to see you up in your office.  Before you leave for Esthar.  Selphie thinks she knows what is going on, who killed Bennett."

 "I don't care who killed the bastard," he replied irritably.  "We're leaving.  Now."

 "What?"  Alex seemed slightly confused.  "I thought we still had a few hours."

 "Plans changed.  If you're going, be ready."  His tone reflected that of the Commander, one would hardly think he was holding a child.  Every thing about his demeanor returned to seriousness when the others arrived.  Only Rinoa saw the other side, and of course, Allison.

 "Squall," her words barely audible.  "I know you don't understand.  Hell, I don't.  But, some part of me needs to know, for closure.  I was his wife for two years…"

 "No," he almost yelled at her.  Allison became slightly scared, and reached for the nearest person next to her, which was Alex.  Squall relinquished his hold, allowing Ally to crawl over to her godmother.  When his arms were free, he quickly turned to Rinoa.  "Don't ever say you were his wife.  You weren’t."  He didn't realize how much the words would bother him coming from her mouth.  Hell, he was no better being married to Quistis.  But theirs was legal; Rinoa's was not.  Renee Bennett was as fictitious as one could be. 

 "Okay Squall, but please…we can go up there right now, hear what they have to say.  Then leave.  This will give Alex time to pack.  I promise we leave right after."

 "Promise?"  He put his hand on her arm.  She didn't answer, thinking it was a rhetorical question.  His tone a little more stern.  "Do you promise me, after the meeting we leave for Esthar?"

 "Squall, I promise with all my heart, on my word."  Reaching out a hand, he put a palm on her cheek, feeling her silky complexion against his coarse skin.

 "I'm holding you to that Ms. Heartilly."


 How many times had he seen this place?  One could only venture to guess, it was even a puzzle to Seifer Almasy.  The office that once was Cid's had now been transformed into Leonhart's.  He actually was surprised that even the office had little personality, go figure.  At least Cid with his collections of…well what ever that shit was.  Edea must have had one sardonic sense of humor.  There used to be taxidermy monster heads adorning the wall.  He hated them.  He used to think they were mocking him; he spent a lot of time in here…he even sat and named them one day.

 Now it was different.  The walls still made with mahogany trim, and designed woodworking.  The doors still with polished brass handles.  And Squall had kept the same leather sofa.  Seifer guessed that he spent many nights up here, easier than going home to someone he didn't love…Quistis.  It was easier being trapped in an office with someone he didn't love…himself.  A few scattered certificates were put up on the walls.  One was Leonhart's official SeeD graduation certificate.  Yeah, that sucked.  The others looked like cheesy thank you gifts from cities and nations after the war.  If nobody spoke soon, he was going to go stir crazy.

 "Hey look Quistis, you never told me that Squall was an honorary member of the Timber Maniac's.  Don't they also publish 'The Girl Next Door'?  Wow, wonder if Leonhart has written any letters to the editor…bet he'd have a few good stories."

 "Seifer…"  It sounded more like a reprimand than it meant to.  Quistis rolled her eyes, walking away from him. 

 "What?  I was just wondering?"

 Irvine mumbled something to Selphie under his breath, causing her to give him annoyed look.

 Quistis shook her head.  Had so much changed in their lives that nobody could laugh?  Once and awhile, yes, but to be the carefree spirits they were once upon a time.  Then it dawned on her, they were never carefree.  Their life was anything but.  From planned meals, to planned battles…hell even their funerals were all pre-arranged.  Since the age of fifteen, how wretched was that?  Somehow, Seifer managed to hold on to something the others had lost.  Maybe to be removed from Garden, only made him stronger.  Maybe he was a better person for it…maybe they all would be.

 "Selphie," a voice spoke a way from the other two.  "Are you still working on that, I thought you said you had a lead…"  Irvine lay on the couch, feet propped up on the coffee table in front of him. 

 She grabbed the pen, which she was gnawing with her teeth.  A nervous habit of biting on writing instruments, ever since school and finals.  Something's she never out grew.  "No, Irvine, I don't have it all yet.  I can just tell you who didn't do it.  But there is something bigger here than one murder, the trail goes back to three years ago, a year before Sis was killed."

 As the door creaked open, the four turned their attention toward it.  Rinoa carefully walked in first, uncomfortable by reading her demeanor.  Squall followed, closing the heavy door behind him.  Neither looked pleased, but both tried to act as civil as possible.  "We're leaving after this, so make it short."  His words to the point.

 Selphie looked up from behind her laptop.  "Squall, I hate to ask you this, I know it's very personal, but do you have the pictures of Rinoa and Mitchell?"  Rinoa froze, in shock, her body tensing up at the mere thought of being with that man.

 "What the Hell?"  The Commander spat back.


 Squall looked to Rinoa seeking some kind of answer.  She nodded her head, giving an approval.  He hated those fucking things, yet for some reason he kept them.  Maybe to remind himself of the purgatory he lived within.  The constant torture between mind and heart.  He walked over to a filing cabinet, and browsed through some folders.  Finally, emerging with a manila envelope.  He took only a few steps toward Selphie, before angrily tossing it at her.  "Here."

 Selphie started getting of the couch, but before she could, Rinoa quickly walked over to them.  Without a word to anyone, she opened the folder.  A gasp sounded throughout the room, as she saw the first photo.  "Oh God," the only thing she could say.  She flipped through all of them, before finally landing on the last one.  It was Rinoa and Mitchell; she was wearing the same dress that had in the other photographs.  She handed the one picture to Squall.

 "This one…this one is me.  Please you have to believe me…I was at a fundraiser, attending with my father.  It was sometime after Ultimecia…I had asked you to go, but you were too busy.  So, I went alone.  There was a photographer there.  I remember her asking me for a picture with the President."


 "Yeah, I think Kimberley…something or other.  I don't remember.  Honestly…I did have a little too much to drink that evening.  I had been upset you didn't come with me…again.  I was always alone at those things.  I understand you despise any appearance at political events.  But, my father was just elected to the council, I had to go."

 "I should have been there."  Squall continued to stare at the single picture.  Rinoa looked so happy then, even if she was hiding the pain of his abandonment.  There was still a certain spark of innocence she lost along the way.  He reached over, grabbing the other photos out of her hand.  The ones that he dared not think about. 

 Sometimes when you have distanced yourself from a situation, lies make themselves clearer.  He flipped through all the shots again, before he was so irate, that he believed anything.  He truly wanted it to be her in the photographs.  Now he noticed that most of the shots seemed to be tangled naked limbs, and the back of her head.  Nothing concrete.

 "Got it!"  Selphie piped up as her computer monitor sounded.  "I have the results of the autopsy.  Trust me Trabia didn't exactly make this one a cakewalk…  I tried through the main stream, but was met with red tape and bureaucracy; so went through the cyber backdoor.  Richard Bennett died of a close range shot with a nine-millimeter handgun.  The bullet pierced his left ventricle and exited out of his back…  The trajectory of the bullet was consistent of that with a shooter between 5"2 and 5"5…which…" 

 She frantically shuffled through papers.  "Here!  Which goes against the conclusive results that Squall Leonhart murdered him in cold blood.  It says here that his blood was found at the scene, and the murder weapon recovered on the boat.  However, unless Squall was leaning down, looking up at him, this doesn't fit." 


 The television was the only sound in the room.  Alex sat on the sofa with Allison contently lying in her lap.  The little girl had been changed into a sweat outfit with little chocobo designs all over them.  Her hair pulled back with two barrettes, as wisps of unruly hair clung to Alex.  Next to her, Zell sat silently watching the news program.

 A knock startled both of them out of their daydreams, and woke up the youngest one.  Allison tried to hold back the tears, but was too tired.  She was disparately trying to get any amount of sleep during this quiet time.  The martial artist didn't say anything, just walked over to the door. 

 "Hey," Lauren spoke quietly.  "Oh no, I didn't wake her did I?  I tried to be quiet."

 "She'll go back to sleep.  It'll be okay."

 "Good, hey they just sent me down to get you guys…  Is this a bad time?"

 Zell turned to see Alex had put the toddler on the couch, covering her up with a blanket.  "Nah, it's fine.  What do they need?"

 "I don't know, trust me, it's need to know…and as you know…I don't need to."

 Zell chuckled, "Yeah, I guess after a year working for the Commander one would learn to shut up."

 "Yeah, and when to duck from flying objects," she countered.

 "Basically they just had some questions for Alex."

 "Me?" she questioned walking to the door.  "What are they talking about?"

 "Oh ma'am I really have no idea.  I just am told to go get people, and I do.  I learned a long time ago not to ask questions."

 "Yeah, I completely understand."  Looking back at Allison, she looked over to the SeeD.  "I just got her down; I really don't want to wake her."

 "I can watch her for a few minutes.  Honestly, I'm not that great with children, but she's asleep…I think my SeeD training can handle it."

 "Oh thank you, that will be a great help."  Alex walked over to the sleeping baby, giving her a kiss on the forehead.  Before turning to Zell, together they headed out the door. 


 Back in the Commanders office, nobody knew what to believe.  They were all part of an enigma that nobody could figure.  Every time one puzzle was solved, another one took its place. 

 "I didn't do it," Rinoa quietly said.

 "Nobody thinks you did."  Squall walked over to the corner of the desk where Rinoa was seated.

 "Yes, they do.  Nobody is brave enough to say it aloud."  She countered tossing her head into her hands.  "I fit the description…my height, I was around…"

 "Does anybody here think that she did it?"  Nobody looked at the Commander; they all turned away with eyes down cast.  "Oh God you do!"  Squall took his hand knocking off partial contents of his desk onto the floor.

 "No, I don't."  Seifer was leaning against a far wall, Quistis at his side.  He stood up, taking a step forward.  "It's too perfect.  If it isn't Squall, then it's Rinoa.  That's easy to believe, she killed before and she will kill again.  We all know that sorceress' are bloodthirsty tyrants.  So Commander that is three of us who believe in her.  You guys make me sick." 

 Seifer started out of the room, Quistis looked at the others, but not Rinoa…she couldn't bear to look at the pain in her eyes.  "I'm going after him, but for what little it's worth, I know she didn't do it."

 The words meant little consolation to Rinoa, even after everything…nobody truly believed her.  She looked down at the photos once more and tried not to become ill. 


 "Seifer what the hell was that about?"  Quistis stormed out of the office.  She saw Seifer sitting on the corner of a desk, his eyes looking out the window into the abyss.

 "It's about everyone.  Everything is so perfect it's sickening.  Nothing is out of place; the entire thing was a set up from two years ago.  Now they say it goes back further, what Rinoa wanted to live with Bennett?  That was some master plan to get Squall up to Trabia two years later on a false kidnapping charge?  This is the most fucking ridiculous story I have…"  He froze.  A chill as cold as Trabia itself ran down his spine.  Leaning back, he had put his hand onto something sharp that had cut him deep.  When he turned his head, a fear so dark that it couldn't be described by mortal words, crept upon him.

 "Seifer, what's wrong?"

 "Oh my God," his voice trembled with fear.  "This."  He held up a ceramic statue from the desk, the very one he cut his hand upon.  "What the hell is it?"

 "Are you okay?  It looks like a statue…nothing special.  I think Lauren does ceramics in her spare time."

 "Lauren?"  His heart racing.

 "Yeah, it's her desk…Squall's secretary."

 "Come on!"  Seifer grabbed Quistis by the hand dragging her back into the room.  She lost her footing, as the force was so great.  Slamming open the doors, the others looked at the two who just entered the room.

 "This!" he screamed holding up the statue.  "This is the answer."  Everyone looked at him in utter confusion.  Nobody spoke, for nobody understood.  "Damn it…fine."  Seifer threw the statue against the wall, watching it break into a thousand shards. 

 "Somebody's losing it," remarked Irvine.

 "Um…I would say that happened a long time ago."  Selphie countered, neither taking their eyes of off Seifer.

 The blonde man walked over to the debris, searching through it.  He came up with a small black piece.  "Radio transmitter," he whispered.  "Squall, it was here all along."

 "What are you talking about?"

 "The dragon…It wasn't an actual dragon, it was that statue."

 "Of Lauren's family crest?"

 "Squall, this is the creature in my dreams, this dragon.  This brought me back to Garden.  Wait, how do you know it's her family crest?"

 "I saw her drawing the other day in the…"  His heart stopped, he looked down at the photographs in his hand.  "I called her Rinoa in Trabia…shit.  From the back she looked like…"  Tossing the pictures, they all floated down to the ground.  He closed his eyes, relieving every moment of the last two years, all the pieces that didn't fit.  Suddenly did.

 "Between 5" 2 and 5" 5…"  Selphie looked down at the monitor, quickly hitting buttons.  "She transferred…"

 "From Galbadia," Squall finished the statement.  "She was with us in Trabia…had access to my weapon."

 "And evidence," Quistis added.  "She could have easily switched the blood, copied Rinoa's signature.  But why her blood in the place of yours?"

 "We will have to ask her."  Squall walked over to Rinoa, staring deep into her dark eyes.  How for one minute could he have ever thought that she…  He grabbed her, as she laid her head against his chest.  "Rinoa, I caused this.  They had somebody here the whole time, before the attack and after.  How could I have been so foolish?"

 "It's okay Squall, nobody knew.  I think it was someone named Lauren who worked in the infirmary for a while…she was the exchange student from Galbadia.  It just never registered to me."

 "But she helped me in Trabia," softened Quistis.  "I thought she was helping at Mitchell's address, but she was trying to find Squall and Rinoa for other reasons.  What better way than to help me."

 "I…I caught her on the computer," hesitated Selphie.  "She said she'd found an encoded communication giving your location in Dollet…I bet if I check, it originated from her terminal.  She was sending it."

 "I always wondered why you assigned her to me."  Squall continued to hold Rinoa, as he looked at Quistis.

 "I…I…she wanted to work for you so much.  I never thought about it.  Said she wanted to get out of the medical field…she practically begged me everyday.  Hyne, what better way for you to still go after Rinoa, if Lauren was there everyday…trying to be her.  And I fell into the trap."

 "We all did," added Selphie.  "Oh the comparison on the signatures just came in, the one I had Rinoa sign earlier and the one from the labs years ago.  The Linguistics came back that it isn't a match.  However, a very convincing forgery.  Every time one signs their name, it changes slightly…but the ones on the papers were exact.  Something that is common in forgery.  I'm sure finding Rinoa's signature wouldn't be difficult at all."

  "Hey guys we got here soon as we could."  Alex and Zell walked into the room, slightly confused at everyone's silence.  "Yeah…any ways what did you need?" the martial artist continued.

 "What?"  Squall looked at him in uncertainty.

 "Um…yeah…we were told you needed to see us," replied Alex.

 "Who told you that?"  Squall let go of Rinoa walking toward the two, a feeling of foreboding entering his soul.

 "Well didn't you just send Lauren down to get us?"  Zell looked at the man as if he was insane.  "She said we needed to come up here right away."

 "Where is Allison?" demanded Rinoa mortally afraid of the answer.

 "Lauren is watching her."

 And time stopped.

Chapter 31

Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic