Crimson Lies Chapter 38


By Ashbear

Final Fantasy VIII and all the characters belong to Square.

Sweet, there is nothing left to say
But this, that is love is never lost,
Keen winter stabs the breast of May
Whose crimson roses burst his frost,
Ships tempest-tossed
Will find a harbour in some bay,
And so may we.

-Oscar Wilde

"Leonhart?  How the hell did he get in here?"

"The front gates…don't ask.  The guard who let him in is now disposed of…stupid bastard."

Kimberley stood, pulling out a handgun from the desk drawer.  "So fine, we kill her…just a little ahead of schedule." 

 "No…Squall…no."  Rinoa sighed inwardly choking back the sorrow. Even with the barrel of a loaded gun pointing toward her, all she could do was worry about him.  Somehow, she had hoped that he would stay behind with Allison…she prayed he would.  However, in all honesty, she knew better.  They shared too much to think he would let her fade quickly into the night. 

 Even the final moments before surrendering at Garden to Mitchell, she whispered a plea into Seifer's ear.  "Please try and convince him to stay.  If he doesn't…well, I know his nature.  Watch his back for me."  Amid the confusion of those moments, Rinoa had passed Griever carefully in Seifer's palm; the exchange eluded all at the time.  Their thoughts focused on the emotion written upon her face, never watching her sleight of hand.

 In that fated second, she couldn't return the ring to Squall.  She knew he would want her to keep on her person, to die clasping it if need be…  To draw upon it for strength, one piece of him she could carry physically on her body, not just within her heart. 

 But Seifer…he could understand the nonverbal request.  Keeping the return a secret to the one person who would be most wounded.  To the Commander it might have been construed as an act of surrender, admitting defeat for a war not yet waged.  That evening Seifer placed Griever back onto the chain it had been bonded to for so long; both rings once again reunited, now left thousands of miles behind this chilling scene.  Silently he placed the pair within the container of memories entrusted to Selphie, a box for only Allison to open if the worst came to pass.
Squall might not understand that being in her heart was enough.  It was all she could want, all she ever needed.  She knew that he would come, she knew just like she always had. 

 She sat silently waiting for the fatal shot to cry out, to finally end the evil game in which she had been a pawn.  But to her surprise, Mitchell stopped the well-dressed woman from firing.

 "Don't, as much as I would like to…we have to do this according 'to script.'  The only way for those Galbadian idiots to follow us blindly, is by thinking we are doing this for their benefit.  You might gain the embodiment by shooting her, but without their dedication it could be a tougher road ahead…"

 "So what?  She really has to be dressed in a ridiculous white robe?  That is probably the lamest tradition I have ever heard…  Aim gun, pull trigger…simple.  I watch you do it everyday, why is it so different now?"

 "Because the citizens have to actually believe we are doing this for good…their good, their salvation.  According to the accepted rites of their religious beliefs, she must be clothed in white robes to regain the purity of her soul.  Or some other shit like that."

 "Fine we shoot first then dress her in the robes.  I'm sure the average Deling citizen is too idiotic to notice if they are watching a live person being executed.  It's recorded damn it, we could have a freakin' chocobo dressed up in white robes and they couldn't tell the difference.  We just say that we have sedated her….very heavily and that is why she looks dead.  Tell them the almightily Hyne came down and commanded us to kill her now!"

 "Are you doubting me!?"  If there was one thing that could truly infuriate Jefferson Mitchell, was when another human doubted him.  For in his mind, he could never be wrong…the very notion that someone questioned him, would send him into a tyrannical rage, that often had grave consequences to all around.  Not one person under his command dared to contradict his decisions.  He felt blood coursing through his veins, shaking in anger he violently hurled the computer monitor onto the floor.  It landed with startling force, as glass shattered into pieces.  "Nobody and I mean nobody, ever doubts me, especially some overpaid bitch!"

 "A bitch that is going to inherit the power you desire.  Your arrogance is going to be your downfall if you wait any longer, you will give Leonhart the opportunity he needs.  Since I'm the only one in the room that is not going to be slain, and is female…at least last time I checked."  She gave him an evil grin looking him up and down, adding to his anger.  "I'm the only one who can receive the embodiment.  So, I believe I'm now calling all the shots."

 Rinoa could sense the separation between the conspirators, one she hadn't detected before.  It was small but if given the proper coaxing, the tear could eventually rip the alliance to shreds.  Kimberley was nervous about keeping Rinoa alive, not only because of Squall loose on the premises, but also the influence she would have on Mitchell.  The mistake would mean her life if he changed alliances…  Rinoa already knew that the woman was planning to betray him once the powers were transferred. 

 In her mind, this would be dancing with Lucifer himself, and once she accepted the dance how far would she go?  It was a thought that she feared, but one she forced to the back of her mind as she played the only card she had left…her.


"What the hell was that sound?"  Seifer listened carefully as an ear-shattering crash broke the silence.  "I wouldn't have thought we could hear a damn thing through these doors."

 The air in the passageway seemed to have gone up by several degrees as they waited among the shadows.  No one had spoken, only waited for some word or sign from Alex that had not yet come.  Although five separate entities, their heavy breathing seemed to be in unison, as all knew that waiting was the hardest part. 

 Squall could feel the pain in his chest with every heartbeat.  He wanted to run, to get her and leave this place and these people forever.  His mind raced with horrid pictures of her grave, her decaying corpse judging him in utter failure.  In the dark, the future always seemed to reflect death, it always had for him.

 Alex placed her right hand to the door, ignoring the comments from Seifer.  Although still in a pitch-black room, she could sense the bright aura surrounding the entrance. 

 "One of us needs to go now." 

 "Go where?"  Zell asked, saying the question the other four were only thinking.

 "Someone needs to go in there; it might be the only way to save her…for now."

 "I'll go."  Squall's voice was barely audible, but the certainty never wavered. 

 "No you can't…not yet.  Whoever goes will serve only as a distraction; we are not meant to go in yet."

 "Okay great, now we got the Great-Alexandradini with us.  What's up with you?  You sound like a bad fortune teller from a telephone hot-line," snarled Seifer, he was not one for riddles or games, at least when he wasn't the perpetrator.

 "I…I don't know.  I can see things, but I don't feel like me…it's like someone else is sharing my body…What I'm seeing…I swear it's not coming from my mind, it's like seeing the memories from my dreams…but this is the future, not the past."

 "Ellone…I think Ellone is in the Palace with us.  Don't ask me, just trust me on this one."

 "Great now we have a psychic, a psycho, and a guy who sees dead people.  Tell me again why I volunteered to hang out with you guys again?"

 Quistis tapped Seifer lightly, or not so lightly, as it made a distinctive slapping sound against his torso.  Even in the dark, the ex-knight could see the daggers shooting out of her eyes.  She wasn't much one for his sarcastic moods when he got in them, which was often, that was one of the many things he learned to love about her.

 "I'll go." 

 "No Zell," Seifer spoke in rare, serious tone.  "Look when it comes down to it, you guys need to be the ones standing in the end.  The three of you basically run Balamb Garden, and if we make it through, you're going to have more than your share of cleaning up.  But if I make it through…I only have four walls and a concrete floor to look forward to.  If this is some kind of suicide mission, just think of it as saving the tax-payers money."

 At first Quistis almost wanted to break down in tears, 'I only have four walls and a concrete floor to look forward to'.  She thought maybe she meant more than that, but then she realized.  He was too scared.  Just like Squall would have been, too scared to admit what they feared losing most.  He didn't mean his words; he was just convincing the others why he should be the one to risk his life first.  Her heart seemed to skip a beat to think of how much he had changed in just a week.  Then she realized, he hadn't changed…they had.  Maybe they were all a little more like him now, a little more cynical and worldly.  Somewhere along the way, they found a medium, or maybe it was just the inevitability of time.  Whatever it was, she hated it.

 "Seifer…no."  The words came out as a disparate plea, but even Quistis now admitted that Seifer was the logical choice.  Understanding that reality was something her heart was not willing to do.  They had just found each other, now any future could be torn from them. 

 "Quistis, I have to go.  Plus, hey, we don't know if anything will happen, right?  It could be a simple little walk in the park compared to one of your junctioning lectures."

 "I don't know whether to be insulted or frightened."  Her mixture of a laugh and cry tried to make light of the emotions she was feeling. 

 He grabbed her around the waist pulling her close.  To them, they were the only two people in the room, all others faded into the vastness of space.  "You know I'm coming back for you."

 "I know," she whispered trying not to let fear seep through.  Hundreds of missions she had gone on, thousands of men died for lesser reasons.  She had always put distance between death and her students.  If Squall had been right about one thing today, it would be that their emotion was either going to save them or betray them…today there would be no middle ground. 

 She felt a press into her side, and reached into her pocket pulling out the small cassette recorder taken from the classroom.  She fumbled around the buttons a bit, but never left Seifer's arms.  "Here, take this."  Quistis placed the plastic object into his hand, and then slid both their hands into his coat pockets.  "I found it earlier in the classroom.  When you get into the altar room, press the record button.  I don't know if it will help or not most likely, it will be destroyed…but it's worth the gamble.  Just see if you can get something useable on Mitchell, or at the very least something that exonerates Rinoa."

 He smiled inwardly, thinking just how levelheaded she was, even in the face of a disaster.  "So what do you say that later tonight we go out for dinner?  I hear that the cafeteria is serving more Jell-O and pudding?"

 "Sounds like a date." 

 Their lips met, and their hearts beat with unmatched fear.  Two people who just found each other, being pulled apart by fate and the mistakes they would have to answer.  Neither would say the word 'goodbye', as it was to final; neither would say 'good luck', as it was too clichéd.  Neither would forget the moments that shared between them the last few days; neither would say another word beside the simple phrase that passed between them in unison.  "I love you." 

 For that said it all.


"What the hell are you doing!?!?"  Kimberley screamed as Mitchell defiantly entered a code on a secondary laptop computer.

 "I felt that my troops would be safer if I reinstated the magic field.  You know me, always thinking about the welfare of my men."

 "Bull shit!"  The enraged woman yelled as she lowered the handgun to her side.  "You know damn well that I can't shoot her when it's up."

 "Why is that again dear?"  The smugness in his voice could only be matched by the arrogant look on his face.

 "Damn you Jefferson, she can't transfer the power properly!!! I'm not willing to take the chance and mess this up, for all we know she could give her power to the damn maid."

 "In theory."  He countered taking a few steps closer to Rinoa.  He ran his hand soothingly through her hair as if she was a dog about to be put down at the kennel.  "But then again, all this is just theory isn't it?  If you really want to shoot her, go for it…take the chance.  I've always been a betting man, let's just see what happens if a sorceress can't transfer her power."

 "You bastard, you know I won't take the chance…those powers are mine!"

 "No, my powers do not belong to you Kimberley."  Both of them shocked as Rinoa spoke up for the first time during the entire spectacle.  She talked with a foreign confidence, as any suggestion of emotion was void from her face or actions.  Her words thought out and precise, with only one purpose.  "In my observation, the power is ultimately Jefferson's.  He did all the hard work and careful planning, he was the mastermind, and you are not even willing to offer him the respect he rightfully deserves?  If anyone warrants proper credit and power, it is him.  Only a man of his caliber would be smart enough to fool an entire nation."

 "You stupid bitch!"  Kimberley screamed as she slammed the barrel of the gun into Rinoa's bloody shoulder.  The surge of pain ran through the young girl, but she would not yield to it.  The lies she was speaking cut deeper than the bite marks on her back.

 "Don't touch her."

 "What?  What the hell does that mean Jefferson?  You are going to listen to empty praise from a whore?  I thought you a better man than that."

 "I said 'don't touch her' and if you are going to call anyone a whore, I fully suggest that you take a look in a mirror…or your bank account, whichever speaks the truth louder.  I believe you my dear fit the definition to a tee."

 Rinoa glared at the other woman seizing the opportunity.  So many times she had hidden in the grass, now it was time she would strike like the snakes slithering around.  Mitchell's weakness could be turned in her favor, and falsifying her loyalties might be the key. 

 "Kimberley, how could you?  He gave you everything you needed, everything that any woman could ever need or want.  This is how you repay your debt, by betraying his simple wishes?  Think of the immense power that he was offering…him ruling and you sitting faithfully by his side.  But for all his hard work you treat him like this?  He doesn't deserve you.  He deserves someone better.  Someone who can see his vision, someone to share his dreams, and someone who would never dare question his word."

 The words seemed to flow off her tongue easier than Rinoa expected, maybe it was just the adrenaline, or the simple fact this could be her only way of survival.  For this to work she had to truly believe the lies she was speaking, moreover he had to believe her conviction. 

 The emotion didn't go unnoticed by Mitchell, quite the opposite.  He seemed to almost revel in the praise, albeit surprising from his captor. 

 "You could take a lesson from her Kimberley darling, you must admire her sensibility and reasoning even in the most grave of situations."

 "You are being a fool Jefferson!  Don't even listen to her, she is just trying to drive us apart, you are falling blindly into her trap.  Just take the goddamned barrier down, and kill her!"

 Mitchell lifted his hand from Rinoa hair, he moved until he was facing her.  She seemed to have a look of indifference upon her face, before it changed to a small smile that seemed to soothe some of his anger.  Somehow even with the physical alterations to Kimberley, she couldn't compete with the inner beauty of the original.  Something about Julia…Rinoa…was so stunning so elegant in her simplicity.  

 The young sorceress looked directly through his eyes, saying words that he could have only dreamed.  "You know, I tried once.  I tried to take over Leonhart, but he was too weak, he could never handle the immense power.  Maybe I waited around to find a man as strong as I was.  If Squall had truly been worthy as a Knight, he would have never doubted me, you never did.  Jefferson…you knew I never killed Ellone, not that I couldn't do it on a whim, but when the others failed you succeeded.  I just want a person who believes in me, one I could share my life and power with.  Strange how I knew him since the day I was born." 

 "Shut her up!"  Kimberley shouted losing any composure she had maintained during the grotesque display unveiling before her eyes. 

 Rinoa stood slowly with a newfound confidence, as neither woman backed down from their stance.  It was like looking in some distorted mirror, and Rinoa only seeing the inner demons of herself in the reflection.  Even Kimberley's outward beauty was lost once her true nature shown through.  But the young woman wasn't going to back down, she was too far into this now,  too much was at stake for her, and for all intents and purposes, she could tell her lies were working. 

 The young sorceress' voice never raised passed a soft octave, always spoke melodiously but firmly, almost as if casting a spell.  "See Jefferson, see how she talks to you.  You don't deserve that, you deserve better.  I could serve you better than she ever could.  I will serve you better than she ever could."

 The last words were the only one that she winced at silently.  The simple act of serving someone as vile as the President made her skin crawl.  But they were words without meaning, at least to her.  She would never serve anyone, not any man, nor would anyone ever serve her as some supreme being of Hyne.  She was a person, she was a soul mate, she was a mother, she was never anything more or less, and she was going to get through this one way or another…no matter the consequences.

 There was a discomfited hush, as the only sounds were the resentful breaths Kimberley was trying to take.  Holding the revolver in her shaking hand, it would be so elementary to pull the trigger…she didn't need either of them.  Shooting Mitchell and then Rinoa would be a simple, yet believable lie…  The Sorceress killed the President, and then turned on his fiancée; it was all an act of self-defense.  Then she would share power with nobody, it truly would be absolute.

 The door behind the desk slowly opened, and all three figures turned in shock.  Rinoa's heart skipped a beat, feeling as she had been caught cheating in a deadly game.  Knowing that Seifer wasn't aware of the role she was playing, she only hoped that he would catch on, and understand, before it was too late.  It also occurred to her this might be her one chance of making sure that Allison was truly safe at Garden, and not within the clutches of Mitchell. 

 Seifer looked at the scene unfolding before him, as both women mirrored each other in looks.  The thought of two Rinoa's almost made him laugh aloud, even in the dire circumstance.  "Bet Squall would love to handle two of them and their unpredictable mood swings."  His musings cut short when he noticed the business end of a semi-automatic weapon staring him down. 

 "Glad you could stop by Mr. Almasy, nice to see someone will be here to witness the execution.  Suppose I should be surprised by your untimely arrival, but truthfully nothing shocks me anymore." 

 He called out and two of the President's personal bodyguards dashed into the office from the main doorway.  They quickly ran over to the intruder, restraining him with more force than necessary.  Seifer wasn't fighting, he didn't even attempt any form of struggle, only locked his eyes on Mitchell the entire time.  One ripped off his trench coat, tossing it hastily to the side, as another searched his person for any weapons.  They found nothing. 

 He wondered why Alexandra claimed it so important for only one in the group to enter the room.  It seemed that they could have easily overtaken the President, Kimberley, and the two soldiers.  As if fate answered his question, a small legion of soldiers appeared, painstakingly checking the room for other trespassers.  Now at least he understood why only one was sent in…for human bait.  

 A few of the troops entered the room from where Seifer had emerged, he tried not to look nervous, but the idea of the others being captured weighed heavily on his mind.  The men exited the shrine, signaling an all clear to their leader.  It was evident that they had no prior knowledge of the passageway; it was also evident that the President wasn't volunteering that vital piece of information.  The blonde man wondered why Mitchell wouldn't have them search back there, for it would have been the most logical hiding place, but he was extremely grateful that nobody did.

 Walking closer to him, the Galbadian leader lifted a single hand.  The men understood the order, and started hitting Seifer repeatedly in the abdomen.  He tried to mask the pain through years of training, but with each blow, his entire body became tender and the agony harder to mask.  When they finally stopped the beating, he lay kneeled as the two soldiers supported most of his weight by his shoulder blades.  His eyes caught a glimpse of the broken monitor, the glass reflecting in the light.  He realized that must have been the sound that echoed through to them, somehow alerting Alex to the events.

 The President walked over to the fallen man, staring at him with pure revulsion.  Although in reality, Mitchell had no true reason to hate the pitiful man…it was just his nature.  Moreover, Seifer Almasy had been a black eye to the entire Galbadian population since that incident in the Second Sorceress War.  He was a disgrace to the title of Knight, so wretched …so weak.

 "Where the hell is Leonhart!?!?"

 "I don't know, maybe deep-sea fishing."  Seifer's smug answer nowhere reflecting the situation he was in.

 "This is not a time to be joking around, do you have any idea who you are dealing with?" 

 "Yes…I have a good idea, can I have fries with that?"

 At that comment, Mitchell rammed him over the head with the barrel, rendering him unconscious.  Rinoa was silently pleading to the gods that her former boyfriend was still alive, and would say nothing further to enrage the unstable man.  She had already watched her father die by his hand, losing another would be too much to bear.  Thankfully, Seifer passed out before being executed; it seemed to be commonplace with anyone who crossed the President's path. 

 "Either of you ladies have a good idea of what to do with our little friend the Deling Cockroach here?" 

 "Hyne Jefferson!?  What is your problem?  Shoot him, shoot her…just get this bloody ordeal over with, so we can claim our place in history!"

 "So, Kimberley…your vote is to shoot him right here, right now?"

 "Have you completely gone insane!?"

 His stomach tightened in a knot at the notion of his mental condition, nobody…nobody dared to question it and live.  He took a breath, before turning toward Rinoa posing the same to her.

 Rinoa realized that with his wording of the question, and the statement of voting, there would be more than one viable answer.  She had to think like him, think the reasoning of a madman…  She had to give a credible response, one that would save both her and Seifer, or at least buy them valuable time.  With an incorrect answer, they would be nothing more than a memory and a stain on his carpet.

 She closed her eyes before speaking, glad that Seifer couldn't hear her words.

 "Every death should serve a purpose, what use would it be to dispose of him here?  If you kill him now, the proper moral may never be served.  Take him down with the other sewer rats, to have him killed among his own kind.  They will learn the consequence of betraying the most powerful man in the world; show the lowlifes a glimpse into their own future."

 The president walked over to Rinoa with a haughty grin.  He placed his arm around her, and she forced herself to lean her head upon his shoulder.  The mental detachment from any form of intimacy was something she had been accustom to living with Richard Bennett.  Now all of the memories of those years were flooding back overtaking her senses.  She could go through the motions of caring, never once meaning them.  It was habit, it had become almost easy, and that scared her to death.

 "You should listen to your Sorceress."  Mitchell motioned to his men.  By the looks on their face, they were as shocked as Rinoa.  She could see the uneasiness pass over their faces, but their duty kept them bound to the President.  Finally, one of them stood at attention giving the man a salute. 

 "Now how is that Esthar situation coming along?"

 "Sir, we seem to be regaining full capacity and there are no reported causalities yet, only two missing junior officers.  We believe Esthar is playing a game with smoke and mirrors, there is no legitimate threat at this time."

 "The legitimate threat is that they already hindered us enough to leave us behind schedule.  This event should have been foreseen.  Tell the press there will be a news conference in an hour discussing the 'new' status of the sorceress.  Now take Mr. Almasy down to be executed among the prisoners.  Make sure he is bound and gagged, make it a spectacle those thieves and ingrates will never forget."

 He paused watching the two men begin to lift Seifer's limp body off the ground.  He glanced around the room and noticed Kimberley standing quietly in the corner.  The man smiled, nodding his head towards her.

 "You already know, don't you?  You're thinking of simply aiming your gun and pulling the trigger.  Yet reason assures you will be dead before you can raise your weapon."

 The woman knew that he was lost, lost within the dementia of his mind.  There was no going back, there was no reasoning with him.  She cursed herself for not killing Rinoa when chance presented itself.  So proud, so sure of her own importance, Kimberley knew that she would never be able to leave.

 "Jefferson, I planned this from day one.  It was suppose to be me assuming the throne of power.  You could have never made it this far.  Now you turn your back on me…for the fucking bitch we accused in the first place.  You could have never done this without me…I am the one who deserves this…you are nothing.  Your fate will be sealed in your ignorance." 

 Her voice spoke in a calm tone, as if reading the incoherent sentences from a bad script.  She had already accepted her destiny.  She could get in one shot if she moved quickly.  Before she had the opportunity to raise her weapon, she was grabbed forcefully from behind, and tossed onto the ground like so many other criminals.  As the two guards subdued her in handcuffs, the President could only laugh.

 "Goodbye Kimberley, it has been fun."

 "You are a fucking insane bastard."  She spoke resentfully at him as they dragged her out the door.  She looked back one last time, spitting towards him with all the force she could muster.

 The President never wavered at the outburst, content with the one woman he longed for standing faithfully by his side.  Waving a finger, he stopped the last guard before he exited the door.  Casually he ordered, "Kill that one first.  Don't forget to get any jewelry she's wearing, hell I paid for it all, and make sure you tape it for posterity.  You never know when I'll need a good laugh."


"What do you mean the feeling is gone?"

 "I don't know Zell, I just felt as if something lifted from me…now I can't sense anything.  Could it be the Guardian doing this?"

 "No, I don't believe so…"  Zell scratched the back of his head trying to think clearly for a moment, and then suddenly closing his eyes.  Concentrating he cast a simple cure spell toward Quistis.  The spell quickly reflected from it destination before fizzling into nonexistence.  "The magic barrier is up, who ever or whatever was helping you must be blocked."

 Squall leaned against the wall, wondering how he was supposed to accept this sign.  In his mind, there was a huge comfort knowing that with the barrier in place, Mitchell would most likely not kill Rinoa.  Now that Alex had lost any psychic ability or connection to Ellone, they were once again on their own.  He couldn't take the waiting anymore, the one thing that kept him in the shadows had now recessed back into Alexandra's mind.

 "Stay here, I'm going in.  Be ready as backup."

 "Squall you can't!"  Quistis reached her hand out, finding the thickness of his wrist.  "I can't lose both you right now.  We have to give Seifer a chance; I'm sure he will—"

 "Will what?  When this goes down, I don't want to spend my life regretting that I was doing nothing more than standing in a closet when the only person I ever loved was being brutally murdered.  Quistis, I can't live life like that.  I won't spend more of my life like I have the last few years.  Allison deserves more from me than that…I've spent too much time watching…now I'm doing."

 "Hyne be with you," her voice spoke in barely a whisper.  She held on to his arm just a little longer, not wanting him to leave, as if holding him would solve everything…  Return everything to how it should have been, to the future they never lived.  She had already watched one person she cared about walk away, now she was watching another.  She finally removed her hand, shaking slightly when the contact broke.

 Zell offered warning to his companion.  "Hey man, before you go in there, I just want to warn you…it's disturbing to say the very least.  Don't let what you see get to you, although it will be harder than hell not to..."

 Choosing not to respond, Squall dismissed the comments as nothing more than over-cautious advice from a friend.  If ever he should have taken words to heart, it would have been then.  Opening the passageway, nothing could prepare him for what lie ahead.  No amount of warning or description could have brought the mental sting to light.  The door closed softly behind him, as the faint sound of the latch clicking was the only noise in the room.  He stood in horror of what his friends had already witnessed, but to him it was far more personal. 

 Every facet of her life documented and most of his life within his recollection stamped on the walls.  How could he have allowed this to go unnoticed?  Years of sitting beside the same man whose mental status now spell-bounded him.  Was there ever the slightest indication?  Could any of this ever have been foreseen or prevented?  The pictures depicting her younger days showed the deep-rooted fixation.  Squall confessed to himself that he could've never stopped the intoxication of Jefferson Mitchell's delusions then, but anything after her seventeenth year, a true-knight should have known…would have known. 

 He knocked many of the contents on the floor, and unlike his comrades, Squall Leonhart did not care what was destroyed in the process.  There lay a leather-bound folder he hesitantly picked up, still not in control of all his faculties.  Notes on every aspect of her life adorned the pages, including detailed reports on Squall's behavior during her absence. 

 The first pages documented pieces of information on Rinoa's childhood, and every action that Caraway would make.  For a moment, he felt an emptiness concerning the General, a new understanding of why his death was so easy for Mitchell to dismiss.  It wasn't just a random occurrence, it was something that had been fantasized about for years, and in what better fashion that at Garden?  It was the death of a rival, although one that never knew of the rivalry.  Squall understood that his own death would bring the same type of satisfaction to the President, and swore more now than ever to make it through this without giving him that satisfaction.

 He flipped a few more pages back, it listed all of Rinoa's favorite things over the years.  From a favorite stuffed teddy bear given to her by her cousin, to her favorite food in her school years, her favorite flowers, her favorite music, her favorite foods…every small detail that eluded him.  The serpentine hiss of breath filled the room, as the anger battled with his pride.  He slammed the binder against the wall, throwing it with tremendous force.  Had he even taken the time to learn that her favorite flowers were lilies?  Hell, up to right now he wasn't even sure of why she'd changed her last name, nor if it was even a legal change…he never bothered to ask.  He never thought to care about such things.  He had bothered only to keep one small picture of her, and this man had kept literally thousands.  It sickened him that some lunatic would have been a better theoretical boyfriend than he had even been. 

 The pictures, the pictures of her all seemed to be staring straight at him.  Thousands of her eyes upon him each filled with disappointment.  He realized now why he had been allowed to keep his command, moreover, his life.  It was never to capture the Sorceress, but to be used as collateral for her return.  The sad irony was, he wouldn't have to marry Quistis…he would have been allowed to keep his post for Mitchell's selfish desires.  He needed Squall.  For years, he believed that bastard only sought power, and on some level, he did.  Even power had its superior and that was the obsession over another human being.  The power was secondary to finding Rinoa, not for the safety of the country, but for him to covet like a fucking prize. 

 The enraged Knight reached with a shaking hand, skimming the same photographs the others had already seen.  He picked up the one where Mitchell's head had been imposed over his body, and the man couldn't help but let out a cross between a growl and a scream.  With force, he ripped it into two pieces, and when that didn't curb his anger, he ripped it into a hundred more. 

 Ellone, Quistis, Rinoa, Allison, Mitchell, Seifer, anger, hate, lies, and betrayal…all a mix of passions flooding like a dam, two years of emotion took its toll.  A hazy cloud blurred reality for a moment, as he caught sight of his gunblade.  When he grabbed it from its stand, he could tell by feel it wasn't truly Lionheart, but he didn't care.  It was close enough, and that bastard would suffer by its hand.


Author Notes: I would like to thank all of you again who wished me well during the past month.  I'm sorry in the delay, but a loss in the family kept me from working on the story.  I promise, and yes, I do mean PROMISE that I will finish this shortly.  Technically, this was the second part of the last chapter, but it remained my normal length, if not longer.  So due to me breaking this down, it will run forty chapters.  I am so sorry, but hope the reading length is easier this way!  Again, I'm so sorry…hope that everyone can forgive the delay, and I thank all of you who send me wishes.

Chapter 39

Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic