Crimson Lies Chapter 39


By Ashbear

Final Fantasy VIII and all the characters belong to Square.

Looking back on the memory
Of the dance we shared 'neath the stars alone.
For a moment all the world was right,
How could I have known that you'd ever say goodbye?
And now I'm glad I didn't know, the way it all would end,
The way it all would go. Our lives are better left to chance -
I could have missed the pain, but I'd of had to miss the dance.

--Garth Brooks

A cold breeze drifted through the hallway, and its three inhabitants felt it not only pass through enclosed space, but through their bodies.  It was more chilling than any air conditioning vent could possibly be.  Like an omen for them to leave, each suddenly felt uncomfortable within the dark confines.

 "It's been long enough, I think we should go in after him."

 "No, I think Squall needs to do this alone, he has his own demons to face."

 "Quistis, I understand that…what if we get in there too late?  We might not even hear any signal given to us.  He was right about one thing, just sitting here waiting like by-standers is not doing us any good."

 "I know…" her voice softly trailed off for a second, secretly concerned about the other that entered before the Commander.  "Zell, he's in there with Seifer, and whatever they're doing, it's their redemption."

 "So, your redemption is to stand in the dark?"  He bit his lip after the words came out more sharply than he meant.  It wasn't as if during the past few days, either had time to work out the underlying issues lying between.  Zell had never handled Rinoa's disappearance well, and his haunting visions just compiled his emotion upon her return.

 Quistis desperately wanted to say something to make the situation better; to apologize, to beg forgiveness, to do anything...but right now wasn't the time to get into sorting history.  In this instance, she felt her silence was the best approach, although guilt was starting to take hold once again.  Seifer, Squall, and Rinoa…she could feel each of their blood staining her hands.  If something happened to any one of them, her friends would be lost to her forever; she would be lost to her forever.

 Alex had been quiet during their exchange.  She held her arms closely to her body, trying to warm herself.  Something was telling her to get out of there, even if no official order had been given.  Whether it was the fear of the unknown, or the uneasiness rooted from the discomfort in the room, everything seemed on a more urgent scale.  She didn't ask permission before starting to locate the door handle.  She just had to get the hell out.  Zell tried to pull her back, but her resolve only grew stronger.

 "Calm down Alex, are you sensing something again?"

 "No, I just need to get out of here, it's so damn cold." 

 For the first time Quistis turned the helmet's flashlight back on, they had been conserving the batteries usage.  The light first shined on Zell, and he instinctively covered his eyes in a natural reaction.

 "Hey, watch where you are pointing that thing!"

 "It's gone!"  Alexandra's fears were getting the better of her, and try as she might, she was unable to locate the door latch. 

 "No Alex, it's here.  You probably just got turned around in the dark, but I still don't think we should go in…"

 Moving the light around, Quistis scanned the two by fours that lined the passageway.  She moved to where Alex had her hand placed, and then scanned slightly past that.  Feeling as if she was missing the most obvious place, the instructor started to get upset at her own ignorance.  She noticed each board was numbered from original construction and all were closely placed together for added support.  She followed the number pattern for a good five meters either direction, knowing that none of them had ventured more than that since Squall left the area.  Reaching her hand out, she tapped each one, mentally counting them off.  On the off chance they had been turned around, she then scanned the other side.  She noticed that the supports were just as close together, and there was no sign of an entryway.

 "It's gone…" the words came out of her mouth, and even she couldn't believe them. 

 "What the hell?"  Zell held Alex tighter as her phobias continued to grow, and now there was the added reality they couldn't find the exit. 

 Quistis tried to remain logical and calm, knowing that Squall might need their help.  She knew the only other way would be the route they had marked on the buildings blueprints, but that would mean some backtracking downstairs.  Time was of the essence if they were called, so she knew that one of them would have to make a decision quickly.

 "We're going back down.  We stick to the original plan…head back toward the classroom."  Grabbing Alexandra's wrist, she lead her down the dark corridor.  The stillness of the air had returned, and any sign of movement faded back at their waiting place.  She carefully went down the stairs, until the passage finally dead-ended back at the classroom door.  Shining the light, she mentally verified there was actually an exit on this end. 

 Opening the door a tad, she checked for any Galbadian personnel in the room.  When it was clear, the three walked back into the classroom closing the door behind them.  The three just stood there…somewhat in disbelief.  Quistis felt the same cold chill pass through her as earlier, freezing in momentary shock.  She carefully guarded her weapon, as did Zell, both prepared for anything of combatant nature; it was the unexplained nature they feared.  The two SeeD's exchanged a look, as if to dismiss the incident upstairs as human error.  Somehow, each must have missed the obvious, fears and emotion most likely took over reasoning.

 "We better get moving."  Quistis pointed across the class to the other door, "That was the one we marked."

 "This one wasn't on the map," added Zell, restating comments from their earlier conversation in that very room. 

 "Yeah…"  Her soft words trailed off. 

 They exchanged one last look, reading each other's mind as they had done in so many other life-threatening situations.  Like two curious children, they re-opened the door, making sure their doubts were put behind them.  Somehow, in that moment they weren't twenty-three-year-olds but scared five-year-olds afraid of what they would find on the other side.  What they found defied logic, defied any known reason…a janitorial supply closet.


 Rinoa felt a strange eeriness when she was left alone with Mitchell.  If she could have reached a gun, she would have shot him on sight, but now another factor weighed heavily on her mind…Seifer.  He had come in there for her benefit; she knew his arrival was planned, sending him unarmed on its own would be a careless, illogical move.  He was to serve as a distraction, but along the way, something went wrong…she wouldn't let him sacrifice his life for hers. 

 If they did execute Kimberley first, that would buy her a few precious minutes.  She shivered at the momentary thought of hoping another human being would be killed before another one.  Her life was not worth the price they were each willing to pay, and she would be damned to lose someone else she cared about.  If there was one thing she learned was that men had their weakness.  If her calculations were correct, pretending to seduce Mitchell wouldn't prove to be a difficult task, at least on his end…

 He hadn't said anything since the others left, which was good as the sound of his voice made her sick to her stomach.  He led her by the hand over to the desk, and she sat on the edge.  Reaching in his pocket, he grabbed a set of keys, fumbling around for a long silver one.  Tenderly he undid her handcuffs, massaging the red imprints left on her skin.  She looked into his eyes and smiled sympathetically, he was trembling like a schoolboy left alone with a teacher.  She suppressed her inner desires to kill him, as each action he made seemed to heighten her inner turmoil.

 She felt a relief when he let go of her wrists, walking around to the other side of the desk.  Reaching in a drawer, he pulled out what appeared to be white fabric.  As he carefully undid the cloth, she could tell it was a gown and an outer lace robe.  He held them up, as if proud of the garments.

 "These were made for your execution, but now they will be for your christening.  Your soul will forever be bonded to mine, and together we will be as one.  Julia I shall inform your subjects that you have been reborn, and their day of reckoning is here.  They will serve you, they will honor you, and they shall say our names in unison."

 Rinoa's hand grew tighter into a fist; she had not realized the true scope of his dementia.  She wasn't sure how to handle the situation, even with Bennett she could retreat into solitude.  Right now, she wished this man would have hit her, broken her ribs, done anything but bring her mother into the moment.  It was easier to handle the physical abuse, but hearing the name of her mother from the lips of this man…was far too much.

 He set the robes on the desk, and made a gesture with his hand.  She tried to smile calmly, as she reached down feeling the fabric.  She felt the texture of the lace, and the delicate satin that the robe was made from. 

 "I had these designed by the finest tailors in Deling; the fabric was imported from Esthar, while the lace was hand-made by Shumi-tribe elders.  I spared no expense in making these, as you are worth every penny my angel."

 "They're beautiful," she gasped.  It was the first words spoken that weren't a lie, even she could appreciate the craftsmanship and quality of the ceremonial dress.  Continuing to run her fingers along the edge of the fabric, she felt his presence as he came up behind her.  He moved his hands around her waist, pulling her back tightly against his body.

 "You have to put them on for me now, I can't wait a moment longer to see you in them."

 She tried to think of an excuse not to comply, but she needed him to believe her loyalty.  Turning, she ran her fingernails seductively across his chest.  "Jefferson, I will do whatever you wish, but what of your troops?  What if they do not accept me?  I'm afraid they will say that I have cast a spell upon you, and shall call for my death."

 He moved his palm to her cheek, as if reassuring her that he could protect her no matter the cost.  "My darling angel, no man alive shall ever cause you pain.  If they believe you have cast a spell, then show them the true power you possess, and then they will know better than to question your will."

 She looked her eyes downcast to the floor, acting as if ashamed.  "Right now the injections have suppressed my powers; I would have no way to defend myself."  He kissed her on the lips, and for the first time she didn't pull away, although it was certainly a natural reaction to have the urge to become ill.  His touch burned her soul like deadly poison, and the pain was increasing with each moment.  She kept her mind focused on Squall, and Allison, and of anything pure or good.  She purposely let him be the one to break the kiss, as he stared into her eyes.

 "Rinoa, those injections were only experimental, we couldn't test them on an actual subject.  Your powers have not been bound for good, in fact, I believe some of your natural abilities should be returning shortly.  But Julia, as I said, it is pure speculation on the scientists' behalf." 

 If not for the fact of the encouraging news, she would have been completely horrified that within the same paragraph he had called her by two separate names.  What a paradox it was when she, only a few days ago, had fought between two identities.  At one point fighting between the personalities of Rinoa and Renee, her mind might not have registered his obvious error.  Now she wondered how truly sick she, herself, had become or if reality had now permanently settled back into her psyche.  Fearing that in this game right now, she might blur the lines of reality.  She could only pray that wouldn't happen.  Before during the battle for her mind, she felt betrayed, but now the love of her Knight could keep her within this reality…she hoped.

 He noticed her apprehension, not about at him, but about something she was silently fighting within herself.  Placing a finger on her chin, he made her look toward him.  "I know what would help, you put the robes on, and I'll take down the anti-magic barrier.  That way if one were to stray from the flock, you could set him in his place."

 That hadn't been her intention, hell, she wasn't sure what her intentions were anymore, but that would be a great help to the others.  The President had all but forgotten about Squall being in the building, or the attack by Esthar.  She allowed him to kiss her again, before he headed around the desk toward his laptop.  Looking at the clock sitting on the desk, the ticking hands reminded her of the race she was in for Seifer's life.

 She grabbed the clothes turning her back toward him.  Putting all modesty aside, she removed her shirt and let it fall gently on the floor.  She could feel his eyes burning into her back, and was trying to hurry, without looking like she was rushing.  Gathering the silken garb, she raised her arms allowing it to cascade gentle down her body.  When covered by the length of the robe, she took off her pants, landing them in the pile with her top.  Body mostly concealed, she turned back toward him allowing him to see her clad in the silken dress.

 Moving toward her, he took the outer lace robe and placed it affectionately on her body.  She was beautiful, as her dark hair was a sharp contrast to the whiten color of the robes.  She didn't need to ask about the field, she could feel some of her abilities returning.  Her powers were based on emotion, and when the shield came down, the emotion became almost too intense to control without Squall.  She wasn't even sure if they would work yet due to the injections, nor would she even take the chance.  If she allowed her darker side to take over, Seifer would surely pay the price, and she would not make it out of the building alive.  Everything had to be carefully planned. Timing was of the utmost importance.

 He pulled her back toward the desk, again sitting her upon it.  Noticing a small string hanging from a shoulder-line hem, he reached in his top-drawer grabbing a pair of scissors.  The alterations for the robes were only finished last night.  They needed her actual measurements, and not the ones they had guessed from the photographs.  The Palace tailor had been forced to work through the night to make sure that every detail was perfect.  Once Rinoa actually put them on, the plan was to have Kimberley do any emergency fittings.  She had some experience with needlework, and Mitchell had asked the tailor to leave all his supplies in his office.

 The flaw in the robes, seemed to agitate the President to a surprising degree, and Rinoa could feel herself losing control of the man.  She knew she had to be the sexual aggressor for a second, to put her plan in motion.  She slid one of the straps off her robe, exposing her shoulder and upper breast.  The simple act seemed to calm him down his anger, redirecting it into other avenues.  Reaching behind her neck, he pulled her in tightly, kissing her with more fervor than before.  She tried to return the kisses just as passionately, but found herself choking on her own bile.  And like in her worst nightmare, Squall picked that moment to burst into the room.  Both figures jumped at his sudden entrance, and Rinoa could all but hide her guilt. 

 In an act that she could only describe as cowardice, Mitchell quickly pulled her off the desk with force, placing her in front of his body as if a human shield.  She trembled in fear for a moment, but from what she wasn’t sure…guilt, embarrassment, death?  His eyes had a rage she had never seen, a passion that she had only witnessed recently.  He had charged in there ready to attack, acting as if consequence didn't matter.  She worried what could have done such a thing to him, what act could have made a man of steel crumble like sand. 

 He had entered the room with such deep intent, but the scene he witnessed must have even caught him off guard enough to regain his balance.  He lowered the gunblade in shock as the passion changed to pain before Rinoa's eyes…at least she thought. 

 Mitchell tightened his hold of her waist, driving her even further into his body.  "Will you kill him for me my angel?" 

 "Of course," she answered without hesitation.  Knowing that Mitchell stood behind her she mouthed the word, "Allison" to Squall unsure of whether he could hear her nonverbally right now.  She wasn't sure if her powers were strong enough for any other form of communication with her Knight.

 He nodded once without as much as a syllable.  In that second, she made the distinction between what she perceived as pain from betrayal on his face, to the pain he felt for failing her…and making her dance with this devil.  She smiled at him knowing he wouldn't understand exactly why, but she realized they were stronger than they were two years ago in Deling, this time they believed in each other…she had seen those eyes years before, but this time she understood them.  Squall knew.  Allison was safe, which just left freeing Seifer, and then getting the hell away from this place.  There was no way she and Squall could make it to the jail on time, so she had to stick to the idea of Mitchell releasing him, with one minor adjustment. 

 She prayed to Hyne he would understand.  Rinoa had no idea if her thought would reach him, but she couldn't speak aloud in front of Mitchell.  "I have to save Seifer, play along…Forgive me, I love you."  The Knight heard his sorceress speak the words in his mind, before the realization of their meaning set in.

 She lifted her palm toward Squall, cruelly laughing as she tossed her head back onto the President's shoulder.  With one flick of her wrist, a bolt of energy radiated out from her hand, and followed its path like a lightening towards a metal rod.  The feeling sent shockwaves through his body, and he grabbed his chest in pain.  His eyes met hers and he could feel the pounding of his heart within his torso, whether it was from voltage coursing through his veins or her actions, he didn't know.  He just could feel the pain. 

 And then darkness.

 She was taken aback by the power that she had managed to use.  For a moment, her world became slightly cloudy as if she was coming off some drug-induced high.  Her body truly wasn't accustomed to using such energy, let alone to be in such a situation.  She wanted to look back at Squall, to make sure he was okay, but she was sure that he had managed to handle the strike, and any Guardians would protect him from major blows.  He would understand her actions in a second, and play along until they were ready to strike.  She felt Mitchell release his tight grip from her body, spinning her around to his face.  He looked like a lion that had just made its kill…such a proud, foolish, and spineless man. 

 Smiling toward him, she ran her delicate fingers seductively through her own hair joking, "He was always a pain in my ass anyhow." 

 The President almost seemed dumbfounded by the swiftness of her actions.  He slowly parted from his trophy, letting his fingers brush with hers as he walked toward the fallen warrior.  Looking down, the President couldn't have been more pleased with any other outcome.  He finally had whom he obsessed these many years by his side, and the man who once stood in his way, was no longer a viable threat.  Mitchell reached down next to Leonhart's body, picking up one of his shrines prize-possessions, the replicated gunblade that highlighted his collection.  Why the weapon held such a deep fascination, even he couldn't understand…but his desire to claim Rinoa was strong, even if events had transpired for him to imitate another. 

 Running his hand over the handle, Mitchell followed the gunblade to where the sword began and the revolver ended.  He took his index finger placing it on the silvery blade, allowing it to razor-sharp edge to slice his skin.  It was a deliberate act, as if commemorating the 'kill' with some blood-oath to her.  He moved back toward where she stood, after placing the gunblade on a side table.

 Raising his hand to her, he ran his finger slowly across her lips, allowing the blood to enter her mouth.  Rinoa could taste the almost metallic, bitterness in her mouth.  As the repulsive liquid filled all her senses, understanding of this man's psychosis became overwhelming; she no longer thought she could contain her obvious disgust.  She had to get this over with quickly, to take the initiative so Seifer could be spared.  Turning taking another step toward the desk, she once again let the material fall from her shoulder.  Spinning back around quickly almost playfully like a cat, she jumped up to a sitting position removing the lacey outer garment completely. 

 "We don't need Leonhart, but I might need that other one." 

 She looked at Mitchell mischievously, motioning with her finger for him to move closer.  "That Almasy guy, he was Ultimecia's Knight, he'll know how to handle me…just like you do."  She lifted a finger to his chest tracing a line up to his neck.  "Spare him, you can keep that one as a trophy.  He's already dead."  She motioned her head toward the man lying on the floor. 

 "What about you?"  Mitchell asked under his breath before leaning over to her, their lips almost touching.  "What do you want as a trophy?"

 Again, she laughed aloud with a sultry look, "Spare Almasy…and you'll find out.  I need him, just like I need you."

 He moved the centimeters in kissing her, as he had done earlier.  This time she reciprocated the action, this time it was she that bit passionately at his lip.  Knowing this was almost over was the only thing getting her through; she only hoped Squall would understand in the end.  Rinoa leaned back further, moving her hand over to the intercom.  "Before we get too carried away, make the call…spare him."  He fumbled around as he put all his weight upon her, reaching over to the button. 

 "Yes, Mr. President, sir."

 In between forceful kisses, he tried to speak.  "Yeah…changed my mind…we might need Almasy…have him escorted up here…"

 "Sir we were about to execute…"

 "Do you doubt my word?  Do you want your death the next I order?"

 "Never sir," the voice slightly faltered on the other end.  "We will bring him up to your office right away."

 "No, give me twenty minutes or so."  He grinned at Rinoa wickedly, pulling their bodies tighter together.  "…Then bring him…to me…we found a use for him."

 Knowing she had just bought Seifer some valuable time, enough to rescue him, Squall would take her cue.  Rinoa waited a second for a response, as she opened one eye watching for the impending attack.  She had no doubt in Squall's ability as a Knight or as a military leader to know when they had trapped their enemy.

 "Get this bastard off me!"  Her mind finally called out to him, when she couldn't take the hideous torture.  Every second of this nightmare was killing her, every second she was falling deeper into a world she had escaped.  She was trying to surpass the horror, holding fast to everything she had taught herself. 

 "Squall!?"  Still nothing…not within her mind, nor a noise from the floor.  "Hyne now…Squall…please!!!  I can't do this any longer…please." 

 She turned just enough to see him still lying unconscious on the ground.  This wasn't supposed to be, it hadn't happened like this before…she used more energy with Richard Bennett that night she escaped in Trabia; it only knocked the wind out of him for a minute and he was never unconscious.  She was physically weaker now, with some foreign substance running through her veins. 

 This was just circumstance, a combat maneuver…  Then she remembered, something she had forsaken…with her Knight around her powers multiplied, and she became stronger.  She hadn't known her own abilities, nor that her magic would multiply tenfold when used upon him.  When he continued to lay there not moving, she finally thought the unthinkable…she might have actually just killed him.


There were no words to articulate how confused each felt, the three stared at the closet in total shock.  It wasn't as if they were insane, they had all been in that hallway…even Seifer and Squall had been within its depths.  Maybe there was some elaborate holographic projector protecting the existence of the passage, one that had been damaged when the Estharian attack occurred.  Maybe the illusion had something to do with the anti-magic field, although none had heard of such thing, it wasn't an impossibility, right?  Quistis held the doorknob tighter, her grasp increasing as more possible solutions ran through her mind. 

 The sound of a key being inserted into the far door made them temporarily forget about the question they couldn't answer.  In unison, all three jumped back into the closet, although each felt uncomfortable at doing so.  When Zell first entered the closet, his feet caught on a mop that was lying on the floor, which completely blew Quistis' projector theory.  Whatever was in there was definitely solid objects, and not a holographic projected ones.

 Four soldiers entered the classroom, closing the door behind them.  Quistis could see through the keyhole just a bit, enough to tell that they were not in there on official business.  One pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and then passed it around to the others.  Three sat on the tabletops, and the fourth seemed to be acting as lookout to the main hallway door.  It was obvious by their demeanor, they weren't supposed to be on this smoking-break.  If years of training had taught Quistis anything, it was that this time-off was certainly unauthorized, as it had been an almost everyday occurrence being a teacher.  Whether it was students at Garden, or members of the Galbadian Army didn't seem to make much difference, basic human behavior was universal. 

 The three stood silent as the soldiers conversation seemed to echo through the vacant class.  It wasn't as if they were speaking in a loud tone, their voices just carried a great distance.

 "This is just fucking unbelievable, first we spend two years looking for her, now we are taking orders from her?"

 "You know, I heard rumors from some of Mitchell's personal men that he's completely obsessive over her…in a downright freaky way."

 "My brother works up in Alpha-Blue unit, and he said the creep even has some shrine to her or something…but it's supposed to be eyes only.  Even talking about it could get you shot."

 "I heard about that once, figured it was another of the thousand untrue rumors around here."

 "Oh and what about that Almasy guy they're going to execute?  Jason, didn't you used to work for him?"

 At the sounding of Seifer's name, Quistis tensed up as her heart momentarily stopped in mid-beat.  It was only a split-second later that the word 'execute' registered, and suddenly her world sank.  "No," was the only word that ran repeatedly through her mind.  The closet they were standing in, unlike the hall, wasn't completely within the dark.  Streams of light entered from around the doorframe, allowing their silhouettes to be seen to one another. 

 Quistis paused as she felt someone coming up next to her, and even more surprise when the figure placed an arm around.  She could tell by the touch it was feminine, and was surprised as Alex crouched next to her offering silent emotional support.  Alexandra truly had been Rinoa's only friend during the entire ordeal, and had no earthly reason to comfort her figurative enemy, but that’s exactly what she did. 

 And in that moment, the instructor first noticed the similarities that Alexandra shared with an older sister she had never known.  She wasn't the outspoken, sometimes coarse person who all but ignored Quistis the last few days.  The human heart could only handle so much before it wanted to reach out, Ellone would have been proud.  It is hard to think about losing someone you love, that language was universal, even to someone whose acquaintance goes no further than sharing oxygen hiding in a closet.  Alex never said a word, or offered more than the comfort of letting Quistis know she wasn't alone…but it was enough.  Fighting back the tears, she listened as the soldiers continued to speak to one another. 

 Her attention turned back toward the outward scene with a slight bit more urgency.  She watched as the guard seemed to linger on his last drag of the cigarette before answering.

 "Work for him?  That’s a far cry from reality; he was just some puppet on a string.  That's when the last sorceress claimed power.  I was first assigned security detail under Vinzer Deling, until Edea clipped his sorry ass.  Don't you think these guys will ever learn…get in bed with a sorceress and you die?  Ten bucks says this one does Mitchell in within twenty-four hours.  Does history not teach these morons anything?"

 "So Almasy was in bed with that other sorceress, huh?  Kinda kinky."

 "Don't know about that…hell wouldn't even want to know about that!  Just know that the guy came from nowhere acting as if he were Hyne himself…personally I was rooting for Leonhart at the parade.  Shit, you know how long it took to put that one float together?  It took us three goddamned weeks to build.  One float…for an entire parade, you would think these guys would at least get a clue."

 The guard at the door had remained quiet, but bringing up the subject of their former leader and Knight, he couldn't help but add his two-cents worth.

 "I worked with Almasy too, fought under him when Balamb attacked Galbadia, guy had me jumping a freakin motorcycle between two flying Gardens…idiot.  I'm not upset to see him killed, he was a complete asshole, hell I'd actually pay to get a front row ticket…kinda going to miss that other chick though she was a looker."

 "Heard she was doing it with the President's entire staff…guess that’s why she is being executed first huh?"

 "Kind of funny that they are going to be killed at the Palace jail in front of everyone.  He probably pissed half of them off and she probably did the rest of them."

 The door flew open as the position of lookout had been momentarily abandoned.  All four jumped to attention tossing away evidence of their habit.  It didn't work.  They all received a severe reprimand, followed by a formal reciting of Galbadian rules of conduct for military personal.  After what seemed like a hundred articles and sections were read, the superior handed them paper, informing each they were going to copy the rules verbatim onto paper. 

 It seemed like they were going to have their fate sealed in a closet, and Seifer in the prison cell. 

 "Damn it!"  Zell's voice rose a little more than he meant to.  He was going to be the last to admit it to anyone, but somehow the idea of Seifer being killed wasn't as enticing as it was four days ago.

 "Hey that birdie-lighting guy in my head seems to be making a lot of noise all of a sudden."  Alex grabbed her temples at the unfamiliar sensation, and the annoyance of the Guardian still speaking a foreign dialect. 

 "I don't feel anything different."

 "Wait Zell, we've grown accustom to the feeling, maybe the anti-magic field is down again."

 "So why can't Ifrit just say that then?"

 "They're here to support us on our journeys, not tell us everything.  Some things we must still learn or discover on our own."

 Back in the classroom, the four guards sat the table as they were going through the agony of copying the doctrine word-for-word.  Not one heard the slight creak of the door, or the word "Sleep" until it was far too late…

 If Selphie had one thing going for her, it was that her ideas were timeless…such as stealing three Galbadian uniforms.  Unlike earlier when they turned the guards granite, this time they worked together keeping the men indisposed…and in no condition to retaliate.  Now three of the four troops were wearing nothing more than t-shirts and boxer shorts…the fourth still kept his uniform, and his dignity, intact…sort of.  All four bound and gagged, and then carefully placed in the supply closet.  A final sleep spell was cast for good measure, and then the fake soldiers were free to walk blindly out into the hallway.

 The trip to the cell could have taken ten minutes, but in their state of urgency they made the long trek in under three.  Although the immediate threat of danger receded for the moment, Deling officials seemed to be more cautious about a second wave of attacks from either Esthar or Balamb.  So seeing scattered troops running down the corridors was commonplace, so their haste fit among the masses.


 He never figured his final moments of life to come down to this…maybe something more grand or at least not ending in a rat-filled prison.  Seifer sat on the hard brick surface that was both a bench and a bed for most of the life-long prisoners.  He had his share of cells, but this was by far the worst.  Because it was hidden within the walls of the Palace, no civil liberties applied or were completely ignored, and it by any other standards was a no more than a medieval dungeon.  It was the place that time forgot and in a few moments, he would be a memory contained within its walls.

 He ran his hand through his hair, and then rested his head on the emptiness of the brick wall.  Was his end really supposed to be like this?  He promised himself one thing, he would not fight…if this is was what fate decided, he would forever abide by it.  He had given all he could in the last few days, more than he even knew ever lay in is cold-hearted exterior.  

 He wondered if Rinoa was safe, he wondered if Squall had reached her.  Would they have the storybook ending she had often dreamed while spending their summer days sitting on the beach?  Even if Seifer wasn't her soul mate, he was glad he had met her, he became a better person in just knowing her.  Somehow he figured, whatever those two would have would never be storybook, but something much more passionate with highest-highs, and deepest-lows, that would try the test of any human soul…  Yet, they would make it down the road in the end…if the fates would allow.

 He wondered about Alexandra, he wondered if Zell would ever be able to handle her strong mind-set.  He laughed inwardly when he realized that he and Alex almost shared the same sardonic humor, bet that would truly kill the martial artist to hear that comparison.  Hell, the guy took a bullet for her the first day; it took him almost eighteen years to come to that point with anyone.  He might have teased him a lot, but in the end Seifer only had the greatest admiration for the man, and somehow wished he could have been more free-spirited like him…

 He wondered of all those left behind, not by choice, but by circumstance.  Would Garden grant the pardon for both Fujin and Raijin?  Even in his darkest hours, the ex-Knight believed in Cid.  As much as he and the headmaster had fought through the years, when it came down to it, he believed the man in his word – maybe those two thought too much alike on some accounts, where rules held Cid back, compared to where Seifer walked blindly.  He believed Cid and Edea would make it through these events, just as they always had…maybe not completely intact, but they were survivors. 

 He thought of Selphie, the little messenger girl he had hardly known in their latter years, and of Irvine, the Galbadian man who filled his place at Garden when the tides had turned.  Those two had something special between them also, but their passions never seemed to be worn on their sleeves like him or Leonhart.  They were more stable, but by no means less zealous than the others.  He could understand why Squall trusted in them, if destiny was cruel and Allison was left an orphan. 

 Then he thought of the countless, nameless masses that he had encountered over the years…some he killed, some were spared, and some no more than specs in his memory.  This was the legacy he left, the failure, the deceit, and the myriad of heartache. 

 He did everything…but think of her.

 His eyes opened out of their weary state when a loud bang thundered through the room.  Two men stood at his cell door, opening the lock.  They grabbed him, knocking him down to the floor, the first man kicked his ribcage several times, as the other stood by door laughing.  Finally they grabbed him, dragging him to his feet.  In handcuffs, he was escorted into a central room in the upper regions of the prison.  These cells seemed to be holding more than long term, as several men were jammed into each one.

 He glanced down to the floor, noticing a drain where a river of scarlet blood ran through.  He followed the flow with his eyes, until they landed upon the source.  A female body was being dragged away, and the blood spilled freely from her temple.  The head no longer identifiable, but the dress he had known to be as the woman upstairs with Mitchell.  Is this how is life was to end, dragged away like yesterdays trash? 

 They bound his hands behind his back, not with cuffs this time, but with rope…rope that they pulled tight until it had fused within his skin.  They took him to his knees and then blindfolded him, for what reason he didn't know...but maybe in the darkness he would find solitude. 

 But in the darkness he couldn't help but think of her.

 His mind raced like a projector running the movie of his life.  It was true what they said about your life passing before your very eyes, maybe that is done so your final moments you can truly know what kind of person you were…even if the answer isn't the one you want.  But for all the evil, she would always remain the good.  Her hair flowing in the sea-breeze in Balamb a week ago, their time aboard the boat, their endless conversations, the things they wouldn't dare speak to another, their heartbeats dancing together in Dollet, and nothing more memorable than the feeling of her skin upon his.

 "Do you have any final requests?"  The executioner asked, not that he cared about the answer, it didn't matter to him either way.

 He wanted to come up with a witty retort, a snappy comeback, so they would always remember him…but he didn't.  He shook his head once to signify 'no' and that was it…  He wanted to leave this world in peaceful silence, thinking of the one good thing he found in it…Quistis.

 "It's your dying right buddy, just don't make a huge mess of my floor, okay?"  He heard the man take a few paces back, and then he heard the cock of the gun…

 "Hold on!"  Another voice called from behind him.  "You're not going to believe this shit, Mitchell wants this guy back."

 "What the hell?  What's going through his fucking mind now?  Hope he doesn't want his chick back either, but knowing that sicko, he wouldn't care if she wasn't breathing."

 "Look, we just have orders to bring him back up…don’t ask me.  If we don't we'll be the next on Mitchell's ever-changing hit list."

 Seifer felt someone pull him to his feet, yanking off the blindfold.  Until that point, never had a jail cell looked like heaven.  His mind raced, trying to comprehend all the events that transpired, but they were beyond comprehension…even he knew that.  What had changed Mitchell's mind?  What had Rinoa done?  He hoped that whatever it was, would be forgiven by the others.

 They led him just out of the confines of the prison area, and the guard yelled to three other soldiers passing by.  "Hey you, I need you to escort this prisoner up to the President's office.  Take the long way…he has other 'official business' he is seeing to right this second."

 The men saluted as the transfer of the prisoner was made.  Seifer saw this as his chance to escape, now the only thing bound were his wrists.  As if the guard could sense his thoughts, he turned to the prisoner stating, "Don't be a freakin' chicken-wuss and try to escape."

 No other time in his life had Zell's voice sounded so comforting, and judging by the size of the other two guards, he had a fairly good idea of their identities.  They walked the distance of the corridor, heading up a flight of stairs, never breaking the illusion that all around believed.  The four ducked into a vacant room, closing the door tightly behind them. 

 Quistis was the first to take off her helmet, sweaty hair matted to her face.  It was as if she couldn't control her own actions as she threw down her helmet grabbing him tightly, bringing his body next to hers.  Their lips met and the sensation of being alive ran throughout Seifer's entire being.  When they parted, they just stared deeply into one another's eyes.

 "Just so you know it, I've never kissed anyone in a Galbadian uniform before," Seifer smirked raising an eyebrow to her.

 "I guess I should be happy about that," she whispered running her hand along his jawbone.  "God I thought that…" her words trailed as she leaned her head against his chest. 

 "I know…me too."  He wanted to hold her, to put his arms around her, but still they were still bound by the ropes.  "Um, think one of you guys could untie me?"


 "Oh Hyne Squall!"  The words escaped her mouth, as she tried to push Mitchell off her.  "NO!!!!" 

 She managed to snake out from underneath him, running toward the fallen Knight.  With immense force, she was quickly yanked back by the wrist.  She felt a snap in her shoulder, but ignored the pain.  Before the realization struck, Mitchell had placed one handcuff around her wrist.  While she tried to physically fight him off, her magically abilities were once again dormant, and mental fatigue and exhaustion were taking their toll. 

 "Squall!!!  I need you!"

 "I thought you needed me?  Damn you lying bitch…now what am I supposed to do?"

 "Die," she gasped between tears, "just die."

 He slapped her across the face, leaving a blemish that covered an entire side of her jaw.  She didn't even wince in pain, nothing else registered at that moment but Squall.  "Thanks to you the one person who could have handled your powers is now dead.  What do you expect me to do?  I have to find someone who will follow my command, someone these imbeciles will follow into power." 

 He looked at her as he forcefully locked the second cuff around her wrist.  "You…it will be you.  I can destroy you yet, I will kill everyone you love or have ever cared about one-by-one.  Remember I know them all, from your Forest Owl friends to your daughter Rinoa…each will die until you serve me.  You know me, you know what I am capable of…remember your joke of a husband I killed at Balamb Garden?  I went about this the wrong way before…I will have you.  You will be mine." 

 "I'm Rinoa, damn it!"  Her words were more to reassure herself right now, afraid of losing her own reality.  In between sobs she cried, "Julia was my mother, Allison is my daughter, and Squall is my…oh God…what have I done?"

 At the words, he swung her around and tossed her onto his desk.  Her head hit the hard surface with force, and she momentarily lost surroundings as her vision darkened from the blow.  Mitchell grabbed her forearm tightly, leaving reddened bruises with every abrasive touch.  This, this had happened before…too many times.  She knew this, she knew what was about to happen.  She lived it before, but not now.  Her vision once again came into focus, and tried to turn her head from him, but he quickly grabbed her jaw making her look him in the eyes.  With his other hand, he tore the thin strap, ripping the material completely off her shoulder.  Finally he released the vigorous hold on her jaw, and used that hand to gather up the material from below, lifting it past her knees.  She tried to kick, but it was no use, as he was more powerful and dominating in the situation.  She turned her head away this time, without his objection, as he was worried about other things.

 Then she saw them, the slight metallic reflection out of the corner of her eye.  Her thoughts went back to Deling, to the corner drug store…to where she stole a pair of scissors.  She had thought, at the time it was the closest thing to a weapon she could find, in a pinch they would work, and right now, they could be her only salvation.  Her hands still remained handcuffed in front of her, but while he was busy ripping at her gown, she took that second to raise her arms over her head. 

 She tried to roll to her side, as they were just out of fingertips reach.  Whether it was miracle or fate, would always elude her.  Rinoa didn't know how, she managed to grab the circular handles.  The tailor's scissors were far more dangerous than the ones she had taken, with a sharpness that could rival a knife.  She closed her eyes, as she clasped the cool metal rings in her hand. 

 "Forgive me," she prayed to gods or anyone who would listen.  Rinoa opened her eyes, jamming one knee into his groin.  He gasped at the pain, liberating his restraint for just one moment.  One moment is all she needed.  She looked deep into his eyes, into his darkened soul.  "I will never be yours!"  With power unknown, she plunged the scissors into his chest.  She felt the instruments dive deep into muscles and through his ribcage…and then she plunged them in deeper.

 The crimson blood spilled out, leaving trails of her sin down her white robe. 

 She had killed, not as a sorceress, as any other mortal would.  Their eyes never parted, and try as she might, she couldn't feel the slightest remorse.  A shiver ran through her when she realized how indifferent she felt right much hatred was clouding her very soul. 

 As Mitchell grabbed at the metal instrument protruding from his chest, the door was knocked with tremendous force.  Rinoa turned from the dying man, as the blood was still covering her hands.  Quistis was the first to walk in, followed by the other three.  The two women momentary looked at one another spell bound, the evidence of guilt clearly shrouded on Rinoa's stained robes. 

 Turning her attention, Rinoa watched her victim as he struggled for his last standing breaths.  Jefferson Mitchell collapsed to the ground, before his eyes slowly shut.  She watched every second, every breath he took.  It was a fascination from which she could not break, completely still, completely unmoved, and completely void of emotion. 

 "Hyne…"  She heard Alex plea from amid the silence.  "Squall…does anyone have some strong cure spells?"  

 The words brought Rinoa back into her surroundings.  "Squall," she softly whispered, before calling it more frantically, "Squall!?"  She ran over to his side, falling onto her knees beside her Knight.  She gathered him into her arms, much in the same fashion she had done after time compression.  The cuffs made it more difficult this time around, but she wouldn't let him go…not now, not ever. 

 "I killed him, I killed him."  She rocked back and forth cradling his body chanting the manta aloud. 

 "No," Seifer said placing his forefinger to the Commanders throat.  "Looks like you knocked him out a little…or a lot…but he'll be okay.  Just give him a moment.  Do you know if the magic barrier is up again?"

 "No…it's down," she said as tears fell onto his face, tracing a path on his skin.  The excess blood that once covered her body was now soaking into the dark uniform jacket Squall had been wearing.  Seifer reached down, casting a Curaga spell, slowly it radiated out of his hands with vibrant hues of lavender. 

 "Give him a minute."  Seifer looked at Rinoa, tucking some stray hair behind her ears.  "How, how did you get Mitchell to stop my execution…one more second and I would be…"  The words trailed off as he had a hard time accepting them, or maybe the consequences that led to his release. 

 "I did what I had to do," she whispered.  He remained silent accepting her words.  He knew that whatever she had done almost cost Squall his life. 

 "We have the audio-tape of Kimberley and Mitchell hopefully there will be enough evidence on here," offered Quistis.  She had gone to Seifer's coat, picked it up, and pulled out the recorder.  Hitting the stop button, she walked back, handing the coat back to its rightful owner. 

 Alex kneeled down and placed her arm around Rinoa trying to offer whatever comfort she could.  Silently, the younger girl laid her head upon her friends shoulder, accepting the gesture for all it was worth. 

 "Rinoa there is a press conference in about thirty minutes, and thanks to Seifer's contacts, they will have a new top story.  By morning, the entire world will know of his plan concerning your power, and what he did to you…and to your father, maybe then there can be some closure, and Galbadia can start the process of moving on." 

 "Hey you."  Rinoa looked down in shock to the now conscious person in her arms.  "That wasn't very nice…"  He managed an uncharacteristic grin, one only meant for her, he brought one hand to his face and rubbed his eyes.  "Next time I use Quezacotl, I'll think twice."

 "You're welcome to have the Guardian back…he's driving me insane," quipped Alexandra looking down at the SeeD Commander.  "Glad to have you among the conscious, Squall." 

 "Don't you know it," added Zell, bending down contributing his opinion.  Squall waved his hand, acknowledging the statement before looking back at the person holding him securely.

 "Love you," he whispered.  Then for the first time he tried to stare into Rinoa's eyes, but she turned and the realization hit.  "You….you killed him."  She bit her bottom lip, as she nodded her head, shamefully hiding her face from his.  He reached up, trying to wipe some blood from her face, but only managing to spread it around her cheek.  "It's okay…you did what you had to do." 

 She snickered at the irony of the same words she just told Seifer, thinking she thought the same phrase two years ago when she ran.  She did what she had to do, she always did what she had to do…  For a minute, she was glad that Squall never witnessed the bloody sin, or the hideous act that almost transpired that lead up to it.  He may never have forgiven himself if he knew the whole truth, but then again, maybe he did know…

 "Rinoa, look at me," he pleaded with such sincerity she couldn't refuse him.  "It doesn't matter to me.  I would have done the same…anything done is forgiven.  I love you."  He moved his hand through her hair, pulling her down to his lips.  She took comfort in the embrace and the emotion that passed between them, something unknown to most.  He felt her cringe as he ran his fingers over her arm.  "You're hurt."  He pulled away slightly tracing the bruises on her jaw.

 "I'll be alright, it will heal."

 "May I?"  The words…everything…just like their first encounter in the cabin days ago, when he had asked to cure her broken rib.  Everything seemed to be repeating itself in some strange ironic circle.  And again, just like that snow-filled night they shared, she gave him permission.  He laid his hands upon her and softly uttered the words to heal her…but nothing happened.

 She tilted her head slightly shocked that he was unable to use a simple cure spell.  "Squall, are you sure you're feeling all right?"

 "Yes, I'm fine."  He couldn't figure out why the spell wasn't working or his sudden inability to cast magic. 

 If for one second, any of them had put the pieces together.  If for one second, they would have logically thought about magical backfire.  If for one second, they had not let their emotions control their actions.  If for one second, they had thought that someone had re-activated the anti-magic barrier, from within that very room.  But in their haste, they forgot the most basic of battle objectives…

 Make sure your enemy is truly down.

 In all their warnings, all their visions, everything leading up to this day…they already knew the outcome.  Fate cannot be changed, only the clues leading up to it could be discovered.  The answer always remained the same, no matter how many times they had dreamed it to be different.

 If for one second, any of them had seen Mitchell holding up the replica of Lionheart, before he used his last breaths of life…

 If for one second, they could have warned Rinoa…

 If for just one second…

Chapter 40

Final Fantasy 8 Fanfic