The disciplinary room certainly wasnt the most romantic place in the world. Yet in that moment, neither Squall nor Rinoa could have imagined a more appropriate setting. It was clear they had a long way to go, but him accepting her words proved how far they had come over the last few months. Maybe it had not been the easiest road, but it was one they were traveling down together - one step at a time, day by day, and sometimes, if need be, hour by hour.
That was exactly why she had to explain.
It was Rinoa who first pulled away from the embrace, placing a soft lingering kiss on his lips. The action caught him off guard, although it wasnt that he minded. Still, sometimes, actions such as that took a moment to register in his mind this was a reality that seemed more like a fantasy at times.
Rinoa had wanted to stay that way forever, remain locked in his arms, but she needed to say something else first. She had to say something else first. The one thing that she had vowed never to confess to another living soul, beside Seifer. But he only knew through fate and circumstance ...and that was almost two years and a lifetime ago.
She had come to understand that Squall would talk about certain things only when he felt ready, events in his life, his past, and whatever emotions he was feeling. She would not press him on something so personal. He would openly and willingly tell her when he was ready and that was also a part of who they were. Learning, discovering, and always understanding towards one another - that is what made his gifts all that much greater, they were always given with unbound freedom.
But she wasnt going to keep anything from him, even the very, very embarrassing moments of her past. The ones she wished would have remained buried under bureaucracy, red tape, and a small militia of insurance forms.
Her hand remained on his shoulder for support, but the bandage surrounding her thumb made it increasingly difficult. Somehow, she needed to be closer to him - to have more than feeling his shirts thin material beneath her fingertips. She couldnt explain her reasoning right now, as if she ever could. Maybe it was that same unknown that drove her aboard the Ragnarok when she weightlessly jumped into his arms it was that unspoken desire to be closer.
Usually, it was the unknown that scared her. But with him, the unknown sometimes exhilarated her.
Then it hit her, the Ragnarok, the security she felt sitting in his lap, even if he was hesitant to reciprocate. He seemed so confused by the whole concept back then. Yet those memories were ones she would always deeply cherish.
Finding a new resolve, she stood walking directly in front of him. Her hand acted as a pivot on his shoulder and kept him from moving in his seat. Even now, he still wore that look of confusion as he had in space. Maybe it was true, some things never changed. And maybe for that she was glad. He eyed her suspiciously, not understanding her intentions. Again, that part was also rather identical to the Ragnarok. Thankfully, at least this time, she had the foresight to carefully sit on his lap instead of jumping... the absence of zero gravity weighing heavily into that factor.
At first, the commanders reaction was almost as rigid as back on the ship. It finally softened as her un-bandaged hand wrapped around his neck and she rested her body against his chest. Sometimes it was just her mere touch that could make him relax, feel a comfort that still scared beyond any reasonable thoughts. At least this time, it didnt take him nearly as long to realize what she was planning, history had taught him that much.
No, it wasnt exactly as if he was used to having her sit on his lap, especially after freely confessing that she loved him only a few minutes before. Still, it was becoming an almost involuntary response as he wrapped his arms around her body, resting his cheek on the top of head. Something back then, he could have never done with such little hesitation.
Rinoa shifted slightly, placing more weight against his torso. For a split second, he thought she was going to say something in his ear, instead he felt a chill run down his spine as she placed a few butterfly kisses on his neck, something she definitely didnt do aboard the Ragnarok. He was thankful when she stopped. Well kind of... at least okay on a professional level he was glad. He wondered if she had any idea what she could do with a few simple touches.
Rinoa... what... what exactly are you doing?
I just need to explain something.
Uh huh okay. That was authoritative, wasnt it? He hoped that hadnt sounded as feeble out loud as it had in his own head. He silently cursed any genes inherited from the Loire side of the family. Then he silently wondered why he was thinking of his fathers heritage at this moment. Well, maybe it was easier than thinking about his more immediate problems right now.
Taking a deep breath, Rinoa inhaled the scent of his cologne. Somehow, she had wanted to completely forgo this explanation. The outcome wasnt truthfully that big of deal, she just wasnt sure how he would handle the beginning of the god-awful experience. But he had to know, so she bit her lip and started to explain with all the resolve she could muster.
Squall, I know you heard Seifer and I talking about our so called secret and I wanted to be the one to tell you what happened. I want you to know... I never was intentionally trying to hide anything. He started to speak, stopping just as quickly. Her voice, although slightly hesitant, still carried a determined undertone and sometimes silence really was his best friend. Another lesson learned with time and experience.
She began, It was summer, one of our first dates in Timber. I guess if you want to call it that. Seifer and I had decided to drive to the coast. So there we were walking along the beach... I just remember feeling nervous... It was really our first time alone together... away from all other people. Part of me didnt know what to expect and was a little apprehensive, but there was also another part of me which was a little too anxious. Its all a little cloudy looking back and now it seems rather...
Rinoa paused not sure how to word it, not wanting to say too much or too little. Pointless. Yeah, pointless. She whispered as a nervous laugh passed by her lips, her voice trailing into nothingness.
I take it theres more? He finally questioned as her silence continued. In this situation, he wasnt in the mood for guessing games, or the prospect of waiting. He was quickly learning that he didnt like having to wait when it came to certain topics.
Im sorry, of course there is. So much for the resolve that she had found only moments before. Just get it over with, Rinoa, say it, she chided to herself. Um, like I was saying, we were alone, and somehow there we were on the beach... I mean literally on the beach... lying on the sand and... both of us were on the sand. I mean honestly nothing really happened between the two of us, you know that. Its just that I... somehow rolled over on top of a broken bottle neither of us had seen and... see it was buried in the sand... and...
In that moment he understood, whether he wanted to or not. It wasnt that he wanted to picture that scene, but he couldnt fault her or Seifer as much as he would like to place the blame on his childhood rival... and God he wouldve loved to have done just that. Rinoas apprehension came from admitting the sheer fact that she had been, well, for the lack of a better term, making out with Seifer on the beach. Not that it was something he wanted to picture. It wasnt. If it was only she was afraid to admit her and Seifer had some sort of past, and if that was the extent of it, well... it was in the past. He had to face that Rinoa had witnessed worse, Ultimecia had seen to that. Showing her firsthand vivid images, memories he rather had left buried beneath the rubble. Yet here she was brave enough to admit this to him, she would never know how much courage she had and how much he respected her for it.
Still he understood that she was struggling, so he tried to help her along. Well, for both of their sakes. There was buried glass in the sand... it cut your back?
No, she adamantly denied, probably a little too quickly. That would have been a lot less embarrassing at the hospital.
Well, lets just say that sitting down for the next few weeks was a little painful. She buried her face between his shoulder and neck.
Squall, I just was afraid to tell you by how it all came about. I swear, it wasnt that big of deal. It was just a very awkward drive back to the Emergency Room. There was a lot of blood, or at least from what I can remember, plus the stitches. She still kept her eyes from him, figuring he knew exactly what she was talking about. It was a clean cut through... maybe I should have been more grateful. I mean, its nothing compared to what I have gone through in the last few months, but at the time I just couldve died from embarrassment.
She caught her breath momentarily before continuing, keeping her face strategically masked from his sight. I guess time really does have a way of making you see things with clarity after all. I mean, it wasnt the cut itself. It really didnt have anything to do with the physical aspects of the injury. I was just... so embarrassed. How do you explain that to people? It always seemed like I was trying to do something and I ended up doing something stupid instead. I didnt even want to try. So I asked Seifer never to tell anybody. Then I proceeded to tell Zone and Watts that I had a severe strain of the flu... That at least kept me lying down in bed for a long time. I still dont know if they bought it or not, but that was one thing about those two, they never questioned me.
She listened for any response, a comment, a sigh, or any reaction either verbal or non-verbal. What she heard next truly astounded her he started to laugh. No, it wasnt loud, but almost a whisper of a chuckle that made his upper body slightly vibrate as she was still pressed tightly against him.
Squall Leonhart, are you laughing at me?
No, he answered as he softly kissed the top of her head. Im not laughing at you... its just... I dont know Rinoa. You never cease to amaze me. And I can honestly say that with all my heart.
It was then she pushed away to look him in the eyes, squinting in confusion. In a million years this wouldnt have been the reaction she was expecting. So the fact I needed several stitches in my rear... makes you laugh? He was trying to remain silent. You have one demented sense of humor, Leonhart, she sarcastically replied before she smiled and began to softly laugh along with him. Maybe this wasnt the response she had expected. Actually, it was far better... to know that he was that comfortable with her. To show her such a part of himself that others, including their closest friends, rarely caught a glimpse of.
No, its not that honestly, he tried to defend looking her in the eyes. He was trying to be as serious as possible. I just... just you, are so you.
Well and you are you... I guess this is a good thing we figured that out, huh?
No, its actually a great thing.
Narrowing her eyes, Rinoa managed to place her free hand on her outer hip. In reply she teasingly responded, Yeah you can say that easily now. You werent the one who couldnt sit down for a few weeks.
You dont happen to have pictures?
Squall! Taking her hand off of her waist, she slapped him playfully on the shoulder, I cant believe you asked that!
Oh crap, he mentally chastised himself casting his eyes downward, he certainly didnt mean it in that way, although... He tried to correct himself, I meant of... not of... Well, this was going well, he needed to get out of this predicament quickly.
Its really okay, she said taking her hand and gently brushing the hair from over his eyes, although her attempts were rather fruitless. I know what you meant... I think.
Thank you, Rinoa. Looking up, he gave her a weak smile. You know, it seems like I am always thanking you... one way or another. The last year, the last few months have just been so different for me and I just thank you for trusting me, for trusting in me.
She shook her head, Squall, you dont have to thank me for anything. If anything I should be the one thanking you. You have always accepted everything about me, no matter how childish or annoying I might have seemed at the time. Just believe me that I never meant to... I just tend to let my emotions lead me, and-
...And I think Ive told you before, he interrupted, dont ever apologize for being yourself. Truth be told, I think that is why you will make a great sorceress. You are an amazing person. Once you learn to channel your emotions, you will be an amazing sorceress. If the powers had to pass on to someone, I couldnt think of a better person on this earth to entrust them to. Youll learn, well learn.
Yeah, she laughed in frustration, Is that before or after I accidentally blow up my room trying to control my powers?
Rinoa, I do understand. The powers are connected to your emotions and that is why you are going to be strong. That doesnt mean that you will ever be the most powerful, but when it comes to strength there is so much more than power. Its finding the balance, our balance. That is what makes you strong, remember that. But until we get these things worked out... maybe its best if you dont use your sorceress powers to annihilate large spiders.
Very large fuzzy spiders, she replied tilting her head slightly. But if you remember, I kinda missed.
Well yes, but see wasnt your knight there to help you? I think well figure this knight/sorceress connection out eventually. In fact when we return to Balamb, I think we need to work on controlling your magic a little more, maybe focus on our strengths.
Sounds like a date, she answered before adding, Although, if memory serves me correct, it was actually Irvine that saved Selphie and I from that evil spider.
Lets not dwell on technicalities, he stated with a straight face. The point was that I was in the room, right? I might have been a little upset at first, but I think I ended up laughing.
She sighed raising her arms in mock frustration. See, there is a very bad pattern forming here. Something upsetting happens and look at the response from you! Leaning forward gently placed her lips upon his, as their breath intermingled she whispered, But Im glad you feel like you can laugh around me, its something I never thought I would hear.
Its something I never thought I would do. Along with this... He moved his arm to support her neck, pulling her body forward into a deep kiss. After a few moments he pulled away, knowing it wasnt really proper if they had been caught in that position. Then again, it wasnt exactly proper for her to be sitting on his lap either.
She forced herself to sit upright, running her hand down his chest. Their eyes locked and she smiled absentmindedly, Squall, tell me something youve never told anybody else.
He blinked in confusion. Almost everything that he told her was something nobody else knew. What more could she want? Did she expect him to say he loved her? He suddenly felt his body tense. It wasnt that he didnt feel almost overwhelming emotion at times, but he just wasnt ready. There was so much that he wanted to say, that his heart wanted to scream, but his mind wasnt ready to admit. The thing was it wasnt that he wasnt afraid to say the words out loud to her; it was that he was afraid to hear the words spoken from his own mouth. It was a childish fear, something still residing from the deepest nightmares haunting his mind.
Rinoa reached up running her bandaged hand through her knights hair. Tender fingers spread just enough for silky clumps to fall between her knuckles. The palm of her hand traced its way over his chin and he closed his eyes helpless to the sensation - the soft feel of her skin meeting with the abrasive feel of his unshaven cheeks. She smiled as she closed her own eyes. Her other hand moved down his throat, moving over his Adams apple, and finally blindly reaching for the silver pendent around his neck. With her good hand, she moved down to where the lions head rested at the end of the platinum chain. She grasped it in her hand as if it were her life preserver to reality - a keyhole into the portal of veracity.
She opened her eyes suddenly realizing that he interpreted her statement as something far more. She eased his mind answering his unspoken questioning. Squall... Im not talking about something life changing here. Im sorry, that isnt at all what I meant... I just... dont know. I guess I just want to learn something more about you. Nothing that youre not willing to share at this moment, I know that certain things take time. I would never expect that from you, please believe me.
It was within those simple words he understood what she meant, she didnt expect some huge declaration of love, or lifelong commitment. Somehow, deep down he knew that she would never expect those words forced from him. Maybe that bothered him too, because part of him knew that Rinoa might willingly accept a lifetime without ever hearing them, yet Squall didnt think he could accept a lifetime without saying them. That was an internal weakness that he, himself, would have to overcome.
The disciplinary room offered a little comfort, but even sitting on the concrete bench he felt relaxed. His eyes still closed as he listened to the harmonic sounds of her breathing. The soothing words as she continued, Squall, Im sorry I shouldnt have asked. Its just that you know a few of my embarrassing stories and so much about my life. I just was thinking... I shouldnt have. Im sorry.
A few of your embarrassing stories? He questioned opening one eye and raising an eyebrow at her. You mean there are more?
Well, she chuckled breaking the tension from before. Im sure you will learn a hundred more... Trust me, Zone and Watts are a plethora of useless information. What they dont share, Im sure Caraway will give you the outlined, diagramed medical charts to.
That bad? He laughed quietly as she tightened her grip on his chain.
Worse. Just... never mind, pretend I didnt say anything. He could feel her shift from her position.
Hey wait. I didnt say anything about not answering you, did I? He looked at her knowing she was about ready to leave, to go back into the other room and paint. Truth be told he wanted to stay a little bit longer, maybe it was selfish, but it was the least they deserved in that moment. She smiled in response almost radiantly and somewhere deep down, it amazed him that he could make anybody smile, especially her.
Okay, okay... I think I got something, maybe it shouldnt be embarrassing, but to me, it is. Im telling you only because I think somehow it relates to our pasts. He whispered moving his right arm from around her waist, putting it directly into her line of sight.
Do you see this? He exposed the back of his wrist, motioning with his head to place an emphasis on his point. She fixated on the thin layer of skin between his hand and where his arm began. See that scar?
She nodded looking at it and tracing it gently with her fingernail.
There are two scars... two small ones, she said softly.
Yep. He pulled his arm down, quickly returning it around her body. That would be my infamous Ping Pong paddle and ball scar. Really, I wish I come up with something more creative in what it resembles, but you know me... Mr. Excitement.
Ping Pong scar? she laughed at the name. And how did you get that?
Now see, you want me to tell you something personal... yet you laugh at me. I think a certain sorceress was just complaining about that very thing a few minutes ago. Doesnt exactly want to make me run out and tell you all the secrets I have hidden in the Leonhart closet, now does it? he joked.
Seriously, you are a meanie! she retorted as she tried to calm her laughter.
I know. I have a reputation to maintain and all.
Haha... now please tell me the story, I really do want to know. Rinoa rested her head on his shoulder using it as a makeshift pillow. Their closeness was a comfort, a security, a unity far beyond that known to most teenage couples. She was grateful for that gift alone.
Okay, in all seriousness this was the first scar Seifer ever gave me. No, that isnt exactly right... That was the first scar that I allowed Seifer to give me. We were about ten, I think, already both students at Garden. I dont remember the details much, but I do remember it was a science class. I remember we were outside with magnifying glasses... looking for something in our textbooks. I really cant remember what we were supposed to be studying. Now the last thing we were expected to be doing was burning insects... and well I didnt, I dont think. I remember Seifer had been doing something and laughing about it in some corner of the Quad.
Squall Leonhart, you sound like you were being a typical kid. She bit her lip, hoping that he wouldnt take offense, but she had known boys who had done the same thing at that age.
Yeah... okay, he slightly chuckled at the thought. I guess in that moment we were being typical boys. Its just later we were in the Quad and found some leftover trash from lunch that had been swept into a bush... some type of plastic wrapper. Seifer bet me that I couldnt put it on my hand and let it burn into my skin. I told him I could. So... I did. I know, not one of my greatest moments either. I just couldnt back down from him, even though sometimes I really wanted to walk away. Needless to say... I let him hold a magnifying glass directly to the sun and burn a plastic bag into my skin. I refused to admit that it hurt. I wouldnt cry... I just left afterwards acting as if nothing had happened.
Squall... she said softly, he almost hadnt heard his name as she spoke with raspy breath. But he could feel each and every delicate movement against his body.
It hurt, didnt it?
Yes, it did... It honestly hurt. Somehow saying the admission was so much more than a simple childhood scar. It covered far more than any one instance in a lifetime.
He continued reliving his past, Honestly, it didnt hurt in the beginning. I couldnt feel a thing. It was almost like I was waiting for the pain to get worse, I was getting used to the idea... So when it finally did hurt, I convinced myself that I was strong enough to handle the pain alone. Within seconds it was searing into my skin and before I knew what had happened, I had a scar. It hurt, it always has. I guess Ive been waiting a long time to say that. Longer than I even knew.
You know what is the most amazing?
What? He questioned, not sure what she was going to say. Then again, it was the surprises he was starting to live for - the never knowing, but always wanting to discover.
I want you to know that you didnt have to tell me it hurt, even though I technically did ask... Her voice was hesitant, again knowing this wasnt always about physical scars it was something far greater. I guess what Im saying, badly as always, is some things just might be hard to say. It might take years to admit, it might take a lifetime. But I understand how you felt, Squall, I understand the pain you were in. I know how you feel.
He looked down to his wrist, silently making his hand into a fist. Because it left a scar?
Rinoa shook her head again, smiling tenderly, Because I just know.
What if not saying something leaves a scar? He had jumped from the physical to the metaphysical, even a leap he was surprised he made. Maybe she understood, maybe she didnt... he wasnt sure. He hoped she had, part of him believed that she did, if not maybe half of their journey was in vain he refused to believe that. Because with them it wasnt always what was spoken, but the words and feelings left unsaid. He was scarred, not only in a physical sense, but something far deeper. But he loved her, he knew that. He couldnt say it with ease like a thousand of others probably could have admitted to her, and the world, without a second thought. That still didnt change how he felt, but he wasnt ready to admit it to himself, to afraid of getting hurt of burning yet another scar.
Maybe she did know him well; placing her fingers under his chin she forced him to look her in the eyes. Scars are what you allow them to be, they can define you or they can control you. I wish I could tell what everything would be like in several years... But believe me, right now, in the present tense, you dont have to worry. I promise you that. And he understood, the past was the past and they were the only future. Together they would face that unknown that she feared so much. That life wasnt always what it appeared - faded with scars or not.