Griever Chapter 23
Squall was completely surprised when she took his ungloved hand in hers, and set a kiss in it that filled him with warmth. She smiled at his look of shock.
"What, you can discuss becoming one being with me, but a more mundane version surprises you?" Rinoa teased gently. "I've waited months for you, Squall, but there aren't months to wait any more. If it is not to be the higher-ranking SeeD inviting a lower ranking SeeD to join him, then it will be the Sorceress asking her Knight." She paused, and shook her head. "No...that isn't right. I don't want the Commander of SeeD, the Sorceress' Knight, or even the son of the President of Esthar. I just want Squall Leonhart...if he'll have me?"
Squall stood speechless for a moment, then drew Griever off his finger. He weighed it in his hand for a moment, and put it in his pocket. "I won't have a SeeD," he replied slowly, as though making a vow, "Or the Sorceress, or the daughter of a Galbadian general. But...I will take Rinoa Heartilly, if she offers."
Rinoa smiled, and drew Squall in for a kiss.
You will live to see your Rinoa again. And with any luck, you will kill her.
Squall jerked back, shaken. Rinoa looked at him with sad understanding, and held one hand where he could see it. Slowly, carefully, making sure he could move away if he wanted to, she gently traced a line down his chest with one finger.
I will give you to them, and you will please them in whatever ways I permit. It is a fitting punishment for one who cannot keep his promises, even to one he claims to love.
Squall jerked back away from her, arms moving automatically to cover his chest. Yet a moment later he reached out, as if to seek forgiveness. "I'm...I'm sorry," he said. "It's not you, I swear it's not you..."
Rinoa nodded sadly. "I know, Squall. I saw it, in your mind, when I broke the time-lock. I know what she had done to you."
So it had not been a dream; she had truly been there at the end, she had seen him helpless and weeping, and kept away the nightmares. Squall did not know whether he felt more shame - that she knew - or relief that she had stayed. "Did you hear...her?" he asked, slowly.
"No. I only saw, only felt. I knew she was doing more, but I can't enter your mind the way she can. I can guess, though."
Squall collapsed onto the grimy rooftop as he had when he had been lost in Time Compression, hopelessness pouring out of him in waves. "Everything..." he said slowly, as if to himself. "She took everything...and I didn't even know. I never wanted to touch anyone before now, never wanted them to touch me..."
Rinoa stepped back involuntarily as Squall suddenly threw back his head and laughed, the sound of a man who has suddenly realized just how cruel Life's jokes can be. There was something frightening in that sound of madness, filled with pain and despair, something lost.
How will your beloved Rinoa feel, to know that you have sired uncounted children on women you do not even know, when you will not even touch her without your gloves on? You assume that she would have you now. Will she, do you think, when every woman that bears your child has black hair and brown eyes, just as she does? Will she believe your protests that it was beyond your control, as I parade the mothers of your children before her?
And now he could not bring himself to even touch her with the gloves on, not if it would lead to that. "Rinoa, how can you love me?" he demanded, still staring at the sky with that mad laughter lurking in his face. "Didn't you see what she made me do? What she ... Hyne, I wouldn't touch me if I didn't have to...I've failed you so many times..."
Rinoa sat down near him, heedless of the dirt and grime that had accumulated on the roof over the years, and watched him. She did not try to touch him. She simply watched him, and said, "You never have, Squall. Tell me. I will listen to everything you say, and I will still be here when you've finished. I love you, and I want to be with you. You don't believe me right now, but you will. I promise."
Squall just laughed again, the laughter that comes when you are too far gone to even cry. "I can't," he said helplessly. "There aren't words for it. There shouldn't be words for it." Yet another failure, another simple thing he could not give her.
How would your companions feel, to know that they have followed such a weak man, and placed their lives in his hands?
Rinoa nodded slowly. "No words," she said quietly. "But would you be willing to open your mind to me? Let me see, through our bond?"
Squall shuddered; he couldn't help it. Given time to actually think about what he was doing, the idea of letting anyone walk in his thoughts was terrifying. He didn't even notice his arms wrapping around his head as he bowed it - whether to hide from the world and its pain, or to stop himself from screaming, he couldn't tell. Hyne, the scream was so close, or the laughter...and Rinoa took his silence for her answer.
You see, you must enjoy this, my dear Squall, for you know that once you give in to your screams, you will be released. And even knowing this, your pride will not permit you to surrender until you are forced to.
Yet if he screamed it would not stop. He had functioned. He had walked amid crowds of people and held back the desire to flinch. He had fought Seifer, actually carried the man over his shoulder to the Palace. But even though he wanted to be with Rinoa, the idea of opening himself up, making himself vulnerable ... perhaps he was going crazy, after all. To want her touch and to dread it...yes, he must be going mad. Perhaps he should just give in.
Suddenly he leaped to his feet and unleashed his water strike against the rooftop, attacking all the dirt and grime of the years as though in washing it away he could wash away the wounds in himself. He lost himself in the feel of the water he called, the force of it, the cold he knew would kill him but Hyne, the numbness was such a blessing after the horror...and perhaps if he could somehow communicate the depth of the darkness within him, Rinoa would understand the warning and keep away. His own death he could deal with, but he could not bear the idea of hers, if in the grip of this...break...he hurt her.
Rinoa kept out of his way as he flooded the rooftop, saying nothing, letting her expression reveal nothing as he washed away years of grime from the sheer pressure of the water he called. She knew what Squall was going through, perhaps better than he realized; she had had friends in Deling City who had gotten caught by gangs of boys, and seen that same haunted look in their eyes. Thinking about what they had told her, she thought she might have an answer to his dilemma.
Squall stopped abruptly and fell to his knees on the wet rooftop, head bowed. "I must be going crazy," he said dully.
"No," said Rinoa gently. "You have survived what no one else I know could have. Not without cost, but you have survived it."
"Not for long," he said flatly, still on his knees facing the ground as though he could not bring himself to look at her. "It fills me, the cold...it's not so bad...if I go numb I can't feel their hands, their breath..." It was almost as though he were talking to himself. As though, having surrendered, he was separated from the world around him, standing in a self-made cage of glass.
Rinoa dared to approach him then, to get just within his arms' reach if he chose to reach out. "Then touch me," she said, "and drive it back. I can't reach you if you let the cold take you...but you can reach me."
Slowly she unbuttoned her blue duster, pulled off her shirt. Her mother's wedding band nestled between her bared breasts as it twinkled on its chain in the moonlight. "They took from you, Squall," she said. "I won't take anything from you that you do not freely give me. I love you; that is what love is. Touch me, if you will, and break her hold on you."
Look at yourself, o would-be lion, and know that Rinoa will never love you now.
But she did. He had to believe Rinoa would not lie to him about that. Not about love. No one had ever said such a thing to him before. He pulled the glove from his right hand slowly, trying desperately to fight the fear. He knew there was no reason to fear Rinoa. Alicia, Garden, himself, the whole world he might never touch again...but not Rinoa. Rinoa said she loved him; he had to believe it. With his cold, bared hand revealed to the world, he slowly reached out and gently caressed Rinoa's breast, watching her nipple harden and grow erect as though it were the most marvelous magic trick in the world. She did not flinch or move away, as he had half-thought she might.
And from the point of contact warmth spread throughout his body, her power driving back the Leviathan as it always did. Rinoa waited passively, softly smiling, as his left hand joined his right in gently stroking her breasts, just the fingertips of his hands tracing their outline, fleetingly touching her nipples as they grew erect then moving on.
He touched her, and the nightmares were driven back. Not to oblivion, but far enough not to interfere for the moment. Squall was thinking nothing now, his mind emptied of everything but wonder. The feel of all the hideous horde had been so unlike this tingling magic, and yet its roots were the same. He forced all thought, all memory from his mind as he slowly put his arms around Rinoa, his fingers finding intricate patterns to trace along her back and spine. Her dark brown eyes were nothing like Alicia's as they shone with love and desire, her lips slightly parted. Her breathing quickened as he touched her, though she tried to keep it quiet. Before his thoughts returned to haunt him, Squall bent his head and kissed her.
Even here, she let him be the aggressor, gently caressing his tongue with hers as he kissed her. She tasted sweet, with an indefinable tartness. It sent shivers up his spine that had nothing to do with fear or the Leviathan. Carefully, he pulled her arms around him, hoping she would hold him, would kiss him in return before the nightmares returned. Please let me have this, he prayed, though he knew not who to.
Rinoa's arms encircled him, loosely binding him to her, and she returned his kiss with a gentle passion that drove any thoughts that were not her out of his mind. Heedless of the chill he knew would return, he disengaged from her long enough to remove his jacket, pull off his shirt.
So like and so unlike the time in chains, the shock of body meeting body, as Squall's bare chest met Rinoa's. There was nothing of violation here, only joyous discovery as he pulled Rinoa's hand to his chest, silently asking for her to touch. She did so, tracing spirals around his nipples in a way that brought a gasp from his throat even as he kissed her, trailing cool lips down her neck. None of his captors had elicited this electric tingling with every touch. He trembled before it, but not with fear. It was excitement. His hands roamed over Rinoa's body as his kisses grew deeper, more insistent. They reached her black shorts, gently tugged, silent question, and Rinoa pulled back enough to remove them, taking the rest of her clothes off with it. She was naked in the moonlight now, only her mother's ring around her neck.
Surely, no goddess could be more perfect. Instinctively he reached out, pleading for her nearness but having no words to ask for it.
And she complied. Her arms encircled him - always gently, always leaving room for him to pull away, so that it was always his choice that he be beside her. It was an offer to receive that was in its way a magical giving. He could feel her desire for him within his own body through their bond, and it was not the purely physical desire his captors had forced upon him. It was a desire born of the fact that the man before her was Squall Leonhart. It made him want to give to her, receive from her, but there was still a tightness within him born of fear and the nightmare that lurked in his memory.
In all his time in the chains, he had not kissed. Been kissed, yes, and worse - but he had not kissed. Touched he had been, and worse than touched - but his own hands had been bound in chains, out of reach. Somehow that made touching, kissing, more magical now...that perhaps his lips and tongue and fingers were less tainted than the rest of him, to dare to touch the goddess with him now. He held her breasts in his hands as his lips trailed cool kisses down her neck in the humid September night, hearing her breath catch and feeling the warmth of her desire as he dared set those lips to her erect nipples. Oh, the blessing of the bond, for without that he would never have believed she truly wanted him. Would never have believed she could feel other than pity or contempt for his many failures, that Alicia had been so ruthless in forcing him to face.
He reached out with his fingertips to caress the soft hair between her legs, and felt in himself the shiver of her response. His doubled belts felt tight, constricting...before he could think about it he quickly removed them. Don't think. Don't remember. Just feel. His fingers slipped into the warm wetness of her, gently probing, exploring, and he felt her desire heighten. For a moment or two he lost himself in the waves of her emotion that spilled over him, and then dared to kiss her there. The jolt of her response was like summer lightning.
"Squall..." she whispered, or sighed, her hands losing themselves in his hair. "Squall..."
The way she whispered his name drove him to recklessness. His tongue darted out to taste the sweet wetness of her, wanting to touch her with all that he was, wanting to please this angel who could see the worst things he had been forced to do and yet love him. The soft movements of his tongue against her was too much for her, he felt her legs tremble as she tried to keep them from buckling. Quickly, gently, he pulled her down to the cool, still-damp rooftop, laying her down like a sacrifice, his eyes never leaving her face. Her hands wandered over those parts of him he had bidden her touch, gently squeezing his still-covered buttocks through the ever-tightening leather. But she did not try to touch the hardness of him, not yet, nor tried to remove any of his clothing. Even though she desired him fiercely - and he could feel the pull of that desire - she would take no more than he chose to offer. She would not make him her captive, though she had to fight her desire to touch him in ways she knew would spark painful memories.
He dipped his head again to the junction of her thighs, tasting the sweetness of her and feeling her response wash over him, shivering delight rippling through them both. He trembled slightly - no longer sure whether it was his desire, or hers, or nervousness - and not caring either. He raised his head and kissed his way up her body, every stroke of lip and finger quick and ephemeral, cool touches ghostlike in the evening heat, pulling a moan from Rinoa's lips. Lying beside her, gray eyes locking on brown, he quickly removed his pants and boots, trying to suppress a tiny thrill of fear that said too fast, too fast....
Don't think. Don't remember. Just feel. Rinoa's hands wandered lightly down his back, trailing patterns of fire on his Leviathan-cool skin, gently squeezing his buttocks, and his arms wrapped around her as he pulled her close, kissing deeply, desperately, as a drowning man might reach for a lifesaver, fear and excitement and irresistible desire pulling him under. The shock of her warm wetness against his erection pulled a moan from his throat. Instinctively he moved against her, stroking her and feeling her body slide along his, the increasing shortness of her breath telling him how it pleased her. For a blissful few moments they moved together, wrapping more tightly, moving more quickly, breaking a kiss only to come up for air.
He hadn't meant to enter her, but they were moving more and more quickly against each other, holding each other tightly as their kisses grew deeper, more insistent. All at once he felt himself slide into her, sheathed in tight wet heat, and she gasped.
So did he, as the nightmares he'd been holding back suddenly exploded into his mind. He cried out roughly as the memories of the women who had clung to him, the men who had forced themselves on him, all at once took over his being. And yet he could not stop; he was as helpless now as he had been then. The sheer power of his need for Rinoa left him unable to do anything but continue, the feel of her body wrapped around his just like then, Alicia goading his body to orgasm so that there would be one more failure to lay at his feet... The magic fled; it felt like rape...and whether it was he or Rinoa on the receiving end, it was so wrong as to be maddening.
I am here, Squall my love, came Rinoa's voice into the deepening horror. You are not alone; feel my love.
It was not conscious; he did not reach out with any knowledge that she could help. He reached out because there was no other option but to reach out, if he did not want to scream, if he did not want to be dragged yet again into that nightmare that was the break in his mind. Still within her body, arms and legs wrapped around each other, he reached out, his whole being crying out that he could not, could not, survive alone. The cry he had not made in Time Compression, that had almost cost him his life, he made now when more than merely life was at stake. And into that moment of opening, Rinoa poured love, and need, and friendship, and desire pure as the heart of the sun. Rinoa's love wrapped around him like a shield, driving off the nightmare he had survived but not denying it. She knew now everything Alicia had done to him, even the thoughts she had dropped into his mind, and she refused it with serenity and peace. She did not blame him for what had happened, she respected him for holding on as long as he had, for facing it again to be with her. In the wash of that love and acceptance the magic returned, and when he kissed her his lips spoke of joy. Open to her, he gave her all that he had, all that he felt, and wished for yet more to give.
They moved together, thrusting each into the other, the heat in their bodies rising even as the bond between them deepened and broadened from that point of opening. Squall felt his own desire, and he felt hers - his own love, and hers, even as she felt his. In the moment of their release, just for that moment, there was no Squall and Rinoa. There was only one being whose entire essence was joy.
Slowly, the world came back. Squall blinked and slowly withdrew from her, feeling drained and yet at peace. The nightmare was not gone forever; that would take time. But for now it was powerless. To have Rinoa in his mind was nothing like Alicia's malicious presence. He could feel her happiness, her contentment, her peace, and it sparked those emotions in his own self. And he knew that she could tell just how much he loved her, how much he needed her, though he might never find the words to say it.
Some things are beyond words, came Rinoa's voice in his thoughts as she gently pulled him in for another kiss, and Squall silently agreed.
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