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The Stars Will Cry

By Luna Manar

            It was surprising that he hadn’t kept his door locked at night, and she wondered vaguely if he had done so before he had met her. She cringed a little as the automatic doors slid shut behind her, with a quiet buzzing noise that seemed ten times louder in the dark silence as it did in the calm of day.

            He slept on his side, his back facing her, covered up to his shoulders in the sheets. She noted with some interest that he was wearing the Garden-provided sleepwear. She wondered why it seemed so strange to her. What else was he to sleep in? His coat and armament? He had before, but that was when everything had still been happening, when he had to be on his toes every second, even in slumber.

            The idea almost made her laugh, but she kept silent so as not to wake him. She stepped quietly as she could to the side of his bed, standing over him, watching him. She watched him breathe, slowly, in and out, a steady constant. She blinked eyes that had suddenly become misty. The song she’d heard so many times came to her slowly again, softly as she mouthed the words to herself.

            I kind of liked it your way…

            She found herself speaking, so softly she could hardly hear herself, but sure. “…you shyly placed your Eyes on Me…” She dropped down to a crouch, leaning on the bed, folding her arms on the edge and resting her chin in the cradle they made. She stared at him, singing softly to herself, not certain and not really caring whether or not she hit the right notes. “But did you ever know…” Her vision misted over once more. She tilted her head to one side, her head sinking into her folded arms. “That I had mine on you…” She swallowed hard, keeping her eyes on him, watching him breathe. But whenever she closed her eyes… Why was this happening? Only a moment ago, she’d been so excited about this—coming to see him—it was an adventure; she wasn’t supposed to be out after curfew, sneaking around in the dorms. It had been exciting in a mischievous sort of way. Now that she was here, now that the “danger” thrill was gone, every muscle inside her had suddenly pulled itself into a knot.

            Her voice must have awakened him. He stirred, sighing lightly as he came to, and he turned just enough to look over his shoulder. His breath caught up short when he saw her.

            She would have expected his surprise. She’d never actually just come into his room like this, and certainly not in the dead of night. Yet she couldn’t help her aching memory, and the words just kept coming, a little louder, that she knew he was awake and listening. “So let me come to you…close as I…want to be…” Her voice caught and a tear spilled over, and she bowed her head, as if to hide it from him.

            He had turned around, was watching her silently, curiously. His face held no expression. If he felt any concern for her, it was impossible to tell.

            She looked up at him again and reached out, lightly took hold of his hand. “Close enough for me…” She was crying now, there was no question, but the tears made no sound other than to trip her in her song. “To feel your heart, beating fast…” He didn’t understand her tears and she knew it, but she couldn’t speak rightly just now. She could only release the music that encompassed her mind. Trapped in the melody, she could hear nothing else.

“And stay there as I whisper…how I loved your peaceful Eyes on Me…But did you ever know, that I had mine…on you.” Crawling up onto the edge of the bed, a frightened Rinoa curled into a ball beside him as he sat up. Strong, if uncertain arms embraced her. Silent water creased her cheeks. She had no idea how to explain them to him, knowing only that he was her sole comfort and shelter from this ungainly fear. She held him closer, buried her face in his chest, needing to know he was there, could hear her and see her.

            She spoke finally, quietly, her voice unsteady and segmented. “I…I’m sorry, Squall…I c…I couldn’t sleep…and I just wanted to see you…” It came to her that this was really the only reason she’d crept out into the dark to begin with.

            He made no comment, answered her by softly running his hand down the length of her hair once.

            “I just…the past few nights, I keep dreaming…I keep seeing you, on…” She swallowed, forcing her voice to steady, a little embarrassed to be so awkward. “…In that wasteland, on the ground, just…gone. And I just keep thinking about how alone you were, how scared or sad you must have been…and I get scared sometimes that the dream is real, and you really are…”

            He hushed her quietly, repeating his former gesture. “It was only a few weeks ago. Not surprising you’re having nightmares.” A tainted silence followed, and in a moment he seemed to realize his words had been less than helpful. Fumbling for a proper reassurance, Squall held her closer, if only to show that he was trying. “You don’t have to be scared, I’m right here. I’m…” He shrugged gently.”…not going anywhere.”

            “But I need to,” she returned quietly behind tears. “I need to be scared, just for a while…” Speaking only enticed more tears. “I need you to know why.”

            He was silent again, briefly. “Okay…tell me,” he answered softly.

            “It must have been so horrible,” her words were breathless, but she might as well have shouted them, “All alone and lost in that place…I…I don’t even know what happened to you, I just know it was awful…even if you’re okay now. When I found you, I thought…I thought at first you were just asleep. Then I saw you weren’t breathing…and I thought you’d gone alone and afraid. You’d probably wondered where I was, and why I hadn’t come and found you. Or why you couldn’t find me. …I don’t ever want you to feel alone.”

            His fingers slid through her hair softly, and he listened, watching her. He didn’t know what to say, so said nothing. Just listened.

            “I didn’t know it, at, at all, first. But I’d felt it, even before that, when…when you fell from Edea’s float…when I left for Sorceress’s Memorial… When I found you in that barren place, I was so afraid, and almost sure the…lion’s heart would never beat again. I wanted to tell you how I’d miss you, how I’d always be there for you anyway, no matter what…but I knew you couldn’t hear me, and I wondered if you thought I’d betrayed you—“

            “No,” he said quietly, abruptly. “Rinoa…I didn’t blame you…I never doubted for a second that you’d be there if you could…”

            “But were you scared?” She looked up at him suddenly, pressing the flat of her palm against his chest. He had to resist an impulse to relent to the pressure, steadied himself and focused on Rinoa’s voice. “Were you sad? Were you lonely?”

            Squall couldn’t find words to answer her for a long while.

            “What did you feel, Squall? What was it like?” She seemed almost as though searching for her fears to be confirmed.

            “…I was scared,” he spoke finally, quietly in that solemn tone he used when he was making himself speak painful words. He didn’t know what she wanted him to do, didn’t know how he should answer. He supposed the truth was a place to start. “Scared…of leaving and never seeing you again. I didn’t want you to think… I’d…I don’t know. That I’d forgotten my promise. I wasn’t where I said I would be.” He stopped. He couldn’t say anything else. She knew the rest already and there wasn’t a point in voicing it.

            “But you were. You were there…I feel…I just keep thinking what it would have meant if you’d never come back.”

            “You shouldn’t.” His voice was gentle. “I’m here and I’m not leaving. I’m alive. I plan on staying that way.” He very lightly brushed his lips against her forehead, where his scar might have been.

            “Another boy your age might say the same thing to soothe a worried mother.” She was not scolding in her tone, but sorrowful, closing her eyes as another tear escaped them.

            “Another ‘boy my age’ might have given himself up as forgotten… I didn’t do that. I couldn’t, not after everything we’ve been through.” He scowled. “What’s happened? A few hours ago you were as happy as I’d ever seen you.”

            “Nothing…nothing’s really wrong.

            “That’s not what I asked.” He might have kept that thought to himself, but spoke it freely with her. “Something made you think about it…” He cracked a smile for a brief moment. “I do the same thing to myself all the time. I should know when I see other people do it. You get to thinking on something, and if you don’t say anything about it, it gets worse until something like this happens.”

            “I’ve been hanging around you too much,” she kidded gently. “But, sometimes…sometimes you just need to be allowed to be scared. Does that make any sense at all?”

            “…Yeah. I think it does.”

            “Squall, I was scared…I was really, really scared…” She failed to bite back more tears and shivered in his grasp, clutching his shirt and shaking him a little. “I still am. I don’t know why. Squall, I’ve been alone in that guest room every night for two weeks, and I don’t have anything to chase all of it away. I can’t stand it…” Again she hid her face in his shirt, unable to look at him. The cotton cloth was soft against her face as it caught her tears and warm with his mild heat. “I knew you were close by…”

            “Rinoa…”

            “I don’t really want anything. I just wanted to be here with you—“

            “You can be.” His quiet interruption stilled her, she shivered. “Look at me.”

            She tilted her head a little to see him through clouded eyes. Even in the darkness she could make out his serious expression, honest and straightforward. The glint in his eyes showed his own fear, though only she would know it to look at him.

            “I didn’t just say things when I told you I’d be waiting,” he said softly and his words matched his expression. “If you ever need me…call for me.” He smiled, a rare, small smile. “Just come looking for me. You’ll find me. One way or another…we’ll find each other. We always did…even when we weren’t looking.”

            She shook her head emphatically and clung to his shirt with one unsteady hand. “I don’t ever want to find you like that again.”

            It was only a brief moment in which neither said anything, then she was gathered into his arms completely and without any more reservation, held tightly and safely. “You won’t,” was the whisper. I’ll never be alone…never… And neither will you. I know it. I won’t let that happen. Nothing can take this from me. “You won’t…” Closing his eyes, he sighed quietly. He understood what she needed. She was right, he knew; all she needed was to be scared, and let it be. She didn’t want his reassurance, she wanted the comfort only he could give.

She needed him, not his words.

            He might have seen her tears as weakness, or her words cliché and meaningless—not so long ago, he’d scorned scenes like this—but not now. To be that scared, to love that much…he knew what it was like.

He let her lean on him, watched her silently as she cried, supporting her gently with his arm and resting his other hand on hers. Her hand was cold. Her cheek rested at the base of his neck, one hand clinging lightly to his right shoulder. It was so strange, thinking about it, how he allowed it so readily. A month ago I would have pushed away… Now, he lay against the wall, bowing his head a little to look at her. Her tears were warm on his skin, her black hair glinting like hundreds of soft razor edges in the sympathetic light that filtered through the windows. Yeah, I was scared…hell, I was terrified.. A heartsick pain rose briefly in his chest, but he forced it down; now wasn’t the time to bend to his own pain. But I think… I knew. Did I? He set the question aside for the moment, letting his hand stray from hers and to her face, touching her cheek lightly. “Do you cry for me…” His words were a statement, not a question. She answered anyway.

            “How could I do anything else? I thought we’d lost us. It all happened so…I…didn’t have time to feel anything at all. We had something, and then it just…got taken away.”

            That’s how it is sometimes, he caught himself thinking. But you didn’t grow up like that. You were never taught that way. Yet even Squall had cried for her, a single tear…was that the only one he’d shed in his life? No, he answered his own question. But before, he’d shed only tears of blood. “You can feel however you want,” He felt lame saying it, but he had nothing else in mind. “Even if it’s fear.”

            “But I can’t stay here,” she argued suddenly. “I shouldn’t even be here now…it’s after curfew and I can’t be caught with you here—“

            “You won’t,” he interrupted her, unintended sharpness in his voice. He realized he’d startled her, softened his tone. “No one comes in here but me, if they can avoid it. Besides, Cid knows me better than that, and with everything that’s happened…I doubt he’d care, even if…” He stopped a moment. He decided not to finish. When she gave no reply, he lowered his tone further, said simply, “You can stay here if you want.”

            She held onto him a little more tightly. “Can I be scared?”

            “You can be scared. I’ll stay with you. Hold onto me if you need to.

            Shivering a little, she held on, fresh tears falling where the others had dried. She clung to him as though she thought he might yet leave. The image stilled like this for minutes—hours?—until her tears dried again, and the silence around her was broken only by the sound of his breath, his heart. Lulled into a kind of exhausted daze, her mind began to wander, her eyes closed. She spoke haltingly in a sleepless dream. “I’m sorry…I’m so sorry, I didn’t get…’here’…fast enough…”

            It took him a moment to realize she was back in the past, telling him what she had meant to in that lost moment. What she had wanted him to hear, to know. He closed his own eyes, stared out into a mental darkness and envisioned the dead, endless rock, the void that lay beyond, the angel cradling the dying lion in her arms and speaking these things to him. “I know,” he whispered back this time, his lips yet unmoving. “I’m sorry I wasn’t where I said I would be.

            “But you were,” she insisted. “You were, you…just couldn’t see it. And neither could I, and now it’s—”

            Never too late. Never back down to fear…don’t you ever give up.”

            “Then…Squall, open your eyes… Please don’t die. You can’t, not now…not now…not when we all tried so hard. Not even Ultimecia can separate friends, you proved it. You brought me back to life. Now come back. This isn’t fair. Squall, can’t you remember…? Call my name…”

            “Rinoa…” He was back with her in his room, staring at her softly, holding her trembling form. “You’re not alone…I’m not alone. I did… I did come back.”

            He let her cower deeper into his arms, let her curl into a ball beside him and clutch him so tightly it might have hurt if he had minded. Rinoa breathed quiet, choking cries out from a long contained heart, crying for him, for the pain she’d felt for only a short while but never released. After a few minutes she rested, quieting, shedding her tears silently. She could hear his heart; a soft, ever-suffering pulse within him that could only be the soul she so cherished and mourned.  “You came back…”

            He smiled, genuine and sure. “’How could I do anything else?’”

            She sighed, quietly, shakily. “Squall…what if…what if some day one of us…or if it doesn’t work…and the other is left alone? What then? Your job is dangerous, you might…anything could happen.”

            He was silent for a long time, and she immediately regretted asking him. How could he answer a question like that? But he did answer, so suddenly and softly it startled her.

            “I can’t tell you how I know this,” he murmured, staring off into the darkness. “Maybe it was…something I thought of when I was lost…but I know.” He looked back down at her, his expression both strong and sorrowful. “Rinoa, when I die, I’ll die with you.” He gently brushed aside a black hair that had fallen in her face. “Sounds sappy as hell…and I don’t know how it’s true. I can’t prove it. But if you leave one day, my heart goes with you. If I ever leave you…” His eyes drooped a little as though weary. “Then I will have died already.” His jaw twitched in the shadow. “This isn’t something I walked into, thinking I could get out of it any time I wanted. This is a one-way ticket…and for what it’s worth, I’m here for the ride, all the way to the end.” Yet even through this comforting vow, he seemed just a little sad.

            She couldn’t help the smile that broke through her tears, though she still cried softly. “You’re crazy, and a stubborn…” She didn’t finish. He was smiling, too. But hers faded, and she actually took her eyes from him, staring, inadvertently, at the talisman he always wore, lion, cross and sword edge resting in a silent cry over his heart. She didn’t mean for him to answer, and he didn’t, only leaned back against the wall when she looked up and took her gentle kiss, sparing only a moment of silence and eternity before he had to breathe again.

He blinked once, slowly. “Are you cold?”

She leaned against him, closing her eyes. “Maybe a little…” So the common excuse completed itself, if for a reason that was a rarity.

He wasted no time in shifting the covers around to pull them over her, carefully settling down onto his back again and letting her stay beside him. “You alright?” he asked in a whisper after a moment, still watching her with concern.

She nodded, answering in kind. “Yes…Squall?”

“Yeah?” He was staring at the ceiling, his arms folded behind his head.

She continued timidly. “Can…can I hold onto you?”

This made him look at her, and his eyes seemed to focus on her, as though considering. But he nodded slightly. “If you want to.” Inwardly he almost laughed. Not like I had a problem with it two minutes ago.

She edged closer to him, oblivious to his good-natured amusement, and lightly rested a hand on his chest. “I just need to know. I need to feel that you’re here.” I need to know that I’m alive!

He closed his eyes briefly, taking in both her words and her touch. When he opened them, they glinted with a firm resolution. He shifted a little, to get closer to her so he could guide her to lay her ear to his heart, breathing deeply, letting her hear and feel his breath as well.  “Listen,” he whispered, eyes shut to the darkness. You can hear me live.

She didn’t need to hear his thoughts to understand them, and finally managed to begin releasing her death grip on the fear that had plagued her for nights in the past. She was safe, and would be always as long as he was there. She couldn’t help it anymore. She had to tell him, though he’d heard it before, “Squall, I love you so much…”

“…I know.” There were no longer tears of fear and hurt. “No matter what happens, I won’t let you be alone. I’m here. Rinoa, don’t forget that.”

She held onto him, wept silently in relief and the promise of a life still waiting, and for all the trials of living yet to come.

Stars turned in the sky above, and the eyes of their Guardians also shimmered with tears.


Luna Manar's Fanfiction
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