A/N: Ok, so this is the final chapter! Whew, kinda took forever to get here… this chapter has been stuck in my head for months. I had many endings, and I rewrote the end again and again. Finally, I've decided, this is how the story ends. Many thanks to everyone who read and reviewed, and a Special thanks to my friend Stardust Ray.
Chapter Sixteen. The End and a New Beginning.
Whoever it was that had said "crime doesn't pay", probably in a very self-righteous voice, had clearly never tried it. That, or they were trying to throw you off the sent. The truth was, crime did pay, and it paid pretty well.
Of course, you needed to be brave enough to try it. Stepping out of the ordinary world, where people lived according to rules created by far richer, and greedier people than them, was daunting. It was easy to obey the law, working hard for little reward. But if you decided to go your own way, then you had to be smart.
Squall had taught me that planning your operation down to the tiniest detail, didn't make you an obsessive, it made you clever. He said that "acting on impulse was what got people caught, make a mistake and it was game over." But then, he was always cool, calm, and confident… unlikely that it was an effort for him.
I came to see that you could hustle whatever you wanted these days, if you had the nerve. You could even manage to take without anyone getting hurt. At least no one who would miss the money anyway. Insurance companies picked up the pieces and quelled the damage, sweeping everything under the carpet.
Ok, so maybe their premiums went up, but you had to make a living somehow, and Squall and his friends weren't fussy.
Rinoa submerged herself underwater once more. The sun glittered upon the surface, golden on top of the blue, and the ripples spread out further and further from where Rinoa had disappeared.
They didn't live here, they didn't live anywhere in particular, they spent their time checking into hotels and living as if they were on permanent holiday. Champagne for breakfast, and whatever they wished for dinner, no rules.
Life with Squall was easy. He didn't mind where they stayed, or how Rinoa spent money on frivolous things, like room upgrades, and pink towels in the bathroom rather than the hotel standard white. It didn't matter; the money kept on coming in, and being in control of her own spending made Rinoa happy.
If she wanted a red sports car, then she bought one, and if the following week she wanted a blue one, she just traded it back in. It was freedom like she had never experienced, and it would take a long time before she would even think about being bored.
Rinoa and Squall's relationship was as confusing from the outside as it was in. Some days she loved him, some only as a friend, and other days a confusing questioning of 'would it ever have worked out between them?' arose. She told him often of her love for him, but he never repeated it back to her.
Somehow, Rinoa could never imagine Squall being in love with her.
The rule of the story, if you wanted it, you could take it… just use your smarts.
"Who was I kidding? All of that written there…yeah, that's all lies. I made that up to feel better about myself. I don't live with Squall in a fancy hotel; I don't live with Squall full stop. I just pretend that I do. When the going gets rough, I close my eyes, and that's where I always end up. It's my what if. I think that I love him…"
Squall and Rinoa didn't get far during their bid for freedom, as it had taken her father only a week to track her down. With the help of the recently promoted Seifer Almasy, they had found her on a CCTV video from a health food shop; after Rinoa's father made it known that Rinoa was fond of a particular, and unusual dried berry. It seemed unreal to Rinoa that her favourite source of vitamin C would be her downfall.
Her father had confronted her in the busy market street in front of her rented lodgings one morning, and Rinoa knew that she wouldn't be able to run this time. Fearing that by resisting her father she would lead the authorities to Squall, she had surrendered.
Squall had returned to an empty house, with bad news he was unwilling to share, only to find there was no one there to share it with. A letter on the kitchen table told him that Rinoa was gone, and that if he were wise he wouldn't go looking for her. She hadn't signed it, but it was definitely her handwriting.
He saw her the following day on TV, standing beside her father as he was being interviewed about some new army decisions. She was taking notes, and it looked as though her father had created a job of secretary for her, so that she'd always been under his watchful eye.
Not only had he lost Rinoa, his motivation for a new life, a new start, and a chance that he wouldn't ever have to be alone again, but Cid had screwed him over. It was supposed to be his retirement from crime, a line drawn under his past, but it was now denied him, by the very man who had created him.
Perhaps foolishly he had allowed himself to trust the man, but years of turning to this father figure in times of hardship, for much needed advice, had led him to believe that they respected one another. It had been a hard truth to learn that Cid only thought of him as a cash register.
He wasn't the only one in trouble. The rest of his gang were teetering on the edge of ruin. He had promised them all that he would take care of them, and it was their belief in him that had kept them all together. Now, scattered to the wind, his friends would be wondering what was to become of them, with no one to depend upon.
Squall supposed that it was some kind of poetic justice. A life of crime should never be rewarded after all. That was all well and good, but poetic justice didn't feed you, or provide shelter, nor did it give you means to look after someone else.
Squall never went after Rinoa. He didn't want her mixed up in his underworld of crime. The last raid was supposed to allow him to provide for her, the way she deserved. But how could he offer her his life now? Perpetual scraping of the barrel, occasionally sleeping rough, and always just a few steps from the grabbing hands of the law. Without his friends he was a small-time thief, getting nowhere, heading for jail.
Rinoa waited, every day hoping for news of Squall. She had made herself accessible. He would have seen her on TV, always in camera shot with her father. He could find her if he was looking. And yet she still waited, everyday a disappointment. She waited until the rational half of her brain told her that he wasn't going to save her again.
Realising that she was on her own, Rinoa had to face up to the fact that if she wanted her life to change, she had to be the one to make the break.
Two Years Later.
Fisherman's Horizon was a quiet place, filled with people looking for a safe haven from the fast pace of the rest of the world. It seemed to be made up from scraps of other things, welded and joined together with expert care and attention. It was often said, that if you needed something fixing, there would be someone in FH able to sort it.
She was here because of the low prices on room rental. After proving to her father that she wasn't likely to disappear again, she had gained a sort of freedom, of being allowed to do most of her work from her home PC. But her job didn't pay enough to be able to afford rent in Galbadia, and so if she wanted to move out of her father's house, without the trappings of marriage to someone 'respectable', she needed to look further a-field.
The woman that showed her around the second floor flat warned her that there wasn't much to do there in the town, for young people. Rinoa just nodded. You couldn't have it all, the prices were low for a reason.
"I was looking for something a little bigger," Rinoa confessed, knowing full well that she was lucky even to see this flat; for the amount of money she was willing to spend.
"I've got something up by the mechanics yard," the woman said consulting the papers on the clipboard she was carrying. "It's a one bedroom house, but higher rent… and it does get a tad noisy during the day…"
Rinoa wondered why she was telling her that, unless it was really noisy and she needed to warn her, or if she was just desperate to get rid of the flat she was already showing.
"Oh…" Rinoa said disappointed.
"I don't have anything else on my books. Not in this price-range, sorry. I could give you a call if something becomes available?"
Rinoa bit her lip. If she waited for something perfect, she might be waiting forever, and that meant wasting her life away in her father's house. At least here she could pretend to be living. Her dreams had probably got the better of her anyway in this flat hunting search; it wasn't as if she'd be having millions of people to stay. It would be just her, and perhaps the dog she had been thinking about getting.
"No, I'm going to take it. Heck, you only live once right?" Rinoa said looking over the place with fresh enthusiasm.
With a few pictures on the wall, it'd soon brighten up.
"Excellent! Ok, shall we go through the contract?"
Rinoa stayed in the nearby hotel until her contract with the landlord was sorted. From the open window she could hear people working in the mechanics yard down below. The woman who had shown her the flat hadn't been lying about the noise, not only was there a lot of light-hearted banter, but many different radio stations playing out of the different garages. Depending on which way the wind blew, Rinoa heard different stations being carried her way on the air.
Going out to explore the town, Rinoa decided to start with the mechanic yard. There looked like there was some kind of shop at the end of a jetty, sticking out over the water, so she decided to make that her eventual destination.
Passing by many people working, Rinoa suddenly found her way blocked by what she thought was youngish boy, dressed in oil stained overalls and a baseball cap, inspecting something leaning against the wall. When she excused herself to step around him, she realised it wasn't a boy. The bright green eyes in the girl's face filled with recognition. It was Selphie.
It had taken Squall a year to get back on his feet. His mind had been plagued by revenge on Cid, and when he had had enough of Cid's constant promises of help, but nothing ever happening, he had shopped Cid to the police. Honour amongst thieves be damned, the man had it coming. In return he had ended up on some kind of witness protection list, as Cid knew some pretty violent people.
Selphie had appeared again in his life after his move to FH. She was working as a mechanic, having always been good with cars. It had been an obvious choice to work along side Selphie, and a year later the owner had retired, leaving them to run the shop.
Squall learned from Selphie, who it appeared had gone against his orders of not keeping contact, that he hadn't failed his friends after all. Backup plans of fake ID's, and references had allowed them to access the legitimate world.
Selphie had told him all about Zell and Irvine, who now worked as holiday reps, which equated to one long party and bikini clad girls on the beach, and that Quistis was using her computer skills devolving new programs for a small company hoping to soon hit it big. It seemed the only one who had had problems adjusting to a new way of life had been him. In return Squall had told Selphie all about Rinoa.
Rinoa stood frozen, her heart hammering. If Selphie was here, could she know how to find Squall? Or had they all lost track of one another like was planned? She couldn't make herself ask the question, too frightened of what the answer might be. Suddenly Selphie turned towards the garage and yelled.
Rinoa looked alarmed as a shadow fell across the wall, before Squall walked out of the darkness of the garage. He was wearing the same kind of hat that Selphie was wearing, but removed it out of respect when he saw his visitor. He stood as frozen as Rinoa, unsure whether or not he was dreaming.
How could it be that they should find each other again in this backwater place? He had given her up for lost. His heart told him that this was what had been stopping him becoming attached to a new life. It was because he wasn't supposed to. He was always meant to drift here, to this place existing in nowhere, to meet her on this ordinary day.
Together they shared the same comforting thought. No matter what had happened before, they had always been destined to meet one another.