In Secret

By diddly day

Note to the reader: I'd like to thank you for peeking into this story, even if some of you are skipping from chapter one to nine (thank goodness for "hits" eh?). But hey, I've done it too. I'm just glad this story isn't being ignored.

Also, I'm really surprised to see that some of you think this story is depressing. I mean, if you want depressing, read my other story "Darkest Hour." That's depressing. Even I have a hard time writing that story.

As one of my favorite sayings go: "Comedy is a dead art form. But tragedy. . .haha, now that's funny."

Chapter Nine:

Oh no.

Selphie ran her petite hands over her slim face. This couldn't be happening. Not now. Not ever. The sweat on her palms streaked her face as she rested them flat on the table where she and her comrades sat. A warm flash erupted at the base of her neck, then turning cold as the air hit her moist skin. She closed her eyes and prayed that no one had overheard. Luckily, Zell and Xu didn't seem to notice.

Yes, Selphie was the wise, all knowing, ear-pressed-against-the-Garden-wall kind of girl. Wherever the tiniest bit of exciting talk had squeezed its way into a small shadow, she was one of the first to know. It wasn't that she pulled people aside to pry into their personal lives. She simply kept her eyes wide and her ears open. It couldn't be helped to have her working and suddenly pick up on someone else's conversation, her ears growing larger at every inciting word. But for the first time since she could remember, Selphie wished to be left out of the gossip-loop.

Because knowing this made her life that much harder.

"Rinoa," she began, "this is the worst possible time."

Rinoa didn't respond, and merely cloaked her face with her hands. Selphie eyed her, knowing full well that her own features expressed stone-cold seriousness.

Why? Why did she have to tell me this now?

"Well, I don't know what to do!" Rinoa hushed curtly. She suddenly eyed Selphie warily, as though she had x-ray vision. "Why are you so upset about this? I thought you, of all people, would wet your pants at an opportunity to hear about the latest piece of gossip."

"This is different!" Selphie whispered back in the same snippy manner as Rinoa. "We're not talking about who got caught doing drugs in the bathroom, or who's likes who, or — "

Rinoa scoffed.

"Well, it kinda is!" she said this so loudly, that three students jumped in alarm. "What I mean is," she began, lowering her voice considerably, "is that I'm sure I made a terrible mistake. I need help Selphie. Or at the very least someone to talk to."

Selphie shook her head and folded her arms. She was sick of it. Sick of having to keep everyone else's secrets. . .Well, okay, not really. But this was just one too many! And with as many secrets she had stored up inside her head, they were sure to get mixed in together. If she wasn't careful, she was sure to let the wrong secret slip to the wrong person. After all, her brain was only so big.

"Rinoa, sometimes it's nice not to know everything."

"I guess ignorance really is bliss, huh?" at this, Rinoa actually smiled despite herself. Selphie nodded slowly.

"Whoever said that was very wise," tipping forward in her chair, she laced her fingers together. "Listen," she began, "you can't tell him this — stop looking at me like that — you can't tell him, because if you do, it's just one more thing that Squall has to worry about. . . ."

"Worry about what?" Rinoa stretched her arms out dramatically. "The guy sleeps in late. Look, he isn't even up yet! Everyone gets to run around and do whatever he says. He's treated like a prince for Heaven's sake! I'm sorry, but Squall has a pretty easy job."

"That's not true, and you know it," Selphie was growing tired of this conversation, but it was too late. She couldn't escape.

"Of all the people who know him, you'd be the first person who'd know just how stressed out he is. He puts his life on the line everyday, he is constantly arguing with Cid on a regular basis about who-knows-what. Not to mention the punk-ass rookies who give him attitude every chance they get. And in case you haven't heard, his best soldier doesn't even remember who she is. Yes, Squall's has much on his mind right now. He's got a lot to care about. Including Quistis."

Rinoa, for the first time that day, looked extremely agitated. Her eyes boiled wildly, and her nostrils flared intensely. Selphie was sure that snakes were to spring from her hair any moment. Then, she simply folded her arms across her chest and glanced away, but not without rolling her eyes.

"Squall doesn't care about Quistis," she muttered softly. Selphie stared at her in shock.

"That doesn't sound like you," she stated quietly. Rinoa gazed down, her face turning scarlet. "What's going on? You're acting like some jumped-up preteen. And you know that Squall cares about Quistis — he may not show it," she added hastily upon seeing Rinoa raise her eyebrows at her, "but he does, as much as anyone else. I know you didn't mean that."

Silence, then. . .

"All right," Rinoa declared dropping her arms to her sides. Her face softening considerably. "I didn't. I'm just so miserable over this," she resumed to hold her head in her hands. The table propping her elbows up.

As Selphie watched her friend, a sudden flare of pity exploded inside her chest. She really was unhappy. And she was worrying herself sick over this as well. When Selphie spoke again, her tone was much less critical, and much less harsh.

"You need to hold this off for a while," she whispered. "You can't go rushing to him and express how you feel. There are things going on in his life that we don't know about. It could just make everything more complicated than it has to be.

"And what about Seifer? He loves you. Let's say that Squall does takes you back, but then you regret it and want to go back to Seifer. You can't just keep running back and forth between these two men. A day's going to come when they won't want you anymore. People can only take so much hurt. And then you'll be alone."

Squall doesn't want you anyway. He wants her. . . .

"Promise you'll keep this secret for a while," Rinoa asked.

Great, Selphie thought, another one.

"I don't see how I couldn't," Selphie said noticeably peeved.

Rinoa didn't say anything for a long while after this. She merely sat there, her head down. All the strands of hair blocking her pretty face. When she finally did look up, her eyes were red and her makeup was smeared.

"I hate this," she sighed. "I feel like some harlot! But I don't want to end up regretting who I choose for the rest of my life. There must be something wrong with me."

"No," Selphie smiled as she patted Rinoa's hand, "you're just a girl."

I I I

"Wake up!"

The blows that whoever was firing on his door made his head feel as though it would split in two. Squall groaned and rolled over on his bed. . . .

"Shit – " he whispered as he crash onto the floor. Tiny lights flashed behind his eyes, and his brain seemed to rattle inside in skull like a blender.

"Hey, Squall! You up yet?" Zell shouted through the door. "Cid wants to see you. It sounds urgent."

And he was still pounding on his door. Squall wanted to scream at him. To tell him to leave him alone. He opened his mouth to do so, but his tongue didn't connect with his brain. It suddenly became very hard to articulate his thoughts.

"Uhhhh," he moaned.

Zell's hammering stopped.

"Hey, are you okay Squall?"

Squall heard the swing of the door shuddering over his carpet. There was no where to hide. He positively didn't have the strength. He simply lay there on the floor, feeling incredibly unprotected. The sound of Zell breathing stopped. It seemed for eternity that he just stood there, hovering over him. Finally, after some moments, he felt Zell's foot jab his ankle.

"What?" Squall muttered weakly.

"Good, you're still alive," Zell sighed as he walked over him to the window.

Pulling back on the blinds, light streaked quickly across Squall's face. Shutting his eyes quickly to avoid the terrible pain that was already shooting to his brain, he pressed his palm to his eyes, which felt as though knives were slowly twisting into his irises. The terrible pang made him shudder. He was never going to drink again for as long he lived.

"Shut those damn blinds, Zell." His mind seemed to be working again. And at last, his tongue could keep up with it.

"What the hell happened to you?" Zell questioned, pretending not to hear Squall's request. Squall, however, felt he didn't have enough strength to explain. He body felt feverish, and his stomach was quaking terribly inside his body.

"Nothing," he stated simply.

"Well, sunshine always helps me when I feel down. Just let yourself soak in it. Look! It's not raining anymore! That's got to make yourself feel a little bit better, right?"

"Brilliant," Squall muttered as he pushed himself off the floor.

Standing was a much harder task than expected. As soon as he stood, the room swirled around and at him in a barrage of colors that swam before his eyes. A terribly familiar sensation of unpleasant heat enveloped him as his stomach did a backwards somersault inside of his body. Squall's feet became weak. He tried to concentrate on the doorhandle. No use.

I'm going to puke.

"Hey! Hey !" Zell jumped away from Squall as he ran staggered toward the wastebasket. "Oh man, that's disgusting."

Squall replied by spitting excess remnants into the trash.

"I don't feel good," he groaned.

"What did happened to you?" Zell had one hand covering his mouth and nose, trying to block the terrible stench that burst inside the small room.

"Stayed up drinking," he responded. Zell was quiet for a moment.

"I didn't know you drank," he whispered, confused.

"I don't."

Squall thought it was time to end this conversation. Getting awkwardly to his feet, he tottered to his door and almost collapsed into the hallway. He could feel a few student's eyes on him. One fourteen-year-old yelped in surprise at the sight of him, her hand clutched tightly over her heart.

"Commander Leonhart? Are you okay?" she squeaked. He nodded, knowing that he must've looked like hell. . .and incredibly scary.

"Where's Cid?" he asked gruffly

No one answered. And Squall blindly made his way to Cid's office without any help.

I I I

"I want you to take Quistis with you on a mission."

There was silence. . . .

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me," Cid repeated irritated. "I want you to accompany her on your next mission."

Cid was clearly upset with they way Squall had bursted into his office. Bleary eyed, unshaven, and smelling like death, Squall had tried to explain why he looked so. . . disheveled, however, Cid already knew. And had chewed him out for at least ten minutes telling him how a Commander of his rank was to be an example to other cadets at the Garden. And how he couldn't go around at the wee hours of the morning getting hammered.

Squall, undoubtedly, stopped listening within the first thirty-seconds of Cid's lecture. However, he got the gist.

This new bit of information brought Squall's ears' back to the present.

"You want me to take her out and. . . .and battle?" he asked tersely. Cid replied by giving, to him what looked like, a half nodded, half shrug.

"Kind of."

"But. . .but," Squall stuttered, "she doesn't remember anything! She couldn't fight for herself if she were to be in danger!"

"No, she won't," Cid began, holding up his hand to calm Squall down. "This will not be a dangerous mission. I'll be very surprised if you run in to any conflict at all. This is merely a way of helping Quistis with her memory. To get her out into the field, and reacquaint her with her job, her friends. . .her life. Let's face it, she's not making any progress sitting alone in the infirmary."

Squall could feel his face burn. After last night, there was no way he could be alone with Quistis and not go crazy.

"Why me? Why do you want me to. . escort her?" Squall found it was very difficult meeting Cid's eyes. The bright lights in his office weren'tt making his hangover any better. He squinted at him, barely able to make out his blurry face.

"You're her Commander," he answered slowly. He paused for what seemed like a century. Cid seemed to be contemplating on telling him something. "And her friend," he finally added.

"My friend?"

Yeah, and little bit more than that.

"Yes. This is your job. As her Commander, and her friend. Whether you want to admit it or not, Squall, you're Quistis's best friend. She needs you to be there for her, and not to get drunk in your free-time," Cid grunted.

Man, let it go.

"I don't know," Squall murmured. This idea of being Quistis's pillar of strengths didn't set well on his shoulders. "What if. . ."

He couldn't say it.

"What?" Cid lowered his voice, eyeing Squall intently.

"Nothing," Squall said quickly. Cid's bad mood was starting to rub off on him. Cid nodded, not pressing it any further. However, that didn't ease what was on Squall's troubled mind.

What if I mess it up? What if I end up making Quistis. . . .worse?

"What's the mission," he asked vaguely. Cid waved his hand at the nearby chair in his office.

"Sit down, this is going to be long, while I brief you," he said as he locked his door to his office.

I I I

"Oh, you're such a sweet guy. You don't have to give me this."

"I want to ."

"It's not that big a deal. I don't want you pampering me, or spending a fortune on me."

"That's not the point. You deserve it."

" How come you've never acted like this before?"

"Well. . .I suppose it is because I've never been in love before."

". . . ."

"What I mean is, I want you to have this. It's not much. . .It's not even gold. But it's all I have to give to you."

"No, that's not true. You know it's not true. And I love silver. To me, it's not as flashy as gold."

"So, you'll take it? You'll keep it? Do. . . .do you even like it?"

"Yes! Of course I do. Thank you — no, stop shaking your head — thank you. This is. . .it is. . .probably the kindest thing anyone has ever given me. I never thought that I'd get one. I never thought that someone would love me enough to give me one. Thank you. . . .Why are you looking at me like that?"

"Because I love you."

The dialog dashed through her memory so fast, Quistis almost didn't pay attention to it. And when she did, it was harder to remember what it had been about. She didn't know it at the time, but she would often reflect on that memory in the future. For many, many nights, she would think about the mysterious stranger she had been talking to. And, at times, wonder if it was even a real recollection at all.

"Hi Quistis," a soft voice said behind her. Quistis stopped fidgeting with her silver ring and spun around. She saw — Oh, what was his name? Oh yes, that's right — Irvine standing in the doorway. His hat tipped over his eyes.

"Oh, hello," she smiled gently at him. He seemed tense. She could tell that he wanted to be anywhere else but here. . .why?

Probably to get away from me.

"How you doing kid?" he asked as he stepped into the room. Quistis shrugged.

"Fine, I guess."

She saw him glance around her hospital room. His eyes seemed to linger at the windows, and then on the melted candles by her bedside. For a moment, he looked sadder than anyone she had met so far.

"So, when are you leaving this depressing room?" he questioned, leaning against the wall, not bothering to take a seat.

"Today. Some guy named Cid wants to talk to me. He's the — he's the — " she racked her brain, trying to remember who they said he was. She was still trying to learning all of their names, and feeling extremely stupid in the process.

"The Headmaster," Irvine finished for her.

"Yes," she looked down, and blushed. "I knew that."

The two were quiet. The silence that surrounded them was almost painful. Quistis, not knowing what to say, gazed out the window again thinking. All the while playing with her ring subconsciously. This was awful. She was beginning to look like an idiot more and more. But it wasn't her fault, at least she tried to tell herself that it wasn't her fault. It wasn't. . .was it?

"Have you seen Squall?" Irvine asked suddenly.

Why does it feel like I'm always talking about him?

"Yes."

Because I bring him up most of the time.

"What did he have to say?"

"He just told me about. . ." she flushed with sudden excitement, recalling the wonderful story he had told her the night before, "about that big adventure we all had," she smiled dreamily, wishing that she could remember.

"Is that all?" Irvine was clenching and unclenching his jaw with, what looked like, worryShifted her weight from one foot to the other nervously. Irvine's manner was bothering her, and causing her a little distress.

"Pretty much. Why?"she asked anxiously.

"He had a rough night last night. I was wondering if you could shed a little light on why he was so. . . . disquieted." Irvine folded his arms across his chest as he spoke.

"He got locked in with me last night," she admitted blushingly. "Not much else happened."

"Why was he even with you last night?" Now Quistis's face was sizzling with embarrassment. Bitting her bottom lip in discomfort, she gulped and tried to answer, hoping it wouldn't come out as bad as it sounded. . . Had she done something wrong by talking to Squall?

Why does it feel like I'm always thinking about him?

"He-he said he wanted to know how I was doing," she replied timidly. "I think he knew I was uncomfortable."

Irvine's mouth twitched. Quistis got the distinct impression that he knew something she didn't. And that he was refraining from telling her any information that might help her. This wasn't the first time she had felt this way. She had gotten the exact same impression from Selphie. And even, Squall, himself, last night as he informed her of her life seemed as though he were holding something back.

Secrets. Everyone seemed to have them except for her. Of course, one only has secrets when they are capable of living. Life consisted of two categories: What was seen. . . .and what wasn't. The visible, and the hidden. And Quistis knew that she must have a few secrets of her own.

I just don't know what they are, she thought bitterly.

Her, shedding light? More like the other way around.

"Boy, that must've been weird, huh?" he inquired in an constrained voice.

Quistis was about to respond when she stopped. Weird? She considered this, reflecting on the last night's events. True, it was a little odd that he had strolled into her room around two o'clock in the morning. And then tried to assist her by giving her a small bit of comfort and information. Yes, he had lite candles, and had gazed at her in a curiously intimate way. But the real truth was. . .was that she hadn't been bothered by it.

"No," she confessed. "It wasn't weird. It was actually quite — nice."

Perhaps it was the fact that the sun had finally revealed itself from behind those gray clouds, but Irvine looked more relaxed. His troublesome countenance lightened considerably. And his eyes gleamed with what looked like. . .hope.

"That's sounds lovely," he whispered, a shadow of a smile on his lips.

"Why are you asking me all of this?" she quizzed shrewdly. "So. . .so what if he talked to me last night? He's my – my boss, isn't he?"

Irvine nodded. His smile still turned up slightly.

"He sure is."

With that, he turned and left her to her own thoughts.

Her own, confused thoughts.

I I I

"I can't believe you talked me into doing this," Irvine vented as he stared at Squall in his tuxedo. Somehow, that looked really didn't fit him. "I must've been crazy when you asked."

"Well," Squall began, a glossy glint in his eyes as he smiled with genuine excitement, "you're doing me a huge favor."

Irvine scoffed.

"Yeah right," he muttered, running a dry hand through his long hair while Squall cast him an amusedstare. "You're just horny," he added under his breath.

Squall wasn't dumb, but this was the stupidest thing he had ever done in his entire life. And that was saying something. . . .

Call it what you want, he was only getting married release his violent hormones. And since the roll of Squall's wife had been vetoed by Rinoa, the next best thing was, as always, Quistis. Sweet Quistis, who always tried to her best to make everyone happy. Who exceeded at everything she ever tried.

But that aside, she was just as big an idiot as Squall.

Marrying Squall. Well, she must've been dancing on the moon right now. Because in a few months, she would be tangoing in Hell. That is, only after she realized why Squall had really married her in the first place.

To forget Rinoa.

Irvine felt a flame of pity burn deep in his stomach. His two friends where making the biggest mistake of their lives. And no matter what, they both weren't going to change their minds. He had even pulled Squall aside the night before the wedding and had tried to talk some sense into him. Telling him that one day, he'd wake up, and finally fathomed that Quistis wasn't Rinoa. That she would never be Rinoa. That he was just wishing that he could turn Quistis into Rinoa. . .

But, of course, he didn't listen. Plus, he had gotten a little pissed.

Big surprise.

And now, here he stood. With Squall by his side. Participating in the most pathetic attempt not to be alone. And the worst part was. . .there was nothing he could do to stop it.

"Here she comes," Squall hushed quickly.

And so she was.

It wasn't anything special. She wasn't wearing a wedding dress. There was no veil. No bouquet of flowers. No large numbers of guests. Not even a stupid, traditional wedding ring. And yet, the mere sight of her made Irvine stop breathing. Bad motive for marrying aside. . .Quistis still looked gorgeous.

For a split second, Irvine wondered if Squall actually knew what he was doing. Since he had first heard about their engagement, Irvine almost believed that Squall really wanted Quistis to be his wife.

Not Rinoa.

She stood in a white blouse and cream skirt. Her appearance seemed as though she had just left a library. A small, nervous grin was playing straight across her face. And a wild red rose was tucked behind her ear as she greeted Squall.

The two beamed embarrassingly at each other. Nonetheless, before Irvine could wonder if the two really wanted to be together, the ceremony was over, and they were signing their marriage license quickly so they could get back to work and pretend as though nothing had happened. After all, their lunch-break was almost up.

"Thank you," Quistis said softly to him when it was done.

"No problem."

"You will. . .you will keep it a secret, won't you?" she asked shyly

"It dies with me."

But before Irvine had turned to leave the newly wedded couple, he saw Squall place a soft kiss on Quistis's lips. Irvine rolled his eyes.

They were so stupid.

I I I

The guilt was now eating its way into his stomach.

They really had loved each other. And Irvine had been such an insensitive bastard. The short time that he could've. . .should've been supportive of their relationship had passed. And now they were both exceedingly miserable.

I'm going to Hell for sure.

Squall was subtly pining away for her. While Quistis, was probably subconsciously withering for any kind of love. Whether she knew it or not, she missed him. And by the looks of it, Squall missed her just as much.

Maybe I should contact a few people. Perhaps they could help them. Possibly I wont' have to comfort Squall on my own. Conceivably they could help Quistis remember.

That seemed like a good idea. The best idea. The only idea that had any chance of working.

Irvine set off to contact the only other people who knew Squall. . . .other than Quistis, anyway.

To be continued. . . .

Note to the reviewer: First off, I need to say that I usually try to be very nice. I appreciate all of you who review. And all of you who read this story. Those really are the thing that keep me going. However, I must inform you that writing does NOT come easy to me. The time I spent writing often consists of me staring at my computer screen for fifteen minutes. . .writing a sentence. . .and then going back to staring at my screen again.

This is by far, the most frustrating chapter I have ever written. I actually toyed around with the idea to delete this story, just so I wouldn't have to deal with the pressure. I know I don't update much, but like I said before, I'm trying to make this story interesting. And I feel like if I mess up once, I'll lose all of my readers. And I've got tons of people breathing down my neck to not only finish this, but my other fics as well.

And I hate being bullied into updating. I can't produce a good chapter if I feel like I have to update just for the sake of updating. The result of me doing that is me writing a crappy chapter. Like this one.

I'm sorry. Please, please understand. I really am trying.

And I will also ask you to please refrain from using the F-word when/if you review. It's nothing personal. I don't care if you say the F-word on your own time. I don't think you're a bad person to say the F-word. But it just makes me uncomfortable. It's a religious thing.

Thank you for reading this. I hope you at least partly enjoyed this terrible chapter.