The only thing Rinoa heard was the sound of the hissing, thick wires that encompassed her cell. No, not cell. Prison. Not even that. The clear walls and the grating silvers and greys felt like a cage. It wasn't confining in the physical sense but every breath felt numbered. Every second in which passed where all she saw was the sterile room and the metal walkway felt pressing. The air around her felt tight, hot.

She didn't even flinch when the Estharian Military hoarded her away. Didn't lose that thirst for life. Not outwardly, at least. Not in her eyes. But in her heart - it was a different story. To walk away from the one person she cared the most for. The one person she could say that she felt something substantial for after her heated summer romance with Seifer ...

It made her heart ache. It felt as if her world had been off kilter slightly since she said a brave goodbye to him ... It wasn't fair. Why did things have to be so hyne-be-damned hard? Her fists tightened and the anger she felt welling within her made the temperature around her crackle. The clear cage - whatever it was, somehow registered the change in pressure. The sudden change in her mood. Her mood. Or was it the Sorceress's mood?

The sigh she made next was sad. For once, Rinoa allowed the gentle expression to fall from her face. It was replaced with a frightening despair that only she felt. The despair of the soon-to-be doomed, she suspected, a sour smile arising to her face. Funny, how even now, in her situation, she could still crack one.

Her hands - unmarred by battle, even Time, hands that only Magic could scar - rose to cup around the invisible space that kept her there. Her body sagged weakly in the unseen chains. Hours ago, when they had first brought her here, she'd cast Flare on the whole lot of them. Her sour smile turned into a wicked smirk as she remembered the startled cry they made when their uniforms were brutally singed. Not that she would willingly hurt someone - she wasn't that desperate, not yet at least - but it was still a rush to let the power effortless flow from her fingertips, rarely unchecked.

But here, her brain felt sluggish, weak. Slow to start and even slower to think. Rinoa mused that this thing, this contraption numbed and severely subdued her Powers. Not that she could blame anyone, before she was forcibly put here, she put up one hell of a fight. Her smirk deepened. "If you're stupid enough to go down, do so with a fight, Rin." Seifer would always tell her in that mocking tone of his, head held high, as if nothing could touch him.

Another sigh. Look at us now. She breathed wordlessly into the still air. Look at us now. Fallen Knight and SeeD commander at odds. Me - Sorceress - confined to a space like some ... animal. Like a being that doesn't deserve to look at the reckless blue sky. Like I don't deserve to breathe fresh, clean air. I'm nothing more then an object of fear to some and the victim of other's hate and judgement. Her fists clenched once more, her teeth gritted. A person, nonetheless. That just so happens to have more power then some.

"Well, more power then most." Came her murmur, on deaf ears. Can you blame them? Was that niggling voice inside of her head once more, the voice that she always pushed back because it was just so reasonable. You were nothing more then a momentary puppet for a more powerful, Sorceress, hellbent on Time Compression.

Yet another sigh. She pushed hair behind her ear. Pushed past those negative thoughts. She supposed, with how long she was confined, she'd have tons of time to ponder the bad.

Instead, in her mind, she conjured up Squall.

Heard the low timbre of his voice. Felt the press of his arms around her. Saw his face. The disgruntled face he made whenever she said something too loud. Or something he didn't like. Or just something in general. How stiff he got when she touched him. Tried to pry him open. Tried to be romantic. Before, she was sick of him closing up like a clam. But now, with the prospect of never seeing him again - Rinoa would've given anything to see his face again.

Anything.


Squall felt the words pouring from his lips. The fire pulsebeat in his veins. The yearning he'd never felt before. A relentless press around his heart that showed no signs of letting up. The feeling staggered him. Floored him. It was something he'd never experienced. A loss so heart wrenching it rivaled that of when he missed Sis.

What he felt whenever he was around i her /i ... It was more then just simple attraction. More then a simple passing glance. More then a chance meeting. It was something tangible. Something solid. Solidarity was something he was never guaranteed. Not in the strict standards of Garden where the next battle could be your last, where Missions had to be taken seriously - anything could happen. It was something that had the potential to be very real.

Spiraling out in nothingness, with nothing but the infinite blackness of space and the winking stars around him - it wasn't too far from what he felt now - the same weak fluttering of hope he felt whenever thinking of her. Their present circumstances. His own safety mattered little. Not when she was at risk as well. It was a word he'd heard Seifer utter often, a word he often cringed in disgust at, a word he never took into value, never even actually considered until today.

Knight - and all it's implications. To protect - perhaps even love - your Sorceress despite all odds. Never leaving her side. Forever loyal. Never faltering. Never wavering. He always thought that Knights were to protect the Sorceress from enemies.

The thought which hit him next made that trademark frown of his crease over his features. Maybe the Knights were to protect the Sorceress from themselves? Such power, to be subject to such a force had to be overwhelming. Such power had to be alluring to give into ... which is why he wasn't leaving Rinoa. For all her displayed strength, when they were alone, she displayed such a blatant vulnerability he felt few noticed.

Which is why, above all else, he had to get to her. It was this numbing sense of duty that ate at him. Purpose. To protect her. To be with her.

The determination in his stride when him and his two companions strode into the Compound, heedless of guards, security systems, the statistics of making it out. The odds of getting her back didn't matter. He was confident in his innate skill, for once. The odds didn't matter. Fate was the only measurement that would tip the scales.

Her name was like a balm in his brain.

Rinoa.


Sirens began blaring. Their harsh sound rent the air, shattering the fake distillation of peace that Rinoa had gotten shortly accustomed to. Her brow furrowed and she looked around, finally glancing to her hands. A chill went down her back. Did I do it? Did I break myself free? Her heart was pounding in her chest as she reached out trembling fingers to test the Barrier.

It held, fast and strong. Her fist pounded the cage angrily, the Barrier hissing in repsonse to her heated punch. Nothing. Confusion sank over her as she heard yelling, feet pattering, and shouts of various Estharian officials. The alarms yet and still blared, their cries loud and insistent. Hope lingered within her. Maybe it's a malfunction ... she convinced herself, eyes scanning the area around her for any sound, any movement.

There!

A shifting in the semi-darkness, amid the faint mist that surrounded her.

Expecting an soldier from Esthar, her heart stopped when she saw who was there, awaiting at the end of the walkway.


There was no doubt, no uncertainty in his heart, in his mind or in his actions. Squall's body moved as if of it's own accord. Moving, shifting, lifting muscles, walking - no striding, no, practically running down the walkway to her. There was absolutely no room for indecision here. His gunblade fitting comfortably into his palm - a welcome weight - as he brought it down on the cage around her, arms moved upward in a blur before he struck, rose and brought it home again.

Freedom. Sweet, blessed freedom.

Sparks flew and the artifical air began to leak from the cage, filtering into the air, mist scattering. The invisible bonds around Rinoa slowly began to snap and break, the mind-numbing haze her brain had been infected with slowly began to lift and separate. Her mind was like a clattering hum around her.

Breathless and suddenly tired from the energy strain the cage inflicted on her, she descended.

Squall never put much stock in fairy tales. Always scoffed at happy endings. Never really believed in anything true and real that couldn't be backed up and supported by evidence. Things of the heart were somewhat foreign to him. Things long buried and supressed. But here, in this instant where everything stood still and Time itself appeared to slow and halt - Squall was made a believer.

"Squall." She mumbled gratefully, arms grasped tight around him, face nuzzling into the deliciously smooth fur collar on his coat. Rinoa inhaled deeply, exhaled hard, and inhaled again. She smelled the scent of him. Faint desert dust, leather, a hint of aftershave and the underlying scent of gunblade steel.

"You're safe." He never knew holding someone would feel so good. So ... right.

"As long as I have you, I'll always be safe." Rinoa answered honestly, her voice tight with emotion.

"Rinoa, I - I never thought I'd see you again."

She sniffed, buried herself deeper, fur tickling her nose. Pushed past honor and duty, it didn't seem like it had place here.

"I know, Squall. I did too. But ... How did you - ?"

He shook his head, pulled her closer. "Doesn't matter how I got in. I'm here now. I came for you. It was like ... " His breath was short, pained. "I'm not letting you slip through my fingers again. I promise, Rin."

Rinoa's eyes widened. She couldn't find her voice. He was good on his word, and Squall didn't make idle promises. The fact that he spoke the words made her smile. The fact that heartfelt conviction dripped from every syllable ... it made her heart sing.

For as long as she needed him, he would be there. As long as she leaned on him, he would be her support. Whatever they faced, they had each other. It was a bond, a strength he used to frown upon, simply because he never understood it. Never understood the hard reality of what being a Knight was, never wanted to play the role. And now here he was, having slipped into the part like a glove.

"It won't be easy." Rinoa's voice was begrudging, almost guilty.

"It hasn't been easy so far." His voice was monotone, simply stating fact. "Being a Knight, I suspect, never is easy." At this, his voice broke.

Tears brimmed in her eyes. Words wouldn't form on her lips. She knew the weight of his words, the weight of what he spoke and the meaning behind them. She just ... couldn't speak. What Rinoa wanted to say was right on the tip of her tongue, although her mind was spinning so fast she couldn't keep up. Her mouth opened then closed, opened again. She closed her eyes, her sigh shaky.

"My Knight." Rinoa simply squeezed him tighter.