Final Fantasy VIII
Dedicated to Ashbear and Tempest Wayward
A/N: After coming across "Somewhere In Between," I fell in love with the story. This was written out of admiration and love to both Ashbear and Wayward as a way to honor them. Originally, I published this a year ago, but as a constant nitpicker, I couldn't leave this quite alone. I had a lot of ideas for this and decided to incorporate them into this character study/one-shot.
No deletions, just additions (because subtraction sucks, I tell ya).
Title based on "Como Decirte No" by Franco DeVita.
"Y he tratado de escaparme
De salirme de esta historia
De esfurmarme y de perderme y de borrarme de una vez
Pero el corazón insiste
Que será lo que le diste
Que no es capaz de sustituirte
Y comenzar una vez más"
(And I've tried to escape
To get out of this story
To fade and to lose and erase myself altogether
But the heart keeps insisting
What could you have given it?
That it's incapable of substituting you
To begin once more)
By definition every day had an ending.
And lately, she wondered if it was really required.
In the stillness of an old bed with well worn covers she haunted with her lone existence, Rinoa could stand the days. It was the nights she feared. The isolation she experienced on a daily basis was bearable with the light and the life of movement outside of the window she often stared at when the sun warmed everything with its presence. At sundown, the darkness only reminded her of that solitude, which in turn reminded her of the coldness of space, the impossible solitude that stretched on endlessly. Sometimes she wondered which was colder: the freezing sealing process or this self –imposed exile. An involuntary shiver crept through her spine as she considered the similarities.
And despite her uncertainties, she figured there was no reason to leave the lights in all the rooms so she lit a candle at night. Electricity did not quite have the same soothing quality as a tiny flame burning. And though it offered a dim light, it was the only comfort afforded to her in the empty house.
A house that he once lived in. His childhood home, however brief it had been.
Although she was supposed to be staying away from anything resembling the past, she somehow always wound up deeper in his. If she stared long enough, she swore she could see a tiny version of him running around, being a happy normal child that he would never be again. She deemed it cruel that fate had eventually turned against him.
For her, lying in bed was even difficult. It only brought memories of a time she could no longer reach, when dreams were something to aspire to and memories were hardly dwelled upon. A lifetime that felt so long ago she sometimes questioned if it even existed in the first place.
Her recurring insomnia was some sort of punishment. As to what she was atoning for, she could only guess. Hyne was taunting her somewhere, she was sure of it.
Somewhere in the course of the night she had dressed into her pajamas. Tall cotton socks, black checkered flannel bottoms with red lines running across and a soft ivory colored mohair sweater. Not necessarily because she felt it imperative to do so. It was just out of reflex to try to establish a semblance of normalcy in her so called new life.
Still, sleep was not possible in this reality. She would have laughed if she had enough sense to do so. Breathing seemed to have taken her humor away. Coming back from the dead was unheard of. For her, existence itself was problematic.
Like some complicated equation, she could remove herself and not have to live in order to simplify it all to a neat and abbreviated manner so as not to cause difficulties in their lives. It seemed so then, and certainly now more than ever.
It was hardly intuition when she figured it out. She knew by the way the land of the living had its terrain changed so drastically - the conversations she couldn't take place in, the lines etched on her friends' faces, the recurring feeling of being misplaced in a different era - it was hard to believe that so much had passed her by.
She pointedly ignored the familiar newspaper that lay on top of her bedside table. It had yellowed with time. Weeks of wear had frayed the edges. How strange that such a plain, inanimate object could have the ability to tear through her already fragile hope. Yet it had done it. And so very well.
She recalled the impact of first reading it as a vivid wound.
She was my client. My losing her was the same as losing any other paying customer.
He denied any involvement with her.
Why would we want to squander any opportunity to study them, to learn their weakness?
He spoke of her as if she were some sort of extinct species that was worthy of scientific inquiry.
She is a sorceress, there is no safe way.
He had regarded her as a danger if she were to be unsealed. She nearly laughed at how little he'd known that it was too late, like everything else. The laughter was hardly joyous, but a need to react to those words, that pain.
But let Rinoa Heartilly rest her soul in peace.
She knew he had finally let go.
Although she had tired of reading it over time, she didn't lose her initial fascination with simply looking at the photographs that accompanied the article. Soulful blue eyes shone fiercely. Recognizable tousled brown hair came through. Features so vivid she could see the familiar colors jump out of the newspaper even though the picture itself was in black and white. Among the shades of grey could she distinguish all that made him who he was. Or who he had once been in her eyes.
An unbidden recollection surfaced.
- - - - - - -
That time shortly after the Sorceress' War, she had stayed at Garden. It was a brief respite that allowed all those involved in the war to catch their breath.
It was on one of those nights that she had woken from a nightmare. Of all the horrors imaginable she had survived with her friends, her subconscious had chosen to insert a gigantic hairy spider into her dream that chased her into consciousness.
And from that tiny room with all of its military issue furnishings, she clutched the pillow tightly, attempting to still the wild thumping within her chest. Within that obscurity, she found courage to make her way into the darker hall and down five doors to the left, spiders be damned.
Under the doorway, she could see a faint light emanating onto the corridor. Without a second thought, her hand fisted and knocked on the wooden door.
Suddenly realizing what she had been doing, she stopped and turned on her heel. It was childish and stupid, she reminded herself.
It did not stop the door from opening.
There he was, awake at such an awful hour of the night. His clothes were a mess, with his hair just the same. It was odd to see him out of his usual attire as he wore dark baggy cotton bottoms and a white sleeveless shirt. Odd, and somehow comforting.
"Hi," he managed.
"Good morning sunshine," she joked, purely out of reflex.
He merely raised an eyebrow at her.
Behind him, she noticed the piles of paperwork he had no doubt been working on before she decided to intrude. She winced at her impeccable timing. Perfect.
"It's nothing really, I see you're busy and I'll just - " she trailed off and began walking away. A hand on her shoulder stopped her from moving a mere two steps in the opposite direction.
"Are you sure?"
Cautiously, she found it in her to face him. Clear eyes she found comfort in. The concern was defined in his gentle gaze.
Logic had spontaneously decided to sprout wings as it flew out of the window and she launched herself into his arms, holding on for dear life. Quietly, she was that thankful that he was strong in her moments of weariness. At that moment, all she registered was how warm he felt. She meant to complain about her room being always cold, even if she did adjust the thermostat.
"I had a nightmare," she confessed against his shoulder. She partially expected him to scold her, tell her she was being stupid and order her to return to her room.
All she felt were his fingers stroking her hair.
Nothing was said when he allowed her inside, closing the door quietly behind them.
Past the desk that drowned in reams of paper, he found the couch and seated himself beside her. Curled up on the loveseat, she slept in his arms that night. Like many times before, he kept her safe. Because he promised, she remembered, though she wondered if this was part of what Zone and Watts had in mind as well.
Whatever he had done, no overgrown insects attempted to eat her in dreams for the remainder of the night.
- - - - - - -
Fragments of time she was unable to hold on to, like water slipping through her fingers, yet her mind forced her to relive them in silent agony. Her only torment carried one name.
In spite of herself, she had begun to stare at the newspaper some more, struck by the strangeness of her situation.
Esperanza chose that moment to jump on the bed. Under other circumstances, Rinoa would have sent the dog away, scolded her for a lack of obedience. She didn't have the heart to turn her sole companion from her. Rinoa sometimes wondered how much Esperanza understood. Then again, she was Angelo's offspring.
She sighed nostalgically, painfully. She waited for the numbness to take over. And waited in vain. It never came and the hurt only seemed to intensify. So much time.
A product of history.
Esperanza neared Rinoa, sitting next to the barely used pillow. She did not waste Esperanza's company, putting her arms around the dog's neck and allowing the tears to bleed out of a tired, broken heart.
When her eyes had finally tired, unable to produce anymore tears, she looked up and petted Esperanza's head.
"I'm sorry. I'm a real cry baby huh?" she apologized, placing a light kiss above the dog's nose.
"I guess some things never change after all," she said to no one in particular, and did not recognize the wisdom in her own voice.
Wiping her eyes dry, she sighed, leaning back on the headboard lined with pillows. She gazed up the ceiling ponderingly, half-heartedly hoping it contained a solution to the predicament her life had become, now that it had been returned to her. It was a leftover habit that had stayed with her from the days of awakening in the hospital room and served as a temporary distraction. The longer she looked, she watched the candle's soft glow caused the shadows to dance to an unknown rhythm. The longer she stared, she saw her own outline become possessed by the flame's music and move accordingly. It saddened her to see it alone, without a partner in sight to keep up with the tempo.
Still, she smiled the only way she could, which was delicately, as she reflected on a past she could only view like everything else in Winhill through the glass of the window.
When her eyes had closed, she saw once more that memory of warmth, returning familiar
In his room, on that couch (she never did figure out if it was Garden issue or not), just before she'd fallen asleep, he had whispered something in her ear. He said it had been an old lullaby someone had sang to him as a child. Of course, Squall didn't sing, but the soothing tone of his voice that he only used for her as he recited to her had calmed her fears, though she didn't understand it at the time. Thinking back on that private moment they'd shared, she felt she understood what he meant.
"Every night is an ending. Every day is a beginning."
With a new breath, she would begin again.
Despite everything, one stubborn thought rose above the din of her stormy emotions. No amount of denial – fiancé, obligation, title – would make it untrue.
I love you.
For the time being, however slowly, she gave in to the weariness and slept for the first time in months. She figured she had a lot to accomplish before the next sunset. She wanted to capture the sun in her memories to keep her strong through the long nights ahead.