Well, it's me again. I'm not sure exactly what drove me to do a sequel for The Force, only that the idea came to me when I was taking a shower. Strange, but exciting.
Enjoy. It's still AU, might be slightly OOC, and carries on right where The Force left off. Speaking of which, reading The Force, if you haven't already, is highly recommended in order to fully understand this story.
Disclaimer: Any characters that are not involved in the Final Fantasy series belong to me. Otherwise, every other character belongs to Square Enix and Square Enix alone.
Chapter Warnings: It's still potty-mouth-a-rific.
Any community's arm of force – military, police, security – needs people in it who can do necessary evil, and yet not be made evil by it. To do only the necessary and no more. To constantly question the assumptions, to stop the slide into atrocity.
-Lois McMaster Bujold
The Night Calls Again
Nearly all of the crimes he had ever come across had happened at night. It wasn't that hard to understand, if you were a murder detective. Night gave the illusion that dark deeds could be forever hidden from the eyes of justice. When the sun went down, the creatures of night slithered up, ready to take the risk, ready to take the fall.
Squall Leonhart, fresh from more than a month of suspension, was ready to face the night again.
Crime had slowed almost to a standstill in Balamb, which was almost unheard of in Squall's department. It was the reason why the best homicide detective in the city was relegated to dealing with petty crimes and accidents that resolved in death.
"This is ridiculous," Squall growled, throwing a file down on his cluttered desk. "Someone drowns in their neighbor's swimming pool and the station gives it to me. I'm a goddamn murder cop." He ended his tirade by angrily blowing strands of poorly-cut brown hair out of his eyes.
His partner and girlfriend, Rinoa Heartilly, seemed to find this enormously funny. "Well," she said, tipping her head and nodding diplomatically. "Somebody died. And they're not exactly paying us to sit on our asses, right?"
Squall was unconvinced. "And what about last week? The guy jumped off a bridge, and we get called in. Where's the mystery in that? The bastard decided he wanted out and that he'd rather eat pavement. Simple as that. And yet we get to waste our time doing shit like this when things are actually happening…"
Rinoa inspected her nails as Squall angrily ranted on. "Well, it's a bureaucratic conspiracy, of course," she droned in a voice that she thought sounded exactly like Squall.
He stopped pacing around the room and made a face at her. "You know I hate it when you do that," he accused. He was in a combative mood today.
"Do what?" she shot back at him, still using the same absurd voice. She couldn't quite keep the silly grin off her face, though.
"That," he said, pointing at her. "Using the stupid voice. I do not sound like that, and you know it."
"Whatever," she teased, spouting off Squall's most overused expression.
"Oh, ha ha, you're a real riot…"
There was a light cough by the doorframe. Quistis Trepe, Chief of Police, was politely poised at the door, flawless black suit and all. "Hope I'm not interrupting anything," she said, with a touch of distaste. She had never really approved of the relationship between Squall and Rinoa, but had granted the partnership with reluctance.
Squall swiveled around, without missing a beat. "Read the badge, Quistis," Squall demanded, pulling his badge out of his pocket and practically shoving it in her face. "It says 'Homicide,' not 'Dumbasses Who Screw Up and Die.' What the hell is up with these cases you've been giving me?"
Quistis raised a shoulder, indicating that she didn't much care for his predicament. She was used to Squall harassing her, as they had worked together for nearly ten years. "And good afternoon to you too, Lieutenant," she said dryly. "I can only assume it's been one of those days."
Rinoa giggled. Squall shoved his left hand through his hair and forced his badge back into his pocket. "To say the least," he retorted.
"Well, he has got a point," Rinoa pointed out. "I mean, I'm starting to think you don't like us, Quistis."
Quistis put one hand on her hip and frowned at the ceiling. "You know, I really miss those days when those of a lesser rank would respect me. When they treated me like a Chief."
"Yeah, those were good times. It's a damn shame." Squall was unable to suppress a smirk.
Rinoa shook her head at him and looked at Quistis. "If it helps, the amount of sarcasm he uses is directly proportional to his mood," she offered, earning a scowl from Squall.
"Small mercy," Quistis remarked. "But I'm not here to fight with you, Lieutenant. You've got a new case. The vice President's daughter was murdered barely two hours ago, and you're primary, since Seifer's got his hands full."
"This is more like it," Squall murmured. "Wait…did you say vice President?"
Quistis nodded. "This case is going to be a media circus. As usual, you are to have no cooperation with them. Nothing gets out, understand?"
Squall sighed. "Great. A media free-for-all. What did I ever do to you, Quistis?"
Quistis turned to leave, casting him a grim glance. "Believe me, Lieutenant, this is a case that you'll want to take."
The murder of 21-year old Alana Dooley had taken place in her hotel room at The Balamb Regent. Now her black curls were splayed out across the cheap hotel coverlet as she lay in a dark pool of her blood.
Squall lifted Alana's lifeless hand up and noticed the raw chafing around the wrist. "She was bound," he observed. "With rope, it looks like, and then probably untied after she died."
He dropped her hand and continued his intense survey of the body. "Gunshot wound in the lower abdomen," he continued, circling the perimeter of the wound with two fingers. "The placement was most likely deliberate. And why's that, Heartilly?" Even though Rinoa had already graduated to detective, Squall still liked to test her now and then.
Rinoa pursed her lips and tried to ignore her slight nausea. "Well, to draw it out, I suppose. A slow death, and painful too. She would have bled out."
"Good," he affirmed, nodding. "She must have been gagged with something; she would have been screaming her lungs out. It would have been impossible for someone not to have heard her."
"Maybe she was unconscious," Rinoa offered.
Squall considered it for a moment and shook his head. "That's not what the killer wanted. He wanted her awake – and aware."
Rinoa winced and rubbed her own stomach subconsciously.
Squall stepped back and started giving orders to the uniformed officers who were at the scene. "I want this place swept. You find anything; you either give it to me, or Fujin in Forensics." He motioned for Rinoa to follow him and exited out into the hall.
"Kadowaki's not going to like that one," he muttered, referring to the Chief Medical Examiner at the morgue.
Rinoa turned around and got one last look at the body. "Why?"
He frowned and said, "That girl in there looks a hell of a lot like her daughter." He nodded in greeting as Zell Dincht, a fellow Homicide detective, approached them with a tape in hand.
Zell waved the tape excitedly. "No need for the big guns here. We've already got a suspect."
Rinoa's eyebrows rocketed up to her hairline. "Seriously? Wow, I think we've just hit the record for fastest investigation, Squall," she said, smiling.
"You know better, Heartilly," he reprimanded lightly. He held a hand out for the tape. "You get a good look at the suspect, Dincht?"
Zell nodded, handing the tape over. "You bet. This tape is from an elevator security cam. The suspect came in at 10:25, and never came back down. That's the only elevator on that floor, and the stairs are monitored too, so we're pretty much sure he's the one. We got a name and everything."
"Oh yeah?" Squall asked lightly, weighing the tape in his hand. "Tell me about him."
Zell stared at the ceiling while recalling the facts, as if the speckled ceiling would yield the required answers. "White male, age 38. Name…name…"
Squall rolled his eyes. "Dincht, it's not illegal to bring the file along with you. Find the name and bring me the file, and make it fast."
As Squall turned around, Zell suddenly shouted. "Wait, wait, I remember it now!"
Squall turned around disgustedly. "Do you really, or are you just making it up to placate me?"
"No, I really remember it. His name's MacGill. Ian MacGill."
"Son of a bitch, that is him," Squall swore furiously as he watched the image of his longtime friend amble out of the elevator. "What the hell is he doing in the Regent?"
"Definitely not his style," Rinoa agreed. She fast-forwarded the tape, watching other hotel guests zip in and out of the elevator at top speed. "Zell was right, he never comes back in the elevator. He probably used the stairs, we'll have to get that tape…"
At that moment, Seifer Almasy sauntered up and dropped a file in Squall's lap. "Here's your suspect. He's in custody now. Got a heavy record, former gang activity. We got another Ring member, so it looks like we hit the mark." For once, his voice was lacking a trace of sour sarcasm. He was all business.
"Former Ring member," Squall shot back, a little more emphatic than he had intended. He cleared his throat and composed himself. "He deserted 19 years ago."
Seifer narrowed his eyes. "You know him."
Squall didn't betray any of his unease. "I know him. He showed significant cooperation during the Doyle case."
Seifer studied the frozen image on the television screen and raised an incredulous eyebrow. "He's your friend. I recognize that guy's face. He's your friend."
Squall neither confirmed nor denied this, and pretended to be very interested in ejecting the security tape from the player. "I could've sworn that Quistis said you were busy. I knew she couldn't have been serious, though, it is you, after all…"
Seifer snorted. "Good Christ, Leonhart with friends. There must be glaciers forming in Hell right now. Oh, and by the way, I just closed a case, so we're officially…sharing this one until further notice." He wrinkled his nose, openly disgusted at the prospect of sharing a case with the bane of his existence.
"Well, you can forget it. It's mine," Squall said without turning to face Seifer.
"What makes you think I even want it?"
Rinoa rolled her eyes and stepped between the two. "You guys just can't breathe the same air without fighting, can you?" she said exasperatedly. "Look, let's take this case and try to avoid killing each other, alright?"
Seifer shook his head, sneering. "Squally here's got a conflict of interest. Quistis is going to flip."
"You don't even want this case," Squall said disgustedly.
"I don't. But it's better than you having it. You know how much press this case is going to get without you fucking it up?"
Squall stepped around Rinoa and approached Seifer, eyes blazing. "Almasy, this is the last time I'm telling you to step off. I'm not even close to kidding."
Seifer let out a low whistle. "Haven't even gotten the body back from Examination and you're already too involved. Great start so far, Leonhart." He gave Squall a slap on the shoulder that was too forceful to be friendly. He started to leave. "Your guy's at Balamb General, by the way."
"Why do you think? Detoxing. The guy's BAL was off the charts, and he had more drugs in him than a pharmacy does."
Squall rubbed his face with one hand, silently cursing the circumstances. "Great," he grumbled.
"The public defender's there now, but she's probably not going to get much sense out of him. You'll have the Vice President to answer to soon enough," Seifer called over his shoulder.
Rinoa frowned and turned to her partner. "You know, now that we've actually got a real case, I'm suddenly not so excited anymore."
"I stopped being excited a long time ago," he muttered under his breath. "Let's head out, Heartilly. It's going to be a long night."
The hallway where Ian MacGill resided in Balamb General Hospital echoed with wails and obscenities from junkies who were getting the toxins painfully flushed from their bodies. A frazzled white-haired lawyer was leaning against the wall outside room 354, Ian's room.
Her hazel eyes re-focused when she saw Squall and Rinoa. "You wouldn't be Lieutenant Leonhart, by any chance?"
"Yeah, that's me. Has he been…asking for me?" he said carefully. This woman looked like she had reached her last nerve.
"It's the only thing he'll say to me!" the lawyer exclaimed, scandalized. "I've been trying to talk to him for over an hour, but he got one look at the handcuffs and clammed up. Said that he wouldn't say a word until Lieutenant Leonhart showed up. Wouldn't give an inch."
"That's weird," Squall murmured to himself. People usually had trouble getting Ian to shut up. "Wait here, Heartilly, I'm going in."
A beefy security guard unlocked the door and opened it. In the bed, in all his tattooed, purple-haired glory, was Ian MacGill.
When he saw Squall, Ian's eyes widened to show the extent of his relief. "Man, about time you showed up. Squall, you have to get me out of here. I don't belong here, this place is whacked. The cops broke my arm and they don't give me shit for it. I need something. I have to…you have to--" Ian's breath was coming hard and fast.
Squall cut him off by grabbing him by the shoulders. "Stop. You need to breathe. Detox is hard enough without a panic attack added in there." He stepped back and got a look at his ailing friend in the bed. He shook his head. "God, you look like hell."
MacGill's skin was waxy and pale, his lips white. His breathing was labored and sweat steadily beaded on his forehead, matting his vibrant hair down. The veins that wound around his arms were black and blue, showing years of abuse. His left wrist was handcuffed to the side of the hospital bed, and the other one was encased in plaster. He shook his head slowly like a dog trying to get water out of its ears. "I feel like hell, man, I'm dyin', I swear. You have to get me out. You have to get me out!" he panicked.
"Ian. You need to talk to me first. I need to know what went down tonight, 9-11 PM."
"That's the thing, I don't remember."
Ian quaked slightly when he saw the furious look on Squall's face. "Ian, don't you dare lie to me. You are way too far up shit creek to lie now, tell the truth," he snarled.
MacGill responded with an equally vicious look. "I don't remember."
"You might be able to trick the lawyer, but you can't get by me that easily. I don't care what the hell you were doing, just tell me what it was," Squall demanded. "Damn it, Ian, don't you know that you've been arrested for murder?"
Ian sat back and his skin paled a few more shades. "…Murder?" he rasped.
"Why else would an army of cops kick down your door in the middle of the night?"
Ian slumped back. "I thought they knew about…"
Squall closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You have drug paraphernalia on your property, don't you, MacGill?" he asked wearily.
"Forget about it, I don't think I want to know. The cops who arrested you didn't tell you your charges?"
Ian shook his head fiercely. "No. They broke my fucking arm before they took me in."
Squall grumbled. "Brutality and imbecility. Fantastic. Well, Ian MacGill, you're officially suspected of the murder of Alana Dooley, who happened to be Ted Dooley's daughter."
Ian furrowed his brow. "Who?"
"Vice President. Big-deal politician," Squall supplied, almost smiling at MacGill's ignorance.
Ian frowned and shook his head again. "Yeah, I wouldn't know about that. But seriously, I never laid a hand on Alana whatever."
"I thought you didn't remember."
"I would remember something like that. I mean, I would remember if I killed someone," Ian insisted.
"Ian, just what were you on tonight?"
"Well, a bunch of stuff, really. I mean, you want all of it?" Ian asked sheepishly.
Squall pinched the bridge of his nose even harder. "Fuck. Yeah, let's hear it all. Maybe if this goes to trial, we can plead temporary insanity…"
Ian ignored the dig and launched off on a rambling list of all the substances he had poured into his system over the last 24 hours. It took, Squall noted wryly, about two and a half minutes. "…Anything else?" he asked, his voice laced with sarcasm.
Ian thought hard, and shook his head. "Nah, I think that's about it."
"God, you trying to land a place in the Overdose Hall of Fame?" Squall said disgustedly. "You'll be here for like, a month."
"Yeah, well, if it keeps me out of jail…" Ian said boldly.
Squall glared at him. "You really think this is better than jail? Handcuffed to a bed, people shoving pills down your throat?" he demanded, his voice almost reaching a yell. He stopped himself and shook his head. "Shit, man, what happened? You've never screwed up like this before."
Ian shrugged miserably. "I really wish I remembered. Because, man…if I gotta be in jail, I wanna be in jail for something that I actually did."
"Well, that's a given."
"That's why you need to get me outta this, Leonhart. Please. You're the best cop I know, the best cop there is. Please."
It was the "please" that got him. For that instant, Ian had sounded like a man who had never overdosed on anything, who had never committed any crimes. His voice made him seem like someone else.
"It won't be easy. Clearing your name," Squall said softly. He raked a hand roughly through his hair. "Alright. Alright, I'm in. But I can't do this by myself, you have to help me."
Ian seemed to immediately brighten up. "Damn right I will, you can count on me, bro."
Squall felt slightly sickened with guilt. The look that MacGill was giving him now was akin to that of an adoring child gazing upon his hero. To MacGill, Squall was the hero of police, the relentless justice-chaser who never missed a step.
What would happen when he found out that his impression of Squall was only half-right?
"Right. Well. I'll be checking in," Squall said lamely.
"Cool. It's not like I'll be going anywhere anytime soon."
Rinoa tactfully waited until they were home to say anything. After Squall had taken a punishingly hot shower, she sat like a stone at the vanity mirror. "Is…he alibied?" she croaked.
"Says he doesn't remember," Squall murmured as he toweled off his hair. "He's been charged for murder and doesn't remember a damn thing." He threw the towel over the back of a chair, his face set in dreadfully tight lines.
She reached out and put a hand on his wrist. "This bothers you."
"Of course it bothers me, my friend might have killed somebody," he snapped, then immediately sighed when she pulled away in hurt. "Fuck. Sorry. Look…I just realized today that he's been my friend for God knows how long, and I don't know a thing about him. I don't know what he does, I don't know about his family. I didn't even know how old he was, not until today. It should make things better, but it just looks like it's going to get harder."
"We'll get him out of this. If anybody can, we can. We just need to play it the right way," she assured him.
He rubbed his face agitatedly. "But that's the thing. He might've actually done it, and we have no way of knowing."
"Well, we find the real killer, of course. We clear his name. Hey, it means we're back in the game, right?" she teased, trying to playfully lighten the mood.
He could feel the familiar sensation of a brand new case fizzing in his gut. "Yeah. Back in the game."