disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII; if I did, I'd be out there bargaining for a sequel, or a remake of some kind.
notes: Minor spoilers for the first disc; setting is rather ambiguous. As I'm deeply uncertain of Rinoa's characterization, all criticism welcomed.



year of miracles

She's not often unsure of herself. Give yourself time to be unsure and you'll falter -- you'll fall. And though she likes the idea of falling, of spiraling wildly out of control, failure has less of an appeal - the last of old stubbornness drawn from childhood in her father's shadow.

Even so, sometimes she can't help but think of the difference of a year.

When did the change come? In the summer of her sixteenth year, she imagined love to be a grand and passionate thing. A brutal emotion that would overthrow everything in the world, would overshadow civilization and sweep her off her feet. Something quick and unexpected, a sudden blaze in the world where none existed before.

And now...




She's not sure whether she has ever been in love with Seifer. Always, the name comes to her with a little pang and a memory of the Rinoa swinging fragilely in the Garden waiting room, thinking his name over and over, so terribly afraid that if she stopped moving she might break. It felt like love, or something like it: that sudden stillness about which the world turned; that impossible bleakness that nothing could erase.

(The first thought that had flashed into her mind, pure and terrible: who will help us free Timber now, without Seifer's connection to SeeD? It is always the practicality that breaks past grief, the need to fulfill daily appetites pressing on before one can start to think of what one hast lost.)

It had been something great, to be with him: the inexpressible feeling of having someone who understood what she wanted for Timber so perfectly, the intoxication of speaking knowing that he would outstrip her plans with his own. But when she thinks of Seifer now, every memory that she reaches for is shadowed with Squall's face.

It begins in tiny fragments: a flash of Squall's solemnity in a memory of Seifer gesturing, planning to take back Timber from Deling; Squall's exasperation in the lines of Seifer's shoulders, coming back from another day of training. She looks and looks again, and everything is filled with Squall.

It's not fair to either of them. It's inexplicable.

She concludes at first that it must be something about new love. The day fades, some old books say, until all that remains to you is the emptying dazzle in your eyes and the memory of heat. So it is with love. Everything is overwhelmed by Squall because she loves him. Measurelessly straightforward, withdrawn Squall, who found the questions that Seifer never asked and raised them, who was a series of things that she never thought she might have wanted.

Because she believes in happiness while you can have it, she's learned to let things go. Nothing lasts forever, and why should love be any different from that? When it passes, they'll accept with grace and pass on in their lives, looking back fondly on the way they acted -- as if it would last forever.

Surely when this too has passed, she will remember Squall and Seifer with equal clarity, muddle them occasionally before letting the memories come clear.

(Though she cannot imagine being old: it's like dreaming of a foreign land when all she has known is a single city. Though she can't imagine never traveling, either: she has always been sure, down in her bones, that she was meant to fly.)

But Seifer and Squall are nothing alike, though they mirror each other at points: Seifer wanting what Squall has found at last, Squall steady and professional where Seifer is slapdash and irrepressible, their scars slanting to opposite sides. Seifer is more idealistic than Squall would ever dream of being, and crueller in its name. Squall, more grounded in reality, knows what he wants and sets after it without ever thinking that perhaps it might be impossible.

It is not, she realises, that she confuses Seifer with Squall; Seifer's face exists in those memories after all, in pieces and wavering portions under the overwhelming impression of Squall. But he is as he has always been.

She is the changed one: seeing Squall's stubbornness in the half-curling line of his smirk, looking for the calmness of Squall's serenity in Seifer's vicious passion.

(They may be more alike, she thinks, than Squall would ever admit.)

And maybe that's why she thought that Seifer might have been anything like hers in the first place. She was so different that summer (so young, she wants to say, but it would be like admitting that she's old, which is a strange and unnatural thought): fresh from her last stand against her father, preparing to see Timber out to freedom at last, and ready to take on the world. Even when she first met the mercenaries dispatched to fight for Timber's independence, she was still more the girl at sixteen than anything else. Why should she have known that the guy she'd danced with at the party, with his muted expressions and his precise obedience, would be anything like what she wanted?

She did try to be logical about it, once. She wanted someone passionate, someone who can be protective and responsible and vicious. Someone who wants the same things she does; someone who loves her. Wearing that plan like a crown, it's a small wonder that Seifer fit and Squall didn't.

Squall, after all, is none of those things. Except in love, which seems to shatter every rule that he has ever constructed for himself and leave his thoughts in ruins for another time while he pursues what he needs.

And it's that which has caught her at last: the impossibility of predicting the actions of someone trained from childhood to be the perfect soldier. That structured mind framed and caged in restrictions, never broken, but for a single exception.

Underneath the laws he places on himself, he lives simply by one rule.

And Rinoa understands that.




Now, she thinks, love is sometimes just a little flash in the dark. Given time, spark by spark, it'll flare up to a star.




feedback: is dearly beloved to my heart.