the glorious brave heart


Rinoa sometimes pretends that her mother's still with her, somewhere underneath all that ash and somewhere above that gravestone. Rinoa sometimes pretends that her mother can still talk to her, still plays with her hair, still hums Eyes On Me brokenly like it's her own personal anthem and she remembers––

Everything'll be all right, angel. It only gets better if it's not worse.

Rinoa feels the stems in-between sweaty fingers, prickly and rough and green, and the blood red roses look a lot prettier today. Rinoa pretends that they're as red as her dress, a spoonful of nostalgia, Julia Heartilly the Poster-Girl; Eyes-On-Me-Extraordinaire.

Angel, it's only the beginning.

Rinoa sometimes wonders why no one cried at her mother's funeral. Her daddy stood proud and tall and strong against some evil force, something bad and horrible, but everyone else was poker-faced and a little too fake. Rinoa wants to know why, because everyone knew her mother but no one really knew like she did, and Rinoa wants to know why she was the only one who let the fat big tears show.

Your future will be big and bright and happy, because you're beautiful, angel.

Rinoa drops the flowers on the grave, smoothing fingers over the rough marble and kneeling in the grassy dirt, feeling not too mature but a little courageous. Her mother was the only person she ever loved, well, the only person she really really indefinitely loved, and now she's buried beneath the ground in an ash-box; unattainable and faraway and Rinoa just wants to pretend.

Don't cry for me, angel.

Rinoa wipes away the tears hastily, soaking her blue sleeve, and she pretends for a little while longer. Letting go means being braver, and that means being very brave and Rinoa thinks that it's not time yet.

-

"What's the date today, Squall?" Rinoa asks cheerfully as she wedges herself in-between cushions on his impossible couch, which he is adamant about because he is Squall Leonhart and it is black and cool.

"The twenty-fifth of March," replies her commander-lover without looking up from whatever paper it is he's reading, not that she really pays attention to that. But Rinoa hears the magic number and freezes up right on que, forgetting everything about morning cheeriness and just stopping.

"Oh," she manages, a little too nonchalantly and this makes Squall glance her way. But Rinoa is master of facial expressions and she looks just like she normally does, happy with a tinge of thoughtfulness and maybe some woebegone sadness deep deep down, but Rinoa is Rinoa so he doesn't see this.

There is silence, and Rinoa swears she can hear her mother's voice. My last night here for you, same old songs just once more…

"What do you think about death, Squall?" Rinoa inquires, like she just asked about the weather or tax deductions or possibly the new type of wood exported from Timber, haha.

"It's death," he says with practiced monotony, not really processing the question because maybe if he had then it would've been a real sentence.

"That's great. I bet you really passed your philosophy classes … I mean, if you had them," Rinoa babbles, more to herself than him because it's early morning and Squall never listens to her until after nine. "But death is … it's people being gone, that's what I think. But then you miss them," she pauses, reflects, sighs. "You miss them a lot."

My last night here with you … maybe yes, maybe no…

"Rinoa?" Squall finally pays attention, more at his girlfriend's tone than her words, because Rinoa sounds almost dreamy, as if she's speaking from a far-off distance and to something very high up.

"I remember the twenty-fifth of March, when I was five," she continues matter-of-factly. "My mother crashed into another car on the boulevard in Deling, you know, near the archway? It was a six car pile-up, and no one survived. I remember that. My father was red-eyed for weeks, but back then, I didn't know why."

Squall has left his seat during her monologue, and he sits beside her on the impossible-couch, brow furrowed in a determined sort of way and Rinoa muses on it.

"You're putting on your thinking expression again," she notes, more to dull the pain than anything else, because it's welling up inside and swelling out over the edges.

"Your mother…" Squall sounds a little bit like a kid again, hesitant and maybe clumsy. "I never asked you about her."

"She's dead," Rinoa ascertains, in case he wasn't sure, even though she remembers telling him this on the Ragnarok. "She was a famous singer. But she got more famous after she died, and all her fans turned up for the funeral, but not one of them was sad, you know?"

Squall didn't know.

"I get it, though. I really get it now. When a celebrity dies, you know they're immortal, because everyone remembers them even if they weren't alive at the time. But I don't see her as a celebrity…" Rinoa fumbles with her words a little, before finishing. "…I see her as my mother, and that makes her fuzzier around the edges."

Squall's not so good with comforting, and Rinoa expects this of him, but he does give her a hug and he does let her cry on his shoulder and practically ruin his SeeD jacket, and she thinks that this makes up for his not being a wordsmith.

-

Rinoa brings a bouquet of flowers to her mother's grave this year, one for each year she's had a hole somewhere in her abdomen, a missing part of herself. Maybe this is a bleak outlook, or maybe it's thoughtful, but either way Rinoa is a little sad and this is a good enough reason.

"Hey, mum," she begins, a little unsure. "It's your daughter, Rinny. In case you didn't know … but you should, because you're in Heaven right now, and they're very resourceful up there. Or so I've heard…" Rinoa twirls a broken stem around her finger, over and over, in a strange clanging symphony. "A lot of stuff's happened, actually. I'm eighteen now, for instance."

This doesn't seem to suffice, so she searches for something else.

"I travelled all over the world, with SeeD … and I'm currently with Squall Leonhart, who is a lot better than Seifer Almasy, don't worry," she sighs. "I'm a sorceress, too … mum, you know all this already, right? You're not mad? I really don't want you to be angry with me for it, not like Caraway…"

He's your father, angel. He just lost his way.

Strange, how she still felt as though her mother's voice was there, beyond the ash-box and the gravestone and just there.

"…I changed my name to Heartilly, did you know that? Legally, I mean," Rinoa feels bad for this, however, as soon as the words tumble from her lips. "I never forgot you. I never will. I can't. It hurts … even now. And you know, I hang around with orphans so they all know what it's like … but I don't know. It feels like every year I leave something behind, and I can't catch up to what you were––I feel like I'm not good enough."

Pain strikes at her heart again, thump-da-thump-thump, and she grimaces with a ferocious sort of dignity. Rinoa Heartilly, the only-sorceress-in-the-world, the-girl-who-is-not-a-SeeD, the-daughter-of-the-prodigy. Who am I?

"That's stupid…right?"

Angel, you're beautiful and you know it. You're divine. But you know what lies within you, how it grows … be strong for it.

"Be strong for it," she echoes. "Being a sorceress isn't a game of flowing dresses and ethereal beauty… is it? I used to think so, when I read about them. I thought it was all terribly romantic … moreover … you know, the sorceress and knight? But it's not. It's special. It's powerful. But it's not a game."

Her heart swells in an aching, longing way and Rinoa feels the tears at the edge of her vision, blurring the grassy plains dotted with tombstones. The Grand Cemetery of Galbadia is near the Tomb of the Unknown King, all natural and organic and pristine. Rinoa finds it peaceful, but it's eating holes in her.

"I love you, mum," she says. "I really do. I miss you. I want you here."

Pause.

"But … you're gone, and maybe I have to see that."

-

Squall takes her out for dinner, because he thinks that it might make things better. Rinoa doesn't know how gourmet dishes that come in mini-sizes will comfort her out-of-whack emotions, but Squall manages to, and that's enough. He talks to her over dinner, actually talks, actually coming alive, and she loves him for it.

"…I cried when Sis left, all the time," he says, epitome of seriousness, etched to perfection. "I know what it's like."

"Did you ever dream about her?" questions Rinoa.

"Sometimes. I could never see her face."

"I dreamt about my mum … she was just out of reach," it's a strange thought. "You think it's like the same thing? That we punish ourselves for what happens?"

"I thought it was my fault," Squall affirms. "Did you?"

"I thought she wouldn't come back because I'd done something wrong … I couldn't … and then my father …" Rinoa ponders. "I guess so, yeah."

There is silence, except for the clinking of cutlery and the flickering of the candle in its holder.

"But how long has it been, Rinoa?" and she knows that he will never call her by nickname, but the amount of care he puts into her name makes it all better.

"A long time," she concurs. "Do you think that … in moving on, you have to forget? You have to make the feelings go away?"

"You have to remember that happiness exists afterwards," Squall tells her slowly, as if he is deliberating the weight of every word. "You taught me that."

"Yes," Rinoa mutters, more to herself, but then smiles. "Yes, I did, didn't I?"

-

Rinoa thinks that maybe death is worse for those left behind, but life is better for those that have it.

Rinoa is being brave.


This is dedicated to my bestest friend in the whole entire universe, who is going through a very rough time at the moment ... and somehow crying makes you feel better, you know?