Disclaimers: I don't own anything Final Fantasy VII/VIII but this story.

A/N: Hey guys! :D So here's Chapter 19! It's surprising that I'm almost at Chapter 20. Wow! XD Haha. I absolutely love this chapter because of the development and I hope you'll like it too! :) I've been dying to write this chapter since forever! I don't really have anything else to say because thank you? Haha!

Thank you guys for reading and sticking with the story! And my reviewers! Oh gosh, I feel bad for not getting back to you guys! D: But I did read your reviews over and over again and I'm very thankful for you guys taking the time to write out some lengthy responses! It makes me feel very happy. ^_^ Niqsta, Naya Angel-Wings Heartilly, Squall. Is. The. Best., achioluv, Muffin7, gleamfang, effect20, angelwings, Cloud's kid 1, WishingDreamer5, and greyshade (no, I'm not VIP though I wish I was. :| I'm just Big Bang fan LOL)… THANKS FOR REVIEWING! :D If I could give you guys goodie bags, I totally would. LOL And special thanks goes to Niqsta for betaing this chapter! Without her, I probably would've delayed my updates again! xD Thanks buddy!

Well, I hope you guys enjoy! :) Remember to R&R!


"Tell me what is right and what is wrong
I don't even know why I'm fighting with you
Your face is flushed
You're getting upset
But even when you're looking like that
I…"
~ Big Bang: What is Right

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"Rinoa? Sweetie, please open the door. You need to eat something…" Julia attempted to cajole Rinoa out for the umpteenth time. She leaned her head against the door, pressing her ear against it in hopes of hearing Rinoa's shuffling to open the barrier separating her from the world. When Julia heard no response, she sighed in defeat and pressed her forehead dejectedly against the cold surface of the door. "Rinoa…"

"She's still not coming out?"

Julia lifted her head off the door and looked to her left, spotting Squall standing by the staircase in concern. He pursed his lips and hung his head; his brown bangs covering his disappointed expression.

His voice overlaid in anxiety, Squall whispered, "She's been in there all day now."

"I know…" Julia crossed her arms over her chest and sighed. Walking up to Squall, she smiled sadly at the brunet and swiftly tapped his chin as a signal to face her. Turning his attention to her, Squall could see the lines of worry on Julia's face, her bleak expression divulging the level of stress. He didn't like that one bit… She should be relaxing at her age.

Julia continued her train of thought while tucking a lock of her dark hair behind her left ear, "Well, we know how sensitive she is whenever she breaks up with a boy. It's not as simple as anyone thinks. There are feelings involved and then there's the history between the people involved in the relationship to consider."

Squall trailed his blue eyes to Rinoa's door before looking into Julia's dark eyes again. His hand tightened its grip on the handle rail of the staircase to the point where his knuckles nearly turned white. "Julia, Rinoa never took break-ups so badly. And even if she is now… Rinoa's never locked you out of the room. Besides Ellone, you're the only other person Rinoa could really turn to when it came to…boys…"

A hint of concern flashed through Julia's eyes and she tore her gaze away from Squall. Lifting up a hand to lightly rub her neck, she nodded knowing that what Squall had stated was true. Squall furrowed his eyebrows and they both remained silent for a while longer.

Eventually, Julia was the first to break their silent vigil, her voice ringing out in agony, "…I don't know what to do, Squall." Squall blinked out of his reverie and stared at Julia in confusion with a slight tilt of his head. She in turn locked eyes with her stepson and again crossed her arms, this time presumably for warmth. "I've done everything I can for Rinoa; telling her all the things I used to say to her with her previous boyfriends, but nothing is getting through to her. Do you…perhaps know why she's so…broken right now? If you could've seen the look in her eyes…they were dead."

How was he supposed to answer her? Of course he knew why she was broken. He was the fricken cause of Rinoa's shut down. Julia was patiently waiting for his answer as Squall was racking his brain for an excuse that would suffice without warranting suspicion. At times like these, Julia was extremely synchronized to her daughter's emotions and feelings. Squall assumed it was one of those "mother-daughter" things… He certainly didn't have that kind of bond with Laguna.

Focus! Squall scolded himself, remembering he still needed to answer his stepmother's question. Hyne, how much he hated this; he hated being put on the spot when Julia was interrogating him. Squall assumed this was what mothers did when their children were acting "naughty." If Julia was indeed interrogating him in that style of discipline,then she was already suspecting him for being part of the equation as to why Rinoa was tormented. Putting on his mask of indifference, Squall lied, "I can't say for sure. Rinoa hasn't said anything to me."

He watched as Julia hummed – feeling his palms becoming sweaty with every passing moment – before she nodded. Sighing again, Julia replied, "Then I guess…we can only give her time."

Julia squeezed Squall's upper arm before making her way down the stairs and Squall couldn't help but feel like something was terribly amiss during their conversation. Looking over his shoulder, he called back to Julia who was halfway down the stairs now, "Did Rinoa… Did she say anything about me?"

"You?"

"Like… Well anything really."

"…Not that I know of," Julia answered. Squall let out a mental sigh of relief, only to reel it back when Julia continued, "But Squall… Rinoa said she didn't want to see you."

He stared at her, eyes wide before letting out, "…What?" Rinoa didn't want to see him? That wasn't right. Okay maybe it was, but Rinoa would want to see him eventually…right? Shaking his head and properly turning around in his spot to face his stepmother, Squall asked again in a more coherent sentence, "I'm sorry, Julia… Rinoa doesn't want to see me?"

The older woman nodded. "I tried asking her why before, but she doesn't give me a reason. Squall… I know you want to help her, but please give Rinoa her space?"

Squall bit the inside of his cheek before slumping his shoulders in defeat. "I…I get it."

"Thank you," Julia replied gratefully before finally reaching the bottom of the stairs and entering the living room.

…It didn't make any sense.

Rinoa didn't want to see him?

…Well okay. Maybe it did make some sense,but wasn't that usually for the person who was Rinoa's boyfriend – now ex-boyfriend? Squall wasn't an expert in personal relationships in the slightest, but he had ardently thought Rinoa would have wanted to avoid Cloud…not him. Cloud was the one who told her that they should see other people; not him. Yes, Squall wanted Rinoa to dump the blond right when they started going out, but now, Rinoa and Cloud had history… And as Julia started earlier, sometimes it wasn't easy to forget about that kind of history in one shot. From that reasoning, Squall thought Rinoa wanted to avoid Cloud at every possible turn in her life thus far. The brunet believed Rinoa would have been crying to him – to anyone – about her break-up with Cloud. He had strongly hoped it would've been Julia… But Rinoa was turning away her own mother's help!

Exhaling a breath, Squall looked down the staircase for any indication of Julia coming back to check up on Rinoa before quietly making his way to the raven haired girl's bedroom door. She wasn't going to be opening it anytime soon, but…he might as well try and get her to talk to someone, even if it was him.

Preparing himself for the task at hand, the brunet knocked on the door; his voice calm and as soft as he could muster. "…Rinoa?" He heard no sound from the other side, thus prompting him to continue, "Can you please come out and eat something? Your mother is worried about you." Squall added in mind, I'm worried about you too…

There was a sudden shift in sound and Squall heard Rinoa's bedsprings squeak. Thinking he was getting a response from her, Squall became a little more attentive and pressed on, leaning against the doorframe with his forearm. "By the way, Selphie and the others came by earlier. They dropped off a toy Irvine won at the arcade hoping you'd feel better."

"Go away, Squall!"

…So not the response he wanted, but it was better than nothing. Remaining steadfast, Squall cleared his throat and continued in a steady tone, "Rinoa, please… Open the door."

Rinoa's soft yet bitter voice replied with a hiss, "I don't want to see you! Leave me alone!"

If this were any other situation, Squall would've believed Rinoa to be acting childish. However, he had to give her the benefit of the doubt; she just broke up with her boyfriend for crying out loud. Still…he hated how she was imprisoning herself away from everyone. That kind of attitude didn't befit her at all. Let him do all the brooding…not her.

"Rinoa, I need to talk with you," he persuaded, resting his forehead on the cold wooden surface of the door. What he wanted most in the world right now was to hold the girl behind this barrier in his arms until she felt better. Squall wanted to take away all her pains even if he was the cause of everything that she was feeling right now. Resented or not, Squall just wanted Rinoa to be happy again.

There was another moment of silence and Squall thought Rinoa had ignored his pleas. Sighing, he thought about giving her time to think before movement was heard again. Squall paused temporarily before realizing it was the scuffling of feet. His heart thumped against his rib cage in excitement like a jackhammer. Crap! He wasn't expecting Rinoa to come around so quickly! He may have been coaxing her, but that didn't mean he was ready! Looking to his left and right frantically, Squall took a small step back – for some reason fixing his hair to look more presentable – and waited for her door to open. Rinoa's footsteps became louder and louder until…

Nothing.

The raven haired girl didn't open the door, her voice remained unheard of, and Rinoa's footsteps just ceased. Squall was very confused at this point. Letting out an almost inaudible sound, Squall took a cautious step forward and wondered if he should try jiggling the doorknob to see if it was locked. Did Rinoa walk up to the door and decided to walk back to her bed again? Gently pressing his ear against the door, Squall called out, "Uh…R…Rinoa—?"

SLAM!

Squall jumped in surprise, stumbling backwards and smacking right against the wall. His occipital bone made contact with the hard surface, causing him to grunt in pain, as he slid down the wall and clutched the back of his head. Damn! Rinoa just smacked the door right against his ear! He wasn't expecting her to open the door that quickly, but he also didn't think she would just hit the door with so much force to startle him! How did she even know he would press himself against the door anyway? …Oh wait, they have been living together for eight years now. Of course Rinoa was going to understand his mannerisms like the back of her hand after such a long time of being "pretend" siblings! Still… Squall was pretty upset with how Rinoa replied to his honest attempts at consoling her.

"What the hell, Rinoa?" Squall growled, trying to keep his voice from echoing down to the main level of the house. "That wasn't funny!"

"I wasn't trying to be!" Rinoa rebuked, her voice rising in anger behind the closed door. "I told you to leave me alone! So do it!"

Squall frowned and retorted, "Stop being so damn difficult and talk to someone!"

Rinoa didn't miss a heartbeat when she replied back, "I'm doing it right now, aren't I? Now leave me the hell alone!"

"You know what I mean, Rinoa!" Squall stood up and glared holes at the door. He didn't have any doubts Rinoa was doing exactly the same. "Stop cowering behind a wall and really talk to someone!"

"You're only saying that because you want me to talk to you! Stop being a hypocrite, Squall, and just leave me alone! You're the last person I want to see!" Rinoa screeched, slamming against the door again.

Squall flinched at her words before narrowing his eyes in disappointment. So that's it then. Rinoa officially hated his guts. Fine! If she wanted to stay in her bedroom whining about what could've been, then by all means! Throwing his arms up in the air in exasperation, Squall spat, "Your loss then. Go on pitying yourself."

"Go away already!" Rinoa cried out once more in finality.

The brunet didn't hesitate to do as asked and made his way towards the staircase. However, some instinct told him to stop walking and just listen. It was probably his conscience. Hyne, Squall hated his conscience sometimes because it acted like a nagging itch. Just standing there at the top of the staircase – probably looking a little lost to anyone who saw him – Squall listened. Very faintly, but very much there, Squall heard Rinoa's sobbing. That had got him to cool off instantly and guilt washed over him. Rinoa was in need of a friend; a family member; a brother. And what did he do? Squall only went and antagonized her. He covered his face with his right hand.

Dammit…

"Squall?" The brunet flinched before darting his eyes towards concerned green ones. Laguna smiled up at him worriedly from the bottom of the stairs, his hand resting on the handrail. "Everything okay? You and Rinoa… Jules and I heard some shouting and other loud noises."

The brunet frowned and immediately looked away from his father. So much for having a "quiet" argument with Rinoa. Nodding his head, Squall replied while keeping his calm exterior, "Yeah. Sorry. I was…prying a little and Rinoa got mad."

Laguna hummed, a thoughtful expression donning his face as Squall watched him carefully. A quiet Laguna was – for a lack of a better word – an "insightful" Laguna. Squall liked insightful Laguna…when he wasn't being insightful with him. When he thought about it, everyone was getting on his case as of late. Squall only hoped that this Laguna was only around until the problem with Rinoa's break-up calmed down. It was hard enough treading on eggshells with Julia giving him apprehensive looks every now and then (though he still hoped it wasn't what he thought to believe).

With a firm nod, Laguna asked Squall, "Well I guess that makes sense. Anyways, you should come down and eat too. We can try feeding Rinoa later. How's that?"

Squall stared at his father for a moment before shaking his head. He started walking towards his room as he mumbled, "I don't feel like it at the moment…"

"Oh… Well okay," Laguna sadly replied.

Squall walked solemnly towards his room, having to pass Rinoa's door on the way. He gazed at her door and could still hear Rinoa crying. Squall tightened a fist and bit his bottom lip, but continued to his room. How could he eat when Rinoa couldn't? Squall felt too much guilt to stomach down food. If she was going to suffer…then so would he. That was the domino effect he forced himself to share with her because he loved her.

[][][][][][][][]

For the rest of the afternoon, Squall stayed in his bedroom…doing absolutely nothing. He had thought about doing homework to pass the time, but then he remembered he stayed home today because he was worried about Rinoa. Quistis had told him yesterday that Selphie had tried calling Rinoa's cell phone in hopes of holding a sleepover to take Rinoa's mind off of "boy troubles." Rinoa's answer? She ignored – actually ignored – one of her best friend's invitations! However, to be fair, the raven haired girl had been ignoring everyone's messages. Rinoa hadn't left her room for almost…three days now? Yes; that's right. It had been three days since the raven haired girl's break-up with the blond and she had yet to show any signs of making a "healthy" recovery.

…Oh Hyne dammit, he was thinking about her again.

Groaning, Squall threw the rubber ball he was lethargically tossing in the air towards his bedroom door. Unintentionally, Laguna decided at that time to walk into his room and the rubber ball smacked him square in the face. Squall immediately sat up from his bed as Laguna crouched down to his knees while throwing a hand up to cover his face. Laguna let out a short wince and Squall watched as the ball bounced on the ground before rolling under his bed. He knew it was his fault, but Squall couldn't help but scold, "See? This is the reason why I'm always telling you to knock!"

In response, all Laguna did was laugh as if his pain wasn't much of a problem. He grinned up at Squall from his kneeling position – a faint red mark visibly between his eyebrows – and joked, "Well hey! At least I know you have a good arm. If you want, I have connections with the sports manager of—"

"What do you want, Dad?" Squall cut in with a deadpan tone. Laguna was rambling again and that usually meant he was nervous. However, whatever his father was never about… Squall had no idea.

"Ah, right!" Laguna cleared his throat, straightened his back, and dusted off his formal suit… Wait, why was he dressed so nicely? Didn't Laguna hate dressing so formally? He was always complaining about it to Squall or Julia or anyone who was within earshot. Laguna brought Squall back from his thoughts with a reply, "Listen, I'm planning on taking Jules out for the evening. She's been really stressed lately and I think it's from all this drama surrounding Rinoa. I know she wants to be there for her daughter, but I'm a little worried about Julia, too."

This caught Squall's attention and he stood up from his bed to properly face the older man. Scratching the back of his head, Squall asked nervously, "What's wrong with Julia?"

"I don't know if you've noticed, but she's gotten…paler these past few days. Also, I don't think she's been following her own advice and feeding herself," Laguna answered with a cross of his arms. "Again, I really think it's just the stress of Rinoa's problems, but I really want her to relax. That's why I'm taking her out tonight."

Squall nodded in understanding. Wanting to play his part, the brunet questioned, "Okay. What do you want me to do?"

"…Could you watch over Rinoa while we're gone?"

His eyes widened in bewilderment. Him? Watch Rinoa? Didn't Laguna hear their argument earlier today? Laguna was the one who pointed that out to him after all. Squall stared at his father's emerald green eyes for a moment longer, seeing no traces of a joke or mistake in the older man's face. Laguna was being austere with his request.

Shaking his head, Squall trotted back to his bed while running a hand through his hair. Well sure, Squall wanted to take care of Rinoa, but she wouldn't let him. Sighing, Squall looked over his shoulder to address his father, "Are you serious? Rinoa doesn't want to talk to me."

"So she doesn't want to talk to you," Laguna brushed off with a shrug. "That doesn't mean you can't take care of her."

The brunet gave his father a dumbfounded expression. The man standing before him was seriously dense. "Dad, Rinoa does not want to speak with me. That includes being near her, sharing the same room as her, and indefinitely, breathing the same air as her. How am I supposed to take care of her like that?"

It was surprising to Squall that his father had yet to be put off by what he said. Usually, Laguna would be scratching the back of his head or twiddling his thumbs together; but not this time. Laguna merely stared at his son evenly – back straight and head held high in firm resolute – as he continued to remain quiet. Weird… Squall was actually getting nervous with his father adopting a posture that called for him to be taken seriously. Soon enough, Laguna relaxed his stance and smiled calmly; his eyes twinkling with amusement. Walking up to Squall, the man placed a firm hand on the brunet's shoulder and replied gently, "Squall, she needs you."

What? Squall blinked in confusion.

Laguna chuckled a little and expanded on his answer, "Rinoa's hiding away, sure, but she still needs you. You're her closest friend and confidante. She can say as much as she wants how she doesn't want to see you, but deep down, Rinoa does want to see you more than anything. She's just scared about facing you. And here's the kicker: you're afraid of seeing her too."

"I'm not…" Squall trailed off, lowering his gaze to the floor unconsciously. Was he afraid to see Rinoa?

"Actually you are." Laguna nodded. "Otherwise, you wouldn't have vehemently denied to taking care of her… Even if your reasons are kinda true. But ya know, Squall, I've seen you around Rinoa for the last eight years. You two are as thick as thieves! Not seeing you two helping each other out is like me becoming the President of Esthar. It'll never happen. So I guess what I'm saying is…don't give up on her. She'll come around to you."

"Dad…" He couldn't help but look up at the man who took a hand in raising him. This was just one of those rare moments where Squall would actually be in-sync with his father. Yes, they clashed on just about anything, but…Hyne how they understood each other on common ground. Offering a slight smile in admiration for his efforts, Squall nodded. Maybe he was afraid of really confronting Rinoa, but he needed to get through to her; help her remedy her situation. To him, she was all that mattered right now. "Thanks, Dad."

Laguna let a boyish grin grace his face. "Anytime! Besides, Jules needs the relaxation too and let go once in a while. What's that saying… Sei Kero Kero!"

There was the Laguna Squall knew! The brunet corrected, hiding an entertained smirk. "You mean Que Sera Sera?"

Laguna flinched and scratched the back of his head. "Uh…yeah that."

Shaking his head, Squall sighed and looked to the side, speaking in an amused tone, "Always the eloquent one…"

There was a brief moment of awkward silence between them.

"…What?" Squall asked when Laguna continued to stare at him.

The older man slowly smiled and shook his head happily. "Nothing." Laguna started to make his way to the door and chuckled under his breath. Squall was a little confused by his behavior until Laguna's reaction dawned on him. Laguna… He just couldn't stop being "Laguna."

Leaning back on his bed using the back of his palms as support, Squall asked before Laguna could leave entirely, "Mom knew just the right things to say in a situation like this…huh?"

Laguna remained at the doorway before letting out, a smile very much apparent in his voice, "Yup. I'm just repeating what your mother told me when I got insecure about the beginnings of our relationship together."

Squall closed his eyes with a hum and he heard the clicking sound of his door closing. Falling back on his bed, Squall contemplated about the advice his father gave him. Picking up the pieces with Rinoa… Even if it didn't lead to things Squall would have liked, if Rinoa could smile happily again, then he would take that as an accomplishment in and of itself. Her smile was truly better than nothing at all. Funny how Squall got that kind of advice from Laguna of all people. Maybe he and Laguna did have that weird "father-son" relationship similar to those "mother-daughter" ones…

Sitting up, Squall tilted his head in puzzlement, "The beginnings of our relationship…?" What does Dad mean…by that?

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Squall lazily sat along the length of the couch, his sock-covered feet settling on top of the armrest while his head rested on one of the cushions with his right arm holding it in place. Squall held his cell phone above his face as he stared at his screen in a trance. There was only one message staring back at him, but ironically enough, it wasn't really a message:

No New Messages

He frowned before closing his phone for the umpteenth time. Still no reply from Rinoa. It was childish, but Squall assumed if he couldn't talk to Rinoa directly…then why not through text messaging? …Okay, so the idea was stupid, but Squall didn't want to risk having Rinoa snap at him again and he, in turn, snapping back. He just wished Rinoa would open up! She couldn't stay in that room forever! It'd been three hours since Laguna left with Julia for that fancy restaurant in the quaint part of the city, but come on! Didn't Rinoa need to use the washroom? She couldn't hold in all that water forever…

What water? She's not eating idiot, Squall mentally berated himself before rolling his eyes. Great. He was talking to himself now from the lack of communication…

Communication…

Suddenly an idea hit Squall and he seriously had to wonder where his brain had wandered off to during the time he was mauling for a way to get Rinoa out of her room. Flipping his phone open again, Squall typed another text-message, but this time, it wasn't being sent to Rinoa. He had contemplated on sending it to Seifer, but Rinoa knew that Seifer knew about them. The same reasoning went with Tifa if he decided to text her. And Cloud…well, Squall didn't have his number and it would've been plain stupid to text him anyway. Rinoa just broke up with him, so Squall had to go with someone completely oblivious to everything; someone unaware of what was really happening between him and Rinoa; and someone who wouldn't ask that many questions and could instantly get distracted with something else…

Zell.

Squall sent his text message which read:

"Call my house number now. Don't ask questions.
- Squall"

Standing up, Squall made his way to the phone just by the staircase and waited. After another minute passed, the house phone started ringing. Squall didn't hesitate to pick up the phone from its receiver.

"Hey, Squall, what the heck? Why'd you want me to call your house number when your cell phone is working perfectly fine?" Zell asked on the other side of the line. From how he sounded, Zell seemed really busy. Too bad Squall didn't care at the moment. This was only going to take two minutes tops.

"Zell. What is it?" Squall replied, ignoring the blond's concerns. He turned his back on the staircase and started pacing forward a little. "Why didn't you call my cell?"

Zell – in his right mind – questioned, "Um… What?"

Squall continued regardless, "Oh. Yeah it was off. Sorry."

"Hey, Squall…"

"No… I don't think Selphie gave me Rinoa's math homework…"

"Wait, wait, wait! What the heck are you talking about? Selphie? Squall—"Zell attempted again.

The brunet only rolled his eyes, ignoring the blond's blabbering. He stopped walking and crossed his arms, holding the phone against his ear. Squall acted out in an unwilling manner, "What? But I can't go out—"

"SQUALL!"

"—Rinoa's going to be home alone if I do that," Squall retorted with a shake of his head. He hoped Zell would stay on the phone just a little bit longer. He let out a sigh and rubbed his forehead. "Fine. But I'm not sticking around…especially if Seifer's going to be probing me all day…"

Zell screeched then, "What. The. HELL? Squall! Talk sense for crying out loud! What the hell does Seifer have to do with anything? WHY THE HELL DID YOU CALL ME?"

"Rinoa can't go, Zell. She's still…sulking…"

"What the fu—"

"Okay, fine." Squall sighed again, making a beeline for the jacket closet. He shifted through all the jackets before pulling out a dark blue zip-up hoodie and throwing it on; shifting the phone in each of his hands as he kept talking, "I'll be there in a few minutes."

Zell all but sighed at this point; very much ready to explode. "Squall! I swear to Hyne!"

"Oh and Zell?" Squall had to spare a smirk at this point. He replied, "Thanks."

"What the hell for?" Zell retorted, "Squall—"

The brunet ended the call and replaced the phone on the receiver. He looked up towards the staircase for a moment before sighing. He was really hoping this was going to work. Squall walked over to the front door, unlocked it, and opened it. However, instead of stepping outside, Squall closed it shut with a loud slam and locked the door again. Turning his back on the door, Squall leaned against it and waited.

Rinoa had to come down now. She had to believe she was the only one left in the house now. Even though the blond played an unsuspecting victim, Zell actually played a big part in the act Squall was rolling out. Rinoa had a landline phone in her room and it had caller ID. It was probably sometime last year that Rinoa had asked Laguna if she could have a landline phone in her room. The reason? Because Squall had been in Galbadia studying abroad and Rinoa wanted to keep in contact with him. He could still remember how excited Rinoa was when she first told him about that a long time ago.

But anyways…

Rinoa had a phone in her room with caller ID which meant she would truly believe Zell called, thus giving Squall an alibi. Squall had basically created the biggest lie of his life right now. He wouldn't be going out; he wouldn't be seeing anyone and leaving Rinoa in the house by herself…but Rinoa didn't know that. If Squall thought right, Rinoa had probably checked the phone to see if Squall was lying. And as another precaution, Squall had gone so far as to act out how he would to a call if Rinoa decided to play witness to his actions. Knowing her, she was definitely paranoid and adamant about not seeing him. But dammit, they needed to talk. Rinoa was being stubborn and if she wanted to be stubborn, Squall would be even more stubborn.

So he waited quietly. Squall folded his arms across his chest and waited. It was already past six o'clock… Rinoa had to be hungry at this point. With her thinking no one was in the house, of course she would sneak out of her prison for a snack.

Click.

Here we go… Squall took in a deep breath, preparing himself for what was to come. Luckily he was still standing in the entryway; it was a blind spot for people coming down the staircase. Squall could hear Rinoa's footsteps walking slowly and cautiously throughout the hallway and his pulse quickened with every passing moment.

Although he did want to speak with Rinoa so badly… He was still worried about what to say or what to do. Rinoa was certainly not going to be happy with him pulling this stunt; she would probably make a run for her room. What if she ignored everything he would say to her? What if she told him she absolutely hated him for a second time? Squall was still insecure about how to handle all of these "what-ifs" but… he just wanted his Rinoa back.

Hearing the cupboards in the kitchen swinging open and plates clanking against each other, Squall closed his eyes and took another deep breath. This was his moment of truth. This was his chance to confront Rinoa before either of their parents came home from their outing. Pushing himself off the door, Squall quietly walked towards the kitchen. Since there was only one way in the kitchen, he would be blocking the only way out.

Squall looked into the kitchen and he swore he stopped breathing. There in the kitchen with her back facing him stood Rinoa. She was busying herself by scouring the fridge and stove top for anything to eat. Julia did in fact leave something for Rinoa to eat in the microwave, but Squall refrained from saying anything yet. He could only watch her; taking in her sight from not having seen her in a while. Rinoa was wearing grey sweatpants and a black tee with her hair looking slightly unkempt. From how she appeared, Rinoa didn't care about her looks at present; especially since she believed she was alone. But none of that mattered to Squall… She still looked perfect to him.

Now or never, Squall sighed to himself as he leaned against the entrance of the kitchen. "It's in the microwave."

Rinoa gasped loudly with a jump and quickly turned around, hands holding the countertop as her eyes widened at the sight of him. Squall only stared back evenly without moving. Rinoa breathed in deeply a few times before narrowing her dark brown eyes at him and turning away. They stood silent for another moment before she harshly whispered, "Weren't you suppose to go out?"

"So you heard that call," Squall said in more of a statement than a question.

"Why are you here?" Rinoa continued questioning, slightly looking over her shoulder and through the bangs framing her face.

Squall's steel blue eyes didn't leave her figure for a moment. "I'm here for you."

Another moment of silence passed by them.

Rinoa threw all her attention forward, casually digging her hand through the utensil drawer. Suddenly, Squall saw Rinoa's shoulders shaking somewhat and she let out a small but audible noise. Concerned, he took one step forward before stopping after being taken aback that Rinoa was giggling. It really threw off his preparation big time. Why was Rinoa laughing?

"…Rinoa—" Squall began only to get cut off when Rinoa closed the utensil drawer shut with a loud smack.

"For me? Oh Squall…you really shouldn't have!" Rinoa giggled with a voice so sickly sweet.

She turned around then with a dark smile upon her face and Squall knew he had to be careful around her. Rinoa leaned against the counter a little and brushed her bangs out of her face, giving Squall the chance to really look at her. Her face was the depiction of stress; her usually bright orbs were now red, small dark circles appeared under her eyes, and the area surrounding it was puffy from excessive crying. Stress lines had started making their way to Rinoa's forehead and it broke Squall heart seeing her in such a state.

Rinoa hummed while nodding her head. "Hmm…for me. Everything you ever do is for my sake huh? That's so sweet…"

"Rinoa," Squall tried again with a firm tone. He wanted to reach her, but how could he when she was falling back on such a defense mechanism?

"It's so sweet," Rinoa continued, pretending that Squall hadn't interrupted her, "that I hate it. I don't want any of it! Nothing from you! Take it all back, I don't care!"

He watched as Rinoa started glaring harshly at him with ever word she threw at him. Squall blinked before keeping his face stoic. He told himself that she was only lashing out in anger now. This was something he was going to have to take in stride. Let her shout it all out, have her calm down, and then try talking to her again.

Rinoa pointed to him in accusation and cried out, "That! I hate that! Putting your poker face on whenever someone calls you out! Well guess what Squall? I'm not playing your mind games! You can take it, and shove it." Rinoa huffed with a shake of her head and looked away. Letting out a rough sigh, she began making her way towards the entrance. "I'm done here. I'm not hungry anymore."

Even though Squall let her walk out the kitchen, he followed her, he refused to let her go back upstairs and into her bedroom; her shield away from the world. Squall quickly took hold of Rinoa's right wrist and effectively stopped her from taking even one step up the stairs. He firmly stated, "We need to talk."

"Let go of me!" Rinoa struggled, violently pulling her wrist away, but in the process, moving herself further from the staircase. Squall took full advantage of this and stood in front of the staircase to prevent Rinoa from escaping. He frowned at her, but she only glowered back. Rinoa let out a frustrated growl and turned away from him. "You're so…! UGH! Leave me the hell alone, Squall! I want my space!"

He had to let out a sardonic chuckle as he retorted, "Space? You want space? Rinoa, you've had your space for three days now. If I didn't know you better, I would think you were turning into a hermit."

"You have no right to criticize me!" Rinoa shot back, shaking in her spot. "You wanna know why I'm hiding out in my room? Because if I ever stepped out of it, I'd have to deal with you and your uppity attitude getting into my business!"

Squall squared his forehead. She honestly thought he was prying? Hell no. He just wanted to help and comfort her. Why couldn't she understand that? This wasn't something he took sick pleasure in! There was nothing sadistic on his end on wanting to help her cope with her break-up with Cloud. Squall honestly wanted to be there for her and Rinoa was twisting his help into something else.

As calm as he could, the brunet replied, "Rinoa, I just don't want to see you holing up in your room. I want to help you. I hate seeing you like this! It's unlike you."

"Unlike me? Unlike me?" Rinoa scoffed, pointing at herself with her hand. She gave out a disgusted look and retorted sarcastically, "Oh I'm sorry. I didn't realize I looked like a charity case to you! Well forgive me, Squall, for not being 'honorable' and 'holier-than-thou.'"

"Dammit, Rinoa!" Squall blurted out, feeling his own frustrations rising, "Will you stop acting like a child and talk to me seriously?"

Rinoa covered her ears and shook her head. "I don't hear you! Just leave me alone!" She started walking away from him towards the living room.

Tightening a fist and letting out a sharp exhale, Squall quickly followed behind Rinoa and grabbed her right upper arm. His patience was beginning to wear thin. "Rinoa, will you just stop—"

SMACK!

Suddenly his left cheek started to sting and felt hot. Heck, he wasn't even looking at Rinoa anymore; he was looking to his right. Rinoa had just smacked him without hesitation! …Okay, maybe he deserved it for bugging her so much right now, but there was a reason he was! Slowly, he turned his gaze back at Rinoa. She watched him carefully as she slowly backed away while still scowling at him. He didn't want to admit it, but Squall was impressed that she felt no remorse in that slap.

Staring at each other, Squall felt like the room dropped in temperature. It was getting cold… and that was because of the rift between him and Rinoa.

"You want to talk?" Rinoa asked, her voice increasing in volume as she stood at one end of the room. She spread out her arms and glowered. "Then let's talk! I didn't want anything to do with your feelings, Squall!"

This suddenly started getting out of hand. She was turning her anger on him – which should be right – but she was still questioning his feelings? Dammit all to hell. How could she still be denying him after everything that's happened? Not even a little bit of acknowledgement? Not even a small show of sympathy and understanding? Hell, Squall wouldn't care if Rinoa didn't want to bring up his feelings for her at this moment, but to call him out on itlike that? Rinoa could be angry at him all she wanted, but this was just one aspect which he would not let slide.

"You want me to be honest?" Squall retorted, his voice becoming cold and unfeeling, "Alright, I'll be honest. I didn't want you to know about my feelings."

"Then why did you tell me?" Rinoa snapped back in a loud hiss. She bunched her hair in her hands before dropping her hands to her chest. "Why did you tell me about your feelings if you were just going to cause this between us?"

Squall shook his head and let out a bitter laugh. Placing one hand on his hip and the other to pinch the bridge of his nose, Squall replied lamely, "For Hyne's sake, Rinoa. You have to fricken ask? Maybe it's because you decided to let yourself have feelings for Cloud!"

Rinoa smiled maliciously. "Ohhh! So you call him 'Cloud'now? Why? Because I'm not dating him anymore? Because he dumped me, he's off your 'hate list?' That's a real good reason to start calling him by his name now, huh?"

"Don't turn this around on me," Squall rebuked with a narrow of his eyes. Taking a step forward, Squall pointed at Rinoa and accused, "You and I both know it was your feelings that caused this hell of a mess right now."

"My feelings? Squall! I can't help who I fall in love with!"

"Well here's the truth, Rinoa: I couldn't help myself either when I fell for you," Squall answered evenly, sneering at her. "If I had known we were going to become stepsiblings, I would've never become attached to you in the first place. You shouldn't have been there at my Mother's resting place when we first met. Hell, you shouldn't have even bothered to cheer me up when you saw me! Maybe then I wouldn't have fallen for you or at least started the beginnings of falling in love with you."

…What was he saying?

"These feelings I've kept for you, I wish I could've changed them too—"

That wasn't true!

"Maybe then you and I could've just grown up as estranged stepsiblings—"

It was never true!

"But that wasn't the case and because of it, all I can ever think about is you and it's starting to make me sick!" Squall blurted out, not caring if his aggravation was starting to show. A part of him was tired of fighting her, fighting for her in the hopes that she could love him back. But another part of himself… dammit he hated this part of himself! He just couldn't let go of Rinoa! He was chained to her as if destiny had a sick way of twisting his life into one big melodrama just so he suffered! Without thinking, he shouted, "If I had known you were just going to be a problem with no answer, I would have never fallen in love with you!"

Rinoa flinched a little before continuing to stare at him evenly without backing down. Squall did the same thing; his eyes never leaving hers as he heavily panted after his unintentional rant. Silence filled the room and only the ticking of the clock made up for the lack of sound besides the harsh breathing of the teenagers in a standstill.

"…This is all your fault, Squall!" Rinoa shouted after a while, pointing a finger at the brunet. Her eyes were brimming over with angry tears. "Everything that's happened! It's all your fault!"

Squall could only retaliate just as harshly from the other end of the room. He scoffed indignantly, "My fault? Oh please, Rinoa. Grow up! I wouldn't blame Cloud for leaving you. He had a pretty good reason too. In fact, I'm happy he left you miserable!"

Of course Squall didn't mean that. He never wanted to see Rinoa in so much distress, but that one part of him couldn't help but laugh at her disarray. For all the years that he suffered for loving Rinoa, this small moment in his life where Rinoa was in such depression made his suffering feel like karma had been dealt.

And he hated it. He hated the feeling that somewhere deep within the recesses of his heart that he was actually enjoying Rinoa's torment. It made Squall feel so dirty for actually liking it. He hated himself for causing Rinoa to suffer so painfully. He knew very well that he was the cause of her sadness and frustrations. It was his longing for her that was destroying her innocence right before his eyes. And he hated it.

Rinoa's hands balled up into fists as she growled out, "Damn you, Squall! You're so…so heartless!"

Squall could only look away. His anger somewhat dissipated and what was left of him was the guilt. His front still showed that he was mad, but inside he was falling apart with every hateful word Rinoa threw at him.

…But he accepted them. He would rather she lashed out at him than keeping her feelings to herself in self-loathing for the break-up with Cloud. He would become a martyr for her sake; always for her sake.

"I hate you…" Rinoa whispered quietly. Squall dared to look at her and his heart twisted at the sight. She looked utterly defeated. Her hair was a mess, her face was contorted in anger, and her eyes red from the hot tears still running down her face. Rinoa's shaken fragile form…it made Squall want to hold her in his arms until she would stop crying. But he knew he could never do that; he wasn't worthy enough for her to do that.

Rinoa repeated to herself as she took small steps back before turning away from Squall's scrutinizing gaze, "I hate you…I hate…this feeling. Everything… It's so tiring."

Squall still remained quiet. He looked down at his feet, his knuckles whitening as he tightened the fists by his side.

"Loving you…I hate it…"

The brunet's head snapped up as he glanced at Rinoa in confusion. Loving him? Did she mean by loving him like the brother she took him to be? Or…something else?

Rinoa turned around, a newfound frustration on her face. She shouted at Squall again, letting everything out, "Loving you is so damn hard! Hyne, Squall! It's impossible with you! Everything is with you! Cloud— Cloud… Do you know what he told me? That day we broke up? He told me that I was substituting him for someone else. Someone else, Squall!

"Who the hell would I be substituting Cloud for? He was perfect! He was a gentleman; he was kind; he was caring. Hell! I'll even go as far to say his body was a plus! Why in the world would he ever say I was substituting him? It doesn't make sense! And you know what? He thought I was only using him. Using him because I couldn't have you!"

Squall continued to stare at her, Me?

Rinoa continued her rant, no longer paying attention to Squall as she covered her face in frustration. "You Squall! His words were all pointing towards you! He broke up with me because he thought I wanted you all along!"

Squall turned his head away. He knew he was the cause of the break-up, but hearing the venom in Rinoa's words just made him feel worse about himself. However…this confession of hers was strange. Squall slowly gazed at Rinoa again when she started pacing a little in her spot; so engrossed with her rant.

She continued, her tone becoming more solemn and guilt-ridden, "…I don't know what to think. It's been…it's been the only thing that swirled in my head… Cloud's words… Dammit, I got rid of those feelings long ago! They shouldn't even exist anymore!"

Slowly, Squall started really listening to her…and he started making his way towards her.

"That day in Winhill after we were introduced by our parents, I placed my mother's happiness before my own. She found happiness again with Laguna and I didn't want to take that away from her. So I threw away any sort of feelings I had for you! I did, but…"

Rinoa had turned her back on Squall and it gave him the motivation to continuing approaching her. The brunet's heart just wouldn't stop hammering against his chest. She was so close now… So vulnerable…

The raven haired girl continued as she hugged herself, "But I guess my feelings never went away… Going out with all those boys…I guess I was trying to find someone to replace that feeling in my heart. None of them were able to do it, but then Cloud came along…and he was perfect!"

All Squall could think about now was Rinoa, how he loved her, and how he would give anything just to make her happy again.

"I really believed he could save me from that feeling deep within my heart. He made me feel…normal again. He helped me erase all my doubts, but then he told me I was substituting him for someone else. He was right… No matter how different he appeared to be, Cloud was the perfect example of you…" Rinoa shuddered a breath and hugged herself tighter. She started shaking in anger again and she turned around to yell at Squall once more, "That damn feeling never went away! Cloud made me realize that it only grew more twisted as I grew up. And I hate it! I hate that feeling! I hate you, Squall! I wish I never fell in love with y—"

It was then that Rinoa was cut off by forceful lips crushing against hers. In surprise, she backed up against the wall and felt the brunet pressing himself up against her. Rinoa tried to push herself away from Squall by beating her fists against his chest, but he grabbed her wrists and pinned them to the sides of her head against the wall. She was completely defenseless against Squall's advances.

When they broke away to breath, Rinoa breathlessly whispered, "Squall—"

She was cut off when Squall went for her lips again. He was still forceful in his approach – loosening his hold on her wrists – but pressed with more care this time.

Squall didn't want it to end; he was at his limit. His mind went blank before kissing her the first time, but he had no regrets. Squall wanted more than anything for Rinoa to feel how much he loved her through this kiss. He knew it would have to end, but Squall at least wanted to convey the extent of his feelings to Rinoa.

However he was in the wrong for showing it this way and he knew it.

The brunet finally broke away from Rinoa completely and gazed at her. Rinoa's eyes were dazed and she was panting heavily, most likely out of confusion. She stared back at him quietly as Squall bit his bottom lip. He was about to turn away, but something unexpected came to pass.

Threading her fingers into his hair, Rinoa bought Squall's face down to hers for another kiss.