I do not own Final Fantasy VIII or any of the characters.

Place in the World

I watch as the moonlight reflects off the dresser mirror. The room is filled with a calming serenity that can only comes when one least expects. It's an hour of peace, an hour of understanding. Sometimes you can do the best thinking in the middle of the night among the brilliant stars. The entire world seems to stop revolving and all the problems disappear, if only in your mind.

Not too long ago I was searching for my place in this world.

We are all lost at one point or another; the key is to find ourselves before time runs out. Nobody is standing with a stopwatch, checking every movement that we waste. Instead, we are all to blame for every exhausted second, every wasted minute. Nobody knew that six months ago time would halt for all of us. Not the end result of a deranged lunatic, but more the result of an erroneous soul, who never found their place in the world.

My story however, begins before those broadly publicized events.

Some thought a resistance faction in Timber was useless; never could we accomplish an achievable goal. Well, maybe they were right, but that is beside the point. The simple fact of the matter is we did something. We tried. Is it better to sit on the sidelines complaining, as others determine your life and fate? Win or lose, we could always fall back on our pride. What satisfaction is there in hearing about the sunset, instead of going outside and experiencing the miracle yourself?

The Forest Owls.

Squall never believed in us, but that doesn't mean that he didn't believe in me. By the gods, there is a difference. Maybe we didn't make a change, but maybe, I did. It's in how you perceive the situation. Stupid, childish, amateur… I heard every adjective describing our group. Compared to SeeD, this might have been true, but that didn't mean we cared about the circumstances any less.

I can look back on those days with dignity; with pride that others in Timber spoke of, but never acted on. Yet still, I wasn't happy.

They called me 'Princess.'

It was a nickname I grew to despise. Oh, don't get me wrong, at first, I thought it was sweet… and truthfully, it made me feel important. But that's when I first joined the faction, right after leaving my father. I found the attention from the other members that I so desired from home. For once, I was the main attraction and not the damn Galbadian Army. Maybe some of my hatred toward their governmental rule stemmed from my father's commitment to them… but never to me.

Nevertheless, I was the good 'princess.' Always being who they wanted me to be, acting the way they thought. Let's face it, we all wear masks… Zone and Watts hadn't had the easiest life; both lost their parents to the forces of Galbadia. Neither had siblings, or family to speak of… so I became what they needed. A princess. Maybe it gave their life meaning, being valiant knights to protect the kingdom. Even if 'their kingdom' was no more a reality then I, their princess, was.

Ergo, I became what they required. Still strong, still independent, yet just enough reliant to make them feel significant. I believed in the cause, but did I ever believe that I was a princess… no. It was a title bestowed on me, by people who needed even greater purpose in life than I did.

This leads me to SeeD.

I learned of an organization that could help us, for the right price. Little did I know that day would change my life… forever.

Oh please… I had heard of SeeD before, being the daughter of a General and all. But my views on their purposes were completely different… until I met Seifer. He explained how they were dispatched all over the world, and may be capable of helping the Owls. This was not the story told by my father… political propaganda is seldom accurate.

Heartless, ruthless, murderers…

Thus begins the next chapter of my story… yes… the 'famed' graduation dance. It was only by chance I met him. And yes, this is where the rumors throughout Balamb Garden started, and trust me… they never stopped. Oh, I heard the gossip, much later, about that night. God, even thinking about some of them make me blush to this day. Where do these people get their information?

Every one of them a lie… well, almost.

Yes, I had very little money with me. I never thought that Cid would agree in helping for the pocket change offered. But, I had to try… on principle alone. So, I go to this 'dance' that's just a glorified excuse for these military people to socialize and drink. My father was with the armed forces… remember? I had experienced more than enough of these biased gatherings. Yet, my upbringing did help. I learned to play their little political games… and learned very well, I may add.

The fact I was female helped; I could always fall back on charm, or that 'helpless woman' thing. Playing that card was more a disgrace than anything, but if you'd seen the suffering I had, you would do about anything to help.

Now let's define 'about anything'… no, I wouldn't sell my soul, or my body. I did not sleep with Cid, Norg or any Garden Masters… Again, the thought makes me ill. Yes… these were all rumors I heard. Sometimes we must bend our principles, but I would never break them. Wartime is not pretty; neither is the pain caused in its wake.

So let me sort out a few facts pertaining to that evening.

For the record, I want us all to be clear about this.

Yes, I did dress up hoping to charm my way in the door. The smile that I greeted security with was no more than strategic tactics. That part worked just fine. Even the talk with Cid… pleasant, sweet, the perfect angel with the admirable cause, also worked great. Tossing in my father's name did help… at least the bastard was good for something. Sorry, being hostile again… we are now on speaking terms… I'll get to that relationship later.

Through the swirling rumors, let me assure you what happened with Squall… I never planned. If there was one thing about that night that wasn't fake, it was meeting him.

Maybe when I walked over to him, I never thought about future consequences. I wasn't trying to seduce anyone or steal him away. Hell, I was downright irritating, looking back on it now.

This is where the notion of me putting him "under a spell" comes into play. I do not know, or have I ever known, any love spells or charms. Nor did I pay anyone to put him under a curse, or my personal favorite: 'I spiked his drink with some kind of drug.'

That one still gets me.

I went over to a guy, who was by himself, and asked him to dance. Basically, he said 'no.' Me, being me, wouldn't take that as an answer. I grabbed him by the hand, leading him to the dance floor. Now let's think about it, if he really didn't want to go, there is nothing I could have said or done to get him out there. I'm not that strong or that beautiful.

So we danced.

It's that simple. I didn't take him from Quistis; I didn't take him back to his room and screw his brains out. I danced with him. More importantly, he danced with me. If he really wanted to leave, he would have been off that dance floor in 3.5 seconds. Maybe he was just playing the innocent as I had done countless times. Maybe we were just two people in one moment, both needing each other… and not realizing it. Maybe our souls knew something our minds didn't.

Now when I look back on that night, the only thing I regret… leaving him.

But once I set my mind to something, it becomes an obsession with me. Right then, Timber was still my only priority. Maybe I thought that in aiding with the liberation, I could find that place in the world, I was so desperately searching for. Where I could feel complete; where I was whole.

I never had that feeling in my life… yet searched for it for an eternity.

Now we all know what happened from there. I'm not going to bore you with the details. Instead, we are going to go forward to what happened afterward. Yes, we saved the world… defeated Ultimecia and stopped time compression.

Great for me… yeah right.

After I found Squall in the flower fields, we returned to Garden, in what appeared to be a non-stop line of publicity and parties. Again, I found myself back in the middle of political games and false pretenses. What I spend my whole life trying to avoid was suddenly thrown into my lap once again.

At least this time, I wasn't alone.

One morning I woke up, and everything stopped. Finally, the press was leaving us alone, no more 'medals of honor' and other showy affairs. I could walk down the streets, and not be harassed by people… most of the time.

Just me.

So, I got up and then it hit me… what am I doing? I had nowhere to go. I was not a SeeD, nor did I ever intend to be. I liked my independence, the thought of someone paying me for his or her values made me sick. Again living at a place, in which I could not support the beliefs… just as at my father's mansion. His home, not mine.

So began the ultimate paradox.

I thought of going back to Deling. Yes, my father and I were working on our relationship…the key word being 'working.' If I went back there, it would be more of the same old bullshit; now only I would be a major player in it. I love my father, but that's exactly what he is… a father.

Not a 'dad.'

Cid has been more the dad to me the last few months than my biological father ever could. Even then, I am stretching to call either one of them family.

So the next logical option was Timber. I could go back and reclaim the title of princess. Yet, that wasn't who I was anymore, well… I really never was. Zone and Watts had truly been the closest thing I had to family for those years. But, we all move on. Timber regained their freedom from Galbadia's tyrannical rule. So there wasn't anything for me back there either but a superficial title… one I didn't want.

This left Garden. I had friends here… yes they are truly my friends. I trust each with my life, and so much more. We had gone through so much together…some bonds cannot be broken.

But here I am, not one of them. Breaking every rule that had been enforced since the creation of the academy.

No pets: I had Angelo.

No outsiders: well, I'll let you fill in the blanks there.

No being in the male dorms: I'll plead the fifth here.

No staying the night in others' dorms: see above.

No sorceresses: okay maybe that wasn't a written rule. But come on, they were trained to kill us, unbeknownst to them. Luckily, that little tidbit was only known by a select few. Those who I could call my friends. Those who I trusted.

Heck, I don't even believe in most of the ideals Garden stands for. Yet my boyfriend commands them, go figure. Boyfriend? I hate that term. It seems so childish after what we have gone through. But 'soul mate' seems a little too clichéd. I guess what we have is indescribable in mere words… but we know the truth.

Even though I don't believe in Garden, I believe in him.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't hear some rumor or gossip about us. Let's see, there is the 'Rinoa is a slut' thing. Oh yes, I'm such a slut… I had one boyfriend before Squall, for Hyne's sake. Most of these younger classmen running around have had six by the time they are fifteen.

Granted, it was Squall's rival, but we can't help who we fall in love with. I never meant to love the guy standing against the wall… but I did. I wouldn't change it for fifty million Gil.

Neither would he.

So no, I never slept with Seifer. Really, it's none of your business, but I just felt like clearing the air on that one too. I said once that 'I thought I loved him.' I can tell you one thing now… if it's the only thing you get out of this conversation. I love Squall. I don't have to think about it. If one has to think, then they are not in love. Deal with it, cut your losses, and move on before anyone gets hurt.

Just for the record, I haven't slept with anyone else at Garden either. Trust me, I hear the rumors… so does Squall.

Irvine, Zell, Nida, the janitor, the entire card club, oh… don't forget about Laguna…yes, I have actually heard that too.

That's just wrong on so many levels.

One week I was supposedly even having an affair with Selphie… okay, not going there.

I just wonder how these things get started. I think they hurt Squall more than me. Not for the fact that he believes them, but simply for the fact that nobody will let me be… me. It kills him to see others treat me in this manner. I know he is trying to protect my feelings, but he doesn't have to. I know they are not true; so does he.

We love each other, and nothing else matters.

Oh… while we are on the subject of rumors. Let me dispel the Quistis one right now. She is one of my best friends. We do not hate each other, nor do we have catfights… in the shower. Again, another rumor she heard. Yes, the instructor freely admits she had feelings for Squall at one time. But heck, hasn't each of us fallen for someone in our lives? I mean whether it's your third grade teacher when you are nine, or your brother's best friend. It's simply a part of life. Everyone does it.

If we didn't have crushes, we wouldn't know what the real thing feels like. Again, the difference between Seifer and Squall. So yes, she had feelings toward her former student.

Trust me, she has moved on.

Even she feels horrible about how the Trepies have treated me. It's ironic that they don't want the object of their affection with another, but they hate the person who they think 'stole' him from their perfect idol.

So basically, that's about it. Yes, I left out a lot of stuff in between. I know that. But see, when it gets down to it… it doesn't really matter. What matters is the present, not our past. Everyone has certain things they would like to forget, and things they never want to lose sight of… mine is Squall.

I lift up my head to see the slightest glimmer of sunrise through the window. Again, I look at the mirror and watch as the room slowly turns from the dark abyss of night to the first signs of dawn. For a second I feel like crying… no, not because I am sad.

Far from it.

A few moments ago, he put his arm around me. Squall was deep in sleep, yet somehow he sensed that I needed comfort. Another day has started, and I realized something tonight. No matter where I live, no matter where I call home. People can say whatever they like about us; we know the truth.

I have found my place in this world. With him.