So I find myself in the very awkward predicament I always find myself in when plot bunnies and my muse decide to pay me a visit. I know I should be working on my novel (and to be fair I actually was) but Ashbear contacted me about this August Challenge and I wanted to participate, only to have writer's block kick me in my non-existent nuts and force me to struggle with this entry. I'm not altogether sure that this will make the challenge since I'm supposed to have the whole thing done by the end of the month and this story that I'm posting right now is two parted, but I figured I'd post it up anyway.

This story is a little darker than I'm used to writing. Actually, this is a story I've actually been thinking about and writing (off and on) for about three years now, so I'm actually rather proud of it. I hope you guys enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and for those of you who are unimpressed and offended by the subject matter that takes place throughout, I apologize for your discomfort. More on that when we actually get to those parts in question but I figured I would start with the apologizing now (because there will most likely be a lot of it to come).

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII, it's characters or the world they live in. I do not profit from any monetary gain from writing this story. This is purely for entertainment purposes, for both myself the writer and the people the reader. Please don't sue, I barely make enough to live off as it is.

01/17/2013 - K, so I've been going through the chapters and I've touched them up some. The blaring typos should be gone this time around. Also, I decided to put some effort in the title names, but I wanted to keep them vague so they didn't spoil anything. Hope it worked and hope you guys like.


Drip…drip…drip…

She jerked awake, confused that her cheek was pressed down against what felt like stone cool enough to chill her face. The sudden, jarring motion was enough to send stiff pain rushing through her neck and caused aching muscles that she hadn't even known existed to cry out in protest. As she tried to rub out the stiffness and the aches with arms heavy from disuse, she looked at her surroundings in what was at first in dull confusion before it transformed into a full blown panic. These surroundings were unfamiliar to her and even given the dim light that washed over the area and gave it a dull yellowish twinge she doubted she would have recognized them. With this uneasy realization came an adrenaline rush so powerful that she was up onto her feet within seconds, aches and pains forgotten in her haste to know how she'd come to be in this place. The stone that threaded cold up through the thin socks she wore caused her to shiver, her arms sporting gooseflesh from the sudden chill that practically cocooned her form.

She walked the area of what turned out to be a cell of some kind as a means of keeping herself warm as much as finding out where she was. She tried to rationalize just how she managed to find herself in a place like this, knowing that she wasn't the type of person to enjoy submission fantasies, and was eternally grateful that math was not required to learn just how big this place was. It had never really been a favourite subject of hers to begin with. Against the far wall opposite of where she'd awoken she spotted a cot – a pitiful thing made of some substandard looking metal with only a thin sheet fabric to support her should she have chosen to lie in it (though the question begged why had she been sleeping on the floor and not in it?) – as well as a toilet positioned diagonally from that very corner and a sink with a facet that steadily dripped water atop the metal ring that surrounded the mouth of the drain.

Her attention moved back to the cot, where she was dismayed to discover that there wasn't a single pillow in sight. Back at home her bed was covered with them for decorative purposes with two rather large ones to serve her as she slept. She did notice a blanket that looked about as thick as the socks she wore and about as comfortable as the cot itself looked, though it was little consolation as she doubted it would stave off the cold should she find herself lying beneath it.

But despite having already managed to figure out her surroundings, there was the very major dilemma of just how she'd come to find herself in this dump in the first place. Again not one prone to indulge in fantasies that limited her personal freedom, she found herself hard pressed in knowing just how she'd come to be here. Wracking her befuddled mind for some kind of explanation, she was initially unable to answer this question but then it all came back to her with such a force that she physically staggered as though someone had sucker punched her in the stomach.

Coming out of the school building, her hands were digging through her knapsack in search of her cellphone. She would be damned if she was walking home on top of having to come to school for the next two weeks. If she wasn't going to laugh it up on vacation like the rest of her classmates then the least her parents could do was give her a ride. But all attempts at finding the precious object were lost as something flew up over her head, obscuring her vision and immediately causing her to panic. She tried to draw breath enough to scream but choked on the stale air that was left in the sack that was being used to blind her. Raising her arms instinctively she attempted to fight off her attacker, her knapsack hitting the ground as a result of her wild and frenzied movements. Sadly, whoever had caught her off guard was much stronger and held the advantage, almost lifting her up physically from the ground and causing her to kick out wildly in an attempt of escape. She was then half-carried, half- dragged in a direction she was sure was away from her high school before she was dropped down non-too-gently onto a hollow-sounding metallic surface, only to realize it was a car or some kind of vehicle just as they started moving.

She couldn't tell where they were going, not with the bag over her head and her hands securely fastened behind so as not to liberate herself of the smelly thing. She couldn't even tell how long she had been forced to sit on knees pressed flat against the metal floor of the car but then she heard the whoosh of a door sliding open and then she was dragged away again. Up a flight of stairs then down another, she was completely disoriented and clueless of where they were headed, but then she was being pushed forward with the hateful bag finally being removed from over her head, revealing to her eyes the first sight she was allowed to see…

… A dim and disgusting old cell. The very one she had found herself in when she'd awoken.

It was then that Rinoa Heartily realized that she hadn't just woken up and imagined the whole thing, that it hadn't been some bizarre and terrifying dream and that she truly was trapped. When she'd first arrived she had screamed and yelled until she was hoarse in the throat, her kidnappers a blur of colours as she couldn't even bring their faces to her mind. Not once did anyone investigate the noise, not once was she even heeded. Both emotionally and physically drained from the events that had brought her to this point, she had fallen asleep on the cold concrete floor, propped up against the stone wall like a ragdoll.

At least she knew why her neck was bothering her, not that it was any consolation as the realization only made her feel worse, not better. She slid back down into her previous position against the wall and tucked her knees beneath her chin, not even fighting the tears that were now sliding down her cheeks. She sniffled brokenly at the hopelessness of her situation, at the feeling of being trapped and being unable to do a thing about it. All she wanted to do was go home and finish her boring homework like a normal school girl would, before bitching about life as a teenage girl in general. But apparently someone had other plans for her, which left her sitting alone in this shithole feeling sorry for herself.

She had no means of knowing just how long she'd been sitting there staring at a solitary point in the floor as she let the tears fall and sniffled. Her long dark hair had fallen forward in her posture, thus obscuring everything but the floor from her view and after a while it became just as annoying as the steady, almost rhythmic drip of the facet. After a while she finally threw her head back in an attempt to force the strands from her face, running her hands through the locks to keep them that way when she spotted a blinking red light diagonally across from her. It took her a moment to recognize it as an older looking security camera.

Slowly, almost tentatively, she rose to her feet, moving cautiously as though the camera was a hunter lurking in the shadows, simply waiting for the moment when its prey was at its most vulnerable. At the very sight of it she felt something other than hopelessness take root in her. Anger raged within at having been kidnapped and brought to this dump, closely intermingled with the indignation she felt at being watched, no doubt like a piece of meat waiting for the slaughter. Instantly hands were balled into fists so tight that her nails dug into the palms and sent flashing of pain up into her wrists but she was far from caring as she drew in a breath and let it out in a scream that could have been compared to that of a petulant child in the grocery store, one who had just been told to put back the candy-bar they had snatched from the shelf and desperately wanted more than anything in the world.

"You think this is funny?!" Rinoa roared loudly as the adrenaline ran through her veins and fuelled her every motion. The echo that blasted off the walls had only just begun before she was shouting again. "You think it's hilarious to watch as an innocent and helpless girl suffers like this?! Does it make you feel all powerful inside, knowing that I was barely even allowed to fight back when you grabbed me?!"

She began to pace the length of her cage much like a lion would stalk the bars ahead for a means of escape. Back and forth, back and forth. Five long strides from one side to the other only served to fuel her aggravation before she stopped suddenly and resumed her yelling, screaming fitfully into the camera that stared back at her uncaringly, that red light blinking in and out of existence in a boring monotone. "What do you want from me?! What did I ever do to anyone to deserve being locked away like this by you sick freaks?! What the hell do you want from me?!"

The last of her shout collapsed in on itself as the grief caught up with her, dispelling the anger and leaving only sorrow in its wake. She collapsed much like her strength, folding herself up into a ball as she let out a broken sob. Yelling hadn't made her feel any better. It had made her throat hurt worse than it already did, and the painful knot that tied up her stomach twisted and tightened at knowing that the camera would never answer back at her.

"They can't hear you."

Rinoa's head snapped up at the sound, and she stared at the camera in wonder. The ridiculousness of thinking that the camera had actually responded quickly caught up with her and she looked around for any sign of the speaker, realizing fitfully that she wasn't alone. But it was during her second sweep that she noticed something that had not always been there. Beyond the cell was darkness – the dim light-bulb that cascaded its yellow glow along herself and the contents of her cell did not stretch beyond the boundaries of the bars, thus making anything beyond the cage look thick with darkness. But wrapped almost leisurely around two of the bars and barely coming together to rest wrist atop wrist were a set of arms that had not been there when she'd first arrived.

The voice was deep yet young and instantly Rinoa knew that whoever it belonged to was male. Instantly she stood up, suddenly ashamed at her earlier display but she forced herself to stand tall. They would not see her fall any lower than she already had. Lifting her chin almost defiantly, she squinted in an effort to see beyond the shadows, to make out her visitor – keeper. All she could tell from her brief inspection was that he had dark coloured bangs that nearly shielded away light grey eyes from her view. He was white – the skin along his arms betrayed that much more, but otherwise she had no clue what he looked like.

She gaped at him for a long instant, struggling not to blink because she was almost afraid that he was a figment of her imagination and that blinking would cause him to disappear, to leave her alone once again. She assured herself that the presence of this stranger who had just witnessed her throw a vocal temper-tantrum was better than being left alone in the darkness, with only a dull light and the steady drip of a facet to keep her company. But when she could not hold her eyes open any longer she was forced to do the one thing she fought against, only to realize as she opened her eyes once more that he was still there.

She was aware that he had said something, but the shock at not being alone in this place anymore had drawn her attention away from the words he had spoken. Thus she was only able to stare stupidly at him as she struggled beyond the surprise to find her voice. Eventually, she managed it, and was barely able to squeak out a tentative and very confused sounding "What?"

"The camera," the boy on the other side responded simply, as though she hadn't just greeted him with surprise, suspicion and otherwise hope that he truly existed. There was a minute shift from the shadows that she barely managed to grasp, and she realized after a moment that he had gestured to the offending machine. "They can't hear a word you're saying through the camera. It's pointless to scream and yell at them, you'll only tire yourself out. Don't look at it," he added when she'd been about to do just that. "They can still see you, and I'd rather they not realize you're talking to someone."

"They can see me," Rinoa echoed in just barely above a whisper. "But they can't hear me?" Resisting the urge to look at the contraption, she realized that it really did look ancient. She knew that really old cameras lacked the function of transmitting sound and was only capable of recording video. It meant that her kidnappers probably didn't have the money to maintain proper security, which meant they probably weren't thinking of keeping her full-time. She let out a whimper as she realized they probably wouldn't even let her live all that long either.

"What do they want from me?" She finally asked after a while of silence. She cursed herself for sounding so desperate, so vulnerable.

"You're father's a very important and wealthy man," the young man said at great length.

"So it's money related," Rinoa said through a sigh that escaped her. She didn't know if it was better or worse that it wasn't personal, that her being here was not a result of something she had done. It was very true what he had just told her. Her father really was an important business man, with enough money that he and his family had enough to survive with plenty to spare. He was also a very stringent man, one who dutifully believed in upholding the law and she had been raised to believe in the police that helped keep their streets clear of crime. There was very little of it where she lived but she was far from naïve enough to truly believe it had been wiped from everywhere else.

Knowing that her father had fired and had arrested many employees he had caught embezzling from the company or otherwise breaking the law had her wonder for a fleeting moment if it had something to do with that. But no, the way the boy had said it seemed to suggest that it really was money that was the motivator here. Had she been raised in a household where they struggled day in and day out to make ends meet she doubted she would even be here.

The boy made a contemplative noise that broke her out of her thoughts and she whirled around, feeling like she had just missed something. "What?"

"Despite the tantrum, you're not freaking out near as bad as all the others did," he remarked candidly, almost off-handedly. Rinoa could only stare at him as this declaration sunk in. It further solidified her belief that her father was only being targeted because he was wealthy, not because he had wronged someone and they were looking out for revenge. But it also meant that they had done this before, and that they knew what they were doing.

She allowed herself to fall onto her knees again, the weight of this declaration too much for her to process. But as she sat there she wondered if this boy had been sent to keep an eye on her, and suddenly wondered what the camera was for if they did something like that. "Are you with these guys?" She asked in a small voice. "Are you a part of their group."

"No," he answered simply, with the equivalent to a verbal shrug. "I just live here."

And she felt her strength return upon hearing that very answer, because she realized that he was not at all a part of the people who had kidnapped her. Furthermore, there was one blaring bit of information she had ignored in her crestfallen state. "But you're on the other side of the bars," she said slowly. "You're not their prisoner. You're free."

He shrugged – she knew he shrugged from how the arms raised up momentarily before returning to their resting place. "So that means you could let me out of here."

"No I can't."

His tone grew hard, almost intimidatingly so, as he spoke the words. It caused Rinoa to flinch, left her reeling as though he had just physically slapped her, leaving her confused. If he wasn't with them, then why was he allowing them to keep her locked up? "Why not?" she asked.

"Because I can't," he answered back, still with that sharp tone. Rinoa frowned at the non-answer and was about to respond when he beat her to it. "Those guys wouldn't be happy if I did something like that. And anyways, I don't have the keys."

"But you could," Rinoa started.

"No," came the stern reply as he cut her off.

Rinoa scowled, not particularly caring at all whether her kidnappers were happy or not with her escaping from them. "But I don't belong here!" She exclaimed. "I was at school and then I was here when I should be at home with my parents. I didn't ask to be taken here, it just happened that way because they brought me here. And you know that. You're not stupid, they've done this before, I know they have! And if this isn't their first time, you probably know what'll happen to me once they get what they want. I'm in danger, my life is in danger, don't you see that? Don't you even care?"

"Say I let you out," the boy spoke after a minute. "Say I miraculous produced the keys to your freedom and just let you walk out of here. You wouldn't have to worry about this place again, would you? You wouldn't have to care about the consequences of my setting you free."

And she realized with a sinking stomach that he was absolutely right. If Rinoa was allowed to leave, she would do so without a backwards glance, walking back into her life with the ability to forget that this had even happened. It would take a while but things would return to normal for her. But this boy would most assuredly be left holding the bag when all things were said and done. And if he was actually caught helping her, there was no doubt in her mind that he would have to suffer for his actions and that left a twisting guilty feeling in her gut at the mere thought of it.

"Then come with me," she offered, knowing that if he left with her he would be just as clean as she was. He wouldn't have to worry about the consequences if he just left this place and these people behind with this one act of kindness. "Just leave this place, leave these guys behind. I can tell that you're not a bad person, your standing here talking to me alone proves that. If you help me out and don't come back, then there's nothing to worry about."

"Where exactly would I go?" The response was quick and sudden, like he had been just waiting for her to finish before he spit it out.

"Anywhere you want to," Rinoa responded, though wondering after the strange question. "You could leave the city, maybe make a name for yourself somewhere else. Start over, have a new life that doesn't involve kidnapping people and holding them for ransom in dark and dingy cells. You could make an honest living, build an honest life…"

Her words caught in her throat as she caught sight of those gray eyes narrowing as she continued to speak. Instead of inspiring courage and faith they just seemed to be making him angrier and under that glare she felt like she wanted to just curl up and disappear. Swallowing hard, Rinoa wondered if she'd maybe insulted him in some way but when she went to say something, he broke the thick silence that had threatened to choke the oxygen from her chest. "It's out of the question. I'm not going anywhere and neither are you, and that's the last time I'm going to say it."

"But…!" Rinoa protested but found that she didn't have anything to say to that, especially when the words had been spoken in such a cold and matter-of-fact tone of voice that held so much finality. She felt like she had been slapped again and found herself fighting back tears as a result. The word spoken bounced off the walls and echoed back at her in an almost deafening and absolute way.

"Look," he said through a sigh, sounding tired as he looked away. Suddenly she felt like she was able to breathe again as he turned away from her. "The situation's not completely hopeless. All you have to do is sit around and wait until your father cooperates and gives them what they want. All the better if it's done sooner rather than later. You'll be back to your picture-perfect life before you know it, and you'll be able to forget that this whole thing even happened."

Rinoa didn't know what was worse, the fact that he was even saying any of this or that he sounded like these words should appease her and make her look on the bright side. Her life was far from 'picture-perfect' but that wasn't any of his business. Every family had their issues and just because hers was wealthy and didn't have to worry about money didn't put them above the rest. And how the hell was she expected to forget being kidnapped and held against her will in a dark and creepy cell having to wait for her father to give into their demands when she knew he was the kind of guy who didn't give into ransoms? And how could she even be expected to believe a word that this boy said, this boy whom she'd never even known existed twenty-four hours ago. There was absolutely no guarantee that these kidnappers had her best interests at heart, even if her father cooperated. Hell, they were probably plotting the many ways they could dispose of her body after they killed her for all she knew.

"You know what?" She said suddenly. The anger was back and she was fixing him with a murderous stare as she allowed his words to echo back into her mind. "Fuck you."

She caught a shift from behind the bars and, satisfied that she had his full attention, continued to speak, the anger practically oozing from her every orifice. "I don't need your pity. I don't need your assurances. I'm not stupid and not nearly as naïve as you might think I am. I know that the chances of my return to the real world shrink down to almost nothing after the first 48 hours. I have seen enough TV to know that it is usually the hostage that has their guts spilling out onto the floor by the end of the exchange. So I'm sorry if I don't find any comfort in your words of solace. Spare me the 'everything's gonna be fine' bullshit.

"You don't know a damned thing about me, so don't presume to assume how my life is," Rinoa continued to said in a calm tone that belayed her rage. "But I can most definitely say different about you. You, who refuses to do anything but sit on his hands and do as he's told. Well you know what? It is your inactivity, your refusal to do anything to help me that makes you just as bad as these people who are holding me hostage against my will. It actually makes you even worse, because at least these people are doing something!"

Her words rang throughout the cell like a school-bell's blare, echoing back at her with an intensity that she felt. But that all stopped as she saw the arms around the bars retreat back into the shadowy depths. It took her a minute to realize that he was leaving and suddenly she was sorry for yelling at him, for telling him off for not helping her. She would do anything to keep him from leaving, anything to keep from being left alone again.

"No wait!" She shouted as she rushed the bars, but by then she'd lost track of him. Attempting to press her face through the gap she gripped the metal tightly in hands that turned white at the knuckle. "Please don't go! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry! I didn't mean any of it, I swear, please just come back!"

The sound of a door closing was her reply, the noise echoing just as loudly as her words had minutes ago. Falling back against the bars she succumbed to her sobs as she realized that she had just chased away the only human contact she'd had for hours. It could've been days already for all she knew. And now she was alone, would be alone, until these goons probably came by to finish her off. The boy wasn't coming back, no person in their right minds would return after the way she'd talked to him.

Silence was her only companion as she shed broken tears, as she cried openly in her.


Again, I would like to stress that this story is being written for the 'Where I Belong' August Challenge started by Eternal Tiet (aka Ashbear). For more information, please check out the forum and Community on FFnet, both under the name 'Where I Belong'.