Winter

SongFic For Ashbear's "Where I Belong Challenge"

Story by Prodigy

Song by Joshua Radin


The morning after...

The first bite into a juicy peach...

The rush after a good workout...

The smell of a fresh rainfall...

So few things brought pleasure to him in his nineteen years; for a young man who often felt guilty about taking pleasure in anything. Being miserable often felt more gratifying, because it was often spent in isolation. The solitude was peaceful, even if lonely.

He could handle it. It was his, and his alone.

Enjoying the company of others did not bring him any type of lasting satisfaction. Not so much because he didn't like being around others, but more so because he would spend the entire time thinking how he would feel if he lost it...that sense of comfort and security. Like he did with Ellone and Matron, and to an extent, even his mother and father.

But now, things were different. Like a colorful array of paint splattered against and otherwise dull, monochrome canvas. He began to find glimmers of enjoyment in things he never had before, like listening to Zell rave after Irvine took a cheap shot, or even just seeing the tranquility within the halls of Balamb Garden.

It felt good to finally care, even if it felt a bit alien to him.

He had gotten used to it, but there was one thing he was having trouble adjusting to. Squall had battled adversity and faced unfathomable challenges throughout his life, whether it was his rivalry with Seifer, fighting a seemingly winless war against overwhelming odds, or even the silent battles he waged within himself; nothing compared to this.

The challenge? Falling asleep.

The enemy? Rinoa Heartilly.

What a bitch.

She had single handedly destroyed everything: His lonely shell of an existence. His cold, introverted demeanor. His propensity to keep everyone at arm's length. His comfort zone.

He hated her.

He hated her for making him love her.

The rain had been sputtering against the half-opened window above his bed all night. The sound, coupled with the waves of the ocean as Balamb Garden floated over the open waters would normally be enough to put him into a state of complete relaxation as he drifted away. And despite the aches and pains, coupled with the exhaustion the last year or so had brought him, he couldn't sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he felt scared.

Scared that if he closed his eyes, she wouldn't be there when he opened them.

So he lied there...all night...watching her. He felt like the sappy schmuck in a chick flick that pined pathetically over a girl for two hours. Except in Squall's case, it was more like six hours, twenty-two minutes and thirty-eight...thirty-nine...forty seconds.

Pathetic.

His eyes burned with exhaustion, but were cooled and comforted every time he looked at her. Similar to when he would fall down as a child and scrape his knee, and Matron would blow on it to make it feel better. Not only did he feel new waves of pleasure, but it helped him recollect old ones as well.

Suddenly, her eyes fluttered open, as they had done a few times earlier in the night, but Squall was usually quick to close his, if only not to creep her out. Not that it would, but in Squall's mind, if it felt awkward to him, it was likely the same for everyone else.

This time, however, he didn't. The sun was starting to rise and bits of light began to creep in through the blinds.

"Hey you,", Rinoa smiled, and reached over, resting a smooth hand on his bare elbow, "How'd you sleep?"

"Great," Squall lied. Rinoa could see the redness his eyes and hear the fatigue in his voice.

"Why do I get the feeling you aren't being completely honest with me?" she semi-joked, to which he didn't respond. He just continued gazing at her, and for a moment, she returned it.

"So what now?" she questioned, rubbing his arm as she scooted in closer to him. Their noses and foreheads were now touching, and Squall smiled.

"Now that there aren't sorceresses trying to compress time and erase us from existence?" Squall cracked a rare joke, which made Rinoa's face light up.

"Yes..that NOW," she laughed out in a light voice. Squall's eyes looked to the ceiling for a moment as he contemplated the question.

"Breakfast?" he asked, looking back at her with tired eyes.

"Sounds like a start," she whispered, with a small smile, which he quickly returned.

"Good," he stated, and the suddenly spun around, pulling the covers over his head as he did, "Let me know it's ready," he told her from under the covers, causing her to sit up quickly, her eyes and mouth widening in laughter.

"You jerk!" she snapped, jabbing him under the covers with a balled fist. Squall poked his head out from underneath.

"I just saved the planet," he said, looking right at her, "What have you done lately?" he jived, and again retreated under the soft green sheets. Rinoa burst out in laughter and jumped on top of him, their bodies spilling off the side of the bed along with the covers.

It was the happiest either remembered being.


I, should know, who I am by now,

I, walk, the record stands somehow,

Thinkin' of winter.


Fifteen months later...

"Ms. Heartilly," a voice spoke as she sat the elegant table, staring blankly at the dancing candle flame as she waited. She looked up, seeing a smiling blonde haired waiter, and smiled to acknowledge him.

"You have a call at the front desk," he finished and she nodded. She stood and began to follow him, weaving around tables, watching numerous happy couples talk and laugh, which is something she hadn't experienced in several months.

"Hello," she greeted, knowing full well who was on the other end.

"Rin, its me," the voice on the other end replied.

DING DING DING! What do I win...she thought sardonically.

"Hey, where are you?" she asked. It didn't matter where he was, because she knew why he was calling. This wasn't her first rodeo.

"Listen.."

Come on Squall, at least find a new opening...

"Quistis just called, and there are some issues in Esthar, and.." he explained, but Rinoa was able to finish, knowing it all too well.

"Let me guess.." she stated, rolling her eyes to the ceiling, "They couldn't get anyone else but Squall Leonhart?"

An awkward pause...it was becoming a familiar sound in their relationship.

"Sorry," he apologized, sounding sincere, but the glimmer of his sincerity was beginning to lose its luster, "I'll make it up to you," he finished and she sighed.

She was sick of hearing the same old boxed responses.

"You said that the last three times, Squall," she informed him, sounding bored and annoyed.

Another awkward pause...can it be awkward when you become this accustomed to it?

"I promise," he finished, but she began to hang up before he finished, leaving him with the romantic sound of a dial tone.

His promises just didn't mean as much as they used to...


Your name is the splinter inside me...

While I wait...


Two months later...

He slid the card key through the reader and the door slid open. He stumbled into the room with his heavy black luggage bag, and let his fall off his shoulder and onto the floor with a loud thump. He left with five days worth of clothes, but returned with three weeks' worth of baggage; mostly paperwork and headaches. He was spearheading the project to build a new Garden in Esthar, but the yellow tape preventing it was wrapping around his neck and starting to strangle the life out of him.

Suddenly, as he began to yawn, and small light turned on in the kitchen. Looking over, he saw Rinoa wearing a silky white robe with flowers on it. She had her arms crossed, head down and was leaning back against the counter.

"What are you still doing up?" he asked her tiredly, looking at the stovetop clock which read 4:03.

No answer.

He walked closer, and as the as the night lamp shined over her face, could see the shimmer of that same light gleaming off the tracks of her tears. He took a quick step forward.

"Rin, what is it?" he asked. The concern he had was real, but far too late.

"My father," she choked out, and before she finished, Squall knew what was coming, "He...ummm...he had a heart attack, and..."

The General retired shortly after the Ultimecia affair due to heart complications. His condition had only gotten worse, and Rinoa even told Squall before he left that her father's health was deteriorating. He would've rushed home had he known, but she never told him.

"Rino.." Squall stated as his tone became somber, and began to open his arms as he neared her.

"Don't Squall," she held her arm up and walked around him, brushing some loose strands of hair behind her ears, "I'm upset about my father...but that's not the reason I'm crying right now," she told him and turned, anger and resentment mixed with heartbreak and angst dripped out of her eyes, tear by tear.

"Then what?" he asked sympathetically, but confused.

Even she couldn't believe how dense he was.

"It's because you weren't here," she replied calmly through her crying, even though she wanted to write it on a baseball bat and smack him in the face with it.

She looked at him, trying to look strong but doing a miserable job.

"You weren't here to when I needed you...and that's never happened before," she told him, choking through sobs. It hurt her say, and Squall hated that she felt that way, but such was the life of a SeeD.

"Rin...I'm sorry, but...I have other priorities," he told her, to which she raised a hand again, tired of the same old excuses.

"But that's the thing Squall," she cried with her sadness quickly giving ground to her frustration, "Where am I on that list? Because a year ago, you didn't want to take your eyes off me, and now..." she said, her tone getting louder with each word until she finally stopped, seeing something in his eyes.

That something...being nothing.

Nothing in his eyes that was reserved for her, and her alone.

"Now...you're a just a ghost," she stated, looking him right into his blue eyes, which used to flooded with passion for her...for them...but was replaced with merely the care one would have for a random person's well being.

And that's all she felt like she was in his life anymore...just some random person.

Squall admitted to himself that he hadn't been there for her as much in the past year, and that they were seeing each other less and less, but just because the sorceress was dead didn't mean they were going to ride off into the sunset in a happily ever after, fairytale bullshit ending. They didn't exist, no matter how much Rinoa, or even Squall, wished they did.

"I don't know what you want me to say, Rin," Squall shrugged, remaining calm but becoming notably annoyed, "You knew what you were getting into when we started this. Did you think that I was just going to take a desk job...maybe work a normal 9 to 5? " he questioned, looking at her with somewhat stern eyes.

Rinoa blinked and let out a small annoyed breath. He didn't get it; and it was beginning to seem like he never would. It wasn't just that he wasn't there in person much of the time, but even now it felt as if he wasn't there. Scattered remnants of the man she fell in love with disappeared little by little with each mission he took, being slowly replaced by Squall Leonhart, Commander of Balamb Garden. The SeeD within him was a hero to world, but Rinoa also saw him as a cold-blooded murderer, hacking away at her happiness with his gleaming blue gunblade.

Squall relaxed his expression and ran a hand through his hair before glancing back to her, "I'm not built that way...you know that. I thought you were willing to accept that side of me..." he asked her, expecting her to understand, but sadly, her tolerance had reached its limit.

"Yeah, Squall," she replied with a sniffle and a single tear, which streamed from the left eye and down her face, "I thought I was too."

Squall narrowed his brow, almost at a loss for words, "Wait a minute..." thinking he was misunderstanding, even though deep down he knew he wasn't, "What are you saying?" he finished, and Rinoa bowed her head and started crying even more.

Squall raised his head, feeling as if the air was being sucked out of the room. He hated seeing her cry, especially when he was responsible. Even worse than that was, as much as he wanted to fight for what they had and tell her everything he truly felt, the words just weren't coming. The fact was, that the old Squall Leonhart never truly disappeared. A part of him always remained, and over time had crawled his way back.

The SeeD in him was relentless, even in ways he wished it wasn't, because in a way, she was right, he WAS killing what they had, because Squall the SeeD and Squall the lover couldn't truly coexist, and he realized that.

As hard as he tried in that moment to find the Squall that was so deeply in love with her to the surface, he was too far beneath the quicksand at that point, and sinking faster by the moment.

Squall slowly turned, walked towards the door and opened it. He looked back one last time, seeing her crying helplessly into her hands.

The way he felt at that moment, he knew what it meant...

...because he didn't feel anything, or at least nothing that made him want to stay and console her.

It was over.

He knew it.

She knew it.

THEY knew it.


The walk, has all, been cleared by now,

Your voice, is all I hear somehow,

Callin' out winter...


Five months later...

Their hands interlocked as they walked along the icy pavement slowly, laughing and talking about random things. His gloved hands rubbed one of her bare ones, trying to warm her cold fingers in the winter chill. He listened to her, told him how she felt when she wanted to know, and she could see sparkle for her in his green eyes that was reserved for her, and her alone. It was what she always wanted...

...but sadly, not who she wanted it with.

"I had a great time, Owin" Rinoa Heartily stated happily, turning towards the young man with medium length blonde hair with bangs that hung down just above his eyebrows. "Thank you so much," she smiled brightly, just as they reached the front door to her luxurious apartment complex. He smiled at her, and grazed her face softly, looking into her delicate brown eyes. For a moment, she was in a trance, feeling as if she might be falling in love. He was such a caring person and had been there for her through thick and thin since her father died. He was merely a friend at first, but when she moved back to Emerald City (formerly Deling City), she found him to be a source of comfort she never expected.

He leaned in closely, their mouths breathing out huffs of visible air in the cold night and his lips grazed hers lightly, before kissing her, gently and caringly. She closed her eyes, letting go of everything, even if only for a few moments. It was exhilarating, and the happiest she remembered being in recent memory, because she finally found what she was looking for...

...but again, not who she truly wanted it with.

The young blonde named Owin pulled back slowly as both of their eyes fluttered open, and he smiled at her, "I'll call you," he softly told her and she nodded, just as he placed another soft kiss on her cold right cheek, "Good night.." he finished and slowly stepped away, as their hands remained interlocked until they absolutely had to let go. He backed away slowly, eyes fixated on her with a smile on his face, reflecting her own. Finally, he turned, and walked off into the night.

Rinoa slowly turned towards the door to her building and entered. After walking through the lobby and taking the elevator up to her 34th floor apartment, she walked inside, immediately locked the door and then leaned back against it, taking another deep breath. Her apartment was lavish, but rather small. After all the years living at the Cherry Mountain Estate practically by herself while her father was deployed, she hated living in on her own, but she managed to find a nice, cozy place that suited her needs perfectly.

She slowly strolled into her apartment, still feeling the tender kiss she just had tickling her cherry colored lips, not able to stop smiling. She walked over to her marble coffee table and picked up the remote, turning on the television, which provided a bit more light into the mostly dark room before finally switching the golden lamp on beside the couch. She took her long black coat and hung it neatly on the standing rack by the entrance, next to a few other winter jackets. She then walked over to the brown drawer next to the door and undid her white scarf, and went to toss it inside before noticing something.

Within the drawer, she saw a hint of red amongst a sea of mostly black and white garments. She reached in and slowly pulled the long piece of fabric out. It was a scarf...a red scarf...an ugly red scarf...an ugly red scarf with two poorly designed snowmen stitched into both ends. It was one of the worst gifts she had ever gotten. It was fraying, itchy against the skin and complimented absolutely nothing she owned. It was a gift she could've imagined getting as a five year old from a distant aunt who liked to continuously pinch her cheeks.

But she only got it a year ago, and it wasn't from her aunt.

She closed the drawer and walked towards the kitchen, en route to the trash can, where the cheap cotton scarf would find a permanent and more fitting home. She stepped on the lever and the lid popped open and she went to drop it in, but her hand wouldn't let go. Her fingers grasped the red scarf tightly and her hand shook as she tried desperately to drop it in the trash can, but had no luck. She stood there for three minutes, trying to mentally pry her delicate fingers off of it, but they didn't budge, even a little.

She took a deep breath and looked off to the side, seeing a beeping red light on her answering machine with the number "5" next to it, showing how many messages she had. She walked up, pressed the play button, and began the listening to the messages, which were nothing more than white noise as she glared down at the fraying red scarf she couldn't let go of.

Message 1: Hey Rin, its Vinessa, just wanted to ask if you wanted to...

"Im freezing, Squall,"

"Well, it is winter, Rin. Perhaps you should invest in some heavier clothing,"

"Shut up, jerk! I'm serious!"

"Okay, okay...let's go out of our way because you don't know how to dress in sub freezing temperatures."

"Haha...I hate you,"

Rinoa made her index finger and thumb into a small circle, and began pulling the fabric through. from end to end. She still hated how it felt, almost the touch equivalent of nails running along a chalkboard.

Why can t throw this thing away?

Message 2: Ms. Heartilly, this is Dr. Shale, I just wanted to confirm our...

"Okay Mr. Leonhart, how do like your new scarf?"

"Brown really isn't my color. Why couldn't we just buy our own scarves?"

"Where is the fun in that? Now where is mine?"

"Oh, that's right, you're cold too, huh? Okay...it's in here somewh...ahhh...here you are!"

"Wha...what is this?"

"It's a scarf. Isn't it the most booootiful thing you ever seen?"

"Is this a joke? Did you purposely by me the ugliest scarf on the face of the planet?"

"No...just the ugliest one in the store."

"Well, you know what? YOU'RE going to where this one, and I'm going wear the one I bought. Maybe next time you'll think twice before doing something like that."

"Wow, you really are a spoiled rich girl, aren't you? "

"You are such a twerp."

Rinoa stopped in her tracks after pacing back and forth several times behind her couch, and slowly began raising the cheap cloth towards her face. She remembered wrapping it around his next so tightly that he was choking a bit. He wore it the entire night, even into the restaurant and jazz club they went to. As it neared her face, she felt her knees buckle as the scent of his oak scented cologne tickled her nostrils and made her eyes close. As it got closer, the smell became stronger, and her memories became more vivid as she took a deep breath of the scent, and held it in his nostrils as the next message began to play...

Message 3: Are you tired of annoying telemarketers calling you constantly? Well you need...

"Wow...I really don't like jazz at all."

"You just need some culture. Something other than gunblade shows and SeeD seminars."

"That's ridiculous RIn...there's no such thing as 'gunblade shows'"

"Whatever..."

"Oh, that's cute..."

"So, you have me here...alone...in this big apartment...under the mistletoe...what do you want to do?"

"Well. I know where you're going with this...but I saw how much garlic bread you put away at the restaurant, and..."

"Oh...you're really going to pay for that one..."

"Okay, but how about after you brush your teeth? "

"That's it! How did that taste!?"

"I don't know...might need to try it again..."

"You asked for it..."

She fell to the floor, her knees now too weak to support her. A single tear flowed from her right eye, followed by one from her left, and then in quick succession streamed continuously down her face dripping from her chin, onto her clothes as she pushed herself along the floor until her spine touched the back of the couch. She curled up into a ball and put her head between her knees, still grasping tightly at the red scarf. She panted and gasped as she cried as hard as she had ever remembered ever doing.

As much as Rinoa cared for Owin, thinking about him and the kiss she shared with him only brought pain now, even as she recollected how good it made her feel when it happened. It was like being stabbed, and every happy moment she recalled that evening was like someone twisting the knife.

Was I wrong? Was it my fault? Did I push him away? I was so wrapped up in him being there for me, that I wasn't there for him...

She had asked these questions before, and had cried over him countless times over the previous five months, but this time, it was different.

Before she could mourn any more, the white noise of the answering machine suddenly became the only thing she could hear, as a giant rock was about to shatter her world as she knew it...

Message 4: Rinoa...It's Quistis. ...you may want to get to Balamb Garden...it's Squall...he doesn't have much time left...

The twisting knife had been pulled out, and now was being plunged back into her chest repeatedly.

She just blankly stared ahead, eyes wide, and unable to cry anymore.

She was broken.

Completely and utterly, broken.


I could have lost myself,

In rough, blue waters in your eyes,

And I...miss you still...


Three Days later...

Rinoa sat there, as she had the last thirty-three hours; only leaving his side when they needed to change him. Her eyes flashed green wavy lines as the light of the heart monitor was burned into her retinas. She barely even blinked the entire time. She just looked at him. wandering how either of them let what they had slip through their fingers. She spent months blaming him, but had come to shoulder all of it herself. He needed someone to pull him back to where he was before, and she felt she gave up too easily. He was the one that saved her so many times without hesitation, yet she gave up on him almost immediately, she felt.

She couldn't forgive herself.

Watching him lie there, cuts all over his face with a hole blown straight through his chest and through her entire world, she sobbed dryly. There were no tears left in her dehydrated body. She had a half drunken glass of water next to her, that was given to her the day before, along with a few saltine crackers which she only ate two of, and felt like she wanted to regurgitate them immediately.

Dr. Kadowaki told her there was nothing left they could do, and that it was only a matter of time, but Rinoa refused to believe. Even as Irvine, Selphie, Quistis, Cid, Edea, Ellone, Laguna and various other people dropped in and out to say goodbye, she wouldn't do it. Even the usually boomingly optimistic Zell cried his eyes out as if he knew it was coming, but still, Rinoa wasn't going to say goodbye. She knew she might regret it, but saying goodbye meant giving up.

Giving up on him.

Giving up on them.

As she continued to stare at Squall, both hands tightly around his cut and burnt fingers and knuckles, she heard a light tap from the doorway, and a soft voice speak out.

"You want some company?" It was Quistis, again. She had been checking up every few hours...at this point more so on Rinoa, because she knew thats what Squall would've wanted.

Rinoa didn't flinch. Qustis walked in and pulled a chair up behind Rinoa and sat there. Quistis had been crying the better part of the last three days, but at this point, her tears were more for Rinoa than for her fallen comrade. Again, Quistis knew that Squall would want her to take care of Rinoa over himself, and at that point, there was nothing she could do for him anyway. It broke her heart, but she wanted to at least wanted to do what she actually had some semblance of control over.

Quistis gently laid a hand on Rinoa's back.

"Rinoa, I won't pretend I know what you are going through, because I don't. What you two had was...more than words," she stated, getting choked up as she spoke, but Rinoa still didn't react in any fashion, "But he loved you. He never stopped, but he just...he couldn't stop being who he was, you know? The soldier in him was always going to be there, and that meant putting you in the position he did, and..." she spoke and then haltingly stopped before she spoke ill of him. She loved Squall, and she knew he did what he felt was necessary, but felt that Rinoa did as well.

"I don't blame you one bit, and he didn't either. So...I hope you aren't blaming yourself for this."

Rinoa didn't react, but heard every word Quistis said.

Unfortunately, they were hollow and empty, each word holding less value than the one that preceded it. Quistis was right. There were no words...

No words to describe what they had.

No words to describe how she felt.

No words to make her feel less responsible.

No words to bring him back.

Three minutes passed slowly. She could hear Quistis crying behind her, but again, couldn't bring herself to join her. Crying represented sadness, but what she felt was pretty fucking far beyond sadness, and was bordering on a realm between fantasy and reality. Nothing seemed real. She felt numb, both physically and emotionally, and felt that with his death would die any chance she had at returning from that abyss.

They may as well throw me in the grave with him.

After a few more minutes of being frozen like a statue, Quistis spoke sadly, behind her.

"I guess I'll leave you alone.." she replied with a groggily voice, as she slowly stood and prepared to exit.

Suddenly, something in Rinoa's mind triggered, and even though she still couldn't feel anything, decided to share it with her friend.

"The other night, I went out on a date," Rinoa lightly spoke with no real emotion, causing Quistis to turn to her, "We went to dinner, a movie and then went to meet up with some other people. I had more fun than I've had in a long time, and for that ONE night, didn't think about Squall once," Rinoa explained, still no real emotion anywhere in her tone. Quistis walked back to behind where Rinoa was sitting and stood over her as she finished.

"Do you know what I did as soon as I got home? I cried...uncontrollably," Rinoa finished, squeezing his hand tighter.

Quistis teared up even more and lied a hand on her shoulder, and found the strength to hide the sadness in her voice, "Because you remembered Squall?" she questioned, but Rinoa didn't answer for a good minute. Finally, she shifted in her seat and leaned towards Squall.

"No..." she gasped out heavily and panted, as if something had been switched on inside of her, and she was able to feel feelings again.

After several moments, she looked back at Quisis, with tears streaming down her face for the umpteenth time, "Because I let myself forget about him.." Rinoa claimed, crying heavier with each word she spoke until she fell to the floor on her knees, and cried against the bedpost. Qustis began crying too and kneeled down next to her friend, wrapping her arms around her.

"Rinoa.." she tried to console her, as Rinoa just wrapped her arms around Quistis and they began crying heavily into each other's arms.

In the midst of the sounds of the cries, another sound flooded the room.

The steady, annoying beeping had turned into a continuous gentle buzzing.

The buzzing was accompanied by a flat green line.

Everything...just...froze.


And I remember the sound,

Of your November downtown...

And I remember the truth,

A warm December with you...


One Year Later...

She walked alone, along the streets she knew so well, watching as thousands of large snowflakes fell all around her, falling on the street and into mounds piled along the sidewalk, glistening from the light of the street lamps and full moon hanging in the sky . It was a crisp night, but comfortable and beautiful. Christmas wreaths hung on doors and colorful lights hung in the windows of various houses she passed. There were snow angels, sleds and shovels everywhere she looked, as well as a few snowmen with corncob pipes and a button nose and two eyes made out of coal.

It reminded her of a simpler time. A happier time. One she cherished and would forever cherish, but was finally ready to move on from.

She waited until a few cars hummed by and then crossed the street, jumping over a small pile of snow as she reached the sidewalk. She had finally reached her destination, but was reluctant to enter.

Standing there alone, she look up at the large, black gates, with a line of snow piled neatly on top of it, giving the otherwise creepy entrance a more welcoming presence. She looked inside and saw a long, straight path that was clear of most snow, aside from a few slushy patches along the way. Ever since she was a child, she hated that place. Every time she would drive by it on the way to school she would close her eyes and hum, pretending it wasn't there.

It wasn't so much how it looked that freaked her out as much as it was what it represented.

Finality. Endings. Closure.

But in this case, hoped that closure would lead to a new beginning.

She didn't want to, but knew she had to.

She took her first step inside, and then another, and then another, as the chills ran further and further up her spine, but had nothing to doing with the cold winder air. She looked to both sides of her, seeing the snow covered grounds with footprints scattered through various spots; footprints of people likely looking for the same type of closure she was. Leafless trees hung in various spots, with snow toppling off in small piles, falling off the branches as the mounds got to heavy on the limbs. Finally, rows of standing stones covered in white flakes, all representing the lives of those who no longer had an earthly presence.

After walking along for about five minutes, she finally came to the section where he was. From where she stood, she could see his stone stand magnificently in near distance. She closed her eyes, not really wanting to get any closer, but she knew she could never let go until she did. So she took her first step into the snow covered grass, feeling as a layer of hardened snow crunched beneath her boot. She continued through the mixture of old and freshly fallen snow, and then proceeded up a small hill unit finally reaching the memorial statue.

It was a large stone angel with a trumpet, playing music from the heavens. Majestically carved with various mementos of his life placed there by friends and colleagues. She was at his funeral, but had never truly let go, and felt this was her only chance to do so. She bowed her head as she stood there high boots, thermal black pants, and a medium length white jacket, along with a white scarf and a small white headband to cover her ears.

She looked back up at the snow covered grave, struggling to find the right words. That was always the problem...she never knew what to say to him. Even when she would often try to imagine what to say, she would get nervous and back out. But after speaking to Qustis earlier, realized that he would be happy that she showed up at all. She took a deep breath through her nose, and then crouched down beside him.

"Hey..." she stated in a somber tone, twirling a white rose between her gloved index finger and thumb, "I'm sorry it took me so long to visit," she continued, but started to feel silly and scared at the same time. She stood up, and started to slowly walk away, feeling as if she were being pulled in different directions. After shifting oddly few times, she finally walked back over to him, tears starting to form in her eyes.

"I thought I was going to stay mad at you forever...with the way you left me. I kept thinking of you and thinking of you, and then the moment I stopped..." she ranted rather fast, but came to a stop as she choked on some salty tears.

"And ever since, I've found it impossible to forgive... " she started again, before closing her eyes, still trying to find the strength to power through it, " ..Myself."

The tears subsided for a moment and she smiled a bit, "If there is one thing that I learned from us, it's that you can't take relationships for granted, no matter how rocky they may seem. I know what you and I had wasn't perfect, but I regret not being more understanding, because while you weren't always there for me...I see now that I wasn't really there for you either, and that you weren't used to having people there for you. Everyone leaned on you for support...even me..." she pushed forward, and surprisingly felt even stronger with each word she spoke. She felt as if the closure truly was helping, even if he was also tearing her up a little inside.

The fresh wounds of closure would heal much faster than the deep wounds of denial and regret.

"I came to say, goodbye. Because I think I've finally forgiven myself, and while you'll always be a part of me.." she told him. feeling the tears coming on again, but only because she was finally feeling herself let go, "...It's time for me to move on," she spoke as two fresh tears warmed her cheeks as they streamed from her glistening brown eyes.

Looking down to the white rose in her hand, she smiled gently, seeing the final key to her closure. She kissed the soft petals and then slowly leaned over, placing the flower just below his inscribed name. Standing back up, she looked down again, and her smile accompanied more tears, but they were tears of happiness. She finally felt free of the weight that hung heavy within her, and was beginning to crush her.

He would be in her heart forever, but finally, it was now a heart free of sorrow.

After allowing herself to grieve for a few more moments, a recognizable voice spoke from behind her.

"Are you okay?" the young man asked, sympathetically. She didn't glance back as he felt her nearing her, and then felt as he laid a soft, gloved hand on each of her shoulders.

"Yeah..." she replied, taking in another deep breath as her crying began to slow down, "I think I am...finally," she told him, and felt a kiss on the back of her head, just before the man walked around and next to the grave with a white rose in his hand as well. He kneeled down, and slowly placed his flower next to the other, and then walked over and stood beside her, as both looked down and paid their last respects...

"Here lies the eternally brave hero, and beloved husband and father...General Jonothan Caraway, next to his beloved wife Julia Caraway. May their souls be united as one forever..."

Finally, both turned and began to walk away.

Neither said anything at first, they just walked side by side, hearing only the swishing of cars on the street ahead. Slowly both of their hands left their pockets and slowly interlocked. He pulled her hand up and grasped it tightly with both of his, and looked down, seeing her gloved hand.

"Hey...at least you finally learned how to dress for winter," he told her, easing the mood a bit as they left the graveyard. She playfully bumped into him with force with a big smile on her face.

"Better than that ugly scarf," she said, tugging on the ugly, fraying red cotton cloth wrapped around his neck. ""Now what?" she asked, and he stopped, glancing into the snowy nights sky as he pondered her question.

"Dinner?" he asked with hopefulness, and she lightly nodded and smiled.

"Sounds like a start."

"Good," he returned the smile and nodded, but then quickly stormed ahead of her, "Because I forgot my wallet and I'm STARVING.." he stated and she began laughing with wide eyes.

"You..." she stated as she ran up behind him and jumped on his back, and he took off, running down the icy sidewalk with the raven haired beauty in tow.

It was the happiest either remembered being...ever.


But I don't have to make this mistake...

And I don't have to stay this way...

If only I would wake.


Notes

If you have never heard the song, I recommend listening to it.

I did a songfic because I feel like music has a way of conveying emotions that simple words cant do on their own, and felt it went perfectly wit this story.

A big reason I used this song was due to the television show "Scrubs". There was a very sad moment on the show and this played, and even got me gushy, which is rare.

Anyway...hoped you enjoyed it. If you didn't, go gentle in the reviews...I bruise like a peach.

Prodigy

PS...I apologize for any grammar errors in this chapter. I finished a chapter of my other story yesterday and this, so my mind is a bit fried right now.