Rinoa stood at the end of the rocky ledge and watched herself scramble over the sea, rock to rock, trying to outrun the call of her own death.
On the ledge, she noted an absence of fog. It lay across the inlet and lapped at the edges of the chain of rocks, but cleared before it reached her observation point; not the heavy force she remembered that blinded her, pressed into her, tried to trick her leaps and footing. It was-calmer up here. She stood in the sun, with a light breeze and without the rain, without the knife-sharp edges that she knew tore at the arms of this other self who looked so panicked even at this distance.
Rinoa glanced towards the voice, surprised only that she wasn't more surprised she had company. "You shouldn't be here."
"i feel like I'm watching a movie… I can't believe you ever-"
Noelle stepped closer to the edge and shook her head. "So this was the dream?"
"One of them."
"Isn't it weird? To watch yourself like this?"
Rinoa laughed. "That is the part that strikes you as strange?"
Noelle shrugged. "Well, it's either that, or we talk about how I'm dreaming about you dreaming about watching one of your dreams. You know, I think I did see a movie like that once."
"Are you the one dreaming?"
"I assumed so… Or that we both are. Don't you know?"
Rinoa frowned. Out at sea she was struggling, the fog pressing in closer and closer. Up on the cliff a gull circled over their heads and let out a lazy cry. "I think I might be…gone."
"You should probably come up with something to call that, you know."
"Denial," Rinoa said, "Is a very powerful thing."
"Why do you think you're 'gone'? That's good, right? If you can tell?"
"I don't know." Her frown deepened. There was something wrong. "I shouldn't be able to dream like this anymore. But before when this happened, we were near each other. Unless you came back into town?"
"No." Noelle was watching the other Rinoa more closely. "I feel like I'm here for something."
"Yes, actually! Dad! I think-"
He was on the cliffs. Not waiting at the end, there to catch her, to save her… He was out on the rocks with her, the long fingers of the sea twisting around his legs and pulling him down, and it didn't even look like he was fighting it.
"He's not supposed to be there! He's-"
"That's…why you're here. Why we're here... He's in trouble."
Noelle's furrowed her brow, and Rinoa watched her bring her fingers to her mouth. "How… Did I do this? Or did you?"
"I told you… I don't know how I could."
"Where…Where are you now?"
Rinoa blinked. Which me? She was here, in the sun. She was on the cliffs, climbing, oblivious to Squall's failing grasp. She was… "Which me?"
"You you. Real you… Present you."
"At home. We were going through Odine's research. I went downstairs and must have fallen asleep and then…" Rinoa closed her eyes. She went downstairs, and then… The doors were locked. The doors were locked. She was home, so how could Squall possibly be in any sort of trouble? The doors were… "I don't know."
"Where I am. We locked the doors, but… I was going to take a bath. The water was too hot so I stepped outside to watch the stars, since the moon was barely out. It happens… Well, you saw how fast it happens. Oh, your dad is going to be so upset."
No he isn't, a voice said. Her voice. Not if you don't get to him in time.
"What about you?" Rinoa continued. "Where are you?"
Noelle stared at her weakened fingernails before bringing them back towards her lips. "Asleep. I've been asleep. We were out all day and crashed pretty much as soon as we got home…"
Dream versions of Rinoa and Squall fought for purchase on their respective rocks, and Squall was losing. Fight, Rinoa thought. In her memory, she felt the desperate drive towards survival that let her push through the pain and the fear, but she could not see that on Squall. And what was he doing there in the first place? "I have to go to him."
"But it's a dream."
"It's not." Rinoa shook her head. "He's not supposed to be there. I have to go out there."
"But you are out there. We're dream-"
"Noelle, in the six weeks this has been happening not once have I had any sort of experience during that time. It's blank. I can't remember where I am, who I am, where I go, and I certain don't relive past events, dream or other-"
"-How do you know that? How do you know this doesn't happen every time? We don't remember our dreams every time we sleep even though we know they happen, why should this be any different-"
"-because it is. Because I know… Think, sweetie. Your dreams…they're different now."
"But he's not…it's not real. This whole place. It's like before, when we dreamed about Time. I wasn't… You weren't… How are you supposed to do anything for him when-"
"I have to go." She watched Squall fall, and watched the violent waves toss him around, closer and closer to the bases of the rock chain he should only have ever seen from a distance.
"Thank you, for bringing me here. Maybe it's a step in learning how to fight this off."
Noelle's voice rang through the clear air for a second, then two, then it was lost to the rush of wind in her ears as Rinoa leapt off the cliff towards the sea below, and towards Squall.
February, sixteen years past
Her coffee was cold, and the weak morning sun looked blue where it filtered through the thin smoke from the patio fireplace. Rinoa stared at the tips of her hair that lay flayed over the shoulder of her coat, and waited. The sun rose higher, and the frost on the winter-dead grass melted. She caught swears from her neighbors, late for work, followed by the scraping sounds as they tried to clear their windshields.
When she heard the car pull into the driveway she stood, the full effects of the cold protesting from her limbs as she did. She bounced from foot to foot and watched the gate intently.
Squall opened it with his face knit in concern. "Rin, what-"
He stopped, and clenched and unclenched gloved fists.
"I'm sorry. I meant to… I wasn't going to just blurt it out, but what else…"
Squall started walked again, and Rinoa watched him pull out his phone, and frown.
"Nobody's called me. How do you know?"
"I dreamed it."
"I didn't do anything."
"Don't tell me it was just a dream. You know better."
"I know. I wasn't going to. I was just going to say…"
"That maybe it isn't true? That maybe this time it was just a dream? I… I'm certain, Squall."
He stopped in front of her and pulled her towards him, and Rinoa leaned against his shoulder, shivering.
"It's just… It's easier out here. Squall, it was one of those dreams." The kind she didn't wake up from. The kind that stuck with her for hours, days. There was fear in the dream, and in the waking.
"You can't freeze it away, Rin."
"I know. But I can numb it a little."
She felt his chin slide back and forth against her hair, and the warm impression from his lips against her forehead. "Fine. But only for a few minutes because I brought us breakfast."
"Is that what took so long?
"Sort of." He nudged her towards her chair, took a sip of her coffee, and grimaced. "You couldn't warm that up?"
"It was warm. Sort of?"
"Delay waiting for one of the chaperones. I almost got roped into a trip to the train museum with a bunch of kids."
"Wouldn't that have been funny. I'm glad you didn't, then I would've had to sit with this all day."
"You'd have told me."
"I'm surprised you couldn't tell." She held the coffee mug for a moment and then handed it back to Squall, steam rising from the top, and tried not to think about times when he could read her dreams. Times together, when he could help, and times apart where they almost cost him far more than an extra hour or two of sleep.
"How long have you been up?"
"Half an hour?"
"That's about when they were asking me if I could stay as a backup. I must have confused the anxiety…. Do you want to talk about it?"
"You need to call Garden."
"And do what?"
"Confirm that I'm right!"
"Because Edea… Because she needs someone. Because she won't want to hear from us, and know that I know. Because I was there."
"You really want me to call Xu and tell her you-"
"What, you think she'll believe I caused it?"
"No. But you're the one who's always so intent on keeping yourself off Garden's radar. How did it happen, anyway?"
"I don't know." She pulled her knees onto her chair, the cold finally settling in agains the calm of Squall's presence. "Not what happened in the dream. That was just….the message. It was awful. But I knew. Edea knew. And then I woke up and I know it wasn't just a dream. So you should-"
"She can call Edea. It's not us. She calls them all the time without a reason. She might already know."
"Can we go inside now?" Squall looked to her again with concern and Rinoa nodded. She waved her hand extinguishing the fire, and walked quickly towards the door, and towards the warmth. The knot in her throat grew tight again, and she didn't know if she would rather be right or wrong.
-doing out here?-
-called before she got here-
-up at the high school-
-practically owns the whole town-
-NOT do this on purpose how dare-
-get her out of here-
comfortable in the darkness.
-please please please-
-Somebody get her OUT-
no, let her stay
-'s he been down?-
-three, four, five-
-come on baby, please-
-twenty seven, twenty eight-
-ninety six point-
-going with him-
Squall coughed. And choked. And coughed again, and coughed until his stomach hurt and his throat was raw and he felt something cold running down the side of his face. In the background the voices continued, but he only heard one, the only one that mattered. He opened his eyes to movement and shining lights, and to Rinoa kneeling beside him, her hair loose and tears on her cheeks. Her eyes were on his as soon as he opened them, and she kissed him and gripped his hand and when she spoke her voice was soft and nearly broken.