Disclaimer: Don't own FF8

For this story any italicized words are Squall's inner monologue.

In Treatment: Week 1

Squall sighed and bit his tongue. What do you want from me?

"Squall, I just... does it make a difference if I'm here?" Rinoa and he had been going in circles with the same conversation. 'Do you want me here?' 'Yes.' 'But do YOU want me here.' 'I just answered that.' Repeat

Of course it makes a difference. I like you here.

"Rinoa, you're safe at Garden."

"Oh... well, I'm glad that I'm *safe*. Glad you care that I am *safe* at Garden." She seemed irritated and Squall didn't understand. Of couse he wanted her safe and close. What he didn't understand was that all Rinoa wanted to hear was that Squall wanted, no, needed her close, nothing to do with being a Sorceress, or Garden, or safety, but just love.

"Right." Why is she so angry? It was easier when I didn't talk to people. "Rinoa, you're being unreasonable... and I have to go."

Rinoa huffed her bangs out of her eyes and crossed her arms, "Of course, Garden awaits, right? Well, I guess I'll just sit and wait..."

Squall sighed audibly, I don't have time for games right now, can't you see that, Rinoa? "Wait For what?"

"Wait for what? Seriou-" Rinoa shook her head and stalked towards the door, "Just forget it!" She slammed it behind her.

Whatever.


Squall sighed as he examined the cookie display in front of him. He had already tried the watered down coffee and was debating whether or not to try one of the depressing looking cookies.

Sprinkles? Chocolate? Jam? I wonder if which cookie I choose will tell something about my personality? Hyne, I hate this. Sighing in indignation, he grabbed a sugar cookie and flopped down in a folded chair, glaring at his styrofoam cup angrily.

Dr. Georgina Kadowaki cleared her throat, "All right, folks... let's begin."

The few other stragglers in the room made their way to the circle of chairs and sat down. There were about 10 of them in total. Squall looked for a connecting theme between all of the people in the group, but couldn't seem to find one. Prior to coming to this first session he had expected them all to be soldiers, however there was a girl younger than him, as well as a woman in her 50s as well as a middle aged man who did not look like he had ever seen a battle field.

Dr. Kadowaki handed Squall a sheet of paper, "Here are the rules for the group, Squall. Would you like to introduce yourself to everyone?"

No.

Squall grunted, "I'm Squall." He expected everyone to answer with a 'Hi, Squall.' but they didn't. Kadowaki nodded to him to keep talking... apparently she wanted a life story.

5 minutes down, 55 to go. Why is she looking at me like I am going to say something?

Kadowaki cleared her throat, "And what brings you to our group, Squall?"

"Work."

"My, my aren't you taciturn. It's alright, participation is not mandatory... sometimes listening is all you need." Dr Kadowaki nodded at him and smiled.

Thank Hyne.

Squall looked down at the sheet of paper, Kadowaki had handed him to glance at the rules of the group. Getting kicked out would not go over well with Cid.

Because confidentiality is essential, we expect that each person will respect and maintain the confidentiality of the group. What is said in the group is not to be repeated or discussed at any other time or place.

We are here to share our own feelings and experiences; we try not to give advice.

We each share the responsibility for making this group work.

We try to accept people, just as they are, and we avoid making judgments.

We try to give everyone an opportunity to share.

We have the right to speak and the right to remain silent.

We give supportive attention to the person who is speaking and avoid side conversations.

We avoid interrupting. If we do break in, we return the conversation to the person who was speaking.

We have the right to ask questions and the right to refuse to answer.

We try to be aware of our own feelings and talk about what is present to us now, rather than what life was like for us in the past.

We do not discuss group members who are not present.

We begin and end our meetings on time.

Okay, it could be worse.

"By the way, everyone calls me Dr. G for 'Georgina'...Squall, feel free to jump in, okay? Now, who would like to share today?" Dr. G nodded towards a girl who looked to be in her 20s. She was pretty with long dark hair, reminded him a little bit of Rinoa except her eyes were cold and angry, Rinoa's were always warm. Dr G motioned towards the woman, "Yes, Lulu."

"I broke up with Wakka." The woman folded her arms in front of her chest.

Please tell me I do not have to listen to this woman's relationship problems. This is worse than Irvine talking about 'cougars'.

One of the older gentlemen in the group hmphed, "Figures, Lu, you liked him too much."

Squall raised an eyebrow at the man's statement Why would she break up with someone she likes. Wait... stop Squall, don't engage.

Dr G nodded, "Well, I can't say that I'm surprised either, Setzer. Why did you break up with him, Lulu?"

Lulu sighed, "He... it wouldn't have worked out."

Dr. G nodded, "We have to be honest with the group, Lu, or therapy isn't effective." She looked over at Squall, "Squall, you might be able to help her."

What? I'm a soldier not a lover.

Squall shook his head, "Doubt it."

Setzer grunted towards Squall, "Ask the lady why she graces us with her presence."

If I ask her then she will start talking again... rather not.

"Fine. What is your problem?" Okay, that came out sort of mean. "Um, why are you here?" Squall forced out.

Lulu gazed at her nails as if they were the most interesting things on the planet, "Well, supposedly I have 'issues' after my fiancé was killed in the war. Which is silly, I've grieved for him, it's been 10 years."

What does that have to do with trauma? Am I in the right group?

Dr. G nodded understandingly, "And have you had another relationship since him, Lulu?"

"Well.. yes and no. I just don't feel like dating anyone, I don't see the point. Wakka was the first person that got even close" Lulu said.

Dr. G looked over at Squall pointedly, "Lulu, why do you not see a point in *getting close* to anyone?"

Why is she looking at me when she's talking to that girl?

Lulu shifted in her seat, "Because... Wakka will just leave." she finally said softly.

Unexpected by all (except maybe Dr. G who somehow seemed clairvoyant) Squall spoke, "You'll end up alone again." Did I just say that outloud?

A small smile graced Lulu's lips, "Yeah. He'll leave and I'll have to feel that pain all over again so... it's easier to just not get close, I guess." She laughed a bit to herself, "I should be thanking him for even putting up with me."

Putting up with..? Does Rinoa have to put up with a lot being with me? I guess I can be cold sometimes. Am I like Lulu? Was I that put off by closeness... because of 'Sis?

Was that why she was so angry this morning? Because I don't seem to understand how patient she is with me? She wanted to know that I *wanted* her there... is it that simple?

Wait a second... I thought this was supposed to be about Ultimecia.

I hate this.

As if reading his mind, Dr. G spoke again, "That was quite insightful, Lulu. Thank you for sharing. You see Squall, 'trauma' is a relative turn. You don't have to hold your dying friend in your arms, like one of our other members here, to have a traumatic event. Trauma is different to different people, but we all tend to react the same way. You become stuck. Lulu, for example was so shaken by her fiancé's death that she cannot allow anyone to get close to her. Cloud over here, watched his best friend die in war. Rydia lost her mother in a fire at a young age. Magus lost his favorite cat."

A cat? Seriously?

"It's relative to the person, you see. You as a soldier, may be able to handle a lot more than someone else in terms of war, but might be quite traumatized by losing your favorite sword."

"Gunblade," Squall corrected her. I would be pretty upset if I lost Lionheart, probably lock myself in my room for a week.

Dr. G smiled, "Gunblade. But the point remains. Lulu, your homework is to talk to Wakka and tell him why you are afraid. In fact, that is an assignment for all of you." She glanced at her watch, "Oh my, time went fast. That's it for the week. I will see you all next week. It was a very productive session."

Time's up already? That went faster than I thought it would.

Lulu walked up to Squall and gave him a small smile, "Thanks. When someone important leaves you, guess you push everyone away, huh?"

Squall blinked I never should have talked. Now this girl will think we are 'friends' or something. "I guess." Why is she still looking at me? Am I supposed to say more? Fine. "But, your fiancé didn't leave by choice. He died." Smooth, Squall. Way to rub salt in her wound.

Lulu shook her head, "Yeah. So then maybe I don't have an excuse anymore. He didn't choose to leave but was taken... have a good night, Squall."

Lulu's fiancé was taken. He didn't leave. "Taken"... like 'Sis. She didn't choose to leave me, she was taken away. But, I've spent years pushing people away in case I get left again...


Rinoa looked up from the book she was reading, curled up under a blanket on Squall's couch, apparently her anger from earlier in the day was gone, but Squall could tell that she wasn't completely relaxed, "How was it?" Rinoa asked.

Squall shrugged, "Could've been worse."

Rinoa placed a ribbon in the book and closed it carefully. As she did so, Squall noticed a band-aid on her inner arm and frowned. Rinoa, catching his frown sighed, "Odine took blood today."

Squall sat down next to her and after a moment of intense internal debate, placed an arm around her shoulder, "How was it?" He repeated her earlier question.

Rinoa smiled and scooted closer to him, pulling the blanket over his legs to share her warmth, "Could've been worse. I don't like being an experiment, but... I'm learning how to control my powers too."

Squall nodded If Odine so much as looks at her the wrong way... "Um Rinoa?"

"Yes?"

Squall cleared his throat and averted his eyes, "Thank you."

"Huh? For what?" Rinoa cocked her head at him.

"Um, being with me. Being patient. You know. With me. Thank you for staying."

Rinoa smiled and nuzzled her head into the nook of Squall's arm, "You're welcome... but you don't need to thank me, being with you is the best decision I've ever made. Thank YOU for being with me and.. for saying that. It means a lot Squall."

Squall smiled and turned to kiss the top of Rinoa's head, "Lucky..." he mumbled softly.

Rinoa smirked hearing his words, "Yes we are." She responded softly.

"Rinoa?" Squall squeezed her shoulder lightly, "Don't tell anyone this but, therapy wasn't ALL bad."

Rinoa chuckled and poked Squall in the ribs, eliciting a soft chuckle from him, "Your secret is safe with me. They always are, oh stoic one."

Squall leaned back on the couch and pulled Rinoa with him, closing his eyes. The words had come so easily to him and clearly they had made Rinoa happy. It was so easy to make her happy. He had never realized how un-complicated it could be. He was happy to be with her and just telling her that fact made her happy. Who would have thought it was that easy? All because Lulu said she should have thanked Wakka, or whatever his name was. Therapy wasn't ALL bad.

It wasn't all bad at all.

INTERLUDE:

"Quisty, did you have any IDEA the sodium content of a hot dog? Did you KNOW? HOW CAN GARDEN SERVE THIS TO US? We probably all have super high blood pressure!" Zell was waving his arms emphatically as he spoke.

"It's a conspiracy, Zell! I'm with you!"

Quistis sighed and pinched her nose, "Don't encourage him, Selphie..."

Zell gave Selphie a high five, "Al-RIGHT, Selph! Seriously though, you know that you shouldn't drink all that coffee either, right?"

Quistis' hand paused in front of the mug in front of her, "Zell... as glad as I am that you are learning about healthy eating in your therapy, please... don't try to control my diet."

Irvine smirked as Quistis used the word 'control' "Hey, Quisty?"

"What, Irvine?"

Irvine lifted up his hand to his ear like a telephone, "There's a call for you from 'Kettle', he says, 'Hey Pot, you're black.'"

Quistis' eyebrow twitched, "I'm going to kill Kadowaki..."


A/N: I'm alive! This chapter was delayed and I'm still not completely happy with it. Ah well. Must...get over... being... perfectionist (explodes)

READ AND REVIEW (yay!) pleassseeeeeee

Hopefully my next update won't take so long, I'm almost done with another chapter of 'Return' too..(if anyone still reads it)