Somewhere In Between
Chapter One: Underneath the Desert Sky
Why is it that perfect dreams are so few and far between? No matter how much we beg and plead for them in the solitude of sleep, they never return until after you forget them. They lie deep in wait underneath the nightmares and the weird apparitions until they decide to flood your senses with an overwhelming tide of serenity that you never want to leave. Those dreams where all the world is right, where time and sorrow do not exist, where everything makes sense. What provokes the mind to release these fragile glimpses of what could never be?
And why, oh why, are these dreams always interrupted without fail?
Quistis growled as the phone on the nightstand rang a third time, sending another piercing wail reverberating through the dark room. She reached over to the small table, blindly scouring for the lamp switch. She shut her eyes tightly as the light swept through the room, chasing the retreating darkness to shadowy corners. Squinting against the assault on her eyes, she grappled for the tolling menace, knocking it to the floor on its fifth ring. She leaned partially out of the bed and grabbed it making ready to give a serious tongue-lashing to the person on the other end if this was anything less than a DEFCON one emergency.
"What is it?" she snapped. At 3:00 a.m. formalities could be dropped.
Her tired eyes suddenly grew wide in shock.
It was all her remaining strength could do to keep the telephone from sliding out of her fingers while the voice on the other end continued on.
"How? How did you...I thought...there was no way without..." Her voice trembled.
"I can't believe... I... What? Yes of course, I'm on my way."
The voice on the other end had long been silent when she finally let the phone drop from her ear. It hit the carpeted floor with a soft thump. The voice kept repeating in her head. "We've done it." After so long, words she thought she would never hear. Her vision blurred as the tears began to burn her eyes. She had given up all hope.
"We've done it."
Like all those perfect dreams we long for, hope comes when you least expect it.
"She's going to be alright."
"Oh my God," She whispered as she put her head in her hands. "Oh my God."
"I'm scared, Squall. I don't want to go back."
Yet he took her, he gave her to them without so much as a word. Even while his heart was screaming, and something he had known for just a brief instance now lay dying inside him. He said nothing.
"Come with us. We must seal your power for the sake of the world."
There were only two of them; he could have disposed of them quickly. He would have taken on an army of a thousand for her. They could have been out of Esthar and out of their radars before they had any inclination on what had happened.
There was no guarantee they could get out. It might have had the exact same ending. It might have been worse.
"No one can predict the future, there are no guarantees. Those were your words Rinoa."
But he could have tried. Instead, he did nothing. It was that dying spirit inside him that rose above his silence and reached out to her in small, piteous voice.
"Rinoa! Don't go!"
She told him she had to. He could have argued, given her a million reasons why she shouldn't, reasons why she should stay...with him.
"As long as I'm free, she'll continue to use me to accomplish her goals. I...We can't let that happen, right? ...I should go now."
It was her choice, her decision. What right did he have to stop her? He was doing the right thing. These were her wishes and he was abiding by them. He wouldn't be selfish; this was what she wanted.
To be sealed off from the world forever?
"She was scared about being a sorceress...Scared of being feared...hated...Scared that no one would want to be around her...She said she couldn't handle that."
"Why did you go all the way out into space to save Rinoa? To hand her over to Esthar? So that you might never see here again?" Quistis had asked with overwhelming disbelief.
"No, right? Wasn't it because you wanted to be with Rinoa?"
"You're a fool."
His friends had known him better than he had known himself. He had to be the biggest fool in existence. He had let love slip away from him without so much as a whimper. Would he risk the lives of millions just to be with one? Would he choose her over the sake of the world?
"Hell yes," his heart whispered.
"Selphie, head for Esthar. She's probably at the Sorceress Memorial. We're going to go rescue Rinoa."
And they flew faster than anything with wings, soaring across the sands of Esthar as the sun sank behind them. He would storm into the Sorceress Memorial, and he would play the hero. He would save her. He would save himself. Just like he had done thousands of miles above the earth.
He wouldn't be too late. Heroes were not supposed to be too late.
"You want to see your comrade off...I'll make an exception. Go ahead."
"What are you doing here? This is a restricted area!"
"...To do what I should have done earlier. I'll never know unless I do it."
"What are you talking about?"
"I know what I want and what I have to do...There's still a chance. I'm not gonna to look back. I'm taking Rinoa with me."
"What? You must be joking. It's too late."
He dismissed it without a second thought. It was never too late. His comrades entered with their weapons drawn giving him the chance he needed.
"Go Squall!" Zell shouted.
"Go get her, Squall!" Selphie cheered.
And he ran.
She stood in the middle of the containment facility, her hands clasped tightly around the rings that hung on her neck.
"Rinoa, hold on! I'll get you out in a sec!" He yelled to her as if he knew exactly what he was doing.
She looked surprised to see him. She took one hand off of her chest and placed it against the confinement wall reaching toward him. He climbed the small steps and approached the glass, slamming on it repeatedly. The echo reverberated like an earthquake through the room of equipment. Yet it had no effect at all on the glass structure, only a pain in his hand that could not rival the one in his heart.
"What am I supposed to do? Come on?"
She stumbled and sank to her knees. Her fingers made liquid trails on the frosted glass. He was now face to face with her looking into her heavy eyes. She took a shallow breath that fogged the glass between them. She tried to speak, but the words failed as she was overcome with an unrelenting weariness.
"Fight it Rinoa, stay with me!" Squall shouted, as he looked frantically around for anything that might open the chamber and stop the sealing process. A long set of cables ran the length of the room and into the container. He withdrew his gunblade and raised it above his head to make a clean slice.
"I wouldn't zat if I were you."
He turned around.
"She's coming with me. Now. So help me God if you come a step closer you'll be picking your intestines up off the floor." He pointed the gunblade at the dwarfish man for a moment before resuming work on the cables.
"Zat is all fine and good. But I don't know how a dead sorceress vill do you much good."
"What are you talking about?"
"I am talking about those cables you are getting ready to cut. Those are the only things between her and hypothermic shock. Cut those and she vill be dead within seconds."
"Hypothermic shock? But Adel...she wasn't frozen."
"No she wasn't, but she was also sealed by the ze design twenty years ago. You've seen how vell that held her, even in zero gravity. Ze freezing process is a failsafe. It keeps stupid people from doing stupid things like unleashing hell upon ze earth. Which if you haven't noticed, is now parked on the outskirts of Esthar."
He had a hold on the doctor before Odine had time to blink. His gloved hand wrapped tightly around his neck, lifting the shorter man to eye level and pinning him against the wall. "Now you listen to me you sick demented son of a bitch, reverse this process and release her or I'll crush your windpipe right here and now."
"I don't know what killing me vill help either. I did create zis machine after all." Odine wheezed. "There is now way to reverse the process you foolish boy. Did I not just say it was a failsafe? What kind of idiot would want to unseal a sorceress?"
Squall howled in rage and slammed the doctor against the wall a second time, letting him drop to the floor. He aimed his gunblade at the crumbled man's head and cocked it menacingly. "I'll kill you...I'll kill you!"
"Perhaps you shouldn't waste her last moments killing me. I vould say her body temperature iz now close to 82 degrees now. She vill be unconscious in a few moments. If you wish to say goodbye, now is ze time to do it." Odine looked up at the man and wiped the blood from his mouth. He managed a triumphant grin.
Squall turned away angrily. "I don't care where you run to or what hole you weasel your way into. I will find you when this is over."
"It would be wise to keep me alive Mr. Leonhart, I am the creator of this invention after all. I'm the only one capable of inventing a way to reverse it."
He wasn't listening anymore as he approached the glass in front of him. She was there in the position he had left her in. Her skin was ghostly pale and her breathing was painfully slow. Her eyes were cast to the floor. He tapped on the glass and she brought her gaze up slowly. She gave him a weak smile. The tears were burning his eyes as he put his hand against the glass. She followed suit, placing her hand against his.
"I'm sorry...I'm so sorry," he whispered.
She shook her head as if to dismiss it. "This... is... for... th... best." She managed.
"I'll find a way to get you out of here." He promised.
She blinked in acknowledgement. "...I love...you," she mouthed as she closed her eyes for the last time.
He put his head against the glass as he cried for the first time in twelve years. It was a bitter and deep sound that rose from his chest. It resounded from the walls and sank into the deepest shadows of the room. How could he be too late? How could fate be that cruel? He heard the gasps of his friends behind him as they entered. He could see their looks of horror even though he didn't turn around.
"No….no! Please no!" He heard Selphie sob.
"Damn it!" He heard something being slammed against the floor. Zell apparently found something to take his anger out on.
Squall took the blame; he wanted all of it. He had opened himself up to someone and his worst fears had come true. It was his curse. He was never meant to be a hero.
His eyes managed to look at her again. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful. Her hand was still against his, now frozen in its place. He traced the outline of her fingers with his own.
"This is for the best."
For who Rinoa, dear Hyne for who?
His eyes were distracted by a shimmering tear that had fell halfway down her face before it crystallized and became a permanent fixture on her features.
"How..." the voice repeated in his head, "How could you have been too late?"
Squall screamed as he shot up from his position on the bed. He gasped for breath as the sheen of sweat on his body shimmered in the moonlight. He put a hand to his chest in a futile attempt to control the thundering of his heart. He relaxed a little more as he took in the familiar surroundings of the room. He rubbed his face with one hand as he felt a hand take his other and squeeze it softly.
He turned to the person beside him with the look of a frightened child. She rose up and put her arms around him reassuringly. Her fingers ran through the damp locks of his hair. She fell back onto her pillow and brought him down gently with her. He didn't resist, falling into her arms and holding her as if she was his only lifeline to reality. He rested his head against her shoulder as he emptily stared out the window. The cold winds howled and rattled the panes as the ice trailed tiny rivulets on the frozen glass.
She held him close and sang softly as she caressed his face with a gentle and loving hand. Taking on the ritual as if it were nothing new at all. And it wasn't. She had lived with his demons for the past three years.
First of all, I want to thank Nicole for putting up with me, which in itself is not easy to do. The idea of doing a joint story with someone I respected so much was truly an honor. Our intention is to have a multi-chaptered story that deals with the simple issue... What if the hero had failed? How would their lives changed, how would he have continued? If love is meant to be, will it always find a way no matter the odds? This story came from hours of us sitting around my house on vacation working together. I only hope that you may find as much enjoyment in reading it, as we did planning the story. Thank you, for everything.
Hey everyone! Kristine came to me with this story idea one day and I absolutely loved it. It sounded like something entirely new, something I had never read nor thought of. And then she asked me if I'd like to co-author it with her. I was thrilled and honored to be a part of it (still trying to cope with the idea of helping to write a story that runs longer than three chapters…but I am progressing in the "12 steps to writing multiple chapters" program baby steps. But its been so much fun, honestly, I'm not sure how she puts up with me. But thank you my friend for letting me be a part of this. We had a ball coming up with ideas for this story. Thanks to everyone for reading, hope you enjoy our venture!
As per the usually disclaimer:
The characters, cities, and all things Final Fantasy VIII in general, belong to SquareSoft (Now Square Enix to update this!) The only things we sadly own are Elise Vandermere and Maude McCay, and really we don't want Maude that much... she scares us.