Rating: I'm thinking G or PG. No swearing, no violence, just a lot of heartache. Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VIII and the characters do not belong to me. Gods, that game has got to be the most involving, wonderful piece of art I've ever seen. And I absolutely _LOVE_ Rinoa and Squall as a couple, but... Quistis holds a special place in my heart. She did ever since I saw her in the infirmary to pick up our erstwhile hero,and my heart went out to her as the game progressed. As I began to replay the latest Square masterpiece, I felt the compulsion to write this. One or two major spoilers, but read on if you want. The actual events of the SeeD group's flashback may not be super-accurate, but I haven't reached that part of the game again just yet. And the obsession with the good Instructor's eyes? I don't know. Have you ever gazed into something so bright and beautiful, despite whatever circumstances it came about, that it hurt to look at it, but you couldn't help but stare? That pretty much sums up Rinoa's reaction--until she hears what Quistis has to say...........

Rinoa watched the former SeeD instructor walk away from Edea's--The Sorceress'--house, silent. As usual. So why did _this_ particular silence bother her so?

The leader of the Forest Owls--'former leader, if I'm honest withmyself,' Rinoa thought ruefully--increased her stride to catch up to the blonde woman ahead of her. The shorter brown-haired girl walked with the instructor, trying not to seem too conspicuous. That was a bit hard, however, as she found herself constantly fiddling with the blonde highlights in her own hair.

"So, Rinoa, how do you think that went?"

"Huh?" Rinoa blinked rapidly as a slight blush crawled up herneck. "Um... very informative? Yeah, that's it: I think it was very informative. Why? How do _you_ think it went, Quistis?"

Quistis Trepe, former SeeD instructor, shrugged. "It wasn't quite what we were looking for. Knowing that Edea is the Heamaster's wife... It'll be that much harder to fight her. Knowing that she was our Matron..."

Rinoa winced, cursing herself for her stupidity. "I'm sorry to have brought it up, Quistis. I just wasn't thinking--" The SeeD smiled, which was a bit more expressive than what Rinoa was used to.

"It's all right, Rinoa. I understand. You don't have to worry about it, at any rate. Squall will do whatever's necessary to help you."

The resistance fighter brightened a bit at the mention of the scarred, yet undeniably handsome, mercenary fighter. "Yeah, he has been doing a lot, hasn't he? Is this even covered in our contract? I mean, I know the Headmaster made the agreement pretty vague, but..." Rinoa sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if he ever notices me."

Quistis stopped suddenly, and she motioned for Rinoa to do the same as the rest of the group decided to move ahead of them. Zell paused for a moment, but Quistis motioned for him to go along. Rinoa could tell that the martial artist wasn't too happy about it, but he followed the unspoken order with little resistance.

Silence reigned for a moment, leaving Rinoa in the lurch. She drew in a deep breath before speaking. "What's going on, Quistis? Did I say something to upset you? 'Cause if I did, I'm sorry--"

The other woman chuckled softly, waving Rinoa's concerns away with a flick of her wrist. "It's okay. I just..." Quistis removed glasses before gazing into the sky.

Rinoa was going to ask Quistis what this was all about, but her voice caught in her throat as she looked into the most beautiful blue eyes she had ever seen. They were every bit as blue as Squall's, similar depths of pain and suffering residing in the darkened irises, but there was something else, a sort of silent suffering, which only served to enhance their fragile beauty. The brightness made Rinoa want to turn away, but she found herself trappped in Quistis' gaze, and she found that, for a moment...

She couldn't look away. She never wanted to.

Quistis continued to look at Rinoa, oblivious to the silver tears that threatened to spill from her eyes. "He notices you, Rinoa. Oh, God, does he notice you. His eyes light up whenever you're around, and they darken as though something's been taken from him when you step out, even for a moment. He would notice you even if you had entered a room from across the way, without you even trying to get his attention."

The blonde turned away and wiped her unshed tears, the spell shattering in the silence of the plains.

"He notices you. He always has, and he always will."

And with that, Quistis resumed heading for the mobile Garden, making sure to go slowly enough so Rinoa could catch up--if she wanted to.

Instead, Rinoa stood there, stunned. She realized, with a startling clarity, that everything that Quistis had said in that orphanage--her feelings for Squall being mere remnants of her 'sisterly concern' for him during that time--was a lie.

Quistis loved Squall. She was in love with him, as Rinoa was,but...

He would never know. And Quistis would never let him find out... The brunette felt the need to let Squall know, or to say _something_ to apologize to Quistis, but something about the slightly-older woman's expression implored her not to. So Rinoa ran toward the Garden, tears streaming down her cheeks as she rushed to catch up to the other woman.


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