Place In This World
by Ashbear
Onefish.twofish@verizon.net

I do not own Final Fantasy VIII or any of the characters.

I watch as the moonlight reflects off the dresser mirror. The room, filled with a calming serenity that can only comes when one least expects. It's an hour of peace, an hour of understanding. Sometimes you can do the best thinking in the middle of the night amongst the brilliant stars. The entire world seems to stop revolving and all the problems disappear, if only in your mind.

Not too long ago I was searching for my place in this world.

We are all lost at one point or another, the key is to find ourselves before time runs out. Nobody is standing with a stopwatch, checking every movement that we waste. Instead, we are all to blame for every exhausted second, every wasted minute. Nobody knew that six months ago time would halt for all of us. Not the end-result of a deranged lunatic, but more the result of an erroneous soul, who never found their place in the world.

My story however, begins before those broadly publicized events.

Some thought a resistance fraction in Timber was useless, never could we accomplish an achievable goal. Well, maybe they were right, but that is beside the point. The simple fact of the matter is we did something. We tried. Is it better to sit on the sidelines complaining, as others determine your life and fate? Win or lose, we could always fall back on our pride. What satisfaction is there in hearing about the sunset, instead of going outside and experiencing the miracle yourself?

The Timber Owls.

Squall never believed in us, but that doesn't mean that he didn't believe in me. By gods, there is a difference. Maybe we didn't make a change, but maybe, I did. It's in how you perceive the situation. Stupid, childish, amateur... I heard every adjective describing our group. Compared to SeeD, this might have been true, but that didn't mean we cared about the circumstances any less.

I can look back on those days with dignity; with pride that others in Timber spoke of, but never acted upon. Yet still, I wasn't happy.

They called me Princess.

It was a nickname I grew to despise. Oh, don't get me wrong, at first, I thought it was sweet... and truthfully, it made me feel important. But that's when I first joined the fraction, right after leaving my father. I found the attention from the other members that I so desired from home. For once, I was the main attraction and not the fucking Galbadian army. Maybe some of my hatred toward their governmental rule stemmed from my fathers commitment to them... but never to me.

Nevertheless, I was the good princess. Always being who they wanted me to be, acting the way they thought. Let's face it, we all wear masks... Zone and Watts hadn't had the easiest life; both lost their parents to the forces of Galbadia. Neither had siblings, or family to speak of... so I became what they needed. A princess. Maybe it gave their life meaning, being valiant knights to protect the kingdom. Even if their kingdom was no more a reality then I, their princess, was.

Ergo, I became what they required. Still strong, still independent, yet just enough reliant to make them feel significant. I believed in the cause, but did I ever believe that I was a princess... no. It was a title bestowed upon me, by people who needed even greater purpose in life then I did.

This leads me to SeeD.

I learned of an organization that could help us, for the right price. Little did I know that day would change my life... forever.

Oh please... I had heard of SeeD before, being the daughter of a General and all. But my views on their purposes were completely different... until I met Seifer. He explained how they were dispatched all over the world, and may be capable of helping the Owls. This was not the story told by my father... political propaganda is seldom accurate.

Heartless, ruthless, murderers...

Thus begins the next chapter of my story... yes... the 'famed' graduation dance. It was only by chance I met him. And yes, this is where the rumors throughout Balamb Garden started, and trust me... they never stopped. Oh, I heard the gossip, much later, about that night. Hyne, some of them even thinking about make me blush to this day. Where do these people get their information?

Every one of them a lie... well almost.

Yes, I had very little money with me. I never thought that Cid would agree in helping, for the pocket change offered. But, I had to try... on principle alone. So, I go to this 'dance' that's just a glorified excuse for these military people to socialize and drink. My father was with the armed forces... remember? I had more than enough of these biased gatherings. Yet, upbringing did help, I learned to play their little political games; and learned very well, I may add.

The fact I was female helped; I could always fall back on charm, or that 'helpless woman' thing. Playing that card was more a disgrace than anything, but if you'd seen the suffering I had, you would do about anything to help.

Now let's define 'about anything'... no, I wouldn't sell my soul, or my body. I did not sleep with Cid, Norg or any Garden Masters... Again, the thought makes me ill. Yes... all rumors I heard. Sometimes we must bend our principles, but I would never break them. Wartime is not pretty, neither is the pain caused in its wake.

So let me sort out a few facts pertaining to that evening.

For the record, I want us all to be clear about this.

Yes, I did dress up hoping to charm my way in the door. The smile that I greeted security with, no more than strategic tactics. That part worked just fine. Even the talk with Cid... pleasant, sweet, the perfect angel with the admirable cause, also worked great. Tossing in my fathers name did help... at least the bastard was good for something. Sorry, being hostile again... we are now on speaking terms... I'll get to that relationship later.

Through the swirling rumors, let me assure you what happened with Squall... I never planned. If there was one thing about that night that wasn't fake, it was meeting him.

Maybe when I walked over to him, I never thought about future consequences. I wasn't trying to seduce anyone or steal him away. Hell, I was down right irritating looking back on it now.

This is where the notion of me putting him under-a-spell comes into play. I now, or have I ever, known any love spells or charms. Nor did I pay anyone to put him under a curse, or my personal favorite 'I spiked his drink with some kind of drug'.

That one still gets me.

I went over to a guy, who was by himself, and asked him to dance. Basically, he said 'no'. Me, being me, wouldn't take that as an answer. I grabbed him by the hand, leading him to the dance floor. Now let's think about it, if he really didn't want to go, there is nothing I could have said or done to get him out there. I'm not that strong or that beautiful.

So we danced.

It's that simple. I didn't take him from Quistis; I didn't take him back to his room and screw his brains out. I danced with him. More importantly, he danced with me. If he really wanted to leave, he would have been off that dance floor in 3.5 seconds. Maybe he was just playing the innocent as I had done countless times. Maybe we were just two people in one moment, both needing each other... and not realizing it. Maybe our souls knew something our minds didn't.

Now when I look back on that night, the only thing I regret... leaving him.

But once I set my mind to something, it becomes an obsession with me. Right then, Timber was still my only priority. Maybe I thought that in aiding with the liberation, I could find that place in the world, I was so desperately searching for. Where I could feel complete; where I was whole.

I never had that feeling in my life... yet searched for it for an eternity.

Now we all know what happened from there. I'm not going to bore you with the details. Instead, we are going to go forward to what happened afterward. Yes, we saved the world... defeated Ultimecia and stopped time compression.

Great for me... yeah right.

After I found Squall in the flower fields, we returned to Garden, in what appeared to be a non-stop line of publicity and parties. Again, I found myself back in the middle of political games and false pretenses. What I spend my whole life trying to avoid was suddenly thrown into my lap once again.

At least this time, I wasn't alone.

One morning I woke up, and everything stopped. Finally, the press was leaving us alone, no more 'medals of honor' and other showy affairs. I could walk down the streets, and not be harassed by people... most of the time.

Just me.

So, I got up and then it hit me... what am I doing? I had nowhere to go. I was not a SeeD, nor did I ever intend to be. I liked my independence, the thought of someone paying me for his or her values made me sick. Again living at a place, in which I could not support the beliefs... just as at my father's mansion. His home, not mine.

So began the ultimate paradox.

I thought of going back to Deling. Yes, my father and I were working on our relationship. Key word being 'working'. If I went back there, it would be more of the same old bullshit; now only I would be a major player in it. I love my father, but that's exactly what he is... a father.

Not a 'dad'.

Cid has been more the dad to me the last few months than my biological father ever could. Even then, I am stretching to call either one of them family.

So the next logical option was Timber. I could go back and reclaim the title of princess. Yet, that wasn't who I was anymore, well... I really never was. Zone and Watts were truly the closest thing I had to family for those years. But, we all move on. Timber regained their freedom from Galbadia's tyrannical rule. So there wasn't anything for me back there either but a superficial title. One I didn't want.

This left Garden. I had friends here... yes they are truly my friends. I trust each with my life, and so much more. We had gone through so much together... some bonds cannot be broken.

But here I am, not one of them. Breaking every rule that had been enforced since the creation of the academy.

No pets... I had Angelo.

No outsiders... well I'll let you fill in the blanks there.

No being in the male dorms... I'll plead the fifth here.

No staying the night in others dorms... see above.

No sorceress'... okay maybe that wasn't a written rule. But come on, they were trained to kill us, unbeknownst to them. Luckily, that little tid-bit was only known by a select few. Those who I could call my friends. Those who I trusted.

Heck, I donít even believe in most of the ideals Garden stands for. Yet my boyfriend commands them, go figure. Boyfriend? I hate that term. It seems so childish after what we have gone through. But 'soul mate' seems a little too clichťd. I guess what we have is indescribable in mere words... but we know the truth.

Even though I don't believe in Garden, I believe in him.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't hear some rumor or gossip about us. Let's see there is the 'Rinoa is a slut' thing. Oh yes, I'm such a slut... I had one boyfriend before Squall, for Hynes sake. Most of these younger classman running around have had six by the time they are fifteen.

Granted, it was Squall's rival, but we can't help whom we fall in love with. I never meant to love the guy standing against the wall... but I did. I wouldn't change it for fifty-million Gil.

Neither would he.

So no, I never slept with Seifer. Really, it's none of your business, but I just felt like clearing the air on that one too. I said once that 'I thought I loved him'. I can tell you one thing now... if it's the only thing you get out of this conversation. I love Squall. I don't have to think about it. If one has to think, then they are not in love. Deal with it, cut your loses, and move on before anyone gets hurt.

Just for the record, I haven't slept with anyone else at Garden either. Trust me, I hear the rumors... so does Squall.

Irvine, Zell, Nida, the janitor, the entire card club, oh... donít forget about Laguna... yes, I have actually heard that too.

That's just wrong on so many levels.

One week I was supposedly even having an affair with Selphie... okay not going there.

I just wonder how these things get started. I think they hurt Squall more than me. Not for the fact, he believes them, but simply for the fact, nobody will let me be... me. It kills him to see others treat me in this manner. I know he is trying to protect my feelings, but he doesn't have to. I know they are not true; so does he.

We love each other, nothing else matters.

Oh... while we are on the subject of rumors. Let me dispel the Quistis one right now. She is one of my best friends. We do not hate each other, nor do we have catfights... in the shower. Again, another rumor she heard. Yes, the instructor freely admits she had feelings for Squall at one time. But heck, hasn't each of us fallen for someone in our lives? I mean whether it's your third grade teacher when you are nine, or your brother's best friend. It's simply a part of life. Everyone does it.

If we didn't have crushes, we wouldn't know what the real thing feels like. Again, the difference between Seifer and Squall. So yes, she had feelings toward her former student.

Trust me, she has moved on.

Even she feels horrible about how the Trepies have treated me. It's ironic that they don't want the object of their affection with another, but they hate the person who they think 'stole' him from their perfect idol.

So basically, that's about it. Yes, I left out a lot of stuff in between. I know that. But see, when it gets down to it... it doesn't really matter. What matters is the present, not our past. Everyone has certain things they would like to forget, and things they never want to lose sight of... mine is Squall.

I lift up my head to see the slightest glimmer of sunrise through the window. Again, I look at the mirror and watch as the room slowly turns from the dark abyss of night to the first signs of dawn. For a second I feel like crying... no, not because I am sad.

Far from it.

A few moments ago, he put his arm around me. Squall was deep in sleep, yet somehow he sensed that I needed comfort. Another day has started, and I realized something tonight. No matter where I live, no matter where I call home. People can say whatever they like about us; we know the truth.

I have found my place in this world. With him.



~*~*~*~



For a moment, I opened my eyes to see the moonlight reflecting off the mirror. The same one I could see her in. She was looking outside at the stars. Gazing into the heaven... with a look of sadness only I could understand. I know she is awake. She often is. Sometimes I wonder what she is thinking about... hey wait a minute... Who exactly are you?

I suppose if I told you to go away... you wouldnít listen?

Yeah. Thought so.

Whatever.

So, I guess I'm expected to talk to you now? Fine. If you leave me alone afterward... let's get it over with.

Rinoa, right?

All right... let's start at the beginning. It's just easier that way. The SeeD Graduation Ball. Oh yes, the source of many rumors and controversy... First of all, let me start out by saying... I think these parties are possibly the most pompous, arrogant, wasteful events around. We take the money of mere peasants to defend them from invasion, then turn around and throw extravagant parties.

Way to go SeeD.

Thatís a good way to stretch a dollar; people may be starving in Dollet, but let's take their Gil and buy imported champagne. There has only ever been one good thing about those parties.

Meeting Rinoa.

Yes, I was standing against the wall. Where else was I supposed to be, mingling with a group of male SeeDs discussing who my major conquest was going to be? And of course, I was drinking... hell we all do. There are no legal drinking restrictions on Garden property; it's one vice they allow. Call it a trade off for killing people for reasons you don't understand...call it therapy.

So anyway... I looked up and saw a shooting star... My first thought - there goes another celestial mass into oblivion. Yeah, I know not the romantic thing. But shooting stars are nothing more than asteroids and fragments burning upon entry to our atmosphere. Simple. It's a form of death. Well... that's how I used to look at it.

The first thing I noticed about her... eyes.

Hyne, I felt like she was looking through my exterior into my very soul. Nobody had ever looked at me quite like that. It's still unnerving to think of to this day... those stunning brown eyes. Honestly, the second thing I noticed was her skirt... did you see how short it was? Hell, I'm a guy. I mean how could I not notice?

I know the SeeD cadet uniforms are short... yeah... little strange if you ask me. I'm wondering now who designed them... Cid or Norg... both possibilities are frightening.

Yeah, I know I'm off the subject again. Now you know how the inner mind of Squall Leonhart works... always jumping from one subject to another, and never being satisfied with an answer. Get used to it.

Okay... back to the dance. So, she walks over... again... the skirt. This girl actually asks me to dance... unbelievable. Doesn't she know who I am... or who I'm supposed to be? Looking back now... damn her. She did, more than I knew. So, I do the normal Squall Leonhart thing... ignore her. A tried and true method. Wrong. She only stood there longer waving her hands in my face mumbling something about liking her... yeah; I liked her... and her skirt.

Okay sorry... it's really late tonight and that darn dress keeps flashing in my mind.

Then she 'drags' me to the dance floor. Oh trust me, most of that was for show. Do you think it would have looked normal if I'd walked out there with her willingly? I worked hard to get that reputation; I can't lose it one simple night over a gorgeous girl. Trust me; her strength couldn't have ever made me move from that wall, it was actually her presence that moved me. I was drawn to her like the irresistible force, the immovable object.

So, I went out to the dance floor.

Truthfully, I can't dance. That wasn't a lie. I had been forced to learn basics... stupid etiquette lessons and all. I just never had a reason to dance... until her. Oh, that first part wasn't an act. I sucked. Never had a reason to try before, but hell she didn't give up on me. Soon as I stopped trying to think, and just felt, it came naturally to me. For a short while, I was lost in the music, lost in her. There was nobody else.

I hated that.

It wasn't me. It was as if I lost control of my body... on autopilot. Or far worse, she had the control. That was the first night I have ever felt like that... Then she left without a word. Honestly, I only had one thought as I watched her and her short skirt walking away. Bitch.

There I said it, you happy?

But please understand... that was before I knew her. But strangely... not before I loved her. It's as if I always had. I know it sounds corny; hell, it sounds stupid to me. It was like that night our souls reached out to each other, long before our minds and bodies ever did. I mean she just walked away...what was I supposed to believe? It was easier to think of her that way, then to face the reality... I was nothing more than a simple dance to her. Somebody to fill in time... somebody to use.

So, I called her a bitch.

But, I never meant it in my heart. I donít care what you think. From that moment on, under the heavens, our souls would always be one... it just took us more time to realize that.

Oh yes... then came the infamous 'talk to a wall' incident. Okay, fine. Yeah, I feel guilty about saying that now. But back then, what should I have said? I knew Quistis Trepe liked me... who didn't? I mean my instructor just asked me to go to the one area in Garden that people... well you know what they do there. Secret place, my ass. Oh, don't think the Garden Masters and Cid didn't know about it... they knew. I guess they figured to let us... okay not me... but let the others have their fun. So, that's two vices they allowed us.

Alcohol and sex.

That does sound blunt, I know. However, you have to realize that the average SeeD is killed during battle by the age of twenty-three. Trust me; you'll never see that on the recruiting posters. Doesn't make the program seem too glamorous, now does it? Hell, I was given the order to assassinate at the age of seventeen. Most teenagers are worried about prom and acne... SeeDs are worried about having their hearts ripped out in the middle of the night.

Yes... I know my mind is wandering again. Hey, you are the ones who wanted in here; you'll have to suffer the consequences.

Quistis. She is beautiful. Who ever says she isn't must be blind... but there is more to love than beauty. I think it was because we were too much alike. Both hiding behind masks of who we were... worried about how others around perceived us. I took the approach to be distant and uncaring... it's easier not to get hurt that way. She chose the opposite, always worried about other people, trying her best to help. Even if it did get annoying, hell she tried... more than I can say about any of my instructors.

But, did I love her...no.

I walked away from her that night. Simple. I could have had her right then, she would have been more than willing. But, that wouldn't have been fair to either of us. I didn't love her, and she didn't love me. It was no more than a crush, an infatuation, which derived from past feelings. That's it. She had a crush on me. Hell, I had a crush on my magic instructor when I was ten... but who hasn't? Yes... Squall Leonhart thought about girls.

Shocked?

I'm only human. But thinking about and acting on, are two different subjects all together. I never acted on my emotions until... well... until space. Yes, Rinoa again.

For the first time, I let my feelings take over my logical side. From that moment, I never looked back. Damn, I love her. I'm not even sure if love is the right word... it's more as if she is the extension of my being. I feel her heartbeat within my chest; I feel her breath in my lungs. I was right when I mentioned our souls earlier, they are now intertwined... and we are one.

So, that's why it kills me it see her like this.

Trying to hide the fact that she is miserable at Garden. The pain others cause her. I'm not even sure how to handle it anymore. It started way before we killed Ultimecia... it really started getting out of hand when I carried her to Esthar. Yeah, that single event caused more speculation than even I realized. She had me under a spell, Ultimecia was controlling me, I was the father of her child... Oh, I heard all the rumors later. Shit, I hadn't even kissed her yet... but gossip already had her pregnant and controlling my future...

So, they all hated us. Because after years of turning them down, they couldn't handle the fact, I wanted to be with somebody. Trust me, the fact was foreign even to me... but somewhere along the line, I grew to accept it.

Even appreciate it.

She has to live with the rumors and gossip everyday. Every time I hear something, I grow that much more bitter toward Garden. The place that I thought I belonged. Now I understand that neither of us belongs here.

A few months ago, I went and told Cid my decision to leave. Yeah, I know I should have told Rin first, but she would only try to talk me out of it. Her intentions were to never keep me from my dream. That's a laugh. Like I had a dream? This place certainly wouldn't be it now.

Oh... back to Cid. He pleaded with me to stay. I gave him a few ultimatums, not truly expecting him to give in. Yet, he did.

Rinoa stays at Garden.

Her dog stays at Garden.

She has the same rights as any SeeD here.

We live together.


Oh, what were the chances of a forty-year-old man allowing two teenagers to live together... when the rules strictly prohibit it? Not like she hadn't been sneaking in my room for a while, or me hers. I guess sneaking isn't the right word either. I freely walked into her room, not caring who saw me. Or what they said.

Why?

I don't know. Maybe it was defiance. Maybe it was to show everyone one that I still didnít care about how they felt. Maybe it was because I needed her so much... and I wanted to let everyone else know that too...

I need Rinoa Heartilly.

And Cid is scared of that. At first, I didn't understand why he allowed us so many freedoms... but now I do.

That man has gone through the same hell... with Edea.

He knows that we are more dangerous outside Garden. Here he can monitor us, and know what we are doing. Out there... we are free. And that scares him. He knows how strong our bond is... stronger than theirs ever was. He is also afraid for us... the bitterness each of us is feeling will someday turn against them... and SeeD.

So, I know what we have to do. Leave. Before this eats at both of us.

Start over. Hyne, starting over at eighteen... how pathetic is that? Well, money isn't an issue. I have nearly two million Gil saved up from our little adventure, and that doesn't count what Rinoa has in her accounts. So we are going to leave this place... and the people behind.

Honestly, I thank them for all they have done.

I wouldn't be where I am today without SeeD. I wouldn't be with her. Everyday her smile grows a little less bright, and everyday it rips my heart a little bit more. It's peculiar that I never thought owning a home and raising a family would be the kind of life I wanted. But both of our parents were military, and you can see where that got them. Nowhere. Alone.

So my only desire now... to live the life our parents never had.

Call it my 'romantic dream' to paraphrase an old friend.

With time away, her smile will return. And so will mine.

Well... a few minutes ago she tensed up, and I put my arm around her waist. With the contact, she seemed to relax, it's a comfort only I can bring. I wonder what she thinks about at times like this? I could ask her, she would tell me... But honestly, it's better that we don't say the words. They only get in the way of our true emotions. So, if you donít mind... could you please leave now? I really need to be with her... yeah... I'm thinking of the short dress again.

What is it to you?

It's ironic how I spend my life trying to find a place in this god-forsaken world to call my own. It's not as a Commander, a SeeD, or even a knight. It's as Squall Leonhart.

I found my place in this world. With her.