I do not own Final Fantasy or any of its characters.
He had not been there. Simple statement onto itself, but the implications cast uncertainty in her heart. Yes, it was only dinner in the cafeteria, not an elaborate date at a classy restaurant. Had it been the first time, she would have understood. However, this was becoming a daily ritual, a rite-of-passage that she did not wish to participate. Flipping the tiny grains of salt from the dinner tray had been her only distraction over the last hour. It was abundantly clear that he forgot, yet again.
Gathering up her belongings, she sighed inwardly. Should she confront him on this occasion or let it be? Talking to him about feelings was the emotional equivalent of walking on eggshells. Against better judgment, she decided to stop by his dormitory. Curfew was almost upon the young sorceress; she would have to be in quarters soon. Such restrictions as curfew did not apply to him; he was commander after all.
Staring at the maple wood door for a moment, Rinoa deliberated whether to knock. She had made it this far. Slowly, unsurely she raised her hand to tap on his door. After a moment she could hear the chain rattling, he opened the door wearing black jeans and white t-shirt. For a moment their eyes locked, neither speaking a word.
He scratched his head before asking, "Rinoa, can I help you with something?"
She swallowed deeply, nervous to reply. "Squall I thought we were going to meet for dinner tonight."
The knight no longer attempted eye contact, darting his attention to the hallway beyond. "Rinoa, I had work to do. The applications for the cadets still need reviewing. I just don't think I'll be able to get together this week, maybe next week we can go to Balamb."
She smiled softly, what could she say. Quistis too was helping with applications, and told of the deadline to review... three months from now. "Okay, I'll see you around." See you around? This was she was telling her knight? A statement you say to associates, business acquaintances not something you say to the man pledged to protect your existence. Quickly she turned around, no she wasn't about to cry, but the hurt wore like an iron mask on her face. She was not going to give him the satisfaction of knowing the sorrow, the anguish.
He watched as she left. As an afterthought he added, "I promise, next week." Rinoa had not argued, had not questioned. He held his breath; she did not even turn around to acknowledge his comment. You're a fool, he reprimanded himself.
Squall watched as her brunette hair flowed, covering her delicate shoulders. He watched her sullen form until she disappeared into the female SeeD's hallway, slightly surprised that she never once looked back. Had he hurt her that deeply? Turning around, he re-entered his room. The only light that illuminated the small room was a desk lamp, leaving most the room in absolute darkness.
"Was that the honorable deed Knight Leonhart?"
Squall was startled at the husky voice, coming from the dark abyss. He flipped the master wall switch, filling the entire room with light. Sitting in his chair was the Warrior Odin. Darkened dragon bones, served as horns on his ornate headdress. Armor not made of silver, but that which could only be forged within such recesses of the underworld. A golden face, both majestic and scared adorned the soldier. Black orbs where eyes should be, reflecting light with the same intensity as oil reflecting the sun. A man of legend, a man of valor. They had proved their worth to this force sometime ago, yet he still questioned of honor.
"Why is it that you can take a solid form before me; you are not junctioned," inquired Squall, contempt in his voice.
"Nor can I ever be junctioned to any mortal. I am a knight; I am a warrior. Unlike others you christen Guardian Forces, I once walked upon this earth as human. Neither Gilgamesh nor I can ever be contained with your minds, I am free to serve whom I desire. Garden has taught you such wisdom in history lessons; this cannot be knowledge unknown to you."
"I did not ask why I can't junction you. I asked why you are in a solid form, sitting on my chair no less," maintained Squall.
"No Knight Leonhart that is not what you asked. Your question was far deeper; you cannot hide from me, as you think you are able to hide from her. You did not ask for my assistance, but in times of need, I vowed to help thee."
"Well thee does not need help. I see no enemies around," countered the commander, trying to understand the warrior's appearance in the dorm.
The older knight laughed, a sound heard by scarcely a man. "Enemies are always around you. Though one does not see them, they reside deep within your being. Your enemies can take many forms; such is the curse of humanity. Those enemies will be your downfall Knight Leonhart, and ultimately hers. No lessons taught within four walls can teach you such. You have sworn to protector her, so you must learn the true duty of a knight."
Squall was growing angry at the interrogation. "I would give my life for her. That should never be questioned."
Odin laughed once again, "You are so young my child, too young for such a responsibility."
"It is what I've been trained to do," defended Squall. "I have no doubts when it comes to my fighting abilities."
The warrior stood walking toward the young man, annoyance apparent in his voice, "You are an idiot, a fool! Training cannot be learned within a textbook or class. Training is only gained through time and experience. Love and hate are the two strongest allies, and the two strongest enemies. Two emotions intertwined since the beginning of time, such is the way of Hyne. The line between is thin and often blurred. Your emotions betray you, and will someday betray her if honesty is not among them. For I lost my sorceress to my faults, and history is destined to repeat itself."
"Why is history destined to repeat itself? I have studied centuries of history, what was the name of your sorceress?"
"Names are for the living, labels cast upon by others. Not so in the afterlife. The auras survive the presence of spirit that fills all living creatures. We pray to almighty gods, majestic goddesses and to the great Hyne, but they too are only a part of the essence of life. No one entity contains singular power, all depend upon each other, all weak with out the spirit of the living. The sprit of the living is stronger then all entities combined."
"You speak in many riddles for someone so noble," countered Squall. "What does this have to do with my life?"
"I have chosen my fate as reverence for my sorceress. I walk upon this earth to serve others, and teach of past mistakes. I have chosen the life of a guardian force for her honor, a tribute to the life I could not protect."
"Your sorceress was killed by her enemies?"
"Again, you speak as a textbook warrior, mindless drones set upon this world to serve others. Enemies take many forms. I could not save my sorceress from the strongest enemy...herself. I gained knowledge of supreme weapons, I studied defenses, and above all, I protected her from men who sought to destroy her. I worked until the sun greeted another day, for countless seasons I studied the art of battle. Always thinking about her protection, but never protecting."
Squall slowly started understanding the warriors' words. The similarities within the last statement sinking in, "Yet she perished?"
"My son, please heed the warnings. The strongest enemy for any sorceress is herself. Nevertheless, you and she are intertwined, as are the emotions love and hate. She needs you there, not only in battle, but also in peace. My sorceress ended her own life while I was in far off lands defending her. One meal or even a season of meals could cause another being to end her life. I lost sight in what I was protecting, too engrossed within strategy and work. Love can turn to hate without the barer even knowing. Habit is learned early, she knows you spoke untruths tonight. Yet she did not argue that is not her way."
Squall walked over to the window, looking into the nothingness of night. Can love grow to hate? Would years of hidden contempt toward him lead Rinoa to do something so drastic as to end her own life? No, it would not happen in one night, but would decades of feeling alone, unloved lead her to do something so extreme? He had not been there tonight; he had not been there in months. Fear kept him at bay. Rinoa needed him, and he had failed. Yet a man, a warrior, who knew much of honor, was offering him a second chance. Yes, he was in need; as a sign of his revelation, a star streaked across the sky; opening a door to a new era.
He heard the great knights' steps nearing, "Now tell me of honor."
"Honor is not to hide behind masks. To protect the one I love, not only defending her physically but emotionally. Our spirits connected; I lie to myself, I lie to her. Love and hate, are one in the same. The only difference is the perception by those around. It is not enough to have the title of knight, but to have the nobility to face one's fears. Even if they trouble you, they will make you stronger."
Odin smiled at the young knight, "Now go to her; I fear that history will have to wait another generation to repeat."
Squall looked at the warrior, bowing slightly, "You have brought your sorceress honor."
The warrior returned the gesture, "As you will yours."
Rinoa lay on her bed, reading an issue of Timber Maniac's. Skimming through the pages in some futile attempt to take her mind off Squall. It was thirty minutes past curfew now, leaving her quarters would be too much a risk. Sitting up on the bed, she tossed the magazine hastily to the side. A knock on the door surprised her, although Selphie did have a habit of sneaking around after curfew. Actually, she would be glad at the chance to talk with her friend.
Not attempting to fix her matted hair, Rinoa walked to the door. She was shocked to see Squall standing there. Not only had he never bothered coming to her room after curfew, he held a bag of... well something.
"Squall," hesitation in her voice betraying thoughts. "What are you doing?"
His azure blue eyes gazed directly into her soul. He made no attempt to break the contact. Rinoa felt the intimacy within his look, something foreign to her. He bit his lower lip, and then slowly moistened it before beginning to talk, "Rinoa can I please come in?" Stepping to the side, she motioned with her hand for him to enter.
"I um... brought dinner," he announced holding up the brown bag. A slight smile crossed her face, yet she did not speak. Reaching up the palm of his hand to her soft cheek, he explained, "I'm sorry. I knew you were waiting for me, and I decided not to come. That is no excuse. Please Rinoa, hear me out. "
Squall lowered his hand to his side, awaiting her next move. Rinoa nodded her head agreeably, and sat on the floor. Squall joined her on the hard surface. He started digging through the bag, finally handing her a hotdog. "It's hard to get food this time of night, these cost me two hundred gil each. Zell doesn't like parting with them... cheaply."
A small chuckle escaped her lips; she looked at the hotdog for a moment. Setting it on top of a napkin, she looked at the man across from her wanting answers, "Squall?" The one word was all she needed to say. The knight sat across from her, with a peaceful look on his face. Slowly he reached the distance between them, gently taking her hand. He intertwined their fingers, and then with the other hand reached to the rings around her neck. Placing the tip of his finger within the Griever ring.
"Rinoa, I am sorry. Not just for tonight, but also for the last few months. Those applications are not due for another few months; they were an excuse, nothing more. I have been working on extra training, studying past sorceresses and knights. What I learned was more amazing then ever imagined. Being a knight is not always about defending from opposing forces, it is also about being there emotionally. I have been scared that fear was taking over. It was easier to avoid you. I'll never lie to the one I love again. Promise."
Rinoa grasped his hand tightly, tilting her head slightly to one side. "Love," she questioned trying to contain the excitement in her voice.
Still holding onto the ring, Squall leaned forward to her not breaking the eye contact. "Love," he replied simply.
Far off in Centra a candle lit, as a warrior from another century stared into the dancing flame. Looking toward the sky the man slightly nodded his head. "Hyne, another life you will not steal from this earth. You lost this generation too," Odin spoke triumphantly toward the heavens. A slow gentle breeze played with the candle flame as a soft voice, barely audible, whispered:
"I love you Odin. For now, for eternity."