Author's Notes: It’s mine!!! All mine!!!! Just kidding.

For His Love

Chapter 14

By Pixie158

Squall sat unmoving on his bed, not interested in getting up. He knew he should go after Zell and make amends for what had happened between them today. He also needed to find Rinoa before she left, try to talk some sense into her. When had his life become such a mess? Things used to be simple. What the hell happened?

Despite the all the things that needed his attention, Squall wanted nothing more than to lie down and let the weariness have him. He just couldn’t deal with this right now. He didn’t want to deal with anyone right now.

Knock, knock, knock

Spoke too soon. Great. Squall rose slowly and went over to his door. He looked up toward the ceiling and closed his eyes. Please let this be something I can actually take care of.

As he opened the door, the bright yellow sundress came into view and he repressed a groan. Selphie. Wonderful.

She stood there smiling at him, her little pixie face bright and open. She didn’t wait for an invitation.

"Hi Squall. I need to talk to you." She went into the kitchen and climbed onto one the bar stools that sat under his counter. He watched her lose her footing and grab onto the edge of the counter to steady herself. Then she planted her butt on the seat and shot him her 100-watt smile.

"Whew! You should really consider getting some shorter seats here Mr. Commander. I almost broke my neck!"

Squall frowned at her. "Well, they work just fine for me, and I don’t recall inviting you to sit down anyway, so…"

Selphie waved her hand at him, dismissing his words. "Semantics. I didn’t come here to talk about that anyway. I have a confession to make." Now, that got his attention.

"Okay, shoot."

Selphie rolled her eyes. "I don’t think so. Come over here and sit down. You’re not going to like what I have to say, so I’d rather you be sitting instead of hulking over me like a Neanderthal."

Squall reluctantly took a seat opposite her, rested his arms on the counter, and waited. Selphie straightened her back and sighed, crossed and uncrossed her legs.

"Quit stalling. What do you have to tell me that’s so important?"

She stopped fidgeting by pure force of will and leveled her pretty eyes at him. Squall suddenly understood how it must feel to be Irvine sitting on the receiving end of that stare. No wonder he lets her walk all over him. Her eyes were so bright they seemed to glow. And they were the most extraordinary shade of turquoise. Poor Irvine. He doesn’t stand a chance against this girl.

She cocked her head to one side. "What are you thinking about?"

Squall rested his forehead on his arm and groaned. "Why do women have to ask that question?"

Selphie giggled and said in an eerie voice, "Because we must know all there is to know about your species if we are to successfully annihilate you."

Squall grunted and raised his head. "We’re the same species, Selphie, so you better nix that plan. And truthfully, I was just thinking that you must be some kind of witch."

She didn’t ask his meaning, but smiled brightly at him, clearly not offended by his assessment of her.

"Okay, you’re messing up my train of thought, so here goes. IstoodoutsideRinoa’sdoorandheardeverywordyouguyssaidandI’msorrySquallpleasedon’tkillme."

She closed her eyes and braced herself for the coming storm. He didn’t say a word. Encouraged, she opened one eye just a little to gauge his reaction. Bad idea. Squall’s face had turned pink and was rapidly turning purple. Uh oh…

"Squall, I know you’re mad, but I promise I won’t tell anyone. I just couldn’t help myself, I mean, you barged in before I could talk to Rin, and I just wanted to know what was wrong with her. Please forgive me, I know it was wrong, I mean, even Quistis…"

Squall’s eyes widened. "Quistis knows about this?!"

Selphie hunched her shoulders down. "Well, yes, but she yelled at me and grabbed my arm and told me to my mind my own business, but then Seifer said…"

Squall looked apoplectic. "Seifer?!?! You mean he knows too?"

Selphie nodded rapidly, looking as though she’d like to slide off her stool and slither right out of the room.

Squall stood up, knocking his stool over in the process.

"Jeez, Selphie, who else did you tell? I suppose Irvine knows about this too?"

Squall’s eyes were stormy and Selphie was pretty sure he had murder on his mind. She knew she’d better work on diffusing that temper~real quick.

"No, Squall, Irvy doesn’t know, and I have to tell you that if he’d been on time like he was supposed to, none of this would have happened, so really, if you think about it, this whole thing is his fault!" She crossed her arms over her chest and nodded firmly.

Squall stared at her in disbelief. This chick is nuts! Does she even believe the things she says?

Squall shook his head at her and headed for the door. When he’d turned the doorknob he looked back at her, sitting on his barstool looking pitiful.

"Well, come on, pest."

Her expression brightened. "You want me to come with you?"

He grabbed her hand as she drew nearer.

"No, I want you out of my room."

Quistis stood off to the side, out of his range of view, watching as he loaded Rinoa’s suitcases into the car. She stood by him looking small and beaten and Quistis couldn’t help but feel sorry for her. Squall had taken her spirit away.

But I’m sure Seifer will try his damnedest to bring it back for her. Just watching him play the gallant knight was turning her stomach. Hyne, I’m so stupid. Did I really think he’d choose me over her? When has anyone chosen me over her?

Quistis squeezed her eyes shut, refusing to succumb to the hurt that rushed through her veins. She shouldn’t have allowed herself to hope, to care. He couldn’t have changed all that much anyway. Leopards don’t change their spots, right?

She hated watching him cater to her, coddling her like she was a wounded animal. But maybe, in a way, she was. Quistis’ guilt warred with her jealousy, making her thoughts a muddled mess indeed. She sighed, watching him hand her up into the car and shut the door firmly. He didn’t even glance her way as he got into the car on the driver’s side and started the engine. Quistis covered her eyes with her pale hand and bit back a sob. Then she felt the hand on her shoulder and jumped. Looking behind her she almost laughed in relief when she saw his face.

"For heaven’s sake, Squall, stop sneaking up on me!"

He smiled at her. "That’s the second time this week. You should really stop being so jumpy, Quis."

She recognized his subtle teasing for what it was. A cover for his hurt. A tactic she knew well. She turned her attention back to the car, watching it drive away, toward Balamb. She could barely see it now, coasting effortlessly over a hill.

"Oh, well. Out of sight, out of mind, right Squall?"

He wrapped his arm around her and she leaned her head on his shoulder, enjoying this closeness.

"Nah, you and I know better than that. Come on, let’s go get your man back."

She lifted her head and stared at him, challenge shining at him from her blue eyes.

"My man? Are you saying you have no interest in talking to Rinoa?"

Squall gave her a lopsided smile. "I’ve made a mess here, Quis. I can’t let her leave thinking she’s at fault."

Quistis nodded as he took her hand and pulled her into the direction of the garage.

"So, she’s the only mistake you’ve made? What about Zell? How do plan to fix that one?"

He stopped walking and looked her in the eyes. "Quis, I don’t know what Selphie told you…"

She shushed him with her fingertips. "She told me nothing, Squall. I already knew. I know you better than you know yourself. And I know you love him. If you’d only be honest with yourself, you’d realize you always have."

Squall paused, considering her words. "I don’t know, Quistis, that’s a lot to accept. I’m having a real problem with it, I have to tell you. But I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I guess I just got swept away." He shrugged, and her smile widened.

"Spoken like a man who’s well and truly hooked. Okay Romeo, let’s go to Balamb, and when we get back, you can find Zell."

Squall sighed, unconvinced that it would be so easy. But he nodded his agreement and they disappeared into the garage.

They were silent on the drive to Balamb and Squall sneaked a few glances at Quistis here and there. She sat staring ahead, back straight, her lips a tight line.

"Relax Quis, everything’s gonna be okay."

She turned his way and smiled absently. "I can’t help it. I don’t know why I’m so nervous. It’s not like I have any claim on him or anything. I just thought…"

"I know. I’ve always known you had a thing for him. Even when you thought you wanted me, you were just seeking a stand in for Seifer because you thought he was unapproachable."

She grinned playfully at him. "No soul searching buddy, that’s my job!"

She ducked her head. "But you’re right in a way. I’ve never dared to hope that he might one day notice me for who I am. But since he’s been back, he’s different. I mean, he’s still a smart-ass, but inside, I thought he’d changed. You know what I mean?"

Squall nodded. "Sure I do. And I think he has changed. He’s trying, I know that. Let’s not condemn him before he’s had a chance to prove himself, huh?"

She nodded. "You’re right. I just can’t help jumping to conclusions, I guess. But what about you? What are your plans?"

He glanced at her briefly. "About Zell?" She nodded.

"I don’t know, Quis. He thinks I’m ashamed of him, of us."

She raised an eyebrow. "And you’re not?"

He stared ahead. "No, I’m not. It’s not shame, exactly, it’s more a fear for us and our position here."

"Our position? Or Your position?" Her tone was light.

His hands tightened on the wheel. "Okay, my position. But tell me, am I wrong? Is it wrong of me to want to adhere to certain standards and principals that the Garden stands for?"

She lay her hand over his briefly before shaking her head.

"Of course not, Squall. Your standards and principals are what made Cid turn it all over to you. You’re trustworthy and dependable. And there is no better man to lead this Garden than you."

Squall’s knuckles were turning white from his tight grip. "Then you understand where I’m coming from. Who’s going to follow a man who leads with his boyfriend?"

His last word was laced heavily with contempt. And Quistis knew that Squall had to understand his own position before he was able to understand that of other people.

She wanted to strangle him.

"Squall, listen to yourself. You’ve got the entire Garden running you out of town with pitchforks and torches! When the reality of it is this-those people will follow you to hell and back simply because they trust and admire you. What you do with your personal life has no bearing on your abilities as a leader! And if it bothers you for others to know your personal business, you simply keep your affairs where they belong. Between you and whomever you’re involved with. Much as you’ve done with Rinoa this past year."

She paused, letting her words sink in. His expression softened somewhat and she saw a ghost of a smile drift across his beautiful face. What must it be like to have this man’s love? He was so strong, so passionate. If he would only learn how to make himself happy…

They entered Balamb with little fuss and parked near the entrance. They moved quickly through the town, not wanting to miss Rinoa’s departure.

Mounting the steps two at a time, Squall spotted them. Rinoa was sitting on one of the benches, her bags gathered around her feet while Seifer lounged nearby, ankles crossed, examining Hyperion. They weren’t speaking to each other and Squall looked at Quistis as if to say, they don’t appear to be overcome with passion, do they?

Seifer heard the sharp click of her boots on the concrete and he looked up first. Quistis watched him closely for any sign of guilt or irritation at her presence. There was none. In fact, he looked pleased to see her.

"Hello there Instructor. Where’d you run off to? I thought you and the pip-squeak wanted to catch Rinoa before she left?" He grinned lazily at her and Quistis felt her heart all but grow wings and take flight.

"Fortunately for you, the pip-squeak was bothering me at the time, so she was unavailable for comment." Squall added sardonically.

Rinoa stood suddenly, her foot catching on one of her suitcases and almost falling off the platform and onto the train tracks. Luckily, Seifer grabbed her shirt and hauled her back up. "Careful there graceful. Where’s those angel wings when you need em?"

Quistis smiled at him as he tousled Rinoa’s hair before letting her go.

Rinoa frowned pensively at Squall. "What are you doing here, Squall?"

He caught the hope in her voice that she tried to disguise and it hurt him deep into his soul. But he had to be honest. That’s what he had come here to do.

"I couldn’t let you go without trying to change your mind. I don’t want you to go."

She sighed heavily. "Squall, I have to go, for a little while at least. Please respect my feelings on this. I need some time to adjust."

He framed her face in his hands and moved closer to her. "Rin." His voice was soft. "Please know that I love you. I’ll always love you. But not in the way you deserve to be loved. I don’t think I’m capable of it. If I were, I wouldn’t be in this situation right now."

She looked up at him, her dark eyes solemn. "What about Zell? Where does he fit in with all of this?"

"Rin, Zell’s just a symptom. He’s not the problem. If I were truly in love with you, I wouldn’t be able to love him. This is me, this is what I am, and I’m so sorry that it took me this long to understand it. I never meant to hurt you. You have to know that."

She smiled faintly. "I know you didn’t. Although I can’t say the knowledge of that makes it hurt any less. Which is why I have to go for a while. You and I need time to adjust. Me to my future, and you with your relationship with Zell. It’s important that we do this."

Squall hugged her to him, his arms tight around her slight frame. He felt her shudder against him and he thought his own heart would break from the force of her sorrow.

"So you’re going home? Back to Deling?"

She drew away from him somewhat and smiled up at him through her tears. Wiping her eyes and taking a deep breath, she tried to get a handle on her composure.

"For a bit. But just to gather some of my things and make some plans. Then I’ll be off to…wherever I decide to go!" She attempted a smile, but it only made her delicate features appear sad. Squall tightened his grip on her.

"Promise me you won’t go alone. And promise me you’ll be careful. I can arrange an escort for you if you want."

She shook her head causing her highlights to glint in the sunlight.

"No, Squall, I need to do this myself. Without the shadow of you or my father’s influence around me. Give me a chance to help myself for once. I might surprise you."

Squall smiled at her.

"I’m sure you will, Rinoa. I never doubted it."

She stepped back. Well, my train should be boarding soon, so let me get my things ready to go."

Quistis moved to stand beside her.

"You know where we are if you need us, right?"

Rinoa sniffed as she hugged the woman who had become her friend.

"I sure do. Thanks, Quistis." And in a low voice that only Quistis could hear, she whispered. "Don’t let him get away. He loves you, you know."

Quistis blushed and resisted the urge to look over at Seifer. She nodded at Rinoa in response and turned away before she gave into the urge to shed a few tears herself.

Seifer rubbed Rinoa’s back and smiled down at her.

"I just want you to know I’m sorry for the things I did to you, I wish I could take them back."

Rinoa gripped his hand tightly within her own.

"There’s nothing to be sorry for, Seifer, I forgave you long ago."

At last her eyes fell to Squall and her heart ached to see him standing there. So proud and graceful. Truly like the lion that he was. She searched for just the right goodbye to give this man that she loved as Seifer moved to get her bags. What should she say?

"I heard that pip-squeak remark, Seifer Almasy, and I want you to know that I DON’T appreciate it one bit! And as for the rest of you…"

Irvine clapped a hand over her mouth.

"C’mon Selph, put a lid on it."

Squall laughed out loud at that one, but then his voice died away as he saw the familiar blonde spikes over Irvine’s shoulder. Irvine shrugged.

"Sorry for the intrusion. But far be it from me to stand in the way of Selphie and her need to butt in where she’s not wanted."

Selphie elbowed Irvine in the side and he grunted.

"Oh hush Irvy, I’m very wanted! Besides, I couldn’t let Rinny go without a goodbye could I?"

She ran over to Rinoa and almost knocked her over as she hugged her tight and rocked her back and forth. She babbled to Rinoa about changing her mind and did she take the right clothes, and blah, blah, blah. But her words were fading out of earshot as Squall moved closer to Zell.

"You followed me?" His voice was gentle.

Zell looked up at him slowly.

"No, Selphie dragged me out of my room and made me come. Besides, I wanted to tell Rinoa I’m sorry, too."

Squall nodded, unsure of what to say to him. Zell didn’t look as though he was ready to forgive him just yet.

He was saved from having to come up with something good to say as the train’s whistle sounded, signaling that it was time for Rinoa to go.

Her bags already loaded, courtesy of Seifer; she paused at the train’s stairs, looking at her friends.

"Thanks for coming to see me off, you guys. It means a lot to me."

Zell went over to her and paused awkwardly, words eluding him. So she saved him.

"Bye, Zell. Take care of yourself, okay?"

Is that her way of telling me to guard my heart?

He nodded, wanting to touch her, but unable to move. She leaned toward him and hugged him briefly.

"I don’t blame you, okay?"

He smiled faintly at her, not quite believing her, but not willing to push the issue.

"Okay. Be careful, Rinoa."

She smiled at him.

"Don’t worry, the great Leonhart has covered all of that."

She smiled at Irvine as he tipped his hat in her direction.

"Bye everyone, I’ll let you know where I’m at just as soon as I get settled."

And then she was gone. Up the steps and into the train, as suddenly as she had appeared almost a year ago.

No one said anything at first. Then Seifer draped his arm casually around Quistis’ shoulders.

"Well, I suppose we should grab dinner while we’re here. I doubt it has much to offer being such a little, backwoods place, but…"

Zell scowled at him.

"Hey, just because it’s not a big city like Dollet…"

Seifer cut him off with a short laugh.

"You always fall for it huh, Zell?"

Zell didn’t miss the fact that he’d called him by his name for the first time in years. And so he offered him a grin, glad to let the past go.

"And besides," Seifer continued, "I want to sit down and let Quistis tell me exactly why she rushed over here after me." He favored her with a smirk and laughed again when a slight blush stained her cheeks.

Irvine grabbed Selphie’s hand and pulled her along behind Seifer and Quistis.

"C’mon pixie, let’s go eat. I might even let you feed me from your fingertips to make up for dragging me all over the place today."

She grinned sheepishly at him.

"I’m so sorry, Irvy. I’ll make it up to you, I promise." Her sultry tone caused Irvine to raise an eyebrow and give her a sneaky smile of his own.

"We’ll leave a car for you guys when you’re ready to leave," Seifer yelled back to Squall.

"And don’t worry," he continued. "I’ll watch over the Garden until you get back."

Surprisingly, that parting shot didn’t worry Squall, he knew Seifer was more than capable to keep a lookout in his absence…if he still had a reason to be absent.

He turned to face Zell when they were alone and stared at him, his eyes questioning. Zell felt his anger begin to melt away and he pulled it back resolutely. He was not going to let Squall back in that easily. They had some things to settle first.

He looked at him and sighed. Who am I kidding? I wouldn’t let him get away if it killed me. But this is his last chance! Not that he believed himself, not even for a minute.

"Come on," he gestured to the stairs. "We can go to my place, we’ll talk there."

"Wait," Squall said.

Zell turned to him patiently.

"Yes," he prompted. Squall flushed slightly.

"What about your Mom?"

Zell looked at him blankly.

"What about her?" He clearly didn’t see a problem, so Squall relented, smiling.

"Okay, let’s go then."


Author's Notes: *this was a long chapter, huh? Oh, well, long chapters are good! We may be nearing the end here, kiddies…so tell me what you think!

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