Aa eien nan de hitsuyo na ikedo
Homoi da ni kimi wo tokikoneta ku nai
Maboroshi nan de ai se nai
Kimi wo dakishimetai no sa
-- Hideaki Matsuoka, Deja Vu
Squall was expecting a virtual myriad of reactions from his comely girlfriend, beginning with a poutfully hurt glare, and ending with a heavy slap to the cheek. Perhaps even a temper tantrum. Rinoa was quite adept at stomping her tiny feet and throwing him a stormy glare that let him know in no uncertain terms that he was in Big Trouble. Her slate-blue eyes would darken like a storm over the ocean, and before Squall knew it, he’d be frozen out with a wall of pure ice until she decided to thaw.
In short, he was expecting anything but what she actually did.
Which was standing up straight and tall, then saluting sharply.
She’s pissed… Squall gulped audibly, at a complete loss as she continued to stand in front of him, not even looking him in the face. What is she…? Oh. “At ease.” Whatever game Rinoa was punishing him with, she seemed to be determined to take it to the heights of believability.
Apparently, Rinoa still had some more surprises for the befuddled Garden commander as she sat down quickly in the seat in front of him, stopping to adjust her usual periwinkle-blue dress with a graceful movement.
“About time!” She exclaimed, an impish grin causing her eyes to catch the light and glitter attractively.
About that moment, Squall resigned himself to the fact that he had no earthly idea what was going on.
“Selphie said that you were spitting nails this morning, and I think poor Zell has gone into hiding…so it looks like I’ve been nominated as the virgin sacrifice to appease the savage dragon.” Rinoa said, as if in explanation, good-natured laughter evident in her tone. “Still, I think they could have found someone a bit more convincing to play the part.”
Squall blinked, half wishing the rapid movement would do something to jumpstart his memory.
Rinoa never acted like this. She cajoled, she pouted…she kicked if need be, but she just didn’t have the sort of personality that led to this sort of radiance of self-confidence. Or such quiet good humor. Rinoa was bubbly, like overly sweet champagne, not teasing with any sort of subtlety. A perpetual schoolgirl. There was a change in her very posture, for crying out loud!
What planet are you from, and where have you taken my girlfriend? Squall thought sarcastically. Sure, it was obviously Rinoa in front of him…but after four years with her, he would have sworn he had nearly memorized her little mannerisms. Then again, he had never bothered to see what her reaction might be if he slept with another guy.
“So, what has gotten you into such a bad mood? Are you and Zell still fighting?”
“No…” No, Zell and I aren’t fighting…as far as I know. Which probably means we’re bitter enemies, considering my track record today. Squall felt like laughing hysterically, at least then he’d have an outward sign of his impending insanity.
“Good.” Rinoa nodded decisively. “I know it’s really none of my business, and you must have had your reasons…but it didn’t really seem fair to Zell.”
Well, great. My girlfriend seems to be taking the news that I slept with Zell better than I am! What’s next, asking for photos or videos?
“So, this is okay with you?” Squall asked incredulously. Rinoa nodded her head firmly, and then pushed back the chestnut-brown tendrils of her hair from her face.
“Zell’s a big boy, Squall. He can handle the responsibility. You should know that by now.” She sounded like she was almost chastising him, her melodious voice hypnotizing in its gentle firmness.
Is she breaking up with me? What’s going on here?! If she was breaking up with him, this had to be the most bizarre way of doing it he’d ever heard of…then again, Rinoa was the first person he had ever dated, so it wasn’t as if he had a whole lot of experience under his belt when it came to stuff like this.
Maybe…she doesn’t know. The thought was an odd one, after all, if she didn’t know, then what exactly had been the topic of this weird exchange? It was worth a try, though.
…And it looked as though she was getting up to leave, throwing him one last grin before walking swiftly towards the office door.
“Rinoa…I…um, I slept with Zell last night.” His voice was low, as if he didn’t want her to hear. Apparently, she did, because it stopped her cold. Rinoa turned around, amazement scrawled over her pretty face. Squall waited silently for the outpouring of acusations he knew would soon be flooding his way.
“It took you four years?!” She asked. Squall almost tipped out of chair in surprise. “You’re a pretty late bloomer…”
Squall opened his mouth, but nothing came out, so he finally snapped it shut. He tried again with the same result, something inside him dimly aware he must look like a humanoid goldfish gasping at air. Not exactly the type of image he was trying to groom as head commander of the Garden. Rinoa tossed him a flirtatious, yet friendly wink as she finally opened the door to walk out.
Squall cradled his head in his hands, only dimly noticing Rinoa’s muffled words from the other side of the door as he groped for some pain relievers. Too bad he didn’t have a stash of alcohol…Squall wasn’t a drinking man, but he had a feeling he could learn.
“You can go in now, Zell. I softened him up for you.” Rinoa laughed lightly. There was a light rustling sound coming from the corner of the lavish, wood paneled office, near a plant looking as if it was in desperate need of some attention. “Yes, I can see you crouched behind the potted plant.”
Zell stood up, a grin stretched from ear to ear. “Damn, and here I thought my hiding place was perfect.”
“You goofball.” Rinoa went over to punch him lightly in the shoulder. “What do you think you're doing? You should be at your desk. Maybe if you actually did some work around here, Squall would have less paperwork on his desk.”
Zell quickly put on a mock expression of hurt, sky-shorn eyes twinkling whimsically. Pushing his bangs out of his face – he really needed to get a haircut, or maybe put them back up in that silly style he had worn them as a teenager – he pouted. Oh, he knew how to play this game. “I’ll have you know that Squall and I do work ‘around here’! A lot of work, in fact!”
Rinoa snorted. “Yeah, I’ll bet he ‘works your ass’ really hard.” Zell’s only reply was a wink and a rakish grin.
“You know Squall. I have to pull him away from his paperwork somehow…even if I have to drag him kicking and screaming all the way.”
“Hmmm…” Rinoa’s smiled turned pensive. “I wonder if there is something the matter with him. He said that last night was the first time you two had slept together.”
Zell’s delicate eyebrows arched to reach his hairline. “Are you kiddin’? He was just joking around with you, right? Hell, we didn’t even have sex last night…I was too busy giving him the cold shoulder.”
“I don’t know…” Rinoa trailed off, and smiled hesitantly before waving goodbye.
“Hey, Rinoa. Why don’t you talk to Seifer about the four of us going out some time this week; it seems as if I haven’t seen you in forever!” Zell exclaimed, right before she opened the outer door to the office. Rinoa turned around, affection evident in her gaze.
“Sure, I’ll mention it to him when I see him.”
“And tell him to quit calling me chicken wuss! It’s been four damn years!” Zell added on as an afterthought.
“No promises there.” She teased.
Squall jumped, uncharacteristically nervous at the sound of Zell’s voice. He knew he’d have to face him someday, but he’d been inwardly hoping it’d be someday far into the future. Squall noticed distantly that Zell was moving behind his chair.
“What are you doing?”
Zell held up his hands in mock surrender. “I was just going to give you a backrub…you look awfully tense.”
Squall decided not to dignify that with any sort of response.
“Sit down, Zell. We need to talk.” He motioned to the same chair Rinoa had vacated a few moments ago. Zell sat down, a living bundle of nervous energy. His fidgeting would have been almost endearing if it weren’t for Squalls feeling of impatience. If there was one thing Squall hated, it was feeling as if the situation was out of his control.
Zell drummed his fingers on the desk, and Squall found himself watching the rhythmic motion. There was something…not quite right. He couldn’t quite put his finger on it, but it was there. He had a feeling if he could grasp whatever was tickling the back of his mind, and wrench it into the light, a lot of things would begin to make more sense.
“Yeah, that’s right! Just tell me where to—“
But Squall wasn’t listening. Like a bolt of lightning striking, he lashed out and grabbed Zell’s hand, papers scattering as he almost dragged Zell onto the table. He brought the hand close to his face, inspecting it closely.
There were lots of small, toothpick-thin scars running across the palm of his hand. They were white, as if they had been healed for several years.
Zell didn’t have any scars on his hands.
“Who the hell are you?” Squall whispered hoarsely.
Return to Archive | next | previous