A/N: I do not own any part of FFVIII or FFIX.
"You'll be the sun to shield me from the shadows."
A nineteen old stood looking at the sunset, an amazing array of reds and yellows. Her black hair swayed gently in the wind as she turned to her companion, laughing when she sees the awed look in his eyes. Ignoring the scowl that replaced the gentle look, she hugged him while whispering something in his ears.
Squall? Did you mean what you said all those years ago?
His eyes then shone with amusement as he kissed the top of her head. They stayed in the embrace, the sunlight enveloping them with warmth. Leaning down, he whispered something in return to her earlier statement. Something that wouldn't be so easily forgotten.
Was everything just a façade? Was everything that we had...just a game to you?
She smiled in response as they both leaned down and their lips met in a gentle kiss. Standing alone in the hill, overlooking the sunset, it was the perfect moment. Both the young woman and man were caught in the throes of love, eternally wishing they could stay together, forever.
Was I really such a burden?
For the young brunette, the moment was just like out of a fairy tale, something he refused to believe in. But it was the only thing he could compare it to. For the young woman, every moment was perfect with the man who held her in his arms, whispering the words that made this moment particularly special.
"I'll protect you forever, Rinoa."
The now twenty-two year old woman frowned, a facial expression that marred her beautiful face, as it was not the voice of the man that was in her dream. In fact, her dream had faded to a sheen of black. There was no grassy hill. There was no beautiful sunset.
There was no Squall.
Rinoa snapped open her eyes as she realized that she had gotten lost in her thoughts in her manager's office. She blushed as she tried to remember what her manager was trying to tell her.
"Yes, Garnet? You were saying?"
The other woman in the room sighed, as she realized that the singer had not listened to her at all. Honestly, she was getting worried about Rinoa; she had been going into her own world more frequently as of late.
"I was saying, that we'll have to reschedule the meetings for next week since we'll have to go to Garden for the gig that you're doing."
Garden. The word made her cringe as she remembered the one person that said those hurtful words to her. After two years of complete happiness with him, her world came crashing down in one night.
Fairy tales don't exist. That's what she had learned. That's what he had taught her.
"Ah, okay then."
Garnet furrowed her brows together. Rinoa was progressively worrying her as the day for the SeeD Graduation Ball arrived.
"Rinoa?" Garnet tried to ignore the way she seemed to flinch in shock as she tried to pay attention again.
"Is something wrong?"
Garnet knew it was a lie. Everything Rinoa did showed her anxiousness. But for now, she would let it rest. Asking her more than once would pressure her into answering her, and she didn't want to force her to open up. It would backfire on her eventually.
"Alright." She started to say. "Just so you know, we have to go to The Night Star now for the dinner meeting at six."
The one worded answer from Rinoa caused more worry to grow within the twenty-seven year old manager; of all the times she had seen Rinoa, she had never seen her look so dejected.
The worry inside Garnet only increased tenfold as the car ride to The Night Star restaurant was filled with silence, the city lights of Deling City blurring every second they sped past the busy buildings. Garnet never stopped glancing at her through the reflection of the window, the outside world keeping Rinoa's gaze from looking anywhere else. Rinoa, on the other hand, was trying to quell the riotous mess inside of her as she thought of the stormy eyed man unwillingly.
They duo finally reached the prestigious high class restaurant, fit only for the rich and famous. And always there to greet them, were the mass of reporters as they somehow find the news of their arrival.
"Geez, these reporters just don't know when to quit." Garnet said, irritated at the trouble they would cause trying to get information about the stars in the restaurant. She proceeded to give them a miniature glare, in the hope to get Rinoa to laugh, like she always had when Garnet complained about the annoyances.
In fact, she appeared to not have heard her at all.
Garnet sighed. She hated to disturb Rinoa the times she was like this, but there was work to be done. Soon, she thought. I will make her take a vacation.
"Rinoa, we're here."
The dazed woman nodded and proceeded to open the door of the car, plastering the smile she wore for so long to the faces that adored her as Rinoa Heartilly, the singer. Never as the person she really was.
Following the famous singer, Garnet escorted her to the entrance, all while trying to avoid the reporters that hounded her for answers.
"Miss Heartilly, when is your next album to be released?"
"Rinoa, what are your future plans?"
"Miss Heartilly, please take a shot for The Daily Deling!"
The questions bombarded her from left and right, yet Rinoa continued to walk forward, smiling the same fake smile she wore for the past year. The reporters continued to ask their questions, not noticing that her smile didn't quite reach her eyes.
One question however, stopped Rinoa temporarily, as the question put her into a momentary shock.
"Miss Heartilly, the public has noticed that you have been uninvolved romantically for the span of your career. Is there a special someone in your life right now?"
Flashes of memories came to Rinoa's mind as she tried desperately to push them out of her head. A pair of stormy blue eyes, the warmth of his embrace, the beautiful smile he showed just to her. In the midst of all the beautiful memories, one particular memory stood out from the others.
"Just leave already! This is what I wanted, after all!"
Angry blue eyes fixed onto her eyes as he glared at her. The pain of the words he said to her that day. He remembered it all in that one second after the question was asked.
"You're nothing but a burden, Rinoa. Nothing but a burden for the past two years!"
Yet in the midst of all the chaos inside her delirious mind, her smile plastered on her face never wavered, as she continued to walk through the crowd of reporters. Garnet reassuringly pushed her through the doors of The Night Star, letting out a heavy sigh as she was released from the massive prison of bodies.
"Whew! I thought we'd never get out of there!" Garnet said.
Rinoa just kept smiling as she nodded to her statement.
"Well, let's just go to our table, shall we?" Garnet flashed a reassuring smile. A smile that didn't receive the wanted response.
"You go on ahead. I need to go to the restroom for a moment."
"Are you alright?"
Rinoa desperately wanted to tell her the truth; that she wasn't alright, that she was a mad, mad mess inside.
"I'm fine." Rinoa just continued to smile that fake smile as she turned toward the direction of the restrooms. Garnet continued to worry, but nodded and allowed her to go off to freshen up.
Rinoa walked to the restroom, speeding up every second that passed, but never breaking out into a run. Too much attention would be drawn to her if she did. She nodded at people that looked towards her in respect, but once she was safely in the confines of the restroom, she dropped her smile immediately as what she was truly feeling revealed itself.
And just like a few moments ago, flashes of memories attacked her, stirring a whirlwind of emotions inside her mind. Except this time, they were more vivid without any distractions to intercept them.
The anger he showed towards her, the pain of his words, the uncertainty she felt. She remembered them all as if she was reliving them. And in a way, she literally was. Even the memories she had brought her to near insanity. She gasped out loud as tears began to well in her eyes, letting out those quiet, quiet sobs while sitting on the marble floor of the restroom.
Garnet looked around worriedly for Rinoa. Where did she go? She's been gone for fifteen minutes already. Had something happened? Garnet looked around for any semblance of black hair.
Five more minutes passed. Still no Rinoa.
The worried manager excused herself from the table and went off in search of her co-worker, all the while with guilt piling on her shoulders. I should have canceled the meeting for her. I knew something was off with her today, but I just sat back and left her alone! Hyne, what have I done? I hope she's alright.
Garnet finally reached the restroom, the place where Rinoa should be in. The sight of crisp, white marble floors and white stalls greeted her. But still no Rinoa.
She decided to go outside to the park across from the restaurant after more failed attempts at finding the missing singer. The street lights cast a golden light around the streets, leaving a mysterious aura of its surroundings.
Garnet hated herself at this moment, for failing to do something, anything, to help her friend out. Rinoa might have thought that she was fooling everyone into thinking she was alright, but Garnet knew better.
She saw her fake smiles, always plastered on her face on interviews and in pictures. The shine was missing from her eyes, and if someone looked closely, they would see the pure emptiness and loneliness accompanying the smiles that didn't quite reach her eyes.
Garnet finally found a silhouette of a young woman sitting on a bench, her head resting on her knees. From her posture, the twenty-seven year old manager found that Rinoa was more depressed than ever. And the thought scared her.
The first time she found the young woman singing at a restaurant, she glowed with such happiness and joy that made the song sound a million times better. Where had the joy she had displayed gone to? Now in its place was an empty shell.
Garnet called out her name, in the hopes that she would look at her. She did.
Rinoa looked up and saw the light brown eyes gazing back in worry at her.
"Are you alright?"
Rinoa was about to say her usual answer, but Garnet beat her to it. "And don't say that you're alright, because I know you're not." Her eyes flashed with a bit of anger at her for hiding her sadness from her friend.
The young singer in turn stayed quiet after that. She wanted to tell her; it was slowly killing her inside. Maybe it was time to finally let it out and to start over. She waited for a year. He never came back for her.
And so, in the moonlight, Rinoa told her story to the friend that accompanied her on the bench.
She told her of the story of how she lost the sun that shielded her from the shadows.
One Year Ago...
Rinoa hummed as she walked down the street, walking from the bar she worked part-time at. Her smile widened as she thought about where she was headed and what day it was, her boyfriend's apartment and their two year anniversary. Her boyfriend of two years, from this day.
Squall Leonhart, a SeeD of Balamb Garden.
Rinoa and him hit it off when he walked into the bar and caught her singing on stage. She noticed how he stare at her, no matter how hard he tried to hide it, and after her shift was over, she sought him out and they chatted for the majority of the night.
She giggled as she remembered how shy he was, his eyes diverting from place to place, anywhere to keep him from looking at her.
The door to his apartment opened and she walked in, greeted by the sight of the brunette sitting on the sofa in the living room.
"Hey, Squall!" Her smile caused her eyes to wane like crescent moons, the sign of a true smile of Rinoa's.
She still smiled even if the one word was the only response she got out of him, she was used to it, even if other people weren't.
"We're going out tonight."
Rinoa looked on in surprise, she never knew when to expect Squall going out in public with her. The first time she tried had him tense for the day and she could tell that he didn't enjoy it. And they never did again; if they did it was on a secluded balcony of a restaurant. And even then, he was still tense.
It made her wonder if he would actually enjoy tonight, if they were going out to celebrate.
The answer was a reassuring glance from Squall, telling her silently that it was alright, that today was special and he wanted her to enjoy it.
Rinoa's response was a brilliant, brilliant smile that made Squall's heart skip a beat as she ran off to get changed. At the bottom of his heart, he knew that someday, she would leave him to follow her dream. Her beautiful, beautiful dream filled with fame that surely didn't involve him.
But for now, he wanted to enjoy those moments left with her.
And so, he waited for that day to come.
The Night Star was a glamorous arrangement of silver and blue décor, matching the night sky presented to them through the glass window.
Rinoa was a simple but elaborate display of beauty, her hair swept to one shoulder in romantic curls, her sky blue dress accentuating her pale skin. On her neck was her necklace containing her mother's ring and Griever, the two most special things to her.
Her smile rivaled that of the stars outside, as she and Squall chatted over glasses of burgundy wine .
Squall, the epitome of privacy, even looked like he was enjoying himself and he stared at his girlfriend. In the corner of his eye, he saw the stage with a sleek grand piano and a plan formulated in his mind.
Whispering in her ear the idea he had in mind, she smiled and agreed. Squall returned it and rose from his seat, intent on speaking with the waiter.
After a couple of moments, Squall looked over to Rinoa and nodded, the latter also rising and walking over to the stage.
And Squall could only look, like he had looked the first time he saw her. The way she sang, her beautiful, melodious voice gathering the attention of the whole restaurant. Squall thought she sang her best when she was happy, and today was the day she had surpassed any of her past performances.
He wasn't the only one who deeply appreciated her voice and beauty. A twenty six year old sat in the corner of a booth, her waist long hair tied at the base with an orange tie as she looked on in amazement.
I've found her. She thought. I've found her!
With that thought she drowned her shot, and made her way over to Rinoa, who had just finished up her song and was bowing graciously to the audience, her smile glowing and glowing.
Squall met her at the bottom of the stage, helping her off by slipping his arm around her waist and lifting her off, like a knight she had seen in so many movies.
They were still smiling as the short woman with long brown hair arrived at the duo.
"Excuse me, may I have a word with you?" Garnet smiled at the couple who looked so content with each other.
Rinoa smiled and quietly told Squall to wait for her back at the table. He nodded and walked back to the awaiting dinner, all the while looking back in curiosity and wonder.
Rinoa walked back over to the booth with the stranger. Garnet smiled at the young woman who was positively glowing.
"Your performance tonight was lovely. What's your name?"
Rinoa blushed and thanked her shyly, the compliment warming her soul. She had always loved to sing.
Garnet chuckled, and continued. "My name is Garnet Alexandros. I'm with the Prima Vista company, have you heard of it before?"
The young woman could only gasp as she listened to her. Prima Vista? The biggest, most famous entertainment company in all of Esthar?
Rinoa only nodded. She wondered what the Prima Vista worker was talking to her for, her hopes gathering and gathering. The more she thought about it, the more she was anticipating what she would say. The suspense was killing her!
"Well, you've got potential. Lots of potential. And I'd like to have you sing for us. You can consider the offer for a few days. Here's my card. Call me when you come up with a decision."
Garnet handed her a crisp white card, smiling at the joy on her face.
"Thank you so much!" Rinoa glowed even more as Garnet chuckled again at her enthusiasm. But before Rinoa accepted, she wanted to talk about the great news to Squall and make a decision with him. Surely, he'd be happy for her, and there would be another reason to celebrate today. If Squall was happy, it would mean that he would support her and have no problems with it, like how she felt about it.
Making her way over to the table, where Squall was sitting, she managed not to trip as she practically ran over to the table. Squall smiled as she sat in her seat hurriedly and took her hands in his.
"Well, what did she want to talk about?"
"You'd never believe it! She's with the Prima Vista Company, and she wants me to sing for them!"
With those words, Squall felt his heart drop. He knew it would happen someday. He knew that Rinoa would leave him in order to follow her dream. After all, there would be no room for him in her future as she climbed up the social ladder, leaving him behind as she finds another, more suitable man for her. He's seen it happen before. Too many times had it happened.
Why would this time be any different?
Rinoa's smile never faltered as she kept talking. Squall's smile however, gradually morphed into a frown as he grew more insecure about himself.
It'd be better if I stepped away now...it'd make it less painful than if I were to wait for Rinoa to leave me behind.
He waited for this day. He just didn't want it to be this soon.
"Squall? What's wrong?" Rinoa's smile dropped as soon as she realized Squall was almost glaring at the wine glasses.
Rinoa didn't expect his next action. He abruptly rose from his seat, tossed the napkin down, and stalked angrily away from the table, people oblivious to the man that passed them.
The young woman followed him out into the streets and called out his name repeatedly, with no answer.
At last, she finally grabbed a hold of hand as she breathlessly asked what was wrong.
"What's wrong?" Squall angrily replied. What's wrong is that you're going to follow your dream. What's wrong is that you'll eventually leave me behind and forget about me. What's wrong is that...you would stay if I asked you to. You would stay if it meant I wouldn't be sad or mad. That's why I can't be selfish.
"What's wrong is that you're talking to me while you should be with that worker!" Squall glared at Rinoa, who stepped back in fear.
"Squall…" She had never seen him this angry.
"Just leave Rinoa!" He hated the words he was spitting out, he hated himself for bottling it all up inside of him instead of telling Rinoa what he felt.
"Just leave already, it's what I've wanted this whole time!"
Rinoa could only look at him in shock, was this why he decided to do all this for her today? The beautiful restaurant, the singing on the stage, the beautiful night? Was it all just to give her one last memory to remember as he broke up with her?
Squall knew she was getting upset, tears were welling up in the corners of her eyes.
He hated himself for his next words, the words he wished he could take back.
"Rinoa, you think I've enjoyed the past two years? You think I would actually be with you for that long? Think again."
Rinoa stepped back even farther as his hurtful words began to digest.
"You're nothing but a burden, Rinoa. Nothing but a burden for the past two years!"
And with that, Rinoa's soul began to decay, as the one she loved most pushed her away cruelly. Rinoa's tears were streaming down her face, sparkling in the light like a mirage.
Squall looked at her with sadness, but he knew it was for the best. It would be better for her to follow her dream than to stay with him. Out of the two choices, he knew she would stay with him. He didn't want her to live with any regret at the future she could have had.
Rinoa gazed back at him, but finally dropped her gaze as his words triggered memories. Hurtful childhood memories of her father yelling and belittling her as she tried to sing. Her father had said the same words to her; she was a burden. No matter who she was with, she would always be a burden.
How long had Squall thought of me this way?
After an eternity, she looked back up and smiled at him. A smile that nearly broke his heart.
Slowly, she started to reach up behind her neck and unhooked the chain holding the two rings. She took Griever in her hands, and slowly walked up to Squall.
Her actions made Squall want to let the tears drop from his eyes. But he wouldn't let her see how broken he was becoming. Her actions were that of a hollow shell, as if no more joy was in her.
And ever so slowly, she took his hand and placed the cool, metal object in his hand and clenched his fingers together for him.
"Thank you, Squall. Thank you for the two years if happiness you gave me."
Squall hated that smile that shone through her tears. It was so real, the last real smile she would ever give for him.
And slowly, she turned around and walked out of his life.
Garnet sat at the booth, still smiling at the excellent singer she had found. Swirling the wine glass she held, she took a sip until a tentative voice called out from behind her.
Turning around, she was surprised to see Rinoa standing, with a smile on her face.
"Hello, Garnet? I've come to give you my answer. I'd love to sing for your company.
Outside of The Night Star, Squall sat beneath the stars as he cried bitterly in regret of his words and actions. He wanted to rewind time so, so badly it ached inside of him.
In his hand, he still held griever tightly, as if it would somehow save him from more regret.
And the snow began to fall ever so silently, coating the ground in its white, white beauty.
A/N: Alright, so I hope you enjoyed reading my second story (maybe my last one for this month) for the Where I Belong challenge! This is only part 1 of 2 (or 3, depends on how long I make the next part). The second part is already planned out, I just need to actually get off my lazy butt and write it. And yes, this will have a positive ending, at least more positive than this part has ended off on. This fanfic is based off a novel I've read before (I can't remember the name!), and the ending is a tragedy in that book, but I decided to change it up and make it into a happy-ish ending.
With that said, I hope you enjoyed reading this again, and I hope you guys are enjoying the WiB challenge as much as I am. Take care. :)