"Squall move over, you're taking up all the bed." Rinoa whined.
It was late at night and we both had a long day. "You're the one who sleeps diagonally," I accused.
"Hmph, fine. I'll just have to do this." She climbed on top of me and rested her head right underneath my chin.
"It's too hot to do this." I complained.
"Shut up, or get a bigger bed." I felt her arms snake around behind my neck. She nuzzled her head into my chest. I could only imagine she was attempting to soften my chest somehow. She always did it and I couldn't help smile as she did. It was a wonderful moment, simple and pure that I loved so much. The feel of her on top of me was incredible. Only people that have ever truly been in love will understand how something so simple is actually the most amazing – the closeness to someone, to completely open yourself to them. Never before have I done that until Rinoa, and with her I have held nothing back.
"I love you." I told her, never more sure about anything in the entire world.
"What?" I chuckled, my chin touching her hair as I did. Her scent was filling my senses, overwhelming my mind of her.
She lifted her head up to look at me and it was stained with tears. She looked afraid and terrified. Her lips were quivering and her entire body shaking in fear. Her teeth chattered loudly as if a harsh cold overtook her. I could see her hair thinning and some strands falling out onto my chest. Dark rings were growing around her eyes as her skin grew paler. She coughed and blood spat out hitting me in the face. Her scent was being morphed into one filled with iron. "Find me Squall."
I was confused and growing worried, "Rinoa, you're right here, I have you."
"Find me Squall, please, find me." She was begging, her hands gripping like tight claws, into my skin causing me to bleed. She was desperately trying her hardest to hold onto me, pure fear driving her.
"Rinoa, what's wrong?"
Suddenly she started being pulled away from me. "Squall!" She cried out. "Find me!"
I grabbed her hands trying to keep her near me but it was impossible. Whatever had her was pulling her away from me. "Rinoa, hold on!"
It was useless, she slipped through my grip and vanished. She shouted two words as she drifted into nothingness. "Find me."
I shout upwards in my bed, a cold sweat taking over me. I slapped my face multiple times to help wake up. I looked at the clock next to my bed. I was only asleep for an hour, just enough time to entire REM sleep to have dreams – or rather – nightmares. I felt the bed next to me…it was cold, as it always was. It felt like forever since the last time it felt warm. Of course it didn't, it probably never would again. The stinging pain returned to my head, the constant pounding that was always there, never letting me get a real rest. I reached onto my nightstand to grab the prescription pills that my SeeD insurance was paying for. Nothing helps them go down like the bottle of liquor, also kept on my nightstand always within reach.
These plaguing memories that seemed to constantly torment me in all hours of the day. I don't even get freedom during my sleep, I am afflicted by horrific nightmares every time I lie down. Seeing it on replay for the rest of my life, I know I'd never be allowed to forget. Not that I wanted to, I didn't deserve to forget. They say it wasn't my fault but that doesn't matter, I still feel responsible. The hundreds of pats on the back telling me I'll make it through this. They don't understand, this isn't getting fired from a job. This is my life stopping in its tracks. This is everything I know, everything I understand coming to an absolute halt. They tell me the procedure was followed to a tee, like it matters. I don't care if everyone did their job perfectly, we still failed, and therefore nothing else matters. Don't sugarcoat or butter up the obvious. No one understands what I'm feeling and I'm sick of hearing people tell me they do. They don't, they fucking don't! If one more person tells me everything will be okay, I'll rip their throat out. I don't need to hear it.
I've become distant and melancholic. How utterly pathetic and angst filled I have become, with tears in my eyes, disgracing myself. Why is it so shameful for a man to cry? When he loses everything, isn't it acceptable? How many times have I stuck a gun in my mouth centimeters away from pulling the trigger? No one knows this, the ritual I go through each night. Sitting on my bed with only boxers on and a gun in my mouth. I laugh at how they'd find my dead body. The number one SeeD, in his underwear with a hole in his head. I'm sure SeeD would cover it up somehow. But it didn't matter, I'd never be able to do it. I was sad, depressed, and miserable for sure. But most of all, I was more pissed off than ever. I could never kill myself because I was too angry at the world, I'd never be able to let myself die before I got back at someone. That was the problem, I didn't have anyone to take my anger out on. I didn't accept anymore missions, not because I couldn't focus, the exact opposite. I lost all intellectual reasoning. A simple hostage exchange turned into me shooting every terrorist there. Not exactly a problem in my eyes but it was deemed too risky and it was sheer luck the hostage made it out alive. That's debatable, but doesn't matter what I say. Cid suspended me from all active missions. My team still takes the odd mission, but Seifer told me they don't feel right without me there. I appreciate that but it didn't really matter. I sure as hell wasn't going to sit around and get lazy with my skills. I lived in the training area to take out my unrelenting aggression. It didn't help in the least.
I was plagued, I couldn't escape. I still see it, even now, I see that night so clearly. I was sitting in the restaurant, the one that took months to get a table. I didn't fit in at all. All the wealthy people were staring at me, at my scar between my eyes. They knew I was a soldier and couldn't comprehend why I was there. I was there for only one reason, to propose to the love of my life. Rinoa Heartily. I met her at a dance that SeeD threw, her father is on our council of affairs so she came with him. I never paid too much attention to women but she just caught my eye. It's all a blur from there, the three years we spent together. She started working in the communications department and moved in. I spent all my free time with her, if I wasn't on some missions, I was with her. I never knew until then how badly I craved the love of another. She needed to be mine for the rest of my life. I had to make it happen. I bought the biggest, most expensive ring I could find, and waited to get a table at this rip-off of a restaurant. I was waiting for her to walk through that door, she got held up at work and promised she'd meet me there. I was going to wait until after dinner to propose but I knew I wouldn't be able to wait. It would be impossible to sit through dinner knowing what I had in my pocket. So I decided I'd propose on the spot, the second she walked in. I grew worried after waiting there for an hour but I convinced myself work was just extra busy.
But she never walked in.
It was Seifer who walked in with a very serious expression on his face. He sat down at the table. I made a joke how he should wait and see how a real man proposes. He leaned forward and told me straight up. I remember every word that left his mouth. 'Rinoa was taken. We don't know by who or why. Her car was found on with the keys in the ignition. It happened an hour ago we think. The rest of the team is outside, we're ready for your orders'.
I was off like a rocket, fist clenched, ready to burn down the world to find her. For the next three days we tore apart Balamb, because we knew, after three days it would be impossible to find her. She could be anywhere in the world. But we didn't find her, and the hope that a ransom demand would reach her father never happened either. Slowly, everyone gave up. If there wasn't a ransom, then they didn't know who she was, meaning they were just lowlife thugs. It was just the wrong place and wrong time for her. I couldn't accept it, I still can't. It's just impossible to imagine her gone.
That was three months ago. Three months have gone by and I know the statistics. The chances she's alive is less than five percent. The chances she's alive and well…only two percent. I have nightmares imagining what she's going through. What horrible things those monsters are doing to her. But as painful as it is, I have never once tried to move on. That would be betraying her and I refused to do that. I will sit in a state of aggressive melancholy until the day I die. No one understands this, as they try and make me feel better. They tried to send me on multiple vacations, like that would help. Even General Caraway told me to go to Fisherman's Horizon for a week to recollect myself. What the hell will fishing do to help? I can't leave Garden, if any news of Rinoa surfaces, it will come straight to Garden. So I refuse to leave, not even for a simple vacation, no matter how many times they try and force me.
I sat on my bed and pulled out my phone. It was after one in the morning, another sleepless night was ahead of me. I'd probably head down to the training area soon enough to work out until my body exhausts itself and passes out. This entire time, one would expect my skills to weaken and my physique to lessen. That wasn't the case, with all this anger and free time, it was the opposite. I've never been in better shape in my life, that's what happens when someone spends hours in the gym. I made sure all my skills were the best they could be. I never said why, and no one ever asked me because we all knew the reason. I was waiting – pathetically waiting – for a hint at the whereabouts of Rinoa, to go after her. I was like a dog without a master. Not knowing what to do, not having a point in life anymore. So I sat and waited for something to happen. Something to react to, but it never came.
I looked at the background of my phone. It was a picture of Rinoa. She just woke up, her hair was a mess, and she was giving me the dirtiest look she could muster that early in the morning. It was my favorite picture. It was the natural her, the one I loved. Seeing it made me smile, the only time I ever smiled. Thinking back to her, the real her. How I wished she was still here with me. I could feel her around me, sitting next to me on the bed, rubbing my back with her chin resting on my shoulder. Her embrace was the warmest in the world. I could hold her all day and night if I could. But I can't anymore, because she's gone.
The world is cruel and torturous. My whole life had been a struggle, to finally give me happiness, and then yank it away. It made me so mad…so unbearably mad…it was just so…so…unfair. How can my life be this bad? Do I really deserve this? I've done a few bad things but to have this endless torture until my sanity crumbles was too much. I beg and plead to any god or entity to bring her back. I make soulless promises to an unknown being, that if she came back, the life I would live. I will literally try anything to have something change. But at the same time, I am so afraid of the current situation to change. I'm in a vat of stasis. She's missing, but not dead. If I ever received evidence that she was gone, my suffering could end, but a new harsher torment would begin. I wanted to hear something but at the same time I was too afraid to hear any news. It was a wicked cruel play from fate, to mess with me like this.
My phone suddenly lit up, causing me to squint since it was the brightest light in my dark room. It said it was an unknown number and for whatever reason, I answered it.
"Hello?" I mumbled monotone into the phone.
"Hello!" The voice called out on the other end. "Thank God, you answered. Squall, oh my God, Squall!"
My heart pounded hard in my chest as I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "R-Rinoa?"
"Squall!" She cried out on the other end. "I'm so happy to hear you."
"You're…this isn't…" I finally lost it, my mind was officially gone.
"Squall," She was crying, I could tell. "I'm alive."
I'm Alive. Those words rang throughout my mind like a choir preaching. The two words that held so much substance it was hard to comprehend. Everything I experienced, everything I wished for over the last three months was happening right now. It took a moment for me to grasp what they truly meant. My lips mouthed the two words to help me understand – to comprehend what was happening. She was alive. Rinoa was alive…Rinoa was alive!
"Rinoa!" I screamed jumping to my feet. "Where are you!"
"I can't say," She quickly answered. Damn, they must've kept her blindfolded the entire time. I was expecting that, so I wasn't too disappointed. How could I be, when I just found out she was alive.
"I'm so happy to hear your voice." She told me honestly.
"I know, I know," I held the phone with both hands like it would help me get closer to her. "I'm so happy you're alive." I felt tears coming to my eyes. This was real right? This was actually happening? I've had too many dreams that went like this. Then I'd wake up with the pit of emptiness hitting me so much I wanted to scream. This was too surreal, I was expecting to wake up any moment and be yanked back to reality. But it had to be real, it just had to be. I was pleading inside my head for this to be real.
"Squall, you need find me," her voice was cracking as she pleaded. "Please, I miss you so much. Find me." Those words chimed in my head, the words I was tormented with for months. Find me.
"I will, I swear I will," I assured her strongly. "But you have to tell me where you are? What happened? Who took you? I need to know."
"I can't say, I'm sorry, I know it's not helpful" She took a deep breath between the tears. "It's dangerous for me to even call you, but what about the ransom?"
"Ransom? There was no ransom." I told her.
"Yes there was," She insisted. "To my father, I know it wasn't a lie. Squall, is he getting the money ready? I know it's been months but it's been a while. Please, I want to go home."
This was insane, her father didn't mention anything about a ransom. Why would he cover that up? I couldn't tell Rinoa, I couldn't say that there wasn't any money. She called expecting me to save her, but what could I do? How was I supposed to tell her everyone thought she was dead and no one even bothered getting money ready? She risked her life to call me to ask when we were coming to get her…and I had to tell her we weren't. That people thought she was dead and moved on. This was so utterly cruel, I question how life can be so unfair and torturous.
She must've senses my lack of response since a very morbid chuckle sounded through the phone. "My father said no didn't he."
"Rinoa, I swear, I will find you. You don't need to count on your dad's money, count on me. Have I ever let you down? Ever?"
"The time you forgot the tickets to see my favorite singer." She choked out through her mixture of sobs and forced laughter.
I cracked a smile and felt awful inside. I needed her back, I needed her in my life again. "I will find you, but tell me something, anything, you know."
"I can't…I wish I could," She whimpered, "I wish I could be more help."
"It's okay, it's okay." I cursed through my teeth, I wish she could tell me something. "Who took you?"
"It was three guys, from my car." She told me.
"Okay, that's good," It was a start, "Anything else?"
"Oh God Squall, I have to go." Her voice rose high and scared. "I'm sorry, I miss you!"
"Is someone there!" I exclaimed. "Can you tell me what they look like?"
"Squall, I love you." She whispered desperately into the phone. I could imagine the guys, those brutal torments coming closer to her. "I love you." She said again, it was hard to understand it through her sobs, they were growing heavier. She was wailing into the phone, knowing we may never speak again. "Find me."
The two words uttered from her lips resounded throughout my head, ringing around long after the dial tone was heard. It was the first time I've heard from her in three months, I thought she was dead, and her last words to me were to find her. Something clicked in my head as I felt renewed determination, adrenalin rushing through my veins, and pure impetus to find the girl I loved. Nothing would stop me, I would not fail again. I would burn the world down to find her and if that's what I had to do, then so be it. I swore to myself, I would find her, no matter what it would take. I. Would. Find. Her.
I looked through my phone to find the call but it wasn't registered. I knew unknown numbers were tricky sometimes, God, I wished I recorded the call. Why was I so dumb? I needed someone who was better at this than me. I didn't wait another second to belittle myself as I dashed out the door. I sprinted down the hallway of Garden until I reached Selphie and Irvine's room. I banged on the door with my fist. "Selphie!" I shouted through the door. "Selphie!" I kept pounding.
A door in the room next to me opened. "Hey bro, it's fucking one-" He stopped when he saw who I was. "Sorry," was all he said before disappearing back in his room.
"Selphie open this fucking door!" I screamed.
The door cracked open to reveal Irvine. "Squall, what's wrong."
I didn't wait as I shoved him back and stepped into the room. He was just in his boxers and the way Selphie had the sheets gathered around her on the bed obviously meant I was interrupting, but I didn't care.
"Squall what's wrong?" Selphie asked.
"Can you trace an unknown number?" I asked hotly.
"What?" She looked confused.
"Can you trace an unknown number, from my phone." I spoke a little slower but I was still loud and excited. "My phone didn't even keep it in the called section, it looks like it isn't there."
"I-I don't know," She was shaking her head trying to think. "I mean…maybe, it depends, it's hard to explain. Squall, what's going on?"
"You okay, man?" Irvine asked placing his hand on my shoulder.
"I just got a call from Rinoa!" I exclaimed. "So, I need you to trace a cell phone, please." I hissed at the end.
"Rinoa!" Selphie sat up more in the bed, "She's alive."
"That's great!" Irvine shouted clapping his hands. "She's alive!"
"Selphie, please," I ushered.
"Right," She jumped out of bed, completely nude, no longer caring. She grabbed a nearby bathrobe on the back of a chair that she probably discarded on the way to bed. "We need to go to the lab. Let's move."
Thirty minutes later I sat in a chair watching Selphie go to work. Irvine called the rest of the group here and they came almost immediately. It made me happy to know they still cared. Quistis alerted Cid and he announced a meeting first thing in the morning. But right now, we all sat watching Selphie try and find something. I sat in a chair, with my leg bouncing up and down in anticipation. I felt like Zell, but I couldn't stop it. I was glad no one told me everything would be alright, that would put me over the edge. My headache was still pounding, the excitement only made it worse so I took so more pills. I was already over the recommended dosage for the day but what did it matter at this point.
Selphie sat back in her chair and spun around to face us. She was moments away from tears. "Squall…I'm sorry, I can't…I tried, I did…it's unresponsive. Unknown numbers are always tricky or…they could've destroyed it…or…I don't know. Squall…I'm so sorry."
"Did you record the message," Seifer quickly pressed on, not letting one bump in the road stop us.
"No." I quickly answered because I felt like shit for not recording it at the time.
"It's okay Squall," Quistis told me. "I know hearing her must've been all you were thinking about. Can you remember any of it?"
"I remember all of it." I strongly replied. I told them everything and at one point Selphie cried more. Irvine rubbed her arm but it didn't help much. This was good news, but it made us all feel like absolute crap.
"It's not much," Zell stated. "We can search again, now that we know she's still out there."
"Especially now we know they're keeping her alive, we won't have a time clock ticking down," Quistis added but then looked at me. "Of course, we'll rush."
I nodded at her, "Then you're all with me?" They all nodded back with serious determinations. "We are all going to find her, and this time, we aren't stopping no matter what."
"Yes Sir," They chorused back and saluted.
"Then let's get to work, we're surrounded by computers. Let's find any information we can. Off the record cell service since the call didn't have full bars, they must not be in a major city. I don't give a damn what it is, we need to find something." I was proud to see them all go about their task instantly.
"I can't believe Caraway had a ransom." Irvine suddenly said out loud.
"And didn't pay it," Zell added. "That's horrible. You think it's true?"
I narrowed my eyes. "I'll find out at the meeting."
We didn't find anything interesting on the computers so we all decided to get some sleep. We knew tomorrow would be a long day of work and we'd need all the rest we could get. Of course, I didn't get any sleep, but that was expected. I played the phone conversation over and over in my head. Her voice was real. It had been so long since I heard it. There was a moment of hesitation where I questioned if it actually happened but I quickly shook that thought aside. I couldn't think like that, it just had to be her, I couldn't take it if it wasn't. I had to get her back, I would get her back.
Morning came with no sleep and I quickly dressed in my SeeD uniform. I would look my part as I addressed the council. When I made it to the council room, the meeting was at eight in the morning. My team was waiting outside. Only Quistis could go in with me since she was my second in command. But the support from my team meant a lot and I really appreciated it.
"Let's do this." I told Quistis marching passed and shoving the doors open. She followed in closely behind me.
I explained the entire situation to the council of five members, one for each country.
I explained every word, every detail of the phone conversation. I looked at Caraway many times over the explanation to see how he would react. He remained as emotionless as ever which was proof of his history as a soldier. When I was done, I explained that we needed to send out as many SeeDs as we could spare. I was completely shocked when the council seemed hesitant.
"You can't be serious." I looked around.
Cid folded his hands on the desk and leaned forward. "Squall…it's been three months since we've last seen Rinoa. The chances she's alive are next to nothing."
"I just got a phone call from her last night." I growled.
"Squall, I want to put this nicely." Cid paused thinking of his words. "Her disappearance has been tough on all of us, but you most of all. You haven't been dealing with your grief appropriately and we know you are having trouble sleeping. Sometimes, when something is on your mind constantly mixed in with not sleeping enough, things can seem real that well…aren't."
"Are you saying I'm making this up?" I couldn't believe this.
"You are an amazing SeeD," The Estharian representative spoke. "But we all have our problems. You just haven't gotten over yours yet."
"She's still alive!" I shouted.
"You're mental state is crumbling," The Estharian said calmly.
"Excuse me, Sir," Quistis stepped forward. "Commander Leonhart has taken the psych evaluation once a month as is required of all SeeD members. He has shown no sides of hallucinations of any sort, nor any signs of coming up with such a story as this. He's a stable as anyone and we are lucky enough to get a lead on Rinoa, we should take it."
"Commander Leonhart knows exactly what to say to the therapists to sound completely sane." Cid remarked. That was true, those sessions were a cake-walk.
"This is real, Sir." Quistis pressed.
"You believe him?" Cid asked completely seriously.
"One hundred percent, Sir." Quistis sounded professional as always.
"This is absurd!" Caraway exclaimed.
"Don't you dare speak!" I shouted at him.
"Don't you talk to me that way!" He yelled back at me.
"You refused to pay the ransom!" I yelled. "She could've been home by now."
"There was no ransom." He laughed angrily. "I know for a fact that they never made contact with me otherwise I would've paid any price to get her back."
"Yeah, I heard you comments to the news, all very polished."
"Face it like a man Leonhart." Caraway eyed me with a stern unwavering voice of hatred. "She's dead."
"How dare you!" I jabbed an angry finger in his direction. "That's your daughter!"
"I know," Caraway huffed. "You cannot imagine how hard it is for me to say it but I've moved on. You have to do. Take a damn vacation, get away, and collect yourself!"
"Fuck your vacation!" I screamed.
"Enough!" Cid yelled. He looked at me heatedly. "Squall, you're an incredible SeeD. Rinoa's kidnapping was horrible, but it's over. You need help, you cannot go on like this."
"I don't believe this." I felt faint, I never expected they wouldn't believe me. "How much have I done for you!" I barked. "I have gone to the ends of the world without questioning you. The one time I ask you for help, you turn me away!"
"She's gone Squall!" Cid cried out. "I'm sorry, you need to accept it. To think that suddenly after three months she had a phone to call you? That's absurd! With no ransom, they have no reason for keeping her alive."
"There is a fucking ransom!" I shouted throwing my arms in the air. I pointed at Caraway. "He's lying. He's a greedy bastard that won't pay a cent for his own blood."
"That's it boy!" Caraway stood up and jumped over the desk. "I've got thirty years on you and I'll still kick your ass."
"General!" Cid shouted.
I marched towards him, fully ready to beat the son of a bitch to a bloody pulp but Quistis stood in front of me. She held me back easier than I'd expect but she was a SeeD as well after all. The other council members quickly rushed to block Caraway from getting to me. We edged closer to one another until I finally got my hands on his tie. I pulled it hard enough for his nose to be touching mine.
I glared right into his eyes as I threatened him with very true words. "If I ever find out you didn't pay a ransom, I will kill you. I promise you, I will kill you."
"Go ahead and try!" He shouted. "You dare bring up these painful memories to me – of my daughter. You think you loved her, I loved her more than you could ever imagine."
"Both of you get back now!" Cid hissed. "Squall, you are on house arrest until I figure out what else to do with you."
"Don't bother I'm gone." That didn't sound like that big of a deal, but it meant a whole lot. It meant I was quitting SeeD. You don't just quit SeeD, like you don't just quit the army. It also meant I was going rogue to find Rinoa, which was another issue in and of itself.
"You will be blacklisted!" Cid screamed at me. "You will be put at the top of everyone's hit list, added to everyone's bingo book. All those people that can't touch you because of SeeD status will hunt you. You will become the priority target for every SeeD in the world. Going rogue will get you killed."
"I'm finding Rinoa because no one else will!" I shouted with deadly venom in my voice. "And no one is going to stop me."
"They will send the best after you." Cid warned, his voice lower since he couldn't believe this was actually happening.
"I am the best." I hissed reminding him of the truth. "No one can stop me."
"How many will you kill to reach someone that is already gone?" Cid questioned honestly.
I met his eyes without waver. "I will kill them all."
I turned around and marched out the doors while maturely flicking off all the council members. I threw the large doors open with both arms and came face-to-face with the rest of my team.
"Didn't go well by the sounds of it," Seifer commented in what was probably supposed to be a joke. I didn't have time for such nonsense.
"I'm going rogue." I informed them.
"What?" Irvine spoke for the group, all equally astonished. They looked to Quistis for confirmation who nodded.
"They'll hunt you." Zell told me.
"And a marry chase I shall give them." I marched passed them and headed towards my room. I heard footsteps behind me to see them all following me. "You can't come with me, you'll become targets yourself."
"Been boring around here honestly," Seifer shrugged.
"SeeD has been growing old," Zell laughed. "Could use a break."
"This isn't a vacation."
"You're right Squall, it isn't," Quistis said firmly. "We're finding Rinoa, so we're coming with you."
"Then we leave now," I growled on the outside but was secretly happy on the inside.
We didn't stop moving until we got into two cars and flew down the road towards Balamb city. It was where she was taken and it was where we'd start out search again. We could find leads here and Seifer had a safe house prepared in case the worst happened, which this was in a matter of speaking. We trusted SeeD completely, but when you're in our line of work – basically legal assassins for hirer – it's hard to trust anyone. Seifer established a safe house in every country around the world, ones SeeD didn't know about…we hoped. It wouldn't be long until they discovered this safe house since they knew we would head to the City first. The safe house itself was a shit hole, but that's the point. It only had a living room, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The walls needed a new coat of paint and the floor was dirty. We could hear the scampering of small footsteps in the wall, meaning the place was infested with mice. We didn't care about the living arrangements, we stayed in worse places. The importance was the stash here. There was a change of clothes for everyone, so we wouldn't stick out with our SeeD wear, and most importantly, the large stock pile of weapons.
"Everyone listen up." I commanded. Selphie, Quistis, and Zell took the couch. Irvine sat on the arm of the couch next to Selphie. Seifer and I both took a wooden chair from the small table that may have been considered the living room table if one spun it enough. I placed my chair facing the couch and Seifer placed his next to mine. "You guys can still turn back, you are far too valuable to let go."
"We aren't going back," Zell told me strongly. "We aren't Squall, it's as simple as that. Rinoa was like the sister I never had. If you didn't go rogue, I sure as hell was going to."
A series of murmurs of agreements and nods rang throughout the group.
"But do you know what you're getting into?" I asked them. "I am not exaggerating when I say I will do anything to get her back. This could get very ugly."
Seifer snorted, "We've never been the pretty group."
That was very true, our track record for missions was always perfect no matter the mission but we excelled at the impossible ones. The messy ones were always given to us because we never failed.
"Then you're with me, because once this starts, there is no going back. SeeD will hunt us, they will claim we are rogue and put us on the most wanted." I made sure they knew what they were getting into. I wasn't going to lie to them. "I can do this because I have nothing else to live for. I live for Rinoa and she's out there, so I have to find her. Once I do, I can live in the mud for all I care, as long as she's with me. But you guys, you have lives, you don't need to leave them."
"If you keep pushing us away I'm gonna start to feel ya don't want us here," Irvine joked.
"Squall," Selphie called my name sturdily, she leaned forward. "We are finding Rinoa, okay, accept it."
"Good." I smiled, never have I been this proud of my squad before. "Don't get me wrong, I'm glad you're here. With us working together, I know we'll find her."
"I don't doubt that, but now I worry about SeeD after us." Seifer commented.
"They won't begin until tomorrow," I informed them. "They have a twenty-four hour rule before blacklisting. Sometimes the agent comes back or they work out some deal. Once we're blacklisted, there will be a masses amount of recourses after us, so they want to make sure they really need to do it."
"Who do you think they'll send after us?" Zell inquired. "There's always someone who leads the chasers."
"It will be Nida and Xu, no doubt," I answered. "They know us best, which makes them the best predators."
"Shit." Irvine cursed, "Those two are the wonder team, they may be better than us."
"No one is better than us," I quickly remarked. "Now, we don't worry about SeeD, they worry about us. All we do is look for Rinoa, we move quick enough, SeeD will never be able to keep up."
"What's the plan then?" Selphie questioned.
"Seifer found something," Quistis swiftly said aloud.
We all turned to Seifer. "After we all went to bed last night, I made a couple more calls. I have a lead on a group that apparently kidnapped a girl a few months ago."
"What?" This was true perfect, something didn't add up. "Why just now are you learning this? Who did you hear it from?"
He took a breath. "Fujin and Rajin."
Damn, I hated those two low-lives. They entered SeeD with Seifer long ago but were dishonorably discharged for too many misconducts. They were long time friends with Seifer so he never let them go. They adapted to the shady underworld well enough, and gave Seifer information now and again. They also gave Seifer wrong information now and again, so I never trusted them. I hated them and they hated me, so I couldn't think they were giving me accurate information.
"They're lying." I instantly said.
"They aren't." Seifer quickly defended his childhood friends. "Listen, okay, just let me explain."
"Why would they help me?" I interjected.
"They aren't," He growled, "They loved Rinoa, remember, they knew her as kids too. They couldn't give a fuck about you, but they want to find her just as badly."
I crossed my arms, "Alright, what did they say?"
Seifer looked like he was preparing himself since they obviously got the information in some shady way. "They were considering a short partnership with this group. So, they met the four of them to talk and see if they could do business. It's like any company business meeting, you have a few drinks and talk to get to know one another."
"So, they were talking about past jobs, what they've done. It became kind of like bragging. Fujin and Rajin said they had SeeD training, so they could pull off any job. The people they were talking to said they didn't need SeeD training, they could do anything a SeeD could do. Fujin found this strange since she thought they were just drug dealers. The one of them said – and Fujin promised me this was the exact wording – that a couple months ago they were paid a lot of money to kidnap some black-haired bitch."
"That could be Rinoa," Irvine stated the obvious.
"Exactly," Seifer nodded. "They went on to say that it was extremely short notice but were able to do it anyways. They said it was easy, that they just had to yank her from a car."
"That has to be her," Selphie added. "It has to be."
"Don't get your hopes up," I hastily told the group. "First, we can't trust Fujin and Rajin." Seifer was going to interject but I held up my hand. "They've been wrong before and this sounds too good to be true. There are fifteen to twenty people kidnapped a month. We're going on black hair and a car; that could be anyone."
"So what do you want to do?" Quistis inquired.
"Call Fujin, get that group's names and address." I aimed at Seifer. "We will ask them ourselves."
"Hell yeah!" Zell cheered.
Seifer went about contacting Fujin while the rest of us prepared. We all changed into street clothes, nothing flashy, jeans and shirts to blend in better. Most put on a coat since it was rather chilly out, with winter just around the coner. Everyone carried a handgun and a knife, except for me. Then Irvine packed up his sniper rifle into his case. Selphie grabbed her favorite weapon, a shotgun. Zell had stashed a number of handheld gloves and equipment here. Some gloves even had tasers in the knuckles so every punch had a thousand volts in it. The clothes Seifer prepared for me were too big, they hung loose on me and loose clothes have always just bothered me but my jeans fit well enough and I wore a plain white undershirt and threw on a leather bomber jacket. I didn't use weapons, I could find anything I needed on location…that was a special skill of mine.
After Fujin informed Seifer the address of this group, we quickly got into two new cars Seifer had prepared. The other two cars were from SeeD and easily recognized. Now, in our new dirty, rundown cars, we drove to the address. As expected, it was in a rather dirty part of town, but that would only work better for us. They had an apartment on the second floor of the building our two cars were parked outside of. We all stepped out of the cars, ready and prepared.
"Quistis, Selphie, you're sitting this one out."
"What?" Selphie whined.
"We need two getaway drivers if things go badly. There's only four in there so we should be able to handle it, and it looks like a small building. Too many people in there could end up screwing us over. Keep the engines running, map out our escape route, and get ready to leave at a moment's notice."
"Fine." Selphie pouted.
"Sexist." Quistis muttered. I gave her a confused glance. "What, the two women stay outside, that's all I'm saying." I let out a growl and ignored her comment. This was not the time to deal with stupid shit like that.
I marched with hard determination towards the door, with my three boys at my back. This was the first step in three months to finding Rinoa, I was not going to pass this up. I shut my eyes to concentrate and when I opened them I could see Rinoa standing next to me. She was walking with me towards the door, with a graceful smile on her face. I knew she wasn't there but the atmosphere grew warmer around me. She placed her hand on my arm as I walked and I tried to ignore her but it was hard. She was right next to me, she was there…but she wasn't. I knew she wasn't. Yet she wasn't going away, she kept walking and smiling at me. When we reached the door she stopped and finally spoke.
"Find me." She whispered before disappearing.
I quickly shook my head to get my sense back to reality.
"You okay man?" Irvine asked.
"Fucking perfect," I snapped at him and instantly felt bad after but I didn't apologize. Commanders never apologize to subordinates. "Let's just do this." I stepped aside for Zell to get better access to the door, it was heavy but nothing Zell couldn't deal with. I have yet to see a door he couldn't kick down with those monster legs of his. With one hard kick, the door flew open and slammed into the wall.
I stepped inside with the three following behind me. We marched up the stairs, passing a couple on the way up. They sensed something was wrong and instantly flattened themselves against the wall allowing us to pass. They didn't want anything to do with us and that was smart of them. When we grew closer to the desired apartment I gave my orders.
"There are three guys and one girl in there. They could be in bed, it's still early. I want all detained and ready to interrogate instantly." My voice was hard and dripping with venom. Three months I was waiting to take my anger out on someone and now I finally had someone to blame. "No guns unless absolutely necessary. I want this as violent and gruesome as possible. Can you handle that?"
"No problem," Seifer answered for them.
"It's payback time," Zell punched his fist into his hand.
"This is for Rin." Irvine growled.
We were all pissed off, that's good.
We found the right apartment and again I let Zell step in front of me. "Are we ready?" He asked looking around. All our eyes met with unwavering vigor. "Then let's find Rin." Zell took a couple steps back before charging the door. He kicked straight out, right above the door handle, and the door swung open furiously. It banged hard into the wall and Zell threw his elbow out to catch the rebound off the wall. Everything happened instantly I was glad we were the best team in the world.
We charged into the room as fast as possible, I went in last. The three guys and the one girl were sitting on the couch smoking a bowl. Apparently they weren't asleep but doing some wake-and-bake. They were frozen as we first entered but gathered themselves quickly. They instantly made a break for it. One man ran across the small room towards the kitchen to try and grab a kitchen knife. Zell was first one in and charged him. The man picked up the knife but Zell quickly disarmed him professionally. He grabbed his wrist, twisted it while kicking out his leg to lose balance and strength in his arm. That made it easy for Zell to completely disarm the weapon. With the knife discarded on the ground the man was open to the hurricane that Zell was. The blonde slammed him in the face with three rapid punches before squatting low and grabbing him around the waist. He lifted straight up, so the man was off his feet in a bear hug and then Zell leaned all the way backwards. Zell's acrobatic grace was evident, being able to bend his back to such extremes. He suplexed the man, who's head slammed into the ground.
"You need a warrant!" The other guy yelled as he tried to scatter to the back rooms but Seifer was on him.
"Do we look like cops!" He shouted as he grabbed the man by the back of his shirt and pulled him closer. "SeeD motherfucker!" He slammed the man's head into the glass coffee table. It shattered and the man was now awkwardly bent inside the wooden rim of the coffee table. Seifer kept a firm hand on the back of his head so he couldn't move.
The girl tried running as well, Irvine grabbed her hair and slammed her face into the wall repeatedly. She fell to the ground crying, her nose gushing blood, but Irvine never let go of her hair. She clawed at his hand but he kicked her strongly in her stomach. There was no discrimination, I don't know what Quistis was talking about…sometimes I'm sadistic, it comes with the line of work.
"One's moving in the back!" Irvine exclaimed pointing. The room we were in was the kitchen connected to a small living room. There was then a straight narrow hallway directly across from the door we entered in. It led to the bedrooms and bathrooms, but probably also a fire escape somewhere.
"I got him!" I charged as fast as possible down the narrow hallway. When he reached the end of the hallway, he slowed to turn the corner but I wasn't stopping. I dove on him and smashed through the window at the end of the hallway. We were both freefalling the two stories downward. He was screaming. I was dead silent staring into this man's eyes. He was going to pay. We slammed on top of a car, denting the roof pretty seriously. I rolled off him from the impact. I groaned as I got back to my feet and looked at the man. I used him to break my fall so he took the worst of it and it was really showing.
"Holy shit!" A man on the sidewalk cursed.
"Walk away." I told him angrily, and he was smart enough to listen. I climbed back onto of the car and knelt over the man. "Looks like someone's back is broken. Must've snapped your spine in half, I can't imagine the pain you're in." He was twitching but his limbs weren't moving at all. He was barely alive, but he was alive and that was the point. "I'll help you if you answer my questions. Did you kidnap a raven-haired girl three months ago?" I asked him with no response. "Did you kidnap her!" I screamed into his face.
A nod, a small one, but it was a nod.
"Where is she!" I shouted in his face as I grabbed his hair. "Is she alive!" No answer so I kept going. "What was her name! Where is she! Who told you to do it! Is she alive!" Still no answer. I put my knee on his chest and pressed downward. An excruciating whimper erupted from his mouth. "Is she alive!" I cried out again. "Is she alive damn it!" There still wasn't an answer. I wasn't letting this guy die without getting my answer. These three horrible months, waiting for this moment, I wasn't going to let it pass. "Is she alive!" I screamed again. I needed to hear it from him, I needed the words to come from someone. Because the phone call being real was now really plaguing my mind. It had to be real but I needed someone else to say it. To know, that she was alive somewhere, and I could save her. "Is she alive!"
"Y-yes." He gasped out.
That was it, that was it! She's alive, she's really alive. It was ringing throughout my head, trying to comprehend the words. I got off him and hopped off the car.
"H-help me." Drool starting falling from the corner of his mouth.
I chuckled wickedly. "Enjoy your excruciating death."
I left him to die painfully on the dented car and headed back inside. When Selphie and Quistis saw me walk from around the corner they gave me a worried look. I pumped my hand down to let them know everything was alright and then headed back inside. I found the apartment and shut the door behind me. They had the guy and girl on the couch. The other guy was still lying on the floor.
"Is he dead?" I snarled at Zell.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to break his neck in the slam." Zell answered sheepishly.
"That's reckless," I scowled him.
"Because diving out a window isn't." Seifer remarked.
"Later." I hissed. "We have business."
I grabbed a chair from the kitchen table which was right near the couch. I placed it in front of the broken coffee table facing the guy and girl on the couch.
"She's obviously Lindsay," I nodded towards the girl. "Are you Mikey, Jeff, or Tyler?"
The man didn't say anything but smiled arrogantly. His head was bleeding pretty baldy from being smashed through the glass coffee table.
"You're other two friends are dead," I told him calmly. "That's not good for you. I could've spread the pain across the four of you until the first one broke. But now that there are only two of you, I'm going to have to double the pain."
"What's this about, why would SeeD care about drugs?" The man spoke calmer than I expected.
"It's about the girl you kidnapped three months ago."
"We didn't kidnap anyone." He responded quickly.
"Is that so," I looked at the girl, "Lindsay, is he telling the truth?"
"I-I don't know," she was crying and holding her nose which didn't look like it was done bleeding yet. "I only started dating Tyler a few weeks ago." Her eyes moved to the man next to her which revealed his name.
"So you're Tyler?" I asked the man. "That's not good, because this means now all the torturing has to be done to you."
"Fuck you." He chuckled, "I'm not talking anymore."
"Oh I'll get you to speak." I smiled devilishly. True to his words he didn't say anything. "Here's what I want to know. I want to hear you describe the girl, if you know her name I want you to say it. I want to know who put you up to this, because we know you're drug dealer. You must've gotten a large amount of cash to do something like this. I want to know where you delivered her and to whom she was given. I want to know it all."
He still didn't say anything.
"What did she look like?" I questioned.
"They don't kidnap people!" Lindsay cried out. "They don't!"
"If you speak one more time, I will kill you. You don't know anything about this which means you're expendable, so shut up." This seemed to freak the girl out enough to never speak again.
"What did she look like?" I interrogated again. "I know you had her, the man with the broken back outside already told me you took her and she's alive." I could hear a release a breath from Zell and a small happy fist clench from Irvine. I looked around the group. "Yes, I have confirmation, she's alive. So now, we need to get the information out of this guy and he likes to believe he can stay quiet."
Seifer chuckled, "He'll talk real soon."
"Zell, Irvine, hold him down." The two moved and grabbed his arms pinning him down on the couch. The girl was petrified since she had to sit next to him, watching this happen. The man looked a little nervous now that he was being pinned down by Zell and Irvine. I stood up and stepped inside the wooden barriers of the broken coffee table. The crunch of glass could be heard under my feet. I twisted my foot on the group to break it up a little more. I bent down and scooped up a bunch of little pieces in my hand along with one medium sized piece. I stood up and moved my hand around a little to stir the glass in my hand. The man eyed me worriedly as I stared at him with eyes cold as death. "Seifer…open his mouth."
Seifer moved towards the guy who now started to freak out. "W-wait don't…don't!" Seifer grabbed his jaw and forced it open. He stepped to the side to allow me better access.
"You don't wanna speak huh?" I stepped closer to him. "You better speak up quickly or you'll never speak again." I didn't wait for an answer as I slammed my fist full of glass into his mouth. Seifer shut his jaw and kept both hands on it to keep it closed. I grabbed his hair and shook his head around to really mix up the glass. Then I started shouting the questions again. "Who told you to kidnap her! Where did you take her!" I made my voice deep and rough, as I barked into his face. Spit flying freely onto his face. Tears were streaming down his face and his nostrils were flaring to breathe. He was trying hard to get away but with the four of us on him there was no chance. Lindsay next to us was screaming and crying watching this horrific display.
"Where is she!" I screamed in his face. "Tell me or never speak again! Where did you take her! Who told you to kidnap her!" I shook his head more as tears starting streaming down his face. I could see his throat trying not to swallow but it was the body's reaction, it was hard to fight. "Where is she! Who are you working for! Tell me!"
Through all the commotion I could hear a very muffled but desperate 'okay'. We all released him and he began spitting out glass. It didn't take long for him to start coughing and he was seconds away from vomiting but somehow he was able to get under control. There was a fair amount of blood pooling out of his mouth as well. It dripped down his chin and stained his shirt.
"Will you tell me everything I want to know?"
"Yes, yes, I swear, I will." He was still crying and kept spitting, but it was mostly blood as this point.
"Did you kidnap a girl three months ago?"
Things just streamlined from there.
"What did she look like?"
"Black hair, skinny, small, brown eyes."
"Do you know her name?" I questioned.
"Rinoa," He answered. "I saw it in the news the next day."
Zell looked immensely happy hearing these answers and I couldn't blame him. We were finally getting somewhere after three months.
"Why did you do it?" I continued my questioning. "You're drug dealers."
"We were paid," He was calming down but the blood was still dripping from his mouth. I'm glad he didn't swallow much of it or he would've died and we'd be screwed.
He nodded. "More than I've ever seen."
"What was the catch?"
"It had to be done in the next twenty minutes." He chuckled morbidly. "I sounded impossible but it went smoothly. We yanked her from the car and handed her off. We got paid, that was it. We didn't question it."
"Why didn't you take any of the money?"
"What?" He looked at me confused.
"Her purse spilled during the crash, there was literally cash laying right there. It would've taken less than a second. People like you always take extra cash. Why didn't you take it?"
He shook his head. "It was important we follow instructions perfectly. We were nervous, they didn't say take anything else so we didn't."
"Who gave you this job?" I pressed.
"I can't say that." He was breathing funny. "I can't…we'll die."
"You're both dead anyways." I told them seriously. This caused Lindsay to cry harder. "The difference is how you die. Bullet to the head or choking on glass."
Tyler seemed completely out of it to the point where he laughed. "What's the point then right? Fine, it was Tucker Davis. We brought the girl to his house in the suburbs, Sunshine Valley. It's 1180 and it's the only yellow house in that area, you can't miss it. He organized the deal, he has all your answers."
I pulled out my gun and flipped the safety off.
"I don't wanna die," Lindsay cried out. "Please, I won't say anything, I don't wanna die."
I looked at her without waver of my morals. "I've done worse for far less, I'm sorry. You think what we did was bad, if the people who are after us catch you. They will interrogate you for weeks."
She was sobbing with a mixture of snot dripping down her broken bloody nose. I didn't want to torture her anymore so I quickly shot one bullet right into her head. Her body went limp and the deed was done. I wasn't lying, SeeD would find her and torture her far worse than anything I could so. There needed to be no loose ends.
"Hey, tell me one thing," Tyler was passing out. Some of the glass must've gotten down his throat after all. Something was definitely not right with him. I didn't respond which was my way to allow him to speak. "Who is this girl, why did she need to be kidnapped so badly and how come three months after people are still looking for her? And SeeD no less."
"She was General Caraway's daughter." I told him. "But that's not why I'm here." I leaned forward planting the chamber of my handgun against his forehead. "I love her and will not stop until I have her back."
Tyler's eyes were shut but he cracked a smile. "I'm sorry…I really am…I hope…you find her."
I pulled the trigger to make sure he was dead and not just passing out.
"Let's move." I told the group quickly heading towards the door. They followed after me briskly and we hurried down the stairs. We got outside and without anymore words we got into the cars. We went right back to the safe house. I'm not sure about the other car, but no one spoke in mine. We'd wait until the safe house before we made our next move.
When we arrived, we all collapsed either on the couch or in chairs. Seifer told Quistis and Selphie what happened. They were relieved to know Rinoa was alive and that we had a solid lead on where to go next.
"Something isn't adding up," Quistis said. "Why was there such a rush to get Rinoa? That seems weird doesn't it? Previously, we thought they were just thugs, but that didn't make sense because the money and valuables were still laying in the car. Now we know why the money was still there, because they weren't supposed to take anything, I don't know why but whoever told them made it awfully clear to be exact. So we know she was kidnapped for a reason, but it was barely planned. That's why it has amateur look all over it. So why the rush?"
Irvine shrugged, "She was always in Garden or with one of us. Maybe this was the one time she was alone, and they wanted her."
"I guess." Quistis mumbled not really believing that reason so easily.
"I don't know either," I told them. "Honestly, that can all be figured out later. Right now, we know Rinoa's alive and we know where to go next. Tucker Davis orchestrated this operation, we'll ask him. Selphie, I want you to find a computer somewhere and get everything you can on him."
"Yes, Sir," She nodded.
"The suburbs have nosey neighbors; we have to wait until night to break in otherwise someone will surely notice. This gives us time to rest. I suggest we take it, it's been a long day so far and it's only four in the afternoon. We need to get the desired information out of Tucker Davis tonight so we can make out next move before SeeD even starts hunting us. The first thing they'll do is head to the city, just like us. If we can leave it quick enough they may never find our trail. Understand?"
"Yes, Sir." They chorused back to me.
Selphie went out into the city to find a public computer lab. She knew how to remain undetectable from SeeD while still searching for the appropriate subjects we needed. The rest of us preoccupied ourselves with whatever we could find. Time passed slowly but it did pass. After a few hours Selphie returned with printed out pages.
"What you find?" I asked.
"Tucker Davis is interesting, that's for sure." She passed out all the printed copies. Girl was smart enough to make six copies of everything for each person. "First and foremost, he's technically a real estate agent, but he makes way too much money for that. He has many shady dealings but for some reason, he gets away with them all, he must be well connected. He is kinda the small mob boss in these parts. He has his fingers in everything, from drugs, to what we're interested in – kidnappings. Of course this is all rumor, since there is no proof, but there should be proof. If I found stuff this easily, without even accessing SeeD software. Then he should be behind bars years ago. We have to be careful with him, we can't piss off whoever he's working for or we'll be running from SeeD and whoever else."
"This makes sense," Quistis flipped a few pages. "Random thugs don't kidnap people, but if someone bigger is behind this, he'd know all about Rinoa being Caraway's daughter. He could have her followed, known her schedule, wait for her to be alone, and strike. It makes sense why the timeframe was so small. Tucker contacting Tyler and them instantly must mean Tucker was waiting for such a call. He had people lined up just in case."
"This also raises problems," Seifer added. "Bigger people behind the scenes makes sense, but it also means just that. Bigger fish we'll have to deal with. It could cause problems."
"It doesn't matter who we deal with." I told them all heatedly, making sure they understood. "We are finding Rinoa, I don't care if we have to burn this world down in the process."
"We're with you brother, don't worry." Seifer nodded.
"Everyone get something to eat and let's get some sleep." I told them. "It's five o'clock right now, we'll move after midnight. Pack your gear now, we won't come back to this location again. Once we get the location on where Rinoa is, we're going directly there. That's why sleep now is important, we may be awake for the next twenty four hours."
"Hey, we all passed the seventy-two hour no sleep exam, right?" Zell laughed. "We can all work sleep deprived.
"Still try and get sleep," I told them sincerely. "Trust me, I know how bad things can get."
"Yes, Sir." They all told me.
"Also, Seifer you got anything for headaches?" He created the safe house he'd know if there was any.
"Got a headache?" He asked.
"No, I just asked for-"
"Don't be an asshole," He grimaced cutting me off and standing up. "Yeah, I got something, let me find it."
I took the medicine as soon as I got it, the pain in my head never seemed to go away. People busied themselves with tasks for a while until one-by-one we started falling asleep. The girls shared the bed, Irvine took the couch, Zell slept on the floor not caring, Seifer and I both were in chairs. We were completely capable of sleeping in uncomfortable wooden chairs. Hell, we can fall asleep standing up. We've had to do it before on missions, so sitting in these chairs wouldn't stop us.
Once the hours grew later, the room was filled with a mixture of rhythmic breathing and the occasional snore by Zell. I was the last one awake. I made sure my team got rest before me. I looked over them all, happy they were with me on this. It meant a lot how much they trusted me. They were my one true family in this world, but it was empty since Rinoa was gone. Once I get her back, we'd be complete again.
I looked over at Seifer to see his head tipped far back with his mouth open. It made me smile despite of everything going on. Some things just never change. But the smile quickly vanished as I hated the night. It was the time when dreams mixed with reality, when the planes of lies and truths crossed, the flicker of a shadow, the unknown noise sounding in the distant. The thin hours of a day, the time I hated the most. Night always plagued me with horrible images of what I thought Rinoa was going through. What terrible things she had to experience as I was sitting here doing nothing. Did she scream out my name when the monsters did their sick acts on her? Did she fight them or eventually give up and accept her fate? Did she plead to God for me to save her or did she think I was never coming? It was sickening to think about.
I shut my eyes trying to empty my mind and I felt something on my lap. I opened my eyes and Rinoa was there, sitting on my lap, smiling delicately at me. "Hey baby." She greeted wrapping her arms around me.
"Hey." I whispered back. "I miss you."
"I always wanted to hear you say that to me," She smiled softly, "I guess I finally got the chance."
"Why would you ever want to hear me say that?" I asked her curiously. My hands ran up and down her arms, feeling her essence near me again. The ambiance that she brought with her, how warm it felt. I haven't felt this warm in so long, everything was cold when she wasn't around. It was dark, bitter, and unforgiving. But her smile put that all aside.
She giggled slightly, "Meanie, you know why. I always wanted to know you loved me."
"Of course I do." I told her seriously wrapping my arm tightly around her.
She played with my hair. "I love you to, you know that right."
"I know baby, I do." I couldn't look away from her calm chocolate eyes. The soothing ability of her presence was memorizing. Was this what my life was life before she was gone? Did I feel like this all the time? I felt like an addict taking a hit every time she came near. But I knew in the back of my mind…she wasn't really here.
"Will you find me?" She placed both her hands on my face, bringing her lips close to mind.
"I will." I promised her.
"Find me, Squall." Her lips delicately graced mine and I could feel them. I could really feel them. But when I opened my eyes, she was gone. In her place was a dark, cold room. The warm glow washed away as a new chilling sensation overtook me. It was so depressing. No one understands what it feels like to be lifted so high, to have such a wondrous feeling overtake me, and then come crashing back to reality. It was beastly cruel to feel such a pain.
"What was that?" My head snapped to see Seifer staring at me.
"Nothing." I quickly answered. A guilt swelled inside me like I was caught stealing. "A bad dream. Sorry to wake you."
Seifer didn't buy that for a second. "You weren't dreaming and I wasn't asleep."
"What?" I gave him a confused look. "I saw you…your head was tipped back, you were fast asleep."
"That never happened," He assured me, his eyes narrowing in confusion. "We made eye contact like a minute ago, I gave you a nod, but you ignored me. Now I know why. Did you just…see Rinoa?"
"It was a dream." I stood firm.
"You weren't asleep." He didn't back down either. "Are you having hallucinations?"
"What? No." I told him strongly. "I'm not crazy."
"I'm not saying you are." He backed off slightly but not for long. "But I know you haven't been sleeping well, things happen. I just wanna know if you just saw Rinoa."
"No, I didn't." I shot back.
"Damn it Squall!" Seifer raised his voice but stopped himself. He looked at Irvine to see him still asleep on the couch before continuing quieter. "You said it was a dream, that meant you saw her, but it wasn't a dream. So it must've been a hallucination."
"Well it wasn't, so I don't know what to tell you." I recoiled finding my position very grim.
"I know why you don't want to admit it, I understand."
"Why's that?" I questioned but I already knew the answer. I didn't want it going there…it couldn't go there.
Seifer leaned forward and took a moment to compose himself. "…was the call real?"
"How could you fucking ask that?" I angrily hissed in a whisper.
"I need to know."
"Oh, will you leave me?"
"No, I will follow you anywhere." He replied honestly. "If you wanna make…I don't know…fucking snowmen in Trabia, I'll do that with you. But I want to know what's really going inside your head."
"Nothing is," crossed my arms and straightened in my chair. "Now get some sleep, we are making our move in a couple hours."
Luckily that was the end of it, he didn't press the topic anymore, and I was glad because honestly…I was afraid at where it might lead.
"Nida, Xu, good to see you." Cid stepped into his office. The two SeeDs were standing at attention at his desk. He put down two folders on the desk. "Sorry to call you back from your two ongoing missions, these folders contain your new mission."
"You said it was an emergency, Sir?" Xu asked.
"It is, as of eight hundred this morning, Squall and his squad have gone rouge." Cid informed them as he sat in his chair. "At ease." The two SeeDs put their hands behind their back and feet a foot apart.
"Rouge?" Nida was shocked. "Are you sure? Why?"
"Leonhart has officially lost his mind." Cid looked at them seriously. "He is convinced Rinoa Heartily is still alive."
"She was taken three months ago." Xu said.
"Exactly," Cid pointed to her and then back to Nida. "He's lost it, personally I can't blame him, but that doesn't mean he can go rouge. In fact, it means he's even more dangerous. Who knows what he might do."
"His squad went with him?" Xu inquired.
"He tricked them into believing him." Cid answered.
"They probably followed them on their own free will." Nida remarked.
"Excuse me?" Cid gave Nida a serious look.
"What I mean Sir, is that I hope my squad would follow me to the ends of the world, no matter what I told them. His Squad – Double J-E – is known for being undeniably loyal to Squall. It's not shocking to see them follow him."
"You raise a good point," Cid admitted. "Nevertheless, they need to be hunted down. I hate to give this order. I was hoping that the squad would be able to change Leonhart's mind, but after what you just said. It's clear they'll follow him to wherever he goes, which can be no place good. They need to be stopped. You two know them the best and are among the highest SeeD ranks."
"Yes Sir." Xu saluted.
"Respectfully Sir," Nida was hesitating. "Double J-E has the best SeeDs in the world…to hunt them down isn't as easy as you say. They have hidden safe houses all over the world, one's kept secret from SeeD. They have contingency plans for this very situation of SeeD betraying them."
"They betrayed us!" Cid exclaimed. "Don't you dare think they are in the right!"
"No Sir, sorry Sir!" Nida quickly apologized loudly. "That was not my intent. I was simply implying that it's hard enough to find them, but once that happens. Restraining them will be next to impossible. All are extremely skilled plus Zell Dincht is the greatest close-quarters-combat expert…in the world. I've seen him fight with his hands bound, I'm not refusing this mission. I just want you to understand you're aware of what it actually means."
"If Zell can fight without his hands," Xu interjected. "Then we'll wrap chains around him." She gave Nida a look suggesting 'stop talking'. Nida sighed, Xu was always like this, a suck up to authority.
"You don't have to restrain them," Cid stood up and walked around his desk. "Do you understand?"
"The procedure of rogue SeeDs is to apprehend them and submit them to trial." Nida quickly answered.
"Yes, but there's also a claim that if they become too violent, it's acceptable to put them down." Cid placed a hand on both their shoulders. "Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Yes Sir!" Xu answered like a true SeeD.
"Y-Yes Sir." Nida anwered with a slow salute.
He understood the need to retrain a rogue SeeD but Cid wasn't ordering that. He was putting a kill order on the entire team.
"Can I ask one last thing, Sir?" Nida asked expecting to be shut down.
Cid seemed wiry, "…Go ahead."
"Why now? Why is he suddenly going after her again?"
"He thinks she called him last night." Cid answered.
"Well…did she?" Nida questioned.
Cid narrowed his eyes. "I don't like your attitude SeeD. No, she did not call, there is no record on his phone, and Tilmitt could not find any record of a phone call after thirty minutes of trying."
"It could've been an unknown number, sometimes that happens." Nida said it offhandedly, something just wasn't right.
"The only thing you need to know, is what I order you to do. Do you understand?"
"Yes, Sir." Nida saluted, he pushed his luck far enough.
"Take your orders," Cid handed the two SeeDs the folders. "Dismissed."
Nida quickly left the room and opened his folder. A SeeDs worst nightmare was to hunt down another SeeD. Every SeeD knew that if their friend went rogue, it would be up to them to bring that friend back, because they knew the most about them. Nida wasn't too close with Squall's squad, but he was the closest besides Xu, plus his track record, it only made sense he'd be assigned this. Not that he liked it, hunting another SeeD felt like betraying everything he stood for. He opened up the folder to see a picture of Squall staring back at him.
Hunting a rogue SeeD was one thing…hunting Squall Leonhart was totally different. For one…no one hunts Squall Leonhart. One can think they're hunting him, but in reality, he's the one hunting.
Nida ran a tired hand through his hair, "damn this suck."
"What do you want?" Tucker shouted from the chair he was duck-taped too.
I stood in front of him with my gun hanging lazily in my hand. Everything went according to plan. It was just a little after midnight when we reached the suburbs he lived in. We were careful to sneak into his house, which is simple compared to the hundreds of other security covered hideouts we snuck into in the past on SeeD missions. We were positive no one saw us, because we waited for twenty minutes watching out the windows, ready to make a break for it if we had to. We found Tucker on the couch, it was easy to force him into a wooden kitchen chair and duck-tape him too it. The only part that we didn't expect…his family. I don't know how Selphie missed it, just too obvious I suppose. I looked to my right to see his wife and two children on their knees. The kids looked to both be around age five, one boy and one girl. They were in bed but we couldn't leave them there, in case they heard something and came downstairs. It would traumatize them, but I couldn't take the risk of a kid calling the police. They were petrified, with good reason. They clung to their mother for protection she could not provide. Selphie and Quistis stood behind them, making sure they didn't move. Seifer was behind me, also in front of Tucker. Zell and Irvine stood behind Tucker, facing towards me.
"I have money, you want it, take it." He was angry. I could deal with him being angry but it would've been much better if he was scared.
"We don't want your money," I told him. I grabbed a chair from the kitchen table and dragged it over to the living room, which is where we were. I placed it in front of him, now only a coffee table stood between us.
"Then what? Drugs, you can have that too."
"What if we were cops, you just admitted to the procession of drugs." I spoke calmly fixing my jacket as I sat in the chair.
"You obviously aren't." He drawled out. "So just tell me what you want, so you can get out of my house."
"That's good," I crossed one leg over the other and sat relaxed. "I want information, you tell me what I want to know, and we're gone. You'll never see us again."
He seemed surprised by this. He gave me a curious look. "What information?"
"A kidnapping three months ago."
His eyes lit up instantly. "No, no, I can't, I'm sorry."
"So you know what I'm talking about?"
"Of course, fucking Tyler led you to me, oh I'm gonna kill him."
"Don't worry, he's dead."
Tucker for the first time looked at me with some fear. "You?"
"Of course," I replied evenly. "Don't underestimate us, or you'll end up dead too."
"Then do it." He shrugged the best he could while duck-taped to a chair. "If I tell you about that night, I'm dead anyways."
"So there was someone bigger behind the scenes."
"Of course, massive people that will fuck you up. You are in so far over your head." Tucker wasn't being silent that was good but he was also fairly cryptic.
"Do you know who they took?" My first real question and he seemed hesitation to answer. I switched legs and crossed the other one. "Did you know…who they took?" I repeated.
"Yes, okay, yes." His hands moved like he was trying to throw his arms outwards but again…the tape stopped him. "She was Rinoa Heartily, the daughter of General Caraway."
"You what?" his wife gasped from the ground to my right.
"Shut up!" He shouted at her. "You wanna know what paid for this house and our life? Shit like that okay, don't belittle me now. You knew and pretended otherwise."
"Shut up." My voice was calm but strong and it was enough to silence them both. I looked at Tucker, "Do you know if she's alive?"
"How the hell should I know?" He looked at me like I was an idiot.
I moved on since I already knew the answer to the last question, I was just trying to get a general understanding of how much Tucker knew "How much did you get?"
"Don't make me talk about it, please, they'll kill me."
"I'll kill you." I reassured him. "You can live through tonight and worry about tomorrow, or die tonight and have no tomorrow."
"Three million gil, okay! You happy!" He exclaimed. "These two shady guys in all black, appeared in my home with a briefcase full of money. They said, 'this is all yours if you can kidnap the girl in the next hour.' So I did it, I didn't know who the girl was until later. When someone gives you three million gil you don't ask questions. I don't even know who those guys were, I still don't."
"You never tried to find out?"
"Of course I did, I looked to see who I just dealt with. They found me before I even came close to uncovering them. They put a gun in my mouth and told me if they found me snooping around one more time, they'd kill me. I took that warning pretty seriously and never tried finding them again. They also told me they were watching and keeping me safe as well." That explains how he wasn't arrested yet, someone high up liked him, even if Tucker didn't know it. "So I don't know who ordered me to do it, sorry, no help to you there."
"Then why are you so afraid they'll come after me if you talk to me? You don't know who they are." My questions were all for a reason and they were all leading somewhere.
"Because I know they're watching me. I just know it, they're too good to get caught, but that doesn't mean they don't have this placed bugged or me followed. I'm not saying anymore, or I'm a goner. They know I haven't said anything bad yet, so this is it. I'm sorry, I don't know what relationship you had with the girl, I'm sorry she's gone, but she is, okay? Leave now before we're all dead."
"I'm not leaving." I told him truly. "Not until you tell me where they took her."
"I. Don't. Know." He spoke slowly and loudly. "Get it through your head. Tyler brought her here, I gave him sixty thousand gil, he left. The two guys took her, and they left, that's it."
"There's more." I pressed. "There's always more, you're leaving stuff out."
"I'm done." He shook his head. "That's it, if I'm alive tomorrow I'll be amazed. So kill me now, whatever, I don't care. I don't know anything, you need info that I don't have. What are you gonna do? Shoot me? That won't get you anywhere. It's your move buster."
"Last guy who didn't talk swallowed a mouth full of glass." I menacingly informed him.
"Go for it." He opened his mouth wide. "I'll shallow that shit in a second."
I smirked and it surprised him. He expected this to make me hesitate but I was already ten steps ahead. I stood up slowly and readjusted my grip on the gun. "You will tell me everything I want to know. You will give me a better description of the guys who were here, and exactly what they told you. Down to every last detail."
"I won't." He shook his head slowly. "I've been tortured before you know. Both my knees were broke to a loan shark, so really, you don't scare me."
I openly laughed at that. "You don't have the slightest clue who I am, if you did, you'd be wetting yourself right now. Those big people who paid you, they are small fish compared to me. The things I've done in my life would give people nightmares. It would mess with their mind so much they'd end up in an insane asylum."
"So what are you? A serial killer?" Tucker laughed.
"I guarantee that's the last time you laugh tonight." I smiled wickedly at him, my SeeD training taking over. I pointed my gun at his family on their knees to my right. They all stared at me with frightened eyes. The mother held her children close whispering false words of comfort into their ears. "Start talking or things are going to get very bad."
He looked nervous for a second before calming down. "My wife is planning on divorcing me, so go ahead. Shoot her, I'll keep the kids and the house. You'll do me a favor." I wasn't sure if he was bluffing or being serious but it didn't really matter to me.
I gave him an iniquitous grin, "I never said I was starting with your wife."
He gave me the strongest a horrified expression I have ever seen.
I briskly moved over and grabbed the little girl by her hair. Her mother tried to fight me but Selphie pulled her away. The little girl was screaming in a high shrill for her mother. I dragged her over to the coffee table and put her face down. Her small face was pressing into the hardwood of the table as she kept crying for her mother. Her tears were dripping onto the table as she squirmed to get away. I kept a firm hand of her hair in my left hand as I pressed the end of my handgun to her skull.
"Who were the two men!" I screamed.
Tucker laughed, which surprised me. "You won't kill a child."
I raised my eyebrows, "Are you sure?"
"Just tell him!" his wife cried out with tears streaming down her face.
"Shut up!" Tucker ordered her. He looked back at me. "He won't shoot a child, no one kills children."
"I can kill your daughter to prove I mean business, then use your son as leverage. You're really willing to take that risk." I laughed menacingly. "Really? You're risking your daughter's life on a gut feeling."
He shrugged. "You won't do it, I know you won't."
"We aren't the good guys!" I screamed at him.
"Obviously." He sarcastically answered which angered me greatly.
"Who were the two guys!" I shouted. "Tell me, I swear I'll do it!" I pressed the gun harder into the child causing her to scream more.
Tucker smirked, "You suck at bluffing."
"You just killed your daughter, understand that." And I pulled the trigger. The shot rang out catching everyone in the room off guard. Tucker's face was pure horrid shock as he stared at me. His wife was sobering loudly and through her sobs she was screaming her daughter's name. Everyone in the room was frozen and staring at me, shocked that I pulled the trigger. I meant business and I warned everyone how ugly this could get. They didn't believe me by how frozen everyone in the room was. The only one who wasn't frozen was Seifer, whose reflexes were swift enough to push my hand a few inches to the left causing the bullet to sail harmlessly into the wood next to the girls head. The girl was crying even louder because the deafening shot scared her even more.
"Get off me!" I shoved Seifer away.
"Holy shit!" Tucker screamed, trying hard to free himself from the chair. "You actually shot!"
"Do you think I'm bluffing now?" I put the gun back to the girl's head. "Who were the two men!"
"Tell him, please!" His wife sobbed.
"I don't know!" Tucker was finally starting to lose himself.
"I don't believe you!" I yelled.
"I swear, I don't! I really don't!" Tucker was pleading with me now.
"Tell me everything about them!" I barked so loud spit flew from my mouth. "What they looked like, how tall they were, if they had accents. Everything!"
"They were average looking!" Tucker was starting to cry. Good, he realized I meant business. "Nothing stood out, I swear. They kept sunglasses on the entire time. One had blonde hair, one had brown. The blonde's nose looked broken. I-I don't know, okay, I really don't!"
I pulled the gun back from the child's head and released her. The little girl ran back to her mother who embraced her tightly sobbing. I sat back down in my chair. "I'm now going to ask you questions, you are going to answer, or I will shoot your daughter."
"Okay, okay, I promise I will, just leave them alone." He was relaxing somewhat now that my gun wasn't to his daughter's head.
"What did they say exactly?"
"Okay, okay." Tucker took a couple breaths. "They just appeared in the house and told me. To kidnap the girl for money, just like I said. Then we sat at the kitchen table and didn't speak. Whenever there was a phone call for one of them, they would leave and go off somewhere. I don't know, they didn't let me hear anything."
"What did they say exactly," I hissed. "They didn't say 'kidnap the girl' I want to hear everything."
"They said that a girl who worked at Garden, with black hair and brown eyes, driving a four seated blue car that would be alone from the time she left Garden to the drive to Balamb city. If we could kidnap her in that time, I got the money. The only rule was to not touch anything but her bracelet and her. Tyler managed to pull it off, he brought the girl back here and that was it."
My entire attention perked up. "…what bracelet?"
"You mentioned a bracelet!" I screamed. "What bracelet!"
"I-I don't know," He stuttered. "They said, she had a bracelet on her wrist, make sure it was there when you took her." He was searching me for answers. "I remember seeing it, because I remember thinking it wasn't worth much so I don't know why they mentioned it specifically."
"Of course it wasn't." I pressed a frustrated hand against my face. "It wasn't worth more than twenty gil."
"What's going on?" Seifer asked from behind me. "What did you just realize?"
"Later." I growled and moved back to Tucker. "See, one little word and I discovered something. I want to hear everything. When Rinoa came here, what did the two men do?"
"One walked away to make a phone call." Tucker explained quickly. "I'm sure he was alerting his boss they had the girl."
"You didn't hear what he said?"
"No, no, I swear."
"Are you lying?" I raised my gun.
"No! I'm not!" He cried out.
"I heard what he said."
I looked over at the wife. "You heard?"
She nodded nervously, trying to stop her tears. "They kept walking passed my room to make calls. I knew Tucker was making some deal so I always stay in my room. I ignored them because I didn't want to hear something unnecessary, but this time the guy spoke loudly as he walked passed my door. It didn't make sense to me so I didn't care, but now..."
"What was it? What did he say?" I was growing excited, I tried hard to remain calm.
"He said, 'the letter has arrived with the correct postage. We will deliver her to the anthill now'."
"Those are the exact words?" My eyes were wide and my mouth slightly agape in shock.
"Yes, I promise, I remember it clearly." She was nodding eagerly.
"Oh fuck." I cursed and looked at Quistis. The horrified look on her face meant she understood exactly what I did. "Damn it!" I exclaimed slamming my fist on the arm of the chair. "We need to leave now."
"B-but…why?" Quistis questioned towards me.
"I don't know, but not now." I stood up and pointed my gun towards Tucker. "I would shoot you but you deserve worse than that. I'll let the people who gave you the deal take care of you, it will be far worse than what I could ever do."
"Oh no," He started crying. "I knew it man, I fucking knew it."
I looked at his wife. "Get to Esthar, that's your best bet, they operate less there."
"Who did it? Who ordered the kidnapping?" Tucker asked me. "Can you at least tell me who I'm running from?"
"No, enjoy your torment." I wickedly smirked and made my way to their door, my squad at my heels.
We all got outside and quickly moved towards the cars. I lagged behind walking at a slower pace trying to decipher what I just uncovered.
"Damn, when Squall shot I really thought he was going to kill the girl," Irvine told Zell. "Didn't know Seifer and him planned that."
"I know, scared me to death." Zell laughed.
Seifer hung back with me to allow the other's a little distance before grabbing me by the collar. "If you ever try and kill a little girl again, I'll shoot you myself. Do you understand?" He whispered harshly into my ear.
"I knew you'd stop me." I remarked hotly in his face.
"Did you?" He released me and walked ahead.
I was too afraid to answer that question…
"So where are we headed?" Selphie asked. "I didn't really know what was going on in there." She looked at Quistis. "Why…Quistis, are you okay?"
"No I'm not okay!" Quistis exclaimed loudly.
"Quiet!" I hissed. "This is a neighborhood, we need to leave now. Selphie, Irvine, Zell go in one car. Seifer, Quistis, and I will take the other. Head to Alcauld Woods."
"That's east of Garden." Zell looked confused.
"Yes, that's where we're going." I placed my hand on Quistis shoulder. "We'll figure this out, alright? We have a long car ride ahead of us, we'll talk it all out."
"Squall, seriously, tell us what's going on." Irvine pleaded. "Do you know who took Rinoa?"
"Yes." I looked down at the ground, my mind cranking hard to make sense of everything I just learned. I took a breath and looked him in the eye. "SeeD."