With a frustrated growl, Seifer kicked off the sheets which had been resting innocently along his body, and then grabbed the loose covering to toss the material onto the floor. Almost instantly he regretted the move as cool autumn air contacted with his body, but the large man stubbornly remained on the mattress top while warm blankets were left on the ground. Sighing at his childish actions, Seifer folded his arms behind his head and stared up at the dark ceiling barely lit by the lanterns outside the window.
"This is pathetic," the large man murmured to himself, just before closing his eyes in another futile attempt to sleep.
It was the third night that week he had been forced to sleep alone, or rather, the third night Seifer had remained awake while lying in bed, unable to get comfortable without the presence of his seer. In addition, the reason for Squall’s absence didn’t help to ease his mind, the brunet adamant with his belief that he could harm the Hero at any moment. And so, Squall continued to sleep in the church while Seifer was forced to spend his nights in the guest room of the Loire house.
The days were better, Seifer not allowing the seer one moment of peace to make up for the long nights, but the silence of the blind man was upsetting to the blond no matter how hard he tried to hide it. At times the tension became so much that he felt like grabbing onto the vial resting on his chest and using its power to command Squall to speak, but that urge itself disturbed Seifer more than the troubling quiet of the seer.
Pulling the necklace out from his shirt, the blond stared at the small jar which seemed to glow a soft red in the darkness. Smirking, Seifer thought about the seer’s embarrassed blush when he had stated that the addition of ‘ejaculate’ to the container represented his feelings for the Hero. For that brief moment, Squall had appeared young and innocent, but the flushed expression had quickly passed when blood was added to finalize the odd mix in the glass jar. Fingering the intricate runes of the vial, Seifer noted the warmth of the container, something that could have been attributed to contact with his skin, but the fighter could feel the innate power of the jar. It was a sickening energy, but the essence of Squall was also there, overwhelming the negative power with the unique calmness that the seer possessed.
Interrupting his examination of the jar, a quiet creak of wood alerted the fighter to someone’s presence. Not moving except to place the necklace back under his shirt, Seifer stared at the closed doorway to his room, wishing that he had the ability to see through walls, or at least be able to sense the intention of the visitor. Stiff with readiness, though hoping he would appear asleep at first glance, Seifer focused on the single door to the room, watching as the doorknob turned and softly clicked.
The door was slow to open, the person either uncertain about entering or else waiting to determine if the inhabitant was asleep or not. Seifer stilled his breath as his heart began to beat with rapid anticipation, and then narrowed his eyes further while waiting for the entrance of the intruder. After several long seconds, the door opened smoothly and without sound, the revealed sight making green eyes widen with delighted surprise. But Seifer quickly chose to say nothing to his unexpected visitor, and instead smirked with a wondering edge to the curl of lips.
Not moving from his position, Squall stood at the doorway with his hand firm on the doorknob and his expression one of intense concentration. Seifer nearly commented on the apparently torturous thought process, but his voice was stolen from him when he noticed a knife held in the brunet’s other hand. Lost in disbelief, Seifer was unable to move as he watched his seer step haltingly into the room and move to the bedside. The knife was slowly raised into a striking position, but it was the sight of tears slipping from cloudy eyes which finally made Seifer act as he launched from the mattress and tackled the smaller man to the ground. Slim wrists were promptly trapped in the fighter’s strong grasp, but not before Squall scored a minor slash along the man’s cheek.
"Fuck, that hurt, kitten. What the hell do you think you’re doing?"
Squall closed his eyes tightly as if in pain, but before Seifer could question the brunet, the man bit out the beginning words to a spell. Recognizing the incantation, the fighter released his hold on the blind man and quickly rolled to the side just as air condensed around the seer and shot upward in a wind attack.
"Are you crazy? You know that magic—" Seifer’s words ended abruptly as sharp green eyes widened at the sight of the magical attack impossibly changing course in midair and refocusing its direction toward the fighter once more. Cursing, the blond leaned to the side, but not fast enough as the weakening spell struck his upper arm. Pressing a hand against the resulting deep wound, Seifer stared with surprise at the seer. "How the hell did you do that? You never taught me how to redirect magic like that."
Not responding, the seer sat up from the floor and held a hand against his forehead in a limp position. But with that new angle, Seifer had a clear view of the man’s arm covered by the thin white material of his shirt.
Green eyes narrowing with suspicion, Seifer asked, "Why aren’t you injured?"
A bitter smirk sharp with pain formed at the question. "I can hurt you," Squall stated, the whispered reply followed by a loud gasp as his hand grasped harder at thick hair.
"Huh, that probably would’ve been good information to have beforehand," the fighter muttered, hoping that the seer would retort with the obvious comment that, in the past, Squall had repeatedly warned that the Hero was weak against the Protector. But there was no such reply. Instead, the brunet leaned forward until his chest pressed against bent knees.
The blind man muttered against his legs, a pleading "... don't want to..." being the only phrase discernable to the fighter.
"Then don’t," Seifer stated angrily. "You’re stronger than that bitch. Why the hell are you listening to her commands in the first place?"
Squall didn’t reply vocally, but his free hand reached out toward the blond, giving his lover a moment of hope until the hand drifted along the wood floor in search of his lost knife. The sight crushed something within Seifer as he watched the blind man feel along the ground, his shaking hand no where near the fallen blade. He wanted Squall to fight the sorceress' powers himself, to break the woman's curse with hardly any effort. It was an unreasonable standard to hold, but Seifer didn't want to believe the man in front of him was anything but perfect. He knew it was childish, but Squall had become more than a protector and advisor, more than a confidant and lover. He was...
Abruptly, the graceful hand snapped to the left, long fingers grasping onto the hilt of the silver knife before Squall launched forward to attack the distracted blond. Seifer had no time to react as the smaller man shoved him to the ground and his skull knocked hard against unforgiving wood. Blinking away blurry vision, Seifer stared up with wide green eyes at the brunet straddling over him. Squall was shaking from strain, the knife he had stabbed into the floor next to Seifer's head occasionally pressing against the fighter's cheek with a chilling touch.
"Stop me, bastard," the seer hissed as a single tear dropped onto the blond's face. "Stop... me..."
In a fast move, Squall grabbed both of the necklaces around the Hero's throat and twisted the silver chains into a painful choke hold. "I gave you this for a reason!"
Seifer didn't have to fight out of the strangle hold as the seer cried out with pained rage and shoved off from the larger man to stumble backward until he was stopped by a wall. His strength gone, the blind man slid down the wall and slumped into cramped huddle which reminded the blond of a terrified child. Green eyes not leaving the brunet, Seifer sat up slowly and grasped the small jar resting on his chest while trying to ignore the dark energy contained within.
"Then fight her. Don't listen to her commands."
Squall shivered violently at the order, a quiet keening noise escaping him as he curled into a tighter ball with his hands clawing into dark hair. Concerned, Seifer stood with the intent to approach the seer, but then paused at the sight of dark liquid slipping from the man's ear.
"Too much... her magic..."
Fisting his hand tight around the trei-pernula jarre, Seifer frowned at the words he didn't want to hear. In the previous days, Squall had warned the blond that the sorceress' magic could be too strong depending on the type of spell she used to bind the seer. Given that scenario, the blind man wanted to be removed as a factor in the coming fight by being placed into a deep sleep where only Seifer could reach him with the command to wake. Immediately the Hero had argued against such a 'solution'. Not only would the seer be extremely vulnerable in that unresponsive state, he would also be unable to treat any of his injuries caused by redirected magical attacks. And of course, if something were to happen to Seifer while faced against a powerful enemy, Squall would not wake again in this world. For a full day, Seifer had ranted and raved at the silent seer for even suggesting the option, but in the end, Squall had won the argument with the cheap words, "You owe me this."
Kneeling next to his seer, Seifer cupped the man's chin so that he could look into stormy eyes. "Listen to me, Squall. Listen to only my voice."
Instantly Squall relaxed, but there was a deadness to his eyes as he awaited the coming command, a deadness Seifer would never forget after the first time he controlled the brunet with the cursed object in his hand.
"I want you to sleep for awhile. I'll wake you when the time is right, but until then, you are to sleep. Understood?"
The man blinked slowly, his only response.
Kissing the seer's temple, Seifer commanded softly, "Go to sleep, kitten. I promise to wake you soon."
Squall slumped forward against the larger man, but didn't fall immediately to sleep as his hand clutched onto the fighter's torn shirt sleeve. The blond inhaled sharply when a rush of healing magic flooded through his arm and instantly closed the deep slash previously caused by the seer. His final task done, Squall succumbed fully to the command to sleep with a sigh against the fighter's chest.
Dazed from the unexpected touch of intense magic, Seifer wasted several moments in recovery before he noticed the burning ache in his hand. Gingerly he released his tight hold on the trei-pernula jarre and leaned back so that he could wrap his arms beneath the unconscious man and lift him off the cold floor. Once placing the smaller man on the mattress, Seifer stared at the young man lost in sleep and swallowed hard while trying to hold back his nausea at what he had done to his lover. It was inexcusable to reduce the willful man to nothing more than a mere puppet, and yet, Seifer knew the blind man had forgiven him for worse things. And so, as he stroked his finger along a pale cheek, the fighter pushed his guilt aside and allowed a heated rage to build up toward the woman who forced him to honor Squall's request.
Maintaining enough calm to cover the seer with blankets from the floor, Seifer then dressed in dark leather armor and retrieved the weapons which would best protect him against the sorceress and her pets. Returning to the bedside, the Hero bent down to claim pale lips in a rough kiss, the light taste of his seer's blood from bitten flesh stirring his anger further and making him groan in excitement. Standing straight, Seifer watched the man carefully to be certain he didn't accidentally wake him, but when Squall didn't open his eyes or lick away the blood sluggishly pooling at his lower lip, the fighter was satisfied that only his voice would wake the beauty from his sleep.
Resisting a final look at the unconscious man, Seifer left the guest room and softly closed the door behind him. It was darker in the hallway, but as he walked downstairs and to the front door, the blond noticed that his vision was shifting to a familiar silver hue. Sneering, Seifer mentally warned his unwanted inhabitant that the coming battle was his and he wouldn't allow the god control over his body. A whispering laugh seemed to sound in reply, but the soft echo was quickly drowned out by a gust of wind from outside.
Stepping over the threshold into cool autumn air, Seifer halted on the narrow porch as the front door closed behind him with a loud creak. Green eyes shifted slowly as he casually eyed the length of the town's main street, looking for any sign of the soon-to-be-dead beldame. While there was no one in plain view, Seifer knew the sorceress had to be nearby to control the seer. But having no other clue to go by, the fighter rested a hand on the hilt of his sword and stepped in the direction opposite of the Church of Hyne.
Being late into the night, the village was quiet as a ghost town, only the crunch of slow footsteps on dirt and the occasional gust of wind breaking the oppressive silence. It was different than the larger cities and their numerous bars which would stay open at all hours to entertain the everyday drunkards. But tonight, the stifling quiet didn't distract Seifer as he searched for his prey with his altered sight.
Eventually his steady pace slowed to a stop and the blond turned to look at a small house he vaguely remembered from the past. It was different at night, but the wide deck with its pots of flowers and an old porch swing brought back memories of a small boy and an elegant woman, the same woman who was now staring at the Hero with shining eyes of gold.
"Welcome home, boy," the sorceress said with a rough voice and a deceptive smile.
"This isn't my home."
"Oh? Then you don't remember the long nights when I treated your wounds and nursed you back to health? Have you forgotten when you asked me if you could stay here forever? That would be highly disrespectful of you."
"That wasn't you," Seifer replied in a deadened tone. While partly relieved Squall had thought to worn him about Edea, the blond wasn't prepared for new memories to spark to life with the golden-eyed woman's presence. With thoughts of the consoling woman also came vague images of his mother and father, both in their true forms and when they were controlled by magic. It was difficult to push those memories aside, but the painful thoughts were quickly overwhelmed with a dark desire for revenge against the beldame who was a constant threat against his search for happiness.
Standing from her seat, the sorceress moved with a seductive grace to lean against the porch rail. "Despite the upsetting conclusion to our last meeting, I have decided to offer you my allegiance a final time. Will you reconsider your previous decision, young knight?"
Seifer smirked and let the ring of his drawn blade be his reply to the question.
Golden eyes narrowed with disappointment. "Why do you choose to follow the path designed by a cruel god? Is it because of his hostage, the Protector?"
"Foolish boy," the sorceress said with a pitying smile. "With the powers of the Holy Goddess, you can free that man from the clutches of Hyne. Is that not what you desire, to save your precious seer from his cursed vision and immortal life?"
While that was exactly his desire, Seifer wasn't swayed by the manipulative tongue of the sorceress, her deep prejudices against the seer tainting her words with a hatred that made the fighter shift into a defensive stance.
The golden-eyed woman straightened with a weary sigh. "Very well."
Seifer stiffened as the sorceress disappeared, the fast travel of her energy felt by the fighter, but his body was unable to meet that speed as she moved behind him. A light touch rested on his shoulder, the contact igniting a dark flame before Seifer could move away from the powerful sorceress. Dropping to the ground, the large man rolled several meters until he realized that the magical flames had disappeared. Moving to a kneeling position, he examined his body to find his skin unharmed, but his chest armor and shirt were gone.
"So, this is how that man chose to protect you. Interesting..."
Seifer reacted immediately to the voice, the sorceress somehow behind him once more. In the same motion of rising to his feet, the fighter twisted his body and held out his sword with an extended hand. However, the wide arc of the blade failed to meet its mark, the woman further back than Seifer had anticipated.
Darkly colored lips curled into an amused smile. "I know your tricks now, boy. You won't be able to surprise me this time around." As the sorceress spoke those words, pieces of stone slowly lifted from the ground around her, the hard rock shifting into crude arrow-like shafts. "I have two choices, really. One is to simply use attacks that can kill you without the touch of magic."
That said, the large cluster of stone launched as one force toward the Hero. Seifer jumped to the side, using his blade to protect his face and chest from the onslaught, but several shafts still contacted with exposed areas of his body, the sharpened stones leaving minor wounds on his extended leg and bare side. Ignoring the faint pain, Seifer charged forward, but again his blade sliced through air as the sorceress disappeared before him. Allowing the momentum of his sword to help him, Seifer turned sharply and glared at the golden-eyed woman for the use of cheap tactics.
Laughing, the sorceress said, "Have you figured out my other option yet, boy? It's obvious really - all I have to do is destroy the source of your protection while using his own magic against him!" With a frightful sneer, the woman asked, "So tell me, 'Hero', what did you do with the puppet I sent in your direction? Is there someone at his side to heal him?"
Though enraged by the sorceress' words, Seifer didn't reply as he fisted his free hand and his pale lips formed silent words. Silver flames licked out from between his fingers before he spoke a sharp command word, the white fire vanishing from his hand to abruptly appear around the darkly clothed woman. Not waiting to see if his attack had done any damage, Seifer sprinted forward with his blade held at the ready. As if a strong wind had taken control of the fire, the silver flames swirled around the woman, gradually changing to gold in color as the magical fire collected in her palm. Seeing the fighter's approach, she promptly threw the large fireball at the running man. Moving too fast and not wishing to stop, Seifer was only able to raise his blade in a form of defense. In one moment, he was blinded by the bright golden light, but the next moment had him directly in front of the sorceress, the witch defenseless in apparent surprise. Smirking, Seifer swung his blade such that the silver half of the sword contacted with the woman's shoulder, slicing through her dark dress and pale skin before she vanished. Feeling the shift of energy, the blond fighter lowered into a defensive stance, confident that she wasn't moving behind him once more.
Appearing a fair distance ahead of the Hero, the sorceress coolly examined her injured shoulder, long fingers slipping through spilt blood before she licked the liquid from her fingertips. Her attention then shifted to the fighter, her golden eyes lacking the previous condescending gleam. "Where did you get that sword, boy?"
Glancing at his weapon, Seifer noted the glowing aura to the blade, realizing that the unusual sword must have absorbed the magical attack somehow. But not one to dwell over odd occurrences during a deadly battle, the blond gripped the hilt of his blade tighter and grinned at his opponent while replying, "From a really big bat."
Golden eyes narrowed with displeasure before false kindness masked her features. "It matters not if you tell me. I'll simply examine the blade once you are dead." Raising her bloodstained hand, she added, "And do not worry about the fate of your seer. I'll take excellent care of him once this pointless play is done with."
Before Seifer could speak a retort, lightning of dark purple struck between the two adversaries, blackening the ground with its touch. Green eyes widened in surprise before thoughts of escape registered to the blond, but the second bolt of lightning had already struck, paralyzing the blond fighter as his body arched from the flow of electricity. There was a moment of breath when the lightning released its hold, only to be replaced by a third strike. But the protection charm on the Hero's back flared to life, its always present hold strengthening to wrap around the large body with nearly suffocating pressure to block out the effects of the lightning. His muscles going limp, Seifer fought to remain standing as his heavy blade fell from his grasp. Unable to do much more, his emerald gaze shifted up to view upon newly formed stone spears directed at his vulnerable body.
The stone shafts flew forward, their fast progress making Seifer wince in preparation for pain. But before the expected contact, a deep voice yelled out a word of banishment, then followed by a surprised cry from the sorceress. Green eyes went wide as the pointed stones lost their power and shattered into harmless gravel which dropped to the ground. Searching for the source of his rescue, Seifer's gaze settled on a large form in the darkness, Ward holding his pendant of Hyne before him like a shield.
"You aren't welcomed here, witch."
The golden-eyed woman frowned vaguely before her dark lips curled into an almost believable smile. "So you are the one protecting the people of this village. You have grown strong in your hate, Ward. I'm impressed."
"This has nothing to do with Hyne," the large priest stated, but the slight quake to his voice reflected his weakness against the sorceress inhabiting Edea's body.
"How can you say that when you are protecting the chosen one of Hyne? And here I was led to believe you cherished Squall like the son you will never have."
"You know nothing."
The woman's smile softened into something more pitying. "But I do know, Ward. I know all about the disgust you felt after branding a mere child as tainted and beyond hope. I know how much you blame yourself for being weak when the child needed you most. And I also know exactly what Squall feels toward your unforgivable betrayal."
"Don't listen to her!" Seifer called out, but it was too late as the large man took the words as truth and unintentionally lowered his defenses in his anguish. Still unable to move, the blond could do nothing but watch as the sorceress called upon violent winds to strike the vulnerable priest and knock him back several feet into a solid wall. Seeing the man's head snap back against stone, it was no surprise to Seifer when Ward slid limply to the ground and didn't attempt to move again.
"What a worthless man to not understand the heart of his 'son'," the sorceress muttered, her golden eyes then shifting to view the Hero. "Now to end this before someone else decides to interfere."
Seifer stood still as he watched the woman's aura flare a pale gold and then condense around her raised hand in the bare moment before she vanished. Time abruptly slowed for the blond fighter, instructions spoken in Squall's soft voice filtering through his mind as his emerald gaze followed the golden trail of the moving sorceress. Words for a shield stood out from the rest, a strong shield against magic which Squall was reluctant to teach given its absolute blockage of spells ranging from deadly curses to lifesaving magic. But Seifer ignored the past warnings of the seer and spoke the words of a forgotten language, smirking to himself as he removed his dagger from his armguard.
The air sizzled with white energy, the tight enclosure of the formed shield not inhibiting the fighter as Seifer turned to face the rematerializing sorceress. Unable to match her speed, the blond simply watched as the woman speared her hand forward with the intent to drive it through the man's midsection. But as her arm passed through the shield, the golden energy was seemingly ungloved from her hand, leaving the witch's attack powerless as her long fingernails jabbed annoyingly but harmlessly into the fighter's side.
Before the sorceress could recover from her obvious surprise, Seifer snapped his hand around the slim wrist and promptly threw the woman to the dirt ground. Not releasing his hold on her arm, he dropped down such that his knee landed onto her chest with his full weight. The sorceress suitably trapped, the blond fighter placed his dagger against her exposed neck, the touch of silver making pale skin burn to a satisfying dark red.
Twisting the wrist still in his hold, Seifer hissed, "Is that how you killed Squall? By shoving your filthy hand into his chest?"
Her body taut in pain, the sorceress mouthed a curse of some design, but by that point, the shield had expanded to cover both opponents, disrupting all magic between them.
"I should do the same to you, but I know that you won't stay dead unless I slice this blade through your neck."
The sorceress gasped quietly before relaxing fully beneath the large man. "Then why don't you finish this? Are you afraid?"
Seifer stiffened at the noticeable change in voice, his hold on the captive hand loosening. "Edea...?"
"You can't afford to be distracted now, child. Your shield won't last much longer and I have no desire to continue as I was."
Though he hadn't moved his blade from the pale skin, Seifer couldn't focus with soft golden eyes staring directly into his gaze, none of the previous hate remaining within the tired expression. "I thought... Squall said that you couldn't..."
"My life is dead," she replied in a bare whisper, tears forming in her eyes. "I beg of you to end this. And I pray that you are strong enough to defeat her spirit."
"But if you--"
"Child, I am not alive." Shakily, Edea raised her hand and brushed long fingers through blond spikes. "You've grown so tall and handsome. And Squall... he is finally happy. You made him happy."
"I know him and I understand his ways, far more than I can assume your heart."
Seifer stared with uncertainty at the lovely face, his keen eyes catching the brief darkening of the sorceress' expression as his shield fluctuated around them.
"It's alright, Seifer. I forgive you, and I thank you."
Unable to think of any words, the Hero simply nodded before using his weight to press down on the dagger. The body tainted by shadows hissed and smoked at the invasion of silver, but once the barrier of skin had been passed, the blade slid through the long neck with sickening ease. Seifer remained focused on the dark blood pouring from the deepening wound, the fighter afraid to gaze into the light brown eyes of the sorceress and find his resolve completely gone. The hand at the side of his face slipped away, dropping to the ground just as the silver dagger completely severed the thin neck and dark blood coated his suddenly shaking hand.
Hardly noticing the final crackle to his shield, Seifer gracelessly moved off the corpse to sit hard on the ground. Prying his fingers from the woman's wrist, he then fisted his hand around the heated jar resting on his chest. The blond greatly desired the comfort only Squall could offer him, but Seifer knew the battle with the sorceress was far from over. And as green eyes settled on the mist of dark gray rising from the severed neck, the fighter smirked viciously and prepared himself for the coming invasion.
He was walking, not remembering when he had gotten up from the hard ground. It was also raining, a light rain that served to annoy a person more than getting him wet. While wanting to stop and figure out his situation, Seifer found himself unable to control his body. Brief panic flooded the blond as he wondered if the sorceress had taken control of his body, but that fear was replaced by shock as the fighter noticed his surroundings, recognizing the backside of large buildings as only a town resident could - he was in Drasberg.
Still out of his control, his body stopped and turned to face a most unexpected sight. Seifer stared at the fairly small form wrapped in a dark cloak, the hood moved forward to block most of the youth's face from view. But the blond recognized the person instantly despite the younger form and higher pitched voice, and his mind reeled from the impossibility of seeing Squall in this form.
"Please, is that you?" the youth begged, desperation clear in his voice.
"Sorry," Seifer's younger voice spoke against his control, "I don't have change for you." Instantly, Seifer felt sick at the cool tone his teenage-self was using toward his unselfish protector and future lover. Though impossible, he had the overwhelming desire to throttle the punk he had been.
The boy smiled weakly. "I don't want that from you. I just wanted to warn you."
A mocking laugh sounded. "You want to warn me? Give me a break." His back turned to the young seer, Seifer found himself walking away.
A cold hand wrapped around his wrist, and before Seifer knew what had happened, his younger form had turned on the cloaked figure and shoved him away. "Don't touch me, you piece of trash!"
As the youth stumbled back, his hood lifted enough for Seifer to see the previously hidden pale eyes. Wide with surprise and hurt, the unseeing eyes stared forward at the blond until he dropped to the ground into an undignified kneeling position. His head bowed in defeat, Squall said quietly, "Avoid the church. She'll kill you."
"Are you threatening me? A street whore like you? Whatever, and don't you dare follow me, or I'll really mess you up."
Unable to stop his body, Seifer once again turned his back to the fallen seer and stormed off in the direction of the Kinneas' inn. But before he had gotten far, a broken cry sounded from behind him, stopping the blond youth before he turned around with reluctant annoyance. The revealed sight, however, made green eyes widen as he stared at a tall woman clutching the throat of the cloaked boy, her long nails digging deeply into vulnerable flesh. At first, Seifer could only think that it had never happened like this, that in their past, the sorceress hadn’t touched the seer until the battle at the church. It had also been Edea's form in those days, not the sorceress of vibrant red hair who was standing before him. But those thoughts vanished to anger when the brunet whimpered from the constricting hold around his neck.
"Squall!" Seifer cried out, and then stepped back with the shock that he had somehow gained control over his younger body.
The woman of unnatural red and black eyes chuckled vindictively. "I should thank you for defeating me, boy. I had grown weary of that other body and its stubborn soul. This one should better suit my purposes."
Seifer growled, the noise not as intimidating as he hoped. "Like hell I’m going to--" He was interrupted by a sharp cry as the sorceress stabbed an unnoticed dagger into the young seer’s side, and then twisted it such that Seifer could clearly recognize the weapon as the blade he had inherited from his father.
"Now, now, child. You shouldn’t argue with your elders," Adel mocked with a malicious grin.
"That isn’t Squall," the blond stated, unable to hold back his distress at viewing the bright red blood slipping down the silver blade.
"Are you so certain? I recognized the necklace you wear and I know the special properties of the trei-pernula jarre. While I imagine it was meant to protect him from my control, I now inhabit this body and I can use that magic against him. I can make him feel whatever I desire!"
"No… No, he can resist whatever you try to command."
Adel laughed. "Now why would he resist the voice of his dear lover?"
"No!" Turning his attention to the boy in her hold, Seifer cried out, "Do something, Squall! Get the fuck away from her!"
The sightless youth lifted his head. "Seifer… I…"
Deftly, the sorceress removed the knife from his side and swiped the blade across his bruised throat, efficiently ceasing all words from the young seer. "I never gave you permission to speak."
Green eyes went wide at the sight of too much blood, but Seifer was eventually able to pull his eyes away from Squall and focus a hateful glare at the sorceress. "You won’t defeat him like that. He’ll come back."
"But to what end, young hero? Death may not affect him anymore, but I know that the pain reaches his mind and heart."
Eyes downcast in shame for forcing that life of pain on the seer, Seifer asked brokenly, "What do you want from us?"
"I desire nothing of this puppet," Adel stated with revulsion as she threw the unmoving youth and the silver dagger to the mud. "But you… All you have to do is stay here. You can revive this man and spend eternity together for all I care. But you must never attempt to leave this place."
Seifer stared at the crumpled form, the combination of blood and mud making it difficult for him to breathe as memories from further in their past assaulted him. Without a conscious decision, he took a step toward Squall, but he was thrown back into reality when the sorceress placed a heavy foot on the youth’s injured side.
"Your choice, child. Either you take this boy, or you can try to fight me as you are and lose everything."
His eyes still fixed on the bloodied body, Seifer found it difficult to think straight, that all he wanted was to take Squall in his arms and run off to somewhere safe and warm. It was a weak and cowardly desire, but Seifer was beyond caring as he made to step forward. However, with that step, something jerked on his shoulder, forcing him back into a standing position and keeping him away from his greatest desire.
"Stupid boy, don't you know that isn't your Protector?"
The deep voice made Seifer shiver, but he refused to look back. "But Squall... Squall is..."
The person behind him scoffed before dangling something in front of the youth's face. "Forget the boy and fight with your true blade."
Focusing on the object before his eyes, Seifer was surprised to recognize his silver dagger clean of all blood. Cautiously, he reached for the hilt of the knife, and then inhaled sharply with the first contact of cold metal. A freezing wind seem to flow through him, driving away his fogginess of mind to reveal what he had been about to do. Snapping his head around, Seifer stared at the man who had saved him from surrendering to the sorceress, but staring directly into dark green eyes, the youth instantly felt cold and somewhat afraid.
The large man of pale blond hair smirked with amusement. "Your opponent is in the other direction."
Startled back into the reality that he was in the middle of a dangerous battle, Seifer turned to find the scowling sorceress in the middle of an unknown spell. Renewed anger flared through the youth, making his eyes flash a poisonous green as he launched forward with his weapon held close. Adel opened her eyes and smirked confidently before she extended her hand and spoke the final command word to the attack spell. Gold fire burst forward, something Seifer figured he should attempt to dodge, but he instead continued forward with an outreached hand. At first touch, his entire arm ached with burning heat, but with that contact, he could somehow feel the core of the spell and grasped onto it strongly before it flared into bright silver and vanished. Unable to waste time to analyze that occurrence, Seifer continued to sprint forward, only coming to a halt when his blade was deep into the chest of sorceress.
Glaring into wide eyes of red and black, Seifer placed his aching hand at the woman's throat and said, "I believe you lost something."
The force with which the magic flowed through his arm surprised the fighter himself as Adel was shoved backward and instantly burst into golden flames. Her ragged screams were short-lived as she dropped to the ground and the puddles beneath her sizzled into steam. With harden green eyes, Seifer watched the sorceress' demise with no remorse, but was then surprised as the woman seemingly melted and was absorbed into the wet ground. Promptly, the blond turned to check on the young form of Squall to notice that both he and the dropped knife were also dissolving into the mud.
A heavy hand prevented Seifer from approaching the disappearing seer. "That isn't him, boy."
"Let me go! You don't understand."
"Trust me, I understand what has happened here more than you."
"Trust you? I don't even know who the fuck you are!"
The man of forest green eyes smiled warmly. "Where do you think you are, Seifer? In the past?"
Seifer straightened at that, and then glanced down at his body, his hands free of the deep calluses which would develop once he would take his lessons from Harvard Kinneas seriously. "I... I'm not certain. This is Drasberg, but..." As per habit in the past year, Seifer turned to look at his lover for answers, but the boy was almost completely gone, unrecognizable at that point. "Squall..."
"And I told you, that isn't him. He's waiting for you to wake up."
Abruptly, a strong gust of wind flowed around the two blonds, forcing Seifer to close his eyes to avoid debris. Daring to open them once more, his green eyes widened at the familiar sight of thin trees with golden leaves and long grass browned from an early frost. Stepping back in surprise, Seifer noticed his changed point of view, and with a glance at his hands and body, he realized that he was back in his adult form.
"This place is a lot nicer in the spring."
Seifer turned sharply to find the man of before moving toward the far corner of the meadow. Having no other source of information to help his confusion, the fighter decided to follow the older man and take the chance to study him. While having a similar frame to Seifer, the other blond was slimmer without the added muscles of a practicing swordsman. Even so, Seifer could tell by the man's walk that he was accustomed to having a blade at his side. Golden hair with streaks of white flowed softly as he moved, adding to the other signs of middle age including the wrinkles at his eyes, a vague limp to his walk, and a slight hunch to his shoulders.
Suddenly uncomfortable with watching the familiar man, Seifer turned his attention to the meadow, vaguely hoping for an appearance by Squall. Unlike previous visits to the open space, there was no strange pressure to the surrounding area, it seeming like any other meadow on the continent. But there was something else nagging Seifer about the familiar place, something that evaded his recognition.
"It's not very clear here, is it? I suppose that's because you haven't visited this place much."
Seifer glanced over his surroundings once more with the realization that the stranger had explained exactly what was wrong. While some areas had defined vegetation, there were spots of blurriness, especially beyond the foremost trees of the thick forest. Returning his attention to the older man, Seifer went rigid at the sight of the blond kneeling in front of a thin tree with his finger fondly tracing a crude wing that had been carved there long in the past.
The older man, Alexei Almasy turned at the uncertain voice and smiled warmly.
"You have your... friend to thank for that. He couldn't reach you, and so he sent me instead."
Seifer frowned and then stated plainly, "Squall is my lover."
Dark green eyes glanced away briefly before meeting his son's stern gaze again. "I was hoping otherwise, but I suppose... If he was a woman, I couldn't imagine a better partner for you."
"But he isn't a woman."
Alexei smiled softly. "No, he certainly isn't. And I'm sorry for offending you, but you have to realize that I only discovered your preference a short while ago when you and Squall were... intimate right where I could see you. All this time I had the hope that you would raise another Almasy heir, but now, it appears that you are the last."
"Don't give me some guilt trip beyond the grave. Nothing you say will make me desert Squall."
The older man laughed. "And you shouldn't. He's a good kid who always visited me and told me about the visions he had about you. And his power... For him to call upon me like this is an amazing feat. He and your mother would have gotten along more than you and I would have liked."
Hearing that his mother would have accepted Squall, Seifer felt less hostile toward his father, but no less confused about his current situation. "So, why is it that I can talk to you like this?"
"You're still unconscious while recovering from your fight against Adel."
"Then... this is all in my mind?"
Alexei smirked. "While wording it like that makes it sound fairly trivial, yes, both Drasberg and this meadow were formed from your memories. But Drasberg was created by Adel to be a prison, somewhere to keep your soul while she controlled your body."
"And this place?"
The older man shrugged. "You ran into the meadow before falling unconscious, so your body is resting there now. Your seer came a short while ago to help you, so I suppose that either of you could be influencing this setting."
Seifer frowned, wondering if the spirit was confused since Squall shouldn't have been able to wake without the proper command. But even if the statement was untrue, the fighter felt calmer at the idea of his seer being nearby and watching over him.
"Seifer..." Gaining his son's attention, Alexei approached him and placed a hand at his shoulder. "Since you are the last Almasy, I have a favor to ask of you before our time is interrupted."
"A favor, huh?" the younger man said suspiciously.
"I won't make you swear to it, but I would appreciate you hearing me out. You can make your decision once I have told you everything you need to know."
Seifer stared at his father, briefly remembering the same somber gleam to the dark green eyes before the man had committed suicide in order to save his son. And so, finding reluctant trust in the man he could hardly remember, Seifer relaxed and said, "I'm listening, old man, but make it fast."
Groaning in pain from a dull throb resonating from every muscle in his body, Seifer shifted in hope of relieving some of the ache. While movement only aggravated the pain, he smelled something familiar, and moving closer to that scent, he nuzzled against warm cloth. A soft breath of laughter sounded before cold fingers stroked through short blond hair, the healing touch making green eyes snap open.
"A-ah," was the quiet reply, no emotion reflected in the simple answer. Worry was quickly replaced by understanding as Seifer realized the seer was being cautious, uncertain about who could be controlling the body resting on his lap.
Smiling, the blond man in moved closer to press his aching forehead against the brunet's stomach. "Bad kitten, you were supposed to be asleep until I decided to wake you."
"You called for me, so I came."
Remembering the younger form of Squall bleeding and dead in mud, Seifer swallowed hard and lifted his hand to grab the blind man's shirt sleeve. "I'm getting really sick of watching you die."
Sensing the seer's confusion, the fighter explained, "In my mind, I had to fight the sorceress again, but it was in the past, in Drasberg. Oh Hyne, Drasberg... I pushed you away. I shoved you aside like trash, and I'm so sorry. I didn't know who you were. I swear that I didn't know..."
Relaxing fully, Squall shushed the blond's ramblings and squeezed his hand. "I've already forgiven you."
"And you're an idiot to do so." The fighter tried to sit up, but failed with a frustrated grunt. "This is pathetic."
"You forced a sorceress' soul to join with you, Seifer. Your body needs time to readjust and find its balance."
The blond grumbled but didn't attempt to sit up again. "Adel made another you in my mind and she killed him. I couldn't do anything but watch. And then she promised me that I could revive him and live with him in that place forever. I was so tempted. I could've had you before you died in the church, before you sacrificed your body, and before you truly hated me. It could have been perfect."
"It would have been a lie."
With half-lidded eyes, Seifer stared up at dark clouds heavy with rain, realizing that it must be morning for there to be so much light. "I just saw you die for the third time I can remember - I wasn't exactly thinking about lies and truth. It took my father calling me a dumbass to stop me from doing something stupid."
"Then he was able to reach you?"
"A-ah," Seifer replied distractedly, but not allowing the brunet the chance to catch his hesitation, he quickly added, "By the way, he was impressed that you could send him to me. But while he respects your powers, he doesn't really like the idea of you being my lover."
"He always wanted grandchildren. You can't blame him for being disappointed."
The green-eyed man scoffed angrily. "Yes, I can. Why can't he accept that I'm luckier to have you than any woman?"
The seer straightened into a tense pose before a soft chuckle escaped his lips. Squall then bent down and placed a light kiss on the fighter's forehead. "Go to sleep, idiot. You'll recover faster that way."
Humming quietly at a fresh burst of healing energy from the seer, Seifer closed his eyes. "You'll watch over me, right?"
It was silent in the priest's chambers, only the sound of heavy rain reaching the blind man's ears despite two other men residing in the room. Sighing to break the oppressive quiet, Squall stood up from his chair. "I will tell Seifer. It should help to ease his heart."
"And what about your heart?"
The seer didn't reply to his father's question, and instead placed his hand on the nearby mattress where the large priest was resting. "Seifer told me what had happened, Ward. I want you to know that I never blamed you for my mark, and I'm sorry that you thought I did."
A large hand rested on Squall's. "It was merely the sorceress toying with my fears, nothing more. I know you would have hated me more if I hadn't marked you, but it should have never been a necessity in the first place."
The blind man smiled softly. "I no longer regret my past. It led me here and that's all that matters."
"Foolish boy," Ward murmured while squeezing the hand in his hold.
"He got it from his mother," Laguna added before encircling his arms around the seer. "Hyne, I'm so relieved that you are alright. When I found you in the guest room suffering from some magical attack and unable to wake up, I was afraid that--"
"Father," Squall interrupted in a scolding tone. "You already told me this and I explained that I was under Seifer's power. There was nothing you could do."
"I know, but--"
"But nothing. I'm tired and I need to check Seifer before I have the chance to sleep."
Laguna hugged the seer tightly while releasing a dramatic sigh. "I never thought that I'd see the day when I'd be snubbed by my son so that he could go have special time with his partner."
"Father," Squall hissed, unable to prevent the sudden heat rising in his cheeks.
Laughing, Laguna released his hold on the brunet to turn him around and push him in the direction of the door. "What can I say? I'm simply delighted that you found someone who makes you happy, especially with how difficult you are to please."
Squall frowned. "I'm not difficult."
"You've been difficult since you were knee-high. Not even candies could coax you into smiling."
Thinking of a certain spiced candy, the blind man's scowl deepened with disgust.
"Now go upstairs," Laguna stated while moving around his son to open the door. "I promise that no one will disturb your time together."
With a hand covering his face in mortification, Squall stepped outside and promptly headed upstairs to escape the knowing gaze of the older man. Slowing down once reaching the upper hallway, the blind man allowed himself a small smile at the full-hearted acceptance of his father. While it made him feel ashamed that he had doubted the carefree man in the first place, the brunet felt like an unknown pressure had dissipated, making it easier to breathe.
The deep voice made Squall shiver, his eyes then widening at an expected realization.
"Hey, are you done healing that prick of a priest? He was pretty banged up the last time I saw him."
The blind man didn't respond as he cautiously stepped forward with an outreached hand. That hand was taken into a warm hold and tugged gently to pull Squall in close to the larger man. Pressed against a bare chest, the seer inhaled the clean scent of the recently bathed man and sighed quietly as a sense of peace flowed over him. With his father's candid acceptance, Squall no longer felt that the love between him and the foolhardy Hero was something wrong and shameful. And with that freedom, it was alright to finally say -
"You made me fall in love with you."
After stunned pause, Seifer laughed softly before running a hand through thick hair. "So everything is my fault, huh?"
"Entirely your fault."
"Well, I suppose that's something I don't mind being blamed for," the blond said before moving to the seer's side and speaking into the man's ear. "We had better go into our room before I do something here in the hallway."
Allowing the larger man to guide him, Squall found himself standing in the middle of the room as the door was closed and locked with a quiet click. Heated hands were then on him once more, unsurprisingly leading him to the single bed. But before they laid down, Squall was turned around and the bindings of his shirt were carefully undone.
"You know, I never got an answer when I asked if you were injured from the fight."
Squall shook his head. "I'm fine, but the bed in my father's guest room was apparently burnt to ruins. You can't stay there anymore."
"As if I would go back there willingly," Seifer growled before attacking the seer's ragged ear with his teeth and tongue. Earning himself a quiet whine of pleasure, the blond asked, "This is the first place you were injured because of that damned protection charm of yours, isn't it?"
The blind man made a noise of affirmation before gasping at a sharp tug of his earlobe. Heated hands then slipped within the opening of his shirt and smoothly removed the piece of clothing from his unresisting body to be dropped onto the floor. Shirtless, Squall shivered as rough fingers pressed against his collar bone and slowly trailed downward.
"You got this scar the first time you sacrificed yourself for me," Seifer said reverently, and then asked, "But why did you lie when I asked about this scar in the past? You said it didn't kill you."
"Technically, it didn't. I was a child defending you from an aged sorceress. By the time she stabbed me, I was already dying from her various curses."
"Then this was just insult to injury," Seifer said with a fingernail digging lightly into scarred skin.
"That was Adel's way. It's the same reason why Cid was killed."
"Cid...? You mean Edea's husband? But I thought--"
"He was killed this morning," Squall said, deciding that it was best to leave out the details about the undeserved death the older man was granted.
There was a long stretch of silence before a bitter breath of laughter came from the blond. "Then that's what she meant about no longer being alive. Edea... she begged me to end her life. She told me that it was alright, but I thought she only wanted to end Adel's life. I didn't realize that her husband was dead."
"They are together, now."
Humming in agreement, Seifer moved his hand to touch the other prominent scar on the seer's chest, the wide circle first created by the sorceress, and then reopened by the hand of the winged demon. "She tried to use this same trick on me, you know, but she was going to rip out my intestines instead of aiming for my heart. I was able to use that vac-whatever spell you taught me to defeat her."
"The Vocitus shield? You were able to form it?"
"A-ah, that's the one."
Squall shook his head with bewildered amusement, unable to understand how the crude man could control such powerful magiks without knowing the proper titles to the spells he was using.
"I didn't like that spell, though. I couldn't feel your presence through the shield."
"I warned you that the protection charm would become inactive with that spell."
"I know, I know, but I still didn't like it," Seifer stated as his hands lowered to the brunet's pants and began to remove the piece of clothing. As the pants dropped to the floor, the larger man brushed his fingers along exposed hips and lightly kissed a bare shoulder. "Where is the scar from the other time you've been killed?"
"You're obsessing," Squall scolded while reaching out to discover that the blond had been wearing only a towel the entire time. Impressed by the man's lack of shame, the brunet tugged on the material and let the damp cloth fall to the ground.
"And that's not an answer," Seifer retorted and pushed the smaller man onto the bed.
With casual grace, Squall moved completely onto the mattress and stretched out his naked body.
"Uh-un, don't try to distract me," the fighter reprimanded while straddling over the lithe form and bending down to caress his lips along the oldest of the scars. "Tell me where the other one is."
Catching the blond's desperate tone of voice, the seer asked, "What's wrong, Seifer?"
"This isn't the first time I've asked about our past, kitten."
"I know, but..."
Deciding that he was reading too much into the shifting emotions of the fighter, Squall placed his hand at a broad shoulder and reluctantly decided to speak. "Before you were sent to Drasberg, another sorceress came to this town in search of Adel. She was furious that we were responsible for the death of her mentor and she attacked us when we were playing in a barn. She attacked me with some kind of ice spell and I created a wind attack that shoved her into a wall holding a collection of plows."
After a violent shiver, Seifer rested his face against the bare chest. "Oh Hyne, fucking Hyne... There was a huge icicle right here, wasn't there?" he asked while a shaky hand pressed against the brunet's lower backside, just left of the spine.
"And that whore, she was beheaded by a plow blade, and that damned mist thing flowed into me. I was so sleepy, but then you fell over and wouldn't move. I forced myself to get up, and I tried so hard to pull out that icicle, but you wouldn't wake up..."
Squall shushed the blond and stroked his fingers through spiky hair. "It's the past, nothing more. But because of that day, my father decided it was too dangerous for you to be near me."
An odd laugh escaped the large man as he laid down fully on top of the brunet. "I am a danger to you, Squall The best thing I could do for you would be to leave and never come back."
"Even if you did believe that lie, you wouldn't desert me. Not now."
Seifer pressed his face against the seer's neck. "No, not now. I'm too addicted to you, no matter how much you frustrate me."
Still hearing the faltering edge to the man's voice, Squall let his hand drift to the protection charm burned onto the man's upper back and fingered the edge of the outer circle. Forming a connection through the blood magic, the seer allowed a calming sensation to flow from him and into the exhausted man. Instantly Seifer hummed out his pleasure, but then pushed up onto his hands and knees to break the connection between them. As Squall frowned in confusion, the fighter promptly kissed the pouting lips and lightly tongued the sensitive flesh.
"I'll be fine, kitten. I just have a lot to think about after last night, and you know that thinking isn't one of my strong points. There's no need for you to waste your energy like that."
Though curious about what was bothering the blond, Squall nodded his understanding. "Then, are you going to fuck me now, or can we go to sleep?"
Seifer chuckled at the question, and after grabbing a quilt, he carefully stretched out next to the brunet without placing too much of his weight on the smaller man. "We had better sleep. I'd hate for you to fall unconscious before it would start to get good."
With a grunt meaning anything between 'thank you' and 'you're a pervert', Squall shifted to press more of his naked skin against the heated body. While feeling warmer than he had all day, the seer shivered as a hand trailed down his side and lightly held onto his wrist to rub a thumb across the branded skin. The soothing touch was as strong as the command which had placed him under a deep sleep, and within little time, Squall fell asleep despite the nagging worry that Seifer wasn't telling him something.
Author's Whining -- Whee, only one more chapter left... thought reality is that I'm in denial and there is probably another two chapters. It depends on what the characters decide to do. For instance, Alexei decided that he wanted an actual background instead of his simpler 'I died for my son' history. These stupid side characters are out to drive me crazy. Anywho, I hope everything has made sense about SxS's past since I think I've explained everything that I wanted to describe in detail. All that's left is Seifer's parents and two other side characters who jumped out from the woodworks. It's going to be a strange ending, but it should make some sense if I explain it this way - I based a lot of things in this story on my vague recollection of Greek/Roman myths. It may not be so obvious with the FF8 world in the mix, but it's there.
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