Note - The main idea of this comes from Talya Firedancer's Morgan Vale works, but I'm using the more "traditional" description of a youko and changed other aspects of her ideas.  Basically, I stole the concepts of bonding and that youko have ways of getting male persons pregnant, but I changed the details to suit my own needs.  Plus, Talya is a far, far, far better writer than I.

 

Belong to Each Other
July 2002

 

How could I have been foolish enough to trust that woman?  "It's a straight shot," she said.  "Just go through the forest.  No problem."  And I actually believed Rinoa, though I should have known better.  Gods, I must be spending too much time around her.

Taking a deep breath, I use the moment to examine my surroundings.  There is an expanse of trees with the same dark bark to the left, right, and front of me while the overhanging of vines and thick leaves above me blocks most of the light of day.  At least I can tell that the sun has well past its high position.  Eyeing the ground, I wonder if those are really my footprints or if I'm imagining things.  This is just simply frustrating.

"Lost?"

I start at the voice, my hand going directly for the hilt of the sword at my side.  Scanning my surroundings once more, I discover a large man to the left of me who certainly wasn't there only moments before.  Partially hidden in the bushes and shadows, I can barely identify strands of blonde hair hanging over his forehead and aqua eyes watching me with an amused glint.  Unfortunately, I can't tell if he is armed or not.

"I can lead you out of the forest... for a price, of course."

"I don't require your services."

"Oh?  So you walked past this point three times because you liked the view."

I glare at him.  "You've been watching me?"

"Hardly.  I just need to look at one spot and you'll pop up every other moment."  He smiles broadly, fanged teeth slightly overlapping his bottom lip.

"Wha...?"

With a quiet chuckle, he steps out from the trees and stands tall only steps away from me.  White, pointed ears twitch faintly above his short light blonde hair and from behind his legs, two...no, three white long fox-like tails sway lazily.

I pull out my blade.  "A youko?  You think I'd trust a fucking youko?"

"Well, out here you don't get much of a choice.  If you want to leave the forest, you'll need my help.  For that, you will have to pay my price."

"What does a demon like you need of gold?"

He wrinkles his nose.  "Gold?  That's just a shiny rock you humans think is worth something.  No, I prefer a more satisfying payment.  You don't need both of your arms, do you?" he asks while licking his lips.

Instead of replying, I charge at the creature with my sword held high.  As expected he effortlessly dodges the attack, but I quickly turn to the side with the blade swinging upwards for the follow-up strike.  The weapon is blocked too easily and then captured within his extended claw-like nails.  He smiles down at me as he rips the sword from my hand.  Refusing to accept defeat, I punch at that smirking face.  Inches before his head, he palms my smaller hand and grips it strongly.  Pushing me backwards, I'm soon trapped against the thick trunk of a tree while the contents of my bag dig into my back.

"Nice try, human.  Looks like I'll have an excellent meal without having to really work for it."

Locking my eyes with his, I jam my knee up into his stomach instead of hitting my intended target.  He utters a grunt, but doesn't loosen the grip whatsoever.

The demon growls at me.  "I will make it last for that stunt."

He quickly raises my hands above my head and grasp my wrists tightly in one hand.  Leaning in close enough such that I can't manage another cheap shot, he slowly lowers his free hand and strokes a finger down my cheek.  Grinning, he brings the clawed hand even lower, trailing a nail down my throat to slice through the skin.  I try not to react to the wounding and focus on glaring at the demon.

He chuckles at me, showing me exactly what he thinks of my defiance.  The youko bends in closer and out of my line of vision.  I can't help but to start at the sensation of him licking along the cut and then sucking on my lifeblood.  For that brief moment, I know I am going to die.

Abruptly, the youko jerks back from his task and looks at me with wild eyes.

I smile vaguely at him.  "I hope I taste like shit."

His amazed gaze slowly transforms into one of amusement.  Suddenly he is laughing at me while releasing the painful grip.  I have to wonder if he went insane, but I don't really care if it means my life and my freedom.  Clamping a hand on my neck, I watch the youko closely.

"Oh, my pathetic little human.  You are simply too adorable to kill."

"A, adorable...?"

"Mmm, very adorable.  Shall we be going?"

I push up from the tree, not too steady on my feet.  "I don't trust you."

"And that matters?  I'm your only hope out of here since you obviously have no sense of direction."

I don't move nor reply to the demon.  I may have been an idiot getting myself into this situation, but that doesn't mean I have to get myself deeper into trouble.  I don't know what the game this demon is playing and I refuse to go along with it.

He frowns a little at me, then quickly turns to head further into the forest.  "Be that way.  But for a hint, there's a path about a hundred steps behind you."

I watch the youko suspiciously as he is slowly engulfed by the shadows, his three tails swaying just above the floor of the ground are the last of him to fade from view.  I stand in that spot longer, listening closely for his possible return that doesn't come.  Could he have really just let me go?  Taking my hand from the wound, I look at the fresh blood and wonder if I really do taste that bad.

With some bandaging from my pack, I wrap the cut as best I can.  After picking up my sword and holding it ready at my side, I head to the supposed trail the demon spoke of.  I'm already lost and injured, so I don't have much to lose by following the youko's directions.


Leaning against a tree, I watch the flames in part wonder and gratefulness - the youko hadn't lied to me.  Following the trail he sent me to, I've made it to the edge of the forest.  It took two days and a half to just get through the damned woods, but I'm almost to Puther now.  Admittedly to Rinoa, it was a shorter route than circling the forest, but I could still be wandering lost in there if it weren't for the demon.  And I don't care for being in debt to someone.

I finger the scab on my neck.  Maybe he was the one repaying me.  But why would a youko care about injuring a human?  Hell, he was planning on eating me alive just moments before letting me go.  There can't be guilt or mercy in a creature like that...can there?

Suddenly, the forest is alive around me.  Birds fly noisily into the nearly darken sky as something charges through the forest.  I have enough time to get to my feet and grab my blade before three large wolves burst through the bushes into my campsite.  Just seconds later, a single wolf of white fur leaps among the other dogs.  After a curious glance at the latecomer attacking another wolf, I have to defend myself against thrashing teeth.  I let the dark beast force me backwards until I find the chance to sidestep a lunged attack and pierce my blade through the back of its neck.  I hold the sword tightly until the last twitch of life is gone.

Wiping sweat and hair from my eyes, I look towards the other side of the fire.  One dark wolf lays on the ground, life blood pooling beneath it from an unseen wound.  A yelp calls my attention from the corpse and I watch as the white furred creature holds firm jaws on the throat of the final animal.  Three long tails wave lazily in the air as the fight slowly drains from the wolf.

After dropping the body to the ground, the white demon trots several feet in front of me.  I grip my blade tightly as the fox-demon transforms into the blonde man of days ago.  Three lines of blood cross part of his chest, the only visible wounds on the unclothed body.

"You've been following me."

He flashes an irritating smile.  "Just wanted to make sure you didn't get lost again."

"Why did you help me?"

A golden eyebrow rises.  "Interesting.  You think I saved you just now?  Maybe I was in league with those other creatures and had them attack you."

"You don't need the aid of others to kill me."

"While we did prove that point earlier, maybe instead I'm trying to win your trust."

"I won't trust a youko."

The fanged smile never falters, but blue-green eyes seem to soften in...pain, perhaps.  I look at his wound and notice the increasing redness to his chest.  Stepping around him, I walk towards my travel bag while sheathing my blade.  After leaning it against the nearest tree, I take out the last of my bandaging cloths and my half-filled water canteen from the bag.  Turning around, the closeness of the large demon surprises me.

"I appreciate the thought, but don't waste your water and materials on me."

"It'll get infected."

He smirks.  "If you want to help, you could clean it off for me, but..."  He takes the canteen from my hands.  "You shouldn't use your water.  There isn't any clean source for half a day's walk from here, so you need to save it."

I frown at him.  "Then, how--"

He steps closer to me and speaks softly.  "I trust you to think of another way."

"What are you planning, youko?"

"You can do nothing if you wish.  Remember, you were first in the gesture of treating this scratch."

The truth is always annoying.  Since the demon could have already killed me once, I just don't care about falling for some other trap.  The fact is that he could have saved my life tonight, and perhaps saved me from being forever lost in these woods.  If repaying him means going along with some game of his, I can handle that.  Once I'm out of his debt, I can avoid him and this damned forest for the rest of my existence.

I place a hand near the clawed wounds and lean in close.  Starting low, I lick a trail of blood off his skin.  Mildly surprised by the pleasant tasting blood of the demon, I continue my way along the bottom cut.  Soon the red liquid has been removed from the wound, but I can't help a prolonged taste of the slowly flowing sweetness.  The feel of a hand fingering through my hair startles me from the near trance, his hand not restraining me as I back away quickly.

"Good job, human.  I knew you were the creative sort deep down."

He places the raised hand against the scratches and chants something in an odd language.  Blue glows all around him and then suddenly swirls towards his chest.  When his hand lowers, I stare at the completely healed flesh.

"It's always better to clean out a wound before healing it like this."  He smiles knowingly.  How long was I drinking his blood like a mere demon?

He closes the distance I had formed between us.  Already retreated into a tree myself, I can't break my gaze with those slightly glowing blue-green eyes long enough to truly escape.  He stops inches away from me, a lopsided grin on his face.  A clawed hand is gently placed under my chin, insuring that I don't break eye contact with him.

"What's your name?"

"...Sousuke."

"No, not that name.  Your other one."

"I... I don't understand."

"I'm Seifer.  To you and only you, my name is Seifer."

Before I can question him, warm lips are against mine.  A demon is kissing me.  A male demon, nonetheless.  My feeble mind just can't process this information in time to respond.  Unfortunately, my body seems to like it without any confirmation of logic and reason.

"Tell me your name," he whispers.

"Squall..."  At the word, my eyes snap wide-open from their drowsy state.  I don't know why I answered with that, but somehow I'm positive it is my name as much as the given name I've lived with my entire life.  What is Seifer...no, this youko doing to me?

I feel his smile against my lips.  "Squall.  My Squall, my human."

"I don't belong to you."

In response he nibbles my lower lip, his fangs firm against flesh but not piercing it.  I can't help opening my mouth in a sigh, an action that the demon quickly takes advantage of.  Solid warmth rubs against my tongue and causes chilling sensations of pleasure throughout my body.  Wanting more, I curl my tongue against his to which is rewarded with a quiet moan.

He pulls back from the kiss.  "You are quite the contrary creature.  Not that I mind, though."

I remain silent as I try to force away this false passion.  Just as he healed himself, the demon must have spelled me somehow.

"You still don't trust me.  A pain in the ass, but understandable as well.  I'll leave you alone if you do one thing for me."

"... ..."

"Say my name once."

It's a ridiculous request, but if it means getting away from him... "Seifer."

He closes his eyes.  "Mmm, it's perfect when said in your voice."  He steps back and turns abruptly.  "Well, then.  Until another night, Squall."

The youko leaves much as he had days ago, the white tails and ears practically glowing in the darkness.  I don't move from that spot for a long time, my gaze never leaving his vanishing point into the woods.  It's almost as if I didn't want him to leave me.  I scoff at the idea, thus breaking whatever spell the demon held over me.  I lie down near the warmth of the flames and close my eyes to get some sleep.


I knock on the dark wood of the door, perhaps a bit harder and longer than I should have.

"Yeah, yeah!  Coming!"  The door swings inward and a taller, long haired man comes into view.  "Hey, Sousuke.  You're earlier than we were expecting.  Damn, you look like shit."

"Irvine, let him in already," a young woman's voice calls from inside.

He steps aside to let me walk in and then ushers me to the nearest seat.  I gratefully drop my bag on the floor and relax into the offered chair. Rubbing my eyes, I resist a yawn.

"He wasn't kidding.  Are you feeling alright, Sousuke?"

"I'm fine.  I just didn't get any sleep last night.  It's been a rough trip."  The last thing I need is Selphie going into mother mode with me.

"Well, you'll have a soft bed tonight, so you can catch up on that rest.  But first," she stands up to show off the dress she was working on.  "Jya-an!  Isn't it beautiful?"

The white dress is a simple design, but I can tell the energetic girl worked hard on it.  "I'm sure Rinoa will love it.  Thank you, Selphie."

A broad smile on her face, the brunette sits carefully back down.  She rubs her growing stomach fondly.  "It's the least I can do since I can't make it to the wedding.  Irvine won't even let me try to make the trip."

"We could change the date."

Selphie glares at me and points a finger.  "Don't you dare destroy a girl's dream.  You two will marry on her birthday, no question.  What kind of husband are you going to make if you can't understand how important that is to her?"

Her tone and words are harsh, but underneath it all I can read her happiness at being wanted at the event.

"If you don't mind, darlin', I'm going to treat our future groom here to some drinks."

She pouts.  "But he looks so tired.  Couldn't it wait?"

"Some alcohol in the system will make sure he sleeps like a log tonight.  Ready?"

I nod and stand up from the chair.  Irvine leads us to a quiet bar not too far from the house.  I let him order the drinks since I can't the difference between murky water and ale myself.  Might as well let him choose something he thinks is drinkable.  The both of us are silent until partway into our second glass.

"Mind if I ask you something, Sousuke?"

I nod slightly and take a sip of the tolerable liquid.

"Are you doing this for the right reasons?  I mean, do you actually love Rinoa?"

"I guess."

"Damn it, man.  This isn't something you are supposed to guess about.  Listen, we all know about your promise to look over the girl, but isn't this going a bit too far?  Once you say those vows, you're stuck with her."

I look into my glass instead of responding.  I don't understand the problem, really.

"Has there ever been physical contact between you two?"

"Un.  We've kissed and such."

"Oh?  Well, that's something at least.  I've always been curious how good of a kisser that beauty was."

I shrug.

Irvine glares at me.  "Listen, you.  Is there a drop of passionate blood in that body of yours?  A kiss with your future one and only should be like...living fire and all of that romantic crap."

"Like you never want the moment to end..."

"Yes, that's the crap I'm talking about!  By the sound of it, it seems you have had a real kiss before."

I take a breath and run a hand through my hair.  In no way did I mean to say that out loud.

The longhaired man studies me carefully then grins impishly.  "It wasn't with Rinoa, was it?"

I clutch on a handful of my hair.  This is simply ridiculous.  Sei-- that fucking youko was just playing around with me.  It was a completely meaningless action, and yet I'm letting it bother me.  It must be the lack of sleep along with exhaustion from traveling.  Looking at the brown liquid in my glass, I assume the alcohol isn't helping much either.

"So---, who'd you kiss?"

I suppress a growl.  "For your information, he kissed me without asking."

Irvine sat up straight at that one.  "You...kissed a guy?  ...And liked it?"

Hearing it from his mouth somehow made it more real, not to mention more frightening.  "It will never happen again."

"Oh?  Why not?"

I look at him fully.  He actually seems serious in the question.  "Why do you care?"

"We've been friends for a long time now, and you just don't talk about things like an eternal moment.  Obviously this guy meant something to you.  Why are you tossing it aside without examining it further?"

"Because it was a damn youko that probably cursed me."  I drink down the remaining liquid in my glass.

"A youko?"  His chuckle has a forced sound to it.  "Come on, those demons don't just let humans get away.  Sure it wasn't a guy in costume?  Or are you playing some kind of joke on me?"

I finger the scab at my neck as my vision go unfocused.  "Seifer's the real thing."

"...Don't fuck with me, Sousuke.  It's not funny."

"He has another name for me.  I liked it when he whispered it back to me."

Without focusing on my surroundings, I could almost see the blue-green eyes before me.  While I have been told mine are like the sea during a storm, his would be like the morning after when life is restored to the calm waters.  The life that runs from the cold and harshness of storms always returns to the warmth of the dawning sun. 

Fingers snapped in front of my face.  "Sousuke!  Are you listening to me?"

I sit up with a sigh.  "No, I wasn't."

"Honestly, you're like a kid with his first crush.  If you want my advise, stay away from it.  You got lucky the first time with this youko.  It may not happen a second time."

"I met with him twice already."

He stares at me.  "Well, fuck me.  Maybe that demon fell in love with you, too."

"I do not love him."

"Right, and what was that about liking the way he said your name?"

"... ..."  Frankly, I haven't a clue where that thought had come from, forget the reason as to why I said it out loud.  It must be the exhaustion.

"So where does Rinoa fit into all of this?"

"Nothing has changed."

He takes a long sip of the ale.  "Selphie and I...we weren't sure whether to tell you or not, but I just can't stay quiet.  You shouldn't waste your energy on her.  She's sweet and loves you a lot, but you don't return that love.  She's the type of girl who needs an emotional relationship.  If she hasn't already, Rinoa is going to look for that mutual love elsewhere."

"...That's her decision."

"Do you truly understand what you're saying?  You could end up with a marriage where you don't even know if the kid is yours.  You can't be telling me you'd be content in that kind of situation."

"Whatever."

"No, not 'whatever'.  This is exactly why you make people worry about you."

I place a couple coins on the table while standing up.  This kind of talk was making me more tired than I had felt.  I hear Irvine sigh, but he doesn't move to stop me from leaving the bar.  After a brief moment to look up into the evening sky, I head back to Irvine's place.  Selphie offers some dinner, but I just don't feel like eating even though I haven't had anything since last night.  I go into the extra room and lie down on the bed.  The second my head hits the pillow, I know I won't sleep this night either.  Placing an arm over my eyes, I wonder what that damn demon did to me.

 

{Continued}