Dance with Me
Seated with his back against a surprisingly comfortable tree trunk, Squall smiled softly while watching the gradual collapse of their peaceful afternoon picnic. Never one to favor stone walls and formalities, Seifer would demand for such outdoor events at least once a week, if not everyday, and Squall didn't care enough to deny the prince such a simple thing. A blanket of fine cloth rested on the grassy ground, covered with a collection of small baskets that had been mostly emptied of food from the kitchens including sandwiches, fruits, and pastries that could be eaten by hand. With lunch finished, there was nothing to stop Seifer from tormenting his children.
The man of bright green eyes and golden blond hair shone in the sunlight, his smile free of worry as he played with Sol. Meanwhile, the thirteen-month-old boy whined at being unable to escape his father's hold, the child clearly wanting to continue his decimation of the lunch by tossing more of the sandwiches onto the grass. In contrast to her twin brother, Selene was quiet while seated on the picnic blanket, her pale blue eyes focused on Quistis talking behind her six-month-old boy, Ivens. Squall doubted Selene was falling for the act that her cousin was the one speaking to her, but the brunet had learned long ago that it was a no-win situation to spoil anyone's fun when it came to the young nobles.
With an eventual sigh of frustration, Quistis complained, "Why is it so hard to get this girl to smile?"
Chuckling in reply, Seifer saved a chocolate-filled pastry from the clutches of his young son. "Nothing to be done about it. Selene made the poor choice to take after her mother."
"I'm not a mother," Squall reminded for the second time that day, not to mention the thousandth time over the course of the year.
Seifer scowled at the comment, an expression of displeasure that Squall recognized all too well from their difficult past.
"I hate to say it," Quistis began while brushing a stray hair from her face, "but I think Squall is right. For Sol and Selene to think of him as a mother would only confuse and embarrass them later in life."
His scowl softening into a somber frown, Seifer looked at his son when admitting, "I know, but..."
Squall didn't need to hear the words to understand what the blond wanted to say. Though eight months had passed since the dancer's short-lived disappearance from the palace, Squall had yet to come to terms with being a parent. He cared for their needs and took great interest in watching them grow, but he didn't share in Seifer's wholehearted attachment to the infants. Squall had learned to say the words that Sol and Selene were his children, but he was frustrated at the knowledge that there should be something more. Something incredible.
Seifer eyed the dancer's expression and said, "I suppose it's pointless to fight it. How about I'm Papa and you're Daddy? It'll still leave questions for the brats in the future, but I'm not about to hide the truth from them."
Squall shrugged at the suggestion, unconcerned as long as he wasn't referred to by a version of 'mother'.
Hurt flashed in the prince's eyes, but when Sol squealed at the sight of a butterfly, Seifer smiled softly and his entire expression changed to one of determined hope. It was another thing that baffled Squall, how Seifer was so certain that things would change for the better, but the brunet found his own amount of hope in that foolhardy perseverance.
"Oh, look, look! Selene is getting up," Quistis announced excitedly.
Seifer and Squall glanced over at the infant who had mastered standing like her brother, but still hadn't figured out how to keep standing while placing one foot in front of the other. As Seifer and Quistis cheered on the experimenting youth, Squall frowned vaguely at the girl's overly strained expression and the wet gleam beneath her nose. Selene wobbled as she attempted the art of walking, and after a near miss, she planted her first official step toward her birth father. While Quistis applauded, Seifer sung out his praises, and if he hadn't been supporting Sol, he would have likely scooped up the girl into his arms.
Squall didn't share in their excitement, not quite understanding the uproar over something that was bound to happen one day or another, but he didn't want to ruin their fun. Instead, he held out a hand to the struggling girl who was still two adult steps away from the dancer. Selene covered the distance in four jerky steps before collapsing just inches short of her birth father's hand and breaking down into muffled whines. Feeling more concerned than if she had screamed out in frustration, Squall moved onto his knees and lifted the upset girl into his arms. Blue-gray eyes widened when he wiped the tears from her cheeks.
"She's hot," he stated before looking at Seifer.
"Really? I thought she was a little warm earlier, but I didn't think anything of it. Are you certain it's not the sun getting to her?"
Squall shook his head while standing. "I should take her to Kiros and make certain it's nothing serious."
"Wait and I'll come with--"
"No, it would upset Sol to leave now," Squall argued as he accepted a napkin from Quistis and wiped Selene's nose. "I'll go see Kiros and meet you in our rooms once Sol is ready for his nap."
Seifer reluctantly conceded to his lover. "Very well, but send someone to fetch me if Kiros thinks it's something serious."
Squall nodded at the obvious, and with Selene held against his chest, he walked in the direction of the castle that was slowly becoming 'home' to the dancer. After nearly two years of residence within the walls, Squall knew he was strange to still fear the possibility of everything being stolen from him, but he had learned too many times in the past that it was less painful to not form attachments than to grieve over the imminent loss. The only exception was Seifer, the man somehow sneaking past layers of defenses to find the tired soul within. Squall didn't understand his connection to the prince, but he remembered how difficult it was to leave Seifer's side, even only for the length of a day. To be recognized by the man on that night and to be held in arms that didn't want to let him go, Squall knew he was lost to the arrogant prince.
Selene fussed in his hold, a new stream of mucus covering her upper lip. Sympathetic to her sickness, Squall placed a hand against her forehead and hoped that his cooler skin would help against the heat until he could find Kiros.
Late into the night, only the soft glow of moonlight shone in the bedroom that was shared by the third prince and his relatively new family. Whispered words gently woke Seifer from sleep, the shirtless blond stretching out his arm to find his lover missing from his side. Green eyes bleary, Seifer looked to the side of the bed and found Squall standing next to one of two cribs. At one point, the twins were small and civil enough to share a crib, but that changed shortly after Sol learned that poking his sister could make her cry and subsequently make Squall appear. While Seifer was proud of his son's ingenuity, it had caused a few to many headaches for him to let it last.
Tiredly, Seifer pushed up from the bed and padded over to stand behind his lover dressed in oversized pajamas. It was no surprised that Squall was watching over Selene, their baby girl sick for the past two days with fever and the worst of it came earlier that evening, followed by a relieving break in her fever. Though both children had suffered from minor colds during their year of life, the heat of fever was more frightening than the meager coughs and lethargy they had seen before. There was little Kiros could do aside from suggesting ways to bring down her temperature, but Seifer was grateful for the healer's assurance that it was nothing life threatening and that it would pass in time.
Seifer wrapped his arms around the dancer's slim waist and rested his chin on a shoulder. "How's our baby girl doing?"
"Better. She woke a while ago, but fell back asleep after I changed her diaper. I think her fever is nearly gone, but she's still sniffling."
His smile light, Seifer pressed kiss behind an ear. "I like it when you worry about our children."
Squall's hand on the crib tightened with a quiet creak of wood. "Is it strange that I do?"
"No, it's beautiful," the prince replied as he stepped back and tried to pull Squall with him. When the brunet resisted, Seifer said, "Dance with me, my nymph."
Squall turned around and scowled at the prince. "Dance? There's no music."
"I'll make the music," Seifer assured as he jerked the shorter man close and wrapped a firm arm at the lean waist. He then took a cold hand into his and started to hum a song from their past, the song that the brunet had danced to shortly before their fateful meeting. Squall breathed a laugh at the choice in songs, but didn't fight when Seifer began to sway in a lazy dance.
The song didn't last long, but they continued to dance in the moonlight without need of music. Seifer savored the rare moment when the connection between them was clearly felt without the need of clumsy words. He didn't blame Squall for fearing the attachments that most people craved, recognizing that Squall understood better than anyone that the ties between family and friends could transform into an unforgiving noose. Even so, Seifer continued to hope that his lover's fears would go away with the birth of their children, with their first words, with their first steps... but it had yet to happen. Hair-thin cracks were starting to form in the dancer's shields, but it never seemed to be enough.
In the silence of the night, Squall pressed closer to the blond and whispered, "I want to love them." Under his breath, he added, "And you."
"Believe me, you will. One day, you'll help Selene to braid her hair or teach Sol how to dance and suddenly you'll realize that your children became everything to you." Seifer leaned back and gazed into stormy eyes that held a skeptical gleam. "It's not a matter of a single moment, but the accumulation of days and years that helps a person to trust and love. You started late in life compared to the rest of us, and I promise you, the children and I will wait until you figure it out."
"...Why?" Squall asked in disbelief. "Why would you wait when there others who could replace me?"
Startled by the absurd question, Seifer stared at his lover. "Do you really believe that you can be replaced?"
Squall didn't say a word, but everything was visible in his pale-eyed gaze.
Holding back a laugh that would be misunderstood by the dancer, Seifer smiled at the man who would always be a troublesome enigma. "My love, my naive nymph, no one could possibly take your place. You gained my interest when you struck me down, and then gained my heart when you said you were a fool to trust me. No one else has twisted my life around like you and no one ever will. I love you, and as long as you continue to give me hope, I'll wait for you to love me."
Squall stared up at the blond, and Seifer could almost see the new cracks forming in protective shields.
"As for the children," the prince continued, "they'll always want their mother, no matter what they call you. No one else can ever be that for them."
Looking to the cribs and sleeping infants, Squall held his silence for a moment longer before saying, "I never knew my mother. I don't even know what she looked like, but sometimes... I miss her."
His smile sorrowful, and yet pleased at hearing that secret, Seifer said, "Sol and Selene would miss you, too."
Blue-gray eyes closed briefly in thought, and when reopened, moonlight added a touch of silver to the stony depths. No words spoken and nothing readable in his expression, the dancer smoothly lifted onto the balls of his feet and initiated a longing kiss that was filled with the desires that the former slave feared to want and obtain. Seifer contributed to that kiss with a promise that he would do everything in his power to fulfill those desires and purred when Squall accepted that pledge with a forceful press forward.
At the abrupt sound of a quiet whine, Squall broke off the kiss to look at the cribs, but nothing more came from the sleeping children.
Seifer breathed a laugh at the man's actions, and when Squall looked at him curiously, he explained, "You keep claiming you don't know how to love, but look at you, one noise and everything stops."
"Selene has been sick for days. Of course I'm worried that her fever would come back."
"Of course," Seifer repeated with a soft inflection that solidified his point.
Squall stared at the prince in wonder for a long moment before he looked to the cribs, an anticlimactic 'huh' of revelation sounding in the night.
"Come to bed," Seifer said as he stepped back and pulled on the hand still in his. "You need sleep as much as our lovely daughter does, not to mention that Mother will scold me if you continue showing to breakfast half asleep."
"Just sleep," Squall warned as he let himself be dragged by the shirtless man to the bed they shared.
The prince smirked at the suggestion, his eyes glancing over Squall's oversized sleepwear that once belonged to the blond. Though Squall claimed it was the material he loved about the clothes, he refused to have any pajamas made of the same fabric in his size. Though removing the clothes would be simple enough, Seifer took note of the darkening circles beneath entrancing eyes and knew physical activities could wait for another time. They crawled into bed and Squall slid next to the prince without thought or fear, an act that made Seifer hum out in pleasure and earn a slap against his thigh.
Eventually they settled with Squall's back against Seifer's bare chest and strong arms wrapped around the dancer. Thinking Squall asleep, Seifer moved a hand to the brunet's stomach and thought about the tricks of Fate that brought had them together - a beautiful dance, a desperate act, and a verbal contract. None of it should have led to the man in his bed, but Seifer wasn't about to question his good fortune.
A hand then grasped onto his, startling Seifer out of musing thoughts.
"Once I let you touch my stomach, you never stopped," Squall murmured in near sleep.
Seifer breathed a laugh at the exasperated tone. "Sorry, I can't help myself."
The brunet hummed at the truth of the statement, but didn't push aside the hand.
Deciding that he had been given reluctant permission, Seifer slipped a thumb past folds of soft cloth and stroked the flesh underneath. He had the urge to speak more to Squall and explain how love came in many different forms, but Seifer held his tongue when soft breaths of sleep sounded from the exhausted man. Seifer smiled and pressed a kiss at a shoulder, confident that it was enough to have Squall dance with him in the moonlight and freely speak of his deeper fears. Despite those fears, Squall slept at his side and, slowly, was learning what it meant to love.
His smile widened into something foolish, Seifer closed his eyes and imagined the day when Squall could trust something as simple and dangerous as love.
Author's Whining -- It was interesting writing this ficlet after so many years. I completely forgot how remote this Squall is compared to the rest of my Squall!muses. It was fun writing him again and helping him move a step closer to truly loving Seifer and their children. ;) I don't know if this is what you expected, Francine, but I hope you liked it.