Dreams That Were
November 2009

 

Dark trees stood tall and intimidating under a vast collection of stars that brightened the sky, but not the ground below where a small campsite had been built for the night.  Flickers of low flames from a dying fire brought shadows to life, drawing the eye to imaginary dangers in the surrounding forest.  And somewhere in the distance, a wolf howled at length in a lonesome call, a summons that was answered by another wolf to the north, its howl deep and commanding.

Lifting his gaze in that direction, Seifer imagined that a hunt was about to take place, ending in a bloody kill.

The small campfire in front of him, the blond lord sat with his legs crossed and his arm wrapped loosely around the waist of his dark-haired lover.  Behind them, Seifer could hear the sleeping breaths of their children, Leander resting on his side in a restful pose and Verena curled in a tight ball with her thumb not quite in her mouth.  Close by was the sorceress' watchful guardian, Sekre snoring with quiet purrs of content at being in the wilderness that suited the Moomba more than the confines of the summer house that had been surrendered to him.  Ward and Kiros were elsewhere, the dark-skinned healer sleeping until his turn for the night watch.  It was superfluous with the sorcerer's spells protecting them, but everyone in the small group had learned hard lessons that it was better to be safe than sorry.

Glancing down at his lover, Seifer smiled softly at the natural way Squall pressed against his side and distractedly toyed with the edge of the lord's coat sleeve.  While stormy eyes followed the dance of small flames, Seifer doubted that the sorcerer saw anything of the campfire, but was instead remembering visions from the past that had been brought back to life after their visit to the remains of his lost city.  Seifer, himself, had felt the incredible pressure of revisiting the once beautiful capital, but he could only imagine what the experience had done to the reserved man.  While Squall claimed that the past had led to the present he treasured, Seifer couldn't shake the plaguing doubt that Squall was hiding the true pain he felt for his lost family and ruined life.

"Seifer...?"

Noticing that his hold around the brunet had tightened significantly, Seifer pulled back his arm until his hand rested at the man's hip and he could stroke his thumb at the flesh beneath a heavy sweater.

Blue-gray eyes glanced up at the blond, expectant of an explanation for the tight hold, but when one didn't come, Squall simply shook his head and returned his gaze to the low fire.  "I should thank you for bringing us here.  I have been away for too long."

Seifer hummed lightly and hoped that his voice sounded strong when he said, "I should have suggested it far sooner than this."

With a faint smile, Squall argued, "I wasn't ready.  To come here when Verena was younger... It would have risked my love for her."

It was a bittersweet ache that filled Seifer's chest at the statement.  "You would have always loved her."

"Perhaps," was the doubtful reply, one Squall didn't let the lord examine further.  "I should warn you, though - your son has decided that he deserves to know about our past."

"My son, huh?" Seifer mused before bowing his head in resignation.  "Well, I can't say I'm surprised.  Ander has been eyeing me the whole trip and I've known since Trelane that he wanted to ask me something.  It's a shame that it couldn't wait another couple years, though."

"What is that suppose to mean?"

"My past, both with you and with Ander, isn't something I can defend."

Briefly closing his eyes, the sorcerer contended, "It isn't your choice to defend it."

Seifer frowned at the worrisome declaration.

"Leander knows there is darkness in our pasts," the brunet continued quietly.  "He also knows who we are now.  It is his choice to decide how he feels about the difference."

Thinking about the words, Seifer questioned, "Like you chose between me and my past?"

Squall didn't offer a vocal reply, but instead gazed up at his partner with clear intent in his eyes.  Needing no other sign, Seifer bent down and caressed his lips against Squall's, the sorcerer responding with a satisfied hum.  As he strengthened the chaste kiss, Seifer wondered at the ability of his lover to chase away his worries, even if only for a moment.  He didn't deserve it, that much he was certain, but with the willing brunet in his arms, Seifer was able to believe that his actions in the past were akin to a destructive fire that could devour an old forest, but then allow that same forest to be reborn into a healthier and stronger form.  It wasn't a kind event in nature, but nonetheless, necessary.

"You'll wake the children if you continue with that."

Squall broke away from the kiss at the interruption, the act of which causing Seifer to glare at the large steward standing at the other side of the campfire.  "We could have been quiet," Seifer claimed, enduring the sharp elbow to his ribs for the suggestion.

Ward chuckled as he turned and headed back to his patrol.  "Quiet or not, you should get some sleep.  It has been a long day and we have an early start in the morning."

While Seifer wanted to argue the matter, Squall nodded at the steward's logic and stood up from the ground with his hand braced at the blond's shoulder.  Resigned to a peaceful night, Seifer followed after his lover and moved the short distance to their bedrolls.  Just as they knelt down, Seifer noticed that their young daughter had sat up at some point and was rubbing her eyes with fisted hands.

"Did we wake you, princess?" Seifer asked quietly, worried about waking Leander as well.

Verena lowered one hand to see her father.  "Daddy... Are you goin' to bed?"

"Yeah, just like you should be.  We have another day of hiking tomorrow."

With a tired frown, Verena stood up and teetered dangerously to the side.  "I wanna sleep wit you."

Seifer glanced down at the silent sorcerer, wanting to hold Squall throughout the night after their interrupted moment, but there was no sympathy in the pale gaze that looked up at him.  Sighing in defeat, Seifer reached a hand out to his daughter and motioned her closer.  Verena stumbled when she stepped over her Faer's legs, but Seifer caught her before she could fall and manage to hurt herself.  Hugging her close as he lowered to his bedroll, Seifer pressed his lips against honey brown hair and arranged Verena so that small girl could curl up against his side.

In that position, Seifer met gazes with blue-gray and smiled at the fondness he saw there.  "You do realize that you should be horribly jealous that she wanted me and not you."

With a vague shake of his head, Squall argued, "I like seeing her in your arms.  It reminds me that she's just a little girl who trusts her father to protect and love her."

"She trusts you, too."

Squall gave the lord a knowing glance, but didn't elaborate on the constant issue.  Instead, he placed a hand at his daughter's arm and rubbed soothingly while closing his eyes and preparing for sleep.

Taking the hint, Seifer took a final look at the cherub face of his daughter that was already relaxed in renewed sleep, and with reluctance, he closed his eyes.  Unlike the young girl, sleep did not immediately find the lord, and as such, he heard another call of a wolf that sounded full of excitement.  With the last thought that the pack of wolves had found their prey for the night, Seifer pulled his daughter close and let the darkness of sleep overcome him.

~ > < ~

Murmurs of a crowd gradually gained volume until Seifer opened his eyes to sunlight and found himself standing in the middle of a busy marketplace, not remembering how or when he had gotten there.  All around, people argued over the best price, sellers called out about one of a kind items, and customers weaved in and out of the various stalls.  The scene seemed perfectly normal at first, but after rubbing his eyes to clear his vision, Seifer realized that the colors of the people and items were dulled by a haze of gray.  A glimmer of worry entered his mind, and with some hesitation, he reached forward to touch a man's shoulder, but like smoke, the image wavered and then solidified while the ghost walked off as if nothing had happened.

Clenching and unclenching his empty hand, Seifer said to himself, "This must be a dream..."

Though certain of his conclusion, Seifer felt that something was strange, almost too real about the dream around him.  And then he looked upward to gaze upon the incredible palace that was cut into tall white cliffs, but unlike the castle he saw earlier that day, banners and flags of all colors hung at the wide balconies that belonged to different clans.  The highest balcony was almost too high to see clearly, but Seifer could discern the banner displaying a silver lion standing upon a wide sword.

Frowning, Seifer realized that there was no particular reason for him to know the design of the Loire banner, and yet there it was, proud and beautiful as he imagined it would be.

"A lovely day, isn't it?"

Startled by the voice that had a ring of life to it, Seifer spun around to face the unknown man, but then instantly stilled at the sight of the stranger.  About the same height as the blond lord, the man had a fairly lean build of pure muscle, dark brown hair shortened to accommodate a helmet, and cold eyes of iron gray.  Unlike the haze that dulled the people around them, the forty-something man had a white light that flickered with colors that appeared to be memories of life.  Most striking, however, was the man's face, and Seifer wondered if his dream had been affected by Verena's comment that her brother looked incredibly like Squall's lost uncle.

With a shark's smile, the man said, "So, you know who I am."

Not ready to be fooled by his imagination, Seifer continued his study of the man and noticed a wolf of pure white fur standing perfectly still behind its master, all except for a thick tail that moved in an impatient wag.  Unnerved by the beast, Seifer returned to his examination of the man who stood with the stance of an experience swordsman, and supporting the assumption, the man's clothes were the formal attire of a decorated soldier and not of a prince.  But then Seifer's eyes were attracted to the pendent that held the blue cape in place, a silver pendent with a roaring lion's head that flowed downward into a sword.  It was the same pendent that Squall had gifted to their son, though it had a cleaner shape to the design.  Knowing what he did about Leander's necklace, Seifer imagined that there was only one true original Griever pendent, but sorcerers were quite resourceful when it came to sculpting wood and metal.

Confused and anxious about details he couldn't know, Seifer asked warily, "Is this a dream... or something more?"

Iron gray eyes flickered with amusement, but that light quickly faded.  "What if I told you that your daughter is quite powerful?  Dangerously so."

Seifer frowned at the statement that was clearly meant to get a reaction from him.  Refusing to give the man that satisfaction, the lord considered the message behind the words, and after a moment of thought, he watched the ghosts moving around them.  "Is this... what Verena sees?  Her 'white people'?"  When no reply came, Seifer returned his attention to the dark-haired man.  "This dream... is it somehow connected to her power?  Are you, in truth, Leander Loire?"

The lost man said nothing at first, his gaze calculating and cold, but he eventually relented, "I wished to speak with you.  She indulged me."

Dumbfounded by both his daughter's abilities and the presence of Squall's precious uncle, Seifer stared at the man he was never supposed to meet.

In that moment of silence, the lost sorcerer's gaze drifted to the lord's chest covered by warm cloth, and with a disgusted twist of his lips, he turned sharply and stepped in a fast stride toward the palace of white stone, his wolf following close behind.  "Follow me."

Seifer briefly clutched at his shirt and the symbol of Sugenti Denynas that lied beneath, but with no other option before him, he trailed after the ghost of Leander Loire.  The marketplace seemed to fade around them, as if a forgotten memory, and be replaced by the intimidating force of the palace that stood unprotected with open gates.  At the sides of the wide entrance were shields of various animals, similar to the ones that decorated the balconies high above.  Seifer immediately looked to the shield at the highest point of the archway and maintained his focus on the silver lion until crossing the threshold into the palace.

A strange coldness radiated from the castle walls, a frigid caress that had nothing to do with temperature, but from unnatural energy beyond the life Seifer knew.  Wary of the dreamscape surroundings, he didn't notice when Leander had approached a wide pair of doors, as if the entrance had appeared from nowhere.  The dark red wood was decorated with a carved image of Shiva as the sorcerers knew her, the elegant lines colored pale white against the deep color of the wood.  It was a beautiful piece of art, forever lost except for the memories of the few remaining sorcerers and those aware in death.

"I want you to meet someone," Leander stated as he pushed open the doors and stepped inside.

Seifer frowned at the vague statement, though it enlightened him as to where Squall had learned the minimal way of speaking.  Following after the lost sorcerer, Seifer slowed to a stop once viewing upon the immense room within.  Its identity as a library was obvious with the shelves upon shelves of scrolls and books that reached up to impossible heights, at least to the crest of the white cliffs that supported the entirety of the palace.  Pale ghosts, sorcerers of mostly older ages, walked at the foot of the shelves and summoned required books with the use of wind, still studying the texts that were useless in their current state.

"Seifer Almasy," Leander began as he neared a table stacked with an assortment of books and scrolls, "This is Squall Loire."

Green eyes went wide at the sight of the dark-haired boy, no more than eight, pouring over books that looked heavier than the full weight of the skinny child.  "Squall... isn't dead," was the only thought that Seifer could vocalize while staring at the pale gray form.

"No, he isn't," Leander agreed with a flicker of silver to his eyes.  "But my memories of him are."

The wolf left the side of his master and trotted toward the boy to nudge its nose against the child's arm.  At first offended at his broken concentration, the boy smiled with an innocence and freedom that had been stripped of the older version, long before Seifer had ever met him.

His tone softly scolding, Squall told the wolf, "Bad, Temperance," but petted the beast's thick fur with a fondness reserved for children and pets.  The boy then looked up at the lost sorcerer with excitement in pale eyes, but didn't seem to acknowledge the presence of the blond lord.  "Uncle Leander, look at what I learned," the boy announced as he braced two hands together, and after a whispered incantation, he opened his hands to produce a small bird of white flames, the sudden appearance causing the wolf to bark.

"Incredible," Seifer whispered when the bird took flight, but his words went unnoticed by the child.

The lost sorcerer smiled softly at his nephew, and with a gentle touch, he caught the flying bird of fire.  "Be careful with this type of magic.  Your father nearly brought the library down in flames when he tried it."

Though the boy's expression brightened at the tale, he noticeably did not laugh as Seifer knew their children would have.

"A serious child," Leander commented while blowing out the bird of white fire.  "He learned everything he could to protect me."

When the younger version of Squall didn't react, Seifer figured the statement was meant for him.  "Squall has always done everything in his power to save those he loves."

The sorcerer scoffed, "And you think you are worthy of that same love?"

Seifer smirked at the question that he had asked himself time and time again.  "Nonetheless, he has given it to me."

Leander scowled at the reply, but his expression softened when he shifted his focus to the boy who had already gone back to his studies.  "After I returned from my exile, I expected little of my life.  My brother was a fool and never doubted me, but for this child to love me when others warned him not to... I treasured every moment with him, and his love is more precious than what you deserve."

Though Seifer said nothing to the lost sorcerer, he understood the sentiment of being forgiven all sins by the stubborn brunet.  Thinking of that snowy day years past, Seifer fought against a smile at how Squall himself had been bewildered by his forgiveness for the inexcusable crimes of their shared pasts.

"All of this," Leander began with a wave of his hand toward the collection of books in front of the young sorcerer, "is what Squall did for me, to protect me.  In return, I taught him everything I knew."  Iron gray eyes shifted to the lord, accusing and harsh.  "You, on the other hand, did this."

With a loud snap of his fingers, the room was abruptly awash with golden-red light and deep shadows played between the books on their immense shelves.  Momentarily distracted by the signs of approaching fire, Seifer had glanced away from the memory of Squall.  Once returning his gaze to the table, Seifer felt instinctual panic when he didn't find the boy safe and within reach.

Doors abruptly slammed open from behind and a voice called out, "Enough!  We have to leave!"

The voice was disturbingly familiar to Seifer, but not from his current knowledge of his lover's timber.  With a slow turn, Seifer set eyes on the young man in his early teens dressed in dark protective leather and a black cloak with its hood pushed back.  Stormy eyes were oddly dull from the effect of Leander's memory, but Seifer could imagine the white fire that would burn in the cold depths.  From the hallway beyond, shadows danced and darted as sorcerers and common humans alike fled the magical flames, the figures still gray despite the vivid colors of yellow and orange all around them.

Within the library, the elder sorcerers protested their prince's orders to retreat, the gray men stubborn in their duty to protect the ancient texts.  Squall, however, allowed little argument.  With magic and physical force, he knocked the books out of their arms and directed them toward the exit.  "Books can be rewritten.  People cannot."

Cowed by the anger of their prince, the elder sorcerers reluctantly agreed that it was best to leave.  As they shuffled out of the library, Squall turned his attention to a particularly old man who was searching through a collection of battered scrolls, his hand shaking from age and moving without hurry.  Squall stepped toward the man, but was immediately silenced as the elder sorcerer continued his search.

Allowing the man a minute of silence, the young man eventually pleaded, "Instructor, we need to..."

"There is time," the old man insisted while resting his hand on each and every scroll.  Before Squall could form a better argument, the man exclaimed quietly, "There you are," and pulled free a small, tattered scroll.  His smile tired, he grabbed one of Squall's hands and placed the scroll on his open palm.

"Instructor... I'm sorry, but Father said nothing should be saved--"

"This is important, young prince.  This is the curse that chases us - Sugenti Denynas.  And one day, you may need to learn how to control this fire before it destroys us all."

Startled by that knowledge, the young man couldn't look away from the scroll in his hand, even as the elder sorcerer waddled off toward the exit.  With a careful touch, Squall unrolled the aged parchment and studied the letters that would one day be imprinted for all times on Seifer's soul, a thought that made the lord press a hand to his chest.

A sharp cry and the sounds of a struggle made the young man look up, and after quickly rolling up the scroll and hiding it within protective clothing, Squall ran toward the entrance of the library.  Unable to prevent his curiosity, Seifer followed quickly behind, but came to a halt several feet in front of the threshold to the hallway beyond.  All of the old sorcerers that Squall had tried to save laid on the stone ground, most with slit throats... which Seifer knew was the preferred method taught to Imperial soldiers to prevent a magic-user from casting spells.

Squall stumbled at the sight of his murdered mentors and fell to his knees in a pool of colorless blood.  His head hung low, the young prince grieved in the sparse amount of time allowed to him.  Five men, soldiers by dress but none familiar in Seifer's memory, approached the kneeling sorcerer with the confidence of those who thought they had found easy prey.  However, before one could utter a threat, a gust of wind burst from the point at which Squall had been sitting and the boy was gone.  In a blur of motion, the dark figure moved in a deadly arch that left four soldiers dead from decapitation, and with the final living man in front of him, Squall stabbed his soul-formed sword into the chest of the dumbfounded soldier.

Shoving the man aside so he wouldn't land on top of fallen sorcerer, the young prince straightened and placed his hood over his head in an emotionless manner that didn't suit a child who had just murdered five men.

"This was the start of the sickness in his soul," Leander said as he stepped next to the watching lord.  "In many ways, he never recovered."

"... What purpose does this serve?" Seifer asked in a hoarse breath.  "I never took pleasure in the Massacre.  Hell, I didn't even meet with the 'Sorcerer Prince' during those days or nights."

"You killed innocent men."

"Only because I didn't know better.  Ultimecia is the one who wanted this, not me."

The lost sorcerer stiffened at the accusation, but eventually agreed, "Aye, that's true.  Because I failed her, everything came to ruins.  But I will not fail my nephew as I did her."  And without warning, Leander called upon a wind that shoved the blond lord forward past the open library doors.

Prepared to stumble over dead bodies, Seifer was surprised when the brightness of golden fire was immediately replaced by the darkness of night.  Once steady, Seifer turned slowly to find the doorway to the library still behind him, as well as Leander and his wolf, but when Seifer should have been standing in a hallway of the sorcerers' palace, he was instead faced with the night scenery of a familiar backstreet.  It didn't take long for the lord to recognize the street as the route he once used to reach the pubs he frequented back in the day, and with a sick feeling to his stomach, he glanced further down the street to find the shady inn he feared would be there.

"Do you remember?" Leander asked in a dangerous tone.

Seifer shook his head, disbelief bright in his eyes.  "No, I never could... But Squall has told me enough."

"Enough?" the sorcerer repeated in a scoff.

Before Seifer could maintain the argument, he watched as a younger version of himself stumbled into view from a cross street.  Though everything was still gray from the lost sorcerer's memories, Seifer thought he could discern a greenish hue to his cheeks.  Hair ruffled, dark circles beneath his eyes, and uneven stubble at his jaw, Seifer was impressed that he was a greater mess than he remembered from those days.  Too many nightmares of the Massacre, too many nights drinking, too many failed associations with lovely women...

Shifting his gaze down the street and to an alleyway out of view from his younger self, Seifer located the dark form bundled in a simple cloak and watched as the person walked toward the street with a heavy, pain-filled step.

Unable to look away from the inevitable collision that was about to happen, Seifer frowned in sudden thought.  "You weren't around for this.  How is this a 'memory' of yours?"

"I have watched over my nephew since my death, even though my spirit is strongest where I was murdered," Leander explained in a plain tone, as if wanting to insure that Seifer knew the events were real.  "I have seen everything of his life."

"But... before, with the library, you weren't there, either.  And very much alive."

"I found Squall hours after that event.  He was clearly shaken and I made him tell me every detail."

Though uncertain what to believe, Seifer saw little reason in the lost sorcerer being deceitful when there was plenty of actual events for him to use against the blond lord.  And unable to place more thought into the matter, Seifer watched as his younger self ran headlong into the cloaked sorcerer and promptly vomited a night's worth of dinner and ale onto his future lover.  Events played out exactly as Squall had described, beginning with Seifer's poor attempts to wipe clean the cheap cloak and almost nonsensical pleads of forgiveness from the person he had first assumed to be a woman.

Hardly paying attention, Seifer instead studied the frail form of the ruined prince.  His hood thrown back from the force of impact, Squall's face and right shoulder were in clear view.  Though Seifer had complained for years that the brunet was too skinny, he realized that the man he knew was relatively well-fed compared to this bony youth.  At his shoulder were old bandages, stained with dirt and blood from his confrontation with Ultimecia on her home ground.  More than Seifer understood before, it was painfully clear why Squall couldn't say 'no' against a fool nobleman and his money.

The hand cleaning frayed material slowed and Seifer watched as his eyes first met Squall's.  "You're... male?"

Still owning a prince's heart, Squall scowled at the insult and knocked aside the hand at his chest.  "You're an idiot," he declared while stepping around the larger teen.

Something dangerous flashed in young eyes and the nobleman grabbed the brunet's injured shoulder, but quickly released when it pained his target.  "I have a request of you."

Squall glanced back with a wary expression.

"I'll pay you to give your body to me.  One night, thirty gold."

His face darkening with offense, Squall stalked off.

"Forty?  Fifty?" the blond youth continued until offering, "One hundred gold!"

That amount made Squall falter and stop in place, but he didn't face the other man.

Pleased at gaining the beauty's attention, the noble hurried with an unsteady step and stood next to the shorter youth.  "Two hundred gold."

Full lips twisted before Squall argued, "We're both male.  It's not allowed."

"Three hundred," the blond continued with a drunken smile of determination.

"... No..."

"Four hundred, and my final offer."

After worrying his lower lip, Squall asked, "How do I know you have that amount?"

Stupid and eager, the young nobleman retrieved a pouch from an inner pocket of his jacket and placed the full weight of the bag onto the brunet's hand.  "There are fifty coins and several precious gems that should fetch you a good price.  I just won them in a gamble and the man knows better than to cheat me."

Never opening the bag, Squall fisted his hand around the leather pouch and held it close to his chest.  "All of this... for one night?"

"It's only some gold, and to be quite honest, I'm desperate," the blond said with a flirting smile, smug and carefree.

Observing the interaction from across the street, Seifer watched as Squall closed his eyes to make the decision that would change everything.  He knew the gold was too sweet of an offer for the sorcerer who still craved vengeance against the woman who had murdered his family and destroyed the capital of a relatively peaceful race.  His injuries still sore and his heart wounded, Squall would accept the offer with no understanding of what the future held for him.

It was with a slight nod that their fate was sealed, and with no hesitation on the noble's part, he grabbed the sorcerer's wrist and hurried in the direction of the inn Seifer had noticed earlier.

"Won't you follow?" Leander asked gruffly, irritated by the events that were to come.  His wolf had already crossed the street, prepared to defend his master's precious nephew.

Seifer glanced in the direction of the inn, and after a moment's thought, he shook his head.  "No.  In eight years, Squall hasn't told me anything more about that night than he did the first time.  If he thought the details would benefit either of us, he would have shared everything about what had happened."

"Flegnard," Leander snarled, the lord recognizing the term for a coward, or more specifically a dog with its tail between its legs.  "You don't care, do you?  As long as Squall carries the burden, why should you care?"

"That's not what I said," Seifer argued as he faced the lost sorcerer.  "This isn't my pain to bear and Squall is too proud to depend on the man who caused his pain.  For me to learn more about this night does nothing, except perhaps wound Squall more if I hesitate to touch him."

Growling, Leander grabbed the front of the lord's shirt and twisted the heavy material.  "You are a coward, afraid to witness the crimes you committed against my nephew."

Seifer stiffened at the assault, the first time the spirit had 'physically' touched him within the dreamscape.  A strange coldness radiated from that small point of contact, and though Seifer kept eye contact with the sorcerer, he could discern flickers of black energy surrounding the man's arm.  "When Squall decides to tell me everything, I will listen.  But not before then."

"Then you don't care what caused this?" Leander demanded as he shoved the lord into an alleyway.

Stumbling from the force of the push, Seifer didn't immediately notice the muffled cries of a man in extreme pain.  At a familiar whimper, the lord turned sharply to find a slightly older form of Squall hidden behind a collection of discarded crates and other trash.  It was a confusing sight to see the proud prince with long hair framing his face and dressed in the clothing of a peasant woman, but seeing the bulge beneath the winter clothing, Seifer abruptly realized what was happening.

Seifer promptly moved to the brunet's side, even though he knew it wouldn't matter, but he still tried to move the man's hand from its place between cutting teeth.  His fingers sliding through the gray haze, Seifer frowned in worry as the sorcerer cried out in a clear resemblance to when their daughter had been born, but the warmth and comfort of their bedroom was a far cry from the alleyway covered in snow and trash.  Unable to do anything more, Seifer watched over the young man who wasn't meant to live such a cruel life.

After a time that could have been minutes or hours in the dreamscape, Squall cried out despite his attempt to muffle his screams, and with a slick sound, Leander Almasy was born into the world on stone ground.  The alleyway was too quiet as Squall gasped for breath, something Seifer realized several long seconds before the sorcerer showed a worried expression.  In a pained move, he reached for the silent babe, and after fingering the tiny mouth, Squall whispered the same spell Seifer remembered from years before.  The wind spell cleared the babe's throat, and with little time to waste, the infant screamed out in protest of the rough labor and cold air.

Seifer looked to Squall's face in that moment, expectant of a fearful expression from Squall at the babe's loud cries in a dangerous part of town, but beyond his imagination, Seifer watched as the young sorcerer gazed fondly at the life that had tortured him for months, and with no hesitation, Squall kissed the filth covered skin and whispered a quiet reassurance.

"Hyne, Squall..." Seifer said in a hoarse voice, and then smiled at the beginning of the bond between child and birth father.  "He's beautiful."

As if to reacting to the lord's voice, the younger form of Squall straightened and shifted searching gray eyes toward bright green, almost meeting and seeing...

A sudden wind whipped around Seifer, debris and ice blinding the blond as he was thrown backward until landing sharply against the hard ground and losing his breath.  The harsh wind quickly died down to a faint breeze, but Seifer wasn't given a moment's reprieve as a strong hand grabbed the front of his shirt and lifted him into an awkward seated position.

"What in Shiva's name were you smiling at?" Leander demanded in a growl, his wolf howling nearby.

Seifer winced as he opened his eyes, the darkness of night replaced with a glaring, cloud-covered sky.  He opened his mouth to reply, but was shoved against the ground and he choked on his words.

"Did you enjoy his pain?  Did you find his situation amusing?"

Before he could be knocked against the ground a second time, Seifer grabbed the hand at his chest and swung a leg against the sorcerer's side to throw him off balance.  With that brief opportunity, the lord darted out from beneath the powerful spirit and placed several meters between them before he turned and took in the sight of the new venue.  Returned to the palace of white stone, Seifer felt a wave of dizziness at finding himself on a wide, circular platform connected to one of the towers.  According to Squall earlier that day, it was the required location for honorable duels between sorcerers, and with that knowledge, Seifer settled into a firm stance, prepared to fight despite his reasonable fear of unguarded heights.

In loose and confident pose, Leander sneered at the blond lord.  "I wanted to meet with you to better understand the choices my nephew made, but I see now that he had been blinded by you."  As he spoke, a second wolf of dark gray fur appeared and stood at its master's side opposite of the white wolf.  "I can't allow that to continue."

Seifer thought to argue that he hadn't been given a chance to defend himself, but he knew the claim would fall on deaf ears.  Instead, he tried to calm his inner core as Squall had taught him and prayed that the spark of magic within him would serve as a defense against the lost sorcerer and his wolves.

"Don't look so afraid, Lord Almasy," Leander said derisively.  "I believe in a degree of fairness," and with a wave of his hand, a collection of weapons fell from the sky and landed with a harsh clatter in front of Seifer.  "Choose your weapon."

Though startled by the sudden appearance of weapons, Seifer was reminded that everything was little more than a dream, not reality.  Green eyes scanned the scattering of weapons, but none would help him against the spirit of a sorcerer, not even the blade that looked remarkably like Hyperion.  Hoping that Leander was indeed a man of honor, Seifer closed his eyes and envisioned the one weapon that would best protect him, a weapon he had held only once before.  Nothing happened for several seconds, a lapse of time made worrisome when a wolf growled with impatience, but Seifer had faith and mouthed a simple, 'help me.'  The resulting weight in his hand made Seifer smile.

"Are you mocking me?" Leander demanded lowly.

Without offering an answer, Seifer opened his eyes to view upon his lover's unique blade covered with sapphire and crimson flames.  But despite his adoration of the magical blade, Seifer felt a heavy weight in his chest when he realized that he didn't know what effects the dreamscape could have on reality.  "If this fight is what you want, then fine, but I want to know what ends this would achieve.  Whether you like it or not, I am bonded to Squall - to kill me means he dies, as well."

Gray eyes darkened at the reminder.  "That is true, but only if the soul dies.  When you die here, it is your mind that is lost forever, and Squall will finally be free of your dominating spell."

At the declaration, Leander sprinted forward, and in a flash of light, he summoned his staff and changed it into a blade of dark silver.  The clash of magical blades created an eerie sound much like a howling wind, and Seifer struggled against the strength of the attack which was powered by more than human ability alone.  Crimson fire flashed out toward Leander, causing the man to flinch back from the reach of flames.  Though a split-second relief, Seifer took advantage of the lowered defense to knock aside the dark blade in front of him and punch the lost sorcerer, a move that he realized was a terrible mistake when Leander smirked and his image faded slightly.  His fist slipped through the phantom, and lost in that momentum, Seifer twisted into an unbalanced position that made him stumble straight into and through the full body of the white spirit.

Turning around once regaining his balance, Seifer glared at the blurred form of the sorcerer and watched him slowly regain substance.  "You have got to be kidding me.  How is this remotely fair if you're the one who decides when I can touch you?"

Leander smirked at the question.  "I only claimed a degree of fairness."

Seifer opened his mouth to argue, but the click of claws on stone and a growling breath prompted him to turn sharply and place his borrowed sword up to guard his throat.  Teeth flashed against the colors of sapphire and crimson flames, but fearing the magical fire, the dark wolf snapped its mouth shut and simply butted its head against Seifer's chest in a heavy attack.  Surprised by the weight of the beast, Seifer fell back onto the stone ground and grunted at the impact, which was quickly followed by the wolf clawing at the lord's chest and arms.  From instinctual need alone, Seifer adjusted his hold on his blade and punched forward to slam the hilt of the sword against the wolf's nose.

Much like a pup, the dark wolf yelped at the attack and scrambled off from the flattened lord to run in the direction of its master.  Stunned by the reaction, Seifer stared down at his hand and hilt of the blade, dumbfounded that the simple attack had worked against the beast of a wolf.

With a casual air, Leander stroked the head of his wounded pet.  "It's been awhile since you have felt pain, eh, Wrath?"  At the wolf's whimper, the lost sorcerer straightened and lifted his dark blade in readiness.  "Don't worry - he'll feel worse pain than yours."

Seifer hurried to his feet, ignoring the burn of the scratches from blunt claws that had cut into his clothing and dragged through his skin, though no blood showed for it.  It was more from luck than skill that his blade parried a lunging attack from the sorcerer, though Seifer knew his spars with Squall had helped to train his body against the inhuman abilities of magic users.  Barely maintaining a defensive front, Seifer didn't attempt a risky offensive move against the angered spirit, but waited patiently for a chance of a counterattack.

So focused on the strikes of the dark blade, Seifer was startled when blue flames burst to life at his side and spears of white stone crumbled against the magical wall.  Leander scowled at the failed attack, but didn't let it slow his physical assault of the blond lord.  Thrown off his rhythm by the attack of earth magic, Seifer barely blocked the subsequent lunges aimed for his neck, but the heavy sidekick for his thigh went untouched.

Falling to his knees, Seifer felt time slow as he watched Leander lift his blade in preparation to decapitate his enemy.  The lord knew the strike was coming and that he needed to defend himself, but his lowered sword arm couldn't move fast enough to block the swinging blade.  With no other action to take, Seifer watched the face of the lost sorcerer, once again impressed that his son looked so much like the man he was named after.  His smile vague as the dark sword flashed with black light, Seifer prayed that his son had also inherited the man's apparent strength.

Before finishing its downward arch, the magical blade was knocked backward by a sharp wind that jetted between the two men and cut into the white stone at the sorcerer's feet.  Though partially blinded by coarse dust, Seifer saw how iron-gray eyes went wide at the unexpected wind strike and the lord felt some satisfaction when the sorcerer backed away from the narrow crater formed in the dueling platform.  Lifting a hand to his chest and the burning sign of Sugenti Denynas, Seifer turned his head to look at the approach of his furious lover and the seven-year-old child braced in his arms.  And while Squall's appearance peaked the lord's curiosity, Seifer smiled fondly at the radiant image of his husband in true color and not the hazy version of Leander's dreams.

"What is the meaning of this?" Squall demanded in low tone.

"Squall..." Leander breathed, his white form showing memories of color as he gazed upon his nephew.  "You aren't supposed to be here."

With a scoff, Squall informed him, "You frightened Verena by attacking Seifer.  Of course she went to me for help."  Lowering their little girl to the ground, Squall patted her head encouragingly.  "Go to your father, princess.  It's safe."

Her first steps shaky with uncertainty, Verena held back until Seifer stretched a hand out to his daughter.  Small legs moving as fast as they could, Verena ran for her kneeling father and collapsed against his chest with a heavy sob.  Seifer could barely make out the string of apologies from the young girl as he shushed her quietly and murmured his assurances that nothing was her fault.  As the young girl continued to cry, green eyes glanced up at Squall, and when finding a relieved expression, Seifer snorted a laugh at the realization that the sorcerer's master plan to protect him was to throw a child between him and Leander.

Not humored by the same thought, Leander frowned at the man holding his grandniece.  "You shouldn't interfere, Squall."

"And let you kill my husband?" Squall questioned as he crossed his arms over his chest.  "No, I don't think so."

"He has you fooled, cub!" the lost sorcerer roared.  "I've been where you are and I know it's hard to see the truth.  I know you don't want to believe that he'll betray you, but I've seen his worse side when you have looked the other way."

Seifer held his daughter tightly at the accusation, wanting to defend himself, but knowing that it wasn't necessary when Squall breathed a laugh in rebuff.

"Betray me?" Squall questioned coolly.  "As I see it now, the only one who has betrayed me is you, Uncle."

As if physically assaulted, the lost sorcerer took a step back in retreat and showed an injured expression.  "I have never--"

"You tricked my daughter, lied to her in order to abuse her powers and satisfy your misguided mission of revenge.  Then, without considering the irreparable damage it would cause me, you were prepared to destroy my husband's mind and take him away from me until we could meet again in the afterlife."  Stormy eyes dark with anger that Seifer hadn't seen in years, Squall concluded, "You have betrayed both me and my family, and I don't know how to forgive you for that."

Shaking his head, Leander struggled with the blunt words from his precious nephew.  "My methods may be harsh, but my reasons are sound and proven as true.  This man you call 'husband' couldn't bring himself to face his crimes, and then smiled when witnessing the result of his cruel touch.  He cared little of your pain, and this is the man you willing trust with your soul and life?"

Though his expression held a skeptical edge, Squall looked at Seifer to answer for his actions.

In search of strength, Seifer stroked his fingers through Verena's light brown hair.  "Your uncle showed me when you gave birth to our son.  I know you were in pain, and I've seen what you've endured with Verena, but when our son took his first breath and screamed..."  Unable to hold back a small smile, Seifer continued, "You looked at him, and if only for that brief moment, you seemed happy and full of love for the boy who was born from something that most would consider rape."

Squall huffed at the description.  "Of course something like that would make you stupid, rya soaler'ke."

With a growl at the endearment, Leander warned, "Don't let sweet words distort the truth of what he did to you."

"And you shouldn't let the wrong events serve as proof of Seifer's character," Squall shot back.

"He hurt you and twisted your mind--"

"Seifer also drank Lengen ni Werlogh and refused my blood when he believed his death would protect both me and his son, whereas his life would put us in danger."

"He is a coward and chose death when it was the simplest option."

"Does a coward face a sorceress when he himself has no magical ability of his own?"

"He has killed our KIND!"

"Stop it!"  The high-pitched scream from Verena immediately silenced the arguing sorcerers, both of their gazes turning to the young girl held in Seifer's arms.  Her small hands still clutching onto her father's torn shirt, Verena leaned back to glare at the pair, her eyes overflowing with fat tears.  "You have to stop it, Uncle Leander.  If you keep being angry at Daddy, you're going to become a... a shadow," she said in a whisper, as if saying it too loudly would call upon the shadows she feared.

Startled by the declaration, Leander lifted his arms and stared at the inky blotches covering his forearms and hands.  Already witnessing the dark stains, Seifer frowned at the act which suggested the lost sorcerer had not noticed them earlier, but the lord knew how easy it was to be blinded by revenge and rage.

"Uncle, I think I know why you're here," Squall began softly, encouraging the spirit to lift his gaze.  "Ultimecia died by Seifer's hand, but you must understand that he did so by my wish and he used my blade to cut through her body.  She may have been your daughter and my cousin, but I could not allow her to live and threaten my family."

"... No," Leander argued in a voice that would barely sound.  "It was my fault that Ula was lost and her soul tainted by demons.  I sent her away and never found her..."

Squall frowned.  "Then why...?  If you have seen everything, then you should know what Seifer means to me."

The lost sorcerer glanced over at the kneeling lord and the child held in careful arms.  "No matter what else I see, all I remember is how he abused you, broke your body and strength of will, and when you called out my name, there was nothing I could do to save you.  This... This is my chance to save your soul."

"Uncle..." Squall whispered in pity when he had been the one suffering and in pain those nights long past.  "But don't you see?  That was mostly my fault, not Seifer's.  How was he supposed to know the consequences of his actions when bedding a man shouldn't have led to what it did?"

"Nonetheless, he should be punished for his crimes."

"So Seifer has told me for the better part of a decade," Squall commented with an exasperated glance at his husband.  "But given the amount of pain in my life, I think I prefer his never-ending attempts to atone for my losses.  And if I were honest, I would admit that I have grown accustomed to being spoiled."

Leander scowled at the remedy that seemed worthless to the experience warrior, but before he could form a better suggestion, one of his wolves padded out from behind its master and moved toward the younger sorcerer.

"Temperance?" Squall questioned in surprise, and when the white wolf exhaled a soft woof, the brunet smiled in a rare display of delight and knelt down to properly pet the large beast.  "You stubborn girl, I should have known that nothing could keep you from Uncle Leander's side.  I hope he has been treating you well."

The wolf seemed to grumble in complaint and pushed the top of its head against Squall's chin, causing a faint laugh from the stormy-eyed man.

"... So, you've learned how to smile again."

Scratching his fingers through white fur, Squall corrected his uncle, "It isn't a recent thing I've learned.  In fact, there was a certain winter day when Seifer decided that I should remember how it feels to show an honest smile.  He has worked hard to teach me that lesson ever since then."

Leander glanced at the blond lord, and after a silent minute, he scoffed once reaching a decision.  "Very well, I understand your point, not that I like it."

"It isn't something for you to 'like'," Squall said while standing.  "However, your approval would mean everything."

Iron-gray eyes flickered with forgotten silver.  "You haven't needed my approval for anything you have decided."

"True, but I was never given the opportunity to ask for it."  Stepping close to the taller man, Squall said, "I know you don't care for Seifer, but he and our children are my life now.  It would heal some old wounds if you said that you approve of the man I have become."

"Squall..." Leander breathed, and after briefly averting his gaze, the lost sorcerer met blue-gray eyes and smiled crookedly.  "In this, your man doesn't matter.  I am proud of you, cub, more than you could possibly know.  You have succeeded were I could only stumble and I wish I could have been there for you."

"You have," Squall argued softly, "in the only way you can."

"Perhaps, but I haven't been watching closely enough."

Unafraid of the spirit, Squall reached out and held onto the man's relaxed hands.  Leander shivered at the contact, and though neither of the two men seemed to notice the change, Seifer watched as the dark stains slowly faded from pale arms.  "Thank you, Uncle.  And please, don't stop watching over me."

With a quiet laugh that sounded similar to Squall's, Leander replied, "Never, cub.  But so you are fairly warned, I'm not the only one.  Your father and mother are rather protective of you, though they are less offended by your choice in partners."

His face blank from shock, Squall asked, "My... mother?"

"Aye, your mother.  She is rather upset that Laguna was the first to meet their grandchildren.  You may want to remedy that once this isn't a dangerous place for young Verena."

"Of course," Squall pledged, though he seemed eager to return to the palace as soon as possible.

Glancing over his shoulder to see something only his eyes could see, Leander sighed and informed his nephew, "Dawn is here.  The spell won't last much longer."

"Then, until another day?"

As Seifer watched on, Leander stepped backward and lightly pulled free from Squall's hold.  His look bordering something pathetic, the spirit gradually faded as the overcast sky gained a brighter light.  Squall didn't reach out for his uncle in that moment, but simply watched as he lifted a hand to protect his eyes from the glare.  Eventually the light became too much for Seifer to bear, and closing his eyes, he felt the world around him shift and change into the nothingness it always was.

~ > < ~

Feeling the chill of morning against his skin, Seifer struggled to open his eyes, but his lids were heavy with the weight of exhaustion despite the full night of sleep.  Once prying open his eyelids, the blond immediately winced at the brightness of the world around him.  More than the light of early morning, it was the colors of the living world that were hard to endure after a long night spent with the dead.  While a welcomed pain, the glare immediately introduced Seifer to a terrible headache that rivaled the hangovers of his past.

"Have you returned from your dream-walk?"

Startled by the question, Seifer bent into an uncomfortable position and found Sekre seated a short distance from his head.  "What the... How do you know about that?"

"I felt the dead joining Verena in sleep," Sekre said in a quiet rumble, and then added, "It is a rare and blessed ritual for those who speak with lost souls."

Trying not to groan at the renewed force of his headache, Seifer grumbled at the Moomba, "Damn it, kitten, why don't you ever tell us about these things before they happen?"

Sekre smiled with a slight bearing of teeth, but didn't respond beyond that when another made his presence known.

"Father?  Are you awake?"

With a deep sigh at his son's anxious tone, Seifer held onto the small girl still clutching onto his shirt and pushed up into a seated position where he could better see his son sitting behind his Faer.  Noting some resistance as he straightened, Seifer glanced down and found Squall's arm loosely wrapped around their daughter's stomach, a simple connection that had saved Seifer's life.  With a gentle touch, the lord pulled the arm free and placed it next to the still resting sorcerer.

"Dad?"

Reminded of his son, Seifer looked to the dark-haired teen and immediately noticed all of the things that separated Leander from his lost granduncle - soft green eyes, long hair that fell over his face, and warm concern in his open expression - and yet the strength of spirit was the same.  Seifer decided it wasn't a terrible thing for the related sorcerers to share.  "What's with the face, kid?  You look like someone died."

Fine eyebrows immediately furrowed into angry scowl.  "You almost died, didn't you?"

Though startled by the question, Seifer knew better than to answer one of his son's inquiries without some thought first.  "And what exactly makes you think that?"

Soft green eyes shifted, uncertainty seeping its way through their shields.  "You were making noises, like you were fighting someone.  Verena said Uncle Leander's name, and... I have ideas of why he'd want to hurt you."

"Hn, Squall mentioned that you had pieced some things together."

"... You're not denying anything."

With a tired sigh, Seifer rubbed at his temple and commented, "I guess that trick won't work with you anymore, will it?"  At the teen's determined stare, the blond lord admitted, "Your Uncle Leander wanted a few words with me and it turned into something more than words, but your Faer had perfect timing, like always."

"It wasn't timing," came a grumble from the ground.  "It was your damned luck that saved you."

"Perhaps," Seifer agreed with a wide smile at Squall's irritated tone, wondering if the brunet was also suffering from a headache.  "But even so, you were the one to stop him from doing something stupid."

Unease filling his expression, Leander inched closer to his Faer and asked, "Did he hurt either of you?"

Squall was the one to reply, "We're fine, cub.  It was a misunderstanding that won't happen again."

"Yeah, no need for you to worry, kid," Seifer agreed, unable to hold hard feelings against the elder Leander when the man's reasoning wasn't baseless.  "It's more dangerous sparring your Faer in this world than meeting his uncle in a dream.  I'll take a headache over a broken arm any day."

Though the statement reassured Leander, Squall frowned and chose to sit up from his resting position.  Without explaining his concern, the sorcerer placed a hand at Seifer's temple and closed his eyes to guide healing magic into the lord's body.  "I noticed you were injured in the dream.  What happened?"

"Nothing much, just a hungry wolf that thought I looked good."

Opening an eye, Squall gazed incredulously at the blond.  "Temperance?"

"Nah, the darker one.  Wrath, I think he called the beast."

"Wrath was there?  I didn't see him..." Squall commented with some disappointment.  "Well, either way, it doesn't seem serious.  Kiros should be able to help you.  Leander, would you fetch him?"

The young sorcerer frowned at the request, but didn't argue when he stood up and hurried to where Ward and Kiros had spent their night guarding the small campsite.  With a knowing look, Sekre stood without a word and followed Leander into the surrounding trees, apparently deciding that the pair required some time alone.

"I think the boy doesn't trust your judgment about the seriousness of my wounds," Seifer said with humor over the matter.

"I'd hardly call your headache a 'wound'."

"It still hurts," Seifer insisted while leaning close to his lover.  "Could you soothe me while Ander is searching for that Shaman?"

Though Squall arched an eyebrow in disbelief, he didn't move when the lord initiated a soft kiss that wasn't meant to be sensual, but instead had the more noble purpose of satisfying his need for physical contact with his living obsession.  Magic danced between them at the joining, but Squall didn't attempt to heal the tears in Seifer's mind, the sorcerer preferring to leave such tasks to the dark-skinned healer whenever Kiros was present.  Sensing that magic, Verena stirred irritably against her father's chest, a quiet whine encouraging the pair to separate.

After a glance at his daughter to make certain she was still asleep, Seifer quietly told the brunet, "Just so you know, I liked it when you called me your husband in front of your uncle."

With a taunting smile, Squall asked, "And what else should I have called you?"

"Well, since you usually call me 'idiot,' 'husband' is a nice change of pace."

Not commenting on the point, the sorcerer reached forward to take Verena from her father's arm and carefully stood to make certain the young girl wouldn't wake.  "Don't fight Kiros and do as he says," Squall warned as he stepped aside and revealed that the healer was just arriving.

His face showing more annoyance than worry about the lord getting himself injured, Kiros knelt in front of Seifer and placed long fingers at the man's temples.  "Leander told me that you had a visitation last night."

"You don't seem so surprised."

"Extremely surprised, actually, but that was about an hour ago when Sekre informed us that you were trapped in a 'dream-walk' initiated by Verena and that Squall had been dragged into it as well."  Adjusting the position of his fingers to the back of Seifer's neck, Kiros continued, "If I understand correctly, you faced Squall's uncle and won."

Seifer snorted at the assumption.  "I didn't win.  Just before Leander could seal his victory, Squall came to my rescue."

"Son, you faced Leander Loire and escaped with a minor injury," Kiros said in a dry tone.  "In the world I once knew, that was considered as winning."

Uncertain if he was being mocked, Seifer look at his lover and found Squall smiling with a prideful edge that suggested he, too, believed that merely surviving his uncle's blade was the closest thing to victory a person could obtain.  Though wanting to explore the thought further, Seifer flinched when healing magic took hold of his injured mind and began the painful process of mending the tears.  Needing a different focus beyond the pain, Seifer watched his husband standing with their daughter safe in his arms.

"If I won," Seifer muttered between clenched teeth, "then Squall must have been my prize."

Though his eyes were closed in concentration, Kiros chuckled at the conclusion.  "That may be closer to the truth than you know."

"Loire isn't going to forgive me for that, is he?"

"Not likely, however," the healer opened dark eyes and said honestly, "Leander will respect your determination to stand at Squall's side."

Placing a hand at his branded chest, Seifer pledged, "I would do anything for Squall."

"And that is why you're still alive," Kiros commented with a shade of something darker in his eyes.  Pushing up from the ground, he announced, "You should have a headache for the rest of the day, but you won't suffer any permanent damage."

Dumbfounded by the earlier statement, Seifer simply watched as the healer moved to his former prince and gently took Verena from protective arms when Squall requested that he also check the sleeping girl.  While Kiros thoroughly examined the young sorceress, Squall stepped lightly to the seated lord and held out a hand to help the larger man to his feet.  It took more effort than usual for Seifer to stand up, but rather than be embarrassed, he used the excuse to drape an arm around his lover's neck and place some of his weight onto slender shoulders.

"Did you know Kiros thought about killing me?" Seifer asked casually, unable to feel fear when he had been recently healed by the same man.

Squall hummed without surprise.  "You have a bad habit of creating enemies first, and then converting them into allies."

"Is that so?  Huh, that may explain why Fujin tried to smoother me in my sleep shortly after we first met."

With a raised eyebrow, Squall asked, "What did you do to her?"

"Can't remember.  Probably had something to do with calling her a 'girl'."

Squall shook his head in disbelief, but didn't try to examine the situation any further.  Instead, he looked at the healer holding their daughter and asked quietly, "What did my uncle show you?"

"Not as much as you fear, I imagine.  I saw you as a serious young boy and showing your magic to your uncle.  I saw the first hours of the Massacre when you couldn't save those elder sorcerers.  And aside from Leander's birth, I saw the first time we met."  When the brunet stiffened at the claim, Seifer knocked his head against Squall's.  "Hey, weren't you listening to your uncle?  I'm a coward who refused to watch how I defiled your body and broke your spirit."

Pale eyes blinking, Squall looked up at the blond.  "You... didn't?"

"I couldn't bring myself to do it.  You've always been secretive about that night, and I figure that you have your reasons why."

Relaxing at the reply, Squall leaned against the larger man and whispered a nearly unheard, "Thank you."

Seifer pressed a kiss against dark hair, relieved that he had made the right choice to see nothing of the night only Squall remembered.  Though he wanted to share the burden of the past with his lover, Seifer knew that it was more than a night of pain for Squall.  Squall had been humiliated and reduced to a level the prince had never experienced before, and it was something Seifer could never unburden from the proud man.

"I must seem selfish to you," Squall said quietly.

"Hn, but I like this side of you.  It's rare that you demand something from me."

"Muro-kas soaler'ke," the sorcerer scolded lightly, unable to hide the pleased light of silver in his eyes.

Seifer smiled at the glimmer of emotion that glowed with subtle magic, and in that moment, Seifer understood how the things Leander Loire had shown him held little weight against the reality of Squall's trust and love.  The visions had been nothing more than dreams that once were and they couldn't reflect the future that could be.  And that is what Seifer saw in storm-colored eyes - an entire future with his one true love, the birth father of his children, and his husband for all times.  It was a future born from the blood and pain of the past, and Seifer was determined to prove that all of their struggles had a purpose and that it was for something special, something incredible.

It was for everything they could possibly want and more.

 

{Owari}

 

Author's Whining -- Yeesh, another request that is the length of a 'normal' chapter... I seem to recall warning people about drabbles, but that was obviously a bluff on my part.  Silly me.  Anywho, here you go Iczer!  You wanted Seifer meeting Leander Loire and this is the mess it became.  I can only hope it's something along the lines of what you were imagining with the request.