For Nothing, For Everything


Green eyes reflected the warm light of a dying fire as Seifer stared at the ceiling from the comfort of his bed, silently pondering why he was awake.  It was late into the night and his dream had been wholly satisfying, which left him confused about his interrupted sleep.  Then a light, almost unheard knock sounded beyond the bedroom.  Wide awake and displeased by that fact, Seifer tore the sheets from his body and stumbled from his bed to punish the idiot who had ruined his dreams.  The cold air stung against his skin left bare from his unlaced shirt, something Seifer hardly noticed as he made his way from the bedroom and into the darkness of his sitting room where he narrowly missed tripping over an ottoman.

Gaining a deep scowl by the time he reached the entrance to his private rooms, Seifer swung open the door and growled out, "There had better be a good reason for this."

The person in the hallway stood wordlessly at the demand of the lord, shadowed blue eyes wide open as if surprised that his knock had been answered.

Once recognizing the servant who had wakened him, Seifer's ire vanished and his scowl softened into a confused frown.  "Squall?  What are you doing here at such a late hour?"

The dark-haired man blinked, and then casually averted his gaze as he wrapped a loose arm around his waist.  "Forgive me.  I... I've made mistake."

With some amusement and even more curiosity, Seifer smirked at the man who wasn't making his leave despite his obvious desire to do so.  "A mistake?  Well, that's certainly comforting.  I'd hate to imagine that you woke me for a real reason.  I've already agonized over Ander's safety twice in the past month and I highly doubt that my heart could take another life-threatening incident."

Squall frowned at the offhanded comments, his lowered eyes glowing slightly at the remembered threats to his son's life.  Seifer couldn't prevent his fond smile at the shine of cold blue, but further studying those piercing eyes, he became aware of a tiny water droplet that hung precariously onto dark eyelashes.  Recognizing the melted snowflake for what it was, the lord lifted his gaze and glared at the frozen beads of water that clung onto dark hair.

With a hand placed at the brunet's neck, Seifer hissed at the icy coldness to pale flesh.  "You idiot, what are you doing prancing around in the snow during this time of night?  Are you trying to make yourself ill?"

Though his eyes narrowed into a pained grimace, Squall didn't knock aside the lord's hand.  "I was praying."

"And how is that something that couldn't wait until the morning?"

"She doesn't seem to listen during the day," was the muttered reply.

Seifer opened his mouth to further scold the brunet, but instead held his tongue once he realized the futility of challenging the sorcerer's self-destructive ways.  Removing his hand from chilled skin, Seifer encouraged, "Go back to your room, princeling.  Warm your bed with some coals and get some rest.  There's no reason for you to exhaust yourself like this."

Eyelids fluttered closed for a brief moment, enough to prove to the lord that Squall was fighting against the idea of sleep.  But despite that visible weakness, the sorcerer didn't move from his position as he directed his eyes straight ahead at the body of the blond.  In an unconscious move, Seifer straightened his posture such that his chest left exposed by his unlaced shirt could be better viewed by the distracted servant.

With a soft smile at the silent man, Seifer asked, "Squall, why are you here?"

The question startled Squall, the brunet looking straight into jade eyes with a stunned gaze that spoke of embarrassment and apprehension.  That surprise, however, was concealed behind a thoughtful expression as Squall took his time considering the lord's question.

"It shouldn't be that hard to answer, princeling."

Blue-gray eyes glanced at the tall blond, the shine of cold irritation suggesting that the question was more difficult than Seifer could understand.

"Don't glare at me like that, lovely.  You're the one knocking at my door in the middle of the night."

The words of reason stole the light from pale eyes, Squall scowling as he reluctantly admitted, "I... need a favor."

Seifer hesitated in disbelief, unable to comprehend the sorcerer asking for aid.  "A favor?  Hyne, why didn't you say so earlier?  I owe you a life debt, after all," the blond stated while stepping aside.  "I imagine that this is something which should be discussed in private?"

Squall's response was to walk inside at the implied invitation, his steps quiet and slow as if forced to obey the lord's request.

Though bothered by the man's actions, Seifer chose caution over thoughtless irritation as he stepped outside to make certain that no wayward servant had observed the hallway exchange and the sorcerer's entrance.  Once assured of their privacy, Seifer closed the door and used his key on the lock.  Pausing a moment to collect his thoughts and control his emotions for the sake of the skittish man, Seifer turned with the intention to question Squall's request of a favor, but was surprised to discover that he was alone.  The flicker of a shadow proved that the sorcerer had moved beyond the sitting room and was standing inside the room that Seifer never expected Squall to willingly enter.

Stepping to the door of his bedroom, Seifer leaned against the frame and watched as the stoic man gazed upon the bed of soft sheets and thick quilts.  The blond lord savored the quiet moment, allowing himself foolish thoughts as he studied the slim line of the sorcerer's body and wondered what could prompt Squall to enter his lair.

"I expected silk."

Seifer grinned at the comment.  "I'm so sorry to disappoint, but I find simple cotton more comfortable and warmer during the winter months."

Continuing to stare at the messed sheets, Squall hugged an arm tighter at his waist.

Not liking the sight of increased tension, Seifer sighed tiredly and suggested, "Why don't you tell me about this favor of yours?  You obviously don't want to be here and I wouldn't mind being allowed to go back to sleep."

Dark hair shifted slightly as Squall bowed his head forward in a sign of surrender, and with his voice soft and forced, he said, "I need you to bed me."

Seifer stared at the sorcerer for the request, unable to accept the meaning of those words.  But taking in the ridge posture of the lithe body and the odd act of entering his bedroom, the blond lord couldn't find any fault with his lustful assumption.  "Squall... You can't mean..."

"I'm straying from my path," the brunet began in explanation.  "It's wrong for a man to be with another man.  I know this in my heart, but apparently my body has forgotten that reality and it needs to be reminded."

Anger motivating his actions, Seifer stepped forward and grabbed hard onto a thin shoulder to turn the man around and properly face him.  "And that is your 'favor'?  To fuck you even though you say it's wrong?  You're hardly making sense, sorcerer.  Why would you want such a thing?"

Squall didn't reply to the heated words, but his vague cringe beneath the heavy hand was answer enough to the watchful blond.

"I hurt you," Seifer said in an incredibly quiet voice as he guiltily removed his hand.  "That night... Hyne above, I hurt you and you want me to do it again?"

The dark-haired man glanced away in shame.  "You hurt me because that's the only way it can be.  But it's been too many years and my body has forgotten what my mind knows."

"And you want to be reminded of that?  Why?  Why are you asking this of me?!"


Seifer stared down at frozen eyes, remembering a time months past at the Heartilly Manor when the sorcerer had used that same harsh reply which explained nothing.  And yet, when the lord considered what secrets he hadn't known back then, he realized that Squall had been holding back the reply he wanted to give, an important reply about the pain it caused the man to return to the Almasy Estate and watch over the son who didn't know the identity of his mother.

Though uncertain what new secret the servant was hiding, Seifer placed a soothing hand at the man's cheek and stroked frozen skin.  "'Because' what, princeling?  Could it be possible that you've entertained sinful thoughts as of late?"

The sorcerer closed his eyes in disgrace.  "It's a mistake.  I don't even know why these thoughts plague me."

Smirking lightly at the startling reply, Seifer brushed his fingers back into chocolate brown hair and let his hand slide through the damp strands before persuading the sorcerer to lift his head.  Without permission or warning, Seifer placed his lips against soft flesh in a chaste kiss.  There was no strength to the press, no forcefulness as the blond moved cautiously to the corner of full lips and lapped his tongue along the sensitized flesh.

It was an insignificant taste that made Seifer hunger for more, but with a show of restraint, he pulled away and begged hoarsely, "Don't call this a mistake."

Squall shivered at the low tone, and then bit his lower lip as if to rid himself of any lingering sensation that the lord's kiss could have caused.  Amused by that reaction, Seifer continued to stroke lightly at thick hair and contemplated forcing another distracting kiss onto the vulnerable servant.  But before he could act on that idea, Squall abruptly pushed his hand against the chest of the taller man, the brunet's strength oddly weak as he failed to push the lord aside.  Seifer smirked as he watched thin fingers curl against his bare skin in silent frustration.

Holding back laughter, Seifer pulled on dark hair to gain the attention of the failing brunet.  His green eyes bright and his smile amused, he announced, "Despite your destructive intentions, princeling, I'll go ahead and play along with this game of yours.  But I should warn you - once you lie on my bed, you won't leave until I allow it."

Blue-gray eyes hardened slightly at the lord's arrogance, but after a moment's thought, Squall nodded in vague agreement to the condition.

As the brunet backed away, Seifer reluctantly released his hold on dark hair, trading his physical connection to the sorcerer for the opportunity to watch Squall strip damp clothing from his body.  Wary blue glared at the lord for his obvious interest, Squall then turning around before he grabbed the hem of his nightshirt and removed the oversized clothing from his body.  Seifer gazed reverently at the revealed skin that bore numerous scars of every shape and size, the former soldier able to identify the shadows of wounds caused by bladed weapons and the fangs of Ravages.  There was hardly an inch of pale skin that didn't bear some mark of past injuries, and yet, Seifer would've been disappointed if the sorcerer's skin had been flawless.  Stories could be told through those scars, stories that the stoic man would never tell himself, and Seifer was determined to decipher every mark on the lithe body.  He would learn everything he could about the man he worshipped.

Following the line of a particularly long scar from mid-back to hip, green eyes fell onto the sight of shaky hands that appeared to be uncooperative in the task of unlacing the snow-wetted pants.  With an inward sigh, Seifer stepped behind the smaller man and placed his hand over Squall's.  The sorcerer jumped at the unexpected touch, the reaction pressing his bare back against the lord's chest in a gratifying manner that made Seifer smile.

Bending down to speak directly into a cold-reddened ear, Seifer said, "You aren't fooling anyone, princeling.  You don't want to do this and I'm not in the mood for rape."

Squall knocked aside the hand covering his and glared at the blond.  "I would never allow myself to be raped."

With that said, the sorcerer moved the several paces to the bed while undoing the stubborn ties to his dark pants.  Squall let the material fall unceremoniously to the ground and wasted no time in climbing onto the high mattress covered by soft cloth.  He pulled aside the plush top sheet before sitting back onto his heels and lying down such that his ass lifted delightfully into the air and his head rested on Seifer's pillow.

"And what are you doing there, gorgeous?" Seifer said with a curious laugh as he removed his unlaced shirt.

Squall shifted uncomfortably in his position and muttered, "I know what you like."

Green eyes shining with confusion, Seifer took in the full sight of the man lying face first on the bed and eventually came to the realization that Squall's assumed pose efficiently hid every part of the brunet that clearly marked him as male.  Seifer felt instantly sick at the thoughts of what else he had made the proud prince do, and all because the lord had been disgusted with his inability to be with a woman.  Growling quietly, Seifer stripped off his pants before taking a seat at the edge of the thick mattress.

"While you may know what I liked in the past..."  Seifer placed his hand at a thin shoulder and encouraged the servant to roll onto his side.  "You don't have any clue about what I presently desire."

Dark eyebrows furrowed in a perplexed expression.

"How many times do I have to tell you that I don't want a woman?" Seifer asked as his hand tightened its grip on the brunet's shoulder, assuring that the skittish man wouldn't move as he bent down close.  "I want you," the lord announced before initiating a gentle kiss against full lips.

Squall froze at the press that was stronger than the previous kiss, the reaction something Seifer was disheartened to notice, but he refused to back down against the sorcerer's prudish mentality.  Insistent with the nudging of his tongue and the light biting of his teeth, Seifer was eventually rewarded by the hesitant parting of soft lips.  The lord slipped his tongue past the barriers of lips and teeth, recklessly hoping that Squall wouldn't react with a vicious bite.  While the brunet did retreat from the invasion, he couldn't escape with the bed pressed against his back and the muscular body bent over his smaller form.  Purring in conquest, Seifer roughly stroked his tongue against Squall's, the move drawing a sharp inhale from the servant.  The lord continued the assault, enticing the inexperienced man to join in with the play of tongues, a task achieved when the shy tongue moved clumsily against his.

Seifer hummed in satisfaction as he pulled back from the brunet and grinned smugly.  "I've wanted to do that for some time.  Your lips are simply too inviting."

The haze of stormy eyes evaporated at the flirtatious words, Squall then turning his head as he focused his attention on a far window.  "Just get on with it."

The lord chuckled lightly, unbothered by the cold tone of the man sprawled on his bed.  Lifting away from the servant, Seifer placed a steadying hand on the mattress and leaned over the lithe body to examine every line of the sorcerer.  A small frown coming to his lips, Seifer caressed his fingers along the protruding curve of a collar bone.  "You haven't gained much weight since returning from the Heartilly Manor."

"... ..."

"Don't worry, lovely.  One of these days, I will figure out what other foods appeal to you as much as the sweetness of chocolate," Seifer said with a resolute air to his tone.

Trailing down from the sharp collar bone, exploring fingers drifted along scarred flesh as green eyes took in every sight of the body he wasn't certain he would have again.  A wayward pinky finger unintentionally brushed against a cold-tightened nipple, the brief contact drawing a harsh breath from the stoic man.  Interested in the unexpected reaction, Seifer paused in his examination to further tease the darkened flesh, watching how Squall's lips would part in a silent pant of pleasure.  The lord felt that he could taunt the brunet all night long if it meant causing that expression, but when a weak growl of irritation sounded, Seifer knew he was wasting precious time instead of using the opportunity to show the sorcerer greater pleasures.

Letting his fingers travel lower, Seifer studied the old scars he knew to be caused by blades and hesitated over the dark skin blackened by fire at Squall's waist.  Not wanting to recall the flames of the Massacre, the lord moved lowered and closer to dangerous territory, but paused at the man's pelvic region and frowned at the collection of thin white lines.

"These are odd scars," Seifer mentioned while brushing his fingers over the marked skin.  "I recognize the rest, but what could have caused these white lines?"

Squall muttered something under his breath, Seifer only able to distinguish a harsh, 'oblivious', within the growled tirade.  The sorcerer then took a steadying breath before informing the lord, "They were caused by the changes my body suffered through."

"Changes....?"  Though slow to understand, Seifer soon inhaled sharply such that he lightly choked on that breath.  The large hand then moved to reverently cover Squall's stomach.  "We can't do this."

Squall looked up at the declaration, surprise and anger shining in the blue-gray eyes.  "You agreed..."

"I know and I'm sorry.  But the last thing you want is to be impregnated a second time, and here I am, thinking with only my cock when I promised myself that things would be different if you ever decided to entrust your body to me."

Stormy eyes widened at the sincere statement of regret, his expression then fading into something unreadable.  "I've learned about my body since then.  It won't happen again."

Seifer gazed up at the impassive expression, surprised and disappointed by the lack of emotion in the frozen eyes.  Despising the self-hatred Squall held for himself and his body, Seifer returned his attention to the thin lines that would forever prove Leander's conception, and with a fond smirk, he bent down to lick heavily at the marked flesh.  Squall jumped at the wet touch and attempted to pull away, but Seifer reacted promptly and grabbed onto the brunet's waist.  A quiet whine sounded from the sorcerer, impelling Seifer to loosen his hold, but when the sound of the whine only increased, the lord was satisfied to discover that it was the strokes of his tongue against wrinkled skin that was the source of Squall's distress.

With a purr at the unintentional responses from the lithe man, Seifer took advantage of the sorcerer's distraction and slipped his knee in between slim legs to encourage a wider separation.  The cold gaze of blue-gray could be felt by the lord, but when Squall didn't argue against the move, Seifer smirked hungrily as he shifted his position lower and bent down to lap his tongue along the curve of the sorcerer's penis.

"No, stop..." Squall begged as he placed a hand at blond hair and tried to push away the lord.  "I don't have to be aroused for this."

Seifer lifted his head at the statement, his eyes narrowed in thought.  "While I disagree about your pleasure, I'm curious why this is the first thing you've refused.  It's nothing that should hurt you."

His hand still deep into golden hair, Squall stared into poisonous eyes while considering the response he could give, but Seifer was faster at understanding than the sorcerer was at creating a lie.

"Fucking Hyne, don't tell me that I made you--"

"Don't say it," Squall demanded lowly without looking at the blond.  "And don't disgrace yourself like that."

Seifer pushed up at the muted words and reached out to place his hand at the turned cheek, but Squall refused to face him.  Sighing tiredly, the lord pressed his forehead against dark hair and said, "It wouldn't be a disgrace to pleasure you like that, but I think I understand."

The servant shook his head in the sign that Seifer understood nothing at all.  "Everything is a mess and I... I just want this over with."

"Squall..." the lord whispered as he pulled the smaller man closer.  He hesitated at that point, uncertain if it was wise to continue forward given the sorcerer's darkened mood, but even with his guilt, Seifer felt a growing anger at the man's determination to be a martyr in all things.  "You're wrong, you know."

Squall leaned back to gaze questioningly at the blond.

"It doesn't have to be about pain.  Not in sex, not in love, and certainly not in life," Seifer said in a low voice.  "There can be more."

Squall frowned, his blue-gray eyes narrowed in confusion and slight offense as if worried that Seifer was insulting him.  The lord, however, was focused on pouting lips that appeared soft and wholly inviting in the warm light of the fire.  His small smirk served as his only warning when Seifer bent down and claimed the full lips with a kneading kiss.  Squall tensed at the contact, but being held within strong arms, there was no option of escape.  Seifer smiled into the kiss, savoring the involuntary twitches of soft lips when he caressed the tip of his tongue along the edge of the lower lip.

Trusting that the brunet was suitably distracted, Seifer slipped his hand from the thin waist and cautiously moved into perilous realms.  With no immediate reaction from the sorcerer to dissuade him, Seifer lightly curled his fingers around the vulnerable organ and held on tight when Squall jerked back in surprise.

Seifer pressed harder into the kiss, not wanting to hear a word of complaint as he stroked the heated flesh at a languish pace, giving himself the chance to examine another man's penis.  Hazy memories came to him at that point, recollections of many drunken nights with unnamed men.  It had only been about quick satisfaction while avoiding the obvious male traits of his partners.  Ashamed of his bodily desires and weaknesses, Seifer couldn't remember a night that he hadn't regretted the morning after.

But now, those feelings of disgust and humiliation were like distant memories, the sensation of chilled flesh pressed against his body and the throbbing warmth in his hand warding away misgivings associated with loving another man.  Noting the shorter length and vaguely thicker girth to Squall's penis, Seifer steadily increased his pace along the hardening length, amused when a hand moved to his thigh and dug sharp fingernails into his skin.  While the sorcerer's intent was obviously to discourage the blond, the added pain instead made Seifer moan quietly against full lips, then followed by a brief smirk at Squall's low growl of frustration.

Eventually escaping with a sharp turn of his head, Squall panted softly before declaring, "Don't... This isn't necessary."

"It's entirely necessary," Seifer argued while repositioning the man in his hold such that he could help Squall lay back onto the mattress.  "I'm determined to show you the other side of sex."

Stormy eyes gazed up at the large blond, a glint of fear shining in the pale orbs.  Seifer smiled at the sorcerer's unhidden reaction, pleased that Squall was beginning to understand the flaws behind his requested 'favor'.  Stealing the moment to reach into the drawer of a nightstand, Seifer retrieved a glass vial from the selection within and promptly removed the stopper to release a soft herbal scent into the air.

"What are you doing?" Squall demanded as he shifted awkwardly on the mattress top, visibly uncomfortable with his state of arousal.

"Making things easier for you," Seifer commented as he poured drops of cold oil onto his fingers.  "I had a subordinate in the army who was more experienced in these matters.  He once told me that when I finally found the man I was supposed to love, I should contact him."  With a grin at old memories, the former soldier added, "It's a lucky thing that he didn't hold a grudge against me - I broke his nose when I punched him for assuming that I was attracted to men."

Blue-gray eyes focused on glistening oil, Squall complained, "But... you're cheating."

Holding back a laugh at the unexpected comment, Seifer argued, "It's not cheating, princeling, but adaptation.  As my helpful friend recently told me, you aren't a woman who can get wet at the sight of a cock.  The oil will make this smoother for the both of us."  His point made, Seifer lowered his hand and placed his middle finger at the brunet's puckered entrance.

Squall stiffened at the touch, but didn't reject the clear intention of the blond.  Instead, he glanced to the side and gazed silently at the fireplace, his expression cold and unreadable.

Not surprised by the sorcerer's lack of cooperation, Seifer slid an oiled finger into the tight anus while watching Squall closely for any signs of discomfort.  As he prepared the brunet, green eyes glanced down to settle on a reddish scar located at Squall's left shoulder, a lasting mark that the lord had never seen, but easily recognized as the damage caused by his sword during their duel months earlier.  Instantly drawn to that mark, Seifer bent over the smaller man and dragged a heavy tongue over the thick line.  From that position, he could hear every breath and feel every quiver of the lithe man, quickly learning what type of touch gave Squall the greater pleasure.

The eventual shove against his shoulder, however, was unexpected and forced Seifer to look up at the sorcerer's face.

Squall glanced at green eyes before returning his gaze to the fireplace.  "Stop making this harder."

Seifer bit his inner cheek, resisting the desire to point out that making things harder was the entire point behind foreplay.  But studying the slight glow to blue-gray eyes, Seifer recognized the conflicting fear within the vibrant orbs - though visibly afraid of the physical pain associated with sex, Squall appeared more frightened of being made to enjoy the sinful act.

Seifer smiled in sympathy to the man's plight, but also understood that it was necessary to move forward.  Sitting back on his heels, the lord placed more oil onto his palm before slicking his thickened length.  The cold oil against hot flesh drew a throaty groan from the blond, the sharp contrast surprisingly sensitizing.  Forcing his eyes opened, Seifer glanced forward to find that he had gained the sorcerer's attention in that brief moment, the pale eyed gaze focused on the oil-coated erection.

"You're bigger," was Squall's succinct observation.

Seifer hesitated at the comment before saying, "Maybe.  I couldn't have been older than sixteen when we last met and I know that I'm several inches taller than I was then."

Squall nodded at the explanation before closing his eyes, the last sign Seifer received to continue with their act.

Lifting a slim leg to rest on his shoulder, Seifer pressed the head of his cock at the stretched entrance.  He waited a silent second to allow Squall a final opportunity to change his mind, but the sorcerer did nothing except to shift his hips into a more comfortable position.  Both proud and frustrated with the man beneath him, Seifer forced himself deep into heated tightness, the oil helping, but not preventing all pain as Squall gasped and his body lifted into a taut bow.

Whispering pleads of forgiveness passed over dry lips, Seifer sincerely apologetic, but unable to consider an intelligent form of communication with the hurting man.  He pressed light kisses along the underside of the knee at his shoulder, impatiently waiting for Squall to adjust to the thick intrusion.  And as the urge to thrust became stronger, he mercilessly bit the pale flesh.

A keening moan came from the sorcerer at the hard bite, the pleasure-filled noise cut short by bitter laughter.  "You bastard."

After a lick to pooling drops of blood, Seifer whispered another apology.

"Stop stalling.  I know you need to move."

The strained voice made Seifer growl out a frustrated breath before he pressed deeper into constraining heat.  It was heaven and hell to have what he wanted and know that he wouldn't taste the same ecstasy another time.  Soon impressed with the sorcerer's flexibility, Seifer leaned forward such that he could reach scarred flesh with his tongue and lips.  Restrained thrusts into the servant quickly changed into something hard and unforgiving as Seifer was overwhelm by the desperate need to be deeper within Squall.  No cries came from the smaller man, allowing Seifer to believe that he wasn't causing an unbearable amount of pain to the former prince.

When the need for leverage became necessary, Seifer pushed up sharply and grabbed hard onto the sorcerer's waist with his free hand.  It was disappointing to see Squall's returned focus to the fireplace, but after a blinking moment, Seifer noticed the greater brightness to the room.  Following the sorcerer's gaze, Seifer stared at the dancing flames that had impossibly grown in size without the addition of new wood.  And the longer he stared, the blond became certain that the fire wasn't shifting like a normal blaze.

A cold hand on his arm startled the lord, making him look at Squall and the white light that shone in the depths of stormy eyes.

"Don't stop."

The unexpected command brought a slow smirk to pale lips, Seifer gazing in wonderment at the proud sorcerer, that lasting until the hand at his wrist squeezed in a painful hold.  Laughing at the hungry lion hidden within the stoic prude, Seifer conceded, "As you desire, my Prince."

The large blond resumed his previous intention to increase the pace and power of his thrusts, but with the hand still at his arm and the long fingers tensing with every drive forward, Seifer found years of celibacy weighing heavily on his body.  Closing his eyes to avoid the flushed appearance of the lovely sorcerer, Seifer pleaded to the gods for lasting strength, that Squall deserved the first taste of bliss after years of pain.  And it was that thought of the past that made Seifer thrust hard and deep with lingering anger, the sharp move making Squall clench tighter than before.  No sound ultimately came from the brunet, but the feel of hot wetness at his stomach made Seifer pant out a thankful laugh before he pushed himself to complete satisfaction.

Tired and blissfully sore, Seifer leaned over the smaller man and contemplated how he could find the energy to remove himself from comforting heat.  It didn't serve his purpose that the flames of the fireplace had apparently gone out, making the room dark and highly appealing for sleep.  Hovering in that position with eyelids closed, Seifer was rudely awakened by the touch of a cold hand clamped at his shoulder.

Flinching from that touch, Seifer cursed, "Hyne's fucking dick, does nothing make you warmer?"

Pale eyes glowing slightly in the darkness, Squall scowled up at the blond.  "That's not my problem.  Now, if you would move, I can leave for my own room."

"Hmmm?  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that was a part of our agreement," Seifer stated as he bent down to press lazy kisses along the sorcerer's neck.

"But... you're done with me," Squall reasoned while thoughtlessly stretching out his body, giving the man better access to sensitive regions.

"Gods above, how could I ever be done with you?"

His hand squeezing at the larger man's shoulder, Squall argued, "You got what you've wanted.  Isn't that enough?"

"In normal cases, yes, but the difficulty lies in the fact that I haven't gotten what I truly desire."  Pushing up with hands on either side of the brunet, Seifer grinned at the befuddled and flushed expression of the stoic man.  "You aren't allowed to leave this bed without my permission, sorcerer.  You agreed to that condition and I intend to hold you to your word."

Squall stared up at the blond lord, pale eyes shining in the dim moonlight with a curious mix of puzzlement, awkwardness, and fear.  He said nothing in argument, unmoving and quiet as Seifer carefully removed himself from the abused anus.  It wasn't until the larger man flopped next to his side and pulled several sheets over their bodies that Squall pushed against the chest of the lord and looked into verdant eyes.


Seifer breathed a laugh at the single-worded question that didn't really ask anything.  Assuming the thought foremost in the sorcerer's mind, Seifer rested his arm at the man's waist and replied, "Because this is the only night you'll let me have you.  Why wouldn't I want to make it last?"

Full lips parted in a silent declaration of surprise, Squall didn't fight against the strong arm that pulled him close.

"Just think of me as something to keep you warm tonight.  It's nothing that can hurt you."

"... So you want me to think," the sorcerer muttered, but didn't move as he stiffly rested his head on a muscular arm.

While not disillusioned that Squall particularly wanted to be at his side, Seifer felt assured that the skittish man would still be in his bed come morning.  His lips set into a satisfying smile, Seifer closed his eyes in anticipation of viewing the lithe body in the morning light.  He was extremely curious to see how many of his kisses would have left visible marks on the skin marked by the battles and pains of the sorcerer's past.

Seated next to the shelves of numerous musical instruments, Seifer watched with a fond smile as Squall attempted the task of teaching Leander to play the piano.  Like most young boys, Leander was frustrated with the need to begin with scales and chords before being allowed to play an actual song, a fact that Leander vocalized after each successful repetition of a scale.  It was with great amusement that Seifer watched the sorcerer skillfully ignore his son's complaints and continue forward with the lesson at hand.

Letting the discordant notes fade into the background, Seifer found himself focused solely on the face of the lovely brunet, mesmerized by the soft fall of dark brown hair that framed smooth pale skin.  There was no blemish to the former prince's face aside from the deep scar between cold eyes, a peculiar contrast to the heavily scarred body hidden beneath dark clothing.  Of most interest to Seifer were those scars gained during the chaos of the Massacre and from the fangs of insatiable Ravages, dark and ugly scars that would forever stand out from beautifully pale skin.  Verdant eyes hard in thought, Seifer felt insignificant with the knowledge that any other person would have been broken by the tormented life of the sorcerer.

Squall eventually noticed the eyes upon him, and though his lips slipped into a slight frown, there wasn't the same look of wariness or disgust to the servant's expression.  The eye contact was brief, ending when Leander hit the wrong key in the new chord he was learning, but Seifer felt satisfied in what he had seen in the stormy eyes.

It was two weeks since the fateful night Squall had requested his favor, two weeks since the morning Seifer had wakened to find the sorcerer resting on his chest in peaceful slumber.  In that single moment, Seifer knew everything was worth the hardships of dealing with the impossible brunet, and though he recognized that he had yet to gain the man's trust, he felt the first surge of hope since the day he had found himself ridiculously in love with Squall.  Since that pleasure-filled night, Seifer had made certain that there would always be contact between them, enjoying the various reactions of annoyance and embarrassment that he would receive.  But more importantly, he needed Squall to understand that one night wasn't enough, that his hunger went deeper than a single session of sex.

"But why can't you help me?"

Leander's frustrated whine made Seifer sit up, somewhat upset with himself for becoming so lost in his thoughts that he hadn't noticed the change in direction with the piano lesson.  Noting the thin wand held in Leander's small hands, Seifer felt dejected that he hadn't watch his son summon his inner core, a task that had grown easier for the young sorcerer.

"Leander," Squall scolded in his typically soft voice.  "You can't always rely on my help.  The elements won't gain any respect for you that way."

The young boy scowled at the response, his displeased glare focused on the yellowed keys of the piano.  Seifer smiled at the slight squinting of Leander's left eye, but when there was no immediate response to his silent demands of the elements, Seifer felt some sympathy for the inexperienced sorcerer.

After a time of strained concentration, Leander huffed loudly and begged, "Please help me, Squall?  I can't make it work."

With a shake of his head, Squall said, "I won't help you, but I'll show you again what it feels like.  Hold my arm like the last time."

As the dark-haired sorcerer lifted his arm toward the aged piano, Leander immediately rested his hand on the slender wrist.  There was a vague twitch of long fingers before the first note sounded, then followed by the slow progression of the scale Squall had apparently wanted Leander to attempt.  Though no longer new to the sight of magic, Seifer still felt a sense of awe while watching both sorcerers focused on the elements, their eyes glowing softly as they connected to something Seifer knew he could never comprehend.

The simple scale finished shortly, Squall lowered his hand and gently removed the small hand from his arm.  "That's all it takes, cub.  Speak to the earth element and simply ask it to follow your lead.  The more you try to force the earth into obeying your command, the more stubborn it will become."

Leander's brow creased in deep thought as he glared at the old piano keys, the child looking offended that the earth element wouldn't give him the same response as it did to Squall.  The more experienced sorcerer sat quietly as he waited for Leander figure out his words, the brunet's patience seemingly unending.  In time, Leander tightened his hold onto his meager staff and lifted his other hand in the direction of the piano.  Soft green eyes glimmered with hesitant magic and small fingers twitched as if trying to play the piano from a distance.  Finding amusement in the attempt, Seifer almost missed the vague quiver of a pale key.  But keen eyes caught the slight movement, enabling the lord to witness the first note his son would ever play by magic alone.

"I did it, I did it!" Leander announced happily as he hugged Squall, the boy apparently unbothered by the weak sound of his single note.

"Well done," Squall said while gently wrapping his arm around small shoulders.  "The first note is always the hardest."

Leander pulled back to grin brightly at the sorcerer.  "Can I learn a song now?"

Seifer laughed at the eager request, impressed by the single-mindedness of his precious son.  Squall glanced up at the lord for his laughter, blue-gray eyes narrowed in accusation as if to say that Seifer was at fault for passing along the bothersome trait.  The ever-suffering expression boosted the energy to Seifer's laugh, the lord feeling proud that his son had inherited a true Almasy characteristic.

"Did I say something wrong?" Leander asked with a slight frown.

Squall shook his head before suggesting, "Why don't you finish this scale before I teach you a song."

Though visibly depressed by the response he should have anticipated, Leander nodded before attempting the next note to the basic scale.

The lesson lasted for another hour, the young boy pushing himself until his small staff wavered and vanished.  And as with previous times, Leander grew angry at the betrayal of his core, but Squall easily soothed the child with a few quiet words.  Seifer stood from his chair at the sign of the ending lesson, and after a brief stretch, he approached the two sorcerers.

"Good job, kid.  You looked good."

"But Squall is better," the dark-haired boy stated with a frustrated and tired frown.  Looking to the servant, Leander asked, "Can you play the flute again?  I liked that song."

Squall hesitated before replying, "It would be better for me to play the piano.  Watch closely for future lessons."

With his hand raised in a limp pose, the stormy-eyed sorcerer focused on the piano for a silent moment.  The first note was soft and tentative, then followed by another quiet note that rang in the small quarters of the music room.  Gradually the slow string of notes began to increased in speed, and then amazingly blended together to form unexpected chords that spoke of beauty within chaos.  Seifer looked away from the dance of piano keys, his eyes attracted to the sorcerer and his glowing eyes.  The song faded to the background as he studied Squall's profile, Seifer impressed by the complexities of the man he once believed to be a mere servant.  A prince and servant, a warrior and musician, a master sorcerer and father... there seemed to be no end to the roles that Squall had played in his short lifetime.

With a final flutter of keys, the brief song ended on a quiet note as Squall closed his eyes in a silent sigh, the expression surprisingly exhausted.  Keen eyes then glanced down, just catching the sight of Squall lowering his raised hand.  The noticeable shake to long fingers immediately made Seifer think of Leander and the boy's habit of overtaxing himself.  Though feeling concerned, the blond lord knew for certain that Squall would say nothing in front of the impressionable youth.

Seifer placed a hand on a small shoulder, easily gaining Leander's attention.  "You got your song, kid, and now it's time for you to get some rest before your afternoon lessons."

"But I'm not tired, Father."

"And the last time you said that, Lord Aveno complained that you fell asleep during his poetry readings."

"But it's boring and you said that you didn't like poetry neither."

Seifer sighed, fairly certain he had meant to say those words under his breath.  "Don't argue with me, Ander.  You're too smart to be neglecting any part of your studies."

Leander flashed a mixed expression of annoyance and embarrassment at his father, proud at being considered intelligent, but irritated by the responsibilities that came with the classification.  "Squall's tired, too.  Can we take a nap together?"

While Squall stiffened at the innocent question, Seifer chuckled at his son's boldness.  "Maybe later, but I have to speak with him first."

"But you always haveta talk to him."

"That's because I like talking to Squall.  Do you have a problem with that?"

Soft green eyes blinked in confusion before a mischievous grin crept into the boy's expression and he motioned for his father to come close.  Once the blond bent down to appease the child, Leander cupped his hands around Seifer's ear and asked in a barely understandable whisper, "Do you like Squall?"

Swallowing down his laughter, Seifer leaned back and smirked at the boy before nodding.

The reply brought a cheerful gleam to naive eyes, Leander flashing a bright smile at his father for changing his ways toward the servant.  No longer reluctant to leave, Leander hopped off the piano bench and gave Squall a tight hug.  "Thank you for the lesson!"

Somewhat startled by the child's sudden cooperation, Squall didn't have the chance to return the hug as the young boy hurried away and left the music room with a cheery, 'Bye!'.

"... What did he say to you?" Squall asked suspiciously.

"Nothing important.  You know that he's protective of his mommy, so he worries whenever you're left alone with me."

The sorcerer glared coolly at the blond for the flippant words.  "I've told you already, I'm not--"

"Yeah, yeah, you aren't his beloved mother," Seifer interrupted with a smirk, "But it's cute how your eyebrows twitch whenever I suggest it."

"... ..."

Green eyes dancing with silent laughter, Seifer stepped close to the seated brunet and decided to change the subject before Squall chose to storm off in anger.  "I enjoyed the song you just played.  Is that another one you learned from your father?"

"... No.  There was a friend of his, a master healer who was more musically inclined than my father.  He's the one who taught me most of the songs I know."

His smile gentle, the blond lord gazed at the former prince, a man who once would've replied with the simple, 'no'.  "A healer, huh?  And I was beginning to assume that you had something against all healers."

Squall looked away with a quiet, "Whatever."

"Well, I still liked the song.  It was complex, but beautiful.  I imagine that it was a difficult piece to play."  Fully focused on the brunet, Seifer asked, "Is that why your hand was shaking when you cut the song short?"

Eyelids lowering such that only a line of pale blue shone through, Squall made no argument or excuse for what the lord had observed.

"Even Ander noticed that you aren't at your best," Seifer added as he placed his hand at a smooth cheek, encouraging Squall to face him.  "I haven't seen this listless side of you before.  Are you feeling well?"

"... I'm fine.  Just tired."

"Tired?  It's hardly mid-afternoon and I can't imagine you exhausting yourself over a song."

"It's not your concern."

Seifer breathed a hard laugh, unable to stop himself as his hand slipped back into thick hair.  Fingers tangling deep into dark strands, Seifer bent down in a quick motion and pressed his lips against soft flesh in a bruising kiss that clashed teeth and threatened to break fragile skin.  Anger and frustration controlled the kiss, the lord unable to soften his statement that he would worry for Squall whether given permission or not.  He would always care about his Prince and savior.

The kiss broken with an inhale of air, Seifer vowed hoarsely, "I'll make it my concern since you obviously don't care enough about your wellbeing to live alone in this world."

"I've gotten this far," Squall reminded him.

"No, you haven't.  Since the day you lost your father and uncle, you've been a dead man walking in a world you despise.  You may have survived this long, but you haven't lived in years."

"... And what would it matter if I lived?"

Seifer stilled at the question, a sickness settling in his stomach at the hollow tone.

"I was a prince who couldn't defend his country, a warrior who traded his body for food, and a father who left his child on a doorstep.  Everything I am, everything I have done has gone to ash.  It's all been for nothing, and yet you expect me to hunger for life?"

"Don't say that," Seifer demanded as he tighten his grasp onto dark hair.  "Yes, you've been through things that would've destroyed a weaker man, but you are still here.  Don't lie and tell me that you have no desire for a better life."

Cold blue-gray stared at the blond, a haze of thought dulling the pale eyes as Squall sat silently for a time.  Heavy lashes then lowered, the man's exhaustion revealing itself to the lord.  "I haven't slept well lately."

Somewhat irritated by the change in subject, Seifer argued, "You told me that you rarely sleep throughout the night.  Why would it matter now?"

"It's worse than before.  And it doesn't help that..."

"What doesn't help?"

Lips twisting into a sour expression, Squall hesitated before stating, "I hate that I slept until the morning when I laid in your bed."

"Hn, that you did," the blond lord said with a proud smirk, recalling the weight of the sleeping man against his body.  "But some vigorous activity can help anyone to sleep."

Pale eyes flashed with annoyance.  "Sex with you didn't require that much effort."

Seifer winced at the slight against his abilities.  "You don't have to be that cruel, princeling.  I know for a fact that you found some enjoyment from our night of bonding."

Squall sighed and looked away.  "That's not the point.  I've tried practicing with my blade to tire myself, but it's done nothing to help."

"You've been playing in the snow again?" Seifer scolded as he took a seat on the piano bench.  He then placed a strong arm around the brunet's waist and held on loosely, anticipating Squall's retreat at any moment.  "If my bed is the only solution to your problem, why haven't you said anything in these past weeks?  Surely you know that I wouldn't have refused you."

Squall bit at his lower lip, his pose stiff and unforgiving as he glared at the rug-covered floor.

Grinning at the cold response, Seifer bent in close and brushed his lips over the curved tip of an ear.  "Come to my bed tonight, Squall.  Nothing has to happen.  Just two bodies warming each other during a winter night."

The sorcerer breathed a harsh laugh.  "And you expect me to trust you?"

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but haven't you already entrusted your lovely body to my whims?"

"If it were only my body you wanted, I wouldn't be as concerned."

Green eyes widened at the dully stated words, but Seifer didn't dare question the sorcerer's changed opinion about what the lord wanted from him.  Instead, he tightened his hold in a firm hug, and then reluctantly released his hold as he stood from the piano bench.  Squall stared up at the large blond, blue-gray eyes crossed in puzzlement at being freed without a struggle.

Grinning at the expression of the dark-haired beauty, Seifer said, "As always, I thank you for teaching Ander everything he needs to know to survive in this world.  I imagine that he would have been lost without you to teach him.  It's relieving to know that he will one day wield his power with the grace and intelligence worthy of his lineage."

"I'm not doing it for you," Squall stated coolly.

"So you constantly tell me," Seifer drawled in feigned exasperation.  Then, with a single finger, the lord brushed aside long bangs to better view the man's face.  "You were blessed with your mother's beauty, weren't you?"

Jerking back such that dark hair fell back over his right eye, Squall glared threateningly at the flirtatious man.

Seifer chuckled at the man's expression, wondering if the former prince would ever accept one of his compliments.  "Well, I had better return to my study so that I can finish today's work.  After all, I wouldn't want to keep you waiting tonight."

Eyes widening, Squall objected, "I didn't say--"

"Don't start lying now, dear Prince.  It was refreshing to get the truth from you," Seifer commented as he turned and stepped away from the seated brunet.  "I will see you tonight.  And if you choose to pray to your goddess before then, please do it indoors.  It takes too long to warm your body when you do something as idiotic as kneeling in snow."

Though he heard Squall stand up from the padded bench, Seifer left the music room and allowed the door to fall shut before the conflicted sorcerer could voice any more arguments.  His stride long and light, Seifer headed directly for his private study, motivated to review his plans for the coming year.  Subtly was a necessity for achieving his goals without drawing suspicion onto himself, and the young lord would be the first to admit that patience and refined planning were his greatest weaknesses.  Then a sudden thought came to mind, and with his lips curling up into a roguish smirk, Seifer realized that his prude prince had given him yet another important lesson to live by - with both the determination to want the best and the wisdom to act at the right moments, anything was possible.

Even the love of a skittish lion.

A grumbling whine emitting from the large blond, Seifer fidgeted underneath plush covers as he tried to find a comfortable position.  It wasn't until he blurrily recognized the reason for his discomfort that he opened his eyes and stared at the empty spot at his side.  Lips setting into a frown, Seifer decided that he didn't like how large his bed felt at that moment.

A soft sniff startled the lord, the blond head snapping up as green eyes focused on the unexpected sight of the exquisite and naked body standing at a tall window.  Squall had both arms wrapped around his bare body, his attention directed to the snow-covered landscape beyond the panes of glass.  Seifer, meanwhile, was completely focused on the scarred body of the former prince, memories of the night previous creating a flush of heat that forced him to better cover his lower regions.

Though he knew no one would believe his word, Seifer did have the pure intention to only sleep with the dark-haired beauty, the large blond wanting more than a couple of pleasure-filled nights to remember during his elder years.  But Squall had other ideas, stripping with his first steps into the lord's bedroom.  Seifer couldn't quite recall if he had resisted that temptation or simply pounced the smaller man, but he did know that no penetration had taken place.  Squall had been furious at the pleasured forced upon his body without the interruption of pain, but his muted cries and blissful expressions outweighed those vocal declarations of loathing.  And Seifer had greatly enjoyed smothering those arguments with a crushing kiss, the resulting taste sweeter than the chocolate his Prince treasured with every bite.

Rolling onto his side, Seifer smiled weakly at the naked figure surrounded by soft morning light, savoring the image for the first and perhaps last time.  "This is disappointing - I was beginning to believe that my bed had magical properties."

Squall turned slightly, dark hair shielding his face as he glanced over his shoulder.  "What nonsense are you spouting?"

"Isn't it obvious?  You're awake when I had assumed that I was the solution to your insomnia.  Perhaps it truly was the sex that had helped you to sleep."

The sorcerer scoffed as he returned to facing the window.  "I woke only a short time ago."

At first thinking he misunderstood the soft voice, Seifer noted the way fingernails bit angrily into soft flesh, a clear sign of the brunet's annoyance at his body's constant betrayal.  The lord grinned a fool's smile as he grabbed a heavy quilt from the mattress top and slid off his bed.  Wrapping the blanket around his bare shoulders, Seifer stepped behind the smaller man and hugged the thin body with both strong arms and the warm quilt.

"Fucking Hell, you're freezing again.  Why are you so determined to make yourself ill?"

Squall shifted back against the heated body of the blond.  "I needed to think."

"And what, it's easier to think when you have frost coming out from your ears?"

The sorcerer hummed a noncommittal sound as he grabbed onto the edge of the quilt and better covered his bare skin.

"So, what were you thinking about?"

"... ..."

"If it's about last night... While it was entirely your fault for being naked within my presence, I should have somehow restrained myself.  I didn't mean for anything to happen."

"... But I did."

Green eyes widened at the admission, then abruptly narrowing in anger.  "You coy bastard, you didn't get hurt the last time, so you wanted to try your luck with a second go?  Do you really think I want you to suffer?"

"No," Squall said in his soft way.  "I know you wouldn't intentionally hurt me, but I always believed that it was unavoidable between two men.  It was supposed to be a sign that Shiva disapproved of such abnormal love."

Relaxing at the brunet's words, Seifer chuckled lightly.  "Well, that's ridiculous.  Haven't you ever heard soldiers bragging about breaking in their virgin brides?  I have yet to hear a story that didn't include the phrase, 'she hated it at first, but I made her worship my cock by morning'.  Sex can be painful or blissful depending on how it's done, and it has nothing to do with your cold-hearted goddess."

"She's not cold-hearted," Squall muttered sullenly.

"I disagree," Seifer said as he pressed his lips against the back of the sorcerer's neck.  "She's a frozen bitch who is currently the only thing standing between me and my greatest desire."

Squall stretched vaguely, allowing the caress of warm kisses.  "She isn't against you."

"I find that hard to believe."

The dark-haired servant said nothing more about the matter, apparently having no interest in convincing Seifer about the true intentions of the snow goddess.  Instead, Squall leaned back against the solid form of the blond, an unexpected move that encouraged Seifer to hold the man tighter in his arms.  Enjoying the submissive side of his Prince, Seifer kissed and tongued the backside of an exposed ear.  Squall responded beautifully to the wet touch, squirming in a fashion that made Seifer groan and press his hips forward to meet the movements of the lithe brunet.  Though fairly certain he hadn't locked the door the night previous, Seifer didn't have the mind to care if anyone witnessed their indecent joining.

"Do you still wish to enlist the Shumi?"

As Seifer continued to taste pale flesh, his brows creased in deep confusion at the random question.  "Actually, I had hoped to fuck you without the aid of an overgrown kitten."

With a groaning sigh, Squall twisted away from the larger man.  The heavy quilt slipped from slim shoulders as the sorcerer gazed up into bright green eyes.  "Don't assume that I stayed here for your pleasure."

"Then tell me, sorcerer, why did you stick around this morning?  We didn't have the same deal as the last time we joined.  You could've escaped and made me think that I had only dreamed about making you scream."

Blue-gray eyes cold and unaffected, Squall didn't bother arguing the fact that he had never screamed.  "You didn't answer the last time we spoke about the matter - do you or do you not want to enlist the aid of the Shumi for your planned treason?"

"You're offering me the allegiance of the most feared warriors on the continent.  Why would I think to refuse?"

"Because most people don't care for their kind," Squall commented, a quiet light shining in pale eyes.

"Well, I'm not planning to integrate them with the rest of the men loyal to me, if that's what has you concerned.  In any case, from the stories I've heard, I assumed that the beasties would be more effective if I left them to their own devises."

Squall closed his eyes in momentary relief.

Seifer placed his fingers beneath the brunet's chin and encouraged him to meet his gaze.  "Listen, I'm not stupid.  My men are faithful to me, but I don't doubt that a good lot of them wouldn't mind ridding this world of a few monsters.  The pathetic realty is that I'd lose a few skilled men before a single Shumi would shed a drop of blood."

Soft lips formed a slight smile.  "I'm pleased that you have some respect for them."

"Well, they are the ones responsible for training you and helping you to become the feared Sorcerer Prince.  I have to respect them for that."

"... ..."

Removing the heavy blanket from his shoulders, Seifer wrapped the warmed material around the bare body of the servant.  "Now, why exactly are we speaking of the Shumi when I was in the middle of seducing you back into bed?"

Squall directed a scolding glare at the blond.

Grinning a smile that failed to be innocent, Seifer commented, "Don't pretend that you're no longer willing."

Squall breathed an exhausted sigh before replying to lord's previous question.  "The Shumi are a race of ceremony and honor.  Before they will consider your request for aid, you need to prove to them that you are trustworthy.  It could take anywhere from one to three months for them to make a final decision."

"Three months?  Fucking Hyne, I've been in wars that have taken less time.  Why can't they take your word about my intentions and credibility?" Seifer asked, afraid to hear the reply that the dark-haired man didn't find him trustworthy in the least.

"Because... I won't take part in this fight."

Seifer stared at the sorcerer for his response, surprise stealing away his voice.  While it had never been a spoken matter, Seifer had assumed with confidence that Squall would want revenge for the destruction of his family and country.  And in his certainty, he had envisioned fighting side by side with the Sorcerer Prince, their blades being the final blow against the Emperor and Empress.  To hear that Squall wanted nothing to do with the downfall of the corrupt Empire, Seifer felt disheartened and mystified.

Looking to the window, Squall continued, "Since I won't be there, they won't accept my word.  I will plead your case, but there is still the matter of you adhering to their rituals and surviving their trials."

"Wait, there are trials, too?  What kind of trials?"

"Nothing you can't handle," Squall stated without further clarification.

Seifer gazed at the dark-haired beauty, a slow smirk forming as he stepped forward and brushed aside long bangs to better see blue-gray eyes.  "Do you really have that much faith in my abilities?"

Squall looked to the taller man, the calm gleam to his eyes suggesting that it wasn't a matter of faith, but knowledge.  "If you wish for the help of the Shumi, then we need to leave within the next couple of months."

The blond lord breathed a laugh.  "You've been looking out that window all morning - did you not see that white fluff on the ground?  That snow isn't going anywhere until spring."

"We can still travel.  And Leander will come with us."

Humor lost at the sorcerer's serious tone, Seifer demanded, "Are you insane?  It's risky enough to travel in the snow and you're asking me to bring Ander along for the ride?  And to subject him to a horde of beasties, nonetheless?  He's too young for such harsh conditions."

"Leander can learn many important things from the Shumi."

Seifer continued to glare at the brunet.  "Even if that were true, why do we have to travel during the winter?  If we leave at the first hint of spring--"

"I'm not negotiating, Seifer.  You have eight weeks to plan and that's all the time we can afford to waste."

Green eyes hard and resistant, the blond lord studied the lithe man before him, unable to discern any emotion from the former prince.  Frustrated at the aloof nature of the brunet, Seifer frowned as he forced the words from his mouth - "I'll discuss the matter with Cid.  If he decides it's too risky to travel, then we aren't going.  I won't endanger Ander's life."

"I know," Squall stated with a weak smile.  Pulling the heavy quilt tighter around his body, he glanced to the door.  "Leander will wake soon.  I should go."

Seifer wanted to deny the servant his leave, but knew that he couldn't keep Squall forever in his presence.  Moving his arm around the brunet's lower back, Seifer pulled the man close and savored the lack of resistance from the cautious prince.  His lips set into a pleased smirk, the taller man bent down to claim a kiss in payment for allowing Squall to leave.  Soft lips responded with clear hesitance, but responded all the same to the touch of the insistent lord before Squall was forced to place a hand at the broad chest and push him back.

"I should go," Squall repeated, his eyes bearing a muted glow.

"As long as you come back," Seifer stated with a careful smile.

Squall gazed silently at the blond for a long minute, then turning his back to the lord without another word as he began gathering fallen clothes.

Seifer's smile widened at the man's actions, quick to learn that the lack of rejection was closest he'd receive to Squall accepting their current affair.  Though the area near the window was cold against his naked back, Seifer stood silently as he watched the servant dress in wrinkled clothes.  Squall never glanced in the lord's direction during that time, even placing the quilt back onto the messed bed without meeting interested green eyes.  A pale hand straighten sleep-ruffled hair as best it could just before Squall stepped through the bedroom door and walked out of sight.

Seifer didn't move until he heard the open and close of the main door, and though he had plenty to plan given the sorcerer's sudden demands, he laid down on his mattress and rolled onto his side such that he could look at the place where Squall had slept.  Various thoughts came and went as green eyes focused on cooled sheets, but mostly, Seifer wanted to enjoy the numerous emotions the difficult brunet had stirred up.  It was surreal to believe that he had gained the attention of the former prince, though Seifer knew he was still on shaky ground.  He felt there was one last thing he needed to say that would take the last hints of shame from stormy eyes.  It was an arrogant thought, but Seifer sensed that the sorcerer was off balance and that one right word could push the man into his favor.  Unfortunately, it also seemed that a single wrong word could drive Squall away forever.

A deep sigh turning into a yawn, the blond lord placed a spread hand onto the cooled sheets at his side.  Green eyes focused on that empty space, Seifer cursed his deep hunger to love the dark-haired sorcerer, it being an essentially simple desire that was made convoluted by the complexities of a man scarred by life.  He didn't remember his mother ever mentioning love to be quite that difficult, and yet, it was the words of his father that made Seifer smile with lazy determination - 'Never trust an easy love, boy.  Someone you can love with ease is someone you can hate with ease.  But a hard-fought love... Once you gain that type of love, you've found the last person you'll ever want to love again'.




Author's Whining -- Well, Squall finally surrendered, though he'd never admit that out loud.  The next chapter is planned, but I really should get back to 'High Price' before the natives get restless.  If only I had more time to write... or if only SxS could be taught to use the computer themselves.  Really, they're the ones doing this story anyway.  I don't understand why I have to play the middle man. =P