Edge of Freedom
August 2008


As the first rays of morning light shined upon a quiet mountain village, comforting smells of cooked eggs, baking bread, and fried bacon drifted throughout the largest structure in the town, its beloved Church of Hyne.  The old walls did little to contain the distinctive scents of breakfast, the aromas rising to the second floor that mostly served as a storage area filled with extra cots, medicinal kits, and other equipment needed in times of emergency.  At the furthest end of the floor was a secluded room that few in the village knew about, a small bedroom that was once used by the blind child they condemned as unnatural and evil in the eyes of Hyne.  Many years later, the cursed child had grown into a tough-minded man with the destiny of the Protector, his life and powers belonging to the fated Hero.

And yet, as Seifer watched the sleeping brunet, he could only see his fragile lover who seemed too pale beneath dark sheets, the pallor reminding Seifer of the cold body that had laid lifeless in his arms not two days earlier.

Seated on an old wooden chair, Seifer disregarded the warm smells of breakfast as he focused solely on the man who showed no sign of waking.  He held loosely onto Squall's left wrist and brushed his thumb across the branded symbol of a lost soul, a nervous habit that had left the skin raw after hours of constant rubbing.  Meanwhile, his gaze of emerald ringed by dark gray drifted from Squall's sleeping face and he focused on the brunet's long neck still adorn with the yellow bruises gained from Altemehsia's strangling hands.  Something in the fighter stirred at the sight of the injury Squall hadn't deserved, but before the anger became too much, Seifer squeezed his eyes and calmed himself before looking at his lover's face once again.

"Why won't you wake up, kitten?" Seifer asked in a hoarse voice, his free hand lifted to brush the back of his fingers against a pale cheek.  "You didn't tell me that I'd have to wait for you."

Though no answer came from the brunet, Seifer could easily imagine Squall's terse voice informing him that rising from the dead wasn't exactly a simple task and his body required time to recover.  Even so, Seifer always expected more than what was reasonable from his lover and it was beyond frustrating that Squall had yet to wake after falling unconscious during their exit from the caverns.

A groaning creak of old wood sounded beyond the door and Seifer sighed at the clear sign that the bastard priest was climbing up the stairs, the third step from the top weak to his massive weight.  It's wasn't a surprise to hear Ward's approach, but Seifer knew his temper was wearing thin with every hour Squall didn't wake and the priest made an overly convenient beat toy during times of high stress.  And so, when a soft knock sounded at the door, Seifer was tempted to not answer and hope the pale-eyed man would go away.

At the second slightly louder knock, Seifer sighed again and replied with a harsh, "Yeah."

The door opened, but instead of the priest, Laguna stood at the threshold with Ward leaning against the wall at the other side of the hallway.  The youthful looking man glanced briefly at his still sleeping son before smiling sympathetically at Seifer.  "By your appearance, I assume you stayed up through the night again."

Holding back an irritated growl, Seifer asked, "Did you need something?"

"No, but you certainly look like a man who could use a good meal.  Why don't you join me for breakfast and let Ward watch over Squall for a short while?"

"I'm not hungry," Seifer argued, his hand tight around the wrist in his hold.

"Impossible.  You haven't eaten since the meal after you returned from your adventures two days ago," Laguna stated while stepping inside the room.  "Surely you know that it'll take some time for Squall to wake, and though I understand your concern, you can't continue to sit there without food or sleep.  Squall wouldn't want that for you."

Seifer glared at the long-haired man, and though something in the back of his mind reminded him that he was dealing with Squall's father, the fighter grounded out, "I'm fine.  You can leave now."

"Seifer, you're being unreasonable," Laguna scolded lightly as he set a hand on a broad shoulder.

As if touched by lightning, Seifer jumped from his seat and knocked aside the hand that was meant to be consoling.  "Don't try to take me from him!  I've been tricked to leave him once before, but I'm not falling for it this time."

Freely showing his confusion, Laguna assured, "We're not taking you from him.  We're worried about your health--"

Laughing without humor, Seifer shot back, "Worried?  Worried?  If you're so Hyne-damned worried, then why are you interfering?  Why can't you let me be with him?  Is there something you want to tell him?  Do you need to warn him about me?"

Ward entered the small room at the outburst, his pale blue eyes narrowed with the clear intention to restrain the blond fighter if necessary.  That initial determination, however, faded to surprise as the large priest didn't move any further into the room and placed a hand over his tarnished pendant of Hyne.

"Seifer," Laguna whispered in alarm.  "Your eyes..."

The fighter hesitated at the comment, and though reluctant to place his back to the priest, he turned enough to glance at a small hand mirror located on the nightstand.  As he took in the sight of his eyes, bright green with swirling wisps of black, Seifer knew in his mind that it should frighten him to see the ink-like taint, but he couldn't feel much beyond his anger.  At the whisper of cloth, Seifer turned sharply and lowered into a defensive stance, his hand automatically reaching for the blade that wasn't at his waist.  His hand clutching air, Seifer was taken aback by his own overreaction, and when looking at Laguna, his heart ached at the dumbfounded look of Squall's father who had done nothing more than shift his footing and brushed a leg against the bed sheets.

Shaking, Seifer closed his eyes and pressed a hand against his face.  "Sorry, I don't... I don't want to leave.  One of those Shumi elders made me leave when Squall was like this and... I can't..."

Anger replaced by exhaustion, Seifer didn't recognize his weakness until his knees buckled beneath him and his body collapsed to the hard wood.  Softening that fall, Laguna managed to wrap his arms around the taller man, but the weight was too much for the out-of-practice soldier and he ended up on the ground along with the blond.  Surprised by that help, Seifer stared dumbly at the long-haired man and wordlessly questioned the courtesy when he knew his previous actions didn't warrant it.

His smile edged with pain, Laguna said, "See there, you're pushing yourself too hard."

Seifer didn't speak the immediate argument that came to mind, his silence the closest he would accept the fact that maybe he was overdoing things.

Ward stepped to the fallen pair and offered a hand to Laguna, the massive paw easily lifting the lean man off the ground.  Once steady on his feet, Laguna stepped aside as a request for Ward to help the sprawled blond.  Seifer flinched at the amused gleam to pale eyes and tried to back away, but the priest was faster than he looked.  A heavy hand latched onto his upper arm and Ward pulled the fighter to his feet, but didn't stop there as he bent down and swung his free arm behind Seifer's legs, lifting the weakened man off the ground.

His initial protest lost within a surprised inhale, Seifer groaned at his sudden dizziness from being picked up too quickly.  Ward smirked at the momentarily docile blond, but said nothing about the man's lack of composure.  Instead, he stepped around the bed and set Seifer down on the minimal amount of available space next to Squall.  While Seifer stared up in confusion, the priest placed a firm hand at a broad shoulder and winked at the younger man.

"If I brought up some food, would you try to eat something?"

Seifer scowled at the suggestion.  "No promises."

Ward chuckled deeply at the reply and straightened after a hard squeeze to Seifer's shoulder.  He glanced at Laguna still standing at the other side of the bed, and after an unsubtle nod, the large priest left with the warning that he wouldn't be long.

Looking suspiciously at the long-haired man, Seifer said, "I've been set up, haven't I?"

Laguna laughed a bit weakly as he repositioned the wooden chair closer to the bed and sat down while rubbing his thigh.  "Can you blame me for wanting to better acquaint myself with my son's chosen partner?"

Seifer glanced down at Squall and frowned lightly at the knowledge of how much Laguna meant to his lover.  Though Squall had never mentioned it in words, Seifer knew the seer wanted his father and his partner to get along, which was a harder task than it seemed.  Despite the events that told otherwise, Seifer still felt unsettled at the idea that he wasn't first in Squall's life, a position he was forced to share with the brunet's oblivious and wholly kindhearted father.

"I'm sorry for suggesting that you leave Squall's side," Laguna said after too much time of silence.  "I didn't realize your history and I thought you would appreciate a change in scenery for a short while.  Though I will admit, it's comforting to see you so reluctant to leave Squall."

Seifer breathed a laugh at the idea that his manic outburst was considered 'comforting'.

"You may think me an old fool, but I always hoped that Squall would find the same love I had with his mother." Laguna chuckled when he said, "And to think, he managed to find something so much more powerful than what I understood love to be."

"Then why did you separate us?" Seifer asked bitterly.  Laguna's confused glance forced him to explain, "If you hadn't sent me to Drasberg, Squall and I..."  He couldn't finish the sentence, overwhelmed by the thought of how many events and how much suffering could have been prevented if his Protector had been at his side and not in the shadows for too many years.

Dark green widened vaguely at the unexpected question, Laguna then raking a nervous hand back through his hair.  "Hyne, you make it sound like I don't regret my choice, but you have to understand my position back then.  My wife passed away and left me with this quiet boy I had to raise on my own.  Two years later, my son goes to bed like normal, but wakes up blind with no reason that any doctor can determine.  And then, just when I'm beginning to cope with the fact my son is blind, he has a fit in the middle of a church service.  I'm terrified for his life, but the first thing he says after reopening his eyes is that I have to save a nameless boy from death.  After the incident with Alexei, I suddenly had two boys on my hand, both of you so young, and yet your destinies had already begun."

Somewhat unaccustomed to getting answers to his question, Seifer stared in disbelief at the older man.  "Then why didn't you let us figure out our destinies together?"

"I was... stubborn, I suppose," Laguna replied with a wince.  "Squall was four and you weren't much older.  It was hard to imagine that anything was required of mere children, but the sorceresses after your life weren't so blind.  It nearly destroyed me to watch helplessly as Squall protected you from Adel and died from his devotion...  But I think the factor that made the decision for me was when Adel used Alexei's body in an effort to kill you."

"His body?" Seifer questioned, curious at the phrasing Laguna had used.  "Do you mean just before he killed himself?"

"Oh no, while that was a travesty by its own right, at least it was something to fight against.  A zombie, however, has no choice in the matter and you were quite traumatized by his revival and unfaltering attempts to kill you."

Stunned by the new information, Seifer placed a hand at his forehead.  "I don't remember that," he said, but once saying the words, he hazily recalled that Squall had suggested that such a thing had happened.

"That's hardly surprising," Laguna assured.  "As I said, you were very shaken by the event to the point of clinging onto Squall for two days, and the only reason you released him was because Squall had to defend you from Adel.  You see, she had scryed the future and saw her death would come at your hands, but after a week of trying every method to kill you without dirtying her hands, she was forced to face you directly.  I don't think she expected such trouble from a child, let alone Squall's interference.  When all was said and done, your world had been shattered into, well, nothing really within a matter of days - your mother's possession and death, your father's sacrifice, and eventually Squall's murder and harsh revival... It would have been far crueler if you were forced to remember everything from that week."

Seifer frowned at the comment and said, "But you remember it."

Laguna nodded with a jerk.  "I do, but I would rather otherwise.  I've had such nightmares...  I was too late when Alexei, or rather, his zombie was sent after you.  At that point, you were sharing a room with Squall as you were reluctant to leave him.  I woke to a commotion and ran upstairs to find Squall slumped against a wall, your father's body on the floor, and you kneeling over him while using Alexei's dagger to repeatedly stab at his chest and at the symbols of magic that had given his body life.  Tears were streaming down your face and you had your own injuries including bruises at your throat, but neither you nor Squall ever told me what happened that night.

"After seeing that, I was terrified about the real chance of a sorceress using me against Squall to get to you.  That fear in addition to my denial about my son's role in your destiny, I decided that the easiest way to protect Squall was to send you away.  Adel's attempt to murder you by her own hands solidified the point that you were the one they wanted to hurt.  I was in the process of contacting some of Alexei's old friends when that other sorceress came around, and after Squall's second death, I begged Stanford Kinneas to take you in."

Shaking his head, Seifer insisted, "It was the wrong choice."

"But I thought it was the right one at the time.  I wanted to protect Squall despite the harm it could cause others.  Surely you understand that feeling."

Seifer didn't bother with the obvious reply.  Instead, he looked to the sleeping brunet and wished that he could simply curl up with the smaller man.

Sighing at the difficult discussion, Laguna leaned forward with his bent arms on his legs.  "I suppose you don't have much reason to forgive me, but Squall is my only son and these last several years have been dreadful without any word from him.  I feel like I just got him back and I don't want to lose him like I did before."

Eyebrows furrowed, Seifer glared at the rambling man.  "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Well, you're done here and I thought, with your dislike of this place, that you may decide that you and Squall won't be staying longer than needed."

Seifer snorted at the idea, his lips curling into a slight smile.  "I'm not the one who makes decisions around here, but even if I were, I've seen how this place heals him.  I doubt we'll be leaving anytime soon, if at all."

Laguna exhaled loudly at the statement, his shoulders sagging in relief.  "Hyne above, I was afraid to hope... But if I may say so, you are both young and I can't imagine either of you being satisfied while living in a small town like this.  Don't you have plans of some sort?"

"And when exactly did we have time to plan something as foolish as that?" Seifer bit out, but immediately regretted the sharp tone.  While taking a calming breath, he tried not to think about the words Squall would have with him later for upsetting his father.  "The reality is that I'm not ready to believe everything is over yet.  I feel like we're on the edge of freedom with this destiny bullshit and everything depends on the moment Squall wakes up.  If he's blind again with his sight in the future, we don't have the luxury of our own choices.  But if he sees the present..."  Seifer smiled softly at the possibilities ahead of them.

A gleam of respect shined in forest green eyes, but before Laguna could place words to his thoughts, he was startled into a stiff pose when a deep groan of wood sounded.

Amazed that the long-haired man was once a soldier, Seifer simply looked at the door and waited for Ward's entrance, which came in short time with the priest carrying a large platter heaped with food.  An eyebrow lifted in disbelief, Seifer asked, "What army is supposed to eat that?"

"It's been a couple days for you and you didn't mention what you would be willing to eat," Ward stated logically as he stepped in the room and placed the platter onto the nightstand closest to Seifer, ignoring how the blond wrinkled his nose at the idea of eating.  "Did you have a productive talk?"

While Seifer was irritated by the priest's interference, Laguna smiled happily and replied, "It sounds like the boys will be sticking around for awhile."

Ward grinned at the declaration, his pale eyes shifting to Seifer with an air that suggested he knew it wasn't the fighter's choice.  "Well, as long as this building stands, this room belongs to you both."

Glancing between the priest and Laguna, Seifer abruptly felt trapped with the knowledge that he had gained himself a handful of unwanted in-laws.  He sighed at that reality and looked to Squall, silently hoping that the brunet would make it worth his trouble to deal with a bastard priest, a cold-blooded soldier, and their talkative leader.  His focus drifting to the bruises that marred the seer's long neck, Seifer felt painfully assured that Squall followed through with every task no matter the obstacle and he trusted the brunet to do everything in his power to make his unique family get along.

Ignoring Laguna and Ward's subsequent talk about possible improvements to the room, Seifer lifted a hand to his shirt and fiddled with the trei-pernula jarre hidden beneath the fabric.  It wasn't the first time he had toyed with the idea of using the item to command Squall awake, but it sickened him to abuse that power over his lover.  More so, he reluctantly reasoned there had to be a reason for the man to be dead to the world directly after a harsh revival.  To wake him too soon could be detrimental and Seifer wouldn't risk the chance of losing Squall just because he was impatient.

Releasing his hold on the jarre, he bent down and whispered in Squall's ear, "You had better open your eyes before I do something to your family that I'll later regret."

Though there was no response from the brunet, Seifer felt some relief at placing the responsibility on Squall's shoulders if he managed to cause some irreparable damage while the man was unconscious.  If nothing else, Seifer figured that it would teach his lover the lesson that he shouldn't be left alone to his own devices for too long.  Something like that could only lead to trouble, and as Seifer smiled to himself, he considered the best method to rid himself of Squall's father and the bastard priest.  Squall wouldn't like it once he heard about it, but Seifer had no immediate reason to play nice and he was going to abuse that privilege for all it was worth.

Lost and numb within hated darkness, Squall breathed shakily while enduring the unwanted caresses of ghost-like hands across his naked body.  It wasn't something that had bothered him in the long past, and though he knew the hands made of pure energy were necessary to stabilize his soul, Squall felt sick at the touches that were nothing like Seifer's heated caress.  His patience was wearing thin at the length of time it was taking to heal when, more than anything else, he simply wanted to open his eyes and see the arrogant man who owned his battered soul.

A deep chuckle sounded from nowhere, Squall easily identifying it before the demon of large bat wings, long red horns, and dark crimson eyes appeared from the surrounding darkness.  ::It's rare to see you this anxious, my Master:: Griever said lightly, his lips not moving with the words.

Squall shivered at the inflection placed on the honorific, not yet comfortable with the concept that he somehow controlled the demi-god before him.  "I've been here too long.  Seifer--"  Denied the chance to finish his sentence, Squall was overwhelmed by searing coldness that stole away his breath and made him curl onto his side with his arms crossed over his chest.  Bewildered by the frigid temperature, Squall looked to the demon and tried to ask out a question, but he couldn't use the icy air to speak.

Griever's expression grew serious at the sudden frost, his wings folding close to his body as he glanced upward.  ::Hn, it appears that the Hero has grown quite agitated... But that isn't quite right, is it?  He's no longer the fabled Hero, but the God Slayer who shouldn't exist::

Squall tensed at the new name for his lover that prompted the memory of Altemehsia showing him the dark tendrils of energy that had surrounded Seifer.  It had been a horrifying sight, but once Squall was revived from death, he hadn't felt anything different about the man he had stood next to for almost a year.  Seifer had always been an intense force in the brunet's life and nothing would ever change that.

In time, a heated breeze brushed across Squall and chased away the frozen chill apparently caused by Seifer's anger.  After taking a deep breath to warm his lungs, Squall asked the demon, "What happened?  Do you know if he's all right?"

Crimson eyes focused on the brunet before Griever smirked with a show of pointed teeth.  ::That's cute.  Why should you worry about a man who is feared by the gods?::

"There must be a reason for Seifer to be so upset."

::And it's the same reason you have struggled to remain still while allowing my energy to heal your soul::

Squall blinked at the concept that he was being as impatient as the hot-blooded fighter, but given the chance to think about his emotions, he knew why he was so anxious.  "He said we were free," Squall said hoarsely.  "Before you were forced to leave me, Seifer said it would only be the two of us moving forward and I... I want to begin that life."

Griever snorted at the statement.  ::Do you really believe Fate is done with either of you?::

Startled, Squall stared at the demon.  "Seifer freed Hyne and I healed Altemehsia; how can anything more be asked of us?"

::True, the destinies of the Hero and Protector were fulfilled, but from that messy affair, a God Slayer was born.  It would be foolish of the universe to bestow your mortal lover the power over gods and not place it to practical use::

"No... No, that's not right.  We've done everything that could be expected of us."

::And more,:: Griever conceded, ::but neither of you have touched upon your true abilities::

Squall could only shake his head, unable to consider what else could be demanded of him after all of his sacrifices.

::Don't show any weakness now, my Master:: the demon scolded with a mocking edge.  ::I agreed to become your servant because I wanted to see what you and the God Slayer would achieve next.  I don't like to be disappointed::

Closing his eyes, Squall focused on nothing except for the unwanted touches on his body.  He thought about the past and questioned what drove him to achieve everything he had despite the obstacles.  It was a simple answer, that he had done whatever was necessary to protect Seifer and make him strong.  And though Squall loved his father, he knew that Laguna was an excuse to keep his resolve strong when he was forgotten by the arrogant blond.  His body and soul belonged to Seifer and if anything arose to endanger the life of the God Slayer, Squall knew he would do everything in his power to remove that threat.

"I want to see his face once more," Squall stated hopefully, though he figured Griever had little say in the matter.

Unexpectedly, the demi-god sniggered at the comment.  ::Don't assume you'll have the help of visions and dreams this time.  Before, Hyne needed you to lead the Hero to his soulless body, which you accomplished because of your visions.  Now that Father is free, he has no further use of you, nor will he want anything to do with the God Slayer::

Squall stared forward, his feelings mixed at losing the ability to see the future and guide Seifer forward.  His sight had saved the fighter's life on many occasions, but the visions hadn't always been useful and he would never forgive the fact that they ultimately held the purpose of leading Seifer to death.

Deciding that it was a moot point, Squall asked the demon, "What of the seal that protects Seifer?  Has that power been lost, too?"

::Why would something created of your blood and my power be lost?::

Squall exhaled a relieved breath and nodded.  "Then if Seifer's fate leads him into more trouble, I will be at his side."

Griever grinned with sadistic pleasure at the brunet's pledge, his fangs bright against dark lips.  The demon stepped close to his master, the hands of energy drawing away from Squall's body with the demi-god's approach.  Though discomforted by the gaze of crimson following the lines of his naked body, Squall showed none of his aversion in respect of everything the demon had risked for him.  Griever eventually nodded, apparently pleased that the brunet's soul had been restored to an acceptable state.

::One final task,:: Griever announced with his gaze focused on the former seer's chest.

Squall followed that line of sight and glared at the magical brand that Hyne had left on his soul, a dark impression of a cross with complex runes and a broken wing that covered his entire torso.  He despised the claim that Hyne had no right to make and was sorely tempted to encourage Seifer to make the god suffer for the poor choice.  Unfortunately, reason always came before his petty need for revenge and Squall knew it would be disastrous to even suggest the idea to Seifer.

::You want to be rid of it, yes?::

Eyes wide in surprise, Squall asked, "Can you really remove Hyne's mark?"

Griever raised a clawed hand and flexed the dark-skinned fingers.  ::It'll hurt::

Though the demon's fanged smirk should've been the furthest thing from comforting, Squall relaxed at the sign of complete confidence and lifted his head to better stretch out his chest.  "Do whatever it takes."

::As you command, my Master::

~ > < ~

His soul torn and bleeding, Squall couldn't scream loud enough to purge his body of the pain that burned in his blood and seared his flesh.  There was nothing beyond that piercing agony - no thoughts, no sound, no salvation - and Squall clawed at his body in an instinctive attempt to remove the thing causing him pain.  Too quickly his wrists were braced in unforgiving restraints that forced his arms over his head and denied him the release he desperately needed.  Frustrated sobs sounded within his screams as he thrashed against the force that wouldn't let him free.

Unexpected mercy appeared in the form of a small spot of soothing coldness against his chest, and though he was still in agony, Squall inhaled sharply and was able to open his eyes to view upon the world that had been hidden from him for years.  His vision was blurry from pained tears, but he easily recognized the face of his lover looming above him.  Loud and pathetic whimpers escaped Squall, the brunet unable to hear anything from Seifer despite the sight of pale lips moving in a purposeful manner.  Stormy eyes glanced downward and focused on the trei-pernula jarre that dangled from Seifer's neck and inadvertently came in contact with Squall's chest.

With a theory about his salvation, Squall tried to recover enough breath to communicate to Seifer, but all he could manage was a halting, "... j... jarre..."

Seifer glanced confusingly at the trei-pernula jarre laying on Squall's chest, and in misunderstanding, he shifted his hold on thin wrists into a one-handed grip, thereby freeing a hand to lift the jarre from touching the smaller man.  The reaction was instantaneous as Squall screamed out in sharpened agony and nearly broke free of the crushing grasp around his wrists.  Startled by the sudden cry, Seifer undid his action by shoving the magical item back onto Squall's chest with such force that the chain snapped.

At the soothing touch, Squall was able to calm himself to shaky whimpers and looked up with a pleading gaze at his lover.  Though uncertainty darkened green eyes, Seifer said something that made Squall inhale in deep relief, the words of a generic healing spell eventually heard once the pain began to fade.

"Keep... doing that," Squall encouraged when he had enough breath.

Heartened by the demand, Seifer smiled weakly before lying down next to the brunet.  He whispered the spell directly into Squall's ear while his hand pressed the trei-pernula jarre harder against the man's chest.

Just when the pain was receding to tolerable levels, a clamor of rushed footsteps sounded from beyond the small room and the door burst open.  Laguna stumbled inside and leaned heavily with his hand clinging onto the doorknob.  After a few exaggerated pants, Laguna looked up at the two men lying in the bed and stared at the tired stormy eyes that gazed back at him.

"Squall," Laguna breathed before releasing the door and stepping to the bedside.  "What in Hyne's name had happened?  Was that you screaming?"

The brunet looked helplessly at the older man.  "Father... I can't..."

Not listening to his son's words, Laguna inhaled sharply in sudden realization.  "You can see.  Blessed Hyne, Seifer wasn't lying when he said that you could see again."

When Laguna reached out to hug the unmoving brunet, Squall couldn't hold back a pained whine at the movement his body wasn't yet ready to handle.  At his side, Seifer's continued words of healing gained a growled inflection without pause, but he made certain to direct a harsh glare at the oblivious man.

Dark hands appeared at Laguna's shoulders and Kiros efficiently dragged the man back a step.  "Laguna, can't you see that you're causing your boy pain?  That's not to mention you're disrupting Seifer's attempt to heal him."

"But Kiros, he's awake and he can see again."

"I know," the dark-skinned man said with a warm smile, "but he's also in pain and you're not helping."

Crushed by the dose of reasoning, Laguna looked at Squall and pressed a hand against a cheek.  "Son, I'm so sorry.  I didn't realize... What happened to you?  Is there anything I can do?"

Weakly, Squall shook his head.  "Seifer... will..."

Before Laguna could insist that he wanted to be useful, Kiros slapped the man's shoulder and said, "Enough, 'Guna.  This sort of thing is beyond us.  As long as it's something that will pass..."  Receiving a nod from Squall, Kiros finished, "...then people like us will only get in the way.  Why don't you and I go into town and buy some fresh food for dinner?  Hopefully at that point, Squall will be better able to enjoy your company."

Laguna glared at his friend for not supporting his desire to stay, but was stopped from saying anything more about the matter when a hand brushed against his.  He stared at the fingers curled at his wrist and then looked at his stiffly smiling son.

"Sorry..." Squall said, "Later... we'll talk."

Reluctantly recognizing his inability to help, Laguna wrapped his hand around Squall's and squeezed tightly.  "Don't be sorry.  I'm just a hopeless father who hates seeing his son like this."  Before Squall could argue, Laguna bent down and pressed a kiss against the brunet's forehead.  "Take all the time you need to heal, and then we'll have a talk about that note you left me."

Squall sighed at the responsibility he was hoping to avoid, but nodded all the same.

While Kiros herded Laguna out of the room and closed the door behind them, Squall lifted his hand and placed it over the one clutched at his chest.  Seifer faltered in his spell casting at the touch, the occurrence causing the brunet to groan at renewed strength to his soul's pain, though not as strong as moments before.

"Don't stop," he pleaded as he turned on his side and tucked his head beneath Seifer's chin.

Without need of questions or further persuasion, Seifer raked the fingers of his free hand into dark hair and restarted the healing incantation.

As they laid like that for a period of time, Squall closed his eyes to find comfort in the things that he knew best about his lover - the heat of his firm body, the spice to his unique scent, and the deep voice speaking words which Seifer didn't truly understand.  It was a slow process for Seifer to pour his healing energy through the trei-pernula jarre and directly to the brunet's soul, but Squall didn't regret the pain he had been forced to endure.  The gaping hole left from Hyne's removed mark was gradually being refilled by Seifer's essence and Squall couldn't imagine a more suitable outcome.

Eventually, Seifer's voice cracked and wavered at the constant use over too much time, an occurrence that brought a frustrated growl to the man's voice.  So lost in the presence of his lover, Squall hadn't noticed that his soul had been soothed to the point of dull soreness that would need time to heal, not magic.  Vaguely guilty at making Seifer overextend himself, Squall squeezed the hand at his chest and carefully pulled it aside while drawing away from the larger man.

Smiling slightly at Seifer's hopeful expression, Squall whispered, "Thank you."

His hand clutching tightly at dark chestnut hair, Seifer stared with harsh examining eyes when he asked, "What happened there?  I've only heard you scream like that when you've come back to life."

"You saw how Hyne marked my soul.  Griever did me a favor and removed it, but he decided that it would be best for you to heal the soul you own," Squall said as he moved the fighter's hand that held the trei-pernula jarre.

Seifer scowled at the jarre and its broken chain, but then snapped his attention back to the brunet.  "Griever?  I thought that parasite deserted you."

"And he returned to offer himself as my servant."  At the coming argument clear in the blond's expression, Squall said, "He stabilizes my soul.  Without Griever, I wouldn't have been able to come back to you."

His frown appearing more of a pout, Seifer conceded, "I suppose the bastard was the one who led us to where Hyne was hiding you, but I don't like the idea of a demon playing around in your head."

Ignoring the growled chuckle only he could hear, Squall murmured a quiet, "I know," to the man's concerns while he lifted a hand to short golden hair and stared entranced as he connected the touches he knew of the soft hair along with the new experience of watching the strands bend and twist under his fingers.  It was almost too much at one time, and after closing his eyes in a momentary respite, Squall looked at the half-lidded gaze of his lover and focused on the dark gray edges to the green eyes that were brighter than he remembered.

"Something made you angry when I was asleep."

Seifer jerked back in surprise, the immediate reaction shifting into brow-furrowed confusion.  "How... How could you know that?"

"I felt it," Squall offered as the extent of his explanation.  "What happened, Seifer?"

Hesitating, the large man glanced at the closed door.  "Your father and that damned priest tried to drag me downstairs and away from you for a breakfast I wasn't going to eat.  I didn't like the idea."

The brunet frowned at the account, both interested and worried that the small occurrence had caused Seifer to draw upon the power of the fractured soul trapped within him.  "In other words, you've neglected your health while watching over me, and then probably insulted my father and Ward to the point of them questioning my choice in a partner."

"It wasn't my fault," Seifer insisted as he returned his gaze to Squall's face.  "They knew I didn't want to leave your side, but they still tried to make me go.  I think that priest was ready to carry me out of here if needed, but lucky for him, he changed his mind."

Though amused at the man's unchanged loathing for Ward, Squall knew the overall situation wasn't something to take lightly.  "I wouldn't have blamed you for needing--"

"No, I wasn't going to desert you," Seifer interrupted harshly, wisps of black twisting within his eyes.  "Every time before this, I wasn't there for you.  That fucking sheeme tricked me into leaving the last time, but I wasn't going to let that happen this time.  Not when you would open your eyes and see me waiting for you."

His chest aching at the man's single-mindedness, Squall let his hand drift from golden hair and traced his fingertips down the edge of Seifer's face, taking note of the dark circles beneath earnest eyes and the stiff stubble along his jaw line.  "While it was fortunate that you were by my side, this isn't the first time you were waiting at my bedside for me to wake."

"I know that, but I mean after your life was stolen from you."

"So do I."  At Seifer confused stare, Squall explained, "After the first time I lost my life and you forced Shiva to save me, you were sitting next to the bed and holding my hand."  While saying the words, Squall thought about his first experience waking from terrifying darkness and feeling the heated hand clutching determinedly onto his small hand.  His fear had disappeared in that moment simply because Seifer was there.

Stunned, the man's eyes shifted in thought.  "I don't remember doing that... Wait, does that mean I was there the second time for you?  I mean, I was there when that sorceress used an ice spell to kill you, but I can't picture anything after that."

Squall didn't reply immediately, instead focusing on his hand against the skin and contours that he had memorized time and time again.  But with new sight, he watched how his touch would cause the skin to bend and that Seifer had the habit of tilting his head such that long fingers always ended up at pale lips.  It was no wonder the face wasn't exactly as he imagined it.

"I don't hear an answer, kitten."

Purposefully focusing on the man's lips, Squall said, "My father lied to you back then.  He convinced you that I was dead and wouldn't come back to life like I had before.  You were made to stay with Edea in the days before you were sent to Drasberg."

Without looking at green eyes, Squall could sense the poisonous anger building within the large blond and felt helpless in taming that haphazard energy.  In an abrupt motion, Seifer pushed away from the brunet and moved for the mattress edge, but Squall held tight onto the hand holding the trei-pernula jarre and refused to allow the man his desired escape.

"Don't blame my father," Squall appealed.  "He did what he thought was right."

Seifer turned sharply and glared with ink-stained eyes.  "But it wasn't right.  Fate brought us together at the very beginning and we should've stayed together.  Your father interfered and ruined everything to the point that I forgot about you, probably because I thought it was my fault that my friend had died and I didn't do anything to stop it!"

"You may be right," Squall stated calmly, hoping to soothe the man's anger.  "Maybe it would've been easier if we stayed together from the start, but it could have been worse, too.  The simple fact is that we will never know what could have been, and I learned years ago that I can't live a life based on 'should' and 'could'.  I don't have enough strength to question every action and happenstance like that."

"But you have to admit that your father--"

Squall placed a hand over pale lips to stop the line of argument.  "The only thing I 'have to admit' is that I'm here in this present time and I don't want anything else."

Tense energy slowly evaporated from the blond, and after a few blinks, the menacing wisps of black receded to the outer rim of his irises.  "I suppose you have a point," Seifer murmured behind long fingers.  "I don't like it much, but you have a point."

Lowering his hand to a broad shoulder, Squall said, "It doesn't matter what you like."

An eyebrow lifted in an interested arch, Seifer moved closer to the smaller man.  "It doesn't matter, huh?"

"Not in the least," Squall replied as he stretched back against his pillow.

With one hand placed at the opposite side of the lithe body, Seifer loomed over his lover, but his teasing smirk didn't last long as he stared down into the clear depths of blue-gray eyes.  "I missed you."

Squall nodded at the statement, unable to use his own words to describe the amount of loss he felt without Seifer's overwhelming presence.

Pale lips slid into a relieved smile.  "Just think of it, kitten.  We're free.  We're finally free."

Though he immediately thought of Griever's words that stated otherwise, Squall didn't let that show in his expression as he reached up and placed a hand deep into golden hair.  Seifer didn't resist the firm press that brought him closer to his lover, though he made certain that Squall was the one to initiate the kiss.  Accustomed to the game, Squall licked beneath Seifer's lower lip, and when the blond muttered something about 'playful kittens', the former seer humored him with a quiet purr.  The large man shivered with pleasure and parted his lips to encourage more exploration by the formerly prudish brunet.  Squall closed his eyes as their kiss deepened, once again overwhelmed by the smell and feel of the man who owned his soul and life.

It was a mild surprise when Seifer was the one to break the kiss, but watching the blond settle on top of him, Squall was reminded of the man's lack of sleep which had been followed by the extended use of magic.  Seifer rested his head on Squall's chest and positioned other heavy body parts along the brunet's smaller frame to pin his lover to the mattress, much like a child ensuring that a parent wouldn't escape once he fell asleep.

"You're heavy," Squall commented.

With a quiet whine, Seifer clutched onto the brunet's shirt.  "Give me a few minutes before your father comes back.  You owe me at least that."

Instead of a vocal reply, Squall placed a hand on top of the man's head and stroked his fingers through the soft spikes.  Seifer offered a pleased groan as his thanks, his last conscious action before measured breaths of sleep sounded from the large man.  Though accustomed to the sound of those breaths, Squall had never properly imagined the man's sleeping face.  Pale lips were slightly parted and twitched as if saying something, one eyebrow was furrowed in absent thought, and blond hair hung over his forehead without touching the golden brown skin.  He seemed almost innocent in that moment, but Squall hadn't lived a life where appearances made a difference in his opinion about people.

"The fearsome God Slayer," Squall murmured with skepticism as he toyed with a slightly pointed ear.  "Fate must have been desperate the day she chose you."




Author's Whining -- Well, hopefully I didn't mix up anything here.  It's been a long while since I touched 'Blind Sight' and it's a long story, but I do remember kicking myself for forgetting to mention the reason behind Squall's comment that Seifer had dealt with his father's zombie before. =P  Anywho, I hope you liked it, Nik!

And because my beta Jess had a couple good questions, I thought I'd clear up a couple things with this oneshot.  The epilogue of 'Blind Sight' is set only around six months after the main story (and thus this oneshot, which is two days after the main story).  In that epilogue, Seifer's potential destiny as a God Slayer hasn't hit him yet, and Squall is pretty much ignoring the fact that anything is coming and is somewhat hoping that Griever is wrong.  From this oneshot to the epilogue and beyond, Squall wants to enjoy the taste of freedom they've been allowed and he'll worry about the future once it smacks them in the face.

But as for Seifer's anger issues, that is entirely separate from the God Slayer part of him. When he got that piece of Hyne's soul, Seifer got the 'tumor' that was obsessed over making Altemehsia love only him, but now in Seifer, the idiot goes a little nuts at the idea of something taking Squall away. A little weird, but most of my stories are. ;)  Hope that settles some questions!