Frozen Heart
March 2003

 

[Seifer]

As a rule, pants should not make cracking noises as you walk.  Wiping slush from my darkened glasses for perhaps the fifth time in as many minutes, I try to keep moving despite the weight and coldness of frozen rain.  While my thick cloak was a blessing at first, it's turned into practically a block of ice on my shoulders, and my pants sound about to break to pieces at any moment.  Hyne in heaven, what was I thinking to take a 'shortcut' over this mountain range?  I should've guessed that these last few weeks of spring were merely to fool me into trusting the bout of good weather, never suspecting this final touch of winter.  Can't even light a cigarette in this shit.

Hefting up my large pack to shake off some of the accumulating slush, I reflexively mutter a prayer for a break in the storm, but of course it's a modified version of what the old fucks at the temple teach.  For someone who is supposedly all-knowing, I can't see the big guy being offended by some more colorful terms.  Really, not like he hasn't heard it all before.

Suddenly the wind dies down into nothing, wet snowflakes still falling but not into my face for once.  Stopping in place for the moment, I turn full circle to get a decent look at my surroundings and maybe get a hint about whether or not I'm on course at all.  If I was truly worried, there's a simple spell to perform that would lead me in the right direction, but I'd rather follow my instinct than waste energy like that.  To the right and ahead, my purple tinted vision settles on a dark opening into a rock face of the mountain.  After a brief debate and an encouraging gust of wind, I decide to camp out through the rest of the storm.

More sliding than climbing down the small incline, it's a short trip to the cavern entrance.  I take several steps inside and remove my protective glasses to better see within the darkness, looking for signs of life in the seemingly large cave.  Not seeing nor sensing anything potentially dangerous, I gratefully drop my pack to the stone floor and push back the hood of my cloak in a stretching move.  Eyes focused on the darkened passage that leads deeper into the cavern, I smirk and decide to see if I've invaded anyone's sleeping hole.  A little fight with an enraged bear might serve to warm me up.

Padding as softly as I can while sopping wet and cold, I travel down the dark cavern to pause at an oddity in the wide passageway - out of sight from the entrance, a seal has been placed to block travelers and animals from going further into the cave.  Interest piqued, I raise two gloved fingers to my mouth to lick the very tips and then write an entrance symbol on the unseen surface of the barrier.  It drops immediately, allowing me to step through before the seal rises back into place.

Undoing the stiff leather ties of my cloak, I remove the heavy clothing and drop it to the floor without care.  One hand hovering near my daggers and the other holding a softly glowing ball of light, I proceed forward into the cavern.  There's nothing of interest for a good distance until the darkness aside from my spell is slowly replaced by a soft, blue hinted light.  Turning a sharp corner, I stop at finding the source of the light and stare into the wide area of the naturally formed room.

I let the illumination spell fade as I step forward, approaching a large crystalline structure in the back wall of the cavern where several hanging globes of light surround it.  Before I even place a hand on the opaque stone of gray-blue, I recognize it as a magically created ice crystal used to protect objects from either thievery or else general usage once deemed too dangerous for common men.  With a few whispered words, the color of the stone immediately clears to reveal a human form encased within the coldness.  Eyes narrowed, I glance over the entrapped form, the lean body arcing slightly in a permanent pose to testify the pain it must have first caused him.  Aside from the apparent youth of the individual, I first notice the black wolf-like ears rising out from messy dark brown hair and, looking lower, find the matching thick tail of the demon.

Smirking, I yank off the glove to my right hand and then use one of my silver daggers to prick a fingertip for sufficient blood flow.  Two symbols are quickly written across the front face of the ice crystal, steam soon appearing around the lettering of the ancients.  Stepping back a short distance, I stretch a little while waiting for the release of the demon.  It's strange that the priest who managed to seal the creature didn't kill him, but the fact it needed doing makes me suspect the challenge this one can give me.  Flexing my hand around the dagger handle, I resist the urge to draw my large blade, knowing that it would be more of a hindrance in this type of setting within the cavern.

The ice crystal gradually evaporates into nothing, the lightly tanned creature soon exposed to air for the first time in who knows how long.  If he had been human, the bastard wouldn't have lived past the first few minutes of being entrapped.  But demons aren't anything close to natural, not even originating from this plane of existence though they hold generally human forms.  Mockeries, that's all they are.  At least this one should help relieve my boredom and frustration for the time being.

Interestingly the wolf-demon doesn't collapse to the ground as his stone encasement leaves him without support, but he instead sinks gracefully to a kneeling position on one knee while longish strands of dark hair cover his eyes.  There's a deep inhale of breath that is later released in a soft growl as he tenses.  Dark ears press back into thick hair before he suddenly launches forward, my automatic placement of a defensive shield the only thing protecting me from extended claws.  Though impressed by the creature's speed, I grin condescendingly at him for his run-in with the invisible barrier, the energy of which knocking him back several feet though he remains standing.  Icy gray eyes glare at me briefly before he lifts a hand palm out towards me, whispers of a spell ringing in my ears.

Before I realize it, he shatters my shield and advances once more, lengthy claws aimed directly for my throat.  Still stunned by the fact that a mere demon broke through heaven's magic, I can only lean backwards in a dodging attempt.  All the claws miss their intended target, but one still manages to slice up from beneath my right eye and angle past through the bridge of my nose.  Moving with the flow of my dodge, I turn sideways and swipe up my dagger with the intent of slicing through the lean neck.  He senses the counterattack too late, earning a cut that angles up from his left eye in a mirror image to mine.  Missing my mark means little to me, however, as I smirk with the knowledge that the silver dagger sliced through his flesh is more than enough damage.  Claws retracted, the demon places both hands against the wounding, his gray eyes narrowed in agony though a sound doesn't escape his lips in proof of that pain.  Amazingly, it takes time for the silver poisoning to overwhelm his senses, eventually forcing him to his knees and into unconsciousness.

I step over to the fallen demon, kicking him onto his back to better look at the naked body.  Years, perhaps decades entrapped in ice crystal and this mistake of life managed to wound me in a way that could've seriously disabled me and cost me my life.  I should kill it like I would any other demon, but I recognize that no other of their kind could potentially complement me as well as this mutt, and the horror it'll bring to the elders' faces should be worth the cost of linking this demon to me.  Worse comes to worse, I can always kill him later.

Knowing he should wake soon, I slip off the wide protective band of silver from my wrist and spell it to split into six thin bracelets.  Quickly, I straddle the slim waist and then place the items onto the demon's wrists while smirking at the sight of immediate burning of the tanned skin in reaction to the metal.  Moments later the icy gray eyes snap open, his pain easily seen at this close distance as he focuses on me.  Wisely, though, he doesn't attempt to move, knowing he can't remove the metal himself.

"You know what I want, mutt.  Tell me how."

A low growl escapes him, stubbornly proving to me that he doesn't care for linking his life to mine.  As if I give a fuck.

"Tell me, or I start trying things."  I lift a silver dagger to emphasize the point.

Eyes narrow before he says in part-defeat, "Follow the line.  Take it."

The soft voice takes me aback for a moment, and I realize that I've never actually spoken with a demon before.  Incredible how human they can seem.  Looking down to the bare chest, I easily recognize the long scar that follows the midline of his body.  Without care about causing him even more pain, I cut deeply along the aged scar.  No blood appears at the slice, an odd feature of the other worldly creatures that they can somehow divert blood flow momentarily.  I stare at the open area, eyes focused on harden, bluish muscle that almost looks like carved stone.  Hesitantly I take a hold of the object, the demon's 'heart' unneeded within his body to serve as the basis of his life-force.

"Now what?"

"Against... your chest..."

I follow the hissed out direction, opening the top latches of my robe and pulling down the collar of the shirt underneath to press the lifeless heart against my exposed chest.  Instantly, there is a surge of cold like an icicle drilling into my body, the sensation taking my breath straight from me.  Dropping to the side, I try to regain lost air while also adjusting to the feel of duel heartbeats within my chest.  It doesn't take long, but by the time I can sit up, the demon has already been healed with the end of the linking and now stares at me with a faint curl to his lips.  Shit, the bastard told me something wrong.  Why didn't I bother listening to the geezers during lessons?

He waves a hand, silver bracelets glinting in the dim light of the room.  "You should've removed these first."

I scoff at his pathetic victory.  "Cute, but ridding yourself of the silver poison means nothing.  We both know I can kill you whenever I wish it."

"If you think so," he says in his soft voice before standing with a stretch.  How dare he act so relaxed, as if he hadn't been in agony moments previous or been defeated so easily by my blade.  Then he has the audacity to turn his back on me and walk for the entrance.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?"

He doesn't stop as he replies.  "I can't hurt you, so fighting is pointless.  But you don't control me, either.  Thus, I'm leaving."

"You little prick..."  The spell I cast was supposed to be a simple summoning hex, just enough to stop the creature and make him face me.  Instead the magic within me bursts forth, grabbing onto the unsuspecting demon and flinging him backwards across most of the room to land roughly at the ground before me.  Eyes wide, I stare down at him in disbelief.

The wolf-demon curls onto his side coughing.  Once he regains his breath, gray-blue eyes glance up at me with wariness.  "What are you...?"

Shock evaporating from me, I smirk at the mutt.  "Your master, so don't try fucking with me."

The icy gaze narrows, the demon obviously not accepting his new role.  Well, if I had to be technical about, he was right saying that I have no real control over him.  My ownership of his heart makes it impossible for him to harm me with intent, and only when I die will he ever have the brief chance of regaining it before he would die himself.  Within a certain range, I can also curse him without line of sight.  So, yes, there are reasons for him to obey and follow close by me, but he doesn't have to.

"I believe you owe me a heartfelt apology for this," I state while pointing at the cut and resulting bloody mess he caused.

He sighs with an expression of annoyance before moving onto his back.  "Whatever you want, priest."

"And?"

He stares back at me in confusion.  "And?"

"Where's my plea for forgiveness?"

"Of the idiotic..." he mutters before saying with dry sarcasm, "Oh holiness, please forgive me with your blessed cock."

I'm standing before I know it, glaring down at the demon.  "Excuse me?"

"If you're waiting for something sincere--"

"Like hell I am!  Who do you think I am that I would fuck a mutt?"

"A priest of Hyne," he states as fact.

I fail at trying to counter the response, words not forming correctly in my mouth.  The aged scar... of course he has been in this position before, but have the other priests that were strong enough to conquer the demon... could they have really used this thing... for that.

The wolf-demon looks at me interestedly before inhaling deeply.  A secretive smirk forms while dark ears twitch with a quiet chuckle.  He slowly stands up before walking towards me, something about his mannerism keeping me locked in place.  With a light touch, he slides a hand up against my chest.

"Does a virgin not know what to do with me?"

In a quick move, I grab the offending hand and twist it into a painful hold that drops him back down to his knees.  "Know your place, mutt."

"Oh?  Here, is it?"  He strokes a couple fingers against the crotch of my pants.

The bastard finds himself across the room for that stunt, a red impression of my boot heel standing out on his chest despite the tan coloring.  Even so, gray-blue eyes fix on me amusedly from his position on the ground.  Anger flares inside of me at his disrespect, the mutt one word from making me change my decision about sparing his worthless life.

One second to the next, the wolf-demon loses his amusement to a bored expression, smoothly regaining his feet to once again head for the entrance.  I let him leave this time, not caring in the least if he chooses to escape me, which was probably his intention exactly to even start that game of his.  With a frustrated growl, I fling a random attack spell at the back wall of the cavern.  The explosion of rock and dust stuns me for several long moments before I step forward to examine the damage.  Too much.  For the basic spell, it shouldn't have caused such a deep depression into the wall.  Hand against my chest and eyes closed, I focus on the second heartbeat within me, just now realizing the oddity of it - within the demon it had been stone, unmoving.  Should it have come to life like this?

Scoffing at my own ridiculous thoughts, I turn to leave the room and travel down the darken passageway while focusing on the illumination spell such that it won't blind me with light.  It's no surprise that the barrier hadn't stopped the demon in the least, though the idea that such a creature can either use or break heaven's magic still bothers me.  Leaving my sodden travel cloak where it is, I then release the seal before stepping through, intending to spend the night behind that shield.  Don't need some starving animal snacking on me while I sleep if I can easily prevent it.

Moving to retrieve my bag, I stop when I notice the demon hasn't gone far after all.  Several steps from the entrance of the cavern, the unclothed wolf-demon stands silently in the mild snowstorm, the level of icy slush nearly reaching his knees.  Arms crossed tightly across his bare chest and the thick black tail unmoving, he stares a little east of north.  In the white light of snow, the demon looks far different from the creature that had attacked me in the depths of the cavern.  Almost fragile appearing despite the aged power I easily sense in him.

"You'll get sick like that," I state before realizing that I shouldn't care.

He turns sharply, eyes appearing more blue in the added light.  A trail of moisture slips down his cheek, but it's too hard to tell if it was from him cleaning his face of blood or true tears.  Sneering, I decide that it's just another game of the mutt's.  Kneeling at the edge of the snow, I scoop up the watery coldness to remove the dried blood from my own skin, casting a minor healing spell when the wound reopens from the scrubbing.  When I stand back up, the wolf-demon has already turned his back to me and continues to look in the same direction as before.  Either he's too trusting or a damn fool, and I'm voting for the latter.


[Squall]

A small cloud of mist forms in front of me, heat escaping as I pant heavily with the recent finish of an overdone fight.  Never in centuries have I seen more than three orcs together while traveling.  What the hell was a group of eight doing in the middle of a snowstorm, so conveniently covered from our sight until too late?  Glancing to the side, I look at the large human who is in a similar state to mine, clouds of breath emitting from parted lips while he rests back against a tree with his long, heavy blade lying to his side in a limp grip, redness glistening as it trails off into snow.  A hand gloved in dark leather rakes through golden blonde hair, drops of wetness making it slick down with only a few clumps of the short hair hanging over his forehead.

It's his fault.  It has to be.  In the past two weeks since my waking, there have been insane blizzards for this time of year, a run in with a mother grizzly, a pack of wolves that attacked us at night, and now this odd group of monsters out of nowhere.  Sighing, I have to wonder what it means about my own luck that I'm trapped with this cursed priest.  Though given the events thus far, it shouldn't be long until he's killed and I'll have my heart back.  But damn it, why do I have to get in the middle of these fights, too?

"I guess I should say thanks.  It was convenient having you around."  The deep voice startles me, the man suddenly close by as he picks up a dark cloak from the snowy ground.  "And would you put this on.  You're making me colder than hell."

"I thought a human's hell was made of fire and brimstone."

He snorts.  "And thus I'm feeling colder than that.  Just put the damn cloak on and stop being technical about everything I say."

I take the dark cloak, an extra one that had been in his pack.  It's too big for me, thus the reason I had to remove it before the fight.  Shrugging it on, I try to not look relieved at the covering of heavy material that helps to prevent my small amount of heat from leaving me completely.  As I continue to sit on a flat boulder, the priest whispers a spell that creates a tiny flame to light a bent cigarette he pulled out from some hidden pocket.  I smirk softly at the memory of when he first tried that weeks ago, the easily three foot blaze nearly burning his face to ashes.

Green eyes shift to me sharply as he removes the cigarette and releases a string of smoke when he speaks.  "Don't tell me you are still laughing about that one time I nearly set my hair on fire."

I meet his gaze without comment, both of us knowing he could have done far more damage than that.

"Damn mutt," he mutters around the roll of tobacco.  He pulls out those dark glasses of his from the folds of his cloak and puts them on with more flourish that necessary.  "Let's get moving.  Those bodies are going to stink up before too long, cold weather or not."

As I follow the man's lead, my mind eventually drifts despite my intention to stay alert around the monk.  It usually shouldn't take effort, especially not with a priest of Hyne as my traveling partner, their kind taught to kill any demon without discrimination.  And from the sound of it, this one certainly has killed more than his share.  Even so, not since that first couple days has this man threatened me seriously.  Oddly, we also seem to share a type of rhythm that makes fighting together almost natural.  If that hadn't been the case, I'm fairly positive we would have both died today.

By the time light of day fades completely, we settle for the night as the priest curls up underneath a tree of thick branches that had held back the snow.  Dry wood lacking, he makes do with spelling his cloak and blanket for enough heat to help him fall sleep.  Once certain he is dead to the world, I remove the cloak he gave me and transform into my full wolf form.  I walk as silently as I can, a task considering the damn bracelets of his that were charmed to stay on my arms no matter, the rings resizing as needed such that I can't remove them.  Cautiously I slip next to the snoring man, just barely not touching him.  It's pathetic of me, but within short distance of my heart, it's too hard to resist the need to be as close as possible to the faint beating.  Despite it being removed from my body, I can still feel the typically frozen solid heart now encased in almost searing heat.  It's insane, ludicrous, and wretched for me to even think it, but the sensation of warmth is soothing.


Sneezing is a terrible way to wake up, especially when I hadn't intended to fall asleep in the first place.  I look up half-irritated, half-guilty at the blonde man as he twirls a feather between gloved fingers and smirks at me.  Over a week I've managed to rest near him before he wakes and notices my urge to be closer to him, but now I'm going to be faced with his taunts for the rest of his natural life.  My unconscious groan comes out more like a whine in my wolf form.

"Did the puppy get lonely last night?"

Growling, I try to walk away and retrieve the dropped cloak for when I transform in the cooler morning air.  That intention falls short when a hand grabs onto my tail, making me snap back at him reflexively.  Unfortunately, I can't actually bite him given the heart magic prevents me from placing a harmful touch on his body, and judging by his wider smirk, the bastard knows that fully.

"You're kinda cute like that, mutt.  Think I should get you a collar and leash to match?"

Reluctantly transforming to my natural state with bare skin on snow, I then knock away his hold on my tail.  His freed hand then suddenly grips onto my wrist and jerks me closer to him, sharp green eyes still lit with amusement.

"We have ground rules to set."

I glare at him before trying to remove my hand from his hold, but he only tightens the painful grip.

"I know that I have no power over you, but thus far you seem determined to trail along in the chance to get your heart back.  Fine by me, but you know perfectly well that I'm a priest of Hyne.  Before the end of the week, we should reach my temple."

Relaxing in his hold, I realize that I'm going to be spending even more nights in the snow because of this.  At least spring isn't supposed to be too far off according to this man.

"I'll protect you from the other idiots, but that means sticking close and not doing anything without permission."

Blinking, I stare at him with confusion.  "You're going to take me into the temple?"

"If you're a good dog, of course.  What, think I'd make you sleep outside waiting for scraps?"

"Yes."

He scowls, but it really isn't directed at me.  "Yeah, well, it's makes me cold looking at your frozen ass," he states lamely.  Turning my hand in his hold, he rubs a gloved thumb along the inside of my wrist.  "Which are you - wolf or this?"

"Both, but this is my natural form."

Green eyes narrow in thought.  "Do you have a name?"

"Why?"

He snorts amused, then looks at me with an odd expression.  "You don't have to tell me all of it if you're so afraid of a soul curse, but hell, I already have your heart.  How 'bout a trade, though.  I'm Seifer."

"... Squall."

"He-eh, so demons have names, too."  He lets my hand slip from his.  "Go get your cloak on.  We're leaving soon."

As I stand up, I can feel his examining gaze follow the lines of my body.  It shouldn't be a new sensation, an arrogant priest studying his latest possession with lust and greed.  But that isn't how it feels.  There's a kind of intelligence about his look-over, as if searching for an answer to a mystery.  The odd thing is that it doesn't end when I put on the heavy material of his cloak, the emerald gaze more intense as he looks at my face.  My expression neutral, I don't reveal the discomfort he causes me, and certainly not the vague sense of desire twisting at the base of my stomach.  Though attractive and alluringly powerful, he's human and a fucking priest of all things.  It must be desire for my stolen heart that twists my emotions to want him.  I'll just go ahead and forget that this play with my desires had never happened with the other thieves in my lifetime.


"Give me your cloak."

I stare at him questioningly.

"Stop it with the frown and give me the cloak."  Smirking, he adds, "I want to destroy the 'inner peace' of those old fucks."

With a raised eyebrow, I try to hold back my own amusement at the fright my appearance within temple walls should cause.  Shrugging off the dark material, I hand it to Seifer for him to drape over his pack.  Just like the other day, green eyes glance over me with an odd look.  Without warning, a warm hand surprisingly goes to my waist in a gentle stroking move.

"Don't worry.  You'll be warm for a change when we get inside."  Before I have the chance to respond, he throws me a teasing smile while removing his hand.  "Come on, mutt.  We have libidos to enflame."

Bewildered by his actions of late, I follow silently as we approach the gates to the temple.  It's almost amusing how shy the blonde man seems to be with touching me, covering up his inexperience with the typical arrogance.  My own reactions have disturbed me even more, bringing up the unwanted question about whether I might actually care if he chooses to take me or not.  The scent of lust is clear whenever he gets that look, but for some reason it isn't as nauseating compared to that of priests before him.

My attention is forced back into the present by the sound of arguing, or rather some minor monk yelling at Seifer while the large man continues to walk forward without giving the person second thought.  With a wave of his hand, a pressure of air bursts forward to knock open the doors of the temple.  Though I've gotten used to the dense aura of magic the man bears due to the unusual combining of our energies, the surge of it quickly quiets the fuming monk and makes him back away with uncertainty.

The group of priests is unsurprising as we walk inside the temple walls, warnings of the returning blonde with a pet probably sounding once we were in view some time back.  The curious, wide-eyed gazes of the younger monks don't bother me, a sense of assurance settling in me that I belong to the priest before me, the man who promised to protect me in such a way that I didn't remember to be offended.

Suddenly I feel a sickening gaze on my body, the sensation of which shouldn't be within a temple of Hyne.  I stop and turn to look over the heads of numerous men and directly lock eyes with one of the monks who backs away slowly from the group once sensing my awareness of his presence.  Cocky bastard to sneak in here.

"Kill him," Seifer growls without even looking at me.

Immediately I transform to my wolf form for the necessary speed to catch my prey.  Inexperienced monks nearly squeal when I dash between them, an occasional curse being cast at me by those more battle hardened.  But true to his word, my priest protects me with a powerful shield as I turn my focus to the fleeing figure dressed in monk robes.  Realizing that he can't out run his pursuer, the dark one turns to throw an ill-formed, worthless hex at me.  Sneering as well as I can in this form, I leap at the demon in human shape and latch extended teeth onto his throat with ease.  With my full weight on his chest and mouth clamped tight around his windpipe, death doesn't take long.  Pathetic shadow demons.  The vast majority of them are weaker than our young, and yet it's the fault of their elder demons that humans despise all non-human creatures that hold any intelligence.

Hacking out the remaining taste of the demon, I move back to the blonde priest who gazes at me smugly.  The old men standing behind him don't appear nearly as amused, trapped between the horror of a demon within their ranks and the revulsion of another demon identifying the intruder and killing him.  I transform to my natural form, wiping blackened blood from my mouth.  The shits don't even taste good enough for the task of killing them.

Suddenly an arm is wrapped around my waist as Seifer pulls me close to his side.  "Let's go warm you up."

I almost comment, but recognizing something about glint to his eyes, I go along with whatever game he's playing.

"Almasy.  You can't bring that thing here."

"Why not?  You already let a demon in without a leash."

The man's face takes an interesting shade of red.  "This is a holy place where his kind isn't allowed."

"Hmmm, but I thought everywhere was holy under the gaze of Hyne.  Where's a pup to go if that's the case?"

"Don't mock your teachings, boy.  What are you doing with this demon in the first place?"

Wide-eyed, the blonde says far too innocently, "He followed me home.  Can I keep him?"

A disapproving grunt comes from the elder priest.  "Just when we could find pride in your achievements in Verneh, you have to shame us like this.  Unacceptable.  Hand over that beast and go to your room without meals for the next few days.  Perhaps hunger will help you realize your errors."

"Try."

"Excuse me?"

"Try and take him from me."

The wave of possessiveness flowing from Seifer shocks me, not understanding where it could have come from.

"Boy, you're overstepping the limits of my patience.  Don't ask for punishment that you cannot handle."

In a form of reply, the blonde priest licks the fingertip while pulling in the shield of defense that he had at some point placed around us both.  Quickly he writes unusual symbols along the inside of his barrier, while at the same time the elder priest casts a binding spell in my direction.  Showing unrealized trust for Seifer, I don't even flinch at the approach of the hex, the magic of the spell suddenly diverted along the curve of the spherical shield.  Too fast to observe, I sense the energy move around us while building in strength before it is flung back at its caster.  The bored looking priest raises a hand to dispel the magic, but it's too fast, too strong for such a simple move.  The elder man realizes this too late and is pushed to the ground several feet back with his body bound by the strings of magic.

"Hope you don't mind, but I modified the reflective shield you taught me, master priest."

Though the younger monks are clueless, the other experienced priests stare at Seifer with amazement while I settle for a mildly interested gaze.  A boy like him shouldn't be able to 'modify' spells so easily, powerful or not.  It takes humans most of their lifetimes to manage creating a more potent healing spell or something simple like that.  Makes me wonder what else this priest hides of his skill and abilities.

Suddenly there are several whispers of higher level spells, the combination of which would be too much for one man to hold a defense against.  About to join in with my own shield, the arm around me squeezes tighter and I sense a plea for my energy.  Instantly I relax within his hold and allow him to take whatever he needs for our protection.  The shield wavers briefly with increased power before five attack spells hit and curve around the barrier to join into one massive flame of magic that just barely misses human life as it flings to an outer wall of the temple, destroying the thick stone.  Glancing up at the blonde, I notice the irritation in the harden eyes.  From the temporarily formed link between us, I know that he had wanted it to go into the air and not cause any damage.  Appears this priest isn't as infallible as he believes.

"Is that enough show and tell, kiddies?" he growls out at the surrounding men.  "Or do you feel like having more of the same?"

"Enough, young Almasy."

At the amused but forceful tone, Seifer turns us to face the person that spoke from the entrance of the temple.  The rather stout, older man looks at us with dark eyes that shows a kind of humor while hiding whatever else the man must be feeling at the monks fighting amongst themselves.  Thought I don't sense much powerful magic from this one, he has an odd calming force that singles him out as a leader.

"Why do you bring a wolf into our home?"

"He's mine."

"O-oh, heart magic, is it?  Haven't seen such a joining in decades."  Humming in thought, the older man rocks back on his heels.  "Granted, because of this demon, an imposter was discovered in our temple, but that gives little comfort.  You and only you are protected from the wolf's fangs.  Why should I allow such a danger into this building, this home of many young students?"

Realization crosses Seifer's face as he glances down at me, perhaps remembering the evil demon I'm supposed to be.  A killer of innocents as it were.  Whatever.  They haven't a clue how shitty human flesh tastes compared to elk or a fatten rabbit.  Placing a hand on the arm around me, I attempt to pull it away, but the blonde refuses to release his hold on me.

"Well?"

Not looking up at the head priest, Seifer replies, "I suppose we had better leave then."

"You don't--"

He cuts off my argument with a sharp turn back towards the gates of the temple walls.  After a few strides, the stout man catches up with us to walk along side the blonde but says nothing.  Seifer's look is unreadable as he forces me forward, only the quiet order that there is no possibility of discussion about this matter holds my tongue.  Fool, trying to prove something to these weaker monks and for what?  A so-called mutt he picked up as a fluke?  Divine Shiva, tell me that he has a better reason than that to throw his affiliations aside without fear of the future.

Just before we move too far from the open gates, the head priest clears his throat to gain attention.  "How about a deal, boy?" he asks in a low voice that no one else would be able to hear.

"And what could you be planning now, Cid?"

The old man chuckles.  "Don't make me more devious than I feel.  Just an exchange - your continued presence in our battles, and in return I offer you shelter."  He holds up an odd looking key.

"Why this deal?"

"The old place is no serious loss to me.  I'd rather make certain that you use your skill wisely."  Though brief, dark eyes shift to me with a hint of suspicion.

With a snort of laughter, Seifer takes the key.  "As if I could stop fighting anyway.  Nice dealing with you, old man."

As we walk off, the stout man calls out, "Be safe, young Almasy.  Edea would have my head otherwise."

The small cottage isn't too far from the temple, settled nicely at the bottom of a hill with a pleasant surrounding of trees of budding leaves that refuse to die with the return of winter after a false spring.  Using the key to remove complex barriers, Seifer pushes me inside first to stare in surprise at the sparsely furnished room.  The place appears to be formed of a decently size den area with doors leading to a single bedroom and a kitchen area.  Odd a priest would have such a place.

"I helped build the place long ago for Cid's daughter and husband, but they moved years ago to be closer to the city.  Trust me, it's several times better than any room in the temple."

"Is this why you choose to leave?"

He looks at me with a raised eyebrow before smirking amused.  "Nah.  Never would've guessed that Cid could give this place up."

"Then why?"

With an exaggerated grunt, he removes the large pack from his shoulders and leans it against the wall.  Hesitating longer, he stretches out muscles exhausted from being used as a conductor of intense magic.  Just when I'm about to repeat the question, a hand suddenly grabs my wrist as he then drags me to the open bedroom.  Frowning at the obvious answer I should have expected, I let the large man push me onto the surprisingly soft mattress.

"I'm an unthinking bastard, yes?"

Reluctantly, I smile vaguely at the description.  "Want me to add more detail?"

He huffs.  "I'm certain you could, but that's not the point.  I act.  Plain and simple.  But you, you react.  It makes us a rather good complement, don't you think?"

I shift under him, not certain if I understand where he is going with this nonsense.

"At first I thought you were just an ordinary mutt that I could use for momentary enjoyment, but suddenly I find myself with someone who doesn't whine and bitch like every other pansy I'm forced to battle with.  Someone who has enough skill to scar me, as well as match my moves while we fight a common enemy.  Someone who ended up having a name and stopped just being a wolf."

Meanwhile he means the opposite to me.  The arrogant man never fails to find something to complain about, though in an amusing way such as the sky being too damn blue for his taste.  He drags me into battles I would never fight otherwise, somehow making me enjoy the struggle for my life.  Though, I'm curious when he stopped being a simple priest to me.  Perhaps starting back when he first shoved the cloak into my arms, declaring that he didn't want to catch anything from a sickly dog.

"Squall..."  The hushed tone makes me look into darkened green eyes, his expression serious.  "Would it be too much to ask you to rid me of my affliction?"

I laugh despite myself, his tone far too determined for the question that could be more simply stated - let's fuck tonight.  Noticing a rare flash of hurt in the emerald eyes, I encircle my arms around his neck and lift myself closer to him.  I can almost feel my heart like this, beating in the blessed warmth fates had denied our race for being unnatural.  Then I hear an echoing beat, his heart fast and strong in comparison to mine, but the rhythms are still matched in an oddly soothing cadence.

Relaxed against him, I eventually come to the decision that it's been almost a century since I've relieved this kind of tension from my body so a decent fuck might not be that bad.  Given this priest has actually followed his teachings to this point and remained celibate suggests that he won't be as forceful as others in getting what he wants. ...No, I doubt he did this to follow his teachings.  Prideful bastard has probably been waiting for someone he considers his equal, someone he could handle being ridiculed by for his lacking skill.  He'd rather kill himself than have someone weaker than that mock him for not performing well.

Chuckling silently at the thought, I speak softly into his ear.  "One rule - no references to doggie style."

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining -- Yeah, yeah.  No lemon.  Little secret - Seifer was terrible his first time. ^_-  Anywho, next chapter will have more to it, all this crap thus far being mainly setup.