Gift to the World
As the light of morning edged over the mountain peaks, a village set in old ways slowly came to life with smoke rising from the bakery and the local market opening its doors for the day. To the north, a forest of tall evergreens bordered the village and climbed up the foothills where it broke apart into a grassy field decorated with patches of thick clover and vibrant wildflowers. A trickle of a stream cut through the field, a source of water for the variety of flowers in the valley, as well as for the deer and other game that would graze upon the clover and grass.
It was a peaceful place and Seifer could feel its hatred toward his presence.
Dressed in a black vest and dark brown cargo pants, Seifer leaned against one of the larger trees at the edge of the forest and toyed with the cell phone located in one of his pockets. The battery had died long in the past, a worthless hunk of technology that instead served as a reminder from his hated days of pregnancy and the unwanted care given to him from his rival. Ten years he had been trailing the elusive brunet and his deadly cargo, but Squall was surprisingly fast on his feet for a man burdened with a kid. It didn't help that the man had friends in strange places, all of them owing him a favor or two. It had been a very frustrating decade for Seifer.
The snap of a twig abruptly sounded, alerting the mercenary into full awareness though he didn't expect much beyond a stray deer like the previous eight that had wandered by earlier in the morning. Green eyes shifted to the edge of the forest, his gaze immediately sharpening at the gleam of sunlight against silver hair. A young girl with basket in hand appeared from beyond the surrounding evergreens and stepped lightly into the field of wild flowers. She wore plain clothes of a white top and torn blue jeans, her skin was golden brown from excessive time spent in the sun, and her movements were too poised, too purposeful for a girl of ten years old.
Seifer took in the sight of his prey for the first time, only recognizing her from the rare photos he had collected during his hunt. Squall was a careful man, but even he couldn't control the people around him and their cameras, especially when the young thing seemed to make a strong impression on the people around her. Some called it charisma; Seifer called it mind control.
As the girl knelt down to pick some flowers, Seifer smirked at her defenseless state and stepped from his waiting place. The grass brushing against his heavy boots eventually drew the attention of the girl, though she didn't stand while glancing back over her shoulder. Expressionless with her stare, Seifer snorted at the trait she must have learned from Squall's influence.
"You're my father, aren't you?"
Though surprised by her question, Seifer continued his approach without a hitch in his step. "So, Leonhart mentioned me. Nothing good, I hope."
Eyes the color of ocean shallows showed no fear in their gaze. "You want to kill me."
His boot sunk into fresh clover, his final step to be within striking distance of the kneeling girl. Freeing Hyperion from its sheath, Seifer grinned with a manic curl to his lips. "I hope you had a nice life, girlie, because it ends now."
The mercenary darted forward while lifting his gunblade to his side and settling a finger over the trigger. The young girl closed her eyes at the approach, but not with the tight squeeze of fear that Seifer expected. He saw Squall in her icy composure and it made his chest burn with anticipation to shatter that frosty facade. Hyperion cut through the air as his last step crushed violet flowers, and with his finger tense at the trigger, Seifer didn't have the time to react when pink lips slid into a smirk. His smirk.
Inches above her head, metal clanged as if striking concrete and the gunblade fired uselessly at the sudden halt of his attack. Placing a hand against his injured shoulder, Seifer cursed at the unexpected use of shield magic, strong magic at that, but before he had the thought to escape, his entire body jerked forward from an unseen force. Green eyes wide, Seifer stared down at the familiar tip of a blue blade that pierced through his left shoulder and sliced into his bent arm.
"It took you long enough to find us."
The soft tenor voice brought back sharp memories for Seifer - the glare of lightning along polished metal, the stench of flesh burnt from electricity, the patter of water from a cold shower - and he breathed a laugh at the pathetic reality that having his life flash before his eyes would largely involve the man who was ending that life.
The blade at his shoulder retreated, drawing a pained groan from the blond as he figured Squall was readying for a second strike, a mortal blow that would remove the greatest threat to the girl's life. Smiling at the thought, Seifer gazed at the young sorceress and was impressed when she stared back without fear. Then her sea-green eyes glanced upward and Seifer abruptly realized that Squall wasn't the sort to kill someone from behind.
Closing his eyes in resignation, he clenched his teeth and hoped Squall had some good healing spells on him. Otherwise, waking up was going to be a bitch.
When Seifer struggled into conscious, he growled out a groan at the fact that everything hurt from the top of his head down to his left pinky toe. Granted, his toe ached from the blister he gained from his new boots, but he wasn't about to forgive Squall for anything. It was the traitor's fault that Seifer needed the new boots in the first place, the previous pairs worn out until the soles dropped off from too much travel while searching for Squall and his ward.
Testing the limits of his sore body, Seifer discovered his wrists and ankles bound to the corners of an apparent bed. But what made him snap open his eyes and stare at his body was the lack of all clothes except for his faded boxers. He automatically examined his body for unwanted marks, but quickly found the task futile with his skin scratched and bruised from living in the woods for the past several weeks. At his shoulder, he narrowed his gaze on the deep scar gained from Lion Heart's bite, the only injury on his body to be healed with magic.
A light chuckle sounded across the room and Seifer lifted his head to find Squall leaning against a wall made of stained wood. Though ten years had passed since their last meeting, little had changed about the man. His hair was longer, but still had a choppy style; his body was lean with the hard muscles needed to wield a gunblade; and he had yet to outgrow his fetish for belts, which had multiplied to the point of several wrapping around his right thigh. Little had changed visibly, but meeting the brunet's pale gaze, Seifer saw a type of cold serenity in the blue-gray depths. Squall had managed to find peace while being hunted and Seifer sneered in disgust at the notion.
"Satisfying a fantasy of yours, Leonhart?" Seifer asked while testing the ropes at his wrists.
A ghost of a smile on his lips, Squall replied, "You bled out on your clothes. They're washed, mended, and ready for when you leave."
"Come on, Squally-boy, aren't you taking this 'hero' bullshit too far? You aren't stupid enough to let me walk out of here."
The dark-haired gunblader said nothing while gazing at the restrained blond, Seifer forgetting how the quiet stare of blue-gray could make a grown man fidget under the scrutiny. Briefly avoiding that gaze, the blond studied his surroundings and saw nothing of use or worry in the bedroom that made Seifer assume he was being held in a log cabin, one of many scattered in the foothills. At the creak of wood, Seifer watched Squall push up from the wall and step toward the bed, his socked feet not making a sound across the rug-covered floor. Reaching the tied and bound man, Squall placed a cold hand against the toned stomach and used the support to steady himself as he moved onto the bed and straddled Seifer's hips.
His hand still on warm skin, Squall bent his fingers to rake his nails along toned abs. "Now this is satisfying a fantasy or two."
Seifer stared up with wide and wary eyes, dumbfounded by the atypical action. "Y'know, I think I'd rather be killed."
"A-ah, but you see, this is the reason why I can't end your life," Squall stated as his fingers traced the older scars in reach, most of them caused by the edge of his gunblade.
Seifer fought against the urge to struggle against his bonds, something that would just waste his energy without accomplishing a damned thing. After ten years of hunting down his onetime childhood friend, it became something of an afterthought that Squall had turned queer on him. It didn't help that Squall's apparent attraction for him had been revealed in words, not in overt actions, so it was easy for Seifer to fool himself into believing it was a misunderstanding of sorts. But with Squall's ass firm against his cock, there was no room left for alternative interpretations.
Without lifting his gaze from pale scars, Squall replied dully, "Because it's always been you."
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
"It means that all my life, I've been chasing you. I would watch you from a distance in the orphanage, I followed you to Balamb Garden and took up the gunblade to train with you, and I hunted you down when Ultimecia stole you away. I've always been a few steps behind you, and one day, I realized why I was so determined to keep you in sight." Stormy eyes glanced up and Squall smiled faintly at the blond. "It's been interesting to have you chasing me for a change."
"I'm not chasing you, numb-nut. The bitch has to die before she fucks up this world again."
Slowly, Squall shook his head. "I won't let you hurt her."
Seifer scoffed at the man's blindness. "I heard that you named her 'Raine'. Do you really think that naming her after your mother will stop anything? You're giving her a second chance to destroy this world and she'll do it with your mother's name!"
Unaffected by the rant, Squall leaned forward with his hand firm at Seifer's chest. "She's your daughter."
"No, she isn't. I was only carrier for Ultimecia's spawn, nothing more."
"She has your DNA."
Startled by the plainly spoken information, Seifer stared at the face that was too close for comfort. "That... that has to be a mistake."
"Does it?" Squall questioned with a slight smirk. "Did you ever really stop and think about the contradictions of your story?"
"I was there, you prick. I know what was done to my body."
"You were delusional by the end of the war, your sanity twisted and fractured from Ultimecia's toxic magic in addition to the stress of traveling between our present and her future. Whatever you 'know' from those times can't be taken as absolute truth."
Lips set into a dangerous snarl, Seifer demanded, "Then you tell me what happened since you seem to know everything."
Squall sighed at the malicious tone, unconcerned with the deadly abilities of his captive. "Think about it, Seifer. If Ultimecia had the technology to make a clone that inherited both her features and her abilities, do you really think that she would have wasted her time hunting down Ellone when she could have simply made a clone of her? More so, the original Ultimecia must exist at some point in the future. Why would she create a clone who would match her in power and desire? They would destroy each other before working together."
Green eyes bright in thought, Seifer stared at the dark-haired gunblader who always had the knack of thinking things through to the gritty details that were unnecessary for mercenary work. Though he'd never admit it out loud, there was a sickening amount of logic to the man's words. "But then why do it? Why create another sorceress?"
Squall straightened at the question, his expression somber. "That's one reason we've been waiting for you. I wanted to ask you what actually happened that day. Are you positive that Ultimecia was the one to impregnate you with Raine?"
"What kind of fucking question is that? Did you forget I'm a man who can't get pregnant or do you actually think that I got knocked up by a fairy-fuck like you?"
Not giving into the anger of the blond mercenary, Squall simply gazed down as he waited for the answer he had risked Raine's life to obtain.
Eventually surrendering to that demanding stare, Seifer scoffed at the stupidity of the question. "I was on drugs of some sort, so it's hazy, but I saw her. She did something that made my body hurt despite the meds and she told me that the spawn was protected with magic, that nothing short of my death would kill the clone within me. She told me..."
Squall waited until Seifer seemed unwilling to say anything more. "Are you certain it was Ultimecia?"
Breathing a laugh, the mercenary asked, "Who else could it have been?"
Startled by the young voice, Seifer jerked against his restraints and felt his reputation shatter at the realization that he had jumped away from a ten-year-old girl. Squall smirked at the reaction, but said nothing as he moved off from the boxer-clad man. Socked feet on the ground, he stood from the bed and motioned the girl close. She walked directly to the brunet and pressed against his side with one of her hands clutched at the back of his shirt. It wasn't a particularly fearful stance, but the girl seemed more relaxed with Squall at her side.
"Hello, Father," she said with a slight bow of her head, silver hair cascading over her shoulder and revealing golden streaks that hadn't been noticeable in the dim light of dawn. "I've asked Uncle Squall many times if I could meet you, but he said I had to learn to control my magic first."
Though somewhat offended at her casual tone toward the person who had tried to kill her, Seifer was more curious by the title of 'uncle', the blond always assuming that Squall had taken over as the sorceress' father. Glancing up at the brunet, Seifer felt ill at the man's prideful gaze toward the girl who had soundly protected herself against a trained mercenary. No matter the details, it was a dangerous and stupid game to allow the child to practice her magic and Seifer swore to make Squall suffer for that decision.
"I'm not Ultimecia."
Green eyes shifted to the girl, his gaze sharp with the demand of 'prove it to me'.
Fine eyebrows furrowed at the skeptical look. "Uncle Squall told me all about it and it can't be me."
His eyes narrowing, Seifer smirked at the young thing. "Did he tell you that he nearly died when you attacked him with a spear of ice?"
"How about when you ordered me to make the sands of Balamb red with SeeD blood?"
"No, I'm not--"
"Or better yet, what about the hours he suffered under interrogation, electrocuted until his pants were wet with piss and blood, and you knew from the beginning that he'd never be able to answer the questions asked of him? Did your 'Uncle Squall' tell you about that?"
The girl lifted her chin at the final example, her sea-green eyes wet with unshed tears as she glared at the bound mercenary. "And that's why it can't be me. I would never hurt Uncle Squall like that. I'm alive because he wants me to live."
Sniggering under his breath, Seifer asked, "Poor thing, do you have a thing for Squally-boy here? Because, y'know, his dick doesn't work right. It only likes its own kind."
Squall placed a consoling hand on top of the girl's head, a sharp contrast to the glacier-like glare directed at Seifer. "Raine, you don't have to stay and listen to his talk."
She shook her head at the suggestion. "You warned me he was like this. I want to stay."
"Very well," he replied, acknowledging her strength by moving his hand to her shoulder. Squall shifted his full attention to Seifer, his voice a quiet tenor when he asked, "Is it possible that you mistook someone else for your mistress?"
"Someone else...?" Seifer repeated, his eyes looking to the girl of long silver hair faintly highlighted with strands of gold.
"Someone who would want Raine to be born; a person who would call her a 'gift to the world', as you once mentioned."
Green eyes widened in their stare, only able to see the lengths of silver. "No..."
"Isn't it possible that a resistance force in the future learned what it would take to get a sorceress on their side, a sorceress with Ultimecia's power?"
Shaking his head, Seifer refused to believe that he was wrong about the thing that had grown within his body and stole away a piece of his life.
"Raine could very well be the last hope of the future, someone to match Ultimecia in power while anticipating her plans."
Seifer barked out a laugh, needing to end the nonsense that the girl was some type of hero, just like her 'uncle'. Though his eyes were firm on the youth, his words were for the dark-haired gunblader. "You're wrong, Squally-boy. She's not 'Raine', she's not a harmless school girl, or whatever else is rolling in that head of yours. She's Ultimecia. She might not be a clone, and hell, she could be a sweet thing right now, but you're only molding her into a perfect vessel for Ultimecia to take as her own body."
The girl cringed with the first amount of worry Seifer had seen in the young face, and unable to further deny that she wasn't Ultimecia, she pressed closer to her guardian.
Squall squeezed her shoulder and said, "I won't let that happen."
Laughing at the claim, Seifer asked, "How will you stop it, Leonhart? Sit on your ass just like when Princess Rinoa was possessed? The only solution is to kill this girl here and now, but you're too chicken to have a child's blood on your conscious. And in return for your devoted cowardice, Ultimecia will rip out your heart using the hand of your precious 'niece' and the last sound you will hear is her laugh."
"No! No, I won't! I won't hurt Uncle Squall!" the girl yelled as she pushed away from Squall and ran away from the room, finally revealing her true colors of a prepubescent girl.
Seifer chuckled at the beautiful reaction, but quieted at the stern look from the dark-haired gunblader. "Squally-boy, Squall-boy, why the long face? Are you upset that I have a cleaner theory than your wild assumptions?"
Squall shook his head. "I've considered that possibility, too, but you're wrong about my inability to kill a child. I've done so in the past and I would do so again, but never to your child. I will protect your daughter with my last breath."
"Then that last breath is mine."
Instead of any expected reaction to the threat, Squall smiled with a slight show of teeth. "It always was."
Seifer huffed at the brunet's relaxed reply, wishing that he gotten something more amusing like the girl's hysterics.
"So, are you still in contact with Fuujin and Raijin?"
Confused by the sudden question, Seifer asked, "What does that matter?"
"Raine and I are leaving and I want to make certain there's someone around to cut you free."
Green eyes widened at the suggestion. "Those two are several days away from here. By the time they find this place, I'll starve or be eaten by whatever damn monster decides to break down the door."
Squall shrugged in disinterest. "I could ask some friends in town to check on you, but they've all heard how you killed Raine's mother and now you're after your daughter."
Seifer jerked against his restraints, wishing for a moment of freedom to strangle the man's throat. "You bastard, are you hoping someone else will finish off the dirty work for you?"
"No," he replied sincerely, his quiet emotions flickering within blue-gray eyes. "But I can't risk you using innocent people against me and Raine."
"You're the one endangering the innocent and don't you forget it, Leonhart."
With a ghost of a smile, Squall replied, "That's what everyone said when I refused to give you a finishing blow."
Seifer bit back the reply that history had proven their assumptions correct.
His back turned, Squall stepped to the open door and paused at the threshold. Without glancing back, he said, "Raine is more than a girl. With every year she ages, it's more apparent that she is truly a gift to this world. One day, she'll be a woman with enough power to frighten Ultimecia into daring the extreme to gain the strength necessary to defeat her. I can't imagine a more suitable fate for a child with your blood and I'll do whatever necessary to ensure that she is free to pursue that destiny."
With a huff at the brunet's stubborn mentality, Seifer warned him, "That's nice in theory, but when things start going wrong, don't let yourself fall into the traps of sweet words and enthralling magic. I've been there and it isn't pretty."
"Hn, I'll keep it in mind," Squall said, and then stepped into the hallway and out of view.
As Seifer laid there watching the open door, he could hear the faint sounds of a sniffling child and a muffled conversation that suggested they were already packed and prepared to leave their home of however many months. In short time, a door closed and no other sounds came from the rest of the cabin aside from the general forest noises beyond filthy windows. Once certain he was alone, Seifer tossed aside any sense of dignity as he thrashed against his bonds, uncaring about the damage caused to his wrists and ankles. Nothing gave after the first several attempts, but just when it was growing dark outside, a dull groan sounded from the bed in a hopeful sign of weakening.
Laughing without humor, Seifer spoke out loud in a low voice, "You better run, Squally-boy. I'm going make you regret your choice to let me live, and we'll see if you can continue loving me after you're bathed in that girl's blood. And then this ends, one way or another."
Author's Whining -- Sorry for those who naively thought Seifer could fall in love for Squall in this world, but it just isn't going to happen. Seifer is obsessed with Squall, but more like Ahab chasing his white whale. =P Not certain this is what you were expecting, Sui Causa, but that's what this story demands of me.