Living Life
November 2002

 

[Prologue]

My first memories are of the beach.  I didn't learn until I was older that Mom and Dad enjoyed the scenery because of their memories of good, innocent times when doing wrong meant setting off a firework or pushing someone into the cold water.  But all I knew back then was that our times on the beach were meant only for us.  Once our feet hit the hot sand, there was no Garden, no responsibilities, and in my father's mind, no rules.

"Mommy!  Come on."

"Yeah, Mommy.  What's the hold up?"

"I'll join you later.  You tire him out first."  Lying back on the inclined beach chair, he smiled slightly as if making a joke.

"And just which one of us did you want to get tired out," Seifer muttered, but then turned to his son with a broad smile.  "Let's have some fun without him, kiddo."

"Un!"

As always, it started with a fight of splashing water.  While the larger man took it easy on Isan, the boy managed to sneak in a hardy dose of salt water into the grinning face.  Yelping, he tried to escape the large hands grabbing for him, but ended up dunked into the surf despite his efforts.

Eventually the harder play dissolved down to Seifer swimming in deep waters, Isan held close and tight in safe arms while enjoying the rising and fall of the ocean.  For the moment, his father was only his and not off fighting monsters or other people.  Fun of the beach aside, Isan was very happy.

Swimming back to shore, Seifer kept the boy in his arms while shushing him to be silent.  Though confused, Isan followed his father's order without question.  Moving silently, they approached the resting brunette surprisingly without disturbing him.  One moment to the next, the sodden boy found himself dropped onto his mother's stomach.

"What the fu--"  Squall jumped up to a sitting position, mouth closing with a snap once seeing Isan in his lap.  Glaring upwards, he focused on the rapidly retreating blonde.  "Seifer, get back here!"

Laughing all the way, Seifer ran back into the surf to gain some distance.

"Sorry, Mommy."

Sighing, he turned the boy around so that Isan could watch his father swim in the distance.  Arms hugging the small form, Squall leaned forward to whisper in his ear.  "I love you so much, even if you're partly his."

It's always been something whispered, as if his declaration of love was the greatest secret that only we shared.  It became a goal to strive for at one point, to make Mom proud enough to hold me tight and say those words in his quiet voice.  But it's Dad who has always been the hardest to drag such words out of, preferring a punch to the shoulder over the verbal expressions I sometimes craved.  It doesn't bother me since I know the unspoken words, but the rare confirmation is priceless.  As for myself, I never had quite the same issue with speaking out my feelings considering the influences of Granddad and the slew of aunts and uncles.

For me to say life is hard would be a lie.  Interesting, yes.  Or a worthwhile challenge as Dad would say.  But it isn't really hard.  Not when there are so many people willing and very able to kill anyone who would hurt me in any way.  And when said people had exceedingly worse troubles in their lives, I can't find it in me to complain.  At first there were certainly rough moments, Mom and Dad never knowing when to tell me the things I would need to understand.  Hell, they still won't tell me some things no matter how much I may prod.

"About fucking time you showed up."  Though muffled, Isan could clearly hear his father's loud words.  "He hasn't come out of his room since I brought him back from school.  Won't tell me a damn thing, either."

There was a soft reply, too quiet for the boy to hear.  Soon after the door to his room slid open, the light steps a clear indication that Squall had entered even though Isan couldn't see him while facing the corner and curled up on his bed.  No words offered, Squall sat on the mattress but didn't intrude in his son's space.

Hugging himself tighter, he tried to pretend the man wasn't there just waiting for him to speak, but the Estharian Headmaster wasn't one who could be easily ignored.

"Go away."

"Any requests for dinner?  Your father hasn't started making anything yet."

"No."

"Alright."  But he stayed on the bed, demanding nothing and everything with his presence.

"You're not my mommy, are you?" Isan blurted out, tears stinging his eyes.

"Why do you think that?"

"'Cause they said only girls are mommies, and you're not a girl."

He sighed, sounding tired.  "Yes, almost all mothers are female, but I'm afraid you are stuck with me as your mom."

Small eyebrows scrunched, Isan rolled over to face Squall.  "Does that mean you're my real mommy?"

"That I am."  A cool hand brushed away hot tears.  "Remember the stories we told you about the Sorceress?  Though she did many terrible things, she also gave me the chance to have a son.  To have you."

Blinking, a smile came to the dry lips.  "Then they're wrong and I'm right."

"Isan, this is a secret within the family, so you can't tell anyone.  Even to correct them."

"Why?"

"Because it makes you very different and people tend not to like things that are too different."

"But Grandpa says being different means you're special."

A small smile on his lips, he motioned Isan over with a quiet, "Come here."  The boy crawled into open arms.  "I love you, and nothing will ever change that."

"Un.  And I'm glad you're my mommy."

Kissing the temple hidden by thick brown hair, Squall held his son close as if to protect him from the world.

That night was one of the longest in memory, not ending until well after dinner and with plenty of chocolate ice cream for all.  I have to hand it to my parents, somehow explaining where babies come from, why Mom was a unique case, and how lying can be a good thing all within one night.  Of course I didn't understand most of that for years to come, but they got enough through such that I could handle school life again without embarrassing myself too badly.

That was also the night the forbidden slides made their first appearance into tradition.  Mom nearly had a fit when he found out Dad had photo evidence of the pregnancy.  Over ninety percent of the slides are of Mom sleeping, the only time a camera could be used without the photographer fearing for his life.  But one of my favorite photos is a donation from Aunt Selphie - she had thought she caught the unheard of sight of Mom in the aftereffects of binge drinking at a party.  In actuality he was stumbling out of the bathroom because of a bout with morning sickness, and once she realized this nearly a year later, she happily gave Dad a copy of the photo.  To this day, Dad and I can laugh at it despite the glares and angry mutterings from Mom.

From my experience, I'd say there are only three people who are relatively unaffected by Mom's fixed stares - Dad, myself (but only after these sixteen years), and of course Granddad.  Sometimes I wonder if he is too oblivious to even notice those glares aimed at him.  It's so hard not to laugh when he goes on in that cheery, arm waving manner of his, completely unfazed by the icy expressions he would receive whenever the story involves Mom.  During the crazy moments in my life, Granddad has been the one certain constant aside from my parent's love for me.

The small, sneaker covered foot made a surprisingly loud noise when it connected with the shin of the larger man.

"Shit!  That hurt you fucking brat!"  The uniformed guard grabbed the barrel of his rifle, swinging the butt of the gun to slam into the boy's body and knock him away.  The weapon instead hit an arm protecting Isan.

Laguna smiled through his wince.  "Now, now.  Certainly a child couldn't have hurt you too badly."

Frowning, the large man looked about to argue before perhaps realizing he was complaining about an eight-year-old beating up on him.  With an angry grunt of warning, he stepped out of the cell and closed the metal door behind him.

"I'm sorry, Grandpa.  But he was saying mean things, and--"

"Hush.  It's okay.  Thank you for trying to protect my honor, young knight."

Isan pouted.  "Grandpa.  Only girls say things like that in fairy tales."

Smiling, Laguna took a hand within his and lead the boy to a corner of the room.  He sat down against the wall and placed his uninjured arm around the small form.  "I'm getting too old for this.  The sooner I give Squall the reins to the country, the better."

"Can you explain that joke?"

"Hmm?"

"Daddy always laughs when you say that.  Why?"

"Ah, well, it's just a bit of adult humor.  You wouldn't find it nearly as amusing, even if I explained it."

"Oh."  Isan looked up at the locked door.  "When will they let us go?"

"I'm not certain.  But I do want you to realize that none of this is your fault.  They wanted me as the president for their own gains, and I'm ashamed that you were captured along with me."  He squeezed the boy once tightly.  "Anyhow, I think they'll learn soon enough that you don't mess with a lion's cub."

"Me?  Why?"

There was no time for a reply as yells and screams echoed down the hall outside.

"Grandpa...?"

"About time they found us.  Well, Isan, looks like we're about to head on home."

As if on cue, there was the clicking of a key being inserted and soon the door swung open to reveal a tall, broad figure with a gunblade resting on his shoulder.

"Daddy!"

Released from his grandfather's hold, Isan ran up to the blonde man.  Seifer knelt down, leaning Hyperion against the wall behind him, and held the young boy tightly in both arms for a time.  Using one arm to brace Isan, he regained to his feet with the boy holding onto his neck.

"Damn it, old man.  What trouble are you in this time?"  From his free shoulder, Seifer slid off a holster and handed the large gun to its owner.

Laguna smiled, knowing the truth behind harsh words.  "Same old, same old.  Take the president, demand for money and political changes, then get punished by aggressive SeeD members.  I would really think these type of people would learn by now."

"Speaking of aggressiveness, loan me your jacket."

Though looking confused, he took off the dark piece of clothing, careful of his arm.  "Surely you aren't chilled."

"Let's just say the lion is loose and the cub doesn't need to see certain things."  Taking the jacket, Seifer placed it over the boy's back.  "Keep this over your head.  It should protect you from debris as well."

Isan glared at his father.

"Try all you like, brat, but I know the inventor of that scowl.  Wear the damn jacket, for me if nothing else."

Nodding, Isan grabbed the material with both hands and dragged it over his head.

From there it was a fast escape out of the building.  There were few encounters, most quickly settled with the sound of machine gun fire.  It had occurred to Isan that he should have probably been frightened with all the odd noises around him, but held tightly and close to his father, he felt protected against anything.  The only time he stirred in the man's hold was when someone yelled out the name 'Leonhart'.  Seifer assured the boy that they would meet up with his mother later, but for that moment they had to get out.

When the jacket was removed, bright light hit Isan's eyes with a painful glare.  Blinking, he was surprised to see that they were only steps away the ramp for the Ragnarok.  After setting his son down, Seifer turned to Laguna.

"Stay here and go inside if monsters become a problem.  I need to go retrieve the nut case."

"Be careful."

"Daddy?"

"No worries, kiddo.  You stay with the old man here and I'll go to tell Mommy that it's time to go home."  With a wink, Seifer ran back towards the large building.

For a long time Isan stared at the structure, as if his glare could make his parents appear that much faster.  He was hungry, tired, and really wanted to get away from this place.  And while Seifer had tried to hide it, there had been something in his voice that Isan's didn't care for.

Suddenly there was a flash of light followed shortly by a loud explosion, the resulting gust of wind tossing sand into the faces of the grandfather and boy watching the once existing building.  It took all of Isan's willpower to not defy his father's words and run to where his parents must be.  Laguna placed a hand on the small shoulder, solidifying the fact that they were supposed to stay put.

Waiting there, they heard voices before anyone was seen through the dust and smoke.

"I thought we were going for forty minutes on that timer."

"Twenty was enough."

"And forty would've been safer, you ass.  What is it about cutting it close that gets you all hyped up?"

"... ..."

Shrugging off the hand holding him, Isan ran to the approaching figures.  "Mommy!  Daddy!"

Once able to see his parents clearly, the boy slowed to a walk and then stopped, wide eyes focused on Squall.  The man was covered in blood, gore, and grim.  His face was streaked with dark fluid, as if failing in the attempt to wipe the mess from his skin.  He looked at his son with a weak smile, understanding and hurt in his eyes at the boy's growing horror.

"Are you hurt, Mommy?"

"No.  I'm much better now knowing you're safe."

Isan launched himself at his mother, Squall managing to kneel in time to greet the boy in a hug.  "I was so scared, but I didn't let those bad men see me cry.  I wanted you and Daddy to be really proud of me, but I was really scared, too.  They even hurt Grandpa!"

"It's okay now.  We are all very proud of you."  He looked up at Laguna.  "Dad, you're injured?"

"Oh, don't worry about-- Yeeow!"

Seifer pulled back his finger from prodding the arm.  "Hyne, old man.  Why the hell didn't you tell me about this earlier?"  He proceeded to cast Cure.

"We had other matters to worry about."

The large blonde placed a hand to his face and sighed.  "What is it with these masochistic tendencies in your bloodline?  I'm going to die young if the brat ends up like you both."

"Mommy... can we go home now?"

"Nh.  Sounds like a good plan."

To say Uncle Kiros was upset when we returned to Esthar after that episode would be a huge understatement.  Despite that being the second time in five years that the president had been kidnapped, Granddad refused to have personal guards assigned to him.  "Why should I when I have high ranking SeeDs to save me?" was his reply or something of the sort.  Mom didn't appreciate the assumption that they would always be able to rescue the older man.  At the time, he was also extremely unhappy that it took them three days to hunt us down.

But almost ten years and two additional kidnapping attempts later, the old man still doesn't have any personal guards aside from Uncles Kiros and Ward.  Then again, I doubt there are many people left that would dare lay a hand on the Esthar President.  With two of those groups slaughtered by at most a handful of SeeD and the one group that held me utterly destroyed by two men, people have probably learned that it isn't worth it to touch Granddad.

For me, that whole event had several influences on my life.  One large change was how I began to see my parents.  They were killers.  It didn't bother me directly after the incident since it was 'bad men' they had killed, but for the first time I smelled fresh blood on my mother and it wasn't easy to forget.  Even now when I'm near him, part of his scent is of spilt blood in addition to the leather, gunpowder, and metal.  When I talked to Dad about it, he told me, "We only kill those who challenge their existence by attacking us.  When you pick up a weapon, you have to be prepared to fight for your life.  If you aren't skilled enough... well, you won't have to worry about it anymore."

It wasn't for another year that I got the chance to see my parents duel seriously.  Simply put, it was a beautiful sight.  I started to understand my father's words, witnessing how they put everything into each motion and strike.  I became so engrossed in the fight that when it finally ended with Mom's blade pressed against an exposed stomach and Dad's blade against the bare neck, I had to take a few deep breaths after holding it for a time.  Dad laughed then, informing Mom that it was his win since a severed neck would kill someone long before a gut wound.  Faster than I could see, Mom planted a knee into the larger man's groin with the growled comment, "How's that for a fucking gut wound?"

I decided then to enroll in SeeD.

"You what?"

"I want to join SeeD, enroll here in Esthar, and learn to use a gunblade."

A deep chuckle sounded from the kitchen.  "Looks like the nut doesn't fall far from the tree, Squally-boy."

"Isan, just because your father and I--"

"That's not it.  Well, not exactly."

"You're too young to decide this."

"I'm almost ten.  How old were you when you came to Garden?"

Squall frowned.  "We didn't decide for ourselves."

"I... I didn't know.  Sorry."

A tired sigh.  "So, are you going to give up or try to convince me why I should consider your request?"

Eyes brightening at the challenge, Isan faced his mother.  "I saw you and Dad fight.  It was amazing... and... you'll think I'm weird."

Squall nodded for him to continue.

"It was like I could hear the blades sing and yet I could kinda feel it, too.  I liked it."  Looking to the side, he found his father staring at him with an odd intensity.  "And I thought that learning a gunblade means being a SeeD, and I also want to learn from real gunblade masters."

"There are skilled gunblade instructors in other Gardens."

"As good as you and Dad?"

"They only wish."

"Seifer, hush."  Neutral mask still in place, Squall eyed his son.  "You haven't convinced me yet why you want to be a killer."

Glancing to Seifer and back, Isan replied, "Because I want to challenge my existence."

Closing his eyes, Squall sat with his arms crossed for a long while as if judging the answer.  The tense mood was broken when plates of shrimp on fried noodles were placed loudly in front of the two brunettes.  Smirking at Squall's stare, Seifer nodded once before getting his own plate of dinner.

"The minute you enroll, you won't be our son.  Only a cadet."

Holding back a smile, the boy nodded.  "I understand."

"And I'll have you know, Commander Almasy never holds back on his students.  Not one gunblade specialist has graduated from Esthar Garden because of that fact."

"I'll work hard to change that."

"Fine.  Your enrollment is accepted for the new year starting in four months time.  Prepare yourself."

"Thank you, Mom!  And Dad, too!"

"What, I'm only an afterthought?  Thanks a lot, brat."

Isan hopped off his chair and ran around the table to hug the large man.  "Love you, Dad."

"Hmph, you say that now, but wait until after a few months of training."  With a wide smile, he flicked the boy's forehead.

First starting as a cadet was hard both physically and emotionally.  While I didn't even touch a practice blade until I was thirteen, instruction started straight off with endurance and strength training in addition to the require courses about monsters, GFs, politics and more.  But worse was the impenetrable masks of my parents.  One second to the next, I went from son to a greenhorn cadet.  It hurt more than I thought it would, but I soon adjusted to the cadet life.  Frankly, my parents didn't raise a dependent, spoiled son.

Then came a history course in my second semester.

"Dad."

"What was that, cadet?"

Isan flinched at the deep tone.  "Please.  Dad, I..."

After a short pause, the large man knelt down, the father quickly replacing the instructor.  "What is it, kiddo?"

"We read in class about the third sorceress war.  That was you in the picture with her..."

"And?"

"The instructor and the file didn't say your name, but you were in the photo.  You were with the sorceress.  Her Knight, even."

"What is it you want me to say?"  He reached out a hand to the boy, only to have it knocked away.

"Don't!  Just... don't...  Why did you join her?"

"Why did I join the bad guys, you mean?"

Isan frowned in thought, then shook his head.  "There are no bad guys in the world of mercenaries.  Only money and survival," he mumbled.  "And the reading says a lot of people under her were controlled.  But still, why did you fight Mom?  You tried to kill Mom!  I thought... I thought you were..."

"You thought I'd be stronger than that?"

Palming the water from his eyes, Isan nodded.

"Well, I wasn't.  A few words of power and glory and I was hooked."

Soft green eyes wide with new sight, the boy backed away from Seifer.  "You loved Mom, and still... you really tried to kill him?"

"Isan.  I wish with all my heart that I could promise you that it wouldn't happen again.  I'd like to think I know what's important now, something infinitely more important than cheap fame.  But an Almasy doesn't make a promise he isn't one hundred percent certain he can keep."

"You could kill me?" he whispered.

"Haven't killed your mother yet.  You'll just have to get as good as him with a gunblade."

The attempt at humor was lost to horror as Isan backed further away.

"Hyne, don't look at me like that.  I never meant...  I never wanted to..."

The boy spun on his heels and bolted for the door, ignoring the loud calls of his name.  Tears blurring his vision, he simply ran without direction.  The walls surrounding his life in a form of safety had completely crumbled and fell down into dust.  While Isan believed both of his parents strong, the larger and more cocky Seifer was the personification of security and protection.  Without warning, that sense of safety was gone, and worse, he knew that his own father could possibly kill him if the right influence came around.

Wanting to escape, Isan ran for the entrance of the Garden.  He made it outside, fresh tears forming at the thought of running away from home.  Not paying attention to his surroundings, he was nearly run over by a large truck, the vehicle immediately swerving out of the way and screeching to a halt.  The door slammed open as the driver rushed to the boy frozen in place.

"Isan?  Hyne, are you alright?  What were you thinking?"

Looking up slowly, watery eyes squinted as if in pain.  "Mommy."

Motherly instinct taking over, Squall placed a steady hand on his child's head.  "Come on.  Let's go up to our room."

When they reached the large suite, Isan was instructed to first clean up in the bathroom and calm himself a bit.  Nodding numbly, the boy headed down the short hallway that held his old room and the bathroom, the door sliding open at his approach.  After one step through the doorway, he heard the front door slide open.

"Squall!?  You here?"

"Behind you.  What's wrong?"

"I can't find Isan.  He got that fucking speed from you.  I've looked everywhere and saw your car in the garage.  Have you seen him?"

Still standing in the doorway, Isan couldn't see into the living room, which meant his parents wouldn't be able to see him either.  Crossing arms around his chest, he leaned against one side of the doorway and slid down to sit on the floor.

"Calm down.  What is this all about?"

"I'm not going to fucking calm down!  He could be halfway into Esthar by now.  Who knows what could happen to him, and it's all...  I have to go look for him."

"Trust me.  He's fine.  Now, spill."

There was a long pause.  "He found out about me.  I didn't realize the history material had pictures of me with the sorceress."

"Sit and tell me everything."

After the sounds of the two men sitting on the couch, Seifer began, "Like I said, he saw a photo.  After all the stories we've told, it wasn't too hard for the guy to realize the Knight we spoke of was me.  He was crying, Squall.  You know he doesn't cry unless something is really killing him inside.  Damn it.  For years I've planned out how to explain it to him when he was old enough, but he asked the wrong fucking questions."

"What do you mean?"

"He didn't give a shit that I was on the wrong side.  And while he was upset that I fought you, it was because I tried to kill you even though I loved you.  Then he realizes that though I love him, I could just as easily try to chop his head off.  Fuck, when did he become a damn logical thinker?"

"You wouldn't."

"What?"

"You couldn't kill me and you would certainly never kill your son."

"Don't give me that crap.  I had your blood on my blade."

"Seifer, why do you think she sent you to handle the Lunatic Pandora instead of dealing with us?  That during the whole war, we only faced you three times directly?"

"Because I was too weak."

A scoff.  "You defeated Odin with one swipe of the blade.  You weren't weak.  You simply refused to kill us.  Even Matron said that Ultimecia knew she couldn't force you to take my life since doing so would only make you regain your senses."

Isan suddenly felt like he could breathe again - his father would never kill him after all.  Someone could try and try to make him do it, but he was strong enough to resist that control.  And that was because he truly loved his family, even if he didn't really say the words.

"I hate you," Seifer whispered, almost unheard by the silent boy.

"And why would that be?"

"Because you make me feel better when I have no right to."

"While I hold sincere doubts that you'd ever turn again, if a sorceress get her claws into you a second time, I will try to save you instead of fighting you."

Isan scrambled to his feet and walked to the entrance of the hallway.  "I'll save you, too, Dad."

Lying on the couch with his head in Squall's lap, Seifer looked over in part surprise.  "Isan."

With quick steps, the boy made it to the couch and was immediately lifted by muscular arms onto his father's stomach.  "I'm sorry for being scared."

"No.  No, this was my fault.  You shouldn't have learned this from a damn class but from me.  And trust me, plenty of people don't like me being around.  It's okay to be afraid."  He placed a hand in the boy's hair.

Isan shook his head, griping the raised arm.  "I'm not afraid now.  And I'm gonna get really strong so you don't have worry about hurting me either."

A tight smile formed before Seifer pulled the boy to his chest.  "Shit, I really love this kid."

One of the benefits of living in a dorm room back then was that Dad never found out about the regular nightmares I had for almost a month afterwards, and he'll never know.  They started out with short sequences in which Hyperion would first cut down Mom and then pierce through my chest as I stared into a smirking face.  But slowly, as time passed, the dream transformed into Dad protecting us from a black form that failed to mimic him. 

On my own time, I have done plenty of research on that war, dragging stories out of both my parents, Granddad, and many of my aunts and uncles.  Gaining an understanding about the most of the situation, I was eventually able to agree fully with Mom's statement that Dad could never truly harm us, especially now.  As my mother once explained, "He wanted to be recognized as someone big in the world.  But currently he is extremely important to two people, and he's learned how that means more than what the world could offer."

During my research, I found it interesting how the point of view could completely change certain details within the legend.  One of the things that always popped up was how no one had a clue about my parent's relationship, which confused me greatly at first since I couldn't imagine them apart.  Then I started paying attention to what they did in the public eye.  There was certainly no touching, no whispered words of affection, and their spoken words held a harsh edge that they always did.  Add in their enjoyment to fight without hesitation to maim, and I can see why others would be bewildered to learn that they live together with a son.  With their reputations, only a rare few dare to ridicule my parents for their relationship.

I can't remember if I was ever ashamed of my parents being two men.  I suppose as a child with other brutally honest children, it wouldn't be a surprise if I hid that fact from my peers.  But being something I lived with, it's as normal as a heterosexual relationship to me.  When I fully realized this and how it differed from the normal point of view, I began questioning plenty of things about myself. 

Within the horrid age of fourteen, around which I grew two feet in too short of a time period, there was one day when I received several love letters.  Turned out a dance was that weekend and the notes were from girls wanting me to go with them.  Knowing all of the girls from random classes, I wasn't interested in any of them.  That made me question even more things about myself.  My first crush had been Aunt Rinoa, a woman whom I could easily imagine as the princess within the fairy tales I read as a small child, but since then and even up to now, I haven't found anyone to pique my interest.  With normal teenage angst, I was worried back then that something was wrong with me.

The door slid open after a string of quick, loud knocks.  Squall glared at his son.  "You're taller than me."

"Um, sorry?"

With a mutter of, "you better be," he walked into the suite, Isan following behind with a smile.  The smell of grilling steaks was thick in the air, the teen's mouth watering at the idea of real food instead of what he normally got in the cafeteria.  No matter what his Uncle Zell said, one cannot live on hotdogs alone.

"Good timing, kiddo.  Dinner is ready to be eaten."  Walking into the dinning area with two plates in hand, Seifer stopped to eye his son.  "Hey, I think you're finally taller than your mom."

"Hyne, I saw the both of you a few days ago.  How can you tell the difference?"  Isan took a seat at the table.

The blonde shrugged then smiled far too widely.  "We made a bet when you were eleven, and looks like I've just won."

Isan learned long ago to never ask the conditions of his parents bets.  It was always better, no, safer to not know.  Anyhow, there was a thick, juicy steak before him just asking to be devoured.  Midway into dinner and after the typical chit-chat, Isan spoke up during a lull in conversation.

"When did you know you were gay?"

Seifer immediately started coughing, trying to rid himself of the hunk of meat choking him.  His windpipe cleared, he then gulped down more wine than Isan had witnessed him do in one sitting before.

Meanwhile, Squall looked over casually.  "What brings this up?"

"I got some letters, and well, I kinda wasn't interested and wondered if maybe it's because I'm gay."

"Oh?  Love notes, perhaps?  How many?"

"Seifer..."

"What?  He nearly killed me with that damn question.  I want details."

"Um, seven, I think."

"Ha!  That's our boy."

Squall shook his head with a sigh.  "Isan, just because you aren't currently interested in any girls, it doesn't mean you won't find someone later on."

"But, with you two as my parents, I figured..."

"I'm crushed.  Our little cub hasn't heard of my lady killer reputation yet."

Isan stared at his father, not quite believing that Seifer had been with females in his youth.  "I thought you and Mom got together when you were sixteen."

"So I was an early bloomer."

Mumbling around his fork, Squall added, "He was also about your height at your same age, thus easily able to trick the girls in higher classes."

"Wait.  Only girls?"

"Squall's the only guy that caught my eye.  Probably because he looks too much like a girl."  He dodged a flying lump of mash potatoes.  "You're going to clean that up."

"If you think so."

"Then what about you, Mom?"

"Unfortunately, your father was the best I could do.  Didn't bother with anyone else."

Seifer was grinning like a loon at that point, the sight mildly disturbing to the teen.

"How in the world did you two end up together anyway?"

"Cooking class."

"Cooking... class...?  Why did you take that?"

"It was the Headmaster's brilliant idea to teach Squall and me a lesson about keeping our fights within the training center or else outside."  Finishing off his meal, Seifer leaned back in his chair.  "I was planning on blowing the entire course, but the first afternoon of class, I just happened to be starving and the teacher had a decent meal to show us how to make.  It wasn't a hard choice between that or cafeteria food.  By the end of the class period, I had food and Squally-boy had a lump of charcoal."

Isan glanced over to his mother to better see the expected violent response, but Squall only looked blandly at Seifer while the man continued the story.

"It was chicken in white cream sauce, or something of the sort.  Anyhow, I offered Squall a taste of the sauce.  I guess I did it to showoff or make him suffer with only a mere sample of my dinner, but instead I ended up dumbstruck as I witnessed him savoring it with eyes closed in bliss."

"You've made better since."  Squall was focused on the blonde, both men looking a bit lost in the past.

"For the next week, I was in utter panic, finding myself desiring someone who was both male and someone within my very first memories.  It seemed wrong.  I slept with a few girls in the hopes to regain my sanity, and thought I did.  Then came our weekly sparring session.  Once I found him sweating and flushed from a thorough runabout of the training center, all my fears were crushed under my want of him."

There was a war in Isan's head at that moment, between really not wanting to hear about his parents desires and yet needing to know about how they dealt with the issues he may have to face if he was in fact gay, bisexual, or not.  Since Seifer didn't look about to stop unless forcefully told to end it, the teen decided to just go with the flow.  It wasn't like he had never seen his parents get frighteningly sappy when their moods matched, especially since privacy within the suite was the only time they felt comfortable enough to show their sentimental sides.  Add in the superfluous sexual comments made by his father practically daily, Isan wasn't bothered enough to find hiding under the table a necessary option.

"After that I tried to seduce him with good cooking and suggestive comments, but of course he was clueless for months.  Finally, after one of our duels, I sucked it up and kissed him.  Moving back, I waited for him to punch me, to yell at me, or the rare chance of him forcing us to the ground and letting me fuck him senseless.  Instead the bastard just looked at me like he always did, turned, and walked away."

Isan couldn't help the smile.  It sounded exactly like something his mother would do.

"Needless to say, my mind was full with trying to figure out the mixed signals.  He didn't hate me for kissing him, but then again he wasn't interested.  Eventually, I went into 'life as usual' mode.  A little over a week goes by, and our day to clean up after cooking class came around.  The room was completely empty except for the two of us, which got me into a bitter and distracted mood.  Suddenly, Mr Cold Shoulder was standing right in front of me and licking powdered sugar from the corner of my mouth."

Squall smirked.  "You fell on your ass."

"You scared the shit out of me."  Blinking, he looked at his son clearly for the first time during the telling.  "Ah, well, from there it's history.  Certainly not all roses during the first year.  But... we learned, I guess."

Standing up from the table with empty plate in hand, Squall looked down at Isan.  "In summary, sometimes people just match well.  Try not to worry so much about what exactly you'd be interested in.  You may lose the chance of finding someone important with that kind of bias."

Seifer snorted.  "Personally, I say go ahead and do the random flings, kiddo.  That way you don't get overly romantic ideas of what a relationship should be.  Take a girl to that dance and have a good time.  It's not like you have to marry her.  Just don't get her pregnant."  He winked.

A voice came from the kitchen.  "And whenever you do bring someone home, make certain she or he can handle your father."

"Hey, what exactly is that supposed to imply?"

I have yet to find anyone worth it to bring home.  There has been a girl or two I've thought about showing to the parents just to frighten her away, but I know Dad would've sensed such a plan instantly and he would have either tormented the poor girl or else tortured me by pretending to love her.  There haven't been any guys in my life yet, but that's not by choice, really.  Perhaps I'm just trying too hard to find something like the strong connection that exists between my parents.

But I guess the important thing after that night is that I've gotten better at not forcing myself to be what I'm supposed to be.  I just am.  It sounds silly, I know, but when you come from a line of such outstanding greatness, it's too easy to lose yourself into the image of what you should be and not what you are.  I think accepting my sexuality was a large step in that direction since I figured out that I didn't have to be like my parents or be 'normal'.  It'd be impossible, anyway.

And so, here I am.  Isan Almasy.  Son from the pairing of hero and villain.  Grandson to a politician of both naivety and cunning.  Nephew to a gang of orphans turned saviors.  Special in so many ways, and yet like everyone else, I'm just living life as it comes.

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining - Well, here's the first little bit of the sequel.  I wanted to do a 'my life up to now' kind of prologue so that the biggie questions could be hit all at once (ie 'boys can't be mommies?').  Sorry if the format is a bit confusing, but I don't write in kid-speak, and I thought this would be the best way to say what happened and give Isan's more mature pov of what it meant to him.

No clue when the actual story will appear.  Wanted to write this bit while the way to handle it was fresh in my mind.  I do have some of the earlier things planned out, but nothing in hard detail.  Isan is bisexual, but I do have a male partner lined up for him.  And while it will be Isan's story, SxS will certain have their own bits within the tale.  In other words, I think I'm setting myself up for a really long ficcie here.  Ugh...

Anywho, million thanks to Miss Dincht for being the beta for this upcoming epic.  Doubt I'd find the motivation to do it without her support.