When I Heard Your Voice
April 2003

 

A small form sat huddled on the edge of the pier, silent tears streaming down the pale face.  Trapped in the thoughts of his mind and grief, he didn't notice or else didn't care about the darken clouds approaching from the ocean.  Waves gradually grew in height and strength as they flowed beneath the wooden planks he sat on.  Absent mindedly he'd brush away tears from one side of his face, only to have them quickly replaced by new trails of wetness.  Still the storm grew, thunder just barely sounding above the crash of the stirred ocean. 

Green eyes blurred by tears glanced up to witness the birth of an incredibly large wave, the boy hypnotized by its approach.  The wave was one attack too many for the old pier, the child taken into the water now littered with scraps of wood.  He knew how to swim, never living far from the ocean.  He knew he could die unless he started working his way to the surface.  But he couldn't find a reason to care, choosing to let the ocean decide his fate.

Something gripped his hand, pulling him against a solid form that wasn't much warmer than the ocean.  He felt himself being taken to the surface, fast enough to be saved.  A small fist beat once against that form, the boy angry that it was interfering with this gift of fate.  The form only held him tighter.  The boy wanted to fight, but sleepiness was taking control of his senses...

Eyelids heavy while opening, the boy soon found himself on hard ground, the roof of a cavern curving overhead.  He rubbed a hand against his forehead, not caring for the pounding of his head.  A second hand, much cooler to the touch, joined his hand to brush along the aching region.  With its pass, the hurt faded almost immediately.  Tilting his head to the side, the boy looked into eyes that seemed full of the storm that had just nearly taken his life, a stream of bright redness flowing down from a gash at his forehead.

"Don't be sad..."

The words said in a youthful voice filled with sympathy made the boy smile weakly before the tears began anew, but for once, the pain of his heart was allowed to escape within those mournful tears.


A large bundle held securely in his arms, Seifer fought against his desire to hurry and the need to be careful along the beach sand.  Biting his lip in uncertainty, he scanned the water of dark blue and brown in search of a sign that he was being watched.  The sun had set shortly before, but there was still plenty of light for the moment.  Even so, he could only see rocks fallen from the nearby cliff long ago and the immense expanse of water.

Heedless of his clothes, he walked straight into the salty water and waded towards a relatively flat rock in the fair distance.  The dark water barely touched the blankets in his hold before he was able set the bundle carefully on the smooth boulder.  Green eyes squinted, he continued to glance over the mild waves of the ocean.

"Squall!"  The call wasn't as strong as usual, his voice cracking with worry.  "Show yourself, Squall!"

No one answered to the desperate call, Seifer only able to hear the sounds of the ocean and then a whimpering cry from the wrapping of blankets.  Leaning over, he pulled aside a corner of the soft material to reveal a young boy flushed with fever.  Closed eyes opened at the movement of the blanket, those hazel eyes filled with pain staring up at the large man.

"Shhh, everything will be fine, Dray."  He brushed aside pale locks of hair before kissing the heated forehead.

"I's cold, Papa..."

"I know you're cold.  Just bare with it a little longer."  Seifer looked up then, his breaths coming faster when he still saw no sign of his friend and confidant.  The blonde then scoffed at his thoughts and mumbled to himself, "As if I've been anything close to a friend for years.  It's no wonder he isn't around..."

"...Papa...?"

Eyes focused on the ocean before him, Seifer distractedly cupped his hand along the side of the boy's face to comfort his son, a callused thumb stroking the soft skin reddened from fever.

"So, this is young Adryan."

The quiet voice made Seifer start, a single tear escaping the walls he placed on his emotions as he turned to face the newcomer.  "Squall.  Thank the Heavens."

A seemingly young man of blue-gray eyes stared at him neutrally from his position leaning against the boulder's edge.  Brown hair blackened from water was plastered to his head except for a few rebelling locks, suggesting the wildness of hair if given time to dry.  The only visible item he wore was a silver choker, the sight making Seifer smile weakly.  Beyond the visible chest and torso bare of clothes, the blonde knew of the dark blue scales that lined the merman's tail, which was currently hidden beneath the water surface.

"He is ill."

Shame flowed through Seifer at the words.  "I... I meant to... I'm sorry--"  A finger pressed against his lips to silence him.

"You wish me to heal him."  To anyone else, the voice would be cool and soothing, but the large man clearly heard the sadness behind the words.

"A lot of kids have gotten this sickness and died from it.  The doctor can't do anything, so I thought maybe you could help..."  Silently Seifer cursed his idiocy, furious that he'd only search out Squall because his son was in danger.  Adding on to that, he owed the merman many times over for his life, and then for companionship during hard times.  There was no reason for Squall to help him now after all these years, and certainly not after the way his friendship was tossed aside without thought.

Despite all of that, Squall smiled vaguely as his elegant fingers caressed the boy's face, wide hazel eyes watching him curiously.  "Fear not, small solas.  It's not your time to die."

With that, the merman bit into the flesh of his own finger, bright red blood pooling at the broken skin.  He placed it into the mouth of the child, Adryan wasting only a moment before sucking at the offered blood.  Squall ran slim fingers through strands of pale blonde with his free hand, his expression as he watched the boy reminding Seifer oddly of a gentle mother that could soothe away any worry.

In short time, the merman removed his finger and then kissed the head of the resting child.  Moving back, he spared Seifer a single glance before slipping quietly back into the ocean water.

"Wait!  I haven't done anything to repay you."

Treading backwards just above the surface, Squall smiled faintly.  "Goodbye, Seifer."  And before the blonde man could respond, the merman had vanished into the dark waters.

Seifer stared stunned at that point of disappearance, his voice tight when he was able to speak.  "You never say 'goodbye'..."

~ > < ~

It was a calm morning with seagulls flying lazily high above the ocean water.  Aside from the bird cries and crashing waves further away, there were no sounds as Seifer sat on the back porch of his small, but comfortable home.  His head was propped up on one arm as he looked past the low rise of a grassy hill and towards the beach a short distance beyond.  A mug of coffee was on the table before him, the liquid long cooled during the time the blonde had been there in a memory filled daze.

Over fifteen years past the quiet creature of the ocean had rescued him from death.  Back then, Seifer had been too wrapped up in the grief of his parents' deaths to understand the great favor.  After that was the pain of living in an orphanage where the other children didn't care for him, that leading to his bully-like nature.  Only Squall was patient enough to deal with his bursts of anger, though the young merman was equally infuriating at times when Seifer wanted a reaction out of him.  It was a rare occasion when the typically silent creature would lash out with his own hidden anger and frustrations.  The cold blaze Seifer witnessed in those eyes only made him desire it more.

From there... life went on like it does.  Seifer had enrolled in a private militia to train and fight for several years, there meeting the first woman he could seriously love - Fujin, a hell angel of white hair who could throw a man four times her rather small size.  Despite her occasionally stilted way of speaking, she was a good friend as much as an amazing lover.  When she had gotten pregnant, they both dropped out of the mercenary group and Seifer brought her here to the only home he could remember at the orphanage.  Unfortunately the building had been destroyed during a recent battle, and the Kramers had moved on to a larger building that could better house the influx of children.  With their permission, this house was built where the original orphanage had stood, and here Adryan had been born almost four years past.

"Papa?"

Seifer smiled softly at his son, then tried to press down the thin, bed-messed blonde hair with his hand while noting the lack of fever.  "Good morning.  How are you feeling?"

"All better!"

"Are you hungry?"

"Uhn!"

The large man stood up, towering over the small figure that still wore his chocobo pajamas.  "Then how about you go get dressed and I'll make you some pancakes."

"O-tay."  The boy ran off for his room, taking the longest route possible that also required jumping off the couch.

With an amused sigh, Seifer made way for the kitchen.  He pulled out the cookware and ingredients, thoughts once again wandering as his hands handled the familiar task of making breakfast.  Against what she had believed or perhaps hoped, Fujin was not made for the family life.  After the birth of Adryan, she assumed motherly instincts would take over and she'd suddenly know how to take care of child, cook delicious meals, and clean without breaking a thing.  Seifer knew she wasn't happy living here, but she wouldn't admit it, thus nothing could be done to better the situation.  When he woke one morning to the sounds of Adryan's crying and found only a piece of paper where Fujin had slept by his side, Seifer wasn't surprised.

"Papa..." came a soft, worried tone.

Blinking, Seifer looked down at the boy.  "What's up, big guy?"

"Why're you sad?"

<Don't be sad...>

The man shook his head to get rid of the phantom voice of the past.  "Just thinking.  Got a stack of three here.  Think you can handle that?"  He handed the plate of pancakes to his son.

"Uhn."  The boy obviously didn't believe his simple answer, Adryan being more sensitive to emotions than Seifer thought normal.  It made lying near impossible, that was for certain.

Sitting down at the small table with his own plate of pancakes, Seifer picked at his breakfast while barely tasting anything aside from the sweetness of syrup.  His son, however, wasn't so nearly reserved in eating the fluffy food.  With a week of nothing more than broth behind him, Adryan's hunger wasn't surprising in the least.  Seifer grinned at the sight of maple syrup spreading across the child's mouth, and he wondered how much longer it'd take before the stickiness would end up in his hair.

"Can we see that pretty guy again?"

The question entirely unexpected, Seifer sat back in his chair wordlessly and stared at the boy.

"Did I say something wrong, Papa?"

"No.  No, it's not you, Dray.  Truthfully, I don't know..."  Closing his eyes briefly, he smiled and said instead, "Say, why don't we head to the beach after breakfast and I'll introduce you to him if he's still hanging around."

"Yeah!  I wanna thank him."

"Then finish every bite, as well as all of your milk.  I don't need people thinking that I starve you."

Grinning at the typical comment, Adryan attacked the remaining half of his breakfast with the same vigor as before.  Watching him, Seifer fought against conflicting emotions about the small trip.  He didn't want to go to the beach so soon, afraid that the merman wouldn't respond to his call for the first time in his memory.  And yet, Seifer needed to go to see for himself if the merman would indeed ignore him, never to be seen again.  There was the good possibility that he was only overreacting.  Squall had only said 'goodbye', and it wasn't like people didn't say that on a daily basis.  People always say goodbye...

Some time later, both the plates and the boy were cleaned of syrup before father and son headed out of the house.  Seifer kept to a worn path as he walked, the young boy not constraining himself to the simple line as he weaved back and forth while looking up at the birds in the sky.  Crossing the small rise of the hill, they reached the trail that led down a sharp incline of the beginnings of a cliff.  The short path ended in soft beach sand that made walking difficult, but the barefooted boy didn't seem to mind the extra effort it took to run on the sand.

Sighing amused, Seifer shoved his hands into the pockets of his oversized shorts and took his time approaching the shifting waters.  Despite the chill of worry deep in his bones, the sun served well to warm his skin that was exposed from the open vest.  Watching the energetic boy also helped to ease his spirit.  Adryan was typically a shy boy, rarely caring for situations where he had to meet someone new.  Seifer found a bit of happiness at the idea of sharing his greatest secret with his son.

The blonde boy started waving from the water's edge, and automatically Seifer waved back with a soft smile on his face.  When Adyran's waves became more frantic, the large man realized that the boy wasn't waving to him, but for him.  Frowning, he jogged towards the young boy, and then looked in the direction that he pointed to.  On the large, flat boulder from the night previous, a naked body was draped over the smooth surface and didn't look to be moving.

Once reaching firmer sand, Seifer broke out into a run and rushed into cool water without second thought.  The shifting pull of the tide impeded his movement some, but he made quick time to the rock that occasionally dropped under water from the larger waves that came.  Standing there, Seifer was stunned into place despite understanding the immediate need to pull the man out of the rising water.  The stunning pale skin was bruised heavily, and the exposed body also held numerous minor to deep scratches and cuts all over.  With a shaky hand, Seifer brushed aside longish strands of wet hair to reveal the gorgeous face he knew well, but never with these injuries that marred the inhuman beauty.  After glancing at the slim, elegant legs that hung into the salty water, Seifer quickly pushed back the flood of questions that would only serve to distract him longer.

He took the sodden merman into his arms, the relatively light weight easy enough for Seifer to carry despite the tide of the ocean working against him.  As he walked, the large man held the brunette tightly against his chest in the vague hope to warm the freezing body.  He remembered the sea creature being cool whenever they touched, but he was certain the careful caresses had never been this cold.

Stepping out of the salty water, Seifer looked down at his wide-eyed son.  "Go ahead of me and draw up a hot bath in my room.  Then gather up some rags to use as bandaging."

Blinking out of his stunned gaze, Adryan nodded without word and turned to run ahead of his father.

Taking awkward steps on the shifting sand, the blonde whispered quietly, "What the hell is this about, Squall?"


It was warm.  Far warmer than anything he had experienced before, pressing around his body in sanctuary.  But the pressure wasn't all-encompassing as he was used to, rather focused at his back and chest.  Little by little, clarity came to the sleep-muddled mind as senses started to identify other oddities about his surroundings.  There was an unusual softness that covered his skin left untouched by the warm pressure.  The heat wasn't stationary, moving with a steady rhythm that almost mimicked his heartbeats.  And his breathes were full of thin dryness, as if he were above surface.

With that last thought, gray-blue eyes snapped open to view wildly at the scenery around him.  Air, not the comforting enclosure of water.  The objects, though few, were completely unknown to him.  This could very well be a prison for all he knew.  Trying to move, he gasped and nearly cried at the feel of splitting, legs and not his tail moving at his silent commands.  It was wrong, so very wrong.

"Nnh, shhh... you'll wake 'im up..." murmured a sleepy voice as the warmth, strong arms held tighter.

A look of pain crossed his face before he spoke softly.  "Seifer?"

The body behind him stilled for a moment before it pulled away, a hand soon forcing Squall onto his back as the large man sat up to lean over him.  Green eyes lit by faded light focused worriedly on him.  "How do you feel?"

There was no answer for that.  His life was in ruins, everything he knew lost and untouchable.  Waking to see Seifer was a minor comfort, but easily wiped away by the ache the blonde man always caused in him.

"Playing mute on me, is it?  Well, at least you're awake.  I only noticed the broken wrist, but you'll have to tell me if anything else hurts."

Eyes narrowing in thought, Squall lifted his arm from the tangle of sheets and stared at the tight bandaging, wincing slightly when moving the hand.  Aside few minor scratches, he had never been left unhealed before.  Just another mark of his people's disgust for him.

"Squall.  What happened?"

He redirected his cool gaze to the intense stare and hesitated before answering.  "I've been exiled."

"What?  Why?"

"None of your concern."

Green eyes hardened.  "Was it because of what you did for me?  For Dray?"

"... ..."

"Answer me, Squall."  The growled tone would have threatened anyone else, but the merman could find comfort in the deep voice.

"It was my choice."

There was a brief flare of anger in the emerald orbs, just before Seifer yanked the blankets off of himself and moved off of the bed.  "Fucking Hyne, why didn't you tell me that you could get in trouble?  I never--"

"Your son would be dead."  The simple statement immediately quieted the blonde man, driving the heated energy out of him.

"You could've died as well," he says with a partly questioning tone.

"I didn't."  Though a part of him wished he had.  Things would be so much simpler that way.

"Don't give me that.  I had to carry your frozen body out of the waters and watch you lie helpless here for the past two days.  You damn near died in front of my very eyes, and now I know for a fact that it's my fault this even happened--"

"It was my choice!" Squall bit out, eyes coolly glaring at the man.  "Don't you dare assume otherwise."

The large man easily met the dangerous gaze, a cynical chuckle escaping him.  "Stubborn bitch.  Fine, you win.  But only for this moment."  As he stretched, the worn tank top he wore lifted to reveal the muscular stomach just above dark gray shorts.  "Well, I know I'm hungry, so you must be absolutely starved.  Doubt you've had much of our food, but I seem to remember you liking the strawberries I gave you years back.  How does that sound?"

It took a moment before the merman realized he was talking about the dark red fruit from nearly a decade ago.  Even so, the odd sweetness was implanted into his memory.  He nodded at the offer, trying not to look too eager about the food.

"Great.  I'll try to make a selection of stuff so you can pick and choose what you like."  He moved for the closed doorway, Squall interrupting him before he could too far.

"Wait.  I...  I need to relieve myself," he stated softly, angry about being forced through such embarrassment.

After a thinking moment, Seifer smirked and approached the far side of the bed.  "Shall I be of assistance then?"

The sheets were pulled down, Squall looking sharply away at the sight of his legs.  It was the primary evidence of his exile, and the lack of the deep blue scales praised by many severely pained him.

"Sorry, I didn't think about trying to put clothes on you."

The merman looked curiously up at the man.  "Clothes?  Like yours?"

"Ah, of course nudity wouldn't bother you.  Come on.  Let's see if those lovely legs work."

After hooking an arm around his neck, Seifer carefully helped the brunette out of bed, feet for the first time settling on floor.  While it felt like the newly formed legs could support him, it was still awkward to match the same movements when the larger man walked.  For first steps, however, Squall tried to be impressed with himself.  They moved through the original doorway Seifer had approached before, then went to another one a short distance away.  Staring into the smaller area, gray-blue eyes widen at the assortment of objects in the room.

"So, think I can leave you here while you finish your business?"

"How do I do this?"

Green eyes settled on him amusedly.  "You mean the toilet?"

The smooth brow creased at the term, though he didn't focus to hard on it.  "I've had a tail for all my life and lived in water.  I have a feeling you do these things differently."

Blinking, Seifer then looked ahead into the room while muttering to himself, "At least I have experience with potty training."

Not too much later, Squall clothed in a large shirt and shorts sat at a table with his hurting head held in his hands.  There was simply too much to learn and know, and that had only been the room of the bath.  It didn't help that Seifer seemed flustered with answering some of his questions.  Really, why did there need to be two places on a body to relieve oneself?

His frustrated silence was broken when something was placed before him, the smell of it making his stomach clench in hunger.

Pointing to each food in turn, Seifer said, "These are the strawberries you liked before with some blueberries.  This is a pancake, and these are cooked eggs.  Don't eat what you don't like.  I think you recognize water well enough, and the one next to it is orange juice."

The merman stare confusingly at the cylinders of liquid.

"You aren't surrounded by water anymore.  You have to drink it to stay hydrated."

Frowning at the thought of having something else important to learn within such a short time, Squall took one of the dark red strawberries and ate it carefully to make certain he had remembered correctly about liking the fruit.  Aside from memories of interesting tastes, there were also times in which the foods Seifer had given left him sick for days.  At the taste of sweet bitterness, a vague smile appeared at the knowledge that there was at least one safe food he could eat.  While nibbling at the fruit, he glanced up at the blonde man staring oddly at him.

"You're handling this rather well."

Looking back down at the foods, he said, "There's no benefit in getting upset."

Seifer scoffed before walking off to get his own meal.  "If my legs were wrapped up into a tail and I was tossed into the ocean to fend for myself, I'd be... hell, I haven't a clue how I'd handle it.  Certainly not with as much composure as you, but I guess you've always been like that."

When the large man sat heavily in an adjacent chair, Squall stared at him silently before stating, "I would die if you weren't willing to care for me."

Sharp green eyes met his, understanding quick to appear.  "Exile is your death sentence."

Nodding, the brunette then looked outside.  It wasn't by chance that he had ended up on that beach, Squall knowing his father or friends must have led him to where the blonde could easily find him.  While he was grateful, he sincerely hoped that they hadn't risk their own lives by interfering as they did.

"Papa?"  Both men looked over at the entrance of the young boy, his hazel eyes still blurry from sleep.  "Is he all better?"

"Well, he's awake at least, though I don't think he'll be better for a long time yet."  Getting up from his chair, Seifer asked, "Want do you want, kiddo?  Pancakes or cereal?"

"Cereal wit berries."

As the large man went back to get the food, the young boy approached Squall and stared at him for a long moment before attempting to crawl up onto his lap.  Confused and stunned at first, the brunette then helped Adryan up, smiling softly at how much the child looked like Seifer at that age.  His body frame was a bit narrower and his hair several shades lighter, but they were clearly father and son.

Once seated comfortably enough, the boy continued to stare at the merman before asking, "What's a 'solas'?"

"It's our term for you who walk under the sun."  Squall was somewhat surprised the young boy had remembered him using that term before healing him.  The youth had extremely ill by the time Seifer had thought of asking for his help, even if the boy hadn't seemed so bad from outward appearances.

"Oh."  Sleepily, Adryan placed his head on the brunette's shoulder as he relaxed against the cool body.  "You're pretty."

"Thank you, young solas."  It was different than holding their own youths, the weight of the small body better felt without the buoyancy of water.  Squall decided that he preferred this heavier feel, it giving a sense of even more trust that the young typically give away too easily.

"The hell.  Dray, get off of him."  After placing down the cereal, Seifer lifted the boy from his current seating spot and moved him to a chair across the table.  "Sorry about that, Squall.  He's usually much better, never doing crap like that."

"I don't mind."

"Well, I do."  He looked at the boy with soft eyes belying the terse tone of his voice.  "Listen, kiddo.  Squall here is going to be staying with us for as long as he needs to.  That okay with you?"

Adryan nodded, his mouth already full of food.

"Good.  He also doesn't know a lot about how we do things, so you're going to have to be my little helper in teaching him everything.  Got it?"

"Like what stuff?"

"Everything," said two voices at once, one sounding amused and the other annoyed.

~ > < ~

He sat at the edge of the pier rebuilt years past, sitting in the same spot he had seen Seifer when they were much younger.  Day after day the blonde boy had come to that pier, sorrow continually building in him without release.  When the old wooden pier tore apart, it was a chance impulse that made him reach for the boy that didn't seem to care if he lived or died.  The split wood had cut them both in the torrents of the stormy water, certainly not helping with his task of pulling the struggling boy up to the surface.  In a nearby cavern that served as shelter, Squall had decided to take the last step into crime and healed the gash on the blonde boy's head, using the blood from his own wounds.  After all these years, it felt nice to have the odd connection of the mirrored scars crossing from forehead and almost to cheek, though his father and people were furious that his face had been marred.

Swirling the tip of a foot in the water that felt so much colder than he ever knew, Squall thought about the wasted years of his life.  Aside from lessons of caring for the treasured youth of his people, most of his time was spent observing the young solas, watching how he grew so large and strong compared to the limp form that he had held in rough waters.  It was the only time he had held the golden boy eventually turned man.  It hurt to continue watching the changes in the man's life long after the merman had been apparently forgotten.  He had been only a dark form in the water, never approaching as he watched Seifer hold onto the white-haired woman, laughing with her and looking so happy.  Then came Adryan, the obvious pride of the large man and the one thing Squall refused to be jealous about.

There had been one morning, though, when Seifer had sat in his spot on the pier and held something in his hand, just staring at it.  The sorrow was back, and given the white-haired woman had never appeared again, Squall assumed it was in connection with her.  There was temptation to swim up to the blonde then, to attempt to find a way back into his life, but he was never called for and thus never approached.  For the better, perhaps, as he was already treading fine lines with his obsession of the solas.  Only his status had kept him from exile up to that point.

"That's where Papa always sits."

Looking to the side, he smiled softly at the boy.  "I know."

Hazel eyes studied him intently before the boy sat close by.  "I can't read you."

"Because you shouldn't read others' emotions."

Eyes widened, guilt filling the boy's aura.  "I don't mean to.  It's just... it's always there for me."

"No need to defend yourself.  You're young and inexperienced.  Doesn't help that your gift is rare among your kind."

"But you can do it, too, then?"

He nodded once in reply.

"Umm, then... could you show me stuff?"

"If you wish."

Adryan nodded, then after a time of silence asked, "Are you happy here?  With Papa and me?"

Fingering the wide bar of his choker, he stated softly, "As much as I deserve to be."  He got an odd look from the boy at the response, but didn't give him a chance to question it.  "Your father must be waiting for us."

With help of the boy and the pole of the pier, Squall got to his feet that easily supported him, but it was still awkward at times, especially after spending time near the water that had been his life.  It had been only a couple weeks since the torturous transformation of his exile, but muscle was muscle and once he had figured out the proper way to step, it wasn't that difficult.  Anything faster than a careful walk, however, would be pushing it.

By the time they had crossed half the beach, Seifer was half-walking, half-sliding down the steep incline of the small hill.  Even from the short distance, Squall could see the scolding hardness to his eyes.  The sight brought a vague curl to a corner of his lips.

"What the fucking hell-- shit, Dray, get to the house.  Dinner is in the micro."

The boy was obviously trying to hold in his laughter when he left, once in the past weeks mentioning that only the merman ever caused the large man to swear without thought.

Adryan out of sight, the blonde man began again, "I thought you were going to your room."

"... ..."

"Shit, you just started walking by yourself several days ago.  What did you think you were doing by taking that hill?"  After first glancing down at dirty and slightly torn pants, Seifer knelt to the soft sand and jerked down the sweatpants.  "Hyne, Squall.  You're really going to be hurting tomorrow from this stunt."

"Don't..."  He moved back from the hand that was about to touch the area that would most likely be a large bruise in the morning.  Given the piece of clothing wrapped around his knees, Squall didn't get far and fell to the beach ground, wincing at landing on the injured area of his thigh.

"What is your problem lately?"  The voice was irritated and angry, Seifer having every right to feel that way.  Ever since being able to walk on his own, the merman tried to avoid the touch of the larger man.  It was hard to not be obvious about it.

Covering his eyes with an arm, Squall spoke quietly.  "I'm tired.  Just leave me alone."

There was a frustrated sigh before the man sat down heavily where he was.  "Listen, if you're mad at me for this situation, would you just fucking tell me?  I hate it when people keep that kind of shit from me."

"You're cursing too much."

He took a deep breath before continuing.  "Please.  Talk to me.  Tell me what I can do to make things better between us."

"It's not--"

"This is my fault, you stubborn ass.  I left you.  After all my bitching about parents and family leaving me alone, about friends not caring if I drowned myself, I left you as if you didn't mean anything to me.  Then you do this for me without hesitation...  Tell me, what do you need?  What can I do to make things right again?"

"... Nothing."

"For the sake of Hyne... You're just like her, y'know?  Acting like nothing needs to be fixed, that you can handle whatever it is eating you up inside.  Well, it doesn't work that way.  And damn it, you were the one to show me that.  What, can't handle your own bitter medicine?"

Letting his arm fall to the beach sand, Squall stared up at the faded blue sky of early evening.  "I'd rather this pain than lose you a second time."

Seifer stared at him intensely for several moments before standing.  "You know, I'm getting tired, too.  Maybe it's been a bunch of years, but I know you.  You're getting close to a breaking point, and maybe it'd be better for you if I just shove you over that edge.  However, right now Dray is waiting and I don't need him seeing some yelling match between us since, Heavens know why, the kid likes you."  Holding out a hand, the blonde man smirked cynically.  "We can go on pretending everything is all roses, but tomorrow we battle this out."

A small shiver traveled through Squall, not having heard the challenging tone of the larger man in years.  There was always some bet, some contest between them that made the blonde's aura flare with heated energy, never failing to cause an echoing flame to rise in the merman as a result.

"Come on.  We need to get ointment on that leg and then feed you.  I don't get how you survive on as little as you do."


Wearing the typical baggy shorts, Seifer stood in cool sand with hands shoved in his pockets as he watched the lone figure on the pier ahead.  Once again, the brunette had left when his back was turned.  While he could understand the other's desire to be near the ocean, Seifer wished the idiot would simply ask for help.  It wasn't like he had been denied anything yet.

With a deep sigh, the large man started walking again to the pier, bare feet soon treading on the wooden planks with little sound.  Squall stiffened at the man's approach, but otherwise didn't move or address the person as he stared down at the shallow waves brushing against his hanging foot.  Without warning, Seifer placed a hand against the back of the bent neck, callused fingers moving gently across unfamiliar black lettering almost hidden beneath longish hair and just above the ever-present choker.

"What does this mean?"

"It's a symbol of my... former status."

Frowning, Seifer continued to stroke the pale skin marked by dark symbols as soft hair brushed over the back of his fingers and his thumb rested on cool metal of the necklace.  "Are you ready to talk with me?"

Before a reply was made, there was a thrashing of water that made the blonde man jerk back in surprise.  Gray-blue eyes a bit wider than usual, Squall stared at the appearance of a rather talkative dolphin in Seifer's opinion.  He had to hold a hand to his mouth when the merman nodded to whatever the squeaks and clicks could have meant, the sight too comical for him after adjusting to weeks of the brunette being technically human.  Furthermore, no one so serious looking should ever converse with an overgrown, smiling fish.

Slowly horror crept into the man's expression as he snapped his head up to look out at the expanse of sea.  The dolphin squeaked loudly at loosing the merman's attention, but was apparently calmed when the other distractedly did a set of hand signals.  With a final string of clicks and a wobbly move backwards, the dolphin dived back into the water and out of sight.

"Squall...?"

He looked back at his name, gray eyes wide in a haunted expression, all amusement within the blonde man dying at the sight.

"What's wrong?"

"My bearer..."  Sighing, he used the pole of the pier to help himself stand.  "Could you leave?"

"I could, but I'm not going to.  What's wrong with your 'bearer'?  Don't tell me--"

"No!" he said sharply, then took a calming breath.  "He is only weak in spirit.  A friend suggested that... that maybe if he heard my voice..."

"I thought you weren't allowed contact with your kind anymore."

"Not direct contact...  Again, would you leave?"  When no reply can from the stubborn blonde, Squall sighed.  "Fine.  But don't interrupt."

His arms crossed and an amused smirk forming, Seifer watched the brunette with the expectation that the merman would just start talking randomly without a viewable audience, or something of that like.  The soft melodic tone that left the pale lips was entirely unexpected.  Though quiet, the song had an odd quality to it that made it almost loud, driving every other sound of the ocean to barely heard murmurs.  The language was unknown to Seifer, but every few lines or so, he could clearly hear the word 'solas' that he recognized as their term for humans.  Despite not knowing the words, despite not having done so in quantity since he was a youth, Seifer found himself crying as the song continued.  Frustrated, he roughly rubbed away the tears he couldn't control while forcing himself to stand in place and not interrupt the sorrowful song from the merman.

Eventually the song tapered off, Squall reopening his eyes as he scanned the empty ocean.  Witnessing the same shielded expression that had been in place since the first day he woke, Seifer felt like yelling at the man to let his pain go, to stop holding it so tightly within him.  Instead, his body reacted first as he reached out and pulled the smaller form back against him in a firm hug.

"Seifer.  Let go."

"No."

Weakly struggling for escape, the merman tried to move forward out of the hold.  "Don't.  Please."

"Maybe I'll let you go, if you tell me what the song was about."

"... ..."

"I heard you mention humans.  Was it some story of your people?"

"Let go," he repeated softly.

"No, it wasn't that, was it?  You... you were talking about here?"  At the sudden tensing of the man in his arms, Seifer knew he guessed right.  "Why?  Does it pain you that much to stay with me?"

"It's hell!" Squall yelled out, the burst of energy freeing him from the entrapping arms.  Unbalanced, however, he continued forward to fall off of the pier edge and into salty water.

Still stunned by the declaration of the merman, Seifer only stared at the shifting water before eventually realizing that even a person who couldn't swim should be thrashing about or reaching for the pier for safety by now.  Jumping off the side, he swam down the relatively shallow depth to find the man lying on the ocean floor as if asleep.  Taking a hold of the slim body, Seifer pushed up against the soft ground to give him the boost towards the surface.

In short time, the large man stumbled out of the surf with his precious load and gently stretched out the merman on compacted sand.  With a few hardy slaps against his back, the brunette coughed up mouthfuls of water before gray eyes opened tiredly when he was laid back down.  Unmoving he stared up at nothing, his expression near painful with unhidden grief.

"I can't go back," he stated hoarsely.

"Squall--"

"I can't go back," he said again as if not hearing Seifer.  "And I'm trapped in hell."

"Why?!  What have I done wrong to make this hell for you?  I understand it hurts to lose what you had, but damn it, I'm trying... I'm trying to make things better..."  Shoving his fingers through wet strands of blonde, he growled out his frustration that he could never make things right.  The light press of coldness at his cheek startled him, bright green eyes then meeting somber gray as Squall removed his hand.

The merman looked about to say something, but his lips instead tightened when he vaguely shook his head.  Sitting up in a smooth motion, he leaned forward enough to press salty lips against Seifer's for a chaste kiss and a small taste as a tongue ran across his lower lip.  Before pulling back, Squall whispered into the joining, "This is my hell."

Seifer continued to sit there stunned, his hand still on top his head with fingers spread within wet gold.  Not speaking, the brunette stood up rather unsteadily, soon walking out of the larger man's line of vision as Seifer stared with wide eyes at nothing.  Their life together whirled through his mind as he tried to identify any other moment, any other word that could have suggested the merman wanted more than a simple friendship.  Or rather, as simple as an acquaintance could be between a human and a creature of the sea.  There was none he could remember, not even when he had made the offering of his choker to the stoic beauty had there been anything more than the quiet smile.  ...And yet for years he had worn the item despite their separation, despite his desertion.  Cool metal that still shone like new despite the decade in corrosive salty water.

Moving hands to cover his face, Seifer laughed quietly as cautious seagulls watched him from a distance.

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining -- For anyone confused with setting, it's simply a parallel FF8 world.  No SeeD/sorceresses and some characters have been tossed into the ocean. ^_-  This is a random story I'm doing because I feel like it, but I'm not too motivated to finish it in a rush.  Sorry if this remains a WIP for a long while.