When I Heard Your Voice
August 2003

 

"Hey, lonesome.  Have room there for two more?"

Smiling weakly, the seated brunette looked back at the father and son standing a respectful distance away from what Seifer had earlier determined as his personal space.  His large hand sat heavily at the boy's shoulder, preventing Adryan from moving closer without permission.  Seifer doubted the merman would truly mind if the young boy ran up without warning, but here at the pier, the blonde found his lover more sensitive than anywhere else.

All it took was an offered hand and Adryan was immediately by the merman's side within a loose and yet protective hold.  Grinning, Seifer moved to take his place behind the silent brunette, his arm naturally encircling the week old life hidden within Squall.

"You missed breakfast.  I thought I warned you about that."

Head bowed slightly, the merman apologized.  "I haven't been hungry."

"Hn.  I understand.  Just..."  Sighing, Seifer brushed his fingers through the thick locks.  "Don't forget we're here for you, too."

After a moment of hesitation, Squall nodded.  "Give me one last day?"

Laughing softly, the blonde kissed the dark hair.  "You don't have to give up on him, but sitting out here all day long won't ease your mind."

"I know, but..."  With an annoyed huff, the merman leaned back against the large man.  "He usually isn't this responsible."

Certainly not expecting that as a response, Seifer stared amusedly at the man in his hold but didn't ask for further explanation.  He figured it made sense that Squall would only sit out here day after day if he believed his bearer would eventually show.  Given the apparent strict rules of his people, Seifer wondered what type of person this bearer was if rules meant little to him.

"Berenas...  What's that?" Adryan asked, pointing at the water.

Both men looked down into the low waves moving against the pier and there found a large strip of oddly colored seaweed floating along the surface, which wouldn't have been much of a surprise if it weren't for the small turtle helping to keep it afloat.  Immediately the merman reached down to retrieve the purple and green strip of vegetation, Seifer holding tightly onto the brunette as he nearly fell into the surf.  After only a brief look at the seaweed, Squall moved to stand up, but the blonde still held on tight.

"Whoa, what's happening here?"

As if just remembering the presence of the others, Squall looked back with wide eyes at the man.  "Seifer.  The cavern that I took you to when we first met, where is it?  Shouldn't it be close?"

Feeling confused by the sudden energy of the brunette, Seifer stalled before replying, "It's not far, but why ask that all of the sudden?"

Smiling relieved, the merman carefully removed himself from the man's hold to stand up and then reached down to take Adryan's hand in his.  Leading the young boy off of the pier, Squall didn't seem to notice that he had left Seifer behind.  Smirking at the unusual state of his lover, the blonde man stood and hurried with long strides to catch up to the other two.

"So what's the deal?"

Fingering the seaweed in hand, Squall explained, "It's a message to go to the cavern.  It's from my bearer."

Though afraid to hurt the merman's excitement, Seifer asked, "Are you certain it's him?"

"Unfortunately.  He's the one to develop this silly code.  No one uses seaweed like this," he said, trying to appear annoyed, but the light of his eyes clearly stated otherwise.

Deciding to just nod and not bother asking for details, Seifer led the small group to the cavern that he hadn't visited since his early youth.  He remembered it being a dark and rather eerie place, especially for a small child who had heard plenty of stories about ghost pirates and sea monsters.  By the time he had reached the age at which adventures were daily events, a fence was placed at the opening of the cavern to prevent exploration.  Frowning, Seifer wondered if the fence was still firm in place.

After first climbing up the short cliff side, they crossed the lightly vegetated ground toward the other side where the height of the cliff once again lowered closer to the beach.  Adyran was already tugging on the hand that held onto him, the boy finding excitement in the unplanned walk since he had never been in this direction before.  There was really no reason to take him given the rocky beach and numerous hazards for the small boy.

By the time they reached the thin shoreline of more stone than sand, the fair haired boy was riding on his father's back as the merman followed carefully behind.  Eventually a rather narrow opening in the cliff side came into sight, a rusted fence just barely covering that entrance.  It only took a few sharp kicks for the gate to fall flat to the ground.  Leading the way, Seifer stepped carefully through the sloped passageway as he called back warnings to the brunette.

After long minutes in darkness, Seifer was curious when a soft light began to glow a short distance ahead.  It took only one more turn before the passageway abruptly opened up into a wide cavern in which a dark pool of sea water covered a majority of the area and a large glowing ball hung near the ceiling.  While Seifer paused to the side of the entrance, Squall walked past him and stepped close to the water's edge where he frowned at the mirror-like surface.

Eyeing the unusual ball of energy, Seifer knelt down for his son to slide off his back to the ground, and then he stood back up to silently watch the pool of water.  There was nothing for long quiet moments, but after the first ripple of water, Squall stepped quickly into the pool without care for his clothing as it reached his waist level.  The sight of a long haired, lean man emerging from the water alarmed Seifer for the brief moment before he could see the warmth in the dark green eyes and the pained smile.

Squall got in a soft 'berenas' before he was wrapped tightly within wet arms.  The brunette was hesitant in returning the hug, but Seifer recognized it as a normal reaction of his merman towards intimate contact.  After that, melodic words passed between the two, but Seifer was unable to catch any of the few words he knew within the fast flow of their talk.  Glancing down, he smiled at the sight of his son trying his hardest to understand the language, pale eyebrows furrowed in the deep concentration of a child.

There was a bare sign of moving water before another broke the surface.  Seifer was partly awed by the larger size of the second merman and the numerous deep scars that lined across the visible body.  Deep blue eyes glanced briefly at the blonde before his attention turned to the exiled merman.  There was a moment of odd tension until the large merman reached out and drew Squall close.  The quiet 'saer' spoken by the slender brunette was said with part surprise, part relief.

It wasn't until after another string of the musical language, now joined by the deep baritone of the large merman, when Squall finally turned to the father and son standing silently near the entrance of the cavern.  Seifer wasn't certain what he had expected his merman to look like after such a reunion with his bearer, but the continued neutrality of his expression somewhat surprised the blonde.  But with a closer look, he could recognize the slight differences in the vague curl of lips and bluer eyes, hopefully proofs of relief and happiness.

"Seifer.  Adryan.  These are my bearer and sire - Laguna and Chale."

Staring with wide eyes at the long haired merman, Seifer asked, "Is this the Laguna?"

The object of the question smiled broadly.  "He spoken of I?"

"Plenty," the blonde replied, various memories of stories filling his thoughts as he tried to place this feminine looking man into the lead role of several death defying tales.  Smiling vaguely, Seifer wondered how the hell this man was still alive.  Then again, it explained Squall's annoyance that his bearer was being oddly responsible about not appearing sooner.

"This be happy.  Ah, forgive I and bad solas language."

Seifer shook his head.  "It's fine.  I understand you well enough."

A quiet huff sounded from the larger merman.  "If you would stay in place for a lesson once and awhile..."

Curious, the blonde looked at him.  "You have a better understanding of our language?"

The deep blue eyes focused intently on Seifer, making the man feel a chill along his spine.  "And who did you think taught Squall such that he could communicate with you?"

Truthfully, Seifer had never wondered about that, but with it pointed out, he realized that it should have been odd for the merman to know the language of the human race that his kind distrusted.  But before the blonde could ask how exactly Chale knew the language, Squall interrupted his thoughts.

"Saer was cared for by a human in his youth."

Seifer nodded at the vague explanation, his interest already turning to more important matters about these two mermen, such as why they took so long to reach their son.  But yet again, his thoughts were interrupted before he could voice them.

"You must bond," the large merman stated, his muscled arms crossed over his chest in a resolute stance.

"I refuse," Squall said before Seifer could ask what was meant by this 'bond'.

Surprise was clear on the face of the long haired merman, Laguna then placing a gentle hand at the back of Squall's neck as he spoke softly at some length in their language.

"I know, berenas.  I know all of that, but..."  Looking to the blonde man, Squall finished by saying, "None of this is Seifer's fault."

Eyes narrowed, Seifer focused on him.  "Don't you dare try to take all of the blame.  If Adryan wasn't right here, I'd remind you in plain detail just how you got pregnant.  So stop being an ass and tell me what the hell this 'bond' is about."

After a stunned moment, Laguna chuckled quietly.  "He best for you," he stated, tapping a finger on Squall's nose.

Scowling, Squall brushed away the hand.  "They wish for us to 'bond', to join as life mates."

"You mean marriage?"

The exiled merman hesitated in thought before nodding.

Seifer smirked.  "Well damn, if that's all it is, why refuse?  I wasn't planning on getting rid of you anytime soon, so we might as well hook up."

Shaking his head, Squall looked conflicted with how to explain why bonding was a bad idea.

His smirk softening with amusement, the blonde man placed a hand on his son's head and whispered for the boy to stay put on dry ground.  Though wincing at the coldness of the water, Seifer stepped directly to his merman and placed a warm hand against cool skin to force eye contact.  He stared deep into the pools of blue-gray, easily seeing the uncertainty that held Squall back, but the sharpness of desire was also there.  Seifer resisted a sigh at the merman's continued inability to allow himself happiness.

"I know of your love for me.  Maybe I can't match it, but I do care deeply for you.  And now you are giving me another son...  Face it, Squall, I'm not going to let you slip through my fingers a second time.  Bond or not, I want you with me for as long as you can stand me."

An almost pained look crossed the attractive face before the merman leaned forward to press his body against the larger man.  The fingers of his left hand intertwined with Seifer's right hand, Squall then moving their joined hands out from their bodies and down into the dark water that reached up to their elbows.

"Do it before I come to my senses," he said without looking at anyone.

"Uh, wait, what exactly happens here?  What do I do?"

"Just be still," Squall said as the other two mermen slipped beneath the water's surface.

Though feeling nervous about the unknown situation, Seifer held back his questions in a sign of trust.  Encircling his free arm around the slender waist, he placed his cheek against dark hair and smiled at the feel of softness.  But the moment of pleasure was interrupted when there was a ticklish touch at his arm beneath the water, the sensation something like a string being wrapped around his wrist.  Squall pressed tighter against him just as a faint melody began to vibrate within the cavern.  There was the odd thought that his merman had a better voice before Seifer was overwhelmed by unexpected pain, his hand feeling on fire despite being immersed in cold water.  But as quickly as it came, the agonizing sensation ended as a breeze of cool, healing energy passed over his arm.

After a few reviving breaths, Seifer asked, "What the fuck was that?"

"Bonding."

After an irritated snort, the blonde rested his chin on a shoulder while avoiding the urge to look down at what he knew should be a charcoaled hand.  "You know, you aren't very helpful."

The reflective surface stirred next to them just before Laguna emerged from the water, his wide smile somewhat unnerving to the blonde.  Without asking, he grabbed the joined hands and lifted them out from the water before Seifer could think to protest about moving injured body parts.  The sight of his undamaged hand further silenced him as his eyes wandered down to stare at the band of blackened skin around his wrist.

"Strong love give strong child," Laguna said in a hushed voice before kissing the marked wrists of the two men.

"Seifer..."

Reacting to the low voice, the blonde pulled his eyes away from the dark bands to glance briefly at pale blue orbs before he was suddenly attacked by soft lips.  His thoughts ran fast at the action, Seifer at first feeling surprised at his merman's unusual aggressiveness, and then he felt extremely pleased with himself as Squall hummed with passion into their kiss.  But the building pressure of desire within the blonde quickly turned into unease when Seifer remembered that they weren't alone at the moment.  With more force than he thought would be necessary, he pushed Squall away.

Smirking down at the brunette, Seifer said, "Call me crazy, but I think I missed the 'you may now kiss the bride' part."

"Shut up," Squall ordered before lifting up for another kiss, teeth making their appearance as he bit gently into his lower lip.

After allowing himself a moan of pleasure, Seifer was once again forced to control himself and push the smaller man away.  "Hyne, you have to stop that.  We have an audience, you know."

The merman pouted, the typically reserved man apparently unbothered about being watched.

"Papa...?"

The sound of the young voice further cleared the haze of desire from Seifer's mind, the blonde then moving carefully to the pool edge where Adryan reached out his arms in a sign to be carried.  Holding the boy tight at his side, Seifer turned to take a few steps closer to Squall.  The smaller man met them halfway, him focused on the blonde child with the usual shine of fondness in his blue-gray eyes.

"Are you really my mommy now?" Adryan asked with obvious hope.

Smiling softly, Squall shook his head.  "You only have one bearer."

"Oh.  Okay.  But you're still berenas, right?"

"If that's your wish," the brunette replied.

"Yeun," a deep voice interrupted, Chale looking at his son with an apparently typical unreadable expression.  "Let me examine you before we must leave."

Nodding, Squall moved to the large merman.

"This be golden child?"

His attention previously focused on the brunette, Seifer was startled by the questioning voice.  "Uh, what?  A 'golden child'?"

"This one," Laguna said with a soft smile as he brushed fingers carefully through Adryan's hair.  "He hold golden light.  Worth our loss."

"I... I'm sorry.  If I had known..."

He shook his head.  "Past be past.  Together now."

Adryan shifted in his father's hold to look directly at the merman.  "Don't take berenas.  Please?"

Laguna smiled amused at the plea.  "Squall stay."

Relieved, the boy returned the smile.  "Thank you, al-berenas."

Dark green eyes widened before the merman tapped the small nose.  "Good health, leis-yeun."

"Wait," Seifer said before Laguna could move away after the apparent parting words.  "Where have you been?"

Amusement gone, the merman shook his head tiredly.  "Squall tell.  I hold bad language.  Good health, bhen-yeun.  Care Squall?"

After sparing a moment to figure out the meaning, Seifer replied, "Of course I'll take care of him.  But I hope you're planning on a return trip."

"Squall tell," he said while treading backwards to where the larger merman was speaking to Squall.

With a sigh of frustration, Seifer hitched his son into a better carrying position before moving to the edge of pool.  Sitting on the hard ground, they watched as the two mermen spoke quietly to their exiled son.  His hand stroking lightly through pale strands of blonde, Seifer tried to imagine losing his own son to someone of another race and world, but he couldn't begin to figure out what any of the mermen could be feeling.  It didn't help that two of them held the same preference to hide emotions behind a neutral mask, Squall clearly adopting his firmer attitude from his father.

Moving his arm to wrap around Adryan, he leaned over to whisper into a small ear.  "You know I love you, right kiddo?"

"Yeah," was the response as the boy leaned shyly against Seifer.  "I love you, too, Papa."


Feeling warm and relaxed after his shower, Squall stared longingly at the large bed covered by a thick comforter.  The sunlight from an open window spread temptingly across the mattress, the rectangle of light positioned perfectly for warming a body.  However, he was reluctant to give into the urge for an afternoon nap, even if his body felt the exhaustion common during the early part of pregnancy.

"You might as well lie down."

Turning, Squall resisted a scowl in the blonde's direction.  "We have to talk."

With an amused smirk, Seifer stepped up to take a hand and pull the merman towards the mattress.  "So?  We'll talk while you lie down."

"I'm not tired."

"Uh huh.  But doesn't the bed sound much better than the couch?"

"Adryan--"

"Has been fed and is currently playing in his room.  He'll be good for hours."

"I don't want a nap."

"You won't fall asleep.  Remember, we're going to talk," Seifer said, the teasing glint to his eyes not amusing Squall in the least.

Even so, the brunette surrendered to the larger man, Squall soon finding himself curled on top of the sun warmed bed with Seifer serving the role of his pillow.  The merman realized instantly that it was a dangerously comfortable position, but he figured the blonde would keep him awake with the numerous questions he should have.  Sighing inwardly, he resigned himself to the fact that there was plenty to explain to his bonded, which meant he'd probably be talking for most of the afternoon.

"So..." Seifer began as he rub a hand along the brunette's back.  "What took your parents so long to show up?"

"Berenas wanted to come sooner, but Saer had him under constant watch.  Even had him locked within our home at times."

"You've got to be kidding me."

Squall smiled vaguely at the image of Laguna scowling when he had spoken of such treatment.  "No.  Apparently Saer now has a few scars from when Berenas tried to escape.  While he was allowed some time near the shore to listen and watch over me, Saer stopped him from doing something stupid.  Rion, my intended, was watching them closely."

"Why?"

"Revenge."  Staring at a faded scar on his forearm, Squall said, "I chose a human over him.  He was shamed by that."

"And he wanted to get to you through punishing your parents?  That's rather petty."

"He lost me and thus his future status of a saer - he has the right to be bitter.  And when Saer convinced the elders to let me spend my sentence here with you...  Rion was furious."  Despite himself, the merman smiled vaguely at his own words.  He hadn't known until today that it was his sire and not his bearer who had fought to bring Squall to the shore where Seifer could easily find him.  Being unconscious and bearing unhealed wounds from Rion's premature punishment had also earned sympathy from the elders.

"Still sounds like a fucking coward to me.  So he lost you and wanted to catch your parents trying to contact an exiled merman, right?  That still doesn't explain why they didn't try to speak with you, like with that dolphin months ago."

"Using animals to pass along messages was banned after Rinoa's stunt."  Frowning slightly, he thought to himself about how his half-sister had still gotten in trouble for sending the message about their common bearer.  While it technically wasn't direct contact with an exiled merman, it was implied that any kind of contact was forbidden.

"Okay...  Then what about today?  Seems like a lot of rule breaking was going on."

"Officially, yes, but unofficially the elders are very interested in a child born between our two races.  They have agreed to help distract certain people while my parents can meet with me secretly."

"And if they're found out?"

"They will be exiled to separate lands and our child never mentioned again."

"Hn, they are risking a lot for you."

At the words, Squall felt guilty for his relief that his parents would be present during key points of the pregnancy and that his sire had promised to help with the birth process.  He knew the cost was high for such aid, but he also knew the stubbornness of his parents and was shamefully relieved that he hadn't been able to talk any sense into them that morning.

"Squall.  Look at me."  When the order was followed, Seifer continued to say, "Don't blame yourself.  You don't have your own kid yet, so you can't understand how a parent would do anything to ease the pain of his child.  Truthfully, this makes me respect those parents of yours a lot more that they're finally doing something to help you out."

"There are rules..."

"And rules are made to be broken," the blonde stated with a smirk.

Shaking his head, but unable to hold back an amused smile at the man's simplistic ideals, Squall returned to his previous position with his head resting on the broad chest.

Seifer sighed.  "Alright, enough about that.  Tell me what the hell I've gotten myself into with this bond thing."

Not answering directly, the merman moved his hand to lightly stroke the underside of Seifer's marked wrist.  Through their link, he could feel the white heat of the man, a silent power that had been passed down to one son and most likely to the coming child.  It would be a terrifying power to anyone else who could understand it, but Squall found comfort in sensing the chaotic energy.

His eyes not moving from the blackened skin, the merman spoke in a hushed voice.  "I'm sorry for doubting your love."

"What, thought I didn't want you after all?" Seifer asked, humor clear in his tone.

"No, I knew... I hoped that you truly cared for me, that it wasn't pity, but I have done nothing to deserve this."

"And just what don't you deserve?"

"The mark of the bond is reflective of our desire and our need to be with one another.  I've never seen markings so dark..."  Squall fell silent as he thought about just before their bonding, the moment when he was certain that he would find out how much less Seifer truly wanted him.  To witness the equally dark band on the man's wrist proved his strong love.  Smiling vaguely, Squall decided he should have realized that the blonde only does things in extremes.  "But that marking is just a sign of the active bond.  Its actual purpose is to help a bearer throughout a pregnancy."

"How would something like this help you?  I already promised to stay with you no matter what."

"The bond doesn't force you to stay near me.  It only links us, making us more aware of each other."  Sighing, the merman removed his hand from Seifer's wrist and shifted his position to better hide his face and thus any unintentional signs of emotion.  "There are basically three parts of our pregnancy.  The first few months are the easiest when the growing child will only take away some of my strength.  After that, it will become more uncomfortable as my body will be forced to adjust for his size and movements.  But that is also when my mind should be affected by the unusual chemicals produced during pregnancy.  I only know what Berenas has told me about it, that at the worst times it will feel like I'm lost in the darkest of oceans and only the whisper of my bonded will be able to guide me through such periods."

"And the last part," Seifer prompted after a moment of silence.

"It is the shortest part in which my body will ready for birth," Squall said, proud to repress a shiver at the thought.  Too many times he had witnessed the final weeks of his bearer's pregnancies, that being the only situation during which Laguna couldn't manage a smile.

The blonde sighed loudly.  "You know, bringing a child into the world should be a lot easier than that."

Squall shrugged.  "There are legends about us upsetting a god who then cursed us."

"Hn, sounds like something Hyne would love to do," he muttered before carefully pushing Squall aside and then pulling him up into a tight hold.  "For the record, I know you're keeping things from me, but that's okay.  I'll drag everything out of you sooner or later.  All I care about right now is that you know I'm here to protect you, to serve you, and to do whatever else I can to make this easier.  But that means you have to abuse your power over me, got it?"

There was a stunned moment before Squall could push away the desperate need from the bond that clouded his mind.  "Yes, maie anleh."

"Good."

After long moments of silence in during which his eyelids were beginning to feel heavier, the merman tried to shift out of the hold, but found himself thoroughly trapped.  The brief struggle was then followed by Seifer moving his leg to entangle with the brunette's leaner legs, further entrapping him.  Squall was certain he could feel the blonde smirking at his victory of pinning him to the bed.

"Seifer, let go of me."

"I will."  He faked a yawn.  "But after my nap."

"I'm not tired and I will not be babied like this."

"You are and you will.  Go ahead and get some rest.  It may be a long night for our honeymoon.

Frowning, Squall tried to look up at the blonde.  "Honeymoon?"

Seifer chuckled at the questioning tone.  "Later.  Sleep first."

Easily recognizing the suggestive laugh, the merman found himself without the urge to continue the argument to get himself out of an afternoon nap.  Closing his eyes and relaxing into the warm hold of his bonded, Squall easily pushed away the nagging thought that he was letting himself be handle by the blonde, and soon feel into a light sleep.

~ > < ~

Running a hand through wet hair, Squall walked with an insignificant limp as he went to the front door.  Just before reaching the entrance, there was a second string of knocks from outside.  Eyes narrowed in thought, the merman tried to figure out who could be visiting at this time in the early evening.  Adryan was away at the Kinneas home for the next couple days, and Selphie would be more likely to call than to just show up if anything was wrong.  But he didn't waste too much time on thought and opened the door, his body freezing at the revealed sight.

The white haired woman standing on the porch looked equally surprised, then managing, "Seifer?  Here?"

It took barely a second to make the painful decision, Squall then stepping aside so that the smaller woman could enter.  "He's getting cleaned up and should only be a moment."

Nodding her understanding, she then touched the band of her eye patch in a nervous motion.  "You are?"

"I was just leaving.  Tell Seifer 'thank you' for me."

Her single red eye narrowed in confusion, but Squall didn't stay long enough for her to question him.  He realized it was probably wrong to leave so suddenly without a parting word, but he couldn't manage logical thought at the moment.  All he could imagine was Seifer telling him that it would be wrong for Squall to stay with the woman's return.  Resisting tears of weakness, he silently reminded himself that he always knew of the possibility that Seifer's intended and Adryan's mother would return someday.  It was never his right to try and replace her.

And so Squall walked to the only other place he knew that would temporarily house him until he could figure out where else he could go.  With every step he was reminded of how the afternoon had been spent, and a tight smile appeared on his face when he thought about how his bearer never mentioned the second reason why his kind get so tired during the first months of pregnancy.  Remembering his bearer and situation, Squall realized that he'd have to get word to his parents somehow, to find a different meeting point.  Just the day previous, his sire declared everything normal for the third month point, and so they wouldn't be back for another few months.  There was time to decide things.

The sun was near setting by the time the merman walked into the small town he knew well by this point.  Arms wrapped tightly around his midsection, he tried to ignore the increasing chill of his body.  Tears threatened once more when he realized that it'd be harder to get sleep that night without Seifer's body to keep him warm.

"Squall?"

Blinking, the brunette looked up from the ground to see Selphie quickly approaching him, her eyes filled with worry instead of her typical energy.  Before he could find it within him to speak, the young woman had an arm wrapped around him and led him forward to the nearby house.

"It's okay.  We'll just sit you down and then I'll make up some hot chocolate."

Squall didn't even bother to nod and simply let the motherly woman guide him inside the building where a small figure instantly attached itself to a leg.

"Oh, Laney, honey, I've told you not to do that.  Come on," she said, lifting the young girl into her arms.  "How about you leave Squall alone for now and I'll treat you to a cookie.  Hmm?"

The girl pouted.  "I want 'Quall."

"Laney--"

Squall interrupted her and reached for the young girl.  "I don't mind."

Though at first reluctant, the mother handed over her child with a sigh.  "You let these little monsters get away with too much."

Smiling vaguely, the merman moved to the couch and sat back against the plush cushions with Laney at his side.

While working in the kitchen, Selphie talked to the seated brunette.  "Irvine and the boys are out back playing some game to destroy the new clothes I just bought them.  They should be in soon enough, but don't let them near you until I get the chance to clean them up.  I think I heard something about a water fight earlier and that means Irvine probably had the hose on them.  I swear, it's like I have three boys and not two."

Squall didn't offer any type of reply to the woman's talk as he watched Laney examine the dark skin encircling his wrist.  She seemed almost determined that there was a way to remove the band.

"Berenas...?"

The merman looked up at the questioning voice and found Adryan walking towards him, the hazel eyes oddly intense in their worry.  Despite the plenitude of mud and dirt covering the child, Squall reached out to cup his hand around a cheek.  He knew he should tell the boy that he shouldn't think of him as a mother anymore, that his true mother had returned, but the words refused to form and his mouth stayed shut.

Hazel eyes widened slightly before Adryan grabbed the arm and hugged onto it.  "Don't go."

Squall looked away from the accusing eyes, but still he couldn't find his voice.

"Don't go.  Don't leave Papa and me.  Don't take haidras away."

Forcing a smile, the merman said, "Your brother will always be there for you."  He knew how important the unborn child was to Adryan, that his dreams had become less bothersome with the appearance of a guardian to protect him.  And yet there were also the dreams in which he would witness his brother's death, those leaving the boy shaking and crying for hours.

The blonde child shook his head.  "You, too.  I want you, too."

Squall took a deep breath to calm his traitorous emotions, and then opened his mouth to speak to the boy.  But he was quickly interrupted when a door slammed open.  Turning quickly at the loud sound, the merman stared wide eyed at the sight of Seifer leaning against the doorframe while taking deep, ragged breaths.  After wiping the sheen of sweat from his face with his shirt, the man then straightened to his full height and glared at Squall with burning green eyes.

After a tense moment of silence, Selphie cleared her throat.  "The hot chocolate is on the stove, so don't let it burn.  Come on, sweeties.  Let's go see what everyone else is up to," she said while picking up the young girl and then taking a hold of one of Adryan's hands.

Once alone, Seifer moved from his position at the door and walked to the kitchen instead of the couch.  His back turned to Squall, he spoke in a low voice.  "Were you ever going to tell me why you decided to leave?"

Returning to his previous position on the couch, Squall bowed his head.  "Your intended returned to you.  And I... I didn't want to hear from you that I must leave," he admitted.

"Why the hell would I say anything like that?"

"You should.  I don't want you in trouble because of me."

There was no response for a time, the silence then disturbed by the sounds of Seifer moving things in the kitchen.  Shortly after, the large man stepped over to the couch and sat next to Squall while holding out a steaming mug of dark chocolate.  The merman tried to thank him, but his throat felt tight and his voice wouldn't sound.  Instead, he held onto the cup with both hands and wished he could pull in the heat further within his chilled body.

Suddenly a warm hand was at his cheek, forcing him to look up at Seifer.  The heated anger of before had vanished from the green eyes, now replaced with something closer to amusement.  But before he could further examine the expression, Seifer leaned in to lightly press chapped lips against his, the chaste kiss quickly turning into something deeper as Squall drew in the heated breath of his bonded.

When the kiss broke off, Seifer leaned against the merman and laughed deeply.  "You're such a fucking pain in the ass."

Squall frowned at the comment, but said nothing.

"Haven't you realized yet that we don't work like you?  We don't have arranged marriages, or at least most of us don't.  Fujin was never my intended.  Fuck, she wasn't even my wife.  We were going to get married once everything with Dray had settled, but she left me before that."

Eyes widening, the brunette asked, "Then, you aren't breaking your laws?"

Again he laughed.  "No.  And even if I were, I wouldn't give a shit."

Pushing aside rising hope, Squall clutched at his mug.  "But, this woman...  you were happy with her.  And Adryan deserves his mother."

At that, Seifer sighed and leaned back against the couch.  "I was happy, but I don't think it would've lasted.  We were both young.  Since then, Fujin had returned to the mercenary group.  Coming back today seemed like a random decision on her part.  She wants to try us again, but I don't think she really knows what she wants...  Squall, did you tell Dray that she came?"

He shook his head.

"Hn.  For the better that way, I guess.  She didn't want to see him.  Her own freaking kid and...  She knew he wouldn't be there today.  Selphie always takes him at the end of the month, and she was counting on that."  Chuckling without humor, Seifer placed a hand on his face.  "I can't believe I'm going to say this, but she's too immature for me anymore.  Fu just wants back what we had - some good fucks in between some good fights.  But I need more than that."  Removing his hand, he glanced at Squall and smiled.  "I need you."

The merman closed his eyes, memories briefly going back to the day years ago when he first set eyes on Seifer after the long period of absence.  He had been overwhelmed with emotions at the sight of the matured human, the blonde appearing far stronger and more confident than in his youth.  Squall had the sudden desire to be near him, to hear his voice once more, but at that moment, Seifer had turned and held out a hand to someone the merman hadn't notice.  Seeing the obviously pregnant woman had crushed the hopes he never realized he had in connection with the man.  And now, to hear that he was being chosen over the woman who had brought such clear joy to him...

"I didn't want to leave," Squall whispered.

Fingers brushed along his cheek and then raked back into his hair.  "Do me a favor next time and talk to me before you decide to walk out?  I ran those two miles here, and I'm not a young man anymore."

Smiling, the brunette opened his eyes to look at him.  "You didn't say that this morning."

"Hmm, you just make me feel young."  He then frowned, moving his hand to the back of Squall's neck.  "You're cold to the touch.  Are you feeling okay?"

After a nod, the merman sipped at the somewhat cooled drink and savored the warm richness as it further calmed his nerves.

"Alright, finish that while I go find a blanket.  It's getting dark out, so we might as well stay for the night.  Selphie certainly won't mind."

It didn't take long for Seifer to return from a bedroom, then placing the fetched blanket around narrow shoulders.  The man then knelt down before the seated brunette and placed his hands along the thickened waistline.  Eyes closing in pleasure at the touch of his bonded, Squall spread his legs so that Seifer could move closer and lightly kiss the hidden life within him.  The blonde then wrapped his arms around Squall and rested his head on the merman's midsection.

"Don't leave me again."

"I won't, maie anleh."

 

{Continued}

 

Author's Whining -- Whee, only one more chapter left of this pointlessly long story.  Sorry it's been taking so long, but I warned you all about that from the beginning. =P  Thank you for the comments thus far.  They have been much appreciated!