Author's Notes: Prologue and Chapters 1-3 are done. Well, actually the prologue and chapters one through like five or so are done, but four and five still need formatting and editing. No, in case you're wondering, this is not one of those 'the sorceress comes back from the dead' stories. Now, there's nothing wrong with those stories, I actually like a few of them, but there are quite a few of them out there and I prefer a different approach. Basically, I'll be keeping the dead things just where they belong today.
Warning: This story contains yaoi/shounen-ai material. If you do not know what the terms 'yaoi' or 'shounen-ai' mean, then you probably have no business being here. If you are uncomfortable with boyxboy love, then you probably shouldn't be here. You have been warned. This story takes place after the game's end, so if you haven't finished it, you probably shouldn't read it as it does contain spoilers.
From the Beginning
Prologue - Warning Signs
The nightmares were without end.
Every night they plagued him, destroying any hope he had ever had of a peaceful night's sleep. This night was no different.
He had woken only moments ago, sweat running in streams down his broad forehead, his hands shaking where they gripped the coverlet. Perhaps this was the price he had to pay for the things he had done, the lives he had taken. These nights of sleepless torment.
'If it were,' Seifer Almasy decided silently, 'it would not be a stiff enough punishment.'
Tonight's nightmare had been different from the others. Usually, he found himself tormented by the voices of the nameless, faceless many upon whom he had inflicted so much injury. Tonight, however, his tormentor had a face and a name, both of which he knew all too well.
He'd memorized them in childhood and, years later, when his mind no longer retained those innocent memories of their past together, he had a deep scar burned into his forehead to remember that name and face for him. The name was second nature to him, so close to his heart and mind that it could have been his own. It tasted like acid on his tongue, searing through him with it's bittersweet taste. The face stirred a torrent of emotion within him. Rousing a flood of rage, envy and guilt from the depths of his tormented soul.
They were in D-District prison once more, the place where Seifer had tortured his former rival mercilessly in the pursuit of the information his sorceress had so desired. The place where he'd relished the pain he'd been able to inflict on the captive SeeD. Yet, this time, Seifer found it was he, not Squall, who was strapped to the cross.
His wrists ached, chafed unbearable by the shackles that bound them. His entire body was sore to the point where even opening his eyes and focusing on Squall's slim form was an effort which took all his concentration. Was this how Squall had felt when he had been chained to this cross? It was quite possible, though he hoped it wasn't true. He wouldn't wish this on anyone, even his one-time rival. Especially him.
"Do you have anything to say for yourself, Almasy?" Squall inquired, his voice colder than Seifer had ever heard it.
"...Squall, I'm...sorry..." He croaked, his voice sounding as raw and pained as he felt.
"Sorry isn't good enough. Not after the crimes you have committed."
"No more words, Almasy. Your actions have already determined your fate." Squall took a step forward, reaching up to place a cool hand against Seifer's bare chest. "What do you fear most, Almasy? What do you desire most now that your own dreams have been twisted into something vile? Do you dream of anything anymore?"
"I... have no more dreams." Seifer whispered truthfully, his body tensing as Squall's cool hand traveled lower his fingers slipping through the belt loops of Seifer's pants.
This is a dream, Seifer reminded himself silently. A horrible, evil, twisted dream, but just a dream nonetheless. The real Squall would never caress his chest as this one did. The real Squall hated him.
"I think, perhaps, you have one or two dreams left. Dreams which will never be realized because they can only be realized with my... acquiesce." A soft smile curled Squall's features, making him appear suddenly sinister. Seifer felt his blood run cold. "You like me, don't you, Seifer? That's why you were always trying to hurt me. You were trying to kill the feelings I inspired within you. You were afraid..."
"Stop." Seifer growled, his body shivering now. Though he wasn't certain whether it was the barely leashed rage or the bone-chillingly fear within him that caused his body to quake. This wasn't Squall, his Squall didn't talk like that. "Don't toy with me."
"Aw, there's that old fire. The fire of a Sorceress' Knight. I can make the last of your dreams come true, all you have to do is bend to my will. You can have this body, this body you can not deny you desire, if you will serve me just once more..."
That's when he had awoken. Panting and shivering like a leaf caught by a sudden breeze, in the bed where he still sat, silently reliving the dream over and over in an attempt to understand it's meaning. But there was no understanding. For understanding would mean accepting that there was a deeper meaning to this dream. That it could possibly be an ominous premonition of things to come rather than just a shadow of feelings and fears better left dead and buried beneath his guilt, in the dark recesses of his cloudy memories.
No, it was just a dream. A terrible dream which signified no more than a few jumbled feelings and memories which had most likely been ignited by the spicy food he'd eaten for dinner.
Still he sat for a long terrible moment wondering if there wasn't a chance that these visions were more than what they seemed and in that moment he knew what it was to truly fear losing his hard-won sanity. But the moment passed eventually as moonlight drifted into his small room, the moon finally showing it's pale face from behind a veil of clouds. Seifer forced himself from his bed and walked unsteadily across the room to the small window which allowed that sweet bit of moonlight into his darkened room.
"It was just a dream..." He murmured softly as he starred out over the silent city, tucking his arms around his bare chest as he spoke. "Just a dream..."
"It was just a dream..." Squall whispered to himself, careful not to wake Rinoa, who slept peacefully in her own bed only a few feet away from him. "Just a stupid dream..."
But it was a stupid dream which left him feeling weak and afraid. Far more afraid then he'd been in a very long time. Just the thought of Seifer wandering about in those lonely plains where he had found himself after the time compression had ended. The very thought of it left him feeling helpless, panicked.
He could hear Rinoa's soft breathing, but it was little comfort to him. She was his girlfriend and he loved her, but he knew she would never be able to understand his fear. Oh, she would care, of course. She would do her best to cheer him and console him, but she would never understand how it had felt in those long moments after the time compression had ended. That feeling of being utterly and truly alone. Nor would she understand how just the thought of his former rival, a man who had been victimized far more than she had been, wandering those fields forever was enough to make him tremble inside.
No one had heard from Seifer Almasy or his 'posse' since the time compression. There had been stories that they had been seen in Balamb. Even Zell's mother had said she had seen them, but by the time Squall had to investigate, they were gone without leaving so much as a trace of their presence behind. There had also been stories that he had been captured by Galbadian soldiers and was to be executed, but there was never an execution and the Galbadian government denied any knowledge of such an event.
He had investigated these rumors as best he could, but being the headmaster of Garden he'd had far more pressing details to deal with besides his own personal quest. Not to mention the fact that Rinoa had been none too thrilled with the prospect of seeing Seifer again period, much less having her boyfriend seemingly obsessed with finding the man. She had understood that Seifer was important to Squall because he was a childhood friend, but she couldn't understand why Squall was so determined to find his former rival.
"I cared for him too, Squall, but after all he's done I can't wish to see him again. Plus, Timber is still under Galbadia's rule! You can't just go on ignoring their plight by employing SeeD in the search for someone who probably doesn't even want to be found."
Squall sighed. They'd had this argument before, several times actually. "...Whatever. You make it sound like I have the entire Garden out scouring the world for him just because I sent a runner to Galbadia to investigate the rumors of his being imprisoned there."
Rinoa planted her hands on her hips, leaning forward as she spoke. "A runner who could be better employed elsewhere and you know it. You said it yourself, if Galbadia had him they would have already executed him."
'Maybe that's true, but still...' Squall thought, dropping his eyes to examine the stack of papers on his desk, sifting through them without really seeing them. "I just want to know for sure."
"After everything he did, you can still say things like that? He threw me to that... that... monster. He would have killed me... and you and everyone else if you hadn't stopped him. He... he... he's not the person he used to be!"
"Enough." Squall stated abruptly, lifting his gaze to meet his girlfriend's once more. "I've known him practically all my life, even the parts I can't remember. He's a bastard and a bully and a snob and probably the biggest asshole I've ever had the misfortune of meeting, but despite all that he was the closest thing I've ever had to... family."
"But you have me now... and your father." Rinoa protested, throwing her hands in the air. "Oh! You are such a blockhead
sometimes!"Squall sighed, rubbing the scar on his forehead irritably. It always itched when he was upset and now was no exception. He was tired of this arguing with her. It exhausted him. She exhausted him. "Fine. You win. I'll call the search off."
A soft smile lit up Rinoa's face, her mood changing almost instantaneously as it always did when she got her way. She crossed the room and moved behind Squall, slipping her slim arms around his neck. "It's the right thing to do. I'm sorry, Squall, but lots of people need SeeD. Lots of people who aren't Seifer Almasy."
He'd promised her that he would let the matter slip, but had still had Quistis make a few discreet inquiries. Unfortunately all she'd been able to uncover were whispers and hearsay as to the fate of the former Sorceress' Knight.
Well over a year had past since that time and this trip to Esthar was the first time he'd left Balamb Garden for any length of time since the time compression had ended. In fact, if he'd had it his way, he would have stayed there, buried beneath a half-ton of paper work and been quite happy about it. If not for his father's invitation, that is. Or, more to the point, if it hadn't been for Rinoa and Quistis getting hold of his father's invitation.
"What's this, Squall?" Rinoa inquired, lifting the heavy, vanilla-colored envelope from his desk.
Squall barely glanced up from the forms he was reviewing. "Don't know. It came in with the mail yesterday."
"Yesterday?!" Rinoa exclaimed, dropping the letter and setting her hands against her hips. "You haven't opened mail that came in yesterday yet?!"
"No." He replied simply, initialing the last of the forms and depositing them on top of a pile next to his desk. "I haven't had time. Besides, if it were that damn important, the man would've have sent the message through the box." He gestured towards the computer which sat on one corner of his crowded desk.
"As in: that man, which is Squallime for Laguna." Quistis supplied as she strode into the room, carrying a large stack of papers which she promptly placed in the spot on Squall's desk that he had just cleared.
"How do you know?" Rinoa asked, raising an eyebrow at the older girl. "And what's Squallime?"
"Squallime is the name Zell conjured up for the way Squall talks. He always refers to Laguna as 'that man' or 'the damn idiot' but, of course, you already know that." Quistis stated, picking up the slim envelope Rinoa had discarded as well as Squall's letter
opener."Should you be opening my boyfriend's mail?"
"Go ahead, Quisty." He remarked, already busy sifting through the pile of papers Quistis had dropped on his desk.
Rinoa pouted her lips, but moved to peer over Quistis' arm at the letter. After a moment of silence, Quistis sighed and placed the letter in Rinoa's eager hands. Rinoa continued to read it over before finally thrusting it into Squall's face. "We have to go!"
"Go?" Squall questioned, glancing up at Quistis. "Go where?"
"Laguna has invited us to the ceremony commemorating the opening of Esthar to the public. He wants us all to attend, especially
you.""I'm out." He stated simply, taking the letter from Rinoa and tossing it in the direction of the wastebasket.
"Out?! You have to go! We have to go! This is important! Plus, it's the perfect opportunity for you to get to know your father a little better!" Rinoa exclaimed.
"I agree." Quistis remarked, causing Squall to raise an eyebrow in her direction. Quistis never agreed with anything Rinoa said these days. If she was perturbed by his disbelief, Quistis gave no sign. "It is important, Squall. For SeeD, Garden, and you. You need this. You need him."
"Please, Squall? Pretty please? For me?" Rinoa begged, batting her eyelashes prettily in Squall's direction.
After a long moment, the headmaster of Garden nodded his compliance.
So, here they were, in Esthar. Zell, Quistis, Irvine, Selphie, Rinoa and himself. The old gang all together again. It had been a long time since they were all together. Rinoa had been spending her time split between Timber and Balamb Garden, though more of her time was truly spent in Timber these days. Quistis and Zell had stayed by his side, as always, helping where they could. He had reinstated Quistis as an instructor at her request and Zell had become one of the team leaders for SeeD. Irvine spent most of his time in Galbadia, as Squall had asked him to act as the team leader for the SeeD division there. Selphie was busy with the rebuilding of Trabia Garden, something which was coming along quite nicely.
They had arrived late and the president, no, his father had welcomed them all quite happily and shown the exhausted group to their rooms. He had left them to rest after promising that he had all sorts of 'fun' things planned for the next day.
Sighing, Squall turned his face into his pillow half-tempted to scream into it and awaken Rinoa just for spite. After all, why should she sleep peacefully through the night when he couldn't? The dream was still slinking through the shadowy recesses of his mind. The haunting image of Seifer wandering, ragged and exhausted, through the lonely plains of time's forgotten passageways the most prominent of all. Squall closed his eyes in an attempt to block out the image which swam through his mind. Why now? Why now, after all this time, was he thinking of Seifer? Dreaming about Seifer?
He didn't like this, not one bit.
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