I hiss out a 'shit' as I beautifully smack my shoulder against the doorframe while stepping into the corridor of the lowest level of Garden. Massaging the already bruised shoulder, I walk with heavy steps down the hallway and towards the large room being used for a temporary infirmary for the load of injured soldiers. I think it's been a little over a day, probably longer, since Seveyn and I came here. The battle had reached its ugliest point during the black of night, leaving numerous SeeDs and cadets injured or dead. While a minor comfort, the quad area has been secured at last, and I have to assume that the attackers have discovered by now that they have no backup from the desert. Eventually they'll back out completely, but it'll be too late for them. SeeDs won't let anyone who has hurt our own escape so easily.
The sound of muted voices of numerous people reach my ears when I near the gym area. A couple of large soldiers at the doorway briefly glance at my approach, but then step back inside once recognizing me. A few moments later, I step inside the gym myself and pause at the sight of so many young soldiers resting on rows upon rows of cots. After a time of scanning the large room, I don't see the familiar shine of white hair that I was looking for. Gaining the attention of one of the soldiers that guard the doorway, I ask about Seveyn, then describing him when I only get a blank stare.
"Oh, you talking about Angel?"
I blink. "Angel?"
"Well, yeah. That's his name right? That Murai girl yelled out 'Angel' when he first showed up and we all assumed it was his name."
Pressing a hand to my face, I inwardly groan. "His name is Seveyn. She just... no, never mind. Do you know where he is?"
"Probably in the immediate care area doing his thing. It's down that way," he says while thumbing back to the far corner behind him, the section screened off by curtains.
After thanking him, I stride in that direction with a renewed sense of energy at the idea of seeing Seveyn with my own eyes. Berkeley has continually reminded me about Nuala keeping watch over the longhaired beauty, but mere words did little to appease the worry I felt during the lull moments between attacks. One poorly guarded entrance is all it would have taken for a small party to sneak into Garden and cause some real damage, but thankfully that hasn't happened as of yet.
Rounding the barrier of curtains, I stop stunned at the sight of splattered blood covering this side of the curtains and the scuffed floor of the gym. My focus then quickly shifts to the form kneeling next to a heavily injured SeeD soldier, and seeing the pale skin of delicate hands coated in fresh blood, my first instinct is to rush to Seveyn's side and examine his body for injuries. Before I have that chance, I'm entrapped by arms that, by my experience, are stronger than they appear.
"Isan! You horrible person, not coming to see me before heading into battle. At least I had my angel to keep me happy, but I've been so worried since you first disappeared."
Pulling my gaze from Seveyn, I then smile weakly at Nuala's pouting expression. "Sorry 'bout that, but the quad--"
"I know, I know. Super soldier to the rescue, but I still don't forgive you." Releasing her hug, she steps to my side to look at Seveyn with worried eyes. "It's a good thing you're here, though. Our angel is being difficult. He hasn't gotten a moment of sleep since he arrived."
"I'm fine," comes an irritated voice, Seveyn then standing with his task apparently done. Without looking at me, he moves directly to a water basin that sits on a small table and begins to wash the blood from his hands. It takes only three steps before I'm behind him with an arm wrapped around his waist.
Leaning forward, I speak softly next to his ear. "I don't believe you when you say that."
He stiffens slightly, but then relaxes in my hold and places a wet hand on mine. "There are two more that need me."
I nod, recognizing his tone as one that isn't offering any options. "Two more, but then I want you to rest with me. I'm exhausted."
He glances back at me, the reddish eyes obviously tired but vaguely amused. "Is that blackmail?"
"What, that I won't rest until you do? Not blackmail - just the truth," I say with a smirk.
With a defeated sigh, he says, "Two more, and then I'll lie down."
"Good. I need to see Dr Takamura, so look for me wherever he is. All right?"
Instead of a vocal reply, Seveyn lifts up high enough to brush his lips against mine, quickly pulling away before I have the chance to make the kiss into something more lasting. As if I've already been forgotten, he moves to prone figure next to the far wall, freshly cleaned hands pressing gently against a deep wound.
After wasting a few moments watching him work, I turn away sharply and ask Nuala to point out where the Garden's doctor was hiding. It takes awhile before I find the doctor making his rounds through the rows of cots. He looks up when I approach him, the lean man smiling broadly at the sight of me.
"Isan, my boy. I heard rumors that the lion cub finally came back."
It's so easy to find myself smiling back, Dr Takamura having a similar charisma to Granddad in getting people to relax around him. "Hey, doc. I've got a cut that should be looked over. You have the time?"
He nods, his normally slicked back hair falling in front of his eyes. "What I wouldn't give for a shower," he mutters while brushing aside the longish blonde hair. He then leads me to the back of the room and to another curtained off area where he motions for me to sit on a raised table. When I pull back the sleeve of my shirt and undo the bandaging, he makes a loud tsking noise. "A cut, you said? This is going to need stitches, boy. Normally I'd use a potion..."
"But we haven't enough potions or cure spells to spare. I know that. It's why I'm asking you to look it over." I leave out the bit that I'm feeling too tired to bother healing it myself with the energy of the guardian forces. While our family trusts Dr Takamura with many of our secrets, he doesn't need to know everything.
He talks to me while gathering his supplies. "You and your parents. I once had your father come in for a yearly and he mentioned a sore spot in his foot. This so-called 'sore spot' turned out to be a nail rammed deep into his heel. With all the cure spells he uses during missions, the damn fool had probably healed over the entry wound without bothering to examine for debris first. Who knows how long he was walking around with the thing."
I just smile, enjoying the casual way he speaks about my family. The light haired, brown eyed man is a part of my earliest memories, the young looking doctor never without a warm smile. He's in actuality too qualified for his job of fifteen years, but he never wanted his own practice for some reason. I think his parents or relatives were close to Dr Kadowaki, the doctor of Balamb Garden years back, and it was from her that he got the idea that working for a Garden would be the more interesting option.
After a few stitches in numbed skin, Dr Takamura speaks quietly to prevent others from easily overhearing. "How's your mother? His due date is just a few days away if I'm not mistaken."
"He gave birth already."
Dark eyes glance up briefly before he refocuses on his task. "Well, I'll be... Then he could do it naturally after all?"
"No, I guessed. It makes sense that the child would have to come out the way she came in. I had a theory that the magically formed opening sealed itself to either protect the fetus, or assuming the character of the sorceress, to prevent a route of abortion. But when I mentioned the possibility of natural birth to your mother, he refused instantly. 'Drugs and a very sharp knife,' he said, 'or I'll use my own blade.'"
I laugh at the imitation of my mother's stern voice that doesn't fit the doctor in the least. "He said something similar when he gave birth. He wasn't very happy about it, and Dad would've lost his head if Lion Heart had been within reach."
Dr Takamura chuckles lightly. "That doesn't surprise me. Remember, I've been listening to your mother's grumblings for the past nine months. I must say that I'm disappointed to have missed the main event, though. In this line of work, I see more deaths than miracles of life."
I hesitate before saying, "Actually, that's something I need to speak to you about..."
When I don't continue, he looks up and smiles. "What, your parents planning on a third child?"
I nearly gag on a burst of laughter. "Hyne, no! Mom would kill Dad for even mentioning it. No, it doesn't have to do with them. The spell has been kind of used on someone else."
Finishing the stitches, he cuts the thick thread and then rests back in his chair. "Kind of? As in someone is kind of pregnant?" he questions with a teasing grin.
"You know what I mean. Just, will you be able to take care of him like you did Mom?"
"Isan, you hardly need to ask. I would never turn down someone in need. May I ask how this came about?"
"I'd rather not go into details, but it's my child he bears."
Knowing not to press, or at least for now, the doctor nods. "Well, I like to consider myself the expert in this unique field, so trust that your partner will be in good hands. And when do I get to meet this mystery boy?"
"You probably met him, actually. He's been helping here since the other day."
"Oh, is it that white haired boy? Angel?"
I sigh, wondering just how many people have been confused by Nuala. "Right person, wrong name. It's Seveyn."
"A-ah, then Miss Murai was being figurative in calling him her angel. I suppose I should have known better. Well, to my shame, I haven't really spoken with the boy, but I know that he has done a lot of good down here." He leans forward, his voice going even lower. "May I ask something off the wall?"
Curious, I nod.
"Does he have the powers of a sorceress?"
My voice caught at the unexpected question, I only stare with wide eyes for precious seconds, that being enough of an answer for the doctor.
"I figured as much. He hasn't once asked for healing or reviving spells since arriving, and by the numbers of those he has treated, I know he should have run out."
"He's only trying to help," I manage to whisper, worried about Seveyn being revealed as a sorcerer within Garden walls.
Dr Takamura laughs. "Oh, please, boy. I know that. With our stocks near depleted, your partner is Hyne's gift to us. But I also know perfectly well about the prejudice of SeeD soldiers against sorceresses. Don't worry. I'll just file this under patient confidentially," he says with a wink.
I get in a relieved 'thank you' to the doctor before I hear someone calling my name. A moment later, Seveyn steps into the curtained off area, red eyes widening at the sight of my stitches.
"Why didn't you tell me you were hurt?" he scolds while rushing to my side.
I move my arm and push down the shirt sleeve before he can attempt to heal the wound. "It's nothing. Save your energy for those who need it. Seveyn, I'd like you to meet Dr Takamura."
Frowning at the change in topic, he looks over at the grinning man. "We've already met."
"Perhaps, but not formally. He's been the one to take care of Mom for the past months, not to mention being our family doctor."
Understanding comes to Seveyn slowly, him then shyly moving closer to me. "He knows about... us...?"
"None of the details, but he knows the important thing," I say while wrapping an arm around his shoulders and placing a hand on his stomach. "He's already agreed to help us out."
Reddish eyes shift once more to the doctor, Seveyn stiffening vaguely as he presses against me. "If you want."
The wary tone of voice worries me. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"Sorry," he says softly. "The coat... it's nothing..."
Blinking, I look at the man, suddenly realizing how the doctor's coat looks like those used by scientists. Before I can voice this, Dr Takamura is already removing the clothing and drapes it over the back of his chair. Standing in an unthreatening stance, he smiles warmly at the young man in my hold.
Somewhat startled, Seveyn nods at his question.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of. I've dealt with plenty of youths who have bad memories in connection with doctors. I'll try to remember to dress in something more casual for future appointments, but put up with me if I happen to forget. Well, normally I'd do a thorough examination right now, but given the circumstances, that will have to wait. For the time being, I want you both to get some rest. I'll even let you borrow my personal cot. It's a full half inch thicker than the rest of them," he says with exaggerated pride. "I have to get back to work, but if I happen to see either of you up within the next several hours, I won't hesitate to sedate you. Understood?"
Grinning with a sense of victory, I nod at the question while Seveyn frowns slightly. I don't hold it beneath the beauty to sneak away once I would fall asleep. It's good to know that I have others watching over this nuisance with me.
A few minutes later finds us lying on the cot placed in the back corner of the area Dr Takamura had apparently declared as his work station. With Seveyn pressed tight against me given the small mattress, I nearly laugh out loud when I catch myself gently rubbing his flat stomach. All these months I had been teasing Dad for being obsessed with my mother's stomach, and here I find myself acting just as foolishly.
But I don't have much time to dwell on that idea, long hours of fighting quickly catch up to me as I fall asleep with my angel safe in my arms.
Shaking my head, I try in vain to move the strands of hair that annoying slip in front of my eye. Unable to move my hands from the blood soaked body, I sigh at not thinking to rebind my hair after sleeping with Isan for who knows how many hours, though it's not like I really had the chance. Nuala had basically pulled me out of comforting arms, her frantic about someone being shot. Only half awake, I barely understood her words and merely let her pull me towards the familiar corner of the gym turned sickbay. When I had set eyes on the large man who had first greeted Isan in the control room, I immediately knelt by his side and began the process of drawing the numerous bullets from his body before I could properly heal him.
"Close your eyes," comes a soothing voice.
I follow Isan's command, flinching slightly when blessed coolness wipes over my forehead. Reopening my eyes, I can't afford a 'thank you' for fear of breaking the string of spells that are keeping this man alive. Leaving me to my task, Isan stands and moves to the other side of the curtains where several voices are harshly whispering, most likely about how the Acting Commander's attacker managed to get past the defenses that are in place. But I don't concentrate on them, and instead focus on the flow of magic within me, using it to coax his body to heal the worst of his wounds faster.
Lost in the healing magic, I'm startled when someone touches me. After staring with confusion at the hand covering my bloodied ones, I then look to the face of my current patient and find lightly colored eyes half open in both amusement and fatigue.
"I'm good, kid," he says in a gruff, but kind voice. "You're just curin' hangnails at this point."
I nod and shakily remove my hands from freshly scarred flesh. I consider standing to wash my hands and then maybe to find Isan, but I feel robbed of strength. The mere thought of moving suddenly sounds daunting.
"Hey, you're the guy Almasy brought, right?"
Again the man startles me, myself figuring he would have dropped to sleep already. "Yes, sir."
He grins sleepily. "Stupid kid didn't bother to introduce us. I'm Alexander Torres, one time caretaker of that lion cub."
"I'm Seveyn, sir. A friend of Isan's."
The large man chuckles. "Oh, more than friend, I'll bet. And funny, I had the notion that you were that Angel guy people have been talkin' about."
Before I have the chance to answer, another speaks from behind me. "Nuala's been having her fun spreading around the wrong information." Isan then kneels to my side, thankfully placing a water basin on the floor for me to wash my hands while he speaks to his friend. "Well, you're looking like part of the living again, Ander. How do you feel?"
"Like I've lost a load of weight," he says, blue eyes shifting to look at the scattering of bullets around him. "Shit, you certain I'm alive?"
Isan grins at him, then places a hand at my neck to pull me in close for a kiss to my temple. "You did amazing, Sev, but it's time for more sleep. We only got in an hour before this happened."
I stare at him vacantly, bewildered that it had only been an hour of sleep. I swore that it felt like more, but I guess that explains my exhausted state after this one healing, even with it being complicated from the severe damage by machine gunfire.
Laughing lightly, Isan helps me to stand and lets me lean against him as we walk slowly back to Dr Takamura's area and to the awaiting cot. Despite the impossibility, I feel as if I could fall asleep while walking like this. At least I can trust Isan to catch me, and probably even carry me in the case that I do somehow drop off to sleep.
But that chance is lost at the sudden cry of 'Isan!'. Both of us a bit dazed, we glance over at the running form of Berkeley. His torn clothing and broken glasses startle me, and when he comes close enough, I unthinkingly reach out to heal that bruising that should soon turn into a blackened eye. He hurriedly brushes away my hand.
"No time," he says with panting breath. "A group of SeeD are heading here to kill a sorcerer."
Isan's grip on me tightens almost painfully as he glares up at the main entrance of the gym.
"You can't fight them, Isan. Get Sev the fuck out of here while I'll try to stall them again."
I'm suddenly pushed to Berkeley, the injured man looking upset as he watches the taller teen step forward. "Are you going to kill your own kind?"
Isan looks back with a strange gleam to his eyes. "If necessary."
Sighing, Berkeley moves me behind him as he forces us to step back closer to the wall. With nothing else to do, I place a hand on his shoulder and cast a healing spell over his body. He looks back at me with a nervous smile, thanking me quietly.
By then, a group of fifteen or so SeeD soldiers have quickly crossed the expanse of the gym to face Isan. A young woman of pale brown hair stands a step before the group, dark eyes narrowed on the gunblade master when he doesn't move out of their path.
"Step aside, Almasy. We will speak to you later about giving this sorcerer entry past our defenses."
Isan doesn't obey the command of the instructor. "He is no danger to us."
"He is a sorcerer. As SeeDs, it's our duty to rid the world of such menaces."
With casual grace, Isan removes his dark blade from its sheath and holds it loosely to his side. "As his knight, I won't let you harm him."
The woman takes out her own weapon, a long dagger, and moves quickly such that the blade rests against Isan's neck just beneath his chin. She smiles smugly and opens her mouth to say something, but in a blur of an attack, Isan grabs her wrist and pulls her off balance before ramming the hilt of his weapon against her temple, the woman dropping to the ground unconscious. With unusual coolness, Isan resumes his previous loose stance to glare at the others within the small group. He doesn't goad them or anything I would normally expect him to do, just simply stands there in a silent promise of no mercy for anyone else who dares to advance.
"What the fuck is happenin' here?" asks a loud voice from the side. Glancing away from Isan, I'm surprised to see the Acting Commander walking slowly in our direction, the large man relying heavily on Dr Takamura to keep him upright.
"Sir," starts a redheaded man from the front of the group. "We interrogated one of the enemy leaders and discovered the existence of a sorcerer, specifically that man with the long white hair whom Almasy is protecting. Eitzen tried to get Almasy to stand down and he attacked her."
I want to argue against the ridiculous accusation, but I bite my lower lip instead, knowing that the words of a sorcerer won't help Isan in the least.
The large man looks to Isan. "Is it true that this guy is a sorcerer?"
The man hums at the answer, then releases his hold on the doctor to stumble forward the remaining short distance to the group, easily towering over everyone there. Without a hint of warning, he punches the redhead that had spoken previously, the one man bringing two others to the ground with him as he falls.
"You assholes got me up for this? Who gives a fuck if he's a sorcerer as long as he's on our side."
The group as a whole seem to take a step back from the growling man, a voice barely speaking out from the cluster. "But the purpose of SeeD--"
"Is to handle bitch sorceresses, not the good ones. I'm too tired to explain this shit out to all of you children, but let me make somethin' clear - you touch that kid, I'll be right there to hold you down so that Almasy can kill ya nice 'n' slow." He turns a bit shakily as Dr Takamura once again becomes his crutch. "Oh, and be careful gettin' your asses out of here."
Blinking at the odd comment, I glance to further back in the room and discover several familiar looking people now blocking the main exit as they glare at the small group of soldiers. It takes awhile for my muddled mind to place their faces, but I suddenly realize that they are all people I've treated in the past couples of days.
I push Berkeley's guarding arm away from me as I stumble forward, the task of walking suddenly a challenge. "Isan, no. Don't--" I trip stupidly on my own feet, but a strong arm easily catches me. I look up, momentarily stunned at the hardened gray-green eyes. "Please, Isan. I don't want anyone else hurt..."
For several painful seconds, he only stares down at me with the silent words that he wouldn't mind killing them if I would only command it. I met his gaze as best I can, pleading for this to end before the situation could get worse. Finally he relents, calling out behind him without breaking eye contact with me.
"Give them free passage."
After a few moments hesitation, there is the sound of boots scraping on the gym floor, then followed quickly by hurried steps moving for the exit. Sighing relieved, I lean into Isan's warmth and find great difficulty in keeping my eyes open.
"Come on. You need sleep."
I mumble something that hopefully sounds like a 'please'. There's a light chuckle in response, quickly followed by the ringing of his gunblade being sheathed. Without warning I'm lifted into the air, cradled protectively in strong arms. Looking up into his face, I'm comforted at the sight of the now softened green eyes.
He carries me easily to the curtained off area meant for Dr Takamura's use, two SeeD soldiers approaching us before we get beyond the flimsy barrier. Isan pauses in front of them, but doesn't speak as he glares at them.
"Chill, Almasy. We're good. Just want you to know that we talked with Murai, and she wants us to keep an eye over you and Angel here while you sleep. It's no prob, really. Payback and all."
"Fine, and his name is Seveyn," Isan mutters before stepping into the closed off area.
A short moment later finds us as we were only hours before - lying close together on the narrow mattress with a warm hand firm on my stomach. It's strange how I forget most of the time about the life that is beginning within me, but then Isan does something as simple as stroke softly at that one spot, or say something about 'the both of you'. It almost frightens me how much he must think about our child to make such actions natural to him. But then...
Sighing, I place my hand on top of his and interlace our fingers as a random thought comes to me - I hope our son has Isan's eyes.
No longer humming, I simply continue the gentle rhythm of the rocking chair while listening to the soft breaths of my daughter as she sleeps with her head resting on my shoulder. The occasional murmur by the ten-week-old makes me smile vaguely as I wonder what her first word may eventually be. If Seifer gets his way, she'll be yelling out 'mommy' long before she learns 'daddy'. Who knew his simple plan of getting Isan to call me 'mommy' would have another huge benefit for the lazy ass. I still remember him saying, 'He's asking for his mommy to change his diapers,' or the like. Well, I won't fall for that trick this time around.
"All right, Squall. Put the kitten down."
I look over to the doorway and glare half-heartedly at the blonde.
"She fell asleep easily twenty minutes ago, and you still need to get ready for tonight. That is unless robes are all the craze for formal dinners these days. I know I certainly wouldn't mind."
Surrendering to his rare stroke of reasoning, I stand up smoothly from the rocking chair and reluctantly place Azura into her crib. I'm allowed barely a minute to make certain she's covered properly before Seifer drags me away to our bedroom. Already dressed in his tux except for the jacket, he happily sits on our bed and crosses his legs.
"Strip for me, lovely."
I scoff at the order while slipping off my robe, then throwing the piece of clothing at him. He catches it too easily, but I guess it's better than listening to him complain about me ruining his hair. I hardly notice the green eyes focused on my every move as I dress for the damn formal party Dad talked me into. I suppose I had better get used to this given my idiotic decision to run for the presidency. Really, there must be some way to blame this on erratic hormones.
While I stand in front of the mirror to adjust my tie, Seifer steps up from behind to fit the cummerbund around my waist. That done, he rakes a hand through my hair while staring into my eyes through the reflection of the mirror.
"Couldn't you have left your hair long? It looked good."
"Too hot and annoying."
"Hmmm, isn't that how you describe me?"
I resist a childish roll of my eyes and step away from the mirror so that I can put some shoes on. After I slip on a newer pair of black shoes, I'm momentarily confused by Seifer holding out a hand to me. Looking up, I find his smile entirely too innocent to be anything but suspicious.
"Fuck, you know I only bite in bed. Come on."
He takes my hand when I apparently take too long in deciding to trust him, the blonde dragging me to the front room. Immediately I notice the loveseat and coffee table have been moved to the side to create a wider area of clear space. Seifer releases my hand and walks briskly to the entertainment center, myself getting my first look at the time.
"Seifer, I thought we were supposed to be in a rush. Isan won't even be here for forty minutes."
Smirking back at me without reply, he turns on the stereo, ballroom music suddenly filling the room from the numerous speakers. Moving in a flamboyant, dance-like stride, he approaches me and holds out his hand in a clear offer to dance with him.
An eyebrow arched high, I ask him, "What is this about?"
"Well," he starts while taking my hand, then pulling me into his larger body, "I know that I'll have a better chance to dance with Ward tonight than you, so I figured that I should get my urges out of the way before the party. You know I can't resist you when you're all dolled up like this."
I huff at his ridiculousness, but still sway in time with the music.
"Shall I lead or you?"
"Go ahead. You're too tall for me to bother."
Laughing, he easily finds an entry beat to begin a proper dance for the current song. It takes us a few minutes before we truly find our rhythm, the blonde then throwing in an occasional complicated combo that isn't a part of the basic dance we first learned in our student days. Though I'll never admit it out loud, there's something nice, almost calming about taking the woman's role and letting Seifer guide me through the music. Unfortunately, I've also had much more practice in this role. I blame my relatively short height and the smaller fraction of females in SeeD that made me rather skilled at following. Having a relationship with a man much taller than me certainly added to my problems.
Eventually reaching a lull in the music, Seifer finishes a move such that I end up with my back to him and his arm tight around me. Lips brushing against my ear, he says in a low voice, "I guess I shouldn't hold my breath for us to dance on our wedding day, either."
I nearly laugh at the fishing statement, my agreement or disagreement about the dancing would only be a verification that I will marry him. Amusingly, he hasn't once mentioned the wedding since our brief imprisonment those weeks ago. I'd wager me in a cocktail dress that he's been afraid I would back out of marrying him, using the situation as an excuse.
"One dance, and you can lead."
He completely misses the next few beats, but then abruptly flings me outward to return such that I press up against him face to smirking face. "But I thought I was to be the bride."
"Can I help it if you're a klutz at following?"
Laughing deeply, he then steals several small kisses before moving onto another dance that best fits the music. I end up enjoying myself far too much in the complex moves that had taken us months to learn, albeit to fulfill a lost bet to do the tango properly with Seifer. It wasn't my fault the class taught a variety of dances with each session. ... Wait a minute. The tango... Ah, shit.
"Seifer, about that one dance--"
"Don't worry. I'll make certain to have a long-stemmed rose on hand."
Hyne, how do I continually fall into these traps of his?
Several songs later, I'm once again trapped by strong arms as Seifer hums along with the current tune, his lips trailing lightly down my neck with gentle kisses. Before I can comment on his bad timing, the front door swings open as a grinning Isan holds the door for Seveyn.
"Practicing for tonight, are we?"
I scoff overly loud at the comment while I try to disentangle myself from the encircling arms, but Seifer seems determined to make that difficult for me. Ever since his sudden turn in attitude last month, Seifer has deemed Seveyn a part of the direct family, thus leaving me with no excuse to demand for discretion. It's a wonder Isan hasn't been too embarrassed to bring his boyfriend around, our help with the pregnancy aside.
A quiet cry abruptly sounds from the back room, but the bastard still clings on tight and prevents me from reaching our daughter. I'm tempted to get violent, but I would hate to ruin such expensive clothing.
"I'll get her," Seveyn offers with a knowing smile as he walks to the nursery.
With Azura taken care of, Seifer finally releases me. "The last thing you need is baby puke covering your clothes. While I'd find it endearing, I doubt the politician sort would care much for the fragrance."
Frowning, I decide to not argue with him this time, but like hell I'm going to be happy about it. Ignoring Seifer, I turn to Isan and silently examine the way he seems to have suddenly grown in the past several months. I've already heard over a month ago from the new Headmaster about Isan's performance during the week long battle, not to mention the team he led to hunt down remaining members of that organization. While Isan gave us some of the details about fight, he never mentioned his own roles in the battles. Damn kid, I swore he had gotten Seifer's braggart ego, but now I'm wondering what other stupidly heroic feats he's been doing behind our backs.
"How has Seveyn been feeling? We haven't heard from you in the past couple weeks."
"He's doing great. Barely any problems with nausea unlike you for some reason, though he has been really tired lately. Oh, and Dr Takamura did that heartbeat thing just the other day. It was amazing," the youth says with a very familiar grin of a proud father.
"Nearly finished with the repairs. Mostly touch up stuff at this point, like repainting the quad area. And I've already signed up for leave starting in another month or so. Um, are you certain it'll be okay for us to stay here? We don't want to intrude."
Seifer speaks out first. "Don't worry about it, kiddo. We'll just abuse your presence as cheap daycare for when Squall and I have to run to Esthar for various functions. Just make certain to stick to your side of the house and you won't hear anything that will leave you scarred for life."
Isan snorts. "That's assuming I'm not scarred already."
"Well, there was that time I dropped you on your head, so I guess you should have a scar from that."
Shaking my head at their talk, I gladly let my attention be distracted when Seveyn walks in with Azura cradled safely in his arms. After kissing the small child on top her head of lightly colored hair, I grab both Seifer's tuxedo jacket and my own from where they had been draped over the back of the couch.
"Let's get this over with," I mumble while heading for the front door, Seifer soon following behind.
In short time, the Esmarque is flying under the blonde's control, myself always satisfied to let him pilot or drive whenever given the choice. I'd rather spend the time lost in my thoughts than bother with the numerous gauges and the possibility of ramming into an unsuspecting bird or rodent. Watching the passing scenery reddened from the setting sun, vague thoughts fill my mind without true order, but inevitably settle on worries about our young daughter. It's completely ridiculous, this irrational protectiveness I feel for her. During the first couple weeks, I actually yelled at Seifer once when he tried to take her from my hold and force me back to bed. Though he was obviously hurt from my outburst, he never held it against me. I think he talked to our friends who visited since none were insistent on holding Azura, only asking the one time and then accepting my pathetic reasons why they couldn't have her. Granted I've gotten better over the past month, able to let family handle the baby girl, but unless it's Seifer, I still feel anxious about having her out of my sight. Tonight is probably going to kill me. But the dreams are the worst, reminding me every night that Azura is lucky to be alive.
"I didn't want to lose her."
Seifer straightens in the pilot's seat and looks over without a comment about me making that statement out of nowhere. He's been around me for too long, knowing well that I tend to speak starting directly from my thoughts.
"At the prison when we could have left through magic... I was afraid of losing her."
His eyes brighten slightly in curiosity since this has been one matter that I continually avoid at all costs. "Losing her? How?"
I shrug. "It was stupid. I just had this idea that she'd be born while stepping through that portal and be lost between planes... or something..."
To his credit, Seifer doesn't laugh and only smiles in that 'you're a nutcase' way of his. "You almost did lose her, Squall. We'd just be kidding ourselves to believe otherwise. Shit, I don't know how you handle everything as well as you did. And if you ask anyone else, they'd say your overprotective nature was adorable."
"Adorable? Wait, let me guess. Selphie."
"Nope, Quisty. Selphie stuck to mostly squeals, a-aws, and other meaningless rubbish that I wouldn't repeat to save my life."
"Anyway, everyone understands that you need to work your way through this. There's no rush, and you certainly aren't as bad as some mother's out there. You know, Selph was talking to me about this one mother at a parent's meeting who refused to let anyone within breathing distance of her youngest kid. Nearly screamed her head off when some little girl tried to look in the stroller. Then there was this other woman who demanded that children should wear helmets on the swings..."
Smiling softly, I let Seifer ramble on about the stories he's heard from Selphie and random articles in the news. It's been too long since I've heard him rant about the more mundane side of parenthood, his hand occasionally waving about while he questions the sanity of people who don't let their kids live a little bit dangerously. 'You don't understand the value of life until it's threatened,' has been a common saying of his, typically just before he'd tell me about Isan getting hurt somehow.
But we have a daughter this time around...
Why does it seem magnitudes simpler to worry about a child suffering from broken limbs rather than that 'unfresh feeling'?
Though with some awkwardness, I manage to place Azura carefully on the thin mattress without waking her, several blankets soon covering her small body since she'll kick off at least two of them during the night. Smiling softly, I lean on the crib railing for a time to simply watch her in peaceful sleep. Only six months past, and yet she's gotten so much larger than the first time I had held her in my hands. It's almost scary how fast a child can grow before your eyes, that if you blink, you might miss something truly important.
And then there is myself. In truth, I think I've been an enigma to the two Almasy men. Apparently I'm much different than Squall when he was pregnant, but neither Squall or I are surprised by that fact. For me, it's an extremely simple case - I'm happy. I was content with life before I met Isan, not knowing or really understanding what I was missing from my existence. I was just surviving as best I could, that being the only way I knew how to live - survive or die.
But now I'm surrounded by family at every turn. Even Selphie (my habit of calling her Mrs Kinneas forced to an end during her first visit when she learned of my pregnancy) has become a strong part of my life, Squall mentioning several times that the woman finds far too much enjoyment in a man getting pregnant. And I doubt I would have been able to enjoy this creation of life without Squall to lead me through every step, assuring me about the oddest things being absolutely normal. For some reason, my bellybutton popping out last week really scared me and it wasn't until after about an hour full of crying that I was able to say what was bothering me. I think I completely flustered Isan for the first time, only Squall able to calm me down to talk properly.
And Isan... There simply aren't the words. I never imagined needing and wanting a person as much as I do him, and it still confuses me everyday that I wake up to look at his sleeping face. By far, he is the reason for my happiness. And though it bothers him to believe so, I know that I would do anything for Isan, and it still wouldn't be enough to repay him for what he has given me.
With a final look at the resting babe, I push up from the crib side and walk out of the nursery to head to the front room where Isan had been reading one of his adventure novels. Walking into the poorly lit room, I find him apparently done with reading, the book set aside on the coffee table as he stares vacantly at the far window while lying sprawled on the length of couch. Eventually he decides to notice my approach, abruptly turning to sit up straight with his feet on the ground. A lazy smirk in place, he motions me to come to him while his soft green eyes look me over thoroughly. When I'm close enough, he grabs a hand to pull me to stand directly in front of him between his spread knees.
"Hyne, you're gorgeous," he says before gently kissing my expanse of stomach that isn't covered by the tank top I sleep in.
He shushes me. "I don't care if you don't believe me. You are beautiful, my angel." Suddenly he kisses my bellybutton, kneading it lightly with his teeth. At my unintentionally loud gasp, heated eyes then look upwards. "You know, since Mom and Dad will be staying in Esthar tonight..."
I try not to laugh at his hopeful tone. "You want to?"
His answer is a lecherous grin that, even after all these months, makes me blush hotly. Taking that as my reply, he stands up smoothly from the couch and takes my hand to lead me back to our bedroom on the other side of the house. With half my mind functioning, I force myself to remember to turn on the baby intercom while Isan quickly strips off his typical sleepwear of an old, torn shirt and faded boxers. Before I begin to remove my own clothing, he's suddenly behind me and stops my movements. Arms wrapped around my chest, he partly drags me to the corner of the room where a full length mirror covers the closet door.
I vaguely try to squirm out of his hold. "Isan, what--"
He shushes me quietly, warm hands lowering to my expanded waist where the tank top can't cover. Very slowly he rakes up his hands fingers first beneath my shirt, his eyes intent on the mirror as skin far paler than his is revealed. I don't hate seeing my body like this, myself only ranting a couple times in the past about being too fat to let others see me. Instead, every time I see myself in the mirror, I direct my thoughts to loving the child growing within me. Isan's child. If there's anything I fear most, it's our son being ashamed of how he was brought into this world, or worse, thinking we would care for him any less because of that event.
After removing my shirt, the dark haired youth thumbs my boxers and then lowers slowly to help me be rid of the clothing. Standing at the same languid speed, he runs his hands up along my body that feels so sensitive as of late. Light moisture makes me shiver when he runs his tongue up along my spine. Once straight, he moves back a step to unclasp the binding on my hair, long whiteness fanning out behind me. Pulling aside some of the strands, he kisses the back of my neck near my shoulder.
"So perfect," he mumbles in something akin to awe.
I wish I could correct him, but at this point, my voice is completely lost as I let him lead me back to the bed. After moving a pillow to the bedside, he has me sit on the edge of the mattress with the cushion under my lower back to raise my hips. With a brief grin of warning, Isan is then kneeling on the ground as the warm roughness of his tongue licks along my beginnings of an arousal, his mouth soon enclosing around the sensitive tip. Moving my legs to hang over his shoulders, I press my feet against his back and try to remember to breath properly as he assaults me like this. It's only been a few days since our last night with his parents out of the house, and yet it seems like it must have been longer for this to feel so amazing. Hyne, and to think I didn't truly understand what sex was over a year past.
As warmth momentarily leaves me, I'm soon humming at the smell of almond. Isan chuckles low at the sound just before coated fingers press deep within me. He takes great care each time to stretch me, busying himself with light kisses across my swollen stomach. Though I'm starting to believe he does this because he simply enjoys getting me to that point of squirming beneath him, needing more than just his fingers. After nipping gently at my exposed bellybutton, he stands smoothly while letting one of my legs slip from his shoulder. Eyes half closed in pleasure, I stare at true perfection, his body tight with lean muscle. If it weren't for that lump in my way, I'd be tempted to sit up and have my own fun with tasting his body. The lava like heat of his power stills overwhelms me when I sense it with my own abilities.
Moist warmth rubs against me, but he doesn't press forward until getting my vague nod of consent. I still can't help a small cry at that first moment of joining, an unexplainable sense of completion always surprising me. In some ways, it's too much for me to believe that this is real, but Isan's quiet groans and whispered words assure me that he is here, that this is truly happening. He then begins a steady rhythm of thrusting deep within me, and that's when I'm completely lost in the sensations of sex. The most amazing part is the occasional press of my erection between his hardened stomach and my swollen midsection. I don't even try to rein in my pleasure in the attempt to make this last, knowing that it would be futile. It's much easier to let myself go in that wave of sensations and hope Isan can find his own release.
When I try to blink away sudden darkness, I smile at the sound of quiet laughter. Looking to the side, I find Isan lying next to me, his eyes narrowed in satisfaction and amusement.
He makes a tsking noise while closing the distance between us. "What have I said about apologizing when there's nothing to apologize for? You were lovely." Lips press against mine in a hard kiss that gradually softens into light caresses before he pulls away to roll onto his back with a content sigh.
"Don't hate me, but..."
"I really want a hotdog, now."
Green eyes go wide before laughter bursts from him. At my pout, he tries to control himself, but fails the first few times. "Sorry, but it's... it's almost an insult. Oh, Hyne, of all the things..." Smiling wide, he sits up with renewed energy and kisses my pregnant stomach before standing. "Let's get that little guy fed, then, shall we?"
Still feeling hurt at such loud laughter, I scowl at his extended hand for a long moment before accepting the help. Not bothering to dress, Isan pads out to the kitchen while I first put on a large robe. I walk a bit peevishly into the main area of the house, but then slow to a halt before reaching the unlit kitchen. As I stand there watching Isan bent over and bathed in the white light of the refrigerator, I'm struck by a thought that comes from nowhere and makes my heart ache.
"So, is it still onions, relish, and honey mustard on toasted buns, or you feeling like something else?" He looks over with a packet of hotdogs in hand, his soft green eyes filled with such tenderness as they focus on me.
Without replying, I walk up to him and take the bag out of his hands to place it on the counter. He watches me confusingly, looking half ready to defend himself from an emotionally crazed outburst. Meanwhile I'm lost in thoughts, trying desperately to remember every moment of ours in the past year.
"I've never told you."
He places a hand at my cheek, his thumb rubbing soothingly along still heated skin. "Told me what?"
"You have and I... oh, Hyne." My vision blurs from a sudden rush of tears.
"Hey, it's okay," he says while pulling me into a hug, but I push away at his chest.
"No, it's not okay. I love you and I haven't ever told you!"
After a quiet moment except for my pathetic sniffles, a warm hand cups my chin and makes me look at him when I didn't even realize that I was avoiding his gaze. Isan smiles down at me. There's no amusement, no lust, no excitement in the curve of lips. Just a simple smile of absolute peace.
"It's about time," he says quietly before leaning in for a chaste kiss, then wrapping his arms around me in a sheltering hug before whispering in an almost unheard pained voice, "It's about time."
"... and it is my deep honor to introduce him to you. My son and your newly elected president, Squall Leonhart-Almasy."
With a grace that demands attention, Squall stands up from his seat on the raised platform and meets his father in what he meant to be a polite hug, but Laguna was never one for half done hugs. Taking a moment to most likely regain his breath, Squall then thanks the crowd before going onto the speech I've already heard twenty times by now. So instead of listening from my position at the bottom of the stage, I turn my attention to Torres who speaks softly into his headset that's connected with the other security personal.
"Everything look good?" I ask once he finishes getting an update.
"So far, though I doubt anyone 'side yourself could take that lion down."
I grin at the large man, pleased that he still has the guts to talk casually with me. I had been only mildly surprised months back when I learned that he gained the Commander role after that mess in Esthar. The kid has a good heart and I can trust him with our Garden. "Well, enough stalling. Did you get our application?"
He nods. "You're not gonna like the answer, though."
That surprises me. "What, we were denied?"
He laughs, quickly catching himself before upsetting someone on stage. "Nah, never somethin' like that. But just to be curious - did you know ya described your kid to the letter? 'Side from the note that Isan couldn't be used."
"Come on, there must be plenty other SeeDs that would fit the position of a personal guard."
"That's personal guard to the President of Esthar, remember. Since the cash is comin' from the government, Klein had to speak with the Counsel directly. It's them old guys demandin' for the best, so we have to supply the best."
"Shit. Aren't they just a little wary about our family taking over the country or something?"
Torres shrugs, grinning with amusement over the situation. "Actually, it's only for the first term that he'll work as bodyguard. Your kid is goin' to be shoved into the Headmaster track after his mandatory points are in."
I blink. "Wait, say that again, but make sense this time around."
"No jokin'. You should've seen the cub during that one week. No way I could've handled Garden alone without him on the front, and that Angel kid has a kind of fan club that has been whinin' at me to get him back. They don't believe me when I say that we didn't kick him out for bein' a sorcerer."
Well, Squall's going to have a field day with this one. And to think that there was a simpler way than war to practically take over this country, placing it under control of the Almasy name.
But my musings are short-lived when my cell phone buzzes against my waist. Looking at the message screen, I'm momentarily stunned by the code that shouldn't have appeared for another week. Damn impatient kids, never showing any consideration for the situation at hand.
Waiting for a break in applause, I yell out Squall's name, then waving the phone when he looks in my direction. Stormy eyes widen slightly before he turns to the audience. "Well, there are several other matters that I had wished to speak to you about, but I'm afraid that I must cut this short. And truthfully, without such excessiveness, this all comes down to two main points. First, I'm greatly honored by your faith in my ability to lead this city and country. And second, I promise to do my best to live up to your trust in me. I thank you for this chance, and may Hyne continue to look over us all."
With a small bow, he steps unhurriedly toward me, waving for his father to join him. The old man looks confused until Squall leans over to speak into his ear, dark green eyes then going wide before he smiles broadly. Hooking an arm around Squall's shoulders, Laguna forces him to hurry off the stage.
"Torres, we're taking the escape route out of here, and then we're heading to the basement of the building."
The large man looks at me oddly, then shrugs. "Then I guess the press session has to be postponed?"
I slap his shoulder. "Good man. Have fun telling the vultures that."
"Whoa, wait a minute. You should be the one... Sir!"
By then I'm at Squall's side as we walk quickly beneath the staging area and head for one of the numerous side tunnels into the president's building. Laguna keys in the security codes, the old man still technically president for the next three months in a transition period. It's only the sound of boots on floor echoing in the tunnel as we hurry to the medical floor of the building. After passing through two more security doors, we make it to the lowest level and soon find Selphie doing her best to hold onto a screaming and kicking Azura.
"Squall! Thank Hyne you got the message." The small woman lets me have the crying kitten, my baby girl quieting slightly once in my hold. "I think she got upset with the little angel going into labor. Shhh, don't cry, Rainy. He'll be okay," she says while kissing a tear covered cheek. "Squall, you should head inside. Seveyn is doing a good job of putting up a front, but I think both of the boys are really shaken up."
Squall nods, slipping off his suit jacket and handing it to his father. After kissing Azura on her forehead and wiping some tears from her face, he steps into the medical room, two voices and loud groans filtering out to the hallway in the brief moment before the door closes once more.
Leaning against the opposite wall, I quietly shush my kitten and rub the small back to calm her down. "So what happened? I wouldn't expect you to be here."
"O-oh, it was such bad luck, those poor things. Seveyn supposedly didn't realize he was in labor, or didn't want to admit it with his due date next week. But then his water broke, and you know there's no turning back after that point. By the way, he was very torn up about making a mess of the couch. Here he was in the middle of labor and he's worried about trying to clean up the cushions before they could stain. Anyway, that's how Isan found him. After getting Azura and her bag, he had to drag Seveyn out to your flyer, but then discovered that you didn't leave the right set of keys."
"What? I can't believe... whoops," I say intelligently, looking at the keys I pull from my pocket.
"Right. Whoops. No flyer and no car, so Isan called Balamb for Quistis to pick them up since he couldn't get a hold of you. Something about being out of range. Anyway, I just happened to be visiting Quistis for lunch, so I volunteered to handle the boys since she would've taken too long. I swear, that woman is like an old lady when she pilots. So I stole the Ragnarok III from her, picked up the kids, and flew straight here."
"Thanks for getting them, Selph. We owe you."
She grins happily. "Isan has already paid off the debt. I'm going to be a godmother!" she cheers with a hand punched high, acting like the teen I remember all too well.
Shaking my head, I then look at the wide-eyed kitten who has finally quieted, but she still seems suspicious of her surroundings. While I'm happy enough to be silent, Selphie and 'Sir Laguna' start to talk about his plans for retirement. Right. 'Retirement'. I have a good feeling that he'll be hanging around the president's building long after Squall officially takes over. At least we can take advantage of his presence as a babysitter for Azura.
Abruptly a sharp cry rings out from beyond the doorway, the sound instantly quieting the two others in the hallway. It takes my mind a long moment to truly comprehend the meaning of that wailing, but when it does, it hits hard - I'm officially a grandfather.
"Fuck." Wincing, I remember the impressionable youth in my arms. "Shit, I mean... Hyne, Squall is going to kill me. Selph, stop laughing and get this kid away from me."
The woman too busy snickering at me to be useful, I rely on the old man to hold onto the kitten while I move into the room. I first pause at the open doorway, enjoying the sight of Seveyn leaning heavily against Squall while the older man says something quietly to the exhausted youth. I've found it amusing how quickly Seveyn became like an adopted son to my lion, something about the lab rat drawing out the protective side of the brunette. I still remember about a month into the kid's pregnancy when I found Squall teaching the boy about changing a diaper. It still makes me smile to remember how the brunette was twitching to take back his daughter from Seveyn's hold, but Squall held back on his protective urges and let the kid rock the freshly cleaned Azura back to sleep. For my lion to trust him that far, I reluctantly gave up my grudge against the sorcerer, his darker side appearing truly dead.
When Isan gets a hold of his newborn son wrapped tightly in warm blankets, he sits on the edge of the raised bed to hand the bundle off to Seveyn. Shifting his position to rest in Isan's hold, the new mother smiles weakly down at his son as if he can't believe the little thing is real. Standing up from his chair, Squall stretches before looking at me with a silent command to get my ass over there. I happily obey and step up behind the smaller man as I wrap one arm around his waist and take his hand within my own, my thumb rubbing lightly at the silver ring on his finger.
"How'd it go?"
"As expected, though I believe your son is going to kill you for leaving the wrong keys."
I wince inwardly, hearing the undertones that Squall is also planning something painful. "I'm not worried since you'll protect me, right?"
"My services are too expensive for you."
"But your daughter needs her father, I mean, she already has 'daddy' down solid and you wouldn't want to waste half of her vocabulary."
Squall smirks in a way that says he couldn't care less.
Sighing in defeat, I look to the new parents as they gaze down at their child. "Shit, were we really that young once?"
"You aren't helping. You're supposed to say we're still young and damn gorgeous."
Before I can comment further, Isan looks up at us. "Hey, does Grandmom want to hold his grandson?"
And once again where I would've been punched out for such wording, Squall smiles softly at his son and reaches over to lift up the infant held out to him. With the baby in his arms, the brunette automatically begins to sway with a gentle rhythm while looking fondly down at the vaguely squirming boy.
"How does it feel?"
"I haven't a clue," he says in an unusually awed tone.
Chuckling, I hug him tighter. "Congratulations, your family has gotten even bigger."
He closes his eyes briefly, then smiles vaguely wider than before. "Not bad for a couple of orphans, is it?"
"Nope, not bad at all." Glancing down at the reddened face, I suddenly find myself staring deep into light bluish-green eyes moist with tears. Speaking softer than before, I say distractedly, "Thank you, Squall."
"For choosing to have Isan. For giving me all of this."
"Idiot. As if I need to be thanked for that."
"You do." I kiss the back of his ear, then mumble against his neck, "I love you so much."
Squall slows his sway to a stop, standing straight for a second before leaning back against me in a silent statement of love, trust, and comfort that in some ways means more than if he were speak out loud. Knowing this lion, he probably just doesn't know how to put words to what he's thinking, and that's fine by me. I haven't spent my life learning his wordless language for nothing.
Author's Whining -- Sorry for the rushed ending, but I covered everything I wanted to in this part and I'm planning for more detail in other sections of the Life Series. As I've mentioned before, there will be more side stories oriented on SxS for those who care only about that pairing, and eventually there will be a sequel to this that will focus on the two new Almasys. Nothing too exciting, and don't hold your breath for when everything will get done. =P
And since they've been horribly neglected throughout my writings, thank you to my three fates (aka betas): Miss Dincht, WolfPilot06, and Okane-chan. Couldn't have done this without you three.
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