Eyes closed, I push back my frustration as I start from beginning of the song I've been composing since earlier this week. I can't find the right chords to lead into the ending lines of this worthless piece of music, and though it would bring me great pleasure to burn the sheets I've scribbled notes on, I can't find it within me to destroy the song my father requested. It's based on the tune my mother used to sing when she thought no one was watching, but given my father's memory, he could only hum pieces of the song, and I have the sneaking feeling that he added a few other songs he remembered from his past.
Abruptly, I'm forced to stop playing when my wrists are taken into warm holds and my hands are pulled from the piano keys. My eyes snapping open, I glare back at the only man who would dare to disrupt my work with such lengths. Green eyes glitter with amusement as Seifer smirks back to prove his lack of concern about my anger.
"I'm not hungry," I state and attempt to free my hands from his grasp.
"You hardly ate breakfast and then skipped lunch completely. Trust me, you're hungry, and once you take a bite of Mrs Kramer's cooking, you'll realize just how hungry you are."
"I'm nearly done."
"You said that to get out of lunch, so it's not going to work now. You're obviously stuck, so you might as well take a break and eat something. Once you've had some wine and relaxed, you can go back to playing this shit."
I smile weakly at his boldness. "You think it's terrible."
"Well... truthfully, it isn't your normal style."
Resisting a laugh at his implied insult, I shake my head and inform the blond, "I can't stand with you still holding onto my arms."
He instantly releases my hands and steps back to give me room to stand. Though I regret that loss of warmth, I don't vocalize my disappointment as I reach up to gather the stray sheets of scribbled music notes. Standing up from the polished bench, I lead the way into the sitting room where a covered tray waits for me on the low table before the couch. I ignore the appetizing smell of the warmed food and continue to the fireplace which Seifer apparently fueled with new logs of wood. After a brief glance at the music sheets, I toss them into the fire.
"What are you doing?" Seifer asks in surprise. "You worked all week on that thing."
I shrug without comment, and then make my way to the couch.
"If it was because of what I said--"
"It wasn't worth the time I put into it," I state while lifting the silver cover. Nothing in particular appeals to me, but knowing my blond valet, I won't be able to escape to my music until every plate has been cleaned off. At least I no longer have to finish these meals on my own. "Are you going to sit?"
Though he shows little hesitation in taking his seat, I know the green-eyed man still faults me for my seduction and trickery that single night months ago. But I don't regret it. To know what his body feels like under my hands, to know what sounds he can make when pleasured... it's enough. It's more than enough.
As we eat our meal, Seifer entertains me with tales he has heard from the kitchens. Everyday there seems to be something new and ridiculously impossible which passes through the servant grapevine. The latest gossip from the city must have been heard from the drivers who brought in fresh produce this morning. I've always found it helpful to learn the latest rumors, especially since nothing is more efficient to scare away the ladies than questioning them about the validity of such embarrassing tales.
By the time we start into dessert, there is nothing but the sound of the crackling fire and the ding of silverware on plates. The relaxed air makes me smile faintly as I glance in Seifer's direction. "You don't seem afraid of me anymore."
Stopping in mid-bite, the blond straightens and glares at me. "I was never afraid of you."
With a knowing smile, I stare down into my half-finished plate of berries sweetened with sugar. "Then perhaps... wary of me?"
He huffs and shoves a few blueberries into his mouth, then chewing with a vindictive edge.
"You had your right," I state, the closest thing to an apology I've managed yet.
Finishing his dessert, Seifer drops the plate onto the tray and leans back into his seat with a sigh. "I'm a big boy. I should've known that bets and alcohol rarely make a good combination. And while it kills me to admit it, the last several weeks have been much better than my kitchen days. I'll live a good life if I never see another crate of potatoes."
My smile widens slightly, but I resist to comment that I have been pleased with the former lord's work as my valet. My attraction to him aside, he is eternally annoying as he forces me to sleep and eat better than I have in years, and his unreserved comments about my compositions and playing have motivated me to improve on my technique. I have had other valets in my past, but none of them could beat my stubborn nature, and they all praised my work as if I were leagues above the masters. Whatever. I play better than most, but I know my place.
"So," Seifer starts, interrupting my thoughts, "considering that your latest piece has been turned into ashes, shall I hazard the guess that you are in a slump?"
I sigh at the comment, my appetite for the rest of my dessert lost. Not answering the blond, I set the small plate onto the tray.
"You know, there's a new stable boy. I haven't seen him, but the ladies have been giggling over him for days..."
Frowning at the implied offer, I shake my head. "I'm not interested."
"Really, I wouldn't mind luring him up here. I know that it's some kind of release for you."
I silently translate his words to mean that he doesn't mind finding someone for me to fuck, as long as it prevents me from renewing my advances on him. "I said that I wasn't interested."
"No offense, but I know that you haven't been with anyone since..."
I nearly laugh when he trails off before saying the words. "Since you were in my bed? Yes, I think I realize that fact."
Seifer stares at me, some of his nervousness showing through his skilled front of apathy which all nobles are taught at some point in their lives. If his eyes weren't so clear, so reflective of his passion, he could fool anyone into thinking he was a cocky bastard with nothing to fear.
Realizing the mood had passed, I stand from the couch and walk in the direction of my piano, but Seifer's voice makes me stop just before the open doorway.
"What did I tell you that night?"
This isn't the first time he has asked me that question since I enlisted his help, but for some reason, I feel generous today and decide to finally set his curiosity at ease. "You asked me why I wasn't enjoying myself."
I hear Seifer turn around sharply in his seat. "Is that supposed to be some kind of joke?"
"No, it isn't. And you were right." That said, I continue my path to the piano, and it's no surprise when the blond chooses to follow me.
"Now I might not remember everything, but you seemed to be having a wonderful time from what I do remember. My name was on your fucking lips."
The mocking words don't settle well with Seifer as a large hand grabs onto my shoulder and spins me around to face him. But apparently beyond words, he only stares at me with his intense green eyes. It takes too much willpower on my part to prevent myself from moving closer to him, from touching him.
Forcing a smile, I say, "Surely you know the difference between pleasure and enjoyment."
He frowns while removing his hand from my shoulder. "I don't understand."
"Have some wine. Maybe that would help."
He glares at me for the comment, but his anger seems to be lacking as tries to figure out what I've told him. Amazing that he can be more observant when drunk.
"Go take the tray downstairs and leave me to my work," I say, done with explaining myself to the blond.
I notice his deepening scowl before I turn to my piano and settle on the hard bench. After gathering fresh sheets of paper and readying a quill for writing, I glance up and see that Seifer had decided to obey an order without comment for once. Apparently some miracles are possible when it comes to the stubborn blond.
Staring at the worn keys of the piano, I try to rethink my approach to the song my father wants me to compose for him. As Seifer mentioned, I could once turn to meaningless sex to remind myself about the feel of a building climax, the surge of heat and passion, and the soothing warmth of well earned sleep. But now, after the apparently thoughtless words of the blond, I can't rely on those false emotions anymore. My body could feel that pleasure, but my heart never truly cared, and I imagine my work suffered from it despite the inspiration sex gave me.
Sighing, I play a single chord more for noise than anything else. My eyes drift to the open doorway, though I know that Seifer is no longer in the sitting room. He'll probably stay in the kitchens with his pregnant fiancée, and I highly doubt that I'll see him again today. Feeling that pang of regret, I find new inspiration for this piece. After straightening into a proper pose, I place my fingers on cold keys and begin a long night of composing.
Pressing fingers against my temple, I silently curse my luck to get headaches while traveling. Every jerk and bump of the coach serves to remind me why I hate to travel, but unfortunately, I haven't built up any immunity against my father's wishes. At least this nearly month long journey was more productive than others as I was able to bargain down some of Seifer's debt before paying off those notes.
"Is your head still hurting?"
I open my eyes to lightly glare at the blond man sitting in front of me.
Seifer smirks unthreatened. "Alright, I'll admit that it was a stupid question, but I'm bored."
I huff, amused that the person who is technically my valet wants me to entertain him. Obviously I've been spoiling this man too much when he should be the one serving me.
"You know, I'm surprised that you've already paid off about half of my debt. I thought you would delay it just to keep me under your thumb."
"I don't need you thrown in jail," I say, and in truth, I know that Seifer won't run the moment his debt has been paid in full. He suffers from too much pride and would serve me until he has worked off what he owes. That, and he knows he has it easy as my personal servant.
"If you say so." When I don't response to his sarcastic tone, Seifer continues to say, "So... when's the next trip for you to prove your greatness to others?"
Sighing, I close my eyes to block out irritating light. "Don't worry. I won't steal you away from your wife when she is close to giving birth."
"She's not my wife yet," he murmurs in near embarrassment.
"Your child should be born within the next two months, and you haven't wed the woman yet?"
"I haven't been able to buy the ring I want..."
"I'll give you the money as my wedding present to you," I offer despite the ache it causes me.
"Thank you, but this is something I want to do on my own."
"Very well." After a time of silence, I ask with true curiosity, "Why do you love her?" I have encountered the woman several times and she appeared the irritating cliché of the spoiled daughter of a nobleman. Absolutely lovely, but there was no depth to the raven-haired woman, or at least as far as I have seen.
Seifer sighs. "I don't know if I love her... In a way, I consider this an arranged marriage where I could fall in love with her given time. The baby is the most important part."
Opening my eyes partway, I easily see the amount of pride he holds for the unborn child. So, he loves the baby and not the dark-eyed woman... Why does that thought bring a surge of hope within me?
He smiles weakly, "Anyway, it's my fault she was thrown out of her home. I owe this to her."
My eyes narrow in confusion. "What do you mean?"
"The pregnancy. Her father found out and he was far from pleased. Rinoa came to me for help, and then about a week later, my father died and the generous bastard left me his load of debt I never knew about. It's my fault that she's gone through this hell."
"She... told you that her father disowned her after he learned about her pregnancy?"
Scowling, Seifer replies, "Didn't I just tell you that?"
I shake my head, now realizing why the blond was determined to do anything for the woman. "She lied to you. Her father tossed her out when he walked in to her having sex with a slave. In her parent's bed, no less."
"That's... that's just a wild rumor," he says, disbelief highlighting his tone and expression. "Rinoa wouldn't lie to me about this."
After a pause in thought, I ask, "When she told you about her pregnancy, was it before you had the chance to turn her away? Or did you tell her that the sex was meaningless and you had no interest in her or her problems, and was it after that when she tearfully confessed her delicate condition?"
Though Seifer doesn't reply, his hardened green eyes tell me everything I need to know.
"I suppose it would be hard to fault her. Any young noblewoman in her situation would do anything to guarantee her safety within a rich household."
"Where did you hear these lies?" he asks in threatening tones.
"When I had people search your background. Being your fiancée, of course the young lady was investigated as well. I found it curious that you and she had little interaction in your past."
"It's not true," Seifer growls out.
I shrug, unbothered by the dangerous look to his eyes. "Believe what you will, but... are you certain that the child she bears is yours?"
Granted, I know I was stepping too far to speak those words, but I didn't expect his reaction. I feel the bare breeze as his fist flies past my face and lands against the back of the padded seat. He glares at me with heated eyes, and I don't dare to look away despite the increased speed of my heartbeats. At the moment I can't determine if it's fear or excitement which makes me feel flushed and energized.
After a time of tense silence, Seifer jerks away his hand and pounds on the roof of the coach. With little delay, the driver stops the carriage to determine what we want, but the large blond exits before the door could be opened for him. As Seifer storms off in some unseen direction, the driver glances at me questioningly through the open door. With little hesitation on my part, I order for us to continue home without my valet. If Seifer wants to punch me that badly, then it's better for him to walk the rest of the distance to Loire Manor. It shouldn't be too much for the young man to travel the several miles left.
Arriving home, I ignore all questions about my missing valet and head directly for my rooms. More specifically to the comfort of my music. I remove my formal jacket and drop it to the floor while my cravat, shoes, and stockings soon join that trail from the entry door to my piano. Once seated, I undo the several top buttons of my stuffy shirt before rolling up the sleeves such that they won't get in my way. And after a deep breath, I begin to play a soothing melody based off of a lullaby Matron used to sing to me.
My eyes closing as I drift into the song, I don't recognize how much time passes. After years of playing to replace my need to rant and rave about meaningless emotions, it's a simple matter to phase from one song to the next as my shifting mood requires. Only Seifer is daring and crude enough to interrupt my lengthy playing, and now, I feel like I may never stop if the bastard chooses to leave because of what I told him.
"Why is it so hard for you to put your clothes in the hamper where they belong?"
The deep voice startles me and my eyes snap open to see the blond picking up my discarded clothes from the floor. "Seifer..."
He straightens and glances at me with reddened eyes. "Damn, you didn't even light the candles. How can you see anything here?"
I don't bother explaining that I never noticed when early afternoon had turned to late evening. He knows by now about my poor habits whenever I'm lost in my thoughts and music. And so, I watch wordlessly as the blond cleans up my minor mess, and after placing those clothes in the bathroom, he returns to light the candles closest to the piano. It's then I notice his shaky hand.
"You spoke to Rinoa," I state, offering him the chance to talk if he wants to.
After a brief hesitation, Seifer sighs and lights the final candle of the stand. "She tried to deny it all, but the moment I mentioned your men discovering the truth, she broke down. She admitted to fucking with some slave, but she still says it's my fault, that I wetted her appetite for sex and then left her without hope for release..."
When he says nothing more, I dare to ask him, "What will you do from here?"
With a weak smile, Seifer turns to face me. "I'm not going to spend much time in the kitchens, if that's what you are asking."
I nod slightly at the implied message that he doesn't intend to go back on our deal just yet. Not wishing to further harass the blond with more questions, I straighten and place my fingers on the keys warmed after long hours of playing. I begin into a song which I know the blond has never heard before. As my words tend to do more harm than good, I decided months ago to write something for Seifer, but while the basics of this song have remained the same, it changes every time I play the nameless tune and it refuses to have a final form. Depending on my mood toward the frustrating man, I have the urge to add and remove certain sections to the composition. It's never perfect, but that somehow best fits my thoughts toward the man. And tonight, a softer version of the song demands to be played.
Once finished, I glance up to see Seifer staring at the lid of the piano while avoiding my eyes. Eventually he says quietly, "I haven't heard this one before."
"I've worked on it while you were running errands elsewhere."
"It's for you. Technically it's not finished, but... I know you like listening to music to avoid your thoughts."
His pale lips form a weak smile. "What is it called?"
I shrug. "As I just said, I haven't completed it, so I haven't bothered to title it yet."
"An untitled song for me... Heh, why does that seem to fit in with the rest of my meaningless life."
He shakes his head, interrupting me. "No, I should be thanking you. It's beautiful. Probably the best you've managed yet."
The words should have pleased me, but his deadened tone ruins my more hopeful thoughts. Pushing back the small bench, I stand and stretch out my suddenly tired body. "I'm going to bed. Feel free to take the day off tomorrow."
"I haven't unpacked your luggage yet."
"It can wait," I say while walking to the opened doorway, but an arm surprisingly hooks around my waist to stop me.
"I don't feel like being alone tonight," he utters in a quiet voice.
Not looking at him, I shake my head. "I'm weak. Don't do this to me."
Seifer chuckles softly. "You didn't seem that weak when you wanted me in your bed."
"That was then..." I glance up into redden green eyes. "This is now."
His eyes narrow vaguely. "Wait, you still... But you haven't tried anything."
The man too close to resist, I place my hand at his neck and move my fingertips into soft golden hair. "Haven't I? I made certain that you would always be near me, and I've slowly gained your confidence."
"Then, all of this was to get me back into your bed?"
Cursing his occasion denseness, I remove my hand from warm skin. "If I only wanted you for sex, I would've taken you by now."
"And I'm that easy, am I?" Seifer growls out, his arm tensing around my waist.
"Yes." And with that, I push the stunned and angered blond aside. With no other interruptions, I make it to my bathroom and wash up for the night. Once changed into a nightshirt and my face cleaned with cold water, I return to my bedroom without bothering to braid my lengthy hair. It'll be a mess in the morning, but I don't have it in me to care.
The sound of someone clearing his throat makes me look to the opened doorway, and I glare at the large man. "I didn't give you permission to enter."
Seifer shrugs. "Never stopped me before."
"Alright, I'll get to the point. In that mess, you said that you wanted me, but not for sex..."
I smirk at his uncertain expression. "I said not only for sex."
"Right, those were the words. So, what else did you want me for?"
"A servant who occasionally follows orders. Speaking of which, get out."
Light tsking sounds come from the man. "Don't lie to me, Squall. Not when we've gotten this far."
I stare at him for stating my name after months of refusing to do so. It took him weeks to drop the 'masters' and 'sirs', but I haven't heard my name on his lips since our single night together. A single night which I couldn't savor fully.
"Well?" Seifer asks, breaking me out of my stunned state.
"I want you," I state simply, uncertain how to explain my appreciation toward his typically biting but true words, his overwhelming presence, and his passionate emotions which always sizzle near the surface. I want all of it, and I refuse to settle for less.
He thinks over my answer before exhaling deeply. "Can I stay here tonight?"
"No," I say, finally getting myself to move and blow out the several candles lighting the bedroom.
"But you said--"
"I said that I want you. Meanwhile, you are looking for a temporary replacement for your lost woman. Let me save you the time and tell you now that I will make a poor substitute for her."
There's a brief pause before Seifer states, "It's most likely not my child."
Stunned, I turn from my task and stare at the blond for his sudden words. "What...?"
"I asked Rinoa about the child, and she said that if it was mine, she would be further along than she is."
Despite the fact that I had first suggested the possibility, it kills me to know that I was right. Looking into those ever revealing green eyes, I see that Seifer is taking this fairly hard. But who could blame him for mourning the loss of a child he loved.
"I swear that I don't move much at night. I just need something to distract me until I can get to sleep."
I shake my head, knowing that I'll regret tonight. "You aren't sleeping in my bed with those filthy clothes. Go get something to change into."
Seifer smiles softly at my order. "Thank you, Squall. And I'm sorry..."
Lifting my hand in a dismissing wave, I leave the few remaining candles lit and move over to my bed while Seifer leaves without another word. I quickly settle under cool silken sheets and try to will myself asleep before the larger man can return. I've already succumbed to this far into temptation and it wouldn't be fair to Seifer if I took advantage of him now. I try to remind myself that I need more than sex, and with that mantra running through my head, I pretend to sleep when I hear the blond reenter the bedroom.
He steps softly while blowing out the remaining candles, and then carefully slips into the large bed with me. Given the size of the mattress, I shouldn't be able to tell he is there, but I foolishly feel overwhelmed by his heat. Eventually I convince my body that his relatively close presence means nothing, but then I feel light tugging at my hair as Seifer strokes the lengthy strands. It happens for only a brief moment, perhaps a spontaneous action on his part, and yet I curse the man for the rest of the night as he leaves me helplessly aroused.
Dropping my robe to the floor, I slowly slip into the heated water scented with oils in the fashion I most prefer. I slide further into the water and lie beneath the surface for a prolonged time, until my body screams at me that I need air. My heart racing and my breaths harsh, I rest back against the tub and let my head lull backwards as I savor that minor rush. But I don't escape persistent thoughts for long.
Three weeks I've been sharing a bed with the large tease and he has yet to venture beyond his side of the mattress. That is, until a few days ago. Rinoa had given birth to a tiny girl, the labor apparently being earlier than expected. By Seifer's request, neither of us have seen the child, but Matron informed us that the babe was most certainly not his daughter. All that evening and night, I had held the larger man. He never truly cried, but I felt how he broke apart inside. It was silent that night as I didn't feel it was right to belittle his emotions with meaningless words. Instead, I was simply there with him, for once uncaring about my own needs when it came to Seifer. And then, the following morning, I opened my eyes to stare directly into piercing green. No words passed between us for a long moment, and suddenly I found myself being kissed. It was a testing kiss, but wonderful and horrible at the same time as Seifer hasn't dared to touch me like that since.
"How's the water?"
Not opening my eyes, I hum out my pleasure at the perfectly prepared bath. Though he may be a pain in the neck when it comes to following orders, once Seifer chooses to do what he's told, he never goes to half-lengths.
A deep chuckle sounds. "Looks like it's helping to loosen you up."
I frown at the idea that he noticed my tenseness. It shouldn't be a surprise to me, but Seifer has enough to worry about beyond my foolish issues. Suddenly a warm hand is at my face, brushing away wet strands of hair. I open my eyes to find the larger man kneeling next to the bath, far closer than I expected.
Green eyes shine with an unnamed emotion which makes me wary. "I haven't been fair with you."
"You are amazingly attractive, incredibly talented, and hopelessly patient... if you had been born female, I would've fallen for you in a moment. As is..." His hand travels down the length of my neck and slides along wet skin to my flat chest. "... You are obviously male and it's so hard for me to get passed that no matter how much I think I want you. But now I'm starting to wonder why I've been afraid of you, of this..." His large hand moves even further, his touch unflinching as he brushes his fingertips along my beginning of an arousal. "It's nothing foreign, nothing that should hurt me, and maybe that's what I feared the most - you are the only one who wouldn't purposefully hurt me."
"You have a bad memory," I state, my voice already gaining a rougher edge as he continues to handle my penis.
Seifer smirks in reply. "I was just another servant that one night, so it was nothing personal. And I will never fault you for speaking the truth, even if it ruined my life for a second time. Unlike others, you don't mock me for my blindness or my stupid decisions in life. You wouldn't hurt me like that."
My thoughts grow fuzzier with time as I lift my hand to bury my fingers in soft gold. "I'm taking advantage of you."
He laughs, the deep tone making me moan. "This would be your, what, fourth chance to abuse the situation and land me in bed? No, if anything, I've been taking advantage of your sudden sense of morals."
I frown at his hidden insult toward my previous lifestyle, but he has his right. Anyway, I doubt I could find the words to defend myself if he continues to teasingly stroke my responsive penis.
Abruptly a call of my name sounded in the bedroom, and as if bitten, Seifer removes his hand from the cooling water and falls back onto his ass in surprise. I hold back a groan of annoyance as Irvine makes his appearance at the bathroom door. The violet eyes easily take in the scene of my flushed appearance and Seifer's wet arm.
With a devious smile, Irvine says, "Sorry for interrupting, but there's a slight problem."
"And it couldn't wait?" I ask in a near growl.
"It could, but, well, I'm here now and it looks like I already ruined the moment."
I sigh at the man's unfazed nature. "Then get on with it."
The long-haired man straightens slightly as his voice becomes serious. "It seems we have a runaway. Rinoa left in the early hours of this morning."
A quiet 'what?' escapes Seifer at the announcement.
"Just what I said. The night servants heard someone outside well before dawn, and they swear that they heard a carriage as well. What a carriage was doing out at that time of night--"
"What exactly is the problem here, Irvine? She wasn't under contract," I say, pressing a wet hand against my temple.
"It's not her leaving which is major part the problem, but what, or rather who she left behind."
Seifer stands at the announcement, his body oddly tense as he stares at nothing in particular. It's impossible for me to guess what could be going through his mind, but I assume he still feels like the child is partially his, and for that reason, he holds anger against the mother's desertion.
Sighing, I stand from the bath and motion to Seifer to hand me a towel. While drying off, I order Irvine to leave us, which he does promptly once catching my unpleased glare. I briefly rub the towel through my hair before tossing the wet material to the floor. Surprisingly, Seifer holds out a fresh robe for me to wear, but he doesn't let me put it on myself as he helps me, using that as a chance to hug me in his arms.
"I'm sorry," he whispers, an almost unheard apology.
"Give yourself time," I tell him, unbothered by his embarrassed reaction to Irvine's unexpected entrance. Reluctantly escaping his arms, I then exit the bathroom and continue to the bedroom door.
"Where are you going?"
I pause at the doorway. "That child was left alone. While Matron has probably taken pity on the babe, she can't keep an eye on a newborn and the kitchens at the same time."
"Don't go down there."
A defiant smile crosses my lips at his order. "You don't have to follow." And with that, I leave my rooms.
It's no surprise when I reach the kitchens and Seifer is nowhere to be seen. I receive several odd glances as I enter the always hot and steamy room, but I have no reason to be ashamed in front of them. Instead, it's the careful approach of a few younger women which vaguely bothers me.
"Master Squall," a chiding voice sounds from the side, and I look into the light brown eyes of Matron. "You know better than to walk around this drafty manor while dripping wet and wearing nothing but a robe."
A faint smile escapes me at her motherly scolding. "Where's the child?"
The elegant woman straightens at that, her eyes wary as she examines me. Though her uncertainty isn't appeased by my neutral expression, she turns to a blonde woman and informs her to watch over the kitchens for a few moments. As she leads me through the servant area, Matron rambles on about Rinoa and how she never imagined that a mother could leave her child so easily. I hardly listen to the words, my attention instead focused on the muffled cries of a babe.
Entering the room I vaguely recognize as belonging to Matron, I pause near the doorway as my eyes settle on the tiny form of an infant struggling with her blankets. With little memory of moving, I find myself pushing aside the blanket folds to reveal the tear streaked face. While her light brown complexion identifies her father, I'm entranced by the soft brown coloring. The moment I touch the heated skin, her eyes open wide to reveal blue-ish iris, but I have heard that such a color may darken with age. Her desperate cries quiet to hiccups as a surprisingly strong but tiny hand grasps onto my arm.
Matron sighs. "Poor dear, she must be hungry again. I got so busy with planning for that party later this week--"
"I'll do it."
The dark-haired woman says nothing for a moment before asking, "What are your plans for this child? She has it hard enough that her mother left her. I've read the letters between Rinoa and her father. He would only accept her back into his home if the child was left behind like a piece of trash."
I shrug, not surprise that Lord Caraway had taken his daughter back with such a condition. "What is the little one's name?"
"She doesn't have one. Master Loire will probably send her to another home so that she can be with more of her kind. I felt it would be best to have them name her."
I nod, agreeing with her assessment of what my father would suggest. "I think she is still hungry."
Matron sighs, and then briefly leaves me with the tiny babe. Upon returning, she shows me how to fill the metal container with milk, how to hold the small infant, and how to feed the greedy child. It's a messy lesson, but as I have never dealt with life this young before, I'm entranced by the whole experience. Matron eyes me warily during the entire process, but she eventually smiles at my tender touch, and then leaves me to return to her kitchens.
In time, the infant gets her fill and I'm left simply holding the tiny form as she holds tightly onto my thumb. Though my eyes never leave the peaceful face, I easily hear and then recognize the steps which pause at the open doorway of the small room. Seifer doesn't say a word, not even for the purpose of announcing his presence, which leaves me to break the silence.
"She's beautiful, isn't she?"
"I wouldn't know," Seifer states coolly.
"She should have been yours."
He doesn't have a reply for that, but since he doesn't move, I assume that the blond is draw to the child which he was denied. Why else would he come down here?
"She doesn't have anyone, now. Doesn't even have a name."
"Why should I care about what isn't mine?"
I glance up from the child and gaze into shielded green eyes. "You loved her once."
A harsh laugh of disbelief sounds. "What do you want from me, Squall? To accept something that doesn't have my blood? To raise this... thing as my own?"
"Blood isn't everything."
Frowning, Seifer shifts his gaze to the sleeping newborn. "I'm not a forgiving man."
"You forgave me. And this infant was born three days ago - how can someone this young be blamed for anything?"
The blond man doesn't reply, his intense gaze wavering as he eyes the child.
"You should hold her."
The green eyes widen but don't move from their focus. "No."
My lips form a small smile at his refusal. He knows as well as I do that once this child finds her way into his arms, he won't be able to let go that easily. But in my mind, this is his daughter, blood or not. I stand carefully, but I still earn a quiet whine of complaint while shifting my position from the chair. I walk toward Seifer, the large man seemingly frozen in fear of what I'm demanding of him. Stopping in front of him, I hold out the tiny child.
Seifer stares at the bundled baby. "No, I can't... I'm not a woman. I know nothing about children. And damn it, this isn't my child."
"She can be," I state, not moving my gaze from his conflicted expression.
Several long moments pass before he dares to reach out and reveal the resting face from the folds of the blanket. "She's so small..."
I don't reply, hoping that the man's conscience will torment him to make the right decision.
With obvious reluctance, he finally takes the babe from me and cradles her with experience I didn't expect the man to have. After a time of staring down at the child, Seifer shakes his head. "She would be better off elsewhere. I mean, how can I raise a child?"
I nearly laugh, wondering why that would matter when the child isn't his own, and meanwhile, he was ready months ago to raise his own son or daughter. "Matron wouldn't mind helping, as long as it doesn't take up all of her time. And my step-mother has been complaining about this household needing a new life to cause some chaos."
"And you?" he asks, his eyes finally meeting mine.
"I could probably use the distraction," I admit.
Seifer frowns, still not convinced. "Why do you care about this?"
I pause and seriously consider the question. "If my father sends her away, I don't see her surviving long or having the life she deserves. But with you, she could be happy. And this was what you wanted, a child to call your own."
"Bastard... I don't want this responsibility."
Smiling softly, I place my hand against his cheek. "What's her name, Seifer?"
Green eyes narrow before he looks back down at the sleeping child. "I was going to... Annabelle. It was my grandmother's name."
I nod, and then turn my gaze to the tiny girl as I brush a finger against her soft skin. "Welcome to the world, Annabelle."
Seifer scoffs, and then quietly states, "I hate you."
With an uncaring shrug, I reply, "I've gotten used to it by now."
Though I hear a door open and close silently, I don't cease in my playing of a calming song which I have favored as of late. Maybe one of these days I'll bother to look up the title to this adequate piece of music. As I continue to play, strong arms wrap around my chest such that they don't interfere too much with my movements.
"Why do women have to be so difficult?"
I smile and ask, "Has Bella, a one-year-old girl, been getting the better of you again?"
Seifer scoffs. "Anna was an angel. It's the rest of them downstairs who wouldn't let me take her away. I only wanted to return the dinner tray, but I got stuck in the kitchens when they started praising Anna for helping her daddy. And then they got upset when I said it was her bedtime. Idiots, the whole lot of them."
Though tempting, I say nothing in reply. Once he had gotten over his initial reluctance, Seifer became extremely protective of his young daughter. While I think that he is trying to compensate for her different blood, Annabelle certainly doesn't seem to mind the attention. At least I'm here to remind Seifer that he wouldn't want a spoiled child to drive him insane.
"But Anna is asleep now, so.... May I make a request?" he asks, his whispering breath brushing against my ear.
He doesn't need to say anything more than that as I easily slip into the song I wrote for him over a year ago. It still refuses to hold a final form, but Seifer prefers it that way. He says he wouldn't be able to guess my thoughts otherwise. He also won't let me name the piece, him enjoying the unfinished nature of leaving it untitled, as if it would end things between us if I dared to complete this song.
Before I finish the untitled piece, Seifer laughs deeply as he grabs onto my hands. "Has someone felt neglected?"
Lost in my thoughts about the past year, I didn't realize that my playing had taken a more desperate note. While it's foolish of me, I do feel some envy against the oblivious Annabelle. She stole Seifer away from me the first time I nearly had the blond for my own, and then distracted him a second time when she had gotten severely ill. Though it has been months since those times, I still feel the annoyance at tasting what I so desperately wanted and have it taken away. And so, this version of the song had been born, and with it came Seifer's ability to appease my overwhelming needs.
He unbuttons my shirt, then ordering, "Stand up and turn around."
I follow the command, and Seifer removes my shirt for me in the process. Bare-chested, I smirk at the hungry look to his bright green eyes. He leans in close and kisses roughly against the length of my neck while his hands journey lower to undo the lacing to my pants. I move my arms to hook over his shoulders for both contact and support as a hand slips beneath fabric to lightly handle my penis.
At my first moan in response to his caresses, Seifer chuckles breathily while removing his hand from me. Slightly dazed, I watch as he bends down to deprive me of the rest of my clothes. His hands then wrap beneath my thighs and he begins to lift me up. I barely manage to grab onto him for balance as I'm easily raised to sit on the piano top. My legs brush against the keys in light, unharmonious tones when he suddenly straightens to kiss me hard on the lips. While clumsily maintaining, Seifer moves around the bench, and only then breaks off the kiss when he takes a seat. After a warning smirk, my cock is immediately swallowed by a heated and vaguely inexperienced mouth, but that matters little to me. I should be surprised that he could go this far after only a year, but like his protectiveness for his daughter, once he passed beyond his fear of me being male, his love for me was almost overwhelming. His desire to pleasure me as I have him took time to follow, but that was to be expected.
My hands buried in short golden hair, I try not to claw into his scalp, but Seifer makes it increasingly difficult for me to show some reserve. With every stroke of the thick tongue, my bare legs knock against new keys to create an odd song for this intimate moment. A quiet whine escapes me when the blond stops, but then I open my eyes to see him pulling out a vial from his pocket and my erection twitches at the familiar sight. I quickly lean back to lower the cover on the piano and then lie down on the flat surface for better positioning. My hardened length is soon in comfortable warmth again as I stretch back along my piano. Oil-slicked fingers then make me sigh out as they roughly prepare me for future activities.
Eventually Seifer pulls away with a lastingly lick to my strained erection and removes his hand as well. Leaving me panting and hot on the piano, he stands to quickly undress and toss his clothes aside. Smirking, he grabs my legs and slides me forward as he resumes his seat on the bench. Awkwardly straddling him on the bench with my elbows finding little purchase on the piano, I trust Seifer to support me and lead his length to my opening. His cock buries deep into me and he sighs harshly against my bare chest. Moving an arm around his neck and a hand to the keyboard for a steadier though louder support, I begin the fucking.
For those blissful moments, I'm eternally grateful that Annabelle is a very heavy sleeper. The best thing we learned from Matron was that keeping things too quiet during bedtime would only lead to a child waking at every little noise. And so, there are no interruptions as my movements cause clanging sounds from my poor piano, which are then joined with the grunts and groans from Seifer and me. It's an odd harmony and one I certainly could get used to more often. Shortly before I can lose purchase on Seifer's sweaty neck, I cry out with greatly needed release. The blond soon follows my lead as my hand claws into his neck, his resulting moan mixed with pleasure and pain.
Once regaining some breath, Seifer helps me to stand and we eventually find ourselves lying on the cold and hard wooden floor beneath my piano. It's not the most comfortable position, but the thought of walking to our bedroom is too much to consider at this point in time. Seifer lies before me, his hand carefully freeing my hair from its binding so that he can stroke the lengthy strands. The motions are calming and complement my exhaustion as I'm nearly soothed to sleep.
"Have I thanked you recently?"
I growl at his voice keeping me from well deserved rest. "I thought you just did."
Seifer laughs, the sound rumbling in his chest. "I meant for the song. Ever since you played it for me, my life started to turn around. It became worthy of your music."
I huff, annoyed at this self-conscious side of the blond.
"I know, I know. Stop my complaining. But really..." He brushes his lips against mine. "Thank you."
I shift closer to him, briefly deepening the teasing kiss. "You're welcome. Now shut up or show your appreciation more quietly."
Seifer chuckles softly as he presses his forehead against mine. His hand continues to rake through my hair, the occasional snagging not bothering me as much as it should. A soft hum soon sounds as Seifer attempts to mimic the song I have played for him numerous times, and though he fails horribly, I don't even think of faulting him for that.
Some hate my daughter for what she is - a mix of two races, both sides not wanting her for one ridiculous reason or another. But the moment she opens her mouth and hits that first note of any song with perfection, they momentarily forget their dislike in order to listen to her music.
Standing at the back of the fairly large ballroom, I watch on with pride as my young daughter of fifteen sings a complex opera piece which I will never understand in my lifetime. Though petite in size, Annabelle manages to fill the entire room with her rich and haunting voice. Soft music of the piano complements her, and occasionally argues with her beseeching tone for... something. Squall had explained the song to me once, but the deeper story in connection to the song evades me. As she sings, dark eyes search for me, her lips curling slightly once she meets my gaze. Lord, she is too beautiful for her age.
Eventually the song ends and the small audience claps louder than if they were being simply polite. I also notice a few of the younger nobles standing as they applaud, most likely hoping to catch her eye. Before I can consider making my presence known to those bold youths, a careful hand touches my shoulder and makes me look to the side. Staring into familiar dark eyes, I'm not surprised by Rinoa's appearance, but her approaching me is somewhat unexpected.
I don't acknowledge her greeting and look back to the front of the room to watch Squall and Annabelle accepting complements from the hosts of the party. I silently damn the family for inviting Rinoa and her husband, but they had no knowledge of our history together.
"I see you kept her," Rinoa says warily, perhaps with a touch of regret.
"I was surprised that you still chose to name her Annabelle. I thought you'd save that for your daughter."
"Anna is my daughter."
"Maybe in name, but--"
I turn sharply to glare at the smaller woman. "Anna is my daughter. And for your information, she does know that her mother deserted her, but she also knows that we love her more than her parents ever would."
Rinoa returns my glare. "I didn't want to leave her behind, but I had no choice. Daddy--"
"Yes, I know about your deal with your daddy-dear. But you could have stayed with your daughter instead of trading her for your old life back."
She scoffs and shakes her head. "I didn't have it easy as you. I didn't have some nobleman fawning over me with money and sex. I had nothing while you left me to sweat in that damned kitchen. I didn't belong there," she hisses quietly such that others wouldn't overhear.
"You knew my situation. And I would've watched over you for the rest of our lives."
"At the same time as having relations with that man? How could you stoop so low?"
I glare at the dark-haired woman for her cool tone. "How dare you--"
I turn sharply at the soft voice which interrupts my ranting. Annabelle watches the two of us warily as Squall stands behind her, his eyes silently apologizing that he couldn't keep her away. Such is the Almasy curse to be stubborn until the end.
"Annabelle," Rinoa says sweetly in a way that irritates me. "It was a pleasure to hear you sing."
Though cautious, Annabelle curtsies vaguely and replies her thanks to the complement. Her dark eyes, however, quickly find mine and demand explaining.
"Anna... this is Rinoa Heartilly."
Dark eyes widened as she takes in the form of her mother. After that stunned moment, her full lips form a polite smile as she slightly inclines her head in recognition of the woman who gave birth to her. The young lady then steps back to hook her arm through Squall's. "Let's go, Mama."
A dark eyebrow arches at the title Annabelle uses for Squall on rare emotional occasions, and typically only in the safety of our rooms. It was my fault for explaining to my daughter that she didn't need both a father and mother since she had me and Squall, and her young mind translated that into meaning the man was essentially her mother. And just as I was not really her father, but should still be referred to as such, she came to the decision that Squall was 'Mama'. Though we eventually corrected her misguided thoughts, she still slips on occasion when she needs her 'mother' to comfort her.
For once, Squall doesn't scold his 'Bella' for the hated title, and instead silently accepts her need to declare her choice in parents. After his own head bow toward Rinoa in both greeting and parting, Squall gracefully leads our daughter to the front of the room. Watching their departure, I can't help my proud smile at the young woman's maturity for her age.
"She calls him 'mama'? And you are still with him?" Rinoa asks with unconcealed disgust.
I hum an affirmative sound. "I should thank you for bringing us together, you know. I may have missed something wonderful."
Silence follows as she radiates anger and regret, but she doesn't voice any of that when she speaks a final, "Goodbye, Seifer."
No longer caring about the woman of my past, I say nothing in reply as I leave her in order to find my family. It's easy to follow the melodious sound of my laughing daughter, and I soon slide my way between her and Squall. The brunet glares at me lightly for the intrusion, but he voices nothing as he places his hand against mine in a subtle sign of support.
Smiling faintly, I lean over to whisper, "Play my song for me?"
"Here? Now?" he asks with clear surprise.
"I need to hear it, and since we'll be on the road come morning..."
Stormy eyes continue to stare at me as if I were insane, but he reluctantly submits with a sigh. I quietly excuse us from the nobleman who had been entertaining Annabelle with stories of his travels. Though faintly annoyed, my daughter comes with us, her expression brightening some when we approach the black piano.
Squall sits down at the bench and immediately starts into the untitled song which will never grow old for me. It hardly resembles the piece he first played for me those years ago, and yet the right notes have remained the same no matter our problems. The notes sometimes don't quite match and the beat is occasionally hard to follow, but as a whole, the song fits every detail which is important about my life. Lifting my arm, Annabelle presses up against my side as she smiles fondly at the piece of music she thinks of as 'Daddy's Song'. And so, despite the crowd of curious onlookers, I feel like I'm alone with my lover and my daughter, listening to the song which I hope is never completed.
Author's Whining -- Another request done... short and rushed, but I didn't want to expand this piece more than I already had beyond the one-shot I originally planned for this story idea. I hope that it worked for you, Jamaica, and I'm sorry that I couldn't work in the Irvine x Quistis pairing, but I'm certain that you can understand how I wanted to keep this short.
For those curious, I chose the name 'Untitled Rhapsody' for the obvious reason of the untitled song for Seifer, but also because of the two definitions of 'rhapsody' - a state of elated bliss, ecstasy; and in the case of music, it's a typically instrumental composition of irregular form which often incorporates improvisation.
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