The Wind and the Warrior

Well, here it is. My first FFVIII fanfic, 'long awaited' by some. It's Seifer and Fuujin centric, so if you're looking to see a lot of the others, look elsewhere. Comments are appreciated, flames will be met with Seifer wielding Hyperion. For more Seifery goodness, check out my webpage, The Sorceress's Knight. Many thanks to Anikka, Kate, Uncreativity, Mess, and, most importantly, my roomie for putting up with my Seifer obsession. If you wish to archive, please email me! Thanks!

The Wind and The Warrior

By Mandy Lever

Prologue

By the time the eighteen-hour labor was over, Seifer Almasy was sure that his right hand would never lift a pencil, let alone a gunblade, ever again. The birth had been hard, and his small, frail-seeming wife had borne the pain of bringing their first child into the world admirably. But now, in the hours afterwards, things were calm, and he was finally getting circulation back into his fingers.

Fuujin Almasy—hair matted with sweat after the labor, face puffy, and single eye glazed from exhaustion—nevertheless looked down at the tiny, frail bundle in her arms, and shone more radiantly then any woman he'd ever known. In her arms, suckling his first meal, was the tiny child that would be christened Seth Almasy. With skin as pale as his mother's, and no real hair to speak of just yet, he would eventually grow to resemble his mother. Her albinism had been inherited, and while she was saddened her abnormality had been passed on, it was nothing in Seifer's eyes. It just meant his son would inherit his mother's moonlit beauty instead of his fiery good looks.

Fuujin gave her husband a sigh, smiling down in bliss as mother and child quietly bonded. "Your nose," she finally said.

"Your eyes," he said in turn.

"Can't have my eyes. Only have one."

He snorted at her lame attempt at humor, and then rose from his seat to kiss her gently. "He'll be as beautiful as his mother," he assured her.

"Better to be like his father," she said—but caught the wince he tried to hide as he returned to his seat. She pursed her pale, bloodless lips, and then quietly glanced at Seifer, her single eye knowing. "I want him to know the truth of it," she finally said, her voice soft. "Everything."

"The history books can do that," he said softly, knowing, after a moment pondering, exactly what she was alluding to. The War. The Second Sorceress War.

"No. The history books are written by the victors," Fuujin insisted gently.

"As they should be," he replied.

Seifer listened to her sigh, and closed his eyes briefly. Was it wrong for him, to wonder about what he would tell his children? What he would explain to them? Could he bounce Seth on his knee, and say, 'Why, yes, son, I was a maniacal would-be knight, and I nearly destroyed everything I'd ever known to boost my ego and masturbate to my own greatness'?

He'd kept an extensive journal of what had gone on. He was a meticulous record-keeper, and of course, once he'd discovered the price of the Guardian Force's power, he immediately began to keep a detailed journal, and looking back at those books, he'd preferred to have burned them. The ravings of a madman, the insanity of the mind controlled.

However, the time that came after the Sorceress War was not in any history books. Six years of history that he'd never put on paper, he'd never cared to let anyone know. Who cared about the fallen, once the victory galas were over? Who cared about the broken knight who'd been dragged, nearly dead, from the wreckage of the Lunatic Pandora, after the ravages of time kompression had almost slain him?

Who cared, indeed? Would his son? Would he question his father's honor? His worth?

The questions were all it took. His resolve wavered, and he looked to his wife. "What… what do you want me to do?" he finally asked.

Fuujin lifted her eye again. "The others will take care of your infamy," she said calmly. "But I want him to know the man his father became. The one who learned from his mistakes, the one I love."

"The one you saved, you mean," Seifer said with a smile. He knew very well what she meant, though. The first six years had been rough, and the path of redemption was not easy. Seifer had far more scars now then Squall had ever given him.

Fuujin merely tsked gently, and then lifted the baby briefly, motioning for Seifer to take his son so she could button her nightgown once more.

And as she did, Seifer marveled at the tiny piece of work that his son was. Skin as pale as milk, with the finest covering of silvery down, invisible to the eye, and yes, he probably would inherit his father's straight, no nonsense nose. "Will he hate me, Fuujin? If he knows… everything?" His voice was low, worried. Here was his legacy, this tiny child, and Seifer was already afraid of losing his love, before he'd even learned what it was like to have it.

"If you don't tell him…" Fuujin said softly, looking up at her husband with her single eye. "Seifer… you can't run forever. Some day, you'll have to tell him everything. Explain everything." And they both knew it's why they'd put off having children for so long. They'd been married some time, but now… Now there was more then just the pair of them to worry about.

Seifer's green eyes, pale jade, dropped back to his son, as he slumbered in his arms. Would it be so hard? Probably. But he'd find a way to do it. He had to, for Seth.

But before he could answer, the door behind him opened. "I… I missed it, ya know!" And there was Raijin. Last of the 'family', the dark man was a huge wall of flesh in the doorway, shoulders nearly touching the doorframe on both sides.

"Yeah, Raijin, you missed it, ya big moron!" Seifer said, eyes bright as he ribbed the other half of his posse. "But don't worry. I'm sure there'll be at least one or two more." He grinned at Fuujin, who groaned softly.

"Not for another year or two! No more pregnancy! One, enough for now!" Fuujin protested. "Labor pains! Swelling ankles! No sex!"

"I didn't need to hear that, ya know!" Raijin moaned.

Seifer chuckled softly. "I'll agree with at least the last one," he said with a grin and wink. "But don't worry. No more babies for a while." He turned his pale eyes to the bundle in his arms, "We'll see how this one works out before breeding our silver and gold Almasy Clan, alright?"

Raijin quietly made his way to father and son, peering over Seifer's shoulder. "He looks like Fuujin, ya know," he said in something akin to hushed reverence. "He's beautiful, Fuu."

"Thank you," the woman replied, settling back against her pillows. She was more then a little weary, and the few scant hours of sleep she'd caught weren't enough to keep her awake to entertain the posse.

Seifer watched as she began to doze, and then moved over to place Seth in his bassinet, covering him carefully. Then, he leaned over again, and kissed his wife. "Rest. We'll be back before you wake."

Fuujin gave him a nod. "Pick up a journal?" she suggested, and then closed her single eye.

"All right, all right. A journal," he said. "As you wish." He turned to look at the other member of the posse. "C'mon. Rai. You can tell me why you didn't check your phone machine, and didn't come to the damn hospital in time. She was in labor for eighteen damn hours!"

The pair walked away, conversing quietly, and the two pale skinned Almasys slipped into slumber without hesitation.

Chapter One:

Time Kompression.

He'd done it. He'd finally done it. Everything that Ultimecia had asked of him, he'd done. He's slain his classmates, he's murdered the innocent, he'd headed up missile strikes… and still, this had been the hardest thing to do.

Rinoa Heartilly screamed, voice high pitched, her throat raw as the sound escaped it as Adel tried to junction her, absorb her power and make it her own. The fledgling sorceress was drawn bodily into the … well, Adel couldn't really be called a woman, anymore, could she? Having junctioned her Knight decades ago, her features were a bizarre blend of the over-emphasized masculine strength and alien feminine delicacy.

And Seifer Almasy watched with wild eyes, as Squall, Zell, and Irvine rushed in for the rescue. Selphie was waiting, tense, in the Ragnorok, ready to take off should they need to escape. Quistis and Laguna Loire, President of Esthar, guarded Ellone from the monsters, the soldier-turned-journalist-turned-revolutionary-turned-politician wielded a machine gun with the same skill he'd once possessed while in the Galbadian army.

And he reveled in these last moments of chaos. He was so close! So close to his goal—the dreamer was dead, for Knight was retired. That dream had already turned to dust and he was going to top…

...simply because he couldn't figure out how to get back down from this teetering pedestal he'd tried to place himself on.

The crack of Thundaga after Thundaga, the spell isolating the former Tyrant of Esthar, the smell of burning skin, and the anguished cries of combat and the woman he once loved echoing, somehow, above it all, kept Seifer there, near the doorway. He didn't attack, he didn't move. Gilgamesh had wounded him gravely and so he hung to the side, unwilling to leave until he knew how things were going to end. Was he going to commit himself to the dark embrace of Time Kompression, or was he going to have to defend himself when this pack of monsters turned from Adel's cooling corpse?

The finally blow was struck. Squall—his rival, his classmate, his enemy—lashed out as, in her rage, Adel left herself open. Her head came cleanly from her shoulders, and no blood sprayed upwards as the very dead Sorceress's head thunked solidly against the tomb that had held her prisoner for seventeen years.

A mass of flesh and Adel's unique, leather apparel began to melt downwards, but one slender, female shape remained. Rinoa's gore-covered form lay within the mass of the woman whose power she absorbed, and she looked dazedly up to Squall.

No one saw him watching, still, even as Squall began to call for Ellone.

'Sis' came, and Seifer watched as Rinoa's rose, her eyes glazed. Ultimecia grabbed the younger Sorceress's soul, possessed her—and was shunted back in time. He could feel her ethereal caress, even as she was drawn away… and put into another time and place.

And then all hell broke loose. Laguna was screaming for people to remember each other, love each other… and too late, Seifer realized the SeeD's plan. They were going to use Time Kompression to get to Ultimecia herself! What… fools!

But before he could gloat, the world turned liquid, and he felt himself falling. And the sensation dragged out, his tattered coat fluttering about his legs, and he dropped for what seemed like an eternity as time seemed to slow. He was dimly away of the sounds of violence, the screams of pain and the wet sounds of bone and blade meeting. But he saw nothing but a cascade of color and blurred imagery, before he closed his eyes and he just… kept… falling.

Or maybe it wasn't falling. It was too slow to be a plummet through the air, so it couldn't be falling. Maybe it was sinking. Sinking into the layers of time as Ultimecia folded it over and over like some delicate origami sculpture, that would spring to its proper dimensions if you tugged on a certain corner. There was nothing solid for gloved hands to find purchase on, and his body moved as if someone had cast Slow on him, his movements sluggish, his limbs unresponsive.

And then… he came to rest on…train tracks?

The scent of brine and grease assaulted his senses, and he slowly sat up. It was… Fisherman's Horizon? Yes, he was in that peaceful little place, among the nonviolent inhabitants, who walked around him as if he wasn't there. They stepped past, went to work, laughed and talked and none of them seemed quite aware of him.

He dragged himself to his feet, moving like he was trying to swim upstream in molasses. His limbs were still heavy, the beat of his heart slowed. He was too many steps out of time to affect this world, and moving in it was hard.

Down the street, screams began as fire and smoke erupted out of one of the windows, glass shattering outward and raining down on the normally peaceful street. "It's the Almasy place!" He heard called. "Hyne's Grace!" And then there was chaos.

Almasy place? He… he didn't remember this place. He had never, not even as a SeeD cadet, set foot in this peaceful city of technicians and fishermen. There was nothing here he'd ever seen before. Nothing here was familiar.

Nothing… was familiar?

No, the scent of smoke and the screams of bystanders, that was familiar.

He lurched forward, fighting against slowness of his own body for a moment, till time abruptly caught up with him and his body responded like it should. He ran, boots falling heavily on the train tracks, as he approached, his dirty, torn coat fluttering like broken bird's wings behind him.

He pushed through the crowd, to get a better view, and heard more screaming. "Fire Paramagic!" "Where are his children?" "Fuck! Private Okamma is down! He got him!" The rest he couldn't make out as another gout of flame and a cry of pain echoed out of the building.

The doors burst forth, and people scattered back, crying out in shock and horror as a flaming man, skin blistering and bubbling as his own magic consumed him, tried to flee. One, last, desperate act as he tried to avoid the Estharian soldier behind him.

A bullet caught him in the back of the head, and an older woman shrieked as red and gray created a pattern over her violet dress, bits of bone adding a new texture to the cloth.

"Hyne's tits! He's killed his own kids!" curse one of the soldiers from the inside. A tall man emerged, clad in the armor of an officer, moving with grace alien to most of the insectoid Estharians. In his arms were two bundles, blackened till you nearly couldn't tell age and gender of the dirty forms. Only the skirt on one was any indication that the nearly identical children might not be the same gender.

Seifer watched, as they were loaded up into an emergency vehicle, for the bumpy ride to whatever served as the hospital here. One soldier's tinny voice echoed through the silver and green helm to the other.

"Get and airlift arranged. Their father might be a criminal, but they're still Estharian. I want them to get the best care. Understood?"

Before Seifer could hear the answer, time lurched forward again, faster now, and world rippled under his feet. He yelped in shock and surprise, and inwardly cursed as the ground beneath him suddenly turned to tar, clinging to him as he struggled to free himself.

But even as he fought, the scene around him began to fold. Men and women began to crumple into blots of color, the sky bled into the water, and the mingled scents of brine, grease, and smoke became a sterile tang of steel as he was again dragged down to sink through another layer of time to another point in history. Blacking out as tendrils of temporal energy slid themselves under his clothing, caressing and holding him as he dropped—sank—he wondered if this was the nothingness of nonexistence coming to meet him.

Unfortunately, it wasn't.

"Why a story format?" was the first question Fuujin asked as she went over the first few pages. "Why not in your own words? First person?"

Seifer shrugged, sitting at his desk, a pair of wire-rim glassed perched on the bridge of his nose. "Because, some of this isn't in my journal. I didn't start writing again, until… damn. After Galbadia Garden." A thoughtful pause was taken, as Seifer shrugged his broad shoulders. "Besides, I want to… go over everything… and there are some things in my journal Seth will never need to know."

"Like?" Fuujin queried, arching a silver brow.

"Stuff!" was the indignant protest. "Some of that is private… and has no bearing on what he needs to know..."

Fuujin shook her head, smiling ruefully. "Idiot," she said affectionately, even as he scowled at her for it. But then the soft cries of Seth drew them away from the subject at hand. She sighed, and then says, "Afternoon nap, over."

He nodded once. "Shall I take him for now, or you?"

"Keep writing. I'll handle him." She leaned over, cupping his face with one pale hand, and kissed him briefly, before padding out of their bedroom, and into the nursery. In truth, it was another set of quarters that had the walls knocked down to provide Seifer and Fuujin with a double sized set of quarters… for their incoming family.

Seifer looked after her, his pale eyes bright with emotion as he watched Fuujin pass the doorway, cooing to their infant son. Life was good. It couldn't get any better then this.

Chapter Two:

Another Man's Life

He awoke to the sterile scent of a hospital room. Glaring white ceilings, and that ugly, strained-pea green paint on the walls. Could this place be any less conductive to healing?

Where was he? He tested his limbs—all worked, and properly. He wasn't tied down, and he was still dressed. Which meant he was still probably caught in the time stream, as Ultimecia bent it to her will.

Sitting up slowly, he blinked his eyes and ran a gloved hand over his hair, in a calming gesture that didn't quite accomplish it's objective. And in the next bed over, there was the sound of monitors, of labored breathing, was a child.

Seifer rose quietly from the bed, and looked over the room.

The face was partially obscured by the oxygen, and the eyes were closed, but Seifer knew who was in that bed. He had the curly mass of hair he always kept short, and though his brow was unmarred, it wouldn't be so forever.

That was Seifer Almasy, in that bed. Sleeping peacefully, under the effects of sedatives and painkillers, as Estharian high technology repaired his burned little body. That was him, years before ever setting foot in Garden. Before knowing matron. Before…anything.

The doors swung open, making him jump slightly as two men entered the room. One was obviously a doctor, and the other was the man from the fire, the insignia on his armor the same, the helmet he wore under one arm.

Darkened skin marked the officer as a native of the Centra continent, and those long braids that hung down his shoulders and back made him instantly recognizable, as did the set of kitar at his side. He was Kiros Seagill, one of President Loire's retinue.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Seagill," the doctor said. "The girl didn't pull through, but the boy—"

"Seifer Almasy." Kiros corrected him, his voice oddly melodic for a hardened soldier.

"The boy, he's going to have scars, but he's going to pull through." The doctor clutched a clipboard to his chest, as if putting a barrier between him and his patient. "However, Landra Almasy, Mr. Almasy's wife, has already been put into a protection program. She was granted immunity, for her testimony and Yohannes' location."

Seifer's brows knitted. Must be a government facility, if they talk about such a program with a doctor. Maybe he was someone just as important?

"She doesn't give a shit about them anyway," Kiros said with a derisive snort, drawing Seifer's attention back to the matter playing out before him. "She's got no honor, and isn't worth our time and money."

"She got us Yoh—"

"Oh, I know she did," Kiros said, even as Seifer circled both in silence. "And she did it to get a nice sum of money, and to be able to hide within Esthar." His tone was derisive, his words cold, as he tore into this unknown woman, "She ran with him, when the pressure against Adel supporters got too bad, and then she came crawling back to us to cut a deal when she couldn't stand living in Fisherman's Horizon. And she left her kids with that monster…"

The form in the bed stirred. Each man froze, fell silent, as the child-Seifer gave a rough cough, and blearily opened his eyes. Jade green looked into jade green, as the Knight looked down at his counterpart, but the child's eyes traveled elsewhere. He couldn't see the Knight either.

Kiros was immediately at the bedside, reaching to take a small hand as the child, scared and alone, began to cry pitifully. Could Seifer ever remember crying like that? If he could, he certainly wouldn't have ever admitted to it! But, as he watched Kiros smooth back golden-red curls, look down into frightened eyes and gently soothe, Seifer wanted to cry again.

The floor beneath his feet again gave way, his temporal 'weight' dragging him downward once more again, and this time he didn't struggle. He just let himself drop, hoping, this time, the blackness that dropped over his senses was oblivion and not some random time shift.

But this time it was neither. It was the cold scream of Ultimecia. The bond between Knight and Sorceress was still strong, and the tendrils of her consciousness wove themselves into his mind.

~My knight!~ she cried, and Seifer felt his heart clench at her pain.

~My lady?~ he responded dazedly. ~What's wrong? Time Kompression--~

~It burns! Oh, how it burns! I am lost! Lost! Kursed SeeDs! That have undone me! They have used my precious time kompression it to kome into my lair, to slay me! Where were you?~ her unearthly voice was accusing, rending his mind as he fell deeper. ~You failed me! Failed Knight! Unworthy of the title!~

~Ultimecia!~ Seifer cried out, grasping at the link to his patroness. ~I tried! I am caught within time kompression, my lady, and I cannot escape! Can you--~ before he could finish the question, he knew the answer, even as he felt the rending of the bond. Her anguished howl sent ripples through the liquid timescape, and he was rocked by it's force, it's impact physical against his battered frame.

They'd killed her. His Lady, his Sorceress. They'd slain her. Squall had finally killed every last bit of his dream, taken ever last shred of his pride, and destroyed everything.

He'd failed. As her servant, her strong arm, her protector. He'd failed, time and time again.

But strangely, he couldn't' bring himself to care. He was lost, he was sure of it. Time would swallow him whole, and if there really was a Hyne, She would let him go to his final damnation in peace.

Memories danced across the inside of his eyelids, time flashed though his senses as the precious magic she had brought together began to unravel at the seams.

A year, mending in Esthar. Kiros stayed by his side, gentling him through the rough time, as the technology of the advanced culture mended his body, though they could do nothing for his spirit. But even those times had to end. Kiros had duty, and Seifer was nothing to him beyond a little boy he took pity on.

He'd grow to hate pity. Pity meant weakness, and if you were weak, they'd leave you behind. That's why Marella was gone. His sister was dead, because he was weak. It was a hard truth for a four year old to grasp, but that's what it came down to. She took beatings for him. She defend him. And it took her from him.

He hated pity. And the weak.

Coming to the Kramer's orphanage, at the age of five. Alienated, because of his sulleness. Where was Marella? She was gone—and these strangers couldn't replace her. They got close—he drove them away. After all, he didn't know if they were going to be like Papa, or if they were going to be like Marella…

His circle of friends was small. None could replace his lost family, and the abuse he'd suffered as a child made him violent, confrontational. Alienating everyone took mere weeks.

A year later, Ellone—Sis—vanished, Edea leaving with her.

Sisters leave, he learned, and women were inherently untrustworthy. Only the sorceress and the knights in Matron's storybooks, only they stayed together. No one wanted a squalling child; they wanted the hero, the Knight.

He would be the Knight. And then no one would ever leave him again.

And then, Garden. Glorious, wonderful, despicable, hateful Garden.

His home for eleven years, from the age of seven onward, he loved it and hated it. Never in his SeeD cadet uniform, never belonging to the group. He didn't want any part of this. At least, not as a member of the faceless masses. He was born to lead. He would be the Knight. He would force them to see him, to not forget him, not abandon him. He was outside them, above them… he was different from them. He wasn't a soldier, he was a knight. Why didn't they understand? He'd have to show them, prove to him… why he was better then them.

Why he was better then Squall, who had everything he ever wanted. Attention, a sister, love and affection: All of it squandered on a whining youth that didn't want to be a knight. He wanted to be a lion.

A mindless beast, to keep people at bay. Seifer wanted more. He didn't want to be an animal; he wanted to be a man.

And now, the sweet taste of success turned to ashes on his tongue, even as he felt the pull of time gripping at his skin, bursting the toughened flesh and rending him asunder, even as he screwed his eyes shut at the pain.

He wouldn't scream. He wouldn't scream, even if the weight of time tore him limb from limb. He'd at least die with his dignity intact.

He. Would. Not. Scream.

But as the teeth of time kompression sank into his body, tearing flesh, rending sinew and pulping bone, his lungs forced out his wail of pain and rage, and he went howling into the darkness.

Luckily for him, there was someone out there who loved him. Time could not claim him…Because Laguna had been right. It was all about love, courage, and friendship. And someone out there, even if he didn't know it, loved him. And it saved his life.

"You have a flair for the dramatic," Fuujin said softly as she kept reading, Seth sleeping soundly on the bedspread beside her. "Never knew you'd write this well."

"Never thought I would either," Seifer mused from the other side of the spread, gazing down at his son. "Don't think it's too over the top?"

"No. Think you might want to consider sending it to an editor and get it published, though." Fuujin offered, and then smirked as Seifer made a small cough of protest.

"Be real! Not in a million years and all the gil in SeeD's coffers!" He said with a derisive snort.

"Why not?" She asked innocently, single eye dancing with amusement. She sat up, before sliding carefully from the bed, trying not to disturb the baby. "After all, Squall's had a thousand and one biographies written about him—"

"Yes! About him. Not by him!" Seifer gave her something of a look, before glancing down to his son. "Of course, he'd be a damn boring writer, I'm sure. Very repetitive, just like the way he talks."

"But you're not." Fuujin pointed out. "You've got talent here." She placed his papers on his desk, in plain manila folder that he'd taken to keeping them in.

"Bet you won't think that way when I get to the gory details of our first night together," he said with a waggle of his brows. "Or what we did after I proposed. Or the conception of Seth, mm?"

Derisive laughter was his only answer. "Better not write that!" Fuujin replied, even as she returned to the bed. Carefully, she set her weight down, easing down next to her son. To her credit, the baby didn't stir.

"Why not?" he asked, this time wearing the innocent face as he watched her curl up on her side.

"Don't want competition! To good to lose!" She smirked, as he had to bury his face into the blanket to not wake his small son with his laughter.

"I thought you were supposed to be the one to burst my bubble, not inflate my ego?" he finally said between sniggers.

"Something you deserve inflation." Fuujin added, with a waggle of her own brows, before the laid her head on her arms to watch her small son sleep.

"Whatever!" Seifer replied with a grin, and then glanced back down to the sleeping Seth. Barely a month old, and Seifer was still entranced with the tiny workings of the little form before him. The occasional twitch of a leg, the wave of a tiny fist, all of it enthralled him. He could hardly, at times, believe that this had come from him. "Fuu?"

"Mmm?"

"Will you help me with the next chapters?"

"Why?" Fuujin arched a pale brow again, her single eye fixing on her husband's face.

Seifer's eyes didn't move from his small son. "Well, I don't exactly know what you were doing with Raijin before you found my sorry ass, so I'd like you to help me. Tell me." He finally looked up. "I… I want to know how you felt. What it was like."

"Oh." The albino woman seemed to consider a moment, as if this were a matter for serious deliberation, even though they both knew she'd say yes. "Alright."

"Thanks."

"No problem." It was so nice to have a wife who actually held up her end of things. Poor Squall got the short end of the stick, Seifer mused, in getting saddled with Rinoa…