Warning: the following may contain spoilers to the story....

The Bloodcross Key: Author Commentary and Responses:

First of all I would like to deeply thank everyone who has been kind enough to review and comment on my story. It really means alot to me to know that it has touched so many people and so strongly. While I do write because I must let the stories collecting in my head become something tangible, I would be lying if I didn't admit that reader appreciation makes it all much more fulfilling. Thank you! Thank you very very much!

I've noticed several questions and comments in the reviews I would like to respond to and, if you'll indulge me, I'd like to make some comments of my own regarding the story as a whole and little bits I'd like to explain or just draw attention to.

I'll start with future plans for Arc 3. I'm glad so many are excited for more story, and there will be. But... it probably won't be any time real soon. I need a breather from this series and desperately need to play with a very Seifery Seifer. Usually I find Seifer writes himself and I have a blast going with the flow, but The Bloodcross Key Seifer is nothing like that and can be draining at times.

Not that I don't put alot of thought into my stories (whether it shows or not, only I'll let you all be the judge shrug>), but Bloodcross requires alot more, constantly evaluating and factoring in every little nuance of every event and word and other character's reactions is much more difficult when the characters have grown drastically from their beginnings, yet always having to keep in mind what their underlying personalities are. Maybe it's waaaaaaaaaay overboard and taking it all too seriously, but I see every story I write as a learning experience, particularly for my original stories, which matter most to me.

That said, and maybe it'll be a tease to tell, but here are some of what I'm planning for Arc 3. Don't worry, there's no spoilers. Of course, I'll be continuing the romance between Squall and Seifer, and Seifer's ongoing recovery. It'll be more of a 'action' story. Loose ends from previous arcs will be explored and maybe smirk> tied off. Fujin and Raijin will return and where they've been and exactly what they've been doing will be revealed. Not that I was keeping it any big secret, but it wasn't the focus of Reversals, so I left it vague, until it was important. Seifer will have even more to deal with when confronted with some startling revelations. But as much as I like angst, Reversals was the main angst portion of the series. Figure it's about time for the balance to tip towards more happiness, just don't expect it to be too easy. If anyone's hoping for Seifer to start acting a little more like himself, then be assured, it will be in Arc 3. I don't think *I* could take much more of the series if it wasn't the case grin>. The fallout of Rinoa and Squall's break-up will be explored, and with a more favorable view of Rinoa. Just a little. I may not like her, but.... well I'll talk about that later. And anyone thirsting for revenge against those who hurt Seifer, it's in there! It'll also make the story more complicated than previous Arcs, because the plot is external instead of mostly internal. I have to make even more sure everything fits right. Well, hopefully that will be enough to satisfy most of your curiosity.

On to answering other questions... My views on pairings are quite different than most yaoi writer's, and probably has more in common with Slash. I ignore the concept of uke-seme, and not just because I have yet to write a sex scene. If I didn consider the idea of set sexual roles, it would be a part of the couple's everyday dynamic and not just in bed, so it's still pertitent to how I write the characters that I don't go with the concept. Granted, since I'm not gay or male, I will never completely understand what it means to be either, and my writing and characterization will always have a female bent, but I do try to make the characters seem real, as real as I can make them. Plus relationships, regardless of configuration rarely abide by any set rules. I take that into account. Add that no matter what story I write, I try to write the characters as if they were alive and let them live their story, sex and gender roles no longer are 'simple'. So, basically this is my long-winded way of saying, with The Bloodcross Key and all of my stories the pairing is designated using Slash notation instead of yaoi's -- this a Seifer/Squall fic, not a SeiferxSquall or SquallxSeifer, because it's about them as equals (and I only put Seifer first because it sounds better that way grin>). It's about them showing each other how much they love the other how ever the moment suits them. Seifer may be the weaker, submissive one now, but it won't always be like that, particularly since there's obvious reason for it, but as Seifer comes back to himself it will have to change. I don't see Seifer or Squall as having submissive natures. At least not with each other. It's probably why I like the pairing so much... all that tension and conflict... the image of both of them wrestling to control, like a sexual 'king of the mountain' evil smirk> is much more interesting to me than following the yaoi 'rules'. Hope this cleared some things up too.

There have been a few comments about OOC-ness. I don't know if they were meant in general or just for specific chapters, but either way, I'm not offended, and have taken a second look to see if I may have fallen short of keeping them in character. If someone can give me exact instances where they felt something was OOC or even scenes, that would help, however at this point I don't really see where. I've put alot of thought and work into keeping at least Seifer and Squall in character and maybe it's because I know what aspect of their original + transformed personalities I'm having them express, it makes it more difficult for me to see where I may have missed. And if the reader doesn't feel the same, I may have missed in at least properly expressing the characters so it feels right. Of course it might just come down to different perspectives of the core personalities which could become further distanced as they are changed by all the events of the story.

Squall: He's anti-social, often rude (when he does speak), intelligent, has a warped and sarcastic sense of humor, definite introvert, emotionally repressed... which probably leads to sexually repressed ( I doubt he's sexually aware... any sexual impulses would be reactionary, even if merely a reaction to unconscious urges, for instance, from a dream.), he's apathetic, self-reliant, duty-driven, unambitious......... but he does have feelings and vulnerabilities, they've just been locked away for the most part for most of his life.

The basis for his slow creep towards his emotions in my story comes from the instances in the game where he was emotional. I always found it interesting and significant that Seifer was the only one from the very start of the game who could bring him to strong emotional responses, whether positive or negative. That's the unique and special dynamic of their relationship, whether as rivals, friends, or possibly more. I very deliberately made sure that when Squall was interacting with anyone other than Seifer, he was more the Squall that's expected, at least until things started really falling apart after Seifer's suicide attempt. It's not because they're the intended pair of the story so I'm contriving a more pleasant and 'romantic' interaction between them. It is because that is how it was in the game, just a little more low-key and I think that is because, unfortunately, the game was more concerned with it's own 'contrivance' of forcing Rinoa and Squall into some supposed love story than explore the far more interesting relationship between Seifer and Squall (and I'm not meaning romantic, but as friends and rivals). Seifer's little toe is much more interesting than Rinoa, he was overflowing with so much potential for a great, angsty story, and I wish the creators had realized it. I felt completely cheated by the ending, by all the characters and subplots who were robbed of a proper resolution for the sake of an unconvincing 'love' story. It would have been better if they just left the romance out of the game entirely! I like FF8 not for what it was, but what it could have been...and that is what the fanfiction is for.

Seifer: I see in most ways as being Squall's opposite. Extroverted, brash, proud, confident, passionate, ambitious, fiery, strong, fearless, brave... to a fault, most likely, quick to anger and frustration, impatient, he has dreams and he goes after them head-on, like he does everything..... but in some ways they are alike... both are insecure and vulnerable inside -- Seifer hides it under bravado, Squall under apathy. Both are brave, but Squall likely out of not caring enough about his life, and Seifer maybe for caring too much- he wants to be respected. He respects Squall (and that is soooo canon it's even in the manual...) and I think likes him (would you want tell the person you hate most your 'Romantic Dream'? Unless it was to kill them slowly and painfully? And that's just taking it platonically!.... guess there goes the 'they hate each other' theory smirk>)... and Squall repects and likes him (he even says he likes Seifer, when everyone is talking about him being dead. I refer to that scene at least once in The Bloodcross Key.) I could go on about how the rivalry between Seifer and Squall isn't one of hatred or even dislike... but that's not why I'm writing this. It's just a pet-peeve of mine so when I get started it's difficult to stop grin>. And as far as how Seifer changes within the story, I think that's more clear than Squall's changes, and probably more understandable as being in-character. So I won't go further, except to say this: With as important as Seifer holds his dreams and ambitions, as much as he is fiery and independent, and proud, to have his dream twisted into something to control him and cause him to destroy and hurt those he cares about, even just a little, would be devestating to him. He failed all the SeeD exams because he has to be in control and do what he thinks is right or do what makes him feel useful. To lose not just that, his control, his will, but the respect of others, would send him over the edge, blaming his weakness.

Rinoa: Sorry, but to me she's a weak character, by design and personality. The only thing she has going for her is she's pretty (although Quistis is far prettier) and she's somewhat sweet (Laguna's got her beat sweetness-wise.... and well, pretty-wise too smirk>) and naive. She's been pampered most of her life, acts like a spoiled teenager (yes, I know, she is a teenager.. but so are most of the characters) whose greatest trauma is her Daddy is protective of her and doesn't want her running off to foolishly join a revolution. A revolution, I must add and quote "She plans a revolution like a surprise party!" (AquaianGoddess) What a bastard of a father!!!! The meanie!! She's immature, self-absorbed (only cares about her feelings for Squall, not his for her), however, she does seem to be sensitive to how other people might be feeling (like when Squall's 'mean' to Zell), as long as it doesn't directly affect how she feels. She sees herself as morally surperior, as in when she scolds Squall for how he speaks to his own squad, usually Zell. He may be brusque in his dealings with others, yet Zell does need some discipline and even so, no one asked Rinoa for her opinion, she just gives it and with attitude. She's controlling (see previous statement) if things aren't going her way, Squall's a 'meanie' and if he was nice he would do what she wants. She's pushy, from scene one. And kinda creepy. Definite stalker potential. Hell, if she doesn't take 'no' (silent though they may have been, but I think Squall made his intent clear) for answer when she's trying to start a relationship, how little will she accept it when she's being dumped? It drove me crazy through the whole game how she was always trying to get Squall's attention and for him to like her, even when he clearly didn't. I didn't like her, he didn't like her, why wouldn't she just go away?! And it's not like with Seifer where Squall actually gives him some encouragement by responding with more than apathy or distaste, gasp> sometimes he's even friendly. gasp> If not for my stubborness and Seifer, I probably wouldn't have finished the game, as she was just getting worse and worse, and Squall 'responding' to it was just plain frustrating and disappointing. I figured he was better than that. He actually was a much more interesting character when he was closed than all of a sudden lovey-dovey about Rinoa. It is very possible she 'enchanted' him, because he does only start responding to her with any real positiveness after she becomes a sorceress.... hmmmmm.

Anyway, my approach in Bloodcross was to try to portray her as much like in the game as possible. Granted it's colored by how I see her but I tried, against my discomfort, to temper it. However, if one notices, the negatives in reference to her are usually from Squall's perceptions. And as the story goes on, they become more and more negative and expressing his frustration.

Some may feel I'm in some way discounting their relationship which is established in the game, except I'm not. I went about their relationship very much like I did his and Seifer's, by taking the characters as I saw them and letting them interact and feel within that characterization. I was never convinced Squall would or could truly love Rinoa, in a forever sort of way. Maybe at first for the novelty of being wanted and needed and not having been 'in love' before, but that's still stretching it since I don't see him falling in love with her at all. And technically, it's barely canon. We assume he's in love but he could easily mean and feel something less, maybe even just a chivalric need to protect someone weak, or as a brother or both.

But it comes down to I feel the game took Squall OOC of what it had established to get them together, so I'm trying to bring him back as close as I can get it and the end result is they shouldn't be together. True, making him gay can be considered OOC, although most of my male friends will concede that he probably is, as often as he gives females the brush off, especially when they're coming on to him (Quistis and Rinoa), but as I said, I use what the game provides to play with them as closely to IC as I possibly can.

One more note about Rinoa. If you look carefully at her actions, mannerisms, and words, she's actually portrayed much nicer and positively than Squall's POV makes it appear. For instance, the infamous almost-rape scene... there's two completely different and opposing points of view in that scene, it's only Seifer's that is expressed with the intimacy of mind.

If you see it, through her actions, etc, from her POV, she genuinely believes Seifer is interested and willing. But, as I see her being self-absorbed in regards to what she wants, she doesn't see Seifer's words and behavior as anything except what she wants to see it as. Beside, Squall was going off the deep-end after he saw what she was doing, and overreacted by saying she raped him, or almost did. I don't even know if it would have gone that far. I didn't write the scene any further so I'm not sure how it would have played out between the characters. She probably would have stopped once the 'evidence' of his 'lack of interest' was too obvious to ignore. However, it didn't require being raped by her for the damage to be done. Any damage she could do she already had.

My main 'theme', I suppose, in Reversals, in regards to both characterization and the name, was a 'role-reversal' between Seifer and Squall. The intent was that Squall took up (subconsciously) Seifer's role in their 'relationship', to maintain it's dynamic,-- which he slowly realized was as necessary a thing as breathing,-- because Seifer, through all he had suffered, had become more like Squall -- distant, apathetic, closed. Someone had to be the catalyst, the fire, and as Squall-like as I could write him, Squall became that, became 'Seifer'. While Seifer I tried to show as being a Seifer version of Squall. Very complicated to work with at times because of the multiple layers of characterization I needed to consider. But very satisfying, now that it's all done. I hope I did succeed and my intent came through even if only subtly, but that it felt 'right' and 'true' and gave the story an extra something which was unexpected and unique.

Well, enough of that. In case anyone was wondering why there's no Irvine or Selphie in the story, it simply because I'm not as familiar with the characters (and don't like Selphie all that much.) and I didn't need them. They would have just been there to be there and I didn't want that. I tried to make every character I included serve a purpose. It's the way I write all my stories and why many only have a few characters. Sometimes less is more. Don't expect to see them in Arc 3 either.

That's all the things I can think of at the moment that might be of interest or I needed to share. If anyone has anyone questions or would like to discuss some aspect of my story/stories or what I've said here, feel free to e-mail me at : neemeister@home.com ....As you can see, I enjoy talking about elements of writing and analysis of the stories themselves. Maybe too much. weak grin> I like putting little 'puzzles' and hints of foreshadowing in my stories and readers discovering them.is almost more satisfying and encouraging that readers enjoying the story itself.

Anyway, just because I'm not working Arc 3 right away doesn't mean I won't be writing at all. I have at least 4 more FF8 stories I plan on working on:

More Homecoming-- While Seifer is great to write in that one, it's not him that has me stuck, but where exactly to take the plot. I wanted to keep it relatively short (for me), but if no one minds another 'epic' length story, maybe the problem will be solved. Might even become an 'Arc'ed story too. sigh> Btw, for anyone who may have wondered, it's a Seifer/Squall. As far as FF8, that's almost all I write.

Have a Seifer/Squall, Seifer/Laguna fic planned. Not only do I like the idea of a love triangle, but as much as I enjoy the opposites/rivalry dynamic of Seifer/Squall, the potential between Seifer and Squall's Dad has intrigued me, and is my second favorite FF8 pairing. Not only is there the obvious draw of a 'kinder, gentler' 'substitute' Squall in Laguna, but the appeal of Laguna as himself: a very sweet, brave, passionate man. His very nature would set off the need in Seifer to protect even though he is more than capable of fending for himself. (Kinda an 'anti-Rinoa smirk>). If the little dialogue bit I have so far is an indicator, I expect to have great fun writing this one.

A Sequel to 'True Love's Kiss' -- (Also a Seifer/Squall)... this time a parody of yaoi and some of it's excesses. My humor fics I usually finish in one or two days, so once the inspiration hits, expect that one real quick.

And finally, I'll be working on the next part of a fic I've been writing with another writer, called 'Breaking Dreams' (Seifer/Squall (my half of the fic) and Zell/Irvine (my co-author's))...for over a year.I'm sooo bad, bad, bad. I had stopped working on my part because of many reasons, but since I know she still wants to keep it going, I'm kicking my own ass to get my part done. Then the pressure will be back on her! smirk>

Oh! And for those of you who are following my original stories, I will be working on more of them too. Have new one I'm excited about, Price of Truth, angsty of course. grin> I hope to post the first chapter here (under Original-Fantasy, where I'm posting my original stories, although Stone Angel is still under Anime-Original. Not all my stories will be on FF.net... have to leave something new to see on my site. grin>) I'll probably have a new chapter for 'Song of Tears...' and maybe the next Forever Love (found on my site) before Stone Angel, only because I had been working on both of those off and on and not much of Stone Angel. But then I've been wrong often enough, when inspiration would hit and I'd just have to go with it, turning all my plans completely around. Sequels to Gilded Cage and The Taurus Key (also on my site) will probably be much further off since both involve more intricate plots than before.

Well, that's it for now.... Thanks again for the wonderful reviews. And for the constructive comments. Being told I've done a good job feels great, but finding out where it could be better is welcome too.

And thanks for bearing with me through all this. Sorry for the ramble but it feels good to get to express some of what I put into the story and why.

~Lady Tempest