Seifer had apparently heard his approach, though he (she?) showed no reaction other than to turn his/her head away from Squall in order that he not see his/her tears. Squall instinctively knew that Seifer was in a fragile state emotionally at that moment, so he made sure to keep his steps audible and stepped forward slowly, sitting on the edge of the bed with overly gentle motions. He rested his hand on Seifer's back comfortingly, rubbing soothing circles into the area between his/her shoulder-blades.
"'m not made of glass." Seifer mumbled, voice soft and nowhere near as harsh as normal, and Squall had to forcibly keep from flinching at the melodic, smooth tone of it. That… was not Seifer. Just like the long and shapely legs weren't Seifer's, and the curtain of fine-spun golden hair wasn't Seifer's, and those delicate fingers on that slender hand… they certainly weren't Seifer's.
"I know." He muttered back, unsure of what to say.
Seifer-girl spun around, sitting up in a fluid motion, and glared at him with those glittering jade eyes. The thick eyelashes may not have been Seifer's, but the sheer passion in that gaze couldn't have fit anyone but the Almasy. The pouty lips weren't originally Seifer's, but the scornful sneer was all too familiar. The voice currently cussing at him wasn't Seifer's, but that specific combination of cusswords spoken with those exact inflections was a Seifer Almasy trademark. "Look, you motherfucking son of a whorecock, if you start treating me differently I'm going to rip off your balls, and I'm now allowed to use that threat because I don't have any, got it?"
"Understood." Squall nodded, staring entranced at Seifer-girl's features. Damn, but this girl was lovely when she was angry.
Apparently, the expression on his face was precisely what Seifer didn't want to see. "Damn-Hyne-shit, Squally-boy, I'm serious. I don't know why this happened, and I don't know how to fix it, but I'm going to, so don't you dare think of me as anything but Seifer Almasy, ex-Sorceress Knight and the only man able to kick your ass."
"That would be more effective if that were how I thought of you in the first place," Squall pointed out, one eyebrow cocked.
"And I swear I'll make you straight for me, so you're definitely not allowed to leave me because you're gay." Seifer continued, ignoring Squall's dry comment.
Squall took Seifer's head between his hands and made the lovely face turn to him, meeting those jade eyes dead-on. "You are being irrational. Stop it."
Seifer took a deep breath to argue more, but then heaved all his frustration out in one big, heartfelt sigh. "Yeah, you're right. Hyne, why is this happening to me?" Squall gave a minimal shrug. Not needing any verbal encouragement, Seifer continued, "Selphie wants me to start wearing make-up and skirts and lingerie, and… I don't really want to. I'm not that type of person."
"Don't." Squall commanded, startled into speech. "I don't want you to change who you are to suit your looks. I'll still think of you as Seifer, no other name, and I am not going to compartmentalize you mentally into separate entities judging by your gender. You will always be Seifer." My Seifer, he left unsaid.
Seifer gave a small, sweet smile that made Squall melt internally, and pressed a kiss to Squall's fingertips in an unintentionally alluring manner. "Thanks, puberty boy. I don't want to be an alternate Seifer. I think I look good enough without make-up anyway."
Squall instantly nodded in affirmation, causing Seifer to shake his head with a widening smile and slide up onto his knees.
"Of course, just because I don't want to be all feminine and shit doesn't mean I don't want to flaunt my ridiculously hot body," Seifer continued flippantly, slowly undoing the buttons of the shirt one by one as if he were performing a striptease to no audible music. He slid it off his shoulders with a sultry look at Squall (causing the brunet to wonder exactly when Seifer had learned female seduction tactics) and posed on the bed, legs curled under him and breasts arched invitingly. "Have I turned you straight yet, Squally-boy?" He murmured, voice husky and holy Hyne, where did he get that lacy black lingerie?
Squall nodded dumbly again, finding his gaze being drawn to all areas of Seifer's body and not knowing which one to settle on. The taut abdomen, the disproportionately large breasts, the toned thighs, the smooth neck, the smirking lips – actually, ignore those – or those smoky eyes…? Too many choices. Brain overload.
Seifer tackled him – now that was familiar – and forced him on his back on the bed, kissing him senseless. The soft-as-velvet lips were different, but the flavor was the same. Those wandering hands had an unfamiliar lack of calluses, but the path they traveled down his body to the button on his slacks was gut-wrenchingly recognizable.
"Mm, wait," Squall tore his mouth away from Seifer's to pant out breathlessly. "Condoms."
Seifer blinked down at him, blind-sided. The thought had apparently never occurred to him… her. Squall still wasn't sure what gender pronoun to use when thinking of the new Seifer-girl who was not new at all except that he/she was a girl. This was getting kind of complicated.
Thankfully, Seifer didn't give him much time to consider it, as his newfound body kept the pair occupied late into the night and far into the early morning.
Squall woke up the next morning to the familiar scent of coffee wafting through the dormitory. He stumbled towards the source of the smell and found Seifer in the kitchen wearing nothing but a loose robe and a grumpy expression.
"Bad mood?" Squall inquired succinctly, taking the proffered mug of coffee with a grateful nod. Seifer had flavored it exactly the way he liked it – one teaspoon of sugar, no milk, and a dash of brandy.
"Fuck off." Seifer growled into his own mug, damp hair spilling forward and getting in the way of pretty much everything. "Shampooing this mass of hair took about half a bottle, and I haven't even tried brushing it yet. How the fuck do females – Leonhart, are you taller than me?" He cut himself off with a flabbergasted question.
Squall measured them up in his mind and found to his great shock that yes, he was taller than Seifer. SCORE!
Seifer snarled and slammed his coffee mug onto the counter, unmindful of the hot liquid spilling over the side and onto the smooth surface. Squall, on the other hand, gazed at the coffee stain with disheartened melancholy. "Hyne-fucking-cock-shit, I shrunk six whole inches, grew a fucking coat-worth of hair, lost almost all of my muscle, and could probably span my current waist with my old man-hands, and all I get in return are these balloons strapped to my chest? Why does Hyne hate me?!"
"Probably because you always attached his name to phrases like 'fucking-cock-shit,'" Squall answered blithely. "Although that's just a guess."
"Piss off, Leonhart." Seifer hissed viciously, grabbing a dishtowel and wiping away the spilled coffee with tight, hostile swipes. Something in the back of Squall's mind questioned 'how can wiping up coffee be hostile?' but the other voices promptly assured that voice that Seifer's actions couldn't be described as anything but.
Squall sighed, setting down his own mug with great care. Seifer was generally antagonistic, but he always wore a smirk on his face while doing it. This open belligerence wasn't like him. "Why are you acting like this? Cut your armpits shaving this morning?"
Alright, so he couldn't help getting a few digs in. Seifer Almasy had been bullying him and making fun of him since they were five, and now, he finally had the upper hand in a situation. He was going to milk this for all it was worth.
Seifer's eyes widened in shock before he cracked a reluctant smile. "At least I have to shave something, puberty boy." He retorted, gesturing to Squall's silk-smooth cheeks.
Squall glowered at him, half-annoyed and half-relieved. There was his Seifer, same as always.
"If you need to go do Headmaster-y things all day, I understand." Seifer said unexpectedly, now searching through the refrigerator. "I'll probably be able to find stuff to do. But who's gonna take over for me as Commander of SeeDs? Selphie's your secretary, Zell's the Director of Combat Instruction… I guess Quistis? Oh wait, she's the Head Instructor, right? Maybe Irvine?"
Squall blinked, then rubbed the bridge of his nose in growing irritation. Great. Another thing to add to his extensive to-do list. "Are you really that much worse with a gunblade now?"
"You mean, do I think myself incapable of being the Commander because I'm not skilled enough?" Seifer clarified, pulling out bacon and eggs from the fridge and heating up a skillet. "It's not that, entirely. I'm probably still a good enough fighter. I just don't think I could demand as much respect now."
Squall's eyes gleamed with disappointment. "That's your excuse? That's pathetic."
"Hey," Seifer protested, his own eyes narrowing in a familiar glare. "It's not an excuse. It was easy for me to gain the SeeD cadets' respect as a male, because I'm… I was tall and intimidating, but now I'll have to regain their respect, and it won't be as easy."
"It won't be as easy." Squall repeated, his lips twisting into a disgusted sneer. "Because you can't handle things unless they're easy?"
"I never said that!" Seifer objected, but Squall continued speaking over him.
"You are supposed to be a Commander of SeeDs, Almasy," Squall reminded him, voice icy. "I will not allow you to shirk your duty because it becomes difficult for you. I expect you to be able to handle complicated circumstances without failure or complaint, and I do not anticipate disappointment. Do I make myself clear?"
Seifer stared at him blankly for a moment, then flung himself at the unsuspecting Squall, who stumbled back at the abrupt weight hanging off his neck.
"You're so hot when you talk like that," Seifer breathed out, eyes smoldering, before he covered Squall's mouth with his own in a devouring kiss.
Squall gave a muffled yelp before he braced himself against the wall, pinned to it by Seifer's lighter weight.
Forty minutes, two showers, and a hasty clean-up of the smoke-filled kitchen later, Squall and Seifer were ready to begin their day.
They grabbed granola bars and water bottles and hurried to their respective jobs: Squall to his Headmaster's office, Seifer to the Training Center where the SeeDs waited to get their respective assignments. Halfway to his office, Squall changed directions and ran back in the direction of the Center. He wanted to be there to back up Seifer in the likely case that the SeeDs didn't buy his story – after all, he would be disappointed in his mercenaries if they believed the unfamiliar woman without question.
Squall caught up with Seifer right before the blonde could open the doors, ignoring the questioning glance in favor of setting his jaw in a stoic expression. Seifer flung open the double doors and marched inside, gathering up every ounce of intimidation that he could manage. It was true that it had been far easier in his old body; the six-foot-two, broadly muscled frame was domineering and menacing in a way that his new five-foot-eight, slender body couldn't even hope to accomplish. But Hyne-be-damned if he were just going to give up on gaining back the respect that he had lost as Ultimecia's knight.
"Alright, duckies, I got news for you." Seifer pasted on a wicked grin and flipped Hyperion out of its holster, catching it in one hand while placing the other hand on his hip. "Through some extenuating circumstances, your godlike Commander Seifer Almasy has been turned into a fucking gorgeous chick. I will not punish you if you laugh…"
The SeeDs under his command gaped at him open-mouthed, then flicked their gazes to Squall for confirmation. At his small nod, they burst out laughing, appreciating Seifer's promise that they wouldn't be punished for it.
Seifer's grin took on a vicious edge as he finished, "Unless you consider one-on-one spars with me to be punishment."
The laughter abruptly stopped; every SeeD's smile was wiped away as a horror-struck expression replaced it.
"Aww, chickies, I'm hurt!" Seifer crooned, spinning Hyperion's tip lazily in a figure-8 pattern. "You don't want to test yourselves against me?"
"Not even remotely," His subordinates chorused unanimously, something that Squall was endearingly amused by. Seifer Almasy had trained his SeeDs well.
Seifer slid Hyperion back into his holster and stood with his legs braced apart, hands on hips. "Good move. I'll let you off this time. As it is, I'm still the same Almasy, I'll still make fun of your practically non-existent and/or incredibly boring sex lives, and I can still beat the ever-loving Hyne-pants off of you. Got it memorized, ya little shit-fuckers?"
"Yessir!" His SeeDs chanted, accustomed to his bizarre cussing.
"Headmaster Leonhart, care to explain what you're doing here?" Seifer inquired unexpectedly, turning his sharp jade gaze to the taciturn man standing next to him.
Squall's gaze barely flicked over to Seifer as he gestured to one of the front-most SeeDs. "Observing your teaching methods, Commander Almasy. You. Black-haired boy with glasses. Front and center."
The boy jogged up to see him, admirably straight-faced and calm in the face of the famous war hero Squall Leonhart. Seifer really had trained his SeeDs well.
"Sir yes sir, Headmaster sir?" The boy asked, a faint smirk appearing on his face.
Maybe Seifer had trained his SeeDs a little too well.
"State your name and rank." Squall commanded evenly, leaving no room for argument. He would have hoped that he left no room for insubordination either, but if anyone could teach his students how to be subtly defiant, it was Seifer Almasy.
He gestured smoothly to Seifer, who took the hint and carried on with his lesson, ignoring the impromptu interview going on at his side. Soon, the chattering and movement of students surrounded Squall, showing that his conversation with the black-haired boy wasn't being focused on by the majority of the SeeD members around him.
"Lee Turnbull, sir. Rank 5, sir." The bespectacled boy announced, rocking back on his heels.
"And you've been Commander Almasy's subordinate for the two years he's been in command." Squall continued, meeting the boy's black eyes dead-on.
"Yessir." Lee nodded, seemingly intent on saying 'sir' as much as possible with as few words as possible to buffer it.
Squall switched his gaze to Seifer, who had just flung his arm around the neck of a female SeeD and was currently giving her a noogie, laughing maniacally all the while. "Is his teaching style always this… unorthodox?"
"He's not the most… formal of my instructors, true," Lee admitted, stubbornly avoiding anything that could implicate his Commander. "But his methods are effective and good at keeping our attention."
"Duly noted," Squall said with a wry smirk. "So you would advocate his techniques, then?"
"I would die for the Commander, sir," Lee stated proudly, drawing himself up to his full height. "And I would just as soon kill anyone who said anything against him."
Squall arched a single chocolate eyebrow, intrigued at the nature of the boy. He hadn't even said anything against Seifer, merely asked an innocent question regarding his teaching methods, and the boy had reacted defensively – and more importantly, protectively.
When Seifer had returned to Balamb Garden six months after the end of the Third Sorceress War, Squall hadn't known how the public would react. After all, Squall himself was the beloved Lion of Balamb Garden, the teenager who supposedly single-handedly brought down Ultimecia. Of course, he would never have been able to do it without the help of his friends, but good luck convincing the media of that. They were much more interested in crediting him with the successful end of the war. But he was a teenager nonetheless, and he didn't think that the media would appreciate him bringing a known traitor back into power, thinking that he had done it simply because Seifer had been a childhood friend of his.
So Seifer's return as Ultimecia's failed knight had been greatly anticipated. Squall had waited apprehensively for the reaction from the public, and he was not disappointed. Trabian survivors and Galbadian citizens anxious to clear their name from the war had demanded his execution, backed up by the media and many zealous, anti-sorceress fanatics from Esthar. However, with Squall's official support, as well as backing from the SeeDs of Balamb Garden, Seifer had been allowed to stay. Ten months later, he had been granted a position as a Rank 5 SeeD, and after that, the rest was history. At twenty years old, he had taken over for Squall as the Commander of SeeDs at the Garden, and Squall replaced the newly retired Cid Kramer as Headmaster.
But even so, Squall hadn't been totally aware of just how adored Seifer truly was. He hadn't known that Seifer's underlings were so loyal to him, hadn't known that Seifer's SeeDs would rush to his defense, and certainly hadn't known that Seifer's subordinates would talk back to him for no other reason than protecting their Commander. It was relieving, in a way. He didn't have to worry about Seifer's students hating him on top of the remaining anti-sorceress fanatics out there.
Squall's focus was brought back to the real world just as Seifer whispered mock-conspiratorially to Lee, "Yeah, he does this sometimes. You learn to expect it."
"Duly noted," Lee said, staring curiously at Squall.
Squall rolled his eyes, accustomed to the way Seifer whined to other people about the way he zoned out for minutes at a time. You'd think the whiny bastard would have gotten used to it by now. After all, they'd known each other since they were like, six, and Squall had been doing it for just as long.
"You sticking around?" Seifer asked, shoving Lee away to join his group for the latest mission. Lee took it well, just gave a good-natured salute goodbye and wandered away. "You seriously don't have anything better to do with your time then stalk me like the creepy weirdo you are?"
"One would think there was something you're hiding from me," Squall deadpanned, nodding a goodbye as he took his own leave.
Seifer smirked, looking as innocent as he ever did – as in, not at all – and blew Squall a kiss. It looked almost natural on him now. That was somewhat disturbing.
Squall slipped out of the training center and walked briskly to the Headmaster's office, nodding his acknowledgments to everyone he walked by. He made it there in a few minutes, and couldn't help but be thankful that the process had been so painless. No one insisted on stopping him to have any unproductive, useless conversations.
"Squally!" Selphie trilled the second he stepped off the elevator.
It was good while it lasted, Squall reflected. Always was, with Selphie.
"So, so, um, did you – so, how about Seifer –" Selphie paused, flustered. Squall realized with amusement that she didn't know if he was aware of Seifer's current state, and was subtly trying to coax it out of him. Selphie wasn't very good at subtle. "Uh, did you go back to your rooms last night?"
"Yes." Squall said simply, and moved to walk past her to his office.
"And?" She tried again, bounding up to him and bouncing in place directly in his walking path. "Uh, did Seifer say anything interesting?"
"No." Squall said, and tried to sidestep her.
Selphie was clearly confused, but doggedly stepped back in front of him again to pursue the topic. "Nothing… at all? She – he didn't say anything interesting? At all?"
"Selphie," Squall monotoned. "He didn't say anything interesting. He didn't have to. It was a fairly obvious issue." And with that, he slid his hands to her sides, hoisted her up easily, and set her down out of his path. Then he walked quickly into his office and shut the door.
He could hear her yelling at him from outside the door, and he just shook his head in exasperated amusement and ignored her.
If all females were like that, he wanted Seifer back to being male as soon as humanly possible.
[Author's note:] Haha, um, sorry this is so late. I'm good like that. Review if you want to. Don't if you don't. The end.
Although reviews do make me update faster. [/blatant manipulation]