Author's note - Just so you don't get too confused, dream sequences have been and will continue to be out of order. I'm trying to fit them more so with the present scene than a past timeline.

This is the Last Time
September 2002

He was afraid of getting too close. Seifer laid out on the bed, absolutely gorgeous in sleep while still dressed in only loose cotton pants, and Squall couldn't bring himself to move from his spot leaning next to the open doorway. There wasn't a clock in the room to tell him how long he had been standing there, but he didn't care either. All Squall knew was that Seifer was unconscious and it was his fault. The temptation to run was foremost in his thoughts, but he had to at least make sure the blonde was all right.

Staring at the carpet, Squall frowned. He really didn't like not knowing what happened. That thing... Shiva had practically demanded to be released from the bindings he never realized he held on her. He wasn't able to refuse. In the momentary lack of judgment, Squall had trusted the guardian force to do what she needed. Instead, he had wakened to find Seifer sprawled on the floor and dead to the world. The teen could only breathe again when he had discovered the man's pulse blessedly strong and steady.

Hugging himself, Squall shuddered at the remembered feel of Shiva passing through him and the thought of losing Seifer.

"If you're cold, get over here."

He looked up at the deep tone, finding heavy lidded eyes and a sly smirk. "Are you okay?"

"Nn, let me get back to you on that one. How about you?"

"I'm fine."

A quiet chuckle. "You say that a lot, you know. Especially when you are definitely not fine. Would you just come over here already?"

"I should go."

"Sorry, no guilt trip for Squally-boy. Get the fuck over here."

"W, what?"

His green eyes seemed to shine. "You heard me. I want to snuggle with my frigid Ice Prince so start moving those feet."

Only due to his stunned mindset did Squall follow the order to the point of walking up to the bedside, but he kept his hands contained within crossed arms to resist touching the man. Taking advantage of dazed brunette, Seifer wrapped strong arms around the exposed waist and used his body weight while rolling to pull Squall over him and to his side on the bed. His head bouncing once on the pillow, some clarity returned to Squall.

"You remember."

"More like still remembering. There's basically of mount of crap in my head that will take a lot of time to sort through."

"But you recall those nicknames."

"You bet. The most important things were easy to single out."

"And annoying me is that important."

"Mmm, along with other things." A large hand traveled downward until reaching below the boxers Squall wore, unusually soft skin massaging the back of his thigh. "Do you still have that weak spot right about...here?"

There was no need to vocally reply, Squall arching into the half-clothed man before him as a thumb rubbed firmly behind his knee. It became automatic at that point, unsatisfied need for the blonde flooding out of the smaller man as he took claim of smirking lips. There was so much he wanted Seifer to do to him and visa versa, the desperation clear in his muffled moans. The logical thought that they would have plenty of time for those things evaded him. Only the realization that he's lived too long without this entered his mind.

Warmth left his leg as the large hand came to his cheek to aid Seifer in breaking the kiss. "Squall... Fuck, take a breather for a second here. I'm not going anywhere."

Eyes deeply colored with blue locked to his. "You always say that."

"And I mean it. Just, which room are we in? I'd rather have a condom on hand than need to run around in an uncomfortable state."

Squall was slightly taken back, already forgetting the differences between two times. There was no spell to cure diseases within a second here, and it would be unfair to assume Seifer had waited around for him. He hadn't remembered their past, nor had Squall for that matter.

"I didn't want to risk carrying you upstairs. This is the first bedroom from the kitchen area."

"That actually might be for the better. Check the nightstand. I wouldn't be surprised if some lube was in there with condoms."

Daring to leave the heated body, Squall pushed back to have enough room to get on hands and knees in order to crawl towards the nightstand. He was pleased by the feel of green eyes virtually devouring him. Seifer had a thing about watching, and while Squall could handle minor things like this, it would take a night full of pleading from the blonde to get him to do anything more... demonstrative. Opening the drawer, it certainly wasn't difficult to find what he wanted.

"Any flavor preference?"

Seifer choked a bit. "Damn, I didn't think he was that active. Um, I'll leave the choice to you."

Not caring himself, he grabbed something that didn't sound fruity. "Who is 'he'?"

"The guy I share this beach house with. He stumbles onto his ass whenever it comes to women, and they completely fall for the helpless look every time. He brings out their motherly instincts or something. Aside from the ladies, though, he can't resist an exotic type look on men."

Crawling back to Seifer, the teen leaned over him with a vague smile. "Sounds like Laguna."

"Oh, have I mentioned him?"

For several moments Squall was frozen, grin and all. Then slowly he sat back on his heels and stared about five inches to the side of Seifer's face.

"What? If you think we're an item or something--"

"Laguna, Seifer. He was my father."

"Now, wait a minute. We met in the orphanage..." Lying down on his back, he massaged a temple. "...And you found him during the war. Fuck."

"Who else?"

He could feel Seifer hesitate, whether for thought or another reason he wasn't sure. "I think I've met up with just about everyone. Fuu and Rai went to my high school. Moved to Washington to get married and run some kind of fishing operation. Zell was also at that school, though I never thought of calling him Chickenwuss. Would've been more embarrassing for me to say it, I would think. Met Quisty in college and she's working hard to become the haughty Dr Trepe. God, Selphie is my secretary. Damn good one, too. No one can get angry at her puppy eyes when I refuse a meeting. You saw Rinoa, but I'm not sure about Cowboy."

"And Laguna..."

"Was my roommate in the fraternity. He's a goof but a likable one at that. The guy has a way of cheering you up with those damn stories of his. He's either going to be a politician or write a few books." He chuckled. "Well, damn. Maybe I should start pushing him in the direction of the presidency."

"He's your age."

"Yeah. Not even a month off from each other."

His chest felt heavy and constricted as he continued to avoid eye contact with the blonde. He could feel himself shutting down inside, an unstoppable chain reaction as thick defenses rose. Needing space, Squall moved for the edge of the bed. He should've expected the arm that stopped him.

"Don't you dare close up on me. Talk."

"... ..."

"You know I can wait this out as long as you."

And as before the blonde walked through the mental walls as if they meant nothing. "I guess... I thought there might be the vague chance to find family now."

"You're an orphan?"

"Don't sound so surprised."

"Sorry, but none of us... I didn't think..."

Squall wanted to laugh at that little jewel of information. Of course. Why should fate bother tormenting more than one soul throughout several lifetimes. He supposed that it gets hard to stay creative with the same material. The worst part being that fate wasn't even trying to be very original.

"Seifer, I want to go home now."

There was a brief pause before he sighed. "I understand. Just let me get some clothes on."

*

It took a few weeks, but here I am sitting in the visitor room while waiting for the President of Esthar to get a moment of free time. He told me just before the last battle that he had something he wanted to talk to me about. That was truly horrid timing. I've spent my time since the end of the war getting readjusted while aiding in the clean up of the Lunar Cry mess. Headmaster Cid has already offered me the position as his successor to Balamb Garden, but I haven't taken him up on it. By the look of his eyes, though, I swear he has me pegged for the job already. Whatever.

In an attempt to escape, I used the President's request as an excuse. I swear, if he only wants me as a supporter for his next election, I'm out of here.

The door opens, and I'm surprised to see the man in person as he walks in slowly perhaps favoring an injury. Well, great. I make him nervous. From a brief look over, there is a strange mix of tiredness and anxious energy to his youthful face.

"Squall Leonhart. It's good to see you again. Ah, if you don't mind I thought we could talk downstairs instead of in the office. There's a small garden and I really could use the fresh air."

I shrug and then stand up from the couch to follow his lead.

The garden is lovely and has a calming feel to it. Among the flowers, bushes, and trees are a couple stone benches, one of which the President walks directly to. I go instead to stand in front of the fountain that is several feet ahead of him. The image of Shiva stands in the center of the fountain, arches of water imitating her frozen attack.

"Do you like it?"

I glance back at him, then return to study the fountain. "It's well made."

"She always made me feel stronger when Ellone focused your powers through to me."

I pause long enough to grant the man his momentary evasion of the topic I came for. "What did you wish to speak to me about, Mr. President."

"Please, it's Laguna. And well... there's no good way to say this but... Squall, I think I'm your father."

Blinking at the foreign concept, I turn my back on the fountain to look at him. "What?"

"I'm your father. We should probably do blood tests to be certain, but I'm fairly positive about this." I have to give the man credit for keeping eye contact with me. "You've seen my past so no need to go into details, but you are Raine's child. And my son."

Brief memories from when Ellone used us to see the past came to mind, and there were definite possibilities, but... Being an orphan for eighteen years, one tends to think that parents are for other people, not you. Some man walking into your life and calling himself 'father' was a mere dream that you can only handle as a child. Even then, it hurt to imagine the chance that Daddy or Mommy would come to take you home, knowing it wasn't really going to happen.

"I... There is no excuse for abandoning you, and certainly not your mother when she needed me. I wish..." He sighed, suddenly looking his age. "Well, that's what I had to tell you. I understand if you want nothing to do with this, but I thought you deserved to know at least who your parents were."

I turn back around to face the stone image of Shiva, though I don't focus on her. I barely remember childhood, but seem to recall making plans of what to do once I found my parents. It depended on my mood whether I'd be furious at them or laugh in joy. But the scenarios always ended the same way - 'will you leave me again?' I have never been able to imagine them saying that they wouldn't desert me for anything. Even in my fantasies I could only recognize it as a false promise.

"Is... ah, do you have questions or anything for me? Personally I think I deserve a good yell out or a decent pounding."

"... ..." No, the anger isn't there for that.

"Or, maybe, we could try... um, bonding or something."

Slowly I turn to sit on the edge of the fountain. "Why would you want me now?"

His eyes widen. "It's never been a case that I didn't want you. Just... well, could you imagine me with a child? I can barely take care of myself, and I need Kiros and Ward for even that." A hand went to the back of his neck in a nervous motion. "All those years ago, I made a choice. It may have been the wrong one, but it had to be made...and logically."

Well, that's one thing I can relate to. How many decisions have I made for the ultimate end while forgetting my personal desires.

He stands up. "I know saying sorry won't cut it for this situation, but I do regret not watching you grow up. Raine would be so proud of you. I know I am. Um, you may never want it, but there will always be a room for you here. In case you need to escape some duties for a while." He waits a moment for a response, but at my silence he turns to leave. My father is about to leave me again.

"Wait. Laguna. I'm not good at this type of stuff, but if... if you want..."

He looks at me with a confused expression that slowly evolves into a wide, goofy smile. "I would love the chance to be a real father."

"Then, I guess I can try to be a son."

He laughs lightly and then hobbles over to stand close to me, but thankfully not touching. I'm not ready for that just yet. "Squall, if you can, think of this as another home. You can come to me no matter the problem. My door will always be open to you."

I find myself smiling. "Kind of soon for that, without test results."

His face becomes serious. "While I'm rather certain about this, if it turns out I made a mistake... Well, I'll just have to adopt you."

*

Squall scowled at the closed doors before him, mentally demanding them to open faster. A car and driver had been sent by Seifer to pick him up from the cafe, the man calling earlier with the cryptic message that he couldn't leave the office but he really needed a word with him. What was it about the blonde that 'no' was never a viable answer. His day was interrupted for this meeting, and Squall was a person of set schedules. His only thought was that this better be good.

The elevator doors slid open revealing a plush office that Squall walked into without realizing he should feel out of place in the room.

"May I help you?" His eyes widened slightly at seeing Selphie behind a desk, the woman looking elegant in a dark dress suit and her hair hanging straight, cut so that it just brushed shoulder level. Her smile was friendly in every way, but Squall knew she wielded her innocent looks as well as any weapon.

"I'm here to see Seifer."

She blinked and straightened a bit, her smile even wider. "Seifer, is it? You must be Squall to call him by first name. He told me that you have priority one to go ahead inside."

After the muffled buzz of Selphie unlocking the door, Squall strode into the adjoining room. Appearing to not have noticed the entrance, Seifer looked out the window and to the city below while speaking into a headset. Not upset enough to interrupt the man's call, Squall sat down in a leather chair and studied his profile. It was strange seeing the two sides of the man - his mind molded for shrewd business while the heart was of a crude teenager. It was difficult for him to believe such a mix could exist.

"...You have until tomorrow 4pm to accept or reject the offer. Frankly, I couldn't care either way." Pressing a button to disconnect the line, he removed the earpiece. "Squall, thanks for coming even though you have work. Tell me, when is your birthday?"

Blue-gray eyes narrowed. "You dragged me over for this?"

"Humor me."

A short staring match ensued before Squall relented. "May 25th."

Seifer sighed loudly, but visible tension wasn't relieved by the action. "Well, looks like I won't need Selphie to remind me when your birthday is." He picked up a sheet of paper from the desk, handing it over to the brunette.

"What is this?"

"A calendar." He sat down in the large chair behind his desk. "I was thinking a bit about the whole Laguna thing, wondering why he would be the same age as me. One thing led to another... Squall, do you know what happened about ten years after I came back to the Garden?"

"No," he answered distractedly. Looking at the sheet, he immediately saw what had caught Seifer's interest. The calendar was labeled with birthdates of the people that had been important to them in the past, even Irvine's birthday had been discovered. All were born within the same year, the dates occurring every three weeks on the mark.

"Well, I can't even remember the actual Ultimecia incident. I only know the details as told to me, but if I had memories of it as well, I can't touch them. The same starting about a decade afterwards. And then there are those dates. Only two people don't fit the schedule - Rinoa and you. She's about six months younger than me. Nothing exact about the day as related to the others. Meanwhile you are seven years younger than all of us and share my day of birth."

I can never repent for my sins and I don't even care to. My so-called destiny is done with as you demanded and I have nothing else left in my life. Kill me now or leave me to finish the task myself. If you choose to interfere, remember first the blood already on my hands.

Squall barely noticed the sheet slipping from his hand as he stood up to leave. "I have to go."

A pause. "All right. Tell the driver where you want to be taken to. But Squall." Hard green eyes demanded attention. "Promise me that you won't run from this."

He returned with an icy glare. "I don't run."


Watching the brunette storm off, Seifer wondered what the teen thought he was doing at this moment if not running. But it wasn't as if he were one to talk. More and more of the memories had come into focus, so many of them involving him walking away from his troubles instead of facing them. He didn't believe Matron loved him and knew of Squall's hatred, so he went to train at the Garden. Every time he failed the SeeD exam, he'd leave the Garden for days to pick fights in Balamb. Of course there was running away from the Garden into a Sorceress's arms, and then attempting to escape the shame of those events into oblivion.

But Squall always came after him.

"What did you do to scare that cutie off?"

Seifer looked up to find his secretary frowning at him while she leaned on the back of the chair Squall had left vacant. "Just being myself. It tends to do the trick."

"Don't you give me that. For two days I made excuses so you could be with that man, and you never place a fling over work."

"When did I start paying you for lecturing me?"

"I gave myself a raise on Friday while you were apartment hunting. Now spill."

He wanted to respond to her full-heartedness, but he couldn't find it in him. "Selph, I love you but this isn't the time."

She straightened at the tone, but smiled in defiance of the threatening edge. "I'll phase out calls for you. Let me know if you want anything."

A slight grin did form then. 'Leave it to Selphie' was a common phrase that entered his mind during the week.

He turned the chair around to face the large window, the expanse of city not as relaxing as it usually was. Seifer was beginning to doubt it was a good idea to tell Squall so soon about the pattern of birthdates. He wasn't certain if it was his cynical side showing through, but it looked too much like an execution schedule for comfort. And it couldn't be coincidence that the two people closest to Squall died last. Someone was trying to get to the brunette. Someone strong enough to kill SeeDs and the president of Esthar when the people must have seen it coming.

Seifer told himself that the teen had to be prepared for those memories to return at anytime. But more so, there was the echo of Shiva's words that he made Squall stronger. He couldn't believe the guardian force would appear merely to help a pair of lovers. Seifer hated being manipulated, and yet in that past he continually found himself being led around by a tightening noose. He could almost feel the constriction on his throat now, and he didn't like it at all.

*

The darkened room is nice. Not even much sound makes it's way past the doors of my room (a single, since who would want to live with someone that could kill you in your sleep). Sitting on the floor, my back to the bed, I roll a bottle of pills around on the worn carpet. A sharp rap sounds in the room, the fifth time today someone has come to check on me. I don't even have the urge to even tell them to go away. Despite my lack of answer, the door slides open, the hallway light hurting my eyes. It's worse when the switch is flipped on.

"What the fuck?" Eyes soon adjusting to the sudden brightness, I look to the side. "I wasn't answering the door for a reason, you know."

Squall stands there, one hand fisted on his hip and the other holding a plastic bag. "I brought dinner."

"And I care?"

"Yes." He takes a container from the bag and sets it on my lap with a plastic fork and napkin. A can of soda follows shortly after. "Eat."

I glare at his tone, but refrain from immediate comment when he surprisingly sits on my bed and takes out his own container of food. "So why do I have the privilege of being babysat by you, mighty Headmaster? Don't you have better offers for your time?"

"No, I don't." And he starts into some fried noodles.

Damn it, I wasn't hungry minutes ago. Why did he have to show up and ruin my mood. Moving to lean back against the wall thus in better position to see Squall, I dig into the meal he brought, my first since the other day. Funny how food isn't so necessary when you're sulking around the Garden with your head down. It gets hard to remember why I came back here. And when I do, I wish I had forgotten. Squall is important to me, but not how he wants it to be. That kiss... fuck, I was only reacting to his warmth and my need for contact. Hate to admit that it was nice, but it certainly wasn't something I meant to do.

"Listen, Leonhart. About last week--"

"You're not gay. I know."

I almost drop my dinner onto the floor. "Then why did you fucking kiss me?"

"I hadn't seen you in months. And well, sorry, I can't choose who I fall in love with."

"What the hell do you know about love, Ice Prince. And why me?"

He sighs. "Does it bother you?"

"Yes!"

His outward appearance doesn't change in the slightest, but I can sense something retreating in the man. Sweet Hyne, the one person who trusts me in this whole damned world and I have to shove him away. Truthfully his feelings for me doesn't bother me that much, but this is Squall. He can't get more wrapped up in trash like me.

"Get out of here, Leonhart."

He stands up from the bed as if to follow my order, but looms over me instead. "What do you want, Seifer? Is it too hard for you here at the Garden? Do you want to run away from here?" He toes the bottle of pills. "Do you want out?"

"You don't have a fucking clue."

He sneers at me, a chill running through my blood. "Oh, I think I have a pretty good idea. At least you were under the control of Ultimecia. Meanwhile, children died under me because of my incompetence and no other reason. People may revere me now, but one slip and my head will be the first to fly. Didn't you know, heroes make great scapegoats. It's just loads of fun to raise a person up on a pedestal and then watch how far they fall."

I shut my mouth that had hung open at some part of his rant. His eyes flash with cold fire, an intensity that was rare in the silent man. ...Ah, I never realized. He doesn't reveal those unending thoughts of his. He doesn't lose control of his emotions. He doesn't talk about falling in love. But with me, he does. Only me.

His voice lightens. "I know it's hard for you here. The exit is wide open for you at any time, but I can't promise that I won't follow."

"You're the Headmaster here. You can't just leave to chase after me." And not the way I've been planning it. No, Squall is too good for that.

"I promised that I wouldn't leave you."

"What? When?"

A small smile comes to his lips, one of those mysterious 'I know everything' looks that used to irritate me. But there is no mocking edge to the smile that I had thought I'd seen in it months and lifetimes ago. I almost feel like he is about to share a secret, but remains silent. Doesn't matter. I think I know the answer.

"That kiss... it was your promise?"

"You are everything, Seifer. Don't doubt that about me."

He walks out of my unmoving line of vision, the sound of the door sliding open and shut registering to my ears. How can he leave a room like that and yet still be felt? Shit. Ten minutes. I start off disgusted with the idea that Squall would want to jump me in my own room and then ten minutes later I end up with a slight ache in my chest because he strode off without trying something. Just what the hell do I want?

A knock to the door confuses me enough in my thinking state to answer it without remembering that I don't feel like seeing anyone. Quisty stands before the opening, a forced smile on her lips. Sweet girl. She's been trying so hard to accept my return, but it isn't easy to forget being betrayed and hurt.

"Seifer, you missed my class today. For your sake, there had better be a good reason. After everything Squall has done for you--"

"Quisty, got a question for you," I interrupt, hearing the 'Squall is fighting the world just for you' lecture two times today already. "What would you say if I'm afraid that I am falling for a moody brunette with a tight ass?"

I laugh at getting the first honest reaction from the blonde in weeks as she looks at me with utter confusion.

*

Peering over the closed sign, Seifer could see the brunette curled up in the couch of the cafe. He was tempted to just stand there and watch Squall for a little longer, but if he had his way he'd rather a closer view of the sleeping teen. It was almost a week after their interrupted beach trip, two days since the brief meeting. Deciding he had given Squall enough time to process the facts and his feelings through that wandering mind of his, Seifer had come to take what he wanted. Knuckles on glass quickly woke him, but then the teen took his time to unlock the door.

"Seifer..."

The blonde smiled down at him, finding amusement in one of his unchanging qualities. Squall had never relented to the frequent bursts of temper as Seifer tried to force the man to find someone more worthy of his devoted attention. Thousands of attempts, every one of them shattering with the simple words, 'you are everything'. But every now and again the brunette would get it into his head that he had to protect Seifer from Squall himself. It once took him a week to find the hiding man. Squall's tone now was enough to tell the blonde that he was of that mindset at this moment.

"How are you doing?"

"I'm fine."

Red flag number two. "Well, I have some bad news. You're being evicted from your apartment."

"What?"

"Something about loud parties every night and the open door orgies being bothersome to the neighbors. Or was it the rats that couldn't get decent sleep. Anyhow, you can stay with me until we find you a new place."

His eye softened once realizing the man's intention. "Seifer, I shouldn't."

"I don't give a damn about that." Placing a hand into brown locks, he brought Squall close to him and spoke quietly into his ear. "I know this won't be easy for us, but in reality our relationship has never been something uncomplicated."

"... ..."

"Squall, I know how much you protected me during those first few months. Quistis told me about the contracts for my death that other Gardens accepted, but you kept me safe. Hell, I even saw a guy pee his pants from the fear of your wrath. He should've never been a candidate for Headmaster in Esthar." Seifer smiled at hearing Squall breathe a chuckle at the memory. "More importantly, you protected me from myself. I only lived for you, wishing for a chance to repay you for my life and for your love. Please. Let it be my turn to protect you."

After a few heartbeats, hands pushed against his chest and he looked into stormy eyes shifting in color. "What if it was me? What if I killed all of you as a part of some duty?"

Blinking at the change in subject, Seifer realized it was this theory that had been the cause of trouble for the teen. The scenario had never entered the blonde's mind, but there was logic to the idea. He was certainly someone strong enough to kill prepared SeeDs. And the persons most important to Squall could have died last because they were the hardest for him to kill. There was some sense to it, except for one major flaw--

"It wasn't in you to do that. Hate to be the one to tell you this, but you are a good guy. Good guys don't kill their friends, family, and lovers."

"But..."

Seifer covered the open mouth with a quick, forceful kiss in the attempt to stop Squall from vocalizing his thoughts - 'but then, what if you died because I existed'. He was relieved that the cheap move worked in quieting him. While he knew he would hear the words later, for now he wanted to finish his mission for the night.

"Live with me. Don't leave my side."

Cool eyes studied him before a lopsided smile appeared. "I've been evicted, huh?"

{Continued}

Author's Note - Nooo, I don't have other stories to continue along... *sigh* Why can't motivation have a directional button?

So far a big piece of cookie goes to Twiggy for guessing one of my primary influences for this story - 'Smallville'. Just recently got sucked into that slash fandom, and you have to love really rich characters that can do whatever the hell they want. ^_- Morrigan gets a small piece of cookie w/ a chocolate chip for recognizing Leanne as basically Debbie (Mike's mom) from 'Queer as Folk', but certainly not so vocal with gay pride and such. Still about a half a cookie left for what I really based this fic on, though.