Winter Witchery

BY : RaceUlfson
Category: Final Fantasy VIII > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 572
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VIII, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.





For the Wonderful Darksquall. Happy Holidays!

 

 

 

We’ll start with “Once upon a time” because all fairy tales
have to start that way. It’s a law or something. Not sure who’s in charge of
Fairy Tale Enforcement, but whoever it is, I bet he hates happy endings. Most
fairy tales don’t have them, you know. Unless you thought having the Little
Match Girl freezing to death was a good ending. If that’s the case, hit the
road, you are creeping me out.

 

Once upon a time a witch lived alone in the woods. This is
pretty normal for a witch, as they value their privacy highly. Also, most
witches tend to hate other people, largely due to the depressingly high
concentration of dickwads in the world. In fact, the only thing witches hate
more than people is other witches. So the witch lived all alone with about 80
jillion goddamn birds, squirrels, and other adorable little noisy assed
denizens of the forest, not one of which ever offered to come clean the house,
fetch random bits of treasure, or even listen sympathetically while the witch
griped.

 

Once in a while some clown with more balls than brains, or
some lovesick idiot or desperate parent would find his way through the murky
woods to the witch’s place. And if that person asked nicely, brought suitable
bribes (cake or beer went over well) and the witch was in a good mood, the
witch would cast a few spells.

 

Time went by and the witch learned a few things: that most
people were selfish, sorry, miserable, stupid bastards who believed eating a
live earthworm could bring true love; that when some people say they they’ll do
anything they often mean sleep with you whether you want them to or not; and
that saving a little kid’s life can be very rewarding, even when he didn’t need
a Curaga so much as a swift smack on the back to bring up that button
he’d swallowed.

 

One day a handsome prince wandered into the murky woods.
Paying attention had never been one of the prince’s long suits, and soon he was
hopelessly lost. Being nothing if not stubborn, the Prince persevered.
Eventually he came upon a dwelling that, despite the lack of gingerbread (draws
ants) screamed “witchly residence”. Night was falling, little eyes were
watching him from under the bracken, and it began to snow. The prince was faced
with a choice: wander his lost ass out of there before the drifts got too high,
or call that weirdo chocobo boy, shell out an obscene amount of gil, and ride
away.

 

The prince, being who he was, stepped up and pounded on the
witch’s door, demanding hospitality for the night.

 

 

 

 

 

When certain circumstances (severely bad decisions, time
compression, and an insane sorceress from the future if you must know) left me
in possession of more magical power than most people ever encounter, I
carefully considered my choices. Despite what a lot of people think, I’m not
married to the whole taking over the world idea, but there aren’t a lot of
career options in the magical biz. I could do the old white magic build a house
bedside the road and be a friend to man routine, except I never was all that
white and mankind didn’t seem inclined to be so friendly after the war. Go fig.

 

So I went with the classic witch in the woods shtick. It
worked well; I like the solitude I’m not afraid to kill my own dinner. I bought
a nice cabin and the surrounding acreage with funds I lifted from Ultimecia’s
hat budget. She wasn’t going to be using it, what with her current lack of
head, and like any good mercenary, I felt I deserved a little remuneration for
services rendered. And the Shumites thought I never learned anything back at
Garden.

 

I settled in and communed with nature. After a while, nature
started communing back, which weirded me out until I figured out I wasn’t going
insane, I just had a small magical leakage problem. See, Knights and
Sorceresses can share power, but my Sorceress was no more, and that left me
holding all the magical loot. More magic than I could easily contain, so some
of it spilled out and affected the area. Since I was in a bad mood much of the
time in the early days, the forest became gloomier, darker, and held more
glittering eyes, many of which were unassociated with faces. My cabin gained
dark ivy thatching, heavy moss, and an odd asymmetrical tilt. Inside, the
dishes started washing themselves, so I decided I could deal with the rest.

 

It was snowing, as it tended to do this time of year.
Ordinarily I hate snow, and in fact any weather that requires special clothes,
but this time I was snug in my little house, putting up jars of newts’
eyeballs. I had a whole shelf of strangely shaped little jars of various bug
and vermin bits, because you never know when you might need stuff like that in
the witch business. No one ever noticed the jars were just old beer bottles.

 

I had just finished labeling the last jar in cryptic script
when some brave or criminally stupid person pounded on my door. Grumbling, I
stalked to the door and pulled it open, coming face to face with the Prince of
Esthar.

 

“Damn! I knew I’d been a bad boy, but the Yule King usually
just leaves coal in my socks.”

 

The Prince had nothing witty to say in return, so he took
the easy way out and fainted into my arms.

 

Lucky for him we’d gone to school together and I was in too
mellow a mood to push his snow-covered butt back out onto my porch. I knew I’d
just fall over him next time I went out, anyway. My mop and broom started
fidgeting, anxious to deal with the slush dripping off the guy, and since it
never pays to piss off your cleaning staff, I hauled him in. I dumped the
Prince by the fire to thaw and scrounged my collection of clean and good enough
to share clothes.

 

He was conscious when I got back, with that ‘I’m alive but
not sure I’m happy about it’ expression. “You’re the witch in the
woods?”

 

“It’s a living.” I threw him a towel and a pair of sweats.
“Take your wet clothes off. I’ll get you something hot to drink.”

 

The Prince frowned. “If that is your best line, it needs
work.”

 

“Get hypothermia if you want, but you are making my mop
nervous.”

 

The mop edged closer, swirling its rag tendrils through the
puddles of melting snow. The Prince leapt to his feet and hurriedly shucked
off. I wasn’t watching, exactly, but I could see his reflection in the glass
cupboard by the coffee pot. Like me, he’d aged well, grown up and gained man
muscle, but he was too thin. There was a ragged scar on the right side of his
chest, where his heart would be if he were built backwards the way Sorceresses
are.

 

I busied myself with the coffee and the Prince dried off and
threw his towel and all his wet things into the waiting laundry basket. He may
have had second thoughts when it scuttled off with them, but he was the type to
stick to a job once he was committed. The Prince tied the drawstring of my
sweat pants in a ridiculously large bow, just to keep them on his skinny hips,
and accepted a mug of coffee with courtly grace.

 

“So what brings you to East Hyne’s Ass this bright winter’s
day?”

 

“I was running away from home. If I sit on this couch, it’s
not going to do anything weird, is it?”

 

I glanced at the couch. “No, it’s asleep.” I waited until
his butt was almost to the leather before mentioning casually, “Sometimes it
snores.”

 

The Prince flashed me a look I hadn’t seen in a long time. I
laughed and flopped on the couch beside him. “Running away, eh? You always did
have a shitty sense of direction. You are supposed to run to the city, you
know, get lost in the crowds, get a crappy job at a little bistro, get a girl…”

 

Squall winced. “I have a girl.” He said it in the same tone
a person would announce he has dental surgery scheduled.

 

“Therein lies a tale,” I said encouragingly. People come and
pour their hearts out to me a lot these days, so I’ve gotten pretty good at the
whole sympathy thing. I hardly ever give crazy advice just for laughs anymore,
although the guy I talked into putting beans up his nose did tell me it worked.
The girl who’d been stalking him left after that. He thought it proved I was a
brilliant witch. I thought it proved she was a lot smarter than he was.

 

Because nothing is ever easy with Squall, he changed the
subject. “What’s all… this?”

 

“Hyne, do you even have a vocabulary?”

 

 He snorted and
murmured “Whatever.”

 

“I’ll take that as a ‘no’. ‘This’, as you so elegantly named
it, is my magical pantry. Spell components and all that.” I opened a handy jar
of newt’s eyes and popped a few of the juicy buggers in my mouth. “Want some?”

 

“What are they?”

 

“Eye of newt.”

 

Squall arched an eyebrow and held out his hand. I knew him
well enough to know that he was thinking if I was eating salamander oculars, he
could too. I gave him the jar and he peeked inside. “Seifer, these are
blueberries. …and the label is in pig latin.”

 

I grinned at him. “You’re the only one who ever noticed.”

 

We shared coffee and berries in comfortable silence for a
while. He was watching the fire, thinking, and I was watching him, thinking. I
realized I must have desperate for intelligent human companionship, because I
was inordinately glad to see him. I leaned over and mussed his princely hair,
just like when we were kids. Squall glared and I laughed again. It was all so
comfortable and familiar.

 

“Hyne, I missed you.”

 

Squall’s face lit up. “You did?” Shyly, he added, “Nothing
was the same after…I missed you, too.”

 

I bumped his shoulder. “Well, you’re stuck here now. It’s
coming down like a bride’s petticoats out there.”

 

He glanced out the window and smiled faintly. “I suppose I
am.” Squall shifted on the couch and tucked his feet under him. He looked small
and young with my clothes bagging off his thin frame, but his face had matured.
The Prince had grown from delicately pretty to definitely handsome, and I had
to remind myself he had a girl.

 

“So tell me about the girl.”

 

“Rinoa, you know.”

 

I nodded. I had known, but it had been a long time and I
wasn’t sure. “I’m surprised you are still together.”

 

Squall sipped his coffee and hid a grimace I suspected had
nothing to do with the brew. “Everyone is. I can’t leave her.”

 

“Love her, eh? That’s good,” I lied. And wondered why I had
the sudden urge to stab Rinoa’s eyes out.

 

“No, you don’t understand. I can’t leave her. I would… but I
can’t.”

 

I mulled that over. “You have kids?” It came out like an
accusation.

 

Squall turned white at the thought. “No! Thank Hyne.”

 

“What then? I don’t get it. If you are miserable, walk. You
never let social convention tell you how to act before.”

 

“It’s not like that.” He sighed. “She won’t let me go.”

 

“She cast a love spell.” Educated guess, but Squall
confirmed it with a nod. I growled to myself, gripping my mug so tightly it
hied itself off to wash up and hide in the cupboard. Love spells, real ones,
are notoriously hard to break. “…have you tried putting beans up your nose?”

 

 

 

 

I have a bed, a nice one, but my room is on the breezy side
of the house, to keep it cool in summer. Winter I usually snooze on the couch
beside the fire. It was getting late and my choices were to freeze my ass off
in my lonely little bed or cuddle with the Prince. Tough call.

 

I stretched out and tugged the quilt off the back of the
couch. I left it up to Squall if we were going to sleep head to toe or spoon.
He took the hint and crawled up beside me. I told myself it was probably only
to get away from my socks.

 

We fit together so well it was scary. It’s not like I ever
spent a lot of time sleeping with Squall. Maybe when we were little kids, but
since all toddlers lose their bones when they sleep, mashing together in a crib
is not the same accomplishment as two grown men snuggling on a couch and
neither one losing circulation or falling off.

 

Just when I thought he was asleep, Squall started talking.
“When she’s in the room, all I can see is her. When I hear her voice, all I
want to do is make her happy. As soon as I get away, it’s like blinders come
off. She’s …petty. Immature. Obsessed with clothes and parties and being cute
and popular. We’re not teenagers anymore!”

 

“She probably is. That’s an easy spell, stopping time for
yourself, so you don’t age. You can’t change, though.”

 

Squall shook his head, and the strands of his hair tickled
my nose.  “She doesn’t have any magic,
Adel took it all.”

 

“Then how did she cast the spell?”

 

“She cast it before, the first night, at the SeeD ball.”

 

It was my turn to shake my head, and by Squall’s frown my
beard was tickling his ear, too. “No, she didn’t have any power to speak of
then, it hadn’t activated yet. Not until you agreed to be her Knight. And a
charm spell takes power to maintain. She’s got power, all right.” Squall’s, to
be precise.

 

“It does? She freaks if we’re apart more than 24 hours… I
had to quit SeeD. Is that why?”

 

“Yeah, maybe. Depends on the type of spell. If it’s a
fascination glamour, yeah, it should fade in a few days.”

 

“That’s why I came out here. We were staying for Yule in
this quaint 12 room hunting lodge near Dollet. I heard about the witch in the
woods and decided to get the spell broken.”

 

“Or die trying?” I scolded.

 

“Either way I’d be free.”

 

I put my arm around him and watched the embers a bit. “If
it’s a real love spell and not a glamour… there’s only one way to break it.”

 

Dryly, the Prince said, “Does it involve beans or flying monkeys?”

 

“No, something much trickier.” I sighed. “True love.”

 

“We can always try the beans.”

 

 

 

 

It snowed like a son of a bitch and for once, I was happy
about it. Squall and I stayed inside and played house and talked. He tried to
help with chores, but the dishes made it clear they preferred to wash
themselves, so I put him to work helping me make potions.

 

“This smells a awful lot like Ma Dincht’s Deadly Dandelion
Wine.”

 

“Where do you think I got the recipe?”

 

“Are all your magic components fake?”

 

I offered him a cup of Ma’s DD Wine. “Do you mean, do I
actually have bat fur and toad’s tongues and all that crap in those little jars
and bottles? No. For one thing, it’s tough on the toad. And it’s gross. But
people need something to believe in.”

 

 

“So you tell them to believe blueberries are newt eyeballs?”

 

“Sort of. At first, when people would look me up, I was
still a little freaked by the whole talking hoot owls and dancing furniture
thing. I’d try to make it as simple and logical as I could. ‘Look, ‘ I’d say.
‘I cast scan and you aren’t cursed. You have gas. Go outside and lift your leg.
Lay off the cabbage soup and beer and you’ll be fine.’” I grinned at Squall,
who was trying not to laugh. “ …They wouldn’t believe me. Even if it was
something real, like closing up a wound with a Curaga, they just stared and
waited for the chant and the sparkles.” I toasted Squall with my cup and
shrugged. “I admit I went through a phase where I just made shit up. The scary
thing is, a lot of it worked. Not sure if it was power of suggestion or my own
power feeding stuff.”

 

“So now you tell them the cure is two newts eyeballs, and
you just happen to have a jar of them enchanted to look and taste like
blueberries?” Squall shook his head. “Do you cast the spell before or after
they leave?”

 

“Depends on the spell.” It was going to be a good batch of
potion; I already couldn’t feel my legs. “The rest of the time, it’s just me
and Auntie Nature.”

 

“Sounds peaceful. Quiet.” He sounded a little wistful.

 

“If you think Nature is quiet, you’ve never been in the
boonies in springtime. You can go deaf from the damn frogs alone, not to
mention the birds, cicadas, and all.”

 

Ma Dincht didn’t let me down; Squall was loosening up
nicely. He sprawled on the couch, patting it absently when it snored. “I’m
surprised you put up with it.”

 

“You get used to it. Besides, all those come hither mating
songs tell me I’m not the only one in the forest not getting laid.” I made
myself comfy next to him, stretching out to warm my toes by the fire. “And
that’s my life as a witch, telling idiots what they think they want to hear and
fixing things as best I can behind the scenes.” I looked over to him. “Tell me
about your life.”

 

Squall leaned back and closed his eyes. “I had to leave SeeD
and Garden. Rinoa is very against violence. She likes everything to be happy
and cuddly. She is all about helping people, unless it involves any real work
on her part.”

 

“Lucky for her she hooked a prince.”

 

“I didn’t want to be a prince. Laguna and I… we needed a
little more time to resolve our issues. But Rin wanted me to go to Esthar and
make up with him. She said I needed to be close to my only living relative,
that we’d lost so much time already… when we’re apart, I think she just wanted
to be a princess.”

 

“Well, duh.”

 

He nodded. “Mostly I walk around with her on my arm and
smile like a sap. Sometimes I sneak off to do a little political work.” Squall
flashed a crooked smile. “It’s mostly ‘telling idiots what they think they want
to hear and fixing things as best I can behind the scenes’.”

 

I clinked my cup to his. “Here’s to synchronicity.”

 

We sat up drinking and talking, about old stuff, good
memories, mostly. Got drunk enough to get a little maudlin. We both apologized
and forgave each other and agreed with the frightening intensity of the highly
intoxicated that nothing would break up our friendship again. We ended up
curled together on the couch and I was far gone enough to make a little pass at
him. The only response I got was a soft snore, and it wasn’t from the sofa.
Just as well, by that point I was numb from the eyebrows down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pure concentrated evil in the form of sunlight poured
through the crack in the curtains. My remaining brain cells threatened to
secede from my body if I ever did that to them again. I cast Esuna on the
Prince and me and went back to sleep.

 

 The day was half
gone by the time we woke up and were able to scrape our tongues enough to talk.
I soaked my head in the kitchen sink while Squall took the more direct approach
and went outside to fall face first into a snow bank. I figured Shiva would
protect him, so I was surprised when he rushed back in, looking stricken.

 

“It’s stopped snowing.”

 

“I knew that because, you see, this is a modern cabin with
windows and everything.”

 

Squall made an impatient, cutting gesture. “How as it been
long enough to break the spell?”

 

I tried to count the days. “Yeah, I think so, if it’s a
simple fascination glamour. But if she cast a real love spell, Squall, it can
only be broken by true love.” I heard an odd revving noise off in the distance.

 

“Snowmobiles.” The Prince said tightly. “She’s looking for
me.”

 

Rinoa wasn’t taking any chances with her meal ticket. We’d
barely gotten dressed when I heard a garbled voice over a loud speaker. Squall
shivered like a race chocobo in the starting gate. Unfortunately, most of the
passages in the wild woods wide enough for a snow mobile lead directly to my
cabin, so it wasn’t long before her voice was a lot louder, closer, and less
garbled.

 

“Squall! Squall! Come and show me you are all right!
Squallllllll.”

 

He turned to the door like she had a string tied to his
dick. I grabbed him by the arm. “Squall, you don’t want to do this.” He just
shook me off and marched right out into the snow.

 

Cursing, I followed. Rinoa and several Estharian guards were
zipping about, messing up the pristine beauty of the woods and scaring the crap
out of the animals. She saw the Prince first and killed the engine. “Squall!”

 

He ran to her.

 

…Remember what I said about the only thing witches hate more
than people is other witches?

 

I summoned Hyperion and sauntered after Squall. “Hi, Rinny.
Long time no see.”

 

She was holding Squall in her arms like a lost child. He
reached up and smoothed her long black hair. “Seifer? What are you doing here?”

 

“Enough about me, Rinoa. Let’s talk about you and the spells
you’ve been casting on the royal heir, there.”

 

Her eyes narrowed. “I don’t think I like what you are
implying.”

 

Squall paused. He looked from me to her with an expression
like a spaniel puppy that knew mistress was upset but wasn’t sure why. The
Estharian guards were more to point. “Highness? Who is this person? Is he known
to you?”

 

Before Squall could answer, Rinoa laughed. “Well known,
Bertram, and he should be to you, as well. All me to introduce Sorceress Adel’s
Knight, the Infamous Seifer Almasy.”

 

“Ultimecia’s,” I corrected mildly. The guards were already
pulling their pulse weapons, their eyes on Hyperion. They should have been
watching my left hand.

 

Sleep took them all down but Rinoa and Squall. Well,
I expected that much; Squall was highly resistant to status effects and he had
Shiva boosting him. And Rinoa was sucking enough power off him to protect
herself and then some.

 

“Squall,” she said, her eyes wide and frightened, “You won’t
let Seifer get me this time, will you? You failed to protect me last time,
but-”

 

Squall flinched like she’d drawn blood.

 

“-this time I know you can-” Rinoa’s voice deepened and her
eyes turned piss gold, “-kill him.”

 

So much for abhorring violence. Rinoa always was a practical
girl. Not that I had a lot of time to reflect on that, because Squall was
charging and by the look on his face, he was back in the war and the fate of
the world depended on him shoving his gunblade through my pancreas.

 

I parried and we fell into the rhythm of exchanging blows.
Blue sparks dripped off Lionheart and Hyperion flashed like gold in the sun.
The clash of metal rang like church bells in the unnaturally quiet forest.

 

Squall and I had always been very close in skill, and not a
lot had changed over the years. He probably sparred more often with human
partners, but I still held the advantages of strength and reach.

 

The snow was slowing me down, however. Being heavier, I was
sinking in deeper and it made maneuvering tricky. Plus, I had forgotten to grab
a coat, and with Shiva on his side, all Squall really had to was wait until the
cold took me out. I needed to end the fight quickly and that meant taking
whatever shot I had.

 

The opening came sooner than I expected. Squall stepped in
close, trying to use Hyperion’s longer blade against me, and all I had to do
was duck to the side a little and bring the hook of my blade up to rip his
throat out. It was a messy but effective kill; I knew because I’d used it
before a few times.

 

I’d like to say it was a conscious decision on my part to
drop my weapon, but it wasn’t. I just knew I couldn’t kill Squall. Hyperion hit
the snow, and melted into it a good six inches. Seeing I was defenseless,
Squall hesitated, until Rinoa commanded, “Finish him!”

 

The Prince of Esthar snarled, and Lionheart bit deep into
the right side of my chest.

 

Where my heart would be, if I were built backwards like a
Sorceress.

 

I grinned ferally and grabbed Squall by the hair with my
left hand. He was distracted by trying to wrench Lionheart free of me, and so I
able to pull him close, nose to nose, literally seeing eye to eye.

 

Then I kissed him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So the spell was broken, and the Prince woke up and smelled
the proverbial burning catshit. His loyal guards woke up, too, and the Prince
explained to them that he’d been under a sorceress’ spell but that now he was
freed. The sorceress in question tried to point out that the prince had
probably lost his mind, but since he’d renounced her and taken back his power,
she couldn’t back that up with a charm spell. Estharian’s take a dim view of
Sorceresses in general, and this one in particular had been rather a pain in
the butt for the last 5 or 6 years, so the guards allowed as how it was in
their best interests to obey the King’s son and not his soon to be former
daughter in law.

 

They dragged her back to Esthar, where the kindly king
arranged for the Sorceress to have her fondest dream: to be forever young and
beautiful and idolized. She’s in the stasis tank, on display in the Sorceress’
Memorial, admission: five gil.

 

The Prince then pulled his head out of his ass long enough
to cast a few Curagas on the witch, who was romantically bleeding to
death in the hynebedamned snow. Even though the witch was perfectly all right
after that, the prince insisted that he stay and nurse the witch back to health
throughout the long cruel winter.

 

 

And they all lived happily ever after.

 

 

 

 

 

“Is that true?”

 

“I swear to Hyne, Irvine, every word.”

 

“And she’ll love me?”

 

“Eat the live earthworm. It will change your life. I
guarantee it.” I gave him my best sincere look.

 

“I dunno,” he waffled. “Zell said when he came to you about
getting rid of the library girl, you told him to put beans up his nose.”



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