A/N: Written for seuqled on tumblr as part of a 100 themes writing exercise. The prompted theme for this was "cold embrace" and I had SUCH A BLAST writing it. Seriously. I haven't enjoyed writing something this much in quite a while.

Cold Embrace

With the snow flying thick and fast, Quistis could barely see Seifer ten paces ahead of her. They'd roped themselves together just in case. But every time he strayed out of view and the storm blew a curtain of white between them, Quistis was overcome by an irrational surge of panic at finding herself suddenly alone.

"Hang on!" she shouted into the wind right before she lost her footing on a jagged piece of ruck buried beneath the snow. The ground lurched up to meet her and knocked a foggy gasp of breath out of her as she landed hard, then slid down the embankment and into the back of Seifer's legs.

He let out a curse as she bowled him over.

"Holy Hyne." He dusted himself off, then offered her a mittened hand. "Watch where the hell you're going."

"I wasn't going anywhere. I was falling."

With a huff, she got back to her feet. They were numb with cold, despite her thick socks, polar boots, and vast quantities of junctioned ice magic protecting her from the chill. Seifer didn't have the benefit of the latter. A layer of frost had collected on his eyebrows and along the rim of his hood and coat where his breath had frozen.

"Are you sure we're in the right place?" he asked through chattering teeth.

They'd been on their way to the Shumi village when the storm blew in. With good weather, the trip from where the Ragnarok had dropped them off was easy enough. But with this damned blizzard, they could have wandered onto the surface of the moon for all she knew.

She looked around and saw nothing but white.

"I think we're going to have to stop and wait this out."

"Can't we just call the damn Ragnarok and have them come pick us back up?"

She shook her head. "Storm's blocking our signal. And they might be out of range by now anyway." For once, she was grateful for the heavy pack that everyone who made this trip was mandated to carry — filled with emergency supplies and equipment for just such an occasion. They'd be fine if they could find a place out of the wind to hunker down.

Seifer muttered under his breath as they searched for a camp site. Though it was a testament to just how cold and miserable he really was how quickly his complaints dropped away and turned to sullen silence.

At length, they found an outcrop of rock with a shallow indent in the snow beneath it. Shivering, they wordlessly tossed down their packs and began putting up their Garden issued all-weather tent. Completed, it was smaller than Quistis had imagined. But it looked downright cozy compared to the ice encrusted ground all around it.

Inside, they unrolled their cold weather sleeping bags, which had the distinct, musty odor of goose down. Seifer fumbled with the zipper on his. The degree to which his hands were trembling startled Quistis, who hadn't noticed the violence of his shivering underneath all the layers of gear.

She pressed her lips together hard, concern warring with her very real desirenot to say what she knew she was going to have to say next.

"Seifer." She reached out and touched his arm. Being able to feel his body shaking added to her conviction. "Give me your bag. I'm going to zip them together."

"Why?" he asked, slow on the uptake. She didn't watch him long enough to see it slowly dawn on him, but she heard his surprisingly soft "oh" as she hurried to get her work done.

"Boots and jacket off," she ordered. "Anything wet has to go."

She stripped down to just a thermal shirt and a pair of long underwear before he even managed to get his snow pants undone. She helped him out of the rest of his gear, beginning to grow genuinely alarmed, then fished a dry pair of socks out of his pack and pulled them onto his frozen feet before dragging him into the sleeping bag beside her.

Even with two zipped together, it was a tight squeeze.

Seifer's teeth chattered in her ear.

"This isn't helping."

She sighed. "Give it a minute."

"I don't think you give off enough heat for it to help. Not with Shiva and all those damn blizzard spells in your veins. I might as well be huddling a block of ice."

Quistis did her best to ignore him. Or, at least, ignore what he was saying. It was impossible to ignore the hard length of his body pressed against hers. And it became even more difficult to put out of her mind as his shivering began to slow.

His hand moved, brushing against the underside of her breast.

"Hey!"

"Just trying to move a little. Cramped in here."

She tried to scoot to give him some more room and only ended up pushing her thigh up against his hips.

"Whoa. Easy there, Instructor."

Completely embarrassed, she muttered an apology and tried to move again, hoping to settle back into a less intimate position, but he was everywhere. With every twitch and shift, she brushed and rubbed and slid against him. The flush that warmed her body was almost welcome, had it not been accompanied by an unfortunate flutter deep in her belly.

"You can stop now. Unless this is turning you on or something," Seifer said.

"What? Of course it's not turning me on!"

He laughed. "Uh huh. What's the line? Umm… Methinks you doth object too much."

"Protest," she corrected, her tone sharp and shrill. "And since when did you know any poetry?"

"Well, seems like I ought to recite a little, seeing as you've got me in the sack and all."

"This is not—" A gasp cut off her words as something (his hand? oh, please, Hyne let it be his hand…) brushed her thigh. She took a long moment to compose herself again. "It was either this or let you freeze to death. And, believe me, I weighed both options."

"Sure you did. But, hey. I'm not complaining."

The combined heat of their bodies had finally stopped his shivering, and aside from the conversation, it was quite comfortable huddled up with him as the storm raged outside, rippling the walls of the tent.

"If you're warm now, we could get up and eat something," she suggested.

He didn't respond. For a second, she thought maybe he'd fallen asleep. But she glanced up, her nose brushing against his they were so close, and found his green eyes looking straight at her.

"Nah," he said, the low grumble of his voice failing to make the word sound as casual as she was sure he'd hoped. His eyes darted back and forth, reading her, before he added, "I'm good," with a tight exhalation of breath that practically set her skin on fire.

"Yeah. Okay," she replied, not daring to move but wary about what it meant to stay. She swallowed hard, licked her lips, and issued her challenge: "Me too."

His mouth twitched in a smirk and his hand settled with daring purpose upon her hip.

Quistis shivered. But not again that day from the cold.