Chapter 13: Crash and Burn

Seifer's knock sounded unreasonably loud in the otherwise still and silent hallway. He winced and quickly pulled his hand back from the door.

Hyne almighty, what the hell am I doing?

It was the middle of the night. He could have returned this stupid printout to Quistis in the morning. Or, even better, left it in her faculty mailbox so that he wouldn't have to interact with her at all. Getting out of bed and knocking on her door at freaking midnight was clearly the least sensible option at his disposal. So why was he here?

Because you're lonely.

Because you miss her and can't stand not seeing her.

How had this one woman so quickly become something he could not live without? And what was he going to do about it?

He'd learned to live without a lot of things he'd once thought were essential. Things like self-respect, ambition, and purpose. In time, he supposed he could learn how to live without Quistis Trepe, too. From the look of things, he'd have to sooner rather than later. She hadn't answered the door yet and he highly doubted she ever would.

He was wasting his time…not to mention revealing what an utterly pathetic sad-sack he'd become.

Awash in self-loathing, he took one last look at the unmoving expanse of Quistis's door, then turned and forced himself to walk away.

He had only gotten a few steps and a handful of excoriating mental castigations in before the smooth snick of a door opening behind him stopped him dead in his tracks.

"Seifer?"

Her voice made his heart leap up into his throat. He found he couldn't speak around it. In fact, he could barely even breathe. For a long, painful moment, he stood there, unable to flee and unable to turn — trapped in the tangled net of his own emotions.

"Seifer…" she repeated, whispering his name.

Something in her tone gave him the courage to pivot on his heel and face her. But the moment he did, he regretted it.

She stood in her doorway wearing nothing but a white tank-top and black panties. From the state of her hair — hanging down around her shoulders, slightly wild with a noticeable kink from where she'd had it up in a clip all day — he guessed that he'd gotten her out of bed. And from the gooseflesh covering her arms and the tight nubs of her nipples visible through her tank top, he surmised that she was cold.

In short, she looked fucking amazing, and the urge immediately came to him to grab hold of her and set about warming her up.

She stood straight and firm. "Did you just knock on my door?"

"Yeah." The admission made him feel too vulnerable for comfort, so he added on a snide, "Looks like maybe you were expecting someone else though."

Heat flashed in her eyes. "I wasn't expecting anyone. It's way past curfew."

"Well, I hope you don't always answer your door dressed like that. If word gets out, the Trepies won't let you get a single minute of rest."

"If anyone but you had ever knocked on my door this late before, I'd be answering it with my whip instead."

"Anyone but me, huh? Does that mean I get special privileges?"

She crossed her arms over her chest. "You know what I mean."

"If what you mean is that you'll be wielding a whip dressed like that…then it's not actually the deterrent you think it is."

"Wait until you're missing an eye and see how deterred you feel then," she retorted.

Ignoring the threat, he took a step closer.

She looked so damn tempting standing there, barely dressed, engaging in the kind of banter that for them might as well have been a kind of foreplay. It seemed fury did not negate or even diminish sexual attraction because he wanted her more than ever. Plus, he badly wanted to prove to her that this thing between them was not so easily walked away from. Not for him and (he hoped) not for her.

She'd answered the door.

That had to count for something.

She sighed and tucked her arms even tighter around herself. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to give this back to you." He held up her printout. "You left it in my room this morning."

She glanced at the papers with obvious surprise. "Oh."

When she didn't immediately reach out to take them, Seifer asked, "You do want them back, don't you?"

"Of course I do. It's just…"

"What?"

She raised her gaze to meet his. "It's just an odd errand to perform in the middle of the night. Isn't it? Are you sure this is the only reason you stopped by?"

"I brought it now because I just noticed it now. Why else do you think I'd be here?"

She leaned against the doorframe, putting a little more distance between them. "I think you know why."

"Sorry," he said sharply. "But this wasn't covered in the books I read. And since I'm a total fraud incapable of doing or thinking anything with regard to you on my own, you're going to have to enlighten me."

"Seifer—" She groaned and rubbed her eyes with one hand. "Don't be cruel."

"Me not be cruel? You've got to be kidding."

She advanced on him one hostile step, bringing them practically nose to nose. "You think any of this is easy for me?"

"You certainly seemed to find it easy enough to walk out the first second it became convenient," he shot back.

Her mouth hardened into a firm line. "I'm not going to stand here in the middle of the night in my underwear and argue with you."

"I'm not asking you to."

"Good." Her mouth twisted in an ugly sneer and she grabbed the printout from his hands. She dropped it onto the floor just inside her door with a thunk. "Then your task here is done. Isn't it?"

He sucked in a deep breath, not sure what to do. She was breathing rapidly and flushed in all the same ways she got when she was turned on. Was it desire? Or simple anger? The fact that she'd opened her door to him dressed like this suggested one thing, while her pointed words suggested quite another. Though his own blood was pumping hard, his body's signals quite clear on what it wanted, he sure as hell didn't intend to make a move only to get rebuffed. He'd already come crawling to her, totally whipped. Her rejection now might actually kill him.

Better not to risk it. No matter how badly he wanted to pick her up, throw her down onto the bed, and not get back up again until morning.

He swore silently to himself.

"Fine," he said after a moment.

He took a step back from her, never looking away, still waiting for a sign. She gave him none, just stared up at him and swallowed hard.

"Goodnight." He moved to walk away.

Her hand shot out, grabbing him by the arm. "Wait."

It was all he needed.

Seifer turned on the axis of her touch and crashed back into her. His hand flew up to grasp the back of her head, pulling her into a breathless kiss that started out rough and grew even more aggressive when she grabbed hold of his t-shirt, holding him to her so tightly that the collar stretched painfully against the back of his neck.

Tangling his fingers hard in her hair, he took ownership of her mouth without any care for whether it might earn him another day in her company. He was done playing a part. She wanted the real him? She wanted genuine? Well…here he was, in all his terrible glory. All hard edges and bruising hunger.

He would devour her.

Would set fire to the whole world and immolate them both in the flames.

And she would no longer be able to deny that it was him she wanted.

With a low growl, he scooped her up by the soft, round curve of her bottom and hauled her into the velvety darkness of her room.


The knock on Quistis's door had roused her from a fitful doze. She had kicked all the blankets to the foot of her bed and was lying across the mattress, her pillow clutched pathetically in her arms. For a second, she thought the knock was her imagination. She'd been dreaming something she couldn't remember now but which left her body tense, her blood pumping hard with a longing so sharp it was cutting. She easily could have dreamed the sound up. Pure wishful thinking. After all, what were the chances that Seifer would wait until the middle of the night to finally show up at her door?

But it had been him.

And now he was in her room, his tongue testing the boundaries of what she would allow as one hand knotted painfully in her hair. The other lifted her mercilessly onto her toes as he half-carried, half-dragged her across the room until her back hit the wall.

Still, she couldn't get close enough.

Her nails dug into his shoulder and a few stitches popped from the way she was pulling at his t-shirt.

As Seifer pinned her to the wall, holding her there with his body, she could sense him trembling with desire. His every muscle felt hard and tense, and already the huge, needy ridge of his arousal pressed insistently against her belly, unable to be ignored.

"You think you can pretend this never happened?" he ground out.

Quistis could only gasp in response.

He kissed her again. Hard. "I'm not done with you."

With two quick tugs, he pulled her panties down to her knees. Quistis hastened to help him dispose of them. When he discovered how wet and ready she was underneath, a low sound of satisfaction rumbled in his chest.

"And it seems you're not done with me either," he added darkly.

The noise she made when he slid his fingers against her made that statement difficult to deny.

The physical chemistry between them had been incendiary from the start. But never quite to this degree. Having spent the day thinking she would never do this again made it that much more pleasurable to find herself suddenly in his grasp, his breath hot on her neck, his hand playing exquisitely between her legs, driving her to a state of ecstasy that made her feel faint with pleasure.

Seifer shifted and tugged his pants down.

"Oh God," Quistis breathed, her hands scrabbling against him, going down his back, drawing him in closer.

"Yes?" he asked.

"Yes," she moaned.

He hooked a hand underneath her thigh, lifted it over his hip, and pushed in with one wild thrust that made her cry out. He caught the end of the sound with his mouth, muffling it.

After a moment, he pulled away to track his lips across her cheek.

"This isn't fake," he whispered harshly, thrusting hard.

Quistis whimpered.

"You can try to deny it all you want, but your body gives you away. I can feel you grasping at me…trying to hold me closer…pulling me deeper…"

His words made her insides quiver and clench around him even more fiercely and he gave a pleased grunt.

"You still want me."

"Yes…"

Part of her thought she ought to object. Not just to the quick and aggressive nature of their tryst, but to the fact that it was happening at all after the argument they'd had — one that should have been the death knell of their relationship. But he was right about one thing. This part had always been genuine. There was no denying the heat between them or the hard reality of him inside of her, their breaths sharp and fast, hearts beating in unison as he rocked against her.

Screwing her eyes shut, Quistis arched into the steely length of his body, her shoulders pressing into the unforgiving wall at her back.

"Hyne, Quistis." He dropped his head against her shoulder. "You've fucking wrecked me."

He jerked his hips then in a motion that made Quistis see stars. She couldn't have described precisely what it was or why it felt so good. Perhaps it was a combination of everything — angle, intensity, his words still sizzling in her ear — but she came with an abruptness that took her breath away.

Seifer's head snapped up and he watched her ride out her pleasure, still moving within her, until finally giving into his own and following in her wake.

When it was done, they were both left gasping for breath.

Seifer drew in a particularly ragged gasp and leaned back, easing away from her.

Quistis didn't want to let him go. She'd rather liked the times they'd collapsed into each others arms and laid in bed together for long, languorous minutes as their bodies hummed the same glorious note. But this was not one of those times. She put her hands to his chest and pushed him away, biting back the noise that rose up in her throat when he pulled free and stepped out of her grasp.

In the stillness, he gave her a long look.

She could only imagine how thoroughly debauched she must have appeared, leaning against the wall in just a tank top, still flushed with heat from their lovemaking.

No. Not lovemaking. They had need and desire…even anger. But not love.

This was too wild for love. Too unruly and explosive.

Love was supposed to be soft and gentle.

Wasn't it?

Seifer half turned away from her and pulled his pants back up. Now that they were done, all the aggression had gone out of him. Since the moment she opened the door and saw him in her hallway, he'd been wound tight with anger and desire all curled up inside of him. Now that it had broken free, he looked almost deflated.

Not at all how she wanted him to look after being with her.

She moved to reach out to him and stopped herself.

His clothes put straight again, he cleared his throat. "Goodnight, Quistis."

That's all? she wanted to scream. Goodnight? He was really going to show up at her door in the middle of the night, do that, say those things…and then just leave?

She bit her lip so hard it hurt.

"Goodnight," she whispered back.

He turned to go, and this time she didn't stop him.

She didn't know what they were anymore or what she could ask of him, but requesting that he stay the way he always had before seemed quite clearly beyond the bounds of their new understanding. So she watched him walk out, then walked over to her bed and let her knees give way.

She collapsed face down on the mattress.

Satiated but deeply, troublingly unfulfilled, she lay there and folded her pillow back into her arms, in exactly the same position she'd been in before Seifer knocked at her door except for the dark void he'd left behind in his absence. It wormed its way deep inside of her and grew like a thundercloud, loneliness stretching the bonds of her heart until she thought it might burst.

She wanted him and all of his passion.

But now it was abundantly clear that she wanted more, too.

She wanted what she'd thought they'd had — love.


Seifer spent the whole of the next morning avoiding Raijin and Fujin, afraid that they might have heard him come and go the night before and ask questions he couldn't even begin to answer. He knew exactly what had driven him to Quistis's door. But once he'd gotten there…that was where his understanding of the events became muddled.

The moment he realized she still wanted him, all of his self-control had flown out the window. Looking back on it, he didn't know if he wished he'd been less harsh or more dismissive. Neither probably could have saved him. As it was, all he'd managed to prove was that he was physically incapable of keeping his pants on if Quistis gave even the slightest indication that she wanted them off.

When it was done, he'd been left in a such a mixed and contradictory emotional state that he still hadn't managed to untangled himself.

It was strange how last night had been in some ways familiar ground for him — similar to the interactions with women he'd had in the past — but at the same time bizarrely foreign. With Quistis, things had always been different. With her, he wanted more.

He wanted the nights they'd spent lying in each others arms and the breakfast dates and her showing up at his door with slices of cake and a smile. He wanted to be who she confided in and trusted with her secrets and her fears and — yes — her pleasure.

But she didn't seem to want that, too.

If all Quistis wanted from him — the real him — was sex…could it be enough?

Dragging his hands through his hair, Seifer sighed and checked the time. The morning was running away with him, he'd have to quit hiding out in the far reaches of the quad and get to his class.

He moved quickly through the halls, wearing his meanest scowl so that no one would get in his way or even attempt talking to him. It worked all the way up until he walked into the training center and saw Fujin and Raijin waiting there.

"Goddamn it, guys. Seriously?"

Fujin arched an eyebrow at him, her arms crossed. "WORRIED."

"About what?"

"YOU!"

Seifer pushed past them to walk toward the equipment lockers. He only had a few minutes before his students would begin to arrive. "I don't have time for this right now," he grumbled.

"It won't take long if you just tell us what's going on," Raijin protested, the both of them following doggedly at his heels.

"There's nothing to tell. I told you, it's over."

"LIAR."

Seifer rounded on them. "Look, I know you mean well, but my love life is none of your business. Okay?"

"We don't want the details, ya know?" Raijin said gently. "We just want to make sure that you're okay. You've been in a…a…"

"FUNK," Fujin provided.

"Yeah. We haven't ever seen you like this before. We're worried, ya know?"

Seifer sighed. They really were just trying to be there for him. Maybe he should let them…

"I've never been like this before because I've never felt like this before. She got pretty deep under my skin. And I'm…I'm having a hard time getting over her. That's all."

"What happened?" Raijin asked. "Did she break up with you?"

"Not exactly. She just doesn't want it to ever be anything other than physical. And I think the fact that it's me freaks her out. She wants it all kept secret."

"And you…uh…don't want that?" Raijin asked, a little uncomfortably.

Seifer didn't have the chance to answer before the Training Center door swung open and the first few cadets in his class came walking in.

"Look," he said quickly to Raijin and Fujin. "I promise I'm fine. Just working through some things. All right?"

Fujin nodded.

"We just want you to know that we're here for you, ya know?" Raijin added.

Seifer flashed them a quick and genuine smile. "I know."

He quickly gathered up what he needed and walked over to where he'd be holding class for the day. Right as he was about to begin roll call, he noticed Cadet Heller come out of the trees. As she walked past him, he called out to her, making her jump with surprise.

She turned to face him, her eyes huge and her face pale. "Yes, Mr. Almasy?"

"It's nice to see that you've been training, but don't do it alone. You need back up in here."

"Oh…okay." She quickly slinked off, hiding herself in the middle of the class.

Weird, he thought to himself. It wasn't like her to avoid his attention. Usually, she basked in it. Maybe she'd taken his warning to heart and was backing off like he'd asked.

During class, he largely forgot about her and for the most part he was able to put Quistis aside, too. Work focused him. That was the gift of battle — its objectivity: the black and white lines between life and death, clear metrics outlining good form and bad. By the time his class wrapped up, his heart seemed a little lighter. Which was good, because he would have to face Quistis again soon.

He dismissed his class, then waited for a moment to see if Cadet Heller would wait to try and talk to him alone like she always did. But she rushed out ahead of the others. Satisfied that he'd handled her, he walked out to prepare for his Deep Sea Research Center shift.

Like the day before, it turned out to be relatively uneventful.

Quistis could barely meet his eyes at first but Rika quickly plowed over their awkwardness by relaying her own relationship troubles. It turned out, her first date with Nida had gone tragically awry — something about another girl interrupting them and then Rika trying to lean in for a kiss at the end only to have Nida shake her hand instead. Seifer didn't pay close attention to what Quistis advised the other girl to do, the vast majority of his thoughts consumed by trying not to get aroused by every move she made.

When their shift was nearly over, Zell walked up to them.

"It looks like we might finish up here in the next couple of days," he told her.

"And then we'll be able to open up the dig site for exploration?" Quistis asked.

"Yep." Zell gave her a significant look that as good as shouted they had a secret plan in the works.

Seifer rolled his eyes and waited until they were safely back in Garden to grab Quistis by the elbow and pull her aside behind a potted plant.

"What're you—? Seifer! We're in a busy hallway! I'm not going to—"

"Hyne, Quistis. Calm down. I'm not trying to sneak off for a quickie."

"Well, what else could you want?" she asked. She sounded angry, and he wasn't sure if it was because he was threatening her with discovery by dragging her off in broad daylight like this or if she was furious with both him and herself for having given into him the night before. Perhaps both.

"You think sex is the only goddamn thing I could ever possibly want?" he snapped back.

"It certainly seems to be."

"Oh, well, if that isn't the pot calling the fucking kettle black."

She lifted a tightly balled fist and thumped it hard against his chest. "Then what do you want?"

"The dig site. You're still planning on going after that blue magic monster?"

"Of course. Nothing about that has changed."

"Then you're still planning on putting me on your team?"

She hesitated. "I…I'm not…"

"Quistis." He took her by the shoulders. "You have to put me on your need someone like me down there. "

"I can take Squall and Rinoa."

"Rinoa's a sorceress. She's the last goddamn person you want around a monster with blue magic. It'll take every spell she casts on it and throw it right back at you. You need backup that hits hard and fast. You need tanks. That's Squall and me."

"It could just as easily be Squall and Zell."

"Chicken Wuss? You've got to be kidding me."

"He's a tank, too."

"Not of my caliber."

She narrowed her eyes. "I think you overestimate yourself."

"I don't think I do."

That statement hung in the air between them, laden with extra layers of meaning that the both of them were all too aware of. Quistis pulled herself free of his grasp, her cheeks flushed. "I don't know if I can concentrate with you there."

He sucked in a deep breath. "I won't let you do this without me."

"You don't have a say in it," she reminded him, then went to shoulder past him.

He didn't move and she ended up standing wedged between him and the plant. The press of their bodies made her breath catch in her throat.

"Well, I should have a say," he said.

She looked up at him, eyes wide and blue and deep enough to drown in. "Why?"

"Because…" He struggled to find an answer that would not make him look even more pathetic. "Because you're all going to fucking die without me. And it's just pain stupid to not pick the absolute best team for the mission just because we slept together."

"It's hardly ancient history, Seifer. I can't just forget about it. And the fact that having you there might distract us both pretty well negates any of the benefits you bring to the team with your fighting skill."

She tried to slip past him again and Seifer grabbed her hand. "Please. You have to include me on this mission."

"No." She shook her head. "I don't."

"Goddamn it, Quistis. If something happens to you and I'm not down there to stop it…" He snapped his mouth shut, his jaw clenching around the words trying to get out.

She searched his eyes and he looked quickly away lest she see too much. After a moment, she let out a strained breath. "I'll think about it. But no promises."

Happy with that for now, he let her go and she slipped past him.

She didn't say goodbye or even look over her shoulder as she strode away, moving about as fast as she could without breaking into a jog. That she was clearly so anxious to put distance between them made him growl in frustration. Why was he still clinging to this when she was so clearly embarrassed to be associated with him? Why continue tormenting himself?

The question did not stop his thoughts from lingering on her for the rest of the day. And it was largely because he had her hovering in the back of his mind that he ended up at the library that evening. Sitting at a carrel, obscured by its privacy walls, he flipped through the newest Weapons Monthly, the words little more than a blur.

The whispered conversation of two cadets nearby caught his attention when he heard one of them say his name.

"Have you heard the rumor about Almasy?" one of the girls asked.

"No. What rumor?"

"The one on the net."

The other girl's puzzled silence made the first release a frustrated groan. "How is it that you never know what's going on?"

"Maybe because I don't care about gossip."

"Everyone cares about gossip. Anyway, this is a particularly juicy bit of gossip."

"Yeah?"

"See. You are interested. Word is, he's seeing someone. Like…romantically. Apparently another cadet overheard him talking about it. Everyone's wondering who it could be."

Seifer's hands tightened so hard around his magazine that it nearly tore.

"Who started the rumor?" the other girl asked.

Yeah, Seifer silently echoed. Whose ass do I need to kick?

"Alex."

Alexandra Heller? Seifer swore under his breath.

Girl number two snorted. "Well, there's your answer."

"What do you mean?"

"She's the number one Seifer Almasy fangirl! His only fangirl. So either she's lying and trying to find out if there's any competition, or it's her and she's been sworn to secrecy because she's a cadet and it'll get him fired so she's trying to get other people to out the relationship for her. After all this time mooning after him, Alex would freaking explode if she got Seifer Almasy into bed and couldn't brag about it."

Girl number one sounded dubious. "I don't know. Seems like he'd be super pissed once he found out."

Damn right he's pissed.

"Bet she thinks he loves her or something and that she can smooth it over with him later."

"What about the other option? That she's trying to scout out the competition."

"You think there's anyone else here who'd get into bed with the sorceress's knight?"

Girl number one mumbled somewhat abashedly, "Maybe. I mean…he is pretty good looking."

"Yeah. If you like traitors."

Seifer couldn't take any more. He stood up and heard a gasp as the two spotted him over the top of their adjoining carrels. They both sank down in their chairs at his furious scowl.

"Gossiping about your superiors is hardly becoming of two future SeeDs," he scolded them. "Maybe you can think of better ways to fill your time while you're in detention tomorrow."

They nodded their heads in jerky little bobs.

"This rumor is on the net?" he asked. They nodded again. "Where? Be specific."

They gave him the name of the exact forum, including directions on how to navigate the various sub-sections to get there. When he was sure he had it right in his head, he told them to leave and they scrambled away.

He walked out after them — not to pursue them further, though he did enjoy watching them glance over their shoulders at him and jog a little faster — but to throw a little water on this fire. If Quistis found out that rumors were flying, that would certainly be the end of what little they had left. And, despite himself, he couldn't let that happen.

He returned to his room, grabbed his laptop, and logged into the forums. As the head of the Disciplinary Committee, he'd sorely longed for greater control over the Garden intranet. Now, as a member of the faculty, he finally had it. Administrative privileges. He'd never had to use them before, or even been tempted to. These days, he stayed off the message boards, certain that there was nothing there of any interest to him.

Until today.

Quickly, he found the thread the girls had been talking about and, with a few clicks, flagged it for review. The action would make it invisible to the rest of the community and bump it to either Squall or Xu for approval or deletion. He felt confident that either one of them would delete it, though if Xu was the one to do the review he might have some pointed questions to answer.

But that wouldn't be a problem.

He could deal with Xu.

Tomorrow he'd have to contend with Cadet Heller, too.

He sighed.

It figured that the kind of person who would develop a raging infatuation for him would be a huge pain in the ass.

In the meantime…he kicked off his boots and propped his feet up, determined to settle in for the night. He wouldn't be weak again, damn it. He wouldn't do anything stupid until the rumors died down. And he would prove to himself that he was bigger than this obsession with Quistis Trepe.

He wouldn't go to her tonight.

He wouldn't.


Quistis sat on the edge of her bed, biting her lip as the clock ticked over another minute. Curfew had come and gone. The hallway outside her door had settled into stillness. And yet she was awake, waging war with herself.

She didn't want to admit that she was waiting, but as she persisted in not getting into bed it became more and more difficult to delude herself into thinking that the anxious pounding of her heart had to do with anything other than Seifer.

She shot up onto her feet and paced to her closet and back.

Last night's visit had left her confused and lonely. But having him not show up at all seemed an even worse prospect. At least before she'd had his desire. The possibility of having no claim on him at all…of being nothing to him…

She shivered and rubbed her hands up and down her arms.

The longing that she could suppress during the day by keeping busy had nothing to hold it back at night and it washed over her now in a tidal wave that left her groaning in misery.

She checked the time.

It was thirty minutes past when he'd knocked on her door the night before.

Everyone else in Garden had already been asleep for hours. Just like she should have been.

Agitated, she glanced at her bed, so wide and empty…and made a reckless choice.

She grabbed an oversized sweater from her closet and pulled it on over her tank top and pajama pants. She didn't bother with shoes — just tugged on a thick pair of socks. And then, before she could second guess herself, she went out the door.

Her heart slammed against her ribs and her mouth went dry as she walked quick and silent down the hallway.

Seifer has roommates, she reminded herself. What the hell are you going to do when you get there? Knock and hope Fujin isn't the one to answer?

Supposing she would cross that bridge when she got to it, she sped up. Maybe just being near him would be enough. She only knew that she couldn't bear standing in her dorm room all by herself anymore.

As his door came into sight, her breath caught.

She'd hoped somewhere in the back of her mind that he might be there, standing in front of it…ready to take her into his arms. But he wasn't. His door stood firmly shut, the hallway around his room empty and still. Her heart flagged at the sight. But she walked all the way over to it anyway.

Pressing her hand to the cool metal, she sighed.

He was so close…and so yet so dismally far away.

"Seifer," she murmured, desperation darkening her tone.

The door slid open underneath her palm, startling her.

And then he was there, the wide expanse of his bare chest filling all of her vision. For a second, they stared at one another. He looked so wildly handsome, with his hair ruffled and his pants slung low. The muscles in his arm flexed as he gripped the doorframe with what looked like restraint — as if he needed to grasp something else to keep from reaching out for her instead.

"You're here," he said softly, something like awe in his voice.

"Yes," she replied. "Seifer, oh God. I—"

"I know," he said, interrupting her. "Me too."

Quistis flung her arms around him and almost instantly his slid around her waist.

They kissed and Quistis melted. All of the anxiety and loneliness that had been dogging her dissolved away, replaced by the steady glow of his warm, familiar touch. She loved the way he held her. Loved the way he tasted. Loved the low glide of his voice over her ears and the sweet smell of his skin.

She shuddered with relief at being with him again and moved eagerly along as he drew her into his dorm and across the common area into his room.

"I think about this all day long," he muttered against her mouth as they found their way to the bed. "You. And me." His kisses moved down the side of her neck. "Doing this…"

Quistis tangled her hands in his hair.

"Do you think about it, too?" he asked.

"Yes."

He gave a growl of satisfaction.

"I've tried not to," she admitted. "But…I can't. Oh, God. Seifer. What have you done to me?"

"Not nearly enough."

He tipped her back onto the bed and made slow work of showing her what he meant. Unlike the night before which had been a swift and hurried affair, he took his time divesting her of her pajamas. After every piece, he stopped to kiss and caress and murmur possessive little compliments as if to reinforce to her that she was here, with him, making the choice to give him access to this part of her and that whatever mark it left upon her body and soul would not be easily washed away. The effect was electric and by the time he dropped his head between her legs, she was already clutching at the sheets.

Once he finished and flashed her a cocky, self-satisfied smirk, she did her best to show him that the same was true the other way around.

She didn't want anyone but him.

But that didn't mean all was mended between them. She wouldn't delude herself to think that Seifer's obvious desire for her necessarily translated into anything softer.

So when it was over, she forced herself to get up and get dressed.

Seifer watched her from the bed, stretched out lazily with his arms behind his head.

"Hey, Quis?" he said when she started toward the door.

She paused, hope spearing through her that he might say something which would change her mind. Something that would convince her that the man she'd begun to fall in love with existed inside of him and not just on the pages of a book.

Right now, she wanted to believe. If he gave her even the slightest indication…

"Yeah?"

He looked at her for a moment, then shook his head. "It's nothing. Never mind."

Disappointed but not surprised, Quistis bid him goodnight and left.

This was it then, she reflected as she walked back to her own room. This is what they were to be. Over and over again, they would crash into each other until the resulting explosion of heat and passion either fizzled out or consumed them.

Based on the alarming amount she had left to burn, she had a good idea what their fate might be.

Seifer might eventually find his way to ice. But for her, it would be nothing but fire.