TAKE A LOOK AT ME NOW
Prequel to The Devil's Playground
"Get your lust
the rich man's gold
all that you need
is in your soul . . ."
~Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simple Man
"There's so much I need to say to you
so many reasons why
you're the only one
who really knew me at all . . ."
~Phil Collins, Against All Odds
Chapter 9
Don't Hold Back

Late on the Saturday afternoon before the wedding, Quistis stood upon a chair in Balamb's only dress shop, clad in a pale blue frock that would serve as her bridesmaid gown. The wedding was in less than a week, and Rinoa had finally decided on the gowns. As she stood there, letting the seamstress pin the hem in place, she realized that this would be the third time she'd been someone's bridesmaid. Was it true what they said? Three times a bridesmaid, never a bride? She suddenly felt depressed at the thought that she might never marry. She tried to rationalize the thought away as nonsense, and she tried to tell herself that she didn't believe in superstitions. But, what if it was true?

"So, Quisty, you're bringing Dievol to the wedding?" Rinoa asked as she smoothed the fabric of her wedding gown with affection.

Quistis nodded. She'd been seeing Dievol regularly for the last month, and though she liked him well enough, she found him a bit boring, a tad insecure but on the whole, he was still quite attractive though. Attraction aside, there was little chemistry between them, but Quistis conveniently ignored this fact so that she had an excuse to avoid her very real attraction to Seifer. Besides, Dievol didn't seem to notice the lack of chemistry between them, but, at the same time he hadn't yet tried to act on whatever attraction he might have to her.

Seifer had not taken her sudden attention to Dievol lightly. Since that first date, he'd done nothing but snap at her, make nasty comments about her virtue and in general, make her life miserable. She might have been able to blow it off except that Seifer and Irvine had become quite friendly with one another, and now Irvine was after her with questions she preferred not to answer. To put it more accurately, he asked questions she didn't know how to answer.

"He's really cute," Rinoa remarked. "If I were single, you'd have some competition."

"But you're not, and I don't," Quistis replied with a weak smile.

"Who's Seifer inviting?"

"Probably his underlings, if he plans to come at all."

Rinoa chuckled and covered her mouth with her hand. "Can you picture Fujin in a bridesmaid gown?"

Quistis tipped her head to the side and tried to imagine it. "That would not be a pretty sight."

Quistis herself didn't feel like she'd make such a pretty sight in sky blue satin either, but she held her tongue. Sapphire would have suited her complexion better, but Rinoa wanted the shade closest to the heavens that she could find, and as it was her wedding, Quistis had little to no say in the matter. Not that she cared that much anyway. Her mind was wrapped around three things: the first two being the men in her life, and the third was the situation in Galbadia.

Regarding Galbadia, there had not been much development in regard to the threats made against Esthar. So far, no action had been taken against Esthar, and even the threats had stopped. It seemed perhaps those responsible had seen the futility of their demands and had stopped making them. Quistis had made little headway in her research due to a lack of existing and tangible information. All she had was conjecture, probable scenarios and a generic history of a girl named Khamella Deling. Quistis wanted badly to find out more, but there was no more to learn until Khamella began to communicate with Esthar again. If she ever did. Quistis could only hope the situation would resolve itself without violence, but nothing had ever been that easy.



Seifer wiped his brow and sat down upon the deck of the boat beside Raijin. Seifer was hot, tired and he could feel the sun beginning to burn his nose and shoulders. He grabbed a bottle of water, but instead of drinking it, he dumped it over his head to cool off.

Raijin did the same and groaned happily as he leaned back against the side of the boat. "This is the life, ya know?"

Seifer closed his eyes and sighed. "Yep," he replied. "Now if I could just get my own place, I'd be set."

"You don't wanna live with Quistis no more?"

"Nah," Seifer replied. "I've over stayed my welcome, if you know what I mean."

This was pretty close to the truth. Of late, he and Quistis did nothing but argue, and it was really getting to him. He'd seen her with that guy, Dievol and this was usually the cause of their discontent. Last night, he'd seen the two of them in the Quad together, hand in hand, and he'd felt such jealousy, he'd gone to the training center to vent his anger upon something. He still couldn't explain why he felt the way he did, considering that her feelings for him were all but dead. This alone was enough to make him want to run, but at present, he still didn't have quite enough cash to move into his own place. One more payday, however, would see him through and he would be able to afford an apartment near the harbor.

And it wasn't as if he'd been sitting idle while Quistis made a fool of herself with that idiot. No, Seifer wasted no time when it came to satisfying his physical needs. The week after Quistis' first date with Dievol, Seifer had picked up a tall, cool, red head at the local pub, gone to her apartment and spent the night with her. Still, he cared nothing for her. Tawny was interesting enough in bed, but out of it, he didn't find her quite so interesting. And Tawny didn't seem to mind much. At least he had a date for Squall's wedding, and he'd be sure to let Quistis see them together, just so she knew that he didn't need her.

Except, this wasn't the truth. He needed her as much as he needed air and food. He couldn't explain it, and it didn't make any sense at all to be so enamored of her when there was nothing between them.

"You going to the wedding?" Raijin asked. "Squall invited us, ya know."

"Hell yeah, I'm going," Seifer said. "Far be it from me to pass up a party."

"You think there'll be girls there?"

"IDIOT." Fujin said and slapped Raijin upside the head.

"Do ya have to hit me so hard, Fuj? I got feelings, ya know?."

"WIMP."

Seifer chuckled and thought about how good Tawny would look dressed up for the occasion. Whether or not she was interesting, at least he could imagine the things he could do to her after the party and of the things she'd do to him. Maybe she'd wear a skimpy black dress and heels. Now that would be interesting indeed.


The eve of the wedding, Rinoa and all her friends gathered in the SeeD lounge to celebrate her last night as a free woman. Selphie had taken great pains to make the evening special and full of wicked fun. Quistis didn't feel much like participating, but she didn't have much of a choice. At the slightest hint of protest, Selphie would begin to scream at her about being there for her friends and Quistis would reluctantly agree, if only to get her friend to shut up.

"Are you ladies ready for some fun?" Selphie asked as she held up a bottle of vodka and grinned at the women.

"Bring it on, baby!" Rinoa, who'd apparently been drinking all afternoon, cried. "Where's the entertainment? I want to see some skin!"

Despite herself, Quistis chuckled and poured herself a glass of Reagan from the tap. She looked up as the door opened, prepared to case away any party crashers and was surprised to see Fujin standing in the doorway looking mildly uncomfortable in a stoic kind of way.

"What's she doing here?" Xu asked in Quistis' ear. "I figured she'd go to the bachelor party."

Quistis gave Xu a look of disbelief and straightened her posture.

"Hey, I've heard rumors about her, um, tendencies. I just assumed . . ."

"Fuj, come in!" Selphie cried. "Want something to drink?"

Fujin glared at Selphie and barked, "WHISKEY. ROCKS."

It was all downhill from there. As the evening wore on, the women became more and more intoxicated as the volume of the music and voices increased. Quistis found herself having a great time, despite her initial reluctance. She couldn't help but notice how out of place Fujin looked, however, and she felt bad for her. No one was speaking to her, and she sat in the corner, sipping her drink in silence. Quistis decided that she'd take the first step and be friendly. "Hi Fujin," she said as she took a seat beside the gray haired woman. "Having a good time?"

"DRUNK."

"You are, or you want to be?"

"BOTH."

Quistis laughed and looked the woman over. Fujin was not what anyone would call pretty, but on second look, she was attractive in a handsome sort of way. However, most people only noticed the gray hair and the eye patch and the strange barking way she talked. That was usually enough to make people fear her. Quistis wanted to try and draw her out a little, but she didn't get the chance.

"Ladies, the entertainment has arrived," Selphie called as she opened the door to reveal a young man dressed as a cowboy. His had was pulled low over his face and a red bandana across his nose so his face was hidden. The women in the room began to scream and whistle as the man gyrated his hips to the music.

Rinoa surged forward and ripped the man's hat off his head, "Don't hide your face, cutie pie. We don't bite."

"It'd be kinkier if you did," the man said, pulled the bandana down and grinned at Rinoa. Quistis had to crane her head to see him over the crowd that had gathered at the door.

"Irvine Kinneas!" Rinoa cried indignantly and threw the hat back at him. "OUT!"

"Aww, come on. The bachelor party's a drag," Irvine drawled as he wrapped his arms around a beaming Selphie, "and you ladies are far prettier than the stripper Zell got for Squall."

"There's a stripper at the bachelor party?" Rinoa gasped and put her hands on her hips. "Squall promised!"

"Um, Rinoa, there's supposed to be a stripper at our party," Quistis reminded her. "It's only fair."

"Yeah, but he promised!"

"Hey, what about me?" Irvine asked.

"OUT!" Quistis and Rinoa said in unison.

"I love you, Irvy poo, but you've got to go, ugly stripper or not," Selphie said as she pushed him back to the door.

It took a few minutes to calm Rinoa down once Irvine had left. By that time, the real entertainment arrived and Squall's slight was forgotten. Rather than participate, Quistis headed for the keg and refilled her drink. She preferred not to take part, for it would embarrass her more than anything, drunk or not.

A cry of anger alerted her to trouble, and she looked towards the melee, to see the young dancer had Fujin cornered, and Fujin was not happy.

"RAGE!" she cried.

Quistis could only laugh as Fujin kicked the young man in the shin.


The next morning, Quistis woke up with a wicked hang over. She sat up in the bed, clutched her head and groaned as she heard the PA system crackle and summon her to the commander's office. From the tone of Squall's voice, Quistis guessed he too had a rough night.

Though she would have loved a cup of coffee at that moment, instead she dressed quickly in jeans and a T-shirt and headed up to Squall's office. She wondered what he could possibly want that was important enough for him to be in his office after a night of heavy drinking and stuffing dollar bills down a stripper's cleavage.

She entered Squall's office and went straight to the coffee pot, not caring that the mug she picked up was dirty. She filled the mug and then took a seat at his desk. "What's the big deal?" she asked with a yawn.

"Khamella Deling is making demands," Squall said. Quistis noticed he was pale, and she knew her old friend had spent at least a small portion of his night hugging the toilet. She took a little comfort in this, considering she had woken in front of the toilet some time after the party had broken up, her stomach empty but still quite drunk.

"What?" Quistis asked. "What kind of demands?"

"The same as before, but this time she's threatening to mount an attack in a week's time if her demands aren't met."

"Can we negotiate with her?" Quistis would hate for the situation to escalate into full on war. Both sides had the potential to obliterate the other, it was just a matter of who struck first.

"I don't know. I've got Nida trying to get a direct line to the Presidential Mansion as we speak, but it's not looking good."

Quistis groaned. In a week's time, Squall would still be on his honeymoon, unless he put it aside until the situation had resolved itself. If not, that meant Quistis was going to handle the situation in his absence. "You have a plan?" she asked and sipped her coffee.

"For now, we'll try to negotiate. I want you on that if we're able to get through."

She nodded. "Do you think there's any hope for negotiation?"

"Again, I don't know. We don't know what she's capable of, or how far she's willing to go," he said and rubbed his chin. "Laguna has asked us to wait it out until we can determine what this is really about."

"So he's hiring SeeD, then."

Squall nodded and eyed her for a long moment. It made Quistis squirm to be scrutinized that way. "Looks like you had a hard night."

"I could say the same about you."

Squall flashed a weak smile. "Care to share details?"

"Not on your life, my friend," she replied with a chuckle. Rinoa had made her swear never to breathe a word of it to anyone but those who were there. Despite the hangover, Quistis had the time of her life, though it made her sad to think that she was the last bachelorette, that after that night, she would be the only one to sleep alone.

"I'll call you if Nida gets through," Squall said and covered a yawn with his hand. "Keep your ears open."

Though it was still early, Quistis decided she should go wake Selphie up so that they could get a jump on the decorations. She wanted to get that task out of the way as soon as possible so that she'd have time later to speak with Khamella Deling if Nida did indeed work a miracle. She pounded on Selphie's door until the sleepy eyed girl opened it. "What the hell do you want?!" Selphie cried as the door swung open.

"Get dressed. We've got work to do."

"Nooooo . . ." Selphie groaned and leaned against the door frame. "You can't make me."

"This is a direct order from your superior," Quistis said with a grin. "Get dressed. I'll make coffee."


Around noon, as Quistis tacked up the last banner in the ball room, Squall's voice came over the PA system. It sounded as if he'd gained his bearing and his voice was clear and commanding. Quistis looked down at Selphie, who was busy tying balloons to the altar and sighed. "I'll be right back, Selph. Duty calls."

"Whatever it is, tell Squall it can wait. We have to start getting ready soon, you know," Selphie said and put her hands on her tiny hips.

"It can't wait," Quistis said as she climbed down from the ladder. "Don't worry. I'll have time to get ready."

She hurried to the elevator, taking it to the third floor. In Squall's office she took a seat behind the desk at Squall's insistence. "She's on line two."

"Any requests? Suggestions?"

"Just try to talk her out of it. Offer a deal if you have to," he said. "I've got to go pick up my tux, but I'll be back. You can update me then."

"Oh, thanks a lot commander."

"Sorry. It has to be done," he said and left her alone in the office.

She picked up the phone. "Khamella, this is Lt. Commander Quistis Trepe. I've been looking forward to talking with you," she said, hoping that if she played at being friendly it might help her in the long run.

"Have you now?" came a feathery voice from the other end of the line. "Tell me, Commander. What is it that you want?"

Quistis cleared her throat. "I want to understand your demands. I want to understand your reasons for doing this."

Khamella laughed. "Commander Trepe, if you've done your homework, you know that I won't be fooled by negotiation tactics. Have you done your job, commander?"

"Indeed I have. I know much about you," Quistis said and she began to speak in a soft voice she usually reserved for her friends when they were hurting, "Negotiation tactics aside, I'd still like to understand, Khamella. Would you explain what it is that you want? I can't help you if I don't understand, you know, and we would like to work this out in a peaceful manner."

"What if I said I'm not interested in peace?"

"What are you interested in? What can we do to resolve this?"

"All you have to do, Commander, is stay the hell out of it."

Quistis saw that this was getting her nowhere, so she decided to try another tactic. "Does he love you?" she asked softly.

"What?" came the startled reply.

"Does he love you?" Quistis asked again. "You'd better be sure of his affections before you go rushing into this. Men will say anything to get you to do what they want you to do. Are you sure that he'll be there for you after this is over and done with?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Khamella said defensively. "You're crazy."

"It's not so crazy, Khamella. How many men along the way have told you they loved you so that you'd go to bed with them? How many of the were still there in the morning? Don't you see he's got you fooled? You can still get out of this, but you have to let us help you."

"No. You don't know anything!" the girl screamed in her ear. "You don't know him, and you don't know me!"

Quistis had rattled her, and she knew from Khamella's reaction that her second assumption was right on target. "Khamella, calm down. I'm not accusing him of anything, I just want you to think. You're a bright girl, and I'm sure you can see when someone is using you. I just want you to be sure, ok?"

"He's not using me," Khamella insisted.

"All right, then," Quistis said. "Work with me. Tell me what it is you want."


Seifer Almasy checked his appearance in the bathroom mirror and straightened the jacket of his suit. He didn't particularly care how he looked, but he didn't want to look like an idiot, either. With a sigh, he turned away from the mirror and left the bathroom, wondering where Quistis was. The wedding was in an hour and she hadn't even put her dress on. It still hung on the back of the bathroom door wrapped in plastic He figured she'd spend all day getting ready, as Rinoa had apparently been.

There was a knock on the door and he called out a greeting. Squall poked his head in the door. "Hey," he mumbled.

"What's up?" Seifer asked.

"Quistis sent me down for her dress," Squall said and rubbed his eyes.

"Something wrong?"

"The usual," Squall replied.

"Been working all day?"

"Yeah."

Seifer realized Quistis must have been working all day, too, and he felt a bit of sympathy for her. He guessed whatever was going on was big, judging by Squall's expression. Then again, it might have been the fact that Squall was about to tie the knot. It was a big step. One that Seifer himself decided was a bridge he would never cross. "The dress is in the bathroom," he told Squall.

Squall entered the bathroom and returned a second later with the dress clutched in his hands. He let out a frustrated sigh and groaned.

"Something wrong?"

"Just frustrated," Squall replied.

"Nervous?"

"Not really."

"Yeah, I didn't figure you would be," Seifer said. "You never were one to go astray. From anything."

Squall smiled faintly. "I'll take that as a compliment."

"Take it how you want," Seifer said with a shrug and picked up his tie from the back of the couch. "Better you than me."



Quistis hurried down to the dressing room clutching the gown and silently cursing Khamella Deling for even existing. There had been no reasoning with the girl, try as she might. Not only did she refuse to back down, she also refused to explain her reasons for wanting control. Perhaps she was just like her father. If memory served her correctly, Quistis recalled the days when Vinzer Deling had ruled Galbadia, and he had been less than stable. Khamella seemed to have inherited that quality from her father, and that worried Quistis.

But, there was no time to ponder the Deling legacy. Quistis had to get ready, and the wedding was to start in less than twenty minutes.

She wasn't prepared for the state Rinoa was in when she entered the dressing room. Rinoa was busy wiping away streaks of black from her cheeks. It might have been funny in different circumstances, but it would be insensitive to laugh at Rinoa when there were tears running down her cheeks. "Selphie, you put too much on!" she cried. "Now I look like a demented clown."

"I'm sorry!" Selphie cried. "It was supposed to be smudge proof mascara!"

"Relax," Quistis said and tossed her make up bag to Selphie. "There's some remover in there that should take it right off. You'll be beautiful again in no time."

"Rinoa, please stop crying," Selphie pleaded as she applied make up remover to a cotton ball. "You're making it worse."

"Quisty, you're not even ready!" Rinoa cried as she turned her panicked eyes towards Quistis.

"Don't worry," Quistis reassured her. "It'll only take a minute. Besides, Squall will wait."

Rinoa smiled a bit wistfully and then glanced back into the mirror and let out a strangled cry of frustration. "Selphie, do something!"


The wedding went off without a hitch. Selphie had worked her magic and Rinoa looked beautiful as she walked down the aisle. Quistis couldn't help but be jealous of the way Squall looked at Rinoa as she approached. Though his smile was restrained, his eyes said everything. There was no denying how much he really loved her, and Quistis hated that no one felt that way about her. It made her feel more lonely than she had in months.

It was Squall's vows that had been the clincher. For someone so reserved and emotionally restrained, he'd managed to find the perfect words to express his commitment to Rinoa, and Quistis had a hard time maintaining her composure as she listened. Tears welled up in her eyes and she felt like running to her room so she could sob behind a safely locked door. Instead, she put on a false smile and pretended that she was having a great time at the reception. Still, as she made her rounds, with Dievol on her arm, she couldn't help but wish those words had been spoken to her.

"You are more than just my wife. You are also my friend and the one that has given me hope when I had none. From this point forward, you are my partner, and I promise that I'll always be there for you, no matter what, for the rest of my life."

It didn't help that Seifer had come with a tall, leggy red-head that couldn't seem to keep her paws off of him. Seifer seemed to be enjoying the attention to no end, and he responded to her in a way that made Quistis feel ill. Pangs of jealousy coursed through her veins each time she saw them. And she didn't understand why it mattered so much, anyway. She had Dievol, who was smart and good looking, and already considered quite the catch at Garden. But she had to wonder, why wasn't that enough?

"Can I get you another drink, Quistis?" Dievol asked.

"Please," she said as her eyes moved to where Seifer sat with his hand boldly up the red-head's skirt. The red head giggled and playfully slapped his hand away.

In that moment she decided that she would put the moves on Dievol. It couldn't hurt. Besides, Irvine had told her that Seifer wanted a challenge, and Quistis was determined to give him one.



The party was getting boring. Seifer had his fill of champagne, and so had his date, who was busy trying to unbutton his shirt and couldn't seem to manage to get the buttons undone. "Let's get out of here," he told her as he got to his feet.

"Ooh, are you going to show me where you live?"
"My room mate wouldn't approve. Let's go to your place," he said as he glanced around, looking for Quistis. She didn't seem to be anywhere in the room, and that moron, Dievol was gone too. "Hold up, Tawny," he said. "I'll be right back."

"Where are you going?" she whined.

"I said I'll be right back."

Seifer didn't know why he felt the need to go after Quistis. It wasn't like she was interested in him anymore, but he couldn't help but feel panicked to know that she was alone with the moron. He hurried up to her room trying not to picture what might or might not be going on in that room. He didn't want to think about Quistis being with someone else, he wanted her all to himself.

Seifer slipped his key into Quistis' door, and his heart jumped involuntarily as he turned the knob. He hoped she'd be on the other side, despite all the recent animosity between them. In the last two weeks, he'd been unable to get her off of his mind, try as he might. He thought of her first thing in the morning, and she was his last thought as he fell into sleep. It was pathetic, he knew, and it was totally unlike him to be so taken with her. The Seifer of old would have blown her off after the argument and found someone else to entertain him. He'd never had trouble with women. They loved his confidence and strength, not to mention his good looks. No, women had never been a problem for Seifer. Except Quistis. He didn't know what it was about her that he found so alluring, and he constantly chided himself about going soft.

Of course there was Tawny, but he didn't care about her, nor did she about him.

The sudden feeling of excitement at seeing Quistis was a bit of a surprise, considering he'd sworn he didn't want to see her anymore, despite his constant thoughts of her. It was just easier not to see her, he thought. But now, he wanted to see her. He wanted things to be good between them, and perhaps he might apologize, offer to take her out some time, even if Dievol was in the picture.

He pushed the door open and sucked in a slow breath as he looked inside. There on the couch, Quistis lay with her arms around Dievol the pansy. Dievol's hands were tangled in her hair and their lips were locked together like two teenagers in the back of a station wagon. Their shirts were off, though Quistis still wore a lacy black bra, and Seifer felt a powerful surge of jealousy wash over him as he stood fixed in the doorway.

He couldn't explain the rage he felt as he strode forward, grabbed Dievol by the waistband of his pants and hauled him to his feet.

"Hey!" Dievol squawked as Seifer shoved him back into the wall.

"Seifer, what the hell are you doing?" Quistis cried. "Stop it!"

"Just came by to pick up some stuff," he said as he released Dievol.

"Then get it and get out," she said, unaware that she was standing there wearing only the bra and a short skirt.

"Quistis, I, uh, I'd b-better go," Dievol stammered.

"You don't have to," Quistis said. "I want you to stay. Seifer will be gone in a minute."

Seifer scowled as he glared at Dievol, hating the fact that this little wimp had gotten farther with her than he had. "I didn't realize you had a little love fest going on in here. I apologize for interrupting."

"Shut up, Seifer," Quistis said.

Dievol grabbed his shirt from the back of the couch and slipped it on. "I'll give you a call tomorrow, Quistis."

"Don't go," Quistis pleaded.

The man gave Seifer one last nervous glance and shook his head. "I think it's best," he said and then he left without looking back.

"What the hell is wrong with you?" Quistis cried as she she moved towards him, her hand raised to strike.

Seifer caught her wrist before she could make contact, and he held it tight in his own hand, turned on by her anger. "What the hell is wrong with you?" he asked disdainfully. "You can't honestly say you love that guy."

"What's it to you?"

"I distinctly remember you saying that you were saving yourself for love," he spat out and pushed her slowly backwards into the wall behind them, her wrist still in his grip. She flinched and raised her other hand to slap him, of which he caught and pinned above her head. "Don't ever try to hit me again."

"Let me go."

He smiled down at her as she struggled to free herself.

"This is funny to you?" she asked as she glared back at him.

"No, it's not funny," he replied as he lowered his head so his eyes were level with hers. "Tell me Quistis. Are you leading him on like you did me?"

"Stop this and let me go," she insisted, and in her eyes were both fear and anger.

Seifer could not explain why he felt so possessive of her. It wasn't like they'd even been a couple. He'd never been that way with any woman, let alone someone with whom he'd never done more than kiss. Still, in his mind, she was his, and she would always be his. Did that mean he wanted to marry her? No, he put no stock in the institution of marriage. It only meant that for whatever reason, he needed her. As he stood with his hands pinning her wrists to the wall, he wanted to kiss her, to make her his forever.

"I will let you go if you answer me one question," he said and he was suddenly aware of the way her body felt next to his, the way the black lace of her bra looked against the milky white of her skin. He was aware of the way her eyes flashed with anger and the way her lips trembled with fear. He could smell something sweet on her skin, something like magnolia or jasmine. "Answer my question and I'll let you go," he whispered. "Dievol. Do you love him?"

"That's none of your business," she hissed back. "Now let me go."

"Not until you answer me," he insisted. He already knew she didn't love Dievol, but he wanted to hear her say it. "Do you love him?"

"Why do you care?" she whispered as her eyes shifted away from his.

"I guess the answer is no."

"I never said that."

"If you loved him, you wouldn't have a problem admitting it," he whispered and he let his eyes travel her face before he finally settled on her lovely eyes. There was a flicker of something there that made him want her in a bad way. The scent of her skin was driving him wild, the closeness of her body, too made him want to take her into his arms and make love to her. He wanted to wake up with her next to him in the morning. "I love you, Quis. Can't you see that?"

"Seifer," she whispered, and he saw the vulnerable little girl in her shine through as tears sprang to her eyes. "Please let me go."

Instead of releasing her, he leaned forward and caught her bottom lip between his own. She made a muffled sound, and Seifer wasn't sure if it was of protest or pleasure, and for a split second, he didn't care, he just wanted to feel her lips on his. Then, he pulled away and looked at her face. The anger in her eyes had been replaced by something else, something he couldn't name, but he could tell from the flush in her cheeks that her response was not one of protest.

As his lips met hers once more, he pinned both of her wrists beneath one of his hands so that he was free to touch her with the other. She no longer struggled against his grip, and her lips met his willingly, as hungry as his own. He drove his other hand through her hair, enjoying its silky texture against his fingertips. He wondered what the rest of her might feel like, what her body would feel like against his.

What he felt for her went beyond mere lust. Lust he'd felt and acted upon many times, and though it was momentarily gratifying to take a woman into his bed to satisfy that need, he'd never wanted more than that from any of them. With Quistis, it was different. It wasn't just about the sex, there was much more to it than that. He wanted her body, heart, mind and soul, and tonight, Hyne willing, he'd have her.


Quistis was shocked at her response to Seifer's kiss. She'd been so angry with him. She'd wanted to scream at him, hit him, hurt him for running Dievol off. He'd behaved like a child, like a jealous little boy, and that alone was enough to anger her, but he'd taken it even further by asking her questions she didn't want to answer. But with one single kiss, he'd turned it all around, and those feelings she'd managed to bury resurfaced in an instant. As his lips had touched hers, her anger melted away and it was as if she had no control over her mind or her body.

Truth be told, as she'd been making out with Dievol on the couch, she'd been fantasizing that it was Seifer above her with his hands in her hair and his lips on hers. She wasn't all that interested in Dievol, though he was quite attractive. He was shallow, insecure and a little weak, though he masked this behind a guise intellect and arrogance. As easy on the eyes as he was, she'd never felt much for him, and she didn't know what she'd been thinking when she let him take her shirt off and touch her intimately.

To have Seifer touch her the same way was infinitely more exciting. She loved the rough way he kissed her, the demanding way his hands roamed her skin. She couldn't deny that Seifer had always been passionate, and she would have been disappointed if he'd been tender with her. It wasn't his way to be gentle, for everything about him was raw and intense, and so it would be with this too.

Part of her wanted to protest, to throw him out of her room and never see him again. But that was just her fear of giving herself over to him, her fear of letting herself open up to the possibility of something more. So, as his lips pressed hard against her throat, she did let go. She forced her mind to stop its endless reasoning and debate as he pinned her wrists to the wall above her head with one of his hands, and the other reached behind her to unclasp her bra.

"Open your eyes," he breathed in her ear.

She opened them and he brushed the hair away from her face. He was as serious as she'd ever seen him, and in his eyes, she could see the real Seifer Almasy. Not the arrogant bastard of her childhood, but the proud man behind the smokescreen, the warrior behind the mask. Despite all his roughness, he did have a heart, and he was capable of caring about someone other than himself.

"Take me to bed," she whispered as his lips trailed along her collar bone.



Seifer let go of her wrists and scooped her up into his arms, not needing to be told twice. He carried her to her room and laid her down on the bed, then shed his jacket and stripped off his clothes. The lamp beside the bed cast a soft pink light upon Quistis as she lay there, trembling lightly under his gaze. For several moments, he could only stand there and admire her in the soft light. She looked so innocent, so young with her hair spilling across the pillow like spun silk.

"What's wrong?" she whispered and sat up.

He shook his head and smiled down at her. Then, he lay down beside her and pulled her close. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she moaned in his ear as his hands took in every inch of her flesh. Quistis would be his, tonight, and he hoped for the rest of his life.


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Notes
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Thank you for your reviews. It's good to be back, and it's good to be writing again. I hope you guys enjoyed this chapter...*L* I actually had a lot of fun writing it, though it took me freaking forever....did you know love scenes are hard to write?

Anyway, life is working itself out for me. I'm not sitting around feeling sorry for myself anymore, and being single is actually starting to be kind of fun. Be advised, after the next chapter or so, I will not post for a couple of weeks because I'm moving. Woohoo! Freedom! Life is good.

by the way...if you're interested, I have a couple of things up on fictionpress.net...a little random poetry and the first chapter of a story I wrote a while back called "Project Lost Boys." Some of you might like it...

So...I want some reviews! *L*