Disclaimer: Don't own them, Squaresoft does. Therefore I take no responsibility for any damages, punitive or otherwise, that may incur after reading this bit of prose. It's all on the company's head. Complain to them. Likewise, "It's Only Love" belongs to Sheryl Crow and affiliates. Do what you will.

Brief note: I did not intend this short story to end up the way it did. Not sure if I like the way it kind of wrote itself. Hope it makes sense to you all because I don't think I understand it.

Afterglow

I think I met my match again
Standing round the candlelight
In the middle of this blizzard
You stood and melted all the ice

            Serenity. Before this moment, he had never known such a thing could exist. Total and absolute quietude, complete peace with one's environment. These were not feelings he had experienced in his short life. Nor had he ever desired them. But for the first time Seifer Almasy was beginning to understand why so many of his gender were willing to give up their independence and edge-teetering lifestyles for the predictability of domesticity. A woman, the right woman, could change everything.

            Whipped, he'd always called them with a cruel and jaded sneer. Subservient morons. Only now, he knew different. Now he realized the kind of power held over them to make them give it all up. It was beyond anything he had ever faced, or ever would face again. It was paradise. It was the most pleasant of dreams come true. It was humbling.

            Despite the misty haze clouding his mind and progressively flooding through his veins to the very tips of his toes, he had an inkling he was about to do the most honourable thing he had ever done. If only he knew what it was. He had a vision of orange blossoms and moonbeams and smiled, keeping his eyes closed. It didn't matter that he was acting completely out of character. He felt completely out of character. Besides, there was no one else around to judge or scorn. Only she. The source of this pristine illumination.

            The woman in his arms gave a sigh, her breath flowing like water across his cooling skin. Ever so slightly she shifted, contributing to the foggy world of splendid imaginings as bare skin brushed against bare skin. Heaven, he decided. If there was such a thing, there was no way it could compare to this utter feeling of contentment that existed in the embrace of Quistis Trepe. Forgetting himself, his past, his future, he abandoned his essence to the moment. And revelled in the glory of it all.

It's only love
It's only love

            She shifted once more, turning one soft cheek to rest against his shoulder. His hands moved silkily up her back beneath the cotton sheet to stroke her arms. Her hands flexed on his shoulders and she opened her eyes. He bent his head to nuzzle, murmur something poetic about the texture of her skin, the scent of her hair, before reaching up a hand to wind through her thick tresses. Her eyes remained open, drinking in the moonlit bedchamber as the sensations rolled over and around her system.

            A tiny line appeared between her smooth brows and she sighed again. Seifer took the airy sound to be an expression of satisfaction and seconded the motion, letting it glide from his parted lips and over her hair. She shivered and slowly lowered her eyelids, long lashes kissing pale cheeks.

            Allowing the gilt-edged world to linger for a few more aching moments cost her dearly.  But it was a penalty she was willing to undergo. For this one dazzling moment would have to last her a lifetime.

            She waited for his gentle touch to lengthen, for his heart beat to slow to a more deliberate cadence beneath her own, before she lifted her lashes for a second time. She endured against the fervent desire building within her to lift her head and touch her mouth to his. The time for that had faded. Soon the sun would rise and trickle its orange and gold rays into the tranquil room. And nothing would ever be the same again.

            Keeping her gaze concentrated on the brilliant starlight reflecting through the glass of the open window and onto the soft rug, she licked her lips with the tip of her tongue and prepared to speak. What she would articulate would pain them both.

            "I'm leaving Garden."

You were master of so many
Saviour to none
I waged all of my hopes so plenty on you
Now look what I've become

His hands only ceased in their tender caress for but the briefest of seconds. But they both noticed the change. The balmy haze began to lift and his toes grew cold. The words had barely been above a whisper, had only reached his ears in a hushed timbre. Yet, the weight of them wracked into his brain with the power of a full orchestra.

            He rested a cheek along the top of her head. "When?" His voice was mild, coming across with a distracted air. His hands slipped back to her waist, held her loosely.

            Quistis turned and pressed her face into the hollow of his neck, breath even, pulse steady. Rhythmically in tune with his. "In the morning. I handed in my resignation yesterday." Her nose nestled against his relaxed jaw and she skimmed a hand from shoulder to the back of his neck, fingers dancing around the ends of his hair.

            "Where will you go?" He brushed his lips over the cooled skin of her shoulder. Skin that had only minutes ago been heated with passion under a similar touch. Only now did he open his eyes.

            She lifted the same shoulder and let it fall. For the first time that night, she met his gaze. A million apologies could be made. A million explanations. A million platitudes.  But she made none. The time they had spent together meant too much for that.

If only love comes round again
It will have been
Worth the ride

            A million questions drifted through his consciousness, hovered at the tip of his tongue. But he asked none. A million accusations, a million demands tore up his throat, implored to be let free. Yet his eyes did not flicker, his hands did not tense, his heart did not stop. His eyes stared evenly into hers. Another time, another place a man in his position may have begged her to stay, or to take him with her. But in this time and this place this man was not asking. It was clear she was not offering.

            Though Seifer had barely moved she felt the tiny fraction of space thicken between them, rising up like an impenetrable barrier. Though his gaze was direct, his eyes were closed. They held nothing for her but silent acceptance. She turned her head away. Rolled from his warmth, his comfort that had grown cold in the soft night, into the gentle breeze that floated in from the window. She wondered for just a moment if

she would ever feel as secure again. Knew it was something she needed to find out.

            He watched her as she stood by the wafting curtains without speaking. He continued to lie on his back, his arms now emptied of her presence. The serenity had left with her body. All that remained was soundless apathy. He knew he would never feel that way again. For the first time he had trouble telling himself not to care.

            She lifted a hand to toy with the delicate lace, trailed her eyes over the perfectly manicured lawns of her home, lush and glimmering in the dusty lunar radiance. It would be her last time standing there, like this. She expected the regret that misted over her senses but was surprised to feel none of the longing. Instead, a tiny thrill rippled along her bare spine, causing faint gooseflesh to rise to the surface. All her doubts ebbed with the current of air. She was doing the right thing.

Stepping away from the window, she turned back into the room. Let her gaze travel to the man, the only man, who had ever made her feel whole. Her lips curved.

He could see the contentment in the affectionate gaze she bestowed upon him. The relaxation of her shoulder muscles did more to ease his heart than any confessions she might have made. He understood, if nothing else, he understood. He smiled back to give her at least that.

While her burden did not lighten, she was now confident she would be able to cart it. And she was grateful. She approached the bed and angled her slight frame over the mattress to touch her lips to his. He kissed her back, softly, tenderly, but with none of the passion that had blazed between them only a short time ago. When he eventually pulled away, she leaned her forehead against his and exhaled.

Her words streamed over his skin, echoed into the air, reverberated from the walls and embedded into his mind. He knew this moment would last forever.

"Thank you."

Sometimes lonely is not only a word
But faces I have known
And if you see me could you free me with a smile
So I can let go