A.N.: I own none of the characters. If I did I wouldn't be writing fanfiction, I would be writing a sequel to the game. Lucky devils, are those who work for Square.

Erm, the central action may be a bit risqué, though I certainly don't feel it's anything worse than a film or romance novel. But I figured I'd better send out a warning anyway. I wrote this for a challenge, started by a friend and fellow writer, Mr. McFrugalshtein. The link to her site is on my profile.  I hope you all enjoy!

Dancing Barefoot

The moon was but a sliver. Yet its shafts gave off enough light to glow through the smooth pane of the dormitory window. Reflecting off the glass, moon dust dewed across the carpeting and showered over the narrow bed.

Zillions of mini lights, products of their respective stars, twinkled about the bedclothes. As the window was curtain-less, the natural rays were unhindered as they danced into the small room. Shadows performed the pas de deux of a lively ballet. The chorus joined in their delicate celebration on the ceiling. Deep, violet eyes, framed by long lashes stared unseeing at the starshine flickering round the plain walls.

Another night, the eyes may have studied the lights with poetic fascination. The owner of the dark orbs was prone to such romantic, and often enigmatic, flights of fancy. He had spent many an hour in quiet reflection over more trivial substances than the mysteries of the skies. As most, he was a man attracted to the beautiful, inspired by the magical. And indeed, there was something enchanting about the shimmer of the faraway galaxies that night. Bringing to mind images of faeries and silver-clad knights.

However, the man's thoughts were occupied less with the supernatural and more with the earth-bound. He would leave off the star-gazing for a time when his mind could be eased of present plights. He may be a dreamer, but he was a sagacious one.

The responsibilities burdening his load this night had primarily one focus. Selphie Tilmitt.

Shifting onto his side, Irvine Kinneas let the soft quilt slide to his waist. He propped an elbow on the pillow and rested a narrow chin on one long-fingered hand. Long auburn tresses fell over his right shoulder, lightening under the moon. He was the complete illustration of melancholic contemplation.

Irvine had been in love with Selphie for as long as he could remember. Perhaps longer. Her joy was his bliss; her sorrow, his utter depression.

And right now the sprightly female was not happy.

She put up a front. Smiled and laughed with the best of them. Danced and sang with her usual verve. If he'd loved her any less, Irvine himself may not have noticed the light lines worrying the soft skin beneath her eyes and round her mouth. As a marksman, he considered himself a man of immaculate observation ability. With better than average sensibility. Seldom did he make an error when judging the emotional stability of his friends.

Selphie had something serious taking up her thoughts. Something she did not feel she could share with those around her. He reckoned he knew the cause, knew exactly what it was that plagued the woman he worshipped.

The idea filled him with dread.


He knew she ached to go back, had almost confessed as much in a moment of abstraction. And whatever Selphie wanted, he wanted her to have in spades.

A girl like her should never know fear or loneliness. She was too full of all that was good, all that was light. Years of violent battle had yet to mar her soul.

But there was one problem. When Selphie returned to Trabia Garden, where did that leave him?

Loathing himself for his selfishness, he rolled onto his back and folded his hands behind his head. The air of the room was balmy so he left his torso uncovered. He released a pensive sigh.

He could go with her, he supposed. Arrange for his own transfer, hang around and help rebuild the damaged area. Continue to flirt and tease and devote his every moment to her happiness for as long as he could.

But then what?

There wasn't a doubt in his mind about his worthiness of holding on to the exuberant pixie of a girl. He wasn't the least bit worthy. By any sense of the word. Not to touch her; not to love her. Certainly not to marry her.

Which was the very reason he had yet to broach the subject of his romantic attachment. Not because he was scared she would not return his ardour. But that she would. And that he would come to ruin her. His love was too great too allow himself to destroy the spirit he wanted to cherish more than anything in the waking world.

At times, she reminded him of the porcelain doll that had winked at him from behind glass at the home of his adoptive parents years past. Her twinkling eyes had beckoned him, her blushing cheeks so wholesome. Her beauty had been foreign to his small world. Just once, he'd dared to open her case to engulf her in his awkward embrace. Once was all it had taken.

He'd been clumsy. His touch had been too indelicate, too unwieldy. To his great horror her pale complexion had cracked against the hardwood flooring, breaking his child's heart. It had taken months for him to forgive himself for tarnishing something so precious. He'd vowed that day never to allow himself access to anything that resembled the purity of the treasured doll.

Frustrated by the direction of his thoughts and angry at the position he had put them both in, he turned over onto his stomach. His eyes closed to help bring upon the ever-elusive sleep.

Nothing would be resolved by brooding. The dilemma of his life would be put off until the sun's rays replaced the moon's at his window.

But if he had expected to clear his mind in the dreaming world, his hopes would not achieve fruition. If anything, the dream he recalled most vividly in the morn muddled his direction further.

The first thing he became aware of once the deepest tugs of sleep had overtaken him, was the rhythm of tumbling water. Followed by a slight buzzing that could only be produced by a variety of insects. He relaxed against the rough bark of a tree, felt it abrade the fibres of his coat as he leaned back. The ground was firm beneath his out-stretched legs but the grass was moist with morning's dew. Warm droplets tingled his skin through the soft denim of worn trousers.

Honeysuckle, he realized. It was the drugging perfume of the delicate white flowers that was currently wafting around him, pleasantly clogging his senses. Mixed with churned soil, the leather of his hat, and was that peaches? All together it was a blissful experience.

He basked in the mosaic of scents and sounds before he chanced defiling the serenity of the moment by opening his eyes. However, what greeted him was anything but disagreeable. It appealed to every hedonistic cell in his body.

Yards in front of where he reclined, water cascaded off a precipice, gathered into a small loch then twirled into a gentle current . Craning his neck, he noticed the rock overhang stood at over ten metres in height, greater in width. Beyond that was nothing but brilliant sky, spotted with wisps of cloud. From his position he could not discern how far the brook that caught the plummeting water travelled. It jaunted around a bend and departed through the trees that thickened at the edge of the clearing.

The sun was at his back, its glare interrupted by the rustling branches of the forest on either side of the waterfall. But when the breeze ruffled the deciduous leaves in just the right way, the water of the rivulet sparkled in sunshine.

On the shore of the stream blossomed the flowers he had identified by their pungent aroma alone. They were also responsible for the frenzied humming of the honeybees that had greeted him upon his wakening of sensation. Nestled between stones, the blooms made a pretty picture, tempting him toward the river.

Slowly, languidly, he pulled his tall frame away from the tree and rose to his feet. A bouquet of fragrance circulated through the air around his head. Lilies and freesia merged with the honeysuckle in a sundry explosion of pleasure. He was nearly dizzy with it.

There were no thoughts in his mind but of the immediate. Past or future had no placed in such a setting . Every aspect of the pastoral scene called to him, demanded his attention. It never occurred to him that it all could be a dream, that the idyllic world could be nothing but a fantasy. For at that moment there was nothing else. The fantasy was real, tangible. He would drown himself in each physical marvel.

Crouching by the river bed, he trailed a hand through the gentle flow of water. It was cool against his warmed skin. All of a sudden he longed to bathe his heated flesh in the refreshing fluid. To feel it swirl against his limbs and ease his well-used muscles. The darker, deeper water beyond the rocks tempted, invited, and - as he was not a man who believed in denying himself – he succumbed.

Divesting himself of his clothing, he laid his apparel on the flat surface of a larger rock, safe from the spray of the fall. This was hardly the place for inhibitions, not that he had many. He stood on another rock that hung out over the pool, flicked back his hair, lifted his arms, and dove in.

Exhilaration. Restoration. The effect of the water was more potent than the strongest of curative magic. It was a panacea to his mind, body, and soul. Nothing he had ever or would ever feel could match the thrill of that one moment.

When he surfaced, the sensual reverberations of the water melded with those of the air. His eyes closed to better absorb the wash of pure happiness. He shook back his hair, titled his face to the skies, and smiled.

Laughter now rose over the beat of the cataract, and the oscillating drone of the bees. The simple melody of the basic human sound fit the mood so well he did not start. It was as if he had been expecting it. The pitch and quality was as familiar to him as his own.

Eventually he opened his eyes and turned in the direction of the merriment. He knew who would be standing on the grassy shore even before he saw her. Again, it was as if she belonged in the intimate little world with him. Though outside such a connection would never had occurred to either soul.

Behind her sunlight streamed in zillions of tiny shafts, frolicking with the wind and highlighting her unbound locks. Rays played over golden skin left bare on her arms and shoulders. The lacy hem of her dress rippled just above her ankles, giving hints of long, lean legs. At her hips, the material clung, loosened and clung to a modest neckline that more than hinted at the curves underneath. Her features were smooth and as elegant as the dress. Her complexion seemed to glow next to the garment's brilliant white. 

With her straight, gently sloping nose, refined cheekbones, arching brows and full, curving mouth, she could have easily been created in the image of a cameo brooch. Or a queen. But it was her eyes that told different. Of such a genuine, perfect blue they beckoned man, woman, and child to her side. Resistance to their power was fruitless. It was the lustre of her eyes that made certain one knew she was a Siren.

When their gazes met and held her laughter quieted. They regarded each other for a generous moment, the air thickening between them, she on the grass and he in the water.

Irvine felt a wave swell within him. It rippled under his skin from the back of his neck down to his fingers and toes. Not being able to name the feeling, all he knew was that he did not wish for it to end. He loose with the wide smile the woman on the shore was all too familiar with.

"You came."

Quistis tilted her head, not breaking eye contact. "Why wouldn't I?"

He continued to tread water without much effort as they conversed not moving forward or away. Still grinning he shrugged one lazy shoulder. "A gal like you has the power to leave an unassuming fella like me slack-jawed and cut off at the knees."

"Unassuming, hmm?" Her laughter returned. She lifted a hand to brush aside breeze-swept hair. "And what would you say if I told you the situation could easily be reversed?"

"Oh no." He clutched one hand to his heart. "Don't say things like that. I've a delicate temperament, can't take ups and downs. You should know that by now, darlin'."

With an enigmatic smile, she stepped closer to the mere. Just near enough for the cool water to lick the tips of her bare toes. "I know nothing, cowboy. Except that if this were a couple of centuries ago, you could be called a rogue."

He lifted a brow. "That doesn't sound like an insult."

She only shook her head, her honey locks sliding over her shoulders. His gaze lowered to her slim unadorned feet, watched her toes wriggle in obvious pleasure to the soft texture of the water.

Acting on impulse, he swam closer until his own feet hit the sandy floor. The pool rose to his waist, grazing exposed skin. He held out a hand. His eyes lost their teasing light and darkened with earnest.

"Swim with me. It feels great."

Amusement clashed with scorn in her eyes and stance. She crossed her arms, shifted her weight onto one foot. The other leg rose in the air as she flicked a trickle of water at him with her toe. "I don't have a bathing suit."

"Even better." He splashed back his own stream in flirtatious retaliation. "Neither do I."

When she snorted he only grinned and moved closer. Her unladylike reaction intrigued him. He knew it wasn't born out of the disinterest or the condescension she attempted to colour into her expression. The twitching corners of her pursed lips spoke of quite the opposite.

"I'm not one of your usual…'gals', Kinneas," Quistis informed him, raising both brows as he reached out and closed a hand around her ankle. "I have no intention of becoming one of your conquests."

He regarded her in silence. It was clear she was trying to deter him with that strident, instructor tone she adopted so easily. But he liked the way she sounded. All high-class and controlled. It made it all the more enjoyable when he peeled away the layers to find the heat underneath.

The sun had risen just over the tops of the trees now so he had to squint to look up at her. "That's okay. I'm more than willing to become one of yours." He gave her ankle a gentle tug. "Come out and play, Quistis. If you like, I'll promise not to watch."

At that she frowned. "What kind of a prude do you think I am?"

"A gorgeous, sexy, intelligent kind of prude." He drawled his words and let his gaze roam over her curves. Meeting her eyes again he let loose with one of his genuine Kinneas winks. Designed to make any female heart flutter. Tried, tested, and true.

"Does that mean you'll be joining me?" His voice filled with boyish pleasure.

She stared at him for a few more seconds, appeared to be deliberating. He could almost see the synapses crackling and buzzing in her head as she thought out the practicalities and consequences.

Grin still firmly in place, he decided to help roll the verdict more in his favour. What had been a soft pull now was a sharp yank. His tug startled her and caused her ankle to slip off the slick rock she'd been perched on. Loosing her balance completely, she fell forward, into the water and his arms.

His laughter mingled with her cries of fury in the moist air. Chuckling, he gripped her waist and pivoted his head to avoid her angry fist. "Jeepers, darlin', I knew you had repressed desires 'bout me but I had no idea they were so desperate."

"You want to see repression?" Though he could not see her eyes due to her tumbled hair, he was sure they were full of flames.

It was his turn to be knocked off balance when her arms came up and shoved at his shoulders. She put her whole body into the movement and they plunged into the drink, waves of the once-tranquil pool undulating alongside the rocks and over the flowers on shore.

He struggled to regain himself as he fell backwards through the water. His hold on her remained strong and they rose to the surface together, a tangle of limbs and hair.

Panting slightly, Quistis wiped at her damp face and glared up at him. A vital mistake as she found his eyes only millimetres away from her own. "I don't appreciate being manhandled."

"I take it you haven't been handled by the right man." Her eyelashes had darkened from the water. Several clung together, framing her irises like mini paintbrushes. She looked innocent, angelic. Cheeks flushed, mouth parted and lips wet. Her body strained against him, hips arching in an instinctive response. He could not resist now even if he wanted to.

His lips descended to hers. For a moment, just a moment, he held them there, absorbed the feeling of the simple touch of mouth to mouth. When she offered no resistance he dared further, asked for more. Rubbed his mouth slowly, gently across hers, once, twice.

The tremble that shuddered through her frame fascinated him. He wanted more, needed more. Experimenting a little, he changed the angle of the kiss, allowed the taste of her to flood into his mouth.

When she began to respond, scraped her teeth lightly over his lower lip, he could all but feel his eyes roll to the back of his head. His initial observation had been right. The woman had the power to bring a man to his knees.

A low, primal moan escaped into the air, filling their mouths and clouding their brains. Neither could be sure where it had come from.

Her eyes flew open, fingers fisted in his hair, and she dragged herself away. He drew her back, the water swirling around their bodies and the rustle of leaves resounding in the distance.

Every sensation was heightened, every breath elongated. Quistis thought she could feel each grain of sand beneath her feet. When he shifted his head to nibble at her ear, she had to bite back another moan.

"Irvine." She put a hand to his chest, but instead of putting space between them, her fingers revelled in the smooth skin under her palm. "I though you wanted to swim."

His tongue flicked over her lobe. "Changed my mind. Hyne, you smell good. What is that? Peaches?" He moved his mouth to the sensitive spot connecting her jaw and her neck.

"Irvine," she repeated, but it came out on a half-sigh this time. "My dress is –."

"Still on? Yes, we'll have to do something about that." He leaned back to toss her a wicked grin. "I thought we'd take it slow before I let you ravish me."  

 Her eyes widened and a new glint appeared within their depths. "How romantic of you." She angled closer, brushed her lips along the shell of his ear, and skimmed her hand up the other side of his neck. Her voice lowered to a husky whisper.

"I want you," Quistis rubbed her body against his, "to let go!" Her fingers grabbed his ear lobe and pinched, hard. His head twisted downward and he cried out in pain. She released him when his hands dropped from her waist. Within an instant she went diving underwater, ducking out of his reach.

Because her clothing hindered her getaway, she released the zipper at the back while still kicking wildly, and pulled the dress over her head. Once the heavy weight was removed, she swam with quick movements toward darker water. Judging by the bubbles surrounding tingling over her legs, her hunter was not far behind.

However, eventually she had to surface. Lungs burning, she treaded water, gulping for air. Water rushed all around her plummeting from jagged rock.  Glancing up, she spotted the large boulder that veered out from the cliff, protecting the small area below from the cascade.

Firm hands vised around both knees and she was heaved below once more. Kicking and spluttering, she lashed out at her pursuer. Her foot connected with something soft and she was freed. Re-emerging a split second after he did, she plastered his face with water.

He blinked and coughed up more water. "Isn't it enough that you bruised my ear and my ass?" He managed to gasp out amid sputters.

Quistis grinned. So that's where she'd kicked him. "You deserved it."

She saw his mouth open then close again. A sheepish smile broke out over his handsome features. And, boy, were they gorgeous. Even dripping wet he was dazzling. How a female went about controlling her hormones around him she knew not.

"Maybe I did."

Noticing he was able to stand straight, she lowered her feet to the flat stone. This enabled her to rise to her full height which meant the water level lowered considerably, cavorting just above her hips. The air suddenly grew viscous. She found she couldn't turn away.

His eyes darkened to midnight and she immediately recognized the return of desire. It rocked up her system and steamed out her ears as he brushed the back of his hand over the top of her breast. She was amazed the waterfall didn't evaporate. No doubt the man was smooth. She could not bring herself to resist, her body screamed to be touched. Her layers crumbled beneath his light caress.

"I want you."

Her eyes drifted closed. "This is crazy. We can't do this." She spoke even as she stepped next to him, close enough for their bodies to bump. He groaned.

"It's just chemistry." Her head tipped back, offering him her mouth.

"God bless science."

She felt his intense stare through her eyelids before her lips were devoured. Arms wrapping around his neck, she tugged him closer. She wanted to feel him, all of him, hard against her. Angles against curves, muscles against planes, smooth against rough. She wanted all of it and then she wanted more. Her lips parted, murmured his name, before they were taken over again.

His hands were hot and moist on her back. Their firmness warned her of his strength, promised her bliss. Quistis now let hers roam. One trembled teasingly down his spine and the other went to his shoulder. Clutched when the kiss turned to searing and his tongue did wicked things to the inside of her mouth. Then continued its journey to the lines of his chest.

She felt alive in his arms. Invincible. When his hands glided downward, cupped her bottom and pressed her against his heat the slippery hold she'd had on her control released.

His heart thundered next to hers, raced to the same rhythm. Muscles shifted, bunched, as he lifted her. Flesh heated, burned, as she wrapped her legs around his torso.

Her head flew back with a cry when he dipped his head to taste her breast. She slanted forward to press her lips to the vulnerable nape of his neck. Teeth bit at the pale skin after his callused thumb massaged her nipple. Her vision disappeared as soon as his tongue replaced his fingers.

Water roared around them but she no longer heard it. Her lungs clogged and she found it impossible to breathe. Impossible to care. She arched back, his hips digging into her waist.

"Now," she gasped. "Please, Irvine. Just once."

The sound of her name being called insistently shrilled over her own pants. Ignoring it, she lowered her head to kiss him again. Their lips met breathlessly, achingly, before the feel of him over her, around her, began to fade. The louder the intruding voice became, the further she felt him slip away. Light paraded over her eyelids.

"Quisty! Quisty!"

Growling, she covered her eyes with an arm and rolled over. Rolled over?

Images of water and handsome lovers vanished as her mind suddenly gained consciousness. Immediately, Quistis became aware of the solid bed underneath her, the old quilt above her, and the fluorescent light shining on her face. She was in her bedroom. In Garden. The dreaming world was now galaxies away.

"Damn it!"

"Uh, Quisty?" The same voice now sounded more uncertain. "Did I come at a bad time?"

Removing her arm, she opened her eyes. Then narrowed them again when the artificial light scalded her retinas. The visage of her good friend Selphie hovered over her head. Quistis grimaced and struggled to sit up. Of all the people in all the world…

"Not at all." She stretched her arms and yawned. I just spent the past night dreaming about snogging the guy you are secretly in love with, that's all. Quistis did her best to shake off the cobwebs, and hopefully her foul mood. "What time is it?"

"Six-thirty! We gotta get a move on."

"Six…" More than anything, she wanted to sink back onto her mattress and pull the covers over her head. Instead, she pushed her fingers through her bedraggled hair and sighed. Life was so ungenerous.

"If we want to make the first train to Deling, we're gonna hav'ta be at the station in an hour. I just wanted to make sure you were ready." Selphie's upbeat tone grated the other woman's frayed nerves. She shook a finger. "Never thought you were the type to sleep in so late though."

Train? Deling? All at once everything became clear. Today was the day she'd promised to go shopping with Selphie and Rinoa. No excuses this time, they had warned her. Now that she was awake there was no point in hanging around in bed anyway. It would just give her time to analyse the dream that still whirled around her mind. That was the last thing she wanted.

Five minutes later she was in the bathroom under the soothing pulse of the shower. She hoped it would wash away all of the clouds. But while it did a lot to relax the tension, it did nothing to remove the uneasiness that wove into the lining of her stomach. The water just reminded her of the waterfall, and the waterfall made her think of…


She poured a healthy portion of shampoo into her palm and proceeded to work it over her scalp. It had all seemed so real. From the stubble on his cheek, to the coolness of the pool. The image stayed concrete in her mind.

Why the heck was she dreaming about him? She'd never before thought of him in that manner. Well, at least not seriously. There was no question of his attractiveness; she wasn't an ice queen as some might believe. After all, there was a reason he had so many females vying for his affection. Irvine could be considered very good-looking of one went for that type.

But she didn't. He was a friend. That was the end of it. Even if she did fantasize about him, which she didn't, she would never act on the impulse. The idea was ridiculous to think about. Selphie was one of her closest friends. There was no way she would do anything to hurt the younger girl. Or jeopardize Irvine's chances with her either. Ever.

Considering the matter settled, she turned off the spray and stepped out of the tub to dry off. It was just a silly dream. The result of a long night spent working. Meaningless.

She had no cause to feel embarrassed. It's not like anyone else knew about it. The whole thing would remain in her head only. Just a flight of fancy.

Quistis repeated this as she dressed and combed her hair. Continued to reassure herself when she slipped on shoes and grabbed her handbag.

"No reason to be ashamed," she muttered, heading for the door. She was to meet Selphie at the front gate in fifteen minutes. "Completely private."

The door slid open at her initiative, revealed a familiar man standing in front of it, hand poised to ring the buzzer. The last time she had seen him was in the recess of a waterfall. Her mouth opened and shut. All the blood drained from her face, along with her words of comfort.

Their gazes locked and she saw everything. The jig was up. There would be no keeping this a secret.

He already knew.