Prescript: Not owned by me! If you're thinking of suing, take a number. You're going to have to split the money with several credit companies.

The song "Open All Night" belongs to Bon Jovi.

A warm wind blew that night, in from the South. Unusual for this part of Deling. The East was normally chilled every night of the year. As cold as the souls that dwelled in back alleys and slithered around corners. By daylight it was the abode of high-end business. Where the bourgeois mingled and parried. By night, when the markets were closed, suits became jeans, conservative tones became raucous shrieks, and designer watches were traded for designer cocktails. Nightlife in the East End was infamous around the globe. For the clubs were open late and the liquor was straight and hard. It was in one such place, on the corner of fifth avenue, Seifer Almasy sat and waited.

The bar itself was typical. Low lighting, finished redwood panelling, well-dressed staff, and real glass. Anonymous and classy. It was here the sophisticated classes drowned their sorrows. It fulfilled the same purposes as the more seedier dives of the West End, but with more polish. In truth, Almasy would have much rather been swilling a beer on the other side of town. The place suited him as much as the tailored suit he wore. But while the offices around him may have shut down for the week, his job was only just beginning.

He drained his glass and gestured to the discreet bartender for another. He sat at the far corner of the bar, out of the light but in direct view of the door. The shadows blocked most of his face, not that this was a primary concern. It had been a long time since he was last recognized. Over time the scar that ran from the bridge of his nose to his forehead had faded, almost blending in with the rest of his complexion. His hair was shorter and he had long since gotten rid of the worn jacket that had been his trademark during his teen years. Tonight, he was Theodore Harrington, in from Timber on business. Balamb Garden would never have named him Commander of Special Forces had he not been able to blend in.

Seifer lowered the glass from his lips when the door opened and a tall, willowy female enter. With a shock of upswept red hair and a pair of killer legs emphasized by black stilettos she could have been a model. His eyes flickered over her in mild interest. Watched her saunter to a booth near the back. If he was off duty he might have been intrigued enough to take a closer look. But she was not whom he was after.

Frowning, he glanced at his watch. Realized he had been there over an hour and there was still no sign of his target. Deciding it was worth the risk, he pushed off the leather stool and headed toward the restroom only metres away.

Outside the corbelled glass of the double doors, Quistis Trepe paused to adjust her dress. She had only been wearing the strappy heels for fifteen minutes but already they were killing her ankles. Just another necessary part of the job. In another couple years she'd have enough put away to retire. The idea had her lips curving as she opened the door to the bar. She swore from the moment she handed in her resignation on it would be nothing but running shoes.

Her sleek handbag slid to her elbow when she gave a brief wave to the bartender. It was Elton on tonight. Which meant she would probably learn nothing. Something she could not really afford. The brass was putting the pressure on. She had gotten a call just before she had left her hotel room, warning her the longer she stayed the greater chance she had of being noticed by the powers that be. It was make a move or get her ass out. Quistis did not respond well to threats.

Taking her usual place at the bar, she ordered her favoured beverage. Elton gave her a brief nod and poured it from bottle to crystal with out a drop. She took a sip, nodded approvingly, then put it aside. She rarely drank. It muddled the mind and dulled the senses. In her line of work anything less than stellar nerves was deadly. Of course, when she chose, she could surpass the best of them.

Seifer stepped out of the men's room and returned to the lounge. The first thing he noticed upon returning was the appearance of a blonde on the other end. Her tidy curves were covered with slinky black wool that he assumed snapped all the way down. It was then she turned her head and he had his first clear glimpse at her face. For a moment it was as if someone had sliced his throat. He could not believe what he was seeing. The woman said something to the bartender that made him snort and she chuckled, leaned over the wood and smiled. Seifer's mouth went dry when he realized something else.

Quistis Trepe, his old instructor, the woman he had not thought about in years, was his target. Of all the luck.

I saw you coming from a mile away
Trying to hide behind that pretty face
Bet my last dollar baby you been bruised
Poor little heart all black 'n' blue

He had no choice but to move closer. Knowing it was dangerous, he could not help himself. She had not crossed his mind from the time he had returned to Balamb Garden until the instant he saw her sitting there across from him. She had been no more than a passing thought, a flicker of a memory long over and nearly forgotten. But now the need to be near her, to smell her hair, and feel her eyes upon him was overwhelming. As if the years passed had vanished.

Quistis failed to notice his approach until he stood at her elbow. She glanced up, prepared to send him away with a baleful look, like she had done with many a hopeful male in the past. But as soon as her eyes rose to his, she knew this one would not be so easy to dismiss. Keeping her expression controlled, she turned away, reached for the stem of her glass. Perhaps she could afford to make an exception after all.

If Seifer Almasy was here, Garden was onto her and her position was tenuous. Her mind went through every possible getaway. Just when Elton was warming up. Of all the luck.

Seifer slid onto the next stool over, a smile playing at the corners of his mouth. He had caught the look in her eyes and knew she recognized him. Once again, despite time, little had changed. She was just as breathtaking and just as heartless as ever.

He ordered another drink, smiling pleasantly. "Whatever the lady's having, it's on me."

Quistis' head jerked but she said nothing. In her lap, her hand gripped the handle of her purse, where she kept her weapon. She was getting out of there. One way or another.

"So, Quistis," he began conversationally, leaning back a little. He was ready to fully enjoy himself. "How's life been treating you these odd years?"

"It's Evana." Her eyes finally travelled back to his and narrowed. "I think you have the wrong person." She made a move to stand but his hand was squeezing her thigh before she shifted another muscle.

"I'm pretty sure I don't." His voice was low and mild but his eyes were intense. She nearly sighed. His hand was hot on her leg, heavy. She tried to pry it away by his wrist but found she could not do so without causing a scene.

"I'll scream," she murmured, lifted her glass to her lips with her other hand. "It won't be the first time the bartender has come to my rescue."

"No you won't," he replied, not bothering to soften his tone. He slammed down his glass on the bar and looked her over. "It's a nice night. How about we go for a walk?"

She cocked her head, causing the knot at the nape of her neck to spill hair over her shoulder. Her gaze wandered over him, taking in the conservative navy suit and expensive shoes. Garden must be running a high budget these days, she mused. To afford such nice threads. It certainly was not something the old Seifer would have been caught dead in. Which made the man all the more appealing. He was even more gorgeous than she remembered.

"No, thank you."

If her words had not come out so easily, with that damn hint of promise under her tongue, he might have resisted. But as it was she was causing his well trained libido to pitch. There was a trace of something in her eyes all too familiar. Suggested at the twitch of her bottom lip. Her face might be lathered in carefully applied cosmetics, but she was the same old Quistis he grew up with. He sensed her longing, her ever-present desire for more than what she was. And gave in. Just a little.

His hand moved from her thigh to her arm, pulled her forward so that she almost slipped from her chair. Her eyes widened at his proximity. She told herself she would have struggled, would have done something about the liberties he was taking, if only they had been somewhere else. But while Quistis recoiled from a man's touch, Evana did not. So she did the opposite, and closed the distance between them, sliding her top lip over his bottom one. When he stilled, her mind did a victory dance. Once more she had the upper hand. This time she was going to keep it.

His lips were soft under hers, at first unresponsive, and then restrained, as if he was holding himself in check. She had expected that. But she had not expected the desire that twisted in her stomach to continue. The urge to unravel him, to feel his control snap beneath her fingers. She knew it would not take long, already his hand had tightened and his teeth had scraped against her mouth. Seifer was all emotion and power. Nothing had changed.

Fighting her primal senses, she pulled away as much as he would allow, forced a smile to her face, while her blood surged and her mind filled with unanswerable questions.

Lifting a hand, he rubbed a single finger over her moistened lips. "What do you say we continue this outside?"

Sweeping her gaze over to the bartender who was no longer paying attention, she frowned. There was no use continuing there anymore. "Fine."

Last thing you need's another pickup line
You must have heard them all a thousand times
God only knows what you been through
Believe me I been broken too

After laying more than enough gil on the counter, Seifer guided her to the front doors and into the evening air. A foggy dew had set in over the city, so that the moon's glow was nothing but a misted lantern. Laughter, music, and yellow light tumbled from the doorways of the uptown street. He had another location in mind for their little "discussion."

"What the hell are you trying to do?" Quistis tore her arm away from his warm hand, did her best to ignore the flames that had spread over her lower back where he had touched her. "Blow my cover?"

"Why not? You've already blown mine." Seifer unbuttoned his collar and loosened his tie, preparing for a heated spar. "Two days of high-tech Garden labour gone to waste. Do you have any idea how hard it is to come up with a decent alias?"

"Two days?" she threw back, derisively. "Try two months. Oh, but I forgot. Garden's resources are too precious. The shorter the effort, the better. Kill first, ask questions later, right?"

He was not used to this sarcastic side of her. Back at Balamb she had always been so proper. But then, they had been kids. There was nothing childish about the female now. "Darling, do you have any idea how fetching you look in the moonlight?"

She would have hurled her bag at him, as she desperately needed to throw something, but it contained her only means of protection. The man may be a face from her past but that did not mean she could trust him. He was the enemy.

Instead, she swore and gave him an incurable disease in her mind. Something truly horrid. That would cause green scales and warts to pop out all over his perfectly tanned skin. That would wipe that sexy smirk off his face and out of her brain for good.

Seifer quickly caught up with her before she could get too far away. He snatched up her hand and twined her fingers with his. "Don't rage, love, people will stare." He brushed his lips over her knuckles. "Let's go to the park. Perfect place for a lovers' stroll."

Surprised he was willing to play along with her need for discretion, she acquiesced. Moreover, she was curious and a little bemused. If he was going to turn her in, he was certainly taking the scenic route.

They walked hand-in-hand toward the spacious green area of the city, where the lamps were muted and the fog danced along cobbled pathways. If she had been someone else leading a simpler life, she would have found the entire setting romantic. As it was, she almost believed it now. Definite fantasy potential. All it needed was a strolling musician and it would be straight from a romance novel.

He led her across the grass, her heels sinking into the dirt as she walked. They reached a spot underneath the verdant branches of an elm and he stopped. His eyes twinkling with mischief, he rolled his shoulders and removed his jacket, gallantly laying it on the ground. Had her life not been in his hands she would have laughed. Seifer, the debonair gentleman. The same male who had spit gum in her hair and mocked her every step of her instructorship. It was bizarre.

She sat, gracefully tucking her legs to the side. He followed suit, bending his knees and resting his shirtsleeves upon them. She studied his profile, his firm jaw, and slightly bent nose from too many fistfights. How their roles had changed.

"So." The first to speak, Quistis' words were soft. "Where are the handcuffs? If you're going to bring me in, I'd prefer you do it now. I have an appointment tomorrow morning."

"SeeDs don't use handcuffs." He turned his head to regard her. "I thought you knew that. Evana." A wry expression clouded his features.

"Well then, why haven't you tried to kill me yet?" One hand fiddled with the bottom snap of her dress, just below her knees. "You've had ample opportunity."

"I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me." Seifer leaned back on the grass, rested his weight on his elbows. His expression was serious. "I've a weakness for you. Always have. Even when I didn't realize it."

"Don't be stupid. You've always hated me. Just as much as I hated you." Quistis scorned him then tore her gaze away to look out over the park. At the waltzing mist over the fertile lawn.


"Then why?"

"I don't know, Quistis. Does it matter? Because you're you, because you're beautiful."

"Don't use that word." Her jaw twisted and her shoulders jerked. "I loathe that word. It's so unimaginative, so demeaning. Call me what you like, but not that." Her fist clenched. "I expected better from you."

It aches, it breaks, it takes your breath away
I've been around that block a time or two

That got his back up. Her sheer disappointment. Something else that had not changed. "So what if you're beautiful? So am I. It doesn't mean shit. Not unless you got enough stones to use it." He broke off a blade of grass between two fingers, stared at her back. "I never used to think you did."

"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?" Infuriated, she swung her body around to face him.

"There wasn't a sod in your class who didn't fantasize about getting you on top of that ordered desk. Of finding out what kind of underwear you hid under that prissy uniform. Myself included. We even had a pool going. I never did get a chance to find out who won."

Red manicured nails dug holes into her palms. "Your point?" She spoke between grinding teeth. She did not want to go back there, not even figuratively.

"My point is, you could have had the whole place at your fingertips, dangled every power-hungry faculty member by a leash. But you didn't." He went one further and laid back, folded his arms behind his head and stretched out his legs.

"You disgust me."

Seifer shrugged. No real shocker there, he thought. But he'd seen the underlying meaning in her glances and knew that on a physical level it was anything but the truth. "You want to know the real reason I haven't stopped that pretty little pulse of yours yet?"

Sneering, Quistis lifted one shoulder, let it fall. "I don't care."

"It was the way you looked at me, back there in the bar. It reminded me of the same look you gave me before it all went to shite in Timber. Vulnerable. Yearning. It tugged at my poor little heart strings."

"I wasn't aware you had a heart."

"So we were both surprised then."

They were silent for a while, contemplated all they had discovered in such a short span of minutes. She was rapidly getting to know him all over again. And she was not sure she liked how quickly he had risen in her esteem.

"What is it about you?" he asked in wonderment. "That makes a guy want to bundle you close and protect you from the horrors of reality? You're not a delicate woman by any means. You're fast, hard, and essentially soulless. You carry a gun in your purse. But, God, you drive a man to distraction."

Letting out a frustrated growl, Quistis pushed her hands through her hair. "I don't want to be protected, damn it! I want to be treated like a human. Flawed and real. I want to be hurt, I want to be yelled at, and I want to yell back without being looked at like I'm crazy."

"I'd say you're doing a pretty good job of that now."

"That's why I left. They treated me like a glass figurine, even after the war. To be looked at and admired only. And were stunned when I didn't act like one. Rinoa was the ideal. I didn't fit." Her voice trailed off.

"Ah ha!" He sat up in one movement. "So we've come to the bottom of it at last. Don't tell me you're still pining for Leonhart. Talk about obsession."

She scowled. "Sod off. I've never pined a day in my life. Certainly not over that jackass."

"Yet you're still got enough passion in you to call him names." Seifer grinned. "Odd that."

"It has nothing to do with passion, Seifer, and everything to do with truth." She gave him a withering look. "I've had enough men in my life since then to know the difference."

"But none you've loved." He reached out and tapped her left hand when she arched a brow. "No ring."

"My line of work doesn't exactly foster meaningful relationships."

Baby, I don't want to fall in love with you
I try, try, try but I can't get around the truth
Please don't say my name, give this heart a break
I don't want to make the same mistake but it's too late
I'll leave on the light
These arms are open all night

He was aware she was avoiding the root of the conversation but decided to follow her lead and keep it light. "What company did you say you worked for again?"

"I didn't." She shook her head, smiled. "Nice try, but no dice, Almasy."

"I can respect that." Without thinking, he moved closer, so that their knees bumped. "Now it's your turn. Why haven't you blown a hole in my skull yet?"

"Maybe I'm still chewing that over." Quistis fondled a black strap.

"I've no doubt. But that doesn't answer my question."

In all actuality the thought had not really occurred to her. It would have been logical, enabled her a quick escape. Of course, she knew his skills rivalled hers in that department and so any attempt may have been futile any way. Yet when she opened her mouth to respond a different reason came out.

"You were the only one to treat me as an equal. You dragged me to the depths, pointed out every detail I hated about myself. You made me angry. You made me cry. I never thanked you for that."

Seifer lifted a brow. "Never figured you for a masochist. Guess you don't miss it then, huh?"

Quistis blinked. "Working at Garden?" It startled her that she had to think about it. "No. Not really. I was never…free. Why did you go back after the war?" She stirred to look at him directly. He was close, too close. But she did not feel suffocated. Every synapse in her brain screamed at her to run away. But every nerve in her body refused to obey. So she stayed.

"Spite, mostly." Seifer let out a chuckle. "After it all there was nothing. I was nothing. Just a washed up, half-ass outlaw. Hell, I couldn't even pull off the whole "Wanted Man" thing right. I sucked at sleeping outdoors. I don't know." He ran a hand through his hair in a habitual gesture. "I wanted to prove I could do something worthwhile. I never planned on hanging around too long. But I realized that I liked it. Really liked it. So I stuck it out. One year became many. And here we are."

Something had come over his face as he'd talked. Something very akin to pride. And in response, a small corner of her heart leapt.

"Do you believe in fate?"

"Sure. It's a lot easier than blaming myself." He couldn't resist this time, not when there was so much between them. It was a challenge, the biggest one he had ever faced, and he was not backing away. It's not like he had much left to lose. With one hand he reached out, trailed the back along the side of her face and tucked the escaped strands of hair behind her ear. The flaxen tresses slithered through his fingers like water. "Quistis."

I got your taste in the back of my mouth
I want to reach in and pull it out
And I'd be lying if I didn't say
When you're this close I'm afraid

"Don't…Don't say anything just now, Seifer. It's not fair." She began to tremble. "We don't like each other."

"That's not true." Shaking his head, he moved so that he was laying on his side, looking up at her. Her thighs pressed against his chest. He propped his head on one hand and kept his other on her hair. "I feel like I've known you all my life."

"You have known me all your life." She did not trust the look in his eyes. It was dark and mysterious and promised pain.

"Well, yeah, but you know what I mean." Seifer smiled and slid his hand to the knot at the back of her neck, nudging her downward. "What do you want out of life? To work for some nameless company, gathering information for a network of corrupt politicians?"

"Better than working for some mercenary garden, dispatching people left and right for the highest bidder." No, she commanded. She would not fall into his trap.

"You forget. You used to work for the same people."

"I learned my lesson." His breath drifted over her cooled cheek. She trembled once more.

"What do you want? The truth." Raising himself up a bit, he touched his lips to the spot just to the left of hers.

Without thinking, she answered him. "I want to be loved. For real. Not because I fit some ideal. But because I don't."

"Kiss me, Quistis. Like you did before. Only mean it this time." His lips journeyed to the other side.

And she was close, so very close to giving in. Would it be so bad, really, to just enjoy the moment? That was when her knee knocked against something hard at his hip. His gun. It was came coursing back to her. Who she was, who he was, and why it would be horribly bad had if she were to follow her body's desires. Growling, deep in her throat, she shoved him away, scrambled to her feet. Blades of grass clung to various places on her dress. Cross with him for making her lose her mind she picked up his jacket and chucked it toward his face.

"Don't ever touch me again." Her voice shook just enough to enrage her further. "I mean it. I don't want you."

Now Seifer was mad. Tossing the material aside, he rolled up and into a standing position. He couldn't think, only feel. He was ready to shove down her parted lips a taste of what she'd dealt him his whole life. Grabbing her forearms he yanked her against his frame. His expression was a menacing scowl. "Don't lie to me. I hate liars. You want me as much as I want you. Maybe more."

Then his mouth was devouring hers. Taking her in heady, gluttonous bites. Her body went numb, then enflamed, then numbed again. The flashes of passion she experienced under the force of his touch were overwhelming. Like nothing she had ever experienced with any of the other men she had taken to bed. They had been gentle, tender, practiced. Seifer was anything but. The searing raw carnal hunger of his kiss made her long for more, as much as it terrified her to the core. He gave her no choice but to kiss back.

Her hands fluttered to his shoulders for support while his tongue plundered her mouth. Then glided up to his hair to hold him in place when it found her own. Her sigh echoed into his brain, his hands released her arms and landed on her waist, rubbed against the soft material. The heat consumed him, drove him mad. This was more than he had ever dreamed. In his fantasies Quistis had been soft, yielding. In reality she was aggressive, demanding. He could not decide which he liked more.

They pulled back at the same time, breathless and dazed. She ran her tongue over her lips where she could still taste him.

Of the way I'll feel if I touch your hair
The way I'll miss you when you're not there
And that I'll see you when I close my eyes
It's too late, I've crossed that line

"Jig's up. There's no way you can deny anything now." His wide palm flattened against her lower back.

"I'm scared, Seifer." She knew he was right. The masks were down. He was aware how much it cost her to admit that and took the compliment to heart. "Scared that once won't be enough."

"Does it have to be?"

"Yes!" She tossed her bedraggled hair out of her eyes. "People don't go around all their lives despising someone and then meet up with him out of the blue and fall in love. Not within a matter of minutes. It just isn't done."

Seifer gave her a slow grin. "So you're in love with me, huh?"

"No, I'm not, and that's exactly my point." Quistis would have backed off completely and rolled her eyes but she discovered she didn't want to. "For crying out loud, I haven't seen you for ages! The last time I did you were bleeding and defeated. I don't even know you. Not really."

"But you do, you've always known me. Just like I've always known you. How else do you think we got under each other's skin so easily?"

"Love and hate aren't so very far apart," intoned Quistis. Closing her eyes she gave a sharp laugh. "Someone told me that once, but I've never believed it." Her eyes opened, held his. "It's insane."

"We're adults now. We can see things we were too stupid to before. Tell me," he ran his hands up and down her arms. "Do you believe in fate?"

"An hour ago I would have told you no." She cast about her eyes, all of a sudden hesitant. The air had grown cold and her skin was chilled where his warmth did not reach. "I'm not sure of anything anymore."

"We're suited. Suited because we're not suited. It all makes sense in a twisted, fucked up way." Tucking her into his embrace, he nestled his chin on the top of her head. "What did you first think when you saw me in the bar?"

Against her will, Quistis laughed into his shirt front. "Honestly?"

"Why not?"

"I be screwed."

They laughed together. A relieved sound as they released unexpressed tension.

"This'll never work, you know. Us. Together. Our jobs make us enemies. One day you'll eventually have to kill me." She leaned her head comfortably against his shoulder.

"I'm sorry." His hands were loose round her waist.

"Yeah, me too. Because it means I'll have to kill you first."

"That bites." Features drawn, he moved slightly away to cup her cheek in one hand. Bent his head toward hers.

This time she sank into the kiss. There was still the overpowering heat that roared up her veins but it was slower, banked. Waiting for the right moment to explode over her closed lids.

"If you do that again, I'm not going to be able to stop," she warned him, pulse throbbing visibly at her pale throat.

He rewarded her with another of his wicked grins. "Sounds like a plan."

It breaks, it aches, it takes your breath away
I'll still be around come closing time

Instead, she ducked away, stepped past him and retrieved his jacket that now lay in a heap on the lawn. Then she turned back to take one last moment before tumbling all the way into the unknown. There would be no going back. She needed to make sure there would also be no regrets. The stakes were too great.

She observed him in one long pause. The man who stood before her with his hands deep in his pockets, his expensive tie loosened, his collar undone hinting at the muscles of a SeeD underneath. Her gaze trekked upward, to his stubborn chin, raffish smirk that never failed to infuriate her. His strong cheekbones and his perpetually mischievous eyes. All in all he was quite the catch. But was he worth her career? She was about to find out.

Holding out a hand she let loose with an impish smile of her own. "Walk me to my hotel?"

He couldn't get there fast enough. When they returned to the main streets, the crowds were hitting the pavement. Closing time. She pulled him around various groups of pedestrians that were reluctant to end the night. Stepped around waiting cabs, and dashed across the wide avenue in abandon. It was difficult, keeping his hands off her in the elevator. But they were not alone and when he touched her again, he wasn't planning on stopping for a very long time.

At her door, Seifer snatched the key card from her fingers and opened the old-fashioned wooden door himself. The room was darkened but the window on the far wall lent a faint radiance. Once they were securely inside, the door locked, she found herself swept up in his arms, and his mouth firmly fitted to hers.

It was different, this feeling of weightlessness. Of fragility. Perhaps being protected was not such a dreadful notion after all. As long as it was Seifer Almasy doing the rescuing. And then her back touched the luxurious mattress and his hard body covered hers and her mind turned to different thoughts altogether.

"Seifer." Her voice was a whisper in the dark of muffled laughter and frustrated ardour. She slanted her neck when his lips made their direction clear. "You don't give a girl a chance to change her mind, do you?"

He made a slight sound and shifted aside her mass of hair. "Is there a reason I should?"

"No." Quistis shook her head before preoccupying her hands with the removal of his tie. She got it stuck halfway over his head and growled when he had to finish the job for her. "Why do men wear these things anyway?"

"I've a theory on that. Something to do with women wanting us on a leash." Supporting himself on one arm so as not to crush her, he trailed a gentle finger down from her throat to her stomach. She shifted underneath him when it teasingly traced lower.

"If that's the case," she replied, a little breathless. "I'd say it's a pretty good idea."

Straining, she pushed herself up to kiss him again, her teeth nipping at his bottom lip, demanding entrance. Her hands tangled in his hair, taking pleasure in the soft down of it. His one hand dug into the bedclothes as he lay on his side, maintaining as close a grip on control as was physically possible. His other toyed with the top snap of her dress, just above her breasts as she moved restlessly against him, wrapping a leg around his waist. When she sighed into his mouth, his fingers contracted and the fastening popped open. Along each succeeding one in the long row.

At the surprising waft of air, a startled Quistis shifted back, glancing down once then back up to meet his eyes. Her lips smiled and her eyes twinkled. "How'd you do that?"

It's 2 am, it's last call, baby. The barkeep's gone, I'll walk you home now
Save me, baby

Later, and then again much later, she lay back against the pillows as sounds of the shower ran in the next room. Orange sunlight shone across the bed from the window they had neglected to curtain the night past. She knew she should get up, order room service to send her morning coffee, and report in to her employer. It would not be hard to explain away her activities. Her position was secure. If anything, they would simply assign her to a new case. But she did not feel like it. Moving meant focussing on the outside world and all she wanted to do was concentrate on the internal.

Sitting up, she pushed back her hair and glanced at the nightstand. Ignoring the red numbers of the timepiece, she picked up Seifer's wallet and idly flipped through it. Coming to the identification, she slipped it out and scrutinized the photo. Just as temperamental as ever. He appeared nothing like the man who had shared her bed. Her gaze slid to the name just as the shower flicked off and the man in question returned to the bedroom, towel slung low on his hips.

Quistis looked up at his entrance, eyebrows raised. "Theodore Harrington?"

"That's me. Or, was supposed to be," he amended. "Apparently our Evana was not to be fooled."

"Hmm." She continued to stare at the picture, an idea forming in the back of her mind. It was the craziest notion she'd ever come up with. But it just might turn out to be the best.

She felt the mattress lower and heard the springs creak as he sat next to her. Lowering his head, he kissed her bare left shoulder. "Morning."

She could smell a mix of the fresh scent of hotel soap and another scent that was completely him. It was an altogether pleasant combination. Finally, she set the card down and looked up, catching his cheeky grin.

"What are you smiling at?" 

"I just realized. About twenty guys at Garden owe me money."

Her eyes narrowed when she realized to what he was referring and with both hands she pushed him off the bed. He gave out a distressed cry and a loud grunt as he hit the floor. Gloating, she swung her legs over the side and rose to her feet. "Swine."

On her way to the bathroom, she stopped and turned back around slowly. Seifer was just rising off the carpet, looking adorably put out. "What's wrong with Winhill?" Her question was abrupt and unexpected.

Seifer frowned. "Winhill? Nothing."

"It's warm, private. Has very few troublesome monsters. It's close to the beach, the mountains, forests. It's rural so there isn't much for commercial entertainment. But the train station isn't too far away. It has history. The cost of living must be relatively low."

"Quistis, slow down." Curious, he moved to take her shoulders in his hands. "Where are you going with this?"

She took a breath. "Do you think Theodore and Evana would like it?"

He started, gawked. His brows knit over the bridge of his nose, causing the scar to stand out in high relief. "Are you serious?"

"I'm afraid so."

"What made you change your mind?"

"I didn't." Grinning, she rushed into his arms, hitching herself up, she wrapped her legs around his waist and rubbed her cheek over his. "It's like you said before. Something has always been there, we were just too young to notice. We had to wait for the right time."

"You're crazy, you know that?" He kissed her hard on the mouth. "A total whack job." Hands on her hips, he lowered her back to the floor. "Guess you'd better hurry up and get dressed, then, the chapel downstairs opens in ten minutes."

"The chapel?" Now Quistis was flummoxed. "You're getting married?"

"Yeah, to you." He rolled his eyes. "Got a problem with that?"

And in that brief instant the longing in her heart and the barriers she'd erected around her soul faded into the abyss of forgotten dreams. Reality had become so much better. "Several. But we can work them out later." Flicking back her hair, she grinned. "Ten minutes, you say? I'll race you!"

They never agreed upon who exactly had won.

Baby, I don't want to fall in love with you
I try, try, try but I can only tell the truth
Please don't make me beg, give this heart a break
I don't want to make the same mistake but it's too late
I'll leave on the light
These arms are open all night

I originally had written a much more tragic finale but it caused so much discomfort that I had to change it to the happily ever after style you see here. Cheesy or no, I think I like this one better. They've both suffered enough, ya?