The Skies of Alexandria

The Skies of Alexandria

You gave me this

Made me give

You have

Broken me

All your metal armor drags me down

I can't breathe when you come around

Nothing hurts


Your mouth.

(Bush, "Mouth")

There were ominous clouds covering the skies of Alexandria that day. I had spent most of the afternoon helping the new Queen into her gowns, and I can't say I really enjoyed it. Garnet didn't seem to be in the best spirits, not that I could blame her—her mother had died like a beached whale only yesterday.

Although one would probably never guess, I'd never had any real fondness for Queen Brahne. Don't get me wrong—I fulfilled my job's requirements to the best of my abilities no matter what the circumstances—but no so deep down I knew Brahne was little more than an impressionable moron who had relented easily to mind control. But my duties prevented me from stepping in and stopping her before yesterday.

Kuja didn't scare me. I wasn't impressed with his childlike, almost girlish threats. There was something more behind him, though, something that did scare me. Something that was drawing my attention to those ominous clouds.

It was like I could feel the skies watching me.

" Beatrix?" Garnet called from her somber seat at the window. " Can you help me with this?" she was struggling to braid a crown of baby's breath into her long, dark hair. Inwardly I groaned: I felt more like a nursemaid than a bodyguard at times like this.

" Of course, your majesty," I answered evenly. I really did love Garnet like a daughter. Ever since I joined the army at the age of 19—mostly to escape an arranged marriage—I had felt as if I was a member of the Queen's family.

I considered the girl as I braided her hair by the window. She was a somber, haunting thing of great and unrealized beauty—nothing at all like her adoptive mother. I knew how it felt to feel as though there was no place you truly belonged—that the origin of yourself was a mystery. My parents were stuffy nobles who had lived and died in Treno, they had existed in a world of ease and luxury that I had despised since birth.

There was a knock at the door, and Adelbert Steiner's voice called inside:

" Princess? Are you decent?"

Garnet and I both rolled our eyes.

" Come back later, please!" I shouted tersely.

" As you wish …" I heard him say, heard his clanging armor march away.

" He really means well," Garnet said with a sigh. It was true… as overbearing as he was, there was something endearing about Steiner's loyalty. And I did have him to credit for my acceptance into the Alexandrian army—partly, anyway. My parents of course forbade it, so I enlisted the help of the bumbling then-Pluto Knight number two to get me out of Treno and into the tryouts. I passed with flying colors, without any help on his part—well, maybe a little, he did brief me on the way—but without the rouge Knight who lost his way in Treno one night, I would still be stuck in a world full of corsets and afternoon tea.

It made me sad, thinking about how Steiner and I were so often at each other's throats since we'd both been promoted to the leaders of our respective forces. When we met in Treno as teens, I think he was quite taken with me. I fond him to be charming, if not a little naïve, wearing his uniform and struggling with a map that a street urchin had over-charged him for.

" Beatrix?" Garnet spoke, breaking my thoughts of the past. " I'd like to see Zidane before the coronation … please?"

I sighed. Young love… so foolish and pointless. I knew where she was coming from, I suppose. There was a time when I thought I was in love … a time when I felt torn from him, left to helpless wanting. But, unlike Garnet, the object of my affection did not return my feelings.

" I don't think now is a good time," I told her quickly, putting the finishing touches on her royal hairdo.

" Even you agree with Steiner," she said, sulking.

" Your highness," I said in a sigh, exasperated. I had a bad feeling about the whole evening ahead, and did not want to take any chances.

" I know …," Garnet said, " Its okay." If nothing else, she was mature, a diplomat.

" Beatrix," she said, standing as I began to turn away. " There is something I must tell you."

" Yes, Princess?" I couldn't help calling her 'Princess', though she was now the reigning Queen.

" I am not… that is… Queen Brahne was not my real mother." The girl looked into her lap, as if this were something to be ashamed of. I walked to her and placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder. Hmph. If only I could say the same about the hoity-toity mother who had raised me.

" Princess," I said, " Doctor Tot has already informed us of your situation." I paused, and glanced out the window. The skies were darkening… the coronation ceremonies would begin at sunset. " However, my allegiance to you remains the same, if not stronger." I assured her. I wasn't sure if she trusted me any longer … I had, after all, orchestrated part of the forceful extraction of her eidolons. But Tot had returned the eidolons, and Garnet was safe … for now. I hoped she could forgive me.

" Beatrix," she said quietly. " Thank you."

My cheeks reddened at her undue gratitude. It was Steiner she should thank … he had stayed with Garnet and protected her while I blindly followed the Queen. Steiner … damn that man! How had he crept his way back into my private thoughts?


Eventually Garnet asked to have a moment or two to herself before the ceremony, and I was glad to oblige, leaving some of my finest soldiers standing watch at her door. I thought about how difficult it must be to be the one who is protected, rather than the protector. What a bland and miserable way to live –poor Garnet. I didn't blame her for running away.

I wondered what kind of adventures they'd had while on the road together… Garnet, her motley crew of friends, and … Steiner. I never would have pegged him as someone who would go off on some damn fool crusade, lead by a sixteen year old girl and a thief with a monkey's tail. But what fun they must have had…

Steiner's recent stand against the Queen's actions was only one of two times I'd seen him go against his psychotically rigid morals. The first time he'd bent the rules was for my sake—taking me out of Treno without my family's permission. Essentially, kidnapping me. In the eyes of some other civilizations I might have been an adult, but to the nobles of Treno, a girl belonged to her family until she was married off. That had come close to happening—the night I met Steiner … Adelbert … was only two weeks before the date that my parents had set for my wedding.

Maximillion Chambers, the man I was supposed to wed, had been a friend of our family's since I was two. I didn't detest him completely – I suppose he was like a dear cousin, someone familiar and comforting. But I didn't long for a life of comfort. And Maximillion, God bless him, was the last man I wanted to spend my life with. He was like a brother to me, not a potential lover.

As my mother and her friends chatted around me outside on the deck of one of the many "members-only" restaurants in town, I contemplated my wedding-night suicide: drowning myself in the pond near the bird lady's house seemed to be the best choice. While they discussed floral arrangements and honeymoon plans, I couldn't help feeling that none of this even involved me: I was merely a pawn that they were passing on to a new family, something pretty to be admired on the alter.

I managed to sneak across the street to sit on the steps of the bird lady's house, and I sat there, gazing at my reflection in the pond. Why not just do myself in now? I wondered. Tears crept into the corners of my eyes for a moment as I doubted my strength—did I even have the guts to take my own life? Maybe I had become the weak, pathetic noble woman that I'd feared.

The clanging of armor made my raise my eyes. I quickly blinked away my tears, and regarded the cadet that stood before me. I didn't recognize the crest on his left shoulder—he could be from Alexandria, Lindblum—I had no idea. Some place that I would only be able to see from the window of a decorated carriage.

" Ah, excuse me, fair lady?" he asked timidly. He was sweating, and looked tired.

I realized I was sitting ungracefully, and quickly crossed my legs. I adjusted my hat and gave him an angry, snobbish look.

" If you're looking for some action, solider, the hussies work on the other side of town," I snapped, turning up my nose. A distressed sort of look came over his face.

" The what?" he said, lifting his cadet's hat and scratching his dark hair. " I'm sorry, ma'am but could you please direct me to the weapons shop? I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with these streets …"

I stood with a sigh and regarded him. He was handsome, with a training soldier's muscles and a child's frightened eyes. He couldn't have been more than twenty years old.

" I suppose …" I said, my eyes darting back across the street to the restaurant where my mother continued to gab with her snotty friends. This could be my chance … a young woman in Treno was not allowed to walk the streets without a male companion… perhaps this dopey stranger could be of some use … A new fire flared up in my gut – I was courageous after all, and I might be able to get away. But first I'd have to charm him.

" This way, sir," I said, grabbing onto his arm. He seemed nervous, he kept scratching his head and adjusting his armor. These damn public servants, they were so naïve and out of practice. What good would they do in a war when even a woman intimidated them?

When we were clear of my mother's line of vision, I let out a breath and tried to still my excited, nervous heart. I looked up at the man that I was leading by the arm, and our eyes met briefly before he looked away, terrified.

" You haven't been around too many women, huh?" I asked with a smirk.

" Actually, Miss, I have," he answered, not looking at me. " My army fights alongside an army of women. Together we protect Alexandria."

" Ah, Alexandria," I said, my eyes searching the streets for anyone who might find me out, pulling closer to him so that I might duck behind his armor if spotted. " Do you see many battles, there?"

" Not yet," he said, clearing his throat. " I am in … training. We Pluto Knights are still preparing for battle."

" Pluto Knights?" I repeated with a laugh. I knew nothing about the military, only that they seemed to have the most envious of lives—the ability to put their aggression and skill to good use.

" The Pluto Knights," he confirmed with a serious nod. " We shall someday be the most powerful force in Alexandria, I believe."

" Is that some sort of sexist statement?" I teased. The weapon shop was up ahead—what would I say? This was my last chance at escaping my life …

" I … don't think it is," he stuttered, stopping in his tracks and turning to look at me. " Do I offend you, Miss?" he asked, worried.

" No." I looked at my boots, " I'm a little tense right now, I apologize. My situation is … troublesome. I won't bother you with the details. There is the weapon shop," I told him, pointing up ahead, " Enjoy your stay in Treno." I bowed to him and held his eyes for a moment before I turned to leave. Please, please… I prayed as I started to walk away.

" Miss!" he called out, grabbing my arm. I think I gasped a bit … his grip on me, the feeling of his hand grasping my arm, was something gasp-worthy.

" Yes?" I asked, playing dumb. I was a little dumbfounded, I think. The soldier's eyes were something to write home about: deep green and searching.

" I hate to intrude," he said, letting my arm slip out of his hand, " But perhaps I could be of some service to you?"

" Ah, you've come to Treno in search of a damsel in distress?" I asked with a cocked eyebrow. " Well, you have sought out the wrong damsel. I … apologize for bothering you with my problems. Goodnight."

" Wait!" he called. I whirled around and it was done. I didn't even know his name, but I was beginning to see that this man, this boy, really, could be more than my ride out of town.

" Well," I said, walking toward him again and letting the relief wash over both of us. " Perhaps … but I don't even know your name, sir."

" Adelbert Steiner," he said, throwing out one of his big, gloved hands. " At your service, m'lady." He bowed a bit. While his eyes were on the ground, I carefully removed his glove, and shook his hand, skin to skin. He straightened up, surprised, and watched me replace his glove.

" Beatrix La Flinte," I offered. " Now," I said, taking his arm again. " Let's go somewhere where we can talk."


Steiner… Adelbert. He was my savoir that night. How had I let my white knight get away?

I quickly shook myself out of my memories and sentimentality… how could I think these things, I was a respected general, I should have more important matters on my mind! I needed no man to come to my rescue now—I had gotten Steiner and his army out of trouble often enough to prove that.

Suddenly I heard it up ahead—the familiar clang of Steiner's heavy armor. The armor that hid the boy I'd met that night in Treno when my former life was coming to an end. I picked up my skirt and walked quickly toward where I'd heard the noise, a skip in my step. I needed to see him. I hadn't had a chance to speak to him, alone, in years. I was so afraid that he'd hated me since my army had become more competent than his, and I told myself I hated him and his ignorant Knights of Pluto just as much. But now … I was practically running to catch up with him, flying past statues and over stairs in the courtyard.

When I finally came to the clearing where the ferry stops, I paused for breath, looking around for a sign of the Captain of the Knights of Pluto. I thought I heard him walking away, off to the left, but I couldn't be sure. I couldn't even be sure that I was in a sane state of mind that evening … what was the matter with me? Alexandria seemed to be at peace … but my mind was full of sorrow, of memories of my past …

I spotted something on the ground, a scrap of paper that caught my eye.

" Steiner must have dropped this," I muttered to myself, bending down to get it. I considered for a moment that reading it might be wrong … and then ripped it open.

When the night sky wears the moon as its pendant, I will meet you at the dock.

I inwardly jumped, my hands shaking as I held the paper. W-what was this letter? Did Steiner leave it here … for me to find? It certainly didn't speak of his usual personality … but so much had happened … had he changed? Did he care for me again?

" Steiner …" I whispered, shutting my eyes and remembering his embrace as I clutched my letter to my breast. God his arms were strong … and they were surely stronger now than they had been when he was a boy … a boy who held me and promised to change my life …


" Please," I had begged in a whisper, sitting behind the auction house on the far side of town, in a little nook where we hid from the world as we made our plans. " If you don't take me away from here … I'll die."

Adelbert quaked, his eyes softened. " But, Miss Beatrix!" he appealed, " I … cannot … take you from your mother and father! Wouldn't that make me a criminal?"

" A criminal to save the life of a desperate woman?" I protested, gripping his arm tightly to stress my dire situation.

" But what would you do in Alexandria?" he asked, " I have very little money myself … I don't think I could keep you in the barracks with the other Knights …"

" What if I joined the women's army?" I asked in a rush. " They would provide me with a place to stay, and money?"

" Well, yes, but …" he looked me up and down: The tight-busted, lacy dress, pearl colored hat with its pink silk ribbon, boots with golden buckles…

" I'm stronger than I look!" I insisted huffily, releasing his arm and crossing my own arms over my chest.

" I'm sure you are," he said apologetically, laying a hand on my shoulder. I looked at him, and he nervously reconsidered, taking his arm away.

" Can we leave tonight?" I whispered.

" Beatrix …" Adelbert sighed, wringing his hands. I grabbed his chin and pulled his face up to mine, peering into his eyes. " Alright," he said in a hushed voice, barely audible. " I'll … take you to Alexandria."

" Oh, Adelbert!" I said, unable to contain happy tears. I threw my arms around his shoulders and held onto him for dear life.

" Beatrix…" he mused, returning my embrace. " My lady … I think … I would take you anywhere."


" Princess, we are ready!" I hear his voice through Garnet's bedroom door, and shiver in silent anticipation, cursing my memories. Why did all of this have to come to a head on an evening like tonight, when I feel I need to keep my eyes open for danger? Garnet excitedly rises from her bed and goes to the door. Her young eyes are full of love for the boy that stands below on the other side, Zidane. She turns back to me for approval, and I nod.

Garnet walks out the double doors and I follow mindlessly, not making eye contact with Steiner, who stands at attention as we exit the Princess's room. If I look into his eyes, it'll all be over.

Below us stands Garnet's friends: a small girl, a black mage, a Burmecian woman, and, of course, Zidane. They converse tersely from the distance that is now set between them. I swear I can feel Steiner's tension as he stands only twenty or so feet from me… or am I just a lonely woman who is imagining things? I steal a glance at his boots, and then, unsatisfied, return my gaze to Garnet. I can't stand to watch Steiner under all that armor, when I know the look, the feel, and the warmth of the body it hides.

After a tearful goodbye between Garnet and the young girl, Steiner calls for the visit to end, and Garnet turns sadly and re-enters her lonely room. Poor girl. Zidane barely had two words to say to her… probably intimidated by her new status. I follow Garnet wordlessly back into her room, and, to my surprise, so does Steiner. I hear him shut the door behind me, afraid to turn around. God … only Garnet is between us now. I thank the heavens for her presence, though—I am not ready to be alone with Steiner again. Remembering the promise of the love letter I found, I shudder.

" Well, Princess," Steiner says, clearing his throat. " Are you ready to become Alexandria's next Queen?"

" I suppose," Garnet says glumly. She looks to me, her eyes hinting at tears. " Oh, Beatrix," she says in a whisper, " He wouldn't even speak to me."

" Oh, Dear," I say, holding out my arms to her, and letting her rush into them,

" You have to … forgive him. Things change. Circumstances … change. Its hard to know… how things will work between two people… once a situation has been transformed."

I turn and look at Steiner, unable to help myself. He is staring at me, intensely; he seems to be longing to say or do something—I have no idea what.

" Princess," he says in a soothing voice, not taking his eyes off of mine. I am frozen in his gaze, seconds from tears. Was he speaking to Garnet … or calling me princess?

God, Steiner … I tighten my arms around the frightened Princess, wishing she was my Adelbert … back in my arms.

Steiner snaps his gaze away from mine, breaking the trance. He turns to the door, muttering something about securing the palace before the ceremony, and walking brusquely out the door. My arms loosen around Garnet, and I step back, shaken.

Garnet wipes her tears away and tries to be strong.

" I wish things would just go back to the way they were …" she muses, speaking certainly of her relationship with Zidane.

" I know," I whisper to myself.


Before the ceremony, I can hardly concentrate on securing the palace … maybe I should check the dock, just to see who is waiting there for their lover … surely its not him … and once my mind is settled I'll be able to concentrate on my job.

Even as I think this, my feet are already leading me to the spot where I found the letter. And there he is: Steiner, standing with his back to me, holding a piece of paper. Is that the letter I found? Did I leave it there after I read it? My head is so cloudy… I run to him without thinking.

" Steiner," I cry, desperate for him. He whips around and regards me with a look I haven't seen in his green eyes for ages …

" Beatrix?" he says, stepping closer to me, " Was it you?"

We step closer together, our movements in sync. The air seems to grow heavier with lost affections, missed chances. I want to be practical and turn away, but I can't take my eyes from his.

" Steiner," I choke out, my eyes pleading with him to reach out for me, though my voice is too stubborn to admit it.

" Beatrix," he whispers, moving closer to me. My heart is doing a rare gymnastics routine—I am never nervous, always sure. But with Steiner… with Adelbert… I lose my head, my heart.

" AA-CHOO!" Suddenly someone sneezes, and I jump back with a gasp. Baku lumbers over toward us. I look at him, then back at Steiner, and run.


By the time I reach my room in the castle, I'm crying like a little girl and cursing Steiner for making me behave this way. I should be out protecting the Queen … I yank my sword out of its holster and throw it to the ground in disgust.

" I could have been a normal woman, if it weren't for you," I mutter at the sword like a loon. But I didn't crave normalcy … and I still don't. I just want to stop being so cold … I want to take back the rivalry, the competition. I want my Adelburt back.

There is a knock at the door behind me, and I jump and gasp quietly to myself. Who could it be, but Adelbert? I can't face him. I retrieve my sword and rush to the mirror to try and wipe away all signs of emotion from my dampened face.

" Beatrix?" he calls through the door.

" Go away!" I say, trying to stop the shake in my voice. " I … d-do not require you right now, C-Captain Steiner."

Silence. Did he really leave? The bastard. I may have said so, but I don't want him to go… I want him to come crashing through the door and take me in his arms like we'd never been apart. I want put aside all of what's happened between us, except for the glorious night we met and the few civil weeks that followed.

" Trixie?" he says quietly, and I can hear it through the door like a tiny whisper. I quake and my knees loose their ability to hold me upright … I tumble to the ground with my hand over my mouth, my eyes pinched shut. The tears I had carefully wiped away tumble past the corners of my eyes again. Trixie… his short-lived pet name for me … God, its been so long since he's spoken to me with tenderness.

" I … I will leave you if you won't have me," he says. I can hear him adjusting his armor … nervous with me again. And then, the sad dragging off—heavy boots walking away, taking him out of my life again.

" Steiner!" I shout blindly, looking up at the ceiling. Come back, come back, I won't make it without you. How I hate to admit it … that I need him, anyone. I never did, and never expected to. He was only supposed to be my ticket out of Treno … someone on the inner circle to put in a good word for me in Alexandria … but oh, what he has become.

I hear him come rushing back, his gloved hand on the doorknob. After a moment of apprehension, he opens the door and comes inside, immediately falling to one knee and bowing his head to me.

Unable to accept this, I whirl around and hide my sorrowful eyes, facing the bed and crossing my arms over my chest. We cannot go back. Who I am kidding? I have become the "Ice Queen" of the Alexandrian army, and he is "Old Snapping Turtle", the inflexible, caterwauling Captain of the Pluto Knights. We are not the children we were … lost under the moon's glow for a few sweet moments together.

" Steiner, I … I apologize for my outburst," I say staunchly, trying to remain insouciant. " We should go … the Queen needs us."

" The Queen will be fine," Steiner says, reaching out to touch a tiny piece of fabric on my dress.

Tears trickle down my cheeks: " I have never heard you dismiss the Queen so easily," I tell him coldly. " Perhaps you are losing your ambition."

" Beatrix!" he protests, standing and grabbing my shoulders. I notice, as he whirls me around to face him, that his strong, familiar hands are now un-gloved. His touch is hot on my bare shoulders. I shiver a bit, and shut my eyes, turning my head.

I try to be strong, but its difficult. Adelbert's hands are the only ones that ever felt right.

" Trixie," he says softly, " Did you write me that … letter?"

My eyes snap open and I jerk backwards. " Un-hand me!" I insist, " That's preposterous! The letter … well, I don't know where it came from." I thought it was for me … from you …

" Even so, Trixie," he says, stepping closer to me. My body and my heart beg for him to draw closer, closer. My mind, set on avoiding this embarrassing show of emotion after all these years, makes me move farther away.

" Quit calling me by that inane nickname!" I shout, holding in the tears as best I can. Adelbert's regret is all over his face, hurt by my coldness again.

" As you wish, my Lady," he says quietly, bowing and turning to go.

" Oh, Steiner, stop acting so goddamn noble!" I shout at his back as he's leaving. He stops, but doesn't move. " You act as if you deserve to make amends?! Ha! When you were the one who … oh, never mind. Just go."

Still not looking at me, he turns slightly. His profile in the soft light of my bedroom is dejected and beautiful, and I long for him more than I ever expected I would.

" General," he says quietly, " What do you accuse me of?"

Well, that does it.

" You left me!" I cry in a sob, losing all control. " I was lonely, and out of place in Alexandria! I … I was a fool I suppose, but I thought you loved me."

" Trix—"

" Don't you dare interrupt me!" I chide, " All it took was a few weeks of the two of us being in competing armies and you'd brushed me off! You resent me for succeeding in a ruthless manner—well, I've become what I am because of you! You left me nothing else. I wanted to best you so badly, Adel—Steiner. I wanted nothing but victory over you and your pride."

He was quiet for a long time, and I cried silently, watching him. The only man I ever loved. I was broken in Treno, anticipating my wedding night, but I thought Adelburt had fixed me, shown me that there was something—someone—worth living for. And then in Alexandria … he, of all people, had turned his back on me and broken me again, irreversibly this time.

" And did this satisfy you, Tri—Bea—General?" he asked, watching the floor. " This victory? For you have certainly won. You are a stronger warrior than I, General. I admit defeat."

" God, Adelburt," I whisper without meaning to, " It brought nothing but a clearer definition of the emptiness you left."

" Beatrix!" he cries, walking to me, his eyes aching. He reaches up and removes his heavy helmet, tosses it on the bed. " I was a fool!" he concedes, falling to his knee and grabbing my hand, pressing it desperately to his face. " I was only a child … I was jealous of your achievements! Without you as my rival – without my passion to impress upon you that I was … good enough to have your hand … I never would have risen to the position I now hold."

" Your words mean nothing," I say, looking away. " My heart is hollow."

" No!" Steiner says, kissing my hand. " It can't be … Beatrix, I know I haven't lost you … I saw it in your eyes on the dock."

" Damn you!" I say, finally, falling to my knees before him and grabbing his stubborn, handsome face, " Damn you and your competition … your apologies. It means nothing, nothing!"

" What do you want from me?" he cries, tears gather in his pitiable green eyes, which still look like a child's, to me. " What?"

" This damned armor," I say, ripping at the ties on his shield armor. " These protective devices, these metal gloves, plated boots … I've had enough, watching you storm around in these! I know you are hiding in here, somewhere, Adelburt." My eyes finally meet his as I say this, and he brings his face quickly to mine, kissing me.

God, my Adelbert's sweet mouth… his lips, how I've missed their taste. I lose myself in him, from the moment his soft tongue brushes mine.

" Damn you," I sob, stroking his cheek gently. He reaches up and kisses my forehead, then carefully removes the band I wear over my left eye, and places it on the floor.

Adelbert's breath catches, staring at me. " God, Trixie," he muses, " Its been an eternity since I've seen both your eyes."

" Adelburt," I murmur, my voice shaking with longing and foolish ardor. I lift his arms and pull them around me, and he gets the idea and scoops me up in them, letting my legs wrap around his firm, sturdy waist. He holds me easily, kissing me softly, on my shoulders, my neck, my lips …

I remember the night we'd met in Treno … the first night we made love. It was so rash, so reckless of me to lose my maidenhood to a solider I'd just met … but Adelbert's eyes made me trust him the moment I saw him. He was my one sure thing.

" Trixie," he gushes fervently, walking to the wall so that my back is against it.

" Adelburt!" I moaned, " God, I've missed you." I shove his trousers down as best I can, and he fumbles with my undergarments. I have missed the warmth of Adelbert's body like a bird with a broken wing misses flight. I have been with other men, but only he can make me soar, make me feel so loved and delicate; he treats me with a tenderness that no other man who has seen me in battle could.

" Oh, Trixie…" he moans contentedly, sliding into me. I wince a bit and squeeze his shoulders—I had forgotten how well-endowed he is. But soon we have melted into each other again, as sure as ever, though its been over seven years since we've even touched.

I lose myself in our rhythm, and for a moment I'm able to forget the years. I feel as if I'm nineteen again, still wet behind the ears, clutching my Adelburt desperately in our secret place in the west tower. Tired from hours of training, we would make slow, gentle love until the trumpets sounded for bed check. Adelburt would pinch his eyes in frustration when we heard the horns blaring, calling us back to our respective worlds. And I would touch his face and tell him it was okay, there was always tomorrow—another day and many after to be together as long as we could.

I cry softly, remembering, thinking of all the time we've wasted apart.

" Trixie," he mutters softly in my ear, " I love you … I, ahhhh … never … stoppeddd…"

" Adelburt," I cry, running my hands wildly through his dark hair, now matted with sweat.

As we're finishing, something catches my eye in the distance, beyond the gauzy curtains that move gently in the breeze at my window. A flash of red in the sky … a scream …

Fire …

" Adelburt," I sob, kissing him softly, one last time. He is still smiling, sleepily, he can't see behind him, at the scene that is beginning to unfold outside. He still expects us to move lazily to the bed and fall asleep in each other's arms. We were never that lucky.

God, what have we done?

" Don't cry, Trixie," he whispers kindly, tucking my hair behind my ear and softly kissing my neck.

And then we hear it.

BOOM! Something explodes outside, flames shoot up in the distance. A dragon's war cry splits the night. Adelbert's eyes go wide, and he carefully pulls out of me before whirling around. I button my dress as he takes in the scene, grabbing my eye-piece and my sword.

" W-what?" he stutters, stuck between a world of dreamy pleasure and the nightmarish reality we now face.

" We've really done it," I say, deadpan, feeling like a sleep-walker. " We turn our backs for fifteen minutes and … and …"

" No …" he says, beginning to gather his armor, reapply his shields. " No …"

" This is the worst mistake we ever made, Captain," I say, a pang in my heart making it harder to choke down the sobs. " Look at what … God, I must find the Princess!" With that, and without even a final glance at Adelburt, I tear out of the room, heading for her bedroom.

If anything has happened to her …

I hear Steiner calling to me as I flee down the hall, struggling to get his armor together and falling behind.

If not for me … if not for him … the two of us and our reckless passion, foolish desire …

God … what have we done? What have we done??

To be continued.