Written for Kang Xiu. Silly her.

Zara resents him because he's a stranger; he has black, black hair, this boy, and fair unblemished skin and dark eyes, and his smile is more mocking than kind, and he is in every way not Florian. He doesn't belong in Freyborg, no matter the fashionable shabbiness of his clothes. He doesn't belong across the table from her in Jellinek's, and he has no right to tease her, no right to be here talking to her when Florian is not.

She snarls at him and glowers, and makes herself as unpleasant as she knows how to be. He only laughs, and matches her insult for insult until she gives up in disgust. Then for two days he ignores her, and that makes her angrier than ever. Florian would never treat her this way; Florian is impossible, but he wouldn't dare ignore her. She seethes.

The dark-haired boy takes no notice. He flirts with Rina instead, as charming to her as he was caustic to Zara. Zara contents herself with a glare, but when Rina has left, he catches her eye and grins. "Jealous?"

"Jealous!" She flares, then sneers. "I don't care. All the boys are in love with her; so what if you are, too?"

"I'm not all the boys."

"You are. You're all the same." She's pleased to have stung him, though it isn't true.

(Florian would quell her with a glance. This boy is nothing like him.)

The next night he isn't there, and Zara is fiercely glad; but when she leaves, he's there in the street. "I thought I'd got rid of you. Lying in wait for me?"

"Flatter yourself, flamehair."

"Don't you dare."

"Don't I?" The wind has blown his hair loose from its ribbon, and his collar is undone. He is stark black and white in the shadows (Florian is shades of grey, always) and still, still, he's smiling at her. "Maybe I'm waiting for your pretty friend."

"You'd better not be!"

He laughs at her. "Don't all the boys fall in love with you, too?"

Zara scowls. "They have better sense." She starts to push past him.

But the boy catches her waist and kisses her -- kisses her! -- he has no right -- and for a moment she is too incredulous to move. His mouth is hot, and tastes of sea salt, strong and clean and bitter. Fury floods her, a wild white heat that burns the strength from her muscles. She wants to scream, to swear, to snarl.

She tears free.

The boy watches her, a little out of breath, his dark eyes glittering. "I believe it."

"Idiot," Zara breathes, with all the contempt she can muster, and he flashes a twisting smile.


"You damn' fool!"

He's still smiling, still. He wants to make her angry. She loathes giving him the satisfaction.

Instead she kisses him, with all the rage that's in her, and she can tell by his intake of breath, by the way his body tenses, that she's startled him. Good. He's not to think he knows her, or knows what she'll do. She knots a hand in his coat as he starts to relax, bites his lip savagely when he kisses her back, rakes her nails down the back of his neck, hard enough to draw blood. It wrings a choked cry out of him, but he doesn't pull away, and neither does she. She won't back down.

At last he breaks the kiss, breathless and flushed. "You're marvelous."

Zara pushes him away. "Hate you."


"You stupid boy. You stupid, pretty, arrogant boy. You come here from who knows where, you bedevil me for a couple of weeks and you think you belong here, you think you can kiss me--! You think you're any better than the rest of the stupid rich boys who come here every year and think they own the world."

"Wrong," he says, "on almost all counts."

She sucks in a breath. It's the sort of thing Florian says to her, when she's pushed him entirely too far, and leaves her no retort. From him it's a rebuke; from this boy -- this dark-haired, pretty, insufferable boy -- it's presumption. Still she can't think of anything to say.

In the silence, he sketches a bow, formal and ironic. "I'll take myself off, then."

Zara shoves her hands in her pockets, scowling. "You do that."

"I shall. Before you can break what may loosely be termed my heart." He grins at her again, all his mockery returned, and walks away. She stares darkly after him, her fists still in her pockets. She's cold all over, after pressing so close against him, and the back of her throat tastes of bitter salt. Her anger has died to a long, sullen smolder.

Florian would never kiss her like that.