Author's Note: This is a (belated) birthday fic for my internet Mommah, Chocobo Goddess.

.X.

In a perfect world, she would have hated him. She would have hated this man who had threatened first the life of her father and then her own; she would have despised the man that through manipulating her sought to take the life of a very important individual. The world wasn't perfect, however; Jackson Rippner had through some miracle survived his wounds, the wounds that should have been fatal, and had made a reappearance into her life some months later with only a metallic rasp to his voice as proof that she had not only survived, but had bested him at his own game. She should have hated him. She was supposed to hate him.

But life didn't work that way.

The words they'd exchanged had been brief, terse, taut with emotions on one side restrained and kept in check and on the other raw and wavering. When he said her name in that oh-so-familiar taunting manner she wanted to claw his eyes from his head, but instead she met his mocking manner with a cold, unperturbed front of his own. They sparred verbally, each knowing that it would escalate, and when it did neither was surprised. But she was afraid, and she knew he wasn't, and for the third time in her life she knew she was going to have to fight to survive …

But something changed as she surged against him, as he shoved back, as they both fell in a tangled sprawl to the grey carpet of her living room floor. His hands, fisted tightly in her hair, relentlessly pulled her head back until she was arched beneath him. She felt his breath, hot and rapid, against the flesh of her exposed throat, but when warm moist lips touched first the point of her pulse before descending in a slow trail to the line of her collarbone she stiffened in utter and complete confusion. He hated her. He was supposed to hate her.

Maybe he did, but as his mouth descended and closed upon her own she knew instinctively that perhaps hatred wasn't enough. That perhaps this tension between them, always present and always almost thick enough to cut through, demanded something more than just anger and rage. Just what more it needed incited her heart to pound frantically in her chest, and she wondered for one instant whether Jackson, laid out full length on top of her, his legs entwined with hers, could hear the telltale thunder. It didn't matter. What mattered was the feel of his lips on hers and of his body pressed tight against her own—what mattered was that this was a man that had tried to kill her—

"It doesn't matter," he whispered then, echoing her earlier thought. He raised his head a little, his eyes, so bright and intense in their regard holding captive her own. His hands slid through her hair, the dark strands pooling through his fingers, and when he cradled her face between them she didn't move. She didn't breathe.

She was supposed to hate this man …

Her mouth opened beneath his this time, and she felt the slide of his tongue against her own, sinuous, tempting, invasive in that most peculiar of manners. His body shifted, grinding against hers, and she caught her breath at the sensation, at the blatant knowledge that Jackson was aroused. His lips left hers, bit a gentle path down her chin and neck, where he nudged aside the loose collar of the shirt she wore for sleep in order to lave a warm trail with his tongue to the swell of one breast. One hand left her face and moved, and a heartbeat later she felt it slip beneath her shirt. His fingers grazed over her abdomen; she wriggled slightly at the ticklish sensation, and felt rather than saw his smile. The palm of his hand brushed over one bare breast, cupping it, running a thumb over the nipple which subsequently sent a shudder down the entire length of her body, He felt it; he reared up suddenly, withdrawing his touch, and bereft she stared up at him and felt her fear rise again. She couldn't read anything in the blue eyes that were perpetually and purposefully blank, but after a moment he reached down and pulled her into a sitting position, saying only, "Off."

She blinked before realizing he meant the shirt. She shucked it off one handed, letting it drop beside her and had barely a moment to think before his weight was upon her again, driving her down. The carpet against her bare back was warm, bristled and rough, but then she felt naked skin against her own, and her attention was immediately diverted to the now bare chested man before her. The exploration that proceeded was mutual—she ran hands over a chest made of lean muscle, traced and angry jagged scar bisecting one pectoral with a fingertip while noting in some corner of her mind the rumbling sound he made deep in his chest that reminded her for all the world of a contented cat. His hands, meanwhile, spanned her waist before moving upwards, sliding slowly over her breasts, teasing her nipples until she squirmed beneath him. When he lowered his head and took one tip into his mouth she made a quiet sound in her throat, and when he bit down gently with teeth the sound became longer, more drawn out.

She became lost in the sensations—his skin beneath her hands, her flesh under his touch. It was she that took the next initiative, rising up on her knees and ordering him in a heated whisper to rid himself of further clothing. He responded with a smile, a lazy, secretive quirking of the lips before acquiescing with her demand, and when he was fully nude he proceeded to ensure she reached the same state. They descended again; his hands trailed from her face to other, lower places, and between one breath and the next he'd inserted one finger carefully and slowly within her. Her breath left her in a slow hiss, her entire being centered on his presence, on his intrusion, and when he slipped another finger in and then began a steady and languorously rhythm of penetration and withdrawal she clutched hard at his arms. He said something, voice made rough by the rasp that would haunt him to the last of his days, but his words were lost to her as a third finger joined the others, widening her around him, preparing her—

"Now," she said, opening eyes that had closed in the wake of pleasure so exquisite. His gaze was centered on her face, but now those eyes weren't blank—they hungered. He slid his fingers free of her, holding them at the brink so that she acutely felt their absence within her core and held her stare unblinking. "Now," she said, louder this time, her body shifting beneath his in an instinctive search for that which would make her whole.

"You're demanding," he remarked, as though they both weren't naked on her living room floor, as though both their bodies weren't covered in a fine sheet of sweat, as though their lust wasn't so strong it was almost tangible. He removed his hand and a moment later she felt the rigid, swollen length of him brushing her thighs; he plunged into her then in one slow and steady movement. She was still as he filled her, as she felt every ridged inch of him in a torturous penetration. When he'd fully sheathed himself he remained there for only a minute, using one hand to tilt her face to his.

"See me, Lisa." He said, and there was a strained note to his damaged voice that told of the restraint he was currently exercising.

She stared at him, at the features of his face drawn with effort, at his eyes, at the wayward lock of hair falling over his temple, knowing what it was he wanted. He wanted her to acknowledge who was with her here, now—he wanted her to voice it, that it was he who held her, who was inside of her …

"Jackson," she said, and that one word wavered badly. She saw the triumph flicker through his gaze and across his face only for a moment, and then he was moving, withdrawing and quickly thrusting home again, setting a pace that was close to frenzied. She met him, arching her body, rocking her hips to take more of him inside her, wanting this completion so badly it almost hurt. His lips moved across hers, his tongue joining hers and then sliding away, and then he nipped at her neck, at her shoulder. She slid her hands along his back and then to his buttocks, pulling him closer so that he penetrated that minute distance deeper, so that she could feel him pulsing in her very core. His thrusts grew stronger, more powerful, more determined, as though he could exorcise whatever it was about her he hated, as though he could free himself from whatever it was that had bound him to her, and her to him. She felt the pleasure begin to peak and then it exploded, flowed through her with tidal strength; her body clenched and released around him and he followed her an instant later, holding himself as deep he could inside her while he came. He collapsed then, though he did so carefully as to not be a burden, and for a long while the only sounds in her apartment was their fast, mingled breathing.

He lifted himself on his elbows eventually, and suddenly feeling irrationally embarrassed she found it hard to look at him. When she did, his eyes were the same as they usually were, but there was a curve to his mouth that was warm and satisfied. "Thank you, Lees." He said then, and she knew then that he meant what he said.

"Jackson," she said, and the fact that she used his name didn't escape him; a shadow of surprise flitted through his gaze. He waited to hear what next she would say—if ever there were a time for something witty, something suave and debonair, it would be now. She'd just had sex with a man that had tried to kill her, after all …

"You're heavy."

A snort escaped him, his lips twitched, but he rolled off her and came to his knees in a smooth, seamless movement. She followed, albeit more slowly, regarding him thoughtfully. It was almost as if their joining had dissipated the animosity between them. Not that she wasn't wary of him—he was far too dangerous for that. But maybe, just maybe, she no longer had to fear him. In a perfect world, she would have hated him and kept on hating him …

But the world isn't perfect.

.X.