Chapter 5: Ever After

Chapter 5: Sweet Surrender

Note: Thank you so much for reading this story. I hope to write another (Quifer) soon. I hope you enjoy this last part.

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to Square.

Three Months Later

The peace talks finished a week ago, and he still wasn't home.

Upset, she paced her office, glancing at the menacing morning paper with dread. She hadn't opened it up yet, but she was now every day expecting some announcement of a bid for election for Deling as a senator or representative in Galbadia…and his acceptance.

What if he did accept? Where would she be then?

Worry twisted in her stomach.

She looked at herself in the mirror she'd just put up a few weeks ago, considered her tired face, sad eyes. Her hair was pulled back as usual, but looked more unkempt.

"You look so alone…" she told her image.

Honey, you ARE alone…

Alone. She'd always liked the sound of that word before. It had a taste of independence and freedom. Peace.

But when your peace depended on someone else, and that person didn't want you…well that was a different kind of alone.

The kind of alone that hurt.

She wondered if he really was worth all the angst she'd given him. Most of the time, she concluded no, but rationale had no influence over the workings of her heart.

Her heart. Could it be possible that he was so close to it, when he hadn't really ever done anything besides cook dinner? Just at first, she reminded herself. Near the end, when he was busy with negotiations, well duties to society came first…an unappreciative wife fell to second.

If it was possible, she could also…suspect that she was in love with him.

In love with Seifer? That was even more improbable than being married to him. But when one impossible event occurred, well there's usually something in the air, and the next impossibility seems to reach ever so closer to reality, basking in truth's light…

Quistis shook herself from those dangerous reveries. As long as she never considered it, she knew it would not be true. She was a woman of words. When she said something was so, it was so.

She never said she could never love Seifer Deling, though.

And she did not dare say it now.

He just stood in this middle ground, evermore handsome, charming, and elusive.

She ate up his images in the papers and news, only wished she could see him in person. She was lonely. She missed having his company during dinner…the lame efforts at jokes he made every once in a while…she missed the flirtatious, gregarious young man who threw himself at the headmaster, proposing in every conversation.

Missing him wasn't really a surprise. She supposed consistency bred endearment…and seeing him was a sign of…the present. Right now…she was stuck in…

The past.

Her very much lonely past. Those three long years after Ultimecia. Alone.

The very word that began her thoughts.

She did not want to be alone any more.

*-*-*-*

"Senator Leonheart," she answered.

Quistis swallowed. "Rinoa?" she said, testing the name on her tongue. It'd been such a long time since she'd said it.

"Quistis! Oh how are you? After Seifer started this whole peace thing I meant to call to ask you out…I'm sure you're feeling pretty out there on your own…" Rinoa started.

Quistis laughed. That was why Squall loved her, and why she was in politics. She could hit everything on the head. "Well I beat you to it."

Rinoa inwardly rejoiced when she detected a note of friendliness and warmth in her friend, and smiled into the receiver. "So I was thinking maybe this weekend? I'll bring Ragnorak and Selphie around and we'll go joyriding…"

Quistis laughed. "I call, and you still are the one who asks me out. That's fine."

Rinoa smiled. "Great."

Quistis went to hang up the comlink, but was interrupted. "Quistis?"

"Yeah?" Quistis asked.

"You still wear what you used to wear?"

"No, just my SeeD uniform."

"Bring your credit card. We're going shopping."

Quistis frowned into the receiver as Rinoa laughed and cut the communication, returning to her business with more alacrity than usual.

*-*-*-*

Quistis awkwardly fidgeted in her old pink suit that she used to wear once upon a time. She wanted to wear the combat wear, but she knew it was too casual. But the suit was ridiculous. She wondered why she ever liked the color. It's so…effeminate.

You're a woman, Quistis.

Quistis shuddered at the thought.

A woman…when was the last time she felt like a woman? With Seifer gone, the chances of feeling that feeling dwindled down from when pigs fly to when hell freezes over.

Ragnorak made a smooth landing in front of Trabia, and Quistis watched the door open. Rinoa came running down, threw herself into Quistis's arms…

Quistis awkwardly placed her arms around Rinoa, and hugged her back.

Human contact. What a wonderous, odd thing. Quistis never really realized how beautiful it was to touch a person…people would move thorough the spheres of their lives without tactile confirmation that other people knew of their existence…she'd done it for years…

Quistis allowed Rinoa to take her arm in hers and escort her up to the cockpit, where Selphie got out of her seat to hug Quistis as well. "You don't know how happy I was when Rinoa told me that you were going to join us this weekend!"

Quistis smiled. The action was still a little rusty and slightly uncomfortable, but was getting better all the time.

"So…um…where are we going?"

Rinoa smiled mysteriously. "We're going to crash a party…"

Quistis laughed. "You're joking."

"No, we're not!" Selphie smiled.

"Is this one of those little Zell parties or is this like a clambake?" Quistis said.

"It's a pretty big party."

Quistis shifted uncomfortably. "I don't know, you guys…I can't go like this!"

"Hence the shopping deal…" Selphie said. "Look, it won't even pick up until like eight or nine, and it's still noon. We'll go for lunch in Winhill and talk to the dressmaker there. She's really good at this stuff, and she works fast."

Selphie started Ragnorak, and Quistis frowned. "I don't think this is a good idea. I mean, you know how long it's been since I've hung out with you and you want to throw me into a real social situation? I don't even stay at Garden festivals long…"

"It's a masque…so you don't have to worry. You can hide if you want, but it'll be fun!" Selphie said.

Quistis looked at Rinoa.

Rinoa smiled. "Come on, Quistis. We've waited for you long enough. So has everyone else. Isn't it time you showed them how much you appreciate their patience?"

Quistis scowled, and looked out the window. "…Whatever…but if you make me wear pink, I swear I'll fly Ragnorak back to Trabia myself."

*-*-*-*

They pulled up to the presidential mansion in Esthar before alighting their coach. Rinoa and Selphie flanked her sides, each taking an arm.

Selphie in bright red, Rinoa in royal blue, and Quistis in gold.

Gold satin that made her skin look like white marble, brought out rings of gold in her violet eyes, and highlighted the lighter strands of her hair. A diamond tiara and pins secured her curls up in charming position. Diamond Earrings twinkled at her ears. When was the last time she'd worn earrings?

She clutched at her friends' hands and tried to turn back. "I'm not sure this is such a good idea."

"Just hide behind the mask if it gets uncomfortable."

"And what if the mask is uncomfortable?" she asked, glaring at the befeathered, besequined concoction that would hide everything but her lips and chin if she so chose to put the mask to her face. She secured it now, tying the gold satin ribbons behind her head tightly, hoping it would not fall.

They entered the residence, and Quistis noted how remarkably unchanged the mansion was since her last visit, so many years ago. They followed the general crowd into a forest green and black marble ballroom, lit by a chandelier rumored to be set with real diamonds.

Quistis felt herself being dragged by her friends and so walked faster, though paying much consideration for her uncomfortable new sandals. Rinoa was of course easily recognized and so was greeted. She exchanged a few paltry comments here and there, and Selphie would come up with the appropriate excuse to keep them moving. It appeared that they had done this before.

Quistis was dizzy with the maze of masks, and wondered where exactly her companions were taking her. Perhaps it was fortunate for Rinoa and Selphie, for if Quistis knew, uncomfortable shoes or not, she would have been out of there and putting Ragnorak in full speed.

"Rinoa!"

Quistis met Selphie's eyes and was about to roll her eyes at the beginning of yet another banal exchange of words over some policy she had no idea about, but she noticed the glimmer of mischief in Selphie's eyes.

"Rinoa! Selphie!"

The second time she heard the voice she unmistakably identified it. The happy guilty look in Selphie's eyes confirmed it and she refused to turn around to face the person who now greeted her former friend.

"Seif!" Rinoa hugged him in greeting. Selphie hugged him in turn.

"I thought you weren't coming because Squall was busy tonight with the SeeD exam," he said.

"Well I changed my mind…something came up…" Rinoa gestured toward the blonde who was standing beside her, looking at anywhere but him.

Seifer was taken back, but did not say anything. "Um…" Seifer moved closer to Rinoa. "Rinoa, I don't know what you're trying to pull but…"

"Seif I can explain…" Rinoa said.

Seifer didn't bother with explanations, and looked at the young woman, "Um, excuse me, Miss…?"

Qusitis hesitantly turned towards him, hoping that the mask's shadows hide her eyes well enough. Oh he was handsome. Her eyes ate up the sight of her husband in the flesh. He had a black domino in his hand that he was extending to her. "Lauryn is fine…" she said in a lower register, offering him her right hand, disguising her ringed left hand behind her back.

Perfect, he mused. "What a coincidence. My wife's middle name," he said with emphasis. The way this Lauryn woman was looking at him…he was sure she was perfectly beautiful under that mask, but it didn't matter to him.

Rinoa looked disappointedly at Quistis, then Selphie. Selphie shrugged. Let her have her way.

Quistis smiled wryly, and tried to hide the amusement at his obvious attempt at turning her off. It'd been a while since she'd played. Had she ever played? She wondered if she was good at it. It was worth a shot. And he owed her. Big time. "Is she here?" she stepped forward.

Rinoa's eyes widened, and she winked at Selphie who sent a huge grin back at her.

"Um…no."

"And why would Mrs. Deling ever want to be apart from you?" she pondered with a sly smile.

Somewhere in the shadows of the mask, he saw the sparkle of amusement in her eyes. He frowned. "She's busy."

"Do you ever ask her?"

Silence. "That's beside the point."

"I think it's exactly the point," she enunciated, using her full lips and tongue to weave a seductive spell over him.

It did not work. Seifer watched her with stiff amusement. "If you'll excuse me, Rinoa, Selphie…Miss Lauryn," he said coldly.

He turned and walked away quickly.

Quistis watched her husband retreat into the crowd, and turned to her friends. "Do you care to explain yourselves?"

*-*-*-*

Later that night, she found herself being watched. She turned to see him watching her. She toasted him with her champagne glass, and agreed to dance with the first man who asked her.

She'd switched her wedding band from the outside of her dance gloves to the inside.

Under the protection of her mask, she was allowed to watch her husband as much as she wanted, trace that profile, kiss his body with her eyes. He may have caught her a few times, so she simply smiled back at him, and saw him frown.

He flatly refused to dance with all the ladies of the room. He'd been introduced to more than one, some even more daring than she. But he simply shook his head, and sent the women away.

Selphie currently joined her out on the balcony, where Quistis watched Seifer uncaught by him.

"Does he always do this?" Quistis mused aloud.

"Most of the time. He only dances with Rinoa and me, and sometimes Zell's girl. He doesn't like dancing with anyone else."

That was odd. He danced with everyone back in Trabia.

"Where is he staying now, now that the peace conference is over?"

"He's wrapping up things over in Deling, and so staying at the mansion."

"Ah…"

"You know he never talks about you…good or bad. We ask how you are, and he says that we ought to ask you ourselves…"

"Out of sight out of mind…" Quistis replied.

"I don't think so, and I can tell you don't either," Selphie replied. At length, she addressed what she'd been pondering all night. "Why didn't you just tell him it was you?"

"I'm not ready," Quistis replied.

"You seemed more than ready when you were talking with him."

"That's because I was someone else. That was not me. That was someone who wanted to give him just desserts…"

"I think you hit a nerve with him…but he's hurting, Quistis."

Quistis watched his sad eyes as he watched the couples dance. "I can tell."

Rinoa was now dancing with Laguna and making small talk.

Selphie tapped Quistis's shoulder, and gestured towards the entrance, where an uncomfortable Squall dressed in tuxedo entered the ballroom.

Quistis couldn't help but smile. The considerate and romantic bastard…er… husband…she corrected herself miserably.

Squall made his way to the dancing couple. Laguna saw him first from halfway across the room but did not let on.

When Squall reached the couple, he softly tapped on Rinoa's shoulder. She turned wearily to him, but when her eyes met his, the expression just suddenly lit up and she clung to him. Laguna patted Squall on the back, and left the couple to their happy reunion.

Quistis turned back to watch Seifer, and saw the look of desolation in his expression, his jaw clenched in frustration. Could it be that he felt the same as she? Frustrated with being alone?

It never struck her that he might have felt alone. He had all people and companions with him all the time. He was always saying something to someone, making someone laugh.

But standing in the corner, brooding the way she'd once seen Squall brood, Seifer Deling looked like a loner.

"Excuse me, but I believe there is a lovely young woman whom I haven't seen in a very long time standing out here…"

The ladies turned to the doorway. Laguna approached Quistis. "Lady Deling. Welcome to my humble abode."

She curtsied in return. "President Liore. I'm very pleased to meet you again."

"Not as much as I. I apologize for my insistent introduction, but my daughter in law let it slip. I assure you, your identity is safe from most of the party."

Quistis smiled. "Thank you."

"Now may I ask the daughter of one of the most admirable men I have ever known to dance?"

*-*-*-*

She shouldn't have bothered him, but she did. Seifer watched the beautiful Miss Lauryn be escorted out onto the dance floor on the arm of the President of Esthar. She was evidently of close acquaintance with the president.

He'd never heard of a Miss Lauryn…ever. Was she somehow related to Quistis? The hair was of the same color…though he was not sure of the eyes. The trace of the lips…he couldn't be sure, for she was all smiles.

He preferred the broody and cold. Like his wife.

He wondered about her now more than ever. He knew that he should have at least invited her to these things…but he was always knew her answer, and the pain of receiving it in reality was too…acute.

Squall and Rinoa joined him now, as did Selphie. "How are you tonight, Seif?"

Seifer smiled at Squall. "Heartbroken as usual…"

"Decided not to enjoy the smiles of the young Miss Lauryn, huh?" Squall said.

Seifer scowled even more. "I've never heard of her. Where did you find her?" he asked Rinoa.

"You could say she found me," she replied.

"I don't like her."

"What's not to like?" Selphie rolled her eyes. "You're just mad because she's gorgeous and you're married."

"She's not my type."

"Then what is your type, if I may ask?" a new voice joined the crowd.

In the course of their conversation, the subject of it had finished her dance with Laguna, and had made her way to the group.

Seifer met his angry eyes with hers. "My type of woman is strong, pigheaded and downright rude. She's not a glittery sparkly ornament, but she's one of the most beautiful women in the world."

"People who speak of inner beauty are just lying to themselves…" Quistis replied smoothly.

"And people who degrade others are jealous," he snipped back, looking at his friends while speaking. "Look, I know my marriage life isn't perfect, but I'll have it my way."

"Your way would include leaving her to her home while gallivanting about the world associating with mysteriously masked ladies?" Quistis quipped.

"FYI, Lady, I did not in any way accost you tonight."

And that was more incomprehensible than anything. "What's so special about her anyway?" she asked, frustrated. "She is a bitch, a nasty ice queen who doesn't give anyone the time of day…"

"…and I love her!"

She met his eyes now.

He saw in the depths of the dark eyeholes of the mask, the woman was surprised.

He laughed bitterly, looking at the shocked looks on his friends' faces. "Didn't think it was possible that she could be loved, huh? I don't know how you know my wife, lady, but I'd back up my claims with truth next time. Good evening, Miss Lauryn. Guys, I'm bushed. I'm going back to the hotel," he said.

She watched Seifer walk away, and turned to Rinoa and Selphie. "Did you know?" she asked, angrily.

"…No…" Rinoa said. Selphie shook her head as well.

Quistis turned to Squall. Squall swallowed. "I wasn't ever sure…but I had my suspicions."

Quistis took off her mask, covering her forehead with her gloved hand. "I've got a headache. Rinoa, Selphie, I'd like to go home."

*-*-*-*

He loves Me?!?

She stared at her pallid face in the mirror, her hair pulled back, her frame clad in her pajamas.

He loves ME.

She wondered at what a sick, twisted man Seifer Almasy Deling was, being manipulated into being the sorceress's knight, and now falling in love with her.

Why would fate be so unkind to have him fall in love with such a heartless bitch?

To know that she wanted him to come home, to know that she was the reason why he avoided it…oh, she'd already concluded that she was the reason why he didn't want to come back. It wasn't a matter of boredom as she'd suspected…it was heartbreak.

She felt for him. She did. If the past months had not taught her how to feel, what did they teach?

She was sure that he probably would almost fall apart upon seeing her again.

Because she didn't care for him.

She couldn't care for anyone. She was just learning now how to feel. She was selfish, and rude, and everything he said, and she said.

And yet, he said he loved her. Somewhere inside of her, he found something to fall in love with.

The feeling gratified her, absolved her of…the frigidity that she often felt she had to maintain. Somewhere in that mess, he'd found something. Something in her was loveable.

She wasn't alone anymore, because another person had claimed that spot of loneliness beside her. They were two lonely souls…together.

Seifer deserved to be loved, she mused. There were so many qualities that had to be appreciated, and treasured. His charming persistence. His desire to see her happy. She never forgot that. The consistent degradations he made on himself to make her feel better about her miserable self.

Did he think himself unworthy of her love, as she'd always told him?

She didn't think he would get to that point, but then again, she never pictured him heartbroken over her.

If it had been anyone else, he might have had a chance. He'd at least be happier.

Someone lovely and engaging, like him. She'd be beautiful and charming on his arm, and they'd be known as the beautiful glamorous couple, the Delings. She'd have a lovely smile, one that was warm, and oft used. She'd have a beautiful laugh that she'd use to laugh at his lame jokes. She'd be witty and charming, so that he might be able to carry on conversation after conversation with her.

And he'd be left without an ounce of passion. No, she supposed he needed a bit more fight. A spineless twit would always let him have his way, and one could never let that horrid ego of his get too large.

And if she were too engaging, of course, he'd be a jealous husband, and hate it when she spoke to others. That was just the way he was. Selfish bastard.

Either that, or worse, she could reform him into a boring lifeless monk who always obeyed…urf…

No, he needed someone that wasn't perfect, wasn't kind, wasn't admirable. He needed someone that wasn't charming. He needed something that was abrasive, that kept him on his toes, that was just as selfish and pigheaded as him.

Someone like her.

He needed her.

And when she tried those words aloud…she liked it.

"He needs me. I'm the only one who understand him…because I've lived with him, I've interacted with him…because I…I…" she met her eyes in the mirror. "Oh fuck, I think I'm in love with him."

*-*-*-*

Revelation often is not accompanied by mad bouts of swearing, but this one was.

But after that was over, she was content. That she loved him did not really pose a problem, as he loved her.

And she thanked Hyne for that. He loved her.

He loved her.

Quistis wasn't into sap, so she didn't pass much time in rapt reverie over her husband.

But she did think about him very much.

An invitation arrived for her to Gabriela's party to celebrate his nomination as Secretary of State to her cabinet. So Miss Lauryn had gotten to him.

He hadn't accepted the post yet, she knew, from the papers, but the position would be a coup, politically, for him. He was still so young, and there was still so much out there in the political world for him.

She knew he didn't expect her to come. The invitation wasn't even particularly personal; there was no extra sentimental script in his strong hand on the back. It was addressed to Headmaster Quistis Trabia, as if he hadn't even considered her his wife.

Well, she'd show him.

Quistis Deling was a woman of contrariness, and she'd show her husband that she'd never be predictable.

*-*-*-*

"Rinoa?"

"Quistis? Look I know you must be pretty mad at Selphie and me…"

"Forget all that. We're going shopping on Friday afternoon. I'm taking my craft by Balamb. Be ready to leave by 6."

"Quistis?"

Too late. The connection was already cut.

*-*-*-*

She went with Rinoa and Selphie, just as she did last time, but she chose the outfit. A lavender dress the shade of her eyes, and Seifer's favorite color on her. Her hair pulled up, with a satin ribbon weaving in and out.

Trabia family amethysts at her wrist, neck and ears.

Soft makeup she hadn't been able to apply herself, having never worn any ever in her life, but had gotten Rinoa and Selphie's assistance in.

She entered the foyer of the presidential manor in Deling City, and handed her white satin cloak to one of the servants. She took a deep breath, closed her lavender-shaded eyes, and opened them, to see the room in a clearer, cooler light. "Rinoa?" she looked to her friend.

Rinoa smiled. "Come on."

Squall offered his arms to his ladies, and each took one.

"I am the envy of every man here…" he said admiringly to the women at his side.

Rinoa smiled, and Quistis muttered, "Better be. I dropped a ton of gil on this dress…"

"That's our Quistis…" Rinoa whispered into Squall's ear. But Rinoa felt her friend's nervousness…in the setting…and in her feelings.

Oh, Rinoa felt the difference between a Quistis and a Quistis in love. She knew. Squall admired his wife so much…felt the love for her just clutch at him…that beautiful skill of observation she had…

Quistis was not paying attention to the moony couple. She'd just caught sight of President Gabriela de Witt, Zone, and her husband, in conversation with others. His back was to her. Her heart clenched at her nerves and the sensation was annoyingly painful.

Squall turned from his loving glance at his wife to his friend, to notice her looking at her husband. "No mask this time, Quistis."

"No duh. Come on, I want to see my husband." Imperceptibly, she took a deep breath.

Squall smiled warmly. "Well, Lady Deling. Let us get going."

They moved their way through the crowd. Squall and Rinoa were stopped to talk, and when asked for her name, she replied that she was Lady Trabia Deling.

Word traveled fast around the room, but refused to penetrate the bubble of political talk that immersed the president, her husband, and one of her best friends.

Squall cleared his throat, joining the group now. "Madame President…my Wives…" he joked warmly.

"Squall, a pleasure to see you. Rinoa…as always…" Gabriela said, and then turned to Quistis. "Um…"

"Not another Lady Leonheart. Seifer's. Lady Quistis Trabia Deling, at your service," she nodded her head.

Seifer's back stiffened but he did not turn. Quistis scowled at him impatiently.

Gabriela exclaimed, "Quistis! I'm sorry I did not recognize you. It's been a while, and I haven't seen you…"

"You haven't seen me in a dress, to be truthful. It's a special occasion. I thought I'd splurge," she smiled.

Of course it wasn't worth it if he wasn't even going to look. She stared at his profile once more, daring him to look at her.

"Darling," she extended her hand.

He turned to look at the spot exactly three inches above her left shoulder. "My heart…" he addressed her, kissed her hand.

He was probably confused. She tried to make herself understand. After all, he loved her. She scorned him. He ran off. She had to make amends. And she knew he wanted to make up…right?

Damn but it was sure a stupid business.

"I didn't know you were going to come. Seif didn't tell me!" Gabriela was saying.

Quistis gave up trying to make eye contact with her husband, and turned to the President of Galbadia. "He wasn't sure. I didn't know if I was going myself, I had some business to take care of. And of course, I wanted to surprise him. I don't usually have time to come to these things…but he asked me especially, and like I said, this is special." And I'm special. And he better see that. If he's going to move here… She couldn't think like that.

"If you don't mind, there are some other ladies who are absolutely enthralled with your wife. I'd like to introduce her to them," Rinoa was saying to Seifer, who was entering into conversation with Zone.

"Sure," he replied, no inflection of anything in his tone.

"I hope we will speak later tonight," Quistis said to Seifer.

"I'll be pretty busy. There are some important conversations to be had here…"

"At home, then…" she said, determinedly. She caught his eye this time, held it. She surprised him and herself by taking his hand, squeezing it lightly, feeling her self esteem and confidence waver as she offered: "I'll wait up."

She let go of his hand quickly, turned to Rinoa. "All right…"

*-*-*-*

He came home late at one in the morning, and locked himself up in his study.

Quistis paced their bedroom, where she'd unpacked her few things. Why hadn't he come up yet?

Her heart was pounding in her head and a headache was coming on; she'd pondered and pondered why he would ever avoid her, when she'd explicitly told him she'd be waiting. It was obvious that she wasn't going to bite his head off or anything. She had made that obvious, hadn't she?

Finally, she sighed in exasperation. Never trust a man to do a woman's job.

She went down to the kitchen and put water on for tea, and made the preparations, getting herself acquainted with the kitchen. From the smell of it, she knew Seifer cooked in there. He always used too much garlic.

When the kettle sang she poured the boiling water into the teapot, and while letting the tea steep, she rummaged the cupboards for a teacup and saucer. She debated, angsted and mentally argued with herself, and finally her trembling heart won and she added another cup and saucer for herself. She was just going to take tea, and pay a sweet "wifely" gesture to remind him that he'd stood her up, but…

She rehearsed the words in her head as she added some small cookies onto the tray. Repeated them over and over. Hell, what was she supposed to do? She'd never…told anyone she'd loved them before…

She checked her reflection. She was stunning, she knew it. He knew it, right?

Pathetic. Let's go. She grabbed the tray, and went up to his library.

*-*-*-*

It wasn't that he didn't want to see her, or think about her. He had a lot to do.

What did "home" mean anyway? Did she expect him to drag himself all the way back to Trabia?

He stayed in his sanctuary longer than necessary, of course, and made all measures of superfluous phone calls to complete other business. When he heard the knock at his door at two, he realized it was probably Griftly, with a cup of coffee. He went the door, unlocked it, saying, "You should go to bed."

"You should as well."

The voice surprised him, and he opened the door to see his wife in the gown she'd worn this evening, hair down, flowing and caressing her shoulders.

He'd never seen her with her hair down.

Damn.

He swallowed, turned around, seated himself, and went back to his papers immediately, hiding his quickly reddening face behind a portfolio.

She placed a tray with two cups and a teapot on his desk, and poured each of them a cup. He smelled his favorite brew and was surprised she knew he took his tea with a teaspoon of sugar, and a dollup of milk. She handed the cup to him with a gentle but characteristically Quistis "This won't be happening again, so you better appreciate this" look. He sipped his tea…closing his eyes, enjoying the taste…the taste was too robust to be from a dream.

If it were a dream…he'd be able to look at her…but since it was reality…he had no fucking clue what was going on, and what would happen as a result.

She saw his forced relaxed posture. She knew it was all on her now. She cleared her throat. "Decent friends."

"They liked you. You made quite an impression on them."

"Did I make an impression on you?"

Surprise had him putting down his cup. The question hung on the air. She was impatient. He still did not look at her, DAMMIT! Why was he being so fucking cowardly? Had she defeated him into this?

"…I did not expect you."

"I know. But you weren't displeased. I figured as much from the Lauryn episode."

He was about to question, but he was smart. Before he even opened his mouth to ask, the answer was already in his mind. "Why didn't you say something then?" Mortification that he'd…uttered…those sentiments to her…

Telling a perfect stranger that he loved his wife was much, much easier than telling her. A stranger couldn't react the way he thought she would, or he'd feared wouldn't. She had his whole future life in her hands. One twist in his heart this or that way, and his political and educational careers would be decided.

He wasn't used to impetuousness, but he'd not been able to decide before. He excelled and enjoyed both…and he knew he'd have to choose. And he knew she was part of the decision. But he'd never imagined she'd be the one to decide it all.

"I was…unsure of myself then," she said straightforwardly.

"And what difference does one week make?" he mused bluntly.

Silence. He almost looked up at her then. She was leaning against his desk, her right hip against the side of the desk. He slowly worked his way up from the folds of her gown to her slim figure…and the teacup in her hands. That's when he noticed that her hands were shaking. She's nervous! He thought with wonder. Quistis, nervous. He was fascinated with the oscillation of her pale, smooth hands. It was beautiful, and moving. The most wonderful sight he'd seen in his life…ever.

She cleared her throat. "The difference is, I didn't know I loved you a week ago."

The words were said so calmly, as if she were discussing a student, or the weather. In surprise, Seifer's teacup missed his mouth, and spilled some tea on his dress shirt, and sat up, putting down his cup. Quistis put down hers as well, and grabbed a napkin and dabbed at the spot, but he took her wrist in his hands. The napkin was forgotten and fell to the floor. His hands moved to clasp her hands, and he now looked in her eyes. He was surprised to find so much emotion, so much passion in them, and something in his heart swelled so much that he felt nothing but his heart, and his heartbeat was painfully loud, pounding in his ears. Sensation returned to his body as he felt his hands being clasped in return by Quistis's.

She saw the amazed look of wonderment in his face…and felt free. Deliriously young happy free. The kind that chased fireflies, drank cherry soda, and danced in empty ballrooms among the refracted rainbows from a sun-struck chandelier.

She threw caution into the wind and laughed, startling him. Surprise was a look that suited his features. It made him look quite adorable, actually. "Didn't think that would ever happen, huh?" she said. "Well you probably don't know what's going to happen next either."

Sure of herself, she slipped herself into his lap, put his arms around him, felt his arms quickly and firmly encompass her. She sighed in contentment at his action, and was about to kiss him when he put one of his fingers on her lips. "I just want to make one thing clear," he said, that familiar look of complaisance on his face.

She looked at him through her long lashes. Her eyes were dark with happiness…and desire. She waited expectantly.

He smiled his lazy, condescending, cocky smile. "You may have done all this, and I have to say bravo…but remember: I said it first."

She laughed now, and he got another first in, as he caught her lips in the first kiss they'd ever shared.

*-*-*-*

"Wake up, Sleeping Beauty…"

The words were smiling, teasing words, uttered close to his ear, on purpose to brush full lips against the shell. Seifer smiled and rolled over in his sleep and reached out…

To meet air.

"Breakfast isn't good cold…" she warned.

He opened one eye, and saw his wife's figure standing beside the bed, framed by the sunlight of the window. She was wearing his dress shirt from yesterday night, held closed by only a few buttons…and he could tell she didn't wear anything underneath. Her hair haphazardly pulled up, disheveled. He loved it.

"Mmmm…" he sighed.

"Morning."

"Mmmm…"

"I uh…gave Griftly the day off yesterday…so I figured I ought to prepare breakfast…" she gestured to the tray at the bed stand.

"Mmm…" he sat up in the bed, allowing for the bedsheet to fall to his lap, revealing his beautiful chest. She marveled at the movements of his muscles as he stretched to yawn, the beautiful soft gold hair standing every which way that she knew that she had a part in messing up, and the lazy, lovely expression in his eyes.

"So…"

"Mmm…?"

"You know, I've heard that most guys usually have more to say in the morning," Quistis mused thoughtfully, as she sat down on the mattress.

"Mmm…" he said…considering her.

Before she knew it, she was trapped under his body, and he was tossing the shirt over her head, and taking her hair down. Her wrists were shackled in his grip, up at both sides of her face, and he was kissing her arms. "Seifer…the food!"

"We have a microwave…" he said, before kissing up her shoulder, and nuzzling her neck.

For a while, she thought to protest, but he just felt so good. She buried her face into that corner, her favorite corner, where his neck met his shoulder, and inhaled that scent that marked Him in her mind and heart. "Mmmm…" she purred.

"Exactly," he said, taking her mouth in his.

*-*-*-*

"You're not taking the position?"

The last vestiges of a sunset were the only light in the room. The couple huddled together on the bed they had spent an entire day on, catching up on the last year or so of angst. He sat up at the headboard, and she lay curled up to him, head in his lap. They now conversed lazily and slowly, him tracing soft meaningless patterns on her back, her tracing his marvelous chest.

"Need a break from politics…" Seifer stroked her hair, holding her body closer to his. Contentment suited him so very well. His smug smile tugged at her heart.

"But you do it so well…" she mumbled into his chest. She could hardly argue, though. She was delighted.

"Galbadia's so…nice now. I think I'll still help out some, like I used to. But I like excitement. If there's an interesting task that Gabby needs help on in the future, sure. But until then…well I have more than enough excitement in my life right now at Trabia, finally incurring those changes in the curriculum that I had no time for before, and of course dealing with the Headmaster, and all," he grinned down at her.

"You better believe it. I'm expecting a lot out of you, Instructor Deling. I assure you, just because you don't have to deal with Dollet anymore does not mean that you don't have to deal with a bitch…" she teased.

"Ah…but with you, well…I have more…leverage…" he smiled lazily, sinking down in the pillows, pulling her ready, eager body close to his.

She pretended indifference. "Leverage my ass!"

"I was hoping you were going to say that," he grinned rakishly.

She laughed outrageously loudly, and though she was probably stronger than she let on, sweet surrender was a charming not to mention faster way to get what she wanted. "You're going to pay for this…" she threatened before letting go all fight in her, having her threat smothered by his kiss.

"I love you," he said simply, undoing her completely.

"I love you too," was all she could get out in reply, before she was interrupted by her love and husband with a kiss.

The End