A/N: For my Canadian Girls.

Vindication

Prologue


It was wrong, damn it.

It was wrong and he could stop it, but he didn't want to. The instant she'd touched his cheek it was already too late for him to retreat. As selfish as it was, he missed her too much. What had led to this--the tiny cabin they'd been assigned to share on the ship? Too much reminiscing? Too much wine?

Probably all of it. But it didn't matter. He really didn't care how it happened. Not right now, at least.

Moments before, he'd stood there as if called to attention. In a soft voice that wavered between anguished and authoritative, he told her despite all that had happened in the past five years he still loved her and he always would, even though he knew she was promised to another.

She looked at him curiously and stepped closer. The nearer she moved, the more rigid his stance became. It was if she was holding his breath in her grasp, for he dared not to exhale as she placed an affectionate hand on the side of his face. A sigh, and then a whisper, "I know, Schwann. And I still love you."

He grit his teeth and fought against the words that tempted to break his emotionless expression.

She tilted her head, her thumb pushing gently on his chin in an attempt to force him to meet her gaze. "It's like buying a new shield. It's shiny and while it protects you, often you find yourself wishing for the one you grew up and trained with. That one is comfortable and it makes you feel secure."

He held his stance, fists clenched tightly at his sides. Her touch was burning his soul as he fought to stare beyond her. "So I am an old, rusty shield to you?"

"In the most respectful and tender sense," she answered, brushing a stray lock of his dark hair from his face.

At that, his visage softened and his eyes met hers, but he dared not move. Not with her this close.

She reached around his neck, her fingertips deftly teasing the fine hairs along the nape. "I've missed you."

"This is wrong," he whispered, his fists finally unfolding as he placed his hands on her shoulders. He did not push her back nor turn away. No, he just stood there, knowing that if he gave in to this it would only cause regret.

She slipped her arms down around his waist and rested her head on his chest. "Then, let it be wrong."

"Casey," her name fell from his lips plaintively, his brow furrowing in torment. He knew he couldn't trust himself.

Lifting her head, she tripped her lips across his, fighting the thin, taunt line he was forcing them to hold. And then, she murmured between hitched breaths. "I want you."

He was close to defeat. With a slight whimper, he parted his lips just enough for her to taste the warmth of his breath. No more.

If she was disappointed, she didn't show it. There were other ways, after all. She besieged his neck with flicks of her tongue in slow succession, wandering them towards his ear, each one warming his face and begging him to sin. When her lips found their destination, she nipped the lobe teasingly. "Schwann…"

A sigh of frustration slipped from him. Now she wasn't fighting fair; this was too much. She knew his weaknesses and she knew how to fully exploit them. It was coming time to surrender and worry about the consequences later. His eyes closed and he relaxed in her arms long enough to entwine a hand in her dusty blonde hair. Turning her chin towards him, his eyes slipped closed, posed to finally kiss her. "Are you sure?" he asked, each word anxiously trembling in the space between the two of them.

Her response was to claim his lips in an ardent, passionate kiss as her hands splayed wide against his chest, gripping his shirt and pulling him even closer.

After that, he resisted no more.