Disclaimer: Final Fantasy VII is the property of Square-Enix. No profit is sought from this work.

Notes: A love story told in fragments in a Medieval Fantasy AU.

Coutelier

Knife

"Well done, Sir Sephiroth," the young prince commended.

Sephiroth spared the younger Shinra a glance only because he wondered what fit of perversity had brought the prince down to the dungeons. True, the upper tunnels were well lit but the faint, far away howling belied the dank misery just beneath. Further down the hall, armor clinked and rattled as soldiers and guardsmen hauled the last of the day's conquests to the cells below.

"I do wonder," said the prince, "at your taking so many captives this time. There's hardly room enough for them all."

"Room enough in the mines," Sephiroth said as they rounded the corner, "or the fields or-" He slowed and watched a prisoner putting up a furious struggle with two guards.

Prince Rufus shot him an arch glare. "Or your bed?"

Sephiroth stared straight ahead because he could not safely glare at the prince. The guards had frozen where they stood though their grip on the prisoner did not falter. She tossed her head to get a mass of untidy curls out of her eyes. Eyes that were dark green and strikingly furious.

Sephiroth let his eyes rove once down her form and smirked at the prince. "Exactly so." He turned to the guards. "Have this one taken to my quarters. Unharmed, preferably, but see that she doesn't escape."

The girl went instantly pale then flushed as her high fury returned, but the guards hauled her away before she could spit at anyone.

-.-.-.-.-.-.-

"I won't let you!" That, and angry eyes met him at the door. Sephiroth snorted his disdain and sat to strip off his leathers. The girl took a few steps back. Sephiroth could tell she had something, one of his short practice weapons perhaps, hidden in the folds of her skirt.

"There was water," he said with a nod to the basin and ewer. "You could have washed."

"I'm not making this any easier for you!" the girl snapped.

"You certainly aren't," Sephiroth huffed. He pulled his thin shirt over his head without thinking, looking back over his shoulder when he heard the intake of breath. "Young lady, you couldn't stop me if I wanted to, and I don't. So why don't you just put that knife back where you found it and come eat something before you faint dead away?"

The girl twitched and the hilt of the knife was just visible. Of course. It had to be that one. "Just put it back where it belongs," Sephiroth said. "It was a token from a lady much dearer to me than you."

"If she was so dear to you, why am I here where she is not?"

Irritating. The girl was irritating. But she'd serve tolerably well for that. Sephiroth approached slowly and lashed out, grabbing her wrist before she could blink. He had half a mind to send her back to the dungeons, or even wring her neck and be done with it, never mind green eyes.

There was more though. Up close, beneath the dirt of the raid and the soot of castle dungeons, there was something in the curve of her cheek, the slant of her nose, the tilt of her brow. Green eyes. Sephiroth straightened, drawing away even as he twisted the knife in her grasp, deftly disarming her. He caught a whiff of her beneath the blood and dirt and even that sent a fragment of memory too vivid to bear.

"I won't take you," he said eventually, "and I have no intention of harming you in any way. I have a proposition for you. You can sit and eat and listen or you can take your chances with the guards below."

It was unkind to threaten a maid so and Sephiroth knew it, but it had the effect he needed. She inched closer to the table, eyes on him and skittish as a doe. She sat where he indicated and let him slide the laden tray over.

"Eat," he said.