A twelve inch cigarette.

A long, white, glistening, strapless gown with a slit up the left side.

Dark colored wine.

Luscious red lipstick.

Ashelin Praxis sat alone at the bar, legs crossed, unintentionally making her already curvy body look even more seductive. She puffed out a bit of smoke and took a sip of her vintage wine, looking deep in thought. A saxophone played softly in the background of the dimly lit bar.

It was a party. The war had just ended and people were celebrating the return of their fathers, sons, uncles, cousins, brothers…and lovers.

She absentmindedly circled her finger around the glass of wine as she recalled the day they came home.

She remembered every detail about it.

It had only been a few days ago, after all.

It was a dark, cloudy afternoon. That was usually an ominous sign. Ashelin and Keira stood nervously, waiting at the train station along with a large, and strangely silent, group of women.

"I… wonder if they made it back…" Keira whispered quietly to her friend. There was obvious worry in her tone.

"Of course they did." Ashelin replied with uncharacteristic reassurance, though she too, was just as worried. Maybe she was trying to reassure herself as well.

After a long hour or so, a train pulled up and stopped in front of them. There was a simultaneous, silent gasp among the women at the station.

The door of the train opened and a young man, who looked more like a boy really, stepped out with searching eyes. In the distance a woman cried out, "LUKE!" He smiled and made his way over to her and embraced her tightly. "Mother…" he said.

More men came out and more women went to embrace them, each crying tears of relief and joy.

Ashelin's eyes were searching intently for a certain face, but her search was interrupted the voice of Keira.

"JAK! My Jak!"

Ashelin's eye's tore from the crowd and landed on her friend who was shoving passed other couples.

She threw herself at a handsome young man with blonde hair and started kissing him fervently.

She could see them with their foreheads pressed together and both of them were crying. Keira was saying something to him and he held her so tightly, Ashelin thought he was going to break her.

However, moments later, a tap on her shoulder diverted her attention. She turned around swiftly.

And there he was.

Her longtime friend.

Her absolutely, undeniably handsome, longtime friend.

Torn.

She felt tears forming in her eyes, but absolutely refused to let them spill.

"Well, hello there, stranger." She greeted, trying, as subtly as possible, to blink away her unspilt tears.

He closed his eyes briefly, smiled and nodded.

"Glad to see you're back in one piece." She said, rubbing her upper arm. She had this unbearably strong desire to jump into his arms and kiss him so passionately, he wouldn't be able to breathe. She wanted to say, "I love you," to him over and over again and tell him how much she missed him.

She did not, however.

After all…

They were only friends.

Though, the next thing that happened made her realize that rude people can actually be of good use in the world.

Someone had become overly excited and pushed Torn, causing him to lose his balance. Ashelin took this opportunity to catch him in an embrace.

"Oh, sorry." He said to her, putting his hands on her shoulders to stand properly. However, she did not let him go.

"Torn, I missed you so much…" she said, feeling that Marforsaken tear make its way down her face.

He was a little stiff at first, but then softened and returned her hug by moving his hands to her upper back.

"I've missed you too, Ashelin." He replied.

The hug was slightly impersonal, but at the moment, she didn't care in the least.

He was really there, alive.

She held proof in her arms.

He tilted his head to look at her and chuckled slightly.

"My my, Ashelin. Since when have you been so emotional?"

She smiled and reluctantly released him to wipe her tear.

"Good question…" She replied, sniffling.

He smiled and reached for the inside of his coat.

"Here," he said, giving her a handkerchief.

"Thanks." She took it gratefully and wiped the top of her cupid's bow. She folded it over and was about to hand it back to him when she noticed the design(1) on it.

"Hey," she said, bringing it closer to her face to examine it. This is the one I gave you on your 22nd birthday… I can't believe you still have it."

He smiled sheepishly and shrugged a bit.

"I… I like it."

She was about to say something back to him when the voice of Jak interrupted her.

"Hey, Ashelin. Good to see you." They shared a brief hug.

"Welcome home, Jak." She said as Keira hooked her hand around his arm and smiled.

"Let's get outta here," she said," before we get trampled any more.

Ashelin was brought back to reality as a loud voice addressed her.

"Hey there, pretty lady." She turned slightly to her left and saw a much older, probably in his mid 40's, drunken looking man she did not recognize. "How 'bout you and me get outta here and have some fun." He suggested, taking another large swig of beer from the bottle he was holding.

Her eyebrows knitted together and she blew a puff of smoke in his face, which caused him to cough almost violently.

"I'm not interested in men like you." She replied curtly.

He leaned his elbow on the table close to her. His breath smelled repulsive.

"Aw, c'mon, baby, don't be like that." He slurred. She was about to retort when a rough hand appeared on his shoulder.

"Excuse me, sir," a familiar voice said behind him. He turned around and saw a man with slicked back red hair. A tiny smirk formed on Ashelin's face. "I believe the lady said she wasn't interested." The drunken man rolled his eyes.

"Excuse me, sir but I believe this aint any of your business."

Torn's eyes grew intense. "Look buddy," he said, grabbing the man's collar. "Either you leave her alone or your hangover won't be the only thing that'll hurt in the morning." Despite being drunk, he got the message.

"Okay, Precursours, I'll leave." He stood up and stumbled away. Torn shook his head lightly and looked over at Ashelin. He took notice of how nicely her dress had fixed itself so it was accidentally showing that lovely white garter she was wearing.

He whistled silently.

"Hello there, stranger." She greeted not noticing where his eyes had been. He moved his gaze to her face and blinked a few times before replying.

"Hello, Ashelin."

She smiled and patted the seat next to her, beckoning for him to sit down. He complied.

"You look beautiful." He said. She her smile grew slightly.

"Thank you. You don't look so bad yourself." She replied taking note of his slick black tux which accented the width of his shoulders quite well.

A young barmaid approached them. "Well hey there, honey, can I getcha anything?" she asked with a smile.

"Hey, Tess." He greeted. "Get me what she's havin', will ya?" He motioned to Ashelin.

"Sure thing." She left to go get his drink. They sat in a comfortable silence for a moment, listening to the soothing saxophone play in the background. Ashelin had grown tired of her cigarette and decided to put in out in the nearby ashtray. While she did so, Tess came back and gave Torn his drink.

"On the house, for ya, honey, as a homecoming gift." He smiled and thanked her.

"Here's to your safe return." Ashelin said, holding up her glass. He did so as well and they both drank.

Before they could say anything, their attention was drawn to a quiet moaning comming from behind Ashelin. Torn looked over her shoulder and turned quite red and quickly averted his eyes.

Curious as to what made him blush so much, she turned around as well.

She saw Jak and Keira, against the back wall, slightly, though not as well as they probably thought, being concealed by a curtain. He was hungrily kissing her neck and there was a slightly visible smirk on his face. She was sighing heavily in pleasure. He had her right hand pinned above her head with his. His left hand was slowly running up and down her right thigh, occasionally stoping to support the leg which was hitched up over his hip. Her back was arched, pressing her torso onto him and her left hand was slowly running from the middle of his upper back to his right hip.

Ashelin smirked and turned away.

"Perhaps we should give them some privacy." She suggested. Torn quickly agreed and they stood up to leave the bar.

Oo00oo00oo00oo00ooO

They had decided to go outside for some fresh air and were standing near a fountain.

It was a warm night, so it was comfortable. They had been silent for most of the time, then Torn broke it.

"Ashelin, will you walk with me? I… I have something I want to tell you…"

She was a bit surprised by this but agreed.

They had walked for about a minute to a secluded place where there was a beautiful view of the city. Lights dancing everywhere.

"Wow," Ashelin mused. "It's beautiful."

She turned to Torn waiting for his opinion, but he didn't meet her gaze nor did he say anything. He just walked forward and stood in front of the black fence that was there to prevent anyone from falling down the steep hill.

She stood a good 7 feet behind him as he leaned on it.

"Torn, what's the matter…?" She asked slowly. He didn't turn around, but started speaking.

"While I was out there," he started, "There were lots of things that made me think."

Although she knew he couldn't see her, she nodded for him to go on.

"There's a lot of hate in the world and some people kill other innocent people, even women and children… They kill kids, Ashe, without giving it a second thought."

She walked up and stood next to him.

"Torn…"

"And yet… despite all of the crap we saw, a lot of my comrades still had optimism. They talked about their sweethearts. The women they loved. Even Jak wouldn't stop talkin' about Keira. He even said he was gonna ask her to marry him."

Ashelin's eyebrows shot up and a tiny smile crept on her face.

"One thing that they all seemed to say was that they were glad that they had confessed their feelings to the girls they loved, because if they didn't, they might have died without their girls knowin'."

He took his hands off of the fence and put them in his pockets, straightening his posture.

"That's when I decided that, if I ever made it outta there alive, that's what I would do: tell the woman I love the most just how I feel about her."

Ashelin's heart stopped for a moment.

"Torn…?"

He turned to face her and looked her straight in the eye.

"Ashelin," he said almost breathlessly, never averting his intense gaze, "I love you."

Her breath hitched and she blinked.

"Wh…what?" He grabbed both of her hands and stepped closer, unintentionally teasing her with the tiny gap between them.

"I love you, Ashelin… Ever since… well, I can't remember when I started loving you, but I do, now."

Warm tears started forming in her eyes and her breath became uneven. Never in her life did she even dream of him saying that.

"Ashelin, you are my world. The most beautiful, smartest, most amazing, sexiest woman I've ever met. You're the reason I kept trying so hard to come home alive. I wouldn't have been able to move on if I died without telling you this."

Her tears spilt and she removed her hands from his and wrapped her arms around his neck in a tight embrace.

"Torn…" she whispered in his ear. His name sounded like the taste of honey coming from her. "I love you too."

She moved her head to face him and started to kiss him. He returned it, so roughly and passionately, it caused her to stumble back and grab onto the fence for support.

He slipped a hand around her waist to her lower back to supported her, bringing her closer to deepen the kiss further. A small, unintentional pleasured sound emanated from deep in her throat as their tongues lightly nudged each other.

Finally, they broke apart, gasping for air. She noticed a tear fall from his eyelashes. She smiled as he opened his eyes and stared at her lovingly.

"My my, Torn. Since when have you been so emotional?" She cupped his face with her left hand and wiped away his tear. He covered it with his right, smiling.

"Good question." He answered and swooped her up for another kiss.

I hope you enjoyed it.

Reviews are welcome, but I'm not going to beg.

Thanks for reading.

~Frae

A/N - The design on the hankerchief is the same one as the tatoo Torn has on his face in the game.