written, I think, for Goldenlake's Peculiar Pairings Ficathon from last year.

I. (I like) the (way you look at me)

His eyes scorch her head to foot.

"When did you change?"

She turns her head, her hair moving more than her head. Questioning lips part. "Into what?"

"A woman," he says, eyes following the line of her neck down to her breasts. "You know."

She takes a slow breath. "I suppose that it depends on how long it takes someone to see it."

II. (The best laid plans) of (men)

"You're commanding a unit side by side with me,"

She looks down at the map of Tortall, at the regions his blunt fingers have indicated. "Are you sure that this is the best place to put me?"

Those fingers brush hers for a moment. "I have faith in you, even if you do not have faith in yourself."

The corners of her mouth uptick for a second. "Thank you."

III. (I want) to (do bad things with you)

They are so close that her breath blows out across his face as she speaks; they are eye to eye.

"We're not supposed to."

Strong hands grip her shoulders. "For once," he says, "I don't give a damn."

Her chest pushes up against him as she inhales.

"Then I don't care either."

IV. (I want you so bad) and (what do we do now)

Her nimble and scarred hands are unlacing his shirt slowly.

"People are going to notice things," she says.

"Don't point out the obvious," he works on her belted tunic- dresses are much more practical for this sort of thing, they can be pushed up.

"We can- mmm- be careful."

She is warm and solid and real beneath his hands. "Of course. Careful and subtle."

"I like that."

V. (It's only) a (short fling)

"We have to stop." She is wearing her knight gear, loose shirt and tunic, breeches and boots, and most likely sensible underthings. "I cannot convince myself what we are doing is right."

"Then what is it? Temporary insanity?"

She shakes her head. "Battle fever?"

"The war is ending." His palms, flat on the desk. "I- don't know."

"Neither do I," she admits. "So can you just be kissing me right now?"

VI. (I want to be) in (all of you)

"Meet me in my office," he says as he passes her. "We have supply lists to go over."

She nods, wondering how many lists will get approved by the end of the day and how many will go unread.

It is quick, not that she minds, the lock on his door is looser than it ought to be.

VII. (Okay so) is (this a thing)

"What are we?" he asks as he traces the contours of her stomach muscles.

"Something," she replies. "Keep doing that, please."

"We're not lovers," a flat statement, but his hand only moves lower.

"We're not. We're something better." A sharp intake of breath. "Something else."

"Good," he continues on.

VIII. (I think) it (might be wrong or right)

"I- have a question," her face is flushed with embarrassment, something he never has seen. "Your- your wife?"

He is surprised she wants to know. "I married her because my father wanted me too."

"Oh," she comes closer. "I'm sorry."

"It's fine. I have you."

That was unexpected. "You're not supposed to say that."

"I've done lots of things I'm not supposed to do recently."

She pulls him straight over the desk by his shirt collar.

IX. (I love) you (and all that entails)

"How do you do this to me?" He speaks with a wondering tone. "It's so-"

"Unexplainable?" she offers, he chuckles warmly in response.

"Yes. I don't mind, though."

She smiles full-out. "Good," and she holds him to her loosely, her hands wandering low. "I don't mind either."

X. (And all) that (entails)

"I can't marry you, you know," he tells her while he holds her late one night, or is it early one morning?
"I've never wanted that," she says. "I've known that."

"I'd like to marry you," he confesses. "Someday."

She shakes her head. "I thank you. But we couldn't ever-" He sighs so deeply she feels it.

"I know. I only wanted you to know I would, if I could."

XI. (You are) he (and it scares me)

She always comes with an intensity that surprises him and excites him, and as they lie there she speaks, the words coming from low in her throat.

"Let's stay here as long as we can, please."

"That's fine with me."

"Good. Because I-" he clasps her hand, tugs her closer.

"I know."

XII. (He) was (the first)

"Am I hurting you?"

Her brow wrinkles. "No! Well, a little."

"I didn't mean to."

She bites her lip and nods. "I know. Don't worry."

"My wife was a virgin, but that was long ago and-"

She raises an eyebrow. "Is it appropriate for you to talk about your wife right now?"

He flushes. "Oh. No. My apologies."

"Right. You can- proceed- is that the right phrasing- ohh."

XIII. (It is all) for (you)

He cannot give her gifts, although he tries.

"Someone will ask where it came from," she protests, pushing his hand away. "You know that. I'm not one for buying jewelry."

"I didn't think of that," he admits.

"It's fine. Thank you. I appreciate the intent."

"Don't be chilly," he says. "It's only a necklace."

"No, it's not." Here, she is level as always. "It's more."

XIV. (I want to be) on (top of you)

"You constantly impress me," he leans closer to whisper at her. "You have been doing that for years."

She smiles, but it is very quick and possibly insincere. "That's me," she says, falsely modest. "Impressing."

His hands trail down her sides, come back up to cup her breasts. "Always."

XV. (You) are (meaning too much)

"We have to stop," she says, breath icy in the autumn air.

"Your reasons?" he asks, his face showing nothing of his feelings, more Yamani than even her.

"I can't keep sleeping with my commander."

"Your problem," he says, "is that you have too much honor."

She looks straight at him. "I always thought that you and I were equal in that respect."

XVI. (I cannot stop) being (with you)

She finds him, as always, in his office.

"Take off you shirt, please."

"How polite," he breathes, doing as she says while she locks the door. She walks back and straddles his, moving as provocatively as she knows how.

"I can live without honor," she says, "at least for a little while."

XVII. (I am you) as (you are me)

"I always think clearer," she murmurs, "when we're apart."

"I know the feeling," he smiles down at her.

"And that's why we have to stop," she says. "You said it yourself- I might get all the men I'm leading killed one night because I'm only thinking of you."

"Don't throw that back at me," he says, and grabs her. "Don't do that."

XVIII. (Hello) I (love you, won't you tell me your name)

He gathers up the few things he had left in her rooms, inconspicuous, forgettable things.

Soon his rooms, and his office, will stop smelling of her, and stop smelling of hair and sex and sweat.

"It's for the best," she says. "We have to be strangers now."

"We were never strangers," he retorts.

XIX. (I was never) his (I wish)

She is gone, and he is the worse for it. She has always been practical, and he knows she is right, but deep down he hopes that she is wrong. He thought he had quashed that part of him years ago, but she managed to make it root and sprout.

He doesn't hear of her taking up with anyone else. He is extremely pleased.

XX. They

"I loved you," she tells him after they part.

"I know," he says heavily. "I know."

A moment passes.

"I'm sorry," she doesn't know what she is apologizing for. "I'm sorry I can't talk to you anymore."

He touches her face briefly. "Keladry," he says. "It's all right."