The first thing Sazh was vaguely aware of when he returned to consciousness was an arm draped across his back and a busty torso cradled in the crook of his arm.

The second thing was Vanille hovering over him, shaking him awake rather forcefully while repeatedly crying, "Wake up!" She then moved on to rouse Hope, who lay unconscious a few feet away.

Groggily, he sat up and shook his head to clear it.

"Look!" Vanille shouted as she kneeled beside him once more. And Sazh did indeed look- up the young girl's skirt before she hastily jumped up and ran. Unable to process whatever had Vanille in a frenzy and the sight of her center, Sazh shakily stumbled to a standing position and followed after her, yelling for her to wait. At least he could function enough to get the mechanics right.

The civilian airship pilot admired the girl's undying optimism and bravery, which could be easily misconstrued as unrelenting innocence and naïveté, respectively, as they charged into yet another battle against PSICOM Pantherons. He also admired her defensive stance, and the way she gripped her weapon with both hands.

Despite the struggle ahead, as well as the danger they were currently facing, Sazh found his thoughts drifting back to Vanille's body atop his, and the fact that she wore no undergarments beneath her skirt, as everything came full circle at last. Everything was crystal.

He had the hots for someone less than half his age.

"Gotta keep you kids safe, right?" Sazh chuckled nervously, as a reminder to them as well as to himself.

Kids.

"Glad that's over!" Vanille sighed as she glided away from the group, moaning tiredly as she collapsed to her knees. Sazh swallowed a lump the size of his baby chocobo (worrying briefly that the bird had flown into his mouth and he hadn't noticed) as the sounds hit his ears, traveling to his brain, and then shooting down through his body to the pit of his abdomen. He couldn't help but follow her; he was drawn to her youth like the evil, old witch from children's stories. Except that he wasn't a witch, and he wasn't evil.

But, damn it, he was old.

Vanille continued moaning, deep and airy, as she caught her breath, twisting around on the rock and stretching herself out for Sazh's wandering eyes to behold. Thankfully, she was oblivious to the effect she had on him. He wondered if she would squirm that way and make that much noise if he had been the cause of it.

"Woo, man, I'm beat," Sazh wheezed, casually plopping down beside the red-haired girl, stealing a glance at her body as Lightning stalked past. He was almost certain that the soldier had thrown him a disgusted look for eyebanging a teenager; then again, it could've been Sazh's own senile and guilty mind playing tricks on him.

"What? No break?"

The pilot reached out to Lightning uselessly as she moved by. She paused, and spoke over her shoulder, annoyed; "They're tracking us."

"I know that. I know that! But we aren't soldiers."

Lightning's face contorted as she contemplated his words. When she didn't respond, Sazh continued.

"We don't have your kind of stamina!"

"You've got enough to complain," she snapped back as she lost her last ounce of patience. Lightning turned from the party and marched away.

"Oh, that's- you- forget it!"

He threw his hands in anger and looked back at Vanille; she was sitting with one leg bent upward, so that her foot rested next to her hip. Her knees were parted ever so slightly, and her skirt was riding up rather raunchily on her thighs. She watched him curiously. Sazh pictured his knee between hers, forcing them open, his hands planted firmly on the sides of her waist. He quickly gulped and averted his gaze, hissing. He was hissing at his own demons, the ones that caused him to be turned on by a child, but he hoped that it would be interpreted as a result of his frustration with Lightning.

"I think, um," Hope approached them and tripped over his words. Instead of forming a proper sentence, he looked in the direction the soldier l'Cie had gone.

"I'd stick with her, if I were you," Sazh replied, gesturing, grateful for the momentary distraction. Hope nodded and bid them farewell before running off. Sazh's eyes followed the kid until he was out of sight, and then shook his head in disdain. This was crazy. Everything was crazy.

His reverie was broken by Vanille as she popped up and stood in front of him, loose and easy, her arms at her sides.

"Come on! Let's get going."

Sazh avoided her gaze, tilting his head to the right. Her optimism was cute, but their situation was hopeless; he wanted her to see that. At the same time, he couldn't bring himself to crush her spirits. He couldn't destroy something so… beautiful.

"Get going to where, exactly? The whole of Cocoon is against us. No matter how far we run… there's no escape. That l'Cie clock; it's still a-tickin'."

"There's still time," Vanille retaliated quietly. Sazh hadn't noticed how close she had moved to him; he could've reached out and touched her. But he wouldn't dare. She bent down to emphasize her point and Sazh's eyes fell to rest on her petal-pink top, which shifted buoyantly with the movement. Her face was inches from his now, close enough for him to feel the warmth radiating from her lips, and he imagined himself- ten years younger- attacking them with his own mouth, taking her right then and there on the Vile Peaks. Sazh felt his manhood twitch for the first time in a long time.

"You give up too easy, old man!"

Old man.

Ouch.

"I'm not giving up," he stated, still smarting but too proud to let it show. "There are some things that you just can't change."

Such as the age gap between them, or his persistent attraction to her, like a moth to a flame. It would destroy him. Consume him. Swallow him whole. Smash him to pieces.

Vanille is a kid. He said so himself. He should know better.

"A kid like you would not understand."

"Yeah, I'm a kid!" Vanille agreed sarcastically with a pout. Her lower lip protruded in a way that made Sazh want to take it between his teeth and elicit those delicious moans from her again. "I don't understand."

She turned her back to him and crossed her arms over her chest defiantly. Her furs swished with the motion, and Sazh envisioned the tips of each tiny little hair gently caressing her naked behind, which he (accidentally) knew for a fact was bare.

Was she flirting with him? Or was that simply wishful thinking? Perhaps she was actually angry with him for being stubborn. Sazh sighed and forced himself to rise.

Besides, as long as he was with her, he felt as if he could conquer anything.

"Well," he grunted. "I guess we can be fugitives together."

On the last syllable, he lost his footing, and fell into Vanille. His hand grazed her nude upper back and she squeaked, shuddering at the surprise contact. Sazh regained his composure and looked into her eyes, and Vanille could see the unspoken apology there. However, whether the apology was for his clumsiness or for something else concerning her, she couldn't be sure.

"You ready?" Sazh asked, finally breaking the silence. Vanille answered enthusiastically and began playfully pushing him towards the path that Hope and Lightning had taken previously. The middle-aged man laughed and allowed himself to be moved along, reveling in the feel of her small hands on his back and the feeling of being young again.