Seifer was bored. No missions that required his expertise – or temper – had shown up on Squall's desk. The training center offered no challenges; since the Grats and T-rexaurs were kept in the confines of the compound, they did not evolve like their counterparts in the real world. He should mention that to Squall. SeeDs in training weren't going to get better when all they had to train with were the predictable battles of the same monsters over and over again and seasoned SeeD vets could take out the Grats with one un-Junctioned weapon strike, and a T-Rexaur with maybe three. Well…he could anyway.

He'd been back to the music room, had swiped the latest tape from his mystery singer, and had listened, enthralled. But that's all it was. Other preoccupations kept surfacing in his mind, and what he would like to do with and to that preoccupation was far more stimulating at this point. These thoughts only resulted in a very unsatisfied Seifer and any attempt to anything else was dampened by the frustration. In other words, he was not feeling musically inclined.

And obviously, it was someone else's fault. Even more unfortunately, no one appeared to want to be the target of that frustration and Seifer was left being bored. Which did nothing to alleviate his aggravation.

"Hey Seifer."

Seifer's head shot up, his eyes moving from the tiled floor he'd been studying to focus on the approaching man, his grip on Hyperion tightening.

The cowboy slowed to a stroll as he took in the blond's expression. Every line on his face, every position of his body, the expression in Seifer's eyes made Irvine think predator. He wasn't so sure he liked being considered prey. Wisely, he stopped a few feet away and Seifer's face spread into a smirk, acknowledging the distance.

Ignoring the urge to turn tail and find a different – longer – way to the music room, Irvine hefted his guitar and gestured with his free hand to it. "I'm heading to the music room to practice for the wedding." He didn't need to specify whose. "Wanna come and play around on yours? I never see you with it."

Well that meant Irvine didn't know about his almost daily trips to that room and if Irvine didn't know, no one else did either. Irvine knew everything, especially because he was dating Selphie. And if Selphie knew, then EVERYONE knew; keeping secrets was not her forte. Interesting. Seifer would have thought that at least the Garden Faculty would have noticed his consistency. Then he considered. No, the Garden Faculty members were too stupid to notice anything that didn't involve money.

Realizing Irvine still waited for an answer, Seifer released Hyperion's handle and nodded. It was better than standing here brooding…not brooding, thinking, he corrected himself. "Yeah." He reached into his pocket and pulled out his room's key card, then handed it to Irvine. "My guitar is in my closet."

"And I have to get it, why?" Irvine raised his eyebrows.

"I've got a reputation to uphold. I can't be seen doing anything wimpy, like playing guitar," Seifer turned to leave, smirk in place.

Irvine rolled his indigo eyes, and jabbed the brim of his ever-present hat back. "You know, most gals think guys who play guitar are sexy, not wimpy."

"I don't want most," Seifer muttered, and Irvine leaned forward in interest.


Seifer looked at him, and Irvine was sure he saw something fascinatingly un-Seiferlike in his green eyes, but then it was gone. "Yeah, I want all!" He laughed and Irvine was sure he'd imagined it. "I'll meet you there in ten minutes, gonna grab some food."

Auburn ponytail swinging in time, Irvine shook his head, but turned toward the dorms. A wide grin spread across his face and he whipped his hat off his head, bowing low. "Quisty." A sudden movement behind him caught his attention, and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Seifer had stopped and turned around, green eyes focused on the blond woman only a few feet away. Now that's interesting, he thought to himself, before returning his attention to Quistis.

She stopped in front of him and smiled, but Irvine noted her blue eyes straying to the man behind him, before coming back to him. Veeeeeeery interesting. He smiled knowingly and watched her back get straighter, if that was possible. "Wanna come practice for the wedding?"

Her eyes flickered to Seifer, and back to him, before she shook her head. "I have paperwork I have to get to Squall. Maybe another time." She didn't start moving though. Neither did Seifer. Vaguely, Irvine wondered if Selphie knew anything about this, before shaking his head. No, he would have heard about it by now if she did. He grinned inwardly. Boy did he have news for his lady!

"Right…another time." With another bow and salute, he moved off toward the dorms, leaving Quistis and Seifer alone. Even he knew when to take a hint.

Seifer knew the exact moment Irvine disappeared out of sight, and with a quick look around the deserted hallway, crossed to Quistis and pulled her into his arms, his lips crushing hers as the past few days of frustrations threatened to boil over. Her hands instinctively rose to push against his chest, but somehow her fingers curled into his shirt fabric and held it tight. His arms tightened around her, relishing the feel of her body against his, even through the layers of multitude of fabrics, but his eyes remained open as he watched her lose herself in the kiss. Something moved inside of him, something he didn't want to identify and he broke the kiss abruptly, watched her eyelids flutter open, saw the confusion and excitement in the blue depths, and felt his temper rise in response to the swelling in his chest.

Sensing it, she took a step back and eyed him warily, unsure of what she'd done to piss him off this time.

"What are you doing to me!" he spat accusingly.

The tone had her stiffening and she folded her arms. If a fight was what he wanted, she was more than willing to oblige. Knowing it would infuriate him, she kept her voice low and calm. "Me? You're the one who did the accosting."

Seifer threw out his hands, before pointing at her. "I didn't see you resisting."

She couldn't very well deny that, so she opted for reason. "No." Quistis tilted her head, her blue eyes amused. "Should I have been?" She hadn't resisted a few nights ago either, but that hadn't pissed him off. That had…been fire of another kind.

"YES!" Seifer exploded. He took a turn around the hallway, while she watched from her same spot. He didn't want this. He just wanted a romp between the sheets with some gorgeous…blond…blue-eyed…tall…With a groan, he swung back toward her, gave her another searing kiss, and rampaged around the hallway once more. He didn't want this. Didn't he already have enough problems with Clasyl in the picture? What was it with these self-possessed sexy women throwing themselves at him? How was a guy supposed to withstand the urges? It was too much to ask of one simple human male!

Unsure of whether or not she was actually part of the argument going on in that hallway, Quistis touched her fingers to her lips, still feeling the sizzle from his, then dropped her arms to her sides. What had happened to the Seifer from that night in Balamb only a few days ago? There was no resemblance between that Seifer and the one who was prowling the same ten feet around her again and again. Other than the effect he was having on her body.

He continued stomping around, his muttering too low for her to hear, but the jade fire looks he kept giving her spoke volumes. Her eyes narrowed as she felt her own temper rise and she struggled to quell any number of unhelpful insults that made their way to the tip of her tongue. He wanted to rant and rage, that was just fine. Just fine. But that didn't mean she had to be a punching – kissing – bag for him either. She didn't ask for this, after all; he was the one who wanted a kiss after she lost in the training center. He was the one who showed up at her private place in Balamb Harbor and kissed her. He started this whole thing. The last thing she needed was another male interested only his most primitive urges, even if she was enjoying the sensations. Obviously, though, he wasn't happy about it and she was not going to stick around to be hurt and humiliated once again because he was angry at her over nothing she'd done.

"I have paperwork," she told him, nose in the air, eyes frosty. "If you'll excuse me."

Seifer stopped and stared at her. She was going on to do paperwork after this? Icy bitch! No, she wasn't, he corrected. Anything but icy. Feisty didn't describe her though either. Yeah, she was a bitch, but…that was kind of hot; kept things interesting. What in the name of Hyne was going on inside him? "Yeah," he finally said.

That was it? Yeah? Quistis stood in her spot, dumbfounded, before gathering her dignity, and striding away. The hand on her arm stopped her a moment later, and she spun to face him, intent on giving him a piece of her mind, but the look on his face stopped her and whatever she was going to say fell into a void of green.

He looked…vulnerable. Troubled. Unthinking, she raised her hand to his cheek, and his other hand caught it and held it there, jade eyes locked on her own eyes. They stood like that a moment, before he slowly turned his head and kissed the palm of her hand. Fire danced over her nerves and she shuddered at the sensation, but she didn't look away.


The fact that he asked left her speechless. This wasn't demanding, this wasn't rough, this wasn't arrogant. Unable to look away, she nodded slowly and just as slowly, he released her hand. Internally rocked, temper squashed to nothingness, she walked away, the hand that he'd kissed curled into a fist as though keeping the imprint captive.

Seifer watched her go.


Flushed to the point where her skin matched her hair, Clasyl's fingernails dug into her palms, leaving crescent-shaped imprints. How dare she! She scowled at the now empty hallway where Quistis had thrown herself at Seifer. And Seifer! Men were so predictable. Give them a willing body, it didn't even matter! But as soon as they get bored, they just toss the body aside. Bastards.

Clasyl reached into her pocket and squeezed the master keycard she'd pilfered from the very concerned Dr. Kadowaki an hour earlier, when she'd suffered a "fainting spell". How convenient and timely it had been to happen across Seifer's and Quistis' encounter; this meant she and Eric could put their little scheme into action even sooner. As soon as tonight. And Seifer would be hers again, with the blond bitch out of the way!

She allowed herself a smug smile, before schooling it into the helpless, pretty pout she'd perfected as her normal expression, as she made her way towards the keycard activated phones in the lobby. Quickly she dialed a number and at the greeting on the other hand, she smiled wickedly. "Hello, Eric."


Seifer fumed as he walked – more like stalked – toward the music room, too bewildered to care that people might see him enter the wimp place. What had set him off like that? He'd just looked at her and his whole body had erupted; he'd chalked it up to not seeing her for a few days after that night in Balamb, but that first kiss he laid on her should have solved it and it hadn't! It just made the feelings worse and he really didn't like the turmoil his insides were undergoing.

He stopped, eyes glittering, hand on the music room doorknob and stared at the ceiling. But she could have prevented it too; she didn't have to kiss him back. This was just as much her fault as it was his. Even more so, because she was female and they were supposed to have more willpower. Yet she'd just melted against him…he really liked the way she felt, all long and lean and…Spitting out a curse, he plowed a fist into the wall, then examined the slight dent, before leaning against the wall. Well, Almasy, she did nod when you asked her about tonight. You'll just get it all out of your system and she'll get it out of hers and it'll be fine! It's probably all the tension from so many years of pissing each other off…and, he had to admit, a sexual resolution was far more fun than a violent one. Feeling a little better, he let himself inside and shut the door behind him.

Irvine looked up from tuning his guitar and said mildly," Yours is tuned already." The simple words spoke volumes, but Seifer shrugged nonchalantly.

"Easier to keep it that way, so I don't have to mess with it if I ever feel like actually playing the thing." At Irvine's noncommittal grunt, Seifer took a seat on one of the stools Irvine pulled up to the piano and pulled out his guitar.

Irvine watched him from beneath his lashes as he matched his guitar strings' pitches to the piano, and the gentleness and expertise with which Seifer handled his guitar didn't escape his notice, just as the tuned strings hadn't, just as the tension between Seifer and Quistis Trepe hadn't. Irvine noticed a lot; part of the benefits of being so laid-back that everyone else just thought you were flighty and a dreamer. Those close to him knew better. Irvine was the one you put on covert operations, his expertise with a gun not withstanding. Rather it was the way he gathered information about people, simply by pretending not to pay attention. But he wasn't going to say anything to Seifer about his observations. At least not at this particular moment in time.

He played the first few chords of "Eyes on Me", before looking up at Seifer. "You know it?"

Seifer shook his head and studied the sheet music, then snorted. "Only a woman could come up with this stuff." He played the first few chords anyway. "Isn't this supposed to be a duet?"

"Yeah, with the piano," Irvine paused. "Quisty is playing that part." He gave Seifer full marks for not blinking an eyelash, but the quick blaze in his eyes said enough.

"Who's singing it?"

"No one," Irvine reached out and flattened the music against the music stand. "Just going to be background."

Seifer's brow furrowed. "I don't like the stuff, but it seems like it needs the lyrics." Catching Irvine's quizzical gaze, he shrugged. "Just saying. It loses something without that musical line."

"Mmmhmm." Seifer the musical wimp, Irvine thought in amusement. No one would ever call anything Seifer Almasy did wimpy; at least, not if they wanted to live. He let the thought die away. No need to press that point.

They began to play, Irvine on the guitar part, Seifer switching between chords and the vocal melody. It wasn't that difficult to play, and Seifer wondered idly why Irvine even bothered to practice it, but as he noted the cowboy's expression, the wonder faded. Maybe he just needed to lose himself in music from time to time. Seifer couldn't think of any person who didn't need to do that on occasion. Well, with the exception of Clasyl; she didn't like anything that took attention away from her. That's why he'd broken up with her after all. She was a princess and he had no patience for princesses.

Coming to the end of the piece, he followed Irvine's lead as the cowboy began to slow down and the last chord faded to nothingness. "I guess it isn't too bad," Seifer admitted and Irvine flashed him a grin.

"Sounds better with you playing the vocal line though, than it would with just the piano and guitar in the background. Maybe you could -."

Seifer cut him off. "No."

Unwilling to press the issue, Irvine raised a hand. "Just an idea, since it is for your friends' wedding." With a pointed look, he rose and began to pack his guitar into its case.

The blond man groaned, following Irvine's lead with the guitar. "No guilt, please, I've had plenty of that, I don't need anymore. It's a pain in the ass."

Figuring that was the best opening he was going to get, Irvine picked up his guitar case's handle and waited until Seifer's eyes met his. "The guilt and pain you've experienced up till now will be nothing to the pain and guilt I will put you through, if you hurt her."

Seifer stiffened, but he didn't pretend not to know who the "her" Irvine was referring to was. "Is that a threat?" he asked softly.

"No, it's a promise." Irvine tipped his hat. "Forgive the cliché." Deciding that was enough, Irvine left the room.

Seifer plopped down on his recently vacated stool and stared at the door. "How the hell did he know?" he wondered aloud. And who the hell is he to threaten me? I've known her just as long as he has! We're both adults, we know what we're doing.

But Seifer had to admit Irvine's threat wasn't a hollow one; he had very good aim and, despite the mellow exterior, wasn't afraid to act on his emotions. "Besides," he smirked," hurting Quistis Trepe is not what I have in mind. And we both know what we want." Now why didn't he want to examine that notion too closely? Because you know there's more to it than that, Seifer, you just don't know why, his heart nagged.

Shaking his head, he slid his tape into the recorder, then stared at it. Why was he still exchanging tapes with this mystery woman? After all, he was about get some from Quistis Trepe, every living breathing male's fantasy, why did he need some faceless girl's voice? Angry at the thought, he slammed a fist into the piano bench, and rested his head against the piano as a little voice inside him annoyingly informed him that he had too much respect – obviously it was only respect, nothing else – for Quistis Trepe for it to be a one-night stand. Did she feel the same way? Seifer sighed. His conscience picked a helluva time to catch up with him when it came to women. No, just one woman in particular. But what did he feel for her? Not only was he not sure, he wasn't sure he wanted to know.

So what did it matter if he was still half in love with a voice on a tape? It's not like either of them knew who the other was, so neither of them could technically be betrayed by the other. And singing certainly wasn't a betrayal of any party. Satisfied with his logic, Seifer picked up his guitar and pressed record.

But he didn't play anything. He stared out the window at the setting sun which streaked the clouds with pinks and oranges. Betrayal wasn't what bothered him. What bothered him was that what he wanted wasn't necessarily what he wanted. And vice-versa. That made sense in some distant corner of his brain. He saw what Rinoa and Squall had together and he wanted it, but he didn't want the what they shared. He wanted love, some day, but Hyne, he wanted it to be interesting. Not complacent, but not forever at odds. Unspoken understandings and compassion, but a love that would push each partner's limits too and ultimately make them stronger together. He wanted to be part of a pair, but he didn't want to be thought of as a pair. Not like Squall and Rinoa. It was always Squall and Rinoa, always one and the other, and Seifer wanted to be an individual in a pair that complimented each other, but didn't require each other.

His mouth quirked up on one side. He didn't really want perfection, though that's what he was making it sound like. No, he just wanted someone to always make him feel…alive.

And he struck a chord. He knew what he would sing.

Someone to hold you too close,
Someone to hurt you too deep,
Someone to sit in your chair,
To ruin your sleep.

Someone to need you too much,
Someone to know you too well,
Someone to pull you up short
And put you through hell.

Someone you have to let in,
Someone whose feelings you spare,
Someone who, like it or not,
Will want you to share
A little, a lot.

Someone to crowd you with love,
Someone to force you to care,
Someone to make you come through,
Who'll always be there,
As frightened as you
Of being alive.

Somebody, hold me too close,
Somebody, hurt me too deep,
Somebody, sit in my chair
And ruin my sleep
And make me aware
Of being alive,
Being alive.

Somebody, need me too much,
Somebody, know me too well,
Somebody, pull me up short
And put me through hell
And give me support
For being alive,
Make me alive.

Make me confused,
Mock me with praise,
Let me be used,
Vary my days.
But alone is alone, not alive.

Somebody, crowd me with love,
Somebody, force me to care,
Somebody, make me come through,
I'll always be there,
As frightened as you,
To help us survive
Being alive.

Being alive.

Seifer stopped the recorder and stood, guitar in hand. He went to the window and leaned his forehead against the cool glass, eyes on the sunset. As much as he didn't want to admit it, he wanted the one person who'd occupied his thoughts during the whole of the song…and the past few days. She'd look gorgeous in the light and color of a sunset. Running his hand through his hair, he groaned, grabbed his guitar case, and left the room.

What was he going to do?


A/N: Well that was a long brief hiatus, wasn't it? Hopefully you all enjoyed the product! Only a couple more chapters left. I upped the rating to M just because of sexual innuendo/discussion, etc, but no, I'm not writing any scenes; just covering my bum! And I apologize if my characterization seems a little off, my break from the fandom has been very long, but hopefully it was still in tune. Just a little thank you to Ms. Starlight for keeping up with her brilliant writing and inspiring me to finish this, even four years later.

Thanks for reading and if you still feel so inclined, please review! -

Song: Being Alive from Company by Stephen Sondheim.