By Nicya

A gentle breeze ruffled the child's long, soft, strawberry-blonde hair as she watched the ocean and studied the waves. It was moments like this alone, when she had time to think, that she enjoyed so much. Perhaps it was her natural leadership abilities that gave her the courage to come out here, astray, from the others while they were playing war. However, at that time all that mattered was focusing on a decision that she had to make, and it had to be the right one. A soft sigh escaped her rose-colored lips and she pouted, dreading what would happen if she made the wrong choice, wanting nothing more then to stay with her friends here forever. But forever was such a long time, eternity stood for centuries and she didn't have centuries to grow up, she had to become a big kid and make adult decisions now. After all, the girl was at least one year older then most of the other children at Matron's orphanage.

Age never seemed to matter before, when she was playing and enjoying herself, bossing everyone around. Something was different now that she had a responsibility, though she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was that had changed. Maybe this was what it was like to be a teenager and think things through before just deciding on a whim. She had always wanted to grow up and be the oldest, even if Ellone already had that position among the others, she would always act like an elder sister, just the same.

The tide was peaceful to watch and the waves lapping up on shore were relaxing to listen to, it made her want to fall asleep then and there. That would most likely be the case if she didn't have so much on her mind. It seemed like so long ago that there was still ‘nap time' and Matron would put all of them to sleep, tucking them in. It made her reminisce of the long, quiet days when they all sat around talking on the beach and trying to get into trouble. They still did it, but everyone appeared to have grown up a bit, even Zell who was such a baby.

"Hey, Quisty, whatcha doin'?"

The child-like, boyish voice of Seifer from a few feet away startled her to say the least and she spun around to face the male with a devilish smirk on his face, holding something that resembled a firecracker.

"What do you want?"

"Aw, come play with us. We're gonna go set up some firecrackers down the beach and sneak out after Matron puts us to bed. Wanna come?"

"I dunno, I'm tired..."

"Please, come one, it'll be fun fighting with Squall and teasing Zell."

"That's not very nice, go away."

He sighed, his shoulders drooped, and his head lowered to the ground.

"Sorry..." The other child mumbled, beginning to walk away dejectedly, "I won't bug ya anymore."

Something about him looked so sad, kind of hurt. It made her feel a twinge of guilt as she watched him with a trembling lip. Cocking her head to the side, she studied his figure and admired how he was only wearing bathing suit shorts.

"Wait up!" Quisty called after him, finally working up the courage to shout.

He turned around with a smirk on his face and crossed his arms in front of his chest as if showing his superiority, which made her roll her eyes jokingly.

"Let's go, I wanna go push Squall in the water!"

She ran up beside him, kicking up sand behind her and splashing at the shore of the beach.

"Uhm...why do you wanna beat up Squall?" Her innocent, curious voice made him feel something different. He wasn't quite sure what the emotion was but he knew that it was her that made it pass through him.

"I dunno, because it's fun." Seifer mumbled a reply, scratching his head.

"Okay..." She thought about his response and narrowed her eyebrows in confusion.

The sun had almost set and it was getting a bit cold, she figured that Squall would be freezing from the icy water, it made her frown at his rival, "I don't think that he'll like that very much."

They strode on in silence for a while, her friend picked up a stick and began dragging it along the sand, then swishing it through the air, like a sword. She watched him play, trying to impress her, and couldn't resist smiling a bit when he stumbled on the fake weapon. Of course, even at that age he had a severe ‘potty-mouth' and cursed when he stumbled onto the sand, turning a bright shade of crimson as she struggled to cover up giggles.

"Oh yeah? You think Squall wouldn't like it? What about you?!" In a split second he had picked himself off the ground and came charging at the unsuspecting girl.

It wasn't long before he tackled her to the ground as they wrestled and she tried to get him off, to no avail because his grip was much stronger then hers. They rolled over and suddenly he had her pinned on the ground while she squirmed beneath him, still hell-bent on getting away. The water looked freezing, it had felt frigid on her feet even when it splashed, she didn't want to catch a cold all because of dumb Seifer and thought it was unfair that he was a better fighter.

With a growl, Quistis pushed him off and attempted to run away, only to find that his hand was locked around her ankle and she fell to the ground once again. It probably would have hurt, had the sand not cushioned her fall and so she didn't even get the wind knocked out of her. Having her down again gave him ample time to pull her back over to where the water had just begun to rise up to, and he held her down so that her hair was almost touching the liquid.

"Oh...please don't!" She cried, still trying to get away.

"Don't wanna swim, eh? Why not?"

"It's coooold!"

"But it'll be fun!" He protested, snickering as the water came up closer.

"You're the biggest bully I know, Seifer Almasy! I don't wanna swim! I don't like the water!"

"One day you're going to have to learn how to swim anyway, why not now? You NEVER come and play beachball with us because you're so scared."

"I'm gonna drown...get off..." She shivered and bit her lip as the water soaked her hair, almost getting into her eyes, "T-there's currents out there too! We're only allowed to play when Matron is around! We're gonna get in trouble if you don't stop."

"You're eight years old, Quisty. It's time that you swam!"

In an instant he had turned her over so that she was on top then, before she could get up, he rolled again so that she was on the bottom again and they were in the water. It was hard for her to fight back the tears that had begun to form in her eyes as she stared, petrified at the natural substance.

"I'm gonna hurt you Seifer!" It was a threat, yet it seemed so empty at the moment because she was so scared.

"Now all you've got to do is move your arms and legs." He demonstrated, slowly letting go and swimming alongside her.

"I wanna get out!" She mumbled, taking in a mouthful of water and gasping for air while trying to remain afloat.

"Woah! Sorry, calm down a sec!" He began to get worried, seeing her splashing around desperately.

"Seifer, I'm frightened!" She shouted, coughing and flailing her limbs.

"Hold on a minute! I'm gonna go get Matron!"

"No! She'll be..." She gurgled, "so angry! Don't leave me alone here!"

"But-" He tried to argue, stopping when he saw tears spilling down her already-wet cheeks.

Taking a deep breath, he dove underwater, fighting the current that had begun to tug them out, and swam towards her. The salt-water burned his eyes when he opened them under the sea, trying to find some part of her body to grab onto and drag out of the ocean. Meanwhile, she had inhaled another mouthful of the disgusting fluid and fought with all her might to breathe through the intense coughing. She couldn't even see Seifer now that he had disappeared and panic began to wash over her.

"Come back!" She shouted, frantically trying to keep her head above the water while looking around to search for her friend.

Foam blocked her view and sprayed all around when she struggled to float, now panting for air and shouting for help in desperate, but non-audible pleas because the solution was in her mouth, in her throat, all around her, bringing her down. It was an inanimate enemy that she was fighting, and the battle was an impossible to win. Only a few moments ago it seemed the most important thing in her life was to decide whether or not she would go with the family that wanted to adopt her, but now her very existence was at stake and she was trapped, all alone, drowning in an endless pool.

It was impossible not to let out a scream of pure terror upon feeling a heavy object close in around her neck and she was pulled back, though it felt more like she was being pulled down. Shrieking and fighting to stay alive against the monster that she could not see, the child kicked back, with all her force, and felt her foot connect with something soft. Under water bubbles rose to the surface and she could hear a loud noise, almost like a groan, however the persistent pulling did not stop, despite her best efforts.

This is it! I'm gonna die...all alone here...in the ocean...my worst fear...I don't wanna go all by myself. Elle, Squall, Selphie, Irvine...I'm sorry I won't be able to say goodbye! I don't even know how I would manage to do it if I was adopted from this place, it's my home and I wouldn't ever want to leave you guys behind. But now, things aren't the same...this is it...

The water slowly began to fill her lungs and she sputtered on it, finding it impossible to inhale any fresh air as her attacker head her in a headlock. Her vision became blurry, whether it was from tears, death approaching, or the painful water splashing into her eyes, was debatable. Yet, in her current state she had no time to worry about such small details because consternation struck every nerve of her body and the world began to spin as a hot flash of white light swept over her and she shouted, using her final breath to choke out a goodbye.

... Is this heaven? Where am I? What happened to all the water? I'm cold...


Seifer...stupid, stupid Seifer. No, he isn't stupid, he was just trying to help me.

"Please wake up! You can't die on me!" His voice sounded worried and she felt a presence, no, the feeling of something around her, holding her tightly as a sudden warmth came over her form.

I wanna go home and see everyone again. I wanna go set off fire crackers. Can I wake up now?

"I never wanted to hurt you, Quisty. You gotta get up!" He pleaded and she could feel a single drop of wetness on her cheek, that wasn't one of her own tears.

"I feel so tired..." She mumbled, before coughing and managing to slowly blink open her eyes. The world was hazy, foggy even, but it began to clear eventually as the dizziness and fear faded.

"Y-You're awake!!" Seifer practically shouted, hugging her even closer.

They were both lying on the sand together and he had her in a tight embrace. His eyes looked red and puffy, like he had been crying, and his face was so close to hers as they lay there. His breath felt hot against her as well as his body, however she didn't mind it that much.

"You saved me...?" Her eyes became wide with surprise as she questioned him and he nodded.

"I was worried that you would die out there and you didn't wanna be left alone..."

The sun had just disappeared on the horizon and the sky had begun to turn a beautiful orange hue as the first stars appeared, twinkling up in the heavens. They were well away from the water and she wasn't worried anymore because, for some reason, the feeling of him near to her was comforting. Not only did it make her perceive that she was safe, but there was another thing as well that she didn't know how to even begin to describe. The beauty that surrounded her, along with relief, made the girl smile and think about how she loved all of this. Everything about the orphanage -- it was her home and she belonged with her friends, not with a strange family that would take her away from everything that was familiar.

"Quisty..." Before she had a chance to focus her gaze on him, he leaned down, quickly, and pressed his lips on hers.

For a moment, she was in shock, then elation, finally confusion as he slowly pulled away and she licked her lips, taking in the salty but fresh taste from the ocean. It was awkward when he gazed deep in her eyes, wondering if she would push him away or just stay like that. The same questions were rushing through her mind, she wanted to slap him and yell at him to get off, feeling violated, however that was quickly replaced with happiness...a sense of longing. So, instead of shoving him away, she wrapped her arms around him and hugged Seifer close, silently thanking him for a first kiss and for trying to help her with a senseless phobia that she had.

They lay there, as the moon rose and the sky began to get dark, just comforting each other on the sand, and taking in the serenity of the whole setting. That night, playing with the others and setting off firecrackers, even worrying about getting in trouble, was far from their minds. All that mattered was that he was there with her, keeping her warm and she never wanted to leave.

~* The End *~