First Heart’s Day in Treno

By Talya Firedancer


Darkness was the constant companion of Treno, an ever-present cloak of velvety black.  The stars twinkled above its dim-lit streets like tiny lanterns.  If one went to the left, they blundered into the wealthy appointments of the upper crust.  If one went to the right, the seamy underside of Treno made itself apparent, and quickly.  The darkness and the immense class gap were two of the reasons Baku arranged for frequent Tantalus performances in this city of Treno.  Of course, the reason they billed on their posters was that the upper-class of Treno was best suited to appreciating the quality of a player’s troupe such as Tantalus.

Zidane Tribal stared up at the unchanging black of the sky as the Prima Vista sailed towards Treno and the skies around them turned blushing rose, then deepened to darkness.  He held his tail clutched in one fist, and sneaked a thumb into his mouth.

This was his third time performing in Treno, and the second time he was assisting Tantalus in the ‘covert’ aspect of their job.  Baku told him he did ‘innocent’ very well and he’d been very helpful on the last two jobs in Treno, and the three in Lindblum that Blank had mentored him for.

Zidane sucked on his thumb, looking around sidelong to make sure no one caught him.  As a boy of fourteen years, old enough to be useful to Tantalus and be a full member of a performing troupe, he should not be sucking his thumb.  Baku would smack his hand if he caught him at it, but Zidane found it comforting, despite his age.  There was something viscerally satisfying about curling his tongue around the ball of his thumb, plunging his mouth around the short length and sucking until it was pruny.

“Hey, cut that out.”

Blank’s hand thumped upside his head and with a ‘pop’ Zidane’s thumb came free of his mouth.  The boy blinked up at the older youth, one eye half-closed as he grimaced.  “What did ya do that for!?” he blared up at his older friend, both hands latching onto his tail now.

“You were sucking on your thumb, kid,” Blank told him matter-of-factly.

“Just ‘cause you’re eighteen doesn’t mean you can call me a kid, Blank,” Zidane tried to divert the subject.

Blank riveted him with a no-nonsense hazel eye that informed Zidane he wasn’t fooling anybody.  “You’re just lucky it was me and not Baku that caught you,” he said, putting both hands on the railing as the Prima Vista sailed to a majestic docking at the Treno airship mooring of the King mansion.  “Sucking your thumb like that’ll deform your teeth, if you keep it up.”

“That’s just an old spinster’s tale!” Zidane proclaimed scornfully, letting go of his tail and launching himself down the stairs to get a better view of Treno from the for’ard deck.  He tumbled head over heels near the bottom, but made a somersault out of it and regained his balance with the deft liquidity of a cat.

Baku’s sardonic applause rewarded his acrobatics as he approached the lower railing, head cocked.  “You always manage to land on your feet, kid,” Baku greeted him, a shaggy brow raised.  “Make sure you keep it up.”

“Of course!” The fourteen-year old thumped his chest, drawing himself up to his full – diminutive - height.  “That’s ‘cause Lady Luck really likes me, like most women do!”

Raucous laughter greeted this assertion from more than one member of Tantalus.  “Hear that?” Cinna looked around, “he’s already a great Marcus at his tender age!”

Marcus, their Tantalus brother named for Lord Avon’s famous romantic hero, looked over with vague interest then turned his attention back to the mooring procedures once he realized they were only teasing the kid again.

Zidane flushed, but held his ground.  “Well, at least all the girls say I’m cute!  It’s more than what Blank or Cinna gets!”

“Hey, don’t put me in the same class as Cinna!” Blank complained, vaulting over the railing above the for’ard deck and dropping lightly to his feet.  He crossed his arms.  “I’m way more dashing.  Besides, Zidane, they pat your head after they say you’re cute – just like an older sister would do.”

“So?” Zidane glowered.  “They think I’m cute.  And I have a winning personality.  And some day—”

“Yeah, yeah, and some day, you’ll split the seam of your britches, ‘cause you’re too big for ‘em,” Blank finished easily.

Zidane squawked with outrage.

Blank gave him a grin then moved past him, taking up a secondary position to supervise the docking.  King’s chatelaine was extremely picky about the docking procedures for the Prima Vista, absolutely convinced that a bunch of ‘hooligan theatre-troopers’ had no idea how to fly – or land – an airship.

“Speechless?” Baku rumbled, teasing.

Zidane twitched his nose and grabbed his tail in both hands again, to prevent a recurrence of thumb-sucking right in front of his foster-father.  “You said I’m not s’posed to talk back to my elders, so—”

Baku roared with laughter at that.  “Elders, my bleedin’ arse!  Blank, you hear that whipsmart comeback?”

“I heard,” Blank called back, not looking up from sighting a grappler mooring line.  “I’m ignoring him.”

Zidane grinned and flirted his tail.  “Like I’d ever let you ignore me, Blank!”

Baku was still quaking with the aftershocks of laughter.  “As if being out of earshot ever stopped ya from disrespecting yer elders, kid!”

Zidane shrugged thin shoulders.  No sense disputing the truth.

“Now,” Baku dropped a heavy hand onto his shoulder, humor worked out of his system, “you know what your part of the job in Treno is, right?”

Zidane nodded, shifted, and resisted the urge to pop his thumb back into his mouth.  “I’m a girl in the play,” he began the recitation, “and people will think of me as small, cute, and harmless.”  He stopped and cocked his head.  “They already think I’m cute and harmless.  Why do I have to play Felia?”

Baku thumped his head.  Gently – for him, at least.  “Don’t argue with me, boy.  Besides, if you don’t play it, we don’t have anyone for Felia’s part.”  A shaggy brow lifted.  “Unless you think Cinna could play a good girl?”

They both snorted with chuckles at that thought.

“And when the stealing part starts, I’m Blank’s cover,” Zidane continued, catching his tail in one hand again.  “Because I’m small and cute and I could get away with murder, but Blank looks like a street thug who would slit his own mother’s throat for a single gil...”  As he spoke he lifted his voice with each word, the better to ensure that the older youth would hear him, crystal clear.

“Hey, don’t lay it on too thick, okay kid?” Blank snapped, throwing an irritated look over one grafted shoulder.

“Okay.”  Zidane gave him the wide-eyed guileless look that caused girls to coo and fawn over him.

It just made Blank snort, and turn back to his work.

“And the third thing?” Baku prompted, drawing his attention back to him.

“Yeah, yeah...” Zidane turned back to the big man, letting go of his tail and spinning in a taut circle.  He caught himself before he lost his balance, and set one hand on the hilt of his belt dagger, managing to look tiny but feral.  “If we do get caught, and can’t talk our way out, I’m Blank’s back-up in a fight!”

Baku folded his big arms and gave him a nod.  “Very good.  Now that you’ve said all that, do you know all of Felia’s lines?”

Zidane straightened from his dashing pose, glared up at Baku, and scuffed a foot over the deck.  “You know just how to spoil my moments,” he complained.

He sprinted past the big man and took up a place by the railing, watching the Prima Vista glide to a gentle halt.  Beside him, Blank released the mooring chain and it exploded through the air, clamping onto one of the thick rings at King’s airship dock.  Pre-flight Treno had not possessed such specialties, of course, but the wealthier nobles had gone on a spree of remodeling to accommodate the Mist-powered airships.

“Bull’s-eye!” Blank cheered, pumping one arm in a victory gesture.

“Blank, lemmee try next time,” Zidane hung over the railing, tongue wedged in the corner of his mouth.  That looked cool.  And Blank hit the mooring ring every time.  Marcus missed sometimes.

“Not a chance, squirt,” Blank said cheerfully.  He grabbed Zidane’s tail and hauled him off the railing.

“Aa—aiou!!” Zidane protested, whipping his tail out of Blank’s hands and rubbing at the base.

“Aw, c’mon, that didn’t hurt,” Blank told him.  “You’re too old to be a baby.”

“It didn’t hurt,” Zidane blinked up at him, “but it feels kinda...funny.”  He wriggled and pressed his fingers gingerly around the base of his tail again.  It tingled.

“Oh?”  Blanks’ brows lifted so high that Zidane could actually see his eyes, gray and green-flecked hazel under dark brows.  The older boy swallowed whatever he was going to say and turned on one heel, heading for Marcus.

“H-Hey!”  Zidane was confused.  And he hated to be ignored.

“” Marcus sighted his own mooring chain, low brow creased in concentration.

“Hey, Marcus, you need a hand with that?” Blank offered.  “You know how the chatelaine is about docking at King’s.”

“Naw, thanks,” Marcus said absently, attention fixed on his task.  “Right...there!”  He released his chain.  On the other side of the ship, Cinna and Benero would be releasing the chains on the aft deck; all four chains were necessary to keep the Prima Vista firmly anchored in port.

The massive chain lashed out from the side of the ship.  With a resounding ‘clang’ it hit the mooring ring and clamped on.


The men on deck cheered Marcus, who flushed and rubbed a hand over his kerchiefed head.  Blank raised a fist in the victory sign.

Zidane sighed and scuffed his feet over the deck.  Just once, he’d like to show everyone – just once, he wished they’d stop treating him like a kid!  He knew some day he was going to be a skilled thief and warrior.  Some day... and, well, he wanted to start now!

“Hey.”  A hand clapped his shoulder and Zidane started, peering upwards.  Mou, he was so short.  Was he always going to be short?  Anyhow, who...

Oh. Blank.

“Next time, maybe we’ll let you take a crack at hitting the mooring ring, huh?” Blank angled a hazel eye at him, then grinned.  “Some place like the lower docks of Lindblum, where it won’t matter so much if you missed.”

Zidane was about to snap back that he didn’t need someone like Blank patronizing him and bit back the words.  It was harsh, and Blank didn’t deserve that return for his little kindness.  He admired Blank, looked up to him...even if he only admitted it to himself.  Their relationship thrived on conflict. least Blank had said ‘if’ he missed.

“Okay,” was all he said, instead.

A leather-gloved hand ruffled his hair, then Blank was moving off.

“All right, you laggards!” Baku was roaring.  “We’re docked!  Everyone knows what needs to be done – yes, even you, Zidane!”

Zidane squared his tiny shoulders in resignation.  Now that they were docked, it was his job to help Cinna in the boiler room.  He hated that; he got all sweaty and greasy.

“And once we’re in Treno,” Baku continued, “we’ll have several hours to play around before the performance at King’s.”

A cheer went up from the assembled men.  Zidane knew it was not only for the theft they’d get away with, but the taverns and various dives along the seedier side of Treno.  The men would arrow for those places as soon as docking chores were completed.

Hmm...this might not be all bad!  He’d always wanted to sneak into a tavern.


“Hold it right there.”  A heavy hand clamped onto the back of his shirt.

Zidane froze and squeaked in fright.

“Caught ya.”  Baku’s eyes gleamed down at him.  “Where d’ya think you’re going, huh?  Bar-hopping?  Gwahahaha!  Not a chance!”

“Grrr,” Zidane responded.  It was true, he’d been caught.

“Besides,” Baku gave his ruff a shake, “when did you think you were going to run through your lines?  Huh?  Five minutes before the curtain call?”

“Giku.”  Zidane grimaced.  It wasn’t that he didn’t take his role as Felia seriously...okay, okay, he didn’t take the part as seriously as he should.

“Blank!” Baku half-turned to shout, Zidane still dangling from his gloved grip.

Blank froze, one foot on the runway, cheerful whistle coming to a stop.  “Boss?” he said cautiously.

“Take the kid into the cargo room or your room or somethin’ and run through lines with him,” Baku ordered.

“B-Boss!” Blank stammered, dismay scrawled across his face.

“No arguments,” Baku said, tone steely.  “Can’t afford to have the kid slip up Felia’s lines.  Not playing the King family’s mansion, anyhow.”

“Kuso.” Zidane squirmed in Baku’s grip, face burning, resentment balled up like lead in his stomach.  This was the worst.

“All right, Boss,” Blank sighed.  The spring had gone out of his step as he walked back onto the Prima Vista.  ‘This is unfair’ was stamped unspoken on his features.

Zidane kicked out and struggled some more and finally Baku dropped him.

“Got it, kid?”  A hand thumped his head – gently.  “You’re runnin’ through Felia’s lines with Blank until you’ve got ‘em letter-perfect.”

“Kuso,” Zidane sniffed, much louder this time.  He glared up at Baku’s unrelenting visage, then at Blank’s expression of joylessness for the prospect.  “Kuso!”

Zidane dashed over to the pole on the Prima Vista’s for’ard deck, leaping for it and sliding down.  And down, and down.  He hit bottom with a ‘thud’ and pounded up the hall, heading for the tiny berth with barely enough room for one – his.  He heard the staccato of feet behind him and ignored it.  He was just an inconvenience to everyone, wasn’t he?  Just ‘the kid.’

He threw himself into the tiny berth and slammed the door behind him.  Fine, then – fine!  Nobody wanted him; he’d make himself scarce.  He buried his head under the pillow and a few hot tears spilled out before he clenched his teeth and held it in.

A knock came on the door.

Zidane tried to ignore it, grinding his fists into the pillow and hauling it more securely over his head.

The polite knocking turned into insistent pounding.

“Open up, Zidane, I know you’re there and I’m not goin’ away until you open this door!”

Blank’s voice.  Of course.  Well, Blank had to follow him; Baku had ordered him to, hadn’t he?

“Go ‘way!” Zidane snarled, dismayed by the little choke in his voice.  He dragged the pillow over his head again.

“You don’t listen, do you, Zidane?” Blank yelled, fist still thudding on the door.  “I’m not goin’ away – and I’ll break it down if I have to!”  A particularly alarming THUD reached his ears.

Zidane pushed his pillow away and sat up, blinking in the dim Treno light that came through his porthole.  He got up.

“All right,” he conceded in a small, surly voice.  “I’ll open the door.”  It wasn’t like he had a whole lot of choice, he added mentally, the lump of leaden resentment growing in his belly.

He unlatched it and with a push Blank swung the door open.  Blank was not tall for his eighteen years but suddenly he seemed to fill the tiny room, hazel eyes visible as he glared down at Zidane.

“Now, what’s that all about?” Blank’s voice was deceptively mild.

Zidane sniffed and rubbed his eyes with the back of one hand.  “Nothin’.”

“Come on, now,” Blank continued, “it won’t be so bad, running through your lines.  I’m sure you’ll have them down in no time.”

Zidane glared up at him, catching at his lashing tail and clutching it in his hands.  He was so woefully misunderstood.  “Great, so you can skip out to the taverns that much sooner!”  He flung himself onto his bunk again, popping his thumb into his mouth with a defiant flourish.

Blank started.  “Hey, what’s that supposed to mean?”

Zidane’s thumb popped out wetly.  “Oh, come on!” he said scornfully.  “I know you’d rather be out in Treno instead of getting stuck here babysitting the kid!  Anyone would!”

There was a pause.  Blank stared at him, not blinking.  Zidane glared back, biting down on his thumb to hold back the moisture pricking the corners of his eyes.

“So that’s it,” Blank said finally, slipping into the tiny berth and kneeling beside the bunk.

Zidane curled himself tighter, lashing tail communicating his state of mind.

“Hell, ki—Zidane,” Blank corrected himself, “I don’t blame you for getting pissed off.  And I may’ve looked pissed myself, at first.  But I don’t mind spending time with you and I don’t think it’s like babysitting.”  One hand patted his knee awkwardly.

“Honto?” Zidane sniffed ferociously.

“Honto ni,” Blank confirmed, patting the tail that had stilled across one leg.

“Okay.”  Zidane shifted and tumbled off his bunk into Blank’s arms.  He was a tactile creature and he loved getting hugs and other proofs of affection.

“Oof.”  Blank rocked back, and then muscled arms tightened around him.

Zidane was happy for the moment.  He wondered how long he could stretch this before he had to run through his lines as Felia.  His tail curled around him and thumped softly against Blank.


“Hmm?” he replied absently, balancing himself neatly on Blank’s knee.

“T-Zidane,” Blank sounded a bit strangled.

“What is it, Blank?”

“Urgh.”  Blank pushed him away, arm’s length.  “You need a shower.  Really badly.”  His nose wrinkled.

“Hidoi!” Zidane returned the grimace.

“Well, you do,” Blank rejoined.  “You’ve been working with Cinna in the boiler room.”

“Gee, how could you tell?” Zidane asked ingenuously.

Blank’s nose wrinkled again.  “Well, you stink.”

Zidane huffed and jumped off his knee.  He noted his tail had been twitching somewhere near the small of Blank’s back.  “Fine, I’ll go shower.”

“A nice thorough one,” Blank added, holding his nose as he got to his feet.  “Man, weren’t you planning on showering before going out into Treno?  Phew!”

Zidane stamped a foot.

“And meet me in the cargo room when you’re done,” Blank told him.  “We do have to run through those lines.”

“Hei, hei,” Zidane sighed.  He was surrounded by people who loved to order him around.  But sometimes, Blank wasn’t so bad.

Fifteen minutes later, he rubbed a towel over his fine, damp blond hair, used it to rub his tail all damp and fluffy, and threw on his sleeveless, tooled leather vest and a pair of cotton pants.  Zidane grimaced in distaste.  Later tonight, he would be putting on a frilly chiffon concoction with puffed sleeves, dripping in white lace.  Baku had a twisted sense of humor; he’d had one of the pretty theater girl hangers-on of Lindblum design it specifically for Zidane.  At least it was blue, his color, and not some pukey pink girl-color.

“Yo.” Zidane bounced into the room, where Blank was seated by the room’s sole table, booted feet propped on the battered wooden table, flipping through a leatherbound portfolio copy of tonight’s play, “Rich Man’s Folly.”

“Hey,” Blank looked up.  “How many run-throughs are we going to have to go through, do you think?  You must have your lines down pretty well by now.”

“Well, um...” Zidane twisted his own tattered paper copy in his hands.  “, I actually haven’t finished reading through the play yet.”

“You what!?”  Blank started up, his chair rocked sharply, and he tumbled backwards to the floor.

Zidane scrambled back.  “I only have a few lines!” he yelped, all too aware of the defensive whine in his voice.  “I’ve got, like, four in Act One, scene three, and I have six or seven in Act Two, the second to last scene.  But that’s it!  Ten lines!”

Blank got to his feet, rubbing at his head.  “Itetetete...  Zidane, you owe me big-time.  Do you know how angry Baku would be if he found out you don’t know any of your lines yet?”

“I’m a quick study?” Zidane tried.  He offered his sweetest, most ingratiating smile – the one that always made women coo.  Blank didn’t look too roaringly upset, so he might yet work this to his advantage.

“You’d better be,” Blank told him.  Then he held up the portfolio, thumbing it open towards the end.  “ you haven’t read the end.”

“No,” Zidane admitted in a small voice.  “Why?  Blank, you look kinda funny.”

Blank uprighted his chair and sat in it, looking studiously at the portfolio.  “Geez, Zidane, where were you for dress rehearsal?”

“Trying to sneak into that brothel in the business district!” Zidane chirped.  He had heard it was ‘mixed’ and wanted to go find out what that meant.  That, and he had always wanted to see what the big deal about sex was.  ...And exactly HOW the big deal of sex was enacted.

Blank choked a little.  “Right, I remember Baku roaring something about that...  Zidane, who’s playing Adrian?”

“Well, you are, Blank,” Zidane said, puzzled. Why was he asking?  “’Cause it has more lines than Marcus can remember.”

They both shared a quiet snigger over that.  Their Tantalus brother Marcus was loyal to a fault, and played a very dynamic action-based hero, but when it came to a part that had more lines than action, one of the other members of Tantalus landed the role...which was usually Blank.  The Nero brothers just didn’t have the looks, and Baku preferred to play the more patriarchal roles.  He was Count Eckardt in this play, father of Viscount Adrian.

“And you’re playing Felia,” Blank continued, as if he wouldn’t know.  “So...flip to Act Two, the second to last scene.”

Zidane flipped.  He would occasionally respect the voice of authority when he heard it.  He cleared his throat and started cold-reading.  “Alas, ah, o Adrian, that we cannot be together...your father wilt always stand betwixt us, to thwart – in his eyes – such an unseemly union.  And in the name of thy love, I will withdraw...  My Adrian, give me one last—GLEEP!”

Blank was nodded grimly as Zidane raised unbelieving, huge eyes.

“I-it’s a kissing scene!” Zidane squeaked.

“Now you see why Baku wanted you to run through it with me?” Blank crossed his arms grimly.  “I guess it’s my punishment, for letting you slip past me right before dress rehearsal.  But I’m the one you’ll be kissing anyhow, so—”

“Like hell!” Zidane squared his shoulders.  “You’re the one kissing me!”

Blank shrugged.  “Either way, there’s lip-lock involved.”

“B-But...” Zidane’s lip quavered.  “But this is my first kiss!”

Blank’s eyebrows raised until Zidane could see his hazel eyes.

Zidane didn’t know what made him say it.  He hadn’t wanted to admit that sort of thing – now Blank was going to tease him about never being kissed, despite all the pretty older ladies he made much of being acquainted with, and...and...  Zidane sniffed.  His eyes were filling up again and he resolutely did not lift a hand to wipe away the dampness there.  Now his first kiss was being forced on him all because he was stuck playing the stupid role of a stupid girl in a stupid play and...  N-Not that it would be bad to kiss Blank.  He liked Blank.  He’d always admired and looked up to Blank... and he wanted to have muscles like Blank’s, some day... and...

“Zidane?  You’re not crying, are you?”  Blank’s hands were warm as they closed over his shoulders.

Zidane sniffed ferociously and grimaced.  “N-no, why would I be crying?”

“Hey.  I’m sorry.  I know you’d probably rather kiss some chick—”

“It’s not that!” Zidane interrupted, eyes wide.  He was upset at being misunderstood.  “I just...I...”  He scuffled his feet miserably, lowering his head to break eye contact.  Why didn’t ANYBODY understand him?  And here he was, sniffing back tears and snot, acting really stupid like...well, like some stupid girl, like a Felia.  Geez, Baku sure had picked the right person for the role!  Why was he getting all worked up over some stupid kiss, over lips pressing against lips, over—Blank’s hand was tilting his chin up, forcing him to meet his eyes.

“You just want your first kiss to matter to someone besides you?” Blank supplied.  It stunned Zidane to see the understanding in Blank’s green-gold gaze.

Zidane bobbed his head.  “U-un.”

“I’m sorry, then,” Blank’s lips compressed, and his hand left Zidane’s chin.  “I know I must be just about the last choice—”

“T-That’s not true...” Zidane said it so softly he was hardly sure he heard himself.

“Huh?”  Blank’s fingers, which had been slipping away from his shoulders, tightened on him again.

“I...well...” Zidane felt really scared.  Like he was on the verge of some life-altering, immense decision and his stomach had just bottomed out, deserting him.  He didn’t want to say it out loud.  If it just happened, it would be easier to deal with...he knew Blank wouldn’t do anything if he didn’t say it first.  Blank was that kind of guy.  He was the person Zidane admired, joked around with, wrestled and tussled with, partnered for sparring and stealing expeditions, looked up to even more than Baku...  “Blank, I-I wouldn’t mind so much, if...”

Blank gripped his shoulders.  “Zidane, what are you saying?”  What was that...he looked...why was he looking at him like that?

Zidane sniffed again, hating the necessity and the weakness of it all.  “I mean – I wouldn’t mind so much, if you meant it.”  He mumbled the last part.  He couldn’t help it.  There was a part of him that wanted Blank to know, and the rest was screaming ‘Zidane, you idiot! What are you DOING!?’

The spark in Blank’s eyes told him that he had heard, though, and Zidane’s stomach sank further towards his boots.

“You serious about that?”

Zidane huffed in surprise.  Blank was asking him that?  “Un,” he nodded firmly.

Oh...what had he...done?

“Zidane—you...I mean know you’re—”  It was Blank’s turn to fumble for words.  He released Zidane’s shoulders and ran a hand through his spiky brown-maroon hair.  He sighed, but it was not an impatient sound.  “ it that time already?  So soon?”

“What time?”  Zidane was confused.  “But the play isn’t for hours.”

Blank laughed – more of a weak chuckle than genuine herald of amusement.  “No, I meant...damn, Zidane, you’ve grown up so fast.”

“I have?”  Zidane cocked his head.  He didn’t really remember being a kid...not much before Baku found him...actually, how Baku had found him was kinda fuzzy in his head.  He did remember Tantalus, and the older boy who’d hopped off the lower bunk of the beds they’d be sharing, sticking out his hand: I’m Blank.  You’re gonna be my otouto from now on.

“Yeah, you have,” Blank confirmed.  “You’ve reached the age where – well, you know how it is...if you’re ready, you’re ready.  For a kiss or anything you can take.”

“U-un.”  Zidane snatched at his wayward tail and wrung it in his hands.  Still damp.  Baku had given him the ‘sex-talk’ earlier that year.  There was no ‘right age.’  If you were curious, and willing, and ready, and if you could find a willing was okay.  If it made you uncomfortable, it wasn’t time.

“Zidane, I...”  Blank’s hands made another nervous track through his hair.  Nervous?  Blank was nervous? Why?  “I’m only gonna say this once.  Once, you got it?  You are a gorgeous, sexy little thing...and anything we do, I’d mean it.”  Gold-flecked hazel eyes burned into him, letting him know he was indeed serious.

Oh.  That was ‘why.’

“Oh,” Zidane echoed his thought, feeling his knees stutter instead of his mouth.  This was what he wanted, right?  He wobbled.

Blank steadied him.  He was really close.

“So, what now?”  Zidane held still.  He’d never thought the first kiss would be like this.  He was scared.  He knew what he wanted; beyond the fluttering in his stomach and the paralysis gripping him, it was inevitable.  This was going to happen.  But he couldn’t...he didn’t know how...he...

“So, would you like the real thing?” Blank asked him.  His hands were warm on Zidane’s shoulders again.  “Before the practice kisses, or the one onstage?”

Zidane was frozen.  His tail slipped out of numb fingers.  He might have nodded.  Maybe he only thought he did.

Blank’s face was getting closer.  Zidane was still stuck in place and his eyes fell shut rather naturally as the face eclipsed everything but the sensation of warm, soft lips on his.

He wasn’t scared anymore.  He was too caught up in the wonder of Blank’s lips to be scared.  There was an instant between thought and action and that was where he was, right now – feeling Blank’s lips on his mouth.  They moved against his, a little, and Zidane tried to cooperate, knowing there was more to a kiss than just holding still and taking it.  Their lips fit together funny – Blank’s bottom lip was pressed against the seam of his mouth, his top one closed over Zidane’s top lip, almost as if he would eat him.  He felt funny and hot inside.  His hands had lifted to a natural-seeming position against Blank’s chest.

Blank was pulling him closer, slanting his mouth more firmly down over Zidane’s, lips rubbing and meshing and – parting.  Experimentally Zidane opened his mouth a little, eyes still shut tight, and Blank rubbed his mouth softly against Zidane’s, then closed it over Zidane’s exposed bottom lip.  Zidane sucked in a breath – or tried, and then shut his mouth, finding it captured Blank’s top lip quite neatly.  Blank’s lips continued to move against him.  The feeling was exciting.

When he was starting to run out of air – and wondered how he could get that across in the middle of a kiss – Blank pulled away.  Slowly Zidane opened his eyes.  His thought processes weren’t working yet.  He was still focused on the sensation of the kiss.

“So?” Blank said, after a moment.

“Kiss,” Zidane said vaguely.  “You—we—”

Blank gripped his shoulders.  “We kissed.  You okay?”

“Oh, yeah...”  He tilted his face up, hoping for another one.

Blank chuckled a little, and pressed a perfunctory kiss to his mouth.  Chaste, closed lips, something a person would bestow on their relatives.

“Hey...” Zidane protested, fingers hooked now on Blank’s vest.

“We still have to rehearse the play,” Blank reminded him, fingers combing through Zidane’s silky-fine hair.  “Not bad for a first kiss?  Or do you wish you could take it back?”

“Don’t say something stupid like that!” Zidane glared up at him fiercely, tail smacking Blank in the thigh as it lashed around.

“Okay, okay.”  Blank held up his hands defensively.

His shoulders felt cold without that touch.  It was stupid, he knew; it was something a weepy girl might dwell over.  But they must think it for a reason, right? Because that was how he felt.

“I-I liked it,” Zidane said, eyes dropping.  He braided his fingers together.  “It was really...”  Superlatives failed him.  How to tell Blank it was everything he hoped a first kiss could be, then passed that up and made him feel even better?

“You don’t have to say anything.”  When he finally worked up the courage to look at Blank again, he was smiling a little.  “C’mon, we should practice.”

“No!  It was...amazing,” Zidane finished lamely.  He sucked in a breath.  “And I wanna do it again, I just...”

“We will,” Blank interrupted.  His small grin widened, becoming rakish now.  “We’ve got to practice your scenes until they’re letter-perfect, remember?”

“Ohh...”  Zidane drew in an appreciative breath.  Blank was older and better at this sort of thing.  “That means the kissing scene, too.”

“Hell, yeah.”

Zidane grinned and bent down to fetch his copy of “Rich Man’s Folly.”  It had fallen to the floor during his first kiss.  He hugged the manuscript to his chest in an excess of happiness.  His first kiss!  Part of him was still tingling in aftershocks of amazement.

“Blank...” Zidane scraped his toe over the cargo room rug.  “Did you...are you...I mean, you’ve kissed someone before, haven’t you?”  Maybe several someones, his mind added nastily, and Zidane did his level best to ignore it.

To his surprise, Blank’s dual-toned skin flushed, both his normal paler skin, and the darker portion of skin graft across the diagonal stitching that split his face in two.  “Well...yeah.”  He rubbed the back of his head.

“Who was it?” Zidane nagged.  One kiss, and already he wanted to know the details of Blank’s past relationships.

“I can’t tell you that!” Blank shot back, still red.  “We’ve got to practice now, remember?  Besides, a gentleman never kisses and tells.”

Zidane hooted.  “You’re no gentleman, Blank!”

Blank growled back, “So I suppose you don’t mind if I go telling all our Tantalus brothers that I got your first kiss?”

“Don’t you dare!” Zidane stamped a foot.  His brow creased.  “If you won’t tell me, that means it’s someone I know, isn’t it?”

Blank grimaced.  “Ah...of course not...”

“It’s not Ruby, is it!?” Zidane demanded, horrified.  That would be like INCEST, and not just incest – Ruby was, like, four years older than Blank!  Gross!

But Ruby was a girl, and she had been in theater for years...hmm, too bad she wasn’t with them to play Felia, but she was home taking care of a sick parent.

“No, of course not!” Blank sputtered.  “What d’ya think I am; you think I’d really kiss that wen—er, she’s really not my type.”  Blank snatched up his leatherbound copy of the play and brandished it at Zidane.  “If you want any more kisses from me, you’ll cooperate and start reading your lines.”

“It’s someone in Tantalus, isn’t it?” Zidane threw out a wild guess.

“Uh...” Blank was, if possible, even redder than before.

“Oh my god, it is!” Zidane was shocked.  Who on earth would it be in Tantalus!?  Eww... no, wait there really was only one option, in that case...

“No!  It’s not!” Blank thrust his portfolio before him like a shield.

But Zidane was on to something now, and the devil made him say it.  “It was Marcus, wasn’t it?”

“I’m not saying!  Zidane, you little—come on, we’ve got to practice—”

“Come on, Blank, Marcus?”

“Well, why not Marcus?” Blank challenged.  “He’s sixteen, not that bad looking, and—”

“So it was Marcus!”

“I’m not saying it was!”

Who else could it be? was on the tip of his tongue, but somehow, Zidane had enough discretion not to say it.  Maybe it was the thought of Blank deciding he didn’t want to kiss him again.  But then again... Blank had to, at least for the play...

He wanted more than that, Zidane decided.  Right then and there, he knew he wanted more than just a role-rehearsal with Blank.  He didn’t want their relationship to change too much, just...just take that next step.  His mind balked at actually thinking what that next step was.

“All right, all right,” Zidane waved his hands deprecatingly.  “Let’s just practice, okay?”

Blank eyed him suspiciously.

“I mean it!” Zidane thumbed his copy open.  Darn it, not only did they never understand him – okay, well, barely ever – but they never believed him, either.  Not that he didn’t give them good reason to suspect... Zidane snickered internally.  “Act One, scene three.  Viscount Adrian says...”

Blank looked at him a moment longer, then flipped to the indicated page.  “But what’s this?  O, be still, my pounding heart...what radiance through yon casement breaks?  It is the east, and this fair maid is the morning star...”

Zidane moved demurely across the floor of the cargo room, imitating a maiden’s mincing steps.  “Oh, Adrian, Adrian...but why dost thou be called Adrian...”

Blank was staring at him as he swayed towards him.

Zidane brushed aside the urge to tease him and continued his lines, barely glancing at the page.  All right, so he’d exaggerated... Felia had a lot more lines in scene three than a mere four.  But he had a really good memory; it was so good, he only had to read through something once to have it down pat.  It was a useful ability for a boy who was a thief with a cover of a theatre troupe boy.

They ran through the scene once.

Blank cleared his throat.  “Um, not bad,” he said casually.

Zidane grinned up at him.  “Go ahead, downplay my incredible abilities.”

The older boy snorted.  “Keep talking, and I’ll pound your head in for you.  Then you’ll be the village idiot.”

“Think we should run through it again, then?” Zidane asked him, pressing a finger to his upper lip to prevent his expression from becoming too impish.

“Hmm...maybe one more time,” Blank conceded.

Zidane was impressed.  Maybe it was because Blank was older that he had more self-control.  He knew that he was inwardly thrilling towards the kissing scene, and he really couldn’t wait.  Was there something wrong with him?  Most boys his age would be disgusted about having to do a kissing scene, and even worse, a kissing scene in the role of a girl.  Yet here he was, looking forward to it...  Especially looking forward to rehearsing it.  Face it, Zidane, you’ve never been a normal kid, and you never want to be.  Not just because he was a member of Tantalus, but because he had grown up in a theatre troupe, or at least, a pretty damned good imitation of one.

“Line?” Zidane prompted.

“But what’s this...?”

After the second run-through, Blank conceded that not only did he have his lines down, but he delivered them, “Passably.  For a King family venue, anyhow.  Just keep rehearsing them in your head, okay?”

“Of course!” Zidane chirped.  What did Blank think he was, an amateur?  He’d been doing this since he was eight...  Well, he thought he’d been eight, anyhow...  Maybe it had been earlier?

“All right...then let’s move on to Act Two,” Blank said after a long pause.  What was he thinking of?

Zidane flipped to the second marked place in his copy.  Blank appeared to be studying the rug.  He must be thinking really hard about something.  “Well?”

“Oh yeah...” Blank thumbed to the second to the last scene.  “Ready?”

“When you are!” Zidane said cheerfully, but he wasn’t so sure.  His stomach was feeling fluttery and he would be doing a cold reading – Blank wasn’t giving him the chance to read through the whole scene.

Blank launched into his opening line, stepping forward in the cargo room and gesturing dramatically.  Zidane scampered over to the stairs.  “Ah, Felia,” Blank said in ringing tones, “my heart’s lamp – where dost thou be?”

Zidane stood on the cargo room’s steps in lieu of off-stage, keeping his expression appropriately solemn.  This was the tragic culmination of the play, and it wouldn’t do to laugh in the wings while the King family watched the play.  Zidane couldn’t prevent his lip from twitching, though.  Like all stage actors, Blank overacted – they had to, to project to their entire audience.  But it was really funny to someone who wasn’t caught up in the desperate events of Lord Avon’s play.

“If only I could see thee one more time – yet Felia must never be seen in these gardens or my father, the count, would surely do more than rage ‘gainst our union...”

“Adrian, yet I am here!” Zidane called out, making his voice light and high.

Felia definitely had more than eight lines for this scene.  Zidane had way underplayed that claim.  As he went through the scene with Blank, projecting his voice and emoting for all he was worth, he realized he was rushing his lines.  Hurrying towards the kiss...

There was answering knowledge in Blank’s eyes.  They were both focused on that part of the scene.  Mazui!  Adrian and Felia didn’t know the kiss was coming...but it helped them act like lovers...

Zidane tilted his face up as they continued through the scene.  He knew he was flushing.  Blank reached out as if he would touch him, then drew away.  Zidane let his voice thrill as he recited the crucial line.  “Alas, ah, o Adrian, that we cannot be together...your father wilt always stand betwixt us, to thwart – in his eyes – such an unseemly union.  And in the name of thy love, I will withdraw...  My Adrian, give me one last kiss...”

“Felia!” Blank cried, making another dramatic gesture, then took the step that separated them.  He drew Zidane into his arms, one hand touching his upturned face.  Then he kissed him.

This time, it was searing and powerful.  Zidane was pulled up onto his tiptoes by Blank’s crushing grip on him.  Blank’s mouth moved over his for a long moment and then he felt a tongue, a thread of fire across the seam of his lips, touching his teeth.  Zidane parted them in a silent gasp, surprised but wanting this.  The warmth of a slick tongue pressed into him, twined against his tentative unmoving tongue, and Blank’s mouth slanted down hard on his, probing.

He was shocked for a moment, remaining still in the circle of Blank’s arms, letting Blank do this to him.  Was it the anticipation that made this time so much more intense?

Then he was reaching up and pressing himself against the bigger body, letting his own tongue slide against Blank’s in the most interesting way.  They twined and withdrew and Blank bit his lower lip and kept kissing, showing him intimate new variations.

“Ahh...haa...Blank...” Zidane was breathing hard when Blank finally let him up for air.

“Adrian,” Blank corrected, but his breath came faster, too.

“Right...” Zidane agreed.  He gave Blank a sly look, still wrapped in his arms.  “We should start the scene from the beginning.”

“Minx,” Blank chuckled.  “Maybe we should.  Or...”

The heat in his eyes made Zidane shiver.  “Maybe...we should run through the kissing scene until we can get through it while still in-character?”

“Hmm.”  Blank’s hands moved from his shoulders to his back, pressing him close.  His voice sounded hoarse.  “Line?”

Zidane repeated the kiss-preceding line, finishing up with his plea for the kiss.

Blank ran a hand along his cheek, threading his fingers into Zidane’s hair.  Then he bent his head and their mouths locked again.

Oh...gods...  His knees went weak this time and Blank steadied him, arms sliding around his waist and holding him tight.  Zidane actually rose off his toes into the embrace, meeting the prod of Blank’s tongue and curling his hands around Blank’s nape, holding tight.  Ahh...kimochi....

They broke with ragged breath.  Blank set him back on his feet, one hand stroking low on his back.

“Zidane,” he mumbled.

“Felia,” Zidane corrected, with a breathless grin.

“Hmm...” Blank was still holding him tight.  “Mattaku.  Zidane, if you were older...”

“What?” Zidane quivered, suddenly indignant.  “You’d what?”

“Well,” Blank hedged, “you’re still too young for certain things, Zidane.  You know that.”  He started to release him.

Zidane laced his fingers behind Blank’s neck, going tip-toe again.  He smacked Blank’s side with his tail.  “There’s no ‘right age.’  If you’re curious, and willing, and ready, and if you can find a willing’s okay,” Zidane argued, quoting Baku.  “And you said that I’m a ‘gorgeous, sexy little thing...’ and anything we do, you’d mean it.  You’re going back on that now?”

“Damn!” Blank groaned, taking a step back.  He ended up dragging Zidane with him.  “Baku gave you the sex talk already, at your age?”

Zidane smirked.  “I guess he thinks I’m precocious.”

“Yeah,” Blank breathed.  He reached up a hand to touch Zidane’s face again.  “I think we’re both too worked up to keep practicing Felia’s lines...”

“She dies three lines after the kiss, anyhow,” Zidane rejoined.  He knew that much; he had glanced ahead while they read aloud.

“What are you suggesting?”  The older boy was hoarse again.

“What are you up for?” Zidane countered, hardly believing he was capable of being so bold.  He didn’t feel so painfully young anymore.  He felt like he was meeting Blank on his own turf – and so far, he was winning.

Blank’s eyes, visible to him, gave him the answer.  “Let’s go to bed,” he murmured.  A hand stroked Zidane’s face; Blank seemed to like doing that.  “But are you sure?”

Zidane looked up at him, catching the heat in Blank’s eyes, and the hesitancy.  “I think you’re more worried about this than I am,” he teased, reaching up, touching Blank’s face with tentative fingers.  “Oi, we’re not going to have a productive rehearsal, anyhow, unless we get rid of some of this tension...”

Blank snorted.  “Kid, what do you know about tension...?”

He grinned and leaned against the older boy.  “I know if we keep kissing like this, you’re gonna be too bothered not to take me to bed...”

Blank growled something, smothering it against his soft fine hair.  His hands were pressed flat, coaxing, against the base of Zidane’s spine.  Then he reached down and cupped a rear cheek, fingers pressing into the curve where buttock met leg.  Zidane arched into the touch with a little groan.  There was a hardness between his thighs he’d only felt before after waking from a particularly...warm...dream.  It was exciting and exhilarating and, strangely, made him nervous all over again.

“You win,” Blank spoke into his ear.  “My room?”

“Unless you want to fall off my bunk,” Zidane grinned, breathless and worming his way deeper into the embrace.

“My room,” Blank confirmed, and Zidane squeaked as he was swept off his feet and slung over one bony shoulder.

“!” Zidane managed to force out as his breath was jolted out of him with every jogging step Blank took.  He pounded a tiny fist against Blank’s shoulder blade.

“Shush, or I might drop you,” Blank retorted.  “This is the part where I carry you away to some quiet place and ravish you thoroughly.”

“Ooh.”  That thought was nice, even if his diaphragm felt like it was under hostile attack.  “Ya!”  He felt himself waver on Blank’s shoulder, perilously close to falling.

Blank steadied him with a hand on his butt.  There was the creak of a door opening.  “We’re here.”  Instead of setting Zidane on his feet, he let Zidane slide down over his shoulder until he was caught securely in Blank’s arms, boots still not touching the ground.

Zidane gripped his vest and buried his face in Blank’s neck, suddenly feeling like a green little kid again.  Would he be able to do this?  What if Blank wasn’t satisfied...?  What if he only wanted to be ready so badly he was pushing himself too fast?

“We don’t have to do this,” Blank’s lips touched his ear, making him shiver and cling tighter.

“No...I...” Zidane took a few slow breaths, easing himself away from the crook of Blank’s neck, eyes fixed on the darker patch of skin graft on his upper body; the remnants of stitching that joined paler flesh to the borrowed portion.  He had been too young to remember what had happened to wound Blank so horribly, and what had been done to save him.  He summoned up a cocky grin.  “I’m just new at this, is all.  It takes even me awhile to perfect something so important!”

It surprised a soft chuckle out of Blank.  “Cheeky kid.”

“That’s me.”  He turned his head and Blank’s lips were right there.  “Oh...”

Blank made no move to kiss him, however, and after a moment Zidane realized why.  This had to come from him, to prove he was ready to go on – or Blank would set him on his feet and they would try to finish practicing.

He closed his eyes and pursed his lips and screwed up his courage, moving forward to –

– smack his nose into Blank’s.

“Ow!” Blank complained, loosening his grip.  Zidane slid to the floor, rubbing his own nose, chagrined.  “What was that?”

“Um,” his tail flickered nervously, “not quite a kiss?”

“C’mere.”  Blank dragged a footstool close with the tip of a boot, and sat on it.  It brought his face on a level with Zidane’s; an inch higher, maybe.  “Let’s try that again.  And don’t close your eyes until you know where you’re goin’.”

“Hai,” Zidane agreed, tail flicking here and there until Blank caught it, rubbing the soft downy fur in the right direction.  He leaned into the older boy, melting with tactile pleasure.  “Mm...oh...”  He rubbed his mouth against Blank’s jawline, then turned his head and they were kissing.  He opened his mouth right away.  With soft wet sounds, they explored.

His fingers had found their way to the front of Blank’s vest again, more to support him on his feet than anything else.  One of Blank’s hands was stroking along the length of his tail and it felt sooo good.  He made a purling noise deep in his throat and snuggled closer, biting down on Blank’s lip as the other hand cupped low on his back, then fingers were stroking his tail where it met the base of his spine.

“Oh—ohh,” Zidane sagged between Blank’s knees, unable to support himself any longer.  At once the hands left his tail and supported him, catching him by the waist and keeping him on his feet.

“Liked that, did ya?” Blank’s mouth moved over his cheekbone, resonant voice speaking into his ear.

“U-un,” Zidane’s head wobbled.  Such a thrill had shot through him when Blank’s fingers pressed there; a warm feeling spread through his innards until he thought he’d melt right there and leave a puddle over Blank’s feet.  That would be bad...then when everyone else got back, there’d be a Zidane-puddle on the floor...  A horrible thought occurred to him.  “Blank, what about Marcus?  Aren’t you bunking with him?  What if he—”  He looked around the room in brief panic, as if he expected Marcus to pop out of the dirty clothes hamper without warning.

“Relax,” Blank’s hand rubbed a soothing circle at his waist, “everyone is out tavern-hopping right now, and even though Baku will make sure they don’t get drunk, they’re still going to have a ripping good time until the curtain call.”

“Okay,” Zidane nodded. He let his tail curl around Blank’s thigh.  “You wouldn’t rather be with them?”

“Not for a Chocobo’s Paradise,” Blank said forcefully, letting Zidane see the sincerity in his hazel eyes.  “Hell, I didn’t think you were ready for...any of this...but I was hoping you’d want to do it with me, when you were.”

Zidane leaned forward and nuzzled his cheek.  “You’re gonna show me everything, right?”

“Maybe not all at once...”

“Blank!” Zidane pressed their lips together, squeezed his thigh with his tail, drew back and nipped his lower lip.  “I want to.”

The tips of their tongues touched; as Blank drew back a thin thread of silver connected them.  The older boy’s breath was ragged.  “I don’t think...”

“Then don’t,” Zidane urged, throwing his arms around Blank’s neck impulsively, rubbing his mouth against the skin below Blank’s ear, feeling arms close tight around him in return.  He dredged up something he’d heard and not understood a few years ago, but now it seemed like a good thing to say.  “Just do it.  Do me.”

“Zidane!” Blank pulled back, looking shell-shocked.

“What?” Zidane challenged, arms still yoked around Blank’s neck.  “Don’t be such a prude! I’ve been hanging around Tantalus as long as I can remember; you think I’m not gonna pick up a few naughty phrases?  Or understand them?”

“’s just...” Blank struggled with words, then resignation crossed his face.  His hands rubbed over Zidane’s back; pulled him close and cupped low on his rear again.  He kissed him; a messy open-mouthed affair, tongues seeking and sliding around each other.  Zidane had never thought before how a tongue would fit into his mouth.  It felt good; an energetic muscle sharing space with his, their mouths connecting on a level more intimate than sharing breath.

He felt that second pulse pounding in his body again, and crowded up against Blank.  The older boy was more than willing to let him, hands flexing low on his body, and Zidane lashed his tail restlessly.

“So exactly how good does that make you feel?” Blank murmured, one hand tracing around the base of his tail.  Zidane shivered, rubbing his fingers over the coarse hair at the nape of Blank’s neck.  He mewled when Blank touched one finger to the very sensitive spot beneath his tail, the skin at the apex of his buttocks.  Blank kissed his mouth and his finger kept rubbing that spot and Zidane’s heart was a trip-hammer in his chest as he moaned and opened his lips, trying in frustration to press his hips against Blank.  “Oho...I’ve got your secret, Zidane.  You’re mine any time I touch you just so.”

Blank’s finger stroked beneath his tail and Zidane sobbed against his mouth, twisting in Blank’s arms – trying to get away, or trying to press closer, he wasn’t sure.  The sensation was so intense it bordered on pain.

“Blank...oh don’ hurts...” Zidane choked, pulling his mouth away and burying his face against Blank’s neck again.  He felt devastatingly young and stupid.

Blank’s hand eased off, moving higher, into the small of his back again.  “You mean it feels too good?” he asked, speaking near Zidane’s ear.

Uncertainly, he nodded.  Between his legs there was a throbbing, feeling as though it would push itself through the cloth with no assistance if he didn’t do something about it soon.  His skin felt aching and hot.

“I’ll be careful, then,” Blank’s breath was searing and moist against his ear, then he kissed it.  “We’ll go slow.  I could kiss you all afternoon.”

“Okay,” Zidane whispered, extricating himself from Blank’s neck.  He pushed his hips forward in a little spasm, gasped at the throb of excitement that sparked through his body, and did it again.  He liked the way that felt, rubbing himself against Blank’s body.

“Whoa!” Blank caught at his waist, chuckling.  “You want to go slow one minute, then you start something like that the next?  Make up your mind!”

“Bed,” Zidane said, looking over at the unmade snarl of sheets on the lower bunk.  “Can we go to bed?”  He let go of Blank’s nape and let his fingers track down the vest, wishing he was bold enough to push it aside, off of Blank’s shoulders.

Blank nodded and pulled back, shrugging out of his vest, fingers undoing the wide buckle of the leather that crossed his chest from right shoulder to the left side of his waist.  This was the worst graft, where something had ripped out his chest.  Zidane touched him with hesitant fingers, imagining someone firing burst after burst of Curaga in a constant healing wind of blue, keeping Blank alive until they could anchor the life in his body with this second skin.  He shivered.  Blank caught his fingers and kept going, dropping the wide strip of leather to the floor, vest falling off his shoulders.  Then he began to unlace the front of Zidane’s tooled leather vest.

Zidane held still, eyes fixed on him, listening to the throb of that second pulse in his body.  Blank’s fingers were steady as they unlaced him and then stripped the vest off.  Zidane was trembling, but just barely.  They had been naked together before when nudity meant nothing but getting clean, or changing clothes.  Now there was a pounding in his heart, echoed by the tremor between his legs, and everything had changed.  Nudity meant all sorts of mysterious sensual things, and he was still apprehensive.

He unfroze long enough to toe his boots off, one after the other.  He had to reach down and tug them off by the heels, tossing them into a corner, gulping hard as he looked back at Blank.

“Climb in,” Blank told him, voice low.

Zidane nodded and his tail caressed across Blank’s bare chest as he turned.  He grinned at the strangled sound that evoked, and jumped onto the pile of rumpled linen on the lower bunk.  As he turned, settling his tail firmly across his own thighs, Blank tugged his own heavy fur-lined boots off and dropped them on the floor.  Then he unbuckled the heavy band that rode low over his brow and set it on the stool as he got up, approaching the bed.

He stared, and couldn’t help it.  Blank hardly ever left off his forehead band, more for others’ sake than his own.  The graft on the left side of his face continued up his forehead and disappeared into his hairline, the remains of a once-horrible, nearly fatal head wound.  That one alone could have killed him, probably.  He trembled for a moment, for the thought of what he – what they’d all nearly missed.

“You okay?” Blank said quietly.

“Un!” Zidane nodded vigorously. He lifted a hand and reached out.  Blank threaded their fingers together, looking at him closely.  “What?  Have I got somethin’ on my face?”

“Just making sure...” Blank hesitated.  “This is what you want, right?”

Zidane nodded firmly.  Now he was very sure.  Even if he had another moment of hesitation, now he knew it would pass.

Blank brought their joined hands up, and brushed his mouth over Zidane’s knuckles. recalled his attention to the weak throb between his legs.

He swallowed and told his heart to slow down.  This was Blank, Blank the older boy he’d grown up with, more than a brother and friend and a trusted figure to look up to... oh, gods, everything was different; he was still all of that but Blank was at the edge of the bed now and there was so much more...

“Please,” Zidane rasped, not even sure what he was asking as Blank settled on the edge of the bed and leaned in to kiss him.

Blank’s hand touched his face, fingers gentle, palm fitting against the curve of his cheek.  He seemed to know even if Zidane didn’t.  “We’ll go slow,” he promised.  And kissed him.

This one was different from the others.  Blank’s lips moved against him, learning things about him by touch.  Wordless, they were still speaking.  Zidane opened and whimpered and tried to climb into his lap.  Faster – I didn’t mean it, I want to, so badly...  And Blank’s lips answered, hands circling Zidane’s upper arms, mouth deliberate and gentle.  No, feel this slowly, you need to.  A flower of white-hot pleasure sprang into life inside of him, cradled in the juncture of his thighs.

There was a hand warm on his thigh, resting there.  Zidane noted this as Blank’s tongue slid into his mouth smoothly.  He would have been nervous about that but for the fact it was motionless; Blank was going slow as he’d promised.  Blank’s other hand ran a feather-fingertip path down from his neck and down his chest, making him shiver all over again.  It felt so good.  Then a finger traced over one of his nipples, making him start, making him bite down on Blank’s lower lip.  That white-hot flower inside him had many petals, it seemed, and Blank knew how to make it blossom.  He felt his nipple harden under Blank’s warm palm and tried to move closer, teeth tugging on the lip he’d captured.

Blank took his lips away and he protested for a moment, fingers digging into Blank’s nape.  The older boy bent his head, breath ghosting over the skin of his chest.  Zidane held still, with the barest idea of what was going to happen.  Then Blank’s tongue was tracing over his skin, making him jump and gasp.  He made a moist circle around the sensitive nub of flesh once, twice, then Blank’s mouth was fastening down and he couldn’t breathe.

The feeling, Blank’s tongue wrapped around his nipple, clamped and sucking, sent a shock straight to his groin.  He whimpered and tried to climb closer and this time Blank let him, hitching him into his lap.  He felt that tongue lashing his nipple and then the hands that went to the front of his pants.


Blank pulled back.  “Too fast?”

“No, don’t stop!”


He reached up and glued his lips to Blank’s again, keeping his eyes open until he was sure their lips were on a collision course.  It was soft and deep, and Blank was gentle with him.  Their tongues touched, and it felt like his world was stopping.

Gods, was he turning into a girl!?  His very thoughts were mushy!

Blank kissed him again and his train of thought got derailed.  Then the older boy began kissing down his throat, and he let his hands drift down Blank’s back, feeling the hard muscle there, and the light ridges of scar along where Blank’s grafts joined to his original skin.  Blank licked his nipple again, a tentative gesture.  Zidane leaned back a little, into the cradle of Blank’s hands on his shoulder blades, and let it happen.

A wet mouth fastened onto one, then the other, lashing each into a taut aching peak.  Zidane squirmed a little; he couldn’t help it.  Then Blank’s mouth pressed lower and his hands were at the top of his pants again, undoing them, sliding them over his hips.  He wanted to freeze and protest but he was past that point now.  Blank tumbled him back onto the bed and he let himself be moved, feeling the pants pulled down and over his legs and then he was watching them as they went fluttering off the edge of the bed.

Blank’s mouth was still moving downwards.

“Blank?” Zidane forced the word out, pushing up a little, legs bent on either side of Blank’s body.  As the older boy moved lower, kissing his stomach, the solid knot between his legs got trapped against Blank, and rubbed between them.  Freed of his pants, his small hard cock was in direct contact with Blank’s bare chest.  It felt incredible; a shock of contact that spread out from the source.  Zidane let out a wordless noise that might have been vaguely profane but definitely appreciative and Blank ignored it, licking his navel.  “Ahh!!”

“Ticklish?” Blank looked up with a grin, fingers caressing his sides.

“N-not exactly,” Zidane faltered.  “It felt kinda good, actually..”

Blank did it again.

“Ah...oh...” Zidane’s hips slammed upwards, breath catching in his throat.  It wasn’t only Blank’s tongue brushing around and in the sensitive flesh of his belly-button; that was a large part of it, but the slight rocking motion of Blank’s chest against his pelvis was very, very sexy.  “Oh, please, please...”

“Please what, Zidane?” Blank whispered, kissing his stomach again.  Zidane felt the tip of a wet tongue on his skin and shuddered.

“Please...” Zidane tried to get his coagulated thoughts working again.  “Ah...please don’t stop.”  There was pressure building up inside of him, he could feel it – sharper, more acute than any of the dreams he’d woken from with memories of throbbing warmth.  What he wanted to say, and couldn’t quite bring himself to speak aloud, was that he wanted Blank to keep kissing, continuing his path until he kissed down there, between his legs.

Blank was touching his hipbones, tracing their prominent shape and nuzzling the small ridges of bone.  He followed up with his tongue, licking at the lowest point of Zidane’s belly to make an invisible connection between the two bones, making him writhe and try to push up again.

“Oh Blank oh god oh please!” Zidane bit down on his lip, hands going to the only part of Blank he could reach; his hair. He buried his fingers in the crest of auburn and felt Blank move lower, lips tracking down.  A noise escaped him, pure desperation, then the pressure on his aching penis was gone as Blank moved again.  He mewled again and felt it – a mouth moving over the naked flesh of one thigh.

He was trying to push himself up but Blank had a good grip on him, arms yoked over his hips.  A tongue explored him again, running up the inside of his thigh.  Zidane shivered and spasmed because he could not move and it felt so good he needed to.  “Blank!!”  He needed...more...he needed...

Blank’s mouth moved up his other thigh now, and the sensation felt so good and he couldn’t do anything about it but sort of sob and clutch Blank’s hair in his fingers.  The silk feeling of skin brushed his aching cock and he froze.  The pleasure was so intense; there was a throb in his groin that had turned into a particularly exciting tremor at that moment of contact.  He was so focused on that sensation, of Blank’s lips on his painfully-tight skin, there was no room for anything else.

He felt the wet seal of lips closing over him and cried out, voice cracking painfully on an upward spiral.  Blank had a good grip on him now and much as he tried, lunging got him nowhere.  Blank was...he was...his lips were on...ohmygod could someone DO that!?  And he wasn’t stopping there; Blank’s mouth was plunging down and taking all of him in, his hard penis and the delicate sac below, closing over him completely.  And then he began to suck, and kept sucking.  If there was a burning flower inside him, it had to be unfolding in a burst by now...

“Oh Blank!!”  He withdrew one hand from Blank’s hair and bit down on a knuckle, muffling the noise that would otherwise erupt.  “Stop, stop!”  He was going to die!

Immediately Blank pulled his mouth away, leaning over his body and locking eyes with him.  “Zidane?”

“No...I didn’t mean...”  Zidane caught his breath for a moment in a hitch of hysteria.  “Didn’t mean stop, I...”  He was confused.

Swiftly Blank pulled himself up and lay beside Zidane, pulling him into his strong arms for a quick, hard hug.  Then he continued to hold him.  “Felt too good?” he whispered, dusting his cheek with a kiss.

“Un,” Zidane nodded after a moment, bumping his head against Blank’s cheek.  He tucked himself against Blank.  “Not...scared, exactly, it was just so much...”

“It’s okay,” Blank’s hand stroked through his hair.  “I know.”  He held him for a moment, just keeping Zidane curled against his body, and Zidane was grateful.  There was still a throbbing point of hardness between his legs, of course, exacerbated by the smooth nudity of Blank’s bare stomach against it.  For the moment, he was comfortable the way they were.

“Don’t fall asleep on me, kid,” Blank whispered after a long moment.

“I wouldn’t!”  Zidane roused, suddenly indignant.  His sexual etiquette was being impugned; granted, he was still in the process of forming it, but he knew you didn’t just fall asleep on your partner until they were satisfied!

“All right, all right,” Blank chuckled.  “We can stop now, you know.  Call it off, or do it later, or...whatever you want.”

“Don’t you dare,” Zidane said fiercely against his throat.  “I want to, you know I do, it’s just my first and...”  He stopped up the sniffle before it could emerge.  That was the last thing he needed, Blank thinking of him as ‘the kid’ again.

“All right, all right,” Blank soothed, petting him with a comforting touch.  Zidane arched into his hands – it felt so good against naked skin, to be touched like this.  “It’s my fault, I’m sorry...I said I’d go slow, and then I go an’ do somethin’ like that...”

“’Snot that,” Zidane sniffed for real this time, still cuddling against Blank’s body, luxuriating in the feel of his bare skin against Blank’s mostly-bared skin.  “I liked it, I really’s just that, was so...”  He shivered.

“Intense?” Blank supplied.

“Intense,” Zidane repeated, daring to run a hand along the smooth unscarred expanse of one side, and part of Blank’s thigh.  It made him feel brave and then powerful as Blank reacted to his touch, arms tightening around him, breath gusting in his hair.  He whispered his next words.  “And I...I guess I got scared.  But I want...I mean...  Do you want me to do the same thing?”

Blank started.  “Zidane, you—”  His voice ran out and it was two tries before he found it again.  “You don’t have to.”

“I want to,” Zidane replied, not entirely sure of that himself.  But...but he wanted to give Blank back some of the pleasure he’d been given...and between his legs there was still an overwhelming sensation. He thought, just maybe, if he did the same to Blank for awhile, it would lessen somewhat – or at least, Blank would be as bothered as he was.  “So, let me...”

“Hey,” Blank said, running a hand over his face, then reaching up to tangle in his soft fine hair.  “I don’t expect you do to all your growing up, all at once.  And with sex, it’s better not to try to rush into everything at once – there are some things it’s better to build up to.”

“ don’t think I should do everything at once,” Zidane said slowly, not sure if he was insulted or relieved.  “But...if I really want to...”

Blank looked at him searchingly, gold-flecked hazel eyes searching his blue ones.  “If you’re sure...”

“I am sure,” Zidane said, nodding firmly, even though his stomach was twisting itself into butterfly-winged knots.  He wasn’t sure, but he’d do anything to please Blank.  Although, of course, like any boy his age he’d die before saying that out loud.

“All right...”  Blank leaned and pressed a kiss onto his lips again, tongue touching his mouth briefly, then leaned back enough to unbuckle the sole item of clothing remaining to him.  Zidane was the one who lay naked already on the sheets of the bed they were sharing; Blank was still wearing his leather loincloth, and now he shucked it off, tossing it over the edge of the bed.  “You can stop at any time.  Okay?”

“Okay...” Zidane said, a little overwhelmed by the fact that Blank was entirely nude beside him.  He glanced down, and his eyes bugged.  He’d seen Blank before, he knew he had in hot springs or the communal bathing facilities in the Prima Vista, in Tantalus’ headquarters... this was so completely different, he could hardly articulate the difference to himself.

No, no...the difference was... he was supposed to put that in his MOUTH!?  How was it supposed to fit!?  Blank had taken him easily because he was still small, but... well, Blank was fully developed, and very erect.

Zidane slid down Blank’s body, pleased by the small noise that escaped the older boy.  He paused, fascinated by the dark flat ovals of Blank’s nipples.  When he ran his tongue around them, they crinkled up into fleshy buttons.

“Zidane...”  Blank’s breath was a harsh rasp.

He licked at the hard small shapes of Blank’s nipples again, and duplicated the older boy’s path, moving down over the flat, darker graft-skin of his belly.  Blank moaned.  With his tongue, he delicately traced over the line low on his stomach, near the points of his hipbones where a faded scar of stitching joined dark flesh with Blank’s original, paler skin.

Blank made some really odd, eager noises as Zidane licked and kissed his way down there.  Hm.  That must mean Blank liked it a lot, so he did it some more.  Something nudged at the skin of his throat, tickled the very bottom of his chin, and he pulled back in confusion.  Then he flushed.  The head of Blank’s cock was pointing up towards his navel, lying almost flat against his skin.  In passing, it must have brushed against Zidane while he kissed lower and lower.

Confronted with it now, Zidane scooted back a bit more and leaned on Blank’s thighs, taking the hardness of that cock between his small hands.  It was throbbing with a pulse of its own, same as the arousal that still felt tight and aching between his own legs.  It twitched in his hands and his eyes widened; a small involuntary noise escaped Blank above him, and one hand moved over Zidane’s hair, tousling then tangling in it.

The rosy head of Blank’s penis was a dark color, almost like a fruit, ripe and bursting-full.  It was different from the graft – of course, because it was Blank’s own skin.  A few milky drops seeped from the tip and he wanted to lean forward and flick his tongue over it, tasting it.  He thought he might be jealous – it would be a year or more before he could produce anything like that.  He rubbed his thumb over the underside of the penis, fascinated by the way it throbbed, and the feel of the central vein beneath the ball of his thumb.  And the thought that he was causing this; he could do this to Blank!  It was as raw and intimate as holding Blank’s heart cupped between his palms.

And Blank was letting him do this; the older boy was laying back and waiting while he explored him.  Zidane was secure in the honor of it, now.  This was the most power a single person could have over another being; this was one form of absolute trust.

He bent and kissed the tip, peripherally aware of the throttled noise coming from Blank’s throat as he sucked up the pearly drops on the tip of Blank’s cock, indulging his desire for the taste.  Hmm... Zidane made a face, considering.  It wasn’t awful, it was just...different.  Then he enclosed the head in his mouth, taking in just the tip.  If he didn’t think about the entire length, it wasn’t nearly so formidable.

Blank groaned.

Zidane barely heard it, concentrating on the flesh in his mouth, its salty flavor, trying to copy Blank’s movements on him that had given him so much pleasure.  This wasn’t so bad.  It was nothing to be scared about, for sure.  He bobbed back and forth, felt the head of it sliding between his lips then hitting the back of his throat, choked a little, and tried to accommodate.  He knew he wouldn’t be able to take all of Blank; at least, not now, right away without any practice, but he wanted to at least try to equal the kind of sensations Blank had been pulling from his body.  So he sucked on the tip and a little bit more, tentatively stroking the underside with his tongue.

From the noises Blank was making, he was doing a decent job.  Zidane planted himself more firmly, a hand on each thigh, and ducked his head, getting into the rhythm of it.  He suckled and bobbed his head and shut his eyes tightly, immersed more in Blank’s pleasure than his own enjoyment – even though he was definitely feeling the liquid ache between his thighs grow tighter with every stroke.


Blank’s hand was tugging him away, buried in his hair and pulling at the fine strands to separate Zidane from his goal.  With a protesting noise, Zidane broke free.  His lips felt a bit swollen; he had been buried and sucking away to the very limit of his tolerances.  Still, there was something that felt good, totally natural, about taking Blank into his mouth that way – even better than sucking on his own thumb.  He liked the way it felt.  More than just the visceral thrill of having Blank’s penis in his mouth, there was the added exhilaration of making him feel really good.

“What’s wrong?” Zidane demanded, anxious.  Had he been doing it wrong...?  Or worse, had Blank just not been satisfied?

“If you keep going,” Blank rasped, fingers touching his cheek, “I’m not gonna be able to stop.  And that’s not what I want for your first time.”

Oh.  Zidane flushed and squirmed upwards, until he was cradled in Blank’s grip again.  “I...then what...?”

A green-gold eye gleamed at him.  “I have a few ideas,” Blank replied, low, into his ear.  A hand stroked along the length of his body; fingered beneath his tail, making him mewl and strain against the older boy.

He felt breathless.  “What are we going to do?”

Blank leaned close.  “Well, you wanted to do everything, right?”

Zidane managed a nod.  He barely knew what ‘everything’ meant, but every pore was concentrated and throbbing with need, he could hardly deny anything Blank suggested.

Blank leaned close and whispered into his ear.

He jerked, pulling back just enough to see Blank’s eyes.  “I’ mean we could...are you sure!?”  His voice cracked again, and he was painfully aware of the fact.

Blank nodded.  “We don’t have to,” he hastened to assure him.  “I know you said you wanted to try everything, but we don’t have to jump right in all at once.”

“Blank,” Zidane breathed, totally awed.  This was how it should be, when you were with someone.  Their needs took a complete precedence to your own wants.  That was how Blank was being, with him.  And that was how Zidane felt, when it came to Blank – anything he needed, Zidane could overcome just about anything to manage.  That was what gave him the courage to say what was next.  “I’ll try whatever you want to.”

The older boy crushed him to his ribcage in a brief, tight embrace.  “You don’t have to act so old.  It’s okay to be scared, Zidane.  And trust me, it’s okay to say no.”

“I don’t want to say no,” Zidane frowned, pressing close and hooking a leg over Blank’s, bringing them into very close contact.  They both shuddered and Zidane began to move his hips, doing what felt good.  It felt right; it felt like this was what they were supposed to be doing, to make them both come, and his breath came short as he strained his pelvis back and forth, back and...

“Zidane!” Blank clasped his butt, pulling him in close and holding him there.  “God, you are too hot, kid.”

“Mmph,” Zidane responded, lips plastered near Blank’s collarbone, too involved to protest at being called a kid or even to notice.  He was still pushing tight little circles against the hollow of Blank’s hip, knowing he was headed for a rush of a grand goal.

“All right,” Blank nipped his ear, making it sound like a warning, then licked an apology over the delicate ridges.  In one motion Zidane was deposited on his back, legs splayed, blinking sleepily up at Blank with arousal clouding his mind.

“H-Hey!” he protested the sudden and unfair switch of positions.  Then Blank’s hand was down there, massaging between his legs, and he closed his eyes and moaned.  Oh DAMN that felt good.  A mouth moved over his navel, leisurely and teasing, then low on his belly – was Blank going to do that again?  But...

“Stay there,” a hand planted on his belly for emphasis, pushing him into the mussed nest of sheets, “and don’t move, and don’t touch yourself.”

Then his body felt cold all over and he opened his eyes to see the older youth rising from the bed, patchwork-naked body moving across the floor.  “BLANK!” he wailed, phenomenally upset.  Things had been going so well...he needed to be touched, wanted to be licked and rubbed all over, not left alone in bed!!

“Stay there,” Blank repeated, “I need to get something.”

Zidane slumped back onto the bed, fisted hands pressing against his thighs.  Blank told him not to touch but oh, he wanted to – maybe that much more because he’d been warned he couldn’t!  “Please...oh, hurry up!” he begged, twisting and pressing his thighs together, hands fluttering very near.  He wanted to touch; he wanted Blank to touch...

“Aha! Got it!” Blank rose from frantic rummaging in the chests on one side of the room, something small and glinting clutched in his fist.  Zidane blinked and focused sex-drugged eyes on him.

“What is it?”  He stroked his thigh, near but not quite touching his aching sex, and propped himself on one elbow to look.  His tail slid restlessly over his leg, flicking temptingly near the heat at the juncture of his thighs.

Blank stopped for a moment beside the bed, just looking at him with a faint smile on his face.  One hand steadied the reddened, upstanding stalk of his erection, then stroked.  Zidane felt an answering throb between his legs.

“Hey, no fair!” Zidane twitched at this gross injustice.  “You said I couldn’t touch myself, but you’re standin’ there doing it!  ...Blank, why’re you looking at me like that?”  It made him feel squirmy and self-conscious.  And he really, really wanted to touch himself.

“’Cause you’re sexy,” Blank responded matter-of-factly.  He rubbed himself again then held up the little vial in his other hand, a clear crystal bottle turned amber by the contents within. “This should make things easier.”

“Okay,” Zidane said, clueless, reaching out with a hand and his tail.  “Get back here and stop teasing me!”

Blank climbed back onto the bed and on top of him.  “Oh, like this?”

“Yes!” Zidane squirmed beneath him, pushing his hips up.  He felt Blank’s cock wedged between them, pushing into the soft skin of his belly.

“You sure you’re okay with this?” Blank touched his face again, at the same time shifting so that his hardness dug into Zidane’s stomach in rhythmic little shocks.  “We were just supposed to practice your lines...”

“Hmm...” Zidane listened with half an ear, arms tight around Blank’s neck as he responded to the thrill of hard flesh moving against him.  There was something else he wanted, something more...

“Never mind,” Blank chuckled.  With an effort, he pried Zidane’s arms away, ignoring the indignant whimpers of protest.  Then he moved between his legs again, coaxing them open with a palm on each thigh, pressing wet kisses to the skin there.

“Blank?” Zidane questioned.

“It’s okay,” Blank told him.

He watched with a lazy, sexy sense of trust as Blank lay between his thighs and with a little pop and a rich spicy waft of scent, uncorked the little bottle.  Blank tipped it, letting a trickle of almond-colored fluid coat his fingers, then balanced it carefully on the wooden frame at the edge of the bed.

“Don’t thrash around too much,” Blank warned, “or that’ll fall, and it’s expensive stuff.”

“Oh, like you paid for it,” Zidane chuckled.  He leaned back a little, eager to see what happened next.

Blank urged his legs up, making them fold up and exposing his bottom.  He felt his tail twitch.  Then Blank put a hand beneath him, sinking his fingers below Zidane’s rear and probing the ultra-sensitive skin beneath his tail.

“Blank!  Oh...awah...Blank!” Zidane wailed, trying his best not to thrash but it felt so good and dammit, why hadn’t Blank warned him he was going to do that!?  He closed his eyes tightly and pushed up, trying to get more of that delicious sensation, knowing if Blank touched him there much longer he was going to come oh gods he couldn’t wait any longer...

“You okay?” Blank took his fingers away, kissing his knee.

“Unnnh,” Zidane responded, cock throbbing fiercely.  Why wouldn’t he be?  He opened his eyes and looked down.  Blank still had a hand down there...wait...he could feel it now.  There was a finger pressing inside him.  “Keep going.”

“You sure?” Blank questioned, hazel eyes somewhat worried.  Zidane could see him pushing against the bedclothes, though – a slow pulse that spoke more than anything how Blank had been sublimating his own body’s needs to make sure Zidane was taken care of.  Blank had waited long enough.

He nodded.

Blank bent and took him in his mouth this time, and Zidane cried out at the explosive sense of pleasure unfurling inside him.  At the same time he could feel the retreat of something slick inside him, then something slightly larger pressed into him.  Two fingers.  He moaned, pushing up; there was no part of his body that resisted this entry, he didn’t even see it as an ‘invasion’ and it only felt good.  “God Blank don’t stop keep going oh PLEASE!”

There was no questioning this time, only Zidane’s point of hardness engulfed in Blank’s mouth and an emptiness inside him, and then something much larger was pushing in, three fingers now, stretching him and now it almost hurt.  “Ah...ahh...” Zidane tried to writhe while remaining motionless.  It was impossible, of course, but he had to express somehow that it felt so good it was bordering on painful, or the pain was being swallowed up by what felt so good and he thought he’d die between the two.

“Can we...” Zidane panted, pushing at the bristles of Blank’s auburn hair.  Blank pulled away, a strand of saliva still connecting mouth to cock, his face flushed.  “Am I ready now?”  His voice was pleading.  If this goes much longer, he tried to communicate, like you said earlier, I’m not gonna be able to stop.  And I wanna feel this together with you.

Blank hesitated.  “Four fingers,” he bargained, “and I’ll touch under your tail again.”

“No!” Zidane twisted, hips slamming up at the very thought.  He felt Blank’s fingers sink deep in him and mewled, clenching down around them.  “I can’t wait anymore!”

“I can see that,” Blank breathed, and he looked like he couldn’t wait much longer, either.  “All right.”  His fingers pulled free and Zidane groaned.  He wanted more of that; he wanted it to be all the way, he wanted...  Blank was crawling up his body, kissing his face, and he reached up to lace his fingers at the base of Blank’s neck again.

“You’re sure,” Blank asked him again, reaching for the oil at the edge of the bed.

Zidane growled at him.  “You can stop asking that now!”

“Hei, hei.”  Blank disengaged his arms and kneeled between his legs again.  The column of his erection looked impressive, and Zidane gulped even though he knew it wouldn’t be that bad.  It wasn’t too terribly thicker than the width of Blank’s three fingers.  Oil was spilling down now, coating Blank’s cock in a golden sheen and he was stroking himself again, with a spare restrained touch that meant he was trying to keep tight control over himself.

“Please,” Zidane begged him, and threw in a wriggle, tightening his legs and angling his pelvis to expose more of his bottom.

That did it.  Blank braced himself above Zidane, looking wild.  He did a sort of one-armed push-up, holding himself over Zidane and planting a kiss on his lips, other hand going between them. Zidane felt the oily head of Blank’s erection brush against him, then the crown of his cock rested there, pressing against him.  He whimpered a little, trying to spread his legs a little more, throbbing so hard he thought he’d die of it.

“Don’t tease,” he gasped, feeling Blank rub the head about, as if testing him.  Blank groaned and pushed into him, the tight and already-slicked channel.  Zidane’s eyes widened, too startled to tense up and make it more difficult, feeling Blank’s hardness sink into him in one long, slow, almost painless movement.  It felt natural and overwhelmingly right, like a key sliding into the right lock.  Zidane was willing to bet the lock never felt so good.

“Oh please...oh Blank...don’t stop,” his fingers braided themselves together behind Blank’s neck as the older boy held himself still over him.  He started to move up in that same pulsing hip-circle and stopped, wincing a little.  It did hurt but not very much, just the achy stretchy feeling of being filled so deep, it almost hurt but still felt good.

“You sure?” Blank gasped, still motionless.  Zidane got the sense his own need had been building up so much, for so long, when he finally gave the word Blank wasn’t going to be able to stop.  Not this time.  Blank’s control wasn’t endless, he was somewhat awed and fearful to note.

“Do it!” Zidane told him, feeling shamelessly sensuous.

Blank groaned again and pulled out slowly, making Zidane burn and bite down on his lip; the pain and pleasure was so mixed up he didn’t know how he was feeling anymore.  Then with a grunt, he thrust all the way in.  Zidane wailed, clinging tightly to Blank’s neck.  Blank’s hips rose and fell in an non-stop rolling wave, pulling half out and burying himself again, over and over.  Zidane found himself rapidly unable to keep holding his legs up and lifted them higher, hooking them over Blank’s back, locking his ankles and giving his trembling thighs some relief.

“Blank...Blank...” Zidane was caught up in a series of incoherent noises, completely focused on the feeling of the cock inside him, shallow then deep, leaving him empty one moment then filled and clutching at Blank’s neck the next.  It was the most intense sensation he’d ever felt.  “Don’t stop...”

“Can’t stop now,” Blank panted against his ear, thrusting then pulling out partially to slam home again, his second home in Zidane’s body.  “ do you want me to...?”

“Just do it!” Zidane cried, frustrated and biting on Blank’s shoulder for a second as it fell close to his mouth in between rough thrusts.  He heard the question behind the fragment, how can I make this better, how do you want me to do this? and he just wanted Blank to do whatever felt good.  He tightened his legs and pulled himself up, rising to meet Blank’s demanding thrusts in an undulating motion that urged him to continue.

Blank moaned something wordless but needy and kissed the corner of his mouth, breathing raggedly as he gripped Zidane’s shoulders and thrust in and out, body rising and falling rapidly.  He was barely pulling out at all before his body moved in the return stroke, staying deep inside Zidane, shallow thrusts stoking a hot flare of pleasure within him that was rapidly building.

Zidane could feel it, the place they were both reaching for – it was just beyond him, but getting closer with every wave of pleasure that came with Blank’s short, hard thrusts.  He moaned, legs locked and riding him, fingers clenched in Blank’s skin and probably leaving marks.

Then Blank pushed deep, stilled, and pulled out slowly again, held inside only by the tip of his cock in Zidane’s body.  From there, he thrust.  He repeated this three times and Zidane wailed, body straining up, back arched and every part of him singing as he felt an exquisite flowering point of pleasure/pain bursting outwards from his groin, spilling into every part of his body.  Everything went white for a moment in the sheer thrill of it and suspended in that place, Zidane couldn’t even feel Blank’s body against him.

He opened his eyes and Blank was panting and maybe sobbing a little, buried deep in him, hips bucking and spasming against Zidane.  He could feel Blank’s cock twitching inside him, and he moaned a little as he felt the accompanying sensation, Blank’s orgasm flowing out of him to stay behind.

They were glued together for what felt like a little eternity, both unable to speak.  When Blank finally moved, it was to shift them both onto their sides.  It pulled him free and Zidane winced.


“You okay?” Blank’s arms tightened around him, a protective gesture.

It made Zidane feel smug and warm inside, and thoroughly, happily debauched.  “I’m fine...I think I didn’t want you to leave me just yet...”  His voice was wistful.

“Well, it had to happen sooner or later,” Blank replied.  There was an echo of the warm smugness in his voice.


“Well, no matter how many lovers you’ll have in your life,” Blank said slowly, with satisfaction, “I’ll always be your first.  That was damned amazing, Zidane.”

“What’re you talking about, Blank?” Zidane protested, digging a fist into his friend’s ribs.  “I can’t imagine anyone else...”

Blank chuckled.  “Don’t make promises like that, kid.”  He angled a knowing eye at Zidane.  “If your first time was this early, you’re gonna be highly-sexed.  Don’t think I’m gonna be able to keep up with you forever – besides, you might start chasing skirts in a few years.”

Zidane wrinkled his nose.  “They smell nice and all, but they could never make me feel like that.”

Blank ruffled his hair affectionately.  “I may be a boys-only type, Zidane, but don’t you knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.”

They lazed like that for a few long moments, sticky and still-entwined, satiated together.  Then abruptly Blank smacked one of his bottom cheeks, making him jump and yelp.  “Now get up! We’ve gotta get showered; we have a performance tonight!”

Zidane sat up, rubbing at the abused flesh with a little wince.  “Can I shower with you?”

Blank grinned.  “’Course you can,” he returned, sitting up and stretching, cat-like.  “Damn, that felt good.  You okay?”

Zidane pushed himself up off the bed and stretched experimentally.  “Oo-oo-oh.”

“Dammit,” Blank’s expression shifted from satisfied to distressed, “I didn’t think, I didn’t even flippin’ think – I shouldn’t’ve done that to you a few hours before a performance, we should’ve waited...”

“Don’t be an idiot!” Zidane flared at him.  “It was really good, really damn hot, and I’ll be okay.”  He clung to the bunk bedpost, steadying himself.  It wasn’t so bad.  He was just feeling a bit sore, that was all.  Heh heh...he’d been thoroughly debauched.

“If you say so,” Blank said, doubt still lingering.

“I do!” Zidane pulled himself up to his full – still diminutive – height.  But now he felt a little older, or at least, more mature.  “So let’s go shower.”

“All right,” Blank acquiesced, chuckling.  He cocked a hazel eye at him as he got to his feet.  “But after that, we have got to finish running through Felia’s lines.”

“Kuso!” Zidane wrinkled his nose in dismay.  He’d been hoping Blank had forgotten that.  Of course, he didn’t have that kind of luck.


The stars twinkled high above them in the sky, pinpricks in the black-velvet cover of Treno’s omnipresent night.  Zidane glanced up at them as he walked, lagging behind as Blank moved on sure feet through the streets.  They were out of the slums now and heading back through the better districts of town, back to King’s estate and the Prima Vista and the upcoming performance.

After finishing up their practice – finally, with no more ‘interludes’ – Blank had taken him to join the rest of Tantalus in one of the seedy little bars Baku and the others seemed to favor every time they went to Treno.  Any attempts to sneak off and go exploring by himself had been halted by a gloved hand clamping onto the back of his shirt.

Baku had taken one look at Blank and Zidane after they’d joined Tantalus in the bar, the half-sheepish, half smugly-sated looks on both their faces, and roared with laughter.  “Gwahahaha!  I knew it wasn’t gonna be much longer before you gave someone your cherry, kid!”

“I’m not a kid anymore!” Zidane had shot back, grinning to take an edge off the defiance.  “I’m a full member of Tantalus, and after today, I’ve left being a kid behind!”

“Maybe so, maybe so,” Baku had rested meaty forearms on the wooden table, mulling it over.  Then he snorted and grinned.  “But you still hafta do what I say!  Gwahahaha!”

That, of course, only made him fume.  But he was still fourteen, after all.

He kept walking, glancing back down from the stars to the street as he caught a glimpse of someone in his peripheral vision.  Then he came to a jarring stop as he bumped into that someone.

“Sumimasen...” Zidane apologized, rubbing his head, glancing up and then gawking. Was that a girl, or a guy?  The person was beautiful, clothed in revealing white and purple, part robe, part close-fitting garb. The hair around the exquisite pale face was silvery, trailing around his shoulders in a way reminiscent of feathers.

“You should watch where you’re going,” the person said, voice smooth and mellifluous, an androgynous timbre that could have been male or female but was as lovely as the face.  “You might get hurt, if your feet move while your eyes are fixed on the stars.”  A slender long-fingered hand reached out to grip his shoulder briefly.

“I will,” Zidane said, mouth dry.  He was staring and he didn’t care.  Man or woman, this one was gorgeous!

The person chuckled, a slightly deeper sound, and that was when Zidane noticed the chest was completely flat.  Ohh...what would it be like, to be with a man as beautiful as this?  Zidane caught his wild thoughts and reined them in – he’d just been with Blank for the first time, and he could jump so blithely to being ready to fall at this beautiful man’s feet?

Well, yes.

Zidane had a feeling he was going to be the type ready for sex, any time, every time.

“Perhaps I will see you again,” the man said, deep blue eyes assessing him.  He bent and his mouth brushed over Zidane’s cheek, near the corner of his mouth.  “I think I would like that.  Perhaps you will, too.”

Then he was moving off, the bared pale stripes of his hips swaying gently.  Zidane continued to gawk, then straightened, pressing a hand to his face.  “I look forward to it!” he called back, and a soft chuckle drifted back in reply.

His face was burning.  How could he be so unfaithful to Blank?  ...But then, remembering Blank’s earlier words, he knew that fidelity was neither expected nor, perhaps, wanted.  And he was young yet.

“Come on,” Blank was half a street ahead of him and he’d turned, leaning against a lamp-post with arms crossed.  “Whaddya think you’re doing, laggin’ behind like that?  We’ve got a show to put on in forty-five!”

“Right!” Zidane called back, shaking his head and breaking into a jog.  What was he thinking?  He’d probably never see the beautiful man again, anyhow.  Zidane was a thief and that one...his mind balked.  A lord, maybe?  Much too much for the common folk.

Warm golden light spilled out from every window of the Prima Vista, honeying its curved wooden sides.  He made a face.  He was going to have to put on a dress once he went back inside, and then get ready to play a girl.  Now, however, the sting had gone out of it.

He scrambled to the Tantalus ready-room, inches ahead of Blank.  It was more like a drawing room, but they used it as a changing room and waiting room before performances.  He dashed to the Cleyran silk-screen in the corner.

“I get to change behind the screen,” Zidane announced loudly, “because I’m the only one who’s being forced into a dress.”

“No one cares, Zidane,” Blank laughed at him, tossing the bagged-up dress at Zidane.

He caught it, scowling, and ducked behind the screen.  Once there, he shook the dress out after taking it from the heavy Burmecian cloth bag that kept the garment neat and luna moth-free.

The room was filled with the rustling and off-color chatter of all Tantalus.  Zidane was relaxed as he tugged the dress on, despite his little display of bad humor.  His interlude had given him the courage – and incentive – to face the play with no gripes.

He reached around in back and couldn’t quite manage all the tiny hooks.  Zidane growled.  Whichever of Baku’s lady-friends had put this dress together, she had a nasty sense of humor – how in friggin’ hells was he supposed to close this up himself, he, a boy who’d never cross-dressed before this in his life!?

Zidane peered around the silk-screen, holding the dress modestly closed.  “Hey, can I get some help here?”

Cinna looked around and sniggered.  “Hey Blank, your girlfriend needs some help!”

“Why, you—!” Zidane’s face darkened and he brandished a fist, letting his dress slip down to expose part of his flat chest.  “I’ll get you, Cinna!  Just see if you don’t wake up with oglops under your pillow, some night!”

Cinna’s laughter died a bit but everyone else still roared with laughter.

“Shut up,” Blank muttered at them, scowling, as he headed for the screen.

Zidane turned his back to him.  “Hook me up, would ya?”

“You’ve got hooks and laces,” Blank said in dismay.  He raised his voice.  “Baku, what kind of a dress did you tell your damned theatre-groupie friend to make!?”

“The normal kind,” was Baku’s succinct reply.

“K’so! I can’t do this!  I’ve never peeled a girl’s dress off before, let alone tried to hook one back up!”

This, of course, only made the rest of Tantalus laugh harder.  They had known Blank’s preferences even before it was obvious he and Zidane had trysted.

“I’ll do it,” Marcus offered, coming around the screen.  “I’ve got a couple of sisters.  Hold still, Zidane.”

Zidane held still and clenched his teeth, face burning.  Okay, maybe he didn’t feel quite as self-assured as he’d thought.  This was damned embarrassing!

After Marcus hooked and laced him up, Zidane stayed behind the screen, arms folded.  The final touch of ignominy would be the makeup Zenero put on him – as if the makeup the men wore wasn’t bad enough, Zenero would have to put girl’s theatre makeup on him thick enough to look like a painted whore!  He scowled and kicked at the stool where he’d heaped his normal clothes.  He had to wear a wig, too – a mess of long golden curls.  It would be a wonder if Blank could recognize him enough to want to kiss him under all that mess.

Soon it quieted enough that he knew most of them had departed for the stage platforms to prepare for the opening.  Zidane stayed behind, wondering how long he could push it, before someone...

An arm pushed the silk-screen aside.  Blank stood there in his gentleman’s garb, a reddish-brown headband taking the place of his leather buckle, hazel eyes visible and fixed on him.  “Hey Zidane, Zenero wants you in make—oh.”  His eyes widened.

“Don’t say it,” Zidane warned, knowing if one person, just one person told him he was ‘cute,’ he’d end up taking a swing at them – recent lover or no.

Blank grinned.  “Okay, I won’t say it.  But Zenero’s ready for you and I have to get onstage soon.”

“Okay,” Zidane shrugged.

Blank took another step closer.  “And I got something for you.”  He fumbled in his pocket.

“Y-You did?” Zidane looked up, bewildered.  When had Blank had time to get something?  Well, maybe he’d nipped off quickly, on the way back to the Prima Vista when Zidane was distracted.

“I don’t know if you knew, but it’s Heart’s Day in Treno,” Blank told him, brushing a hand over his cheek.  “That’s why King booked us for today, to have us perform a fine old romantic tragedy.  So, here.”  He pressed something small and foil-wrapped into Zidane’s palm.

Zidane stared at it.  “Chocolate?”  It was a red chocolate heart, a decent-sized one.

“Finish it before you go in to Zenero,” Blank told him, then bent and brushed a kiss over Zidane’s mouth.  A grin crossed his lips at Zidane’s squawk when he pulled back.  “I’ll give you the real one later.  Incentive, ya know?”

“Right,” Zidane squared his shoulders, still holding the chocolate unwrapped in his hand, examining it.

“And remember to walk like a lady, not a surly little boy!” was Blank’s parting shot.

Zidane peeled the foil away, looking thoughtfully after Blank.  He knew about Heart’s Day; he’d just forgotten it was today.  After all, it was just some stupid holiday that got romantic girls all worked up, and some boys turned into calf-eyed idiots mooning after those giggling girls.  So Zidane had felt perfectly justified ignoring it.

He popped the chocolate into his mouth and savored its flavor.  He knew what this meant, too.  Blank had given him a token – whether it was chocolate or flowers or a small gift, it didn’t matter – and Zidane had accepted it.

That meant they were sweethearts for a year, joined by an unspoken promise.

Zidane grinned and hurried off to makeup.  Incentive, indeed.

He wondered how Marcus would feel about Blank suddenly acquiring a bunk-mate for the next year, and more.

He skidded to a stop outside the door of the makeshift makeup room and perched himself by the railing instead, mindful of his skirts.  “Blank!  Oi, Blank!” Zidane yelled, projecting his voice.

After a moment, Blank appeared at the bottom of the stairs.  “Yeah, what?  I gotta get to the stage soon, Zidane, my curtain call—”

“C’mere,” Zidane beckoned, leaning over the railing.

Looking vaguely suspicious, Blank ascended the stairs.  When he got close enough, Zidane grabbed his face in both hands and plastered a sweet, chocolatey kiss on his face.

“That’s it,” he told him, smiling.  Blank looked stunned for a second, then smirked at him.

“See you onstage,” Blank told him.

Zidane nodded.  “Un!”  He turned to join Zenero.  He could put up with makeup and wigs and billowy skirts when he had something to look forward to.

Now he was ready for the curtain call.


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