And Then It Rained...

By J. Marie

Warning!! This is a lemon yaoi fanfiction starring Zell Dincht and Irvine Kinneas from Final Fantasy VIII. It is rated NC-17. Basically, that means this story features graphic male homosexual encounters. Don't like reading stories about gay people? Here's a novel solution: Don't read the damn story. This story is for my 50,000th kiriban, Psykosa. She requested a real-life alternate universe story. It is set at the University of South Florida (don't ask), with the FF8 gang as college students. I change none of the characters' personalities, but am slightly changing their backgrounds as necessary to fit into real life. All changes are extremely minor. And my defense for this particular take on Irvine is that, yes, Irvine was a flirtatious little freak, but did we ever actually see him sleep around all those women? And he seemed awful romantic with Selphie, and even when he tried to get Squall and Rinoa together. And he got pretty emotional when he started to crack under pressure, too. So I'm going for a more sensitive take on Irvine. Thought I'd try it on for size and see how it fits... He's also older and more mature, and the same for Zell. Actually, in all honesty, I think I've treated Irvine bit wrongly, by making him so shallow. I'm trying to fix that in this story. And present a deeper, more complex Zell. I'm also showing the ramifications of certain emotions on Zell, so don't go emailing me about him being OOC. And, uh, for anyone who'll try to tell me that college students don't do certain activities shown later in the story, well, you certainly don't go to the college *I* go to. Heh heh. I'm not condoning it, just illustrating it... Well, anyways, thanks for being my 50,000th hit, Psykosa!! ^_^;;

It was raining.

Zell Dincht sighed softly to himself as he slowly awoke, the process even slower than normal, due to the lulling sound of rain on his window. After several minutes, the petite boy stretched out on his bed, looking over at the window by his bed. The rain was steady, but not hard, and outside was an endless horizon of gray.

Zell sat up slowly, his body protesting loudly to lay back down. He ignored the aches and pains from sleeping too much and stumbled out of his bed, and into his bathroom. Zell took a quick shower, making it cold enough to wake him up more. Even after he stepped out and toweled dry, he couldn't shake his lethargy.

Zell picked out a baggy pair of jeans, and a large orange t-shirt with the "Bad Boy" design on it. He slipped on his wallet and chain, watch, and the dragon on a sword necklace he'd received as a birthday present from his ex-girlfriend.

Just the thought of Rebecca, his ex-girlfriend, made Zell wince. They had broken up a few days ago, but it still smarted. It had been during their fifth unsuccessful attempt at sex. Zell just couldn't get hard. Between his sexual shortcomings, and the fact that he ignored Rebecca for his friends, the girl just couldn't take it anymore. She left him, after screaming at him, and insulting him with every name she could think of.

You fucking faggot! You treat me like shit, and then I'm not even good enough for you to get a fucking hard-on? I'd bet you get sprung for your little faggot friend, Squall!! You even pay more attention to him than me!! I'm so tired of this!! All I wanted was a boyfriend to be with, and I get the fucking hyperactive homosexual!!

Zell sighed and styled his hair into his customary spikes. The chicken hair-do, was what Seifer called it. He didn't really miss Rebecca. It wasn't that she was a bitch, because she wasn't. Everything she said about him was true. He did ignore her. He did treat her like shit. He never paid her any attention, he never bought her gifts. She had spent months trying to please him, and he would just pass her over to go hang out with Squall and the rest of his friends.

Even the part of him being gay was true.

He hadn't admitted it, even to himself, for a very long time. Hence the girlfriend he had no interest in. But he had to admit it now. Five times. Rebecca had done everything she could, and he still wasn't aroused. If anything, he was repulsed. When Zell got aroused, it was always by men. His erotic dreams only had men in them. Every sexual desire he had was channeled into men.

It depressed him to be gay. It depressed him because he was suddenly alone. He wasn't normal. He was a sexual deviant now. And the only men Zell really liked were all painfully heterosexual. There was Squall Leonhart, who he'd had a crush on since puberty. Squall was dating a perfectly nice, and perfectly stupid girl named Rinoa Heartilly. There was Seifer Almasy, who was actually kinda hot once you got past the fact that his ego could suffocate a blue whale. Seifer had just recently started dating Quistis Trepe, one of Zell's beautiful female friends. And of course there was Irvine Kinneas, the university heart throb. And he was dating Selphie Tilmitt, another of Zell's female friends, and the only person he knew who was more hyper than he was.

Of course, Zell hadn't been as hyper as he used to be since his depression started. He was suddenly more subdued, a little more sarcastic than he used to be, and certainly more bitter. Even though he kept his sexual preference to himself, he could picture the ridicule he would receive if he ever came out. How people would stare at him. Zell couldn't take it. He wanted people to like him, not shun him.

After finishing his hair, Zell finally went outside to the living room. He and his friends lived at Avalon Heights, an apartment building that housed four bedroom apartments, each bedroom with it's own private bathroom. The only thing that was shared was the living room and kitchen. Squall, Seifer, and Irvine were Zell's other roommates.

Living with three men as hot Squall Leonhart, Seifer Almasy, and Irvine Kinneas did nothing to improve Zell's mood. Squall was sitting quietly on the couch, watching the news. Squall was the only college student Zell knew who watched the news so devotedly. Seifer was in the kitchen, bitching about someone eating his Cookie Crisp cereal. Zell ignored the large blonde. Until late in high school, Seifer was something of a class bully. He and Squall were the class rivals for everything. Sometime in between graduating high school and his sophomore year in college, Seifer had finally decided to grow up. Zell suspected Quistis had everything to do with that.

Now Zell and his friends were juniors in college, of legal drinking age, and far more devoted to drinking and partying than learning. Except for Squall, who made time for learning, but still devoted himself admirably to having fun. Zell sat down next to Squall, slumping down on the couch silently.

"You know, you could get another girlfriend, Zell. It's not the end of the world. You never seemed that attached to her. I don't understand why you let it get to you," Squall said after a moment. Everyone thought Zell was depressed because of his break-up.

"He doesn't miss her, Squall. He misses getting laid," Seifer chuckled from the kitchen. Zell only scowled at the large blonde, revealing gleaming white protruding canines, wishing the arrogant man would spontaneously combust.

"Don't help, Seifer. Your boorish charm could convince Selphie to commit suicide," Squall sighed. Three years ago, Seifer and Squall hated each other so much they had exchanged facial scars in a fight. Now they were best friends. Zell doubted they ever really hated each other. But Seifer had been able to pierce Squall's introverted shell after many years, and they had grown as close as two men could be without being gay. Seifer's outgoing personality had helped Squall open up, and now he was somewhat social, and had a girlfriend. Seifer's ex-girlfriend, which Zell always found odd. Seifer and Squall were like brothers, and had to share everything, even women.

"I actually like that idea. Maybe I should convince her to commit suicide. Then we wouldn't have to suffer watching her and Irvine go at it. How annoying," Seifer commented with a rakish grin.

"Like watching you and Quistis is any better," Squall rolled his eyes, taking a bite out of his breakfast bar.

"It's better than watching you and Rinoa. Especially since I've seen that ass before. Up close and personal," Seifer grinned. He adored teasing Squall about Rinoa being his ex-girlfriend.

"So, does Quistis still scream my name when you fuck her?" Squall retorted. Quistis had the biggest crush on Squall in high school. And Squall wasn't going to let Seifer live that down.

It was odd how much everyone had grown up from high school, Zell mused. Seifer used to bully Zell for his lunch money and beat him up on occasion. Now, Seifer would easily loan him money when he came up short, and there was nobody else Zell would want to go watch wrestling with.

"Christ, what is wrong with you, Dincht? You haven't spoken a word all morning, and you're even staying still. Rebecca really got you bad, huh?" Seifer asked, coming out with a bowl full of Squall's Cheerios. Squall glared at his best friend for stealing his Cheerios, but said nothing.

Zell shrugged. He didn't feel like going into it. He was in a really bad mood this morning. What he really wanted to do was to go back to his bed and sleep some more. But he had a class in less than a hour. And he couldn't afford to miss it.

Irvine finally emerged from his bedroom, and despite himself, Zell found his eyes glued to the sexy cowboy. Zell was very careful about not staring too much at his friends, but when they come out dressed like Irvine was...

Irvine was the only pretty boy Zell knew that came off as effeminate. Sure, he was as pretty as girl, with his soft face, and slender build. But never would anyone mistake Irvine for a woman. He was as handsome as he was pretty. His oval, face was perfect, full of delicate, soft curves. But there was a definitive masculine strength to all his features. Irvine's beautiful, long, wavy hair was the color of butterscotch, or polished wood. His eyes were violet, like Elizabeth Taylor's, and they were bright with good humor. Irvine always had a ready smile for anyone, complete with dimples. He was tall, an even six foot, easily towering over the petite Zell. His body had muscle tone to him, but he was willowy, his body wiry and slender. As far as Zell was concerned, Irvine was perfect.

Irvine came out in a black vest with silver buttons, wearing a cross on a silver choker chain. His pants were baggy black bell-bottoms, so long they nearly covered his polished black platform boots. A silver chain belt wound around his slim hips, and he had a few bondage bracelets on. Irvine's beautiful hair was brushed to shining glory, and pulled back with a simple black tie. His clothes accented his sculpted willowy build, and black actually brought out the colors of his face. Irvine wore a small pair of black framed glasses, recently made necessary by his myopia. Zell's breath caught at the sight at his friend, and he felt the blood rush to his groin as his mind briefly wandered down a path less trodden. Zell forced himself to look away, instantly ashamed of himself. Why did he have to feel this way about men? Why couldn't he be like everyone else?

"Alright, guys, I'm ready. Can you drop me off at the Marshall Center, Seifer? I want to pick up a bagel for my breakfast," Irvine said in his smooth baritone, that hinted at a Southern accent.

"Sure. Would you like to pick up a Rainbow Flag to wave around as you walk around the campus?" Seifer asked with a wicked grin, slurping up the last of his Cheerios, and getting milk all over his face.

"What's that suppose to mean?" Irvine asked innocently. His book smarts were a little above average, but more often than not, he tended towards naivety.

"In Seifer's black and white little world, bagels are only eaten by gay people. What he doesn't know is that bagels are not strictly meant for gay people. It's only English muffins that are the breakfast of the homosexual male," Squall said drolly, standing up and gathering his bags. Zell sat silently on the couch still. His eyes burned and he wanted to cry. He hated being gay. The butt of everyone's jokes.

Seifer, who was grabbing an English muffin on his way out, shot Squall a dark glance. In response, Squall only smirked. Irvine hefted a black duffel bag, his fashion consciousness forcing him to match apparel to clothing. Zell clenched his fists. Jokes like these were exactly why he could never come out. Why he had to find a way to make himself straight.

"Are you alright, Zell?" Irvine asked gently as he came to a stop before the muscular blonde, seeing the obvious pain on Zell's features, where Squall and Seifer, who were by nature far less sensitive missed it.

"Fine. I'm absotively, posilutely fucking fine," Zell said bitterly, and stood up. He wanted to pretend Irvine's concern meant something other than friendship, but he knew it never would. Zell felt like he was cursed. He wanted every sexual or romantic thought he'd ever entertained of his friends, no matter how briefly, to just go away.

Irvine blinked behind his glasses, saying nothing as Zell stormed out, following Seifer and Squall, who were exchanging insults, their form of friendly chit-chat. Normally, Zell found it amusing, and would even join in on the fun, but today he found it irritating, and wanted nothing better than to smash the blonde and brunette's heads together.

"Florida. The Sunshine State. What fucking retard named this state anyways?" Squall sighed when they reached outside, and the group looked out at the rainy horizon. Raincoats were quickly donned as they marched off to their ride.

Seifer was the only one who owned a car, a blue Geo Tracker, brand new. He kept the top on due to the rain, and the four boys got in, with Squall riding shotgun, and Zell sitting beside Irvine. Zell was extremely careful not to let his leg brush against Irvine's, painfully aware that he was already partially aroused by Irvine's appearance. Zell started to refocus his libido and changed it into self-hatred. He was nothing but a stupid faggot. He would lose his friends, any respect, and all chance of companionship should he ever come out. Wasn't there some cure for homosexuality? Why couldn't he make it go away?

Irvine stared at Zell, watching dark looks, and pain play across his friend's face. He and Zell had not been particularly close in years, but Irvine was very good with emotions. He could Zell was having some serious problems. He wondered if it was over his break-up with Rebecca, but it didn't make sense. Zell was never really into her. Irvine wondered what could possibly depress someone as energetic, and volatile as Zell. The boy's energy seemed dissipated, his buoyant optimism now pessimism, his self-confidence shattered, and his social life now at an abrupt and unexpected halt.

What demon ate at Zell Dincht's soul?

It concerned Irvine. He hated to see anyone depressed, and hated it even more in his friends. Irvine, along with many others had spent most of high school trying to get Squall out of his depression, and for the most part, they had been successful. But the sudden and dark mood that had settled on Zell seemed far more dangerous, and far more difficult to shake. Irvine, Zell, Seifer, Squall, Quistis, and Selphie had all grown up together in the same orphanage. They were like family, and Zell was like Irvine's brother.

Seifer pulled up to the Marshall Center of the university, and let Irvine off. Irvine stepped out, and turned to Zell, who moodily stared off to the side. Irvine brought up a smile for his friend.

"Hey, Zell! Cheer up, okay, buddy? We'll get you a brand new girlfriend in no time. Ten times as hot, and ten times as horny. I know all the hotties on campus," Irvine said brightly.

To Irvine's surprise, that created a deep scowl on Zell's face. The blonde turned his spiky head towards Irvine, and the butterscotch-haired boy was suddenly taken by the look of deep pain in his friend's blue eyes. But Zell forced himself to smile, but it never reached his eyes.

"Thanks, Irvine," was all Zell said as Seifer pulled away, after leering at some cute brunette girl who ignored the blonde completely, which caused Squall to smirk.

Irvine stood on the sidewalk, and suddenly felt very cold, despite the Florida heat.

The entire group had decided on to go to a quiet bar that played softer music when the weekend hit a couple days later. The three couples involved seemed to mutually agree they wanted a little more romantic of an atmosphere than some loud, obnoxious night club in Ybor City. Zell, the only single one, put up no complaint, and silently came along. Zell was almost grateful that the bar was almost empty but for them, and the bartender quiet and unobtrusive.

Rinoa had pulled Squall out onto the main floor, and the two were laughing and generally having a good time as they tried to dance to the soft music, a venture not entirely unsuccessful. Seifer and Quistis sat at a table. Or rather, Seifer sat at a table, and Quistis sat on his lap. They seemed quite content to make out in public, their drinks hardly touched. Irvine had spent most of the night flirting with various girls, and getting slapped by Selphie for his wandering eye. He made it up to her by dancing with her, although they both looked ridiculous.

Zell, however, sat at the bar, and he meant business. Stiff drinks, no ice. He'd guzzled about four so far, and decided to nurse something milder for the time being. He wasn't really drunk, but he was damn close to it. The alcohol didn't lift his spirits, but at least it numbed his emotions for the moment. Zell carefully avoided watching his friends and their girlfriends. It only made him feel worse.

It wasn't jealousy of romance or companionship, so much as jealousy at their normalcy. How Zell wished he could sit at a table with a girl on his lap and make out with her for hours, and not be bored or disgusted. He wanted to be like everyone else, a part of the crowd. But the more he watched his friends and their various intimate relationships, the more he realized he was not part of their crowd. He couldn't be. Not anymore. He was a fucking abnormal freak, and he hated it so much it was driving him crazy.

"Hey, why's Zell so down? I didn't think he'd take Rebecca dumping him so hard. It's not like they were in love or anything," Selphie commented from Irvine's shoulder, noticing how upset Zell looked. He was nothing like his usual self, bouncing all over the bar, looking to have fun.

Irvine turned around, and frowned at the sad set to Zell's shoulders. "I'm not sure what's wrong with him... He's more depressed than Squall ever was. I don't think it's Rebecca, though. It's something else..." he sighed softly. It hurt him to see Zell look like that.

Selphie stepped away from Irvine's embrace. "Go talk to him, will ya? I think a girl just might make him feel worse, and out of all his friends, you're the only emotionally sensitive one...." she said lightly, giving Irvine a smile.

"Hey, not so loud! It'll ruin my womanizing reputation!" Irvine laughed.

"You're a womanizer like I'm a shy, quiet little girl. I know you, Irvine. You flirt like a bastard, but you've never once taken advantage of any girl. And I'm the only woman you've slept with since high school, so you better knock off that whole 'sexy cowboy' routine," Selphie said, sounding almost motherly.

Irvine grinned sheepishly. Most people, including some of his own friends, took him for a womanizing satyr. They never looked past the surface. Irvine was naturally flirtatious, mostly because he enjoyed people. He liked making them smile, and watching girls giggle and blush. Irvine loved people, and being with them. And Irvine loved women. Not just sexually, but for their emotional make-up. He got along better with them than any man. They thought differently than men, and Irvine found himself identifying better with them, though he'd never admit it to any of his male friends. All of Irvine's closest friends were women. In fact, Selphie was not only his girlfriend, but his best friend. Irvine covered his emotional sensitivity, and his feminine psychological make-up with that of a sexy cowboy who liked nothing better then guns and women.

But Irvine was all talk, at least lately. He couldn't bear to just sleep with some woman without getting emotionally involved any more. In high school, he had slept around, but that got old real quick as far as he was concerned. And as much as he bragged to his male friends, Irvine would die if he ever broke some girl's heart. He loved Selphie, and they had started dating in high school. Irvine had once thought it was the one true thing, but privately, he often wondered if he loved her more like a sister than a lover. Irvine still felt so uncompleted. He wanted something so much more intense, so much more emotional than he got from Selphie. And he often wondered if she loved him more like a brother. If she loved him at all. She had never said how she felt about him.

"Ahlright, ma'am. Ah'll try to do mah best by mah ridin' pardner over yonder. Ah reckon he needs a good talkin' to," Irvine said in a thick Southern accent, which caused Selphie to burst into giggles.

"Just go, you cornball. Go cheer Zell up. Make him smile. Give him head if that's what he wants," she laughed, pushing Irvine in Zell's direction

"But I left my knee pads at home!" Irvine protested with a laugh. Both smile and laugh quickly faded when he caught the look on Zell's face.

"Hey, Zell... How's it going?" Irvine asked slowly, giving Zell a soft smile.

Zell paused with his drink to his lips, and gave Irvine a sidelong glance. "Same as earlier," he said shortly. He desperately wanted Irvine to go away. Whereas his crush for Squall had faded away over time, Zell found himself insanely attracted to the most painfully heterosexual of all his friends. Who was also the most compassionate.

Irvine was quiet for a moment. "You can't let her get to you like this, Zell. I don't know the details, and I don't need to know, but it's not healthy for you to continue acting like this. It's been almost a week. To be honest, you never really seemed to care about Rebecca at all," he sighed.

"Who said anything about Rebecca? Look, this is my problem, not yours. I appreciate your advice, but right now, I want you to blow it out your ass," Zell snarled angrily. Why couldn't Irvine be an obnoxious prick like Seifer? Or a cold bastard like Squall? Then Zell wouldn't be so attracted to him.

It made him angry, this sudden and intense attraction to Irvine. It seemed to sneak up on him over the course of the past couple days. The more Zell saw Irvine, the more ne noticed how beautiful the young man was. How compassionate, and sweet he actually was. Irvine was kind, and surprisingly considerate. The more Zell observed how Irvine treated people, especially women, he realized how untrue his reputation was. Irvine was no womanizing sex fiend. He just liked people.

"Zell... C'mon man, we've been friends for years. Since we were like three and got put in the same orphanage. There's something seriously wrong with you, and it's eating you alive," Irvine said, his face full of concern. When he looked at Zell, he saw only darkness.

Zell's face crumpled, and for a moment, Irvine thought the short blonde was going to burst into tears. Irvine wondered what he'd said wrong, and instantly felt guilty for no reason.

"You're right. There is something seriously wrong with me..... It's wrong, it's disgusting, it's against nature. I might as well just burn in hell for all eternity right now," Zell said, his voice cracking, and he got up and left. Irvine stared after the blonde.

He had no idea what Zell was talking about.

Irvine got up and followed the blonde after a few minutes. He went outside into the parking lot, and in the dim street light, he couldn't find Zell anywhere.

And then he heard the sound of sobbing.

Irvine followed the sound, and found Zell sitting at the side of the stone building, his knees drawn up to his chest, and hugging his legs. The little blonde was crying his heart out into his knees, and Irvine's heart instantly went out to the smaller boy. He didn't know what was wrong, but he knew that whatever it was, was breaking Zell's heart.

Irvine said nothing, because words were not needed. He sat down beside Zell, and pulled the boy against him, hugging him tightly, as he would his brother. Like he used to do when they were little and Zell would climb into Irvine's bed in the middle of the night, frightened by a thunderstorm. Zell lost all his reservations and began to sob into Irvine's chest, soaking Irvine's green silk shirt with his tears. Irvine just held his friend, rocking him slightly, letting Zell pour out all his tears, offering silent comfort.

It felt like hours to the pair, but in reality it was only twenty minutes before Zell calmed down, and found his face buried into the object of his desire's chest. Zell placed a palm against the toned firmness of Irvine's pectoral muscle, and pushed himself up, his face level with Irvine's, their eyes gazing into the other's. Sapphire met amethyst, and when Zell searched the depths of Irvine's eyes, he found nothing but concern and compassion.

It began to rain, but the overhang of the building kept them dry.

Zell leaned his face into Irvine's, his lips nearly touching Irvine's soft rose petal lips. Irvine said nothing, and didn't even pull back, his earnest violet eyes still caught in the depths of Zell's sad blue eyes. Zell felt his face flush with desire, and he very badly wanted to kiss Irvine, to see what kissing a man was really like. To taste Irvine in his mouth....

Their lips were so close that Zell could feel Irvine's soft, moist breath on his face. He could smell Irvine's cologne, and the definable musky scent of a man. His awareness seemed heightened, and Zell was incredibly aware that his body was pressed up against the lean body of an incredibly beautiful, and desirable young man. Irvine seemed so pliable, so willing... Zell dropped his eyelids, his lips so close to Irvine's that he could feel the barest hint of warm, tender flesh waiting to be plundered by his mouth....

And then he remembered....

... that he was about to kiss his friend.

Zell abruptly backed away, pulling out of Irvine's embrace. Irvine's face was still flushed with the heat of the moment, his face still slack, expectant. Waiting for Zell to make the first move. Irvine felt like he was in a stupor, and quickly snapped himself out of it. His eyes grew wide when he realized how close he had gotten to kissing Zell. Irvine flushed with embarrassment, and a look of anger passed across his face, but it was self directed. How could he be so callous as to take advantage of one of his friends in a vulnerable moment? What was wrong with him? Zell needed a friend, and shoulder to cry on, not one of his friend's trying to turn him gay! Zell was not only emotionally vulnerable, but half-drunk! Irvine was instantly ashamed of himself. Zell would never have forgave Irvine if they had actually kissed.

Zell, however, took the brief look of anger, and the chagrined look of embarrassment the wrong way. He felt sick to his stomach when he realized he could not only have branded himself as a nasty homosexual, but actually forced an act of such on one of his friends, a friend who had come out here to give him comfort. Zell's worst fears seemed to be confirmed. Irvine knew now, or at least suspected. Irvine would be disgusted, and Zell would be cast away from all his friends, as nothing but the horrible sexual deviant he was...

He hated himself more than ever. For being what he was...

Why couldn't he just make it go away? Why couldn't he be like everyone else?

Why did he have to be gay? What had he ever done so wrong, to deserve to be such a horrible person?

To be gay? To be homosexual?

Just the thought left a nasty aftertaste in his mind. Everyone would hate him now. They would point, and they would stare. He was just a filthy faggot. He didn't even deserve to breathe the same air as normal people. What he was, was wrong in the eyes of God, nature, and mankind. He was wrong.

Zell Dincht came to the conclusion, as he fled from his friend, that he was the filthiest, most disgusting creature on Earth. What he didn't realize was that not even the most prejudice homophobe could hate him more then he hated himself.

Irvine sat on the side of the building, watching Zell run away in the rain, completely dumbfounded. He shivered as if he was cold, even though it was a hot Florida night, and the rain hadn't touched him yet.

Zell didn't talk to anyone anymore.

He rarely came out of his room. He slept a lot, or sat dumbly in front of his television, watching old movies. Movies that were completely unrealistic, and fit everyone into nice, neat little social niches. Homosexuality wasn't even a thought.

He missed three days worth of classes. Irvine tried to talk to him, but Zell would always close the door of his bedroom, and lock it. Even Squall and Seifer became concerned for him, and they wondered what was wrong with Zell. When Zell actually came out on the rare occasion, to get something to eat, they whispered around him, like you would a dying man.

It only intensified Zell's paranoia. He was convinced everyone knew what he was, and were laughing at him behind his back. Because it was one big joke, right? Being gay was the funniest joke around...

A week went by, with Zell rarely leaving his room, and he lagged behind in his classes. Irvine was at his door every day, trying to make him eat more, trying to find out what was wrong, and what he could do to help. Zell was convinced Irvine was trying to make the little blonde humiliate himself again. So Irvine could have something to laugh about.

When the weekend came by again, Zell left a note on his desk, and walked out of his apartment for the first time in a week.

Irvine kept having the same dream.

He kept dreaming of Zell, and that Zell was being swallowed alive by darkness. A demon of hatred ate his soul. Tonight was particularly bad dream. It kept Irvine awake.

Irvine had tried everything he could think of, but Zell wouldn't let him close. Irvine felt ashamed. The almost-kiss he and Zell had shared had probably alienated the blonde form him. Zell was probably disgusted by it, and because of it, he wouldn't let Irvine help him with his problems. Things were getting worse with Zell, and it was all Irvine's fault.

Irvine had always had sexual feelings for both men and women. He had accepted the fact that he was bisexual since he was fourteen and had wound up having a very intense mutual masturbation session with another boy. But he certainly didn't let that get out. It would be far too embarrassing. In fact, he had made every effort to cultivate a reputation that bespoke the exact opposite.

As Irvine got older, he had gotten very good at controlling his impulses. He rarely even thought of men sexually anymore. He just shoved the emotions so deep, they were almost forgotten. But with Zell pressed against him, and as eager as the little blonde had seemed to kiss him....

Irvine sighed deeply. It had been a mistake. It was a moment of weakness for Zell, nothing more. Irvine had misconstrued it due solely to his own personal desires.

He had to admit, that he had always liked Zell. How could you not? He was adorable. It was one of the reasons why Irvine had pulled away from Zell as they got older. As children, they were as inseparable as twins. They were always sharing a bed, a shower, food, toys, comforting each other when Seifer beat them up...

And then they got older and Irvine realized he liked Zell. And Irvine knew that it was wrong, and he didn't want Zell to hate him. So he pulled away. And while they remained good friends, their childhood closeness was gone. And Irvine refocused his attention on his new best friend, a girl not entirely unlike Zell, the bouncy, bubbly Selphie Tilmitt.

He didn't love her, he could see that now. He loved her like a sister, his best friend. He loved her for the qualities she used to share with Zell, before Zell got depressed. Irvine sat on his bed, trying to remember Zell, like the way Zell was suppose to be.

Zell was like an overgrown child. His face was all boyish charm, an innocent form of beauty. Zell's features were strong, but childish. On his face belonged that irascible grin, with the gleaming white fangs, and the exotic, intricate black facial tattoo. Zell was small, shorter than most women even. But his body was packed tightly with muscles. Zell had a lean, taut build, and complete muscle definition. Firm pectorals, flexing biceps, and a tight six-pack. But he wasn't bulging, something Irvine liked best. And then there was Zell's spiky golden hair, that bounced easily, as the boy would bounce, filled with boundless energy, and prone to volatile outbursts.

But what made Irvine smile in memory was the thought of the beautiful sapphire blue eyes, that shone with Zell's force of spirit. Sometimes, if Irvine looked within himself, he could just reach out and touch Zell's spirit, which was like a ray of sunshine, warming Irvine at the mental touch. The butterscotch-haired boy reached out with his own spirit, to touch Zell's, trying to comfort himself with the sunshine of Zell's soul....

... and found only darkness.

Irvine stumbled out of his bed, even though it was the middle of the night. He felt a certain sense of dread. An overwhelming sense of dread. Irvine quickly ran out of his room, and into Zell's, not caring if Zell got angry at him, and didn't want him or not. Something was wrong, horribly, horribly wrong...

The room was empty.

Irvine gave a soft cry, the dread in his stomach worsening. His eyes caught on a letter on Zell's desk. With shaky hands, Irvine picked up the letter, and read it.

To all my friends, it began.

I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I didn't want to be this way. I really didn't. I know you think I'm horrible, and I am. I'm filthy, disgusting, evil... But I'm sorry. If I could take it all back, I would. If I could be different, I would. I tried so hard not to be this way, but I couldn't stop myself. it wouldn't go away, no matter what I told myself, what I did.... It's a curse, a plague of my soul. But I'm fixing it now. You won't have to worry about me anymore. I know you probably hate me now, but I hope you can forgive me.... I hope you can remember me the way I was. The way I was suppose to be.

Zell Dincht

The letter fell from Irvine's hands and he dove out of the apartment, blindly searching with all six of his senses, searching for the dark soul that was Zell Dincht. He searched and he prayed.

Irvine prayed he wasn't too late to save Zell's soul.

He hadn't jumped yet.

Zell had meant to jump almost the second he reached the roof. But he just couldn't bring himself to do it immediately. On top of everything else, he was a coward, too.

But it was an awful long way down....

Zell sat on the ledge, his legs dangling over the several story drop. He smoked one of Squall's cigarette's and wondered if Squall would be pissed that he stole one to smoke before he died.

Zell was drowned in his own self-hatred. Every time he heard someone insult homosexuality, he felt they personally insulting him. Every time someone made fun of homosexuality, he felt they personally made fun of him. He felt like the most worthless human being in existence. He hated what he was, hated the emotions he felt. His perception externalized his hate, and he was convinced everyone else hated him, too.

All Zell wanted was to be accepted by everyone else.

He sighed, feeling prepared for the jump. Zell stood up, and looked over at the night lights of Tampa, appreciating the view. At least he was able to look at something pretty before he died. He spread his arms wide, and lifted one leg, prepared to step into nothingness, so he could become nothingness.

"ZELL!!!!! DON'T DO IT!!!"

Zell paused at Irvine's scream, dropping his arms, but remained standing at the edge. He looked over in mild surprise at his friend, who had tears pouring down his face, and a look of desperation. "Irvine...?" he asked slowly, not believing the butterscotch-haired boy would bother to come out here for him.

"Zell, please for the love of God, don't jump..." Irvine sobbed stepping closer to Zell, his face frightened.

Zell turned his face from Irvine, and hardened his expression. "Why not? Don't do this because you feel you need to, Irvine," he said bitterly. His soul was swallowed up by the darkness.

"Zell.... What is so bad that you have to kill yourself over....? If it's Rebecca, please don't do this. There are so many other beautiful women out there for you... Please, Zell...." Irvine pleaded.

"Do you really not know? It's not about Rebecca, it never was. Don't you get it, Irvine? You could get me a million girlfriends and it wouldn't matter. I'd still be gay. I'd still be a filthy faggot," Zell said darkly, looking down at the parking lot his head would soon be exploding on.

Irvine was silent for a minute. Never in a million years did he consider....

"Zell...." Irvine breathed.

Zell was crying. "I hate it, Irvy. I hate it so much. I hate just the thought of people staring at me, pointing at me. I hate being different. I hate being wrong. I hate being so disgusting that even God would turn his face from me.... I hate me," he sobbed.

"Zell," Irvine said in a stronger voice, "Zell, you're not filthy, or disgusting. You're Zell. You're one of the most honorable people I know. You protect people, you stand up for what is right. You're strong, inside and out. You're beautiful, inside and out. Your soul is like sunshine. Don't you understand, Zell? It doesn't matter what those fucking prejudice bastards on television say... THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU!!"

The power of Irvine's words made Zell turn around, and stop facing the ledge. A glimmer of sunshine peeked out from the darkness. So small, so weak, but there. Tears poured from Zell's eyes, and never seemed to end.

"Zell, I think about guys sometimes, too. I think about you, a lot of times. Am I evil? Sex is a choice. I choose to like both men and women. There is nothing wrong with any emotion, unless it brings someone harm. If you feel something for someone, and they feel something back, or if you want to have sex with someone, and they want to have sex with you, then it doesn't matter what gender they are.... You're not evil, you're not bad, you're not wrong. You're a good guy. A good guy who is gay. It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. Just listen to me, Zell. It's not worth your life. Are you going to let those fucking prejudice bastards win? Are you going to let some close-minded asshole who has nothing better to do with his time than spread hate, tell you right from wrong? Look in your heart, Zell. Look in mine. It'll tell you what's right and wrong. God would never turn his face from a good person, just because they're gay...."

Zell was silent, listening to Irvine's words. The darkness was slowly receding.

"What's wrong is what you're doing. You're hurting someone, Zell. You're hurting yourself. And when you hurt yourself, you hurt me. You hurt all of us. Your friends. Your family," Irvine said passionately, stepping very close to Zell and holding out his hand. He waited expectantly for Zell to take it, and step down from the edge.

"I thought you loved Selphie," Zell said weakly, glancing back down with a torn expression.

"I do, Zell. Like a sister. I love you, too, but not like a brother. I have for a long time, but I hid that, because I thought you would hate me. Don't you get it? We've both spent our entire lives denying the way we felt because someone else told us it was wrong. Well, it's not wrong. Please, Zell. I'm tired of being alone. Please don't leave me....." Irvine pleaded, his violet eyes intense.

Zell blinked, swallowing in a dry throat. Irvine's hand remained steady before him, waiting for him to take it. To take a chance at life. To take a chance at love. To take a chance at accepting who he was, and to tell anyone who didn't like it to fuck off. It was his life to live.

To live.

It began to rain the moment Zell took Irvine's hand. It was a soft, gentle, cleansing rain. It washed away their pain, and Zell's hatred. Irvine helped Zell down, and stood in front of the smaller boy, their eyes searching the other. They didn't notice that their pajamas were getting wet. The rain was warm, blessedly warm. Life was warm. The unnatural cold had left Irvine, just as the darkness fled from Zell, banished by the sunlight that was Zell's soul.

And it was in the warm rain that they kissed, their lips meeting hungrily as they should have a long time ago, the two boys delighting in the taste of the other. Rose petal pink met pale pink, the soft, moist flesh of their mouths meeting eagerly, their tongues entwining in a private dance. Zell and Irvine embraced, lost in their passionate kiss.

It ended as quickly as it had begun, and the two boys pulled away, their eyes locked together. Irvine smiled gently, and led Zell back down to their apartment, and made sure the small blonde entered his bedroom. Irvine did not follow.

"Good night, Zell," Irvine said softly as the boy went inside his bedroom. Zell said nothing, but managed a soft smile. It wasn't about sex, what had just happened between them. Neither boy was ready to take that step, and they had an unspoken agreement that if they ever got close, it would not be until Zell had pulled his act together.

Maybe it was love, but neither was quite ready to define their emotions as such. Neither boy was ready to define their emotions. There was attraction, strong attraction, but it didn't really matter. Now was the time to heal, and to accept. Anything that could happen between them would have to wait.

Zell sat down on his bed and began to cry, but not in despair, in relief. It was going to be alright now, he knew. He wasn't alone, and he didn't have to face the world as a monster. All he had wanted was to be accepted.

And Irvine had accepted him.

The next morning was a Sunday, so Irvine awoke at his leisure. He showered and dressed, and left his room, noticing that Squall was up, and watching CNN. Seifer was still asleep, but Irvine didn't care. He walked over to Zell's room, and quietly knocked.

After a few minutes, Zell opened the door, his hair mused from sleep. He rubbed his eyes like a child, staring up at Irvine expectantly.

"Hey, go take your shower and get dressed. We're going out for breakfast, okay? IHOP sound good?" Irvine said brightly. Zell needed a best friend, someone to spend time with him, pay attention to him, and make sure he was alright. And Irvine was determined to be that friend.

"Alright..." Zell said, smiling slightly and closing the door, preparing to get ready.

Squall raised an eyebrow the moment Zell's door was closed. He studied Irvine for a moment. "How'd you do that?" Squall finally asked.

Irvine blinked, combing out his long, wavy hair. "Do what?" he asked.

"That. Make Zell smile. Make him come out of his damn room," Squall said.

Irvine smiled softly to himself. "The same way Seifer made you smile and come out of your shell. I give a damn about him, and I let him know that. Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world. Seifer finally accepted you for a cold-hearted little bastard, after many years of trying to change you. So I accept Zell for the way he is," Irvine said bluntly, picking up the Sunday comics.

Squall blinked and then turned away. "Oh," was all he said.

Zell came out in about twenty minutes, dressed for the first time in a week. Irvine smiled at him, but noted there were still shadows on Zell's face. He wasn't completely healed, but he was a lot better. Zell smiled back, and the pair left to go eat breakfast.

The next month went by quickly, and soon the unbearable heat of Florida became cool was fall and winter approached. Zell soon returned to his old self, all energy and mouth. It eased everyone's spirits for Zell not to be depressed. Zell said nothing of his sexual preference, and didn't even speak of it with Irvine.

Irvine and Zell quickly became inseparable. They went everywhere together, and did most things together. They ate out together, went clubbing together, watched movies, and even studied together. They both began to appreciate their differences, and their similarities. Irvine was a charmer, a polite smooth-talker, while Zell was a loud-mouthed punk who always spoke his mind. But they liked a lot of the same kind of alternative music, although Zell never appreciated Irvine's love of industrial, and Irvine never really cared for the hardcore rap. They liked the same comedy movies, but their tastes were different enough to encourage the other to see more variety. Through Irvine, Zell became a fan of horror, and through Zell, Irvine became a fan of action. They were similar, yet different. Their variety brought energy to both their lives. The shadows faded from Zell, and he was like sunshine once again.

But they never spoke of the night Zell almost jumped from the roof, and the subject of sex was tactfully never brought up. Zell didn't speak of being gay anymore than Irvine spoke of being bisexual. They never kissed after that first night, and romance never entered their relationship at all. It was carefully avoided by both, both young men almost frightened of what might happen should they bring it up.

But even though they kept silent, it didn't mean they never thought sex. On the contrary, like most men, sex was constantly on their mind.

Zell carefully avoided touching Irvine, even though he desperately wanted to feel the tall cowboy's soft skin under his fingers. If even their arms or legs brushed against each other, Zell fell silent, and would begin to blush, not unlike a little boy with a crush. Zell often fantasized about Irvine, but was terrified of ever speaking up about his desires, afraid Irvine would reject him, not want him. He wasn't sure if what Irvine had said on the roof was true, or if the honey-haired boy had just said what he said to make Zell feel better.

Irvine for his part, knew he was quickly falling in love with Zell, with Zell's energy, and Zell's strength. Irvine was a very emotional young man, and cliche` thought it was, was in touch with his emotions, and even his feminine side. He was attracted to Zell, to Zell's masculinity, Zell's adorable, childish face, to Zell's aggressive and buoyant personality. Irvine found most of his desires for women quickly fading in light of the new passion he felt, but he was afraid Zell didn't like him; that Zell thought he was too emotional, too feminine, even though Irvine was not effeminate.

And then there was the matter of Selphie. Selphie was Irvine's best friend, his girlfriend. What he had once thought was the love his life when he was seventeen. But at twenty-one, Irvine was a little different, and a lot more mature than he had been as a teenager. He never stopped flirting, but it lost it's intensity, and the sexual undertones Irvine had once enjoyed playing with. Irvine found most of his sexual energy now devoted to fantasizing about a certain petite blonde boy. But he still loved Selphie, even if it was in a brotherly fashion.

Irvine was torn, and Zell was afraid. But the attraction remained.

Irvine, Zell, and all their friends had a preference for quiet places to hang out. The loud, pumping music of clubs, and the unbearably crowded atmosphere only annoyed the group. Instead, they found quiet night spots to go out to.

They had found another quiet night club, which lacked the loud music, and the riotous drunkards. Alcohol flowed freely, but no one was loud about it, and the music tended more towards jazz than anything. A lazy atmosphere filled the club, and most of the visitors were tokers. And Zell and all his friends happily partook of the weed being passed around.

Irvine, Zell, and Selphie happily shared a joint, while the group chattered on about the deep, esoteric philosophy that only someone who's high on pot could truly appreciate. Squall and Rinoa shared, and Seifer and Quistis shared. Eventually, the deep conversation trailed off, and Seifer and Quistis wound up making out in a corner, while Rinoa dragged Squall out onto the dance floor. Dancing was a passion of Rinoa's, and making out was Quistis' passion. Normally, Irvine and Selphie often imitated one of the other couples, but lately, they had been drifting apart. Neither making out, or dancing enticed them anymore. Their relationship had become almost platonic. Irvine hadn't had sex in almost a month.

Irvine suddenly excused himself from his conversation with Zell and Selphie, and got up to get more weed for them both. The bartender sold it at the counter, and Irvine fished around in his pockets for the cash as the bartender laid a dime bag on the counter.

"So, why don't you make this easy for us both, and just tell me who've you fallen in love with."

Irvine spun around, and found himself looking down at Selphie. She was grinning at him, her green eyes sparkling. Irvine sputtered, surprised. How could she possibly know? How could she possibly not know?

"Or can I offer my theory on who it is?" Selphie said with a smirk.

"Wh-what are you talking about?" Irvine asked weakly.

"I originally thought it might be Quistis. You always seemed to like her, even though she never really liked you at all. I considered Rinoa, but you were so vital with helping Rinoa and Squall get together, I knew it couldn't be her. All those girls you flirt with are meaningless. You and I both know that, so I was stumped for a while, but I finally figured it out. I'm surprised it took me so long, because I really should have noticed it a long time ago. But it never really occurred to me that you or he felt that way. But now, I'm almost positive you've fallen for Zell. So am I right?" Selphie bubbled. She was a lot smarter than anyone gave her credit for.

Irvine swallowed, his violet eyes as wide as dinner plates. "I......" he began to say, and then trailed off. What use denying the truth? Why? It was the truth. He felt for Zell. He desired Zell. He loved Zell.

"I know. Why don't you tell him? Zell's been in the closet since puberty. He tried to hide it, but I saw how he acted around Squall. Maybe you should help him out. He likes you back, didn't you notice?" Selphie smiled. Everything about her was sisterly, and Irvine knew that she loved him like she would any brother. There was no jealousy, because there was no need. She had everything figured out, where even brainiacs like Quistis were clueless.

"No. I didn't notice," Irvine said flatly, looking over at Zell, who was rolling another joint, and giggling at the mushy love words Seifer was babbling to Quistis in his drugged stupor.

"C'mon, Irvine. You'll always be my best friend. But you helped Zell out of a bad mess. I think you two deserve a little fun. Lord knows that kid needs to get laid. He tries to hide it, but he gets sprung when you just brush up against him," Selphie giggled. Irvine stared at Selphie in shock.

"Gods, what a dork. Go already. Just do it in private, because I don't think Seifer's heart could take watching two guys make out. He might have a stroke or something," Selphie sighed, pushing Irvine along in Zell's direction. Irvine numbly handed her the dime bag and stumbled off in Zell's direction. He was buzzed enough to have just a little of his shyness forgotten.

Irvine plopped down next to the petite blonde, and grinned shyly over at Zell. Zell blinked at the odd expression on his friend's face, and offered Irvine a hit from his blunt.

"Uh, no... Not that...." Irvine said softly, and stared down at the floor. Seifer, Squall, Quistis, and Rinoa were all out of earshot, and Selphie was politely staying away, amusing herself by chatting with the bartender.

"Whaddaya want then?" Zell asked with a shrug, bringing the blunt back up to his lips.

"Do you like me? Because I like you," Irvine said bluntly, unable to find a way to phrase anything like this tactfully.

Zell choked on the smoke and put out the blunt, staring at Irvine blankly. His spiky hair was beginning to droop in the smoke, but his blue eyes glittered brightly. "Wha...?" he asked in shock.

"I mean, I guess you forgot about what I said when we were on the roof. I really do like you, Zell. I just want to know if you like me back or not...." Irvine said shyly, his long eyelashes covering his eyes.

Zell was silent for a few minutes. "You... like me...?" he asked slowly, disbelieving.

"For a long time, Zell," Irvine said quietly.

"I like you, Irvine. How could I not? You're the nicest guy I know...." Zell finally said, proffering Irvine a toothsome smile, his canines gleaming in the light.

Irvine instinctively reached up and fiddled with his hair nervously, smiling happily. He felt elated, like he had just been freed from jail. "I'm glad," Irvine said lamely, suddenly unsure of where to take things from this point. He was not particularly aggressive around other men, having reserved most of that for women, who seemed to like that sort of thing. But around Zell, Irvine felt shy, like a little boy.

"So'm I," Zell said just as lamely, blushing and staring at his shoes. Why he didn't lack any aggressive nature, he still felt frightened by his own feelings, and more than a little uncomfortable acting on them. Other than the spontaneous, and incredibly intense kiss he had shared with Irvine, he had never even came close to being intimate with another male.

Silence. Mostly uncomfortable silence. Both young men had their desires and their fantasies, but had an equal amount of reservations and nervousness to match.

"Have you... ever been with another guy...?" Zell asked after awhile. His high was fading off, and he was sobering up quickly.

"Kinda.... when I was fourteen, me and this other boy kinda messed around, but we never did anything serious. It was fun, though," Irvine offered with a wry grin.

"I've never done anything. Never even been all the way with a chick. Couldn't go all the way with one. That's when I was... you know..." Zell shrugged, daring to look up at Irvine, noting that there was a rosy pink blush on the boy's cheeks.

"Gay. Say it, Zell. Don't be ashamed of it," Irvine said seriously.

Zell turned red. "Gay. Right. I'm gay," he sighed, almost sadly.

"But it's not a bad thing. Just different. But not any more different than Squall and his bondage fetish. Or Seifer and his food fetish. Actually I think it's better than Seifer and his food fetish. There are just certain places I think chocolate sauce should not go," Irvine said with a mischievous grin.

Zell began to giggle. "Alright. I'll give you that. But you're kinda prissy for a supposed sex fiend," Zell grinned, his blue eyes glinting a little impishly.

"I'm not a sex fiend. I was a sex fiend in high school, but you get over all that when you reach adulthood. Sex isn't all that great unless you actually care about someone," Irvine said with authority.

"Spoken like a true woman," Zell chuckled.

"I'm not a woman! I'm just comfortable with emotions. I like them. They make everything more intense, more pleasurable," Irvine said a little crossly.

"I believe you. I'm just teasing you is all," Zell grinned.

Irvine sighed, but he smiled. Zell was leaning in very close to him, and Irvine felt very warm. He leaned back, prepared to kiss back when he remembered they were not in a private place.

Irvine quickly pulled away saying, "Hey, I'm all for coming out and everything, but I'd rather not do it like this. Seifer would bust a coronary artery in shock. And Squall would pass out. And then Quistis would want to watch, and Rinoa would scream."

"And Selphie..?" Zell asked with raised eyebrow, his body stiffening. Irvine did have a girlfriend, as far as he knew.

"And Selphie would only say that she told me to go do it in private, so I wouldn't have to deal with all this," Irvine chuckled.

"So, she's okay with you sleeping around on her with other guys, or something?" Zell asked stiffly, freezing up.

"Of course she is. Why else would breaking up with her have been so easy...?" Irvine shrugged with a smile.

Zell blinked and the grinned, loosening up. "So.... you're single then?" he asked.

"Well, I was hoping not for long," Irvine said softly, giving Zell a meaningful glance.

"So you would want to be with another guy on like a permanent sort of basis? Wouldn't that be different for you?" Zell pressed.

"Not really. A relationship is a relationship. Someone you love is someone you love. Sex is sex. Men and women aren't really all that different, you know. I like you because you're you, not because you're a man. If you were a woman, I'd still like you the same. That's how I feel...." Irvine said honestly, searching Zell's eyes.

"So... you'd like to be with me on a permanent sort of basis...?" Zell asked softly, putting his hand gently on Irvine's thigh.

"Definitely," Irvine smiled, covering Zell's hand with his own. It was odd, but even though Zell was seven inches shorter than Irvine, the blonde's hand was larger.

"Wanna get outta here?" Zell asked seriously, resisting the urge to kiss Irvine in public.

"Hell yeah," the butterscotch-haired boy grinned.

Selphie smiled to herself as Irvine and Zell finally left the building, both looking like they were desperately resisting the urge to start undressing the other right then and there. She had been trying to convince Irvine to move on for a year, but the boy refused to let her go, because he was so afraid of being alone. She didn't have the heart to just break up with him. She loved Irvine as a brother, and nothing more. And he loved her like a sister, but he had thought it was romantically, had wanted it to be romantically. But now things were much different.

Because by accepting Zell for what he was, Irvine had finally accepted himself.

They managed to make it back to their apartment.

Zell and Irvine stumbled across the living room, the frantic pace of their kisses, and the wandering nature of their hands causing them to have difficulties making it to Zell's room. The two boys finally made it to the bedroom, collapsing on Zell's bed, with Irvine underneath the smaller blonde.

"Are you sure you want to do this...?" Irvine asked gently between kisses, blushing as Zell's slid his clothes off.

"Never wanted anything, anyone more.... Are you sure you want to do this?" Zell asked as he admired Irvine's nude form, the taut, lean lines of his beautiful body.

"Yes," Irvine said firmly, reaching up to stroke Zell's face, tracing the exotic facial tattoo Zell had gotten a few years ago. Zell grinned, his canines peeking out with vigor.

Between the pair, they made short work of Zell's clothes, and within a minute, both boys lay up against each other naked. They moved slowly after that, Irvine's hands tracing lazy lines on Zell's muscular form, and Zell massaging slow circles across Irvine's slender body. Their lips were the only things eager about them, their kiss endless and intense. Tongues danced across each other, even as lips devoured, only to be consumed by the other.

Zell discovered in his caresses, that touching Irvine's nipples made the boy gasp. Eager to repeat the delicious sound of the cowboy gasping in pleasure, he gently rubbed the hard, fleshy nub in between his fingers, causing Irvine to hiss and mewl. Zell grinned and broke their kiss, bending down to play with the sensitive brown flesh with his tongue.

Irvine moaned, his hands gripping Zell's shoulders, pushing down slightly, urging the smaller boy to where he wanted him. Zell acquiesced, and found himself face to face with another man's erection. He studied it in fascination for a minute before responding to Irvine's urging, snaking out a tongue to touch the tip of Irvine's erection. The honey-haired man arched in pleasure, crying out softly. Zell swirled his tongue around the velvety tip, pleased at Irvine's dramatic reactions.

Zell's tasted something salty on his tongue, and pulled back, realizing Irvine was leaking onto his tongue. Zell leaned back in, prepared to take Irvine's length in his mouth, but Irvine stopped him.

"Don't... do that anymore... Or I'll come. I want us to do it together," Irvine panted, sweat causing some of his long, butterscotch hair to stick to his forehead. Zell sat up, smiling. Seeing Irvine in a sweat, his violet eyes indigo with lust, and his beautiful hair strewn about his face, and the pillow made Zell ache to be part of Irvine.

Irvine sat up a little and brought their lips together, reinstating their kiss. "I want you inside me, Zell," Irvine whispered, his arms wrapping around Zell.

"We'll need something.... I got some lotion on my bed stand..." Zell offered. Even though this was his first sexual experience, he was by no means an innocent. Gay porn on the Internet had taught him a lot.

"That's fine," Irvine said distractedly, perfectly content to let Zell take charge. He focused on covering Zell's face, neck and shoulders with gentle kisses as the blonde reached over to grab the lotion. Zell's hair was drooping into his eyes, the effects of his mousse fading drastically in the face of intimacy.

Zell quickly squeezed the lotion onto his fingers, and pressed Irvine back down on the bed, happily soaking up every kiss and caress Irvine bestowed upon him. Zell gently pressed one finger into Irvine's tight opening while returning the rain of kisses. Irvine gasped, squirming only slightly. He urged Zell to continue and another soon followed, lubricating and stretching Irvine for entry. After the initial shock, and rather odd feeling of what Zell was doing, Irvine moaned, enjoying the sensations flooding through his body. Zell had inadvertently found his hot spot, and now the blonde was wickedly taking advantage of it.

Irvine gasped loudly, partially in surprise when Zell entered him, replacing fingers with something far more substantial. Zell cried out loudly as his length was engulfed by the Irvine's warm and incredibly tight opening. The blonde arched his back, bending over his lover in pleasure. Irvine wrapped his arms around Zell, even as the blonde did the same, and their lips met once again, even as Zell began to rock inside Irvine, seeking the butterscotch-haired boy's hot spot.

Their bodies tangled and writhed in pleasure, rolling over and over as the pace grew frantic. Zell on top, then Irvine on top, each body seeking it's own pleasure, while giving it as good gotten. Zell had never experienced anything so intense, so absorbing as what he was doing. And Irvine had also never been as consumed by ecstasy as he was now, even though he had been with many women years ago. Zell felt as incredibly as he had when he first kissed Irvine in the rain, and it felt as if he was being showered with a rainfall of pleasure, and of love.

The end was intense and forceful, their orgasms so close in time they seemed to come as one. it wracked their bodies and left them spent, lying with each other on the bed, tangled in the sheets and each other's arms and legs. They were almost side by side, with Irvine on his back, and Zell on his stomach, but Zell's head and the right side of his chest and right arm rested on Irvine's chest.

Zell rested his head between Irvine's shoulder and the boy's neck, breathing heavily. His eyes were open, even as Irvine's closed, the taller boy smiling in pleasure. It was raining outside, a soft, but long shower, casting a glowing indigo tinge to the night sky. Zell found himself staring out the window, though his thoughts were on Irvine, and how much being with him, touching him, and being accepted by him meant.

"I love you, Irvine," Zell whispered.

Irvine started, and then smiled down at adoring gaze that Zell turned on him. "I love you, Zell, for a while now," he whispered, returning the sentiments. Zell said nothing, the love in his blue eyes saying everything he needed.

The pair fell asleep listening to the sound of rain on the roof, not caring who would know, or who wouldn't, or even how they would react. All they cared about was how much they loved each other.

It rained all night.

Squall and Quistis took the revelation of Irvine and Zell's relationship in stride, as if they had always known, and perhaps they had. Seifer and Rinoa freaked out at first, and after convincing Seifer to breathe, they both quickly got over the shock and accepted it rather well.

No one seemed to hate Zell, and nobody that mattered to him ever treated him differently. He was still their friend, and their family. Sexual preference made no difference in the grand scheme of things. And Zell always found it amusing to watch Seifer to struggle to not make gay jokes or rude comments around Irvine and Zell. Zell no longer found it offensive, and even made some of his own, and Seifer, proving he did have a sense of humor, would return any gay joke Zell made with an equally funny heterosexual joke.

Irvine and Zell stayed together longer than any of their friends, until the day they died, many years later, of old age. No one could dispute the strong bonds of love and friendship they shared, and gender never made a difference to most. Occasionally, Zell would meet up with some prejudice homophobic person, but he learned to ignore them, or return their insults in kind. They never crushed his spirit ever again, because he found the love and confidence everyone needed to go through life with Irvine. And in turn, Irvine found the happiness, and strength he needed in Zell. They made each other complete and happy. Their relationship wasn't perfect, none ever is, and they had their share of fights, but they always made it through it. Love perseveres.

My name is Casey Kinneas-Dincht, and I am Irvine and Zell's adopted daughter. I write this in memory of my fathers, a testimony to their love, and a way for me to be able to say good-bye to them. I hope others may come and read this, and learn that love knows no gender, no body, no sin. Love knows only love. And when you feel your soul is going to be swallowed by darkness, and you think hate faces you at every turn, I want you to know that love will heal any wound. Hate kills, but love saves. Hate will dry out your soul, but love will nourish it.

And then it rained.....

..... and love grew where hate once dwelled.

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