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"I don't want you to freak out," Zack said. Then he smiled, his blinding smile, the one that made Cloud's stomach flip over. "Okay, maybe I want you to freak out a little. But I don't want to actually scare you, okay?"

"Okay," Cloud said. "Right." He was trying to imagine what Zack could possibly be about to suggest. Sex somewhere public? A threesome with his oft-referenced mystery girlfriend?

Instead Zack dumped the contents of a bag onto his bed. It took Cloud a minute to sort out what the tangle actually was—some scarves, and two pair of leather . . . what? Oh. Restraints of some kind. The bottom dropped out of his stomach, but he began to understand what Zack meant about it maybe being good if he freaked out a little, because he felt almost giddy, on the edge of out of control. "Oh," he said, struggling to keep his voice even. "You want to tie me up?"

"Not quite," Zack said. "I want you to tie me up."

Cloud's mouth fell open.

"Well," Zack continued, "I also want to tie you up, but I want you to go first. Okay?"

Cloud realized his mouth was hanging open. He closed it with a snap—but while that made him look less stupid, it didn't give him an answer for Zack. "I don't know," he finally stammered. "I mean, I wouldn't know what to . . . do."

"Anything you like," Zack said. "That's sort of the point. . . . Well, anything you like within some general limits, but we'd talk about that first, yeah?"

Cloud looked at his hands, then back up at Zack's crooked smile, then back down at the bedspread. "I—okay, but, but why?"

"Because I think it'd be hot as hell?" Zack's smile tugged his mouth up at one corner. "And because I wish you'd have some faith—"

"I do trust you, it's not that—"

"— in yourself." Zack looked exasperated. "I know you trust me. Probably more than I deserve."

Cloud started to say 'never more than you deserve,' but Zack continued: "If it's that you just don't want to, that's fine. But if it's that you don't think you can, I beg to differ."

"No-oo . . . " Cloud said. "I don't not want to. I'd just never thought about it before."

"Want some time to roll it around in your head?"

"Yeah," Cloud said, and Zack smiled. Not his I'm-totally-going-to-get-my-way smile, but something softer. He leaned forward and kissed Cloud, warm and thorough, heart-stopping.


To his credit, Zack didn't push the issue, even though it took Cloud a while to roll the idea around in his head sufficiently to feel comfortable with it. He also took it in stride when Cloud did things like say, "I'm afraid I'd screw something up," out of the blue.

"Screw something up how?"

"Do something you didn't like. Or. Or hurt you." It sounded stupid, out loud, the idea that he could hurt Zack, who was strong and tough and about the least vulnerable person Cloud knew.

Zack didn't make fun of him, though. "I really don't think you would. And even if you did, if I told you to stop, I know you would." He gave Cloud a crooked smile. "I think the main problem would be convincing you to keep going."

"If you told me—if you were telling me—what you liked and what you didn't, I think maybe I . . . ."

And it was almost shocking, the way Zack lit up. "Yeah? You think?"

"You'll talk to me?"

"The whole time, if you want." Zack leaned forward, until they were nearly nose-to-nose, his eyes a wicked glitter. "But you have to talk, too. I'm not going to do a monologue."

Cloud swallowed. "Okay."

"Yeah?"

"Yes."


It was still breath-stealing just to see Zack naked. Unlike everyone Cloud had known in his youth, Zack's skin was dark, even under his clothes where it never saw the sun: pale honey, not nearly-chalky like Cloud's own skin, over lean muscle, dark hair, the amused gleam of his eyes. Zack cocked an eyebrow at him. "Waiting for something?"

"Uh," he said. The restraints dangled from his hand. "I'm not sure how these—"

Zack took them from him; in his hands they transformed, as if by magic, from a confused tangle of leather straps to two loops connected by bits of leather. "Like this. They open here, and you can tighten them . . . and there's a safety catch here, if you want to get me loose in a hurry for some reason."

"If the barracks are burning down."

"Or General Sephiroth is making a surprise inspection."

"Or your girlfriend is coming," Cloud said, and immediately regretted it, because he was never . . . totally . . . comfortable with that, even though Zack assured him it was perfectly-all-right and that she knew, and was okay with it.

But Zack just laughed, stretching his hands up over his head so that the muscles moved sleekly under his skin. "She'd never forgive you for making her miss the show."

Cloud felt giddy again, like the room didn't have enough air in it—like the heat radiating off Zack's bare skin had burned it all away. "Tell me what you want," he said.

"Tie me up," Zack breathed, and Cloud's own temperature skyrocketed at that tone. "Start with the wrists, we'll go from there."

The restraints on his wrists were easier to put on than Cloud had anticipated. He felt Zack's forearms flex and relax under his fingers when he tightened them, looping them around Zack's metal headboard to hold him in place. He could feel the play of veins and tendons, Zack's skin surprisingly soft there, vulnerable at the inside of his wrists.

"Your turn," Zack said. "Tell me."

It felt weird to talk about things, to say them out loud—weird and exposed, as if he was the one tied up naked on the bed. "I—you look really good," he said. "I mean. Really, really good."

"Oh yeah?" Zack stretched, flexed, and even though Cloud knew it was a show specifically to make him react, he still reacted—swallowing a moan, shifting position, squirming a little.

"Yeah."

"What do you want to do?"

"Touch you," Cloud said immediately, without thinking about it.

"Please," Zack said. "But—first the blindfold."

That was easy enough. When he went to tie the scarf behind Zack's head, his fingers tangled in the long spikes of Zack's hair, and on an impulse he kept his hand there a moment, stroking Zack's hair and the nape of his neck. Zack purred. Cloud's heartrate jumped a notch.

It was weird to touch Zack without Zack being the one to lead him along. He stroked along Zack's collarbone, down to circle his nipple. Zack moaned. "Yeah?" Cloud asked, breathless.

"Yeah," Zack said. "Keep going. Tell me what you're doing."

" . . . Touching you?" Cloud said, and Zack laughed, but gently. Oh.

"A little more detail," he said, coaxing, like Cloud was a skittish chocobo being lured with greens. "Like—do you want me to start?"

"Oh, please," Cloud said. A seed of warmth blossomed in his stomach, unfurling through his body as he touched the ridged muscles of Zack's stomach.

"Touch me wherever you want," Zack said. "I want to feel your hands on me. You have great hands—soft between the calluses, so when you touch me, there's—gentle and rough. And I want to know where you want to touch me, when I'm not leading you."

Cloud let his fingers move lower, skimming over Zack's hipbones, the skin stretched tight across them—the flat of his belly, skirting for now around his flushed-dark erection. "I know you could break those restraints if you wanted to. You could probably rip the headboard clean off the bed."

"Probably," Zack agreed. "But I'm not going to."

"But then they're just—they're pointless." Cloud counted off the muscles of Zack's stomach, watching the way his skin twitched. His breath caught, and he felt—like he was on fire, but he didn't want to speed up, didn't want to end this yet.

"No," Zack said. His breath sounded short, and Cloud squirmed. "They're not. They're symbols. They're important."

Cloud rolled the tip of his thumb over the head of Zack's cock, and was surprised when Zack made a startled noise and arched up toward his hand. Oh—of course; he'd half-forgotten that Zack couldn't see, wasn't watching, didn't know what he would do next. "Symbols of what?" he asked, sliding his fingers over moist silky skin.

"Oh," Zack said, and swallowed. " . . . Fuck, you have to ask the important questions when you're doing that."

"I could stop," Cloud said, daring to say it playfully, his fingers pausing, and Zack shook his head fast.

"No, I'll—I'll manage. Uh. They're. It's that I'm giving you control, right? It's something—I want to do. So the restraints, to remind both of us, that this is what I'm doing for you. Because I, oh." He struggled for breath again. "Want to."

"I don't think I understand why," Cloud said, wrapping his hand tight around Zack. Zack moaned and arched his hips, thrusting into Cloud's grip.

"Oh god, you're killing me," Zack said, his voice hoarse. "Uh." He swallowed hard. "Because I'd let you take the lead, but you never do. Because I want you to. Because I think you're more than you know, and I don't want to hold you back."

"You don't," Cloud said, "gods, you don't."

"Good," Zack said, and thrust again, and Cloud took that hint.

He was stroking Zack hard, concentrating just on that, and watching Zack's mouth open—weird to watch his face with his eyes obscured, because he noticed more, without the wicked mako gleam of Zack's eyes to transfix him. So he saw the shape of his mouth, the curve, the way Zack licked his lips and then moaned, and said, "Ah, gods."

"Yeah?" Cloud asked. His voice sounded high, strained.

"I think," Zack said, "I think, I think you'd better stop, I'm going to—"

But Cloud decided that he didn't want to stop, that he wanted this, wanted to see it, wanted to watch when he wasn't distracted by his own pleasure. He slid his grip over the slick head, trailing the fingers of his other hand across Zack's balls, and Zack arched and said, "Oh, fuck, oh, oh, Cloud," and gave a long rusty-motor purr, and came, thick and hot across Cloud's hand and his own flat stomach.

Zack panted, struggling to regain his breath, and before he could, Cloud said, half-hesitant and half-defensive, "You said I could do what I wanted . . . "

"Yes," Zack said, and chuckled, the sound thin with lack of breath. "Don't worry. This is me, not complaining. At all." He licked his lips. "But you must be aching pretty bad, too. You haven't had much relief. Or have you?"

"No," Cloud said. "No, I haven't touched—"

"I didn't think so." His voice dropped, velvety. "I bet you're hard as hell, yeah?"

Cloud's cock throbbed at his voice. "Yes," he said. "Gods, yes. Since we started."

"Wish I could see," Zack said. Cloud reached for his blindfold, but Zack pulled aside as soon as his fingers touched the fabric. "No," he said, "I'm having too much fun to stop now. Tell me, instead."

Cloud felt like he couldn't get enough air. He wasn't sure what to say, what he could say, so he just said the truth: "It aches, I'm so . . . . so hard, and I feel like I'm going to—burst into flames or something, if I don't—"

"What do you want?" Zack breathed. "Do you want to finish yourself? Do you want me to go down? Or do you—" He paused, significantly.

"Yes," Cloud said.

"Say it." Zack was—oh god—Zack was getting hard again.

"I want to fuck you," Cloud managed, and Zack groaned.

"Yes," he said. "Good. I'm glad."

"You mean you want—?" Previously, Zack had always—he had always—and—

"You're so surprised? Doesn't it feel good for you?"

"Yes, but—"

"Well, then."

"Oh gods."

"It feels good," Zack said. Oh, he was getting hard again, he was getting hard again fast, and watching that made Cloud ache so badly he thought he might die of it. "You're going to like it, Cloud, it's good—tight at first, then opening up, and warm, and close around me, such a sweet feeling—and you can feel . . . pulsing, like a heartbeat—god, it's like nothing else."

Assuming I don't come so quickly it's over right away, Cloud thought, but what he said was, "I—I want you to enjoy—"

"I will," Zack said. "Believe me. There's lube in the drawer . . . " Cloud fumbled for the little tube, eagerness and fear warring with each other and both making his hands shake. He got the cap off and cool lube onto his fingers, and held it for a moment to warm it up, as Zack often did. Zack kept talking, and Cloud was glad of it: his voice soothed, a balm to Cloud's skittishness. "Tell me what it's like for you. Tell me what it'll be like for me."

"You've already—and anyway, I don't think I'll be nearly as good as—"

"Nnn. None of that. Just tell me."

"Oh." Cloud rubbed the lube over his fingers. "It's, um. It's a little bit—weird at first, feeling full, but—but not bad, just different, and just good to, to have you inside me, I—I don't, I don't know how to say it." He pressed his fingers against Zack's opening, pushing in a little, and heard Zack swallow a moan and felt himself tingle, all over, just from that. "And then, when you really start to move, it's—it feels so good, it feels—when you're brushing against—like I have to come right then and like I want to hold off forever at the same time, and—"

"Yes," Zack said. "Yes. Do it." He spread his thighs and bent his knees and oh, and oh, and . . .

Cloud touched Zack's thigh, to let him know where he was, what he was doing, with the blindfold—and he was glad for the blindfold, because he thought he might lose his nerve with Zack looking at him. He knelt and fumbled for a moment for the right angle, trying to steady his breathing, pushed in.

He cried out and Zack made a low rumbling noise at the same time. It was, it was tight and hot and good in a way he'd never imagined, and he shuddered, and bit his lip in a vain effort to keep control of himself. "Oh," he said. "Oh god, oh god, Zack."

"Yeah," Zack said, "Cloud, just like that."

"I'm—I'm not going to last—" And it occurred to him that if he wasn't going to last, he ought to do something for Zack, so he closed his hand around Zack's erection and began to stroke, hand shaking.

Zack made a harsh noise, his head rocking back. Cloud could see every muscle in his chest in sharp relief. "It's okay. Talk to me. Tell me."

"You feel so good, so tight, around me, and I, and I don't think I can h-hang on very long, I'm, it's," he said, and his voice stuttered off but that was okay because Zack picked up right where he'd left off.

"You feel fucking fantastic inside me, Cloud, keep moving—keep—I knew it would be good if I could just get you to trust yourself enough to try." Zack caught his breath and cried out and said, "There, like that, keep doing that."

Cloud tried, rocking his hips, moaning helplessly and listening to the sounds Zack made, and it didn't last long but it felt like somehow that was okay, so that when pleasure built and twisted deep inside him and then shattered, and he said, "Zack," it was okay, it was all okay. He didn't move, he didn't think he could move right away, but he kept his hand moving on Zack's cock until he came, too, for the second time, with a low helpless groan.

When he could move again, he got shakily to his knees and said, "I'm going to untie you." Zack nodded, and he released the restraints and then untied the blindfold. Zack rolled over and wrapped his arms around Cloud, and kissed him. Long and deep, and Cloud shivered into the warmth of his mouth, the smooth edges of his teeth, the way they pressed so close he could feel the flutter of Zack's eyelashes.

"That was okay?" Cloud asked after a moment.

"Yeah," Zack said. "Yeah, it was just what I was hoping for. I knew if I could just get you to have a little faith . . . "

Cloud smiled in the dark.