Thanks for the reviews! Also, the same discretion in the previous chapter about descriptive writing applies to this one, for those of you who don't like sensuality. Just remember that nothing I write will go as far as sex, mmmkay? Again, sorry for the delay, but it seems like my computer has been having a lot of problems lately, especially with the Internet.

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YUNA

It is past noon of that morning, and Tidus has somehow convinced me to hang out at his apartment for the rest of the day. Of course, the way his arm had been hooked around my waist as we walked here leads me to suspect that he has a bit more in mind.

The rest of the gang has scattered to miscellaneous places for the day. Wakka is accompanying Lulu to her session with Lotus Venom. The band members are staying in the city for a while until the contract is figured out. Paine is at home, helping her mother clean the house. Baralai is going to join them later on, after his shift at work is over. Rikku and Gippal have gone to a popular Al Bhed video arcade, insisting that the place is too cool for 'other people'.

"Are you sure your father wouldn't mind me being here?" I ask, standing in the doorway of Tidus' apartment. He walks in and tosses his jacket off to the side, letting it land carelessly on the floor. Afternoon sunlight floods the room and somehow transforms the otherwise dingy place into a cigarette-scented sanctuary. Tidus turns around and gives me a lopsided grin.

"Why would he? We've been here alone together before, right?" he reminds me, pulling me in by the hands.

"That was different," I tell him, smiling as he leads me into the room. "We were just friends then."

"And what are we now?"

"I think you know the answer to that, Mr. Lorac," I say teasingly. In truth, I do not fully know what we are, but I am not worried about it. Whatever it is, it feels real enough not to need some kind of title. I go up on my toes to meet him as he leans forward. His mouth is slow and gentle on mine.

When the kiss breaks, we touch our foreheads together and he laces his fingers through mine. I stare at him, into his eyes, and realize that I have never seen him look more at peace than he does now.

"You know . . ." he begins quietly, his breath warming my lips again, "you make me happier than anyone else."

My heart quickens and I close my eyes. "You too. Don't ever underestimate how important you are to me, okay?"

"Deal," he promises, smiling.

And this time, when he kisses me, I feel the undertone of need that I sensed in him back in that alley after the concert. The power of it frightened me at first and made me feel awkward and small on the inside. The way he threw me against the wall and attacked my mouth with his had been a shock to my system. When his hand had gone up my shirt I nearly lost my head. It had been overwhelming, almost unbearable, but so good. I had no experience in anything sexual, and for a moment I had nearly been ready to push him away from me and run home to hide shaking under my bed. But now that I have tasted it myself and glimpsed secrets about the inner workings of my body, I am not so afraid. In fact, I do believe I'm beginning to crave it myself.

I allow him to guide me down the narrow hall towards his bedroom, our tongues and limbs still entwined. He kicks the door open behind him and we collapse onto his mattress across the room. Before I can pause for breath, he flips me onto my back and moves to straddle me, trapping me beneath him. I freeze for a second when he yanks off his shirt, caught speechless at the sight of his muscles. Sometimes I forget just how utterly exquisite he is, how efficiently he can scramble my nerves.

Tentatively, still slightly unsure of myself, I run my hands up his stomach and chest, hardly able to believe that such a specimen is with me of all girls. His eyes blazing with desire and his body taut above me, he gives me a moment to admire what I see. I swallow and stare dumbly up at him. The light from outside his window lights him up so gloriously.

"You are unbelievable," I whisper, my fingers trembling on him.

"And I'm yours," he replies, his voice slightly breathy. Then he reaches down to trace the edge of my jaw with his thumb. "Your turn?"

Surely, above the silence of the apartment, he can hear my heart pounding. "R-really?"

"If you want to, I mean."

"I . . . I don't know, Tidus. I-I'm not-"

"You are beautiful, Yuna," he says firmly, allowing no room for argument. "I don't know what happened to you to make you so damn modest, but what you have, any girl would kill for. Don't be embarrassed, especially with me."

My throat tightens inexplicably. "Tidus, I just don't want to lead you to believe I'm ready for . . . for things that I'm not ready to do. I don't want to disappoint you."

Understanding dawns on him, and his eyes soften. "There is nothing you could do to disappoint me. If you tell me to stop, I will right away. Let me know what your boundaries are, okay?"

I nod mutely. He watches me closely for a second to confirm my readiness before letting his fingers trail down to the buttons of my shirt. Working slowly, almost torturously, he opens the blouse and pushes the material aside.

My bare stomach is tense with the breath I have been holding in. Not for the first time, I wish I had larger breasts. They seem so lamentably small, contained in a light pink bra. His warm hands run along my abdomen with reverence, his expression unguardedly amazed. He glances up at my face and seems to realize how nervous I still am. He smiles slightly and leans down to kiss me.

"Just relax, babe. You're calling the shots here," he assures me, still caressing my hips. "Say the word and we'll stop."

"Babe?" I ask, quirking an eyebrow. He makes a face at me.

"Well, it sounds better than 'pookie' or 'sweetums', doesn't it?"

He smothers my laugh with another kiss, not to be deterred from his exploration.

Not wanting to lie under him like a cold fish, I bring my arms up and let my nails drag down his back in a way that makes him moan in my mouth. I feel a flicker of satisfaction, knowing I can get that kind of reaction out of him.

This goes on for a long time, his slow investigation of my body and my growing unwillingness to stop him. How is it that he can awaken so many sensations in me without seemingly any effort? How is it that he can wear away my reserve so easily?

When his hands move up and around to the clasp of my bra, I instinctively go rigid. He stops immediately and peers cautiously down at me, waiting for any sign or indication on my part. I close my eyes and take a deep breath, willing myself to be calm. I trust him. I love him.

When I do not ask him to get off me, I feel his fingers working at the clasp. I gasp as he removes the garment and find myself completely topless beneath him. Before I can think of anything to do or say, he is back to kissing me while one hand lingers over my breast.

I seem to lose myself.

Arching my back so that I am pressed more wholly against him, I beg him silently to keep going. It feels so . . . so . . .

He feverishly whispers my name whenever our lips part for one heartbeat, and gradually his kisses move down my neck to my chest.

Eons seem to pass. I am helpless under him; blissfully helpless against the magic he is working upon me.

And then his fingers move down to the button of my jeans.

Purely out of reflex, I jerk away from him and my hands fly up to his shoulders.

"Tidus, wait."

He kisses me again, more forcefully than before as he unzips my pants. I turn my head from him and try to push him back.

"No," I whisper, attempting to wiggle out of his grasp. "Not that."

"I want you," he murmurs, still pinning me beneath him. I realize with a sickening lurch that I cannot move unless he gets off me himself, and by the look in his eye I am wondering how eager he is to do that. "Yuna, I need you. Please."

"I'm not ready, Tidus, I don't-"

"You are so beautiful." His lips grind against mine, rendering me silent. A wave of panic rises up in me as he begins pushing my jeans down.

"T-Tidus, please stop," I beg.

His lips crush mine forcefully, and I twist my neck until I can free my mouth. His fingers start clawing almost viciously at the hem of my underwear. White, cotton, virginal underwear.

Make him stop. Yevon, make him stop this now, please . . .

"So beautiful . . ." he is whispering, attempting to force my panties down as if oblivious to all my struggling. The smell of my own sex is nauseating to me. I try to clench my legs together, but his weight on my lower pelvis forbids me from doing so.

"I need you so badly-"

"Tidus, NO!" I cry out, tears gathering. I don't want this, I don't want this, I don't want this.

It is only the sharp desperation of my tone that halts him. He lifts his eyes up to meet mine, and I can see the fog of his mind clearing away. He blinks at me as if realizing for the first time what is going on, and an instant later he flings himself off me. He lands awkwardly on the floor.

I scuttle backwards until I am pressed against the corner of the wall, shaking and hugging myself. My face is buried in my arms, and the tears are now glistening on my cheeks.

The world is silent for so long that I can almost fool myself into believing that I am back home, alone and untouched. Still pure, not yet tainted. Where is the little girl in me now?

And then, softly, "Yuna?"

I shake my head, still keeping it hidden in the nest of my arms. Go away, go away, go away.

"Yuna . . . I didn't . . . are you . . . ?"

The bed shifts as he slowly climbs his way back onto the mattress, though he hovers only at the edge. "Please . . . please say something."

"I told you that I wasn't ready," I whisper, refusing to look up at him. "Why would you . . . Tidus, you frightened me."

I feel his hand touch my arm and I lift my head up. His expression is so full of pain that it breaks my own heart. He is ghastly pale, and looks close to being sick. The sight of my tears makes him wince.

"Oh God, Yuna," he tells me, his voice catching. "I'm a monster. I didn't mean to go that far. I thought . . . I thought I had it all under control. I won't do that again, I promise. I'm so sorry, please forgive me."

I stare at him and wonder where the boy I knew had disappeared off to. Instead, I had been faced with a wild animal. A beast.

"Tidus, I'm not ready for things that girls like Dona are ready for," I say solemnly, amazed at how firm my words are. The mention of her name makes him drop his gaze as if in deeper shame.

I hate the way my voice sounds to cold, even to my own ears. I wish I could embrace him and proclaim eternal forgiveness, but the memory of his uncompromising weight on me, trapping me, is too strong to ignore. I felt possessed, and his body had been so aggressive that I could not believe that such a tender person could become so . . . primeval. It had been unnerving, to say the least.

He squeezes my arm gently. "I will never take advantage of you, ever. You have to believe me, Yuna. I was just overwhelmed by you, caught up in the moment. I lost my head. It won't happen again, not ever."

We look at each other for a while; I watch for signs of weakness in his promise, and he watches for signs of acceptance. At last the ache in his eyes is too much for me to bear.

Opening my arms to him, bare chest and all, I find a way to smile.

"Come here."

Without hesitating, he crawls towards me and then pulls me facing him onto his lap. Wrapped in each other's arms, the world backs away from us until only the sound of our heartbeats and quiet breath remain. We sit that way for a long time, even when the sun begins to set.

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My eyes open slowly, only to stare into the darkness of Tidus' night shadowed room. I frown as I stretch, wondering when exactly I had fallen asleep in the first place. The steady warmth next to me reminds me of his presence, and I sit upright. He is sitting with his back against the wall, a small flashlight resting on his shoulder pointing at a sketchbook propped up against his knees. The pencil in his hand moves slowly and deliberately.

As I stir, his eyes shift toward me, and he smiles. "Hey."

"Hey back," I reply, stifling a yawn. "What time is it?"

"I'm not sure, probably around seven. You were asleep for a long time."

I nod and let myself sag against him, craving his nearness again. I must have forgotten that I am still not wearing a shirt. Either that, or I simply don't care anymore. Not with him. I don't think I'll ever be shy around him ever again.

He seems to realize the same thing, and his smile softens on me. One strong, muscular arm slips around me and he leans down to kiss my forehead. My eyes are already scanning his sketchbook.

"I didn't know you were an artist," I comment, reaching out to touch the paper. I note with a small grin that he is drawing my sleeping portrait. The striking realism takes me by surprise, as does the impeccable likeness of me. "You're very good, Tidus."

He shrugs and begins erasing a few stray lines. "It's just something I've been doing for years. I have drawn, like, a million pictures of you."

I giggle and glance up at him. "May I see, master Da Vinci?"

"Yeah, sure," he says with a blink. "Da Vinci. I know that name."

"Well I should hope so," I laugh, taking the sketchbook in my hands. "He was only one of the greatest minds of all time."

He huffs at me as I begin flipping through the pages. Sure enough, nearly every page seems to be filled with little renderings of me, all stunningly realistic. No wonder he gets such good grades in Art class. I always knew the teacher put up with his nonsense for a reason.

"These are incredible," I say admiringly. "Have you considered going into Fine Arts after high school?"

He gapes at me for a second before bursting into fits of laughter. "Me? At college? You've got to be kidding me, Yuna."

I sit upright and stare pointedly at him. "Why is that so amusing? Tidus, your work is brilliant. Any art school would gladly accept you."

"Babe, sometimes you are too cute for words," he snickers, shaking his head. I raise a displeased eyebrow at the comment. Cute? "Even if an art school would, by some miracle of Yevon, decide to take me in, what makes you think I could afford to go? And with my grades, it isn't likely a scholarship is going to come my way any time soon."

"That's not true," I counter. "You are doing very well in Art class. If you keep that grade up and show the board how talented you are, the art school across town will likely give you a scholarship. I mean it, Tidus, you really could do it if you tried."

He still looks sceptical. "I don't know, Yuna. It sounds too easy. The board would never consider letting some street hood into their 'fine establishment'. It's not just about money, in the end. It's about image and prestige. I've seen the kind of people who go to those places. They sit around in their fancy studios, sipping their triple mocha lattes and talking about how Kafka-esque something is. I don't even know what the hell Kafka-esque is, but I've heard that expression before."

"Stop making excuses," I order, poking him in the chest and trying not to smile at the mental depictions of the people he is describing. As much as I hate to admit it, I too have seen such characters at one time or another. "They're artistes, for goodness' sake. You can't get much more open-minded than they are. Once they see what a great gift you have, they'll be begging to take you in."

"Can we just . . . not talk about it right now? Please?" he sighs, rubbing his forehead and closing his eyes.

Deflating slightly, I nod and close my mouth. Why does he insist on belittling himself so much? For one so young, his drawings are astonishing, and with further training he could really be something spectacular.

Not that he isn't already.

"Is this your mother?" I ask suddenly, halting on one of the last pages. Suddenly it occurs to me that in the time I've known Tidus and the gang, nobody has mentioned this woman.

"Yeah," he confirms, smiling slightly. "That's her."

"She's beautiful," I tell him, marvelling at how alike the two of them look. "Where is she?"

"Dead."

My heart clenching for him, I wait for him to elaborate, but he does not say anything else. I tilt my head to the side questioningly.

"What happened?"

"Gang raped and beaten to death. I was nine." His voice is so neutral, so calm, that I for one tense moment I am unsure if he is making some kind of sick joke. But when he gazes back levelly, I know that he is serious, and I ache inside for him.

"Oh," I whisper, my fingers lightly tracing his jaw line. "Oh, Tidus, I'm so sorry. That must have been awful for you, to be so young and-"

A loud bang interrupts me as Tidus' bedroom door slams open. Yelping with shock, I instinctively jerk the sheets up to shield my cbest as a very, very drunk older man stumbles in.

His dark hair is long and unkempt, giving him a savage appearance only heightened by his large bulging brown eyes and unshaven face. Panting heavily, his breath laboured by drink and the effort of holding himself upright, he clings to the doorframe with one hand and points to Tidus with the other.

"Y-you," he hiccups, seemingly inches away from collapsing, "you . . . ungra'eful . . . lyin' . . . sun'vabitch."

Tidus is already on his feet, his posture rigid with outrage. "Get the fuck out of my room, you drunken piece of shit!" he snarls, his fists clenched.

"I told y-you," the older man, who I instantly realize must be Sir Jecht, continues as if he didn't even hear Tidus. "Not to bring y-your . . . your lil' sluts 'round here no more."

Tidus spews forth language so colourful that I almost feel my hair withering in place.

Jecht's red-rimmed eyes sluggishly slide towards me, blinking furiously a few times to clear away the fog of inebriation. I squirm uncomfortably on the bed and pull the covers up higher so that only my head is visible.

His expression goes lax with some kind of revelation as he continues to stare at me.

"It can't be," he mumbles, completely ignoring his furious son. "Can't be. Lil' Yuna?"

Tidus immediately goes quiet. Biting and releasing my lower lip, and I shift awkwardly and force myself to keep eye contact.

"Hello, Sir Jecht."