A/N: Now rated M for a really good reason, no DICKING around this time. If you were disturbed by chapters six, nine and… oh, seven I guess, you're definitely not going to like this. Proceed at your own risk. If I were a sensible individual, I would turn around and pretend the previous chapter was the actual ending (hey, it kinda works.)

I'm sure some people are going to read ahead and be annoyed with me anyway, but one can't go about one's life (much less a 60,000-word fic) half-assed. Hopefully y'all can understand.

This is for everyone who wanted a more... explicit resolution to the story. ;)

edit: Almost forgot! Recommended reading: "One of Those Nights" by Suzume the Wanderer.

'I can't believe I'm doing this.'

He'd left a note under her door; a squiggly formality that didn't explain anything. Everything he truly meant to say was written between the lines.

Now he was standing on the docks of Alexandria's restored airship port, wearing naught but a pair of daggers, a beaten travel pack and the clothes he put on this morning. He didn't even have any money--Freya's purse was covering his ticket, and then the rest of the way they were on their own.

Zidane wasn't worried about the expenses. He could scratch up gil around every corner, lining his pockets with the mishaps of others. During his travels with Dagger, much more of their funds were obtained illicitly than either the princess or her bodyguard cared to know. Of course, Zidane wasn't completely lacking in morals, at least when it came to money. It was all for a good cause, and with Tantalus the ends always justified the means. That's just the way he was raised.

They were standing in line for the next flight to Daguerreo. The scholars' haven was ideal for researching the existence of any "Chocobo's Paradise," and it seemed like a neutral starting point, besides. Remote and obscure as it was, Daguerreo wasn't exactly a booming community, but it saw enough trade and tourism to qualify the occasional cargo ship. They were lucky to catch one the same day.

'I don't know what I'm thinking. I should be with Dagger. Why can't I be happy just staying home?'

He swayed a little on his feet, tipsy with indecision that knotted his stomach and made his head swim. This was a bad time to start having second thoughts.

Freya squeezed his hand, as if to hold him up. She was geared for the long road, bearing her favorite old spear, coat armour and helmet, and he felt like a small child next to the tall dragon knight. Zidane passed her a reassuring smile that she didn't seem to catch, since she was talking to the man in the ticket booth. "Two please."

'...I can't do that, can I? I can't stay home. Dagger's my rock, but I can't even stay on the ground, just to be with her. I have to fly.'

Freya slid her coin across the counter, scooped up the stubs and led Zidane to the gangplank that allowed passengers on the ship.

'That's why Freya's here too, isn't it? She must feel the same way. Neither of us can just...' His vision wavered, breaking his stride for half a step, and he lost his thought.

"Com'on, you silly oaf, keep up," Freya chided.

This was all Zidane's idea, but his old friend more than readily took the reins. He had no idea what Freya was thinking either, but something back in Burmecia must have greatly disturbed her, to make her act out like this. Sure, she liked to travel as well as he did, but that thing she did in the garden... It just wasn't in her nature. Or so he thought. He had to wonder, sometimes, how well he really knew Freya. He'd considered asking for her motives more than once, but then he would remember her first answer: she didn't want to talk about it. That was fair; there were a good deal of things he wasn't ready to talk about, either (he still hadn't related Kuja's last words to anyone, even Dagger.)

Maybe time would tell. Now he and Freya could be indecisive together. And if they figured something out along the way... so be it.

(He could still feel her hand on his neck, groping for a pulse while her tongue scraped the roof of his mouth, and he wasn't going to lie--it was hot. It made him light-headed...)

Only once he walked up the plank and glimpsed Alexandria Castle's noble crystal spire in the distance did his injured conscience petition him, 'Don't you still love her?'

Yes, he answered with a thief's blind conviction. He loved Dagger like all the world, and maybe that was why he really had to go. He couldn't simply stay home, because home could not be bound by castle walls and a moat. Home was everything he'd ever seen and everywhere he'd ever been. Home was Gaia. It took him a long time to figure out the source of the malaise that stole his appetite and left him sitting up alone some nights. He was homesick, and if he stayed inside that castle much longer... he wasn't sure what would become of him, but he couldn't stand for Dagger to watch him become something he wasn't. He caught the way she looked at him sometimes, when he was gazing out a window at the birds among the clouds--that troubled ache in her kind, dark eyes. She must have known his reasons already.

Besides, he consoled himself, he wasn't running away forever. No one was his keeper; he could return to Alexandria whenever he wanted. All of Gaia was his home, and he could make himself welcome anywhere, but surely he would tire of the long roads at some point. Who knows where they'll be by then? Will she be angry with him, or happy for him? Will she move on, or wait for him? Even the slyest eagles, no matter how high they fly, have to perch somewhere eventually, and hopefully on that day her balcony will be open.

'I'll come back. I promise.'

By the time they set foot on the deck of the Cloudrunner, he realized he was trembling. What was wrong with him? Was he getting sick? He shouldn't have skipped breakfast...

Freya swept a nonchalant look over their vessel. It was a model dating back to the last Lindblum War, retrofitted with a steam engine that ensured its performance yet didn't do anything about the rusty rails, the mould on the skirting or the paint flaking off the warped wooden boards of the hull. The dirigible balloon over their heads shuddered in the breeze like a giant, angry lung, and dull white sails were drooping off its skeletal frame like the moulting skin of an emaciated snake. "Huh. Not exactly a first-class airship, is it?"

"Yeah..." Zidane weakly contributed, barely able to concentrate on his surroundings anymore. He was sweating frost and his heart was wobbling like a loose wheel. Freya must have noticed his clammy hand slipping out of hers, because she stopped and peered down at him, brow tilted inquisitively. "Are you all right?"

"Yeah," he responded, a little too breathless for his own good, and for some reason he couldn't quit smiling. "I'm flying."

Dizzy. He was dizzy. That was the only way he could describe the sickly sweet thrumming in his chest and ears, the heat pooling in his abdomen and the cold spots fringing his vision. He'd never experienced anything quite like it--his nerves were stormy, lighter than air and tingly at the extremities, and he had a hunch he was going to hit the deck before he got any further.

All he had to do was blink--one long, slow blink to clear his head--and next he knew he was on his hands and knees, Freya holding him up. How did they get there so quick? It was only a second.

"Zidane!" She sounded distraught. He passed out, didn't he? Damnit...

"Uh... sorry..." he apologized blandly, if just to let her know he was conscious.

A sailor working the moorage paused to toss them some lukewarm concern. "Is he okay?"

Freya hesitantly looked from him to Zidane and back. "We're fine." She leaned in close, inspecting his face, her tone fraught with compunction. "What happened? You're pale! Oh, this was a mistake..."

"N-No!" Zidane yelped, and he clambered to his feet. Now was definitely not the time to be having second thoughts. "It's okay. I think I... I'm just tired." He had a few good ideas of what happened, but he wasn't ready to take a scolding for any of them. "Let's go find somewhere to sit down, okay? I'll be fine."

She rose with him, a dubious hand on his arm in case she had to catch him again. "You're sure?"

"Yeah..." he said for the third time, making the effort to look her in the eyes. He hoped he looked convincing. "I wanna go." I still want to go with you.

Freya huffed, shook her head and led the way again. "For heaven's sake, don't scare me, Zidane. Unbelievable..."

She practically carried him to a bench near the stern, where they could watch the crew finish lifting cargo and preparing the ship for departure. He and Freya might have been the only passengers this round; Zidane hadn't seen anyone else boarding the same way. She must have asked if he needed anything, because he vaguely heard himself say he could use a drink, and then Freya was gone.

Great, they hadn't even lifted off yet and he already had an "episode," fainting like some ditzy girl for no apparent reason. He was sure Freya was most impressed. He closed his eyes and let his head hit the wall behind him with a weary thump. He would have to explain himself later, but for now he let his mind drift off.

After a while the ship rattled to life, jarring him awake, and right then Freya returned with a peculiar refreshment: fruit juice in tiny cardboard boxes, complete with straws.

"Juice comes in boxes now?"

"I know; I almost didn't know what to make of it. I found a whole crate of them in the stores below deck. The crew said we could have some."


She sat down and shared a biscuit with him. "Here, found something to eat, as well. A little nourishment will probably perk you up."

He accepted the snack with a wan smile. 'She's quick... Freya's always been smart like that.' They nibbled on biscuits and sipped juice while the ship took off, its rudder pipes dumping billowy black smoke over the shrinking Alexandria. Soon Zidane was reminiscing, not only over the old castle town, but also over all the steps he had taken to get there. He remembered the bumps and scrapes, big and small, and everyone who helped their band along the way, and who was often there at the end of the day to give him a firm word and a healing hand... 'I don't know how I would have made it without her, sometimes.'

"Thanks... for taking care of me."

Freya reeled from the unprompted line. "I just went to get you some juice and a biscuit. It was no great hardship."

"Heh, no, I mean, for all those other times, on the road and stuff. I don't think I ever really thanked you for that. It meant a lot to me."

She didn't say anything on her behalf, but merely gave him a pat on the back (although she wasn't quick to pull her hand away, fingers tangling in the scruff of his ponytail. She was especially fascinated with his hair today, and he wondered if his shampoo was really that attractive to Burmecians.) "Hmm. Speaking of that, feeling better?"

He nodded. "Yeah, loads. I don't know what came over me earlier."

Her voice tinkled with a joke. "Cold feet, perhaps?"

Zidane coughed up a laugh. "Hah, what, me? Naw..."

He slurped the last of his juice while Freya stuck him with a critical look. Zidane carefully ignored it, until she spoke up. "Well?"


"What happened, then?"

'Damn.' "I told ya, I'm just tired."

"God's blood, Zidane, if you can't be honest with me now, why am I here?!" Freya railed, exasperated.

Zidane winced--she had a right to be angry, he supposed. "Sorry. It's nothing serious. I just didn't want to upset you, okay?"

"That is the lousiest salvo I've heard in years. When has trying to hide these things ever made anything better?"

He held up a finger to raise a point, but before the first syllable could pass she warned, "If the next word out of your mouth isn't 'never' I'm going to toss you overboard."

Zidane's mouth snapped shut, and he crossed his arms and tapped his foot grumpily. The only thing he hated worse than being weak was being forced to admit it. "Okay, fine, but you're not gonna want to hear it. It's stupid."

"I assure you I will not be surprised," she said flatly.

"Well, did I, uh..." He slouched, rubbed his nose and said in a quiet rush, "Maybe mention I haven't ate or slept in the past two nights or so?"

Unfortunately his haste did not hamper her hearing, much less her outrage. "For goodness sake, why not?!"

"I was distracted, okay??"

"Oh, not that nonsense again. Honestly, by what?"

'Staying up too late, thinking too hard about where I'm going with my life. Heh, if Vivi caught me doing that I bet he'd have something to say. ...I wish Vivi were here.' "...Nothing."

He thought he saw one of her ears shift speculatively beneath her helmet. "You don't mean 'distracted.' You were depressed."

Sometimes he wondered if Freya had the ability to read minds. "Not exactly," he hedged. "Just anxious."


Why? Why did he have to spill his guts just because she asked? Why did that look of hers always--why did Freya always make him so... honest? He sighed. "It's hard, letting go of a sure thing... I never thought I'd have that problem. I used to go wherever I wanted; do whatever I wanted..."

"Are you afraid to settle?"

He sputtered, offended by the psychoanalysis. "Hey, I'm not scared." He scratched his head, fishing for the right word. "Maybe I'm really... reluctant."

Freya sat back, considering him while watching the clouds wipe the horizon into an oblivious shade of blue. Eventually she said, "It was difficult for me to leave, as well. I had to say goodbye to many things I took for granted. I regret nothing, though. I am glad I left before I grew too... complacent."

"Complacent, huh...?" Zidane wondered what that meant for Fratley. She must have been avoiding him for a reason. "Never did remember, did he?"

Her eyes twitched darkly, but then closed with resigned poise. "No, but I have made my peace with that. I am grateful, really. It made my decision easier."

"...Oh." 'So, it didn't work out. She was chasing him forever, too. It must have really been hard. I wish she had told me from the start.' He wasn't sure whether to offer condolences or not; he couldn't imagine being in Freya's position. What if Dagger had forgotten all about him? Would that be a blessing or a curse, considering where he was now? He didn't think he could stand the heartbreak, either way.

Freya thankfully moved on before he was compelled to stick his foot in his mouth. "I had heard bits and pieces from the others, about what happened after the Iifa Tree. They say you nearly died back in the Black Mage Village."

Zidane rolled his shoulders and shuffled from one tender subject to another. "Yeah, it was a little rough. It's been like a year since then, though. I thought I'd be over it by now."

"Never quite recovered?"

"Not exactly. Mikoto said it might take a long time. She also said I shoulda died like six times over." He laughed at his luck, tail wagging over his head with a flourish. "Hah, like I haven't heard that before! Nothing can take down Zidane the Great!"

She prodded his ribs with her claws, making him wiggle out of sorts. "Hmph, being a fool doesn't make you invincible."

"Aww, you're always puttin' me down." He rubbed his side and mellowed. "But yeah, I guess I should take it easy for a while."

"That's a shame..." Freya said airily, a funny quirk to her lips. "I was ready to play with you some more, too."

Zidane cringed, covering his head. "You can't eat my hair again!"

"Ahaha, no, you simpleton." She sat up, daintily crossed her legs and lowered an affected leer. "I was thinking of something a little more risqué."

"Oh--whaaaaat?" It took a second for her sultry tone to seep through his skull, but once her suggestion reached his brain, all other senses jumped overboard. He pounced on Freya's lap, rejuvenated by the proposal. "Okay, I'm better now! Let's play."

She fell back and kicked out her feet, blown over with laughter. "Ouf! Haha, gods, I should have known better than to joke about that! Your face is priceless."

"Hey hey hey!" Zidane blustered, hurt by her teasing. He balanced on his knees, hands squared on her shoulders, and pouted to her face. "If you wanna play hard-to-get, that's cool, but don't yank my chain, here! Either it's on or it's not."

"Oh, so it's okay for you to flirt and tease girls all day long, but it's not okay when a girl does it to you? I see your double standard, Tribal," she said with scathing relish.

Zidane's cheeks burned with the accusation. 'How dare her...!' Before he could turn the argument around, however, Freya turned him around literally. She seized him by the middle and wrapped him up in the sleeves of her coat, his back pressed to her breast. "I'll show you what's on," she growled, and once his arms were bound too tightly to effectively escape, she resumed her insidious design: grooming his hair with her tongue.

"Gah! Leggo!"

"Mwahaha, got you again. You are too easy."

"You--crazy--psycho-rat! This isn't fair!"

"Life is not fair, 'm 'fraid. Now hold still, my delicious morsel."

"Geez, this is sick. You can't bait me like that!"

A sardonic puff glanced his ear. "Please, it wouldn't be baiting if you wouldn't fall for it like an obsessed puppy! Honestly, Zidane, I think your preoccupation with sex is unhealthy."

"Hey, sex is like gil; you can never have too much."

"Oh yes, that's an upstanding maxim to live by: greed and debauchery. It suits you perfectly." Before he could fire back she expounded, "I'm just saying the whole exercise seems frivolous. What's the big deal about sex, anyway? All that build-up and tension, blown away in two minutes. Sounds like an exquisite waste of time and effort."

Zidane gaped, first at her blunt manner and then at her implication. "Two minutes?! Woman, who's been bedding you?"

"You'll call me lady, and I don't think that particular is any of your business!" she asserted stuffily. She let her grip slacken, holding her chin up and out of the way as she disavowed the entire discussion. "How gauche. Why in the world are we talking about this, anyway?"

Zidane took the opportunity to slide out of her lap and to his feet. "You brought it up! But you make a good point: Why are we talking..." He took her hand and winked, a notion simmering in his belly that wouldn't be quenched with petty head games. "...When we could be doing?"

Not mistaking his intentions, the dragon knight tensed indignantly. "By the gods we're not to be doing what you think we're about to be doing...!" She had one foot and elbow braced against the bench as if to spring out of reach; yet the way the stiff hairs around her nose flared like panther whiskers while she glared at him through hard jade eyes... it only fueled his perverse whim. He'd never seen a more inviting challenge in his life, and Zidane had to take it, all the gods be damned.

"Oh yeah, you and me, right now." He started to pull her up and away, but she held to the bench. "Zidane...! You can't just proposition me like this!"

He whirled on her, tail swishing impatiently. "And what the hell were you suggesting like a minute ago? Double standards work both ways, you know! I'm not kiddin' around."

Freya narrowed a look between furious and sadistic, and in that fleeting window Zidane wondered if this was such a good idea, after all. She then accepted his hand and said with calculated resolve, "Fine, let's go."

'Whoa, she actually said yes!' Zidane didn't get much chance to marvel at her acquiescence before she grabbed his shoulder and steered him down the nearest stairwell, uttering grimly, "If you're such a gods given sexpert, then show me how it's done. And so help me, I better be impressed, or you'll be bedding the rest of this flight in the boiler room."

"Awesome, I've always wanted to try angry sex," he remarked, as if he were talking about finding a ten gil piece on the ground, and Freya cuffed him upside the head.

"Shut up, before I change my mind."

"Yes ma'am!" he chirped, strangely honored and intimidated at once.

They found a long corridor below deck that led to the back of the ship, and they walked the rest of the way in bated silence. Usually a few private cabins were allotted for passengers on these ocean-going flights, and it wouldn't be difficult to find a vacant one. Even if their door was a mile away, though, the trek still wouldn't be long enough for Zidane to figure out what Freya was thinking.

It was too hard to believe... He was a sexy guy (naturally!) but up until now Freya seemed absolutely impervious to his charms. As far as he knew, she was never interested, and he was never really trying to lay her, despite all his games. Besides, he hadn't forgotten how fiercely she shot him down the day they first met ("No. Gods in heaven, no. Gods in hell no. Please grow up and try again. On someone else.") Then there was that incident with the grand dragons... Okay, so she was probably pissed about the dragons there.

Still, what if that night at Conde Petie wasn't some drunken misconception--what if she really did dig him? If so, why was she acting so mad about it? Was she still going to be all over him once the damn shampoo wore off? Why did this feel right in all the wrong places? Maybe he was thinking too hard. Maybe she was just curious? He certainly had been, ever since that day he spied her in the bath--and she didn't kill him for that either, which still puzzled him. Not even Freya was that magnanimous, right? At this rate, Zidane was going to have to accept that he would never understand women.

It didn't matter, really. Maybe being free to do this was the only point of it all, and if he had to prove himself one more time to make that point, he was ready.

"I can't believe I'm agreeing to this," she complemented his thoughts.

Trying to be smooth about it, he gave one of those smart retorts that only made sense when he considered it later. "I can't believe we haven't done this sooner."

She sniffed, not to be handled like some ordinary fare. "You think I'm that easy?"

He risked a sidelong glance under the brim of her helm, and when he caught her sly smirk, the warm, sagacious crinkle around her brow and the cool, indomitable glint in her eye, that's when Zidane knew it: he had a precious gem in his hands, a ruby whose fire couldn't be cut or cracked. That's when he knew Baku was dead wrong, and Zidane couldn't hide a proud, admiring grin. "Not at all... That's what I like about you."

He must have said something right, because she hooked one hand behind his back and around the coils of his belt, the titillating touch keeping him close as she picked up their pace. A room along the hull was left open, and with as little ceremony as possible they bustled inside and bolted the door. The lodging was plainly adequate, lightly dusted and furnished with a squat, boxy table and a single bunk beneath a generous porthole. Afternoon was already setting into evening, and motes wafted and glimmered through an oblique shaft of sunlight that painted the stripped wooden panels dirty gold.

Freya didn't delay, tossing her helmet and coat into the corner with her spear (she had apparently staked this room out beforehand, and Zidane had to credit her preparedness.) He likewise threw his daggers aside, and was about to pull his shirt over his head when he was reeled in by the tail, like a fish on a line. The shock made him yelp and stagger.

Zidane didn't like having his tail pulled. People would presume that since it could hold his weight and manipulate small objects, it could withstand some rough hands, but it was actually a much more sensitive limb than its functions implied. While pulling his tail wasn't kick-in-the-jewels uncomfortable, it did fray his nerves and tug on his nethers in a way that bordered on molestation (and Zidane would only be molested on his terms, preferably by a lady friend.) There were a few, very particular exceptions that very few met, and Dagger was never that bold in the bedroom, so the rule was simply reduced to, "no touching."

"Hey!" He rubbed his hindquarters and put up a hurt front, but Freya's defiant grin only spelled trouble. She stole him back, one hand around his waist and pressing his side into her blouse while the other squeezed his tail at the base, sending an astringent shiver from head to toes. "Ah-a-ahh...! Freya!"

She tugged and rubbed the coarse fur with increasing zest, going with the grain and reveling in his writhing, strangled little complaints. Each stroke was like stoking a furnace, stirring up fiery sediment within, and he was about to melt at her feet. Perhaps it was only fueled by anticipation, but at the moment he couldn't recall the last time pulling his tail hurt that good and hot. "F-Freya! Don't... pull it... yeah... h-harder, oh--yeah..." He was acutely aware of the swelling in his pants, rushing him to a premature finish, but he couldn't help himself. 'I'm getting hard, gods, oh... What am I doing?? She's getting one over me already!'

He felt her shake with a low chuckle. "Don't tell me I'm about to wear you out already."

Zidane broke away with another shudder, tempering his breathing and tucking his tail behind his ankle. "Hell no, I'm just getting started!" He had to be careful. If he was too quick, he was going to blow it--in a bad way, that is, and the last thing he wanted to do was disappoint her. He spotted an incentive on the table: an egg-shaped alarm clock, which he demonstratively turned to face the bed. "Okay, let's go. Two minutes, my ass."

Freya looked ready to laugh him out of the room. "Oh my gods, you can't be seri--aaaah!" He didn't let her finish her thought, marching over, hoisting her over his shoulder and flipping her wholly onto the berth. She bounced once off the springy mat before Zidane jumped on after her, bringing his lusty enthusiasm to bear on the Burmecian.

"Zida--mmph!" It took a minute of fast, misguided fumbling to match each other's rhythm, but they eventually settled on a slower cadence. He bowed into her open arms, sampling every flavor of her kiss with a sensual drawl (his immediate observation was that she tasted like fruit juice.) Hands glided under linen and over fur and skin, and shirt and blouse sailed over the side of the bunk in a unanimous lump. Once revealed, Zidane had to take a moment to appreciate what was at hand--or in hand, rather. "Ah, boobies."

Freya fell back into the covers and snorted. "Ahaha, you know how to charm a lady to bed, don't you?"

"Oh I can spout some classically charming bullshit, if you really wanna hear it! I know all the lines from those cheesy romances. I think you'd rather cut to the chase, eh?"

"How amorous of you. I am touched."

"You can say that again..." He sat up and avidly groped her breasts, watching them jiggle as she cracked with laughter. "Ah, boobies."


"Okay, okay, back to business." He planted a row of kisses down her neck and muttered salaciously, "Now, where were we...?"

"Mmm, stalling is cheating..." Freya murmured as her hands roved his ribs and back, sewing goose bumps all the way down his spine.

"Oh really? How's this for fair play...?" He moved down her body, picking the string of her breeches like a locked chest while his tongue ran a circuit around her navel, brushing the cinereous hairs over the muscular contours of her hips. She granted permission with a tickled hum, lifting each leg to give away pants and panties, and his breath tripped in his throat when he beheld her nude form.

Even the idealized image burned into his impressionable male mind couldn't compare to reality, up-close and personal, and Freya made a much fairer sight splayed within his reach on a firm bed than she did at a distance in the bath. Her body was a testament to the lean, lithe power and grace of the world's best dragon knight, with perfectly trimmed curves and strong thighs. Her flesh was fettled and sturdy at the joints, yet soft and yielding at all the sweet spots, with a fine coat of mouse-lace all over. Zidane's fingers skimmed the gradient of lush, snowy fur from belly to inner thigh, infatuated with the downy texture, and there was a hungry twitch in his loins.

"Damn..." he whispered appreciatively.

Freya blinked widely at him, knees drawing closed and lips parting slightly with concern. "What's wrong?"

He was discomfited to see her shrink away like that, almost fearfully, and her far-away words struck him. ("I know how unseemly Burmecians appear to other races.") He shook his head, dispelling her rising doubt. "Nothing, you're just... incredible."

She reclined on her elbows with a relieved smirk, slender ears turned forward. "Flattery is cheating, too."

He grinned rapaciously and prowled between her legs. "Oh no, this is cheating." He dove in headfirst, nose buried in her plumy mons while he ravished her with his tongue. She didn't taste like fruit juice anymore--salty but definitely satisfying. Freya's tail slapped his side and she kicked the air in a wild reflex, disarmed but definitely not resisting. "Oh-!"

She sang a discordant ditty that must have been approval in rat-speak while he lapped up the nectar of her arousal, a pulse echoing in his groin at her every ragged moan. Zidane had planned some deep spelunking, but Freya abruptly sat up at the peak of her tune and dragged her claws across his back, searing a trail through the sheen of fresh sweat.

"Ahh!" Zidane pulled up and shot her a bewildered look, wondering whether he had screwed up or just discovered an unexpected kink. "Stop, stop..." she panted, her face flushed with pent-up desire, and her design grew clear once she pushed him backwards and untied his belt.

"Umm..." he mumbled lamely, submitting to this twist. He helped her pull his trousers off so that they were naked together, and his freed erection throbbed gratefully. There was a peculiar twist to her brow as she paused to study his member, appraising it perhaps (okay, it wasn't as big as he would boast, but he liked to think he was better than average--not that he spent enough time looking at other guys to know how long 'average' was.) She then swooped down without comment, taking him in her mouth.

"Ah-ah-ah! Oh, shit, geez..." The tips of her ears tickled his belly, and he could hardly hear himself over his drumming heart. Zidane gulped and struggled to relax, letting her play with him. Her long muzzle fit him easily, teeth held off with sedulous restraint, and once she sealed a grip and started sucking everything blurred into icy-hot pleasure. All he could focus on was the kneading suction and breathing, and the latter was a faltering effort--he couldn't find his own tail if someone asked him for it. Once again Zidane wondered where Freya learned such a thing, and he vowed right there never to underestimate her again.

"Oh, uh... oh... o-oh... Freya, ah, Freya please," he mewled and sagged backwards, arms made of rubber and fingers clenching the edge of the bunk--which barely fit two people as it was. 'Gods I hope I don't fall off this thing,' he thought deliriously. Freya's wet, raspy tongue crested his leaking glans, inducing an embarrassing wail, and his tail whipped the skirt of the bed in a tantrum. "I'm gonna--ah--ah--Freya!!" 'Not yet!'

He jerked up and pushed her off before he--he couldn't take it anymore. She flashed him a look of disoriented alarm, one hand rising to wipe the dribble from her chin, but he tackled her to the mat with a deep, heavy kiss before she could recover. They were getting better at it, learning how to exploit all the voluptuous nooks and ridges of each other's mouths, and soon they were sharing eager, feverish moans.

"I... I want, I..." Freya stammered between his lips, and Zidane was left guessing because he couldn't spare the breath to ask. He suckled her collarbone, growling and biting ravenously through the fur, and in response she bent over and nipped his neck. His left hand cupped the ample curve of her breast while the other arm yoked her to the bed, Zidane's more simian urges assuming dominance. Her willowy figure bucked and seethed beneath him as she clamped down harder, the incisors bound to leave marks to match his scratches, and for an absurd minute they looked like a pair of beasts wrestling for the kill. She was feral and ready and he was about to go mad--he couldn't wait any longer.

Once he dipped inside her, Freya seemed to answer her own wanting question, her hips climbing to embrace him. "Oh--right bloody--yes..."

"Yeah," he concurred, surprising himself with his gravelly voice. He started to gain momentum and lose control, and in return Freya's demands grew guttural and frantic.

"Faster... oh harder, yes faster--harder, harder--"

"Uh... ah... can't... can't get any harder...!"

They dropped their stunted conversation and lost one another to the friction, rising and thrusting into the taut, undulating heat. He tried to draw out the feeling of it, bobbing and weaving intricately, but she felt so tight and slick he nearly lost his grip, tail flailing in rapt abandon. Freya's tail, meanwhile, was caught between their heaving bodies, and Zidane had to wrap it in his fist before the errant limb smacked him in the face. She flinched and irritably flicked her ears when the sweat flew off his brow and into her eyes, and the bunk rattled so fiercely under all the rocking and bouncing that he wasn't sure it would outlast their gymnastics, and worst of all he forgot his routine, the one that worked like a cinch on all his other lays. Nothing was coming together right and Freya was making noises that were definitely more becoming of mice than ladies, and it would have all been hysterical if he weren't enthralled in the best sex he's had in years, his skin teeming with the keen ache of ecstasy.

"Oh gods, gods, gods--!" she gasped, and Zidane came before Freya could punctuate her misbegotten epithet, quaking with the gushing release. "Damnit...!"

She followed him on one loud, long, quivering note, her caged convulsions racking him in an aftershock. They fell together, the berth giving one last squeak in protest.

They lay forever in a sticky, dissolute mess, awkwardly sublime, languishing in sated breath and glued together with sweat, saliva and fluids Zidane couldn't scientifically name. He finally withdrew with a weary grunt and settled back down in the crook of her arm, feeling ravaged. Freya said nothing all the while, stretching over the covers and watching him through drowsy eyelashes with a strangely humored expression.

At length he had to ask, eyebrows raised enquiringly, "So... impressed?"

"Hmm." Freya craned a look to the egg-clock and declared with blithe indifference, "Well, I suppose five minutes is better than two."

"'s all about the timing."

"You make it sound like it's an art form, like ballet."

He countered with a surly thump of his tail, "Can be."

"Cheeky, cheeky monkey..." she crooned and lightly trailed her knuckles down his bare flank, about to give him gooseflesh all over again. Freya studied him with smouldering, tactile interest, fingers tracing odd scars and visible ribs. "You are such a scrawny thing..." She lingered on the thin red lines running from his buttocks to shoulder blades, murmuring sympathetically, "Hmm, sorry for that."

"Why, did it bleed?"

"A little."

"Ah. No problem, it was kinda hot."

Freya rolled her eyes. "Is there anything you don't find erotic?"

"Frog legs--or anything Quina cooks. Or just Quina in general."

She roused a quaintly amused grin. "You are awful."

Zidane nestled into her affection with a crude smile, sliding an arm around her middle. "You know you liked it."

"Hmph. It's a good thing you are easy on the eyes--that's all I'm going to say."

"Aww, I'm not all that bad, am I?"

"Mmm-hmm," she hummed, leaving it at that, and the pair indulged in lazy repose while a spot of sunlight slowly scaled the bulkhead. In a more romantic setting, the ship's muffled engines would sound like waterfalls and all the swirling specks of dust would look like golden fireflies, but nothing here felt romantic. Just... warm, familiar.

Zidane began to draw idle swirls in the fur on her belly while he mused, 'Wow... I just laid Freya. I've never had a Burmecian before--that was some sweet pussy. Or is it sweet mousy? I still can't believe she let me. ...Now what?' He didn't know how he should feel. Proud, ashamed, satisfied? He certainly slaked his curiosity. Wasn't this the part where they got up, got dressed and pretended nothing ever happened? Maybe there was something he was supposed to be doing, but laying against her soft hide, unabashedly nude and comfortable, he couldn't imagine anywhere else he wanted to be.

Although... maybe now that all that tension was out of the way, it was time to have a little heart-to-heart.

"Hey, Freya..."


"That uh, that thing we just did there--that was pretty awesome, but... Gee, how do I say this...?"

"Just spit it out," she calmly ordered.

"Well, this is all awfully... forward of you, don't you think?"

"Says the scoundrel after the act. Don't tell me you've ever turned down a girl for being too forward with you."

"No way!" he rebounded, his lecherous pride at stake. "It's just not like you."

"Is that a bad thing?"

"I dunno. It's really hot, is what it is, but I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around it. I thought you didn't like me--you know, like that."

"Oh, Zidane..." she sighed, condescending and wistful at once. "What can I say? I'm not falling for you, if that's what you want to hear."

"...Oh." What was he, disappointed? Why? He knew Freya wasn't looking for another boyfriend, right? Did he not want to feel used? That never bothered him before. A good round of sex was just another good round of sex, to him. He swallowed and quickly recovered, "Um, yeah, of course not, right? Heh, that would be weird. I mean, I don't want you to feel obligated or nothin'. We're just having fun, right?"

"Mmm-hmm," she agreed, her hand resting near the small of his back as she took him in to cuddle. He sank into the cushion of her breast and listened to the tranquil throb of her heart, his own irked by a feeling he couldn't identify.

Zidane would never be able to understand women, but he knew enough about chicks (and his own tumultuous relationships) to understand that no matter how she covered it up, Freya must have still had some feelings for Fratley, for good or for ill. Maybe he wanted to be sure he wasn't that "after-breakup guy," the one getting used to help a girl get over some unfortunate loser. Normally he wouldn't mind filling that role for some sleazy girl off the street (until some angry ex-boyfriends came knocking for vengeance--then again, nah, he had fun beating up those guys, too.) This was Freya, though, and for all that they've been through together, he hated to watch her walk that slippery path of regret.

It was a little late for scruples, but if there was anything he could do to ease her pain (besides sex, which was already given), he wanted to be there for her. More than anything, though, he wanted to start being honest--for real this time, about everything. Freya at least deserved that.

Zidane started over. "I think what I'm trying to say is... If you're looking for someone to replace something you lost, I can't be that guy."

She seemed to grind to a stop, her tail flicking once and then falling still. He couldn't even discern the casual rise and fall of her chest, and before either of them suffocated in the dragging silence Zidane hurried to placate, "But, I mean...! If you're looking for a good time and someone to help you forget for a while, I am definitely down for that."

After a while he felt her breath whisking over his head, her voice weak and damp. "Damnit, Zidane, when did you get to be so...?"


"...Nothing," she amended, something oddly serene in her tone. "Just shut up and hold me."

He complied, sifting his hand through the pearly silk of her hair and enjoying her cozy curves and soft fur against his skin. 'Man, forget Burmecians--any guy is lucky to get with this. Is she ever going to realize how gorgeous she is?'

Freya nuzzled him again, tip of her snout tousling his hair while one hand got a devious grip on his tail. "Gods, you smell so good..."

He snickered. Maybe he didn't have to ask. Maybe--just maybe--everything was going to be all right. "Geez, you're still up to that? I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted."

"Go to sleep, then." She caressed the side of his face, lulling him to that end. "I've got you."

"Got my back, huh? Just like old times."

"We're not that old yet, whelp."


He closed his eyes and drank in the scent of her shoulder, something redolent of old canvas tents and morning tea. At times--long before he met Dagger or learned about his birthplace or anything grand like that--the closest thing he had to home was traveling with her. Maybe Freya wasn't falling for him--so she said--but... he could lie with her forever. And if they never found Paradise that would be just fine; he felt like he was already there.


"Hmm?" she echoed sleepily.

'I think I'm flying and I can't get up. "...home."

"Hmm," Freya couldn't say it better, herself. They were flying home, to Gaia.

Zidane fell asleep and didn't wake up until they arrived.

...And they had many crazy adventures thereafter. The End.

COMMENCE WANK / DVD COMMENTARY (click away while you still can):

Now there was a challenge: writing a pairing not even I thought would work, at first. It defies all logic, reason and canon--but like the good lady told Spock, whoever said the human race was logical?

...Geebus, I'm a nerd.

I've always been wishy-washy about Zidane/Freya, my mind not quite connecting to my heart's desire (three years ago I drew a pretty hilarious piece of porn for the pair that I can't post anywhere, though I can still look in my "definitely not porn" folder and chuckle wistfully now and then.) Unfortunately I had a sticky, immutable thing called canon in the way, and even though I find Fratley and Garnet pretty boring to this day (sorry Crimson! "Brick by Brick" is still hella awesome, keep up the good work), I never had the heart (much less a good reason) to interfere with tru luff.

So, in a totally weird and abstract way this fic was like a lover to me, in the same way "Prince of Thieves" was like my baby (that fic took exactly nine months to write. Fun fact.) Something like a real-life relationship, things hit a few bumps, doubts and regrets along the way (as some of you know), but it ended up being worthwhile. It's funny, because as someone pointed out this WAS a one-shot, and then... what can I say? It was one thing after another. It was supposed to be a bunch of drabbles, just stretching my writing muscles, y'know? I didn't intend to jog a marathon.

And so, for making it to the end, I present a BONUS: brought to you once again by the folks at #icybrian.

Myshu: Oh hey CHAT, spot me here
Myshu: I need as many euphenisms for sex as y'all can think of
Myshu: (for a fic y'see)
DK: riding the bologna pony
DK: tripping the light fantastic
DK: making the beast with two backs
DK: schtupping
DK: digging for gold
DK: pressin' mattress
DK: takin' dick drive to pussy lane
DK: hiding the salami
DK: getting to know one another
Mozz: poundit poundit poundit poundit
Alek: Wanging the Chung
DK: having a wet meat party
Mozz: Pink Plains Driftin'
DK: traversing the chunnel
Alek: Hopping on the good foot and doing the bad thing
Alek: Harry Potter-ing your Chamber of Secrets
DK: performing the slick skin symphony
AgentTon: Stabbin the Sarlacc pit
DK: crossing the spoobicon
Mozz: spoogicon
Alek: boobicon
DK: flesh pretzel
DK: engaging in vigorous carnal discourse
Alek: And, uh, Pedro.
Alek: Pedro?
Alek: Yes ma'am. Pedro.
Mozz: you've seen Varsity Blues too, eh Alek
DK: parting the curtain
* DK STILL going
AgentTon: Parting the red sea
Alek: Around the World in 80 Seconds
Alek: Journying to the Center of the Earth
DK: taking the Big Whale to the Moon
DK: Killing Tellah
DK: Climing Mt. Ordeals
Mozz: reviving the power of the ORBS
Mozz: junctioning the GF
Alek: Impaling Aeris
L_Culleany: Summoning Odin
Mozz: Listening To My Story.
DK: Filling her Journey with Laughter
bionicfen: Effing the Bee
L_Culleany: Finding the Seagull
DK: Satisfying Leblanc
L_Culleany: Plundering the Phoenix Cave
DK: Feeding Cid some Fish
Mozz: Mastering the Job System
bionicfen: Being Captain Basch von Rosenburgh
Alek: Playing the Golden Saucer
DK: Exploring Burmecia
L_Culleany: Finding the Pink Tail
Mozz: we would also have accepted Fighting The Pink Puff
AgentTon: Puff puff~
Alek: Finding the Huge Materia
DK: Giving the Slab to Dr. Unne
DK: Waking the Elven Prince
DK: Exploring the Marsh Cave (ewwwwww)
Mozz: Giving Matoya the Crystal
Alek: Banging the Odine Bangle
Alek: Playing Bang a Banga
Myshu: Chocobang Hot & Cold
AgentTon: Banging the drum slowly.
AgentTon: Bridge Over the River Thigh.
DK: Putting Cloud in a Wheelchair
Mozz: hahahahahahahaha
* Myshu spittake

(This went on at a steady clip for another hour, but I can't post it all here or it would eclipse the fic.)

All that said, I had tons of fun writing, and I have everyone to thank--readers, reviewers and friends--for making it rewarding as well. You guys are the best!

Now I swear to dog, I hope nobody *learned* anything from all this, or I'll have to change the summary.

~the neiphiti dragon