Thank you for all the reviews! I won't make you guys wait a moment longer, so here goes...

INDULGENCE, PART TWO

Like a kid, Zack wanted to immediately sprint outside after breakfast, and like a grown-up, Sephiroth wouldn't let them until they had put on sunscreen. When Zack protested that his mako level was high enough, the general said, "Better safe than sorry. Do you want to risk getting burned and not being able to stand touch?" That made Zack promptly shut up and obey.

"Mako prevents sunburn?" Cloud asked.

"At high levels. That's why His Royal Paleness here doesn't need the sunscreen."

When Sephiroth finally let them go, Zack jumped out the back door, onto the fence, and launched into the air, turning a somersault before landing easily onto the sand.

"Show-off," Cloud yelled as he and Sephiroth followed by a more conventional route, through the garden gate.

"Ever build a sandcastle, Spiky?"

"No."

"It's fun! Last time we were here, I showed Seph how, and the jerk completely showed me up. He did the Great Temple of Wutai from memory, with columns and paper lanterns, and even carvings on the walls, I still don't know how he did that. I wish I'd gotten a picture of it, but it got knocked down."

"By you?" Cloud guessed dryly.

"Hey, it wasn't my fault, he jumped on me!"

"It was your fault, you took your shorts off."

"Oh, so if I dress provocatively, it's okay to jump me?" Zack said in a mock-indignant voice.

"You took them off and threw them at me."

Cloud laughed longer and harder at this than Sephiroth had ever seen him do. The general thought it was a lovely sound, and an even lovelier sight.

"To prevent such misunderstandings from recurring," he began, "perhaps this time I shall help you both rather than compete with you?"

Cloud beamed. "What should we make?"

"It will have to be a place we all know."

The only choice they could come up with was ShinRa Headquarters, the grounds with fields all around and tall buildings surrounding courtyards. Sephiroth began to flatten an area of sand for them to work on while Cloud and Zack went down to the shoreline to get buckets of water and mud. Cloud stared in awe at the vast expanse of blue set before them. He had grown up with streams and ponds in Nibelheim, and those were often frozen anyway. This was like nothing he'd ever seen.

"Amazing, isn't it?" Zack sighed. "You know what all this blue reminds me of?"

Cloud smiled shyly. "My eyes?"

"Yep. But then, dryer lint and grape jelly remind me of your eyes too."

Cloud laughed. "Now grape jelly will always remind me of you."

"Because it's purple or 'cause it tastes good?"

"Because it wiggles a lot," Cloud teased, and ran back toward Sephiroth with the pail of mud.

"Hey!"

Zack chased him, trying not to let the water spill, and caught up just in time to tackle the boy and pin him on the sand, disturbing part of the section that Sephiroth had meticulously flattened. Zack tickled and Cloud giggled hysterically, trying to draw breath to beg for mercy. Tears of mirth trickled down his cheeks and he managed to lightly knee his tormentor in the stomach...and then, quick as it had started, it was over. Sephiroth had gently but hastily lifted Zack off of him and was looking closely at his face.

"Seph, you can't interrupt tickling. It's, like, a rule."

"He is crying," Sephiroth pointed out, intending that to be his explanation.

Cloud wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. "I'm okay. It's just because I was laughing so hard."

"Laughing induces tears?" Sephiroth was intrigued. He'd seen Zack laugh long and hard and wipe his face afterward, but he hadn't thought this was an experience common to everyone.

"Oh, yeah," Zack agreed. "I was just about to stop, you know. I wouldn't hurt him."

"I know."

"I don't mind tickling so much," Cloud said, "as long as it's not for long. Are you ticklish, Sephiroth?"

"I am not."

"Nowhere?"

"No. Zack was very disappointed."

"Actually, there's one place I still haven't checked."

"Nor will you, Zackary."

"Ugh, don't call me that!"

Sephiroth, whose strategic skill had been nurtured since childhood and honed over years of battle plans, plotted out the ShinRa Compound before them, using a stick to trace the enclosing wall, the outline of the buildings, the variously-sized squares of the courtyards. Sephiroth knew every nook and cranny of the place, every door, every bench. Cloud was impressed, and told him so.

Sephiroth shrugged, a learned gesture that never looked quite natural on him. "I grew up there. Until the Wutai War, it was all I knew."

It made Cloud sad to be reminded that Sephiroth had had such an unusual and isolated upbringing. His own childhood had not been especially happy, being bullied or ignored by the kids of Nibelheim, but rumors said Sephiroth had not even had parents. Again, Cloud wanted to know more, and again, he didn't want to bring up anything painful.

Zack was watching him thoughtfully. "Uh, Seph, why don't you start making and setting the bases of the buildings? Cloudy and I'll take a quick look around for stuff we can use to decorate."

Sephiroth nodded and began shaping the thick, wet sand into cubes with his skilled fingers. Zack led Cloud a good distance away and down to the water, where the wind was stronger and louder.

"You got that curious look on your face again, Spiky."

"I was thinking of how much I don't know about Sephiroth."

"Well." Zack ruffled his dark hair in thought. "We don't know who his parents were. He was raised by Hojo, within ShinRa, given mako earlier than usual, I don't know how much earlier. Angeal and Genesis came to ShinRa when he was around twelve. He doesn't really talk about life before that."

"Genesis?"

"They were the three youngest SOLDIERs. And best friends. What Angeal told me is that they were given a new, stronger, experimental solution of mako. Angeal and Seph tolerated it. Genesis didn't. He began to deteriorate, and went crazy, and they had to lock him up. I think Seph was around fourteen when he died."

"That's terrible."

"Yeah. If I hadn't had Angeal to tie me to ShinRa, and now Seph and you, I'm not sure I could've worked for the company this long. No, scratch that. I know I couldn't have."

"If Hojo is so awful, why doesn't Sephiroth kill him?"

Zack smiled weakly. "I've asked that myself. He's got a reason, I think, but he won't give it up."

Cloud looked back to where Sephiroth was painstakingly molding the tall buildings that dominated the skyline over Midgar, and laughed softly. "I never expected to see the great Sephiroth playing in the sand."

"He's amazing, isn't he?"

"Yeah. So are you."

"Well, that makes three of us then, doesn't it?" Zack put an arm around the boy's shoulder and walked him back. "We couldn't find anything, Seph."

"It's just as well. The Compound's exterior does not require much decoration."

"Hey..." There was a mischievous gleam in Zack's eyes. "If Spiky's willing to give up some of his spikes, we can make chocobos for the stables!"

"You are not pulling out my hair!"

"Nah, I like it too much, I wouldn't do that. Or would I?"

Zack threw himself on top of Cloud. This time, the blond wasn't rendered helpless by tickling, so he was able to resist when Zack tried to pin him. Cloud was smaller and weaker, but he was stubborn.

"Shift more weight onto your legs," Zack instructed. "If you slide you'll lose your grip on me."

"You're...too...strong!"

"Or you could always surrender."

Sephiroth watched them struggle for a few minutes more. Cloud was shoving Zack off, bit by bit, but the effort was clearly exhausting him. Much as he admired the boy's determination, the general didn't like to see him so frustrated. He gently grabbed Zack by the scruff of the neck (the 1sts had called this 'the puppy-grip' when Angeal did it) and pulled him off.

"That's enough, he'll cramp."

"I'm okay," Cloud insisted, wishing he had got to finish but not even thinking of being annoyed. "Really."

"You're getting stronger," Zack said with approval. "And don't mind Seph, it's just a phase. He was all uber-careful with me too at first, like he was worried he'd break me and have to explain that to Angeal."

"Angeal knew of a lot of high places," Sephiroth said lightly, but truthfully, he had been afraid of breaking Zack, just as he was now a little afraid of shattering Cloud.

He had had a difficult time in his youth, not knowing his own strength. Of course, logically that meant he must not be a very good judge of other people's strength. Zack turned out to be much tougher than Sephiroth had expected of Angeal's slightly-spoiled puppy. Perhaps Cloud would continue to surprise him too.

cszcszcsz

After lunch, the trio returned outside to photograph the sand-compound and go swimming. There were very few things Sephiroth did not excel at, and Zack flitted around as easily as a fish, but Cloud was nervous as he waded into the water that had warmed to a delightful coolness under the afternoon sun. Therefore the three of them stuck to the shallows and taught Cloud a few of the simpler strokes. He picked it up quickly, but there was no rush to go any deeper, they were having fun right where they were.

Zack seemed to like Sephiroth's swimming trunks as much as he did his underwear, and made several courageous but foolish attempts to steal them. In response, Sephiroth would dunk him or toss a handful of seaweed at him. When Zack got bored with this, he made a game of ducking beneath the surface and emerging directly in front of or behind Cloud, causing the boy to emit a startled shriek.

"Zack!"

"Come over here, Cloud," Sephiroth said with a smile. "I'll protect you."

Cloud started in that direction, but Zack gleefully seized him around the waist. "Ha ha, he's mine! You want him, you gotta trade!"

"You'd trade me for an article of clothing?"

"Only one that's touched those specific parts."

Smirking, Sephiroth bent over, put his hands beneath the water, and straightened up with the wet black trunks in his hand. He balled them up and tossed them to Zack, who let go of Cloud to catch them.

As the spiky-haired 1st shouted in triumph, Sephiroth and Cloud met each other halfway. Cloud felt heat ripple through his entire body to feel Sephiroth against him, completely nude, smooth skin made slippery by the water. Zack paddled up to them, looked probingly at the boy's face, and grinned.

"Let's go in," he said abruptly. "I go nuts if I've got salt water on me for too long."

They separated to shower and change, then Zack met Sephiroth and Cloud in the hallway and told them that the downstairs was off-limits for a while. He wouldn't say why, and it couldn't be so he could cook, as they had already placed an order for delivery from the Wutainese place down the street. But it was useless arguing with Zack, who headed downstairs with a wink and told them to entertain themselves for awhile. Besides, Cloud had a feeling that Zack knew what was going to happen, maybe even before he did himself.

Cloud followed Sephiroth into the master bedroom and boldly closed the door behind them. Sephiroth took the blond's face gently in his hands and kissed him, and Cloud felt himself becoming more courageous. Or maybe it was more aroused, or more in love, or all three. Whatever it was, he had made up his mind. Zack's earlier smile and wink had reassured him, and he knew he wanted this.

Sephiroth looked as casual as the boy had ever seen him, having donned a simple white T-shirt and soft black pants. Gulping silently, Cloud grasped the hem of the shirt and lifted it, shivering at the sight of the toned stomach and chest it revealed. Sephiroth pulled the garment all the way off and tossed it to the floor, looking at Cloud carefully, trying to see what he was thinking. The boy seemed both apprehensive and determined.

The smaller hands went to the waistband of the black pants next. The general anticipated what Cloud wanted and slipped them off, leaving himself completely bare. Cloud looked him up and down in a daze, cheeks pink, rosy lips slightly parted. Sephiroth tilted his face up and smiled at the boy's struggle between want and timidity.

"Shy still?" he whispered kindly.

"Zack never was, was he?"

"He was a bit...nervous perhaps, at first. He got over it quite fast."

"And you've been locking your underwear drawer ever since."

"Yes," Sephiroth said with a laugh.

"I never...I mean, I used to dream about you, and this, but that was before I knew who you really are." Cloud winced; this was not coming out the way he'd hoped it would. "I want you to know that you're still my hero, but you're...more. I'm not just...it's not just...I'm not making sense, am I?"

"You are. I never counted you as just another member of my fan club, Cloud. You, too, have always been more."

The blond put one hand on Sephiroth's arm, and twined his other fingers into the waterfall of silver hair. "I want...I want you."

Sephiroth knew how much it must have taken for Cloud to get that out. He resolved to ask only once.

"Are you certain?"

"I have been for a long time."

Sephiroth put his arms around Cloud and lifted him slightly for a long kiss. When he let him down again, the sky-blue eyes beamed certainty up at him. Continuing to monitor Cloud's expression anyway, the general slowly stripped the casual clothes off and tossed them aside, until Cloud stood there naked, in all his innocent glory. His was a purity that would last, would always be with him. Realizing this, Sephiroth's last worries about taking it away faded.

Cloud giggled briefly - half-nervous, half-elated - as he was picked up and carried to the huge bed. The silk beneath him felt just like the skin and hair above him, like he was completely enveloped by Sephiroth. Cloud reached for him, tried to pull him down, unwilling to wait.

"Slowly, Cloud. The first time should be slow." The general pushed aside an old resentment, that Zack's first time should have been...and it was stolen by that damned...but no. Not here, not now.

Sephiroth reached into a bedside drawer for the lubricant - better to have it ready than have to disrupt what was next. He put the bottle close by on the mattress, and put his hand between Cloud's legs, which spread for him. The boy was hard and needy, groaning with relief as he was cupped, clasped, gently stroked.

"Ohhh..."

Cloud's instinct was to shut his eyes, but he couldn't give up the sight of Sephiroth's face, relaxed with pleasure, enjoying this just as he was. The smiling lips descended to kiss him, for what felt like hours. All the while, the skilled white hand pumped him and Cloud rode it, thrusting up into the enclosure of palm and fingers.

"Please..."

More pressure, a little faster. Cloud's arms shook, but he kept his hold around Sephiroth's neck. The heat they were generating flamed to white-hot in his stomach, and he cried out into Sephiroth's mouth. The hand continued to stroke as it was drenched, as the organ deflated and returned to rest. Then Sephiroth sat up and licked his fingers clean, while Cloud watched with fascination.

He saw Sephiroth grab the lubricant and realized what was next, the thing he had been waiting for. The finger that entered first was only a herald of what was to come, there to slick and stretch and maybe tease a bit. As the second joined it, Cloud found himself so eager that he was quivering with need. They swiped the prostate together, and Cloud arched up, driving them further.

"Seph..."

He could only get the first syllable out through the heavy breaths he was panting. Sephiroth smiled, and realized he should tell Cloud he could use that nickname. Under other circumstances, the boy was not likely to without permission.

Three fingers. As expected, the boy was tight, but not unnaturally so, and Sephiroth had not expected him to be so relaxed or so insistent. Even as Cloud groaned his impatience, the passage he was navigating let him in with little difficulty. Cloud, timid by nature, was so certain...how could Sephiroth be any less so?

He had used a generous amount of lubricant. When he lifted Cloud's legs up and spread the round white cheeks, the pink entrance glistened. Sephiroth looked into the blue eyes, asking permission one last time, and the smile that answered held no fear at all. He lined himself up and began to ease in, gently, encouraged when Cloud threw his head back and moaned. The sweet face occasionally scrunched up, either in pain or concentration, but each time Sephiroth stopped altogether, Cloud became restless and tried to pull him deeper.

Cloud felt it when he was filled to the hilt, realizing that, already, the pleasure of Sephiroth inside vastly outweighed the stretched sort of pain. The first thrust was like electricity, the ones that followed even less describable. Though he had been spent minutes earlier, Cloud hardened again as Sephiroth established their rhythm. The speed was maddeningly slow, but if that meant it would last longer, Cloud was all for it. He began to thrust up to meet Sephiroth, realizing that he could control the depth and angle better this way, and the pressure of the general's stomach rubbing against him added to the perfection of this.

Through breaths that were growing increasingly louder and faster, they smiled at each other. A single tear emerged from Cloud's eye and trickled down his cheek, but Sephiroth was not alarmed this time. Zack had cried a little too the first time, and had assured him it wasn't from any kind of pain.

He wanted to prolong this as much as possible, but Cloud was close to the edge, pulling at him, squeezing his shoulders. It was time. A single stroke, and Cloud cried out louder than Sephiroth had ever heard from him. The inner muscles that had been so relaxed spasmed and tightened, and Sephiroth came while the boy was still spurting. The last few gentle thrusts drained him completely, and he pulled out while Cloud was boneless and grinning dreamily, laying on his side and drawing the blond closer.

"How do you feel?"

Cloud seemed literally speechless, but happy, so it was okay. He shifted to kiss Sephiroth, to run a hand up his arm and into his hair.

"Any pain?"

Cloud shook his head. He was a little sore, but he didn't want this feeling banished by a Cure or a Potion. It wasn't bad, and it was proof that this had actually happened.

"Please say something," Sephiroth said with a smile.

"That was even better than I imagined."

"And did you imagine it many times?"

Shyly, Cloud nodded. "Was I okay?"

"More than okay. Perfect."

The blond snuggled against Sephiroth, who held him tightly and indugled in his fondness for combing his fingers through the spiky hair. They lay like that for a long time in a comfortable silence, communicating only through presence and gentle touching. After a while, the general thought Cloud must be asleep, his breathing was so calm and regular. But when Zack's voice broke the quiet, telling them they could come down now, Cloud looked up immediately and laughed softly.

"Will he be annoyed he missed this?"

"Only, I think, that he didn't get to record it. I confiscated his camera, just to be safe."

They quickly got cleaned up and dressed, and Cloud was careful not to wince as he descended the staircase and was met by Zack's knowing grin.

"You're glowing," he whispered. "Was it mind-blowing or what?"

"Mind-blowing."

"And you told him it didn't hurt, didn't you?" Zack guessed. "Be careful. Just because he's not armed doesn't mean he's not hiding Restore materia somewhere. I speak from experience."

"I'm fine, really."

"Yeah, until I make you sit down."

Zack grabbed Cloud's and Sephiroth's hands and pulled them toward the kitchen. There on the table was the answer to Zack's mysterious takeover of the ground floor - a beautiful homemade cake with sky-blue frosting and 'Happy Birthday, Cloud' written on it in silver and purple.

"Wow! You made this?"

"I'm just that talented."

"Cake is supposed to come after dinner, Zackary," Sephiroth admonished lightly, and the lieutenant stuck out his tongue in reply.

"You can light the candles, Seph. And not with magic, or you might burn the whole place down."

Cloud sat down (wincing while the general wasn't looking) and Zack poured a glass of wine and passed it to him. SOLDIER's unofficial drinking age was sixteen, so Cloud took a few sips and decided he liked it. But...

"Uh, how strong is this stuff?"

"Not very," Sephiroth answered as he lit the last candle.

"Why?" Zack snickered. "Does your bottom feel mysteriously better?"

"What did you do?"

"Nothing! Except mix in a little Potion."

"Zack!"

"Hey, if I hadn't done it, he would've!"

"He has a point," Sephiroth said as he slid the cake nearer to Cloud. "Make a wish."

He couldn't think of anything more he wanted, except that the three of them would always be together, and happy like this.

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After a long evening of cake and wine and Wutainese food in their pajamas in front of a cozy fire, Cloud wondered if a day could possibly be more perfect. Zack and Sephiroth had been making him laugh with amusing stories from their pasts, both separate and shared. Zack's eyes, several times, crept fondly back to the section of wall he had patted that morning, and he said he thought it was the same kind of wine they were drinking now.

"I have fond memories of that night too," Sephiroth explained.

"Seriously, we should put plaques around the house commemorating these momentous events. One for you and me there, one for you and Spiky in the bedroom..."

Sephiroth smiled secretively. They could actually do that if Zack really wanted to, and tomorrow he would tell them why. The house's owner had at last agreed to sell, convinced by Sephiroth's generous offer, and it now belonged to the three of them. This retreat would no doubt serve as the setting for many more good memories to come.

"Where will the plaque for you and I be?" Cloud bravely asked Zack, smiling slyly.

Zack grinned back. "Potion or no, I want you to have a little more recovery time. But don't worry, we'll pick a memorable place. Besides, no one wants to immediately follow Sephiroth. You'd be disappointed."

"Don't listen to him," the general said. "He's very good."

"You probably told Angeal that too, didn't you?" Zack joked.

"Just once or twice."

Zack's mouth fell open. "What?"

"I am kidding."

The spiky-haired SOLDIER laughed and shook his head. "Wow. We'll need another plaque for that."

Sephiroth smirked and turned to Cloud. "You heard Zack, you will have to wait a bit for your second time. But if there's anything else you want tonight, you have only to name it."

"Except for topping Sephiroth," Zack added. "He's a stubborn dick about that."

"Well, there's one thing..."

"Ooh, is it kinky? Does it involve animal costumes?"

"I thought you objected to such things, Zackary."

"Only when Angeal's involved. C'mon, Spiky, spill."

"I don't know if it would be okay with you..."

"We are all together here, in this," Sephiroth reminded him. "You will not offend or upset us, no matter what it is."

"Could I maybe..." Cloud said hesitantly, "watch the two of you? See how you are...together?"

"You mean - " Zack nodded approvingly. "I like this side of you, Spiky."

Sephiroth stood and offered a hand to each. "I believe, then, that we should return to the bedroom."

cszcszcsz

For Cloud, who was so used to Zack as a caretaker and protecter, it was new and fascinating to see him behaving so submissively, obediently laying back as Sephiroth stretched him out on the bed. The same lingering, possessive touches that Cloud had known were now being performed on Zack's body, which writhed a little. It was such an erotic sight that Cloud's mouth fell open. Zack was a more sexual being than anyone could guess if they knew him only as a goofy, cheery SOLDIER.

Sephiroth's hand grasped the younger's chin and firmly held it, staring down into the pale blue eyes with a hungry expression. It made Cloud think of a pack animal establishing dominance.

"Mine," Sephiroth growled softly, with a predatory smile.

"Yours."

Zack spread his legs a little more and the general caught them, lifting them to wrap around his own waist. Sephiroth looked at Cloud and nodded toward the nightstand. The blond brought him the lubricant and quickly returned to his seat, not wanting to miss a second of this.

Sephiroth didn't open the bottle right away. First he ran his hands up and down over Zack's hard, flat torso, kneading the flesh like bread dough. Zack groaned as the palms chafed his nipples, tilting his head back, and shuddering as a mouth latched onto his neck. Sephiroth would not mark him, he'd always thought it sacrilege to mar such lovely skin, but lips and tongue were tracing and sucking gently on every sensitive spot. He knew all the sensitive spots.

"Seph," the young man groaned, putting his arms around the hovering body and trying to draw it closer. "Please..."

A slick finger entered at last, teasing, circling but not hitting the target. Zack tried to thrust upward, but a hand held his hip, massaging it and keeping it still.

"Please what?"

"Fill me, fuck me..." A groan of pleasure and relief; the finger had found its mark. Another joined it, and Zack's head fell from side to side in a daze, like a dreamer's. "Gaia Gaia just do it - "

Sephiroth was tempted - not for the first time - to enter abruptly and fast, hold back nothing, take Zack hard and make him scream. He forced himself to be more careful than this, however, because no amount of pleasure for either of them was worth a single cry of genuine pain from Zack's sweet mouth. But Zack was relaxed and eager, slick from his lubricated fingers, and not the inexperienced boy he had been their first time.

Sephiroth lined himself up, ready to enter. "Look at Cloud," he ordered softly. He tilted Zack's head himself, fingerpads lingering on the smooth cheeks for a few moments. "Watch his face, Cloud."

Zack smiled dreamily at him and Cloud smiled back, though his mouth felt dry and his chest heavy from forgetting how to breathe. The boy had known nothing of actual sex until only hours earlier, and though he had tried to imagine Sephiroth and Zack together like this before, his fantasies had not done the real thing justice. Cloud unconsciously licked his lips, wishing they were Zack's.

Sephiroth entered in one smooth, practiced thrust, meeting the prostate with just the right amount of urgency and pressure. Zack's face went slack and the eyes rolled into white, the lips parted in a wordless cry. Sephiroth pushed his long hair back so it wouldn't hide Zack from Cloud's view, pulled nearly out and thrust in again, driving himself even deeper. Zack arched until he was almost completely off the bed and Sephiroth's hands snaked beneath his head and back, holding him in the air above the blankets.

Cloud watched, flushed and aroused and frozen at the sight of the two beautiful bodies locked together and joining. Sephiroth was as controlled and glowing with pleasure as he had been with Cloud, but from this omniscient angle the boy could see how vulnerable the general was like this, as well. His aura of alertness and intimidation was always softened by their presence; now it seemed to fall away completely for a little while. And Zack, who was usually either fighting or joking, had surrendered, let himself remain still and be guided by the arms around him and the hand that slipped between his legs. Cloud had never seen Zack so exposed before, and was shocked and moved to see a tear or two slip down his face and onto the pillow.

Sephiroth increased speed, groaning quietly, and Zack trembled, then shook erratically, and let out something between a moan and a scream. With one last plunge, Sephiroth reached his peak as well, crying out in a way that sent a wonderful shiver up Cloud's spine. The general sank down onto Zack, propping himself up a little on one arm and tracing his features with a few warm fingers. Zack looked at Cloud with a mischievous, somewhat sleepy expression.

"That what you wanted to see, Spiky?"

Cloud opened his mouth and made an embarrassing squeaking noise.

Zack grinned. "Thought so."

Sephiroth observed the blond's dumbfounded smile. "Did you..." he asked meaningfully.

Cloud's breathing and color and his own enhanced senses told him that the boy must be hard; apparently he had very much enjoyed the show. Cloud shook his head, having been too absorbed in watching to take care of this need or, indeed, to even notice it until now. A lovely thought occurred to Sephiroth, and he gestured Cloud to come closer. Zack, having a guess about what was coming, grinned again.

When Cloud reached them, he made a startled sound as he was lifted right off his feet and brought to sit on Zack's stomach, in front of Sephiroth. His legs bent and came to rest at Zack's sides, and only then did he realize that Sephiroth had stripped his pajama pants off in mid-air. Zack unbuttoned the top and Cloud shrugged it off, exhilirated to find himself nude between them, with the evidence of his arousal beginning to leak wetness onto Zack's skin.

"Okay?" Sephiroth whispered in his ear, and Cloud nodded fervently, though he wasn't sure exactly what was about to happen.

It started to become clear. Sephiroth nudged him forward, both of them moving up until Cloud was sitting on Zack's chest and Sephiroth was putting all his own weight onto his knees to keep that pressure off of Zack. Smiling in anticipation, Zack took hold of Cloud's hips and drew him closer still, and Cloud reached down and ran his fingers through the messy black spikes. The movement filled the air between them with a lavender scent - apparently Zack's shampoo matched the color of his room.

Cloud exhaled sharply. Sephiroth's hand was lifting him carefully, trying not to apply pressure, and directing him to the nearby mouth. Zack's tongue emerged first, lapping fluid from the head, and before Cloud's moan was all the way out, the mouth had enveloped him completely. Zack sucked slowly, sometimes stopping altogether for a moment to hum or relax his throat enough to take more in. His eyes closed in rapture, like he was tasting a rare delicacy.

Gasping, Cloud grabbed the headboard with both hands and squeezed it. He wanted to push his hips forward, but Zack still gripped them and kept them in place. Probably a good thing, since Cloud didn't want to accidentally choke him. As Zack put his talented mouth to work, Sephiroth pressed his lips to the sensitive skin of Cloud's pale neck, and with one arm securely around the boy's waist, ran the other hand up and down his chest. His thumb circled one of the nipples and then rubbed it firmly, and the little bit of control inside Cloud snapped.

Zack moaned with satisfaction when Cloud came and greedily drank every bit of warm liquid that shot into his throat. When Cloud was completely drained - in more ways than one - Sephiroth lifted him again and gently placed him on the bed next to Zack, then lying himself on the other side. Feeling boneless, Cloud managed to roll onto his stomach, and turned to look when Zack spoke in a drowsy murmur.

"I think I'm dead. I've died and gone to the Lifestream."

"Really?" Sephiroth said with amusement. "Be sure to give my regards to our fallen comrades."

"Yes, sir," Zack mumbled, and promptly fell asleep.

Giggling quietly, Cloud turned to face Sephiroth, who was rolling his eyes and smiling.

"You'll have to excuse him, he's a bit useless after sex. So, how are you liking your birthday?" he asked, though the answer was clear already in the bright blue eyes.

"Best one ever. In fact, I don't think I'll ever have another day as perfect as this one."

"I accept that challenge," Sephiroth said softly, running his hand up and down Cloud's side beneath his arm. "Sleep."

"I'm afraid I'll wake up and this will have been a dream."

The confession reminded Sephiroth of something Zack had said after their first time together, and he observed Cloud lovingly with a soft silver gaze. "If it is a dream, we will have it all to do over again."

Cloud smiled, reassured. "Well, when you put it that way."

"We have six more days here, and something tells me you will need your strength tomorrow."

"You mean I can...with him?"

The general laughed quietly. "I think by tomorrow night you will be more than ready. But for the day, Zack wants to go sailing, and looking after him on a boat is a difficult task even for me."

"Now you have me to help. We'll make sure he doesn't fall overboard."

Cloud's eyes were blinking slowly, beginning to close. Sephiroth moved close enough to bring the boy's head to rest against his chest, and to reach around him for the reassuring touch of Zack's skin. Cloud snuggled against Sephiroth, mumbling something even the general's hearing couldn't quite catch, and went still, breathing as softly and regularly as Zack.

Sephiroth kept himself awake for a while, gently touching, marvelling at the beauty of the faces and bodies beside him in the moonlight. It seemed amazing that they were his, that this happiness was his. In the dark moments of his past, he could never have anticipated the perfection of this moment. An absurd, scary thought struck him - what if it was only a dream? What if they all were?

Zack's voice spoke up from Sephiroth's mind, with its usual advice. Don't think, feel. It felt real. They felt real in his arms. And this feeling of belonging with them, to them, was much too strong to be an illusion. Smiling radiantly, a vision of silver in the subtle nighttime glow, Sephiroth closed his eyes.

cszcszcsz

Zack awoke when it was still mostly dark, with a faint, familiar soreness in his lower body. Careful not to disturb his bedmates, he slipped out from underneath the blanket and stood, stretching a little to wake his muscles back to life. He went soundlessly to the balcony door and looked out at the sky that was beginning to pale, the stars that were fading. Perfectly content, Zack stood there a long time, as the sun began to rise and was heralded by a palette of vivid reds, pinks and oranges.

The bed's soft creaking shook him from his reverie, and he turned to see Sephiroth wide awake already, leaning against the headboard with a stirring Cloud in his arms. Sephiroth and Zack shared a smile of understanding. They would always protect Cloud as they would always protect each other, but something had been made equal the day before. They were even now, regardless of rank and age. Sephiroth nodded his acknowledgment of this, and lowered his head to kiss the lips that were sleepily beginning to speak.

"I love you," Cloud whispered, and Sephiroth smiled and held him closer, happily running his fingers through the bright, spiky hair.

Zack worried for a moment, wondered if he could take Cloud aside at a time like this and explain that those were not throwaway words with Sephiroth, that he never spoke them as a question or an answer but only when he needed to say them. But Cloud knew this sort of thing by now or just didn't mind, because he continued to snuggle and let the silver hair fall over him like a blanket. After a few moments, Sephiroth leaned down a little and whispered something into his ear.

Maybe Sephiroth was learning too.

That's it, Cloudy's been de-virginized! More importantly, I've placated Zacky for the moment.

Zack: "I totally hate you less! Yay!!"

Another "Decorum" comes soon, and we return to the days before Zack and Sephiroth were together. But I hope this one makes up for the shameful ignoring I've been doing of the central trio here. Let me know what you think!

EDIT: Argh, I forgot - the idea of the beach house vacation owes a lot to the brilliant bjanik and her "The Other Way Around". Being the huge fan of hers that I am, I'm sure that's not the only inspiration, but I wanted to acknowledge bjanik and the influence her writing has on me. Check out her stuff if you haven't, you will sooooo thank me.