Warnings: The following story contains male/male romantic/sexual situations (shounen ai/yaoi), foul language, graphic violence, and angst. Also, the underlying minor theme of Master/Slave.

Chapter Warning: The following chapter contains male/male intimacy of a slightly graphic nature (male/male erotic kissing, foreplay, and implied oral sex.). Also, heavy angst and sap.

The Taurus Key:
By Lady Tempest


The Taurus Key:

******Part 10:

Once back in Sasha's room, the blond prince wandered to the large window. The cool, salty breeze rustled the gauzy curtains against his still form and fluttered through his fine, silver-gold hair.

Issai closed the door quietly then strode to his statuesque prince. Always so beautiful. Standing behind the taller man, he glanced over the strong curve of his shoulder out the window to follow Sasha's gaze; though the rigidness of the princely soldier's stance told him it was not likely focused upon the Barrier Sea sparkling gold and silver in the near distance under the late afternoon sun, or even anything in particular.

His trembling hands clasped at his back, the Midori prince remained silent behind Sasha. Besides, he needed to bring himself under control. His slender hands still shook from the fury that burned through him. And the fear. Fear that yet again his sweet, darling angel had been nearly taken from him. Fear that no matter how much he tried to protect him, something, someone would hurt him anyway. Fear that the beauty would retreat into himself again and wither, even die. Not that Issai would let him. Not again.

And fear that Sasha would always come to harm trying to protect him. Physically and mentally. Issai knew now that even with all that those wretched bastards put Sasha through, his fierce wounded angel had tried to protect him from the guilt of knowing it was his fault. Sasha had suffered in his name. Had been brutalized and violated in his name. Had been robbed of his dignity and innocence in his name. Had been stolen from him, almost forever, in his name. And all the while, he was enjoying the comforts of home and family. And feeling hurt over a trivial thing like a title, a name. And he called himself a friend? A...? What a fool he was!

Issai buried his face in his hands, tears trickling through his fingers onto the dark blue carpet. Even now he failed his fragile prince, falling into the very guilt Sasha suffered so much to prevent. He had to be strong for his delicate angel. He had to be.

"I ask a favor," Sasha said in a smooth, quiet voice, breaking the silence and for the moment, Issai's descent into guilt. He remained still, stoic, not turning from staring out the window.

The prince rested his dark head against the back of Sasha's warm shoulder. "Anything," he breathed, fighting the emotion rising in his throat and entwined his fingers in the pale, elegant hand at Sasha's side. "Anything you ask is yours. Anything."

"I ask for Right of Combat."

"What?" Issai lifted his head, staring at Sasha's unmoving profile, as the cool breeze wisped strands of his angel's platinum hair into his shocked face. "No!" he choked, flinging his arms around Sasha's waist possessively, his hand still locked with the other prince's.

"You said anything," the blond replied, his jaw set stubbornly. "I demand the right to regain my honor." He turned his head slightly, his stormy winter-blue eyes sliding to meet Issai's sad green. "To regain control. I'm so weary of all this. I'm tired of being weak!"

"You're not weak!"

"If not, then why won't you allow me this?"

"I... I..." He buried his head against Sasha's shoulder. "I can't bear to see you hurt any more than you already have."

"I need this, Issai. I can't let them win! I can't!" Sasha's voice quaked with an anger and determination that shook his entire body. "Those creatures in no way deserve to engage in a rite of honor, but I do! I have to!"

Issai hugged him tightly. "Sasha... I..." He sighed in resignation. "I.. understand."

He should have known the soldier in Sasha would want some sort of just vengeance, to try to regain what he lost through arms and honor. The Enkaian prince would need far more than that to fully regain himself again, but he also needed the sense of control that only facing his enemies, his violators, could give him. No matter how much it hurt to let him risk his own life to do so.

"I will tell my father of your request and do everything in my power to see it granted," the black-haired prince added quietly, pressing a kiss to the blond's silk covered shoulder and deepening the comforting hug; Though the comfort of enveloping his treasured angel in his arms was as much for himself as for Sasha.

Sasha sighed, sinking into the embrace. "Thank you." His eyes calmed, melting little by little in the warmth of Issai's arms. Pale gold lashes dropped slowly, spreading their weariness through the statuesque prince's body. "I think I would like to rest for a while," he whispered.

Issai nodded against his shoulder. "As you wish." Then he released the slender waist, loosening his fingers from Sasha's to release his hand as well, but the strong, pale hand tightened. The dark-haired prince glanced upward into the dazzling eyes that took his breath every time he saw them. And with the silent question, blended with hope and loneliness, wandering through their sunset blue, now was no different. Actually, now even more so.

The Midori prince smiled and returned the desperate squeeze with a reassuring one of his own. He led Sasha to the bed, pulling back the vibrant blue coverlet, and eased the blond prince onto its comforting softness like a mother would her sleepy child.

Sasha bent to remove the blue satin slippers that had been provided for him since his own clothes were left at the `Palace'. But Issai rested a gentle hand on his knee and interrupted him.

"Let me," Issai said tenderly, kneeling before him. Then he slid off the finely crafted shoes, his fingers lingering for a moment to briefly massage the prince's feet.

Gazing up at the dazed face of his angel, he smiled. "Would you like me to bring you bedclothes?" Issai said, patting Sasha's knee at he rose.

The Enkaian prince shook his head slowly. "I don't intend to sleep that long. Just a little while."

"Well, if there's nothing you need then I'll leave you to rest." Issai didn't want to leave, but after all his sweet prince had been through that afternoon, Sasha definitely needed rest. He began to step away, to leave, but a strong hand gently grasped his as he turned.

" Please... stay," Sasha asked quietly. " I... I don't want to be alone." Tired blue eyes drifted shyly to the Midori prince's stunned green. The younger man's silver-gold brows wrinkled in a desperate plea that whispered of the innocence he thought lost.

Issai held the warm hand to his chest. How could he refuse. When would he have ever wanted to? His heavenly prince was for once asking for his time, his presence, instead of him having to offer it first. Issai had no need to consider his answer, it would forever be the same.

"Of course." And he sat lightly on the edge of the bed, trailing his fingers through Sasha`s soft hair. " Is there anything you need?" he whispered.

" Could...you..?" Sasha lowered his head shyly, blushing a pale pink. "... like in the garden?"

Issai smiled warmly. That was a request even more insane to refuse than the first. " Yes, my shy prince." By the gods, yes! After the confrontation in the garden, he had steeled himself to expect Sasha to withdraw and once again distance the growing bond between them. But he never thought his sweet prince would instead seek it.

For the entire walk back, detachment was all he felt from the wounded young man. The beginnings of the same heartrending coldness he had first seen after Sasha's release from the dungeon over a week ago, had chilled the sad, angelic face. However, he apparently had fought back the creeping deadness, refusing to let it enshroud him again. Perhaps now Sasha had something worth finding the strength to fight for, something more powerful than the pain, and Issai dearly hoped that something was them.

Sliding across the silk sheets towards the center of the large bed, Issai wrapped an arm around the younger prince's shoulders. "Come here," he whispered, drawing the nervous blond to his chest and gently enfolding him in his arms. His heart ached to express all the feeling he held for his precious angel prince. Words and flesh never seemed to be enough. He nuzzled Sasha`s hair with subtle kisses, drowning in vanilla, and warmth, and softness. " Better?"

Sasha's silver-gold head nodded, snuggling against Issai's chest as he relaxed in his arms. Content.

*****

Issai clenched his eyes, trying to shut out the reddish glow of the bright sunlight battering through his eyelids. He suddenly hated mornings, perhaps because he usually awoke well before daybreak could abuse him. He shifted his body, the light, silk sheets falling from his clothed body. He groaned. Why was he still in his clothes? He didn't remember drinking too much the night before. Actually, he didn't remember drinking at all.

A warmth cuddling against him brought the memories of why. Sasha. He smiled, his eyes still closed and stretched his arm across the form beside him, snuggling closer. He could suffer mornings if his angel was beside him. He nestled his face against what he presumed to be a shoulder and began to return to sleep.

A soft, velvety tickle pressed to his cheek caused him to flutter open his smoky jade eyes. Sasha was leaning back, a shy smile on his pale pink lips.

" Good morning," the younger prince whispered, his eyes shining and exquisitely pale as he rested his head on a royal blue pillow. The sun streamed into the room, tinted blue by filmy curtains and glowed in his soft, platinum hair.

Nevermind. He loved mornings. To wake to so radiant a sun, he would gladly suffer anything the much paler light through the window sent. He sighed contentedly as he caressed Sasha's side, the silk of the blond's burgundy shirt smooth under his fingertips.

" Good morning," Issai replied with a blissful smile. "I'm so glad to see you're in good spirits."

Sasha's smile brightened. Though Issai had not thought it possible for so radiant a beauty to glow any brighter. He was delighted to be wrong.

Pale lashes flickering shyly, Sasha slid a slender hand to brush Issai's cream bronze cheek with calloused fingers. A quick breath and his shining angel surged forward, capturing his surprised lips in a gentle kiss.

The dark-haired prince gasped but returned the kiss without hesitation. He truly loved mornings! The warm, tender lips left his, leaving his heart and fevering skin mourning their absence.

"Thank you," Sasha said quietly, a rose blush coloring his alabaster skin.

Issai chuckled, pulling himself closer to the warmth of his sweet angel. "I should thank you. What a wonderful way to wake!"

The silvery prince's face flushed a more vivid pink. "No... I meant... for yesterday. For staying. For everything." Sasha's sunset blue eyes were adorably earnest. "Thank you."

"No need to thank me. I did those things because I care about you. Deeply. It never occurred to me not to."

"Well, just the same, thank you. Thank you... for caring." A single silver tear slid from a pale eye.

Issai leaned forward and brushed the tear gently away with his lips, savoring the sweet saltiness. "No need to thank me for that either. You are why I care, why I adore you." He settled back onto his own pillow, smiling. "But I understand. So you're very welcome."

Sasha buried his head against Issai's shoulder, pressing his hands to the dark prince's chest and lightly grasping his pale green tunic. "Until yesterday I couldn't quite believe you did care. I wanted to. But... too many years of no one. No one to hold me, to touch me, to want me, to..." He snuggled closer, like their contact wasn't close enough.

Issai wrapped him tightly in his arms feeling much the same. He craved to be closer, to become a part of Sasha and his gentle angel a part of him. A heat spread through him, flowed like a rushing river, tingling his every nerve, his every sense. He bit his lip, trying to control his desire for the tender prince in his embrace.

"Yes, my sweet, ethereal prince. I want you. So very much," Issai breathed into his soft hair. "I want to hold you, to touch you, to adore you, with all my body and soul."

Sasha lifted his head slightly and placed a quivering kiss to Issai's throat. Hot breath brushed bronze skin and chilled a dampness Issai realized was the splash of his beloved prince's tears.

" I still don't understand, but I can trust you. I want to trust you," he breathed into Issai's neck..

" Well that's a beginning. Understanding will take time to learn, I suppose." Issai pulled away slightly to gently hold the tear-stained, angelic face. "And I would like to begin lessons." His lips slid into a sultry smile as he pressed forward intent on another kiss.

Sasha shuddered a moment, a wild look flashing in his blue eyes. "Lessons?" he stammered, his voice gone dry.

The raven-haired prince froze. "What's wrong?" Issai asked with alarm. He stroked the pale, damp cheeks with his slender fingers.

Trembling, Sasha clamped his eyes shut, his lashes seeping to a gray-gold as they darkened with trapped tears. Issai had no idea of what he had said or done to upset his cherished prince. The morning had been developing wonderfully. Absolutely wonderfully. So what had just happened? And what could he do to restore the happiness on his sweet angel's lovely face?

Taking several breaths, Sasha appeared to calm himself, then gazed into Issai's green eyes. "I'm sorry. I was being foolish. I'm fine."

Issai shook his head. "If it was about..."

"Please, I don't want to talk about that."

"As you wish. But if it was, you're not being foolish." He wasn't about to let his precious prince blame himself for the horror he suffered or to trivialize that suffering. But, how to convince...?

His thoughts were abruptly interrupted as Sasha seized his lips in a forceful kiss. Issai suspected to end the discussion, yet he wasn't going to complain. Not at all. Yes, his wounded angel would have to talk about what had happened sometime, if he was to truly heal, but perhaps, for now, the closeness between them was what he needed to begin mending his broken wings. The rest could wait for when he was ready.

"You're rather eager this morning, my shy angel," Issai chuckled against the petal soft lips. "How about we see how eager you really are?" He pushed forward, rolling his slender body against and over Sasha's until his statuesque angel was on his back.

"Is that a challenge?" Sasha replied, smiling. His pale-gold hair fanned over the royal blue pillow and shimmered in the morning light. He was like a living treasure displayed on dark silk: smooth ivory skin, azure blue glittering gem eyes, and fine threaded silver-gold hair. Far too valuable for even a king to afford. Or a prince.

"The challenge will be how long it will take me to cover your body in kisses," Issai said with a low, sultry chuckle while he straddled the blond's legs. "Now where should I start?" He thoughtfully tapped his chin with a forefinger, a playful glint in his eyes.

Sasha stared at him, lashes lowered shyly, as pink crept to his cheeks. Still so adorably shy. Thankfully some of his innocence remained, more than enough to be completely captivating. And inspiring.

"I know!" Issai suddenly said, his mouth quirking into a mischievous smile. He leaned forward, his hands slowly sliding up Sasha's black clad hips, then under his burgundy shirt, slinking the silk upward to reveal a pale, flat stomach.

The Midori prince bent down and attacked the toned flesh with light, brushing kisses, spiraling his affectionate assault until it hovered over the blond's bellybutton. A sly smile on his lips, he invaded the small hollow with a swirling tongue, savoring every glancing taste of the sweet skin.

The muscles beneath his lips quivered, then erupted into writhing and violent shaking as a deep laugh broke from the angelic prince. Issai lifted his amused eyes to enjoy his handiwork.

"Did that tickle?" Issai asked with mock innocence.

"Y.. yes!" Sasha replied breathlessly. Playful accusation sparkled in his clear blue eyes as radiant smile lit his face. His chest heaved, trying to recover from the sudden attack.

"Good!" Then the dark-haired prince dove down again, continuing his tongue's spirited mission, his fingers carefully creeping over the bandage around Sasha's ribs to complete a three front offensive of determined tickling.

Sasha squirmed delightfully under him, the blond's fit of heavenly laughter even falling into a few adorable giggles. Issai had never known a pleasure as enthralling or satisfying as bringing even this small measure of happiness to his enchanting prince.

"I... I... surrender!" Sasha panted, mirthful tears squeezing from his laughing eyes.

Issai sat up with a smug smile, his fingers remaining engaged in a less fierce bout of tickling. "Oh? Really?" He raised a dark brow playfully. "So does that mean you are now my royal hostage?"

Breathing heavily, Sasha feigned horror, though his smiling eyes and blushing cheeks gave him away. "I am at your mercy, my dark prince." His skin flushed an even deeper pink.

"That you are, my lovely fair prince!" He removed his hands from under Sasha's shirt, resting them on the blond's hps. "Now what ever shall I do with you?" Issai chuckled.

Raising his hands to begin unlacing the bothersome silk, he slowly slid forward until he stretched along the elegant body beneath him and met his angel's sweet lips. His agile hands still tugged relentlessly at the shirt's laces as he just as relentlessly kissed his warrior prince. Sasha returned the kiss with equal intensity and wrapped warm, gentle fingers in Issai's soft, midnight hair.

He shifted his hips again, to ease his weight from pressuring the blond's healing rib. Unintentionally, Issai brushed himself against the slowly rising heat between Sasha's slender legs. His own intense ache swelled even more and he suddenly lost his breath for a moment as the warm, arousing touch melded between them.

Issai lifted his head and glanced down with smoky eyes at the equally breathless, silver angel beneath him. "Sasha," he whispered with all the longing and passion he could contain in one breath, and slid the burgundy silk over slender shoulders, his hands caressing warm, smooth skin as it was exposed.

He hadn't intended to be become so intensely consumed by his desire for his beloved angel. Honestly, until Sasha, he had never before been consumed with even a portion of the desire he felt for the enchanting prince. Never. Only Sasha. With his angel, anything and everything changed. And anything and everything became possible. Passion. Desire. ...Love...?

Issai gazed at the beautiful young man beneath him. The blond nestled against the pillows, strands of his pale hair wisping across his face. His lashes were heavy and so was his breathing. So adorable and yet, so achingly seductive. And always unintentional. Sasha was still too unaware of himself and of his beauty for it to be anything else.

Smiling, the heat of his desire and the warmth of his adoration blending, Issai bent down and claimed his sweet prince's lips in another searing kiss. Yet, he let Sasha lead the depth of the kiss. Issai longed to meld, to become as one, with his passionate angel, however not at the expense of Sasha's peace of mind. But Sasha seemed to long for the same as he slid a timid tongue past the older prince's supple lips. Trembling, the blond's panted breaths were both passionate and fearful, yet he didn't flinch from their devouring embrace.

Issai was determined to drive all nightmarish thoughts from his darling prince. To bring him happiness. He wouldn't allow Sasha's mind the opportunity to torment him with the scarring memories. Not at the moment, at least. He would lavish the young man's gorgeous body with overpowering pleasure, until he trembled not from terror, but only happiness and desire.

Sasha seemed to calm, to accept Issai's affections as only his. The phantoms that haunted him appeared to be momentarily subdued under their wet, fevered kiss.

He broke the heated embrace to catch his breath and to then trail just as wet kisses along the pale, slender throat, his fingers tracing a path across velvet smooth shoulders to a strong chest, then brushing seductively around firming nipples.

Sasha gasped, a sharp, sexy gasp Issai found very encouraging, as well as very enticing. Full lips followed the path his hands had just taken, his hands forging a new one down the blushing, prickling skin to the flat, toned terrain of a cream smooth abdomen. Then his hungering fingers delved lower still to caress the intense, hardening warmth between Sasha's legs as his lips caressed a pale, hardening nipple.

The angelic prince let out a low whimper, shuddering as he arched into the rapturing attentions of Issai's mouth. His arms fell loosely to his side, bouncing lightly on the bed, as his hips rose, driven into almost wanton writhing.

Issai shifted again, leaving a chilling ache from breaking the fevered contact between them. Yet, the chill flared into fiery ache, as both his hands set to their task of unlacing Sasha's black breeches while still brushing erotic touches along the panting blond's silk-imprisoned flesh.

Sasha's deep, passioned breaths voiced the encompassing desire raging through Issai's entire being, to willingly drown in the whole of the beloved angel prince beneath him. Trailing his lips along Sasha's smooth skin, even placing light kisses over his bandaged side, he slid further down the statuesque body. He nuzzled against the hollow of Sasha's hip, savoring the musky vanilla scent as the last of the lacing fell free.

Issai brushed his cheek against the stiff, velvet flesh, soaking its enflaming warmth into his own lightened bronze skin. Then he turned to replace his fire-kissed cheek with his hungering lips.

Suddenly, Sasha grasped his dark head and forced him away from his ardent nestling. Jerking away, trembling, he shoved himself across the sleek sheets. "No!" the frantic blond nearly screamed. "You can't!"

Issai instantly went cold at the terror he heard choking his sweet prince's voice. Wresting himself free of the blond's shaking hands, he glanced at his angel's face. Silvered with tears and glistening blue eyes wide in panic, Sasha was panting heavily but no longer for anything remotely near pleasure. It was pure fear.

"Sasha," Issai whispered gently as he crawled towards the tortured prince and pulled Sasha lovingly into arms. "Shh.. What's wrong?"

Sasha clutched a silk sheet tightly to his body as though erecting a barrier between them while still allowing himself to fall into the other prince's embrace.

"I won't do what they said! I won't! I won't dirty you like they... they... " His voice broke off into uncontrollable weeping.

By the gods, he should have known! Why hadn't he seen the possibility of Sasha's reaction? How could he be so absorbed in his own desires to not know? Damn!

"I'm so sorry, my beautiful angel. Yet again, I should have realized." He strengthened the embrace, then lifted a hand to Sasha's damp cheek, tipping his face to meet his. "But what I want to give you is nothing like what was done to you."

"It's disgusting! I would never want you to do anything so horrible!" Sasha's face wrinkled in revulsion.

Issai bit back the anger rising at the reminder of what that monster had done to his innocent angel. Anger would be of no use to him now, and would only make comforting Sasha all the more difficult.

"Trust me, my darling prince, what I long to offer you is far from horrible." He had thought submitting himself to Sasha's pleasure, would ease the younger prince into realizing the difference between the vile brutality that bastard assaulted him with, and the adoring and erotic affections Issai wished to lavish on him. And he had hoped it would help his mending angel forget those terrible things suffered, even if just for a little while.

"Why would you want to do such a thing to something so filthy and disgusting?"

"No part of you is filthy or disgusting! Not one!" Issai replied earnestly, his ocean green eyes piercingly sincere as he lovingly brushed his slender fingers through Sasha's soft white-gold hair.

"No! Not true! He....it...." Sasha lowered his pale head, gulping back sobs, shivering.

"That's not you! He's not you! That wretched excuse for a human forced himself on you. Of course what he did was disgusting! But I'm not forced. I want you Sasha. Desperately. All of you, every beautiful bit of you. And all of you is beautiful!"

"No, I'm not! I..."

"Shh.." He kissed him lightly. "Yes, you are." Issai released the prince and rose from the bed. A warm smile curved his sensuous lips and danced in his dusky jade eyes.

"Let me show you." With a swift, gentle tug on Sasha's silk breeches, the shocked blond was completely nude. He gently grasped Sasha's still trembling hand and urged him to his feet.

"What...?"

"Do you trust me?" Issai whispered, tenderly cupping Sasha's confused face.

Sasha nodded, without hesitation. Reassuring.

The Midori prince smiled. "Then follow me." He kissed his sweet angel's hand and slipped an arm around the slender waist, cuddling against him as he led them to the bathing room.

*****

Issai positioned Sasha about a foot from one panel of the wall-spanning mirrors, his dusky green eyes roaming the naked beauty of the younger prince with an admiring gleam.

"I will show you why. Why I want every part of you," he breathed into his ear, wafting warm shivers along his pale neck as the raven-haired prince stood next to him, an arm across his shoulders. "Now, look in the mirror."

Sasha stared at Issai for a moment, confused. What was he doing? How was looking at his ghastly body supposed to make him understand anything the beautiful prince had said? A gentle insistent squeeze on his shoulder urged him to comply.

Sasha warily glanced at his reflection, then darted his gaze away. Nonsense. The whole idea was nonsense. What could Issai possibly see that didn't cause him to cringe? To shy away in revulsion? He had forgotten how much he hated mirrors, and he had almost forgotten how much of an ugly freak he was. How could Issai possibly intend this to be helpful?

Issai sighed softly. Lifting the pale chin to gently urge his gaze to return to the mirror, he spoke again, "Please, I need you to cooperate."

"This is pointless," Sasha muttered.

"Please, my shy, lovely angel."

Sasha peered into the mirror. If it made Issai happy he would suffer through anything, even himself. But he didn't have to like it.

"Look into your eyes." Issai directed, moving slightly in front of the taller prince. Sasha raised his eyes, locking pale blue to pale blue.

Issai gazed with him, smiling. "Such amazing eyes. Blue like the dawn of a clear spring sky. I could lose myself forever in their beauty and what they show me of the beauty of your soul and your heart."

The dark, elegant prince turned and raising himself on his toes, placed a light kiss beside Sasha's startled eye, then on his silver lashes. The warmth of Issai's sweet kiss melted into his skin, melted into his heart. His noble prince truly meant what he said. He had known Issai believed himself sincere all the times he said such things before, but he could feel the truth now, could see it in the brilliant green eyes smiling at him through the mirror.

Raising himself a little higher, Issai brushed his soft, sensuous lips along Sasha's smooth, white-gold brow. "I adore the way your brows wrinkle when you're concentrating or.." The dark-haired prince's mouth curved into an amused smile against his forehead. "...or confused, or anything that they express of you."

He slid his lips along Sasha's narrow nose, lightly nipping the tip. "Even your nose is adorable, delicate like the rest of you, though I know your delicateness masks a deep, fierce strength."

He sees that? He really sees that? And in something, someone, so mundane? A silver tear slid along his cheek. How? Why can he care so much? So genuinely?

Issai lingered a moment near his pale pink lips, their warm breath mingling and caressing each other. Sasha's heart raced. His beloved prince was so close, so warm. The Midori may be blind or even slightly mad to desire someone like him, but even so, Sasha would do anything to be near him. To hear his deep, sweet voice, to gaze into his stormy jade eyes, to feel his breath upon his skin, to taste his addicting, sensuous lips... His own breathing quickened, and he lifted his head slightly, moving to kiss the dark, intoxicating prince.

But Issai slipped away at the last moment, smiling slyly, his mesmerizing lips trailing along Sasha's jaw and up his smooth cheek. Sasha gasped in exasperation, shuddering, both from the theft of those wonderful lips he longed to always embrace and the caresses they were burning into his blushing skin.

"And your cheeks, so pink and warm in a pretty blush, like now. So charming and beautiful. They show the innocence and gentleness of your heart like the same pink blush shows the sun at the break of dawn."

Innocence? Not anymore. Issai had shown him things to want, to desire, that he had never known before. Never knew existed. He was definitely far from innocent now. And... his mind turned to a darker path to what else had taken, ripped, his innocence from him. But fortunately, the warm breaths licking softly at the curl of his ear grasped him to the moment and the one more important to him than dark memories.

"Shh.. I'm here. Just focus on me. And the mirror," Issai soothed then encircled his pale ear with an agile tongue, his gentle nipping and suckling forcing varied tones of whimpers and gasps from Sasha's throat.

The blond shivered. He was in a maddening heavenly bliss. Issai oddly seemed a bit more amorous with them as their own audience. Or perhaps he really was trying to make a point. Very determinedly so. And so far Sasha was having difficulty disagreeing.

All he could think about was how much he wanted to drown in the raven-haired beauty's kisses. Sasha tried to grasp Issai's silky, dark hair and pull him into a kiss, but the other prince batted his seeking hand away playfully.

"None of that yet. Look back to the mirror," he whispered seductively as he glanced from the corner of his eye to their reflection. "I have much more to show you." Issai nuzzled his slender neck, bringing a bright flush to his skin then planted deep kisses until sleek midnight hair snuggled under the fall of silver-gold.

"And your hair, like fine strands of silk, so soft and shimmering and beautiful, glowing like a halo in the right light, giving a glimpse of the angel you are within..." Issai's warm breath embraced his skin, their hair wisping in tickling flutters along his neck. Sasha shivered. "...and completing the angelic vision you are without."

"And the scent of you, honey and vanilla," Issai continued, nuzzling his hair. ".. is like the finest of wines and intoxicates with a single taste."

Issai's hands slid slowly along the soft skin of Sasha's shoulders then arms as he dropped just as slowly to his knees, streaming kisses down the blond's arching spine. With each kiss, Sasha's strength weakened, his being melting into a pool of fiery euphoria.

Now kneeling, almost in reverence to the beautiful form before him, Issai`s tender hands trailed from Sasha's slack fingers to caress smooth hips, then whisper touches to his rounded flesh as both fingertips and velvet lips seared kisses to firm cheeks.

Overcome, Sasha fell forward, supporting himself with his quivering arms against the cold reflective glass. How much more of such pure, aching pleasure could he survive? And why was it so much more intense than anything Issai had blessed him with before? But he was drowning too amazingly deep to carry his thoughts any further.

...And Issai`s melodic voice pulled him even deeper. "Your flesh is like the softest of silks draped perfectly over molded iron. So soft and strong." The raven-haired prince nuzzled against the skin beneath his lips, his hair tickling Sasha's trembling thighs, then returned to worship with wet, lingering kisses.

Sasha gasped loudly, a faint mist fogging the glass before him. His fingers clawed against the mirror with a squeak which was stifled by his much heavier and erratic breathing.

"...So perfect in every way. I could savor the taste, the smell, the sight, the feel, of your skin, your flesh, you, forever and never have enough of you," Issai whispered against his tingling skin.

His ravishing prince's hands slid down his creamy thighs, lips closely following. Then trailing further, Issai stopped and seductively licked at the back of his knees. Sasha nearly collapsed, his entire being overpowered by Issai's enflaming touches and sensuous caresses, but the Midori prince quickly grabbed his hips, steadying him.

"I'm not quite finished, my beautiful angel."

"T.. there's more?" Sasha stammered, his breath unstable, and his fingertips pressed so tightly against the mirrored glass, his nails flared deep pink and white.

" You'll see," the dark prince said softly with a sultry chuckle. "That is, if it is what you want?"

Biting his lip, Sasha flushed bright pink. Yes. More than anything. He wanted whatever Issai was willing to give him more than his next breath. Which was becoming more uncertain an occurrence.

" I'll presume that is a `yes'," Issai said with a delighted smile as he returned his attentions to Sasha's body. Placing a wispy kiss to the back of the blond's other knee, he caressed his inner thigh, brushing his fingers along the sensitive skin until they neared the heat between his legs, then feathered away.

Sasha's fingernails painfully squeaked against the glass, his pale-gold head and sunset blue eyes drooping as his body burned for something he didn't know but knew he wanted, needed, desperately. As desperately as he wanted, needed, Issai.

"You stopped watching," Issai commented with playful disappointment.

Sasha didn't even try to return his attention to the mirror and his beautiful prince. He knew it would be a losing effort. All his energy was focused on still standing, and that barely, since all his attention was focused on the aching, raging fire in his blood, in his entire being; And more powerfully, the heat thrusting from between his legs.

Soft, long hair tickled his thighs as warm fingers trailed shivering fire along his skin. Hands caressed up his hips, over his quivering stomach and then down again, wrapping tender fingers around his...

"Issai," he gasped, struggling against the conflict of his fears and his need. "..what...?'

"I want to give you this, my beloved prince. And I want you want it also. How else can I prove to you the truth of my words? How else can I prove how much I adore you, how much I care for you?"

Sasha whimpered in complete ecstasy as Issai caressed him with feathery touches, wet kisses, and a savoring tongue. No other sign of his relenting was necessary for Issai to lovingly enfold him into the warmth of his mouth with an intense passion unfamiliar to them both.

******

"...Demon Ghost!"

"We're here to teach you a lesson!"

"...Wraithboy!"

"Pervert!"

"... Dead-skinned freak!"

"Pretty Enkaian scum!"

" Go away! We don't like you!"

"Suck it, girl!"

Sasha huddled his tiny body in a corner of a large, darkened ballroom, his small, pale head buried in his tiny arms. The sound of heavy footsteps forced him to lift his fair tear-streaked face.

A shadowed figure strode towards him, controlled anger thundering in each step. Then Issai emerged from the darkness and approached young Sasha, his expression soft and tender. His hair, like midnight, and sapphire-glinted, flowed loose behind him. His glasses were tucked in the breast-pocket of his shiny, silk tunic, a dusky, jewel green that matched his sparkling eyes. Crouching before the boy, he laid a slender hand lovingly on a small, shuddering shoulder.

" What's wrong?" he said softly, his voice a bewitching, rich melody singing with affection.

"Th.. they..." the boy choked, then covered his little face with his pale, trembling hands, falling into a fit of sobbing.

"I... say... when... enough... is... enough...!"

The beautiful Midori prince's brows narrowed in anger, his eyes flaring a fiery green. "What? They did what?!" He rose in fury, and was about to storm away, when a tiny quivering hand grasped his.

"Please, let it be!... I don't want you to go."

Issai knelt before the young prince and softly caressed his white-blond hair. "I'm sorry. I'm here for you, my sweet sweet angel," he whispered and placed a lingering kiss on the pale forehead. "Please, don't cry." Gentle arms enveloped the small boy in a comforting embrace.

"I don't want to be lonely. I don't want to be hurt," little Sasha murmured into Issai's warm shoulder.

"I'm here and I'll never hurt you. I adore you, my beloved angel Sasha. You always remember that, agreed?"

Sasha, suddenly no longer a child, gazed up at the dark, exotic prince, his blue eyes glittering with tears. His pink lips curved into a hopeful smile. "Always?"

Issai's smile brightened. "Always." He leaned forward and took Sasha's lips in a wet, passionate kiss.

"Always," Sasha breathed against the green-eyed prince's satiny lips with a joyful smile.

(The End, of the Beginning)


Author's notes: I suppose I got a little sappy at the end, but then most of the story was a bit on the sappy side grin>. This is probably the closest I have ever written to a sex scene. I tend to like a more sensual approach than a blatantly sexual one. I hope it works well. Besides, with Sasha's experiences (and lack ) I didn't feel more would be appropriate. shrug>

I do intend to continue with the characters in a series, currently two more stories are planned. However, I'm working on merging the worlds of all my original stories into one to give me a stronger background and foundation of history and culture and politics. Since the first sequel will be very political and delve more into other cultures and more of Sasha's past (which is more heavily dependent on history) , I won't be starting the next story until the world-building in more solid or I become irresistibly inspired.

And as always... I look forward to seeing reader perceptions of the characters and the story, and whatever else about it after all this time. And getting back into character analysis is always a good way to motivate me to write the characters again. It revitalizes the excitement I had about them when I first wrote them (which usually gets lost while I work on other projects).

Thank you to those who have commented so kindly to this story: both those who reviewed the first time this story was posted, and those who reviewed after the FF.net NC-17 wipe caused me to need to repost this story. ( I had overcautiously rated it NC-17 (When it, at worst, is an R) and didn't change it in time to save my reviews. So sorry to those who read it before for the repost.) I did try to recapture the cliffhanger effect of the initial posting however grin>.

Thanks again!!

P.S.: This past semester I've been working on a major school project which meant taking a break from writing. The semester's over, so I will be back soon with more chapters to many of my stories and maybe a new story or two as well. :)