Chapter 12

The SUV idled as the last of the supplies were loaded up into it. Zack ran back and forth between loading their stuff into the car and checking on Cloud, who finally growled at him that he was fine. Even Leria finally shoo'ed him away, though using a gentle hand motion in comparison to Cloud's methods of growling at the older boy to stop touching him. She pressed a small packet of herbs into the blonde's hand, whispering instructions on how to prepare them should he feel any pain still or if the blindness returned. He nodded his thanks, leaning heavily on Zack's Buster Sword-turned-crutch. A slight bulge around his midsection and travelling up his back showed where extra bandages had been wrapped around his slight figure to ensure the still-healing wounds would be protected on the journey.

Several of the townsfolk bid the two their farewells, two or three giving supplies they would need to reach Gongaga. Throughout the entire proceedings though, Cloud felt the burn of eyes on him, but he couldn't figure out where it was coming from. Still, there could only be one person giving him this type of nervous feeling. The one Zack was careful to avoid while they had been staying here. No matter, we're leaving. Won't need to worry about him. Thanking Leria and the last of the villagers one more time, the cadet hobbled his way to the jeep, waving off Zack as he rushed over to help.

"Stop being such a Mother Hen, I'm fine." Cloud growled, brushing off Zack's attempts to help him into the vehicle.

The Soldier hovered around him still fussing as the blonde pulled himself slowly into the passenger seat, panting with the effort it took. "Cloud, are you sure you're okay to travel? We can wait another day. Week. Month."

Cloud shook his head, a faint smile flitting across his features. "I'm sure, Zack. Just like I've told you hundreds of times already this hour." He leaned his head back against the seat, closing his eyes and listening to Zack saying his own goodbyes before climbing into the SUV. One blue eye cracked opened and the cadet waved to Leria as the pulled out of the town. "How long will it take us to get to Gongaga?"

"Should only be a couple days, granted we get into no more trouble."

"Mm" Cloud murmured, allowing the hum of the engine and rocking of the vehicle to lull him into a daze, and then into sleep.

Zack smiled as he heard the soft snoring next to him, reaching behind his seat to grab a blanket to lay over the sleeping blonde. The soldier switched the radio on, turning the volume down low so it wouldn't disturb his companion next to him.

It wasn't until early evening that the younger boy finally began to stir. Cloud yawned, jaw cracking, and stretched, arching his back in a clean line. He winced slightly as skin on the still newly-healed wounds pulled, but continued to list his arms up above his head to loosen those joints as well. Cerulean eyes slitted open to find Zack watching him avidly, dark eyes gleaming like a predator on the prowl. Until rough jostling alerted the Soldier he had driven off the road while staring.

Cloud stuffed the knuckles of one hand into his mouth, muffling laughter that threatened to explode out of him. "Like what you see?" He asked as soon as he had the breath to.

Zack glared at him briefly, before joining in the laughter. "Very."

"Is the sun setting or rising?" Cloud asked after the two had calmed down, wiping sleep from his eyes and peering outside the window. They had left the forests far behind and were now driving though a vast, open plain. A very faint, hazy-grey shimmer on the horizon hinted at possible mountains or another forest.

"It is setting, Sleeping Beauty. And that there on the horizon," Zack pointed to the haze, "Is the mountains my hometown is located by." The Soldier glanced to where the sun hung in the sky. "I figure we've got about two to three hours of daylight left to travel by before we'll have to stop and make camp."

Cloud nodded, frowning as a slow grin crawled its way onto Zack's lips. "Zack, I know that look. What are you thinking?"

"Buckle up."

"Oh shit." Quickly the blonde strapped the seatbelt on, one hand going to latch onto the door handle.

"I've been wanting to do this for months now on one of these new models. The vehicle is equipped witha nitro-mako booster engine." The dark-haired youth winked at Cloud. "Let's see how fast she goes." And Zack pushed a little button on the dashboard.

The blonde had the sensation of being pressed back into the seat and the world around them blurring at the sudden increase in speed. He gasped for breath while Zack gave out a whoop, laughing like a madman. He looked at Cloud, noting the larger-then-normal eyes and laughed harder.

"Isn't this fun?!"

"NO! Slow down!!" The smaller boy screamed as the vehicle went over a small hill, going airborn. "You're gonna kill us!!"

"Pfft. Ye of so little faith." The truck hit a bump, sailing once more into the air before crashing to the ground and kicking up a trail of dust. "Okay, maybe a little dangerous. But don't worry! I'm driving after all."

Cloud seriously considered in that moment if it was safer to jump out of the vehicle then and there.

"You know you liked going fast just as much as me!" Zack called to the blonde from outside the tent he had pitched. "Come on, Spike! Its cold and dark and cold. At least give me my clothes back!"

The black-haired Soldier shivered, rubbing his hands furiously up and down his arms and sides, stripped to his boxers. Damned clever punk! He acutely remembered Cloud dragging him into the tent after their supper, some kissing, more then a little touching as the blonde pulled the clothes off the other boy. And then beign shoved back and out of the tent, with the zipper hissing shut and a click that sounded suspiciously like a lock.

"You have magic, use a Fire spell. And next time, you'll learn not to endanger us like that again." Cloud called back to him, snuggling into the warm blankets inside with a sigh of pleasure. "Soooo warm in here. Its like heaven."

"That's just mean." Zack pouted, unwrapping one arm from around his torso long enough to pile a couple pieces of wood they had gathered. He reached for his Fire materia only to realize...it was on his gauntlet. Which was in the tent with a certain blonde demon. "Cloud!! My materia is in there! You gotta let me in!"

Blue eyes slitted with the effort of making no noise as the cadet rolled the red orb around in his palm. "Sorry Zack, going to sleep in five...four..."

"Don't you dare!"

"Three..."

"Cloud I'm warning you!"

"Two...One...I'm asleep."

"Ha, ha. Very funny. Now open up." He tapped one bare foot, waiting for the blonde to do as he said. And became more frustrated as the only sound within, was the gentle breathing of someone sleeping. "That little...he fell asleep."

With a sigh, he trudged back to the vehicle and pulled out one of the spare, musty blankets all Shinra vehicles came equipped with and settled in the back seat as best as he could. "Oh, you're gonna get it tomorrow love." He promised, trying to sleep against the cold.

"Good Morning!!!" Cloud shouted, ripping the blanket off Zack with a flourish. "I made breakfast!"

With a groan, the Soldier un-kinked himself from his tightly-curled position, shivering from the wind. Sure enough he could smell bacon and eggs and he staggered over to the warmth of the fire, practically laying in it to try and get warm. His clothes sat in a heap to one side, including his Fire materia.

"So how are you feeling, Cupcake?" Cloud asked with an annoyingly cheerful smile.

The other boy glared at him. "Oh, you're gonna get it."

The blonde laughed and proceeded to continue clearing up their camp while Zack sulked and wolfed down his breakfast. The Soldier groaned as he stood, muscles sore and aching from the freezing temperatures last night and the unnatural position he had been forced to sleep in. Every movement hurt in some place and he nearly cried at the thought of driving over all those bumps and dips a rarely-used road has in it.

"Come on lazy! Let's go, I've got everything packed!" The blonde sauntered over, grabbing one wrist and giving a sharp tug, hauling the older boy to his feet with a pained whimper. The cadet had some pity and kissed him on the cheek. "The sooner we get to Gongaga, the sooner you can rest."

Zack tried to glare at him, but the blonde jusst smiled. "You do know this is your fault right?" A nod. He sighed. "You so owe me."

"Yes, yes I know. Now let's get going, I wanna see what your home is like."

Zack gave him a strange look, wondering why the blonde was so energetic and...cheerful this morning. Cloud just sauntered to the vehicle, hopping in and smiling to himself. Leria's herbs did wonders for the body and mood he decided as waves of happiness swept through him. He ignored Zack's wary look at him as he started the SUV and hummed along to what ever song was on the radio.

"Are you alright?"

"I'm great!"

Zack narrowed his eyes, looking the smaller boy over. "You're different today. Are you sure you're alright?"

The laugh that spilled from the blonde started Zack with its pure carelessness. "Yes, I'm sure. Leria just gave me something to take."

Relief swept through the Soldier, he trusted the priestess, and returned his attention to driving. Truth be told, he rather liked Cloud like he was currently, laughing and happy. The cadet even made several jokes and small talk through-out the day. He had a feeling this was the way Cloud was supposed to have been, should have been if his childhood had been a normal happy one. The blonde was very tight-lipped on that area, had told his boyfriend only a few stories that the Soldier knew had been carefully editted of details. If he could, he'd bring this Cloud out more often. And so he let his companion chatter on and on about random nonsense, supplying the occasional remark to keep the flow of words going.

"Zack! Is that a church?!"

Grey eyes followed the finger pointing to the horizon, seeing the lone spire rising up faintly. "Naw, that's the Mako reactor near my home. We should be there in two hours or less."

And suddenly the older boy was being bombarded with questions about his homeland, his family and friends, and what his childhood had been like. Zack laughed, ruffling blonde spikes as he tried to keep up. It only lasted an hour before the cadet starting to slow down in his non-stop babbling. The drugs were wearing thing and/or nervousness was setting in as the village came into view.

"Oh my god! Wait till you try my mother's pasta dishes. You'll double your weight in a day eating so much of it!" Zack looked at his own belly ruefully. He had gained two pounds before they left and he wasn't happy about it to say the least, nor happy about the thought of gaining more. But...home-made cooking...

Cloud sighed, and used Zack's own arm to wipe the drool currently coming out of the dark-haired boy. "You're a glutton."

"I prefer to think an oppurtunist of seizing advantage of a meal that is in no way toxic or made from last month's left-overs."

"Glutton."

Zack pouted, keeping his eyes rigidly on the road and ignoring the other. Until a finger poked him in his belly, causing him to yelp and jerk. He shot the blonde a death-glare before going back to ignoring him. But the younger teen was persistant, jabbing him again to similar effects as the first.

"Oh look we're here! Behave!"

Cloud smirked, leaning in close to Zack's ear. "But I thought you liked me naughty." His tongue swept out to drag against the shell of Zack's ear, causing the Soldier to gasp and jerk, SUV veering sharply. The cadet sat back again, acting as if nothing had happened while Zack tried to get control of the vehicle once more. "You should really pay attention to the road you know."

A growl was heard from his left, causing the blonde to chuckle and give the source an evil and mischevious look. "Unless of course you don't want to drive."

Zack seriously contemplated slamming on the brakes right then and there and calling the blonde's bluff. As it was, he settled with a simple, "Just wait till night." He decided he loved the carefree laugh that came from the blonde beside him more then anything else he had heard from him.

They lapsed into a companionable silence the rest of the drive. Even as they entered Gongaga, Cloud remained silent taking it all in. It was so different from his own home. Villagers stepped easily out of the way for the vehicle, not even batting an eye at the Shinra uniforms. With a mako reactor so close, they must see plenty of Shinra on an average basis. Cerulean eyes widened as Zack finally stopped in front of a house, looking it over.

"Home sweet home!" Zack announced cheerfully, hopping out. "Come on Spike, it ain't that much to be amazed over."

Numbly Cloud climbed out of the car, slowly moving to Zack. So this is his home. It felt personal to be there, to see where Zack had grown up. With a huge grin, the Soldier grabbed his hand and dragged him up to the front door, knocking once before flinging the door wide. And staring straight into the barrel of a loaded shotgun. Cloud gasped, jerking back and reaching for the weapons he had left in the SUV. And then Zack gave a nervous laugh.

"Hi mom."

AN: Okay first things first. Yes I know. Two months late. Real life issues, lack of motivation, and just out-right lazyness delayed me. Also, I know its short chapter, but i'll write longer next. Umm, not answering reviews this time, there were too many but next time I will. Also, for last chapter, yeah I know, seemed rushed. But Cloud did it to certify the fact he was alive and alright and that Zack was there. Think of it as comfort sex. Lol, anywho, I am working on this daily now so hopefully the wait for the next chapter won't be so long. Until then, hugs and kisses and sorry again.

Oh, my upload time on this might be a bit late, because I'm also working on a kakashi/sakura fic atm. And no complaining about that pairing, I loves it. XD