An AU assuming Zack is not killed by Shin-Ra, and the two make it to Midgar, only to live in hiding.


It's strange how two people can be so different, and yet somehow so close. Cloud is the smaller of the two – sixteen years old and not quite five foot five – and it is little surprise that the other boy, Zack is the taller – recently turned nineteen and now over six-foot.

Cloud's body too is smaller. Not weaker, so to speak, but thinner. Frail almost; frail next to Zack's two years and three months worth of extra training, and his somewhat slower metabolism. Compared to his bright blue eyes Zack's brown ones, despite being infused with mako, are dull and shallow looking- then again, they to synchronise perfectly with his shoulder black-brown hair. As proud as he is of his hair, he's taken something of a liking to Cloud's spiky blond mess.

Their personalities too clash. While Zack is more outgoing – more optimistic that a person rightly should be – Cloud is very quite. Some people called it depressing; Zack just thinks of it as endearing.

Yet despite all the differences, there are just as many – if not more – similarities. For instance, once the relatively small physical differences are out of the way, the two boys could be brothers; twins even, had it not been for the age difference. Often locals referred to them as the Knightsguard brothers; Knightsguard because Zack never uses his real surname anymore, and Cloud doesn't freely give his out. The guise of brothers works well enough for them however, and they don't bother to correct people any more.

Zack sighs wistfully as he looks around their apartment- not that you can call it that, really. It's more of a box; a box with the odd bit of furniture thrown into the mix. This box has two rooms. One is the "living area", consisting of a moth-eaten sofa, a cheap table with two chairs (one with three legs) covered in ridiculous amounts of paper work, a shabby looking stove which, despite the laws of physics, does its job well enough, and a black and white TV that is rarely turned on.

It is primarily a place to work and relax, so neither of them feel any pressing need to clean it or fix anything that might break. And so, of course, in the past three months the room had not been tidied once.

The second room is about half the size of the living area, containing two single beds which, curiously, have slowly moved closer together, so much so that there is barely room to stand between them. Except for a wardrobe the room contains nothing else, save the worn clothes that randomly lay around the room.

They have a strange relationship indeed. Neither knows much about the other, apart from for the little they've spoken about. Zack knows that Cloud dislikes – hates, even – talking about his past, and so quite simply they don't. The experience they've shared, yet one more thing they don't talk about, seems to be enough to bring them together. Perhaps they shouldn't be as close as they are, but somehow it's okay.

"So this is our life now," Zack says half to himself with a smile, stirring the freshly made cut of Midgarian coffee. It's not quite a question, but more of a statement.

Cloud doesn't look up until Zack puts the chipped mug down on the table, and even then he just nods.

"I don't like it here. Midgar, I mean. Living with you is not bad at all; it's just this dirty city. They're going to find us sooner or later. Plus, it brings me down." It was hard to imagine a pessimistic Zack.

Again, Cloud nods, talking a sip from his steaming mug.

"Definitely. This coffee's disgusting."

Zack can't help but smile. Somehow, Cloud's roughish mannerisms compliment him perfectly, and he ruffles the ever bouncy flash of blonde hair as he walks past. Grunting oddly he cringes, content with reading his smudged newspaper.

"'m taking a shower," Zack explains as he closes the apartment door behind him. They can't quite afford a place with its own bathroom, and so queues are common; it especially irritates Cloud.

That night, however, Cloud doesn't sleep. Zack too is awake- he never seems to be able to drop off when he can hear his friend move erratically within his tattered bed sheets. He yawns every so often to let Cloud know he's awake- an invitation, almost.

"I don't like it here." Cloud's Nibel accent is still audible through even as his whispers.

This time it's Zack who doesn't reply.

"I… want to go home."

"Home?" Zack asks, eventually.

Once again Cloud shifts, this time so he's facing the black-haired boy.

"Not home, no." With a bitter laugh he adds "there is no home, is there? You saw it; it was burnt down to the ground."

Nothing more is said, but Cloud feels slightly better. A few minutes later he falls asleep, yet Zack doesn't follow.

As every day slowly passes Zack realises that Cloud most definitely is not well, in anyway- physically or mentally. He doesn't eat enough, for a start, and although he tries his hardest to hide it Zack knows he's violently sick more than twice a day. Cloud is barely awake for eight hours a day. Zack on the other hand can't fall asleep because of it.

Zack is becoming sick of the way he screams at night, the way he spaces out, and the way he's too damn afraid to be touched. It's getting to the point where Cloud will freak out if Zack so much as looks at him.

They've been together for – what?- four months, and Zack has slowly learnt how the younger boy's body works. He knows Cloud has become desperate, some how.

"Cloud," he announces as gets up – making sure to make enough noise so that the younger boy wakes up - and flops down on Cloud's creaky bed, "I'm taking you home."


Eh. More... yes? No?