Author's Note: The delay? I blame it on Sephiroth. And maybe on a little of my fluctuality. Okay, maybe alot. I hate my inability to stay focused. But I think I got it the way I originally wanted! And ahm… I'm really thankful for the… ah… attention? the first chapter received… bows and rushes off

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Square-Enix, who is releasing KH2 in a few days! OMGZ0RSLURVE!11!1!

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Contemplative Thoughts

He placed a light kiss on Cloud's forehead before shifting the sleeping boy into a more comfortable position. Zack sat content, and he closed his eyes, breathing in the scent of tears and sweat in Cloud's hair while the blonde dozed peacefully. He idly ran his fingers through those golden strands, a faint smile touching his lips when the blonde mumbled something incoherent against his neck. Cloud looked so calm in his sleep, so relaxed, so… vulnerable. So unlike the boy who had been unleashing such fury just moments earlier.

Perhaps he should have expected the outburst. The SOLDIER exams were undoubtedly important to Cloud, like they were to so many others. But Zack knew the boy was unique. The fact that Cloud hadn't taken the entrance exams until now, a full year and a half after he joined the military, was proof of how different he was. All he'd said about the delay was something about proving himself by passing with high stats.

And to come so far, only to fail… a dream crushed before it could even come to fruition. He should have known that Cloud wouldn't be able to bear it. He wasn't Sephiroth, no matter how similar they may be. Physically, not at all, but emotionally, both were so guarded against others, and so ignorant of their own emotions that they withheld it all, until one confined himself in his office to seethe and the other secluded himself in sorrow.

But Zack would always be there.

Knocking vigilantly on Sephiroth's door, he'd yell about how Hojo deserved to be skewered after a nasty session of mako and who knows what, and how crazy it was that a maniac like him ever because a professor. Inevitably, they would get into an illogical argument about Shinra law, criminal punishment, reputations, and other topics obscurely related to the death of Hojo, among other subjects. When both parties had screamed their throats raw, Sephiroth would reluctantly open the door and express his gratitude, before finally turning in for the night.

And just when Zack determined that all was well, he was informed that Cloud had been missing for the past hour or so when he'd been having said screaming contest with the General. Both worried and frustrated, Zack nearly collapsed with relief to find the blonde simply sitting in the snow, albeit a little pale from the cold. He desperately wished that Cloud would open up and talk but at the same time, Zack was patient, knowing that trust would come gradually, with gentle coaxing. Until then…

It's freezing out here, Spike! What do you think you're doing?

His thoughts were interrupted when Cloud subconsciously pressed closer to him for warmth. And as much as Zack enjoyed the blonde snuggling against him, he understood the poor boy would likely catch a cold if he stayed out any longer. Though, in the case that Cloud did get sick, he'd have an excuse to stick around… Sighing wistfully, Zack obeyed his more responsible side and slowly lifted Cloud in his arms, moving as carefully as possible so he wouldn't disturb the boy's slumber.

Save for the crisp sounds of his boots against snow, the trip back was made in silence. The SOLDIER rooms weren't even in the same vicinity as the military barracks. Instead, they were located in a certain section of Headquarters. A new 1st Class could always look forward to receiving a room of his own, which allowed for much more privacy than other accommodations. It was quite spacious too, almost like a small apartment.

When Zack reached his door, he belatedly remembered the small, black authorization mechanism and its supposedly protective queries for a keycard. He stood stupefied for a few moments, staring at that mocking red light, then looking to his pocket, and finally at Cloud. Light, pocket, Cloud. Light, pocket, Cloud.

/For the love of…/

In his opinion, the procedure was a nuisance. Who in his –or her– right mind would break into a SOLDIER's room anyway?

He set Cloud on the floor, smiling momentarily at the sleep protest that resulted, and proceeded to locate his keycard. Once secured, he swiped the card through and was easily, though perhaps a bit grudgingly, recognized. A smirk danced across his lips as he took mental score: Zack –1, Shinra equipment – 0. Collecting Cloud in his arms again, he quickly walked past the sliding doors, in case they decided to malfunction just to spite him.

It was dark inside, but Zack's mako-enhanced eyes adjusted well enough. Leaving the lights off, he examined the mess that was his room. The sheets were half-off the bed, framed with clothes strewn haphazardly across the floor. There were dishes piled in the sink, probably at least a week old, and a whole herd of dust bunnies was probably living comfortably under his couch. Maybe he really ought to clean it up sometime…

He made his way to the bed and pushed off the dirty clothes that had evaded the floor before placing Cloud upon it. The standard Shinra coat came off, as well as the fatigue pants, both folded neatly and set aside. Which left the Cloud lacking a considerable amount of clothing. His face colored with a light tinge of pink; he felt like a perverted old man. Sure, if the kid had been conscious, he might've indulged himself, but asleep?

Zack fought the warmth that was rising in his cheeks and tried to focus on the boy's face instead. Not that it helped, of course, as his eyes kept drifting to Cloud's lips, reminding him of the… fairly mutual kiss they shared earlier. He'd wanted to do that for a year, at the very least. Not exactly what he'd call an ideal situation but…

He'd had to lie about his intentions, too, because he wasn't exactly sure how Cloud felt about… well, him. A friend, maybe nothing more, and from what he'd noticed, the Nibelheim boy already had someone back home. There was this look that made his blue eyes shine during those rare times when he'd talk about his past, similar to the look he had when speaking of Sephiroth. Admiration… and hope. There had to be someone waiting for him.

It figured, he thought, that the one kid he really had his eye on was already taken.

Zack sat on the opposite side of the bed, causing the springs to creak underneath the new weight, and sighed deeply. Running a hand through his own unruly spikes, he watched Cloud for a few more moments before stripping his shirt off and settling in the bed. He had almost fallen asleep before he realized the suggestive position Cloud would wake to. And though the thought was more than slightly amusing, he removed himself and took to the couch instead.

Finding a comfortable position facing Cloud, he watched the blonde sleep, until his owns eyelids began to droop from drowsiness. Tomorrow, Cloud would have the day off and as far as the SCLDIER knew, he wasn't scheduled for anything either. Maybe they could talk? A hopeful wish but… ah well. There was no point in thinking about it now.

That was the beauty in Zack's personality. He lived in the present, unchained by the past and untroubled by the future. No matter what happened, there would always be a brighter day. His only wish was that Cloud could understand this as well.

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…it really is a "herd of rabbits" -finds that amusing, partially because she is imagining cows and the like-

Zack is OOC? I dunno… this is kinda how I perceive him…

I know next to nothing about the military and soldier life. And my library is unable to provide me with information on those topics ;; Which is the reason I placed the SOLDIER rooms in Shinra HQ, because I can work with business buildings. Besides, I figure that 1st Classes are special enough. That's not to say I wouldn't appreciate learning about the military though…

And for some reason, I feel like I missed some really stupid grammar/punctuation error…

Story Word Count: 1239