Street Signs

Share the Road

"So what? I was drunk!"

He knew Zack didn't believe a lick of it, but he had to say it anyway—Denzel was listening, for crying out loud—he had to save some form of his dignity. At least being drunk was not that…touchy of a subject in front of an eight-year-old.

His brother was no help. "Yeah, right. I told you not to drink so you wouldn't do stupid things, but now I see I should've just said the latter. It'd be broader of a promise."

Cloud groaned. "It wasn't stupid!"

Zack glared at him from the top of the blender where he was mixing a punch of Kool-Aid. Denzel was learning to make cherry Jell-O on the other counter. The expression on Zack's face was too clear for Cloud to misinterpret.

"Okay, fine, it was stupid!" Cloud exclaimed, crossing his arms. "But you're making it a bigger deal than it is."

"Oh. So what if Tseng got there before I did? What if my bossgot there before I did? He was at the party, too, idiot; so were most of the people we see everyday at work."

Cloud had been quite grateful for Zack the previous evening when he pried the two of them apart with nothing more than a, "Get dressed, we're going home," and a quick, polite good-bye to the hosts. Ten minutes later they'd been in the car. Zack hadn't asked for an explanation, and Cloud hadn't offer one. It was the status quo until well past eleven this morning, when Cloud heard the accusation of stupidity just as he picked up the Sunday paper.

"Well, it's over anyway," Cloud grumbled, sitting down on the couch in an attempt to actually read the comics. "He was drunk as hell last night—probably doesn't remember."

"Do I hear regret in that voice?"

"Fuck off!"

"Hey! Denzel, your uncle is being bad today. Ignore everything he says from –"

A knock at the front door interrupted Zack's lecture, but though Cloud was closer, he begrudgingly stayed put, forcing his brother to yell, "Coming!" a few moments later. Zack emerged from the kitchen and threw him a dirty look, but undid the lock and swung the door open. Unfortunately, the prepared greeting did not make its way out of his opened mouth.

"Who is it?" Cloud asked after a prolonged silence.

"How'd you get here?" he heard Zack ask.


Cloud's head snapped up—he'd recognize that voice anywhere. The newspaper dropped from his hand as he jumped from the couch, dashing toward the door, but Zack's outstretched hand stopped him.

"What do you want?"

"I... May I speak to Cloud?"

Zack's "no" was effectively blocked by Cloud's rough intrusion between him and the doorframe. The blonde gave him a warning glare, and Zack glared back, but he did retreat from the front door. Catching sight of Denzel's confused expression as he turned around, Cloud walked out of the apartment and gently closed the door behind him, his back to the wood and his foot keeping the door slightly ajar.

"Hi," he said, offering a quick, nervous smile. "Uh, what're you doing here?"

Vincent smiled in return. "Your brother doesn't like me very much, does he?"

"Ignore him; he's being stupid." Cloud scoffed. "So..."

"Well," Vincent began, "I came to apologize for the... indecent behaviors of last night. I was hoping that I could speak with your brother on better terms, but he seems to be a bit agitated. Perhaps I should try later." He paused. "By the way, are you doing alright?"

A blush crept up Cloud's cheeks. "Yeah. I'm fine. Really."

"Not sore, I hope."

Cloud shook his head quickly, looking down, but he saw Vincent's smile widen out of the corners of his eyes and made himself look back up. He noticed, just then, the half-buttoned black shirt, the numerous pieces of jewelry, and the scent of cigarettes assaulting his senses. It made his heartbeat escalate, and his blood began to flow significantly southward.

Cloud drew in a breath. "You, uh, didn't just come here to talk to Zack, did you?"

"Well, that was the original plan," came the casual reply.


"But…" Vincent looked at his watch, his long white fingers curved in a natural arc, and Cloud stared much longer than necessary. "It is getting close to noon. Would you like to join me for lunch? My treat."

"Sure," he answered, hoping he didn't sound overeager. "Just let me get my stuff. I'll be out in a sec."

A few minute and quite a few banters later, Cloud emerged from the apartment and slammed the door behind him, letting out a frustrated sound as he shook his head in annoyance. "I don't know what's wrong with him today. Well, I do, but usually he's not such an asshole. Maybe it's too fresh or something."

"I thought of coming later," Vincent agreed. "But later would mean a week later, and I think by then I might as well not come. I suppose it needs some settling."

"The last time things needed settling we nearly –"

And he was cut off again—mid-sentence—by the warm mouth on his own. Cloud felt himself being pushed against the apartment wall, his thin parka rustling with friction and movement. He opened his mouth to let in the familiar tongue; their breaths mingled in the air, crisp against the warm moisture beading around their lips.

Vincent let go of him, pressing a soft lingering kiss to the corner of his mouth before linking their hands together and leading Cloud toward his parked car. Feeling giddy, he followed—he wasn't twelve anymore, but some things never went away, and he was glad for that.

"So," Vincent spoke. "I hope you like sushi."