I really must admit that I was surprised that people still read this and like it. Don't think I can thank you people enough for your support and it is fun to hear that it is somewhat enjoyable to read.

Using British spell-check, fyi.

Chapter Title: The title means "To Light A Fire With Fire" in Latin. I love Latin. And the quote this time is from a song by Meshuggah. I must admit I'm not a too big of a fan of Jens Kidmans way of singing, but their lyrics are amazing and they're very skilled musicians.

Darkness Demon Rose

Chapter 7: Ab Igne Ignem Capere

"The Struggle To Free Myself From Restraints, Becomes My Very Shackles."
By Meshuggah, song - Disenchantment

Cloud felt like he was in a vacuum. All the air and sounds were sucked away from his surroundings as the smell of death wrapped around him where he sat, making him numb.

He couldn't breathe, couldn't scream anymore. The foul and horrible smell of death was so overpowering it made him unable to do anything but stare petrified ahead, hoping that the reality would change if he didn't acknowledge the vampire's existence. But as he sat there gasping for air, the image of Sephiroth flashed rapidly before him with a look of disappointment before it was replaced by the bloody body of Zack when he had offered his life to Cloud. Two men, both whom had given their all for him no matter if they were friends or enemies – and how did he himself repay their act of care - ? He sat there, stiff with horror, just offering his life to some Zonro after all the things the others had gone through for him.

Zack's voice then rang in his head, the hurt from Cloud's mockery drenching the Hunter's words, making him feel even worse. He had mocked the other's actions of helping him and apparently hurt the other's feelings. And here he was again, almost offering his life willingly to these vampires after what the Hunter had done for him and what Sephiroth had always been doing for him...

Even if Cloud thought that he himself was weak, there was still no excuse to throw away neither the lives he had taken nor the efforts the others had done for him to keep him alive. The situation might be bad and he might still be hurting all over, but to throw in the towel at this point was being selfish... wasn't it? The Zonro was chewing away at him while he just sat there, letting it have its way with him without resisting whilst the other vampire was slowly making its way inside as well. Was this how he wanted to die...? Was this really how he was allowed to die?

Closing his eyes, Cloud took a deep breath and cursed lowly as the Zonro vampire viciously pushed him down on the floor to get a better angle to bite him again. Apparently they were set on devouring him before this was over and he had to do something quick.

Growling deeply, Cloud tried with all his might to heave the other off of him, but the Zonro weighted too much and he didn't get a good force behind it when lying on his stomach with his hands trapped behind him in the vampire's strong grip. He was effectively trapped to the point where he had little to no way of fighting back now and the searing pain in his right arm where the vampire was feasting away didn't make it any easier. He had to come up with something...

Deciding to not give up, Cloud then tried to turn around to get a better angle at fighting, but he soon regretted it badly when he felt the vampire's teeth rip at his flesh as he tried to twist himself around. It was like acid was melting his flesh where it was biting and sucking at his arm, his limb starting to shake from the pressure of the vampire's vicious feeding and the pain. Soon enough the Zonro also started to dig its claw like nails into him in an attempt to try and get a better hold on him the more the struggles went on, the vampire now pinning Cloud to the ground like a wolf stripped off of its limbs.

"Get off me!" Cloud roared in frustration, anger and slight fear as he tried to roll around again while aiming a backside kick to any part of the other vampire.

The Zonro seemed to have been caught a little bit by surprise, because its grip on him loosened for a fraction of a second. But that small opening was all Cloud needed and he quickly yanked his arms free and rolled around, using both of his arms and legs to push the Zonro off of him as hard as he could. It seemed to work and the vampire was sent flying, but as it did, the blond couldn't help but yelp in agony as the Zonro ripped off a good chunk of the flesh on his arm.

"Zack!" the blond found himself scream again as he clutched his now badly bleeding arm and heard the second Zonro vampire land on the ground behind him, its rasping breaths like the bells of doom. The first was also getting back on its feet and their eyes spit his demise at him. He wouldn't survive a second attack from both of them...

This was not good, not good at all. At the moment he couldn't effectively fend off even one of them, let alone two in the tiny area he was locked in. He could struggle, but not fight... The knot of desperation in his chest just grew larger and larger and soon it would suffocate him together with the fear and hatred he felt as he stared at the vampire ahead.

Though before the vampires could make their final attack and finish him off, Cloud heard four rapid shots before a collision of metal broke the chains around his wrists and ankles. But before he had any time to look around for the source of the gunshots, he saw a flash of black collide with the vampire in front of him, sending both of them into one of the walls.

"Fenrir!" Cloud yelled in relief as he saw the Hunter scramble to his feet as rocks fell from him after the impact with the stone wall. 'That was just in the nick of time...'

While he shook his head to try and clear his vision slightly, Zack couldn't hold back his grin at the gratitude he heard in the other's voice. He could definitely get used to that tone from the other... There was no way he had forgotten that rude mockery of him helping the vampire earlier, but that didn't mean he couldn't appreciate the good things that came his way after that...

"No problem, just don't get used to it." The black haired jested, the man unable to hold back his feelings of relief that Cloud was somehow, yet again, alright even after having been attacked in his "prison". Either it was just luck, or the blond was much stronger than he looked. Perhaps it was both?

"This is really not the time for jests, Fenrir." Cloud yelped as the vampire behind him knocked him to the ground again with a loud growl, the Zonro towering over him like a demonic beast ready to feast.

"Cloud!" Zack yelled and made a run for him. But before he had managed to reach them he found himself getting tackled to the ground as well, earning a gasp from the small, blond vampire.

"Undo the spell-circle!" the blond then shouted as he battled for control with the Zonro. But soon enough the tall, yellow eyed monster gained the upper hand and it threw the small blond roughly into the invisible wall around them, making him see stars.

At the request, Zack groaned while he slashed at the other Zonro with his big blade, carefully avoiding making any impact with the stone wall. "You know I can't do that!" he responded as he dodged three dangerous slashes to his face. But as he said it, he felt a pang of worry for the small vampire wash over him. If this didn't end quickly, Cloud would be done for. There was no way to fight in the feline manner the blond did in that little space - He was at a disadvantage. -

"What do you mean 'you can't'! Just do it!" Cloud croaked in frustration and anger as the Zonro kicked him over the throat, sending him harshly into the ground head first. Coughing, he then rolled around quickly and managed to avoid a fatal blow of the other's claws to his abdomen, but just barely. "Do it now!" he shouted again weakly, his throat hoarse and aching. "I can't fight like this."

"I know!" Zack shouted in reply. "But I can't just take away the only thing keeping you here either." He added before he lunged himself at the vampire he was fighting, effectively cutting a deep wound in its left arm before he rolled away from it.

"Just make another one later, for crying out loud!" the blond groaned through gritted teeth while the Zonro took a steady grip on his throat, lifting him a few good inches off the ground.

"Both you and I know you'll be out of here before I can even blink if I do." The Hunter retorted as he parried and countered the Zonro's attacks while feeling slightly shocked at the brutal force behind their unnatural strength. What were these?

Cloud gasped for air as he clung to the strong arms around his neck while he tried his best to land an effective kick against the other's body to make it release him. "I would have, but I owe you one after you saved my life. So just do it and erase this barrier!" the blond tried to reason before finally successfully landing a blow to the vampire's head with such force that it knocked them both over. "I'll do whatever you want me to do, I promise. Just erase it, now!" he added with heavy breaths before he lunged at the other with a fierce growl, the boy now determined to not lose this fight.

Glancing over at the vampire, Zack felt a wave of doubt hit him as he questioned the outcome if he did as the other requested. But at the same time he couldn't risk the other dying just because he couldn't fight back properly because of his spell. "You better keep your word, kid. Or there will be consequences!" Zack warned as he locked eyes with Cloud, his dangerous glare threatening the blond of the risks he'd take if he didn't keep his promise.

The small vampire's gaze didn't falter at that and it was all the reassurance Zack needed to dare take the risk. Nodding, the tall Hunter then made a swift side step to his right in an attempt to lure the Zonro away from him as he tried to make his way over to the spell-circle. But to his shock, the vampire didn't fall for his trick and instead it knocked him hard in the stomach and sent him flying through the room. Apparently his worry for the small blond was distracting him more then he thought...

"Ouch..." was all Zack could say as he picked himself up from the ground, rocks and dust falling off of him like heavy rain.

"What are you doing? Hurry!" Cloud shouted in irritation while he deflected some of the incoming attacks from his vampire, the male unable to counter them too much because of the limited space.

"I'm on it, I'm on it! I just need to get rid of this vampire before I can reach you and de-spell it." Zack replied a bit sourly as he steadied himself for a new attack, his pride a bit wounded from the failed attempt of fooling the Zonro.

"What do you mean 'reach me'?" the blond answered in frustrated puzzlement as both of them were now wrestling on the ground, fighting for the upper hand. "Just de-spell it already or I'll eat you for dinner if I make it out of here alive!"

"It isn't as simple as that. I need to touch the barrier while I de-spell it or it won't work." Zack explained as he tried to battle his way towards the others. However, his Zonro was putting up a fair fight, much to his dismay.

"You're Fenrir, for crying out loud. Just get your butt over here!" Cloud bit back before one of the other's claws cut his cheek deeply when he failed to avoid an attack fully, the attack drawing blood from the pale skin. Apparently the Zonro was quickly learning his fighting style and adapting to his quick dodges. If this kept up, he wouldn't be able to defend himself for much longer in this cramped space. What was the Hunter doing?

"I can't just ram my ass over these monsters. If I use my energy wave in here the whole room is going to cave in!" Zack tried to reason while his conscience screamed at him to risk whatever it took to get Cloud out of danger now. He had to admit the blond was putting up a pretty good fight in that little cell of his. Though the fact still remained that Zack was the one whom had put him there, so if the small vampire died it would be because he had failed to help...

"How many seconds do you need?" he then heard the blond ask as blood flew from the thin arms far enough to land on Zack's face when the Zonro managed to land a heavy hit on him.

"How many for what?" the Hunter asked and gave the other male a look stating he wasn't sure he followed completely.

"How many seconds do you need to undo the spell?" Cloud urgently asked again before a hiss left the bruised lips as the other vampire managed to land multiple hits on his left leg. The impacts caused some not too well sounding cracks to echo in the room.

"Give me four seconds, tops. Why?" Zack informed thoughtfully as he attacked his Zonro with a combination of sword hits and kicks to throw it off balance. But only two kicks managed to pass the solid defence and the Hunter growled in frustration at how much of a disadvantage they were in here.

"You see that lamp you have over there?" the blond asked and nodded his head in the direction of the entrance to the cave where a burning oil lamp stood gleaming in the dark. "I want you to try and make your way over there and toss it to me when the time is right. I'll throw it at the Zonro you're fighting when I see it has its full attention on you. The flames won't kill it, but should give you that small distraction you'd need to de-spell the seal. After that we'll try and make our way out of here." He finished before he punched the vampire he was fighting hard in the side of its head, sending it flying roughly into the ground a few meters away. Making use of the moment, Cloud took the seconds offered from that to catch his breath, the boy gulping for air after the tricky and demanding fight he had to keep up with in the limited space.

Looking over at Cloud as he fought the Zonro, Zack couldn't help but feel slightly surprised at the fact that he hadn't thought about that himself. It appeared the blond had more under that fluffy, wild hair then just sweet looks, and it almost made him feel proud.

"Alright, kid. But you better not pull any stunts when we get out of here, you're in debt to me." The Hunter warned as he waited for the time to dive after the lamp. Even if he wanted to hope that the boy would keep his word, the black haired still couldn't deny the fact that he almost expected, and didn't blame the other, if he'd try to escape. They were still hunter and prey with a complicated situation. Only the vampires' strong view on the seriousness of debts kept the future slightly clear to him. "Here goes..." he mumbled to himself as he readied himself for an opening.

Seeing the vampire he was fighting pull back slightly to prepare a strong attack was all the space Zack needed and he dove to his right as he threw a dagger at the Zonro's leg. He hoped it would be enough to divert its attention from him and to his happy surprise, it seemed to work and Zack soon enough reached the place behind the bars where the devilishly gleaming lamp stood. Quickly grabbing it strongly he then hastily made his way back, hoping to be able to pass the opening to Cloud's "cell" before the Zonro that followed him was too close.

Just as he managed to pass the opening the Zonro reached him and they both tumbled to the ground with a heavy thump, earning a gasp from the blond vampire. To both of their reliefs though, the oil lamp was alright thanks to the Hunter's great reflexes and as Zack battled on the floor with the Zonro, he still managed to keep the lamp out of harm's way. No one knew for how long it would last though, because the Zonro was growing more and more fierce as the smell of blood got heavier in the air.

"Now!" Cloud yelled as he jumped into the air, bouncing gracefully back and forth between the invisible walls while making his way higher and higher up in the room. It was the only way to create that needed distance between him and the other vampire to effectively aim at the Zonro the hunter was fighting. But he wouldn't be able to do it for more than a few seconds and when he couldn't keep it up any more, he would be in a serious disadvantage. To fall in the limited space he was in created little to no opportunity to defend himself before he had landed and there was no way the Zonro wouldn't make use of that time. He just had to hope that his plan worked or he'd be in a lot of trouble...

Just as he reached the middle of the cave's height, Zack called out and he made a graceful jump just at the right time to catch the lamp as it passed through the invisible wall. As he felt himself starting to fall, Cloud took a deep breath and focused every little fibre in his body to make the important throw. It was make or break and he was determined to not let the Hunter have the "satisfaction" of saving him more than once – he'd make sure now that he was a part of it himself this time - . Narrowing his eyes he then took one final, deep breath before he threw the lamp with all the power he had, sending the oil lamp zooming through the air quickly and successfully hitting the other Zonro at the back of its head.

A monstrous shriek was heard resonating through the cave as the fire enveloped the Zonro's head and the vampire started to coil and twitch in pain as it tossed itself back and forth.

At the sight, Zack wasted no seconds and quickly dashed past the burning, living dead and drop kicked the vampire under Cloud out of the circle with a loud bang. Without a thought he then stretched his arms out and effortlessly caught the small blond in his arms before he had reached the ground, earning an unexpected yelp of surprise from the lithe form.

The seconds after that passed extremely slow as they gazed at each other, the Hunter unable to hold back a tiny smirk when the vampire sprouted a barely visible blush despite the dangerous situation. Apparently the act of catching the blond had caught him off guard and made him feel slightly indignant, causing Zack to feel even more victorious then he already did. This was all dangerous and they were far from done, but it was really impossible to not smirk anyway. He'd remember this image in front of him for a long time...

But as an exceptionally loud wail shook the room, Zack released the blond and placed his right hand on the patterns below them as he started to mumble. His chants in Latin sent waves of purple signs dancing across the ground before it all vanished in a whirl of dust, the sign now completely gone.

"One de-spelled prison ordered and done." Zack informed with a small smile that was unnoticed, the young vampire having immediately jumped in front of the Hunter to block an assault from the Zonro he had been fighting in the prison.

The small vampire growled as he held the other's wrists, a snarl gracing the mostly pained and pretty face with feelings of madly pulsing hatred towards the Zonros clearly evident. He then unexpectedly jumped to the side and landed on the wall to his right in a crouched position. Gathering all his strength, Cloud then pushed himself from the wall with all he had to send himself flying back in the direction of the vampire before ending it all with a harsh kick to the skull of the other, sending it staggering to the ground. Apparently the blond wasted no time in taking use of the space he had finally received...

As the thump of the vampire's fall echoed through the cave, Zack felt something soft grab his hand before pulling him to his feet and tugging him urgently to follow behind.

Cloud had taken a hold of his hand...

"Let's get out of here." He heard the young vampire mumble hurriedly as he pulled him along past the still tossing and burning Zonro and towards the opening of the cave.

Even though Zack knew their situation was very life threatening, he still couldn't take it seriously. He could hear the other mumble something about him having to shape up once they got outside and that he should use his energy wave attack once he got the chance, but he found it hard to focus on it. All he could really feel at the moment was that soft, slightly trembling hand from the adrenaline grasping his hand firmly - Feeling the rapid heartbeats of the young vampire flow through the other before mending with Zack's own heartbeats from their linked hands -... The feeling was overwhelming and the warmth it gave him was wonderful yet infuriating. This really wasn't the time to dwell, ponder or deny the feelings the other caused him, yet he had a hard time letting it go...

Shaking his head, Zack sighed and speeded up to keep even footsteps with the young vampire as they made their way outside, the strong light from the full moon illuminating the world outside beautifully.

But as they passed the opening of the cave, Cloud winced badly before he tumbled like a doll to the ground. The male coughed and shook immensely as massive amount of blood flew through his parted lips in between his ragged breaths.

Zack, having been unprepared for the sudden collapse, continued a few more steps before he managed to come to a sudden halt as he felt the smaller hand slip from his grasp. Turning around he then frowned at the quite nasty sight of the blond laying on all four on the ground, spitting and coughing blood like a sick dog. Apparently the small one had pushed himself quite hard at the moment, and now when he looked him over, he also saw that the blond had gotten some pretty evil looking wounds from the Zonro...

"Hey, you ok?" he asked while gazing a bit worriedly at the blond as he made his way over to the other, figuring it'd be best if he helped him from the opening of the cave before the other vampires arrived.

As he drew nearer, the lithe vampire seemed to be collecting itself before the pretty face gazed up at him with a bothered expression, the ruby red eyes agitated and worried despite Cloud's effort to give the impression of being calm.

"I'm fine..." came the answer before an especially rough cough shook the slender body, causing the dangerous, red eyes to momentarily close in pain before the blond tried to stand up on somewhat unsteady legs.

Reaching his side finally, Zack took a hold of the vampire's arm to steady him."There is no need to push yourself so hard. I can handle these now." He reasoned, earning himself a heated glare of defiance.

"I'm not done yet." Cloud informed determinedly as he yanked his arm free from the other, annoyingly missing the touch as soon as the contact was lost. "I won't let you do the entire job for me..." he added as he gazed with distant eyes at the ground, the air around him becoming heavy with regrets and hatred as the trickling blood from his various wounds gleamed oddly in the moonlight.

Studying the other as he stood there, shaking slightly from the effort of merely standing up straight, suddenly made Zack very aware of something – There was something that had changed in the blond -. Despite the obvious fear, anger, pain and suffering that glazed the gleaming red eyes; the Hunter saw something new growing there... Had the kid found a new resolve of some sort?

Or was it merely the strong hatred towards the Zonros that had killed the children Cloud has spoken of that made him more set on fighting? Whatever it was, it seemed to be the biggest thing that kept him going at the moment. The massive amount of blood the vampire had lost and was still losing was pretty severing for someone of his stature. That he could still move was almost admiring.

"Heh, stubborn like a Chocobo." Zack mumbled to himself with a small laugh despite the situation, the man happy that the blond couldn't hear him. "If you wish to fight then I won't stop you, as long as you don't get in my way." he added in a small challenge, trying to motivate the other to keep fighting for whatever reason he had for a bit longer. Even if the way of doing it was a bit odd, he was pretty sure it would work the best when it came to the blond.

The only answer he got to it was a huff before the vampire took a deep breath, readying himself. "They're coming." Cloud then called out and turned around to face the opening of the cave.

Staring ahead, Zack soon enough spotted the two Zonros making their way outside, the two pair of yellow eyes burning fiercely with madness while they scanned the outside for their prey.

"What an ugly duo..." Zack stated as the two Zonros locked eyes with him. "I can't believe these are the same as you." He admitted and glanced at Cloud, whom was currently readying himself for an offensive attack. "What exactly are they? They don't seem brainless, but they still don't have much of a tactical approach to a fight..."

"They're Zonros. Simply put vampire-zombies, more or less. They have incredible and fast regenerating abilities and fighting capabilities, but they just follow simple orders and can't take any major decisions themselves. They're far from brain dead, but they mostly go by natural instincts. That's all you need to know." The blond informed flatly as he narrowed his eyes, going into a crouching position. "Now use your energy wave attack while I distract them!" he then shouted as he flung himself at the two Zonros, surprising both the hunter and the two vampires.

"You idiot, don't just do that so suddenly!" Zack yelled in shock before quickly fumbling after his sword to do as the other suggested while at the same time silently suppressing his worry for the other as he saw Cloud fight viciously.

But as the seconds passed whilst he searched for his sword, a feeling of dread washed over him when realization dawned on him. – He had forgotten his sword -. Somehow, amidst all the fighting that he did so often, he had managed to forget his main weapon. The cause of his distraction had probably been the soft hand of the blond that had pulled him out, leaving him in the state of forgetting to bring the weapon with him...

"Fuck." He cursed under his breath, scolding himself for embarrassing himself like this and forgetting something so important like his sword. This certainly put another big dent in his ego and self-confidence. It was certainly unforgivable.

Deciding quickly, Zack instead pulled out his trusted Beretta M9 from inside his jacket and rapidly fired 4 shots at the two Zonros. The bullets whistled through the air like phantoms before skilfully hitting both vampires in their legs and momentarily sending them to the ground.

"What the hell are you doing?" Cloud roared as he spun his head around to glare heatedly at the hunter whom was running towards them. "Bullets won't do much good, hurry up and use your energy wave already!"

"It's called Ultima." Zack informed as he gracefully did an air somersault high into the air before he effectively used all the extra force to jam a long, slim knife into one of the Zonro's shoulder. As an odd scream erupted into the night, the hunter continued his fierce attack and slashed at the vampire rapidly with two small knives. The blocking and parrying against the Zonro's claws caused high pitched clicks to sing in the air like wailing ghosts in between the grunts when an attack managed to hit. "I sadly have to inform that there will be no show of my ego today." Zack finally admitted and gave a small, apologetic smile despite the trouble they were in.

"What do you mean by that?" the young vampire growled, dropping onto the ground before he successfully landed a kick to the legs of the Zonro he was fighting and sweeping it off its feet. He then lunged himself at it in an attempt to stab it at the heart with a small branch he had found on the ground, but the vampire was too quick and managed to roll away and instead claw Cloud at his side. "We don't have time for this!" the blond spat at the hunter before he fell silent, the throbbing in his now badly ripped and bleeding side causing him to hiss in pain as he clutched it while retreating a bit.

"We don't need it." Zack tried, hoping that the blond would agree even though he knew he wouldn't. Their situation was quite pressed and Cloud was quickly losing his strength the more he had to fight. To be honest, the young vampire had fought well past any expectation anyone could have of him, and even more so past his capabilities. But this had to end soon or the blond vampire wouldn't last for long.

"You have to be joking..." was the irritated reply, Cloud clearly not amused by the answer. "Just do it!"

"Well, you see, here's the thing. My sword is still in the cave, so even if I wanted to, I can't use it." the hunter replied lowly as if hoping the blond wouldn't hear him, the man feeling slightly indignant at having to reveal the fact that he didn't have the sword.

The truth made the small vampire groan in annoyance. "This must me some kind of a bad joke..." he mumbled through clenched teeth while he jump-kicked the Zonro in the head, forcefully sending it staggering into the one that was fighting Zack before they crashed to the ground in a heap.

But when they separated themselves from the Zonros, Cloud gasp as a heavy dizziness overtook him and he fell to one knee before he coughed badly, blood once again splattering over the ground below him. He heard Zack call out to him, but it sounded so distant, like it hadn't even been there. The sounds were muffled and he felt his body tremble as every muscle in him tensed to the breaking point, breathing suddenly becoming a very difficult task. Every inhale he made felt incredibly heavy. "I'm fine." He mumbled, but the words that left his lips didn't sound like him, the voice much too low and raspy.

"To be frank, I'm getting quite fed up with your idea of taking me for an idiot." Zack retorted angrily, obviously understanding the situation Cloud was in even if he tried to hide it. It didn't take a scientist to figure out how injured the small vampire was. That he didn't let Zack handle the other vampires himself pissed him off immensely. Of course he understood that Cloud had a reason for fighting, whatever it was, but it didn't mean that he was excused for acting stupid. If he got himself killed, nothing mattered anymore... "You should let me handle these, or I'll force you to let me." The hunter threatened as he stepped closer with the intent of helping the other move to a more secure place before he would handle the Zonros.

At the warning, Cloud huffed and looked up at the other as he sat down. The younger male panted heavily while small drops of sweat trickled down his forehead, making him look sick and dying where he tried to stand. The intense red eyes had now also lost some of their gleam which was caused from their owner's strength leaving him, now instead replaced by exhaustion and pain. But they still managed to give the Hunter a hard stare and a look saying the small vampire was not convinced.

"You don't even have your sword and so far I haven't seen you fight even one of the Zonros easily. How'd you be able to handle two of them alone?" the blond asked sceptically before his face constricted in pain and he clutched his head tightly, giving a small, agonizing groan.

"It's true I don't have my sword." Zack admitted as he saw the other vampires getting back on their feet, the wounds and bullet holes closing quickly. It sure was true that their regeneration abilities were extraordinary, even for vampires. "But you're forgetting that I'm Zachary Fair. I'm not anybody – I'm a hero -." He said with the charisma only he possessed. "A Hunter. I'm more then my sword."

The tired eyes of the small vampire widened a little at that, the confidence and motivation of the other slightly surprising and... appealing. The hunter was slightly cocky and had an unhealthy view of being a hero, but it was at the same time charming and somewhat admirable. He couldn't help but like it, despite himself.

Sighing in mild defeat, Cloud let himself be carried away to a big stone just some distance away before Zack pulled out two medium sized daggers and gave a small smirk. "Now watch what I can do without my Ego." He jested before he ran off, the man diving into the incoming Zonros with a fierceness and skill Cloud hadn't seen before.

As he continued to stare at the fight Fenrir was putting up against the Zonros, Cloud began to realize just how much he had underestimated the other. The way he moved now and the sheer force behind every hit was completely different from before... Sure he knew the Hunter was strong, but the difference in the level he had seen before and the one displayed now was absurd. Had Zack held back until now because he didn't want to risk him being caught in the crossfire..?

The thought made Cloud shake his head. The other sure was an idiot...

He himself was also an idiot. At the moment he should try to make his way out of here while the hunter was busy fighting for them. But instead he was stuck against the big rock behind him, unable to move anymore because he had pushed himself too far when trying to fight for himself. Would his stubbornness now make him unable to run back to Sephiroth's side?

Sephiroth.

Just the mere thought of the man made his heart clench painfully and the stinging in his cheek return with full force, like he just had been hit. The longing for those arms became almost unbearable despite the pain he felt as he touched the spot the man had hit whilst feeling heartbroken and empty. What would he think of him now? Was he thinking about him at all? Was he looking for him? Did he miss him? So many questions he craved an answer to, yet he was afraid of them. If the truth hurt, perhaps he was better off without knowing... Who would be looking for someone like him anyways?

As it all became too much to think about, Cloud closed his eyes in an attempt to prevent tears from escaping while refusing to feel sorry for himself. He felt shattered and utterly lost, but at the same time he wanted to prove to himself that the reason he was fighting for now was not in vain and that it would make him able to return to the silver haired man's side. He longed for him, but that longing was what would push him forward as well, until the day they could meet again.

Looking back up at the fight, another truth also dawned on him; The Zonros were probably a warning from Tseng. They were a message saying that if he didn't went looking for him by his own will soon, he'd be forced to follow. This was merely a small gesture of letting Cloud decide for himself... why in the world Tseng would to that he didn't know, nor did he really care. That man was twisted to the point of being unreasonable. The fact remained though, that if he tried to get back to Sephiroth now, his maker would also be in danger from that insane black haired man and the last thing Cloud wanted was to cause trouble for Sephiroth again...

There was also this disturbing feeling every time he gazed at Zack that told him to not leave he other's side. It could just be his conscience telling him that he was in debt to the Hunter and had made a promise to not run away, something which was a very serious promise. But even if that was the most logical explanation he knew it wasn't the whole truth. There was something much more frustrating that also tried to make him stay, keeping him from wholeheartedly leaving Zack behind. Somehow he felt he'd miss not knowing more about the other and watching how the whole thing with Reno worked out. He just couldn't let the first human he knew that could possibly accept vampires, walk out of his life. They had already formed some sort of odd, deformed bond, but despite it, he wasn't willing to let it go completely. He wanted more of it...

And so he had to stay where he was, watching Zack battle the two other vampires like they were warm ups.

Squinting his eyes, Cloud suddenly got the feeling that the Hunter was toying with the Zonros. Like he was letting the fight continues for much longer then it should have just for the sake of the opportunity to try some new fighting tricks. All of it just looked so darn easy when Zack did it. His movements were now so precise they were close to flawless and they had a grace Cloud had only seen one other person possess before...

Leaning back, he continued to watch as the Hunter pulled out his Beretta 9M again and fired all of the remaining 11 shots in a way that made Cloud feel like the hunter was practicing his aim and rapid firing skills to perfection. The way he handled that gun was surreal and the speed between every shot was so hard to pinpoint that it would probably have been impossible to register for someone with less developed senses. Somehow he felt glad that Zack hadn't been like this when they had fought, or Cloud would had lost with such disgrace it wouldn't even had been funny... How could someone like the Hunter possess such incredible skills and power when he acted like a complete oaf sometimes?

Hearing the rapid firing come to a stop and a sudden movement in front of him made Cloud look up from his inner debates and what greeted him made his eyes widen slightly. In front of him now stood Zachary Fair, hunter extraordinaire, with a big grin across his blood stained face with arms crossed confidently.

"Mission completed." He said proudly and nodded in the direction of the two chopped up Zonros behind him, the creatures now a pile of detached limbs full of bullet holes and whatnot. "I'm glad to see you kept your promise and that you're still here." He added and bent down, ruffling the blond's hair teasingly.

"Don't get the wrong idea." The vampire mumbled indignantly and looked down in suppressed embarrassment while the red colour in his eyes was replaced by that intense blue instead as his strength left him. The eyelids fluttered heavily and the blond head started to tilt tiredly to the side, showing clearly that the vampire was drifting off.

Staring down at Cloud with a hurricane of mixed feelings, Zack ended up just giving him a dangerous smile as he threw the other over his shoulder, earning himself some half-hearted protests about being able to walk on his own before Cloud drifted off into unconsciousness.

"Now let's get you back inside, alive and safe." The Hunter said with a wolfish smirk over his face, the expression missed by the small vampire he kept over his shoulder as he made his way back to the cave, feeling proud with his accomplishments.

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A soft, almost inaudible rustle was heard to his right and it made Cloud shift slightly where he lay before the blond rolled onto his stomach, covering his head with both of his arms.

"Oh, you're awake." Came a soft and unmistakably happy statement, causing the small vampire to sit up with a groan. God he felt nauseous.

As he leaned against the wall behind him Cloud became aware of the Hunter sitting very close to him, the other's body heat like a veil of comfort. It eased his pounding head and it made that regret and sorrow he always carried with him disappear somewhat as they sat there, making Cloud unable to hold back a tiny sigh of content.

"You seem to be doing alright." Zack continued after he had pulled his eyes away from his book, the Hunter now examining the other with approving eyes. Sure the vampire still looked pale, but the wounds were healing nicely. Their only problem now was that Cloud would probably need blood very soon in order to fully recover and to not risk going into a blood-rage again...

"How long have I been out?" the blond asked as he studied their closeness before noticing that the Hunter had now placed him outside of the cage instead, close to Zack's own sleeping place and the fire. "I also see you don't have any intention of trusting me." He added as he eyed the new pattern below him, this time the spell being in a strong blue colour.

At the accusation of not trusting him, Zack huffed. "Well, it's not like you trust me either and this is just a way of keeping you "safe" in case you would have gone into an unexpected blood rage. I can't allow you to run around and kill people."

"True, you're a hunter after all..." Cloud mumbled as he continued to study the seal below him, admiring the beautiful pattern it consisted of while trying to hide the fact he felt insulted that the other didn't trust him. He didn't blame the hunter, of course, but it didn't change the fact that it made him feel a bit sour. "Why does this one look different?" he then asked as he traced his fingers along one of the inner lines, feeling a small pulse emitting from the pattern as he touched it.

"Because this is a different seal." Zack explained as he reached for the other's forehead, wanting to reassure himself that Cloud hadn't caught a fever despite looking extremely pale.

As his hand touched the unexpected blond, the vampire flinched and pulled away as if burned which sent the boy's head ramming into the invisible wall roughly.

"Ops, sorry." Zack apologized as the small one clutched his head and hissed before sending the hunter a glare. "Here." He then said and handed a wet towel to the other. "You seem to have a fever."

Reluctantly taking the offered towel, Cloud whispered and inaudible 'thanks' before he looked away sourly.

"The last seal I made was only made to keep you locked up inside it, nothing more. This one, however, is made to keep you inside and keep other vampires out. That's why it looks different and has a different colour." Zack explained airily as he went back to reading his book, silently offering Cloud the space of being alone if he so wished. To his mild surprise though, the blond continued to chat with him this time despite the fact that he looked like he was ready to faint at any second or be devoured by his anxieties.

"What book are you reading?" the vampire asked lowly as he gazed at the book in Zack's hand, seeming honestly curious about something regarding Zack for the first time.

"It's Goethe's 'Faust'." The Hunter answered with a small smile. "Have you heard of it?" he asked before wondering why Cloud was making an effort to talk to him now of all times?

"No. What is it about?" Cloud wondered and leaned closer to have a better look at the book, his forehead now resting against the invisible wall closest to Zack.

"It's quite dark. About a scholar who makes a pact with the devil to gain infinite knowledge. " the tall man explained in a way that really made one see how much he had taken a fancy to the book.

"Sounds interesting. Not what I had expected you to read though." The vampire said in all honesty while looking interested. He really hadn't expected someone like the black haired man to like reading books about something like that. It wasn't that he thought of the other as an idiot, but Faust seemed very deep for a person like Zack and Cloud had thought the man preferred something a bit lighter and upbeat. This was however, a nice surprise, showing the other possessed incredible depths.

"Heh, perhaps not. But it is very good. One of the best books I've read so far." Zack admitted and offered the book to Cloud. "You want to read?"

The vampire shook his head at that. "Nah, you're reading it. I can just read it some other time, it's not like I'm in a rush." He answered, a heavy, gloomy air settling around the boy at that.

"Alright." The Hunter said before he gazed intensely at the small vampire again. His eyes had gone slightly hazy and his breathing had become laboured again and it made Zack feel very uneasy. Reaching out quickly, the Hunter took a firm hold on the other's face with both of his hands while staring at the young one worriedly. "You don't look too good."

"It's nothing." The vampire tried as he wriggled under the firm hold the other had on him.

"You're an idiot if you think I'd fall for that." Zack replied flatly as he felt the other's forehead again. "Whoa, you're burning!" he exclaimed in shock and slight frustration before he saw the blue eyes turn slightly red. Was the blond already suffering from blood loss again...? It did make sense though; he had lost quite a lot in his last two battles and had never really made a full recovery.

"Here." The hunter then said firmly as he pulled down the collar of his shirt, exposing his neck.

"Are you out of your mind..." Cloud growled weakly in between his ragged breaths while he tried to keep the hunter at a safe distance.

"No, I'm positive about this. I'd rather have you feed on me then some other random, poor human, plus you need blood right now. I'd prefer you stay sane then turning into a beast that I have to fight... and perhaps kill." Zack replied strongly as he pulled Cloud closer to him despite the other's wild protests.

"I'm not going to feed on you!" the small vampire yelled angrily as he tried with all he had to pull away from the other while not looking at the neck in front of him. "Have you completely forgotten that I'd kill you if I fed on you?" he added viciously while feeling the Hunter had gone mad.

"Oh, right..." Zack mumbled, seemingly having forgotten that little detail. "Well, it worked last time so I'm sure I'll survive this time too." He then reasoned reassuringly before he pulled Cloud tightly against him, one hand strongly keeping the blonds' face tucked to his neck.

It was true. He did think there was a big possibility that he wouldn't die this time either, but in the end it wasn't what really made him offer himself as a meal. The fact that Cloud would die without blood remained and Zack just couldn't allow that. But at the same time he just couldn't walk into town to fetch a human dinner for the vampire, it was unacceptable. So the only way that remained to keep the blond alive was to offer his blood again, which was a much easier decision then to let Cloud die. In the end, the vampire had gone through a lot because of him and was like this because Zack held him here...

"You're suicidal! I refuse to kill you because of your stupidity and ignorance!" Cloud almost wailed in irritation as he made a sudden movement backwards, causing both of them to fall flat against the floor.

Zack stared down at the blond below him, the small vampire clearly upset and furious with an expression that was hard yet scared. It warmed him a little to see the vampire refusing to take his life despite him being the one holding him captive. Perhaps there was a small, tiny glimmer of hope for something to develop between them after all...?

Giving a small, gentle smile, Zack then leaned down to whisper in the other's ear. "I'd rather risk my life helping you again then end up being a werewolf's meal as the pawn of my parents. This is a risk I'm willing to take." He said firmly while holding the boy close again, letting himself dwell in the wonderful feeling of being close to Cloud like this.

He could feel the heart beats of the vampire grow stronger and faster when he pulled his face towards his neck again, the other's breath becoming strained and heavy. Cloud was fighting so hard to restrain himself despite his need being so strong that his body had started to shake from the smell of the blood so close at hand.

"I hate you..." the vampire whispered in agony and fear as he felt his fangs slowly pierce the fair skin, while fearing he might lose control over himself.

"I know." Zack replied softly and closed his eyes while he just continued to hold the other close as they lay there on the floor.

"I hate you." Cloud whispered sadly again when he felt the blood he craved so badly flow down his throat and make him feel disgusted. Images of the ones he had killed so far flashed before his eyes and the screams echoed like thunder in his ears as he drank, drowning him in the horrible feeling of regret and sorrow. He felt hopeless, utterly hopeless. He had fought to not let Sephiroth or Zack's efforts to be in vain, and now here he was, yet again, taking the Hunter's life despite it all.

But he couldn't stop the feeding now even if he wanted to. His body was aching, demanding new energy and the only way he would be able to stop would be when the other was dead and he had received the energy he needed. There was no way around it... and Cloud would be a murderer once again even though he had once hoped for the hunter to end his life. It was pathetic...

"Don't shed your tears for me, Cloud." He heard Zack mumble and to his shock, he noticed a few lonely tears falling down his cheek. He hadn't realized they had escaped... But now when he did, he couldn't stop. There was just so much wrong in his life that he couldn't hold back the proof of his agony. Why was it always like this? Why was there no end to his life's failures and bad choices? It almost seemed like the harder he tried to do right, the more it ended up wrong...

But then, as he lay there feeding while he felt Zack's strong breathing mingle with his own, he suddenly felt a jolt of something and he was able to pull away from the other, both to his own and the hunter's surprise.

"What is it? What happened?" the black haired man wondered with a look of confusion as he pulled away to gaze into Cloud's eyes.

"I... don't know." Was all the blond could answer as he looked at the other with wide and shocked eyes. "Somehow I could stop..."

"Stop? But I thought you said it was impossible to do it before the prey was dead?" Zack said in bewilderment as he sat up, now straddling Cloud's hips instead of lying like a blanket over the other.

"I did, and it's true! But somehow the intense need is gone and I was able to pull away..." the blond informed before he leaned closer to the other, now lying on his elbows gracefully instead of on his back. "This makes no sense! I've never even heard of anything like this and now it has happened twice."

The moments that passed after that was filled with silence and Zack looked deep in thought where he sat, clearly pondering over something. "I think I have an idea of what it might be..." he then concluded and stared into Cloud's now blue eyes.

"What? You do? Then what is it?" the small vampire asked in denial as he gazed wide eyed back at the hunter.

"I'm not completely sure yet, it's just a hunch. It will be my secret until I've confirmed it." The black haired said mysteriously as he softly ruffled Cloud's hair when he got a very sour pout as a response.

"I hate you." The blond stated yet again, his pout deepening whilst looking indignant when the other continued to ruffle his hair. Cloud knew he had lost this battle.

"Yeah, yeah, I know." Zack confirmed with a soft laugh before he coughed and quickly moved away from the other and out of the spell-circle.

Sitting down beside the blond instead as he scratched his head in embarrassment, Zack mentally scolded himself for being carried away so easily. Of course he was happy that he had yet again been able to help the blond and survived, but it still didn't mean it was ok for him to act all cheerful and affectionate towards the vampire. He was definitely letting his emotions run away with him at times – he had to keep a better hold on himself -. If Cloud found out he harboured deep, deep feelings for him things might get ugly. Not to mention the blond would view him even more like a retarded freak for falling for an enemy. Nope, he needed to watch his steps and take his time with this or it wouldn't be able to end the way he wished for.

Sighing, Zack then dared a glance at the other and he was slightly surprised at what he saw. Instead of the indignant and sour vampire that he had expected to see, Cloud instead looked utterly lost and lonely. Like he didn't know what to do with himself and the heavy shadow that seemed to always loom over him was almost frightening.

What was it that tormented the blond so much to the point of making him completely oblivious to the rest of the world? The vampire had told him some of the things, but it was obvious that there was much more beneath the surface that needed to be taken care of. Cloud was clearly way too tormented to be able to handle it all by himself, so why couldn't the young male trust him and share some of his ghosts with him?

Well, of course he was very well aware of why Cloud couldn't and wouldn't too, but that didn't mean he couldn't hope for that to change. Their meeting and situation was most awkward and absurd, but despite all that Zack would do his best to turn that around. He wanted to see Cloud smile and show him that even if the world was filled with sickness and deceit, there was still some that were there for him and wanted to be with him. That wanted to ease his pain and blow the loneliness into smithereens...

Even if he couldn't be close to the other yet and support him, he knew one thing that could momentarily help the agony and self torment that was shimmering in the blue depts.

It was time to introduce Cloud to one of Zack's own trusted friends.

"Say Cloud, have you ever tasted Gin?" he asked with a tiny, devilish smirk.

The question seemed to snap the blond out of his self torture and he looked at Zack a bit quizzically.

"I doubt it. What is it?" the vampire asked in genuine interest, the blond apparently having chosen to be social for once. Perhaps he had also figured that getting along for now was better than fighting? Or had his self-sacrifices touched the other into feeling guilty and in debt? Or perhaps being chatty was an escape from his inner torments? Regardless of why it still pleased Zack and he just knew this would be a momentarily good medicine for the other.

"It's an alcoholic beverage." The hunter explained and pulled out a bottle. "I have to say I'm shocked that someone with eternal life hasn't tasted Gin yet!"

"Do I need to remind you that I haven't been a vampire for that long?" Cloud huffed. "So far I haven't tried a lot of drinks because I don't like the taste of the alcohol." He then admitted and crossed his arms, the blond for some reason feeling embarrassed over having to reveal the fact that he hadn't tried that many beverages.

The act made Zack grin widely as this meant this would probably be Cloud's first time drunk, if he could get him that far. "Well, normally I would say that it wouldn't be alright for an under aged to drink, but in all honesty, you don't belong to that section. Technically you just look seventeen, in reality you're much older than that so this is totally alright, Mr. Vampire!" he exclaimed and opened the bottle, offering it to the vampire. "Enjoy."

"Hmm, are you sure" we" can even get drunk?" Cloud questioned as he eyed the bottle warily.

"I've seen Reno drunk countless of times – and that I know wasn't an act! -. Given, he isn't perhaps a normal vampire, but if he can I'm fairly sure you can as well." Zack reasoned and moved closer to the vampire with a hopeful look, highly anticipating his reaction to the drink.

"I'm not even sure I want to be drunk..." Cloud admitted at that and made a face of mild dislike.

"Oh, come on Cloud. Don't be like that! I'm not saying this will solve your problems or genuinely help you. But I can guarantee you this will make you feel a little bit better and help you forget your worries for a little while!" the hunter said truthfully with a kind smile. "You need to loosen up a little or your own shadow will drown you." He added a little more seriously, causing Cloud to frown.

"Well, I guess it can't hurt to try..." The blond admitted and took a small zip from the bottle. But as soon as he had tasted it he coughed roughly and made a face filled with disgust. "This is horrible." He hissed and shuddered as he tried to swallow the rest of the liquid that was still in his mouth.

"Well, it might not taste that good, but it will definitely make you feel good." Zack admitted and sprouted a grin.

"It won't if I can't drink it." The vampire stated flatly as he put the bottle to the side.

"I think I can help you with that." The hunter stated confidently and pulled out a small bag filled with berries. "These will definitely make it easier to drink, but it won't be painless." He explained and tucked some berries down the bottleneck before he shook it a little. "I've also thought of a way to motivate you to drink it – or rather – thought of a way to force you to drink it, in a fun way, of course."

At the last sentence, Cloud couldn't help but raise an eyebrow. "And what would that be?"

"Gin adapted Five-Card Poker!" Zack revealed happily before pulling out a deck from his backpack."For every won round you can ask me a question that I have to truthfully answer while taking a gulp of the Gin, but for every loss you'll have to do the same."

"I take it that if you win you can also ask me a question?" Cloud concluded a bit reluctantly, clearly not too keen on the idea of having questions directed at him.

"Of course."

"Great..." the blond sighed as he positioned himself in what looked like a meditating position, his legs crossed closely to his body.

"Oh, I almost forgot." Zack suddenly exclaimed and touched the blue seal, mumbling a short sentence. "Will be easier to play without this, no?" he smiled and scooted closer to sit face to face with the now free vampire.

He was hoping that this small act of momentarily removing the spell would subconsciously show Cloud that he wanted to trust him and was silently testing him. That he was currently testing the blonds' words of the debt he was in while hoping for a reliable relationship to evolve, if even for a bit from this, before it might have to end.

"Is this safe? You sure I won't try to kill you?" the blond questioned before tilting his head innocently to the side while studying the card Zack had placed before them.

"Honestly, I think I can handle you." The hunter replied smugly in a way stating that he was thinking of something else as well, traces of tease all too evident in the deep voice.

To his small disappointment, Cloud didn't reply to the comment but instead just sat there, eyeing the cards in his hands before he threw him a question. "So what do we do instead of bidding with money?"

"I was thinking we'd skip the actual bidding and instead "bid" with 'the seriousness of the question for every card we change'"." Zack explained enthusiastically, earning himself a look of complete loss from the vampire. "You know. We have two rounds where we have the option to 'change' up to five cards, but for every card we chose to trade, the less serious the question will be given or received – depending on whom wins. So; many traded cards during a loss results in a question with big limits. A round with few to none traded cards and a loss means a question without limits. No matter how you lose though, you'll have to drink from the Gin."

"Hmm, Ok then. Let's try this." The vampire said and traded four of his five cards before taking equally many from the pile.

"Just like that? Honestly, I didn't think you'd be up for it." The hunter admitted while feeling a bit shocked. Sure he was happy hearing the vampire would play along with this, but he certainly had expected more resistance.

"I just like playing cards, I guess." Cloud reasoned, but one could not miss that he was hiding something. "It was one of the first things my maker taught me while telling me a poker face was a good skill to master. "

"You think I'd seriously buy that?" Zack questioned with a voice stating that he was a bit disappointed while not fully accepting the explanation. "Vampires playing Poker?"

"You don't have to believe me, but I do like playing cards..." Cloud repeated with a reassuring voice. "But..." he then began with a slightly darker voice that was filled with shadows of something Zack couldn't quite understand. "... I guess I'm mostly doing this because I don't want to be alone right now, even if it's just with you..."

"Hey, what's 'just with you' supposed to mean!" Zack huffed indignantly while his eyes looked kind and understanding. Even if the blond tried to hide it, it was obvious that he felt bothered when left alone because it meant he'd end up dwelling on the pains of the past, which was some of the reason why Zack planned on getting the small male drunk today."I guess I can let that little comment slip, since you're accepting my suggestion of cards." He then added softly before looking down upon his own cards. "So you're seriously not going to try and escape then?" Zack lastly questioned with mild suspicion while he gazed with analyzing eyes at the vampire.

"I was thinking about it." Cloud surprisingly admitted. "But as of now I have nowhere to go, and I still owe you. So until I've paid you back for saving me, I guess I won't be going anywhere unless you kill me or set me free."

"If you say so." Was all Zack managed to answer in his moment of happiness as he sucked in the other's answer like a sponge. There really was hope after all. "I'll exchange two."

"I'll exchange another one." Cloud continued and replaced one of his cards again while Zack decided to make do with the cards he already had.

Unfolding, the cards revealed that Cloud was the winner with one pair, much to Zack's surprise – and disappointment -. He had been certain that Cloud had bluffed that confident look he'd had when he had traded the last card. "Alright, the first victory is yours." He informed a bit sourly and took a zip from the Gin. "Now what will be your question, young one? Remember it can't be too personal or odd."

"Fair enough..." Cloud agreed as he hummed in thought, pondering over what to ask. "So how did you manage to forget your sword, which is your main weapon?" he finally asked, clearly at a loss at how someone could forget something like that in the heat of a battle.

Darn it.

"I... got distracted." The hunter admitted while trying to act like there was nothing special to it as he scratched his head. Thankfully Cloud didn't seem to think there was more to it, or he didn't care.

"Quite clumsy for a hunter, if you ask me." Cloud then suddenly stated as he dealt the new cards, causing the hunter to jerk a bit from the unexpected, small insult.

"Hey! It worked out anyway, so just drop that already." Zack huffed in a half pleading - half demanding manner while secretly feeling his pride melts away.

"If that's what you want, Fenrir." Cloud replied indifferently, causing the Hunter to mentally grin. So even without the Gin yet, the vampire was still game with the minor teasing. This was certainly a happy surprise and a delightful turn for the funnier, even if it was caused from the subject of the dent in his ego.

"At least I got to show off how good I am with a Beretta. I've always thought they look cool and that they fit my looks like a charm." Zack stated proudly while humming happily as he studied his new cards. They didn't look too promising, but who said a bluff couldn't work? Perhaps he could trick Cloud into folding if he thought his hand was better than his, since the blond would probably not want a too personal question... A win was still a win even if the question might have to be uninteresting. As long as he got Cloud to drink that Gin, he'd be happy as a fox. Luckily, Cloud didn't know that. He probably thought Zack was more interested in the questions, which he was interested in albeit it not being his main goal.

"I'll admit you're good with most kinds of weapons." Cloud agreed before he studied the hunter closely in an attempt of figuring out his hand. "But I'd still say it's silly to forget your main weapon..." he then added in a mildly provocative manner while giving a sweet smile. That in itself would have sent Zack fanning himself if it weren't for the obvious mockery blended with that smile, the act now instead causing the tall man to snort lightly.

"You're a cold kiddo." Zack said while he saw Cloud fold his cards, meaning he had won. Oh yes.

The comment made the blond narrow his eyes. "Technically, I'm older than you. So please stop referring to me as a kid." He said a bit sourly before he saw the other's cards and realized the other had tricked him, something which caused his sour look to morph into irritation.

"Technically you might be." The hunter agreed while he watched Cloud reluctantly swallow the Gin, the blond wrinkling his nose a little in dislike as he did. "But I am taller than you, and even though I think many would agree that you look quite mature for a teenager, they'd still agree to me looking older." He explained smugly while giving a teasing wink. "So I think it's quite legit for me to call you a kid if I want to."

The comments caused the blond to twitch in irritation. "I'll make you pay for this one day..." he mumbled before a tiny blush crept over his cheeks, the vampire apparently feeling a bit indignant at having been teased and tricked at the same time.

"I'll hold you to that." Zack smirked. "Now for the question." He hummed while looking deep in thought. "Oh, right. Why did you make me throw the oil lamp to you when we battled the Zonros, instead of having I smash the lamp on 'my' Zonro myself?"

"Because I wanted to make sure we'd hit it. With your limitation in there and with how you were fighting the Zonro, I wasn't sure you'd hit it or if the vampire would have parried it. So to make sure we got it burning, I had you throw it to me." Cloud explained coolly before he started dealing a new set of cards.

"I didn't know I had given you a reason to doubt my skills." The hunter said flatly while he felt a bit surprised at the reason for it. He had never thought that was the reason for the other's request back then...

The question made Cloud raise an eyebrow elegantly in mild wonder. "What did you think the reason was? In any way, I didn't doubt your abilities, I just thought me doing it was the safest way."

"That's the same way as saying you doubted me..." Zack retorted accusingly and stubbornly.

"No it isn't." The vampire replied in mild shock, not understanding why they were arguing about it. He had just wanted to make sure the plan worked, him doubting the other had no part in it...

"If you say so." The black haired man replied with a voice stating he was not convinced at all, but willing to let the subject go. For now...

"I'll keep my hand as it is." Cloud informed and changed the subject while the hunter changed one card during both rounds, causing the blond to feel confident. Perhaps he could win this round too.

But as he gazed down at the cards of the hunter, he felt a chill run down his spine. The black haired man had managed to collect a Flush and it was way beyond Cloud's own Two Pairs in Aces and Tens.

"To be honest, I had an even better hand before I started trading the cards, but I wanted to make this interesting." Zack explained to the awestruck blond before he pushed the bottle into Cloud's hand in joy. "Drink up!" he encouraged with a grin.

The blond stared at the bottle for a little while and gave a sound akin to an upset puppy. "It just doesn't taste very good..."

"Good. This is a punishment for losing, after all! Wouldn't be much of a punishment if you're enjoying it, wouldn't you agree? I promise you it'll get easier as we go along though. You'll get used to it." Zack reassured before he took the cards and started to shuffle them. "Now for my question with basically no limitations...! How come you live together with that Sephiroth guy? That isn't very common for vampires..."

The question made Cloud frown. Answering that truthfully could be dangerous, since Zack was a hunter when it came down to it. But at the same time Cloud wasn't one to lie, especially not to someone he owed his life to. He guessed he'd just have to pick his answer carefully to not reveal any unnecessary details. "He created me." the vampire answered shortly after a few slow minutes.

"But that isn't much of a reason. Then all vampires would live together and I know for a fact you don't, so just spill the beans already." Zack reasoned with interest while feeling a bit fooled from the other's smart, yet boring answer.

"I'm not lying. That is one of the reasons." Cloud said honestly before he took a look at his cards that the hunter had just handed to him while trying to hide the painful knot that had started to grow in his chest again as they spoke about his creator.

"So what are the other reasons?" the black haired man tried while changing three of his cards in total throughout the two rounds.

"You've already asked your question." The blond answered almost smugly before he changed four of his cards in total.

"I guess you're right." Zack admitted. The subject also seemed to be a sensitive one for some reason, because Cloud's mood had become somewhat gloomy again. So he decided to let it be until another time arrived and instead focus on getting more Gin into the vampire's system. He could really use it.

As they revealed their hands, Zack was once again declared the winner despite the fact that both of them had pairs in eights. Somehow the hunter had managed to get the highest card. The next seven games were also won by the Hunter despite Cloud having really good hands as well, something that caused the vampire to sigh while he took his second gulp of Gin. He coughed lightly as he swallowed it while feeling somewhat lightheaded. It wasn't a bad feeling, but for some reason the blond found it a bit hard to be upset or angry despite the hunter's slightly ridiculous questions about how long he had been a vampire and what his biggest interest was...

"I can't believe this." The blond mumbled as he lost yet again before he took a large gulp of the Gin once more. As he put the bottle back down, he realized it didn't taste too bad anymore... It was pretty good actually, now when the taste of the berries had become more intense.

"A bad loser, are we?" the hunter asked with a grin whilst happily noting to himself that Cloud's eyes had become a little bit hazy after that large intake of the alcohol. His body looked much more relaxed now and his mood seemed much brighter even though he obviously didn't like losing at Poker. Seemed the vampire reacted pretty well to booze, which made Zack's mission much easier and more enjoyable. A happy tipsy or drunk person could be quite funny to tease and seeing Cloud so relaxed and at ease made his heart melt, making him wish he could get the other to feel that way all the time. He just wanted so badly to be the one to make the other forget his problems.

"I'm not a bad loser." The young vampire huffed while awaiting the next question. "I just usually win at Poker, but somehow you've managed to beat me in the majority of the rounds so far." He explained as he eyed the hunter closely, almost as if trying to uncover his secrets.

"I've told you that I'm extraordinary." The hunter answered confidently to that, causing the vampire to laugh softly. Somehow that sound resonated so nicely in Zack's ears... "Ok, to the question before we continue the next game... I know that some vampires do like to eat human stuff as well, so my question to you will be: Do you have a favourite type of sweets?"

Cloud had to admit that the question took him a little bit off guard, since he'd figured that there were tons of other things the other would like to know about him and vampires in general. So why would he want to know that specific thing? Not knowing the reason made him wary, but at the same time he felt the need to be honest. It wasn't like the answer to it could cause him any harm...

"I do like pomegranates." The blond answered while being unable to hold back a small, honest smile at the thought of them. They were just so tasty and for some reason the images of them made Cloud feel all happy inside, causing him to chuckle to himself.

"That isn't really sweets..." Zack said in mild disappointment while being unable to resist the urge to ruffle the vampire's soft tresses of hair when the other laughed gently at him. To his surprise, Cloud didn't pull away or flinch; instead he just tilted his head to the side and smiled up at him. Clearly, he was pretty affected by the Gin right now...

"Then what would you prefer I answered?" the vampire then asked as he continued to smile while Zack withdrew his hand reluctantly, the man instantly missing the contact.

"Something that is actually sweets?" the hunter said with a raised eyebrow before he dealt the new cards.

"Well, that isn't very fair. Why wouldn't a berry count to as one? I like them." The vampire questioned before he looked at his cards with great interest.

"I thought Pomegranates were a fruit?" Zack admitted before he changed two cards while the vampire kept his. Was it possible for the other to have a poker face at his current state, or did he really have that good of a hand?

"Nope. They're a berry, actually." Cloud confirmed before a small hiccup escaped from him. "They're delicious! I guess I do like cashew nuts as well." He added before trading one card in their second round and surprising Zack a bit.

"I still wouldn't count that to sweets." The hunter said before they unfolded their cards and sent Zack gasping.

Cloud smiled devilishly at the other's reaction. Finally he had won again and it made him feel really happy for some silly reason he couldn't fully understand.

"Well, isn't that a fitting hand for you." Zack said in a chuckle while gazing down at the two black Pairs in Aces and Eights with a black Ten. The vampire hadn't won big against Zack's own pair, but it certainly was a stylish victory.

"And why is that?" Cloud questioned before looking at his own cards again, studying them. What did the man mean?

"You didn't know?" Zack replied in surprise. "Heh, it was meant to be then... That's what's called a Dead Man's Hand, Cloud." He explained before he yelped in surprise when the blond threw himself over him on all four.

The vampire bore a look of shock and confusion as he stared down at the hunter lying below him with big, hazy eyes.

"So you're going to get rid of me?" the blond asked, causing Zack to be stricken into silence. "Are you?" the vampire then asked urgently again while moving his face closer to the other's when no answer came.

"That's not it." The hunter tried to explain to the other while he fought the feelings welling up inside of him at their position and closeness. Apparently the vampire was a bit of a sensitive drunk and it hadn't been a problem if he hadn't thrown himself at him. Lying like this with their breaths mingling together made it hard to do anything at all.

"Then why was it a fitting hand?" Cloud asked after some time had passed before he sat down on the other instead, now straddling the other's hips and causing the older male to groan in frustration.

"Because the hand you had is called that. Superstitious people view it as an unlucky hand... I just thought 'Dead Man's Hand' was fitting for you since you are a vampire and is viewed as dead. " Zack tried to explain calmly while having an epic of life and death battle with himself. The vampire was clearly oblivious to their position is his drunken state and even if Zack was happy to see the other so carefree, it caused himself some great trouble. It took everything he had to keep himself in check like this. "I'm sorry if you felt offended..." the hunter added lastly while patting the other's head gently. He wanted to be on the safe side in case Cloud had somehow thought being called dead was an insult. One could never be too sure...

"Oh..." was all the vampire managed to say while Zack tried to gently shoo him off in an attempt to be able to breathe. After a few gentle tries the blond finally got off of him and flopped down in his seat opposite of the hunter instead, a smile once again on his lips. "My time to ask you a question." He said, clearly happy over the fact and it caused Zack's heart to flutter. Why was Cloud so charming right now? The blond was that most of the time, but now when he seemed to calm and upbeat it was on an overload... That smile together with those lightly flushed cheeks was almost too much...

"What is your favourite animal?" the blond asked while handing the bottle to Zack and realizing he somewhat missed the warmth of the other. It made him feel like he wasn't alone and that he had a place, but he shook them off gently while awaiting the answer from the other. He just couldn't allow himself to need someone, even if it was almost impossible to convince his body so.

"My favourite animal?" the hunter repeated in mild surprise. The vampire's mind was clearly hazy from all the Gin now; his questions didn't hold much seriousness to them. Zack couldn't complain though since this was exactly what he had been set on accomplishing. The vampire actually seemed to be having a good time and to be honest; Zack himself had always loved silly little questions. It meant more to him to know random, silly things about another then to know their deepest wish. "I guess it'll have to be birds."

"Why birds?" Cloud asked immediately while he dealt the new cards, releasing another hiccup.

"I don't really know. I just find them mysterious, intelligent and beautiful. Their looks are quite different from most other animals and I've always loved Chocobos, so I guess it has just grown from there since I was little." Zack explained with a smile as he thought back to the first time he got a Chocobo. Man had it given him a hard time before they had become best of friends. Kind of reminded him of his situation now with the blond now when he thought about it...

"I agree." The vampire said cheerfully before he traded three of his cards while Zack changed five of his during their first round. "Oh, by the way, I like candied peanuts if I have to pick something with sugar." Cloud added offhandedly in an airily manner while trading one of his cards during their second round.

"At last." Zack said with a smile before he traded one of his cards. "Better late than never." He then continued with a wink before his face fell as he realized he had lost again with one pair to Cloud's Straight Flush. That the vampire managed to play like he did was quite impressive considering the amount of Gin he'd had during the last hour.

"You're becoming a good friend of the bottle." The vampire snickered while obviously feeling pleased with himself and his Poker victories.

"I guess." Zack admitted with a grin before he winked. "Not more then you already are though." He added teasingly, earning himself a light huff before he handed out the new cards.

"That will change." The blond said in a promise while changing four of his cards, the male being completely set on winning from here on out, no matter what.

"I won't allow it." Zack replied confidently with a sparkle in his eyes as he changed three of his cards.

"May the best creature win." Cloud said in a challenging manner before stating he would not trade any cards his second round.

"Indeed." Came the hunter's cool agreement before he traded one card with a small smile, feeling confident.

As the time passed both males came to realize that they matched up pretty well in their Poker skills. Even if Cloud had started out with a few losses he had managed to do a nice comeback and they were now almost tied in their victories and defeats. Zack had to admit to himself that the vampire's skill in Poker was very good, especially with the fact that he was playing with quite a lot of Gin in him now too. Thankfully Zack was pretty good at handling alcohol so despite all the losses, he still remained pretty sober. It also meant that he would have an easier time remembering their time like this, and that he would have an incredible amount of stuff to tease the other with later. Oh the joy.

But when he was about to trade two cards during their last round, Zack caught the blond yawning deeply and he realized they had played for quite some time now. It had certainly been a lot of fun and seeing Cloud all relaxed and at ease had been a big ice breaker from Zack's part. Like this he had been able to see the real Cloud that was slightly hidden behind all the guilt and pain. Of course he knew it wasn't the complete Cloud he saw since the booze was affecting him, but it was still nice to see the cheerful and easygoing side of the other as well. There certainly was hope for them if Zack could help the other overcome his fears and allow him to break the other's loneliness...

"All right, I think this is it for now." The hunter said and swiftly snatched the cards from the other's hand before adding them to the deck and tucking it away.

"But why? I would have had the last win with this!" The blond almost wailed in disappointment and frustration, clearly very intoxicated.

"Well, too bad, I have already shuffled it into the deck and tucked it away. Maybe you'll get another chance at it another time." The hunter explained in an attempt to calm the clearly overreacting vampire in front of him. Despite his handsome features, Zack couldn't deny the fact that Cloud looked quite adorable when upset like this.

"But I really wanted to show off my great hand!" the vampire continued with a sour look crossing his face.

"I'm sorry but we really need to get some sleep now, so just hand me the bottle of Gin and go to sleep, please." Zack asked gently and extended a waiting hand.

"No." Was all the reply he got from the other and he had to admit to himself that it was almost amusing to see Cloud so into the game and all. But the fact remained that they really should sleep. Otherwise the blond might not feel all too well for the next day; if vampires could get a hangover that was. But he really didn't want to take any risks right now, thing were just too complicated as they were right now.

"All right then." Zack answered with a small sigh while he replaced the seal under the other. It was more for his own peace of mind then to keep Cloud locked up. He just didn't want to risk the blond wandering off in the middle of the night in his intoxicated state or have some vampire sneak up on them in their sleep and kill a knocked out young vampire. This was just a small way of securing Cloud for now and he couldn't care if the other would understand it all in the morning or not.

After having finished the spell the hunter then started to prepare his sleeping place next to the other. This was of course, also done in a matter of precaution if something happened – or so he tried to tell himself. – Perhaps it was a mixture of both.

When he was done with his sleeping bag and other preparations, the hunter then turned his attention to the still upset blond beside him. The vampire was currently hugging the Gin bottle while he shot death glares at him as he sat cross-legged in the middle of the seal.

"Give me that." Zack requested gently, but when all he got as an answer was a glare, he instead set to the task of fixing a more comfortable sleeping place for the vampire. While he fixed another blanket for the other and placed it neatly on the ground, Zack felt a shudder run up his spine and made him unable to resist the urge to look around. As he did, he was instantly met with a very serious stare from the vampire just inches behind him.

"What's with that look?" he tried softly while raising an eyebrow at the pout spreading over the blonds' intoxicated and sour face again. "And give me that bottle now, come on."

"You still haven't received your penalty for my final victory." The vampire mumbled while he held the Gin bottle even closer to himself in an almost refractory manner.

"No one won the last game, just let it go, Cloud."

"I don't want to. I know I won and you should get your punishment." The vampire retorted, clearly not willing to let the subject go.

The other's act made the hunter laugh softly before releasing a sigh. "Just get some sleep. We can talk more about this in the morning."

"I don't want to. You should get it now." The blond said with a huff.

"I said: not now." Zack repeated and stared into the blue eyes of the smaller male.

"You need to drink the Gin." Cloud repeated yet again as he inched closer to the other, causing them to end up nose to nose with each other.

"You really won't let this go, will you?" the hunter concluded with a sigh as he stared mesmerized into the hazy blue gems in front of him. Cloud's breath was incredibly distracting against his own lips...

"Why would I? It's only right to follow the rules." The vampire reasoned while staring with great determination into the hunter's eyes.

"Right. You really need to sleep now." Zack concluded before he made an attempt to leave the vampire's circle. But before he had managed to move out of it, Cloud had caught him by the wrist and stopped him in his tracks. The sudden and unexpected movement had caused Zack to turn around and before he knew it, the blond had somehow managed to pull him down with his back now against the ground below. He then saw Cloud take a big gulp of the Gin before the vampire towered over him like a lion with a dangerous glare in his eyes.

"Cloud?" Zack found himself ask in shock before he was silenced from any more questioning by a pair of hot lips against his own.

The action was so bold and unexpected that it sent Zack's emotions into an overdrive while his body went numb and he gasped from the wonderful feeling that welled up inside of him. As he gasped, he felt the young vampire push harder against him before he felt hot liquor flow down his throat and along his chin when it escaped his slightly parted lips. The intensity and determination in the other's actions were almost surreal and it made Zack crave for more despite his mind telling him it wasn't a good idea. He wanted, needed more. It didn't matter what he mind or reasoning told him, he had to have more of the surreal creature on top of him. But before he had managed to respond to the other's behaviour and snake his arms around him, the vampire had pulled away.

"Now I can sleep." Cloud said with a smile as he sat up next to the other. "At last you accepted your loss against me in Poker." he added triumphantly with a big smile.

"Huh?" was all Zack could muster to answer while he lay there with a very big problem while he gulped for air.

Cloud gave another smile before he yawned again. "Goodnight." He then added and lay himself down under the blanket with a content sigh before quickly falling into a deep sleep.

The hunter gazed wide eyed at the other before he gave a small chuckle filled with humour and pain. Cloud had clearly no idea what trouble he had just caused and what actions he had done. To him it had just been a way to give the other his punishment, and oh what a punishment he had received, even if it wasn't quite what the vampire had thought of.

The throbbing down below was unbearable and the fire enveloping him was indescribable. He felt so incredibly lightheaded and his heart pounded in a tremendous rhythm while his arms trembled from the want of hugging the other close.

"Oh man..." Zack sighed as he sat up and poured a whole bottle of water over himself in an attempt to cool himself off a bit. Sadly, it didn't work at all. "Looks like it'll be a long night for me..." he concluded and gazed at the vampire beside him under the blanket with a longing stare.

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These boys were really not cooperating with me in this chapter, bleh. I really hope the drunken Cloud made a bit sense in his actions... I tried my best.

Really hope you liked the update! Personally I'm brimming with joy of finally getting to the Zack and Cloud part of the story, even if they're not cooperating with me! I had planned to have more things happening in this chapter, but it turned out 25+ pages before Cloud and Zack were done with their stuff, so guess I'll have to take the rest in the next, haha. Personally I felt it was perhaps a bit rushed at times, but I had to compromise a little since I want to get the rest of the plot going. I couldn't help myself from having this a Zack x Cloud only chapter though.
Hope the update was alright.

Much Love

D.D Bird