STORY ARC: Rise in Love

TITLE: Dog Fight

AUTHOR: RangikuCharlize

GENRE: AU, Drama

RATING: Overall NC-17 rating (PG-13 this chapter)

PAIRING: ZackxCloud

SUMMARY: Yeah, it just got more intense

WARNINGS: Language, violence

DISCLAIMER: The usual, I do not own the FF7 franchise and I make no money off of this.

A/N: I will not abandon this fic - I will not abandon this fic - I will not abandon this fic - I will not abandon this fic…

Dog Fight

"I'll be back soon," Zack smirked, "So don't be worried!" Cloud and Zack stood at the door of the blonde's apartment the following morning. Cloud was still wary of the whole situation but had decided that he could always trust Zack to keep his promises. So now, all he was worried about…

"I'm not worried about you." Cloud scoffed, "You can take care of yourself - even though you act as though you're five sometimes."

"Ouch, babe." Zack cringed one eye for dramatic effect but then a sly smile appeared, "I wasn't acting like a five year old last night, was I?"

Cloud would vehemently deny it forever but he felt his cheeks heat up in a blush. "Yeah, I guess not." He breathed quietly.

"You liked it." The taller male teased.

Cloud raised an eyebrow, "You better leave before I decide to keep you here and show you just how much I liked it."

Zack was stunned for a moment before a wide grin split his lips, "Is that a threat?" he asked as he came closer. The blue eyed male kept his lips shut. Lest something as embarrassing as what he had just said slip out again. Cloud upheld his constant frown and Zack laughed, "In any case, I wish I could take you up on your offer but this is mighty important."

"Sure." Cloud answered.

Zack knew Cloud was simply being his put-off self but he suddenly felt the need to grow a bit more serious. Cloud was still looking away and towards the front door when Zack enveloped him in a hug. Because of Zack's height, Cloud's face ended up pressed against his shoulder. He reacted slowly, wrapping his arm around his lover's waist and turning his head so that his ear lay on the chest pressed against him. "Zack?" The thumping of the taller males heart resonated through Cloud.

Zack pulled back, his violet eyes soft as lavender. His hand came up to stroke once at Cloud's cheek before he pulled the blonde in for a short, chaste kiss. Cloud took pleasure in it for a moment before watching the taller male with piercing blue eyes. Zack spoke then, not softly, but not harshly either, "Be careful while I'm gone, okay?"

Cloud wondered what he should do in this situation. He really wanted to ask of what? But settled for: "When am I not careful?"

Zack frowned slightly, "Cloud, please. Just tell me you'll be careful."

Cloud mirrored his frown in curiosity, "Of course," He felt Zack deflate after letting out a breath.

Suddenly, the heavy atmosphere was gone and Zack smiled cockily, "Don't worry, Cloud, you'll always be priority number one!" The blonde was in a daze. His emotions didn't function like Zack's and he couldn't just switch them on and off. Zack didn't seem to mind though because he threw open the apartment door. Turning to Cloud, he laid another kiss on the pink lips before saying, "I love you! I'll see you when I get back!"

With that, the dark haired teen was jogging down the stairs and Cloud finally managed to get his brain to catch up. "Zack!" He stood outside his door, watching as Zack turned his head as he descended the stairs. The blond narrowed his eyes, "No cheating, right?"

Zack laughed immediately, causing a frown to mar Cloud's face but he smiled. "No cheating. I promise." He suddenly stopped. "You too, right? I see the way you eye Seph…"

Cloud's face burned and he couldn't stop the words coming out of his mouth, "What? I- what – I never!" He stuttered.

Zack's bright laugh stopped him from making an even bigger fool of himself. "I was joking! You should've seen your face! Priceless." He ran a hand through his hair and winked.

"I promise." The blonde said.

"I know." Zack grinned. "See ya, babe."

And with that, Cloud watched his lover walk out of their apartment. Cloud stopped. Their apartment? Hiding his face with his hands, Cloud made his way back through his doorway. Closing the door tightly and locking it, he leant against it and sighed. Only Zack could make him like this. He mulled over his lost image before he spotted his cell phone lying on the kitchen table. That's right, he had forgotten to say it. Swiftly picking it up, he opened a new message and typed quickly before sending. Snapping the phone shut, the blonde threw it on the table again and decided he needed more sleep.

Zack walked down the familiar streets, humming to himself softly. Hearing a loud beeping noise, he felt around his person before flipping out the phone that had been found in his back pocket.

1 New Message

From: Spike

I love you, too.

The simple words made him grin as he continued walking down the road.

When Cloud woke up, he was at a loss of what to do. Without Zack around, the apartment felt bigger than it had before. Without Zack it seemed there was a lot of empty space. Cloud snorted, if Zack had been there to hear him say that he would have cracked a joke about him being fat. The blond stopped his thoughts there; he didn't want them wandering to far from him and perhaps to Zack. Cloud didn't want to act like a fourteen year old girl whose boyfriend just left her. There was no reason for him to become emotionally unstable just because Zack wasn't right beside him anymore.

Sure, it was the first time they would be far apart since they first met, but Cloud was positive he could handle it.

Okay, so he thought he could handle it. He wasn't, perse, sad, more like, bored. With this break that had rolled around, Cloud had planned to spend most of it with Zack. Now that the plan was ruined, Cloud wasn't too sure what he should be up to. He wasn't too inclined to call the others and see what they were doing. It would ruin his image. So instead, the blond settled for watching a marathon of some show that was on TV.

By the fourth episode, Cloud had enough. If this was how his break was going to go, he was sure to die of boredom. He would never get to see Zack again at this rate.

The days passed slowly and Cloud had seen the others a few times by invitation to see movies, and to eat out, but the blonde couldn't help but let his mind wander into dangerous territory. He stopped by a park near the restaurant on the way home from dinner one evening and sat on a swing. Absentmindedly, he started pushing it back and forth, watching his breath condense into a fog in front of him. The cold air chilled him and bit into his skin harshly, making his cheeks turn pink and his fingertips ache.

"I wonder what Zack is doing…" Cloud thought aloud. He hadn't really thought of the situation much since that day. However, it was really starting to gnaw at his brain. All the strange things that had been happening; threatening letters, strange phone calls, they all had to be connected somehow. Cloud had an ominous feeling that they were all linked by one thing. Namely a tall, dark haired, violet eyed man. Hopefully, it was nothing too bad and someone was just pulling a sick prank. It wouldn't be the first time the blond would have been subjected to one. He had just hoped that Zack would not have to go through the same thing.

Cloud cocked his head to the side and felt the cold of the swings chains permeate through the air and into his skin. Somehow, he doubted that it was all a sick prank. Releasing a long sigh, Cloud stopped his movements. It wasn't like him to worry so much, anyway. He stood up and made his way to the subway. It was getting late and he knew he should have headed home earlier. Cloud walked through the station like a zombie. It required no brain power from him whatsoever to get from the entrance to the platform.

It was oddly empty on the platform. The blond shrugged, chalking it up to the weather and the unwillingness from people to leave the warmth of their homes. Checking the time on his watch, the hour hand moved an increment to the large eleven on the face. He checked when the next train would arrive and noted dully it would only be a minute. Glancing down the platform, Cloud saw a few people sitting on a bench while others were leaning against the subway walls waiting for the train. It was a slow night.

There was a howl from down the tunnel and Cloud watched the beam of light approach him. The train whipped by him a moment later, the gust of wind carried by it ruffling his hair. Stepping on the train, Cloud noted once again that it was strangely sparse with life. When he would look back on that moment, Cloud would have maybe had alarm bells ringing in his head, but at the moment, the blond simply sat down on a bench lining the outside wall of the train and tilted his head towards the window, leaning his forehead against the glass.

A few stops passed and Cloud dozed off, knowing his stop was not for another six or so. Opening his eyes slightly at the sound of noise, Cloud noticed a group of black suited men walk into his car. Becoming more awake, he sat up straight and turned to face ahead as the car began to fill up. Eventually, his blue eyes looked up towards a wall of suits. Cloud didn't let his anxiety show but this was more than disconcerting to him. Cloud almost felt like laughing, this was the sort of thing you saw in Japanese music videos, not in real life. 1

Crossing his arms, Cloud watched them closely. They said nothing. It was only a stop later that Cloud realized that the car was empty save for himself and the men in front of him. When the train began moving again, Cloud decided that no, they weren't going to let him just get off and go home, sleep in his bed and dream about Zack.

Finally, one of them spoke. "Cloud Strife, you are to come with us."

Blue eyes narrowed, "What if I say I wont?"

The man was silent for a moment before opening his mouth once more, "We are authorized to use force if necessary."

Well that was just peachy, Cloud thought bitterly. Cloud waited, saying nothing, until he knew the next stop was close by. "Well I say I won't!" Cloud grabbed the hand rails and delivered a kick to the side of one of the men. It instigated a scramble within the car and Cloud's fist managed to find a few more targets before he was hit. The train was rolling to a stop when a blow to the teen's stomach made him nauseated. He was forced back down to the seat with a punch to the face.

His eyes squeezed shut. It felt like his brain was rattling around in his skull. He knew he would be no match for these guys but he was at least hoping to run away. Before he could get the black spots to leave his vision, a hard grip dug into his arm and roughly pulled him up. Cloud grit his teeth and struggled hard. The kicks he landed only managed to earn him another punch to his cheek and his arms pulled painfully behind his back. "Let me go!" Cloud grumbled, "You can't do this, let me go!" He attempted to elbow, kick, and bite his way out as they dragged him from the train when the doors opened. Cloud couldn't understand why this was happening. He couldn't even understand how. Wasn't there security up in the transit system specifically for this purpose? He momentarily wondered where all his tax money went.

It seemed that the men had enough of his struggling right before they surfaced to the streets. His arms were pulled back sharply and another hand gripped his jaw, forcing his head back, before a cloth covered his mouth and nose. Cloud's eyes widened, was that chloroform? He held his breathe, determined not to give in. His struggles increased slightly despite the more restricting hold on him, his head trying to jerk away, but there was only so long that Cloud could hold his breath before he made himself pass out. Even now, the blackness crept up on the edges of his vision.

For that reason, he didn't see the blow coming to his stomach. It pushed all the air out of him in one swoop and he gasped loudly, involuntarily breathing in the toxin on the cloth. It took a moment, but then everything he saw became fuzzy. He continued to gasp into the cloth, inhaling more and more of the substance. His limbs felt like tons and his muscles numb. Cloud fought his consciousness as it coerced him into darkness. However, it was not something he could escape, and soon after that, everything became black as his whole body went limp.

Zack got off his plane, walking through the terminal to the baggage carousel tiredly. He tucked his hands in his jean pockets and looked down as he made his way through the airport. It was a busy day because of the vacations and Zack wished there were less people around him for once. He dodged another ignorant traveler blocking his way before heading down a set of escalators towards baggage pick-up. His vision cleared the ceiling of the room and immediately lay heavily on two men in black suits. Zack straightened his back as he stepped off the escalator, moving towards the carousel without a second glance around him.

The dark haired man took the time to think about what Cloud was doing at the moment while waiting for the carousel to start up. Zack always did hate flying. Returning his gaze downwards as bags started to pour out, Zack just hoped that the following visit would be able to keep his blond safe and finish things once and for all. Spotting his own bag a few minutes later, he grabbed it off the moving platform before turning with a sigh. Gazing towards his right, the two men in black suits stood to the side of the exit. Zack walked up to them, his grip tightening on the strap of his bag.

Might as well get it all over with.

Looking decidedly darker than usual, he trudged past the two men and onto the street. They flanked him immediately. Zack never did like the feeling. It was like he was being herded somewhere, like sheep by a dog. Or like sheep being stalked by a wolf, Zack couldn't decide which thought he liked better. They escorted him not far from the exit and to a nice, non-descript black car. 'Black this, black that, why did everything have to be black?' Zack thought. He inwardly chuckled at the thought of a bright red sports car before suddenly turning gloomy again as the door opened.

Zack was pushed inside and onto the leather seats. The door slamming behind him after a hand pulled his bag from him. "Thank you very much," Zack mumbled sarcastically before turning to the other occupant of the car.

Melena Darke sat beside him in the spacious back seat of the sedan. She was watching him carefully and Zack averted his eyes to watch the scenery as the car began to move.

"So, my son, what shall we do with you now?"

When Cloud came to, he opened his eyes slowly and drowsily. Nothing seemed to be working quite properly yet. The sluggish feeling made him continue lying where he was for ten more minutes, simply gaining his sense and orientation back. Clenching his eyes shut when all he saw was black splotches, the blond could do nothing but slowly try to regain bodily function. However, the more he lay there, the faster he was becoming irritated. Cloud simply could not believe he had been knocked out with chloroform and kidnapped like some girl about to be raped. Couldn't they just put a bag over his head like they do for all other men in movies?

The blond suddenly realized how trivial his thoughts were as he began to analyze his situation. He had been knocked out with chloroform and kidnapped. Wasn't that great? Cloud couldn't help but feel anger bubbling in his chest. Taking deep breaths, he began to calm down as he began moving his limbs to get the feeling back into them. He supposed it wouldn't help to be hysterical in his situation. Frowning, Cloud realized he still didn't know the full extent of his situation without the knowledge of what was around him.

Pushing to figure out where he was, he forced himself into a sitting position, slowly, before trying to open his eyes without flinching and getting dizzy. His fingers clenched into what was obviously carpet on the floor beneath him as his eyelids fluttered open. Cringing slightly, he tried to take in his surroundings. Black splotches filled his vision and he raised one hand to attempt to wipe them away by rubbing his eyes. He opened his eyes again, careful to do it slowly, and waited until he was adjusted completely before opening them wide.

His only thought for approximately thirty seconds was: "Where the hell am I?" He wondered aloud.

His still frazzled brain wasn't taking hold of the surroundings properly. Cloud sat where he was, on the ground, for another thirty seconds before finally wrapping his head around everything. He had been surrounded, beaten, drugged, and kidnapped, only to wake up in a perfectly liveable hotel room? Cloud was positive that the room had more square footage than his whole apartment! He wondered if this was what kidnappers did these days. If it was, Cloud had to say that they probably had to do a lot of stealing to make enough bank to support their hostages like this.

When he had enough feeling in his limbs, Cloud got up from the floor and explored the room. There had been a perfectly good bed right beside him. The blond was upset they hadn't at least thought to throw him on the bed at least if they were going to let him lay there for a while. The crick in his back agreed with him. Upon further inspection of the room, he found that all the windows had been boarded up from the outside with a heavy black material. The only light that he saw by was thanks to a single lamp on the bedside table. The bathroom was in fully functional order and there was even a TV. Cloud didn't want to check if it actually worked but he was almost certain that it had at least a few channels.

Checking his own person, Cloud was surprised to find his wallet and cell phone still on him. He began to worry for the sanity of his kidnappers. This was by far the most comfortable hostage situation he had ever witnessed, movies or otherwise. Cloud hesitantly sat down on the bed when he had concluded his initial observations. There hadn't even been a sound from outside the room. Just absolute silence greeted him no matter what. It was slightly unnerving and the slighter man clutched his cell phone.

So now, the real question: "Why was I kidnapped?" Cloud muttered to himself.

"I'm not your son." Zack scowled in disgust, "Don't try to pretend you're not my step mother."

Melena sighed heavily, "You're right. I'm not nearly old enough to even look like your real mother." She then grinned, "However, I am currently married to your father, therefore, I am considered your mother."

"My mother died years ago." Zack slouched in his chair, uncaring of appearances around the woman beside him. "Along with any connection I had to this family."

"Now, now, that isn't quite true." Melena swiped her hair from her shoulder, adjusted her crossed legs and straightened her back. Changing the subject subtly, she said, "Your father is expecting you for dinner."

Zack's permanent scowl seemed to deepen. He watched as the familiar landscape around him moved by him. Knowing their direction and destination, the dark haired man was applying all his energy on not going into a rage. Breathing deeply, Zack rested his elbow against the door of the car. He brought his hand up to support his chin as he pointedly refused to look at the sickening woman. Half continuing to watch the scenery and half observing his own reflection in the car window, Zack's mind travelled quickly over the reasons he might have been brought home for. After all, on that day all those years ago, Zack had been all but kicked out of the family. So, why now? Zack supposed he would find out that night over dinner.

"I've been kidnapped."

"I'm sorry, what did you just say? I don't think I heard correctly."

"I've been kidnapped." Cloud repeated loudly into his phone. Not only was his phone left on his person in complete functioning order, it also had full connection!

"Yeah, I thought that was what I heard." There was a moment of silence on the other side of the line before said person burst, "WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'VE BEEN KIDNAPPED?"

"Reno, it's like I said, I've been kidnapped." The blond was lying back on the bed, staring at the ceiling and contemplating what he should do next. "I was going home one night, I was surrounded by a whole bunch of men in black, then beaten, drugged, and taken away to some unknown place."

There was laughter and Cloud scowled, he knew he should have called Sephiroth. "Men in black, what, like Will Smith?"

"Reno…" Cloud murmured in warning.

"Okay! Okay!" Reno stopped laughing, "So you're serious?"

"YES! I'm serious!" Cloud growled.


"What?" The blond asked darkly.

"Zack is going to kill me."

"That's it, I'm calling Sephiroth." The blond hung up.

He raised the cell phone above his face and rifled through his contacts before finding the tall, silver-haired mans phone number. Pressing the call button, he brought it up to his ear.

It only took one ring before Sephiroth answered, "Cloud."


"I hear you've been kidnapped."

"Correct." The blond could hear Reno screaming in the background. He should have figured they were together. He supposed most of the others were there along with him. He was proven right when Yuffie started yelling at Reno to calm down.

"I understand that you, of all people, would not joke about this kind of thing. Therefore, I will ask you a series of questions. I hope you will be able to answer them clearly." Sephiroth's voice was calm and Cloud wasn't too sure if they still took him seriously. He supposed it was his fault for phoning Reno first and bringing the subject up as he had.

"I'll do my best." Cloud tilted his head hesitantly.

"Now, where were you when you were kidnapped?" The question made Cloud feel as though he was in a police station.

"On the subway," He answered.

"Who kidnapped you?"

"I don't know."

"How were you kidnapped?"

"A few men forced me from the train and knocked me out with chloroform." Cloud was still bitter about the incident.

"I assume you have no recollection of what occurred following this."

"Yeah, I woke up somewhere in what looks like a hotel room."

"I see. Are there any identifiable objects or symbols that may reveal the hotel line?"

Cloud frowned and looked around. Now that Sephiroth had asked, it was oddly bare in the hotel room. The blond observed that the paintings had all been taken down. There was nothing on the bedside tables or the desk in the corner. He got up and moved to the bathroom. There were no labels on the bottles of shampoo or soap. "Nothing," Cloud said.

There was silence and Cloud suddenly understood the extent of his situation. Although he had his phone, it meant nothing if he didn't know where he was. Of course, he was able to inform someone of his absence, and was assured that at least someone would come looking for him, but it didn't give him any comfort. Cloud sat down on the edge of the bed, staring at the ground. "What should I do?" He asked solemnly.

"I will phone you within the day, please stay awake." The answer came slowly, "I will conduct a research on who might have needed to kidnap you. I doubt that this is some trick by Leon and the others. The operation is slightly too extensive."

"Alright," Cloud averted his stare into the mirror to his left.

"We will contact you soon." Cloud made a small sound of affirmation and the line went dead. Shutting off his phone, Cloud stared at it again.

Although it was not common anymore, the blond was beginning to feel very insecure. This wasn't a usual situation. He couldn't think of how kidnapping him would result in any gain so anyone. Frowning, Cloud's mind was running too fast for him to properly conclude what was going on. He hoped that, since he couldn't figure it out, that at least Sephiroth and the others could figure it out. Leaning forward and resting his elbows onto his knees, Cloud wondered if he should phone one other person.

Zack entered the grand dining room with a dark scowl on his face. The white dress shirt on his torso scratched at his skin uncomfortably, as did his trousers. He had always hated formal occasions. He had too many occasions that had left him in an awkward and unfavourable position. Cringing at the thought of his past, Zack moved forward and sat at the only empty seat at the table. Melena Darke sat across from him and another man sat to his left at the head of the elaborately decorated table. The man wore a black suit and was already eating the food that had been set in front of him.

"Zachary," The man said after a moment.

Zack clenched his teeth and spoke back, "Father,"

"Please," The man gestured in front of him, "Eat."

Zack gave the woman across from him a dark look and moved to pick up his utensils. The food had always been good here, at least. There was a stretch of silence at the table after that. The clinking of utensils against china resounded throughout the room. The tall male clenched his fists around the fork and knife in his hand in irritation. The stinging that came with it did nothing to quell his anger.

"So," The man wiped his mouth with his napkin before pushing his plate away, "I hear things at your new school are not going as well as we had hoped."

Zack stared at the center piece before biting out, "Depends what you mean by 'going well'."

Seeming to take no heed to what Zack had said, he moved on, "As your father," Here, the teen snorted. There was a second before the man continued, "As your father, I have been watching over your progress. It seems you have gotten in around the wrong crowd."

This infuriated Zack even more. Melena sat quietly as she continued to eat, disregarding the conversation.

"I knew sending you to your Aunt's was a horrible idea." The man had not even sent him a glance since Zack had entered the room. The male put down his cutlery and glared at him. "That Aerith was always a bad influence."

"Excuse me?" Zack scoffed, "Is this the same Aerith I know that we are speaking of?"

"Do not interrupt." The man said calmly. Zack pressed his lips together. He would not give this man the pleasure of seeing him blow up. "All these fights and parties, have you learned nothing?"

"I didn't think you would care. As it were, you're the one who sent me there."

"I realize my mistake and am trying to make amends now."

"Stop sprouting bullshit."

The man ignored his comment and continued, "I had thought Sephiroth, at least, would have been a good for you. He always was a hard working young man." He waved a hand at the waiter who moved in to take away his plate, "Very promising indeed. However, it seems I was also mistaken in that fact." Zack raised an eyebrow at him. "He is nothing but a failure."

Zack's eyebrow twitched. This was going too far. Was the man who called himself his father going to insult all of his friends? "Why am I here?" Zack asked forcefully.

His father took no heed and continued on, "And that Reno. When did you become friends with such delinquents? They are all good for nothing, nothing at all but using our tax money." Nothing Zack was saying had any effect so he sat quietly, waiting for the next target of his father's hate.

"And the blond." Zack tensed up. "I know you are young and still learning about the world. However, his turning you gay is all a farce." Zack turned his head slightly towards the man, shaking in anger. "One day you will realize your mistake and Cloud Strife will be no more. He is filth that will be tossed aside eventually along with all this nonsense of love."

Zack could feel a headache coming on. It was pounding inside of his head and made him clench his eyes shut.

"I hope that you can understand what I am saying, Zachary."

"I really don't think I can." Zack replied in anger.

"I am telling you that if you keep relating yourself to trash that you yourself will become trash." The man said and finally looked at him, "I will not have trash as a son."

Zack slammed a hand on the table as he stood up, "Since when have I ever been your son? Stop pushing this caring father image when all you want to tell me is that I am junk that you have to put up with. Or, as you made yourself clear last year, no longer have to put up with." Zack pushed off from the table and clenched his hands to his side. "You bring me here, insult my friends and family, my lover, and myself. Did you really think I would take this lightly?" Unwilling to get angrier and lose his composure completely, Zack turned on his heel and left the room in a flurry.

The man turned back to the table, waving a hand. The waiter returned with a cup of coffee. Without looking up, in a calm voice, he said to Melena, "See to it."

Melena turned her eyes to the door that had been slammed so hard it had resounded throughout the room. "Of course, my love."

Cloud was staring at the television screen without actually watching the show that was flickering in front of him. He sat cross legged on the bed, his cell phone clenched in his hands. He had been right about the television. It was full of channels or every kind. Sighing, Cloud flopped back onto the bed and stared at the ceiling instead. It had been a few hours since he had concluded his conversation with Sephiroth. It had left him with a lot of free time that he didn't know what to do with. For the first while, he had brainstormed on who would have taken him like this. Then his thoughts turned to when he thought he would be able to escape. This lead to a whole other train of thought that included what he thought Zack was doing at the moment. The thought of Zack made his stomach churn. Cloud was not usually the lovesick type… that he knew of, at least… but here he was, constantly thinking about the taller male. Cloud frowned at the ceiling before a loud ring broke him out of his reverie.

Checking the ID, Cloud answered quickly, "Sephiroth, did you find anything?"

"I'm sure you will like this Cloud," Sephiroth's low voice came through, "But we believe we know who has kidnapped you."

"And?" Cloud asked.

"The only ones, of our knowledge, to gain anything from your being a hostage is the Darke family."

Cloud furrowed his eyebrows and sat up, "Darke family as in Melena Darke?"


"Why would she want to kidnap me?"

"Not why she, but why they." Sephiroth corrected him. "The Darke family is a powerful and rich family from Los Angeles. Mr. Darke is also Zack's real father."

Cloud sat and took in the information for a moment, stunned into silence. "Is that why…?"

"We believe the correlation to his leaving for Los Angeles and your abduction are proofs of this." Sephiroth confirmed.

Cloud opened his mouth to say something but nothing came out for a moment. "Then why…?" Cloud had wanted to ask why, but why what? 'Why me? Why now? Why did they do it? Why?' His thoughts burst suddenly.

"Has Zack every told you anything about his past?"

"No," Cloud answered, "But I never pushed him to tell me."

"Given the situation, I think you need to know." Sephiroth continued and Cloud didn't think he could disagree. "Zack was born into the Darke family. His father was a very popular business mogul in the States and he lived a comfortable life. However, his mother became sick. At the time, his father was much too busy to even pay her a visit. When she died after Zack turned 15, Zack became a menace. He got into fights and drank, as well as smoked sometimes." The silent question in Cloud's head was answered rafter a moment. "I am unsure of his use of drugs, but those were Zack's darkest days. When he turned 16, his father re-married to Melena Darke."

"He sure wastes no time." Cloud commented bitterly. This all seemed like a completely different side to Zack. He didn't know this Zack and maybe that's why his lover had been so hesitant to tell him what was wrong.

"The quick re-marriage had Zack angrier than ever. His disobedience grew and eventually, when Zack was 17, his father disowned him."

"He disowned him?" Cloud asked, disbelief dripping from his shocked question.

"Zackary then changed his last name to Fair, his mother's maiden name, before moving in with his mother's sister." Sephiroth paused, "I had known all of this because my father is closely tied with Mr. Darke. When Zack got here, Aerith helped him change his ways and start anew."

Cloud said nothing for a minute, "In a way… I'm glad…" Cloud stopped abruptly before sighing, "That he got away from all that."

"Zack is much happier now." Sephiroth took a breath, "After all, he has you."

Cloud let a smile tweak on his face. "I hope." Cloud frowned once again thought, as he picked at the duvet of the mattress. "That still doesn't answer why."

"From what I know, I believe that you were kidnapped as a form of insurance."


"Or a form of leverage. We hope that it won't get too serious."

"What do you mean 'leverage'?" Cloud asked, but at that moment, no sounds came through on his phone. "Hello?" The sound of his phone powering down was the only thing that greeted him. Dread settled into Cloud's stomach. His phone was out of batteries. And it frightened him to a great extent.

The next day, Zack was summoned to the interior garden for breakfast. The richness of the décor disgusted him. In casual attire, he made his way through the house he still remembered like the back of his hand. The windows were all closed and Zack could see the slight chill on the outside. Although it was late January, Los Angeles still had a cold wind at times. The night before, in his room that had been cleaned and disposed of all personal affects, Zack had laid and thought. It was unlikely that his father had requested his presence in LA for the sole reason of insulting himself as well as his friends. The real reason was still under wraps. Zack wished he had not even gotten on the plane to LA. However, with all the strange occurrences, he knew it was inevitable. His father wanted something and the only reason to solve it was to return to Los Angeles.

Grudgingly, Zack appeared through the door to the interior garden. The one who had summoned him today was Melena, and only Melena. He approached the table in the center of the garden where she sat waiting and pulled a chair out for himself.

"I see the old man won't have time for me." He commented, staring at the pastries on the table. He wasn't hungry.

"Of course not," The woman said, putting down her tea cup. "Your father is a busy man."

"He is not my father." Zack cut out.

"Now, now, don't get testy with me." She said with a small smile.

"Why am I here?" Zack grunted, his curiosity overflowing.

"Here as in here with me or her as in here?" She questioned and took another sip of tea.

"You know what I mean." Zack crossed his legs and slouched in his chair.

"Zackary, you were all but kicked out of the family. I can understand your disgust in being here but I know you are worried, so I will tell you why."

"Good." Zack said.

"Although you are no longer a Darke, you were always a Fair. It seems your mother, your real mother, understood this more than your father at the time." Melena picked up a scone and began to butter it.

"What do you mean?" Zack's eyebrows scrunched together and he pursed his lips.

"Let me be frank with you, Zackary." She said and looked towards him. "Your mother left her family wealth to you."

Suddenly, everything seemed to fall into place. "This is all about money?" Zack asked in disbelief. "My mother left me her money, and now my dad wants it for himself."

"Naturally. I'm glad you understand." She smiled and took a bite of her scone.

"You must be dreaming if you think I'm giving you her money!" Zack exclaimed. "Our money. It's not like you don't have enough! I can't believe this whole thing is about money! The letters, the appearances, the threats, everything was about money?" Zack stood once again. He didn't want to make a habit out of stomping out on meals but it seemed he never had a choice here. "I'm going home."

Zack turned to leave and was halfway across the garden to the door before Melena's words reached him, halting him in his tracks. "If I were you, I would think of your blond lover before making any final decisions."

Zack spun around and inspected her face for a bluff. She continued to sip at her tea and nibble at her scone without a sign of distress.


1. Japanese music videos ahahah, check out Yamashita Tomohisa's Daite Senorita if you want to know what I mean…

I'm having formatting issues with FF right now… sorry for confusion over which part is what.

I'd also like to thank everyone who has sent in a review and taken the time to tell me what you think about the fic! It really means a lot to me and I'm working on finishing this story up and then maybe coming around to editing it. Thank you for your patience! I'm determined to get there and to have you all there is a great kick for me to get going in this!