Disclaimer: Sadly, these are not my characters :(

Warnings: References to pre-fic Rufus/cloud non-con. Mentions of Zack and Aerith as a couple. And Zack in a towel.


"Cloud. Let me teach you how things work around here." The blond shuddered, huddling further into the bed sheets so that only a few spikes of his shocking yellow hair could be seen, along with his pale, tear-filled eyes. Rufus had taught him well, and he doubted he would ever forget the lesson he had learnt, the way Rufus' elegantly manicured fingers had clawed at his skin; making him bleed. He understood now. Shinra owned him, body and soul.

He could hear the shower running in the other room, knew Zack would be standing under the torrent of water, washing the delicate scent of rose and violet from his toned skin. Cloud rolled his eyes. His commander was playing a dangerous game, risking everything for love. Cloud envied him. The room fell silent as the water was turned off.

A minute later, Zack reappeared, a soft white towel emblazoned with the Shinra logo around his waist. Normally, Cloud would have taken such an opportunity to admire his friend's body, the strength visible in every move he made, the water glinting across his skin. Today, however, he ducked further under the covers, a slight whimper escaping his lips. He clutched at his arms in a silent prayer that it wouldn't happen again.

Zack shrugged, trying to work out where that noise was coming from. Cloud's bed looked empty, and his own had the sheets pulled back. His hair clung to his shoulders, running fine trails of water down along his spine to be soaked up by the cloth around his hips. He caught sight of himself in the full length mirror the boss had had installed.

Zack knew, in the same way Cloud did, that there was CCTV in the room, but that didn't stop him posing in front of the mirror. After all, he had had a good night. He had seen his lover, despite all the risks, and the two of them had spent an amazing, passionate evening together. He flexed his muscles, staring with pride at his reflection on the glass.

He looked around the room and made his decision. He wouldn't let tonight be ruined. Not by Rufus, not by anyone. He walked over to the chrome table where the few possessions he could truly call his own were mixed in with Cloud's. He ran one finger across the stem of the fabric flower, held lifelike within a crystal vase, then picked up his phone and switched it off without even a glance at the messages.

If Rufus asked him tomorrow while his mobile was off he would simply state that the battery was flat. Rufus couldn't argue without admitting the room was bugged, and if Zack was told that he would be a lot more careful with what he did in his room in the future. Tonight, Rufus could look, but not touch.

As an after thought, he switched off Cloud's phone off as well, making their room practically unreachable from outside. For a moment, he wondered why Cloud's phone was here and the boy wasn't. He turned away from the mirror and camera to dry his hair, spotting the tell-tale flecks of yellow on his room-mate's pillow. It took a moment for the realisation to hit him. When it did, he ran back into the bathroom, squealing like a girl.

Several floors above them, a slight smirk played on the lips of the most powerful man in the world. He gazed at the monitor in front of him in mild fascination. His soldiers were always entertaining. Noticing that one of the platinum drawers in his desk was slightly ajar, he pushed it closed. Pure distaste played across his features a moment later as he noticed a fleck of blood on his snow-white shirt cuff. He picked up a tissue from the box on the glass tabletop and rubbed at the spot. It was gone by the time Zack reappeared.

The older SOLDIER smiled at the mirror, winking at the man he knew watched beyond. He was wearing the black boxers and t-shirt with a red rose on the front that she had given him. He walked over, sitting delicately on the edge of Cloud's bed. Whereas Zack's own bed had white sheets, edged with black ribbon, Cloud's were the reverse. Rufus organised everything in this room. He wondered why Cloud was hiding. Surely he wasn't... no. Cloud wasn't that kind of boy. A whimper from the bed sheets, triggered by the bed sinking slightly under Zack's weight, confirmed his theory.
"You ok there soldier?"

The bed remained silent. Zack would have dismissed it as empty if not for the slight shape of the teenager's body under the dark sheets. They were soft against Cloud's torn skin.
"Soldier? Are you ok?" He could hear, if he was quiet enough, the slight sob which proved that his friend was indeed under the sheets. "Cloud?" A small movement and the spikes of blond hair were joined by a pair of light blue eyes which were still filled with tears.

Zack gasped, seeing his soldier's fear. He leant over the bed, embracing him quickly. Trying to give him the reassurance he needed. Instead, he felt the boy twitching away from him, fresh tears pouring across his face. Zack's arms fell helplessly at his sides. As soon as he was free, Cloud shuffled back, desperate to put space between him and the other man. The quilt fell away, revealing his dark shirt, hanging open and stained with red.

Zack reached out as gently as he could, taking one of Cloud's hands in the two of his. From what he could tell, Cloud had been in a struggle. The boy looked away, desperate not to make eye contact with his superior officer. Zack slid across the bed, closer to the other fighter. As he got closer, Cloud's strength again failed him and he fell weakly into Zack's outstretched arms, helpless tears running down his face. Carefully Zack wiped away the salty tracks, holding his head up so he couldn't move suddenly, and risk getting jabbed in the eye.

Cloud permitted the touch, not bothering to resist. Zack stared into Cloud's eyes. They were strangely hollow, as though the life had left them. Zack felt his own eyes fog with tears, beginning to understand his friend's helplessness.
"Cloud?" Zack finally found the strength to look away from his friends turquoise orbs. He could have stared into them forever, lost within the other man's soul. He shook his head slightly, clearing his thoughts. "What happened?"

The blond shifted awkwardly, becoming unnecessarily fascinated by the rose on Zack's t-shirt, staring straight at the silver thorns, unable to tear his eyes away. He thought that maybe, if he kept quiet and didn't draw attention to himself; Zack would get bored and leave him alone. He cared deeply for Zack, he was the best friend Cloud had ever had, but that was merely another reason for him to not reply. He didn't want Zack to think what Rufus had said was right. Even though he knew that he was weak, worthless, he didn't want to hear Zack say he was.

"Cloud?" Zack embraced him. "Please tell me what happened?" Cloud's head rested against his friend's shoulder, shaking slightly. He muttered something inaudible. Zack ruffled the soldier's hair gently. "Speak up soldier, I can't hear you." He stroked his hand across Cloud's back, hoping to calm him. At least the boy wasn't flinching away now.

"Rufus." Cloud raised his head, managing to whisper that one word, then stared back down at the ground, part hoping that Zack would understand without need for further explanation, but mainly hoping he wouldn't, and that the matter would be dropped there. The commander's arms fell weakly to his sides. He understood.

On the top floor, Rufus was throwing a tantrum. It wasn't fair. He had planned to send for the blond again tonight or, if he was in a very benevolent mood, send instead for the dark haired, muscular commander. But as both of their phones were off, he would have to take his frustrations out on someone else. He tried to console himself by what he could see on the screen in front of him. It looked like he should be keeping a better eye on the young soldier. He was surprised; the boy had seemed so innocent.

Zack's fingers traced patterns through Cloud's hair as softly as he could. He could feel his younger colleague's chest rising and falling through the thin fabric covering, in time with his sobs.
"It isn't your fault you know?" Cloud shrugged. It must be his fault. He was the one who had let it happen. Zack sighed, shaking his head. He was unsure how to show Cloud that he wasn't to blame for what happened.

He remembered Aerith's reaction when he had told her. He doubted it would work with Cloud, but he still had to give it a go. He lifted Cloud's head so they were staring into each others' eyes.
"I don't blame you." He lowered his head to Cloud's, brushing his lips gently against Cloud's cheek. For a second, he thought he had gone too far, and that he might have shattered any trust the boy still had remaining within him.

Cloud moved his head back slightly on instinct, but didn't make any other movement. Zack was surprised he hadn't just been slapped. Cloud wasn't really aware of what had happened, but he didn't mind. After a second when he had collected his thoughts, he leant against Zack's chest, tears running down his face and leaving trails across the dark vest. He stayed there for a few minutes, just listening to Zack's heartbeat and feeling his commander's chest rising and falling against his ear. It felt calming, safe. His sanctuary. He wanted to thank Zack, but he didn't have the courage to. So he nuzzled closer to his friend, eyes closing.

He yawned, suddenly feeling very tired. Carefully Zack pulled back the quilt and helped his friend lie down. He stroked the blond tufts gently, and kissed his forehead, before standing. Cloud watched as he walked to his own bed, and sat down, staring into the mirror in order to ensure the porcupine spikes where sticking up in the right place.

"Zack..." Cloud whispered, barely audible. He stared at his friend's reflection in the wardrobe door, trying not to sound pathetic. "Don't leave me alone." He sighed. It was a stupid thing to say. He would probably lose any respect that Zack still had for him now. He couldn't stand being alone though. It made him feel vulnerable and powerless.

Zack paused, unsure as to whether Cloud would really want him there. After everything that had happened, Cloud needed some time alone to think it through. He was about to lie down when he heard muffled sobs from his room mate's bed. That decided the matter for him, and he stood back up, returning to his side. He sat down on Cloud's bed, one hand stroking the side of the young soldier's face with as much tenderness as he could.

The boy seemed to be relaxing. He leant his head toward Zack's hand like a puppy, a slight smile on his face. Encouraged, Zack moved so that he could lie down next to Cloud. At this angle he could reach Cloud's face more easily, and it was reassuring to be able to look at him face to face, see the slight rise in confidence in those angelic blue eyes. He half-expected the boy to back away, or ask him to leave. Instead, Cloud nuzzled closer to him, seeking comfort and warmth from his friend. Zack smiled, gently placing one arm over Cloud's shoulder, his other hand stroking the spiky blond hair.

Cloud allowed his eyes to close. This felt safe to him, and he was almost happy here, even after everything. Zack watched until he was sure the boy was asleep, before allowing his own eyes to close. They slept in each other's arms, a faint smile on the older man's face, and a look of pure peace on Cloud's.