Cloud moaned, the sound muffled by the cock in his mouth, and arched his back in unrestrained pleasure. The fingers gently twisting and teasing inside his body and the feel of Zack's lips and tongue tracing patterns over the skin on his lower back made him shudder and have to release Reno in order to get more air. He was on his hands and knees over Reno's lazily sprawled body with Zack behind him. A firm press of fingers against his sweet spot made him cry out and clutch at Reno to try to keep himself grounded. Reno chuckled and scooted down the bed until he could tangle his fingers in Cloud's sweat damp hair and bring their lips together, tracing his tongue over the plump bottom one then delving inside.

Cloud whimpered in need and frustration. His lovers were too good at this. They could have him writhing and reduced to a shivering wreck of overloaded senses. Zack's free hand drifted underneath and smoothed down his abdomen to skim lightly over his hard and aching cock. Talented fingers teased the head, dipping into the small slit and drawing a gasp from Cloud that was lost in the warm depths of Reno's mouth. Cloud wanted to come, *needed* to come, wanted to be filled and fucked and sucked until the climax he craved drowned him in pleasure. But it didn't look as if that would happen any time soon. His lovers were enjoying themselves too much playing his body. Known and well loved errogenous zones were revisited time and again and new ones sought out as Reno and Zack worked together to eventually drive the blond towards an explosive orgasm. The cock ring fastened snugly around his rigid sex kept him from coming too soon.

Zack pumped three fingers in and out of his tight hole and leaned over his back to drag his tongue between his shoulder blades. From the corner of his eye Cloud could see that Reno was being treated also to some slow, twisting, strokes that spurred on the urgency of his kiss.

"Feel good, gorgeous?" Zack purred and punctuated the question with another grazing of Cloud's sweet spot.

Cloud shuddered and had pulled free from Reno's kiss to draw enough breath to answer when the shrill ringing of a phone made him jump. Then he gaped when Zack's teasing stopped. Surely the man wasn't going to answer the phone, not on one of their rare days off together, not when they had all but worked Cloud into a frenzy? Zack moved off the bed, and Cloud moaned his disappointment, closed his eyes and flopped on the bed next to Reno. A few minutes passed and the shrill ringing continued. What the hell? Hadn't Zack gone to answer the phone? Cloud opened his eyes to see what was going on and found himself alone in the bed in Reno's apartment, the alarm clock blaring and forcing him to consciousness.

Cloud wilted, even his hair drooped. It had just been a dream. Zack had been ordered to lead a team to investigate some disturbances in Modeoheim, and Reno had been tapped to fly them there. It had been a week already, and Cloud missed them. He slapped blindly at the alarm clock until the deceiving noise was silenced. Just a few more minutes, Cloud promised himself. Just a few more minutes then he would force himself from the bed that seemed too large and lonely without two other bodies pressed snugly against his own and he'd start tidying the apartment and packing up to return to the barracks. Having a weekend off and a pass to leave the compound was nowhere near as relaxing and pleasant without Zack and Reno. The aching loneliness he felt made Cloud realize that really should socialize more with his fellow cadets. As it was, except for Garrett, Davis and Verse who knew him better, most of the cadets dismissed him for his quietness and single-minded focus during classes. Some even whispered behind his back that he was a suck up who couldn't possibly have gained admission to the program on his own merit.

Cloud snorted softly with derision tinged with uneasiness. Were people beginning to suspect his relationship with his lovers? Did they think Zack, honorable Zack, would have pulled strings to get him in? Zack had helped him train, helped him study, had been his steadfast supporter when he thought he would never make it, but that was it. The General would never allow such a thing to happen anyway. Cloud reassured himself with that thought and rolled over to nose through the comfort of the pillows. He hadn't changed the bedding yet, and he could still faintly smell Zack and Reno's scents on the linen.

Cloud had almost dozed off again when the phone really did ring, startling him into bolting upright and flailing in the tangle of sheets. He caught it on the third ring and answered it breathlessly.


"'Morning, babe," Reno's familiar voice came across the line. "I figured I'd find you there instead of trying your cell phone. I hope you haven't been sitting there moping all weekend. Miss us?"

"Not a bit. I've just been using the apartment as a place to crash after nights of wild, drunken debauchery."

"I'll just bet you have, you wild thing. Been at the mako again?"

Even though the connection was horrible, full of static and disruptions, Cloud could easily hear the affectionate teasing in his lover's voice. He couldn't help either the hot blush that stained his cheeks at the reminder of his wanton, unrestrained behavior after he had received his trial injection or the reaction of his lower body when he remembered how hot and tight Reno had felt around his cock. Despite his embarrassment Cloud was grateful that his memory of the terrific part of that night hadn't been impaired. He reached down to adjust himself when his briefs chafed uncomfortably against his growing erection.

"Cloud? You still there? Shit, damned mountains blocking my signal."

"I'm still here," Cloud assured him. "How are you two doing?" he asked, changing the subject before Reno could tease him more.

"Man, it's boring as hell in this little backwater town. Wouldn't surprise me if those idiots tried to start a rebellion just to have something to do other than watching the sheep breed." Reno huffed a mirthless laugh. "My only entertainment is watching Zack try to get some use outta these so called troops sent with us."

"What's wrong with them?" Cloud cradled the phone against his ear and leaned forward as if he could actually get closer to his lovers that way.

Reno made a disgusted sound. "Baby, they're so new and green you still practically smell the dye from their uniforms. Most of them hold their weapons like they're afraid it's going to turn on them, and all of them nearly piss themselves anytime there's a loud noise." He snickered evilly. "I thought this one kid was gonna cry after Zack assigned him perimeter duty on the late night watch."

Cloud bit his lower lip and frowned. "Why would they send a bunch of obviously new recruits on a mission like that?"

"Beats me, Cloud. Maybe they wanted to give'em a trial by fire and figured sending out a First Class could make up for their incompetence."

The static worsened and Reno's voice cut in and out.

"Listen, babe, I gotta go. There's a storm moving in and we're going to lose the connection. I'd let you talk to Zack, but he's taken two of the least ignorant grunts and gone on a scouting trip. Keep busy and don't just sit in a corner missing us or bury yourself in your studies either. If we can wrap this up without too much trouble we might be home by the end of the week. Remember, we lov-"

Reno's voice was cut off by and replaced by a loud, irritating busy signal. Cloud set the phone down and flopped back on the bed.

"Me, too," he told the empty apartment.


"Strife! Are you going to join us, or do you plan on staring dumbly off into space for the rest of the class?" Lieutenant Deckert, SOLDIER 2nd Class and the current bane of Cloud's existence, taunted from the middle of the sparring area.

Swordsmanship was usually one of Cloud's favorite classes, and he normally exceeded the instructor's expectations. How could he not when he was also being coached by Zack? But the last two weeks had been pure hell. The cadets' regular instructor had been absent from the class for an undisclosed reason and Deckert had been brought in as a substitute. Not only was he half the teacher Rushbaugh had been he also clearly resented being assigned to teach first year cadets. For some reason, probably because Cloud was markedly more skilled than most of the class, Deckert had singled out the blond to be the recipient of his frustrated anger. Every class was punctuated by snide remarks belittling Cloud's short stature, his youthful, pretty face and harsh, usually undeserved, criticism of his stance and technique. Deckert also made scathing, baiting comments concerning Cloud's undiscussed sexual orientation.

"Get your girly ass over here. You're up next against Pennington. No, no! Straighten that limp wrist and hold the sword straighter. It's not that heavy!"

Cloud grit his teeth against a retort that would only gain him demerits. He held his head up as he settled into a defensive stance. Over Deckert's shoulder he could see Garrett staring at the SOLDIER with a look of furious disgust on his face. Verse and Davis were scowling unhappily as well. The sight of his friends among the smirking amusement from many of the others helped firm Cloud's resolve. Pennington, however, was another consistent pain in his ass. The big, burly teen from Costa had alternately harassed and propositioned Cloud since they'd first met. Every time Cloud brushed him off he became more insulting and insistent. Pennington leered at Cloud with a toothy, crooked sneer twisting what might otherwise have been a handsome face.

"Maybe after I take you down a peg or two you can give me my reward in the showers, pretty thing," Pennington whispered so that only Cloud could hear.

Cloud didn't lower himself to reply, but as soon as Deckert blew the whistle to begin he made a lightning fast change from defensive to offensive and attacked the young man. Pennington barely got his guard up in time to avoid the strike to his torso, and the match was on in earnest. The other cadet was not entirely unskilled and Cloud was hard pressed to counter the bigger man's longer reach and strength. He held his own, however, relying on quickness and agility, but a couple of times he had to use moves taught to him by Zack and not something he'd learned in class. The large room echoed with the clang and nerve jangling scraping of the practice swords. The swords were blunted and capped to prevent serious injury, but a direct hit from one of them still hurt. Both young men were sporting a few bruises and abrasions by the end of the allotted time, but Deckert didn't blow the whistle to end the match. He was watching Cloud with narrowed, suspicious eyes.

Pennington was tiring and his moves were becoming sloppier, giving Cloud more openings to score a hit against him. A particularly hard strike that landed against the upper part of his sword arm nearly numbed the limb. In a real battle with deadly sharp blades it would have severed his arm before the sword bit into his ribcage. Deckert should have ended the match then as Cloud had obviously bested his opponent. He didn't. Pennington reacted in pure rage, charging Cloud and slamming his sword against Cloud's head. Luckily, his uncontrolled swing had the flat of the sword instead of the edge connecting with Cloud's temple. Cloud grunted with pain and wavered on his feet but still managed to hang on to his sword and bring it up to block a second swing. He was too stunned, however, and the sword was knocked from his grip. Deckter finally blew the whistle.

"Match to Pennington." When Verse and some of the other cadets started to protest Deckert shouted over them. "Can it, you breast fed pansies! There's no rules or sportsmanship in battle. Strife thought he had rules to protect his lily white hide and obviously doesn't have what it takes to survive a real battle. The next cadet who opens his mouth to complain will be assigned as my personal drudge during all his free time for the next week! Class dismissed!"

Deckert spun on his heel and strode from the room without bothering to check the seriousness of Cloud's injury. Pennington flipped his sword in his hand and moved close enough to pinch Cloud's cheek with bruising force.

"Remember what I said, buttbait. I'll collect my prize eventually." He merely laughed when Cloud slapped his hand away and he walked off to join the two cadets who were his cohorts and slapped palms with them.

Verse and Garrett hurried over to steady Cloud on his feet while Davis put the practice sword away.

"You're bleeding, Cloud," Verse said, taking a clean cloth from a pocket in his fatigues to wipe at Cloud's temple. "He nailed you pretty good. Damn. If it had been real swords he would have opened your head up."

Cloud took the cloth and gently fended off his concerned friend. "If it had been real swords he wouldn't have had a sword arm to do it with."

"Deckert's a prick, and he really seems to have it in for you, Cloud," Davis added as he walked back to them. "Hazing like that has nothing to do with SOLDIER honor. Maybe you should tell Zack, and he could..."

"No!" Cloud shook his head violently then groaned when the unwise move made the room tilt at a sickening angle. "Zack has more than enough to do. He's my mentor, not my babysitter. I can handle it." Cloud held his head with one hand and pressed the other to his stomach. "I-I think I'm going to be sick."

"That's it!" Garrett supported his friend with an arm wrapped around his shoulders. "We're taking you to the infirmary. You've probably got a concussion."

Cloud protested. The small amount of mako already in his system would speed along the healing. He didn't need a trip to the infirmary that would go on his record and also give his lovers reason to worry and fuss at him. How the hell was he supposed to stand as their equals if he was being mothered by them?

"I'll be fine," he managed to rasp. "I just need to take something for the headache and nausea and maybe lay down for a bit."


"Please, Garrett, no infirmary. I swear I'll be okay."

"If you're sure," Garrett started uncertainly before Cloud interrupted.

"I am. You guys go on to lunch. I'll head back to the barracks and skip the last class. Lieutenant Jericho might give me a hard time about missing his materia class, but it'll be okay. I can make it up later."

His friends reluctantly let Cloud have his way. There wasn't much else they could do if Cloud was unwilling to be checked out. Verse told Cloud to keep the cloth pressed against his temple until the bleeding stopped and that he would bring Cloud something light from the mess hall when they returned after class. Cloud slowly made his way down the empty back hallway that led to the outside. He'd almost made it to the door when he was violently slammed into the wall by a larger body. A hand around his throat had him gagging and clawing at the other's arm, and he couldn't focus enough to either see who had attacked him or muster a defense.

"You were *supposed* to be in the med wing, Strife," Pennington hissed at his ear. "I'll just have to make sure you get there."

Pennington used his grip on the already disoriented blond to bash the back of his head into the wall.

Cloud moaned with pain and went limp. Pennington hoisted him over one shoulder and pushed open the door. He took Cloud to the infirmary and let the techs take him after telling them Cloud had been injured in class then fell down the stairs while stupidly trying to make his own way to the medical department. Once his task was complete the big Costan ducked back out before he could be questioned further.

"Looks like he concussed himself pretty good," one of the techs said after lifting one closed eyelid and shining a penlight at it. "Better call the doc."

"No need, gentlemen," an oily, amused voice interrupted. Professor Hojo entered the room with Cloud's chart already in hand. "I was informed by an instructor that a SOLDIER cadet would be coming in for treatment. I'll take it from here."

Any objection the techs might have had was silenced by the implacable little smile the professor directed at them. They only watched as he rolled the gurney into another part of the unit that led to the lab. As soon as Hojo was out of sight one of the techs shivered and rubbed at his arms.

"Gods but he's a creepy bastard! Wonder why he's going to treat the kid instead of letting the doctor handle it?"

"Doesn't matter," the eldest tech replied. "We're not here to question him. Shinra pretty much gives him free reign to do what he wants with any SOLDIER. You might want to take my advice. You'll last longer in this job if you learn not to ask too many questions."


Cloud woke up when Verse gently shook his shoulder. He opened bleary eyes to see his friend kneeling next to his bunk with a styrofoam bowl in his hands.

"Hey, you feeling better?"

Cloud gingerly touched his temple and found that the lump that had previously been there was considerably smaller and didn't hurt nearly as much. The nausea was gone, too, and the scented steam rising from the bowl made his stomach gurgle in response.

"Yeah, it's not bad at all. Thanks, Verse," Cloud added as he sat up and took the bowl. He sipped from it and was relieved that his stomach seemed to accept it. Actually, he didn't feel bad at all, just a little headachy and there was a stinging pain on the inside of his left arm.

"Did you just sleep all afternoon?"

Cloud paused in his eating and frowned. He couldn't remember how he'd gotten back to the barracks, but obviously he had done so. "I...guess I did."

"I'll leave you to the soup then. I want to get to the showers before those guys use all the hot water." Verse patted Cloud's shoulder and whistled a cheerful tune as he left.

Cloud sat for a moment longer, trying to remember how he'd gotten back. Nothing. He couldn't recall a thing. The blond finished his soup and lay again on his lonely, narrow bunk. Longing for the warmth and reassuring presense of his lovers made him curl into the pillow. He hoped Zack and Reno made it back safely and soon.