I love this story already, and it's only the first chapter. WOO! lol.
This is my Zack x Cloud. Yayyyyyy.
Now, I have to admit, I have done Sephiroth pretty much OOC here. He's still kinda the Sephy I like to write, but I made him a little... quirky. lol.
You've been told! XP
Yaoi in later chapters. Yes, no witty remark, just the warning. I'm losing my flair. -sigh-
Language matters also in later chapters.
Zack meets an elder in Cosmo Canyon and is given a prophetic (is that a word?) warning, before he and Sephiroth return to Midgar for Shina recruit inductions. Zack gets assigned a cadet as part of the new mentor program introduced by Shinra, and is initially put off by the idea. Crappy summary. lol.
Zack stretched out on the bonnet of the General's newest company car and sighed, the sun bathing his already tanned skin and creating a comfortable warmth for the Lieutenant. It was his days off like these ones that, although relaxing, were completely boring and pretty much a waste of time. Cosmo Canyon was a sleepy town, not much happened, and he couldn't for the life of him understand what their company was doing here to begin with. Sephiroth had said something vaguely about speaking to the town elders in relation to 'great materia' but Zack wasn't all that interested. Sephiroth had suggested Zack come along as part of his vacation in the hope that the Lieutenant may learn something.
"Zack..." came the familiar cold voice, the Lieutenant's body tensing at the underlying threat within it.
"Ya Seph?" Zack replied cheerfully, sitting upright and grinning at the scowling General, who had his arms crossed across his broad chest, and a furrowed brow.
"What are you doing on my car?" Sephiroth asked bluntly, Zack shrugging.
"You don't even drive it, so what are you all worked up about?" Zack huffed in reply, Sephiroth sighing in resignation, Zack sliding off the bonnet of his own accord.
"We've been given permission to enter the village. I'd like you to be on your best behaviour, if at all possible."
"You're letting me go in?"
"There is a limit of six newcomers from Shinra permitted in there at a time. You are here to learn, are you not?" Sephiroth asked, raising an eyebrow critically.
"Yeah, I guess," Zack sighed, as he and the rest of their group made their way to the top of the stone steps and were counted by the village guard.
"You know, we could have kicked his ass and gotten everyone in here, right?" Zack said, quietly enough so that only Sephiroth would hear. A small smirk flitted along Sephiroth's lips.
"We're not here to start a war, Zachary."
"Don't call me Za-"
"It's not too late to put you on duty..."
"Gotta love Cosmo Canyon," Zack scowled, as he entered the village, Sephiroth stopping to brief the rest of the group. He then turned to Zack, who had been paying very little attention and frowned.
"Lieutenant Fair?" He said quietly.
"Whaaaat?" Zack groaned, before stopping at the death glare he was receiving off the General.
"What are you intending to do here?" Sephiroth asked, his lips pursing in apparent frustration.
"I'll go talk to an elder or something too, I guess?" Zack sighed, rolling his eyes and heading for the large campfire in the middle of the town. He sat down by the flame and absent mindedly poked it with a stick. Why they needed a fire in the middle of the day was beyond him, but it was certainly keeping him at his preferred temperature of toasted.
They'd been travelling for three days to get here, and it hadn't helped Zack's mood in the slightest. He was naturally energetic, and the long journeys always killed him a little on the inside. Being stuck with Sephiroth wasn't so bad, but putting up with the baffoons who thought he was some kind of God drove the Lieutenant crazy. He remebered his conversation with the youngest of their group that morning, and rolled his eyes slightly as he continued to prod the fire.
"Sephiroth's amazing! I can't believe he actually talks to you. God, what I wouldn't give to have him talk to me," the kid had babbled, not picking up on the half glare that Zack had thrown in his direction. Sephiroth himself had then appeared, placing a hand on Zack's shoulder and squeezed it slightly in warning.
"You're beginning to green, Lieutenant," He said softly, before walking away as quietly as he had appeared.
"Oh my God!" the cadet gaped enviously.
"...what?" Zack snapped.
"He touched you!"
"Only because I was greening."
"Why were you greening?"
"Because I haven't killed anything in awhile, and I'm feeling the desire to..." Zack said flatly, the cadet's face paling, as the small brunette shut up promptly. He would have to use that trick more often. It wasn't envy that got him into such a state when people idolised Sephiroth, it was the mere fact that Zack knew how Sephiroth took it. You had to get to know the General to realise that he wasn't cold hearted or as evil as all those made him out to be. No, it wasn't anything like that at all. Sephiroth was just so socially awkward that he chose to use a flat expression to avoid any offensive behaviour.
Zack snorted a little at an experience the pair had had back in Junon. The first class SOLDIERs were discussing the loss of second class friend, after he had been killed stepping on a land mine on patrol at Wutai. The young boy had been sent over with the Turks, and it had been considered an honour to attend Wutai whilst he was still in second class. He'd been trying to fight opposing Wutai warriors, and stumbled into a ditch.
"Yeah, he was a really good kid... fought to the death with that killer kanata of his. He was a gun at it. He died doing what he loved..." One of the accompanying Turks had sighed softly. Sephiroth, who had been standing in observational silence, had began to laugh softly then, many of the first class' throwing disapproving and somewhat bitter looks in the General's direction. Zack had pulled Sephiroth aside in a hurry and asked him what the hell he found so funny about their companion's death, and he had smirked widely.
"Kanata? What kind of second rate weapons training is Tseng providing?" Sephiroth smirked silently to himself a little longer, before stopping when Zack shook his head.
"You don't laugh when people are talking about other people dying," Zack had sighed, Sephiroth raising his eyebrow in confusion.
"Yeah. They think that's what you're laughing about."
"But Private Jacobson was a fantastic SOLDIER. I was distressed to find of his passing," Sephiroth said in confusion.
"Yeah, I know that. But... you were laughing. They think you thought it was funny," Zack explained, Sephiroth seemingly reaching his realisation.
"Yes, mmm. Go and apologise."
"Excuse me?" Sephiroth said sharply, never one to accept orders.
"Look, I'm sorry, but you don't want these guys hating you. For your own benefit, would you please go and apologise, General Sephiroth sir?" Zack sighed, Sephiroth pausing slightly, before nodding and returning to the group. It was not the first or last time Zack would have to teach Sephiroth the normal way of approaching situations, and it was far from the last time he would plead with Sephiroth to apologise.
"Zachary Fair," A voice said gently, Zack turning from his thoughts to face an elderly woman, as she gingerly sat beside him and also poked at the fire. She wore a long robe with tassles along the edges, and fine stitched patterns around the waist. Her long grey hair hung loosely across her shoulders, and her dark sun kissed skin was wrinkled severely across her face. Despite her outright... well... old appearance, her eyes and gentle smile were full of youth and energy.
"Uh... Yeah?" Zack cocked his head a little.
"You should be in Midgar."
She smiled softly, and threw some kind of powder into the flames.
"You reside there, I am correct?" She asked, and Zack nodded.
"Kind of. I'm there for my training. I work there. I was actually born in-"
"Gongaga. Yes, I am aware. It is beautiful there. The trees are plentiful and the grass is green. A friendly neighbourhood."
"Uh, yeah. Have you been?"
"No, I have only heard stories. Gongaga is well known with the planet."
"Right..." Zack grinned. Perhaps Cosmo Canyon wasn't so boring after all. Any place with a few loopy old people was sure to have some laughs involved.
"Yes. Your General has suggested you come to learn, and yet, you are only postponing the inevitable."
"A boy. The producer of rain, with the colour of wealth and the pools of the sky. He is your ummei, your destiny," She laughed a little, "And he is in desperate need of guidance."
"What are you on?" Zack snorted, perhaps a little rudely, but the woman laughed lightly with him.
"I am on the correct wavelength with the planet, Zachary. It speaks to me, and it tells me of the days to come," She smiled, prodding the fire again.
...She's freaking cuckoo, that's what she is...
"O...kay then. What does it say is coming for me?" Zack asked, and she smiled softly, sadly.
"The meeting of both of the planet's saviours. The capture of your dearest friend. The birth of a bond that has forever been written in the stars," She said, turning her gaze from Zack as she threw more of her mystery powder into the fire and poked at the flames, "Many things."
"The capture of my dearest friend?" Zack asked, an uneasiness creeping across him at the surity of this woman's voice and the knowing gaze she held with the flames.
"It is a forsaken tale, my dear."
"What do you mean though? My dearest friend?"
She lifted her gaze from the fire and turned it to the stairs ascending the village's mountain side. Zack followed it with his own eyes, as they fell upon silver strands blowing in the wind, Sephiroth talking animatedly with an elderly man.
"Sephiroth? I doubt that anything could ever capture Sephiroth..." Zack replied, shrugging lightly.
"Tell me, Zack. If nothing in the world would ever surpass your own power, if the only one who could trouble you met your gaze every day, who would your most ominous enemy be?" She asked, her eyes filling with a pained expression as she threw even more powder into the flames.
"You wouldn't have an onimous enemy, if nothing in the world could surpass your power," Zack replied, and she shook her head.
"You are still young Zack. The answer will reach you far too late."
"Then why are you telling me?" He asked, frustration penting at the mysterious figure, her soft smile creeping further across her face. He gazed at the fire where he thought he saw a flash of blue, and she laughed lightly, the Lieutenant drawing back slightly from the flames.
"Ah, you saw, yes? That is why. That is the key, Zack. You are destined to meet, but other then that, the path you take is yours to decide," she smiled, and he shook his head.
"You're insane..." he muttered, and she nodded.
"Perhaps. But, if you should take anything from these words I speak Zack, take this," She paused, turning to face him and taking his hand, "Destinies are always bound to start together, my dear, but it is our choices that guide them."
"Zachary?" A smooth voice interrupted, the old woman turning to face the intrusion. Sephiroth looked down at her, and she smiled sadly, taking his hand in hers.
"General Sephiroth," She said softly, and he nodded, seemingly uncomfortable with the stranger's touch, "They will both forgive you in time."
"Excuse me?" Sephiroth replied, a hint of confusion darting through his eyes.
"One will join the lifestream with your name in his thoughts. The other shall hesitate in every battle you have, even when he takes your life," She sighed softly, dropping his hands and heading from the fire, not bothering to look back, "I am tired, however. I hope you have enjoyed your stay, SOLDIERs..."
With that, she took her leave without a further word, her shoes scuffing along the dirt as she disappeared into a hut. Sephiroth looked as puzzled as Zack felt, as he opened his mouth in confusion.
"Who was th-"
"She's a little crazy Seph, don't worry," Zack beamed, Sephiroth's face screwed up slightly in uneasy concern.
"What did she say to you?" He asked, the pair heading for the town's exit.
"Nothing all that major. The ramblings of an elderly woman," He grinned again, "Can I drive the car?"
Sephiroth then launched into a lecture about the responsibilities of Zack as a SOLDIER and the reasons behind it as to why he couldn't drive the car. Zack was barely registering any of the words, the one image of that flash of blue within the flames looping through his mind.
"Seeeeph!" Zack whined, the General throwing him a steely look, the first class SOLDIERs beside him withering under the glare.
"I just don't see why we have to be here, when all you have to do is say a few nice words and shake the president's hand. It seems kind of pointless to be up here and being gawked at by seventy or so pe-"
"You'll be paired up with cadets, Zachary. The president has told you that this is how the system will work from today onwards. There's little point in your blatant denial," Sephiroth replied flatly, Zack sulking in his chair, before a flash of light caught his attention. Several of the cadets had just walked in and were joking with each other, one of them taking photos whilst they did so. They filed into the first row, and Zack's eyes immediately settled on the thinnest of the group, who was seemingly trying to make himself as inconspicuous as possible. He had bright blonde hair which hung slightly around his face, fine pale skin, a gentle smile and deep green eyes. He had a feminine prettiness that had Zack peering from behind Sephiroth's coat to try and get a better look.
"God Zack, have you got your eyes set on one already?" Damien smirked from his left, poking at the Lieutenant's side.
"Shut up McConnahy," Zack snorted, playfully swatting at the teasing hands of his roommate. The redhead turned his attention to where Zack was gazing and let out a low whistle.
"That little blonde, hey?" Damien smirked, and Zack rolled his eyes, "He's a stunner, I'll give him that."
...Yeah, I'll give him that too...
"He's a bit too young for you, Damo," Zack smirked, the older SOLDIER feigning offence at the statement.
"Just because you're a mere puppy in comparison to all of us old dogs, doesn't mean you can be cheeky," Damien huffed, Zack playfully punching him on the arm.
"You like your toy boys, ey?" Zack winked, and Damien snorted.
"I've been chasing your ass for months now. I'm hurt you haven't noticed." Damien frowned, placing a hand over his supposedly broken heart.
"Major McConnahy?" Sephiroth said, not bothering to turn around, Damien tensing slightly.
"Regardless of how long you have been chasing Lieutenant Fair's... 'ass'... perhaps it is unwise to think that you're automatically worthy of his affections, considering your somewhat boisterous gallavanting within the SOLDIER program?" Sephiroth turned his head minutely, his lips curled slightly into a smirk. Zack burst into laughter as the few first class SOLDIERs who had heard the comment joined in.
"That's the nicest way of calling someone a manwhore that I've ever heard. I commend you, General!" Zack snorted, Damien pouting as he crossed his arms across his chest.
"Well I never!" He huffed, although he soon grinned, the General smirking briefly, before turning back to face the cadets.
Zack also turned back to facing the crowd and watched the blonde in the front row as he looked up at the General, a small smile on his lips. Oh God, he was another one. Most likely a Sephiroth clone. They all joined Shinra wanting to be just like him, but they were nearly all failures in the long run. This blonde, he was different to his peers surrounding him however. Whilst they constantly held their eyes on Sephiroth, not even tearing their gazes away to speak to eachother, the blonde was continuously turning his attention around the room. Zack startled slightly, as the deep green eyes latched onto him and the blonde offered that same small smile that he had worn earlier. Zack smiled widely and gave a small nod to the blonde. The blonde nodded also, before Sephiroth cleared his throat.
"Cadets, I trust you are eager to get proceedings underway..." He said, smoothly but firmly, all noise stopping as he nodded at the crowd.
"Welcome to Shinra. If all goes well, you will complete your training here and become part of the Shinra military services. In the case that you do exceptionally well, these men behind me are what you shall aspire to be. SOLDIER 1st class," Sephiroth gestured with his hand, Zack grinning at the nervous faces and giving a reassuring wave. Sephiroth's eyes snapped to Zack, a small smile flicking through the General's eyes and yet failing to reach his lips.
"If all goes beyond exceptionally well, you shall not end up like the Lieutenant General behind me," Sephiroth said drily, a majority of the cadets laughing lightly, too nervous to do anything further. The blonde in the front let out a snort however, before covering his mouth.
...I like this kid already...
"It is because of this belief in the potential you all hold that we will be allocating a first class SOLDIER to each of you, as a mentor figure and a role model," Sephiroth continued, a murmur of chatter bursting at those words. The cadets had clearly not been expecting this, nor should they have been. Shinra had never done anything like this before, and the drastic approach to improving quality of SOLDIERs had caught even Sephiroth off guard. Zack could recall the flare of green in Sephiroth's gaze as Shinra had informed him of the plan. An insult to the quality of Sephiroth's fighters was an insult that hit hard.
"He's never even witnessed a single one of them fight. He lives off statistics and Tseng's reports," He had hissed after the president had left, Zack nodding silently, not sure how to deal with the General's mood as it was. Luckily he had calmed down relatively quickly, and simply dismissed Zack from duties for the rest of the day.
In the present time, Sephiroth waited for the chatter to die down, simply standing in all his regal glory as the cadet's came to the realisation that they were keeping the General waiting. They hurriedly sat in silence, their attention solely on the figure before them.
"SOLDIER is an elite force of fighters, I shall remind you, and whomever you are selected to be paired with shall be treated with the utmost respect and honour. Failure to do so will result in a class three punishment, and latrine duties," Sephiroth said coldly, many of the cadet's eyes widening at the tone, "Disrespect towards these first class SOLDIERs will not tolerated, and shall be seen as personal disrespect towards myself, with offenders reporting directly to myself."
Zack held back the urge to laugh, the cadets all staring in a stunned silence, many gaping at the thought of ever showing a shred of disrespect towards their hero. Sephiroth was lenient towards his first class fighters, and if any of them had asked to deal out a punishment to their understudies rather then have Sephiroth do it, he would accept in the blink of an eye. The cadets had little to worry about on Sephiroth's behalf.
"It is on that note that I hand today's proceedings over to the president," Sephiroth nodded, stepping away from the microphone as the cadets cheered, clapped and whistled at the silver haired General. Zack stood up and followed Sephiroth to the side of the stage as Shinra took the floor.
"You can't sit still for five minutes can you?" Sephiroth murmured, feigning interest in the president's speech.
"What a reassuring tone to leave them on," Zack teased, Sephiroth letting out a soft sigh.
"Keeping up appearances."
"Ah if only they knew that you have a soft spot for chocolate, or that your a bit of a fan of chocobos, or about that time you freaked out when you found a grey hair... By the way, how could you tell that it was a grey hair when your hair is-"
"Zack," Sephiroth said in his usual warning tone, the Lieutenant smirking. The truth was, Sephiroth really did have his quirks, just like everyone else. Yet, Zack accepted the privilege of being the only human being alive aside from Hojo who had ever seen Sephiroth's more human side. Even Sephiroth did not give away his quirks easily. The only way Zack had found out any information was by observation.
Zack had bought a block of rich Gongagan chocolate into the office one morning, leaving it on the table, where Sephiroth had eyed it off for a few moments, before pretending to be immersed in the reports on his computer screen. Zack had left to go on his lunch break and returned to find only two rows left, Sephiroth peering intently at the documents.
"Did you eat this?" Zack asked, Sephiroth flicking his eyes to the Lieutenant.
"It must have been the secretaries," came the distant reply. On searching for a document the next week however, Zack had found a block of the same chocolate in the General's drawer, already half eaten. It was from then on that Zack had begun buying two blocks of chocolate on his shopping trips, and slipping one into Sephiroth's drawer. The General never formally acknowledged the act, although on several occassions, there had been an extra block of chocolate in Zack's desk drawer as well.
Chocobos were another soft spot of the General's. Zack had been travelling with Sephiroth in the mountain areas up north when they had come across two bandersnatches and a chocobo. They had killed the beasts with ease and had captured the chocobo, Sephiroth rubbing a hand sublty along the bird's feathers, a smile playing along his lips.
"Are we gonna send this one back to the stables?" Zack had asked curiously.
"Too scrawny," Sephiroth had waved his hand in dismissal, giving the bird a quick pat on its flank and watching as it disappeared into the distance. They rarely ever caught a chocobo, and if they had, Sephiroth had always taken the time to personally deliver it to the stables. As for the grey hair fiasco? Zack had walked into Sephiroth's office one day to find the General holding what Zack had thought was cotton to begin with.
"Lieutenant?" Sephiroth had said softly, Zack moving to his side.
"What colour is this hair to you?" Sephiroth asked, Zack taking the hair betwen his fingers and studying it.
"Silver?" Zack replied, Sephiroth shaking his head and plucking a hair from his scalp.
"No, this is silver..." He said, before placing the two beside eachother in Zack's finger. Zack studied them further, finding no discernable difference, and shrugged at the General.
"They look the same?"
"No, no. This one is grey," Sephiroth insisted, gesturing at the first piece of hair he had presented the Lieutenant with a frown furrowing his brows.
"Are you... worried?" Zack smirked, Sephiroth raising an eyebrow and once again dismissing the Lieutenant's words.
"Not at all. I was simply seeing if Hojo had altered my sensitivity to colour," Sephiroth replied airily.
"Ah," Zack had smirked, before looking at the hairs once more, "You know, I think you're right, actually."
"Really?" Sephiroth had said a little too quickly, Zack snorting as Sephiroth scowled.
How the cadets would act should they know that their flawless General was terrified of early age colour loss would be somthing that Zack would likely never have the pleasure of witnessing.
"They look like a good group," Sephiroth said quietly from Zack's side, drawing the Lieutenant from his musings as the pair surveying the crowd with interest. Every year, they seemed to become more eager, and every year they would lose more SOLDIERs. Many of them had become reckless in their attempts at a hero status, especially after the Wutai war and the extra status boost for Sephiroth that had caused.
"They look a little jumpy," Zack sighed, smirking as he turned to Sephiroth, "Maybe you shouldn't come to these things after all."
The General considered the thought and nodded slightly.
He said it quietly, and Zack continued looking out across the massive group of cadets, most of them throwing sidelong glances in their direction. The idolisation of Sephiroth was something the General never understood or could relate to. Sephiroth himself had never had anyone to really look up to as a child, and he had set himself as the Shinra poster boy by the time he was twelve. Zack smiled slightly to himself. He too had been an admirer of Sephiroth, but unlike the rest of them, he had admired the General's characteristics rather then his looks. Zack had grown hearing the stories of Sephiroth, going from the age of nine to fourteen without ever knowing what the almighty General had looked like. He had been caught up in the thought of a person who didn't ever have to feel pain, worry about loss, who was capable and strong, and independent. It had been something Zack had always dreamed of becoming.
"I don't believe I ever will understand it, Lieutenant," Sephiroth said flatly, Zack turning his baby blues to the General in confusion.
"Understand what, sir?"
"The desire to lead the life I do," Sephiroth said quietly, expression blank, as his eyes swept over the cadets.
"You can't blame them, Sephiroth. Shinra works the media well. Young boys like this are shown all the glitz and glamour of your permission, whilst all the shit that goes on in reality is swept under the rug. They've got big hopes," Zack shrugged, Sephiroth clapping politely as the president wound up his speech.
"... So if all the cadets would like to make their way to the stage in single file, you will be randomly allocated a SOLDIER first class as your mentor," The president instructed, the cadets scrambling to the their feet in an attempt to get in line first. The president looked out over the mass of heads and gestured for the group to become a neater file. Zack scowled slightly as he saw a familiar head near the back of the hall, eyes raking along the cadets with something akin to hunger.
"I've seen him," Sephiroth said somewhat coldly, his brows furrowing as Hojo nodded in his direction. Everytime there was a new batch of SOLDIER hopefuls inducted, their was a certainty of three people in attendance at that hall. Sephiroth, by order of the president, was usually designated for moral and the initial speech of the ceremony. Tseng, Commander of the Turks and loyal bodyguard to the presidential family, would always be in attendance, scoping the crowd for recruitment opportunities and potential dangers to the President's life. Then, there was Hojo, who would show up before the cadets arrived and disappear before they left. No one was ever really certain what Hojo hoped to achieve on this visits, although Sephiroth became visibily agitated on every appearance of the sadistic professor. Zack had the feeling that Sephiroth knew exactly what Hojo was up to, and yet he never said a word to the Lieutenant.
"He's a little eager this time around. Makes me feel a little edgy," Zack said suspiciously, Sephiroth nodding his head, the pair continuintg to gaze at the professor before he slunk once more back into the shadows.
"He's so freaking creepy!" Zack mumbled, Sephiroth snorting slightly, the gesture not going un-noticed by at least twelve of the surrounding cadets. All had turned to the source of noise with startled eyes. Zack could almost see their thoughts.
'Was that the General? Did he find something funny? I had no idea he even laughed'
"Aren't you meant to be over there, Lieutenant?" Sephiroth asked drily, finding amusement in the facial expression Zack had produced on the thought of having to deal with a flock of hyperactive teenage boys.
"I thought you said there were four extra SOLDIERs in comparison to the amount of recruits?" Zack asked, Sephiroth holding back a smirk.
"You're really that eager to get out of this, Zachary?" Sephiroth mused, Zack scowling as he huffily crossed his arms across his chest and sulked.
"They're only hoping they get me so that they can have some kind of chance of talking with you anyway," Zack rolled his eyes, Sephiroth allowing his smirk to break through.
It was then that a mass of blonde hair had appeared before them, a hand snapping to the youth's head as he saluted the General and Zack himself. The Lieutenant was more then relieved to see that it was the blonde from before, smiling slightly up at the pair with wide eyes.
"General Sephiroth sir!" the blonde said a little shakily, although smiling softly, eyes never once leaving the General's gaze.
"Cadet," Sephiroth nodded, a hint of amusement in his voice, "What may we help you with this afternoon?"
"I was wondering if there were any other SOLDIER first class' available for the mentoring positions sir!" the blonde replied quickly.
"There is not enough for everyone?" Sephiroth mused, eyes flicking to the scowling Zack, "How unfortunate..."
...You knew the whole time that I'd have to get stuck with a cadet, didn't you? You arrogant bas-
"The numbers are mismatched, it seems. Everyone else has a first class but myself. Does that mean that I just go without, sir?" the blonde smiled, blushing slightly.
"Certainly not, recruit. It just so happens that my accomplice is a first class," Sephiroth smirked, amusement ringing through his voice as Zack gaped.
"Me?!" Zack spluttered, the blonde blushing furiously.
"I'm sorry sir, I didn't realise you were a first class. It was rude of me to overlook you," the blonde laughed a little nervously, "But I, uh... guess you're stuck with me, sir?"
The blonde then flashed a wide smile and scratched the back of his head nervously, Zack grinning in return in spite of himself.
...Oh? ...Well... I suppose I'll manage...
Zack smirked before patting the blonde on the shoulder.
"Seems it. I'm Lieutenant General Zachary Fair, but should you choose to call me anything but Lieutenant, sir or Zack, I may very well have to kill you," He grinned, the blonde laughing nervously, as he took the Lieutenant's hand and shook it, his green eyes glittering as he did so.
"Recruit Cloud Strife, sir. Should you choose to call me anything but Cloud or Recruit, I suppose I'll learn to manage," Cloud smiled widely, drawing a laugh from Zack.
"It seems you may have very well met your match, Lieutenant..." Sephiroth smirked slightly, Zack nodding. This kid might turn out to be fun.
"I'll choose to take that as a compliment General. Thank you very much," Cloud smiled, that damnable blush returning, before he hurriedly excused himself to join his group, all of which were watching with wide eyes.
Sephiroth smiled slyly at the Lieutenant, drawing Zack's attention to him.
"What?" Zack asked blankly.
"You were staring, Lieutenant. As you were before the ceremony, during the ceremony, and as soon as he walked over here... And whatever happened to 'I shall never take a cadet under my wing even if he were the last one on Earth'?" Sephiroth asked coyly. Zack scowled slightly, before turning his head to the side and staring at Sephiroth intently.
"What?" Sephiroth asked, just as blankly as Zack.
"I just thought..." Zack began, trailing off as he reached out and plucked a hair from the General's head, the pale face losing even more of it's colour as Zack did so.
"Does that look grey to you?" Zack asked, before handing Sephiroth the hair and walking off, smirking at the knowledge that the General was about to spend an hour or so scouring every hair on his head for loss of colour.
"But it's only been like three days?"
"An hour from now, Lieutenant."
"Well Shiva be damned, Shinra's gotten a bit obsessive over this, yeah?"
"Moderately, and stop that..."
Zack was lounging on the couch in his and Sephiroth's office, absent mindedly tossing and catching the General's stress ball. Zack had found the amount of stress the General received from this act somewhat ironic, and so continued to do it.
"Stress less, yeah?" Zack grinned as he hung over the couch's arm and stared at the scowling General.
"I shall remind you that you have an hour Lieutenant, I suggest you start getting ready," Sephiroth said, his eyebrow twitching minutely in restrained anger, a sign that Zack should listen to each and every word the General was saying. Sephiroth was desperately trying to focus on the application forms before him, and Zack had probably not been helping the matter.
"Today?" Zack repeated, pushing his luck just that little bit further.
"Yes, today!" Sephiroth snapped, Zack pouting as he sat up and threw the ball to Sephiroth, who caught it whilst he was otherwise preoccupied with his paperwork.
"Hey, that was pretty cool," Zack grinned, Sephiroth making his 'I'm not listening' face, before the Lieutenant settled himself in the chair across from the General.
"Technically I'm still on holidays, you know," Zack pouted, Sephiroth lifting his eyes slightly, his characteristic smirk appearing.
"I think you don't mind it all that much. You now have the opportunity to hold a proper conversation with that blonde. What was his name, again?" Sephiroth asked airily.
"Cloud..." Zack answered a little too quickly, Sephiroth returning to his paperwork, scribbling something down as his smirk widened.
"Besides, the sooner you being this program, the sooner you can attempt to effectively 'ditch' your protege," Sephiroth suggested, Zack nodding.
"Yeah, sounds like a pretty decent plan. Shit you're clever when you want to be," Zack grinned, Sephiroth rolling his eyes slightly.
"I prefer to follow thought processes rather then take your 'affectionise now, rationalise later' approach," Sephiroth replied flatly.
"You love my hugs, I swear it!" Zack teased, Sephiroth raising his eyes once more to glower in Zack's direction.
"I'm going! I'm going!" Zack sighed, rolling his eyes and picking up his duffel bag, giving a wave as he left the office, Sephiroth returning the gesture without looking up.
The truth of the matter was that Zack had been looking forward to today since the moment he'd laid eyes on the blushing blonde three days earlier. The blonde had been showing up everywhere, whether it was in the cafeteria, at the training gym, in the study halls, or in the middle of Zack's dreams. Night times that had previously spent filled with dreams of chocobo racing and bandersnatch battles were now plagued with visions of the blonde. Cloud laughing with his friends, Cloud trying to slink into the ceremonies hall un-noticed, Cloud's cheeks gently tinged with a pink blush.
...God, get over him already, you know nothing about the kid...
Zack pushed open the door to the training hall and was greeted almost immediately by the blonde, who was smiling softly, wooden practice sword in his hand.
"Lieutenant!" the blonde saluted, Zack shaking his head as Cloud lowered his hand.
"Nah kid, you don't have to salute me," Zack grinned, "I'll let you off. It makes me feel like you think I'm better than you."
"I do think you're better than me," Cloud snorted, Zack smiling further in return.
"You're kidding! I grew up in Gongaga for crying out loud. The most education I ever received was 'how to rope a bull 101'," Zack sighed, Cloud grinning widely.
"Gongaga? That's a pretty sleepy town yeah?" The blonde queried, Zack nodding, "Yeah, so's mine. Not a thing in the world to do in a place like that."
"Where'd you grow up?"
"Ah, I've been there once with Seph. It's kinda nice though, with the mountain backdrop and stuff," Zack shrugged, Cloud nodding, his smile somewhat sad now.
...Eek, no... Do not like... Come on kid, perk back up...
"So do you fight like a country boy, or do you fight like a SOLDIER?" Zack teased, Cloud raising a challenging eyebrow.
"What is that meant to mean, sir?" He smirked, Zack flicking the wooden practice sword.
"Can you actually use this thing or is it just for show, recruit?" Zack cocked his head, maybe a little too arrogantly and gestured for Cloud to take some practice swings at the designated targets. The blonde damn near decapitated one of them with his first few swings, Zack grinning widely.
"You know, you're not so bad," Zack shrugged.
"Thank you sir! Could you maybe teach me some defence moves though?" Cloud smiled hopefully, the pale cheeks tinging pink slightly, as Zack tore his gaze away. What was it about this kid that was already driving him up the walls? He ruffled the blonde hair a little and playfully punched the blonde's arm.
"No worries Cloud. How about grabbing a bite to eat or something first though? The cafeteria's still open and General stuffypants denied me breakfast this morning," Zack sighed, Cloud snorting at the mere manner Zack spoke of the almighty General.
"Sure. Although I'm starting to learn not to trust the labels they keep on everything..." Cloud screwed up his face a little, Zack nodding his head in agreement.
"It's usually safe though. Just don't eat anything with the word 'surprise' on the label," Zack warned, "Cause that's exactly what you'll get."
"I think I could learn a lot off you, you know?" Cloud smirked, Zack snorting at the statement.
...I hope so kid...
They'd spent almost four hours together, almost double the required time, Cloud tailing Zack like a shadow. The Lieutenant hadn't minded in the slightest. As well as being naturally gorgeous, the kid had a flair to him that made it impossible for Zack not to get along with him. Zack had been hanging out for the one thing however, which Cloud had yet to reward him with. Whenever they spoke, Cloud continued to refer to Zack as Lieutenant or sir. Even as they had been chatting casually over their cafeteria trays, Cloud had kept the addressing issues to a formal system.
"You can call me Zack you know?" Zack had hinted, grinning at the cadet as he ate his salad.
"I know, sir," Cloud shrugged in reply, stabbing a tomato, his green eyes glittering with some kind of hidden knowledge.
Now, however, Zack was walking Cloud back to the blonde's quarters and happily chatting about the fine quality of Gongaga's food.
"From chocolate to chicken, it's the best stuff you'll ever taste, Spike," Zack grinned, Cloud raising an eyebrow.
"Ya. Your hair, you know? Do you spike it yourself?" Zack asked, the blonde letting out a soft sigh.
"Nope. It does this..." he gestured, flicking the jagged hair, "Of it's own accord."
"It was all flat the other day though?"
"Ah, well, the boys thought it would be fun to gel it down. It only just managed to last the day before it sprang up again," Cloud snorted, "And you're not really one to talk anyway."
"Chicks dig spikes, what can I say?" Zack laughed, running a hand along his own unruly locks.
"This is my place," Cloud smiled, stuffing his hand in his pockets and fumbling for the key, "Thanks for walking me home sir."
"Yeah, no problems Spike. I'll see you tomorrow I guess?" Zack suggested, the blonde nodding as he unlocked the door finally and kicked it open.
"Sounds like a plan. Thanks Lieutenant!" he grinned, slipping inside and closing the door behind him.
...My pleasure... Cloud...
A/N: This is in the process of being edited to be a little less... childish. This is what happens when you start to write a story at the age of seventeen. Why did nobody tell me how obsessed with ellipses I was? It was almost painful to re-read.
If anybody happens to read this who is already a reader and is re-reading: I am editing it all because I am planning on updating soon.