Author's Note: Hey, SHEVAL here! Look, I managed to get the next chapter in exactly one month after the last one, and no later! Aren't you proud of me? Yeah, I've been so busy at college… it's been hard keeping up with the fanfic writing, but I shall persevere! You know what would help with the motivation, though? If you left a pretty little review! Hope you like it, even though this is another one that's a little mundane…


Cloud made for the gate, trying to recall exactly how to get to where he wanted to go. It was… that way, and down a few sidestreets… after a bit of pausing and thought, he found the way, eventually ending his walk in front of a slightly shabby-looking bookstore. It was no worse than any of the other buildings down here in the slums… and that fact alone could very well account for most of the flaws in its appearance… combined with the fact that it probably got very little business.

Upon arrival, Zack tilted his head curiously at the building in front of them. The sign was so old, it was a little hard to make out the symbol of a book on it.

"You've been here before?" Zack asked, walking up to the store window and trying to peek through the badly scuffed glass to see inside.

Shaking his head, the boy corrected "I saw it before." and went in. The door jarred a little bell, which rang faintly as he pushed it open. Inside was relatively brightly lit, and a mousy woman behind the counter at one end looked up in surprise to see a customer walking through, especially at this late hour. She smiled warmly to him and gave a nod of recognition before going back to the book she was reading. Cloud seemed relieved that he didn't have to speak to her, and instantly darted off down one of the aisles, apparently looking for something in particular.

Zack too was smiled at, to which he nodded and gave a small wave. It was a rather quaint little store, and the black-haired man had lingered a little while in the front skimming over some of the selections of books before hurrying after Cloud.

As he passed into the aisle after the blonde, he glanced at the many leatherbound books squeezed into the shelves, wondering what Cloud could possibly be looking for here. Which reminded him, they were already in a bookstore, so maybe he could buy that cookbook while they were here...

Cloud seemed to have slowed down in one of the center aisles, and was regarding a set of very large books with thoughtful interest. After a while, he selected one and pulled it out - a relatively new-looking copy of the dictionary. "This." he said to Zack, turning around as the man approached, "I need this."

"A dictionary, huh?" Zack peered closer at the book before nodding.

"Okay. Go on and meet me at the front. I'll pay for us when I get there- just remembered that I need to go get that cookbook," he explained, looking over at the shelves. How the heck did they arrange their stuff?

Nodding understanding, the boy hurried to the front counter, where he set his book down and waited. The lady at the register glanced at him oddly, then flashed a hesitant smile, which he eagerly returned, apparently seeing nothing awkward in just standing there expectantly, not doing anything... he shifted from foot to foot slightly, hands in his pockets, scanning the other nearby aisles for the return of Zack.

It took several minutes for him to actually locate the correct shelf where the cooking books were and a few more just to locate a good book itself. There were some pretty weird recipes there. Cactuar salad with gysahl greens... Zack knew for a fact that gysahl greens did not taste good.

Returning once again to the front of the shop, he gave Cloud an apologetic smile before pushing his own book forward.

"We'll take these."

Cloud didn't seem to mind, but the woman running the shop seemed quite relieved that the strange - and kind of cute, but mostly strange - boy wouldn't be staring at her anymore. She glanced over the books, flipped them onto their backs, and punched the prices into the antiquated register. "That'll be 25 gil, please." she said.

Nodding, Zack fished out the exact amount of gil and handed it to the tender behind the counter.

Once their goods were bagged and their dues paid, he bade the woman goodbye as they left. It really was a nice little store once you figured out where everything was... they had to come back sometime.

"Shall we head home or do still have places you wanna go? It's starting to get a little late."

"I'm good." Cloud said softly, hugging the bag almost protectively to his chest. He couldn't wait to start reading... all those words he used to know... now he'd get them back again. Plus more, probably. The thought excited him. He'd be back to normal in no time with this... or so he hoped. "Let's go home." he suggested.

Nodding agreeably, Zack scratched the side of his head as they walked down the street. He'd totally forgotten to pay attention to where they were going when Cloud had initially led them here. Yeah, he sort of remembered walking down this way... Cloud would tell him if he was going in the wrong direction if he was wrong, at least.

Cloud felt fairly secure in his knowledge of the Midgar streets... that had come back to him more quickly than other things, and he walked through them, turning corners, taking shortcuts, even. He would find himself ahead of Zack at times, and always stopped to let the man catch up, sometimes beckoning impatiently and calling to him. It almost became a game... of tag, or hide and seek, or something... and in his haste to get ahead again, he darted forward and rounded a corner... and crashed.

It was something soft that had hit him - rather that he had hit - and it gave a bit of a startled yelp as they crashed back in a jumble onto the pavement together. Cloud instantly sprung up, having been mostly cushioned by the thing he landed on, and more than eager to get away, given the nature of most of his other encounters in Midgar so far... he backpedaled quickly to the corner again and glanced around it to see if Zack was coming.

"I'm coming, I'm coming. Can't a guy enjoy a stroll down the street?" he asked, with a small laugh when he saw Cloud's head poke out from behind the edge of a building. Zack frowned, however, upon seeing the slightly panicked look on his companion's face.

Hurrying over, Zack looked his friend up and down to make sure he was alright. Nothing wrong... Although it seemed like he might have tripped on something because his clothes were dirty.

"What's wro-" he started, straightening up and looking behind Cloud. "... Aerith!" the man exclaimed, seeing the flowergirl just start to get up from the floor.

In the middle of the sidewalk, flowers strewn around her, a girl lay... she winced slightly in pulling herself up, raising an arm and glancing at a scraped elbow with a bit of a frown. A basket hung over her arm and a few more flowers remained inside of it - those which had been spared from the fall, and she paid more care to them and the others that had not been so badly crushed or damaged on the pavement than she did her own slight injury.

The voice brought her back, though... instant familiarity, and it knew her name. She looked up, green eyes wide and stammered disbelievingly, "Za-Zack...?" she managed, for now ignoring the blonde beside him. The girl scrambled quickly to her feet, leaving the basket on the ground, and rushed forward, throwing her arms around him. Yes, he was real, and solid, and there, finally... "Zack! I-it's been..." she tried to think, but the exact span of time he'd been gone would not come to her. She was still reeling in relief from the fact that he'd returned.

"Woah... long time no see," he returned, looking as disbelieving as she did. He hadn't expected to see her down here, but then, it was probably no surprise since they weren't too far off from where her house should be... It felt strange, seeing her again, but he was deeply grateful to the fact that Tseng had held off the Turks; or at least maintained orders of "keeping watch" on her.

"It's been four years," Zack finished, patting down the flowergirl's hair in an affectionate fashion. "How have you been?"

"Worried." Aerith answered honestly, pulling back to arm's length and tilting her head to the side as she looked over Zack. "Where've you been? I sent so many letters and... you never responded." she lightly bit her lower lip, "But I kept up the flower business." the girl smiled, indicating her basket over on the ground.

Cloud seemed confused... who was this girl that he'd randomly bumped into? Zack seemed to know her, which meant she wasn't dangerous. Meekly, he crept closer, peering around the ex-SOLDIER's side to get a look.

"That's great, Aer, keep it up! And ... I'm really sorry about your letters. They never reached me," the man said apologetically, his gaze falling to the flower basket. He was going to have to buy several of those before this night was out.

"Oh! I totally forgot," Zack exclaimed, feeling Cloud beside him. He took a small step to the side, at least enough so that Aerith could see his face.

"This is my friend Cloud. Cloud, this is m-... uh.. Aerith."

"Nice to meet you!" Aerith said happily, holding out a hand and bobbing her knees in a gesture that seemed to slightly resemble a curtsy.

Cloud looked at Zack cluelessly... well… he had introduced them. Timidly, he reached forward and took her hand, giving it a very light shake and retreating back without a word. He stared at his fingers. What an odd feeling... though, maybe it was just a static shock. The girl felt so... charged and full of life. It was rare to see down here in Midgar, and it rocked him strangely.

She suppressed a soft giggle at the strange boy's expense and turned her attentions back on Zack once more, "Where have you been this whole time?" she asked, her voice still tinted with worry.

Zack furrowed his brow a moment, considering his answer. He didn't want to get too descriptive, because that would just get the flowergirl on a fuss about them.

"Traveling ... or rather, trying to keep away from some unfriendlies," the man explained, looking guilty. "It was hard getting back here, and me and my friend here are actually trying to settle down after so long."

"Oh, I see..." she didn't, quite... four years spent travelling without sending her any word? But she didn't want to push it, Zack seemed uncomfortable, and Cloud... well she didn't know what to think about him. She got a funny feeling from the boy... not bad, just funny, like seeing him was like looking through warped glass - you couldn't see the full picture, and what you could was strange and distorted.

"Well, I wouldn't suggest the slums if you can possibly manage it." she laughed, "They only seem to have gotten worse." After all, ShinRa had used to keep their fingers out of lower-plate business... too unconcerned with what went on down there to care, but now they were taking an interest... and more often than not, they supported the underhanded, crime-run businesses and helped them thrive. Yes, it was definitely worse.

But that reminded her of something, and as she looked Zack over again, she mentioned it, "It's strange seeing you without your uniform on..."

"Ah... " Zack frowned at that. Had they really gotten worse? Or perhaps he'd been away from Midgar far too long to be able to tell anything different? Steeped in those worried thoughts, the black-haired man looked up when Aerith had noted his appearance.

"Oh... yeah. I sort of..." Zack trailed off, looking upwards and making a circular gesture with his hand, "Quit."

Right. If only he could have. While there had been rumors about how the Turks handled "quitters", Zack really had never known what happened to SOLDIERs who wished to leave the company. Most of them just died while on duty...

"Oh." Aerith said, unsure how to feel about it. On the one hand, she didn't have to worry about conflicting interests from the man anymore, on the other... how did one just quit SOLDIER? Especially someone who'd reached so high a rank as Zack? Had he deserted like those other men she'd heard those vague stories from him about years ago? She didn't let it bother her, though, and merely smiled, reaching out and putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Well, good for you. I'm assuming you're doing something else now... otherwise if you need any help with... anything, you can stop by the church and ask me." she smiled. Life had improved since the start of the flowerselling 'business'. It was always good to have a little extra gil around. "I'll hope you'll come and stop by anyway." she added shyly. "But good luck. I need to be going because it's late and mom worries." then, in a quick motion, she rose up onto her tip-toes and pressed a kiss to the corner of his mouth - an annoyingly noncommittal placement that was neither a casual peck on the cheek, nor a romantic kiss on the lips. But after that, she was gone, turning and hurrying off back down the street.

Behind him, Cloud stiffened and his eyes went wide. No... way...! He felt a burning of something in his throat and couldn't tell what it was. Aerith wasn't supposed to kiss Zack! It seemed... invasive and... and... he wasn't even sure what. The boy's shoulders slumped and his eyes hit the ground. He'd thought... Zack had said... well, what had he said, after all? That a kiss was something between two people who had known eachother for a long time... and really liking and expressing emotions or something... yeah, that was it. But then... his head hung. Well, he supposed he wasn't the only person Zack really liked, then.

Zack started to say that he still wanted to buy one of Aerith's flowers, but by the time the kiss was given, the brunette had already disappeared down the street. Scratching the back of his head with a shake of his head, he laughed slightly.

"That girl... always in a hurry to somewhere," Zack mused as he turned to look at Cloud with a small smile... only to find that the poor kid looked like a wilted flower. Even his hair seemed less spiky.

Looking worried, Zack used his hand to tilt the blonde's head up so that he was looking at him.

"Cloud? What happened? Why so blue?" he asked.

Cloud blinked a few times while staring up at the other man, his expression firmly set into a pout. He shook his head fervently, a decided answer of 'not telling'. He hoisted his bag up slightly and shifted on his feet, impatient to go and get back home. He wanted to find the word for that fiery feeling he'd just had... somewhere in the massive dictionary he'd bought, it was hiding.

Looking slightly put out, Zack nodded in acceptance of the blonde's response. He wasn't going to push any answers from his friend, but damned if the curiosity and worry wasn't already eating at him.

"Okay, then... I'll always be around if you feel like telling me," he told Cloud with an encouraging smile. Zack looked back over the relatively empty street. "Well, hopefully now we won't have any more interruptions on our walk home."

He nodded in understanding and in agreement, starting out hesitantly in the direction they'd been going before they, well... before he had run into Aerith. Cloud walked slow this time, having learned from that recent experience that he never knew who might be around any corner. He didn't look back to check if Zack was following, just stayed especially quiet and waited to hear the footsteps. Soon they would be back.

The whole time they were walking back, Zack was trying to figure out what he might've done to upset Cloud. Had it been something he'd done in the bookstore? ... no... Perhaps Cloud was angry about bumping into Aerith? Nah.

... or it could have been Aerith's parting "gift". Zack winced. He was going to have to explain that one... though it looked like his explanation would have to wait until Cloud was feeling better. Funny how so many things could happen in one day.


"Home sweet home!" he announced, probably less enthusiastically as usual as he threw open the door to their apartment.

More exhausted than he'd realized he'd been, upon the sight of the bed, it was as if a switch had clicked in Cloud's mind. Sleep. He dropped the bag by the bedside and tumbled in, barely remembering to kick off his boots. His body was still sore from his little adventure today, and ached in some of the spots where the bullets had hit... but he could still taste icecream on his tongue. Good and bad. There had been alot of both of that. His eyes drooped. Oh yeah, they had pajamas... he glanced back tiredly at Zack and hoped he wouldn't mention them again tonight. He just didn't care enough to start moving again.

Locking the door behind him, Zack glanced at their closet, then over at Cloud seemed rather fatigued. It didn't seem like he'd get up willingly until morning. Not that anyone could blame him, after that recent scare in the reactor. Hopefully... it wouldn't happen again.

Yawning, Zack pulled off his own shoes and left them beside the door before lazily making his way towards their bed and collapsing onto it.

"If your stomach still hurts or anything, let me know... " Zack mumbled drowsily as he buried his face in his pillow.

As soon as Zack entered the bed, Cloud scooted over and lay against him - it was a habit by now - replacing his spiky head on the pillow as well. "Goodnight, Zack." he murmured, pawing at the man's arm hopefully. Last night they'd kissed... he wondered if they'd do the same today. Some variables might have affected that, he didn't know... tonight, Zack had been kissed by Aerith... and the two of them had before that, in the playground. Did that fill the kiss-quota for the day? It aggravated him... the concept was such a simple one, and he knew he'd understood it more fully once, but now... it was a mechanic that still puzzled the boy.

"Hm..?" Zack looked up and smiled softly. "Night, Spike," the man said, pressing a light kiss on the blonde's lips. He paused a moment, wondering if now would be a good time to mention Aerith. After all this time, even he wasn't exactly sure if they were still "together" and if Aerith was under that same impression.

While he now knew that he loved Cloud, that didn't mean he didn't care for Aerith. His feelings for her had merely changed into more of a... brotherly thing.

"Earlier... did what Aerith did upset you?" he asked kindly, turning on to his side so that he was completely facing Cloud.

The broad grin that had briefly spread over the boy's face went away with the 'serious talk' Zack had brought up. He opened his eyes again and stared at the other solemnly before hanging his head down and giving a noncommittal shrug, followed by a bashful nod. He wrapped his fingers around a bit of the hemline of Zack's shirt, working it in his hand stressfully.

"Ah... I'm sorry," Zack apologized sincerely as he placed one hand comfortingly over Cloud's, where he was playing with the fabric in such a distressed manner.

"That was more of a friendly goodbye than anything else. Like... " he trailed off, looking for words to describe the kiss Aerith had given him, "If a friend were to kiss you on the cheek, he cares about you. But not like he would to a lover."

"Are we lovers, Zack?" Cloud asked instantly, unhooking his fingers from the hem of Zack's shirt to lock them together with the other man's. He looked up innocently into his eyes, blinking.

That one caught him off guard, and Zack floundered a moment for answers.

"Well, uh... " he started, furrowing his brow. "Not exactly," the elder said carefully, not wanting to upset Cloud, "I mean yes, we love each other, but we haven't exactly... made love... yet?" Zack finished, though it sounded more like a question than a complete answer.

Cloud nodded in understanding, closing his eyes again and curling up, keeping his vicelike hold on the other's hand. "When will we do that?" he asked quietly a moment later, almost as an afterthought.

Maybe he should have just kept his mouth shut...

"When you're ready," Zack answered, hesitating a moment before adding, "When we're both ready. But for now ... get some sleep, okay? You can ask more questions tomorrow."

Nodding again, the boy went silent and still beside him. His grip on Zack's hand loosened slightly, but stayed in place. It wasn't long before his breathing had evened and he'd fallen into slumber.


That following morning, Zack awoke to the rather harsh sounding ringing of his PHS, which also was vibrating rather rudely against the side of his leg. Ah, right, he'd never bothered to take it out of his pocket... Groaning softly and trying not to disturb Cloud, he reached for his phone and flipped it open.

"Hello?" he muttered.

"Oh! Did I call at a bad time?" Wedge's voice on the other end asked.

"No, no... you've got me awake now. What's up?" Zack yawned.

"Ah. Well, sorry for waking you up. I was wondering if you'd want to come down and help for another mission down at Sector 5."

Again? As if they hadn't caused enough destruction last night… although, Zack had been a little more concerned about Cloud at the time to have seen the extent of their damage.

"Sure, I guess... "

"Okay, great!" Wedge said brightly across the line, "Tifa's running the show this time, so be here on time when we need you. There'll be food!" he said this last part most excitedly. "See ya then!" then he hung up.

Cloud blearily looked up as the call ended, his hair even more frazzled than usual. His eyes were barely half open and he looked generally unhappy to already be awake.

"Huh. It sounds more like a party than a mission," Zack mused as he threw his phone haphazardly onto the end table beside their bed.

Turning his gaze over to Cloud, the man gave a small, apologetic smile. "Sorry. Did I wake you?" he asked, trying to get some of Cloud's hair into "order", purely out of curiosity to see if it would actually neaten up some.

The hair stuck up stubbornly, despite Zack's messing with it. Cloud shook his head and rubbed at one of his eyes. He sat in the middle of the bed, surrounded by blankets, with his hands in his lap looking confused for a little while before something seemed to occur to him. He seemed to pop up, bounced out of his bed, and ran over to the table where the bag from the previous night was sitting. He slipped the dictionary from it and plopped back down on the chair, opening it up to the first page.

A... Aardvark... a large nocturnal burrowing mammal...

...oookay. Cloud had woken up pretty quick. Zack shook his head exasperatedly and wordlessly watch the blonde scan through the contents of the book before finally walking over to him and placing his hand over Cloud's eyes.

"Hey, you, no reading until you've brushed your teeth, got it?" Zack asked with a small grin, even though the blonde couldn't see it.

Cloud gave a childish groan and set the dictionary down, getting to his feet and hurrying off to the bathroom. Once he got there, it occurred to him that he should probably put on new clothes and try and do something with his hair too. He made a face at himself in the mirror while squirting too much toothpaste onto his brush. That would seriously cut into his dictionary-reading time. Oh well... it had to be done. He couldn't go anywhere looking like this... and from what little he overheard of the phone conversation, there was a meeting scheduled… sometime.

It was still fairly early in the morning in any case, so Zack only rolled his eyes at his friend's behavior before wandering towards their bed and digging out the other book in the bag.

Settling down on the edge of the bed and skimming through his purchase, Zack waited for Cloud to vacate the bathroom so he'd be able to use it next. Chocobo-berry waffles ... hmm, they looked pretty good...

Cloud took a characteristically long time before coming back out and setting upon the drawer with his new clothes in it. He found something apparently adequate and began to undress, once again ignorant of modesty and not waiting for Zack to exit the room.

Automatically looking up when Cloud had exited, Zack started to say that he'd give making breakfast a try when he noticed the blonde's rather apparent nakedness.

"Aw, Cloud! For the love of..." he broke off his sentence as he brought the book up to cover his eyes. Zack stayed like this for several moments, then... he risked a peek over the top of the book.

By the time Zack looked up again, Cloud had already pulled on boxers, and had gotten a pair of jeans most of the way up. He finally worked them over his butt and snapped them closed. The blonde was oblivious to Zack's watching him, and probably couldn't have cared less if he caught him anyway. A black wifebeater completed the ensemble, and he went back to sit at his chair in front of the dictionary.

Abacus... a device for making arithmetic calculations, consisting of a frame set with rods on which balls or beads are moved.

Well, this hadn't been a particularly helpful purchase yet.

"Hmm, cute," Zack smiled, pressing the blonde's nose as he passed by on his way to grab his own clothes. Cloud's nose scrunched up from the touch, and he raised his heavy book a little higher in front of his face as future defense after Zack left.

There hadn't been anything inside the cookbook, from what he'd seen so far, that they had the materials to make, but there was probably at least one thing somewhere in there that he could make.

Minutes later after Zack had left the bathroom, he wasn't surprised to see that Cloud was still flipping through the dictionary.

"Learn anything useful?" he asked as he walked lazily towards the kitchen.

"Not yet." Cloud sighed softly, already beginning to thumb through the pages rather than read them from cover to cover like he'd been planning to do. He'd only gotten halfway through the A's. This way, there was a better chance of catching a glimpse of something he knew, and reading those words individually… perhaps it would go faster that way. "You?" he asked curiously, "What's for breakfast?"

"Good question," Zack responded, running a hand through his hair. "I'll find something. Keep looking in that dictionary," he encouraged, stopping to retrieve his book before retreating into the kitchen. "But if you get bored and want to come help me, let me know!" the man laughed as he thumbed through the pages.

Cloud seemed skeptical about this idea, looking up from his book and eyeing Zack, "...but last time I helped, there was..." oh, wait, he knew this word! It started with an 'f'... he held up one finger as a motion for the other to wait as he looked back down and rapidly flipped pages across, that finger lowering to trace down the length of the page as he looked for it. Aha! "...there was fire." he finished up.

Fire... it clicked into place in his head, like the puzzle-piece that some gaping hole had always meant to house, but it brought with it unpleasant things. Heat, he felt it crawling up his body on all sides, sweat dripping down... he tasted acrid smoke and ash, smelled it, felt his eyes burn with it. He saw the red light flickering across the ruined walls of Nibelheim, across what had once been his house, giving life to the shadows of the dead, making them dance even as their corpses stood still.

"No..." he moaned softly, clutching his head and lowering it down toward his knees, curling up on the chair and pressing his face to the insides of the book. "No, I don't want to..." he decided.

The sudden silence after the sound of Cloud's page flipping made Zack poke his head from out of the kitchen doorway just as the blonde started speaking again.

Fire... well, he knew Cloud had a particularly bad relationship with that certain word. Were they bringing flashbacks? He frowned. It had to be...

"Alright. Keep reading then. I'll be finished soon," Zack promised, ducking back inside and moving more quickly through the contents of the book. He paused at one picture. Sausage omelettes. That looked simple enough. Clamping his book shut, Zack made for the refrigerator and started pulling out the various ingredients.

Slowly, Cloud nodded, recovering and doing what he was told. He kept reading, page by page his blue eyes danced across the patterns of words, looking for something he recognized. He found 'gun', he found 'happy', he found 'Ifrit', he found 'mako', 'materia', 'murder', he found 'Nibelheim'... he stopped... and he stared for a while. Then he closed the book and turned to the binding on the side to find a publishing date. Ah yes, it was ten years old. They wouldn't have added the fact that Nibelheim was only ashes now... or they hadn't just gotten rid of the entry alltogether or whatever ShinRa did. Either way, the thoughts went buzzing through Cloud's mind, and he was done for now... besides, whatever Zack was making seemed to have not burned, and smelled quite good. Setting the book on the table in front of him, he stood and wandered into the kitchen.

When Cloud had entered, Zack looked up from the sizzling pan as he slid two nicely cooked omelettes onto their plates.

"Ah, come to visit me?" he grinned, offering a plate to the blonde so that they could both take one back to the small table. "Since this attempt wasn't a total disaster, I'm rather proud of myself. Tell me how it tastes," Zack said, sliding out a chair and sitting down.

Cloud sat down across the table from Zack, pulling his plate over and carefully cutting off a bite for himself. He slipped the steaming piece into his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "It's delicious." he put emphasis on the new word. It basically meant the same thing as 'good' did, only specifically referred to food. It was only after relearning all these things that Cloud was beginning to realize how truly unnecessary most of the language was. It could still be used quite effectively if simplified. These idle musings played through his mind as he continued to eat, no longer dwelling on the darker thoughts that had chased him from his book and into this room.

"Awesome," Zack stopped to say before helping himself to his own share of omelette. He nodded approvingly. "Not bad." The two continued eating their breakfast in silence until Zack finally placed down his fork and looked at Cloud seriously.

"Okay, Cloud. Today, we're seriously going to give you some heavy-duty training with that new sword of yours. Sound cool?"

At this, Cloud perked up. Sword training! It was exactly what he wanted to do! He wanted to learn... to be taught by Zack. Zack was an expert in his art... and if he did well enough fast enough, soon he'd be battling right beside him. Last night didn't count. He'd had to sneak out after him, and he'd gotten hurt, and in general it had been a huge disaster. Things would be different from now on. "Sounds awesome." he grinned.

"Great, 'cause by the time I'm through with you, you won't be able to feel your arms and legs," Zack laughed, placing the last of his meal into his mouth before dropping his fork onto his plate. "Hmm. We'll start with some basic stuff... Squats – plenty of those – push-ups, crunches, stretching exercises..." he absently listed off as he stood.

With every respective exercise that Zack listed, Cloud's face fell more and more... well, it made perfect sense. He had the strength, now, to use his sword... though not the stamina to keep going with it for very long. He wasn't particularly acrobatic - infantrymen didn't need to know that, so he'd never been taught. Still, it seemed really un-fun... and as if there wouldn't be all that much actual sword training happening for a while. By the time Zack had finished with his list he was staring disappointedly at the ground, nudging the remaining eggs around his plate.

Looking back to see Cloud's crestfallen expression, Zack couldn't help but give a small smile. "Aw, c'mon Spike, it's not that bad. That isn't nearly half the stuff Angeal made me do," the black-haired man sighed with a shake of his head as he turned back to ruffle Cloud's hair. "We'll get started as soon as you finish those eggs."