Smoking had always been a solitary habit for him. In Nibelheim, his mother would have had his head for it, so he had been forced to wait until the late hours, sneaking into the night to poison his lungs with delicious nicotine. It hadn't changed since he'd joined the ranks of the Shinra army, having had little time to himself aside from lunch breaks and before going to bed. It was an escape for him now, a ten minute break to collect the loose ends and think.

Sighing, he watched with interest as the milky curls folded into the atmosphere. He couldn't decipher which of them were smoke and which were simply his breath dancing into the frigid weather, but it was fun to watch either way. He found it artistic in its simplicity. His lungs burned as he took a deep drag on the stale tobacco, savoring the feel of hurting from the inside instead of from his many surface wounds, and finally exhaled. Dependably, the smoke rushed from his lungs and slowed in the air, in no great hurry to disperse.

It had been a hard day.

They were camping...somewhere. His commanding officer, Zackary Fair, and his fellow cadets had been ordered into the snowy mountains for survival training, but as with all instruction, the focus never stayed on one objective. As a result, there were sword battles and fist spars, verbal assaults and nonverbal wars. Being in the SOLDIER program was very tiresome, and though his body was exhausted, he was thankful for the momentary solitude away from his tent. He was mentally alert and knew he would not be falling asleep for at least another hour, but even as he surveyed the snow-dusted valley that sprawled before him, his mind did not pick up on an approaching figure.

As he closed his eyes to savor the next hit on his cigarette, a large, boisterous man plopped down beside him.

It was momentarily embarrassing that he coughed out the smoke.

"Smoking's bad for ya, you know." Calloused fingers plucked the half-burnt tobacco from his hands and placed it between grinning lips. He watched, amused, as the man inhaled deeply and returned the butt-end to him. As the other talked, smoke furled out of his mouth and nostrils. "Against Shinra protocol."

"Commander Fair," he acknowledged with a hint of humor to his voice, "I'll be sure to cut back."

In truth, he didn't know his commanding officer that well, but the man had an air about him that forced one to relax. He was attractive and good-natured, always looking out for ways to help someone instead of harass them. His advice had helped Cloud a great deal and his limited attentions had always left the blond feeling inspired and ambitious. He continued to smoke without fear of reprimand.

"What are you doing sitting out here in the cold?"

"Thinking." He paused to maneuver the butt between his fingertips before flicking it over the side. "Can't sleep."

"Yeah, me neither. I was never a cold weather guy." As if to refute his statement, Zack slid onto his back into the snow, head pillowed by his abundance of black hair. "You did a good job in your training today. I went a little harder on you than the others."

Joining his companion on the ground, Cloud smiled. "Thanks." A moment of silence passed between them as they admired the stars—visible now, away from the city—before the cadet spoke up once more. "I don't mean to be rude, sir, but why are you here?"

"Saw you sittin' out here smokin' all by yourself. Came to discipline you."

He couldn't help but snort in laughter. "Discipline me? By talking?"

"Stranger things have happened." Vibrant hazel eyes met a duller blue. "Besides, you're always alone. It's enough to make a guy worry."

"I'm alright. I never really had a lot of friends."

"Oh yeah? What about a girlfriend, eh? Bet she misses you while you're stuck all the way out here."

Instead of the wistful smile and romantic rant he had been expecting, Zackary Fair received only a somewhat flat sigh.

"I don't have a girlfriend."

"Oh. Boyfriend, then?"

Cloud choked briefly, and sat up to stare down at his officer. "Excuse me?"

Zack grinned. "Good lookin' kid like you must have someone tied down. If it ain't a girl, there's only one other option."

"I'm flattered, but I'm single, sir." The blond recruit felt a laugh bubbling from his gut but suppressed it at the mischievous twinkle in Zack's eye. "...what?"

"Want one?"

"Excuse me?"

The raven-haired man sat up and cheerfully pointed his finger at Cloud. "I said, would you like one?"

"A...a boyfriend? I--"

"What, never been with a guy before? Or is it just not what you're into?"

"You're—and I—and we're at—"

Zack watched, intrigued, as Cloud sputtered for a few more moments. The younger of the two finally calmed somewhat, however, and in lieu of appropriate words, glared at him.

"Yeah, I figured. Sorry to assume."

"I don't know what I'm into." Zack noticed that Cloud's ears had turned rosy. "I...haven't had a chance to find out."

The cold was beginning to bite at his muscles now, Mako having staved the chill off for quite sometime, but the officer hardly felt it through his shock. "'ve never..."

"No." The voice was somewhat offended. "I haven't."

"Not even once?"

"I don't see what the big deal is--"

"Well, shit!" There was an imprint of a man's body left behind as Zack hopped gracefully to his feet. "That's a damned shame. Come with me."

Cloud's body was frozen, and it wasn't from the snow. "What?"

"I said, come with me. I'll order you if I have to."

"We could be court marshaled for--"

"Not when your best friend is the most powerful man in the world. Now, come with me to my tent, Cloud. That's an order."

Trembling slightly, the cadet followed his commanding officer with great trepidation, darting his eyes from tent to tent to ensure that nobody would see them. The number of rules they were breaking in doing this was greater than Cloud cared to tally, and while Zack was easily saved by his status and company, Cloud was not.

Cloud Strife was expendable.

He followed obediently, however, driven somewhat by curiosity and mostly out of habit. One tended to follow automatically after a few "That is an order!"s thrown at them.

Zack's tent was almost exactly the same like the rest of the recruits'.

There was a cot in the corner, a small bag of clothes, and two large binders scattered across the floor. The only difference Cloud could see was that the tent was marginally bigger. He watched idly as his officer kicked off his boots before shuffling through the duffel bag on the floor. After a second blanket was retrieved, he chucked it onto the bed and looked at his blond friend expectantly.

"Come on, I don't bite on the first date." Dark hair bounced as the man sunk onto the cot and patted the space beside him.

If Cloud were honest with himself, he felt like a teenage girl.

His feet carried him across the tent to the cot and then bent, placing him gingerly onto the rough fabric. He expected to be taken cautiously into warm hands, kissed gently and slowly, and then asked if he was alright—after all, that's what happened in the movies he'd seen.

It was why the squeak made its way out of the younger man when he was suddenly plowed into and pinned.

There was a mouth on his, rough and abrasive but sensual, and Cloud couldn't help but surrender to the forceful advances. That wasn't to say that he minded—there was something delicious about the spontaneity, about the teeth that closed around his bottom lip (apparently Zackary Fair did bite on the first date), about the way that Zack's stubble scratched at his face and the way the man's tongue filled his mouth with a slick, sweet dance.

It wasn't what he'd been expecting, no, but it was certainly something he'd like to continue.

When they both came up for air, Zack's hand was pinning Cloud's head to the pillow. The blond could feel the warm callouses pressing against his forehead and relished it, trying to take in the shock and the heat of it all. He'd never been taken control of before, had never put himself in a place were opportunity would allow it, and although he was a little scared of it, it was...thrilling.

To be in Zack's capable hands, to be trained in forbidden acts and breaking rules...It was exhilarating.


He allowed his eyes to slide open at the unexpected pet name.

"...You alright?"

There it was.

"You swear to whoever that I'm not going to get reamed for this come tomorrow morning?"

In the gentle, hazel glow that bled from Zack's gaze, a chuckle warmed the atmosphere. "Provided you're not video taping this to send to the suits."

He couldn't help but laugh, finally catching up to the giddy rush of the situation. "Then yeah, I'm alright." He slid his leg around the other man so that he could stretch out, and then he did something unexpected: he slowly pulled his commanding officer down to him by the collar.

Cloud whispered to him, then: "What else don't you do on the first date?"

Raven brows rose high at the proposition, and as badly as the man wanted to delve into his new catch, he paused. "Cloud, before we start anything, I want you to know that I don't share." A familiar smile found its way to the officer's lips. "If we do this, we do it for keeps. I'm not giving you up to some low-ranking son of a—"


The man paused.

"Don't worry about it." He offered a rare smile. "Now, are you going to be my commander or are you going to stall some more?"

Zack let out a small moan, then, and buried his face into the side of the blond's neck. Between kisses, he murmured confessions: "You have no idea how long I've been wanting to do this." Kiss. "You're the hottest thing to come through here since I was a recruit," kiss, "and I'm really sorry if this traumatizes you," kiss, "but I figured it was better than throwing you down in the middle of a spar," kiss, "in front of your class," kiss, "though I still might, so watch out."

The man paused to look up at his soon-to-be-lover and blinked owlishly. "I promise I will take super good care of you if I break something."

Cloud laughed with him, though he tried to stifle it in the wild array of black spikes tickling his chin. It felt incredible to him to be desired, to be the one sought after instead of always seeking. Zack's hands on his body were exhilarating and his attentions fierce, and Cloud fought hard not to let his shyness get the better of him. "Do you always go after green recruits?"

"No, I usually go after women."


A laugh bubbled against his chest dangerously close to pink flesh, and the breath that brushed across the peaked landscape brought gooseflesh to his skin. "Had to make an exception for you."

"What are you saying?" It was hard to sound indignant when you had teeth gently tugging at your nipple. "Do I look that much like a girl?"

Playful eyes caught his for a moment. "No, you're in a league of your own. Believe me."

The only sounds that filled the tent for the next several minutes were breathy gasps and deep, but quiet moans. Fabric slid against fabric as clothes were removed and discarded, hair was pulled and the indelicate sounds of flesh on flesh permeated the atmosphere. There were pained groans and even a few tears, but in the end, two names were gasped silently into the chilled night air and the figures collapsed, spent, onto the army-issued cot.

As he lay there catching his breath, Cloud could feel Zack's heavy heartbeat fluttering against his back. The officer had an arm thrown around the blond possessively, holding him tight against his body and pinning him to the mattress. They were still connected, one buried deep within the other, and as the larger of the two settled from his hot, silky high, he suckled hungrily at a pale canvas of flesh.

The recruit knew he'd have marks in the morning. He knew from the feeling of fullness stretching him still, and from the way it throbbed raw and electric, that he wouldn't be able to perform well in his sword katas, either. Somehow, though, somehow it all seemed worth it. It was the beginning of an almost impossible relationship, and Cloud knew that whatever it turned into, he was somebody's something, and that was more than he'd had before.

When he turned to get out of bed, he was scolded with a deep rumble and a tighter grip. "Zack, I can't sleep here."

"Why?" The voice was sleepy and satisfied. "Not enough pillows?"

"What will people say when I walk out of your tent tomorrow?"

A nose found its way into the blond's golden tresses. "Whatever they want. Doesn't matter." Teeth nibbled idly at an ear lobe. "If you've forgotten, I'm the second highest ranking member of this army, and you're mine now. Ain't shit they can do." The larger man finally disengaged, spooning languidly against the smaller body and effectively imprisoning him. "So relax," a light kiss landed behind his ear, "and get some sleep."

"Is that an order?"

There was a chuckle, and then: "Yes, Strife. That's an order."