Title: Warrantee Service (a 'Making It Work' omake)
Summary: Something is bugging Cloud and Zack has been ordered to fix it. First he has to find out what it is.
Disclaimer: If I owned it I wouldn't have debt
Warnings: Language, mention of M/M and M/M+
AN: Inspired by looking out my window every single day this week! On the up side, the lawn looks really green. On the down side, now I need to mow it.
Zack resisted the urge to shake his body like a wet dog. One, it would only piss off anyone in the vicinity—nobody needed more water, and two, it wouldn't help.
Even though the mess tent was made up of two layers of treated material it still leaked… like a gods-damned sieve actually. Or maybe it was just the built up humidity dripping off the top. It was possible; it was both warm enough and wet enough for condensation to form fast enough to make it seem like it was raining indoors. So he didn't shake. Instead he pressed a flat hand over his head and shivered as the warmish water ran in sheets down his neck joining the moisture that was making the uniform one of Ifrit's hells. The southern jungles during the monsoon season—joy.
And they were only two weeks in…
He looked around the tent for his target, easily spotting the bright blond spikes even though the owner was half a head shorter than just about everyone else. Cloud was surrounded by soldiers, regular and enhanced, like he usually was these days. He was also scowling, large eyes stormy in his cute kitten face. Also like he usually was these days.
The SOLDIER had been ordered by his large and very dangerous CO (who'd been glowering and holding his 2-meter phallic symbol at the time) to 'fix it'. Find out what was wrong with Cloud and fix it, were Sephiroth's exact words because, Zack guessed, whatever was bothering the sergeant, Cloud wasn't talking to his lover about it either. And, okay, the blond wasn't an unending ray of sunshine at the best of times but he wasn't usually a grumpy pants either so, whatever was bothering was probably pretty major if Sephiroth couldn't get it out of him.
Stubborn mountain-headed mule…
As he made his way to the far side of the tent where Cloud was making his slow way through a sea of soldiers—male and female—Zack went over everything he could think that might have his buddy into a dark little thundercloud.
They'd come out of Nibelheim okay, better than because Hojo was dead and they weren't, so it was all good there. Cloud had also received a promotion to Sergeant, not because of Sephiroth either, but because the Captain he'd saved in the reactor had recommended it and then the Nibelheimer had passed the exam just like a regular soldier so no one could accuse anyone of favouritism (but they had, of course). Still, that was nearly a year ago and the muttering about that had mostly died down. Then Seph had appointed the new Sergeant Strife to be his Adjutant and the gossiping wind-bags had something new to mutter about. And they had. But things had been getting better because dealing with Cloud was so much easier than dealing with a pissed off Sephiroth (to a factor of eleventy million) and everyone appreciated leaving the General's office with their heads still attached to their bodies. Plus the little guy had turned out to be frighteningly efficient and tenacious and competent. And he was a freaking godsend in a clerical sense. Letters and reports he wrote always made sense and never assumed you were a fucking clairvoyant able to read Seph's mind from a continent away.
So, even though everyone knew that Cloud had been given the position because the General wanted his sweetie within bellowing range (not that Seph bellowed but, whatever, technicalities), they'd mostly stopped giving the little blond a hard time about it. Therefore institutionalized teasing, bullying or general assholery was probably out.
Maybe it was the lack of privacy here in the field, the SOLDIER mused.
He'd rousted a few disappointed lurkers from prime eavesdropping spots around the General's tent. It wasn't unusual; there'd always been fans who wanted to 'get private' with the silver-haired warrior or assholes who wanted to 'get the scoop' on Seph so they could sell it for big bucks. And, gods knew, it was practically impossible to get any privacy in an army camp (especially a small one). Since neither Sephiroth nor Cloud were stupid, it was a safe bet that they knew people were listening. He'd worked with Seph long enough to recognize his unrelieved sexual tension look. Maybe Cloud was just as blue-balled as the General and that was causing his frowny face of doom.
Ah well, he'd soon find out because if there was one thing Zack did well, it was bug his friends into divulging all their problems.
He moved through the crowded tent easily, using his height, his smile and his elbows with reckless abandon, until he'd reached his target.
"Holy fuck, Cloud, look at all that shit?" It wasn't what he'd planned to say but, really, it was a valid response because, holy shit. The pile of goodies on his plate was twice as big as it had been yesterday (which had been better than the day before's).
Cloud's tray was piled up with treats of all size and description. Everything from pudding cups (Zack saw chocolate, butterscotch and vanilla), to bottled beer (cold beer, Zack could see the condensation running down the side), and all manner of fresh fruit. There was a mango (fucking loved mangoes as a kid), a package of strawberries and he could even see the pearly-blue tone of a Banora White apple (which set up an uncomfortable tingle in Zack's gut because that had been Genesis' favourite treat and he was supposed to be dead but probably wasn't… which didn't help Zack's tingles any).
As Zack took in the over-flowing magnificence that was Cloud's dinner tray (obviously, Zack had timed this conversation perfectly), he was completely oblivious to the young Sergeant's deepening scowl.
"Man, if you weren't already taken, and by Sephiroth, I'd say the troops were totally courting you." The SOLDIER casually swiped one of his friend's donated chocolate bars (Mideel's other export and much better than freaking weaving).
"It's not my fault," Cloud spat out. He huffed and stomped over to an empty table.
"Probably not. After all I met your mom. You can totally blame her genetic heritage for your good looks." He was happily stuffing the last of the chocolate in his mouth and thinking about what to grab next when he noticed Cloud looking at him with wide, horrified eyes. "What?"
Cloud swallowed, "Please tell me you are not perving on my mother."
Well... when he put it that way. Zack could feel his cheeks heating. "What?" he repeated but with less confusion and more apology. "It's not my fault she's a really good looking woman and I'm a healthy male–"
"With a girlfriend."
"–in my sexual prime. And having a girlfriend doesn't make me blind." He chose the mango and carefully cut it into sections. "C'mon, it's not like I'm going to do anything about it. After all, I haven't jumped your bones yet and I've got Aerith's approval for that."
Cloud dropped his head into his hands, "That is so weird. I cannot believe she told you it was okay to have a gay threesome with me and the General."
Zack grinned, "What can I say? She loves me and wants me to be happy."
Cloud just groaned and dropped his head even lower. Zack knew the blond was hiding his flaming red cheeks in his arms and shook his head in disbelief. Nearly a year in the top level of ShinRa's management, where corruption and sexual misconduct were everyday events, and the kid still blushed like a virgin. It was kinda cute.
He snagged the beer and opened it. Cloud practically growled at him which both persuaded Zack to hand back the cold drink and reminded him of his original purpose in coming over (the food was just a bonus). "So Seph sent me to find out why you're so snarky. If it's lack of sex I found the perfect place for you two to sneak away for some noogie. You know, if you don't stop frowning, you're going to develop lines right there." He reached out a finger and poked the notch between his friend's brows. Then he carefully wiped off the salt that had probably transferred from the fries he'd been eating.
Cloud just stared at him before grabbing a napkin and doing it himself. "Haven't you heard of 'tact'?"
"Sure I have," he smiled around the greasy goodness, "I use them to hold up notes and maps and stuff in the strategy room." He grinned harder at his friend's pained expression. He did try to keep the food hidden because, ew, nobody needed to see that. It was one of the few rules of behaviour that he and Aerith actually agreed on. Well, and that having a three-way with his buds would be totally okay…
"Zack, you've been coming up to me nearly every mealtime, right?"
"Yeah, 'course. You have the best food." He'd moved on to the chicken fingers, so hot and crisp despite the muggy heat. And the dipping sauce was fucking yummy!
"Haven't you wondered why I have such great food?"
Zack paused. He hadn't, actually. It was enough to know that his best bud would have the good stuff and he would let Zack eat half of it.
"I mean," Cloud continued, "It's not like sushi and beer are on the regular menu."
Zack remembered that sushi. It had been good sushi. No fresh fish of course, not in this heat, but tasty little combinations of veggies and spice that had exploded with flavour. Little pieces of Wutaian heaven and definitely not part of ShinRa's army rations; Cloud was right about that.
He swallowed the last bit of chicken (which had also been heavenly but in a completely different way). "So why do you always have such good food? You have some kind of deal going on? Are the Silver Elite smuggling in goodies in return for naked pictures of you and Seph?"
Once again, all Cloud could do was stare.
"I'd pose naked for cold beer," the SOLDIER said with absolute seriousness.
"Tell me again, why I let you be my friend?" Cloud's voice was filled with stoic disgust but there was an edge to it that said the blond was close to growling again. He looked like a pissed-off kitten but there was no way Zack would ever let that opinion out of his mouth. He was only an idiot when he wanted to be.
Zack shrugged, "I've been trying to come up with reasons you're grumpy, not with why your tray looks like the side table at one of Rufus' parties. And, honestly, I can't see how food like that could make you upset."
Cloud glared at him. He pulled in a huge breath, visibly expanding his ribcage, then he spoke, firm and hard. "I am receiving gifts of food because my mother decided that Goblin Island had a cute naming tradition. The first thing she saw when labour began was a cloud so that's what she called me. It was supposed to be unusual," he panted, grabbed another breath and continued. "It is not the 'mark'," the finger quotes came out, "of the gods. I am not a conduit to Ramuh. Making me 'offerings' will not appease me because I do not control the weatherandI am not a freaking rain cloud!"
Zack didn't even mind having to wash five different pudding cups out of his hair. It was worth it to be able to laugh that hard. How could he have known that reminding Cloud there were two more months of monsoon season would have such an effect?
At least he'd managed to grab the beer...