Cloud woke with a splitting headache and every little muscle and bone in him hurting with thrumming bouts of pain. He couldn't remember how he got into a warm bed and even more alarmed that he wasn't aware of how he managed to leave the lab after his injection since the room was spinning around him.

A soft touch on his shoulder made him spin around faster than he'd intended to, all his senses jumping. He could hear a clattering of metal somewhere on the other side of the closed door and the scent of food tickling his noise, the very air unnerved his skin and made him want to run his hands up and down his arms. His own tongue was picking up the taste of dust every time he inhaled and the want to cough was unbearable. The lights were still harsh to his eyes, but not as bad as when he'd first been injected. When the room finally stopped spinning and he was able to focus his gaze again he saw Zack sitting patiently on the other side of the bed.

"Hey you," the First Class whispered quietly. "How are you feeling?"

His first impulse was to nod but Cloud quickly dismissed that idea as soon as it came. If the room spun this badly when he wasn't even moving he didn't want to imagine the pain that would come if he willingly made the room shift. "Fine," he croaked. Shinra how badly he sounded. What would he kill for some water.

And his prayers were answered. Zack turned around to the nightstand closest to him and held out a small glass of water and a couple of pills. "It's better to just jet them to the back of your throat," he warned as the blonde picked up the white tablets. "You're still on a bit of high right now, you might've noticed." He was still speaking so softly and Cloud would've died happy knowing how careful he was being not to overshoot his hearing by talking normally, but then he also felt bad that Zack was trying to push out his zealous and jumpy personality just to be near him. He didn't want either of the two First Classes to have to adjust to him. That wasn't right at all.

As instructed he popped the pills to the back of his throat and was grateful that they didn't touch his sensitized tongue when he swallowed the glass of water afterwards. Just as he did the door creaked open and the only thing that kept Cloud jumping at the unusually loud noise was Zack's firm hand on his shoulder. Sephiroth nodded apologetically and set a tray of the delicious smelling food in front of him.

"You should get something in your stomach. You haven't been sick for a few hours so it should stay down." Cloud nodded and picked up the spoon in a shaking hand, feeling the nicks and the coolness of the metal surprisingly well. Now that he saw food he realized just how starving he was while at the same time how tense his stomach was. It was at this very moment he was glad he'd come up here and had a home cooked meal before his injection because the soup he ate now was nothing compared to what Sephiroth had made before. It was good by all means, the texture and the tastes pooling over his tongue and making his mouth water with each bite while the scent of it made his nose want to inhale faster than normal, but nothing would rise up to the steak he had before even with his enhanced senses while on the mako high.

When he finished the small bowl of soup and drank a little more water he pushed the tray away. His stomach felt full and he was happily satisfied. But when he made to ask a question he got the first syllable out before his ears rang unhappily at the loud sound and he flinched horribly. Smooth fingers massaged his temples comfortingly and he sighed at the feeling, letting his hands drop in his lap. "Quietly," Zack reminded him in an equally silent voice.

"How did you know I was in the lab," he asked again, now using an adopted whisper just as Sephiroth pulled his hands away.

Zack grinned and pointed at the General. "He was checking the tardiness records so we can weed out the cadets that would make good Soldiers from the ones that would hold us back. Funny guy that he is he wanted to know what you'd be doing today and immediately got curious at all the excused absences in your schedule. Thank Shinra for the special notes box or you'd be feeling a lot worse if you'd stayed in that lab."

"Speaking of," Sephiroth started and Cloud felt himself shivering at the sound of his silky voice reaching his ears. "Why didn't you tell us this morning that you had a mako injection?"

Cloud shrugged and looked down at his hands. His temporarily improved vision easily picked out the faint, near invisible line of a scar on his palm that was left from the glass. He'd never noticed it so quickly before. "It didn't seem very important at the time," he finally told them, remembering just as he opened his mouth to keep his voice quiet. He was suddenly a lot happier that both of them were top First Class Soldiers who'd been through this before.

Changing tactics, Sephiroth settled on the edge of the bed with a pleased grin. "We can be glad for your serious reaction to the mako injection," he noted offhandedly. Zack quickly caught on, but kept himself from jumping up and down excitedly while Cloud looked at both of them carefully.

"Yeah, yeah," the violet-eyed Soldier agreed. "It means your immune system is super good for rejecting it. That makes a really great Soldier. It almost means that you're going to be an awesome addition when your mako level evens out. It's one of the reasons Shinra gives the injections to cadets rather than to Third Class."

At Cloud's confused expression he explained. "Cadets with weak immune systems can easily deal with the mako. We look out for those people and they're the ones that are asked to leave the program before the Third Class initiation. Those with bad immunity tend to catch the worst of the viruses out there when they're finally allowed out on missions and don't last long." Cloud bit his lip but was quick to release it before he could do anything bad with his bettered abilities. He knew someone who shared his room that had said the injections had been nothing to him and then later imagined him with some dangerous disease on his first mission, he doubted the mako in his system enhanced his ability to his imagination but even that thought made him blanch. Sephiroth held up the trashcan thinking he was going to be sick again, but Cloud shook his head.

"Get some more sleep, Cloud," Zack suggested, petting his hair back. "It should be settled by tomorrow morning and we'll wake you up so you can shower. The way you are now I don't think it'll be as appreciated." The blonde nodded and fell back against the soft pillows again, quickly easing into sleep.

B R E A K

Zack pushed open the door to the cadet bunks, poking his nose around as he tried to find someone who could help him. Sephiroth was busy with a stupid meeting that included his most hated scientist and the newest round of the crazy man's favorite game of 'how shall I torture Seph today'. That being the case and without a valid excuse to check the schedules on a computer he was reduced to vulgar means of finding his favorite blonde. "They're all gone," he growled when he realized there was no one in the room.

He was just about to leave when his nose caught the faint whiff of honey and almonds that he'd associated with Cloud's special scent and he moaned hungrily. If that blonde didn't figure out if he wanted to be with Seph and himself soon he'd be jumping him soon. Besides a couple of quickly stolen kisses early on and the one peck on the cheek both First Classes had gotten from Cloud nothing had happened with that part of their relationship. Zack was distressed and worried the cadet wasn't going to back out on them now.

"That munchkin can't have gone too far," the violet-eyed man argued out loud, startling a Second Class he walked by on his way to the Mess Hall. Despite the fact that he'd had regular injections in the lab for the past month and a half he was still woozy, much to Sephiroth's and Zack's delight at just how strong his immune system was, along with four or five other cadets. Other than that the rest of the potential Soldiers were all dealing with their injections and their levels were starting to get charted. Having had a recent injection the day before and spent another night on Sephiroth's couch, Cloud couldn't have been up for anything but his usual classes but there weren't any on schedule as far as he knew that Saturday afternoon.

That's when he spotted a few of the cadets in a table in the corner and hurried over to them. None of them were looking worse for wear and Zack recognized one of them as someone who Sephiroth was going to meeting the next day to ask him to leave the program. Poor sucker never stood a chance, he could hardly run around the track and his mako injections were nothing from the start. Either way, there was no reason Zack couldn't use him at the moment.

"Weller," he called, catching his and the other two cadets at attention.

The called cadet stood, saluting respectively. "Yes, sir, Fair?"

At least he had the actions down, but it wouldn't be enough to save him from his fate. He should've already gotten notice to meet with the General that morning so he was no doubt already nervous as to what was going to happen. "Do you know the whereabouts of Cadet Strife," he asked, eyeing the other cadets at the table so they'd know the question was directed at them as well.

The only cadet he knew at the table shook his head, but the one next to him nodded. "Yes, sir, I do."

"Name?"

"Cadet Stanley, sir." Zack nodded for him to continue. "Third Class Whitman told Cloud and a few other cadets to assist him in a clean out mission outside Midgar. Something about monsters trying to close in." Zack nodded, he'd heard about that. Third Classes were allowed to take those cadets that had promise to go far in the Soldier program. He'd completely forgotten about that infestation when he'd been told about it the day before. "Why weren't the rest of you called in to help," he demanded, already having his suspicions.

Weller shrugged again while the boy on the other side of him pushed up his glasses and ran his fingers through his greasy, unwashed hair. Obviously he wasn't fast enough for the timed showers. "They said we weren't needed, sir." Just like Zack had thought, these cadets were all left behind and therefore all of them problem had a meeting with Sephiroth soon to be told to leave. He nodded at them and left.

So Cloud was outside of Midgar for the day. How could he have forgotten that simple clean out missions went to cadets? He immediately went to the gates and asked for the sign out charts. He flipped through the papers and checked and double checked before he saw the red inked handwriting of the mentioned Third Class along with a group of five cadets listened underneath. Cloud was with them along with one other person Zack had noticed to have good potential. Just as he set it back down the doors creaked open and he was surprised to notice Third Class Whitman walk in with his cadets, dragging Cloud behind them.

"Cl-Strife," he shouted, immediately catching the slip he almost made. Cloud had made Seph and him promise not to call him by his given name when they didn't with any other cadet. Whitman glanced at him and saluted in greeting before he relaxed. "What happened," he ordered, setting the charts back down and hurrying over to them, biting his lip when he noticed how pale Cloud's face was.

"A cleaning job, sir," Whitman explained. "I hadn't realized Strife was queasy from injections the day before and the smell of those bastard monsters caught up with him." As they dragged him off Zack was just about to take out his PHS and text Seph about what happened when he noticed the trail of blood and tracked it easily to a bite mark in the blonde's leg. He whimpered involuntarily and followed them all the way to the lab instead.

Hojo and Sephiroth both looked up when the doors to the lab glided open and the soldier almost jumped up when he saw Cloud being hauled in and dropped off. He ignored the explanation the Third Class was giving to Hojo when the scientist demanded to know what was going on in favor of staring at Zack who was peeking in through the glass worriedly, meeting his eyes. When everyone filed out to go change and clean their equipment Zack finally came in, ignoring the irritated glare and huff sent his way when he settled in a chair next to the blonde.

"That'll be all," Sephiroth ordered when Hojo tried to resume his usual round of tests. The scientist huffed but left anyway. The General had explicably told Zack he would never let him watch Hojo when he wanted to work on him, and he felt equally nervous with Cloud laying just a short ways away from him. Even more so that the copper smell of blood was reaching his nose.

Without having to be asked Zack explained what he'd been told and Sephiroth wanted to crush something. Cloud was definitely pushing his eager-to-please attitude too far, but he blamed it mostly on Whitman at this point. A Third Class should be able to pick their teams better and should've checked cadets' schedules before picking them. If he had really done that then Cloud wouldn't have been on his list since he was still sick. They'd get on the blonde's case later. Instead he stood and shrugged back into his shirt, easily finding a row of bandages and a clean rag that he watered down. Zack took both and cleaned the bite marks on his leg before patching them up. "Good as new," he joked. Cloud just groaned and turned over onto his side.

"Cloud," Sephiroth warned, using his no-nonsense tone for the second time on the cadet. The blonde stiffened but turned painfully back over and stared into his General's green eyes, which were hinting with glow of mako now. He knew that he had choice of looking or not since he hadn't used his last name, as he usually did when commanding respect, but Cloud didn't want others to think of it as special treatment so he acted just as anyone else would if their last name had been used. "This has to stop now. You're taking it too far."

The blonde could only find the energy to shrug. The nausea was wearing off thankfully so he sat up and swung his legs over the edge of the padded bed. "Whitman asked if I would join his troop and I felt fine at that point. How was I supposed to know those things reeked like Hojo on his monthly bath day?" Zack snickered but a quick glare from Sephiroth silenced him. "I honestly would've been fine if those things hadn't smelled."

Sephiroth accepted the excuse for what it was knowing, having no other way of knowing if there was anything else without pulling rank, which he hated doing with Cloud and Zack when not around other people. Hojo would've had a field day if he knew there was someone else in his life that was just as important to him as Zack.

B R E A K

Zack stared through the crack in the bedroom door while he waited impatiently for Cloud to roam over to the bed where he had his clothes lying. It's been three months since they offered to let him into the relationship and he still only ever sleeps on the couch. He just couldn't understand what was going on. The blonde was obviously comfortable around them both. He would crack jokes at them both and certainly was up to complaining about how sore he was after a busy day. The brightest of smiles he'd ever seen came over him every time he saw them together when he hadn't seen them for a couple of days. If anything the First Class Soldier was more than one-hundred percent certain that their blonde cadet wanted to them just as much as they wanted him.

On the hand Sephiroth didn't seem bothered at all by what was going on. Sure, he stared at Cloud when he knew the blonde wouldn't notice and if Zack didn't know him as well as he knew he did he would've thought the General was more eager by the thought that Cloud was finally started to get charted for mako levels with one other person in his group. He wanted to talk to him about it, but Cloud would most certainly overhear with the mako in his system taking up permanent residence now.

"You know Cloud wouldn't appreciate you staring at him while he's trying to dress," Sephiroth noted, looking over his shoulder from where he sat on the couch.

"What would you know Mr. Self Control," Zack muttered in return, know the General could hear him while Cloud wouldn't. He continued to peek through and almost moaned aloud when said blonde came into view, dripping wet with only a towel covering his waist. "God, I want him so badly." He tore his eyes away from the sight to let him get dressed, flopping next to Sephiroth while heaving a large sigh. "I don't understand."

The General was silent, which wasn't unusual for this time of day considering it was their quiet time. However, what Zack didn't realize was what was going through his mind at that time. He, too, thought it was odd that after all the time they'd spent with Cloud their offer had neither been agreed to nor declined. While he was glad the blonde wasn't trying to push himself into anything he might regret, even the amount of time he was giving himself was becoming unusually long. He would have to address the matter the next time he managed to get a chance alone with their potential third. Zack wasn't the only one of them that was yearning for a little more. At the very least, Cloud should've at least started joining them in bed rather than sleep on the couch.

As it turned out he got his very chance the next afternoon. Zack was called away to substitute in a Tactics class and Cloud had no morning classes while Sephiroth could put off his paperwork until what he needed to say was done. What he didn't know was what to do at that point, staring at the sleeping cadet, was how to go about talking to him so he wouldn't end up getting hurt.

Feeling eyes on him, Cadet's baby blues opened up and looked sleepily at Sephiroth. When neither said anything he was about to go back to sleep when the General took a tentative step forward and then another and then finally stood at the edge of the couch, looking down at him. "May I have a word, Cloud?" The blonde nodded and sat up, rubbing one eye as his other hand caught a sudden yawn. Sephiroth was barely able to stop himself from feeling his resolve crumble, but no he had to be able to this for his own sake as well as for his other lover.

"What's up," the cadet asked when the silver-haired man said nothing more. In response his hand was roughly taken and he was dragged to the bedroom where the general closed the door tightly behind them with an audible click that echoed loudly in Cloud's ears. When he was deposited in the middle of the bed he wasn't able to keep the nervous, fearful expression from his face. "S-Seph – Mmmph." His only chance at getting away was stolen as two demanding, forceful, and very soft lips covered his own.

A warm, much heavier body covered his own, keeping his only other plan of escape from happening. Cloud hated how his body was responding and even more that he started to kiss the General back as a playful tongue swiped his bottom lip. His fingers itched to tangle in his long, silver hair and his hips would've risen if his firm resolve hadn't reasserted itself and his mouth tore from the others. "What are you doing," he demanded angrily, forgetting momentarily who it was he was actually talking to.

"You want us," Sephiroth finally confirmed, mostly to satisfy his own hearing but also to make it plain and simply, spelled out conveniently for Cloud. Why was the blonde trying so hard to deny what it was he obviously wanted?

Shaking his head, Cloud shouted loudly, pushing the larger man off to no avail. "No! Get off," he shouted.

He hadn't wanted to do it. Sephiroth didn't want to give Cloud any reason to think less of him for anything, but at the rate things were going his fragile little blonde cadet was going to shatter himself from the inside out if he kept pushing his wants before others. The only way his mind could see through this latest dilemma was to do the one thing he swore he would never do to those he deemed most precious to him: he was going to have to pull rank. "Strife," he warned, purposely greening up his eyes to make them glow eerie mako.

The blonde froze in his struggled, hearing the order for what it was. Though his mind hadn't wanted to shut down, his months of training made his body react on command which was exactly what was needed in emergency situations. His whole body tensed, shaking uncontrollably as he lowered his eyes. Damn military training he cursed mentally, wanting desperately to break everything that he'd be taught to do just to get away. Please don't do this! A lone tear escaped his lightly green-tinged blue eyes, which were lighting up unconsciously in his distress.

"Tell me the truth," Sephiroth finally demanded, which resulted in another whimper from Cloud.

He croaked again in the back of his throat, biting his lip and screaming at every nerve in his body to stay quiet. Had he really lost so much of himself in his training that he wasn't even able to keep a stupid confession down? Zack would be able to stop this Cloud immediately thought. Zack would never have let Sephiroth do this! He realized desperately as his mouth opened of its own accord to answer the question that he'd been absolutely right in his much earlier assumptions: Zack wouldn't have pulled rank with his friends, but Sephiroth was unstoppable force of nation that could command the attention and respect from a room even if strode naked through it. "Yes, sir." Well, at least his voice was whisper, even if there wasn't a chance in any personal hell that the General wouldn't able to hear it. "I want both of you. I do." Another tear escaped his eye and it was only when he moved to swipe it away that he found there was no body above his. When he opened his once again blue eyes he saw Sephiroth looking down at him regrettably and he sat up quickly. "No matter how much I want it though, or how much the both of you want it, I won't allow it." And even faster than the General himself could've predicted the cadet was out of the room and exiting the apartment before he could turn to watch him go, the door closing with the loudest click possible.

B R E A K

In the very short time it had taken realize to get settled into his cadet bunks and meet the other cadets only to realize they were going to make his very life more horrible than even his instructors could give him, Cloud had done everything imaginable to stay against the shadows of the wall. Even with Sephiroth and Zack looking after him he knew neither First Class Soldiers could do anything more than order for the harassment to stop. It didn't mean it would. All he could hope for was the others would grow bored and, thankfully, little by little the other trainees left him alone. He had successfully melded with the shadows and grown invisible to their eyes in everything except practice sessions. Away from the eyes of two upper class Soldiers Cloud was constantly on his own with only his long reflection as company. He would not speak to other cadets unless they spoke to him first, he would voluntarily answer questions in class, and would not pick a sparring partner before anyone else had a chance to team up. His walks to different classes were lonely, his meals in the Mess Hall were lonely, and during the time he studied he was in solitude.

As strange as it might have seemed to any person who had grown the normal life with a crowd of friends around them, Cloud was no stranger to self-induced isolation. It had been that way as far back as the blonde could remember. Back in Nibelheim he was the odd one out, unable to befriend anyone close to his own age and unable to understand why every person there seemed to be so hateful and distant. It had been his way to stay off to the side and not stand out and he had grown quite accustomed to that way of life.

But then, just as suddenly as he could blink, Zack Fair had intruded into his life. He was sure that at first it was just the Soldier's way of being friendly and trying to make him comfortable in a new place, especially after the first meeting when he found out that his mentor and the General were lovers. That was when things went haywire though. He'd never had anyone ask to just spend time with him and then that kiss on the rooftop. He wasn't even sure what to think and he'd been fully prepared for the consequences when he saw Sephiroth had witnessed the quick exchange, whether he'd been involved or not. Contrary to the belief of the General and his second in command thought, it hadn't been his first kiss. Just before he left for Midgar a girl he'd grown up next door to had kissed him, telling him he better come back safe and sound. He thought it had been some cruel joke since Tifa had treated him so cruelly before so he hadn't thought anything of it. The confusion for the young cadet only grew.

It was definitely not a joke where Sephiroth and Zack were involved. They had continued to stick by him, inviting him to his rooms and genuinely wanting to get to know him and be with him. Cloud hadn't wanted it to happen, hadn't wanted to get involved, but his feelings and emotions went haywire whenever they were around, swimming constantly and tied like a buoy line to the center of his very thoughts. Whenever one or both was brought up his stomach would flutter and he hated himself for it. They were involved with each other he was constantly telling himself. He would leave them alone. They were obviously very happy with each other and Cloud would rather stab himself through with Zack's Buster Sword and Sephiroth's Masamune than try getting between them. Whether he tried to distance himself from them or not, those two weren't hearing anything about it. All his personal reasoning fell on deaf ears as far as they were concerned.

"Hey, Cloud."

The blonde didn't turn around. Why bother? There were only two people in the whole of Midgar that called him by his first name. This voice was deeper, rough around the edges and best heard when it wasn't filled with such utter despair and sadness. Cloud figured that Sephiroth had told him what he'd done.

"You must be seriously mad right now. If I had known – if I had thought at all that he would – ."

"It's okay," he interrupted. It was really because in the end he was a lowly, weak cadet and Sephiroth was and always would be the force of nature known as the greatest Soldier would ever have, General Sephiroth, First Class Soldier extraordinaire. How could he even compare? The silver-haired man had every right to pull rank whenever and however he pleased. When it came right down to it, Cloud knew he'd rather have been on the sharper side of Masamune's blade rather than own up to his own feelings.

He heard a groan of frustration and he glanced over his shoulder to see Zack holding his head tightly, mussing up his own spiky brown hair from its usual style. When he looked back up, violet eyes widened with shock. Cloud knew why also, or he had a rather good idea why. Every since he'd run from the apartment complex and up to his favorite rooftop, everything about him felt heavy and lifeless. The very world itself was gray around him even though he clearly saw the oranges and red, purples and pinks in the sky as the sun started its descent.

Rough fingers slid along his cheek and Cloud reprimanded himself for dazing out long enough for the First Class to get close enough. Everything about him screamed to move away, to stop this type of relationship from forming. He would not get in the middle of two people that cared very much for each other. He would not hold that type of responsibility on his shoulders. "Please, Cloud," Zack begged, wiping at tears that the blonde hadn't realized he'd shed. He looked past Zack's penetrating violet gaze to where Sephiroth stood at the door. Obviously, another escape plan foiled. At least Zack wouldn't pull rank, but now his very core shook at the thought of Sephiroth doing it again.

So he closed his eyes, giving the unspoken yet undeniable request that Zack had wanted. Surely enough, if he just let it happen, if he let the two of them have their way for right now, than they'd eventually realize just how wrong he was for the both of them and let him continue his Soldier career the way it was meant to be. Shortly after that thought hesitant lips touched his own and he sighed into the kiss, wrapping his arms even more desperately around Zack's shoulders, clutching at the back of shirt harder than he'd intended to. The First Class picked up by his thighs and Cloud wrapped his legs around the fit waist, holding on tightly as he let everything he had ever wanted and denied himself wash away in that simple yet very needed embrace.

"Look our way," Zack begged, kissing his cheeks, ears, jaw, neck, shoulder. Everywhere he could touch without releasing the shivering bundle in his arms. "We want to be with you, Cloud. Why won't you let yourself see that?"

That night Cloud was snuggled up in the silk sheets of the General's bed with Sephiroth at his back while he slept on the sun-kissed bare, broad, and muscular chest that was Zack. They had done little more than kiss and remove their shirts, changing into pajama bottoms before they cuddled up into one another. Though, as they watched their young blonde in between them, Zack and Sephiroth doubted this would very much end the dispute but could at least hope this would help them figure out the person that was Cloud Strife.

B R E A K

Things between the three males had been tense since the day Sephiroth first pulled rank against Cloud and it had been a week and half since then. At first the blonde was too nervous to go back to the rooms, but little by little he let Zack pull him back to their original way of living. It was easier when the General wasn't around for Cloud because he would find himself tensing, expecting at any moment he would demand something equally embarrassing out of his mouth. It didn't matter if he knew how badly Sephiroth hadn't wanted to do. The truth of the matter had stuck with him: he had done it and the damage was done.

Zack had announced it movie night that Friday evening when Cloud stepped into the room. He was untying his boots when the First Class shouted it from the living room, pulling out a bunch of different movies and stacking them into piles behind him, a huge grin on his face.

"Where's the General," Cloud questioned hesitantly, his mako ears not picking up the sound of anyone else in the apartment. He didn't notice, however, the heavy flinch from Zack as he was looking around. It hadn't escaped the second-in-command's notice that ever since the incident Cloud was careful about using said General's name when the silver-haired Soldier was around and when he wasn't he would bypass the stuttered name entirely and use his title.

He sighed and stood with his chosen movie, setting it up slowly so he could think. "Cloud," he began carefully, "You know Sephiroth," Cloud shivered and bit his lip, "didn't mean what happened. He didn't think it would cause so much trouble for us, I mean. Seph only wanted to get you to open up and admit what you felt for us since you were forcing us away and not giving us a yes or no to our question. We genuinely care for you. We want to be with you. If he had the necessary experience or had let me know what he was going to do, it never would've come out as painful as that. He can't understand why things are working out this way and he only wanted a quick solution."

The blonde had backed up against the wall while he spoke and Zack had trapped him with an arm on either side of his head. He knew he was pushing it, but Cloud needed it to get drilled into his head that a relationship with Sephiroth involved wasn't going to be an easy one. Even more so that the General didn't understand why someone would purposefully hold himself away from people he wanted and who wanted him back.

"Please, don't, Zack," Cloud begged, closing his eyes in defeat. "Not yet."

Sighing, the First Class pulled away, taking the smaller hand in his and leading him over to the couch. The movie was already passed the beginning credits so they settled back against the leather cushions and watched the action-packed adventure begin with a bloody explosion.

Cloud bit his lip and settled with himself quickly. "So where is…Sephiroth?" He didn't look but Zack gave him a soft, sad smile.

"He'd undergoing a very extensive and tedious mission at the moment known as a mountain of abused paperwork," he announced. He was glad when he heard the humored chuckle from his partner, as was his goal.

During the first half of the movie they watched, interested, as action after gory action issued from the large television screen with the surround sound speakers picking up noise that other stereos didn't pick up, like the sound of bones crushing or blood dripping. Sometimes Zack wondered if Sephiroth's obsessive nature with good fights had made him first buy the speakers to begin with. Little did Cloud realize though, as drawn into the movie as he was, that his brunette buddy was inching closer and closer to his side on the other end of the couch during the lesser points of the movie. During a particular drawn out and rather pointless speech the main character was giving at the halfway point, as many movies tended to go, Cloud finally looked his way and only had time to say his name before lips pressed against his.

The blonde sat motionless for a long while, the sound of the movie still echoing in his ears underneath the sound of his blood pumping fervently with the racing of his heart. He stared with disbelief as Zack pressed against him, using his Soldier strength to turn the limp body to face him. Blue eyes slipped closed while his hands moved weakly up to clutch fervently as the First Classes' shirt. He moaned into the insistent mouth as he pulled back just long enough for a breath of air.

Narrow hips ground against his and Cloud's moved of its own accord while a blush moved upward to stain his cheeks, ears turning pink. He was pushed back against the armrest of the couch and his body slid lower the first Zack moved against him. His blue cadet uniform shirt had slipped out of his pants, riding up his chest. The older male was much obliged by that fact as his hands began to wander and slid against smooth skin, pleased at the ripple of muscles that were beginning to show underneath taut flesh.

"Beautiful," he ground through clenched teeth. His kiss-swollen lips finally left Cloud's, leaving the blonde teen gasping for breath in between drawn out moans. Zack moved down his body further, tickling the shell of his ear with lips and tongue, blowing sensually before moving down to his jaw, his cheeks, his neck. There he suckled, pulling a half groan half whimper from the younger male as his hips bucked up to move against his. The older only chuckled, suckling and nipping at the sensitive, heated flesh of his extremely very willing partner. He couldn't have been more pleased than if Cloud had initiated this himself.

Very purposely he laved at the sweat that had collected in the juncture of the blonde's neck and shoulder, licking sensually before letting his teeth work magically and eagerly while the head tilted to the side to give him more room.

"P-please," he heard Cloud whimper, crying out as he bit down a little hard. He glanced just briefly at his work when he pulled away before he pulled up the shirt to continue his teasing exploration. He would have to admit, not to fill his own ego or anything, that the mark would've even impressed Sephiroth if he were there to see it. He'll see it soon enough Zack reminded himself, knowing the General was due home at any given time. The love bite wouldn't disappear that quickly, thankfully. Zack found it to be quite a turn on to see the abused piece of skin and knowing that Cloud had willingly let him put it there.

With the very tip of his tongue he circled one nipple while his sword-roughened fingers tortured the other soft nub. He grinned as he started to suckle it, feeling both disks peak and harden under his rough caresses. Sensitive ears picked up the muttered, unintelligible words Cloud uttered as he continued pressing his hips against Zack's, rubbing both of their achingly hard erections together through their pants. "Zack," Cloud whined when the First Class pulled away to start unbuttoning his pants. He slipped the zipper down just as the beep from the accepted key card at the door caught both of their attention.

"Seph," the second-in-command gasped out happily the same time the same name left Cloud's lips in a much more horrified tone. Just as the silver-haired General stepped through the threshold of his apartment and spotted both of his personal interests making out on his favorite sofa he felt himself respond. Cloud shoved the older off of him and rolled off the couch, catching his feet on the floor while at the same time ripping his missing article of clothing at of shocked, limp fingers. The blonde was out of the room even faster than the two Soldiers mako improved eyes could catch. They both watched the bedroom door slam behind their third and then another door before the inevitable sound of Sephiroth's three-headed shower spouted on with a creak and a swish.

Zack dropped to the couch and cursed loudly into the armrest that now smelt very identical to a sweat-covered, aroused Cloud. "Shit!" Long fingers tangled loosely and comfortingly into his hair and he glanced upward with violet eyes. "He was so into, Seph," he whined.

The General nodded, still staring at the bedroom door. He knew that Cloud knew that no amount of locked doors would stop them if they had wanted to go after him, but he also acknowledged that Cloud grasped at the thought that the top First Class in Shinra had invaded into his personal thoughts using a very convenient and cruel means. If he were to barge into that room now and follow him into the shower to try to start anything or reason with him, saying anything at this point when Cloud so very obviously was forcing himself to be near him for the sake of still wanting him but staying strict with his odd personal rule of "Look, but don't Touch" could very much break the blonde and drive him away from the silver-haired man further.

"Seph," Zack questioned curiously, voice rising with interest and he forced himself to forget about Cloud and their heated session in the very spot he sat in. He'd spotted a small white bag clutched in one hand hiding behind the General's back.

Green eyes turned away violet, Sephiroth setting the bag down at his feet. "I remember you mentioning that gifts are usually a good way to go about getting a mad person to at least start listening to you again, like the time you pissed Reno off with a bad joke and you bought him a new weapon to gain his interest again."

Zack nodded, wanting to peek inside the offending package now. "What did you get him?"

Much to his glee, the General pushed aside blue tissue paper (Zack knew he must've asked the store clerk to gift wrap it for him at seeing how nicely it was done) and pulled out a fuzzy surprise that made the First Class fall in love with his slightly older lover all over again. "Sometimes I have to wonder how much of me is rubbing off on you and how much you pull out of thin air. Are you absolutely sure you grew up as science experiment?" The General grinned thinly, hating not for the first or the last time how much he disliked Zack's nickname for his childhood. No amount of warnings would make him stop though. His lover knew him too well to know he wouldn't do anything to make even a sigh of pain purposefully pass his sinfully luscious mouth. Nothing was worth that. And now, Sephiroth knew, he was very certain that the same went for his newest heartache.

His second-in-command jumped off the couch suddenly, rewrapping the package with expertise. Zack slipped the loops of the handle back into his hand and pushed him in the direction of the door. "Go wait for him," he ordered.

"The doors locked," Sephiroth noted.

A wide grin took over his lover's face. "Trust me. He won't mind it when he sees this. Don't barge in there after him," he warned though, waving a finger to make sure he had his attention. "Just wait patiently for him. Sit on the bed maybe, oh, and take your coat off. It makes you look vulnerable," he paused and bit his lip. "Well," he decided, changing his mind. "Not really, you're never vulnerable, even he knows that. But I know he'll take it as a sign that you don't mean any harm." Sephiroth could've laughed if he wasn't so unbelievably and uncharacteristically nervous at the moment. Neither of them were going to voice it out loud, but both knew that if they couldn't fix this latest development to their relationship twist and they ended up losing Cloud things were going to be very difficult. For instance, Zack loved Sephiroth desperately, but the First Class was very easily falling head over heels for the blonde cadet. If his two loves couldn't be together his own sensitively sweet heart would be torn between the two. The General would be forced to watch his lover struggle over the fight to keep from choosing while at the same watching his lost lover walk further and further away from his clutches. He refused to put either of them through that sort of torture.

Cloud stepped out of the shower, toweling off his hair with his pajama bottoms already clinging to his hips. He was exhausted and now thoroughly embarrassed that he'd been caught making out on Sephiroth's sofa, even when he knew it wouldn't be minded. His feet froze as blue eyes caught sight of the very same silver-haired General that had caught him lip-locking his lover on the bed and the towel in his hair dropped through limp fingers. His sight darted between the bed and the distance it would take to get to the door. Then his eyes shifted down to the harmless little white bag sitting at Sephiroth's feet.

Sensing his nervousness the General held up his hands in peace. He'd done what Zack had suggested and was lying halfway back on the bed with his leather trench coat lying next to him across the comforter. "I have a peace bringer," he assisted when he saw Cloud take a hesitant step back when he shifted. "Please, Cloud, don't let things end this way." The blonde nodded carefully, not yet trusting his voice not give away some biting remark. He watched as pale hand shifted the blue tissue paper around and he lifted out a stuffed puppy dog with a bright blue ribbon tied around its neck and the saddest, cutest droopy eyes Cloud had ever laid eyes on. He'd always wanted a dog, but his mother's allergies and now the Soldier compound had always kept him from getting one.

"Seph," he whispered, taking another step closer. He was already in love with his present but this was still the General and was known for always having some plan or another up his sleeve. He wasn't the head of all of Soldier for nothing and Cloud's guard was up. One look at the man's eyes though and his suspicions flew out the door. The top guy at Shinra would never bust out an apology even to Zack, but his eyes said everything. He took the few remaining steps and accepted the spotted puppy, hugging it closing to his chest and hugging it tightly enough to be considered suffocation. "Thank you. It's wonderful," he whispered, breathing in the soft fur and recognizing Sephiroth's wonderful scent clinging to it. He wondered just how long the man had been holding onto this puppy before he actually put it into the bag.

All thoughts flew out the window thought when soft lips pressed against his. His grasp went loose and he stared into Sephiroth's unguarded face. His soft, lax features while the man kissed him gently. Just as he pulled away Cloud through his arms around his neck and pressed back, crawling into his lap when strong arms tugged him closer by the hips. Sephiroth slowly leant back against the sheets until his head hit the pillows, the light and warm body that belonged solely to Cloud Strife covering him as much as possible with his lithe form. Their embrace both on their lips or their arms never broke. Neither heard the door click open or the soft chuckle from Zack before it closed again. He'd call them back when dinner arrived and he picked up the phone to order a pizza.

B R E A K

"Hey, Strife, welcome back," a Third Class yelled after him as Cloud stepped off the bus and waved the driver a thanks as he drove off down the street. A week away from Shinra was nice, but he hadn't realized how much he'd missed his mother until he actually returned home during his much needed holiday.

"Congratulations, Strife," another Soldier called to him when he entered the bunks and headed off to his new room. He waved to them and slid his key card into the slot, stepping into his new room among the Third Years.

It felt better than he thought it would when Sephiroth had called him to his office one day and told him one of his instructors had nominated him to try out for Third Years. Thanks to his very own private tutor known as the General he passed the written with flying colors and another First Class known as Zack Fair he'd passed the physical without any trouble at all. He was given a medal in commemoration along with three other cadets, one his year and two other that were a couple years older. It wasn't often first years cadets were nominated and Sephiroth and Zack both told him he should be quite pleased to be noticed. After the second-in-command had left him and the General alone Sephiroth admitted with a soft smile on his face that he was very proud of Cloud and he looked very much forward to having him join the ranks and eventually be admitted into his tight working circle of First Classes. Cloud had been beaming the whole time he packed for his customary week away for celebration.

Said First Classes were the very reason that Cloud had come back a couple days earlier instead of with his fellow new Third Classes. He'd already changed into his new uniform before he'd left home that morning, excited to see his two lovers soon. Seeing his mother had been wonderful, especially when he told her why he was allowed leave for a while even if it meant he was forced to return to Nibelheim for a while. After a few days though he admitted to himself that after so long of being in Midgar he considered it more of a home than he mountain town ever had and knew he was homesick for both his rackety bunk beds and the snores of his fellow bunk mates as well as the soft silk sheets of his lovers' bed and the inviting smell of leather that accompanied Sephiroth's apartment.

His PHS rang as soon as Cloud dumped his duffle bag on his new twin bed in his single room, finally excited for a room of his own as very few Third Classes do. He knew Sephiroth had arranged it for him and he gladly accepted. Fingers curled around the key still clasped around his neck on a chain, still never used, as he flipped open the cell phone. "Strife," he answered politely as he started to unpack, throwing dirty things into a hamper on his side while sorting clean things on the bed.

"Hey ya, Cloud," Zack's cheerful voice crackled through the speaker. The blonde couldn't resist a smile as he started sorting his every day clothes with his new uniform sets. "I miss you sooooo badly, you have no idea. Seph misses you too, but you know he'd rather blow up an innocent remote town than admit it out loud. At least to me," he laughed briefly and he heard the squeak of leather in the background. It took him the use of only one guess to know exactly where Zack was.

"I miss you both too and you can tell Sephiroth that I'll gladly admit it to all of Shinra if it kept him from destroying said town." Zack laughed and relayed the message loudly. He heard a snort in the background and Cloud grinned.

There was a sigh in the phone and he could imagine the First Class lying back against the cushions to get more comfortable. "Seriously though, Cloud, we really do miss you. Neither of us can wait for you to come back in a couple of days."

Cloud bit his lip and looked around the room. "Actually, Zack, I have to tell you something." There was a loud yelp and he pulled the phone away from his ear quickly, hearing a string of curses come from Zack's end. When he placed the receiver back to his spot he listened carefully as the brunette muttered about how cruel it was to place hot objects on unsuspecting people before his words slurred while he chewed. The blonde suckled on his bottom lip for a minute. "Are you busy?"

"No, no, not at all, Cloud," Zack reassured, though the sound of food being chewed came through loud and clear. "Just Seph being a jerk again, you know. I was all lying back on the sofa with my eyes clothes and picturing you here with us and he dropped lunch on my bare stomach. Isn't he cruel?" Cloud chuckled though his mood had turned downward. He would have to go to Mess Hall for some food then since he didn't have any money saved up to go out. He certainly didn't want to get in his two lovers' way if they were spending quality time together for lunch. They must've been busy while I was gone too. I was wrong to think I could just come home early and think we could spend a lot of time together too.

"What were you gonna say before we were so rudely interrupted," Zack asked sweetly. Cloud quickly denied anything, just that his mom wanted to go shopping and he'd have to cut the call short. Though he said he understood, Zack sounded disappointed and handed the phone off to the General so he could say hello really fast before Cloud clicked his PHS closed tightly and slipped it into his pocket.

A half hour later he was settled nicely into his room with a picture of the three of them snuggled on the couch next to his bed and another of his mother and him when he was younger. His uniform was hung up in the closet while his casual wear was folded in the dresser. His bathroom bag was sitting on a shelf in his closet along with his duffel bag for missions and traveling and a trainer sword leaning against the wall. He would have to ask when he was allowed to get a newer weapon now that he'd be allowed out on missions with stronger parties. He hated the cheap swords that cadets were given and didn't want to rely on them anymore.

On the way to the Mess Hall he was stopped several times to be congratulated and short conversations about what he was doing home early. He was just about to step inside the building where the curling smell of leftover lunch meat reached his nose when his name was shouted from the other end of the courtyard.

"Strife, look out," one of his new fellow Third Classes pointed worriedly while taking several large steps back. He needn't have done it. Cloud recognized the voice fairly well by this point and turned just in time to see Zack's excited expression before he leaped and the both of them went sliding in the dirt and gravel several feet.

Numerous different Soldiers all glanced their way to see if he was alright, but when Zack pulled the blonde up and into a tight hug they thought better of it.

"Cloud, Cloud, you're back early," Zack exclaimed joyfully.

"Yes, I know," the blonde responded after the brunette placed a loud smooch on his cheek.

"Zack, I really don't think this is the time or the place," Sephiroth's silky smooth voice warned from behind the First Class.

Turning on his heel, taking Cloud with him as he had a heavy grip on his arm to keep him from escaping, he grinned widely. "Aww, but Seph, you know how kissable he is." His voice came out high and whiny, the only person in the world who would dare to use that tone with Sephiroth. Even Cloud wasn't that brave and Sephiroth hadn't even given him an order as the General to cadet since the incident several months ago.

"As true as that might be, Fair, I really don't appreciate having everyone stare when you try to undress him and I'm sure he feels the same."

The arm around the blonde's waist immediately dropped and Zack pouted under the glare.

Sephiroth then rounded on Cloud with one elegantly raised eyebrow and the Third Class knew what was coming. "What are you doing back early?"

"Homesick, sir," Cloud responded formerly, still not comfortable addressing the General personally with the public eye watching, even when their relationship was very well known around the compound now.

Zack shifted, staring at him hopefully. "And lovesick, sir," Cloud finished with a smile of his own. In reward, the silver-haired man leaned over and placed a chaste kiss to his forehead and then pulled him into a stiff hug. Obviously the General didn't like public displays of affection just as much as Cloud.

Before the blonde could say anything else, however, he was led away by a very persistent Zack while Sephiroth followed. While they were in the elevator leading up to the penthouse, the First Class demanded to know why he hadn't said he was coming home sooner. Without needing or waiting for an answer, he punched his fist into the palm of his hand. "That's what you were going to say earlier, wasn't it? You lied when you said your mom wanted to go shopping this morning."

He continued to bug the new Third Class who refused to answer any of his questions all the way to the apartment, where Sephiroth slid the key card through the lock while rolling his eyes at his first lover. Zack then dragged the blonde over to couch, tossing him against the cushions and effectively pinning him there with a hand on either side of his head. "Liars should be punished very meticulously and systematically," he threatened, his eyes glowing underneath his mock anger. "Shouldn't they, General Sephiroth?" Cloud immediately grew nervous when Zack addressed the silver-haired man, beads of sweat growing on his palms and the back of his neck. Zack never called their older lover that unless it was very serious and, indeed, this situation had just grown beyond serious.

Lips crashed to his just as hips rolled against his, forcing out a heavy moan in his throat. His neck was attacked next and bucked up Seph joined them, nipping at his ears and eliciting another groan as he tried to enjoy both of their attentions at once. After five days of not having either of them at his side and now finding himself to the very center of their assault it didn't take his body very long at all to respond. His trousers were already tight, of course that could have to do with the rough palm massaging him none too gently. Cloud bucked up again when Zack tightened his hand, but his moan was swallowed when Sephiroth feasted from his mouth hungrily.

If it weren't for being his new uniform and for Sephiroth being there, Cloud was beyond one-hundred percent certain Zack would've torn the buttons off his shirt. As it was, the blonde was grateful it was his lucky day and the brunette growled, a sound that rumbled in his chest and vibrated through Cloud's bones and into his groin, as he unhooked each button roughly. However, his pants were slightly large for him and once the belt around his waist was undone the pants slipped off easily, leaving him clad helplessly against with his two eager lovers in only a pair of navy blue boxer shorts.

Zack attached himself to a dusky nipple, suckling mercilessly while he let his knee rub against his groin while his other hand worked at his own buttons.

"You should've told the truth from the beginning," Sephiroth threatened, a husky voice that Cloud swore made his aching cock grow. He was pleased when he found the General was already shirtless and he let his hands trail along his smooth pale skin while he gorged himself on his velvet mouth, whimpering mindlessly when he felt hot breath against the tent of his boxers.

Zack chuckled, trailing his fingers around the large bulge. "Remember that this is a punishment, my lovely blonde one," he warned. Cloud could barely hear the words now though and buckled up when the hand was pulled away. He could've sighed with glee when his boxers were finally lifted from his skin and the cool air made the slick length jump to attention, but the mouth covering his own only hushed it. A hand fisted around the base of his dick and he gasped, hips thrusting upward. That was when the torture began.

B R E A K

"P-please," Cloud whimpered with exhaustion. "N-n-no more!"

They'd been at it for hours, each of his lovers taking their time with him. Zack's sinful mouth had only made him all the harder at first, flicking the tip with his tongue before swallowing him in the back of his throat. Both had been most pleased at that reaction and Sephiroth was glad that his walls were soundproof when Cloud half screamed half choked. Sephiroth had long since gone around the couch and, while Zack sucked him off, his long fingers had been stretching him. He was purposefully rubbing ruthlessly against his prostrate and all the while Cloud could've sworn they had planned this from the beginning whether he had lied to them or not.

When the General had pushed into him he groaned loudly around the tight length and, if the fisted hands at his shoulders were anything to go by, Sephiroth was affected by the time since they last made love also.

"So tight," he whispered gruffly into his ear, though he knew there was secret about that. The first time they'd had sex he'd been tight and from then on all three had learned that he would always be that way. Narrow hips was what Zack had told him when he asked why he could never seem to loosen up down there regardless of the times they'd made love together through the night. "You've become much tighter since we last did this." Cloud knew that was only because he usually never got as long as five days long before one or both of them had wanted to rip him apart from the inside out. The longest all three have them had ever gone without actually doing something like had been almost two days and that was because Sephiroth had been called away to help control a monster pack getting too close to a town and Cloud needed to study like crazy for upcoming exams, which had ended with Zack swearing to the General with his First Class Soldier's honor he wouldn't do anything until the tests were over.

Before the silver-haired man could finish him off though he'd pulled out and Zack had replaced him quickly, not giving Cloud the slightest chance to recover. Neither ever pushed hard enough to actually make him cum and it was painfully obvious to the blonde that that had been their plan all along from the beginning.

Now he was exhausted, he could hardly breathe properly anymore, the pain in his ass wouldn't let him sit or walk properly for at least a week, and his cock was swollen purple for much longer than any male's organ should ever stay under the torture of his lovers. If there was ever anything that they were naturally good at, it was pleasing their lovers and they knew how to do it well enough to keep throbbing hard for a long time and they were thorough.

"Please," he begged again, trying not for the first time to try pulling away with little success. All of his muscles felt like jelly to him, even after all the conditioning and training he'd been through in the past year. He knew that if ever faced with either of these two men as his enemies, he would lose fast and hard.

Zack's raspy voice tickled his ear as he spoke against the skin of his neck. "Swear to us, Cloud," he told him, thrusting against him slowly and Cloud could feel each nib of his lover's length slide back into him painfully slow. "Promise that you won't lie to us again."

His voice caught in his throat and all he could do was nod. Another thrust made him cry out.

"Say it," the brunette ordered.

"I promise," he whimpered. "I promise I won't do it again."

He felt the smile against his sweat-slicked skin before Zack pulled away and lidded blue eyes saw the corners upturn on the handsome face. The thrusts sped up and it wasn't long at all before Cloud was crying out and spurting over his and Zack's chests before he collapsed and his vision went dark.

When he woke up some time later the first thing he noticed was that his hair as damp and the muscular bodies lying on either side of him. He knew the arm draped across his chest and curled around his arm snuggly was Sephiroth's just like he knew the legs that were tangled around his feet possessively was Zack's. He'd long since not been able to count on his hands the number of times he'd woke up in the position over the months just like this. It was a comfort to know how much these men desired him each time. He shifted his eyes to the clock that blaring green numbers on the other side of Sephiroth that blinked out into Cloud's drooping eyes that it was nearing three in the morning. Assuming from his hair he figured that one or both of them had cleaned him off in the shower before tucking him into bed. He grinned, kissed each of the men's cheeks in a feather touch, and shifted back under the covers.

"I love you both," he whispered before his eyes slipped shut again. He would've smiled when silky smooth response in his ear reached him, but he was out by the time it registered. Cloud didn't think someone of Sephiroth's caliber would actually stay asleep after even a light touch, but he definitely didn't doubt Zack was still asleep.

B R E A K

Sephiroth sighed, rubbing the bridge of nose a bit too hard so it border lined on painful. He'd been over best Soldiers for a new, highly sensitive mission at least six times and each time it came out to the same results. "You aren't going to like this," he told his second-in-command. The General pushed the paper with his scratch and erase marks covering it across the table.

"No," Zack shouted, standing up fast enough to make his chair tip over. Neither Soldiers flinched at the sound. "It's too much for his first!"

The silver-haired man nodded. "I know that, Zack, but he has the best scores for stealth and infiltration, which is exactly what we need."

"There has to be someone else. Anyone else with more experience?" He was desperate, he knew. There was no way to change Sephiroth's mind now that he'd already shown him the paper. Zack already knew just from looking at the messed up, offending piece of paper that his lover had already done everything he could think of to use someone else, but had failed.

Sephiroth shook his head regrettably.

B R E A K

"Strife," a cadet saluted. Cloud didn't recognize him so figured he was new and nodded respectively at him. The lad held out a letter to him, to which the blonde took and watched the cadet run off. Curious, he ripped open the envelope and read it quickly. Confusion quickly overtook him. If Sephiroth wanted to see him why hadn't he just called him on his PHS like he and Zack usually did? This must be important he decided and went for the nearest door to head for Shinra's main building.

When he reached the building he recognized one other Third Class from his group getting ready to knock at the door. They both went in together and saluted before standing next to a Second Class that was already there. Blue eyes stole a glance at Zack, who was standing slightly behind Sephiroth with a look he knew to be carefully masked worry, and Cloud immediately became nervous.

"You've all been called here because each of you have the necessary skills needed to infiltrate an enemy camp." Here Sephiroth slapped down the newest mission on his desk, letting each of the Soldiers run their curious eyes over it. "It requires stealth," green eyes glanced at Cloud, "excellent aim," he looked back at Zack as well as the other Third Class, "and effective defusing of high level explosives," and Sephiroth's gaze landed on the Second Class. "I'll be leading the team. We'll be departing tonight at 1900 hours. Pack for warm weather and several days. You're dismissed." Before Cloud could follow the other Soldiers out he felt a firm hand on his shoulder.

"This'll be dangerous," Zack whispered to him. The blonde nodded. "The place we're going is up the mountains," the first reason Cloud was the primary choice, "and it requires a lot of stealth," the second reason he was picked, the blonde mused. It made sense. He grew up in the terrain and scored high on stealth operations, noted as 'invisible' by the instructor. "These bastards got their grease ball hands on some plans for a highly illegal and bomb and we've received word they plan on dropping it on a major city, possibly Midgar. We have to get those plans as well as however many bombs they might've made out of there and arrest all of them. Trust me Cloud, neither of us wanted this to be your first major assignment."

His eyes softened and he looked back into Zack's beautiful violet eyes with a bright smile. "This is why I joined Soldier, Zack. I'll be fine." He grinned back at Sephiroth once more before hurrying for the elevator that was waiting for him.

That night at the designated time the team was in front of the gate, following behind Sephiroth as he led the way towards a truck that was going to take them most of the way there. Zack stayed at Cloud's side in the back, promising himself that all of them were going to come out safe no matter what. The entire truck ride was tense and nervous, Sephiroth filling everyone else in on what Zack had told Cloud about the plans and the explosives minus the sentimental part of it. It was all business and the blonde shivered at the authority radiating in the tones of his usually sexy smooth bedroom voice he was used to. Zack leaned into him comfortingly and Cloud appreciated it, knowing Seph wouldn't want to snuggle up next to him with everyone else on the team watching. Instead he flipped open his PHS discreetly and texted a quick message that the silver-haired man also subtly looked at, smiling at the simple yet heartwarming message: I love you. He nodded his head at him with a soft smile before the stony expression of the General replaced it.

Hiking up the mountain after the truck dropped them off at the beginning of their path was very much the same stoic silence that had settled on the team at the very start of the mission. All of the Soldiers were tense except for the two First Classes, who were edgy for completely different reasons. Though both of them knew well enough that they shouldn't be worried about personal problems when on a mission, neither could help the butterfly effects in their stomach as they thought of all the things that could go wrong and a certain blonde member of their party involved.

They smelt the burning wood of a camp before they noticed the smoke that started uncurling from a flat clearing nearly at the top of their mountain. Thanks to Cloud they were able to track down a safe distance away from the enemy base to set up their own small camp. They ate cold, ready-to-eat meals quickly and loaded up their weapons before moving out. Cloud, much to Zack's dismay and anxiety, was split up to go with Second Class Soldier Hankins to find the bomb and the plans, while the other Third Class Matthews was to go with Sephiroth to scout the area, and Zack worked his way to the other side of the camp so he could take easier aim away from the other Soldiers. Before they split Sephiroth warned each of them to be careful not to green up unless as an absolute necessity for the glow of the mako in their eyes would be obvious in the dark.

Cloud led the way through the trees with Hankins as silently as possible before they settled on the nearest tent. They had a clear view of the entire camp from that area. There were three men sitting by the campfire and, listening carefully and using his nose, confirmed that they were only three there. In total there were two tents and everyone assumed that the biggest tent would be the one that held what they needed. Off to the side were several crates that reeked with alcohol and Cloud wrinkled his nose at the stench. They waited patiently, hoping for a clear opening, as they listened to the men discuss how shocked everyone was going to be by the big drop just before they destroyed.

Hankins shifted next to him to get a better view, waiting patiently with his Soldier training as he prayed silently that he would get through this. What he wasn't expecting was the sudden puff of dust from the wind to blow into his face from the crates and he bit his lip as he tried to fight off the impossible. He did everything possible, held his breath, pinched his nose, turned his face into his sleeve. When Cloud noticed what was happening he had just enough time after the loud, echoing sneeze to push Hankins into the shadows and stand to run for it before the scruff of his neck was yanked back.

Coughing profusely, he rubbed his neck just before he found himself staring into two blaring red eyes.

"What have we got here," the man chuckled menacingly just before the side of his face exploded with pain at the connection with the fist.

Zack stared with horror as he backed away. Sephiroth and Matthews met him on the other side of the perimeter and then joined up with a guilty-faced Hankins. All of them made their way back to the camp where the Second Class started to apologize profusely as soon as they were out of earshot of the enemy camp. It took everything in his will power for Sephiroth not to give into his personal feelings and Zack twice as hard as he was usually ruled by his emotions.

"We have to focus on rescuing Cloud as well now. Nothing has changed and we will complete this mission," Sephiroth ordered, allowing his eyes to green up slightly and everyone except Zack shrunk back at the dangerous sight.

B R E A K

Cloud's head was forced to the side again as another punch was slammed into his face. The men had been attacking him ruthlessly for what felt like an hour already, demanding to know if there were others involved and where they were hiding. The blonde refused to give in. He sneered at who he now knew as the leader of the trio, spitting blood in his face. "I won't tell you anything," he growled. He knew his eyes were green and no amount of attempted calming breaths would get the haze of the mako out of his vision. Zack…Seph….I'm sorry….

The leader punched him in the gut one last time, enjoying the choking coughs as he was watched the captive struggle at his binds. "It's better if you just give in, blondey," he threatened, taking his cigarette from his mouth with an evil grin. Cloud bit his cheek against his better judgment, watching as the lit end of the butt came closer and closer to his struggling hand. "There's really no need for all this fuss. Give in and I'll think about letting you go if you hand over the names and positions of whoever it is you brought with you." Blue eyes clenched shut and Cloud forced his head away in refusal. "Very well then." The very next thing Cloud knew was the hotter end of the cigarette digging into the soft skin his palm and he whimpered before a pained cry was forced past his dry, cracked lips.

B R E A K

All of the Soldiers looked up at the echoing sound coming from the enemy camp. Both Sephiroth and Zack felt their hearts jump before falling to the deepest pits of their stomachs. This would end soon, they would both see to it. And the General made the signal to move out.

B R E A K

Cloud opened his eyes weakly as he heard shouts and yelling reach his ears along with the painful crack of guns. Everything was a blur for him and blood from a cut on his forehead dripped into his eyes painfully. He noticed vaguely the familiar outline of Zack forcing back one of the men, Sephiroth focused on the leader, and Hankins going head to head with the third man. He blinked for what he thought was only a second before Matthews suddenly appeared in front of him.

"Don't worry about me," he croaked out, his voice not sounding the same even to his ears. "Get the plans first." Matthews looked like he wanted to argue, but Cloud ordered again to get the plans and the bomb first and then come back for him. The Third Class took off for the tent, skirting around Zack as his Buster Sword clashed metallically with the other man's claw like wipe attached to his hand by the wrist.

Matthews could've breathed with relief if his muscles weren't so uptight when he spotted the plans pinned to the wall of the tent, several red marks splotched everywhere on the wrinkled page. That along with the bomb crated securely in the corner of the tent. He took them both and walked cautiously back outside. He needed to get both to a safe location before going back for Cloud. He hid himself in the shadows and half jogged with his things. He nearly died from shock when one of the men jumped down in front of him, but then Zack shoved him out of the way and blocked his attack. He was too late to notice his mistake.

Everyone watched, horrified, in slow motion as the box with the highly explosive bomb somersaulted through the air and bounded before rolling on the ground. It had just avoided the raging fire in the middle of the camp. And then the plans fluttered down. Flammable, wrinkled, and perfectly innocent piece of paper that it was. It connected with the flames and ignited, leading the path to the bomb. Zack jolted towards the fire pit first but Sephiroth caught him by the arm. He dragged him and the Third Class out of the way where Hankins was already thrown to the ground. Before he could turn back to look the loud explosion rung with an exhausting, deafening boom in their ears and in their chests.

Cloud was thrown pack from the initial shockwave and rolled in the dirt helplessly before he collided with the tent on the other side of the tent. He'd been saved from the first explosion due to mostly a lucky break and a knife in his back pocket. His legs had never felt more tired when he started running as soon as the bomb box caught fire and he'd been thrown to the ground in its wake. Now, he stared, too sore to move as the flames licked at everything in the camp leading the path to the large crates of alcohol shoved off to the side. Shit! And he ducked his head under his arms just as soon as the second detonation went off.

As soon as the debris stopped falling both First Classes ran for the camp, their eyes searching. At first all they could find were the burnt, nearly unrecognizable bodies of the three men they'd taken down who'd been caught in the burst. It was the General who found the blonde first and Zack hurried over, dropping to his knees at the unconscious blonde's side. His uniform was singed badly and there was hardly any part of him that wasn't covered with blood. Cradling him to his chest, Zack rocked him back and forth praying for him to be okay while Hankins and Sephiroth quickly bandaged him up the best they could. They hadn't brought any Cure materia since it was supposed to be a get-in–get-out operation so they rushed down the mountainside as carefully as they could, but as swiftly as their feet would allow.

B R E A K

Cloud's eyes fluttered open and he was assaulted with the bright, blinding white walls of the hospital wing and the burned scent of alcohol anesthetics and sterilizer. His chest was bare except for the white gauze wrapped from his shoulder down to his hip, his wrist and was casted, and his burnt hand from the cigarette was bandaged heavily. He was also vaguely aware of a band-aid over a cut on his eyes as well.

He was only alone for a few minutes before the door slid open and Zack's grinning face came into view. As soon as the violet eyes landed on him, he was silent for exactly two seconds before rushing over to his side and hugging him as carefully as possible.

"I'm so relieved to see you awake, Cloud. We were so worried," he belted out in one quick breath. Then he pulled away with his traditional grin. "Silly, Cloud, trying to be a hero." Very seriously, he wagged his finger in mock reprimanding and a strict tone. "Don't you ever, ever, ever think of doing anything so reckless again, Strife, or so help me I will pull you from the grave myself." Cloud could on manage a slight upturn to his mouth, hurting too much to do anything else.

Sephiroth knocked him lightly on the shoulder, but then turned to Cloud while ignoring the glare from Zack. "You were in critical condition for the first day, but you pulled through just fine. I couldn't have been more proud of you than if that mission had gone completely according to plan."

"Yeah, yeah," Zack agreed, jumping up and down. "Both of us were shocked when Matthews reported his view to the board the day after we came back. No one else knew that you'd told him to get the bomb and the plans first. Not exactly what Seph and I would've wanted, but the mission was passed as cleared and a complete success."

"I'm glad," the blonde choked out, flinched as a twang of pain flushed through his whole body.

Seph leaned over and kissed him lightly on the cheek. "Now that you're awake we can finally use a materia," he noted with a smile of his own. "Zack was pissed when he found the mako keeping you alive was also keeping a cure from working on you completely. We managed the small stuff, but nothing else would heal."

"Yeah," Zack grumbled.

A few minutes later Cloud watched as a couple of nurses helped him remove the bandages once the cure had been cast and sighed with relief at the lack of pain that attacked him. The very first thing he did after that was throw himself at Zack and Seph, kissing them senseless.

It was safe for all three of them to assume neither of them were going to get much sleep that night, at least not until exhaustion overtook them in the most pleasurable of ways.