Okay, this is the product of the most hellish week of my life. It turned out great. So I'm not gonna say much but there's a lemon and some oocness at the beginning. I'm also going to say thanks to Kat-chan for being just absolutely awesome. Love you. I do not own Final Fantasy VII. Enjoy.
NEW NOTE 12/14/14: This fic has been censored. There is an uncensored version posted on my a03 account if interested.
There was a throbbing in his head, pulsing with the steady beat in his chest, letting him know that he was alive. But did he want to be? Who was he anyways? Did he dare open his eyes to see? All he could remember was pain, pain lancing through him in thick heavy waves, and then cerulean eyes, a tortured scream. It had rained white feathers.
His eyes flew open hearing the familiar name. Was it his? He jolted up, regretting it immediately when the pain in his head worsened and the light above stung his eyes. Cerulean eyes stared down at him, those beautiful cerulean eyes. A hand pushed him back down on the hard wooden floor.
"How are you alive?" the other man whispered.
He didn't answer, taking in the man's appearance slowly. Sunlight made golden hair glow, giving him an angel like appearance. The only thing missing was the rain of white feathers. The blue eyes were full of worry, disbelief, and something else, something unidentifiable.
"Who is Zack?" he rasped, struggling to get the words past his dry throat.
The blue eyes widened briefly before a deep sorrow entered them. "Your memory…its gone isn't it?"
"I don't remember anything…but I'm not scared either," he managed.
"I'll tell you everything-" the other started.
"NO!" The objection startled both of them and he glanced away quickly. "I want to remember on my own."
"At least let me tell you your name, and mine," the other said.
He nodded once, still not looking at him.
"You're Zack Fair, SOLDIER First class. I'm Cloud Strife. I was your best friend," Cloud told him.
"If you were my best friend, would I have forgotten you?"
Zack let Cloud lead him out of the abandoned and broken down church he had awoken in. When they reached the door outside, his eyes fell on the sleek motorbike awaiting them.
"Wow," he mumbled.
"I'm a safe driver," Cloud told him.
Zack just nodded and followed him over to the giant thing, waiting for Cloud to straddle it before climbing on behind him, arms instinctively twining around the other man's waist. It was weird, how the man was familiar yet not at the same time. His fingers splayed over rough black fabric and the hard planes of well toned muscle could easily be felt.
The roar of the engine startled Zack and he almost jolted off the entire thing. He tightened his grip as they suddenly sped forward, the dusty brown ground beneath them rushing by in a flurry of movement.
"Where are we going?" he called over the roaring engine.
"Seventh Heaven. It's a bar Tifa opened up," Cloud answered.
Zack rolled the name around in his head, all the while fighting with one hand the raven strands that fell in his eyes and obscured his vision. The name was familiar as well but he couldn't place a face with it. It worried him.
As they turned into a city, his eyes tried to place it. There was nothing familiar about it at all, try as he may. Sensing his unease, Cloud spoke.
"Don't worry. You never would've been here. This place is…different."
"Okay," Zack muttered, resting his cheek against a well muscled back. Everything about Cloud was perfect, or so it seemed. A quick glance at his clothes showed that they were wearing similar clothing, black shirts and black pants as well as shoulder guards. What that meant, he didn't know.
The motorbike slowed and Cloud stopped beside a two story building, killing the engine, kicking the stand down, and then sliding off. Zack quickly followed his example.
"This is Seventh Heaven. It's closed right now. It's only nine in the morning," Cloud informed him. "Come on."
Zack followed after him into the building, eyes adjusting to the dark space he walked into. Chairs were overturned on the tables and the only light was whatever filtered in through the windows. At the bar counter a woman stood, wiping off the grime with a wet cloth.
Long brown hair hung to the middle of the woman's back, the bangs swept back so liquid chocolate eyes were visible, lips pressed together as she hummed. She wore a thick black leather tank top, an armor like appearance to it, and long black shorts. After fixing her hair once more, she turned towards the door.
Her smile died, slowly taking in his appearance. Then she was over the counter and tackling him in a fierce hug, nearly knocking him to the floor. He stared at Cloud in shock, unsure of how to react to the now sobbing woman in his arms.
"Zack! Is it really you?" she whispered into his neck, arms squeezing the breath out of him.
"So Cloud tells me," Zack mumbled, not totally sure how to say he didn't remember her at all.
"Zack doesn't have his memory," Cloud said quietly.
Tifa abruptly pulled away, holding her palm to her mouth as she registered what Cloud had said. She quickly wiped her eyes free of tears and then spoke.
"Alright Zack. I feel offended. You forgot me? Of all people! How rude," she grumbled, tapping her foot angrily before suddenly smiling good naturedly at Zack's look of shame. "I'm just kidding. I'm glad you're alive…I have no idea how you're here but I'm content knowing that you are. Though to honest, I would've liked you to remember who I was. I did give you a tour of Nibelhiem."
The name struck something in him then, his vision blanking out and suddenly being filled with violent, speeding images. A smiling girl (Tifa?) much younger. A burning village. A man with long flowing grey hair, emerald eyes, then the beautiful cerulean. Pain. It was overwhelming him, blocking out all other senses as he tried to get a handle of what was happening.
His eyes flew open and he sucked in a deep breath of air, trying to find something solid for his eyes to focus on. They found the cerulean pools, almost on pure instinct, and he sighed. Something familiar, something only he knew. His hand gripped Cloud's arm and Tifa glanced over his shoulder, worry in her eyes.
"What happened?" Cloud asked softly, gripping Zack's arm back to keep him steady.
"There was a burning village," Zack whispered. "And a man with silver hair."
Cloud cursed under his breath and then turned to Tifa. "I'm going to take him upstairs. Talk to him. See if anything else sounds familiar. Obviously memories of Nibelhiem were strong enough for him to remember."
"Okay. Just tell Marlene and Denzel to leave you alone," Tifa said. "It was really nice seeing you again Zack. We should catch up later."
The word was dazed and Zack's hand moved to his head to stave off the pounding ache that had begun. Cloud led him up the stairs behind the counter and down a small hallway. When he entered the bedroom, he quickly flicked the light on and shut the door, motioning for Zack to sit on the bed. He did so and Cloud quickly sat across from him.
"That man is Sephiroth. You have to know that. He's gone now but-"
"I looked up to him. And he betrayed us all," Zack murmured, violet eyes gazing down at his hands.
Silence reigned over them.
"Will I ever remember everything?"
"I don't know," Cloud answered. "We can hope that you do. I'll help. I can help you remember, little by little."
Two weeks passed, though they were anything but calm. He had been introduced to Reno and Rude, both of which he remembered small details about, including Reno's rude and brash personality. It made the guilt within him rise. Why could he remember others but nothing of his supposed best friend?
Barret and Cid were new people altogether as were Red XII and Yuffie. He had quickly gotten along with Yuffie, they're personalities almost matching perfectly and when they were together, they drove everyone insane with their cheerfulness.
But there was something that neither he nor Cloud spoke of. Zack slept in Cloud's room on the other bed but by morning, he'd be curled up beside the blond man, cuddled in the tingly warmth. He wasn't aware of how it happened but every time when Cloud woke he would say good morning and then get up, paying no mind to the awkwardness of the situation. Zack didn't know how he couldn't react. He always woke blushing and stumbling over his words.
He didn't know why he craved the human contact so much. Maybe because he had been…dead…for so long. He didn't really know; neither did anyone else. They only had speculations and guesses. However, that night was different from the ones before it.
He wasn't sure what the time was, but he woke screaming from a nightmare he couldn't remember. It demanded to make itself known but wouldn't fully surface. As tears rolled down his cheeks from some sadness he had felt within the dream, his blond angel knelt over him, worry in his blue eyes.
"Zack, are you okay?" he asked softly, brushing the hot tears away.
Zack shook his head furiously. "I don't know what happened. I can't remember. But I made someone scream. There were white feathers everywhere. My body aches. Make it stop."
Cloud swallowed thickly. He knew what it was. Zack was remembering his death. His body and mind remembered the pain of bullets slicing through him and forced him to relive it through unremembered memories.
"I can't make it stop, Zack. But I can tell you what happened," he murmured.
"No…please don't," Zack whimpered.
It hurt Cloud to see Zack like this. The Zack he knew was fearless, way too cocky for his own good, and outgoing. The Zack he was dealing with now was vulnerable, weak, and shy, trying to curl up in a shell too small for him to hide. Slowly, Cloud laid down beside the distraught man, pulling him into a tender embrace. He wished desperately for the two of them to go back to the time when they had been lovers. Then this misplaced affection wouldn't feel so wrong.
Zack clung to him helplessly, tears streaming down his face and splattering onto a slim neck. Why couldn't he remember? Why him? Why was he back from the dead? What had happened?
"A long time ago…my memories were yours. Sephiroth replaced my memories with yours and used me as a puppet after you…died. When I found out that everything before was a lie…I know what it feels like," Cloud whispered in his ear, running his hands over Zack's back in a reassuring manner.
"I can't stand not knowing. Tell me. Please," Zack begged.
"Shinra's men killed you. You were protecting me. It's my fault you died."
Zack's eyes widened and he stiffened in Cloud's grasp. "I…protected you?"
Cloud nodded. "You took several bullets for me."
"So it was you screaming," Zack whispered. "You were crying and then you were screaming. And then you left. Then the white feathers were raining."
"I'm sorry I left you now," Cloud told him. "Do you remember anything else about me?"
Zack chewed his lip before shaking his head. "No. I don't remember anything else other than that."
"If we were best friends, why did I forget you?" Zack asked.
"I don't know. But I forgot you for awhile too. Don't worry about it," Cloud told him.
Zack frowned and then pressed his face tighter against Cloud's neck, letting sleep overtake him. He dreamed of white feathers.
The next morning Cloud woke with Zack in his arms, as always. It was painful for him, reliving all of the times the two had woken like this in the past but knowing that Zack had no idea what had happened. He wished that Zack would hurry up and remember, praying to whatever God there might be that Zack would still love him when he found out.
Zack stirred then, waking up and then pulling his face away from Cloud's neck. The memories of the night before, especially the dream, came flooding back, and he jerked away. Cloud, startled, released him.
"What is it?" Cloud asked.
Zack sat up and then looked at him. "Sorry I just…"
"Memories. I had the weirdest one just now," Zack mumbled, a blush suddenly creeping up his neck and engulfing his cheeks.
"What was it?" Cloud asked, his breath catching.
Zack didn't say anything, shifting closer to Cloud instead until their bodies were mere inches away. Then he closed the gap between their lips, gently pressing in as his eyes slipped close. Cloud stared at him wide eyed before letting his eyes slip shut as well. This was what he had missed for so long, just this simple touch of lips, soft pressure, sweet taste, perfect touch.
But then Zack had pulled away, a small grin on his face. "That was it."
"I don't remember everything. But I remember that. And a few more…things we did," Zack said, scratching the back of his head and grinning awkwardly.
"Don't do anything you don't want to," Cloud said quietly. "Please, I don't want you acting on memories. I want it to be real."
Zack frowned. "I understand. I don't even really remember you that well. Just those bits. They're the strongest memories."
Cloud let a soft smile touch his lips. "I'm not surprised. But I'll wait. I'm patient."
Zack was silent for several minutes and the two sat in complete silence, neither moving, neither speaking, neither wanting to. Then, finally,
"Can you teach me how to fight with a sword again?"
"Where are we going this time?" Zack asked as Cloud tossed him a helmet. He tugged it over his mop of black hair.
"We're going to where you died. Your old sword is there. It isn't in the best condition but we can fix it," Cloud told him.
"I was good, right?"
"First Class SOLDIER. Close to Sephiroth's level," Cloud said. You trained me at one point. Weird that our positions switched."
Silence continued for the rest of the ride. Zack felt himself pressing closer to Cloud than last time, wondering if the need to be closer to the man was what he felt now or something from the past. How often had his hands traced the planes of the smooth stomach? Did they even get that far? He wanted the questions answered but finally he gave up thinking about them; there was no point in trying to answer them. He was who he was now, not back then. If that was the same person as before, okay, if not, the others would have to live.
Cloud turned up a slope, slowing down as he neared the top of the desolate cliff overlooking the grey and dull city and the brown plain that separated them. He stopped the engine and got off, dumping his helmet on the ground as Zack quickly followed his example.
At the edge of the cliff, a sword was stuck in the ground, rust gathering around the handle and along the edge. Zack stared at it, mesmerized completely. Cloud didn't speak, figuring that there would be typhoon of feelings running rampant through the man at the moment. It was, after all, his sword, and where he had died.
"The white feathers rained here," Zack told him, walking towards the very edge, stopping a mere inch from toppling over.
Cloud stepped up behind him, watching as Zack's eyes slipped close and he held his arms out, leaning forward slightly as if he were trying to fly into the wind that gusted towards them. His hair flew around his face and a smile split his lips. Cloud swallowed as he took in the sight. This was the Zack he knew, this was the carefree Zack that would willingly throw his life away for those he loved.
Not knowing what was compelling him, he slowly stepped towards Zack, arms wrapping around his waist tentatively before laying his head against Zack's chest, his own eyes slipping close. Zack's arms came down to surround him and his nose nuzzled the feathery blond locks. Neither moved then, both wrapped up in memories that tried to break through after being locked up for so long.
"I loved you," Cloud whispered. "So much. When you died, I didn't think I could keep going."
"Do you love me now?" Zack asked softly, eyes still closed.
"Yes. I never stopped."
Cloud regretted the words as soon as he said them. He didn't want to impose his position on Zack or anything. As if reading his mind, Zack spoke.
"Don't worry. I won't let you influence me. I'll wait until I remember everything. Then I'll really be Zack. Then I can remember if I loved you for real or not."
Cloud pulled away then, staring at his eyes. "Let's train. That's what you came here for."
Zack grinned. "Right."
Zack watched as Cloud finished polishing the blade, giving it several test swings before handing it to him. They had gone back to Seventh Heaven so Cloud could properly fix the blade in the basement and now that it was in perfect condition, they were ready to practice.
"So what first?" Zack asked, testing the weight of the metal. It was strangely familiar and his vision flashed briefly.
The ringing sound of clashing swords, a painful sting in his cheek, a metal pipe rams into his back.
"Zack. Breath. You're okay."
Cloud's steady voice brought Zack back and he took a shuddering breath, shaking his head once to clear it. Then he grinned.
"It's fine. I'm fine. So, answer my question."
"Well, we aren't going to start with sparring. We're going to wrestle," Cloud told him. "You always made me do this. You always used to beat me at it too."
Zack grinned. "Well I was a First Class SOLDIER, wasn't I?"
Cloud's expression suddenly became serious. A thought had crossed his mind and his gaze flew to Zack's eyes, searching them for the common mako shine. Upon not seeing it, he moved closer, studying the other man's eyes despite the obvious unease from the latter. Even looking closer, he couldn't see any of the shine that glowed in his own eyes.
"Um, what are you doing?" Zack asked, looking at him questioningly.
"The mako is gone," Cloud muttered, backing away. "Not that you know what that means. You'll remember. It was something that always drove you insane."
Zack frowned, chewing his lip. "Why is it that I seem to be forgetting the more important things? You, this mako you talk about…None of it sounds familiar."
"It'll come to you," Cloud assured him. "Don't worry about it."
Zack set the sword down near the wall and then turned back to Cloud, a small blush dusting his cheeks when he saw Cloud removing his shoulder guard and his shirt as well, tossing them both over to the wall. For the first time, perfectly sculpted abs were displayed and Zack couldn't help his eyes from roaming over them hungrily. Cloud pretended not to notice and held himself back from doing the same when Zack copied his movements. After a quick stretch, he turned to lock eyes with the man.
"Let's see if your body remembers how to move."
Without saying anything else, Cloud lunged, using the few hand to hand combat moves he knew to try and catch Zack off guard. With the ease of simply breathing, Zack ducked under his blows and countered with his own, their limbs connecting together as they blocked and attacked.
Zack was stunned at the fluidity of his own movements, startled at how his body seemed to react without asking permission from his mind if the movements were okay. He weaved in and out of the motions, eventually seizing Cloud in a head lock, a knee in the blond's gut.
He released Cloud immediately and Cloud coughed once, a small smile on his lips. "Why am I not surprised?"
"It was weird," Zack said, staring down at his hands. "My body was acting without me."
"Years and years of training will do that to you," Cloud said, heading towards the back wall of the basement, feet cold against the cement floor. A rack of swords ran along the wall. Zack followed, just as he always did. "These swords are practice swords. Pick one that feels right."
Zack scanned them each over, finally picking up the heavy wood one with the single edge. It was similar to the metal one he was eventually supposed to use. Cloud picked a similar to one.
"You trained me with the same kind of sword. Our fighting styles will be the same. If you're body remembers anyways."
"What's the probability that my body will remember?"
"I'd say about ninety nine percent. Go!"
Zack barely managed to block and then dart out of the way as Cloud neatly recovered and sliced at him. He found it hard to lift such a heavy sword and use it well, his muscles felt weak, shaky even. After only several minutes, Cloud stopped, letting the sword hang at his side.
"You lost muscle mass. We'll have to work on that before even thinking of trying to use these swords," Cloud said. "Do you want to do that now or later?"
"Hey, Spiky. How ya doing?" Zack asked, slapping the grunt on the shoulder cheerfully.
Cloud stumbled, wary from that days training. "Sorry, sir. I sprained my ankle in training today."
"Aw, Spiky. I'm sorry. Want me to look at it?" he offered.
Cloud shook his head. "I wouldn't want it to look like you were favoring me, sir."
"But Spiky, I do favor ya," Zack said, grinning broadly. "You're coming with me, whether you like it or not. I want to check your injury and make sure it'll heal right."
Zack woke from the dream, curled up in Cloud's arms. That night, the two had decided it would be best to just fall asleep together instead of Zack always moving and waking them both up. As he tried to fall back asleep, he massaged his arm muscles gingerly. They ached from the two ours of work Cloud had put him through. He found it humiliating how he was so weak when Cloud was so strong; he would bet that Tifa was stronger than him. And the mako? What had Cloud meant by that?
The thoughts continued to whir around in his mind, even as he drifted back into sleep.
"Zack? Are you okay?"
The voice was soft, questioning. It drove him insane. No, Cloud, go away. I can't poison your innocence.
The door opened despite his mind's pleas and in stepped the golden angel. The room was suddenly too small as his wild violet eyes focused on Cloud who was shutting the door behind him.
"Cloud, leave. I can't-"
"What did they do to you?" Cloud asked, voice steady and calm even as Zack began pacing his quarters.
"They murdered my soul! I'm not human! I've killed, I've murdered! I can't do it. They'll destroy me with these experiments. I can't do it!" Zack wailed, collapsing to his knees and punching the floor angrily. "Get out of here while you can, Cloud."
"What are you talking about? I can't leave you like this. You know I love-"
Cloud stared into wild violet eyes as he was pinned to the wall, breath hissing onto his face.
"Do not lie to me. You cannot love someone as inhuman as I am," Zack growled. "Calm down, Zack," Cloud ordered softly. His voice was strong despite his fear. "I will love you no matter what."
"Mako, Cloud. I've been enhanced by Mako. I'm not even human."
"Human just means our bodies, Zack. Our bodies don't matter. They're for others to abuse and use. It's our souls that matter. I thought you knew that."
"Don't use such corny lines!" Zack snarled, his grip on Cloud's neck tightening.
Cloud grabbed Zack's wrist, sinking his thumb into the pressure point, neatly forcing Zack to release him. He knew that if Zack had been in his right mind he wouldn't have been so easily beaten. Zack spun away from him. It was hard to contain himself with Cloud telling him everything he yearned to hear. Anytime before Hojo's experiments, he would've been the happiest man alive with Cloud's confession but now, he wished Cloud would just leave so he wouldn't take advantage of his feelings. But he needed so badly to feel human again.
"I hope you won't regret this," Zack said softly, eyes darkening as he advanced on Cloud.
Fear was apparent in Cloud's eyes but his jaw was set. "I won't. I want to help you."
He winced when Zack's hand moved behind his neck, fingers curling in the golden locks and yanking his head back. Blue clashed with violet and the sky turned black.
Zack's eyes snapped open, heart pounding in his chest. He had done that? How could Cloud even speak to him let alone help him?
"Something wrong?" Cloud asked, startling him out of his thoughts. "You're shaking. It woke me up."
"I'm sorry," he whimpered, hiding his face in Cloud's shirt.
"For what?" Cloud asked, completely confused.
"That…was years ago. Don't worry about that," Cloud murmured, chewing his bottom lip and tugging Zack closer so he wouldn't have to look him in the eye. "I'm over it."
"How could you have possibly forgiven me?"
"You needed something that I thought I could give. I chickened out halfway through and that's my fault. You made it up to me later," Cloud said.
"You know, I spent years telling you that you were forgiven and you would still apologize. If there was anything I wish you would never remember, it would be that," Cloud told him.
"I will never forgive myself. I can't."
Cloud pulled away and kissed Zack abruptly, shutting up anything else the man might have wanted to say. Zack's eyes widened as Cloud pressed in close, surrounding him completely in warmth as their bodies connected at their lips. Zack lost himself in the feeling, letting love from the past, and quite possibly the present, well up inside him and consume him completely, moving his lips back against Cloud's.
This is wrong, Cloud thought as he slipped his tongue past the seam of Zack's lips. I'm taking advantage of him like he did to me. I can't do this. He doesn't want this. He doesn't remember me. I have to stop.
With a tremendous amount of will, Cloud pulled away, burying his face in Zack's neck and letting his fingers dance over the quivering muscles of his back. He wanted desperately to continue but knew that he couldn't, not without hurting them both in the end.
"C-Cloud," Zack whispered, fingers twisting in his hair. "I want to remember everything. I want to be me again."
"You will. I promise you will," Cloud hissed fiercely, tears slipping beyond the closed lids of his eyes.
"I had another dream, after we fell back asleep," Zack said quietly as he and Cloud stretched, getting ready for another wresting match before Zack was sent through the physical routine Cloud had set up for him.
"What about?" Cloud asked, hoping to god, if he was real, that it wouldn't be something painful again.
"Aeris. Her name was Aeris. I think I loved her, not like you though. She was like my sister," Zack explained. "Flower girl, I think I called her. Where is she?"
"Sephiroth killed her," Cloud answered, voice dark. "But I killed him…more than once. If he comes back again…"
"He went insane," Zack mumbled. "He burned the town, killed Tifa's dad. Almost killed me. And you…you…oh my god."
He watched through hooded eyes as Cloud's hands, twitching from pain, grasped the blade in both hands, pulling himself along it so his feet could once again touch precious ground.
"Take my family, take my home, take my friends. What else can you take!?"
"It's not possible!"
"You…Sephiroth…Jenova," Zack whispered, stepping away from Cloud, eyes wild. "The experiments. What did they do to me? To you?"
"Zack, it's alright. You're fine now. The mako in your body is gone. You're human," Cloud told him, finally moving closer and gripping his arm tightly. "However…I still have mako in may body. If that disgusts you, let me know."
"How could it disgust me? I was the same way. It drove me insane for awhile…and then when they did it to you…I just couldn't stand it."
"I'm glad you saved me," Cloud said.
Zack was silent, deep in thought, for several tense minutes. Cloud didn't say anything, not wanting to break whatever thought process the other man was going through. Finally, Zack looked up and grinned, wide and all teeth.
"So what are we waiting for? I need to get back up to my old level, don't I?"
Cloud smiled, barely. "Yeah."
Another month passed without incident, small snippets of memories returning in odd intervals, and never anything worth mentioning. Small events with people, conversations that seemed to have no importance, random thoughts during a spar; they were all there. Zack was unsure of why he could suddenly only remember small insignificant things and Cloud didn't have any guesses either.
As time passed, the two continued to grow closer, almost the way they had been in the past only Cloud wasn't as shy. Cloud found Zack becoming more and more like he used to be, growing into the personality that was truly him as small memories came back. He often complained that the memories weren't important, but Cloud knew they were. Every memory, no matter how small, made a person who they were.
"What're you looking at?" asked Zack, plopping down beside Cloud.
Cloud was lying on his stomach on their bed, flipping through a small pamphlet. "I'm considering buying a place to live. Definitely got enough gil for it."
"Wow, Spiky. You serious? Where?" Zack asked, excitement building in his violet eyes.
"I'm thinking Costa De Sol. Shinra's president's place went up for sale and it's actually pretty cheap. Surprised it isn't taken yet," Cloud muttered. "Pass me the phone, will you?"
"Sure thing, Spike," Zack said cheerily, bouncing over to the desk and then tossing the phone towards Cloud.
Cloud caught it neatly without looking up, making a few quick phone calls before sitting up. "Done."
"Seriously? How are you going to explain that to Tifa?" Zack asked. "And what about me?"
"You are coming with me. Tifa already knows. I talked to her about it about a week ago and I've been tossing around the idea since then. I finally decided I wanted to leave. Of course, if you don't want to come with me, you don't have to," Cloud explained, moving off the bed and heading for the door.
"You thought I wouldn't want to?" Zack asked, eyebrows raised. "Of course I do."
"Fully furnished? Are you serious?!" Tifa cried. "For how much?"
"Two hundred thousand gil. I think Rufus was just waiting for me to get it," Cloud told her, sneaking a quick sip of beer. "Otherwise he wouldn't have made it so cheap."
"That's amazing," she breathed, leaning against the counter. "What about Zack?"
"He wants to go with me, that's the whole reason I was going to do this anyways."
Tifa frowned then. "You aren't trying to make him love you, right?"
"No. I would never take advantage of him, not when he's just starting to remember me. He remembered Sephiroth's fight, back when Sephiroth killed your father," Cloud said. "And he remembers bits and pieces from when we first met."
"How is his training going?"
"We'll probably start with practice swords today," Cloud informed her. "He lost a lot of muscle mass but he gained it back in only a month."
"Well, he is Zack. Mako or not, he's amazing at those things," Tifa sighed. "It makes me jealous."
"Why do you think he was looked up to almost as much as Sephiroth was? Zack just had better charisma."
"Seems you took after Sephiroth as far as charisma goes." Tifa regretted the words as soon as she said them. Cloud's eyes darkened and he stood abruptly. "Cloud-"
"Leave it. If anyone asks, I went to the church."
He as gone before she could say anything else.
He wasn't like Sephiroth. There was no way he could be. He was nothing like that man. But of course, there was the doubt within him, creeping into the cracks that had formed in his mind, arguing that of course he was like the man, Sephiroth was the darkness within him and there was no way he could escape that.
Cloud angrily yanked one of the flowers out of patch of grass, plucking off each petal and finally tearing the stem into small pieces, scattering them across the ground as he thought. He was reaching for another one when a voice broke the silence.
"Hey now. Picking flowers is one thing but ruining them is just cruel," Zack chided, stepping through the wooden doors and crossing the ground towards him. "What's up, Spiky?"
"How did you get here?" Cloud asked, not looking at him.
"I walked. You never answered my question," Zack said stubbornly, sitting down next to him.
"You can talk to me. I'll listen."
"I know. It's just that…Tifa said something today that I've been avoiding for a long time. And I guess I just realized that she's right," Cloud mumbled, picking another flower and proceeding to tear it apart.
"What did she say?"
"Apparently, I take after Sephiroth," Cloud muttered.
Zack winced. "Did she mean it like that?"
"It was supposed to be a joke," he answered.
"One hell of a joke," Zack said, scratching the back of his head.
"She's right though," Cloud continued. "Sephiroth is my darkness. We're more alike then anyone thinks and I've just been denying it this entire time."
"Whoa, back up Spiky. That is most definitely not true. If it was, you would've left me here to fend for myself and I'm guessing you wouldn't comfort me during my nightmares," Zack said, grabbing Cloud by his shoulders and forcing him to turn and look at him. "Understand now? You are nothing like Sephiroth."
"Cloud," Zack interrupted. "You, are, wrong. What do I have to do to prove that?"
"Just leave it be, Zack."
"No way, Spiky. You know me. I can't leave you alone when you're like this. You'll probably do something stupid," Zack said. "So what do you want me to do? And you can't say leave 'cause I won't."
"Hold me. Make the darkness go away."
Zack shifted closer, tugging the torn man to him, wrapping his arms around him tightly. Cloud sighed, closing his eyes, forehead resting against Zack's shoulder. Slim fingers traced small designs over his back for several minutes before Zack began to massage the tense and aching muscles. He continued this until Cloud's breathing and he became limp with relaxation. It took him several minutes to realize the man had fallen asleep.
"The things I do for you," Zack sighed, pushing Cloud onto his back before standing. The man truly did look like an angel when he slept. Well, he was a hell of a lot more peaceful looking than when he was awake. Sighing again, he went to look for a blanket.
Cloud woke slowly, his skin warm from the sun and the rest of his body heated by a blanket and Zack's body. He cuddled closer on instinct, sighing contentedly into the smooth neck his face was buried in and gently lipped the skin. Zack shuddered and Cloud was thrown back into reality. Not the same Zack, not yet. The memories had almost all returned. He knew he couldn't impose on Zack until the raven haired man had made up his own decisions.
"Spiky, I don't mind, really," Zack murmured sleepily.
"Do whatever you're comfortable with. I know I loved you, I don't know if I still do, but I'll never find out if you don't do something, will I?" Zack mused, moving so that he could look Cloud in the eye. Cloud looked away quickly but Zack quickly gripped his chin, forcing their faces closer. "What are you going to do, Cloud?"
Tense silence fell over them, Cloud's mind in turmoil as he tried to come up with a response, something right. He didn't know what to do anymore. He thought he was making the right choice, restraining himself from pushing Zack into anything, but it was clear that Zack wanted him to call the shots now.
Cloud leaned forward, shifting so he was straddling Zack's waist, the blanket slipping down his back and pooling at Zack's shins. Zack had released his chin and Cloud moved in, their lips a mere inch from touching. Finally, they did.
A burst of…something, exploded within Cloud and his fingers twisted abruptly in the raven locks. This was Zack. This was the man he loved and cherished, worshiped even, and he was all his. His to ravish, his to kiss, his to make love to. All his and nobody else's.
"Cloud," Zack whispered as they pulled away. "I love you."
Cloud drew back fully, startled by the words. "This is you, right? This is Zack? You aren't just lying to make me feel better, are you?"
Violet eyes met cerulean, beautiful, crystal clear, cerulean. "Of course I love you Cloud. I always have, I just didn't know it."
Cloud captured his lips again, trying to force all the love and admiration he had felt for the man, even as he had laid dying and after his death. Zack whimpered into the kiss, arching into Cloud's now wandering hands. He usually wasn't one to submit, he vividly remembered always topping, but for the time being, he could care less, he just knew he needed to feel Cloud's body pressed to his and their lips connected. It was a brief kiss, but it meant the world to him.
"I love you, Cloud."
"I love you too, Zack."
Zack turned his gaze up to the sky and for a second, he could've sworn it was raining white feathers.