(A/N) I wrote this for my friend Shibara1310, because she loves Zack, and she's completely awesome. :3 I hope you like this Shibi! :D
Like I said in the summary, this isn't yaoi; it just focuses on Zack and Cloud's friendship. I suppose you could see it that way if you wanted, but I didn't write it with that intention. O.o I prefer the canon couples in the series myself. ;P People liked my other Zack/Cloud friendship story A Little Push so much that I decided I had to do another one, and thus I've come up with this. :D This one takes place sometime before the Nibelheim incident in Crisis Core. (it's spoiler free though!) Unlike my other story, this is in Cloud's point of view. :3
A typical day for most people; a Wednesday. Everybody around the ShinRa building has been going about their business as usual; thousands of employees and recruits running around the various lobbies and crowding in the elevators to get to the top floors of the massive building. I drug myself out of bed and went to training early this morning like I do every weekday, though now that I've been here for almost a year, my muscles don't ache quite as badly as they used to every time after practice.
It's just like any other day, except for the fact that this particular day happens to be my sixteenth birthday. I left home right after I turned fifteen, much to my mother's dismay, so this is my first birthday away from home. It's sort of odd being so far away from my old town and not having my mom's traditional birthday cake to look forward to, but I like living by myself because it gives me a sense of independence, so I'll take the trade.
No one has mentioned the date all day though, and it's actually kind of depressing. Granted, I don't know a whole bunch of people here; I'm not exactly a social person. I figured that somebody would say something though, whether it was a guy in my squad or one of the other employees in the building that I see frequently. Not one word out of any of them though. Well, I guess one person remembered; I got a letter from my mom when I went to check my mail earlier. She was in labor for three hours on this day though, so of course she remembers.
Zack might remember it too, because he's that type of person, but I haven't seen him in weeks. I don't think he got assigned to another mission, because he never said anything, and the rest of the first class SOLDIERs are still around. They normally travel together, or at least in pairs, so I seriously doubt that they sent Zack off somewhere by himself and he forgot to tell me about it before he left.
He's probably been hanging out in the Sector Five slums again, like he's been doing just about every chance he gets lately. A while back, he met this girl that keeps a garden in an old church there, so he's been helping her take care of it. Her name is Aeris, and since he's been going to see her he's been talking about her nonstop. He contends that he hasn't declared her to be his girlfriend yet, but whether he wants to admit it or not, he's completely smitten.
I sigh heavily, lying back across my bed with my legs hanging over the edge and squeezing my eyes shut, trying to block out the late afternoon sun that's streaming in from my window. I've already taken a shower tonight, and I don't feel hungry enough to go all the way down to the second floor cafeteria to get something to eat, so I resign myself to sulking away what's left of the rest of my birthday.
My room is on the twenty-third floor, where most of the other infantrymen are assigned to live. It's really inconvenient to be up so high, because going anywhere means a long, cramped elevator ride; and that doesn't exactly sound like fun right now. The room is really small, just large enough to fit a bed, a small table and a few other necessities. We all have to use a public bathroom and shower room too, but at least I get a place by myself.
After staying still for so long, I relax myself enough that I'm starting to drift off to sleep. That is, at least, before I hear a loud knock at my door. It startles me awake, making me jerk up so that I'm sitting on the edge of my bed. I must have forgotten to lock my door behind me when I came in, because a moment later it swings open, and none other than Zack barges into my room with that characteristic eager grin plastered on his face.
"Hey buddy," he greets me, closing the door behind himself and ignoring my frown at the nickname.
I think he enjoys teasing me, but despite the fact that he's two years older than I am, he doesn't ever treat me like a kid; save for the occasional joke or two. He never acts like he's above me in authority either, even if he is a first class SOLDIER and I'm just a lowly infantryman. He treats me like his equal, or a friend. I guess I've begun to consider him a friend too, because it's hard not to like somebody as friendly as Zack.
We've only been on a few assignments together, including the one that I met him on in Modeoheim, but we see each other a lot even when we're not on duty; at least when I don't have training and he's not on some mission or down at the church in the slums. Over the past year that I've known him, I've really started looking up to him, because he's exactly the kind of guy that I've always wanted to be: strong, confident; a SOLDIER.
"What are you doing here, Zack?" I ask, watching him curiously.
I notice that he has one hand behind his back, holding something that he obviously doesn't want me to see, which instantly makes me suspicious. Around the ShinRa building, Zack is the one that's known for his occasional nasty pranks, and I'd really hate to be on the receiving end of one of those. He backs towards my table and sets whatever he was holding down on it, though he makes sure that I can't look past him to identify what it is.
"Good grief, Cloud. Did you forget your own birthday?" he asks sarcastically, cocking an eyebrow at me.
"Of course not," I say, glaring up at him in defense as convincingly as I can, though I am actually happy to see him. "I'm just surprised that you remembered," I add.
He grins at me again. "Sure I did!" he exclaims enthusiastically. "I even brought you a cake, see?" he says, shifting to the side and revealing what he had been hiding behind him.
Sitting on the table in the far corner of my room is a delicious looking chocolate cake. It's pretty big, and it's covered in several layers of creamy frosting. I stand up and walk towards the table, realizing as I get closer that the cake has words scrawled across the top of it; 'Happy Birthday Cloud' written in light blue icing. I'm stunned silent for a moment as I stare down at it; nobody except my mom has every done anything like this for me.
"I got you a candle, too," Zack continues, causing me to glance back at him. "I could only find one, and I had to go down to the science department to get it, but I'm sure they won't mind that I borrowed it."
He steps over beside me to stick the thin, cylindrical object into the middle of the cake. Then he pulls a company issued lighter out of his pocket and flicks it at the top of the candle, trying to get it to light. Something about this feels strange, though I can't quite put my finger on it just yet. It looks a lot like a candle, but the wick doesn't seem right to me. It looks too long, and when Zack is able to get it to catch the flame, it makes a quiet hissing sound as it burns downwards.
"Uh…Zack?" I ask hesitantly, taking a step back away from the cake.
"What? Do you want me to sing to you too?" he asks with a mocking smirk, rolling his eyes.
"No," I say, shaking my head and all but ignoring his remark as I move back some more. "I don't think that's a candle. It looks a lot like a-"
This is all the warning I'm able to get out, because at that second the candle, which I now think it's fairly safe to assume is not a candle but a firecracker of some sort, reaches the end of its fuse. A deafeningly loud popping sound fills the room suddenly, echoing off the walls, and the entire cake explodes in that same instant, sending frosting and batter flying everywhere. Several large globs of it hit me, spotting my clothes and blocking my eyesight.
A few moments go by in complete silence as both of us try to absorb what has just happened, and then Zack bursts into a hysterical laughing fit. I wipe the gooey frosting away from my eyes, watching him as he doubles over at the waist while he chuckles, though he's even more covered in chocolate than I am. Despite the fact that I know it's going to be a major pain to try and clean all of this stuff up, I can't help but laugh with him. It starts out slowly, but soon both of us have collapsed to the floor, holding our sides as we continue laughing uncontrollably.
"Sorry Cloud," Zack gasps between sniggers. "I think I might have accidentally taken one of Hojo's explosives by mistake."
"You think?" I ask sarcastically, once I'm able to breathe again. "We could have been killed!" I shout at him, trying to sound serious.
I realize then that if Zack hadn't chosen to bring the cake on a paper plate, then we actually might have been killed, only by shards of glass rather than the actual explosion. I can't find it in me to be worried about that possibility though, because at the moment this whole thing is just so ridiculous that it's funny.
It takes me another minute to fully calm down, fighting against the last few chuckles that are trying to break free; I can't remember the last time I ever laughed so hard. I think Zack has that effect on people though, even when he's not blowing things up by accident. I swipe my finger across the side of my face, gathering some frosting on the end of it before popping it into my mouth. It tastes as good as it looked like it would when it was still in one piece; extremely sweet and rich from all of the chocolate.
"This is actually pretty good, Zack," I compliment him while I continue licking it off of my cheeks; just because it's covering my room now doesn't mean I'm going to waste it.
He sits up next to me, trying in vain to wipe all the frosting off of his face with his shirt. "I didn't do it by myself, Aeris helped me make it," he admits sheepishly.
He suddenly gets a sort of dazed look on his face when he mentions her name; a lazy grin forming on lips and his cheeks beginning to flush slightly, visible even underneath the layer of frosting. I'm not quite sure what that means, but I quickly decide not to ask him what else went on while Aeris was helping him bake the cake, because I'm pretty sure that it's not something I want to hear about.
"Happy birthday, Cloud," Zack says with a chuckle.
Of course he can keep laughing about this; it isn't his room that's covered in cake. I lean over, punching him in the arm for causing this mess, though I can't ever seem to really get angry at him for anything. He flinches away from me, though I know it probably doesn't hurt him that badly, considering his SOLDIER attributes. He shoots me a glare, probably waiting for me to thank him for his present, even though all it did was cause a huge problem.
"Thanks," I say finally, watching as his grin instantly returns.
"I'll help you clean this up," he promises, though it's accompanied by another snicker.
Groaning, I try not to think about how we're ever going to get that done, and I pray that my uniform isn't going to be stained from the chocolate. I let myself fall backwards so that I'm lying on my back against the floor, staring up at the ceiling from behind pieces of my frosting-encrusted hair. I'm glad that somebody remembered to bring me present today, though I wish it hadn't exploded and coated my room in sugary frosting.
All things considered though, I guess this birthday wasn't so bad after all.
(A/N) I know there's a discrepancy about when Cloud's birthday is, but although I don't have it anymore, I seem to remember the little booklet that came with my copy of the original FFVII game saying that it was the 19th, so I went with that. ;P I also mentioned that Cloud knew Aeris's name, because I think it's pretty safe to assume that Zack could have told him that much, even if Cloud didn't remember her when they met in the original game. :3 Oh, and I know that there weren't actually sixteen candles in the story, but I think that title goes well with the overall theme. ;P No relation to the song either. XD I've had a bit of writers block in the way of titles lately. O.o
I'll mostly be focusing on my new chaptered story To Have Loved and Lost from now on, but I may end up writing a few more oneshots in between updates. You can always check my profile for updates on what I'm working on at the moment. ;P
If you enjoyed this or have any other comments/criticism, I'd love to hear them in a review. :D