Zack comes home from an exhausting mission.

Fluff; sweet, sweet fluff. Like cotton-candy. Also, yaoi but no citrus. Sorry but sometimes you need something sweet to go along with the sour. This is your warning.

Disclaimer: Really? Really?

Gaia, he'd give a Master All to see the inside of his bedroom right this second. But when he wasn't instantly transported nor were there any glittery sparkles indicating some sort of magical relocation to his bed, Zack was forced to get to his apartment the old fashion way – by his two legs. Though maybe it was for the best since he didn't have a Master All on him…

The elevator door pinged open and Zack stared out at the dimly lit hallway that, as long as he was reading the number on the far wall was correct (which was questionable), held his room. Had the hall always been that long and… long? The end seemed to have disappeared into the night gloom. It was almost seemed right out of some horror/mystery movie.

The door started to close. With a small squawk, Zack shot his arm out to keep it open, effectively bashing his knuckles against the metal side. He blinked at his hand then narrowed his eyes at the now opening door after it had jerked to a stop, almost indignitity, as if it were Zack's fault that it wasn't able to close properly. Well it was but it was a door and Zack was the Master and it should listen to him and not groan in protest and…

And Zack really need to get some sleep if he was having a mental argument with an elevator door of all things. He supposed it was a good thing he wasn't talking aloud to it. He wouldn't have put it past anyone (aka The Turks) to have installed audio along with the security camera's in all the lifts. Yeah, Reno would have gotten a kick out of that.

Finally exiting the elevator, the First Class focused on getting to his room, which as mentioned earlier, involved walking. Damn walking. Why hadn't Shinra installed shuttles or a moving walkway? Didn't they know that their soldiers didn't always have the necessary energy when they came back from missions? Especially the really hard, long, frustrating ones like he just had? He really should bring that up at the next meeting.

Despite what Sephiroth claimed it was in no way his fault that they were three and a half days late. The General said four but Zack knew better. He'd been counting the hours since the second day when they were kept back in the inn they had stayed the night at because of a kitchen fire; which Zack also had nothing to do with. It was just luck that Anderson had had an Ice Materia on him to put it out before it caused any more damage. But than the local sheriff had wanted to take their statements – to get all the facts straight – and apparently small town minutes differed from Midgar minutes since what was supposed to take only a few ended up at two hours. Two hour frickin' hours in a small inn with five other bored and antsy SOLDIERS all geared up and ready to get on with their mission.

Yeah Zack hadn't been happy but other than trying to point out that they had business else where, he could do nothing about it. Sephiroth had made it very clear that he was suppose to follow the local laws this time and not cause anymore 'incidents'. Like the cherry bombs in that bar's liquor cabinet had been his idea. Okay, that had been but it was a joke and he hadn't even known that Hoshi had cherry bombs on him or he would never have mentioned it.


… Maybe.

He'd tried since the fire incident to make-up their lost time but apparently Gaia, and all the gods of small misfortune, had been against them. What was meant to be a simple recon mission to the shores north-east of Kalm, turned into a mission from muddy, frustrating hell. They had several transport mishaps and breakdowns, misunderstandings with the locals, trouble checking into and out of inns and, of course, random monster encounters. Though usually the random encounters consisted of mobs a group of three or so SOLDIERS could easily take down. Not a family of Red Dragons. Which reminded him, he was going to have to tell Intel that Red Dragons migrated this time of year.

His feet stopped causing Zack to look up from his empty gaze of the floor. He found himself next to a door. A rather familiar door. Blinking once he realized it was his door. Well looked like his feet where good for something other than aching and squishing wet socks in his boots; they were paying more attention to his destination that he was. He'd have to reward them. Most likely by sitting down. Yes, sitting was a good plan. Even better was sleeping. No, wait, sleeping was the best. Now to just open his door and take a few more steps and collapse on his bed.

Only the door wasn't opening for some reason. Did he type his code in right? Crap, what was his code? He'd used it so much that he didn't even think about it anymore, his fingers just knew what to push. But he was thinking about it now and his fingers seemed to be just as frozen as his mind.


Then just when he was wondering if he could maybe hotwire the door open or, oh!, better yet, simply use his sword, the door magically opened.

Did he do that?

Looking up his mind froze again. There was a person in his doorway. A very familiar person with blond hair and blue eyes. And their name was… almost, he almost had it… just on the tip of his tongue, er brain… ah ha! Cloud! Ah crap he really needed to go to bed if he couldn't even remember his boyfriend's name.

Wait, why was Cloud here? He was at his apartment right? Not at Cloud's? He should ask.


Oh, yeah, very elegant.

The blond rolled his eyes at his dumbfounded expression and grabbed his hand which was still outstretched over the keypad. "Come on," the younger teen murmured, guiding Zack into the room and letting the door shut behind him. Zack followed numbly behind, eyes slowly circling the apartment. It certainly looked like his place.

"Spike…?" He asked again, eyes finally settling on the blond begging for a simple and quick answer. His brain really couldn't handle much more stimulus before complete and utter shut down.

"I heard you're group just got in," Cloud's usual soft voice began as he led Zack to the kitchenette, "And seeing as you're four days late," Three and a half, Zack silently corrected. "I thought I'd come over and make sure you're alright." He pulled out a chair and gestured for Zack to sit. The First did so, groaning as his muscles suddenly ached at the new position. But it was good ache, the one right before they relaxed into strength-less goo.

"Don't wanna get up again," Zack mumbled as he leaned back in the chair, head tipped back, eyes closed.

"Was the mission that hard?" Cloud asked from behind him.

A grunt that might have been agreement escaped Zack's throat. Or it could just have been a vague noise created from escaping air from Zack's lungs. He didn't really dwell on it.

Noises from Cloud moving around him were the only things heard for the next few minutes. Then something was placed on the table in front of him and Zack heard Cloud say lowly next to him, "Here. You should eat something before you go to bed."

"That means moving," Zack whined but opened his eyes anyway. A plate of hot, streaming food sat before him. Pushing himself up to a better position he grabbed the fork that Cloud set down moments before and took a good whiff. It smelled heavenly and just the thought of eating something that wasn't field rations or oatmeal – This week's special! – was enough to give him a second wing. Or maybe it was his sixth. Tch, whatever.

"You're an angel," He muttered as he dug in. He caught Cloud's shy smile and ducking of blond hair. Zack didn't understand how Cloud could be so hesitant with everything life dealt him when he was so vastly determined when he picked up a sword. But than the contrasting behavior was one of the many things he liked about his boyfriend.

Zack finished the meal without stopping or speaking. He was going to use this new burst of energy to eat and, barring whatever else, make it to his bed. He could even change out of his dirty uniformed if it kept up like this.

Plate clean, he sat back, smiling at Cloud now that he could do so and enjoying the feeling of a warm and full stomach. Cloud smiled back. Standing he took Zack's plate, placed it in the sink and returned to the raven's side.

"Bed time."

"Mmm," Zack agreed. He stood only to pause as he looked at Cloud. "You didn't eat."

"Ate already." Zack blinked at him. Cloud chided him lightly. "It's past one am, Zack."

"It is?" Zack asked, looking for a clock. He found one on the microwave and saw that Cloud was correct; it was past one o'clock in the morning. Geez, who knew time flew when you were dog-tired.

"Come on," Cloud said, once again leading him into the bedroom with a hand around his wrist. Once again Zack obediently followed, even going so far as to let Cloud pull off his sword harness and dirty shirt. Though to be fair, he'd always let Cloud undress him. It was only right being his boyfriend and all. Though getting the blond to willingly – well not willingly, Zack would never force the other – but to… enthusiastically partake in those activities was always a bit of a struggle. The blond was just too shy for his own good sometimes.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, Zack watched Cloud pull off his muddy boots. "You gonna get my pants too?" Zack asked with a knowing smirk. Cloud glance up at him, rolled his eyes and stood.

"I think you can handle that." Then he turned to leave. Concerned that he finally went too far with his introverted boyfriend, and not really wanting to be alone in his apartment after such a maddening mission, Zack stood and made after the retreating blond.

"Hey, where ya going? I didn't mean, well I did but not really and you really don't have to leave and…" He stopped rambling since Cloud had paused in the doorway, turned slightly, and almost tip-toeing, placed a soft kiss on Zack's lips.

"I'll be right back," the blond replied as Zack blinked down at him. "Just getting some water and a washcloth." He poked the raven's arm. "You're a little too muddy to be sleeping in clean sheets. Um, I was going to give you a, a sponge bath, but its late now and you're tired, so um..." He trailed off as he stared at Zack's chest, a bright blush covering the blonde's nose and cheeks.

"Oh," was all Zack managed as he rubbed the back of his neck. A grin broke across his face and he watched Cloud quickly make his way to the bathroom. His boyfriend was too cute sometimes too, and just too easy to fluster even when Zack didn't mean to. Sitting back down on the edge of his bed, Zack stripped down to his boxers, throwing the dirt covered cloths in a pile on the floor. He'd worry about laundry later. He grimaced as he spotted dried mud between the many wrinkles of his rather worn boxers – laundry on the road wasn't a priority. But really, even his boxers got muddy? Was nothing sacred?

Cloud returned with a washcloth and a bowl of warm water. He paused in the doorway, his bottom lip between his teeth, as his eyes traveled over Zack. Zack smirked, wiggling his eyebrows. Cloud rolled his eyes as he finally stepped into the bedroom.

"I might need a bigger bowl."

"Bah, that'll be fine."

Placing the bowl on the nearby nightstand, Cloud dipped the cloth into the water then began rubbing it over Zack's skin, scrubbing harder over the more persistent spots of mud. Zack, greatly enjoying his boyfriend's care, kept his mouth shut. One reason was because, Cloud being the shy person that he was, was taking a bold step in doing this himself without any prompting from Zack, and two, exhaustion was settling in once again.

It took almost ten minutes before Cloud was done. He left once to dump and refill the water bowl when at one point all he was doing was smearing the mud around. Scrubbing the last wet part of him dry, Zack tossed the towel in the general direction of the ever growing pile of clothes. Cloud dug a clean pair of boxers out and tossed them to Zack. He picked up the once again dirty water bowl then turned to leave.

"Don't ya wanna get the last bit?"

Cloud frowned for a second until he noticed where Zack was holding the hem of his boxers, eyes alight with mischief. Cloud shook his head in disbelief.

"Well, I suppose I could just dump this on you," he said, indicating the bowl in hand.

Zack wasn't afraid to admit that he pouted. "You can be so mean."

Cloud let out a bark of laughter as he turned and exited the bedroom.

A sudden yawn pulled whatever only slightly perverted thoughts were in Zack's mind and reminded him that he hadn't slept in the last twenty hours and, oh look!, his bed was right under him. Changing into the clean boxers Cloud had given him, and yawning once more, Zack crawled under the covers. Letting his muscles totally relax and mind wander, he listened to Cloud putter around in the apartment. It probably was only a few minutes but Zack was already dozing when he felt his bed dip and a familiar presence settle itself next to him. Arms thinking on their own, but it was a good thought and so Zack let them get away with it, they pulled the newcomer close and wrapped themselves around the warm, lithe body. Cloud wiggled a little closer, his back against Zack's chest, and intertwined one set of fingers together, bringing it close enough to his face so Zack could feel Cloud's breathe ghost over the back of his hand.

"Good night, Zack."

Zack nuzzled Cloud's neck, the fine hair tickling his nose. "Mmm, night, love."

A full stomach from a good meal, washed with clean (boxers) clothes on, and his very sweet boyfriend in his arms; this was definitely the best 'Welcome Home' Zack had received in a, well, forever. If this was going to become the norm, Zack wouldn't mind going on more long, frustrating, mind-numbing, it-came-from-the-abyss missions.

Just don't tell Sephiroth that.