Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII. It is the property of Square-Enix. This is purely for the fun of writing and for people's enjoyment.

Title: Winter Sleep

Chapter Title: A New Mission

Rating: PG-13 Just because I'm not sure if many eight-year-olds are into this kind of thing… even though I was when I was at that age. XD This rating goes for the entire fic.

Pairing(s): Cloud/Zack. Yes. Some romance does happen even if it's not too big. XP Well, there's a lot of hints along the way… and some cute moments! XD The only pairing throughout the entire fic.

Word Count: 2,909

Warning(s): Contains a bit of shounen-ai. If you are not into that kind of stuff, then this fic is most likely not for you. This is for the entire fic.

Summary: Zack is assigned a new mission. Whom shall he bring along?

Dedication: To everyone who is absolutely infatuated with this pairing!

A/N: Alright then. This was actually meant to be a One-Shot but it kept growing so I decided to make it into a Chapter fic. It's about my favorite pairing. This is actually my first attempt at writing a non-crack English fic with these two that's romantic. I was actually inspired to write this fic from the song Winter Sleep by OLIVIA which I believe fits Cloud perfectly in this case. This particular fic expresses the anxiety that Cloud felt whilst he was in ShinRa and how he longed for someone to help him make it all go away. Zack is to be that person, giving his caring nature and my twisted brain. XD I wanted it to be somewhat romantic but I didn't want to only add fluff so there will only be a small part of shounen-ai towards the end of the fic. Most of it is hinting towards both Zack and Cloud loving each other. It's basically a romantic comedy. Cloud will be angsting, as usual, but not a whole lot. One last thing before I end my rambling, Italics represents what the characters are thinking. Well, I hope you enjoy! EDIT: Now fully edited with the Beta being Vix3.16! Thankies, me fwend! XD

Winter Sleep

Chapter I: A New Mission

He dragged his feet through the snow, trying to stay as close as the strong winds would allow him to his superior. The blizzard, becoming worse with each passing second, tossed him from side to side. Unable to keep himself steady in the frost, he reached out to grab the knitted sweater of his comrade. The senior officer looked back to see his junior struggling to continue on this frivolous journey, which did not seem to have an end. Glancing around his surroundings, the dark-haired man observed a small opening in the huge blocks of ice. He gently took the hand of the younger officer and coaxed him to follow the cerulean-eyed man into the dark, arctic cave.

:Five Days Prior:

"You've got to be kidding!" The First-Class SOLDIER's voice resounded throughout the entire facility. "There's no way we can go there at this time of year. We'll freeze to death!"

"The weather will be the least of your concerns, Fair." President Shinra stated nonchalantly, as he often did when he had to deal with such displeasures.

Zack had received his orders as soon as the sun had risen. There had been reports of an unidentifiable creature terrorizing the small village of Icicle Inn. Witnesses described seeing the monster fleeing towards the Great Glacier once its lust for destruction and human flesh had been vanquished. Zack, along with Sephiroth and a small team of lower class soldiers, was to take necessary measures and annihilate the beast. However, the cerulean-eyed man refused to go to such a place.

Midgar was engulfed in the midst of winter. All the buildings were covered in frost. The ground was enveloped in snow, and ice began growing out on every corner of the city. There was not a single child playing on the street, nor were there any cars driving on the road. With city life being demolished by Shiva, the North had to be in a much worse predicament considering the Ice Queen took refuge there.

Not wanting to deal with the constant waiting that came with making a complaint, Zack marched right up to the head of the company himself. He wanted to express the dangers that came with this mission and, perhaps, convince the corpulent man to leave it for when the blizzard had passed on through.

"You should concern yourself more with the being you are to kill." The plump, little man's mind was not easily changed, even if his ideas were daft most of the time.

Chubby, here, must be insane to send us out in these conditions.

"But, sir, our men are not used to such climates. They'll die before we get to slay the monster."

"And what about those who are suffering from losing loved ones to the beast? Don't you think we should prevent any more lives from being taken? Besides, we have already accepted half of the agreed payment. In order to receive the rest, we need to complete the job." As usual, the President was only thinking about his greed rather than the wellbeing of the innocents. He used his pretend "caring" voice to persuade the strong-willed man in front of him to go along with the task that had been handed to him.

"I understand that, sir. I do sympathize with them, but we also have to think about the lives of the other soldiers. The monster doesn't come out in harsh conditions anyway."

"How can you be so sure of that? Just because a few lackeys filed it in the report? Nonsense. You are to be dispatched immediately to your designated area."

"But, sir-"

"That's an order!" His response was sharp and vicious, a tone he used when he felt threatened… or when he sensed he would fail to obtain capital from a mission.

"Yes, sir…" Zack reluctantly agreed to go as he swallowed his saliva firmly to keep from saying a few things to the President he may later regret. Though, knowing Zack, he would most likely enjoy the furious look on the President's face more than worrying about losing his rank.

"Excellent. Have you informed General Sephiroth that he is to accompany you to the Great Glacier?"

"No, sir. I do not wish to disturb him with such a tedious task. I am more than capable of handling this on my own."

"I see what you are trying to do, soldier, but it won't work. You need to ha-" The stout-looking man was interrupted by his inferior, which was not an intelligent move on Zack's part.

"Excuse me, sir, but you know full well that this task is nothing compared to what the General went through in the war. Why should we bother him with this when he has more important things to do?"

President Shinra let out a light sigh as he continued on with this excruciating conversation. "Fine. Have it your way, Fair. However, I will not allow you to go alone. You are still to usher a small team of soldiers to the Glacier. No less than three."

"I understand, sir. I'll get on it right away." Once again, he had unwillingly agreed to the terms that had been laid out before him.

"Good. Well, if all has been said and done, then you are free to go." With a small flick of the wrist, he turned his eyes away from the soldier and went straight back to his paperwork on top of his brand new mahogany desk.

Zack slumped his shoulders before turning to leave the office. He was always one to show his emotions whether they were exultant or poignant. He believed if a person was to be truly happy, they must let out all the negative feelings that were bringing them down. These thoughts were what made him stand tall in life.

Once out of the claustrophobic atmosphere of the diminutive room, Zack was able to perk himself right up. After all, there was no need to get down about this mission, even if it did mean heading for his utterly frozen demise. There was still one good thing that had come out of this and that made him all the more excited about the job. The President failed to specify WHOM he had to bring with him. That left the spiky-headed man to gleefully choose the three people he wanted to torture for the entire time they were away from Headquarters.

Hmmm? I wonder whom should I pick? Certainly, it has to be someone who could hold their own and doesn't mind the cold that much. Maybe Solis? Nah… he wets himself whenever he feels a chill pass over him. What about Thohem? Decisions… decisions….

After four hours of trying to find the perfect soldiers who would be suitable for the operation, he finally decided on two and only then made his way towards the third one. He was a bit nervous about his third choice, but felt a strange sensation building within him that urged him onwards, for some reason, telling him he needed to have this soldier by him.

He definitely has potential, even if he thinks he doesn't. I know he'll be able to survive. The question is: Will he be willing to travel all the way to the Glacier? Probably not… oh well! If he doesn't then the only logical thing to do is knock him out and drag him there myself!

Chuckling in spite of himself, Zack gradually made his way to the fated soldier's room to commence with "Operation: Convince or Take by Force." The optimistic man had set his mind to forcing this officer to come, especially if the younger man was keen on staying where he was. Zack eagerly knocked on the door, only to hear a quiet, gentle voice answer.

"Who is it?" He sounded as if he had just awoken from a blissful nap.

"Cloud! Stop casting Sleep on yourself and open up!"

He was able to hear a groan from the other side of the door before hearing it unlocking. As soon as the door was open, he shoved his way in to look straight at the blonde. "Did I miss something? Why are you in bed at this hour? Couldn't find someone to get laid with?" His devious smirk was one that everyone was used to. However, Cloud was in no mood for such jokes.

"Not everyone thinks about having sex, Zack. What do you want?" His voice suddenly turned venomous, which was a shock to the older soldier. Usually Cloud was more lenient when it came to his superior's sense of humor.

"Hey, buddy. What's the matter?" A sudden feeling of apprehension began to consume his body, encouraging him to stand by Cloud's side and place a hand on his subordinate's shoulder. "You seem to be tense lately. Is everything all right? You're not being picked on again, are you?"

Wanting to soothe his friend and make the worrying stop, Cloud softened up enough to bring a smile back onto Zack's face. "No. I'm fine. I'm just a bit tired. That's all." Seeing the benevolent man raise an eyebrow, he continued in a further effort to make things calm again. "Seriously. Nothing is wrong with me. I'm fine. Now, you wanted to tell me something?" He smiled weakly at his comrade even though Zack did not seem to notice the sheer fatigue in the blonde.

The grin on Zack's face grew wider now that all emotions of uneasiness had been pushed aside, removing his hand from Cloud. "I just came to tell you that you and I are to go on an adventure together!"

"No thanks. I'd rather not stick my head in a pile of Chocobo manure again." The mere recollection of the event was enough to make him shudder in his slippers. "I can't believe I trusted you enough to actually think you'd lost your Fire Materia in there."

"I can." The stifled laughter that came from his throat was only met with a callous glare from the sapphire-eyed boy. "Uh… but that's beside the point. It's not THAT kind of an adventure we are going on. It's an actual mission." Seeing no reaction from the younger one, he continued. "It's to the Great Glacier and we-"

"Are you mad? There's no way I'm going there. I'll freeze to death!"

Déjà vu, anyone? Zack thought as he shuddered in recollection of the meeting he had had earlier that day with the President. He may try as he might, but he would never be able to like that man.

"Oh, come on! It's not going to be that bad. Sure the weather will be awful and maybe we'll get our heads chopped off by the monster, but it still will be fun to-"

"What monster?"

Zack told him in complete detail what they were expected to do at the Great Glacier. Making wild movements and strange sound effects, he hoped to make his story appealing enough to persuade the flaxen-haired boy to prepare himself for the departure. Unfortunately, Cloud was less enthusiastic about it than he was.

"I'd rather not go. I've already been assigned to do some tasks tomorrow."

"What kind of tasks? Guard duty?"

"No! Just… running some errands for Palmer…."

"Ew… not fun."

"I know." He let out an exasperated sigh loud enough to be heard all the way to Wutai.

"Then forget that and come with me! Fenad and Vollex are coming! Why not you too? Besides, freezing is a better way to die than by Palmer's awful stench."

For the first time since they began conversing, Cloud chuckled more than he intended to. "No matter how it happens, I don't think there is a better way to pass on."

"Well, if you're going to get 'As A Matter of Fact' on me, why not do it on the way to the Glacier?" He drew his face extremely close to Cloud's, grinning like a fool, hoping that would make the fair-skinned boy decide to finally leave to the Ice Mountain.

"Down, boy. Puppy won't get any treats if he keeps being a nuisance."

"But… but… Puppy just wants his Chew Toy to be with him all the time. Is that really so wrong?" His lower lip began to tremble, a gesture that was one of Cloud's biggest weaknesses.

"There's no way you're going to give up on this, is there?"


With his final sigh for the night, the young boy made his ever-dreaded decision. "Alright. I'll go."

"OH YEAH BABY!" Whilst letting his excitement get the better of him, Zack jumped on top of Cloud, putting one arm around his neck and poking his cheek with his free hand. "Just you watch. This is going to be a great experience for you. We're gonna build you up nice and strong. Oh, and if you get real cold, I'll be sure to keep you warm for the night." The mischievous smirk he gave was Cloud's cue to get this man out of his room.

Cloud casually lifts his companion's arm off his neck and tenderly pushed him out the door. "Good night, Zack."

"Good night? But it's only seven!"

Before Zack could realize what was going on, Cloud was back in his room and had shut the door in his face. Even though he felt the blonde had poor manners, he was okay with such rudeness.

Looks like he's feeling a lot better than before. That's good.

"Good night, Cloud!" He smiled peacefully to himself as he made his way back to his own room on the other side of the building.