Quiet: No internetz +reading of Not Wrath of Gods on PSP +Desert Garden update= new angst fic. D:


And he will always say goodnight, no matter what.

When he gets exhausted from fighting off soldiers and dragging Cloud up inclines and through streams, he finds a nice, quiet place to settle them both and talks until there is nothing more to say or until exhaustion begins to beat upon his weary body and mind. Then he lightly touches blond hair and looks into vacant blue eyes before leaning close and gently pecks unresponsive lips, some small flame of hope inside aching for the problem to be as simple as the curse in a child's fairy tale. Cloud is the beauty, and he is the prince (or maybe the beast), valiantly slaying (murdering) obstacles to be by his maiden's side.

His lips curl upward in bittersweet amusement as he imagines pale cheeks flushing in humiliation and his name being called out in an indignant cry—

—and gods he wants that back, but for now, all he can do is bury his face in thick golden hair and take in the smell of dirt, sweat, and, faintly, the bitter tang of mako that seems as much a part of Cloud as his own natural scent. He forces his mind away from the what ifs; the things that would, could, and should have been.

"Goodnight," Zack whispers, before curling around the smaller body and willing the lost soul inside back to the surface. Back to life.

And it will be the same on good days; when Zack looks to the sky and feels the wind's fingers threading through his hair, he can almost imagine that is those of his mentor offering comfort. Cloud begins to make small movements that make his heart pound in excitement as he imagines the other man blinking away the mako haze and coming back to himself. Smiling, laughing, eager to rebuild himself and a new life with Zack. But when Cloud merely clenches and unclenches his hands then moans, Zack forces away the disappointment and sits near his friend's side to watch the sun set in a blaze of orange and gold and talks until it becomes a dark navy blue filled with pinpricks of starlight across the horizon. And when weariness settles in, he puts his arms around the still body as the raspy breaths become deep, even sighs and lovingly kisses Cloud's temple before murmuring, "Goodnight," against river-washed hair that still can't quite hide the scent of the mako that is now a part of its owner.

-----

When Zack wanders off to gather food and water, Cloud sits and makes small, nearly inaudible protesting sounds. Where is Zack going? Why would he leave him to drift in the suffocating green without his comforting scent and his low, soothing voice calling out like a beacon into the light?

Cloud really wants to come back sometimes, on those days when Zack tells him stories and puts his arms around him and just rocks. Or holds him carefully in his arms to feed and bathe him as the pads of his fingers dig into his scalp just so in order to soothe and relax. It's nice to hear him talk of happier times, when things had been brighter, when there was no firepaincolddeath waiting for him in the world of sleep. The green fog sometimes gets so light, it seems like all it will take is one good blow to send it wafting into the wind, and then he'll be able to enjoy the blue skies and beautiful dawns and sunsets he can faintly hear Zack telling him about. But then cold green eyes look into his own and send fire racing through his veins again; he cries out to Zack as the poisonous fog bleeds from those eyes and covers the outside world and sends him back into the blurred green that is somehow deeper and far more frightening than any darkness, where voices whisper to him and fill him from top to bottom as if they belong there—in his heartmindsoulessencewith him…

And when Cloud starts to cry in his sleep, Zack awakens and sleepily offers his warmth to help fend off the demons as he slowly strokes pale cheeks acrid with the stench of mako-sweat and fear. And even as he hates himself for not getting them out sooner, for being helpless and unable to bring Cloud back from the memories and pain, he whispers endearments and encouragement into what he thinks are unhearing ears and smiles into sightless eyes until the tears slow and the sheen of them has left without a trace. When he finally calms, Zack is there to comb calm, caressing fingers through his hair and kiss away the remnants of tear-tracks on both his cheeks and tell him everything will be okay. And he believes, because Zack is there every night to soothe him, and when he has to leave, he always comes back and enthusiastically greets Cloud, even if he knows there will be no response in return.

At long last, when Zack cannot run any longer, when he knows it's time to fight for their freedom—for his right to soothe away Cloud's bad dreams and greet him at every dawn; for Cloud's right to gain back his smile, his laughter, his shy blushes, his right to live—he stops and just…stares at Cloud, with his lulling head and vacant eyes and lift his hands to comb through those odd spikes—

"Your hair's really unusual, you know?"

"It isn't that bad!"

"You know I love it! Especially when you lean over and—"

"Zaaaack!"

He chuckles to himself as he lightly ruffles the blond's hair, his eyes on that still face, desperate for a response. It looks like he is sleeping with his eyes open. There are so many things he wants to say to him.

You'll get better.

We'll find you good help in Midgar.

Aerith can fix you.

Then we can look at the stars.

And say, "Good morning!" to each other every day until it sickens us.

We're in it for the long haul.

I won't ever abandon you, Cloud.

But he refrains, because he knows that Cloud's probably heard it all before during his nighttime ramblings. Even if he feels ridiculous for ducking down like the Prince in the stories and kissing pale, pale lips, he sighs against them for a moment, then leans past that still face and places his mouth by Cloud's ear and whispers in a warm puff of air, "…Goodnight."

Freedom calls, and Zack heads off to face the thousands locking her into a cage made of guns, betrayals, and misguided loyalty. He grins.

He never had been the type to keep a lady waiting.

-----

And when Cloud awakens, he does not expect to be greeted with a lie. No, this is not Zack's blood, his mind says.

Zack is not lying on the ground.

Surrounded by blood.

His blood.

Dying.

He drags himself closer and listens, mind still hazy, to the soothing voice he'd missed for an indiscriminate amount of time. They are supposed to be near each other, and Zack is supposed to talk to Cloud about everything and nothing at all, but the words he's saying now have an urgency to them that had never been present before. The sky is not supposed to be leaking, and Zack is not supposed to thrust the Buster Sword into his hands. His brow furrows. 'It's not a toy', he wants to say, 'don't give things away so easily,' but the vibrancy in Zack's eyes is fading; his smooth cadence is suddenly hitched and broken, and it is that more than anything else that snaps Cloud into reality, where there is the scent of gunpowder, blood, death—

And oh gods, he can feel something crawling its way up his throat, expanding from his lungs and making his whole body vibrate with the force, and he doesn't realize until his throat begins aching that it's a scream and it can't be real because—

Zack would never lie.

But the evidence that Zack cannot keep his promise to stay is there in the red, red ground and the still, silent form lying on the cliff side with the city of death a mocking background picture that desperately needs to be painted over.

The words his mind hadn't previously comprehended filter into his thoughts and make him rise to his feet. Living legacy…

It is his turn to say goodnight now.


Quiet: Stupid brain! Churning out angst! I demand fluff now, you traitor!