AN: A slightly new style to this – The first two chapters will be focused on a single character's point of view, but then it will go to a more general overview. Based on Zack and Cloud in Crisis Core, but does not stick exactly to the story.
Pairing: Zack/Cloud
Warnings: Inexplicit male relationships (but just awkwardness in this chapter)

Zack walked up and down the ranks of troops. The young ShinRa grunts, gathered from all over the sprawling empire. All with the same dream enshrined in their hearts, the chance to be a hero, like the famous Sephiroth. That's why they came here, why they left everything else they had behind to journey to this place. Midgar wasn't a good place, for all ShinRa's decadence. The slums were choked with those whose dreams had failed, those who hadn't managed to live out that dream. He knew that within a couple of weeks, some of the boys here would drop out. They always did, and then they might not have the money to go home. Then all that would be left would be the slums. Zack shook his head, clearing his mind of such negative thoughts. They weren't natural to him, they didn't belong in his spikey-haired head.

He plastered his normal goofy grin back on his face and continued inspecting them. As he looked along, one boy caught his eye. His wild blonde hair was worse even than Zack's own, peeking over the wide green collar which was meant to look smart. He looked up, seeming to realize Zack was staring at him, and tugged on his collar, before standing back up to attention, a slight blush on his face. He stared straight ahead.

Whilst trying to pretend he was continuing looking along the troops, Zack moved closer to the boy, observing his gorgeous wide blue eyes and pouty pink lips, which were just pleading to be kissed. He pushed those thoughts aside for now. He wondered what the name of the boy was. Not something boring like Alan or Martin. Something exotic, to match that unusual face. The boy looked so innocent and adorable – not that it would stay that way for long if Zack got his way. He was only just able to resist the urge to lick his lips, imagining watching more of the boy's gorgeous skin being revealed. It would be incredible. He shook his head again, making himself focus on the job in hand.

"I want all of you to get your practice swords, pair off and train." He kept a subtle eye on the blonde as he watched them getting ready. He enjoyed monitoring and occasionally teaching sword play. It was something he felt passionate about, and for these wannabe SOLDIER, it was the closest they could get right now to achieving their dreams. They were about the middle of the bunch, he'd seen others far worse than this, but sadly far better as well. He glanced over at the blonde again, and caught the boy's eye. At that moment the blonde stumbled. Zack turned to watch him. The boy was clearly uneasy, uncomfortable and clumsier than would have been expected. He was doing far worse than most of his class mates. This wouldn't do. His gorgeous blonde had to be an amazing fighter, he was sure of it. He just needed to reassure him and ensure that the talent he felt was under that cold surface could bloom.
"Hey, you, over here."

The blonde looked up, pointing himself and Zack nodded.
"Yes, you, Chocobo head." The other trainees began to laugh, and the cute cadet looked down, ashamed, and walked over to him, then saluted smartly.
"Sir." Zack laughed slightly. That wouldn't do. He wanted to be friends with this boy.
"What's your name cadet?" He spoke quietly, keeping his voice down so that the other cadets wouldn't here their discussion.

"S...Strife sir..." The blonde was speaking to his chest, not looking up at him.
"Don't you have a first name?"
"...Cloud..." Zack nodded. Of course. Cloud, that couldn't be more perfect. This was someone who deserved to see the sun.
"Well hello Cloud, I'm Zack." The boy blushed, looking down again, and Zack tried to reassure him. "Oh, don't worry about calling me sir or commander or nothing, no one does."

Cloud nodded, head still down. Zack wondered if Cloud had guessed what he had been thinking about him.
"You're doing good kid. Just keep focused a bit more, don't care about who's watching you." Another nod, but no hint of a smile. "Really, you don't need to be scared of me. I don't bite...well, I do bu..." Realizing the way the other was looking at him he trailed off.

"Will that be all...Zack?" The boy's voice was so quiet, the last word almost silent. He was clearly hating every second of being here. Zack sighed and nodded.
"Yes Cloud. Go and continue training." He watched the blonde flee back to his place, feeling guilty. He had meant to help, but instead he seemed to have shaken the boy's confidence even more. He'd been rejected by the boy, but even so he couldn't resist sneaking the occasional glance at the young fighter, who seemed to have improved without his constant gaze upon him.

Zack waited until the training session had finished before speaking to him again, spending his time walking between the others and handing out advice that was often seized on, but sometimes just ignored. Eventually it was time for the group to pack up, and for Zack to take a much needed break.
"Alright everyone, pack up, head back to barracks." He watched as they all trooped to the exit, having returned their swords. He took a sudden chance. "Not you Strife. I need a word."

The blonde turned around and their eyes met, then the cadet looked away and headed towards him.