"Yo, Spiky! It's time to get up, man!" a male voice shouted from the kitchen.
Cloud Strife, or 'Spiky' as his roommate Zack Fair liked to teasingly call him—to the everlasting annoyance of said blonde—got up from his single bed, rubbing at his eyes and stretching out his limbs, an unpleasant throbbing already forming in the recesses of his head. Stripping himself of the clothes he had slept in, Cloud stepped into his small closet, grabbing a fading black t-shirt and a pair of dark blue jeans before making it back to his bed so he could get dressed.
While zipping up his jeans, he looked over at the calender nailed on the white wall to his right, the reason for his oncoming headache written in red ink on the date two weeks from the present one.
The neatly engraved words made Cloud's head give a painful throb, not even wanting to guess what kind of hell he'd have to go through in order to get his share in on time.
Zack was also having trouble with his portion as well; that is until he got a side job that would be paying him a considerable amount of cash every week on Friday. What that job was exactly was anybody's guessing because Cloud certainly didn't know about it, which was rather odd because Zack and he had been close friends that told each other just about everything since middle school.
And since Zack wouldn't tell him of all people, it meant he didn't want his friend to know about it—at least just yet anyway—and in accordance to his respect for individual privacy, Cloud choose not to pry.
Cloud was currently unemployed, as in he got fired two weeks ago for beating up a fellow co-worker for reasons he would not say when asked by his ex-employer. He had been very irritated that day and the instance proved him to be a very volatile person when he was beyond peeved. He usually wasn't that violent or easily worked up as a matter of fact, but for some reason, that day just wasn't his day to be nice.
But today was it, his deadline to at least find a decent job offer, though at this point, he was willing to take just about anything that happened to come up. Well, unless it was some sort of cleaning service or something. Cloud shuddered at the mere thought. He could deal with watching some rich couple's ungrateful and otherwise spoiled rotten children if that's what it came down to, but getting paid to straighten up someone else's poor excuse of a home was not on menu of possible job opportunities.
Cloud got up from his bed, turning the doorknob and opening the door a little bit before Zack came crashing through, tackling Cloud to the ground with a loud, reverberating thud. The door hit the wall very loudly and he honestly wouldn't be surprised if the knob had pushed a dent into the wall. But at the moment, all he could see was the smiling and clearly amused face of his roommate looking down at him.
Cloud wasn't fortunate enough to share Zack's chipper, morning person attitude and he was really not in the mood to be playing around on today of all days.
"Get off me, Zack!" Cloud shouted, fighting with the giggling man who was currently on top of him.
"I'm sorry, I thought you were still sleeping so I was going to wake you up—"
"Attack me you mean?" Cloud asked, raising a finely curved eyebrow.
"Call it what you will, Cloud, but to me, it's waking someone up." Zack replied, removing himself from on top of the blonde.
Though really, Zack's version of 'waking someone up' could send people to the infirmary due to a sudden heart attack. Cloud had all but gotten used to them by now, having roomed with Zack since their freshman year of college, but there were those few times where the puppy-like Zack actually did scare him with his tedious morning routines. Sometimes, Cloud wished that he could have just a shred of Zack's seemingly endless amount of energy, but then he remembered that having one hyperactive person per home was really all that was needed. Two was just an accident waiting to happen.
"There's no reason for you to do that every morning, you know…" Cloud said, following Zack into their kitchen, leaving his bedroom door open to air out the room.
"Oh, just shut up and eat."
The delicious aroma of Zack's cooking filled his nose and he eagerly started eating his meal. He was thankful that Zack took care of all the cooking that had to be done because frankly, cooking was not one of his strong points. Not that it was too girly for his taste; it's just that all his previous attempts went up in smoke, quite literally. Zack had tried to teach him ever since sophomore year back in high school, but here he was still unable to grasp the culinary art in his fourth and final year of college.
"All right," Zack began, "you and I don't have classes today and since you've dedicated this entire day to job searching, I might as well help you out."
Cloud looked up from his plate. "You don't have to do that."
"Are you kidding? There's no way I'm staying home all by myself while you're out there doing what needs to be done for the sake of a roof over our heads."
Cloud smiled. He could certainly count on Zack if he needed help. And this search would be one hell of a task for just one man to complete.
Two hours into the hunt and—in the words of Zack—they would have had a luckier catch if they had gone fishing in the afternoon instead. Being country boys only in the midst of being exposed to the city, it was probably true.
They were currently standing outside a coffee shop, waiting on the line inside to shorten down when an open magazine fluttering in the suddenly picked up wind literally smacked him in the face. Thankfully, Zack hadn't seen what happened; otherwise he'd be in total hysterics and clutching his sides from unrestrained laughter. Cursing to himself, he was about to throw the offending thing in a nearby trashcan when an article within its pages caught his eye. After taking a moment to quickly read the typed out words, his blue orbs widened.
Cloud turned around. "Hey, Zack."
"Check this out."
Zack took the magazine from Cloud's hands, looking at the short article the blonde had pointed out.
"We are extremely sad to say that one of our long time models will be leaving our establishment very shortly and our goal is to find a replacement model before our next issue is printed next month. So if there are any of you out there who thinks that you have what it takes, come down to our building on Saturday March 20th at 10 a.m. to be interviewed by our president," Zack read aloud.
Zack flipped the remaining front pages over so that he could see the name of magazine. He made a face at it, clearly not recognizing the title at all.
He turned to Cloud, who shrugged in return, obviously not familiar with the label in question. The date printed onto the cover indicated that this issue had been published a couple days ago, Wednesday to be exact.
He looked up at his childhood friend. "Cloud… What're you thinking?"
"I'm thinking that my job search is over."
"You serious about doing this, man?" Zack began when they returned to their apartment, "I mean, do you even know how much skin you're gonna have to show off?"
After they sat down together in the living room, Cloud raised an eyebrow at Zack, who evidently thought that 'Vanity Mirror' was the gay community's equivalent to Playboy, but he could have been correct since Cloud didn't know enough about it to guess. Today was really the first day he had ever heard the name or happened to find one of their magazines.
Though, to Cloud, the magazine title made it sound like it was related to female cosmetics and whatnot. Asking about how the magazine got its name would have to be on the agenda when he went to the interview.
"It's not like I'll have to be naked all the time, Zack."
"You might as well be! Look at this guy for Christ's sake!"
Cloud would have laughed at the fact that Zack had actually taken a good look at the magazine while they were walking back to their apartment, not because it was meant for gay men—at least according to what Zack had randomly said out loud while following the blonde—but because last time he checked, Zack had a girlfriend. A girlfriend he had yet to meet, but a girlfriend nonetheless. Not that this relationship would last very long though; Zack went through women—and men—like preppy girls went through overpriced fruit flavored lip gloss.
Zack flipped through some of the pages until he reached somewhere in the middle, practically shoving the magazine into Cloud's hands. When Cloud glanced at the page, he blushed heavily and was almost ready to throw the paper item back at Zack, not caring if his friend got a paper cut because of it. He hadn't noticed this before when he was glanced at the ad for a new model to come in for an interview. In fact, he hadn't really looked through the book at all on his trek back home.
A black haired and rather attractive looking man was lying on a clean white bed, his short raven hair splayed and tousled across the silk pillow. He was laying upside down, the camera obviously above him when the picture was taken since it seemed like he was staring directly at the person who may be gazing at him. That wasn't really the problem Zack was trying to point out though.
What was really apparent about the man was that he was completely naked with nothing but a flimsy bed sheet covering his more private area and part of his slightly spread legs. Cloud couldn't even imagine how long it took to get that shot or even long it took for the model to prepare for it. He glanced down to the end of article in order to find the model's name, only to be greeted with the initials V.V., which really gave him no clue about who the man was.
"Now, I'm not expert on this type of thing, but you can definitely see his crotch!"
Cloud chose not to look back down to see if it was indeed true, if only for what was left of his sanity. Instead, he closed the magazine and placed it next to him on the couch. Zack could tell that he was feeling a little uneasy by the way his head was downcast.
"Cloud, you don't have to do this. I can pay your share and you can just pay me back when you get the chance," Zack suggested.
Cloud's head jerked up. "No way! I'll get it in, I swear!"
"No buts. I don't want to have to owe you this. You take care of me enough already."
Zack furrowed his eyebrows. "Cloud…"
"Besides, if I can manage to keep this job, then we won't have to worry about rent for a while. Right?"
Zack paused, giving his friend a concerned look.
Cloud sighed heavily. "Look, if I find that there's something up with this job, I'll drop it."
Though he didn't seem very convinced, Zack finally sighed, knowing he couldn't argue with the seemingly determined blonde. Cloud was practically holding his breath in anticipation. He just couldn't take the job if Zack had a problem with it. He could get employed all right, but he would feel bad about going against his friend's approval.
"You have got to be the most stubborn person I have ever met in my life," Zack replied, smiling.
Cloud exhaled when Zack yielded to his demands, glad that he wouldn't have to unnecessarily argue anymore. He didn't like pointless disputes in the first place and he was hell bent on getting this job, even if it killed him.
"But you do realize that you're gonna have to sell it, right? No experience isn't exactly an advantage on your part, Spiky."
"I'm not going to lie in the interview, Zack."
"I didn't say that! I'm just saying that if you manage to get this job by some miracle, you gotta learn the ropes and quick. They obviously had no qualms about letting the guy you might replace lose and I highly doubt that they would keep you around if you sucked at your job."
Cloud had no reason to deny it; he knew that Zack was right. A pretty face could only get you so far before you actually had to bring something else to the table.
The next day, Cloud—with a little help from Zack—put on good airs and the best clothing he had to his name, without appearing too business-like. Relaxed and casual was what they ended up going for, a pair of new blue jeans and a black short-sleeved shirt making up the majority of the look.
"Ok, Spiky! Go knock 'em dead!" Zack shouted after his departing blonde friend.
Waving goodbye to Zack, Cloud walked down the steps of their apartment building and proceed to his interview. Saying that he wasn't nervous was an utter lie. He had flipped through that blasted magazine half the night, trying to acquaint himself with what 'Vanity Mirror' really was about. But he kept giving up halfway, only to repeat the process about an hour later. Cloud wasn't used to looking a mostly naked men, being more discreet and moral about his homosexuality. And the whole magazine factor made it seem like he was looking at porn, which made him even more mortified.
The only thing he really found out from his glances was that the magazine only printed and sold their issues in town.
When he finally reached the building after about thirty minutes, Cloud briefly thought about turning around and finding a different job that didn't involve him having to pose in various articles of clothing—or lack there of—in front of a camera and God's knows who else. He quickly shook it off and stared at the building with new resolve.
"I've come this far. No point in quitting now," Cloud said to himself.
Taking a deep breath, Cloud gathered his bearings and opened the pristine glass door to the 'Vanity Mirror' building.
Edit 5/12/2014; Removed author notes.