Author's Note: Hello and thank you for taking the time to read "Complex Simplicity" and take note of a few changes. Cloud was thirteen-fourteen when he joined the military. I can't justify putting what I consider a child in a compromising sexual position. Not even in my imagination. Therefore the age limit to join ShinRa's military shall be bumped up to sixteen. I have no problems, however, with any other kind of abuse. His hero-complex with the General no longer exists. He joined for reasons that I created with a background that I tweaked to my liking and will be explained in the future. So he will NOT jump right into bed with the general. They should be a couple by chapter twelve though. I'm sorry if my prediction is off.

Warnings: Yaoi. Language. Death. With the exception of this chapter, all warnings will pertain only to said chapter.

Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy VII. Obviously.

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Cloud stared at his sleeping roommates with a blank expression. He had been out; defeated Sephiroth. It had been over. A shudder threatened to rack his body. Gaia, he couldn't believe this was actually happening. No, he could believe this was happening. Perhaps that was his problem. Never had things been particularly "normal" for Cloud. Sure, he hadn't been experimented on while in the womb like Sephiroth, but he had been forced through his fair share of trials. Zack's death flashed through the blonde's mind and he mentally flinched. To this day Cloud could smell the fresh blood of that battlefield. It had been a distinctly cruel scent, if smells could have emotions that is. Burnt mako had drifted through the air and infected the senses, ordering them into a terrible overdrive; forcing Cloud to realize that his friend was dead, that the burning smell was coming from his violet eyed hero. Some idiot pawn Hojo had manipulated into going after them had shot a flare right for Zack's body. Maybe, he supposed, the man was just being a good soldier and following orders. What did it matter when his closest companion was no longer of the living? Another, more violent shudder raced through his body, snapping him out of his morbid musings, and for what? To leave him alone in possibly the worst predicament yet, stuck in the barracks… Cloud unconsciously checked the calendar beside his small bunk for the date. It was November nineteenth, 3016, exactly twenty-four years into the past. Fuck, this was real.

His mentality tried to give way to panic but the blonde's analytical mind bombarded him with questions, allowing him no time for such luxuries. Only one stuck out. What did all of this mean? Was this just some sort of twisted board game and he landed on the wrong square, sending him right back to start? Had he done something that the planet hadn't agreed with; forced it to assert its dominance over his by forcing him to begin anew? Or perhaps this was all a sick joke that an unknown entity had made up for amusement. Would he ever know? Did he even want to?

As bright rays of sun began to creep through the open widow above him Cloud realized that now wasn't the time for such questions. As much as he hated to sit and wait, did he really have another choice? After all, a seventeen year old military grunt hardly had a say in when they could think and when they couldn't. With a mental note to review what he had been doing just before waking up…here, Cloud began his morning routine. Once his bunker was as immaculate as his bed in the future, he slipped his clothes on; fitting, yet not overly so. The uncomfortable materials of the forest green uniform slipped over his well developed body without a hitch, sufficiently hiding the muscles beneath. As vertically challenged as Cloud was, standing at a mere 5'7, he was not weak. His grades, for both the physical and mental classes, were the bare minimum to be passing because he had wanted them to be. No one knew that he could have made SOLDIER the first time if he had wanted to. No one needed to. Even with the mindset of a forty-three year old Cloud didn't regret flunking himself. If he had passed, had done his best originally, Zack wouldn't have taken pity and talked to him. Or maybe he would have. Hell if he knew. Realizing that he had allowed his mind to wander, Cloud chastised himself on the way to breakfast. It was only thanks to his impeccable memory that the blonde cadet managed to remember his way through the maze of a building, making it to the cafeteria without a problem.

Breakfast was unbelievable. Cloud's body ached for food, no matter that even at such a young age he would only eat a small bowl of cereal at the most, it still craved the calories. This wouldn't have been a problem when he was seventeen if it weren't for the fact that his mind told him that food wasn't welcome so early. And in a few years, it wouldn't be. Which brought the blonde savior to his current dilemma: he was hungry, but the thought of eating made him sick. A quick fact popped up in his head. Breakfast was a necessity for the maturing body. With that knowledge in the forefront of his mind he pushed away any complaints his subconscious might have had and forced down his now soggy cereal.

Settling into his seat at the back of the class, Materia Control with Sergeant Dram, Cloud thought of the date. If his memory served him well than he was approximately two and a half months from the SOLDIER exams. Last time he had just decided to pass on a spur of the moment, giving his instructors no preparation for his skills and forcing them to think that he had taken performance enhancing drugs of some sort. It had been stupid of him. He would have to gradually raise his grades this time, make things less suspicious; after all, he actually had something to hide this time around.

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Zackary Fair stared at the wall of his office, thinking of the blonde he had seen last week. The kid had looked like a depressed chocobo and it made Zack want to hug him. It was just the posture in the kid, like someone had ripped out a part of his soul and eaten it for dinner. Smiling lips turned downward, that sounded fairly painful. On an off note, he wondered if the cadet liked broccoli. Chocobos certainly did. Who knew, maybe he was a mutated chocobo that missed his mother, Zack had been depressed for weeks after his mother had died… A grin stretched across the Lutinant General's face as he came up with a plan. All he would need was a few pieces of broccoli and a large basket. Jumping up, he animatedly made his way to the door, hand gripping the handle before a bored, "Aren't you forgetting something, Zackary?" halted him in his tracks. Damn, he had forgotten about Sephiroth sitting at the other end of the room, shining Masamune. Why had the General chosen such an odd place to polish his six foot sword, one might ask? To make sure his Second-in-Command finished his paperwork, of course.

With a dramatic sigh, Zack loosened his grip on the shiny, golden doorknob and turned around, his best 'This is the last time, I promise' look on his face he prepared his explanation.

"No." A deep, stern voice denied him his new pet before he could so much as open his mouth. Violet eyes turned pleadingly to the handsome male on the couch of his office. Long silver hair fell silkily around perfectly postured shoulders, mostly disappearing behind the couch. The 6'4 man seemed to fill the room with his presence. His leather coat draped over the back of the couch, allowing the thin white shirt he wore to show off his physique. A faint air of menace flowed from his very being, just as alluring as it was horrifying warding off any subordination. Well, almost any insubordination.

"But, Seph, I haven't even told you my plan yet!" Zack's tone was whiny and he knew it. But it really was unfair, he was going to catch himself a mutated chocobo disguised as a cadet and his best friend was getting in the way. Seriously, how often do you come across something as awesome as that? Never, that's when. "I'm going to gather up a whole bunch of broccoli and-" Seeing the general's almost bored look, he quickly explained. "For the chocobo! They love the stuff!"

"There are no chocobos in Midgar, Zackary. " Sephiroth sounded like he was explaining why the sky was blue to a small child. Sephiroth didn't like children. And though he hadn't so much as glanced up from his sword, Zack knew for a fact that the swordsman was acutely aware of every breath he made.

"He's lost." There. Not even Sephiroth could let a poor little chocobo wander lost and alone in Midgar.

"Let someone else find him." Or maybe he could…

"C'mon, Seph! It'll take twenty minutes I promise!" Zack was getting desperate. Paperwork was evil and the kids in the blonde's, Zack made a mental note to learn his new chocobo's name, didn't look too friendly. What if they hurt him? He had looked so fragile…

Ever so slowly, Sephiroth looked up from his sword. "No."

"But-"

"No." The word had an air of finality about it and Zack knew that he had lost this round, his blonde mutation would have to wait. A final thought occurred to him.

"Can I at least order the broccoli?" Silence was heavy in the room, making Zack even more aware of the little sounds in the room: The slow, repetitive ticking of his clock, the soft swish of cloth against steel, and flesh rubbing against flesh as he wrung his hands together. It was a nervous habit from his childhood and he just couldn't help it. Sephiroth wasn't very happy with him for ditching paperwork for the past month and he was walking on thin ice.

A few more moments slid by before, "Carrots."

Zack blinked. He was shocked out of his musings by that simple word and, unable to piece together what Sephiroth meant, eloquently responded, "Huh?"

"Chocobos don't eat broccoli, they eat carrots." Came the simple, toneless response. And that's when Zack realized something. He didn't know anything about taking care of chocobos. His long, wild black hair stood on end but Sephiroth said no more. He really wished the older male would show a little more emotion, the man was so hard to read sometimes. What the general needed was more friends…A slow smile made its way across Zack's face. What could possibly be a better friend than a chocobo? As the smile became a grin, Sephiroth was mentally appointed as his chocobo's baby sitter. Since the man obviously knew how to take care of them, at least, more than Zack did, he should be perfect for the job. This would be great! With that thought, he practically skipped off to do paperwork.