So phoenixandashes came to visit this weekend... We both had our DS's out and I was in the midst of playing Pokemon Platinum. My character was called Zack and his best friend was Cloud... we were laughing about it, and then this idea just jumped into our heads. So, right there and then, we sat down and wrote this collaborative one-shot!
Please note: This story contains Shounen-Ai, that is boy on boy loving. Don't like? Don't read.

Disclaimer: We do not own Final Fantasy VII or any of the characters, we just borrow them for our own sad amusement.

Technical Difficulties

Cloud's footsteps echoed like hollow coughs in the hallway as he made his way through the corridors of the residential floor towards the cadet barracks. He was exhausted – the commanding officer in charge of the drills today had forced him into two hundred press ups and needless to say, his shoulders felt like they were being wrenched off by Bahamut himself.

He winced as he readjusted his bag that was slipping off one of his abused shoulders – by Gaia, if he was hurting now it was going to be ten times worse tomorrow. He rounded the corner towards his bunker, wondering if he was flexible enough to successfully apply muscle ointment himself.

Slipping his keycard out of his pocket he attempted to open the door. There was a loud bleeping noise and to Cloud's annoyance the lock mechanism flashed an angry red light at him. Swearing under his breath to every high power he could think of it took four more attempts for the dratted door to finally admit that yes, this was the right keycard and yes, Cloud was allowed in this room.

The blonde dumped his bag on his bunk and rooted in the side cabinet where he kept all of his healing items. The issue of how he was going to apply the muscle rub to his upper back was the least of his worries when he couldn't find the oh-so-needed tub of ointment.

What the...? Where could that possibly have gone? He always locked the cabinet when he was out of the room, so none of the other cadets could have pinched it while his back was turned. Besides, he deliberately kept it in a non-descript tube with no labelling on it – 'Nibelheim Muscle Rub' wasn't exactly standard issue in ShinRa, and he'd be damned if it was confiscated during a routine room check.

He was just about to revert to his childish sixteen year old self and start stamping his feet and accusing people of stealing, when the light bulb went on. Zack had come back from a mission near Wutai last week with a severe muscle sprain in his calf, and had asked Cloud to 'take a look' for him. Of course, what had started as an innocent leg massage had spiralled into something more... heated (Zack was incapable of resisting his urges whenever Cloud touched his skin in any form), but now it was clear where his lotion was at least.

Cloud sighed again, facing a dilemma. It was a fair way to Zack's accommodation and he was already exhausted – plus Zack himself had probably had his own gruelling day and didn't really need a grumpy cadet to deal with. On the other hand, the lotion was there and the burning ache rippling across Cloud's back could be dealt with, and Zack would be there to lend a hand... or two.

Deciding then that it was a win-win situation if he made the journey, Cloud retrieved his temperamental keycard and made his way out of the barracks. He took the elevator to the upper floors of the residential building – Zack, being a 1st Class SOLDIER, had one of the best apartments the building offered. It made having a relationship a lot easier since they had a place to go where they wouldn't be disturbed and where they didn't need to be too quiet, though with the way Zack liked to steal kisses on the sly all over the building often made Cloud think that the sable-haired fighter enjoyed secrecy and sneaking around.

He received a few odd looks as he stepped out of the elevator – cadets were not a common sight on the SOLDIER floors, and usually when they were sighted they were following a peer and laden with paperwork they had been coerced into carrying. This cadet was both peerless and paperwork-free, not to mention that his helmet was absent and his shock of bright blonde hair was more than noticeable.

Cloud ignored the looks, and after a quick pause in which he tried to remember if he had to turn left or right, he made his way down the brightly lit corridor that smelled vaguely of strong disinfectant. A few photos had been erected on the walls in a Hall of Fame fashion, as if to encourage the residents to be like the people depicted. Cloud slowed slightly as he passed the General and Lieutenant's photographs, his hero and his lover staring down at him with mako enhanced eyes, before remembering that he was on his way to see one of them in the flesh and picking the pace up again.

Cloud rolled his aching shoulders as he walked to try and relieve some of the tension, the prospect of that muscle rub (plus a massage and maybe something more) looking more and more appealing. He was fast approaching Zack's corridor and smiled slightly to himself as he spotted the main telltale sign that the puppy of SOLDIER was definitely home.

Mud. Fresh mud that had been stomped off boots not that long ago into the brush mat at the foot of the apartment door. It often made Cloud wonder how he made it through initial training when he took such poor care of his boots but then he supposed Zack's fighting skills more than made up for it. Cloud contemplated using his card to let himself in (Zack had "modified" Cloud's card so Cloud could open the door himself... though the tampering might have something to do with its current unreliability elsewhere. The blonde made a mental note to ask his lover about that.) Still, in the interests of politeness and proprietary, Cloud knocked on the door. It was an unexpected visit after all.

He waited patiently, knowing that Zack was often doing something completely stupid and unnecessary when left to his own devices (Cloud had walked in last week to find the 1st Class SOLDIER tangled up in his rowing machine in a position a contortionist would have found painful). But after waiting for a full minute, he knocked again, assuming that Zack simply hadn't heard the first time.

The blonde's knuckles had barely finished rapping the wood when a low groan stole through the door. Cloud tensed – Zack sounded like he was in pain. Had he gone and got himself stuck in something again? If so, would Cloud need to let himself in? He sucked in a breath, about to shout through the door to his boyfriend and ask if everything was alright, when another groan reached his ears – one that definitely wasn't Zack's.

Cloud felt his heartbeat reverberating in his ears, the blood rushing to his head while his imagination (which was at times very over-active) worked out a million and one possibilities to account for a stranger's groan in Zack's apartment. He attempted rational thinking, trying to stay calm and not let his paranoia run away with him. Zack could be training with a friend... or... or... something. Just not that.

Cloud bit his lip, pinched the bridge of his nose and counted to ten. The problem with being a teenage boy is that all thought processes often led back to one thing and one thing only. It also didn't help that Cloud had actively had that thing on his mind nearly all the way up from the barracks. But Zack... He couldn't be... Zack wouldn't... he couldn't!

Two groans together, drifting through the door like malicious fumes that permeated the air with Cloud's building mortification and anger. And then, in that unmistakeable puppy whine that Zack used when he wanted something; "Reno...!"

Reno?! That foul-mouthed Turk that smoked like a chimney and took every opportunity to check out Zack's ass? He was here, in Zack's apartment! And judging from the lack of crashes, they definitely weren't sparring. Cloud clenched his fists and ducked his head as a fresh, throaty groan reached his ears.

Well, if that was the way Zack was going to treat him after... after all those heartfelt words Cloud had found himself saying, things he had never thought he would say to anyone... if THIS was how Zack repaid him for all the love and devotion Cloud had given him, then that idiot wasn't going to get away without suffering the wrath of Private Strife! His mind made up, Cloud gripped the door handle, his knuckles turning white with rage.

Deep breath. Count to three. One... two... three.

Cloud lifted the keycard and stabbed it into the lock mechanism. Thankfully it behaved, the lock clicking open and the green light giving Cloud the go ahead. Cloud burst through the door in a flurry of rage and it swung shut behind him with a resounding bang. "Zackary Fair!" he shouted, pent up emotion making his voice crack slightly.

In his head Cloud knew what he should be seeing after his deductions. The two of them in a state of undress in a compromising position in the living room. Reno would protest his innocence through ignorance "I didn't know, he told me you weren't serious" and Zack would pale and quickly say "It's not what it looks like..."

His eyes however saw something completely different.

Reno and Zack were sat crossed legged on opposite sofas. Both looked confused and mildly alarmed at the sight of Cloud storming into the apartment radiating an electric aura of extreme anger. Both were holding some form of electronic device in one hand, Reno with red and Zack with black, and a matching coloured stylus in the other.

"What..." Cloud floundered. This was too tame for the life changing scene his mind had set him up for. Zack was eyeing him with raised eyebrows and a slightly irritated expression at having been addressed by his full name. The SOLDIER had warned Cloud once before that the only person allowed to do so was General Sephiroth, and that was only because he scared the shit out of the Lieutenant.

"Damn Fair, guess you were right, yo."

Zack and Cloud looked away from each to regard Reno, who was grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

"About what?" Zack asked, still looking live a puppy who couldn't figure out why peeing on the floor was a bad thing.

"When you said lil' chocobo here had a feisty nature, I wouldn't ever have believed you until now."

Cloud flushed in embarrassment both at the foolishness of the thoughts that his blonde brain had concocted and at being at the subject of conversation between Zack and the Turk. His eyes however flashed with an irritation to rival Zack's. It was bad enough that Zack used that dratted nickname without him having shared it with Reno.

The awkward silence that had descended on the room was broken when Reno tapped something onto the electronic device with his stylus. Zack suddenly yelped and his attention snapped away from Cloud back to whatever the black box was doing. Cloud was still numb with shock (except for his shoulders which were still sore) as he watched his lover tap the screen hurriedly.

'That is if he wants to remain your lover after this debacle,' Cloud's brain teased. Cloud felt himself paling at the thought that his paranoia could cost him the greatest thing that had happened to him in his life. It was one thing for it to be ruined by external influences but to ruin it yourself – Cloud knew he would regret it forever.

"So, um..." he began hesitantly. The two older males were frowning with concentration. Were the devices hi-tech work objects? Had Cloud interrupted some important 'casual conference'?

Cloud jumped in surprise as Zack let out a howl of frustration. "You did NOT just do that, Red."

Reno cackled like an evil villain. "Read the stats, Fair! Fire beats Bug EVERY time!"

"But mine was three times more experienced!!" the increasingly irate lieutenant protested, shaking the black box at Reno in lieu of his fist.

What the hell have I interrupted? The cadet stared from the Turk, to Zack, and back again. "Does anyone want to tell me what's going on?"

"I'll tell you what's going on!" Zack yelled as he continued to tap the screen viciously. "This bastard's fucking CHARMANDER just wiped the floor with my Butterfree!"

Cloud blinked. "Erm. Come again?"

The blonde's confused query fell on deaf ears as it was Reno's turn to swear. "Since when could that one do Hydro Pump?"

"Since I levelled it up to 48."

"Talk about overkill."

"Says you!"

Cloud couldn't contain his curiosity any longer and stepped behind the sofa Reno was sat on (since he was nearest) and looked over his shoulder. The pictures on the screen just confused him even more.

"That's a duck," he said stupidly, looking at one of the sprite images on the screen.

"Not just any duck," Zack declared proudly. "That's my level 49 Psyduck."

Cloud followed Reno's movements with the stylus as the redhead quickly flicked through several menu screens. "Eat this, Duck-man," the Turk said with a menacing grin. Whatever Reno had done it obviously didn't bode well for Zack because he groaned.

"What is it?" Cloud asked, looking anxious.

"My Jolteon," Reno said, indicating the picture in the lower left corner of the screen. Cloud couldn't identify what this "Jolteon" was though – all he could see was a collection of yellow spiky shapes. "Electric kicks Water-type's ass. You'll see."

Cloud watched with confused fascination as what looked like little shockwaves were sent at the duck, which appeared to be nursing a headache, and then a bar next to the animal depleted from green, to orange, to red, to nothing.

"For flips sake!" Zack cried as the duck made a strangled noise and vanished.

"You're down to your last, Fair!" Reno heckled, a shit-eating grin on his face. Cloud's eyes scanned the screen as a message flashed up that made him extremely confused.

Bonafide Puppy is about to use CLOUD; will Your Worst Nightmare change Pokemon?

"Still can't believe you give them nicknames," Reno muttered as he selected NO.

Cloud did a double take at Reno's screen. "That's a nickname?"

"Yeap. Ain't no Pokemon called 'Cloud', yo."

Cloud looked up at Zack who was looking a bit sheepish. The blonde said nothing though and resumed watching Reno's screen. There were too many questions running through his head, each one as daft as the next – he had no idea what was going on!

"Hmph," Reno said as a new picture – this 'Pokemon' – popped up on the screen. "We're gonna be here a while."

"Why?" Cloud asked. The picture labelled "Cloud" was a yellow mouse-like creature with red cheeks, and Cloud hoped to Gaia that's not how Zack saw him.

"Both Electric types," Reno said to the bemused blonde. "None of the moves are very effective, see?"

Reno chose 'Thunder Shock' and the shockwaves were sent out towards the yellow mouse and only a fraction of the green gauge was removed. Zack was looking smug.

"Don't look too cocky Fair, Jolteon's got Volt Absorb – your Electric moves are useless."

"Oh, I know," Zack replied pressing the stylus to his screen.


"Ah, shit!" Reno said as the mouse picture vanished from the screen. Cloud said nothing, deciding that silence was the best policy now.

"You really thought I would leave my Cloud so incapable against you?" Zack said, chuckling as Reno's selected move 'GROWL' missed. "I know that you love Electric types, so I came prepared!"

It was very strange to hear his name being used in the context of a yellow pixelated mouse. Cloud raised an eyebrow at Zack but it went unnoticed – Reno's screen alerted him with 'CLOUD used DIG!', and the mouse reappeared. Reno actually flailed in his seat like a stroppy four year old as the green gauge vanished completely and the golden spiky thing that belonged to him vanished from the screen.

"Ha! Take that!" Zack cheered, jumping off the seat to perform a victory squat. "How do ya like that, Red?!"

"I still have one left!!" Reno yelled, and sure enough, a huge black dog appeared on the screen. He smirked at Zack who had faltered midway through another squat. "Yeah, what you going to do now Zack?! This guy's got TEN levels on your Pikachu!"

"What is it?" Cloud asked meekly. It was clear he was going to have to wait until the end of this apparent duel to find out what exactly was going on in Zack's living room. All of his muscle pains had been forgotten as he became engrossed in something so confusing and yet so exciting.

"It's my Houndoom," Reno announced proudly, selecting 'BITE' and cackling as a large chunk of the mouse's health gauge was depleted. "Dark type crossed with Fire. My secret weapon."

"You aren't the only one with a few tricks up his sleeve," Zack teased, tapping the screen in what was evidently a triumphant pose.

"Dude, I know you had that ground move but it won't be effective against – ah SHIT!" Cloud watched as Zack unleashed a move entitled 'ROCK SMASH' and the Houndoom's health vanished all together. Reno moaned like a wounded cow.

"Game, set and match," Zack announced with a grin. He snapped his black box shut and stretched his arms behind his head, looking decidedly content. "Well, Red? Surprised you, hm?"

"Yeah, yeah, whatever," the redhead mumbled under his breath, closing his red box and pocketing it. "You win – but you won't be so lucky next time."

"I think you said that last time as well."

"Shut it, Fair!"

"So, um..." Cloud started, thinking it safe to announce his complete and utter bewilderment now the strange contraptions had been turned off. "What exactly was that?"

Zack and Reno had identical looks of utter disbelief. "You don't know what we were doing?"

Cloud shook his head.

"Or what this is?" Zack added, holding up his black box.

Another shake of the head.

"Jeez, Blondie, I knew you grew up in a hick town but... ah crap." The Turk retrieved his phone from his inside pocket as it started ringing abrasively. "Tch. It's the Boss Man," he muttered flipping the phone open. "Yo, this is Reno. Aw... damn it. Right, okay. On my way." He snapped the phone shut and sighed. "Tseng's got a mountain of errands for me to run – you'll have to explain the intricacies of gaming to our country lad yourself."

"Intricacies? Big word, Reno, big word."

"Shut up, Fair. See you around, Cloud. Don't let him wear you out," he added with a wink, laughing at Cloud's blush in passing as he left the apartment. The door closed behind him with a soft snap.

Silence echoed in the apartment as Zack and Cloud eyed each other warily. The SOLDIER finally allowed himself to think about the questions he wanted to ask – why was Cloud here? Why did it sound like he was angry? What had he, Zack, done? – but he didn't know how to ask them.

Cloud faced a similar inner-turmoil. Dare he bring up the reasons why he'd burst into the flat unannounced? And what the hell were Reno and Zack doing exactly? But the main thing on his mind about the whole situation was...

"Do you see me as a yellow thunder mouse?" Cloud blurted out.

Zack blinked his lavender eyes at him several times. Then his lip curled up at the corner. "Why? Do you want me to?"

"What I want is for you to explain what the hell you two were doing!" Cloud countered. "You nearly gave me a heart attack when I heard you two! It sounded like you were..."

"Like we were what?" the SOLDIER queried, getting up off the sofa and making his way over to the flustered little blonde.

"Well," Cloud hedged as Zack wound his arms around the smaller man's waist, "You were groaning and moaning... and stuff."

Comprehension dawned on Zack's face. "So that's why you burst in and violated the 'Full Name' rule. I thought you were going to tell me you were pregnant and then beat me up for it!" He chuckled and bent down to nuzzle at the blonde's neck, but Cloud's hands covered his face and started trying to push him away.

"It's not FUNNY, Zack!" he pouted, his cheeks turning red.

"See, that's why I named my Pikachu after you." The Lieutenant pinched one of Cloud's cheeks between his fingers. "When you blush you just look so cute!" Before Cloud could respond, he swooped down and captured the blonde's lips in a searing, muffling kiss. Cloud's hands forgot that they were supposed to be pushing the bigger man away and instead weaved themselves into the soft raven locks, drawing Zack closer.

"I don't know what's worse," Cloud murmured as Zack broke away from his lips and moved towards Cloud's neck. "Having the nickname of a yellow bird or being the nickname of a yellow cyber mouse."

Zack grinned in Cloud's neck, and tilted his head to nibble affectionately at the younger teen's ear. "Well, when you take into account the impossible colour and style of your hair, is it any wonder I call you Chocobo?"

Cloud swatted Zack's shoulder. "I'll dye my hair black and cut it really short one of these days and you'll regret teasing me about it."

The SOLDIER laughed into the juncture of Cloud's neck and shoulder and straightened to grin at him. "Nah, you won't. You like your hair really, no matter what I say about it." He kissed the blonde again, softly and tenderly, and for that moment all thoughts of disparaging nicknames and lighting mice left Cloud's head.

Zack lifted Cloud off his feet, ignoring his protests, and sat down on the sofa, pulling the blonde into his lap. He stroked Cloud's back and ran his fingers through his hair and decided to address the more serious issue before officially introducing Cloud to the game. "I'd never cheat on you, Cloud. You know that, don't you?"

"Yeah, I do, it's just..." Cloud flushed. "I wasn't... thinking straight. But I certainly wasn't expecting to walk in on – whatever you two were doing."

"Ah, now this," Zack said, producing his mystery black box with a flourish, "is a Nintendo DS."

"Nintendo..." Cloud started, his lips struggling to form the strange word. Zack grinned again and pecked the soft lips before continuing.

"Nintendo DS," he repeated. "And me and Reno were linking up a game to battle each other."

"So it's... a training device?"

Zack let out a big booming laugh. "No, Cloud, it's just a game! It serves no other purpose other than to enjoy free time."

"You don't really have free time."

"Well, true, you've got me there. But those helicopter trips to missions can get mighty boring." Zack ran his hands through Cloud's hair again. "Seriously, didn't you have games consoles in Nibelheim?"

Cloud raised an eyebrow at Zack. "Did you have them in Gongaga?"

"...touché." Zack nuzzled Cloud's neck. "I keep forgetting you haven't been in the city as long as I have."

"Show me this Pokemon thing then," Cloud said, taking the console from Zack's fingers. "I want to know if my namesake mouse is any good or not."

Oh my god, we had SO much fun writing this! There may be a follow up if we ever get around to it, but for now, that's it :) We hope you enjoyed it, please leave a review!!