AN: Just a short fanfic – my laptop is broken, meaning I am completely unable to work on any of my other fics – but hopefully it will be fixed by Wednesday at the latest!
Warnings: Male x male relationships, angst
Summary: Zack was friendly to everyone, so Cloud just thought that was the only reason Zack was being nice to him
Pairing: Zack x Cloud (Clack)
Cloud stood in line with all of the other cadets, sweating a little under the weight of his uniform and the responsibility it brought. It was something he had dreamed about since he was little, and now he was finally here. It wasn't quite how he'd hoped. Though people here weren't actively horrible to him the way that they were within his village, here he was just ignored.
He was passed over by the others repeatedly because of his small size and slight form. The effort he put in to each training exercise was ignored by tutors who only saw him struggling. He wanted to give up, but he knew that he had come too far to back down now. He would have to keep trying, no matter how much it exhausted him.
He wanted to shift his weight. He was getting dizzy from standing still for so long, and yet he wouldn't let himself back down. If he was going to be a hero, he would have to be able to at least stand up without collapsing. He tried to breathe slowly.
The Generals had already walked passed, barely giving them more than a cursory glance. It didn't matter to him though. He had been within three foot of his hero, General Sephiroth, and that made him feel so proud. He wouldn't let the other man down. Later, thinking back, the fact they hadn't been worthy of more than a second would sting, but for now he was grateful just to have seen him. He was just a worthless cadet after all. Compared to the great Generals he was nothing.
They had been left standing there for what felt like hours, under the harsh and watchful eye of their drill commanders, who didn't care how tired they were, just wanted to make sure that they did it right. Cloud tried to stay in formation perfectly. He wouldn't be a failure.
He nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a hand land on his shoulder. He looked up, surprised to be faced with sparkling purple eyes.
"Hello there cadet… you look like you could do with sitting down…" He nodded, letting the other lead him away.
The man that was guiding him grinned. "I'm Zack Fair by the way, I'm one of your captains, it's a pleasure to meet you..." He held out his hand, and Cloud shook it, numb. He couldn't believe that he was talking to a captain, that someone like that would be bothered about how he was.
"Th…th…thank you sir…" he whispered, trembling.
"You're welcome." Zack grinned, mentally finding the other adorably sweet, but he wouldn't comment on it, not wanting to humiliate the boy. He ruffled the spikes affectionately. "I've seen your reports."
Cloud looked down, waiting for the criticism he knew was coming, that he was sure would sting. It was his fault for failing at training missions, but he had tried hard. He was certain that he was about to be told he was being kicked off the course, and judging from the whispers of his peers, they thought so too. It was the price you had to pay for not living up to expectations.
Zack noticed the other's apparent nervousness, and tried to set his mind at rest.
"Cloud… you don't mind me calling you Cloud do you?" The boy shrugged and he continued. "I have looked at your reports, and I'm impressed. You've been putting in a lot of effort and time, taking extra hours on the training simulators…" He smiled. "You want to do well huh?"
Cloud nodded, stunned at how this conversation was going so far. He'd been expecting to lose his place or get in trouble, but instead it all seemed to be alright. He could deal with this. He relaxed a little, letting Zack continue.
"The thing is Cloud, you're clearly struggling a little. It's not your fault, it's hard work and everyone finds it difficult at times. You're putting in extra hours, but they're unguided, and you're not getting much out of them."
"Sorry sir…" Cloud whispered, gazing back down at the floor, seeing his reflection in the shoes that he had carefully polished prior to the parade.
"Don't be. The thing is, you have potential and dedication, and I don't want to see that go to waste. I wondered if you'd mind training with me for a couple of hours?"
Cloud's eyes widened in shock, and he was temporarily speechless. He nodded quickly.
"Yes sir… please, I would like that…" Zack grinned, patting him on the back.
"Now, get back out on parade cadet, and I'll see you later."
Cloud nodded, picked up his helmet and walked off to join the others, seeing their curious stares upon him. Now, his head was held high. He felt like a success.
"Okay, now, do that again, but stand like this." Zack slightly altered the cadet's posture. "See?" Cloud nodded his head rapidly, panting in air, skin pink, feeling quite exhausted from the effort of training with someone of a higher rank. He continued though, determined that having been given this extra chance. He stumbled, and Zack was there to catch him, sitting him down.
"I think that's enough for now Cloud, we don't want to kill you…"
The cadet nodded, looking down.
"Thank you for the opportunity sir." It had been wonderful, but in his heart he felt that Zack was only doing it for him because he would do it for anyone. He wasn't special, he was just lucky. Still, he aimed a weak and grateful smile up at the Captain.
"Much better. We want to see you smiling like that more often, don't want you to hide that cute face of yours." His grin widened as a blush spread across Cloud's face. "You know who you remind me of?" Cloud shook his head, not knowing, not even able to guess. "You remind me of me when I started. I was scared too. But I didn't give up, just like you, and look where I am now…" Zack's smile was gentler now, kinder.
Cloud gasped, looking up at him in sheer wonder, feeling like he maybe could be a success.
"Thank you si-"
Zack raised a hand.
"My name is Zack."
It was Cloud's turn to grin, though far more shyly than the Captain.
"Thank you Zack."
"It's nothing Cloud. We'll train together again soon okay?" Cloud nodded, feeling almost light headed with joy. Though he would always respect Sephiroth, he had a new hero.