Machen Sie heute besonder

By Fen-cyra

Rating: M

Pairing: Zack/Cloud

Disclaimer: I do not own FFVII, Crisis Core, or any of the characters pertained here.

N/A: THIS IS A PRACTICE RUN, TO SEE IF I WILL CONTINUE THIS. Been writing this for a while. I go through periods of liking FF7, then being seriously bored with it. Love Zack, though. I'd like to molest him with a banana peel, and I'm not quite sure why…or why it's the peel and not the actual banana.

Inspired after watching a Cosplay Video of the Crisis Core characters, on YouTube. Made me all Giddy on the inside. It tickles my dear clavicle. So to that video, danke~ So viele der schönsten Cosplay Bilder waren in jenem Video! So Begeistern!

Also, haven't had any requests in a while! I wonder if anyone is now or ever interested.

Error Status: Still have no Beta Reader. Expect errors. Many, many errors. : /

-

"It's nice here, in your hometown."

The man sat down on a vacant bed, slowly taking in the sights of their hotel room. It wasn't the kind of lavish hotel room the cities offered, with the decadent flower filled vases and the fancy light structures, but it had a country air about it that he liked. It was simple, and pure. It felt like home.

"If anything else, the beds are comfy," He added with a chuckle, bouncing on the comforter a few times to test the toughness of the mattress.

The younger of the two held a small, nearly visible smile. He was sitting on the opposite bed, head bent forward, eyes cast downward. It was his easiest stance. It gave him room to feel his own space, but still be in the conversation as well, even if his normally diffident body language was a little on the awkward side.

"I guess."

He folded his hands in his lap, sighing heavily. He was a little at a loss for words. With an embarrassing history in bad conversations with his peers, he'd never felt confident enough to just open his mouth and speak. Every word he'd ever let out screamed 'I'm unsure of myself'.

He sighed again, mostly out of frustration for not being able to rekindle the dying fire in their barely there conversation.

It seemed to go unnoticed by his company however, for the other man easily let out a hardy laugh, body flopping back onto the mattress.

"A man could live a nice quiet life here. The country's always a nice place to be…I don't know Spikey, I think I might leave ShinRa and just stay here."

"Huh?"

That made the boy's head snap up, blue eyes thoroughly confused. For a moment fear flashed across his features. Is he making a joke? What if it is and I don't get it? "You can't…you can't be serious," Was his best phrase. Eh, it left the benefit of a doubt.

Unfortunately for the younger recruit, his friend wasn't ready to admit to anything; he was going to draw it out. And what a great actor he could be when he tried. His elder smiled. A little joke never hurt anyone.

"Sure I am. Who wouldn't love it here? Homey little town practically in the middle of nowhere, lots of greenery— you can actually breathe here!" He laughed, swinging his hands, thoroughly enthused. "Let's see…friendly townsfolk, hot… chick…and nice old ladies who offer you cookies. Hell, you even have a nice, old ass Reactor on a scary ass mountain full of genetically enhanced monsters to scare your kids with. Sounds like loads of fun. Greeeeat for a vacation."

The expression on the boy's face was absolutely priceless. Nothing short of a meteor could stop this bewildered boy now. He was sure he'd figured it out; it wasn't a joke. Was his closest idol seriously considering staying, here of all places? The thought made his heart skip a beat, in what emotion he wasn't so sure of. Instead of his usual one sided, argument oriented fidgeting, he interjected instead, in a soft tone, "B-but. But you're a First Class SOLDIER. You can't just leave. You're an elite. And besides, Nibelheim is—"

The other stopped him before he could finish, sitting up to put both hands in front of him in a passive manner.

"Cloud, I was kidding."

Instantly the boy's face flushed with embarrassment. He was once again staring at the floor, left hand scratching the side of his head. The room filled with the air of awkwardness as hesitation took the place of conversation. The younger still looked to the floor in silent conversation while his senior blinked a few times at him.

Zack wondered what he should say as he watched him sit back down.

"I'm sorry," He heard instead. Mako stared into clear blue.

"For what?" It was casual, amused, and given with a light hearted laugh.

There was a pause as lips parted to give an answer. "…For…everything."

"Hmm?"

The boy raised a shaky hand to comb it through his hair. It was a nervous habit he'd indulged in since he was a child. "We've…been on a lot of missions together lately." He waited for a response before continuing, receiving only a nod. "And there's been a lot of times we've teamed up in battle. Most of the time I'm useless when we go out on missions. I don't have very much training, and I'm no good at defense. You end up saving me most of the time."

He paused again, licking his lips.

"I don't know. I guess…I guess I just feel like I'm a bit of a burden. I mean, I would have never been on those missions if you didn't talk to Liazard. I'm grateful, I really am. But I…don't know why you'd do that for me."

He noticed the other smiling across from him. He nearly blushed again in response.

"Because we're friends. And friends," He said, standing up to step over and ruffle the boy's hair, "Help each other out."

He kept the smile on his face, giving his friend's ear a pinch before returning to his seat. "You gotta' stop being so down on yourself. You may only be fifteen, but from what I've seen you're certainly not defenseless. You've never run away from a battle, and you never back down, not even when you know the odds are against you. As a matter of fact, you've saved my hide more than once. Remember when we first met? In Modeoheim? You killed one of those birds before it had a chance to strike me from behind."

"Yeah but that was—"

"A good eye. And that's what friends do. They watch each other's backs."

He hesitated, watching the boy's expression.

"…And you're a good friend."

He chuckled when the flush returned to those pale cheeks. He took pride in the reaction he'd caused, knowing he had invoked some self assurance in the boy. He waited in silence for the other to speak, leaning back on his elbows.

"I'm…uh…I'm just—"

"So how about that last mission, huh," Zack cut off again, his voice loud. "You'd think with the war over, we'd stop getting missions that deal with Wutai. I mean, you think they'd learn after getting their butts kicked so badly last time."

The boy frowned. He'd been cut off again, and though he felt the very subtle anger and disappointment in his friend's lack of respect for him, he couldn't bring himself to do the same. The words stuck to his tongue at the roof of his drying mouth. It was all he could do to smile and nod, trying to hide his embarrassment.

He listened only slightly, not really interested in the feedback from Zack's missions. Whether he went on them himself or not, they were all still boring. He'd feel a little more upbeat about it was he not as weak.

He heard a break in the conversation. He swallowed; lifting his hand as if to form an approval or sign that it was now his turn to speak. He opened his mouth slowly, hesitantly.

"Thank you," He nearly whispered, sliding back on his bed and pulling him knees close to his chest. The simple statement now seemed out of place now, but he wanted to get it out none the less. Zack would just have to go along with it. After all, it was his fault the boy hadn't been able to speak his thoughts earlier.

"Huh? That was random," The SOLDIER laughed, not noticing the disappointment in the other's expression. "What for?"

The boy smiled. "Being my friend…but," He paused, a cautious albeit hasty pause to avoid being verbally trampled over again. "Can I ask you a serious question?"

"Shoot."

"Why…" he stopped, mentally scolding him self. After all, what else could he expect from him but a simple answer when he would be asking a rather redundant question? He thought he might understand why they were friends. And he wanted to believe it was because he, himself was possibly a little interesting to be around. Zack was the most likeable person he'd ever met, so there had to be a similar reason why he'd want to choose Cloud as a friend?

Despite that though, he could still feel the lingering traces of a 'used' kind of feeling. Was he being used? Was it that his so called 'friend' only wanted a fan to call his own? Did he really see him as being so vulnerable that he would be gullible to a staged friendship, just for giggles?

"…Zack," He tried again. "Why do you act like such a good friend to me…when you haven't even known me for very long? It just…seems a little odd."

He watched as the other thought for a moment, hand under his chin thoughtfully. "Hmm, well…maybe I'm just trying to get into your pants? I guess it's not working?"

The cocky grin he gave sent the boy into a blushing fit. He laughed at him, adding, "Just kidding."

"That's not funny," his friend interjected. "And I'm being serious!"

Zack threw his hands up with a laugh. "Alright, alright. I'll be serious." He winked, throwing in his last joke into the conversation. "Even if you are a little cute."

He didn't get an answer, only a half hearted glare and a shrug of the shoulders.

Mentally Zack sighed.

"To be honest, I like to be friends with anyone I can. It makes the day easier, you know? I know I can't make a friend out of everyone, but even a stiff like old Sephy can learn to be friendly," He laughed. "When I first met you on that one mission, when we had that little conversation about being country boys? Well, I decided then that you were pretty easy going; and I like that about you."

"Actually Sir, that was…our twelfth time meeting." Cloud's embarrassment returned full force. Zack really didn't pay attention, did he?

"…Really?"

The younger of the two nodded with a sigh, visibly sullen. "Yeah. There were a couple of times when we spoke. Once you even helped me find the prep stage room, you know, for the Class Three SOLDIER tryouts?"

"…"

"…We've been on several missions together too. I think I told you my name about five times since we've first met." He coughed a little to try and loosen the tightness in his throat. His upper back was already tight with anxious tension and the awkwardness of his 'I was always there and you never noticed' story wasn't exactly helping. "But it's alright. You're real busy I guess, being a First Class SOLDIER and all."

Zack was puzzled, possibly wondering if he should continue in his stupor or simply change the subject. He could tell the younger cadet opposite from him was uncomfortable. He was staring wholes in the carpet only he could see, and his right leg trembled. But he thought he might seem rude, so he tried to offer some solace to the situation.

"…Sorry about that," Was all he could think of, left hand reaching back to rub his neck. He laughed nervously, smile bright and aloof. "I guess that doesn't earn me friend points, huh?"

He swallowed, feeling suddenly silly. He wasn't seriously going to brood over it with Cloud, was he? They were friends now, good friends. Whether Cloud felt that way or not he wouldn't know, but Zack felt like they'd become good friends within the past few months.

"It's fun to talk to you." He said instead, deciding to push a few…better buttons. "That's all I know. People like to feel good around their friends, that's why they even bother talking to them in the first place. Isn't that how you feel around your other friends?"

Cloud stared for a moment, eyes downcast. He whispered low. "…I wouldn't know, Sir."

"Huh?"

"I mean— yeah, o-of course— …never mind…"

"Okay, time out," Zack hurried, gesturing a stop with his hands. "First of all; there isn't a single person on Gaia that doesn't have a friend or two. So don't try and pull the 'I have no friends' bit. And second...did you just call me Sir?"

Cloud straightened. "I…might have called you that…once or twice."

"Yeah, I definitely heard it a coupla' times."

"Sorry," The boy muttered, head down. "Its automatic sometimes. But you're my superior, right? So I really should—"

"—Not avoid my first question." Zack was already smiling. "And stop callin' me 'Sir' Cloud, or I may have to start calling you 'Kid'. Get me?"

Peevishly Cloud nodded, fighting off the urge to utter a trained 'Yes Sir'.

"I…guess I have some friends. I mean, well, I talk to Fred sometimes in the training hall. He's usually my combat partner. And Tomi always asks me about our training sessions in the hallways. Maikka's showed me a couple of really good studying tips, too. I see him a lot in the Library just reading."

Zack was bewildered. "Do you, you know, hang out with any of them on a regular basis? Talk with them daily about random stuff?" If this was some kind of joke, Zack wasn't about to buy into it. And either this was a joke, or Cloud's idea of friendship was seriously warped. Zack found himself curiously silent then. If cloud had described an acquaintance as a friend, then how did he view Zack?

"Not…really," The cadet answered honestly. "But, they're all pretty busy too, just like you. That's probably why."

Zack decided to test the waters a little with some well kept inside information he happened to stumble across. "What about last Thursday? Did you see any of them then?" He could tell Cloud was trying to sound enthralled in the conversation— like he was trying too hard to sound like any of the 'other' guys. Maybe he was beginning to sense something was wrong with his logic here?

"Oh yeah," Cloud answered, nearly sweating the embarrassment from brow. "I saw Tomi early that day after practice. Because Fred said he was sick that day, Tomi was my combat partner in training. And he's really good at his offense." Man, was he sweating now. His palms were so clammy and grimy. "I figured he wouldn't mind helping me out with mine, since I'm only good at defense. But…." He stopped abruptly. Realization.

He breathed out slowly. "…He had other plans."

Zack's wince was painfully visible. "There was a little get-together down in the Barracks that night, group A. I was one of the officer's in charge of dispersing them when they got too loud."

"…Fred and Tomi….?"

"Probably so. Most of the new recruits were there. They were still dressed in their training uniforms."

Destitute, Cloud's head hung like a wilting portrait of a sullen man. "I didn't know…" Nobody ever tells me anything, except for what to do.

Cloud heaves a sigh. "Ok, so they're not my friends. It doesn't matter though." He mutters, his mood a little sour. He reverts back to his anger at being so isolated. "I don't need friends to make it into SOLDIER."

At this Zack cocks his head to the side, an acted nod of a joke taking place. "True..." He begins. "But do you really want to be by yourself forever?"

It's not that I don't want to, Cloud wanted to say. People just don't like me. No matter where he was, home or in the barracks, he was always the outcast. Trying to blend in and mingle with the crowd only made things worse. It never worked.

Instead of answering, Cloud shook his shoulders in a shrug of question. He didn't really have anything meaningful to say anymore. Whatever he might say would only serve to sour his mood, setting him in the pit of depression in all his loneliness. His sigh was meaningful enough, enough to carry Zack's attention and direct it solely to him.

"Uh…" His smile was awkward and sudden. "Sorry about that. I didn't mean to—"

"No, it's fine," Cloud interrupted.

Zack promptly shut his mouth, wondering if he should continue the conversation or not. Obviously this was a tender subject, one his friend didn't favor speaking of. And he didn't really want to have to stare at the sad face for the remainder of the day.

"Hey," He said instead, deciding it was best to change the subject. "How about we go outside for a bit? I'm not really ready to crash for the night…maybe you could show me around? You know, since it's your hometown and all."

The young cadet nodded solemnly. "Sure."

"And in return, I'll show you Gongaga!" Zack's smile was blinding, a little too friendly. It brought a tint to Cloud's cheeks in a way he couldn't quite explain. But he liked it. "After this mission, of course."

Cloud tried to mimic that intoxicating smile. "…I'll hold you to that, then."

-

The streets were hardly crowded, the small mountain village nothing short of looking stranded. Most of the villagers were already inside with the promise of a setting sun, making dinner and preparing their children for bed.

Cloud walked ahead of Zack, motioning for him to follow. He led him to the nearly ancient well just north of the village's entrance. Gingerly the boy touched a gloved hand to the rusting metal of the steel bars holding the well in place, tiny remembrances of his childhood swimming through his mind like a preying shark, blood thirsty and malice drunk. He frowned, closing his eyes.

"When I was a kid, I used to come here a lot."

"Oh yeah?" Zack seemed more amused rather than interested. Cloud noticed, but said nothing to try and mend his wounded self esteem.

"It's a…special place." The boy was already climbing to the top, not looking back to see his elder's expression. He didn't have to wonder, for Zack was already trekking up the same track, situating himself beside Cloud's still sitting form. He looked out, trying to find what it was the younger was so suddenly engrossed with.

Then, he saw it. And it was…everything. The town, the landscape beyond, and the mountains; they were all a stunning portrait of a painting from the height they were at. Zack looked up at the sky, leaning back on his elbows. The breeze felt nice on his skin. He breathed out slowly.

"The stars…you can see them clearly from here. And it's not even night yet."

"Yeah, that's why I always came up here to sit when I was a kid. No matter what time of day, you could always count on getting a good view of the sky. And, it was always good for taking your mind off things." He sighed, almost peaceful, serene. Nostalgic might have been a better word, had he fonder memories. "Yeah…I was up here a lot…"

Zack snickered. "Oh no," He exclaimed sarcastically. "I feel a childhood story coming on!"

The blonde smiled a happy frown. And with the illusion of a chuckle, he whispered, "No, don't worry. I wouldn't want to bore you to death with my childhood nonsense. It's stupid anyway."

He twisted his fingers nervously in his lap, feeling much like a girl on a first date when the conversation came to an awkward halt. Zack had gone silent, and Cloud didn't have the courage to turn and see what he was doing. He couldn't help but wonder if maybe he'd said the wrong thing. Maybe he just wasn't interesting enough? Man, he really was terrible at conversation. His mind just went blank. "Still a good view though, right?" Cloud managed to say.

"Ah."

Zack was still looking up, his mind blank and his face calm. Silently, Cloud wished he could be like that; living without a care in the world. Hell, just a little courage would be nice. But no; he was afraid, afraid of everything. He could never be a 'Zack.'

His thoughts ran wild in his head, forcing vicious assumptions on him. They whispered their posin into his ears, eager to watch his response. After all the awkward conversations the two already had tonight, maybe, they taunted, they just weren't meant to be friends. Zack was a 1st Class SOLDIER after all. He was older than him, stronger than him, and more outgoing than he could ever wish to be. Cloud wanted nothing more than to keep a conversation going with this man, to try and rekindle his attempt at the friendship the other kept assuring they had.

But, maybe he was trying too hard.

Zack didn't seem like the type of person to shun someone based on looks, like many of the others he'd come into contact with. And it was exactly his looks that got the younger cadet into so much trouble. Tortured for looking too frail, his face to femme, his height too low, his eyes too big, or his hair too outrageous, it all contributed to how he reacted. He grew up with an unsteady image of himself, and making friends wasn't exactly something he could so easily call his forte. Well, not like Zack. He made it look easy.

But making friends in a town full of upbeat country kids was hard, especially when you felt like the only outcast. No one wanted to socialize with those who shunned away from themselves and hid in their house. And no one wanted the company of someone who couldn't utter a single phrase without stuttering, body shaking so bad it forced the contents right out of its owner's stomach.

It was hard, growing up. It was hard, period.

"You know…you think too much Cloud, that's your problem."

"Wha—?"

The sentence caught him off guard.

"You think all the time. That's all you do. You stand there, you don't budge, and you wait to be told what to do. I don't think I've ever seen anyone in my life as obedient as you. You're like a damn robot sometimes, just waiting for someone to push that 'on' button— and don't try and tell me it's not true because I've watched you do it. It's all the time."

'He…watches me?' Cloud could feel the warmth flood his cheeks. When did he get so hot? Why did the breeze suddenly feel so cold against his face?

"You're going to make yourself a nervous wreck acting like that. Not everything in this world requires so much thought, you know. Sometimes you have to just…let them happen. Like— well, love for instance. If you think about how to win her over too much, she'll get bored and leave you alone. But if you just think about spending time with her, she'll want you to come back."

The younger fidgeted again, trying to rid himself of the burning sensations covering the tips of his ears. I always want you to come back and talk with me. But no matter how many times we've "met", you still forget who I am the next day.

Why did he choose 'love' as the example? Why not friendship, or something to do with exams or battle techniques? He could be so confusing! What was he trying to say, really? "I'm just…not that good at conversations." Well, at least it was the truth, in any occasion.

"Whaaaat?" Zack smiled, laughter tugging at the corners of his mouth. "That's your excuse for being so anti-social? Well I'll be damned." This time he did laugh, ruffling the boy's hair affectionately. "You really are something else Spikey."

Casually Cloud tried to push the hand from his hair, his own coming up to somehow fix the tussled locks of unruly blonde. "I don't get you," He muttered.

The hand stopped, and he was given a solemn look. "What do you mean?"

"You're always so…out there. I've never seen you cry or anything! You're rarely serious. I thought…I thought all the SOLDIERS were stone faced killing machines. But you're so nice to everyone…How can anyone really be so happy all the time? Don't you ever get…nervous? Or scared?" He paused thoughtfully, the anger from his voice fading into a more subtle tone as he continued with the professional tone of a cadet to his commanding officer. "When I first came here…you actually came right up and spoke to me. And, I was surprised, really surprised. I didn't know what purpose you might have had with a cadet, and it confused me. I-I…never expected it."

He didn't look up to see the expression on the other's face, knowing all too well what it might already be. "I ask you why you're my friend— or want to be my friend, and I feel like you're not really answering the question. It makes me feel…weird. I don't like it." Like you don't really care.

The cadet sighed mournfully, sifting horrible thoughts through hid mind. When he stole a glance at his commanding officer he was greeted with a sideways playfulness. His thoughts were turning for the worst. Was…was he acting to be his friend…only to try and seduce him? Or better yet, was Zack gay? He made some rather off centered jokes sometimes, but what if Cloud had taken them for granted, and now he was trapped? Being with someone so much more powerful than him meant he'd have no way of escape; he could be raped!

But if that was truly the case, did Cloud look so vulnerable that he became just another easy target, no mater what the goal? "…Sir?" He asked uneasily, swallowing hard. "Did I say something wrong?" The silence was dreadful, the other's expression so daunting. What was going on?

"Cloud," Zack began calmly, ignoring the formality of the other's words and trying his best to sooth him. He cleared his throat in preparation. "If you keep living your life the way you do I'm telling you right now you're going to give yourself a heart attack. Worrying does nothing but put unneeded stress on your body." He tapped his chin thoughtfully. "Okay," He said, clapping his hands over Cloud's. "Let's say we're on a mission!"

Cloud fought the urge to roll his eyes. Not the missions again.

"You get separated from the group, and you're lost in the forest. If you start to think about what could kill you, or what would happen if you never found a way out again; you're done. That's it." He smiled. "But, if you just let yourself stay calm and focus on looking at your surroundings, like maybe searching for footprints or broken twigs on the ground, and just listen to the sounds of nature around you, you'll surely find your way back to your team. Either you find their tracks or you hear them, but you'll find a way out. Panicking does nothing but make things worse."

Rolling his head to the side, Cloud tore his eyes away from his hands in Zack's. "I've tried that before…it never works."

"Try talking to yourself then."

"Huh?" The idea did seem kind of silly. "Talk to myself? Isn't that what crazy people do?"

Zack shook his head, laughing lightly. "No Cloud, you don't have to talk out loud, not really. It helps sometimes if you tell yourself things will be alright. Like how you say you feel alone. Try telling yourself that you're not, that people are all around you if you need help. And all you have to do is ask."

Cocking his head at an angle, Cloud considered his words. "Do you…talk to yourself too?"

"Sometimes. Hell, I even say it out loud. I don't care what other people think about it. And it really does help."

"I guess…I guess I could try that."

Zack smiled. "So, no more thinking about it, okay?"

Cloud nodded. "Okay. I'll try."

When Zack reached over to ruffle his hair he tried to swat the hands away, a laugh trying to make its way out. Zack always knew how to lighten the mood, no matter what the situation. They could be in the depths of hell and Zack would still find the time to crack a joke about it. But that's what Cloud loved about him. If he really was his friend, he was a damn good one to have. If anything else, he would have Zack to rely on.

"The sun's going down," Zack mentioned, pointing to the vanishing flare at the tip of the horizon. "Night patrol will be out soon to make sure the perimeters are clear for the night."

Cloud nodded. "Yeah…I guess that means we'd better head back to the Inn." He sighed. "Besides, I'm a little tired."

"It's been a long day. I'm tired too." Zack stood up, swinging his foot over the edge; skillfully jumping to the ground like a cat might jump from a window. He landed perfectly, something Cloud admired, especially when he had to climb his own way down.

Cloud followed Zack, side by side, as they walked back to the Inn. The sun was setting quickly, the sky already a fine shade of darkened grey and blue. The stars were visible, glistening as they stepped through the door.

While they made their way up the stairs, Cloud couldn't help but dwell over whether or not he'd be able to fall asleep. It was always a difficult task for him, even when he was little. Along with the nightmares, his mind was in a constant state of recklessness. It was as if as soon as his head hit he pillow his mind would start to race. Maybe it was the silence, or lack of motion, but it was always the hardest to endure. He wondered if he'd be tossing throughout most of the night like he usually did in the barracks. His thoughts wandered more when they made it to their assigned room, and he watched his elder as he went to lay face down on his own bed.

"Man…nothin' like a nice bed to crash on after a long day; and I'm beat."

Cloud's chuckle was soft, timid. "Only you would get excited over a bed."

"Well of course! I love to sleep!"

Cloud was envious for a moment in time. He, himself never loved bedtime. He wished once more he could be like Zack in this way.

"Yeah…" He was mimicking Zack's posture on his bed, moving to lay flat on his back instead. He felt tired, yes, but his mind was already beginning to reel. It rattled like a broken toy, speaking constant nonsense of fears and doubts. Just like always, he figured, he would further suffer from his insomnia.

After the two settled into their beds comfortably, Zack reached for the bedside lamp. It was on the small, square table between the two beds, separating them equally. He reached up, turning the knob so the light shut off.

"Night, Cloud."

"…Night."

-

Much like the daily conversations with Zack he'd had thus far, it was even awkward just laying there, in silence, like he was doing something wrong. He sighed, trying to get a little more comfortable, feeling his muscles pulling stiffly. He'd been tense the whole night.

"Damn it," He muttered, sucking in a breath. He forced his limbs to loosen up as he turned to face the window, his back at his friend's sleeping figure. He felt aggravated at how solid his whole body felt.

He released his breath slowly, feeling his body relax somewhat.

The shivers of fear were slowly beginning to creep up his spine, his skin going hot, with the flash of a chill to go along with it. Bumps covered his body, and his stomach turned.

'It's okay', he tried to reassure himself. 'There's no reason to feel so anxious. It's not like anything bad is going to happen.'

He was beginning to panic, his mind forcing his body to react in a very unwanted way. It made him swallow hard as he tried desperately to stop thinking. But he just couldn't help thinking about the chills he was getting, the nausea he felt. He feared he would relieve his stomach soon, but he tried to tell himself otherwise. If he didn't, he would be in the bathroom, heaving up nothing but stomach acid and the barley there food morsels he's tried to keep down all day. The anxiety caused his panic, and the panic, combined with his natural anxiety helped to fuel his body's actions in fighting against him. And he was losing the battle.

'Zack's just a few feet away', He tried to tell his mind, which was currently trying to tell him he was alone, that no one would be there to help him. 'He's right there.'

He allowed himself a few moments to dwell on this, giving himself the time to calm his breathing and, hopefully, his stomach.

He felt oddly at ease now, with knowing he quite possibly had someone there who would help him. If he got sick and had to throw up, he could rely on Zack to help him get through it, right?

The sound of the bed springs of the bed beside him squeaked with movement. Cloud smiled at the simple but peaceful thought of his superior moving into a more comfortable position. He closed his eyes with another sigh, shifting so his hands were near his face. He would try to sleep again, still trying to focus his mind on Zack more than himself.

But then…it all started again.

He audibly gasped. Something so cold and uninvited slid, without resistance, into the loosened bottoms of his uniform, sending another surprised chill up his spine. He shivered at the coldness swimming to wiggle between his thighs, feeling a wave of fear hit him as a strong hand clamped over his mouth. He panic peaked immediately, adrenaline pumping into his veins, and causing him to squirm in the other's grip. His chest heaved, and for what seemed like an eternity his body forbid him to breathe, his chest so undeniably tight he thought his ribs would crack under the pressure. His skin flared with a white hot flash of frigid prickles when a heavy weight nearly crushed him, and it became unmistakingly clear that he was being held down.

He couldn't speak— not with the hand so tightly over his mouth. It made him fearful of not being able to call for help if he needed to.

All he could think of was trying to get his friend's attention before this went any further. If Zack stirred, that would surely scare off the intruder. And Cloud didn't exactly like the idea of being randomly molested while he trying to sleep. So he thrashed about as best he could, aiming for a louder sound than the muffled ones the softer sheets and the applied pressure to his body forced him to make. Who was this assailant? And what did he want with a lowly grunt like him? Surely he didn't come just to take advantage of his poorly defended body…did he? Somehow, Cloud wouldn't doubt it. Bad things always seemed to find him, no matter where he was.

A frightful moan rumbled over the heated skin of the perpetrator's palm, the shaky breathes slipping through the cracks of those tightly clenched fingers. Tears were the next to go, running down his too pale cheeks without the delicate blonde's permission. Whether it showed his fear or lack of strength, both fled him as the visions of rape invaded his mind. And all he hopes for is someone to rescue him, because he knows he can do nothing to stop this madness on his own.

He could feel it, the heavy burning of nausea building in his stomach like an active volcano. Along with his panic, the acid was rising. And he panicked more at the thought of puking, his devilish mind sending him visions of himself heaving. It served as nothing more but fuel and his stomach turned again, the heat rising to his chest.

With the clench of warming identity, the fading coldness between his thighs turned angry and tightened over his skin in a pinch. It was an angry entity, giving the other's penis a lesson in proper manners as Cloud tried to pull away. It caused the younger to cry out for redemption within his mind, fearing the worst had only yet to come. 'Please, somebody help me.'

He would be taken in the darkness of the night, in his hometown and right by his sleeping friend who refused to wake up. And in the morning he would feel even worse.

"Don't worry," a voice whispered in the dark. "Calm down, I'm not trying to hurt you; I just don't want you to scream."

Suddenly that coldness was unnaturally warm, and he identified it as a hand, each digit lining visible veins along his rising erection. He shivered again; feeling very uncomfortable with someone else now trying to, what he now figured, was a very eccentric way to pleasure him.

His assailant chuckled, that rough hand rubbing almost soothingly between his thighs. "Sorry," He whispered, "I didn't mean to hurt you…I didn't, did I?"

His victim shook his head, feeling somewhat stupid. After the initially hello of the 'yell rape' incident, he'd somehow melted into the submissiveness he was so used to. With more of the brutality and chance of harm gone from the incident to come, he would revert back to just going along with it until he was left alone. It was something he'd grown used to as a child when the others decided to gang up on him. It caused the embarrassment in him to flare up, and he was mortified. He was still extremely panicky to boot, something he ordinarily couldn't disperse unless his attention was engrossed in something else entirely. And this situation wasn't exactly helping.

He begged his stomach to calm itself, to keep his lunch at least below his chest.

He doubted the other could see through the dark, so he decided to speak up with a whispered, "No."

It was a little white lie, of course. He had hurt him a little, but he didn't want to bring that up, especially since the other's weapon of choice was still rubbing the head of his erection so softly. He was afraid if he did or said something wrong to upset the other, that would be it and that hand would stiffen and clamp down on him. He'd much rather just wait it out and let whatever was going to happen, happen. He would be less hurt that way. Or at least, that's what he always figured.

Accidentally he let a whimper of fear— a noise easily mistaken for a moan— slip from his lips at the thought of more brutality, muscles tensing when he heard the chuckle in response. He was still very uncomfortable. With his legs awkwardly closed and still half curled, his back hunched forward, and with the unwanted touch of someone else, it made it difficult to try and concentrate on the pleasure enough for him to stay in the constant state of being hard. He knew though, if he wanted to be left alone he'd have to come. This meant he had to center his attention at only the touching and not the circumstance, and let it take him over the edge. But it was easier said than done.

It was a good thing it was dark. It made him feel a little better to know he was hidden from whoever it was that decided to molest him. But at the second laugh that voice suddenly sounded so familiar. His breath caught in his throat for only a second.

"Z-zack?" He could almost hear the smile.

"Yeeeees~?"

The comical sense in his voice made him falter, his fear halfway dissolving into anger. He was hurt; how could he betray him like this? Weren't they…'friends'? "What…what are you doing?"

He sucked in a shaky breath as the other leant in to nuzzle his neck, nose inhaling deep. He felt his muscles tense up anxiously. He was nearly in shock. He coughed lightly, feeling as though the walls of his throat were swelling, the ball of an invisible substance suddenly clogging his throat.

"Relaxing you…"

This was the wrong treatment. This invasion of privacy was too much. Cloud felt the strain in pinches along his spine and shoulders and his condition worsened. He was becoming breathless now, lungs trying for air as his anxiety teetered on the brink of a restless kind of shock.

"I don't like it," He found himself admitting unconsciously. "I just wanna' sleep."

But sleep seemed so far off now. He shuddered, feeling the fingers shift from between his thighs, sliding lower.

"Whaaaat? Sleep? C'mon Spikey, a little fun never hurt anyone."

Zack rolled his friend over, letting him see the smile on his face. "Right?"

Cloud shook his head, a little more courageous. "I-I don't want to."

Zack was still all over him, with the added motion of trying to pry his legs apart. "C'mon, it'll do ya' good to loosen up a bit." What, did he just assume Cloud was used to this kind of thing? Cloud had to wonder what his motives were, and where he got the crazy idea he'd be up for sex at such a time. Especially since Zack had made, not according to Cloud, no serious advances against him. The way he understood it; they were friends. Zack had tried to drill it into his head multiple times the previous day. So, why was he trying so hard to cajole him into this now?

"Zack, I—"

He was cut off by lips against his own, pressing hard. Cloud didn't know what to think. But he did know he was afraid. With knowing who this person now was, it made the situation that much worse. Now, there was no 'other' there to put a stop to this. That person had replaced the one who was now stretching his uniform, trying to tear it from his body.

Stop, his mind pleaded, the top of his uniform coming undone. It was tugged down his torso, greedy hands pulling on his undergarments. Please Zack; stop.

Unfortunately, Cloud wasn't as forward as his mind. His hands weren't as pushy as they should have been to ward Zack's off. The only thing his body allowed was the little resistance he was already providing. And that alone, he knew was not enough to prevent himself from becoming someone else's play toy for the night.

"Z-zack…" He breathed, trying to turn his head away from the other's forceful lips. "H-hold on," He whispered anxiously, the panic in him causing his last sentence to sound more like a command.

It was all too fast for him to comprehend. And now he was practically naked. And Zack was over him more so than he had been previously. Zack was larger and more powerful, his genetically enhanced body allowing him easier access so that he could lay flat on top of the younger boy. He'd opened Cloud's legs, fingers feeling around his lower extremities while Cloud continued to panic.

As much as he might try, Cloud was no match for someone like Zack. Fear enveloped him at the hardness against his stomach, his own erection long gone and forgotten. Zack's mouth was back to ravaging him, his teeth biting along his neck, his shoulders, his chest. They were all over him, nipping and sucking only until Zack's fingers had pound what they were looking for.

Cloud was horrified.

There were a few times he'd imagined what his first experience with sex would be like. But it was nothing like this, nothing at all. He'd certainly never fantasized about his only friend taking advantage of him. And yet here he was, with his hands forcing him to turn on his stomach. Now Cloud could see nothing but the cloth of the sheets; the sweet scent of the country side in them a cruel remark to his situation. "Zack— wait!"

He was beyond himself. With knees pushing his farther apart, and those hands back to prod between the base of his cheeks, the hardness that had been previously against his stomach was now probing near the other's wandering fingers. There were no words, only actions.

Cloud shuddered; this would be it.

He waited for the pain, his heart ready to shatter. But…

-

Startled and shaking, he awoke in his anxious state, his eyes wide. He was still clothed and still alone on his bed. But it took a moment to realize where he even was. His heart thumped madly in his chest as he tried to calm his breathing. He knew; he was having a panic attack. The familiar pricks along his skin, the chills, the nausea— it all ultimately led up to one thing. And in his panic he searched for the nearby waste basket. He knew what was coming. He turned his head, frantic to find that waste basket when, there, his eyes caught the sight of something.

It was Zack, still sleeping so contently on the bed next to his. For a moment, he'd forgotten all about throwing up. He was suddenly so overwhelmed with relief at the sight of him there. Although his back was the only thing turned to him it still did wondrous things for his mind. He breathed in deep, letting it out slowly as his panic let up some.

Zack…He really wanted to talk, especially now that he was fully awake and unable to go back to sleep any time soon. And now that he was awake, he placed the title of nightmare against the awful events his mind had played out. He had many of them, and they often led to him waking up in a panic much earlier than he would like. So it wasn't anything new.

That specific dream though, now that was new.

Suddenly, along with feeling sick he felt depressed. He wanted, just then, to see Zack's smile. A laugh wouldn't hurt at this point; a laugh and a smile. It sounded good. But doing so would mean he would have to wake the other up as well.

Well, surely he would understand?

"…Zack," He whispered into the darkness, knowing too well he'd spoken too low for the other to hear him. Although he felt like he needed to talk, to ease his panicked state, he also felt it very rude to wake him. What if he was angry and lashed out? He struggled with his inner thoughts, both eager and afraid to reach out and tap Zack's shoulder. But his panic flared again, and this time it was only out of fear of his own mind that propelled both him and his hand forward in a light-hearted push to the shoulder, his voice desperate.

"Zack."

Nothing but a sleepy mumble came from the man before him. Just then, he couldn't have felt more alone. He needed to hear his voice. He needed to know someone was there.

"Zack," He tried again, pleading. "Hey…"

A few moments of distilled silence passed. Cloud held his breath, bracing himself for the next wave of his panic attack.

"Uuuuhnn….." A sleepy groan. Zack rubbed his tired eyes. "Cloud….?"

"Yeah." The boy nodded timidly, suddenly so guilty. "I-I'm sorry, I didn't want to wake you up, but…" He could feel his heart fluttering breathlessly in his chest and he's caught himself in a dizzy spell. "I was wondering if maybe…we could talk."

His elder looks confused, disbelief passing his features. "Talk?" He grabs his cell phone from the bedside nightstand, flipping it open to reveal the early time he's now awake at. "At four in the morning?"

Cloud nods sheepishly, hoping his plan works, and that Zack finds the strength to sit up. But he's doubtful the other can so easily will away the deep slumber he'd been currently in.

It scares him to think he'll merely fall back asleep and tell him to do the same.

But Zack surprises him when he grunts, making a move to sit up straight. Though he's still under the covers he's awake, and Cloud feels a little more relieved.

"So," Zack says through a hefty yawn. "What's on your mind?"

Cloud breathes out, clearing his throat. "Nothing really. I just…felt like talking."

Zack's rubbing his tired eyes to shake himself from his sleeping state, a yawn sneaking up on him. He's a little confused; something being still half asleep could be the main contributor to. But something about Cloud waking him up for nothing made him feel a little more confused. He looked at the boy, who was currently making his way back over to his bed and sitting down, and he wondered why he'd felt the need to wake him up so early. The almost fearful look Cloud held beneath his expression worried him a little. Maybe he'd heard some kind of commotion outside? Maybe they would need to rush and get dressed for such an occasion?

But instead, he began with, "…Are you ok?"

He noticed the light trembles running through the other's skin, along with the stiffness of his joints. His elbows alone looked locked in place at his thighs.

"…Yeah."

Zack's brow rose. "Why do I get the feeling you're lying?"

Cloud shook his head, feeling suddenly silly for even being in such a situation; waking up his fellow comrade in the wee hours of the morning just because he was unable to cope with the cruel abuse of his own mind. "No, it's just…I couldn't sleep." He figured maybe he could get a little white lie out there just to break the ice, trying to play it casual-cool without looking like a complete child.

"Oh." Zack was ready to brush it aside and believe him. Whatever reason Cloud must've had to wake him for conversation, when it was all said and done he would once again be able to sleep. That thought stayed in the back of his mind as he looked to the younger male. "So…what's the problem? Just restless?"

The depression settled in Cloud's mind as he tried hard not to look at Zack. He was embarrassed and afraid, afraid that he was the image of weakness in Zack's eyes. Should he tell him? Should he just lie and try to go back to sleep? He was so confused, unable to decide between the two.

Cloud's eyes glanced up, wavering with uncertainty. They looked to quiver with a sense of hidden fear. When he opened his mouth to speak, the breath that escaped him was much like a ghosted gasp of a sob. His teeth clenched immediately, and he swallowed hard before trying again.

"Is it always easy…?" The boy's voice was barely below a whisper. "To fall asleep, just like that?" He motioned with a snap of his fingers.

"Uhh…" Zack scratched the side of his face with a single finger. "I guess? I mean, a lot goes on in a day. So naturally, when you lay down you just…crash."

"You don't think about anything…when you lay down?"

Shrugging Zack cocked his head with bewilderment. "No—t really; no. Well, I mean, once in a while I guess I get a little restless, but I fall asleep eventually." His tone was humorous, his smile light hearted. "I'm guessin' you weren't lying then, when you said you couldn't sleep."

Cloud was someone who usually kept to himself, so naturally it was up to someone like Zack to try and fill in the pieces when he couldn't fully understand what the boy was trying to get at. He knew, from various little conversations, that Cloud had a headstrong desire to be a part of the SOLDIERS, to serve ShinRA as one of the best. And from what he had told Zack, he wasn't doing so well at that.

"You're thinking too much then."

Cloud swallowed again, looking back down at his shadowed feet. "…I can't get my mind to shut up."

"Huh?" The tone alone was enough to spark Zack's interest. That sentence was tainted with not just the subtle hint of anger, but also of something along the lines of despair. He didn't have to try and look at the other's downcast face to realize how miserable he looked.

"Maybe…" He offered in advice. "Try to just think about sleeping. Or maybe…focus on something else? Like a sound or something?"

"Tried that…it doesn't work." Cloud brought his hand up, his skin still crawling with anxiety. He brushed away at his closest eye, trying hard to keep his frustration aside. "It never works."

Zack rubbed his temple, a little clueless. He hesitated, not really sure of what to say.

He didn't have to, fortunately, because Cloud continued on his own.

"I just lay there— sometimes all night, thinking about stupid things. I keep telling my mind it's not important, but it won't stop. It never stops." He breathed in deep. "…My chest hurts."

As he laid a hand over his heart, he tried to keep his breathing steady. With no feedback from Zack, he continued easily, feeling much like he was having a one sided conversation with himself. "And it's a little hard to breathe…but…it's always like this."

"Did you tell the company Doctor about it? If you're having problems like that, then you should definitely see a doctor, Cloud. That doesn't sound too healthy…"

Cloud shook his head, his voice that of disgust. "They said nothing was wrong with me. I'm fine." He huffed, suddenly agitated. "Well I don't feel fine. I can't sleep, I can't eat much because it always feels like my throat is swelling, my muscles twitch all the time, my stomach always hurts— I'm always nauseous; I feel like I'm dying. And those stupid doctors keep brushing me off like I don't even exist."

Zack was surprised by this sudden, quiet outburst. Cloud's voice was steadily getting louder, but keeping to a minimum. His voice was shaking, but stern with a rising anger. Zack blinked, thoroughly confounded now.

"Well, um…maybe you sh—"

"They never listen to me," Cloud over spoke, cutting him off without a care. "They just ignore me, like everyone else here. They wouldn't care if I dropped dead right in front of them; they'd probably just put me in a bag and toss me out in the wasteland outside Midgar."

He hesitated, breathing a little heavy. Desperately he tried to calm himself. Things were getting a little more than awkward now. "Just another failure who couldn't make it."

"Hey."

Zack's abrupt word forced him to snap out of his tirade of ongoing self hate and anger. Cloud instantly caved back in on himself, suddenly shy once more.

"Listen," Zack began, his voice serious. "I know I'm not all that great at these kinds of things, but I do know that you're not a failure. You might be having some problems, but that doesn't mean you have to be so hard on yourself. If they don't want to listen to you; go somewhere else. Fuck em'. They're all assholes anyway. I wouldn't mind taking a brick to their faces myself."

Although Cloud let himself give in to even the smallest of chuckles, he frowned. "I guess…I just feel like…no one will help me." He felt extremely weak for saying such a thing, but it was the truth. "I know I'm not the strongest here, and I know I have problems. But I just want a little help so I can be normal again."

Cloud sighed, anxiety slowly turning into a deeper depression. "It's kind of like— I feel like all I do is wander around this place, screaming for help, and no one will even look at me."

He didn't want to admit his weaknesses to Zack, but he just couldn't hold it back anymore. He was suffering, and no one wanted to help him. No one would listen to his story, or try to help him out. It made him feel isolated and alone. It made him feel like if he needed help there would be no one there willing to be at his side. Might as well be the last person alive, was the way he saw it, because he was damn near invisible to everyone around him. Just another fucked up kid trying to prove himself. He wouldn't get very far in life, living like this. And he knew it. He just couldn't change it; not on his own. He needed help, or he was going to crash.

His last attempt to speak; he immediately regretted, because his mind's strength was running out. The backs of his eyes were already starting to burn.

"It's frustrating…"

He wanted to, but he just couldn't stop. The tears were already slipping from the corners of his eyes. Oh, he'd gone and done it now. He was crying, and right in front of Zack. The tears fell across his cheeks in a splash of colorless fluid, dancing over his skin in a ballet of frustration and sorrow. If there was one weakness he was sure he would never overcome, it was the weakness within his mind. It overtook him and controlled him, held him captive against himself. Up against his own mind he was powerless. And this made him feel helpless. A faceless enemy he would never over come, and he was stuck with it forever.

"Is it…really that bad?"

Cloud wanted to huff, a snide remark just waiting at the tip of his tongue. Of course it's bad. But he could never have the courage to say so; doing so would be admitting the defeat he knew he'd already surrendered to. He'd known for a long time. He was just too afraid to believe it.

A hand caught the curve of his cheek, and his mouth ran dry. He hadn't felt something like this in what seemed like an eternity. Maybe a mother's touch; soothing and gentle. He'd remembered it from years in his childhood he'd spent through tears and sorrow. But here, this hand was different. It was rough and callous, hard and firm. Each finger curled to the soft tissue around his face as if Zack were holding a ripen peach, his thumb smoothing out some of the liquid over his cheek to dry against the cool air.

"It's ok," He said, and Cloud could feel him moving closer. "I know it might not mean much…or you might not believe me, but you're not alone. I'm right here."

Cloud believed him, whether it is because of his weakened state or neediness of comfort; he believed him.

"I listen to you. And no, you're just as important as everybody else here. So you're a little insecure — who isn't?"

He felt Zack's hands trembling. When had he started shaking? And why? Cloud pondered this as Zack's words sank in; was this friendship? Was it this new warmth that was now surrounding his chest? His nausea was dying down to a sense of normalcy now, his mind only concentrating on what might happen next. Because at this point he wasn't quite sure. "I'm sorry," Cloud managed to say weakly, sniffling.

"No, no, no, I already told you; it's ok. Stop worrying so much."

For such roughness in his skin, Zack had wonderful hands. They were both on him now; cupping his face at an angular position, thumbs now drying the misguided wetness at his lips. They caressed his chin, making sure the skin there was dry before his hands repositioned a little lower, towards his neck. Cloud's jaw trembled, emotions high. At the simplest of the touches he was ready to cry again, his mind allowing him to trust this man in his moment of weakness.

Zack's forehead touched his, breath the only warmth against the receding chill of his former panic attack. Cloud's body trembled in the remaining tremors of the unknown fear, his mind desperate for some kind of solace. The silence wasn't helping either.

"I-it's stupid," the younger managed, feeling awkward with being held by both someone he admired, and the image of himself looking so weak in front of him. "I-'m sorry for—"

"Cloud." His voice was stern, commanding. "Stop apologizing; there's nothing for you to be sorry for." He sighed against Cloud's face, nuzzling the other's cheek affectionately, his face so full of sin. Why was he touching him in such a way that made his face feel so hot? What was he getting at here? Cloud was sure friends didn't come so close, touching and nuzzling each other in a manner of prospective lovers.

"Why do you make me feel like this?"

It was near a whisper, but Cloud thought he'd heard it perfectly. His breath faltered, jaw wanting to clench. "What?" He whispered back, confusion returning.

Zack hesitated in his answer, debating with himself. There was something in Cloud that just made him want to comfort him, not unlike a mother would her child, but also not unlike a lover would their mate. He couldn't understand why exactly, but he felt compelled to hold the other in his arms. He wanted to whisper such comfort to him and lay by him until he fell asleep, make sure he was good and content before he would so much as shut his eyes.

It was true; Zack wasn't the best at remembering things, like names and dates, or simple occurrences. But every time he saw Cloud, he was reminded that he wanted nothing more than to spend time with him. Maybe a date to lunch, or a chance at conversation. Just his presence was enough to make his smile broaden. Such a meek, antisocial boy Cloud was, but that made him special to Zack.

"This doesn't…bother you, does it? Me touching you like this?" Cloud shook his head, gently, swallowing to break the tension within himself.

"Good," Zack nearly laughed. "I don't wanna' scare you or anything." He moved closer, slipping his arms around Cloud in and embrace. With his chin resting in the crook of the other's neck, he laid a thoughtful kiss to the skin above the collar of his uniform.

"It's ok, you know," He moved, whispering into his ear. "To be scared. And you know…I get scared a lot, just like you. It might not be as bad for me, but I get anxious too."

And it was true; he was anxious right now. His mind was telling him to go further, to delve deeper into these unfound emotions and just let himself give in to what he really wanted to say. And what he wanted to do. All skeptics and stereotypes aside, he wanted nothing more than to hold this boy like he assumed no one ever had, to show him that there was someone out there, aside from his mother, which cared for him so deeply. But he feared he would be doubted, especially for his lack of remembering their many previous encounters. That aside, he really did think about him a lot when they were together.

"I'm sorry, Cloud." His voice was full of sincerity. "For being so forgetful."

More tears fell from the other's cheeks, a tiny sob escaping him. "It's ok."

He just wants what he feels now; to feel secure. He wants to be strong and independent, like Zack. And it's part of the reason why he's begun to cry again. "A-and…." He sniffles. "I'm sorry for waking you up." Why won't he stop shaking so much? And why did Zack's hands mirror the tremors?

Zack feels his barriers breaking, and silently he begs forgiveness from Aerith. There is someone who needs him right now, and that someone just so happens to be a possible love interest. Maybe it was the tears, or the shaking in his voice, but Zack just couldn't take it. His body pulls back just enough so he can see Cloud's weeping face. It's a heart wrenching site, but Zack is determined to fix it.

"It's ok," He tells the boy once more. "Just relax…" By now he isn't sure who exactly he's telling, but the words themselves seem to take effect. Cloud breathes in deep, and in Zack's faltering moment of emotions, he leans in.

The kiss is soft and sweet, like spreading morning dew over a precious petal, and Zack's lips ghost over Cloud's. He works at a slow pace, feeling him out before pressing his lips a little more firmly against his. While his eyes are closed, Cloud's are wide open. Ridden with bewilderment, he's struck with the knowledge that he doesn't know what to do. What should he do? Kiss back? What exactly did that entitle? Pressing himself forward to show he accepted this unlikely and unorthodox proposal of love? What did Zack feel through all of this?

"Zack," He breathed through short pants, unsure of where they were going with this.

On impulse Zack pulled back enough to look him in the eye. He didn't apologize, but he did offer a simple sorry with his eyes. His voice was a whisper, half lidded eyes covered by something Cloud could not recognize. "Yeah?"

"I…." He tried to speak, but his throat wouldn't allow it. It was caving in; the fear of not knowing what he should do hitting him full force. His skin broke out in tiny bumps.

Zack put a finger to his lips. "You don't have to say anything, unless you want me to stop. Then, I will."

This time, when Zack leaned forward, it startled Cloud. The man's mouth was no longer closed and ready to caress his own— those lips were parted and pulling towards him. He got scared and, in his inexperience, instinctively swung his head to the side. He felt the other's lips instead, land on his cheek.

"I'm sorry."

It wasn't a rejection, and Zack understood. He started to laugh, the sound a low chuckle. "Oh, I get it."

"Get what…?" The boy swallowed hard.

"You've never been kissed before."

At Zack's words, his cheeks flushed. He brought a hand up to try and cool them, but it was no use. They were on fire. "Don't worry," Zack said softly, letting his hands guide the other's face back to him. "I'll teach you."

If Cloud thought he was shaking before, he could consider that a mild sense of what his body was going through now. All the apprehension was towards one thought and one thought only.

'He's going to kiss me again.'

He didn't have to wait when Zack rejoined their lips in a closed embrace. Moving his mouth, Zack parted his lips enough to take hold of Cloud's bottom lip, sliding his tongue across it before giving it a tiny nip. Opened or closed, Cloud couldn't find a pattern to his intimacy, couldn't mimic his moves. They weren't predictable enough, and he wept inside with self doubt. His lips were still clamped shut, while Zack's were kneading them with his own.

Trying to show his willingness, the boy gave some slack to his face, trying hard to relax and be in the moment. He tried to think of how he'd been feeling lately around Zack. Butterflies in his stomach were the least of his worries. The feelings the other put in his heart had made him sad. But now— now he was kissing him. Shouldn't he at least return the favor?

Zack hummed a chuckled along his lips when he felt Cloud pressing into him, awkward as can be. But he wouldn't poke fun or laugh at his expense. He would only grip his face more firmly, using his hands to tilt the younger male's head. He kisses him multiple times, gradually letting the other get used to feeling the wetness of his tongue against his lips. And when Cloud's mouth loosened, Zack snuck his way in, mouth open and ready to flaunt, his tongue gliding against the roof of his mouth as he delved in. His lips tightened over Cloud's, repeating the process until he finally felt the moistened muscle timidly touch his own. He smiled inwardly, catching it between his teeth and sucking it further into his mouth. He nearly fell on Cloud when he mistakenly lost his balance, and the boy all but fell back against the sheets.

Cloud was ready, with Zack now above him, when he descended to kiss him again. With lips parted and tongue willing to play, he tried to mirror Zack's moves. His stomach was knotting up in a pleasant kind of way, his thighs trembling against Zack's knees. He still felt a little apprehensive and anxious, but he was trying not so much to think about that as he was about Zack.

When Zack pulled back, Cloud had the urge to wipe the already drying saliva from his mouth. But he reminded himself that it was worth it. And staring up at Zack, just seeing the care he held in those mako blue eyes…it was all worth it.

Zack was worth it.

-

CLIFF - TO THE – HANGER.

A/N: So, I don't know whether or not I'm going to make then actually have sex. It's a rather undecided matter at hand. I do have more planned for this story, but I don't really know how things will go. It all depends on whether or not they decide to have sex.

So, please, give some feedback and let me know what you'd like to read. That way I know which direction to take, because I just can't make up my mind…

A). Does Cloud stay a virgin before he is captured by Hojo, and it is tragically delicious because Zack feels the kid has so much trauma and not enough love?

B). Does he get bonked up the bum by Zack and Zack is torn at the loss of Cloud against Hojo wanting to tear him up for the sake of Jenova?

I will NOT continue until I know which direction to take. Sorry. It's just such a toss up.