A/N: Tobi, Tobi, Tobi. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY FANTASTIC ELASTIC WONDERFUL LOVELY. I wrote this quite a while ago when I received an update saying it's Chocobohead's birthday. It was only half way through that I remembered I have another friend with the same username. Derp face. So, I've been hiding this away for quite a while, may you enjoy reading it. I know how Tobi-Uchia enjoys her fluff, so I hope this short fic is to her fluff-isfaction. She's beyond amazing and I ::heart:: her to a million pieces. The Reno in this story was inspired by the Twitter roleplayer Reno_Sexbomb. Lulz to be had. I shall be uploading one chapter a day (four in total) until the actual day of Tobi's birthday.
Disclaimer: These things feel so nul-en-void. Of course I don't own these characters.
"Shut up, Zack, I'm quicking!"
Bouncing on the balls of his feet, Zack skidded to a stop at the end of the corridor, waiting for Cloud. He hadn't caught up by much before Zack sprinted off again. Cloud whimpered. The panic in his chest was strangling and the noises behind them made his knees weak.
A murderous yell sounded close and Cloud forced himself to run faster – boots squeaking on the polished floor. I hate you, Zack, I hate you right now! He reached out to grab onto the back of the man's belt, hoping it would help his speed, but his fingers grazed off and down Zack's bum instead. Cloud faltered for a second but his friend hadn't noticed.
Lightning flashed outside the green-tinted ShinRa windows, sharpening the edges of the logo embossed into the glass. The corridors were black and the lights weren't flickering on as they dashed through. Panting and grunting reached Cloud's ears from behind, like the breath of a ferocious boar seeking revenge, and one that would catch its target any second now.
Thunder bellowed through the walls and shook the glass, masking the noises of their pursuer. Cloud knew he couldn't keep up the pace. The pain in his leg was enough to make him weep. In fact, maybe he was already weeping.
"This way!" Zack cried and halted to grab Cloud's wrist. He flung them into an elevator and the doors inched shut as the beast hurtled for them. The pair screamed. They clung to each other's arm, knowing that it would probably ram into the elevator and crush them anyway.
"Tell Sephiroth I love him!" Cloud wailed.
"Tell Angeal I didn't scream!"
With its mighty horns bent forward, ready to strike, they screamed louder – especially when it flew sideways and toppled to the floor instead! There was a blur of movement and then silence, Zack and Cloud gasping for breath as they stared at their timely rescuer. Blood stained the tiles but the monster did not get up. It lay there twitching at Sephiroth's feet. The General sheathed Masamune and turned to the panting boys in the elevator. He looked straight at Cloud, one eyebrow raised. "Well, I'm...I'm flattered," he said and Cloud hid his blushing face against the wall.
"S-Sephiroth?" said Zack in a daze.
"When you make plans to sneak around, Zackary, make them quietly, eh?"
14 Days Earlier
"Ah, hello," Cloud whispered to himself, head tilted back and arms wrapped around his knees. The sun warmed his face and burned his arms, but diligently Cloud sat there, alone on a bench in the main ShinRa courtyard. He was sweating in his cadet uniform but this one moment made it worth it. A breeze ruffled his hair and he smiled, an inaudible sigh moving his shoulders. He thanked Shiva for the cool touch.
In one of the grand windows on the middle floor stood a man who turned Cloud's insides to butter. A glorious man, a tall man, a man with flowing hair and a legendary name. He stood there leaning against the ground-to-ceiling window of his office, looking as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders.
"Hello Sephiroth," Cloud breathed. "Lunch break, huh?" He pulled out a canteen pastry wrapped in a napkin and began to nibble it, watching Sephiroth all the while. It had been a mere, lunch time coincidence – not so long ago – that he had learned this was Sephiroth's office. After a few more lunch time stake-outs, he also gleaned that the General liked to eat lunch standing up. A perfect view for any admirers...
Cloud knew he didn't exist in the General's world but, sometimes, he was OK with that. All he wanted was for his hero to be happy. He wanted that more than anything: to see Sephiroth smile often. If only he could talk to him, be in the same room as him or catch his eye.
"Down here." The General continued gazing at the polluted horizon. "I'm down here…" Cloud watched him eat from the box in his hand, chop sticks moving from box to mouth like a man possessed. "Why are you so lost?"
"You are such a loner. Gaia, get a hobby."
This new male voice made him jump, dropping pastry flakes down the front of his uniform, and he struggled to catch the crumbling bite he had just taken. Staring across the path, Cloud's eyes narrowed. It was as he suspected. The voice of Cadet Green was unmistakable. Smooth, over-ripe and confident. Green continued en route and only glanced back at the last moment, his cocky smirk fading into something more hateful.
When Cloud was sure he wasn't going to re-emerge from behind the pneumatic doors, he returned to watching Sephiroth. What would he do? Had Sephiroth ever made the same mistake as Cloud? Could it be called a mistake? Idiocy, perhaps, maybe even naïve if he dared admit it.
"I didn't mean to give his girlfriend the wrong idea," he told Sephiroth as the man leant back against his chair. "Why would she think I like girls anyway? She does smell nice though, all flowery." He closed his eyes as if the smell of grass would be a good enough replacement. "But I didn't kiss her! She kissed me. First time I kissed a girl." Lowering his head, unable to face the one he loved more than anyone else in Midgar, Cloud continued to mumble into his knees. "I miss her a little. I wonder if she's still with Green. I'm too afraid to go and ask."
"What is this?"
Cloud and Aerith sprung apart.
"WHAT IS THIS?"
He saw the rage, hurt and confusion flood across Green's face. "I didn't," Cloud whispered. Only Aerith heard. Flowers crumpled under his boots as he backed away from the one now charging at him. He gulped for air as Green stopped before crushing her flowers, too. He spared her a glance, repeating the same question, and Aerith stumbled over an answer.
"I… I'm sorry. It's not… Can we – can we -"
But Green's hands had turned to fists. He wouldn't hurt her but his pain could be released on someone else.
Blood clotted in Cloud's mouth.
Sephiroth moved away from the window, glancing down into the courtyard, and vanished into the shadows of his office. With yet another forlorn sigh, Cloud crammed the last of his pastry and lumbered to his feet. Time to find Zack before classes resumed.
He took the elevator up to the floor reserved for First Classes. He could name all three of the main offices up here but, of course, he'd only ever been inside one of them. Genesis Rhapsodos, Angeal Hewley and Zackary Fair, and last but not least, General Sephiroth. He stared at the General's office before knocking on the door he needed.
"Come in," said Angeal. Cloud shuffled inside and noted that Zack was not around. "Ah! Hello Cloud. It's good to see you." Mr. Hewley had an infectious smile that always instilled a feeling of welcome. "A friendly face to distract me from working. To what to I owe the favour?"
"Hey sir. I'm looking for Zack. Do you know where he might be?"
Angeal placed his elbows on the table and poised his pen like a conductor. "Mhmm. He went to visit the General five – ten minutes ago." He pointed the pen at Cloud. "What are the odds he's stalling to avoid work?"
Cloud grinned at him, feeling his cheeks tingle. "Want to send me on a recovery mission?"
"With the ferocity of a thousand meteors."
They shared a moment of quiet laughter before Cloud waved and returned to the corridor. He stared at Sephiroth's door, not budging. One step closer; turn around and three steps back. Deep breaths, you don't even have to say anything to him. Totally ready for this. He shook out his arms, turned back and strode to the office in question.
No, not quite ready to knock.
As he hovered there, giggling to himself, Cloud heard Zack's voice through the door. He double-checked no one else was around before pressing his ear to the metal surface. His heart was pounding. The shame he would face if he was caught eavesdropping seemed unimaginable, but he couldn't resist.
"Yes, yes, your friend is lovely, now shut up. Please. I know what you're trying to do."
Zack gasped and replied with false intonation. "I don't know what you mean!"
"You, my friend, are not devious enough."
"I think you're being stubborn." Zack's voice grew louder and his footsteps heavier – he was approaching the door. "Cloud is -" He stopped, door open, staring down at Cloud who had posed himself as if about to knock.
Cloud is – Cloud is what? You were talking about me? He pretended not to have heard his name. "Oh, hello. Angeal wants you back." His voice was weaker than he remembered.
Zack grinned and looped an arm around Cloud's neck. "Well I'll be. Speak of the Goddess and ye shall receive. Hey Cloud!" he cried, swooping around so they were in full view of Sephiroth. The General looked right at him. Cloud had to press his lips together to keep from hyperventilating. For a long time he'd wanted to meet that strong gaze and now he could barely breathe. What did he do? Cloud bowed his head. Stay polite.
"See ya later, Seph," said Zack, trudging them backwards into the hall and then hit a button on the wall. The door hissed shut on Sephiroth's sardonic expression.
"W-What were you talking about?"
Zack shrugged. "Eh, just cadet reports."
Cloud's face drained. Was Zack trying to bribe the General into giving him a better grade? When his stomach returned, he would have to have a serious word with his best friend. For now, he couldn't do anything but grin. He'd almost been in the same room as Sephiroth.