Summary: A newbie at Avalanche Delivery Services, Cloud expected to suffer through many things. The lecherous, obsessive customers of Floor 49 weren't one of them. AGSCZ
Disclaimer: I do not own what belongs to Square Enix.
Chapter One: Floor 49
Cloud Strife didn't find himself particularly appalling. In fact, he thought that he was rather attractive with his prided blue eyes and gravity defying blond spikes. But as he stood at room 4901 on floor forty nine of the Shinra Apartment Building, he had to question just how decent he was.
With his unoccupied hand, he brushed the bottom of his nose subtly, wondering if he had some stray boogers bouncing at his nostril. He checked: nothing. Cloud poked his tongue out quickly and swept them across his lips for any evidence of the powdered donut he had for breakfast. Clean. Slyly, he pretended to rub weariness from his face when he was actually checking if he had forgotten to pick the yellow crust around his eyes. But again, nothing.
Coughing awkwardly into the palm of his gloved hand Cloud finally let his gaze, which had previously been engaged to the floor, shift up. The man was still staring.
"Um. Your package, Mr—" Cloud glanced down at the box cradled under his left arm, "—Fair."
But Mr. Fair seemed far too busy staring wide eyed at the poor delivery boy, lips slightly parted, eyebrows peaking impossibly.
Cloud fought the tinge of pink from his cheeks. He felt embarrassed, uncomfortable, violated, annoyed, and frustrated all at once. Simply put, he was utterly flustered. Clearing his throat again, Cloud spoke a bit louder. "If you would just sign here, Mr. Fair." Then I could be on my jolly fucking way, the blond thought wryly. This was getting tiresome.
Again, Mr. Fair seemed devoid of any expression besides the atrocious one currently plastered across his face. He continued to gape, and Cloud continued to silently fume. Their silent staring contest dragged on for another fifteen seconds before Cloud finally lost it.
The poor man contemplated heaving the package onto his shoulder and shot putting it into the apartment beyond or shoving it conspicuously into the black-haired man's gut so hard he'd keel over. Or all three. But courteous, well-mannered, civilized Cloud did none of this. Instead, he simply bent his knees slightly and placed the box down next to Mr. Fair's shoes where he couldn't possibly miss it.
Standing, he brushed imaginary dust from his palms as if he was congratulating himself after a job well done and sighed. Slightly irritated, Cloud noted that Mr. Fair had yet to close his mouth and that when he offered a polite smile, his mouth only flapped wider.
"Good day to you, Mr. Fair."
Quickly, without trying to be obvious about his desperate need to get out of there before he exploded and right hooked Mr. Fair in the face, Cloud pivoted and stiffly made his way down the hall to the elevator. He didn't turn around until he was safely within the confines of the metal contraption and as the doors shifted close, Cloud smugly noticed that Mr. Fair had finally acknowledged the box at his feet, had picked it up, and was stumbling back into his apartment.
Cloud hoped he never had to come back here.
In some cruel twist of fate, Cloud realized that he was indeed back here.
But why? Why? What were the chances that he'd be sent back here—to the same building, on the same floor, to the same apartment, to the same person, within a matter of three days? One in a thousand, one in a million! Cloud groaned and glared menacingly at the innocent cardboard box that fit snuggly in the crook of his elbow.
"It's all your fault," he hissed. "All your bloody damn fault."
"I wasn't aware that boxes could do harm."
Cloud's head snapped up to finally take in the presence of the only other person in the elevator for the first time since he'd step into the all too familiar contraption. The man was taller than him (which wasn't a particularly surprising feat), broad shouldered, obviously well-built, and had the most gorgeous cascade of silver hair Cloud had ever seen.
The delivery boy refused to blush.
Stiffly, he muttered back, "I didn't know that there was someone else here. Sorry."
The silver haired man, who had previously preoccupied his attention with the elevator doors finally tilted his head at him and quirked a brow in a "How do you not realize there's someone standing two feet away from you in a five by five metal encasement?" sort of way. Blatantly, he looked at Cloud with ludicrously bright green eyes, giving him a good, slow gaze from the tip of his issued brown boots to the fire truck red cap that squashed his spikes down. He let out a disapproving grunt. "I see. Avalanche Delivery, hm? I'll have to remind myself not to order any of their services lest I be beaten to death by cardboard. That doesn't seem to be a particularly exciting way to pass on."
The blond twenty-three year old lost the losing battle and felt his skin warm up to the tip of his ears. Embarrassment didn't go well with him.
Cloud only grunted hoarsely in response and began to scatter his attention to anything but the piece of intimidating man meat next to him. He fiddled with his belt for a while before pulling at the collar of his uniform polo and shifted the box from his left side to his right. That lasted about five seconds. Clearing his throat again, he let his blue eyes roam the elevator compartment; six wads of old, dried gum, three bouts of tagging in black sharpie, lots and lots of silver (lots of it), and a glowing 49.
He stiffened and dragged his eyes back to stare at the rows of numbers, horrified. Forty-nine. Forty-nine. There were two people in the elevator, and one button glowing back tortuously back at him. Inwardly, he crumpled up and died. Cloud really didn't think he could stand being within a radius of less than thirty one yards with this man much longer. Especially when said man probably thought he was some scrawny, freak of a delivery boy who talked to boxes in his free time because he had no real friends after having been sexually petted by his high school calculus teacher. Who was probably really hairy, like a bear. Or something.
Cloud realized that he might have been exaggerating a bit and that, logically, no one in the world would really come to that conclusion about him but he didn't care because that accursed number was still grinning back at him.
How he hated it.
They shook to a stop and without a second glance, Cloud tumbled out of the minuscule elevator as fast as he could while still managing to look civil. His eyes desperately searched for the bronze imprint of apartment 4901, unable to block out the sound of heavy footsteps behind him. What is just him, or were they getting eerily closer?
"You're going crazy, Cloud," he muttered to himself tragically.
"A plausible deduction." Inwardly, Cloud's dead body ripped itself to pieces.
He stood motionless. Thoughts were running hysterically through his head but Cloud couldn't really comprehend any of it over the incessant trill of curses that whipped any other thought into submission. Fuck me, Cloud thought, eyes shut hysterically tight in concentration, a gloved hand coming to squeeze at the bridge of his nose. He was trying to hypnotize himself into thinking the world was indeed a better place where poop glittered and semen was a replenishing lotion that cured acne when freshly applied.
Again, embarrassment didn't go well with Cloud Strife. Not in the least bit. Fresh out of college, Cloud didn't consider himself particularly intelligent or witty, but he had common sense. He was nice enough—a bit antisocial, but nice. The delivery boy could seem cold sometimes, and a bit dazed, but really he had good will and just had trouble expressing himself—the only emotion he seemed to have absolutely zero trouble conveying was embarrassment. It expressed itself to the very tip of his toes. The bastard.
Vaguely, Cloud felt himself being pushed softly aside. He pried one eye slightly open and as the man passed by him to the door, a loose strand of silver hair brushed right past Cloud's cheek and the blond resisted the urge to twist his fingers in it and rip it clear out of the man's scalp.
Before the man even had a chance to twist the doorknob open though, it swung smoothly open and Cloud caught a bit of spiky black hair beyond the broad, cotton clad shoulder in front of him.
Inwardly, the pieces of Cloud's body threw themselves into piss and acid.
Mr. Fair had daintily popped open the door, grinning from ear to ear. When he caught sight of the silver-haired man though, he noticeably deflated—shoulders slumping, lips put into a pout, and eyebrows furrowed. It reminded Cloud vaguely of a kicked puppy. Or a dead one.
"Oh, it's you, Seph," Mr. Fair said with no effort in hiding his dissatisfaction.
To this blatant display of disappointment, the man called Seph said nothing. He merely side stepped Mr. Fair and walked into the apartment after saying in the most deadpan voice Cloud had ever heard, "Be careful. Apparently the box is dangerous."
Cloud Strife was sure his cheeks were red. Blood red. Red as fucking red could be.
At this, Mr. Fair had snapped back up and stared directly at Cloud, as if he's just seen a pair of hairy testicles pop out beneath Cloud's chin. Somewhere in the back of Cloud's mind, he realized that Seph's gargantuan frame had been hiding his own smaller one before.
The delivery boy met Mr. Fair's intense gaze and shifted uncomfortably. A grin was forming on Mr. Fair's face, slowly stretching his lips against white teeth and brightening his eyes. Under different circumstances, Cloud might have found it endearing but these weren't different circumstances and Cloud just felt disturbed, terribly disturbed.
"Mr. Fair, sir. Good afternoon." Cloud nodded at him cautiously.
The man was still grinning. And staring. Cloud found himself missing the blank, gaping staring more than this one—he almost wished Seph would return and humiliate him into a pile of pink goo so he could slither away down a ventilation shaft, into a toilet, and with some stranger's diarrhea induced excrement, be cast into some unforgiving corner of the ocean.
"Your package, Mr. Fair," Cloud said stiffly and then held the box out towards the customer, hoping he'd get the hint.
Fortunately, he did. He grabbed the box from Cloud's hands, practically clasping them as he took it into his own arms and to Cloud's dismay, haphazardly tossed it somewhere behind him into the apartment. The blond swore the box had read "Fragile: Handle with care."
"My name's Zack!"
"Yes, sir. I'm sure it is."
"You can call me Zack!"
"That would be a bit unprofessional, sir."
And suddenly, Zack had grabbed onto Cloud's own gloved ones tightly and was abnormally close. "Call me Zack. I'm sure we can be a bit…unprofessional."
Vaguely, Cloud registered that Zack's previously loud, energetic voice had magically dropped an octave and was almost too husky and low that he couldn't make out the syllables. Cloud was more than terribly disturbed by now. A few seconds passed with Mr. Fair peering lecherously down at Cloud, hot breath creeping down the brim of his red hat, eyes narrowing and peering down into sky blue eyes, and Cloud realized that he wasn't going to let go.
Turning his head to the side, and feeling wronged and confused, Cloud grunted to clear his throat before finally muttering, "Zack."
Then he was gone, hands, body heat, hot breath. Everything. Zack took a step back, grin plastered back onto his lips and said in his energetic voice again, "See? Now we're friends—" Zack scanned his body and finally rested on the name tag pinned to Cloud's chest, "—Cloud! Cloud Strife. Zack Fair and Cloud Strife, best of friends! Has a ring to it, doesn't it?"
The blond could only nod. All the previous irritation and frustration with this hyper ball of activity had flown out a window and instead, left Cloud feeling awkward and baffled. He had trouble keeping up with Zack's hectic body language, overly expressive eyes, and vigorous talking. Perhaps the black-haired man was draining Cloud's life force and that's why he had such abundance of energy—a bit of Cloud really believed it.
Ignoring Zack's ramble about friendship, Cloud held out a clipboard and pen. "If you could sign, Mr. F—Zack."
Again, Zack smiled goofily at him and happily grabbed the clipboard and pen from the blonde's offering hands. As he scribbled away, he asked, "Been working long, Cloud?"
Cloud was quiet for a while, before deciding that there was no harm in making small talk with a friendly—albeit too friendly—customer. "No," he answered. "I started this week."
"Ah. That explains it. Didn't think I ever saw you around before."
"Not much of a talker, are you?"
"Well that's okay, because I am. I'm sure we'll get along just fine, Cloud." Zack had finished signing and handed Cloud back the clipboard and pen respectively, smile still playing absurdly wide across his lips. They were quiet for a moment, as Cloud put the clipboard back into his messenger bag and the pen in his chest pocket, Zack just watching. Then suddenly, he had reached out a palm and laid it heavily on Cloud's capped head, rubbing to and fro as if he meant to ruffle Cloud's hair. He only managed to shove the brim over Cloud's eyes and the blond frantically pushed it back up, not very much a touchy person either. As usual, Zack spoke first. "You're cute, Cloud."
To Cloud's own surprise, he wasn't flustered, embarrassed, or even shocked. Rather, he merely struggled in finding out how to respond. It wasn't like he hadn't been told that before but even so; it had been from girls, never one of his own gender to say something so coquettish. He contemplated being outraged, angrily demanding Zack take it back because there was no way in the world Cloud could possibly be cute. But that seemed forced. Perhaps he should just say thank you, but that seemed either too dismissive or too bold.
Luckily, Cloud didn't have to decide because Zack, again, made the first move. The blond was shaken out of his reverie as he felt fingers tugging at his chin, bringing his face up to look into the man's darker blue eyes. That husky voice was back, and inches from his face, Zack breathily whispered "Way too cute" before diving in.
It was soft, chaste, and ended all too soon for Cloud's slow, blank mind to fully wrap around the situation. He stood there dumbly, eyes still wide, chin still tilted up-frozen.
In the back of the head, he registered that Zack had chuckled heartily before stepping back behind the threshold of his apartment and had said something along the lines of, "I'll see you later, Cloud" before gingerly closing the door shut.
Horrendously slow, Cloud brought his fingers up to his lips, piecing together what just happened after long, long seconds. Against his lips, his hand fisted in an emotion Cloud couldn't name and his head drooped so the brim of his red, red hat overshadowed his eyes.
The blush came back with a vengeance.
A chapter story...quite a risk for me really. I have this atrocious tendency to abandon fanfiction for a year and hopefully, this motivation streak won't keel over by this weekend otherwise this story might join my other ones in gathering dust, incomplete. Luckily though, I'm about half way through chapter two which features Angeal and Genesis. Look forward to it!
Thanks to shadesofimagination and underhandlilies for editing!