It wasn't that Cloud was avoiding Zack, not really. More like he was just taking a step back to think and plot and consider things. He was also training, in the quiet of the night in the courtyard he'd sneak out. The place was always deserted late and he needed practice.

He knew all the moves and he could perform them correctly, now he just had to train his body to remember and do things without thinking. Muscle memory. It had been 4 days and no one had taken his sword yet so everything must really be squared away. He smiled softly as he set out to find Zack. He still sucked but at least now he wasn't tripping over his own feet and might hold his own for five minutes against his friend.

His classes were much easier this time around, and surprisingly he was making friends within his own ranks. That had not happened the first time around but for some reason the other boys seemed drawn to him. ., he had no clue.

He turned a corner and barely had time to brace himself as his name was yelled out and he found himself swept up into a very tight suffocating hug. He patted Zack on the head patronizingly, but his attention was on the large man that stood behind his friend. Angeal Hewley. He felt himself tensing somewhat, he couldn't help it, he still had almost no memory of this man in front of him and it was strange. He didn't know what to expect.

He found himself set gently down and his friend was smiling down into his face, he smiled indulgently. He really had missed Zack.

"Cloudy-kins! This is Angeal, you are probably supposed to call him Commander Hewley, but that makes him sound snooty so don't do-" Zack was cut off by a soft scuff to the back of his head and a small laugh from the said Commander.

"It's a pleasure to meet you Commander Hewley," Cloud snapped off a quick salute and held back a grin at Zack's complaining. He didn't know why his friend's mentor was here but he wouldn't complain. Zack was happy and that was good enough for him.

"Cadet Strife, I will be periodically dropping in to watch your training with Zack. He discovered you had a free day today and decided we should start your training. Would that be ok with you?"

Cloud stared up into the other's aqua colored eyes and nodded with a slight smile. Inwardly he was almost panicking. But he could do it, he'd never met the man so who cared if he failed he was supposed to fail. He was a cadet.

The blond was nearly knocked off his feet as Zack threw an arm over his shoulder happily yanking him down the hall.

"Don't you worry Spikey! Angeal is a good guy! He'll see in you what I do, an awesome SOLDIER. Plus think of it this way, more of a test for your sword!"

Angeal watched as his puppy lead away the slight cadet, something about that gaze unnerved him. Nothing bad or that made him distrustful, it was like looking into the eyes of a war veteran. He would be observing Zack and Cloud from the observation window that overlooked the particular training room his protege was pulling the slight teen into. Unlike the other rooms, this one's window wasn't disguised.

He watched as the small cadet warmed up, while the young man was gangly and uncoordinated he seemed to know how he wanted his body to move. The problem was getting it to go where he wanted it.

The 1st's mouth dropped open when Zack lunged at the cadet who was able to block his protege's swings. Well that was a little more advanced than he had imagined. He watched as, even though he was stumbling around, Cloud was holding his own more than Angeal thought any cadet could do.

"He's really damned good for a snot-nosed cadet isn't he?" Genesis asked from where he'd come up behind Angeal. They watched as the two below broke up for a few minutes break.

"He didn't even hesitate, which is odd in a cadet. Zack really picked a good one though. He seems to have everything down just needs to build up muscle." Angeal couldn't help but feel pride that his puppy would be helping this kid on his way.

Genesis sighed and flopped down in a chair, "He's pretty too! That's always a plus!" He grinned, ignoring his friend's eye roll. "Where do you think the kid learned it all? He's way too knowledgeable to be where he is."

Angeal paused, "I'd had that thought too. But his records check out, he's not an imposter. His sword training records don't have him this advanced though."

"Maybe someone trained him in theory before he came? It would explain why he's so...quick to pick up things. It would also explain why he's over reaching and almost falling on his ass half the time."

Angeal nodded, it could be. Perhaps the boy has met up with a wandering SOLDIER somewhere. It had been known to happen from time to time, although usually the cadet would brag about such a thing.

Genesis was watching the blond closely as Angeal's puppy to be teasing him. He couldn't help but snort as the cadet pounced on Zack sending him flat to his back. With a quick wink at Angeal he flipped a switch on the wall, allowing them to hear anything the boys might be talking about. He ignored Geal's slight glare at the spying.

*line break*

Cloud smiled down at his friend from where he was perched on his chest before he stood and held out a hand for Zack.

"Cloudy-kins! You are awesome! With my help you will be a Firsty in no time! Let's do some forms! I want to see how you are with those, plus they are great for cool downs."

Cloud nodded and slipped into the first form, there were 12 forms, they were sets of Katas performed with swords. Cadets had to learn the first 3 by heart before being able to spar. Cloud sunk into form 4, which they'd been taught recently and wouldn't raise suspicions.

"What do you think of Angeal, Cloud?" Zack asked from where he was performing his own Kata. His new friend was fluidly running through the fourth form with little problems at all. He grinned inwardly, his new friend kicked ass.

The time-traveler paused very momentarily before he smiled slightly. He knew the dark haired commander was watching them but he answered anyway. "Commander Hewley is good for you Zack. He's very calm and patient, and it has a good influence on your...bounciness. He's very fair and he has a nice smile."

The cadet grinned brightly at his friend's look of utter confusion, snickering quietly to himself before continuing.

"Zack, anyone could see he cares for you a great deal and that's what really matters. SOLDIER is nothing compared to that. Friendship, family, love...hold onto it before it goes away."

Cloud was barely aware that his voice had cracked and that he'd stopped the form until his friend's body slammed into his and he was taken into another full body hug. He smiled and hugged his friend back, Gaia, how often had he wished he could do just this thing.

"Have you seen GenGen or Seph enough to get opinions on them?" Zack asked slyly, waiting for the normal blushing and stuttering that usually he associated with cadets. He was taken by surprise, but in a good way, when Cloud just cocked his head to the side slightly.

"I haven't talked to either so I can't really have an opinion. I saw Commander Rhapsodos in the hallway yesterday though..." Cloud trailed off and bit his lip to keep back a blush.

"Yeah? Do tell? Was he terrorizing cadets? He didn't do anything to you did he? GenGen, I love him, but he can be kind of-"

Cloud laughed and shook his head at Zack's rambling, "He reminded me of a poem from home." At his friends interested look he couldn't help but continue, "It's called The Highwayman. He just is very elegant and dashing. It made me think of a part of the poem. He'd a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin. A coat of claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin; They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh! And he rode with a jeweled twinkle, His pistol butts a-twinkle, His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jeweled sky."

The blond blushed deeply at his friend's slack jawed expression and looked at the floor, feeling awkward for the first time in a long while.

"That does sound like Gen, damn Cloud! You are spot on! I can totally picture him just like your poem! Now come on! Lets go find food, we'll train more in a few days." Zack once more latched onto Cloud's arm and was forcibly dragging him around. Cloud didn't mind though, however, that night he had things to start putting into motion. For now though? He'd enjoy being with his friend and feeling the lightest he'd felt in a long long while.

Unknown to him though, Genesis and Angeal were both staring in shock at the spot that both the teens had been moments before.


It's been forever. I hope this is ok? No beta! I need to get into contact with them again.

Words: 1581 without this

I don't own the poem! It's by Alfred Noyes! Um... hopefully I can get Cloud and Gen to MEET soon. OMG this chapter just didn't want to be written.