A/N: Hello! This is one I couldn't let go of! The idea's niggled at me and I had no choice but to write it! XD It's light hearted and a bit sickly sweet but I like it so far. It's a kind of FF7 Parody of Cinderella! Yay! And of course it's ZackXCloud! I hope you enjoy and please, please review! Thanks. (This will be a short fic, about two chapters long!)
THE GLASS SLIPPER
"ShinRa's executive annual dance..." Zack mused as he read the piece of paper in his hand. "And I'm invited?" he asked, his eyes snapping from the paper to the man who had handed it to him.
"All SOLDIER First Class are expected to attend, Zack."
"Huh...It say's plus one..."
"Indeed, it wouldn't look good if you come by yourself now would it? Especially since all the higher echelon will be attending. Unless, of course, you intend to become the main target for Scarlet's rather aggressive advances?" The man smiled, a small but mischievous one.
Zack shuddered. "Ugh...Scarlet's terrifying!" He said. "I guess I'll have to find someone..."
"Make sure they will not make a fool out of us."
Zack nodded absently before suddenly looking up at the man. "Hey, Sephiroth...who're you planning on taking?"
Sephiroth smiled that mysterious smile again. "And why would that be any concern of yours, hmm?"
Zack grinned and rubbed the hair on the back of his head. "Ah, yeah, guess you're right. Man, I hope I find a good one to go with! Wouldn't wanna end up with someone ugly!"
Sephiroth chuckled softly before turning away. "You should begin looking now, there are only a few day's left."
"Sure thing..." Zack waved as Sephiroth strode off down the corridor. Again his eyes travelled to the invitation in his hand and he sighed. He could easily get any girl he wanted to come with him, but most of the girls he knew were annoying and tended to care little about him and more about the prestige he would bring them. He sighed heavily and tucked the card into his back pocket before walking away, maybe he'd go talk to Kunsel? He tended to know more about ShinRa than he did, maybe he had some suggestions.
He found his friend in the SOLDIER lounge drinking coffee and reading a magazine. He looked up as Zack approached. "Hey, what can I do for you?" he said and smiled, his helmet covered half his face as usual. Zack knew he suffered from bad hair days and was vain enough to hide it under the bulky accessory. "I was gunna ask you about the Annual ball thing? ya'know...I gotta go but I just don't know who to take..."
Kunsel put aside his coffee and magazine before tapping his chin thoughtfully. "It doesn't need to be so hard you know."
"It...doesn't?" Zack frowned.
"No. I mean, if I were you I'd take Cissnei...she is seriously into you."
Zack followed Kunsel's gaze as a group of dark clad Turk's entered. He spotted Cissnei and her eyes landed on him, she smiled sweetly. "Hmm...I guess she is kinda cute...I would've taken Aeris but she wouldn't go...it's not her thing."
"Aw, man!" Kunsel hung his head in dejection. "You're way too popular for your own good! Haven't you noticed that as soon as you walked in this room nearly every girl is watching you! You're so lucky..." he slumped in his seat morosely.
Zack blinked as he slowly came to realise how right Kunsel was. He saw eyes darting in his direction and he could suddenly feel their stares like a physical weight. He stood slowly and sighed, suddenly ShinRa seemed filled with girls...too many of them! He'd have to give it try with Cissnei...even if she was a Turk! He strode over to the group of Turk's which consisted of Reno and Rude and even Tseng. He grinned. "Hey, long time no see." He greeted them with his usual brightness.
Tseng nodded. "How have you been, Zack?"
"Good mostly..." He turned his eyes to Cissnei. "I was wandering if I could have a word?"
"You can have more than one." She agreed with a smile. They moved a little way away from the group of Turk's who busied themselves getting drinks. "What can I do for you?"
"Well...I was uh...wanderin'..." Zack looked at the floor in embarrassment and rubbed the back of his head. "W-Would you um...like to go to the ball with me?"
Her face fell slightly. "Ah, I'm so sorry, Zack but I'm going with someone else!"
"Oh...Oh right. No problem...Sorry I asked." He laughed roughly, still feeling like a fool.
"No, I appreciate the offer but you know...someone asked me before you."
Zack sighed heavily and hung his head. "Well, back to the drawing board I guess. Sorry to bother you." Cissnei began to move away but before she got very far Zack called her back. "Hey, who you going with?"
The girl smiled. "Reno." She said and laughed at Zack's incredulous expression. She smiled and walked off, leaving Zack feeling helpless and more than a little like a school boy.
That night he lay on his bed with his hands behind his head and frowned up at the ceiling. He had wracked his brains on who he could possibly take and he had narrowed the list right down to none. He shuddered as he imagined Scarlet and what she would do to him if she discovered he was alone at the ball, "She's gunna eat me alive!" He groaned at the dark room.
Over the next two day's he began asking every girl he knew. All of them already had partners or couldn't go due to work. He was at his wits end when he made his way back to his dorm, his uniform was stained from a hard training session in the holo-rooms and he smelt faintly of something burning. His hair stuck up at wild angels and his arms ached. He was so involved in his own thoughts that he failed to notice the other person coming his way, he felt something hit him hard in the chest and he stumbled backward with a gasp of surprise. There was a thump and a soft curse. When he looked around he saw a small blond creature sitting on the floor and rubbing his head where he had obviously whacked it. "Shit! Sorry!" Zack muttered and reached down to help the infantryman to his feet. When the boy looked at him he recognised him. "Hey! If it isn't Cloud Strife of Nebeilheim! Long time no see, man!"
"Hello Zack." Cloud took the proffered hand and was dragged to his feet. "Sorry about that, I wasn't looking where I was going." He looked at his feet in embarrassment.
"Don't worry about it, it was my fault for not concentrating."
Cloud smiled shyly at him and put his hand around his stomach and gripped his other arm. "So uh...I guess I'll be going then..."
"Sure..." Zack watched the boy as he walked off down the corridor, he felt a frown on his face as he thought deeply. "Hey! Oy, Cloud!"
The infantryman turned. "Yes?"
"You goin' to the ball?"
He flushed bright red and avoided the First's gaze. "No...probably not. I don't have anyone to go with and anyway...I'm not really that social...I wouldn't be any fun..."
Zack didn't know why he said it. He wasn't really thinking about what was coming out of his mouth at all, he regretted it almost immediately when the boy's face went an even deeper shade of red. "You wanna go with me?"
"Wha...what?" Cloud said thickly, his blue eyes wide underneath his yellow hair.
Zack inwardly cursed his stupidity. If he went with a guy everyone would gossip and it would potentially affect his standing among his peers, but he couldn't back down now. Desperate times called for desperate measures. "Sure, why not? I mean..." He looked the boy carefully up and down. "I suspect we could dress you up real nice...what do you say? It'll be fun!" He smiled hopefully and watched Cloud consider his offer.
"Uh...well...I dunno..." He said nervously. "I don't think it'd be such a good idea. What about your social standing? What about..."
Zack waved his hand airily. "We'll deal with that later. Just say yes!"
Cloud smiled slightly, the expression making his eyes sparkle prettily. The idea that had begun to form when Zack had first bumped into the blond now took full shape. "I guess so...It...might be fun."
"Awesome!" Zack said happily, a slightly crazed gleam entered his eyes and he grabbed Cloud's arm. "Let's go shopping for clothes...come on." He dragged the protesting boy down the corridor and toward the lift.
"Really Zack...I'm not too sure about this..."
"Come on Cloud, let me see what it looks like!"
"Well, alright...but don't laugh!"
"Cross my heart and hope to die!" Zack said with a grin. He was sitting on a table in a clothing store in Sector six. He knew the place was renowned for beautiful clothes and he was excited at having finally found a date. The fitting room was before him and next to him stood the tailor with a measuring tape around his shoulders, he had his arms folded across his chest and had a frown of concentration on his face.
Slowly the curtain was drawn back to reveal what appeared to be beautiful young girl wearing a light blue satin gown, long blond hair done up in an elaborate pair of pigtails and a soft pink flush on her cheeks. She looked over at Zack and her blue eyes darted away. Zack stared. He couldn't stop gaping.
"Ah yes! Perfect! Absolutely gorgeous darling!" the tailor gushed as he glided toward Cloud and turned him to face the mirror. The dress was floor length with two off the shoulder straps and low bust line. The tailor stuffed some rather realistic looking fake breasts into the bodess, which was studded with rhinestones. He hummed while he affixed a matching choker around Cloud's throat. Zack was utterly blown away by the spectacle. The boy he had thought of as a friend was now slowly turning into something more...he shook his head as the tailor turned Cloud back around to show him off to Zack. "Isn't she fantastic!" The tailor squealed with delight. "Absolutely my most perfect design ever! I could make a fortune!"
Zack swallowed, suddenly realising his throat was as dry as a desert. "Yeah..." He croaked. "Beautiful..."
Cloud flushed vibrantly, his hands tightening in the skirt of the dress. His wide blue eyes made him look like a startled dear. On one side of his head was a single silk rose, the same colour as the sky. "Z-Zack...I'm really not sure...i mean...what if someone recognises me?"
Again, Zack found he had to swallow hard to free his voice box up. "No...everything'll work out...no one will recognise you, trust me..."
"Well..." Cloud turned back to the mirror with a frown. "I-if you say so..." He had massive reservations about this, but if it meant he could attend the party with a man he admired and perhaps even meet Sephiroth...At that thought his eyes lit up and he turned to Zack, beaming brilliantly. Zack felt as if he'd been doused in hot water, the boy was...there was no other word for it...absolutely stunning! "Will Sephiroth be there?" Cloud asked, his voice tinged with excitement.
Zack felt as if all the air had been knocked out of him, he deflated rather quickly and felt...rejected. "Uh yeah...why?"
"I've always wanted to meet him! Could you introduce us? I'd love to speak to him!" He looked hopefully over at Zack who couldn't deny this new, extremely pretty, Cloud down.
"Yeah, sure...why not."
Cloud's smile widened and once again Zack was struck dumb. "I can't wait! Even if I am dressed like this...it'd be so great to meet my hero! You know...he was the sole reason I joined SOLDIER...he's the reason I left home and everything! So maybe, if I get to meet him...maybe it won't be a total waste of time." He paused and blinked at Zack. "Are...you alright?"
Zack nodded slowly, not trusting his voice. "Yeah...'m fine..." He managed a weak smile.
Cloud returned it with his own utterly mind blowingly cute one. "Then, it's settled. I'll go dressed like this as long as, in return, you introduce me to the great General Sephiroth!"
"It's...a deal." Zack replied slowly, he felt disappointed. Then he shook himself mentally. What was he thinking? Cloud was not only his friend but a guy! There was no chance anything could ever happen between them...was there?
That evening Zack stood before a mirror in his room. He was dressed to kill in a smart tux and impeccable white shirt. His tie was thin and black and his hair was perfection. He took a deep breath as he admired his reflection, he was feeling nervous. He had no idea why but he couldn't erase the butterflies that flapped madly in his stomach. Finally he turned away and made his way out into the corridor locking his door behind him. Time to pick up his date.
He stood before Cloud's room in the infantry barracks and began fiddling with his tie, it was suddenly too hot. He lifted his arm to knock and found that it felt like a dead weight. It seemed to take hours for his fist to meet the metal door and he knocked smartly before stepping back.
He heard bustling from inside. "Uh...hang on a minute..." Cloud's voice reached him, slightly muffled by the door but finally it opened and he found himself staring at what appeared to be a gorgeous woman. Cloud's wig suited him so well it looked like his own hair and the dress was a perfect fit, his blue eyes glanced nervously in one direction and then the other before he slipped out into the hall. "Let's be quick about this...I don't want to be recognised..." He paused when he got no reaction and looked at Zack with an eyebrow raised. "Are you alright?"
Zack shook himself mentally before grinning. "Yeah. So, shall we get going?" He held out his arm and Cloud smiled nervously before taking it. Together they moved off toward the party. Zack was finding it very difficult to keep his eyes from his friend, Cloud had one hand lifting up the skirts of the dress slightly so he could walk easier and it revealed a single blue-ish glass slipper.
"I'm so nervous..." The blond muttered as they stepped into the lift. "Everyone's gunna know who I am...this is ridiculous! Why did I agree to it?" He gulped and looked up at his escort.
"No one's gunna know...trust me. You look...fantastic."
Cloud giggled. "You certainly know how to make a lady feel good!" His cheeks flushed prettily and he looked away.
Zack chuckled. "Yeah, I'm good with the ladies...you know me."
"A flirt? A womaniser? You know, your reputation isn't as clean as you think it is, Mr. SOLDIER First Class, Zack."
Zack pretended to look hurt. "Who? Moi? I'd never hurt the feelings of such a wonderful young woman such as yourself! I have some pride you know!"
"Ever the chivalrous one, huh?" Cloud stopped talking as the doors of the lift opened and they stepped out into the corridor leading to the room where the dance would be held. Music could be heard drifting through the hall, decorations hung from the walls and even surrounded a massive portrait of President ShinRa. Cloud stumbled slightly as he walked with Zack toward the doors. He felt sick with nerves but the thought of perhaps meeting Sephiroth kept him moving forward. Even if he did look like a girl. People walked around them, all heading in the same direction. Many eyes landed on the pair and people began whispering behind their hands. Zack caught some of the whispers and he couldn't suppress a smile.
"Who is she?"
"Is she Zack's new girlfriend?"
"Wow...she's gorgeous! What department do you think works in?"
"Everyone's staring!" Cloud hissed through his teeth as they reached the doors.
"Of course they are!" Zack said and led Cloud into the hall. "You really do look amazing."
Cloud stumbled again but Zack caught him easily. "Oh god..." He groaned, gripping onto his friends arm as if it were a lifeline. "I'm gunna get found out!"
"You won't! Stop worrying!" Zack smiled as he guided Cloud through the party. Up ahead he spotted a flash of bright red hair and made toward it. "Oy! Cissnei!"
The Turk turned and smiled when she saw Zack. She wore a very pretty dress of pale grey with satin lining around the knee high hem. Her stole was of the same material. Her date, the red haired Turk Reno, was wearing a black suite with no tie and his shirt was un-tucked. He eyed the pair suspiciously until his eyes landed on the pretty girl with blond hair, he smiled smoothly. "Hey, you gunna introduce us, yo?" He asked Cissnei.
"Oh!" She smiled. "This is Zack, Zack this is Reno..."
"I know, I've seen him before." Zack said with a smile of his own.
"And this is..." Cissnei looked questioningly at Zack who flushed slightly around the ears and introduced Cloud.
"Cissnei, Reno, this is my date Cl...Claudia." He stuttered, making a name up on the spot.
Cloud smiled and nodded in greeting, his cheeks still flushed pink. "It's nice to meet you." He said softly, his voice was slightly high due to nerves but it sounded girly.
"So you found a date? Claudia, which department do you work?" Cissnei asked.
"Oh I uh..."
"She's from outside." Zack said immediately, making Cloud grateful so he squeezed his arm and leaned closer on instinct.
"Oh, really? How wonderful! Where do you live?"
"I live in..."
"Sector seven." Zack muttered. Cloud nodded shyly and looked down at his shoes.
"What do you do, yo?" Reno asked, his eyes on the pretty girl.
"I work in a dress shop." Cloud murmured. He turned his head away as the Turk inspected him closely, his eyes seemed to bore holes through him and he couldn't meet the man's stare.
"A face like that is wasted in a dress shop!" Reno smiled. "Good catch, man!" He nudged Zack in the ribs who laughed and rubbed his hair.
"Thanks, anyway...have you seen Sephiroth?" He asked, rapidly diverting the conversation to other matters before awkward questions were asked.
"Oh, I thought I saw him getting drinks over at the bar. It was nice meeting you, Claudia." Cissnei said and the two Turk's moved on.
They made their way over to the bar and Cloud breathed a heavy sigh. "That was embarrassing!" He moaned and took the glass of Champaign that Zack handed him.
"Well, they didn't know you were a guy. That's gotta count for something!"
"True..." Cloud sipped his drink and his eyes scanned the party. Zack stared. His imagination began to run riot. He could see the gentle curve of Cloud's neckline, accentuated by the cut of the dress. His hair fell into his eyes and, without thinking, Zack moved to brush it away. Cloud jumped and nearly spilt his drink, he stared up at his friend with huge eyes. Briefly a look crossed Zack's face and he leaned too close. Cloud went red and stepped back bumping into something solid. He gasped and turned only to find himself staring up into a pair of bright green eyes with slit pupils. The face was surrounded by silver hair and a smile rose to his lips. "Oh...I'm so sorry!" Cloud said and backed up a step, his dress hissing across the floor.
"No matter, being bumped into by pretty girls isn't something to complain about." Sephiroth replied smoothly. He looked at Zack. "Well, I see that you managed to find quite the beauty. Congratulations."
Zack smiled and put his arm around Cloud's shoulders. The young infantryman didn't even seem to feel it, he stared in open awe at the general. The hero. Sephiroth. "May I ask your name?" Sephiroth said, breaking through Cloud's trance.
"Oh...Oh yes, it's Claudia." He muttered, flushing brightly again. He dropped a small curtsy as if Sephiroth were royalty, then felt stupid for doing it. His face burned and he averted his eyes and watched the bubbles rise in his glass.
"A very pretty name. Where do you come from, if I may be so bold?"
"Sector seven, sir." Cloud replied, his fingers ran slowly up and down the stem of his glass. Zack watched this tiny, innocent movement as if mesmerized. Even Sephiroth seemed unable to look away. "I-It's really wonderful to meet you..." Cloud said, braving a look into those amazing eyes.
Sephiroth smiled. "And it is a pleasure to meet such an exquisite beauty." He took Cloud's hand and gently kissed his fingers. His eyes met Cloud's and he found himself pinned down by that gaze, his mouth hung open slightly as Sephiroth's fingers held his own. "Ah..." Sephiroth looked down at his hand and turned it over so the palm faced upward. He raised an eyebrow. "Are these...sword calluses?"
Cloud avoided his gaze once again. "Oh..I...Uh..."
"She's quite a fighter, this one." Zack said, coming easily to the rescue. He took Cloud's hand and slowly removed Sephiroth's fingers, the general smiled.
"Ah, you like your women tough?"
Zack smiled back. "You know me, I'm a glutton for punishment. I like a woman who can handle herself in any situation."
Sephiroth laughed and the sudden tension eased. Cloud let slip a sigh of relief. Suddenly a song came on, it was a slow waltz. Zack suddenly grabbed Cloud's hand, he had time to widen his eyes as his drink was taken from him and he was dragged onto the dance floor. Zack took his hands and put one around his waist and took the other in his own hand. He smiled and began to move. Cloud had never danced before. He allowed himself to be led around the floor, desperately trying not to fall on his face or stand on Zack's feet. Slowly the placed cleared and they had the dance floor to themselves, Cloud looked up into Zack's eyes and felt his heart stop. He was dismayed at the weird feelings that flowed through him as he was spun around, his heels clicked lightly on the polished wood.
"Who is she?"
"I have no idea but rumour has it she's a slum girl!"
"Zack's seeing a girl from the slum's?"
"I know! But..."
"She's beautiful! How the hell did he pull that?"
"He dances well for a swordsman...don't you agree, director?" The president himself watched the dancing couple with shining eyes. Lazard gave the man a sidelong glance feeling hatred rise up within him, but he kept calm. "She is spectacular! I want her..."
Lazard sighed. "Sir, you can't just take women away from your men. It wouldn't look right...plus she's far too young for you. She must be sixteen at most."
The fat man sighed heavily and rested his head in his palm. "Ah, but a man can dream."
Cloud swallowed nervously as he nearly lost his footing, but Zack guided him surely around the floor. He could feel everyone staring at him as he was spun in a circle feeling foolish. The steps were easy enough, so he closed his eyes briefly and began following Zack. His hand tightened around his friends waist and felt Zack's respond in kind until he was pulled flush against his partner and he could feel his whole body. He tried to prevent the inevitable blush from forming on his cheeks but knew he had failed. His hair flew around his face and his breathing caught in his throat. The people surrounding them were nothing but blurred colours and slowly he began to relax. Zack leaned down and whispered in his ear, hot breath made him shiver. "Don't speak to anyone." He said softly, his lips brushing Cloud's ear and making him look up into Zack's eyes. "Don't look at anyone but me..."
"Zack...what...?" He never got a chance to ask as he was spun around one last time and the song came to an end. Zack bowed low and kissed his hand, he winked slightly as he rose.
"Drink?" He asked a bit breathlessly as he dragged Cloud through the applauding crowds. Cloud followed, not that he had much choice. He lifted up his skirt so he didn't trip and then found himself next to the bar.
The night wore on and Zack made sure to stick to Cloud like glue, any man who looked as if he was going to come over to talk he glared at and they backed away. Cloud was oblivious to all this as he was plied with Champaign until he was tipsy and giggly, the world took on a soft tint making everything look kind and fuzzy and warm. He laughed at Zack's jokes and they talked in a corner of the room.
After a while a man wearing a pin striped suite came over and began talking to Zack. Cloud listened politely. "Zack, there's someone who wants a word..." Lazard said with a significant look in Cloud's direction.
Zack stood, inwardly cursing, he didn't want to leave Cloud alone. "Yeah, sure. Claudia, would you wait here for me?"
Cloud smiled and nodded. He watched Zack disappear through the crowd and his eyes slowly began to wander around the room. Suddenly he spotted someone looking at him with shining eyes. Holy crap, no! He thought furiously as the man walked over. He was short and round with a black beard and a scar, his face split into a lust filled grin as he approached. He sat down in Zack's vacated seat. Cloud smiled in what he hoped was a polite manner. "Well, well...and what is a pretty little wall flower like you doing on your own?"
"I-I'm just waiting for someone..." Cloud replied. He smiled and began to turn away when Heidegger grabbed his arm, he looked down at it before looking up into the Head of Public Safety's face. "Sir?" He asked slowly.
"You don't need that little weedy kid, come with me and I'll show you what it's like to be with a real man!" His grip tighetnened painfully on Cloud's arm and he winced.
"No...thank you but I'm fine..." He said and tried to escape.
"Come on, stop playing hard to get Baby...I can be all yours! Not only can I get you out of those filthy slums but I'm powerful enough to get you a job here and a place on the top plates! Whaddya say?" He leaned close, his breath stank of whisky and Cloud's stomach turned. He pulled a face and tried to back away but was slammed into the wall.
"Please, sir...let me go!" He said desperately.
"Come, come now! No woman on this planet can refuse my charms! Just kiss me..." He leaned close and Cloud was trapped.
Some kind of basic instinct kicked in just then and training took over...
He didn't think about it, he just went with the flow. He moved his head back before suddenly brining it forward in a head butt. When Heidegger stumbled backward Cloud lifted his skirts above his knees and kicked the man in his chest. He fell into the table knocking food and drink to the floor. People began looking over at the ruckus and Cloud suddenly realised what he had done. He gasped and, before anyone could stop him, he fled.
He ran through the hall, his dress flying out behind him and he didn't stop even when he felt his slipper fall from his foot.
Zack saw a blur of light blue and he turned to see Heidegger being helped to his feet by someone who looked as if he was trying hard not to laugh. "Cloud..." Zack muttered under his breath. He turned to the man who had been speaking to him and made his brief apologies before excusing himself.
Sephiroth watched the girl fly past him and into the lift. He was leaning against the wall of the corridor, trying to get away from the party for a while. He turned back to the doors which stood open and he could hear muttering and a weird hush seemed to have fallen across the guests. As he walked back he kicked something, looking down he noticed a small elegant glass slipper. He lifted it and inspected it closely. Absently he tucked it into his pocket before Zack rushed past him following the girls footsteps. He smiled to himself and shook his head as he returned to the ball.