Disclaimer: I own nothing from Final Fantasy.

Chapter warnings:
Mild Reno/Cloud, long chapter

It has been 5 months since Cloud last joined the military. To say that he's been improving ever since was an exaggeration. Although he had good grades to show off, his physical standing gives off the first impression more. He wanted to become a SOLDIER so bad, and if Gaia ever provided him a huge amount of luck, he would want to become a person worth a head's up, like his idol. Seeing his current situation, however, made him want to quit immediately. But of course by the end of the day, he won't be serious about it. He promised not himself but the people from his hometown as well, that he will only come back if he became a SOLDIER. There were noises and chuckles the first time he declared it to everybody. Having a good look closer at the boy, one would notice how he was frequently beaten up by the bullies. His body was not just weak, but his build was also under the standards of a SOLDIER. He did not worry of how other people thought about him, but when his mother does the talking, everything seems to fall apart.

Actually, his mother never really meant for him to join. He knew because she was so against it. Similar to the townspeople's reasoning, she believed that the boy's build is not qualified to be a SOLDIER material. Not only that but when the blonde was little, he would come home with a package of bruises all over his body and dried tears in his face. This cycle continued ever so often, until Cloud finally decided to become strong and prove everybody of his worth and capabilities. When the older Strife heard of his plans, she was all closed-ears. Whatever his reasoning's may be, she did not want to listen. She saw how the news announced the deaths of SOLDIERS during war, severely injured cadets, missing recruits... She knew, because she spent her late nights studying what ShinRa military is all about, and how they were treated and trained. The damn mother had to know! His only son was at the price of a cruel military world.

Since then, they bickered and shouted at each other nonstop. Cloud was eager to join the military. His mother isn't very happy with it. After two cold weeks, the female Strife finally gave up and permitted his son. Truthfully, Cloud felt guilty that he was making her miserable but he jumped in her arms as soon as she gave the permission. They were both teary eyed that time. He understood how his mother doesn't want him to be hurt more than he is experiencing in Nibelheim at the moment, but to not try even if he was free to do so would hurt the most. Finally he convinced her that he will be alright. Rest assured, he also promised to call her every now and then to let her know what he's been up to.

How long has it been? Yes, 5 whole months away from his hometown. So he admits it. The first time he came to ShinRa, he can't help but to feel alienated. Wherever he looked, they all had somebody to talk to. He examined some of the men in his line and shuddered. For a new recruit, the men were so tall and well-built. They were all twice, and even thrice his size. Feeling more miserable, he explored his mind somewhere else in the halls of ShinRa. The building was not bad. The closest feel that the blonde had of ShinRa back in Nibelheim was from the magazines. Sometimes he would watch the news and have a glimpse of the insides of the building. Now that he was in the exact scene, it made him nostalgic.

Roaming around the floor, his thoughts were suddenly interrupted when someone bump into him. Cloud stumbled for a bit but regained his composure. As he fixed himself, he noticed a pair of orbs staring at him. The blonde looked up and glared at the man for not even apologizing. He flinched when the man smirked, as if he was entertained by this.

"Are you not going to apologize?" Cloud asked, almost gently. The way that man dressed gave off an aura that he is someone to be respected but the hair colour and peculiar hairstyle gave it away otherwise.

The redhead shook his head as he grinned. "Well, no. You were completely spacing out, yo. You can't expect me to apologize when you were all over me in the first place."

Blinking his eyes twice, Cloud tilted his head. "E-Excuse me but I think I did not quite get that..."

Once again the redhead shook his head, shrugging it off afterwards. His next feat dropped Cloud's guard. "Reno,"

"Reno?" He repeated the name in his mind. Back in Nibelheim, there was a kid named Reno. Just like the man standing across him, he also had red locks but his family was unheard of. Sure, they weren't close. As far as Cloud remembers, the Reno kid threw rocks at the houses during night time. People would turn their lights on and yell at the trespasser. Nobody really knew why the kid was pulling this but Cloud had an idea. He never had parents, and often he'd find the poor guy sitting alone, drawing on the dirt with his stick. Could it be possible that this man is the same kid back then?

"Cloud Strife, sir" He extended his arms and shook Reno's hand as a sign of respect. From the outside, Cloud smiled nervously and went along with it. He flinched when Reno casted another smirk at him. Was he going to get used to this? Perhaps, but on the inside, he was confused. Just who is this man?

"Looking by your face and reaction, I bet you're new." He glanced at the cadet's form, observing him from head to toe. It made Cloud uncomfortable. The redhead was aware of it but paid no heed. "Do you want me to tour you or something, yo?"

"What is up with the yo's?" The blonde shook his head and forced a smile. "That won't be necessary sir. U-um but may I ask what your rank in the military is? Because judging by your... suit, it seems that you're way above..."

Reno chuckled. "Way above? Way above what, yo?" He stopped when he noticed the blonde's face turn into a deep shade of red. "Aren't you a cute little thing?"


"I'm a Turk yo," Reno answered as he matched with a thumb. "You could say that, I'm the best of the best out there."

Cloud giggled at the repetition. Where did he hear about Turks again? Was it the magazines, or the television? From what he recollected from his memories, Turks were associated with ShinRa, as well as the military. Intelligence and strategies were the qualities that he remembered from them. If he was not mistaken, they were usually involved with kidnappings and assassinations. Well, for most of the time. Were they dangerous though? And since they were an acquaintance of the military, they are to be respected too. Cloud was curious.

"So, care to elaborate on that part?" Cloud eyed the Turk, whom raised a brow in return. He wanted to know more. "You see, and as much as I hate to admit it, I haven't been studying future lessons beforehand. Since you're already here, would you give tips around the house? Judging from your behaviour, you don't look like the bad guy from what I recall the Turks are being called of."

Reno bit his lip and stepped closer to the little one, their faces inches away. Leaning to whisper in his ears, he held the boy's shoulders. "Meaning to say, you would like to learn more about SOLDIERS, the Turks, Shinra and all?"

Cloud hitched his breath and nodded shakily.

"It will cost you quite much," Cloud shuddered more as Reno licked his left earlobe, feeling the hot breath going down to his neck. "Do you have any propositions for that, hm?"

"W-We could be good… friends,"

"Good friends, huh?" Reno could not believe what he was hearing. Here he was, trying to seduce the younger male, also fully aware that he isn't oblivious to what the Turk was doing, and the best proposal he could come up was to be good friends with him. Friends? With him? It would have sounded better if the blonde added the 's' word before the 'friend'. It won't hurt to take him bit by bit, right?

Before Cloud even spoke out loud, Reno started. "Guess I'll have to accept that."

"Yeah… Thank you,"

"So innocently cute," Boy, was it so hard to avoid the cadet's face. Suddenly, a ringing noise had cut Reno's fantasy land back to reality. The Turk grunted and faced the boy one last time. "Yo, I kinda have to go now."

After a few minutes of farewell and convincing, Reno finally left. Cloud stood at ease now. Days have passed and the two met often, and if it was coincidence or by Reno's remarkable talent of stalking, no one could tell. By then, Cloud has made his very first official friend. Although he did have a hard time getting out of Reno's grasp most of the time, it did not mind him. They were friends. After all, it was the farthest that Reno could get.

Weeks have passed, months have passed, and Cloud was enjoying the life in the military. Sure, he was treated as an outcast by a particular group, but some cadets were nice enough to pull him out to have them in their group before he even thought of how useless he was. The group is not friendly. He was aware of the fact. Just by observing, they were out of his league too but he owed them a lot of thanks most of the time. To what reason did they act as such? They wanted to preserve peace in the military. At least it was not what he has expected before coming in here. Maybe he got used of being bullied back in Nibelheim, enough to even put it as a daily basis of living and survival. But at the moment, Cloud never felt so contented in his entire life.

13th of February Year XX67, after lunch

Cloud never felt so humiliated in his entire life. All he ever wanted to was to become a SOLDIER that not only his townspeople would look up to, but his mother as well. Yet here he was, standing up for a brave front as icy glares were made whenever and wherever he passed. This is going to be the longest walk to his next class.

When Cloud opened the door, the cadets instantly stopped whatever they were doing. Their glares were transfixed at Cloud, looking at him as if he was kind of a criminal.

"A criminal enough to steal their dream man over the weekend," Cloud sighed avoiding the weird and fiery glares. Somehow it made him think about his standing again. Making his way to his empty seat, he felt mourning on how he never had any friends and how he was alone, all over again. Cloud ignored the negative feelings and thoughts, opening a book to feign his studying.

Suddenly, Reno's face popped out of nowhere. Of course, there was this one friend. No matter how annoying, rowdy, and perverted he was, the Turk was still his friend. But Cloud would need to rethink about that right now.

It was all because of the damn contest that he never intended to take part in, and the stupid bet he made with Reno. Cloud knew his friend was purposely trying to terrorize him in all cruel ways that he could think of. It led to the Turk's victory, as always. Thinking back of when he first came in to the military, he regretted on not reading much about the Turks and other internal employees of the building. This is what he gets for being fixated with the General too much, as Reno would say.

10th of February Year XX67, afternoon

Cloud was met by a constantly happy Turk. Happy Turk meant a happy day, and a happy Turk day meant a gloomy day to follow for the cadet. Wondering what it was now, Cloud offered for the two of them to talk about it in his room. Upon reaching the room, the Turk grinned. This time he held a form. Cloud snatched and read the information aloud.

"Win a Date with the General, a Special Valentines Season Event hosted by the First Class SOLDIERS."

Somehow, Cloud felt something bad was about to occur. "What is this all about?"

"You won't know until you read all of it yo,"

The blonde sighed, "Reno, I still have a ton of homework to finish. Could this form wait, please?"

"No way, yo!" The redhead shoved a pen in his friend's palm. "Today is the last day of submission. Besides, it won't take too much of your time. I personally asked a First Class to get a copy of the brochure and form without you getting your ass off to get it by yourself. Aren't you glad you have a friend like me?"

Cloud snorted when Reno attempted to pout. "Yes, yes I am glad. And yes, I am quite interested to meet the General but I want to meet him when we are of the same level, or maybe closer to his rank. That way I have something to be so proud of. Passing the upcoming SOLDIER examination is the first step for that."

"Bah," The Turk insisted, stealing the books that the cadet was about to get. "Who needs the steps when you have the shortcut in your hands? Come one blondie, we have to be in this together! "

Blue eyes met an evenly pale shade of blue orbs. "We have to be in this, together?"

The latter nodded. "I'm kind of joining to yo, for the kicks."

Gaia, what was this man up to? "Don't you Turks meet him when you have missions or the like? Why do you need to go through a… date anyway? Do you like him, Reno?"

"The General is attractive, yes, but I'd like to witness his human side you know? Only limited people that I know of tells me how Sephiroth is actually a very noble and considerate man. He isn't the monster that everybody thinks of him."

With the last statement, Reno found his victory. Cloud thought for a moment. He wanted to meet the General so bad, ask him stuffs on how to become a proper and willed SOLDIER, his secrets in training. Maybe if he was lucky, he may be able to know what his hobbies are, his favourite food, or even his favourite colour. It won't hurt to try, knowing full well that he would never have a chance anyway.

"Okay, give me the form."

Cloud filled the forms up and signed. Then there was a question.

"In one sentence, why are you worth of the General's time?" He looked up at Reno, mentally asking him how to answer this one. Reno was concentrated, much to his dismay, to the blonde's handwriting.

"You know something funny?" Reno finally said, startling Cloud. "What if you try to write something wicked of an innuendo? Behind the words is the real meaning, only to find out that there are no implications to be interpreted in the first place."

"That's a very clever idea genius," Cloud remarked almost sarcastically. "Would you like to suggest how I start with it?"

The Turk pretended to think intensely and looked up at the ceiling. A few seconds later he was back, "Try writing on how you want to end up in the General's bed after a hard work of the day."

The blonde laughed. "That's funny, but no I won't write that."

"Come on! It's not like you're going to be picked anyway yo,"

Pouting his lips lovingly, and enough to drive the Turk nuts, he heaved a sigh. "How mean. Even if this is a once-in-a-lifetime event, I could at least write what I really want to say just in case the General reads it."

"Hah! Sephiroth ? Reading these craps? He was, after all, forced to commend the damn event. Do you think he'd read the pile of heart-warming, heart-breaking confessions on top of everything he has to face afterwards? What more if the confessions—"

"Okay, alright already I get your point!" Cloud snapped. "If I won anyway you have to buy me a full meal from that store we passed by Sector 6. Grande and I want desserts."

Reno laughed half-heartedly. "As if, but since I am your very first friend, maybe I can buy you the dessert this Sunday."

When was the last time Cloud ever tasted such delicious ice cream? His 8th birthday, right. People from Nibelheim never fancied sweets for they never had a sweet tooth for anything. What they were good for, at least, is holding their liquor. Last Sunday when Reno brought Cloud to the slums, his attempts to take advantage of Cloud failed miserably. Instead of carrying the blonde back to his flat covered in hickeys, the blonde carried Reno back to his room, covered in allergic red spots. He never knew where his room was. Reno did not want to tell him.

All of a sudden, Cloud felt excited as he wrote down what he and Reno intended to inscribe for the bet. He didn't even think of any other way to make his answer more beautiful. Anyway he had to do his works so might as well be done for it. But then he felt bad as he thought of Reno taking his first kiss. It was supposed to be for someone equally important to him or her. It will all be gone after a day or two. They can just laugh at this when they grow older. Quite unfair though, the price for losing the bet was his first kiss when they both knew the cadet never had the chance to begin with.

Reno stood up and shuffled his friend's tousled hair. "So I'll be dropping the forms now, yo."

"Yeah," Cloud shoved his hands off and waved. "See you on Sunday."

He watched the Turk wink at him and closed the door immediately. Smiling as he shook his head, Cloud finally had his moment of peace to study intently. Instantly, a pang of regret engulfed within him. He should have written what he really wanted to say. But there goes his ticket to humiliation. At least he knew that Reno would stand up for him if something happens. Not that he was expecting much, but maybe a light punishment for disgracing the event's purpose. At any rate, he took his chances and what's done is done. It's not as if he is going to be picked anyway.

13th of February Year XX67, early morning

If Cloud and Reno knew, and if everybody he told of knew how positively sure that he won't be chosen, why is his name plastered in this weeks' notice board? Exactly why is this even publicly announced?

Congratulations to the lucky cadet who has won the hosts' hearts!
Please proceed to the 61
st floor, Cloud Strife at 17:00

Panty's Sidelines: Forgive me for this chapter. This is rushed and made within this day. From tomorrow onwards I will busy with my thesis. Actually as I write this chapter, my mind is not completely with me. However I figured it would be bad if I leave the first chapter for weeks before I get off to start my thesis. Before my mind abandons this chapter's plot, I had to write it all down and upload it immediately.

For the readers, the authors who PM'd me, the people who alerted and put the story in their favourite's list (quite early, I say), and the people who reviewed, thank you very much! I wouldn't be continuing this without you all.

Also, I am open with any kind of review. Be it flames, constructive criticisms, for as long as it's reasonable I guess? If there are few mistakes from any of the chapters, please don't hesitate to contact me so I can correct.

And now I shall finally claim my sleep.