Cloud's awful first day at Shinra improves a little when he makes a friend.
It'd been a pretty shit-tastic day, too. It was raining, and I got splashed by a truck passing through a giant puddle-after I'd missed the train, even. So yeah, real crappy day.
I made it to the recruitment office late, so I had to wait till after lunch for another slot to open. It's funny how these things seem to work. I guess it's fate or destiny or something, because if I'd only been a couple of minutes earlier and caught that train-
Well you'll see why, in a minute.
So yeah, I'm sitting in the hallway, kinda small and lost and probably looking a bit confused. I saw the soda machine and it suddenly hit me that I was really thirsty. I walked over and decided on orange (it's my favorite), and counted out some gil.
I'd never seen such a fancy machine before. I mean, the one in the inn back home had nothing except like, water and beer (dude, it's Nibelheim) and you practically had to operate it by hand crank. The ones in the Shinra building were way cooler, though. They were all hi-tech and stuff, and had this cool tray thing that slid up and caught the bottle when it popped off the shelf and-
Well, that's how they were supposed to work, anyways. That day, the tray shot up, and my bottle of Orange Fantasy just sort of fell over in a pitiful way. It leaned against the glass, taunting me with bubbly goodness.
That was the last straw, I decided. That machine was not gonna win; I wasn't about to let it deny me, not after the morning I'd had. Falling into my fiercest battle stance, I reached back with my foot and kicked the thing as hard as I could.
Okay, maybe that wasn't such a good idea.
I yelped a bad word in Nibel and fell to the floor, and as I lost the feeling in my foot, I started to wonder if moving to the big city wasn't the brilliant plan I thought it was. I'd been in Midgar less than twenty-four hours, and it was already kicking my butt. Trucks and trains and stupid soda machines that didn't work and...argh.
Of course, it was while I was flopped on the floor feeling sorry for myself that I saw him for the first time. He was tall, and built, and had the prettiest big blue eyes I'd ever seen. They glowed, kinda like big solstice lights. That's the thing that stuck out most in my mind at the time, because he was the first SOLDIER I'd ever seen that wasn't looking back at me from a TV screen.
So, there he was, this big, handsome SOLDIER with wild spiky black hair that made mine seem almost tame, strolling down the hallway like he owned the place in spite of his good-natured smile. Everything about him screamed confidence and a kind of comfort in his own skin, even though he only looked like he was a few years older than me, and it made me kinda jealous.
Then he started singing about a burrito.
"Mah-mah-mah-MY BURRITO!" he howled, and I was pretty sure that was actually a totally different song that had nothing to do with burritos. Before I could laugh or even giggle, though, he stopped in front of me and quit singing when he saw me nursing my sore foot.
"Whoa, you okay dude?" he asked, kneeling down beside me with a concerned look on his face that was actually really sweet. It wasn't the kind of fake show of worry people put on because it's expected of them, or to make themselves look like good people. No, he really did care...that's just the kind of guy he was, I could tell.
Nobody like him ever looked at me that way before.
"Yeah," I sighed, not really knowing what else to say. "Stupid machine ate my gil."
He grinned at me, a lopsided kind of grin that somehow managed to be unbelievably stupid and really very cute at the same time.
"Dude, you must be new around here," he said, offering me a hand to help me up. I took him up on it, and kinda squeaked a little in surprise when he scooped me up onto my feet like I weighed nothing. SOLDIERs were as strong as people said they were.
"This is my first time in the building," I answered sheepishly. "I'm waiting for another appointment with the recruitment office." I wondered then if I'd ever be that strong if I managed to make it in SOLDIER.
"Oh reeeeally?" Burrito Boy said, stroking his non-existent beard like those bad guys in cartoons that tie girls up to train tracks. I wanted to laugh so bad, but I didn't want to look stupid. "I might be able to help you out with that." He paused, looking over at the machine. "But I guess I'd better help you out with your drink, first."
He pounded on the glass in a precise fashion, in just the right spot, and two bottles of Orange Fantasy slid onto the stuck tray, which conveniently lowered itself down.
I blinked. How the heck did he manage to do that?
"Luck of the burrito, my chocobo-headed amigo," he said, tossing me a soda and opening the second one for himself. "These things are quite mysterious."
...luck of the...burrito? I thought maybe it was some kind of dirty Costan joke I didn't know about.
It didn't matter, though. I might have been able to hold it in maybe just a bit longer, but then he had to go and wink at me. That was when I spit took, and then he grinned, and then we both nearly died laughing.
"My name's Zak, by the way," my new friend introduced himself after we calmed down a bit. "Zak Knightblade. I'm a SOLDIER 1st Class."
My jaw nearly hit the floor, and I remember wondering why the hell a SOLDIER 1st Class would even talk to a dork like me, much less help me out.
"I'm-I'm Cloud. Cloud Strife. I wanted to join SOLDIER..." was all I managed to say.
"Well Cloudy, stick with me and I think things'll work out for ya," Zak said, grinning from ear to ear.
It's weird, but even then, I had the feeling things were going to start looking up for me. I think it was the way he smiled at me, like he actually wanted to be my friend. I'm glad he became much more than that to me.
I love you, Burrito Boy.