10 CloudxZack drabbles, written just for practice. Contains lovely yaoi, but nothing overly graphic. Spoilers for Crisis Core, and some for FFVII.
They splashed around him, Cloud making sure all the kids were cured. Some of the adults got in, Cid having no choice as Vincent pushed him in. He played with them as best he knew how, smiling. This was the closest he'd felt to peace. Looking up from the water where the children were coming clean, Cloud wasn't expecting to see Zack smile at him and feel a deep and painful burden of his own wash off his shoulders.
Even five (or was it six?) years after the incident, Cloud still saw Zack's death playing like a video on loop in his mind. Sometimes it would happen every night for a week, sometimes he'd flashback for hours on end while the others slept on, exhausted by the days travels. He wasn't sure what it meant, at first, and it when he understood, it made it even worse. These episodes always brought with them a sense of helplessness that he feared he would never, ever be rid of.
When they'd crashed, Tseng had been the only person wearing a jacket against the ice cold winds of the northern continent. Not that Zack needed it. He had enough energy to burn to keep an entire village well heated for a month. Cloud rather enjoyed having it focused on him: just the warmth of Zack's smile made it feel a million times less cold.
A failure. He'd been one all his life, he knew. The villagers of Nibelheim had been sure he knew that. When he'd left them to go join SOLDIER, he'd failed miserably, only able to make it into the army. When Zack had saved his life from Hojo, Cloud had failed to return the favor.
So when Hojo took one look at him and promptly pronounced Cloud a failure, he could honestly say he wasn't surprised.
His mother had tried to raise him right, what with father being gone. The men in the village said that a boy needed a proper father to learn how to be a good man. Zack told him that wasn't true, pulled Cloud back against his body, and went back to showing him how to take it like a man.
This was the best position Zack could ever ask for. He loved having this advantage over the other, loving being able to observe the way he moved. Cloud's body was still so young and lithe, but it was strong and learned quickly. The observation room over the training grounds definitely had the best vantage point.
Up against the wall with his pants on the floor and his legs around Zack's waist was the absolute last position Cloud ever wanted to be caught in by his very own idol. He was mortified that other just happened to walk past and catch them. Burying his blushing face into Zack's neck, he was glad it muffled the squeak he let out when Sephiroth suggested Zack change the angle a little before the man wandered off. Still, Cloud supposed he had cause to be grateful: the new angle was just right.
Nothing ever managed to drive the loss of Zack so close to home as Tifa's stupid cowboy hat. When she wore it, the locked off part of Cloud's mind made him remember things he'd rather keep forgotten for now. He worked hard to shut that part of his mind up. Sometimes he'd try going for a walk, and when that didn't work he'd try drinking the thoughts into oblivion. In the end, it didn't matter the method because when he woke the next morning, it was always to tears running down his face and a name just out of reach on his lips.
The sword stood on a plateau just outside of Midgar, a silent grave-marker. He'd placed it there when he'd had no use for the sword anymore. It had helped him carry his burden in Zack's place and now it was only fitting that one good friend should stand to honor its fallen owner and the best role model Cloud had ever had. Nodding to Zack, quest finally finished, he checked one last time to make sure the rusting metal was firmly in place. "Thank you," he said to the air, to Zack. The breeze ruffled around him, suspiciously warm for this time of year, teasing his hair, and Cloud smiled.
He had high hopes for this kid. Cloud may not have passed the SOLDIER exam, but most didn't pass the first time through. Others had already passed off on him, content with just leaving him in the lower ranks, but they couldn't see what Zack could. Somehow they all missed the sparkle in his eyes, missed how lively Cloud was trying to be. It bugged him. He'd never seen a recruit with such fierce determination. Zack admired that.