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Final Fantasy VII (Zack/Cloud)

Title: I Promise
Author: puella_nerdii
Rating: PG
Wordcount: 1,251
Prompt: Zack/Cloud - unexpected gentleness - "I just like you, okay?"
Summary: It's a long way back to Midgar.


“And that’s how I got the really long scar on my back. You know, the one that looks kind of like a malboro’s vine?”

Zack pauses for breath as he rounds the crest of the hill. It feels like there’s a Fire materia in his stomach; from there, the tendrils of flame thread themselves through his legs and chest. He looks down at the peaceful green valley below him.

“Hey, Spike. I think that’s a barn over there.” Grunting, he shifts Cloud’s weight higher on his back and points to a teetering red building not too far into the distance. “How’d you like to sleep with a roof over your head again, huh? Well,” he amends, “it’s sort of a roof. I think I see most of a roof.”

Cloud’s head flops to the side. He stares ahead, past the valley and the barn and the neat row of buildings on the horizon. The mako’s brightness can’t mask the dullness in his eyes.

“Maybe they’ll have—I don’t know, haystacks there or something for us to lie in,” he continues as he edges down the hill’s slick grassy slope. “Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve seen an actual haystack?”

(It’s stupid. He knows it’s stupid. Cloud probably knows it’s stupid, too. But he’s been quiet for way too long and like hell he’s going to shut up now.)

“Even if they don’t have haystacks, I think I saw a chocobo ranch just past the border of that town up ahead. You remember how to ride a chocobo, right? The chocobos always loved you. Remember how protective yours got when you decided to go after that—oh, I think it was that dragon-looking thing? That was when we had that tour of duty outside Kalm, after they reported creatures spawning near the reactors. They had to dismantle those reactors, remember, because the mako leakage was so bad? We all thought President Shinra’s liver would explode when he finally made the announcement. But you probably remember the dragon best.”

He thinks he sees a glimmer in Cloud’s eyes, a shine that has nothing to do with mako poisoning. “You do remember, don’t you?” he says, tilting Cloud’s chin towards him. “You remember how you charged right at that scaly old lump. You were squawking even louder than your chocobo. And then Sebastian laughed and called you the Iceland Conqueror, because he said you looked just like the barbarians you see in movies, the ones that run around in the snow in furry loincloths. And then I said I wanted to see you in a furry loincloth. And then you kicked me.”

He half-expects to feel Cloud’s foot connect with his shin again, and when no stinging pains shoot up his leg, it’s—well, it’s disappointing, almost.

Zack closes his eyes for just a second and locks his smile back into place. “You did one of your ‘Zack’s, remember?” He pitches his voice a few notes higher. “Zaaaaaaack!” It comes out too high and light, not weighted down by the exasperation that always colored Cloud’s voice when he buried his face in his hands and groaned.

“You remember that, right? You have to remember that.” He swallows back the lump rising in his throat. “C’mon. Say it with me. Zaaaack! Zaaaaaaack!”

Nothing.

“Zaaaaaaack!” he tries again, barking out his name like he’s a drill sergeant.

No response.

He grits his teeth and thrusts his head forward, neck muscles straining, eyebrows high, mouth drawn into a grimace that exposes his lower jaw. Cloud’s “shut up!” face, he used to call it. “Zaaaack!”

“…Zack…”

He stops dead in his tracks. Soft spiky tendrils of blond hair caress his cheek as Cloud rests his chin right where Zack’s neck connects to his shoulder.

“Yeah?”

“It’s dark,” Cloud mumbles, fisting his hands in the heavy woolen fabric of Zack’s shirt.

“That’s why we need to rest for the night. See that barn just up there?”

He feels rather than sees Cloud nod. The knots in his stomach slowly unravel. Water trickles through his muscles and dissolves the threads of fire woven into the tissues there. “We’re going to sleep there. Is that okay?”

“Okay,” Cloud agrees, mumbling the words into Zack’s neck. His lips are as soft as they ever were, and there’s no hesitancy in the way they brush against his skin now; every part of Cloud’s clinging to him like he’s a lifeline pulling him away from a sea of mako and back to shore.

The barn door creaks a little when Zack pulls it open. The last rays of sun feebly stagger through the holes in the roof and cast dim light on a few worn piles of hay. A faint smell of chocobos clings to the walls and rafters, but any animal inhabitants are long gone, judging from the half-rotted stalls and thick layer of dust carpeting the ground. He sets Cloud down carefully on one bed of hay that looks fresh enough.

“Where are we?” Cloud asks as he curls up in the hay, catlike and (hopefully) comfortable.

“Not too far from Costa del Sol, I think,” he says. “Remember how I always wanted to take you and Aeris there when the two of us were on leave, but you said you’d burn to a crisp as soon as you set foot on the beach?”

Cloud closes his eyes and sinks deeper into the hay.

“We can still go there, Cloud.” Zack fights to keep his voice even. “We’ll have all the time in the world to go there someday. We’ll spend all day swimming, and when we get tired, we’ll lie on the sand and eat Aeris’s pies until they chase us off the beach. We can look for seashells if you want to. I’ve always wanted to look for seashells.”

He looks down at his hands. They’re shaking.

“Right now we can’t spend a whole lot of time there, because we need to catch a boat to Junon,” he continues. “But we’ll go back. I promise. After we’ve both become the best damn mercenaries in the business.”

“We will…” Cloud echoes faintly. A grin breaks across Zack’s face.

“Yeah. We will.”

Cloud turns his head to the side and mumbles something into the musty hay.

“Cloud?” Gently, as gently as he can, he turns Cloud over. Cloud blinks up at him; now that the daylight’s faded away, his eyes are the only light Zack can see.

“I’m sorry,” Cloud says. It seems like he’s forcing his mouth to remember the shape of the words.

Zack swallows hard and brushes a stray spike away from Cloud’s face. He trails his fingers along the lines forming in Cloud’s forehead, smoothing them away as best he can. “For what?”

“For…for this,” he says, not meeting Zack’s gaze. “For being like this.”

Zack cradles his cheek in his palm and lowers his head slowly—if he startles Cloud now, he’ll never forgive himself—to brush his lips to Cloud’s. Cloud finds enough strength to press into the kiss, arching his back away from the soft bed of hay.

“Never be sorry,” Zack says. “You’re—”

His voice breaks for real this time.

“Nobody’s ever going to hurt you again.” He kisses Cloud’s forehead, his eyelids, the tip of his nose, the edge of his chin as softly as he can, his lips ghosts against Cloud’s skin.

Cloud grips Zack’s hand. “Or you,” he says. “I promise.”

“Me too,” Zack whispers. “Me too.”

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
raisedbymoogles
Apr. 13th, 2007 06:01 pm (UTC)
*meeeeeeeeelt* They're just so CUTE together.
puella_nerdii
Apr. 13th, 2007 07:53 pm (UTC)
They really are the woobiest little things alive, aren't they?
raisedbymoogles
Apr. 13th, 2007 11:58 pm (UTC)
They are, and they deserve cuddles and presents. ^_^
mitsuhachi
Apr. 13th, 2007 06:49 pm (UTC)
The part where Zack is trying to get cloud to say his name was at the same time totally hilarious and kind of heartbreaking.
puella_nerdii
Apr. 13th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that moment worked for you. ^^ I didn't want the whole fic to be doom and gloom, because it's got Zack in it, but -- yeah, there's definitely a little bit of heartbreak during the whole journey to Midgar, I think.
cleflink
Apr. 13th, 2007 07:51 pm (UTC)
*sniffle* Awww! These two are always so cute, even when they're breaking my heart. Damn canon to hell, anyway.
Very well done piece though.
puella_nerdii
Apr. 13th, 2007 07:57 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

I've seen an icon with the two of them that says "And then canon GOT FUCKED and they lived happily ever after," which summarizes my feelings on the matter perfectly.
laylah
Apr. 13th, 2007 09:29 pm (UTC)
*grin* It's the best way to go!

This was really sweet, and just hopeful enough, and -- yeah. I was going to be content with just Zack caring for Cloud, and then Cloud managed to respond, and my heart kind of seized up in my chest a little. woobers. ^^
puella_nerdii
Apr. 13th, 2007 10:14 pm (UTC)
Glad you liked it! Those two kill me every time I write them, I swear. They deserve so much better than they got in canon.
sister_coyote
Apr. 14th, 2007 12:51 am (UTC)
I love the way Cloud wanders in and out of coherence, and the way Zack takes care of him, and Cloud trying so hard, oh. woob! ♥
puella_nerdii
Apr. 14th, 2007 01:27 am (UTC)
Thank you! *gives Cloud and Zack more woobins*
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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