Genre: moment of life, SOLDIER fic
Rating: R at most, probably PG-13
A lighthearted snippet to counter all the confusion/angst/pain that I seem to write whenever it's Cloud.
Good Enough (daytime)
By Lena ban Obsidian
"It hurts to /laugh/," he moaned meekly, trying with desperation to stifle his giggles. Zack wasn't helping. Zack never did.
"And then! And we-- right, listen, okay? it was like this." Zack held up two potato chips, one to each hand. "And I'm this one, on the left-- my left--, right, and Sephiroth's this one on the right, and I'm like 'Sephiroth!'" Zack did the best squeaky voice in his arsenal, pursing his lips because he knew Cloud was watching to make the voice especially ridiculous. "'There's a freaking monkey in the locker room!' and he was all 'Damn it, Zack, why did you put a monkey in the locker room?!'" Sephiroth's voice, Zack did in a too-serious voice, so deep and forcedly purposeful that it was difficult for Zack himself not to bust out laughing when he did it. Cloud was in a fit of helpless laughter, holding his stomach and making mewling sounds when he wasn't giggling, trying to get Zack to cut it out.
Zack, of course, wasn't listening. "And then I was all 'But Sephiroth! It wasn't me!' And it /wasn't/, you know, but he TOTALLY didn't believe me and he was like 'Zackary Donovan First Class, you will go in there and get that monkey back out and then you will apologize!' and I was like 'Even to /RENO/?' and he just went 'Yes. EVEN TO REEENOOO~" And Zack, who was obviously quite hungry, ate the potato chip that was made out of Sephiroth.
Cloud, between terribly breathless, squeaking giggles, managed to cry "Oh NO!" And then, after a bout of some more giggles and some struggling with an inability to stop laughing long enough to breathe, "/God ate Sephiroth!/" And then Cloud was rolling, tears beading in his lashes, whimpering softly between giggles.
"Oh, shit..." Zack dropped the other potato chip, moving to Cloud's side in the bed with a wince. "I'm sorry. I forgot. I forgot, right? Come on, think of something --heh-- serious...oh, fuck, this is bad." He covered his face with his hands and couldn't quite suppress a snort of laughter. Cloud wailed, holding his stomach and trying, breathless still, to stop thinking of things that made him laugh. He held his breath and stared hard at the ceiling, working with all of his concentration to look serious and act serious, if only for a moment, but then Zack snorted and Cloud looked and they both started each other off again, howling mad with it. Hell, it wasn't even necessarily that funny, but of course, now that they were trying not to find it amusing, there was simply no way that they could.
It was perhaps the least dignified Sephiroth had ever seen Cloud, though arguably the most dignified he might ever see Zack act again. He stood in the doorway for several minutes waiting for their laughter to subside.
Cloud was crying, though hopefully it was largely because of his amusement and not because of the pain he'd been causing himself as a result. For that alone, Zack got the Look when Sephiroth finally stepped forward into the room.
The General maintained an icy silence as he shut the door behind himself, and the other two, finally falling still again, began to look uncomfortable-- Cloud especially, as he tried to blink tears out of his eyes and look at Sephiroth without flinching, hands still over his stomach, lying on his little sickbed and looking too small for it. Zack straightened, gathering up the lunch he'd set out all over his tray, the different, portable foods seeming to mark off a little town of personas-- there were some chewy snacks gathered together around an empty beer can that Sephiroth hoped Zack had been the one to drain and not Cloud, and one could guess, with Zack's mindset, that they might be representative of whores at a bar, or something of the like. Sephiroth decided he wasn't curious enough to ask, though. "...you really ought to be more careful with him," he finally said, giving Zack an admonitory look. "That's a serious wound."
Unsurprisingly, Cloud started and then caught himself leaping to Zack's defense; how difficult it must be, Sephiroth thought, to want to defend your best friend from his superior officer's taunting, but be too afraid of reprimand or dismissal to be willing to risk it. Surely it explained the worried frown that wrote itself in Cloud's drawn-together eyebrows, ever-expressive.
Zack was not so serious, and shrugged at the reprimand, smiling over his shoulder. "But they say laughter is the best medicine, you know? So maybe it'll hurt a little, but he's healing. Huh?"
"Hojo would sneer if he heard you saying that," there was a moment of silence, as Cloud repressed a small shudder, not fond of the horror stories that he'd heard about the man. And then Sephiroth let himself smirk, ever so slightly. "Naturally, I therefore approve."
Cloud's expression brightened considerably at that response, and the happy smile on his face looking disturbingly appropriate mixed in with the trails of his pain-laughter-tears. Sephiroth resisted the urge to try to stroke them away, and Zack motioned for him to pull up one of the chairs set near Cloud's bed, so they could all sit and talk, as it were. "You're kinda late, Seph. Business?"
"Minor things. There was a small riot in sector five."
"...is everybody okay?" That was Cloud, asking in a small, nervous voice, trying to sound confident and failing miserably at it.
It was a highly addictive sort of voice. "Everything is fine. We managed to negotiate with those responsible before things got out of hand." Too much, Sephiroth didn't add, but at the very least there'd been no fatalities. He deftly turned the conversation to less unpleasant and more important topics. "Now, why is it, exactly, that you're in a hospital bed?"
Silence. Cloud's expression went from worried and openly curious to embarrassed and completely closed off in mere seconds. "Uh...well, I..." he faltered, expression sliding from ashamed to guilty just as quickly. Generally speaking, the most frustrating thing about Cloud was his tendency to jump to conclusions; but fortunately, he telegraphed his train of thought via emotion more often than not. "...some of the other cadets locked me in a room with a Fang," he admitted quietly, as if the event was entirely his own fault and not the result of a cruel (and illegal) prank.
Before he could get to the point of voicing his irritation that such a thing should even be done to Cloud, Zack was explaining too. "I didn't realize he was missing until he'd been there for at least half an hour. The idiots responsible are spending the night in prison cells and they get dismissed in the morning. Don't worry about it, Seph. He's a little shook up, but it didn't hurt him too much."
Letting his gaze flick from one of the younger men to the other, Sephiroth noted idly that Cloud wasn't the only one flinching. He took a careful breath and held it for five seconds before responding, finally, with a sigh. "...I'd prefer to be allowed to flog them myself, but I suppose a little confinement and dismissal will have to do."
One could have no doubt felt the tension oozing from the younger pair as they relaxed. Cloud lifted his head, trying not to wince too noticeably as he shifted his weight and pulled on one of the wounds he'd received. "Sorry, sir...but I promise I won't let it happen again, sir..." He bit his lip and caught his breath as Sephiroth grabbed his chin, firmly, with thumb and forefinger.
"Your eagerness to please can't make up for the fact that you're young and you're vulnerable, Strife. Stop making promises you can't keep." And /then/ his hard-as-mako eyes softened. "...besides, you've a SOLDIER first class and the General of ShinRa incorporated's army willing to act as your bodyguards. Would you really turn them down?"
He watched Cloud's eyes widen; watched the bob of his throat as he gulped. "N-no, sir."
"Good." He let go, mindful of the bandaged scratch on Cloud's cheek. "How bad was he when you found him?"
Zack shrugged, shaking his head. "He was a little mauled, but he ain't too bad at running. There weren't a whole lot of places to go, I think...ne, Cloud?" Cloud obediently nodded his agreement. "But there was this little corner under a table, he was kinda close to that when I found him." Zack frowned. "...The Fang was kinda almost rippin' your stomach out, though, kid."
Cloud's brow furrowed again, and he looked nothing but repentant.
Making a frustrated noise, Zack traded a look of long-suffering with Sephiroth. The boy was just entirely too /serious/. Honestly.
"Hey, it's not your fault. Like you could have done /anything/. You didn't have any weapons on ya. You're lucky I heard you scr--" Both Zack and Cloud froze, the former swallowing the rest of the word he'd been about to say and the latter looking hurt.
"You said you wouldn't tell him!"
"I wasn't /going/ to, it just...kinda..."
They argued, predictably, like children, and Sephiroth weathered it in silence, not looking at either. The argument ended when he stood from his chair, quiet still, looking somewhat dangerous. Zack was the one who looked up at him with mistrust in his eyes. "Seph?"
"I'll be back for dinner."
"Seph! no killing!"
Hesitation. Sephiroth scowled. "Perhaps maiming?" And, after a moment or two, "I should at least /frighten/ them a little."
"...they did kinda earn it, huh?"
"You don't have to-- I really--"
Sephiroth fixed Cloud with a glare that would have made much stronger men shrink away and duck their heads; naturally, Cloud cringed and fell silent. "To leave another person alone, screaming, in a room is a crime. You can't honestly tell me that, were you not the person who'd been left in the room, you'd have stood there and let it happen, now, can you?"
A second passed, maybe two. Then: "...n-...no."
"I said I wasn't going to actually harm them, didn't I?"
"...y-yeah, you did."
"You trust me, don't you?"
Longer silence, and then Zack poked the boy in his ribs, earning a soft squeal of protest from the youngling. "Of course! Of...of course I do," he mumbled, for some reason blushing until he was as bright red as his hair was chocobo yellow.
"I'm going to go frighten some deserving cadets. Take /good/ care of him while I'm gone, or it'll be your head." He raised an eyebrow at Zack, and got nothing but an exaggerated military-attention face from the SOLDIER. With a slight smile and a snort, he left as silently as he'd come.
A few seconds passed. Maybe ten total. Somehow there was another potato chip in Zack's hand, and a gummy snack in the other.
"'What's that, mister handsome and dashing SOLDIER? you would like to make sweet love to me? oh...all right!' 'Oh, you won't regret it, ma sweet cherie, ho ho ho!'"
There was a distinct, cloth-laden, fluffy-object sort of thwapping sound, and the potato chip scattered to the floor as Zack made a face, grumbling. Cloud held his pillow to his chest, weapon style.
"Don't," Cloud gasped, already losing the battle against giggling again. "Pleeease!"
"'You're such a spoilsport, you no good kid! Stealing my handsome SOLDIER from me!'" The fruit snack accused, not sounding particularly desirable as a catch for any SOLDIER, let alone a handsome and dashing one. Cloud stifled a snicker or two, only to break out laughing in full as Zack wriggled his eyebrows suggestively, nodding at the fruitsnack. "'Although.../you're/ not bad looking yourself! Oh, make love to me! Kiss me!'"
"/Zack!/" Cloud, though still armed with his pillow, was wilting, giggling meekly. "Stop it!"
"'Eat me! Kiss me! You know you want me!' Come on, Cloud, be nice to the lady!" He grinned, roguish and not one whit sorry. "All you have to do is open up and we can be done with her! It's not so hard! Come onnn~"
It didn't take much coaxing to get Cloud to open his mouth. In only a matter of minutes, the fruit snack army of temptation had been devoured.
Life was good enough.
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