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Title: Seven Days
Fandom: Final Fantasy VII
Pairing: Zack/Cloud
Rating: NC-17 overall; PG this chapter
Warnings: None
Summary: Cloud has a week of leave to get away ShinRa. He had been looking forward to a break away from everything, until his holiday was unceremoniously infringed upon by one particularly over-friendly SOLDIER. But maybe having Zack Fair along with him isn't so bad after all.

| 1 | 2 | 3 | Day 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |


DAY FOUR

Cloud announced their fourth day of walking was going to be a short one, giving them some much needed time to rest up before tackling the next mountain. Their only goal was to cross the river at some point.

The weather held bright and sunny, with only a few drifting tufts of cloud in the sky. They had to skirt one or two patches that threatened to be boggy, but otherwise the ground was flat and firm and made for a very pleasant morning's walk.

No mention was made of the hand holding thing.

By lunchtime they had made it back to the edge of the mountain range, where the river cascaded down from the rocky heights above in a series of plunging waterfalls. Right beneath the final fall the water was deep and wide, a huge pothole carved out by the force of the descending river.

Just downstream from there the river turned shallow again, low enough at this time of year to be pocked with jutting rocks. Easy enough to make their way across, although the rocks were not very conveniently placed. The water was no deeper than knee height in the places without stepping stones, so they just took off their boots and rolled up their trousers and waded through.

On the other side, Cloud declared their task achieved and picked a nice area close to the river to make camp and share out lunch.

Zack noticed him frowning slightly as he looked through their food supplies.

Lunch was more bland protein bars. Once they had finished eating, they both found themselves laying down on the grass, bathing in the warm, welcome sunlight.

Zack yawned. "This would be an amazing place to take a nap." Cloud sniggered at him, and Zack actually went to the effort of cracking one eye open. "I'm serious! No one ever appreciates naps when they're young, then suddenly you're an adult and would absolutely love to be allowed to nap whenever."

Cloud hadn't really thought about it, but had to admit Zack did sort of have a point. "Alright, then. You enjoy your nap time. I'm going to see if I can forage us up some extra food or something. This looks like a good sort of area for more of those berries."

Zack hummed a content affirmative. Cloud left his pack with him and left him to it.

A good stock of berries was not immediately forthcoming, but Cloud didn't mind. It was a good opportunity to scout out their path ahead - they'd diverted off the marked trail some time ago, and Cloud had to admit he wasn't entirely sure where they needed to start heading up the mountain to rejoin it. He had a general idea, but the last thing he wanted to be doing was walking around in circles and back-tracking all over the place while carrying all his heavy gear.

Eventually, Cloud managed to locate both the path and a smattering of berry bushes. They weren't as prolific here, so it took a bit of searching around, but in the end Cloud successfully came away with a small carrier bag filled with several handful of blackberries, wild raspberries and more of the little cloudberries.

Along the way back he gradually filled up a second bag with wood sorrel and other edible leaves; the sort of stuff they could made a salad out of. Not that salad would be very filling in itself, but it would make their meals stretch further. Maybe they could get away with sharing one MRE between the two of them instead of using two each time. Cloud had only packed enough for himself, and the supply was dwindling at an alarming rate.

The foraging trip had taken a good few hours, and by the time Cloud got back it was verging on late afternoon. Zack had been busy while he'd been gone. There was a new shelter built; this one was a freestanding kite shape, with two long walls and one short, with the last wall open as a door.

(Zack later informed Cloud that this type of shelter was sometimes known as a two-man dog kennel, a fact which amused Cloud greatly. Cloud told Zack it suited him and received a wounded look for the effort.)

He had also put up Cloud's tent for him and gathered a stack of branched ready to use for a campfire, and even appeared to have done some laundry as well. His SOLDIER combats and Cloud's spare trousers and shirts had been cleaned of mud in the river and were handing up to dry in the afternoon sunlight.

As for Zack himself... Cloud stopped and stared. Zack had apparently decided to go swimming in his absence. He was stripped down to his boxers, which were soaked through and doing that clinging thing again and gods Zack had an amazing ass.

This was only emphasised by the way he was crouching down, toes right to the edge of a rock part way out into the water, peering intently into the depths of the plunge pool. Cloud could see the tension in the sculpted lines of Zack's shoulders and back. He didn't move a muscle, but he was ready to pounce at a split-second's notice.

Cloud swallowed. "Uhm, what...?"

Zack shushed him, still not budging an inch. Cloud had never seen him so still. "Fishing," was Zack's only explanation.

Oh. That... sort of made sense? "I'm not sure you can catch fish by hand like that," Cloud said dubiously.

"Have a little faith, Cloud. I'm a SOLDIER."

Cloud didn't even see Zack move.

One second he had been sat on his rock, the next there was nothing but a splash to indicate his passing. Holy fuck. Cloud knew SOLDIERs had quick reflexes, but that was something else.

Zack's head broke the surface, and he was grinning like a maniac. He struggled to keep hold of the fish he'd managed to grasp, finally managing to knock its head on a rock. It was a decent size fish as well, the length of Cloud's forearm.

Okay, Cloud had to admit... that was impressive. He was impressed. A lot. He couldn't wait to make it to SOLDIER.

Zack hoisted himself out. Little rivulets of water rolled down his shoulders, across his collarbones, dripping down his chest and the defined lines of his toned stomach. Cloud almost got hit in the face by a dead fish, too busy staring to realise Zack had tossed it to him.

"Dinner," Zack grinned.

Cloud fumbled for a decent grip on the thing. "...thanks." He couldn't think of anything more eloquent to say, but Zack just kept on grinning, so damned pleased with himself. He returned to his catching spot for another go.

That left Cloud with the job of preparing and cooking the thing. Not hard, really; he knew what he was doing and all he needed was his knife. He was grateful to have something to do. It gave him something to focus on that wasn't how attractive Zack was.

Because Zack was amazingly attractive, and it was completely unfair for him to be waltzing around half-naked and soaked through. Cloud grit his teeth. He couldn't get the image out of his head, and that was just annoying because he'd already been through this. He couldn't have a crush on Zack Fair. He just couldn't. But Zack was making it so damn difficult not to.

Cloud beheaded the fish with more force than was strictly necessary.

Zack's first catch must have been a fluke, or maybe he got cocky after that, because his next attempts yielded nothing. Cloud had enough time to gut the fish, top and tail it, and remove the spine and all the bones. He had it laid out and was carefully manoeuvring it into place when Zack came over to give him a second fish.

Zack knelt down curiously at Cloud's side. "What are you doing?"

He had never seen the sort of set up that Cloud had. The fish had been cut and flattened out into a massive fillet. It was held between two halves of long, thick stick, split vertically down the middle. Three smaller sticks, sharpened and stripped of bark, held the sides of the fillet out horizontally.

"I'm going to panasse it," Cloud explained.

"Gonna do what now?"

Cloud shooed Zack away. "You'll see in a bit. Go get a fire started, would you?"

Zack did as he was directed. (He started the fire with materia, and if Clod muttered 'cheat' under his breath it was only good-naturedly.) Cloud made short work of preparing the second fish. Soon both of them were propped up over the crackling fire to cook.

"They're pretty decent size fish," Cloud said, wiping his hands on his trousers and sitting back to admire his handiwork. "It might take a while for them to cook. Forty minutes, maybe?"

"Good. Plenty of time for a swim then." Cloud turned to find Zack smiling at him expectantly. "You are coming in, right?"

Zack phrased it as a question, but it wasn't one at all. It was more of an order. Cloud soon found himself stripped down to just his boxers as well and wading into the river.

"Shiva's tits, Zack, this is freezing!"

Cloud stood in the shallows of the deep pool area, furthest away from the waterfall. He was up to his thighs in the water. He didn't want to go in any further than that; there were certain sensitive parts that he didn't fancy submerging in icy coldness.

Zack laughed at him and grabbed Cloud's hands. "C'mon, mountain boy. You should be used to this."

Cloud narrowed his eyes. "Don't you dare-"

Zack pulled him in. Cloud gasped at the shock of the cold, but Zack was right. He was a mountain boy, and it didn't take long for him to get used to the temperature. He quickly retaliated by splashing Zack full in the face.

This time Zack was the one who narrowed his eyes. "Oh, it's on."

It was entirely possible that going up against a SOLDIER in a splash fight was not the best idea in the world. Especially when it was only half splash fight, and the other half devolved into some kind of underwater wrestling. Cloud got the feeling he lost severely, but they were both too busy laughing to take any of it seriously anyway.

It was fun. It was the most fun Cloud had had in months; ShinRa wasn't exactly an environment that fostered playing about for the pure joy of it. When they finally got tired, Cloud was out of breath and his mouth hurt from smiling too widely.

He flopped back into the water, content to lie there and float while Zack paddled around.

"Hey, Cloud, come check this out!" Zack called from just front of the falls. He promptly disappeared behind the white curtain of water.

Cloud's curiosity was piqued. He followed Zack's lead, wincing a bit at the strength of the pounding spray. That was one hell of a power shower. He came out the other side into a little cavern. Cavern was giving it too much credit; it was just a little hollow, really, deep enough to get them out of the spray but not much more than that.

It was still a nice little spot, though, and Cloud told Zack as much.

"I know. This place is awesome," Zack sighed happily. Cloud wasn't sure if he was talking about this spot in particular, the river where they had set up camp, or about the hike and locale in general.

Cloud smiled. "This is why I love coming out into the middle of nowhere. You find all sorts of amazing things that hardly anyone else knows about." He didn't think this was a particularly strange thing to say, but when he turned he found Zack staring at him. "What?"

"I've never seen you smile so much before," Zack said softly. "It suits you, you know."

Cloud tried to look away, embarrassed by the compliment and not sure what to say, but Zack hooked a finger beneath his Cloud's chin and turned him back to face him. He didn't say anything else, though. He just leant in and kissed Cloud.

Zack kissed him. Zack was kissing him, and it was sweet and soft, experimental. He drew back to gauge Cloud's reaction.

Cloud spluttered, blushing furiously and adorable in his confusion. "Why did you... I thought... didn't you say you had your eye on someone?"

"I was talking about you, numbskull," Zack chuckled, then kissed him again.

Cloud didn't resist. Gaia, why had he ever thought he needed to resist in the first place? Zack's mouth was pressed against his, warm and insistent, and it only felt right. Cloud melted into the kiss.

Zack's tongue brushed against Cloud's lips, and he gladly parted them to let Zack in deeper. He wrapped an arm around Cloud's shoulders, pulling him in closer up against him. Zack's body heat felt like a furnace against Cloud's chilled skin, and all of a sudden he was acutely aware that both of them were wearing very little clothing and tangled in a rather intimate embrace. Their lips finally parted, and Cloud struggled to remember how to breathe.

"I- I'd better go check on the fish," Cloud stammered as he broke away clumsily, inwardly cursing himself for getting so ridiculously flustered. As he made his way out through the waterfall, he actually found himself grateful for it being so damn cold. The last thing he needed was to embarrass himself any further.

Zack gave Cloud a few minutes of space, so by the time he emerged from the water Cloud had towelled himself dry and was dressed again, inspecting the readiness of their dinner.

Cloud gave Zack a shy smile, and Zack returned the look with a grin that was hopeful, friendly and suggestive all in one. He didn't push the matter though, especially since Cloud announced that the fish were cooked.

Dinner was absolutely amazing, they both agreed. They had a wild salad dotted with berries, and as much hot, fresh fish as they could possibly stuff themselves with. Cloud claimed that panassing over an open fire was the best way ever to cook fish, and Zack didn't doubt him in the slightest.

Cloud's newly rekindled shyness didn't last, and they passed the evening easily shooting the bull and laughing. Much to Zack's disappointment, the evening had come over overcast and they weren't able to see the stars. Cloud told him that was probably for the best.

Yet whenever there was a lull in conversation, Cloud's thoughts were whirring. His mind was filled with Zack's taste, the feel of Zack's lips on his. And what Zack had said, that he'd been talking about Cloud when he'd mentioned having his eye on someone.

It was that he kept getting stuck on. Cloud wasn't that lucky. There was no way he could have someone like Zack interested in him. He'd spent so long telling himself it wasn't possible that it didn't seem real.

But if it was real...

When Zack yawned and stretched, announcing he was ready to turn in for the night, Cloud got up with him.

"Night, Cloudy," Zack smiled.

"Goodnight, Zack."

Cloud leaned in and brushed their lips together. His kiss was hesitant and chaste, but sweet nonetheless.

Afterwards, as he bid a hasty retreat to his tent, all Cloud could see was Zack's gorgeous smile, bright enough to light the sun.

[ Next Chapter ]

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