CTA: Get Them While They're Young
Well, here's the first of the Coming Together Arc, where we get to see my idea of how the group connected with each other. Here's Cloud and Zack, the original pair.
Get Them While They're Young
Sniffling, the small boy scuttled out from under the partially collapsed building. Damnit, didn’t those stupid mages know people lived here? Why the hell were they letting their summoned creatures fight?
Of course, it wasn’t like he actually was supposed to be in the house, he didn’t even know who lived here, if anyone. But he had been sleeping here during the times he could.
A shadow loomed over him, and Zack spun around, teeth bared, only to find himself being looked at by a slim man with bright hair and glowing eyes.
He had never met anyone else with glowing eyes before.
“Wa’chu want,” he said with a low voice, already trying to find the best way to run. Adults never noticed the kids unless they wanted something, and down here, being noticed wasn’t a good thing.
The man tilted his head. “Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to find anyone at all,” he said softly, no accent at all in his voice. That told Zack the man was either from the more upper class parts of the city, or from the outlands, because everyone down here had the gutter slang accent, as it was called by everyone.
“I’d rather not leave you here, though.” He grimaced as the summons shrieked overhead, then his eyes went wide and he grabbed Zack before lunging to the side. Right where they had been, another building collapsed, hitting the earth with bone jarring force as it seemed to shatter.
Part of it came through the chest of the man holding him. That was the last thing Zack remembered before pain exploded along the side of his head and everything went dark. Wood, dark and wet with things it shouldn’t be wet with, and the man had made a strange noise. Then Zack had blacked out.
He woke up warm, head no longer aching. Actually, nothing ached, and he had been living with the aches for a while.
“There’s a bath if you want to use it, and there’s food in the kitchen if you want to make something to eat.”
It was the same man from before, but that wasn’t possible. Zack just stared at the blond, eyes wide. That piece of wood had been huge. No way he had survived it.
The man grinned at him. “Sorry about scaring you. It took me a bit to wake up, harder to do when the stuff is still in the injury. Then I got you healed up, and figured you wouldn’t want to wake up to find that I had taken your clothes off for any reason, so I just put you on the couch. How you feeling?”
He had just shrugged at the man. This was just too strange. “Who are you?” he asked finally.
“Cloud Strife. And you?” Cloud tipped his head to the side. “How old are you, anyway?”
Eyeing the man for a moment, Zack shrugged. “’m Zack, and six. I think.”
Dropping into another chair, Cloud nodded. “Six, hmm? What were you doing down there? I know Shinra banned summoning in the city, but, well, they don’t count that section as part of the city. How you feeling?” he asked again.
“’m fine,” Zack said, keeping one eye on him, rest of his attention on the room. This was a really nice place, like they would show in the magazines. All bright and shiny and very, very clean. It reminded him of how grungy he probably was. “’ll go now. Thank for the fixin and all….”
Cloud held up a hand. “You’re not leaving till you’ve cleaned up and had something to eat.”
For a moment, Zack was tempted to argue and try leaving anyway, but he knew he wouldn’t get far. This place screamed high society, if not nobility. No way he’d get out if the blond didn’t want him to. So the only thing to do was to go along with it and hope that he wouldn’t be expected to ‘pay’ for it afterwards.
He wasn’t. And he was even more surprised when Cloud took him downstairs and had him registered as someone allowed to come and go as he wished. Then the man had simply invited him back whenever Zack wanted to come back, and walked away.
Over a month passed before Zack took him up on that offered place, and slowly, over the course of the next year, he found himself there more and more. Cloud taught him how to read and how to count and add and how to speak without the accent and all the things that people who had homes learned there.
Then Cloud asked him.
It came out of the blue, while Zack was reading books for kids his own age, one full of fighting and pirates and mercenaries and ninjas. Cloud had been sprawled nearby, looking at some paperwork, which he then rolled up and tied, then tossed it at Zack. After a moment, Zack, who blinked at Cloud, tugged it open. He looked at the front, then rubbed his eyes and looked again. Then he looked at Cloud with large eyes. “You got to be kidding….”
He shook his head. “It’s very serious. I want you to take your time and think about it. Lots of work, and you’d find yourself the center of a lot of very intrusive attention, and you would be the focus of the Shinras for a long time, at least until something else caught their attentions. Not to mention having to deal with nobles and royals who are -very- snotty about birthrights and all of that…..”
A moment of quiet, and Zack looked at Cloud. “But we’d be family, right?”
“Kid, we’re already family. This just makes it a bit more official.”
Cloud had been very careful to not focus on Zack, not wanting to pressure the boy, so the flying seven year old was a bit of a surprise. “Yes,” Zack said, his face pressed against Cloud’s shoulder as he hugged the older man tightly. “Hells yes.”
Laughing softly, Cloud took the adoption papers from Zack’s hand. “Well, then,” he said, “we should be busy filling these out.”