Rating: G *sigh*
Word count: 1250
Prompt: Zack/Cloud - AU - "You're the General's little brother?"
Summary: Actually, I think the prompt pretty well covers it.
All things considered, Zack was just surprised he hadn’t found out sooner.
“Come on Seph!” he wheedled, hands folded in front of him and eyes fixed imploringly on his friend. “Just one little peek! No one’ll ever know!”
Sephiroth, who had been listening to him carry on for a good five minutes now, pinched the bridge of his nose. “Are you going to do this every time I see you for the next two weeks?” he demanded, sounding exasperated.
“Not if you say yes,” Zack countered optimistically and Sephiroth sighed.
“You know I can’t reveal confidential information, Zack. You’re just going to have to wait until the official announcement.”
“Spoilsport,” Zack accused half-heartedly. He flung himself onto his bed with a huff. “I swear the Shinra higher-ups just like keeping secrets because they know it’ll irritate the rest of us.”
“Only those of us with noisy subordinates,” Sephiroth murmured wryly. He leaned a hip against the corner of Zack’s desk, being careful not to overbalance any of the precariously stacked piles of half-finished reports heaped all over it. “Why are you so interested in the list of this year’s successful SOLDIER applicants, anyway? The process has never interested you in previous years.”
“Yeah, well, I’ve never been rooting for any of the applicants before.” Zack sighed, staring up at the ceiling. “I mean, how am I supposed to plan a decent surprise party if I have to wait till Spike gets his letter to find out if he made it?”
“…I’m going to assume that ‘Spike’ is a euphemism for the pet trooper that you’ve been tormenting for the past several months.”
Zack made a face. “It’s called a nickname, Seph. And I haven’t been tormenting him.”
Sephiroth arched an eloquent eyebrow.
“Much,” Zack allowed, grinning. “It’s not my fault he’s so cute when he’s flustered.”
“Not in person you haven’t.” Zack shook his head ruefully. “I can’t believe I’ve been getting away with calling him my boyfriend for nearly a month and you still haven’t met him yet.” He levered himself into a sitting position so he could fix Sephiroth with a look. “I’m going to have to remedy that, you know.”
“Hmm. At a ‘welcome to SOLDIER’ party, perhaps?”
Sephiroth’s expression was bland, giving nothing away, and Zack had to grin at how well Sephiroth knew him.
“That was the idea,” he agreed, letting a sly sort of insinuation sneak across his face. “Before someone decided not to give me a hand with the crucial details.”
Sephiroth sighed. “Stop wiggling your eyebrows at me, Zack – you look ridiculous.”
Zack mock pouted. “You’re one tough cookie, you know that General? And here I thought no one could resist that look.”
Green eyes blinked at him like he’d just sprouted a second head and Zack chuckled. “Or not.” Then he sighed, a little wistfully. “Too bad, though. I was looking forward to surprising him.”
Sephiroth frowned faintly. “If you’re that certain your trooper is going to pass, why do you feel the need to harass me for the results?”
Zack’s smile was grimly amused. “Have you seen the nutjobs who oversee the SOLDIER program? Just because they’d be fools not to take him doesn’t mean they’re going to.”
Sephiroth was silent for a moment, pensive and thoughtful. “But you’re still fairly confident about his chances,” he remarked, mostly a question.
“Yeah,” Zack nodded, trying not to grin at the almost-capitulation in Sephiroth’s voice. “He’s got a couple of self-doubt issues to work out, but they won’t last long once he gets in. He was practically made to be a SOLDIER.”
Sephiroth pondered this while Zack held his breath. “I cannot promise anything,” he said finally, a warning and apology in one. “But I will… consider your request.”
“Great!” Zack beamed. “I can’t wait to get the two of you in the same room – you and Cloud are gonna love each other!”
“Cloud?” Sephiroth demanded, sudden, wary awareness pricking across his face, and the door chose that moment to swing open, a familiar blond head poking curiously around the corner.
“Zack? I thought we were going to go spar in the… oh.” Cloud’s face was surprised but calm as he slipped the rest of the way inside, pushing the door shut behind him. “Sephiroth,” he greeted, with a strange little smile. “It’s been a while.”
Sephiroth nodded back. “Cloud,” he said, his tone of voice strangely fond. “Tseng told me you’d enlisted.”
“I figured he would.” Cloud shrugged, his expression apologetic. “Sorry I haven’t come to visit – it didn’t seem appropriate as a trooper.”
“No,” Sephiroth agreed. “No point in showing favouritism before you’re accepted into the SOLDIER program. Although,” he remarked, with a glance over to where Zack was sat gaping. “If I’d known it was you that Zack’s been talking about all this time, I’d probably have encouraged him to ‘introduce’ us sooner.”
Cloud’s cheeks pinked slightly. “He’s been talking about me?” he asked, sounding simultaneously horrified and abashedly pleased.
“Wait,” Zack finally managed, two pairs of eyes swiveling round his way. “You two know each other?”
“Oh yes,” Sephiroth told him matter-of-factly. “Cloud and I are of the same family.”
“I’m his brother, Zack,” Cloud added, ducking his head in vague embarrassment when Zack blinked at him incredulously.
“Brothers?” he demanded. They both nodded and Zack leaned forward, eyeing them speculatively. “Huh. You don’t look much alike.”
“We’re half brothers,” Sephiroth amended. “We were reared together for some years, though we haven’t seen each other since I left for Wutai.” He flicked his eyes towards Cloud. “I was under the impression that Hojo intended to keep you in Nibelheim rather than placing both of us in Shinra’s hands at once – how did you convince him otherwise?”
Cloud’s shoulders hunched sheepishly. “He ah, doesn’t know I’m here?”
Sephiroth gave him a shrewd look. “That won’t last long once you’ve become a SOLDIER.”
“I’ll deal with it,” Cloud declared stubbornly. “I’m not about to give him the chance to send me back.”
“You know you have my support,” Sephiroth told him. “Though I don’t wonder that you’d be safer as a trooper.”
“I know.” A shy glance flicked in Zack’s direction. “But there are some things that’ll make it worth the fit he’s going to throw.”
“Ah,” Sephiroth agreed. His attention shifted back towards Zack, the expression on his face somewhere between exasperated and fond. “Though how both of us found ourselves attached to the same overly optimistic idiot, I don’t even want to speculate.”
“You never know,” Zack offered innocently. “Maybe it’s genetic.”
“Oh, that’s comforting,” Cloud shot back, corners of his mouth quirking, and Zack laughed.
“Hey, you already knew I was irresistible,” he declared. “This just makes it official.” He stood, stretching theatrically, and graced them both with a winning smile. “So whaddaya say we all go down to the practice rooms for a bit of a workout and afterwards you can both tell me some embarrassing stories about each other’s childhoods, okay?”
Sephiroth and Cloud traded a look, the resemblance in their long-suffering expressions painfully obvious now that Zack could compare them.
“He’s your subordinate,” Cloud pointed out neutrally.
“He’s your boyfriend,” Sephiroth countered, the corner of his mouth curling when the word made Cloud flush.
“He’s both of your problems now,” Zack informed them, snagging the pair of them around the shoulders and towing them towards the door. He grinned. “And you two have always brought out the best in me.”