Title: Sticky Notes
Fandom: FF7 AU
Pairing: Zack/Cloud and some drive-by Cid/Vincent
Rating: PG for swearing (Cid's in it, what do you expect?)
Word count: 2920
Challenge: This is for the square love letter on my schmoop_bingo card.
Summary: College AU. Cloud hates Mondays. Luckily, Zack is creative.
It was Monday. Again.
Cloud's alarm clock blared at 8:30 sharp and he jerked awake with a startled curse, nearly spilling himself and half his bed sheets onto the floor in the process. He flailed at his clock until it stopped yelling at him, then collapsed back down to his pillow with a sleepy 'nrgh' and a heartfelt desire never to move again.
It could have been five minutes or half an hour later when Cloud blinked a few times and realized that the splash of bright pink dancing in the air above his head was not, in fact, a sign that he'd fallen asleep again while he wasn't paying attention. He waved his arm half-heartedly at whatever it was and, when it continued to elude his less than stellar efforts to get a hold of it, huffed out a heavy sigh and dragged himself far enough upright to grab.
It was a post-it note. And there was writing on it.
It's 9am! the note said, in a broad, blocky script that Cloud would have known anywhere. You have class in half an hour! Get up!
Cloud glanced at the clock. 8:56.
"Smart ass," he grumbled ruefully, kicking off the blankets.
He snagged his cell phone off the bedside table as he stumbled towards the bathroom, fingers sleep slow and clumsy on the keys as he fired off a text. You're crazy.
U luv it, Zack was quick to respond. Got u out of bed on time didnt i?
Cloud rolled his eyes and nearly walked into the wall in the process. God, he hated mornings. Shouldn't you be at work by now?
Stopped fr coffee. Shuldnt u b goin 2 school?
Yes mom, Cloud sent back, then chucked his phone at the bed so he couldn't be tempted to keep playing text tag with Zack. He had a class to get to and if he had to wake up to an empty bed at this godforsaken time in the morning, he might as well make it worth his effort.
Twenty minutes later Cloud was marginally more awake and shoving hurriedly into his sneakers, hand practically fused around his full mug of perfectly brewed coffee. The coffee pot had been hot and ready for him when he'd staggered into the kitchen, a cheery drink me! note stuck to the front. If Cloud hadn't been so busy being pathetically grateful for the caffeine he'd have rolled his eyes at the fairy tale reference.
Running late, he was halfway out the door before he belatedly realized there was a post-it taped to the back of it. This time he managed to roll his eyes without walking into anything as he ducked back in to take a look, wondering if this was going to be a theme today.
You forgot your keys the note said, a smiley face grinning at him from the corner, and Cloud growled as he realized it was right.
"One day," he vowed to himself, fishing his keys off the side table. "I'm going to figure out how he does that." A quick glance at his watch had him wincing and he shoved his keys into his pocket as he banged through the door out into the crisp fall air. "Just not right now."
By midday, Cloud had come to the calm and reasoned conclusion that he was going to throttle Zack. Or at least find him a more time-consuming hobby. No way in hell should he have had enough time to plan all this without Cloud noticing. His boyfriend was obviously a ninja. And insane.
The trail of post-it notes had followed him to school, dogging his steps all morning. He'd found $10 in the front pocket of his bag, along with a note chiding him for forgetting to make lunch. A second post-it had been stuck to one of his books that read this is the wrong book! (it wasn't actually - even Cloud wasn't that bad - but, considering the fact that it was for his Philosophy of Marketing class, Cloud figured Zack was trying to be funny). There'd even been a note stuck to his favourite desk in Dr. Reeve's Business Politics class that said stop ogling your professor *wink*. Cloud's face had burned nearly hot enough to set his hair on fire as he'd shoved that note as far into the recesses of his bag as he could manage.
Don't you have better things to do in the morning? Cloud demanded via text as he left Dr. Reeve's class, colour still embarrassingly high.
Zack must have been between clients because his reply came almost instantly. Nope! U havin fun yet?
Tons, Cloud shot back, figuring Zack would hear the sarcasm in his text the same way Cloud could hear the grin in Zack's. He burrowed his free hand into the pocket of his hoodie, making a mental note to start bringing his gloves to campus with him. Clinic busy?
Always, Zack answered. Cloud's phone vibrated again almost immediately and he was unsurprised to see that the new text read: Nxt patients here. Gtg. Luv u.
Cloud hesitated. Yeah, he said finally. Have a good day.
"Cloud!" a familiar voice rang out, and Cloud glanced up from his phone to find Tifa bearing down on him with a determined grin and a familiar square of pink paper held aloft in one hand. Cloud resisted the urge to groan.
"Not you too," he protested as she drew up even with him.
"Afraid so," Tifa agreed unrepentantly. "Here you go."
Cloud took the barest glance at the note (Lunchtime! Tifa wants to try that new Indian place in the University Plaza) before stuffing it in his pocket and affecting a long suffering sigh. "Indian, huh?"
Tifa's teasing grin widened. "Sound a little more excited about it, why don't you?"
"This nag by note system is getting pretty tiresome," Cloud grumbled as they started across campus. He didn't think he sounded particularly convincing.
Tifa clearly didn't think so either. "Pull the other one," she said. "I haven't seen you this not-surly on a Monday all term."
"Everyone hates Mondays," Cloud defended. Tifa snorted at him.
"Yeah, you keep telling yourself that, Mr. Boyfriend Withdrawal. Seriously, I'm amazed that you can survive an entire day on your own when you two spend so much time attached at the hip the rest of the week."
Cloud hunched lower in his hoodie, cheeks flaming in the cold air. "Shut up."
Tifa laughed. "Oh lighten up, Cloud, I'm not being mean. I think it's cute how gone the two of you are for each other." She sighed wistfully. "I wish I had a boyfriend like Zack."
"No you don't." Tifa would hate being mollycoddled with a passion; Cloud felt bad for any poor bastard who ever tried it.
That earned him a shrug. "Maybe not, but I certainly wouldn't say no to someone as cute as him. Or you, for that matter. So, lunch?" she asked, while Cloud spluttered at her.
"You're evil," he managed eventually, shaking his head as he fell in step beside her. "No wonder you and Zack get along so well."
"You love it."
Thankfully for Cloud's blood pressure, Tifa laid off tormenting him while they went for lunch. The restaurant turned out to be both affordable and edible which, as Cloud and every other student in the world had learned the hard way, wasn't always the case in a university town so that was definitely a plus. He'd almost expected their server to come to the table bearing yet another note from his crazy-ass boyfriend and was split between relief and disappointment when he made it through the entire meal without any more random messages.
Well, except for a text that said blu or grn? but that was pretty much par for the course as far as Zack was concerned. Cloud picked green just because, figuring he could ask Zack about it tomorrow.
Tifa dashed off at quarter after two to meet her study group at the kin labs while Cloud made his own rather more leisurely way to the library to finish his Applied Statistics report before heading to work.
Tifa says hi, he sent to Zack as he walked and was disappointed but unsurprised not to receive a message back. Zack might only have been working at the clinic for fourteen months, but he was already one of their more popular therapists; it wasn't unusual for Cloud to go whole days without catching him for a text conversation or a phone call. Which was tougher than Cloud liked to admit, but Zack loved his work and Cloud wasn't going to ruin that for him.
And really, the free deep tissue massages he got out of the deal were pretty convincing in their own right.
The library was quiet and post-it free when he got there, and Cloud firmly told himself to be happy about that since he was already hopelessly codependent enough without moping over the fact that his boyfriend hadn't bribed the librarians into holding any embarrassing pink notes for him. The post-it Tifa had given him had probably been the last, he reasoned - enough to help him get through the longest part of his day without hating life and everything, giving him the courage to struggle through the rest till tomorrow.
Of course, Cloud really shouldn't have underestimated Zack's determination to draw him out of his customary Monday funk, because it wasn't ten minutes later that he found a note on the fourth page of his report complaining that Cloud's homework was the most boring thing Zack'd ever seen. Cloud peeled it free and stuck it to the cover of his notebook, glancing over at it every couple minutes just to remind himself it was there.
You're still insane, he told Zack, after twenty minutes of being completely useless. Just so you know.
It's all part of my charm, Zack answered eventually and Cloud reluctantly conceded the report.
He finished his report with a scarce five minutes to spare, bolting down the stairs of the library to reach his bus stop just as the number five rolled to a stop. The bus was full of students heading off campus and Cloud squeezed himself aboard, clinging to his book bag and one of the poles as the mass of bodies swayed and jolted with the motion of the bus.
Half the passengers spilled off at the downtown bus terminal and Cloud plopped gratefully into an empty seat, pulling his bag onto his lap and pulling out his Consumer Resources textbook. He didn't come across the next note until he was three stops away from the garage, his body curled towards the grimy window as he struggled to read in the increasingly dim light.
Stop reading ahead! Zack's handwriting admonished, a chapter further into the book than the prof had assigned. You're going to give all the other kids inferiority complexes!
Cloud couldn't help chuckling. His Mondays should be like this more often.
He'd grown familiar enough with the game not to be surprised when he found another pink square taped to the inside of his locker at the garage, (invite Cid and Vin to the BBQ this weekend!), though he'd have missed the next one entirely if not for Vincent stopping by with coffee about halfway through his shift.
"There's something pink in your pocket," Vincent pointed out as he handed over one of the steaming cups; one sugar, just how Cloud liked it.
"It's Zack's fault," Cloud said automatically, wiping engine grease off onto the leg of his coveralls before taking his coffee.
Vincent's eyebrow quirked in quiet amusement. "I know."
Cloud paused in the act of pulling the note out of his pocket. "You do?"
"Of course he does," Cid's voice interrupted, the man himself stumping out of the office a moment later. "Who else do you think let that crazy bastard of yours in at fuck o'clock this morning?" Cid accepted his own cup of coffee with dirt-blackened hands, tilting into Vincent for a hello kiss that wasn't nearly as reluctantly given as his gruff attitude would have suggested. "So?" he said as he pulled back. His eyes flicked a glance at the post-it in Cloud's hand. "The hell does he want?"
Cloud glanced down. We're out of milk, the note said, blue ink smudging under his thick, oily fingerprints. He shrugged. "Nothing really," he said, making a note to pick some up on the way home. "Just keeping life interesting."
That earned a snort from Cid. "I'll bet. Crazy fuck. You go to moon over your love note all day or are you going to fix that Chevy?"
Cloud rolled his eyes. "I am not mooning!"
Vincent raised an eyebrow at him.
"I'm not!" he protested.
"Sure kid," Cid said, skepticism drawing heavy lines on his face. "Whatever you say." He took a loud slurp of his coffee, flicking imperious fingers at Cloud as he turned. "Just do it on your own time, capiche?"
"You both suck," Cloud muttered under his breath, tucking the note away and turning his attention back to the misfiring cylinder in Mr. Jones' Chevy.
"Cry me a fucking river, princess. Now get the hell back to work!"
The rest of his shift passed uneventfully, sunset stretching into early twilight beyond the open bay door. Cloud was unsurprised to find himself flagging near the end, even Vincent's emergency coffee run not enough to keep the long day from catching up with him.
"Jesus, just go home already," Cid told him disgustedly at quarter past eight and Cloud blinked at him.
"But my shift isn't over yet."
Cid scowled at him. "Fifteen minutes ain't gonna ruin me, kid. And the last thing I need is you breaking your fool head in my garage because you're too tired to stand up straight. Now go. The fuck. Home."
"We'll see you and Zack at the barbeque," Vincent added over the top of the novel he was reading.
Cloud nodded wearily, in no mood to try and argue. "Okay," he said and tottered over to his locker to hang up his coveralls. He had to stop at the grocery store on the way home anyway.
The house was dark when Cloud got back, just like he'd known it would be. He stumbled in the door feeling like his head had been packed full of sand and slapped blindly at the wall for the light switch. Something grazed his palm when his hand finally connected, fluttering through the air, and he glanced down to find a familiar pink square lying on the floor.
Leftover pizza in the fridge! it informed him and Cloud had to shake his head that he hadn't even noticed it while zombieing his way out of the door that morning.
"I'm beginning to think Zack knows me too well," he informed the room at large, before chucking his book bag onto the closest chair and heading into the kitchen to put the milk away and find this rumoured pizza.
If Cloud were more disciplined, Monday nights would have been perfect for getting his school work done; he had several hours between coming home and Zack's inevitable return since Monday was Zack's night at the shelter, and he would have saved himself a considerable amount of grief later in the week if he got all his work done early. In reality, because Cloud was tired and lonely and it was Monday for god's sake, his bag stayed slumped in the chair for the rest of the evening while Cloud ate dinner and tooled around on the internet and watched a rerun of CSI and was basically a big lazy vegetable. Without a Zack. Which kind of sucked, but Cloud tried to pretend it didn't bother him.
Of course, morning classes, a stint in the library, a six hour shift and no Zack to keep him smiling through the whole process meant that he was yawning by ten, and showered and snuggled into bed before eleven. He thumbed bravely through the novel he'd been working on for a time, before resigning himself to the inevitable and turning off the light. And the bed was too big without Zack, but Cloud was tired enough that even that couldn't stop him from drifting right off to sleep.
He blinked muzzily awake some indeterminate amount of time later, squinting into the darkness. The bed dipped, a warm body settling in close against him.
"Shh," Zack's voice murmured, low and soothing as he pulled Cloud in close. "S'just me."
"Mmm," Cloud hummed, ducking his head under Zack's chin with a contented sigh. "Hi."
Zack's chuckle was as welcome as the weight of his arm across Cloud's waist. "Hi yourself. It's late. Go back to sleep."
The room was too dark for him to make out much more of Zack's face than the glint of his eyes, but Cloud still hid his self-satisfied smile against Zack's shoulder just in case. He'd known Zack wouldn't turn the light on if he was sleeping. He gave a wordless mumble of assent as sleep reached out for him again, pulling Zack in close.
Over on the side table, all but invisible in the shadowy darkness of the bedroom, a scrap of lined paper from Cloud's notebook waited patiently for Zack to find tomorrow.
Good morning, Zack, Cloud's note said, complete with smiley face. I love you, too.